the minor premise

the minor premise

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

It's 11:26 p.m. on the East Coast and I'm still conscious, which I guess takes me officially out of "fuddy-duddy" status. I'd have considered turning in early except the kinder have no interest in that and are making too much noise to hazard an attempt anyway. Hon. Daughter #1 has tomorrow off at her job and is making the most of it. Anyway, I've been busy working on a knit cap for a brother of mine that was supposed to have been a Christmas gift but is going to end up being an Epiphany gift instead. As I cut back severely on computer use for the last couple of weeks, it at least won't end up being a Groundhog's Day gift. As it stands now, I think I should be able to get it in the mail when the post office reopens. Then maybe I can get back to D's vest. My second sock is still on hold. I can see why finishing a pair of socks is an unpopular activity.

11:40p.m. Happy New Year in about 20 minutes!
Might as well stay up.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Toys in the Attic

I ran across an internet toy in my browsing the other day that purports to rank the importance of any given set of newsmakers. A Huffington Post blogger, Jonah Peretti's NewsRanker purports to show "you who is really newsworthy. Just enter a few names and NewsRanker shows who is getting the most press mentions. For example, here is a real time ranking of Justin Timberlake, Paris Hilton, and Barack Obama:"

I thought, "Cool! I wonder if it really works?" So I added some newsworthy names of my own to test the theory:

Hmmm seems about right. So can it predict, say, the next presidential race?

Yow! I don't know if I like that. I wonder what would happen if I were running . . . .

Now THAT's more like it! Now, who's newsworthy! ;-)

Peretti purports that the NewsRanker is "a good way to make your point that Iverson is bigger than Kobe or that despite what people might say Morgan Stanley is just as good as Goldman." Given the lack of qualitiative data, should we be making argumentative points based on this data? I don't think so. The NewsRanker is for amusement purposes only.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006


He neither shall be borned in house nor in hall,
Nor in a king's palace, but in an ox's stall.

He neither shall be washen in white wine nor in red,
But in the clear spring water with which we were christened.

He neither shall be clothed in purple nor in pall,
But in the fair white linen that usen babies all.

He neither shall be rocked in silver nor in gold,
But in a wooden cradle that rocks upon the mold.

--from As Joseph Was A-Walking,
Appalachian spiritual.

When I was a seeker,
I sought both night and day;
I sought the Lord to help me,
And He showed me the way.

He made me a watchman
Upon the city wall,
And if I am a Christian,
I am the least of all.

---from Go Tell it on the Mountain
African-American spiritual

A blessed Christmas to all.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Caroling, caroling

Some finds on Christmas carols today:

Here and here are two "rephrased carols" quizzes. Well-known carol titles have been reworded into high-flown lingo: decipher the ordinary titles. An example (which I've seen on similar quizzes but don't think appears in either of these:)
Tintinnabulate Carillons?
Why, Jingle Bells, of course!

Having gotten a bit jaded after sitting in Christmas shopping traffic with the car radio tuned to one of the local Christian stations (I like the music, but did every single contemporary Christian artist in the business really have to record O Holy Night on this year's Christmas album?) I decided to look up some lesser-known carols. The list below barely scratches the surface, and interestingly enough, just about all of these tunes have been recorded commercially at some time or another. It's a start; perhaps someone else out there has other favorites to add.

Some include MIDIs or tabs, so if you've just about had enough of "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by now, you can make your own music!

Now if some major artist would only turn out a collection of Child Ballads (see the Wikipedia article on the Cherry Tree Carol below) or some Spanish Villancicos, or other Christmas music not commonly performed commercially in the U.S., that would be something!

I've always loved the Huron Carol, and was thrilled when we got an arrangement for it at bell choir (and not just because the strong steady beat makes it playable even with my limited skills!) The following sites have historical material, lyrics in Huron and English, and in some cases, MIDIs:
still another, and
Wikipedia article-Huron Carol

I Wonder as I Wander is based on an Appalachian spiritual. It was rescued from obscurity and probable oblivion by one of those folklore collectors who wandered the hill country in the 1930's:
lyrics & history of the carol

Here, here, here, here, and here are a number of versions of the Cherry Tree Carol (including Peter, Paul and Mary's lyrics) and some historical material.
This last has a tab, although I'm not certain of the tune.
Marty Haugen has recorded a lovely arrangement of this set to a 19thC American folk tune. D spent some time working it out for guitar this evening. You'll have to buy the sheet music; we're not gonna risk getting in trouble with GIA by posting the tab!
Emmylou Harris recorded a version on a Christmas album of hers; unfortunately the tab to it was one of only a few songs on the album that I couldn't find.

Here, here, or here are the lyrics to the African-American spiritual Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow; the first two sites include MIDIs so you can learn the tune. From my web search, I learned that Vanessa Williams is one of the artists who has recorded this song. It also makes a nice choral piece.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Some fun for Christmas

Still busy and avoiding the 'puter as much as possible. To help all get ready for Christmas, I am posting a link to's online Christmas Trivia quizzes. I've used them before with a Sunday School class (middle grades) and they're kinda fun, educational, and not too easy for older kids and adults. Check them out!

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Musical Interlude

C hasn't felt much like posting as she is getting ready for Christmas.
So, courtesy of our younger son, a musical interlude: An excerpt from Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons."

Alexi Laiho and Roope Latvala, guitarists

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

In the Cards

To mark the Advent season, and the coming season of Christmas, the fiction department has been busy crafting the story below. Hopefully you will find some "Christmas cheer" hidden in the lines. It helps to have Christmas in your heart, and music in your soul . . . .

It was a silent night. We were in our favorite bar, poker was the game, and the hand was down to we three. Kings was peering over his cards, contemplating the deck. The Halls, both of them, had folded from the first. Noel tried to keep his poker face, but he eyed the pot like one who hadn't eaten in twelve days. Of Christmas, everyone in the room thought, since it was no more than a week away. In a Maine jury room I had met most of the players, and we had remained friends. With some people, I could be cold, but frosty these? No, man! I looked at my cards again, lacking one card for an unbeatable hand. I thought of how my fortunes could change just this once. In David's, royal city would win the day. "Ah, good king, when she's lost, look out!" I thought to myself.

I asked, "was the last time we played in the day or evening?" Kings responded, "oh, wholly night." The big Hawaiian rolled his eyes. "The masters in this hall were the houli, and the I.V was necessary to get the rest of the sleepers awake."

I recalled the brawl which had followed the card game. "I heard the bells!" On Christmas day I was allowed to leave the hospital. The girl I was dating at the time, brought me home. I commanded, "Pronto, little town of Bethly!

"Hehm!" she pretended to clear her throat in disgust. Turning to her girlfriend, she said " I should smack the boor's head, Carol!"

My girlfriend was originally from Coventry, Carol would often recall, and I met the two of them at a regatta. I saw three ships assailing the the difficult course, and on the trailing ship I saw an off-balance girl fall in the drink.

"Here we come! Ah, Waa!" Sailing, it seemed, was not in her blood.

We were later mutually introduced while she tried not to hork. "The Harold Angels sing tonight, and I can get you backstage. I know Harold." We met some other friends at the concert. Joy, to the world known as a famous actress, but to us, just one of the guys, also joined. Joy loved Harold and his group. "Most CD's I play at moderate volume, but the Angels we have heard on high!" I liked Harold, but I thought his group unevenly talented. "What child is this? She does nothing but jingle bells!"
Annoyed, Harold would stutter, "Pat, uh, Pat, uh, pandemonium would break out if I let her go! She's the piano player's wife! And the little drummer boy would quit, too! I think he's got a thing for her . . . ."

"I call, show your cards!" Kings shouted! I wondered, as I wandered through my thoughts, if I would finally be winning the hand. Reluctant, I held back.
"Oh come! Oh come E! Man, you L-O-S-E-R!"
I threw down my Ace-high hand, which was easily beaten.

Merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Return from playing hooky

After Thanksgiving I concluded I'd been logging more 'Net time than was good for me , so I decided to take a trial separation from my computer. I am pleased to report that this was fairly painless, aside from the time spent deleting spam from the inbox after having ignored it for several days. Not that some of the subject lines weren't compensation in themselves.

Speaking of things that are unintentionally funny, I figured I'd start off this week with some unintentional Christmas funnies.
I refer, of course, to the Cavalcade of Bad Nativities. It's a kapital kompendium of kopious Kristmas kitsch!

All those K's (and thinking of things unintentionally funny) remind me of something else that struck my funny bone today, though I'm sure that was not the intention. Hon. Daughter #1 came home yesterday, but still had a paper to fire off to one of her profs (some of us wish we'd had that technology when we were callow students, but never mind.) The domestic establishment of the minor premise being under the administration of Luddite moi, we have yet to take upon ourselves some of the electronic amenities that many seem to consider indispensible. This includes cable TV and a wireless connection (but hey, my hardware geek neighbor doesn't think wireless is all that, either.)

Anyhow, the result of my electronic reactionism was that I ended up dropping H. D., her Lappy, and her completed paper off at a local coffee shop so she could ether the thing in, or whatever you'd call it. While in there, I encountered a large screen tuned to cable news. I was thus in an excellent position to form some impressions of one of the day's stories that I bet were not explored on any of the news channels. The fact that the sound was off probably helped.

I therefore submit my latest news flash for general edification: David Duke has managed, after Lord knows how long, to extract another Warholian fifteen minutes out of the media. Of course, in order to accomplish this he's had to go to Tehran and gladhand a guy in front of whose house he probably would as lief had burned a cross had said individual moved in down the street from him here in the U. S. of A. And what the #$%! has Duke done to his face? I have distinct memories of the (old enough to try a run for president) guy's poisonous antics from my salad days, and I bet I've aged more than he has in the intervening years. I passed my observation along to D, who proposed that when one cuts deals with Old Scratch, such effects are likely to result. I'm amazed he hasn't already spontaneously combusted from Evil Overload on this trip.

Another day, another media sensation reduced to trivial nonsense. Maybe I'll shoot for serious next week.

NOTE 12/17: I had originally used the term "pre-salad days" to describe my memories of Duke. On reviewing history with D, however, I had to conclude that although I was aware of him at that time, his presidential run would most likely have been concurrent with my actual salad days. So I made the edit. Either way, I'm still convinced the guy's Dorian Gray.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

English Can Be Fun #1: The Irish Bull

Confession time: I am an unabashed language geek. I love, love, love, the minutiae --but only the minutiae-- of speech, linguistics, and grammar to a degree that is almost embarassing. The practical stuff, I couldn't care less about. And yes, I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition, and began this one with a conjunction to boot.

As a lang geek, I always enjoy finding cool little pieces on language trivia like this one by Paul Greenberg. The topic, as this post's title line suggests, is a delightful kind of verbal blunder known as the Irish Bull. Why a bull? (It's tempting to continue, apres the Marx brothers, with "Why not a chicken?") Bull, definition 3, according to my dictionary* comes from the Middle English bul, trickery or lie, which comes from the Old French boule, lie, which comes from the Latin bulla and is defined as: A ludicrously illogical or incongruous mistake in statement. A handy thing to keep in mind the next time you tell someone he's full of bull. So why Irish? According to Greenberg's column, in honor of one Sir Boyle Roche, an 18th century Irish Parliamentarian who acquired a reputation for his contributions to the form:

Why, Mr. Speaker, should we do anything for posterity?What has posterity done for us?

And that oft-quoted standard,

The country is overflowing with absentee landlords.

I'll leave the rest for Greenberg. His honorees include Chicago's Mayor Daley, Sam Goldwyn (of MGM Studios,) and his personal favorite, economist Paul Krugman. Click and enjoy!

*Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition. William Collins Publishers, 1979. Yeah, I know. We're probably overdue for an update here at the minor premise.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dialogues of the Candorville

And no, this has nothing to do with the comic strip. Refer to previous posts here and here for context. The dialogue part takes place mainly in the comments section.

In my last post to you, Richard, you will recall that I noted four basic points I saw in your comments. I'll take them one at a time, over two or three posts for brevity's sake.

Your first point was that vote fraud is commonplace in American elections whether or not we choose to see it. I have to assume that my original post puts me securely in the camp of those who "don't choose to see it," in your estimation. Not so fast. I have no doubt vote fraud goes on and has gone on, in certain places at least, almost from the beginning. I also have no doubt that tactics to block certain classes of legitimate voters, either via intimidation or duplicity, have gone on in the past and are attempted even today. I have lived almost my entire life in the South, and we have a history as far as that goes. Nobody here with any sense would argue that fraud and intimidation have never happened.

Believing that vote fraud can and does happen, however, is a little different than believing every single allegation of fraud that comes down the pike (or at least every single one that comes from a given party.) If we accept uncritically every utterance made by some disgruntled soul just because it fits some conclusions we have already drawn, we are easy prey for anyone unscrupulous enough to use our scruples against us. That goes for me if I accept uncritically a questionable allegation from a right-wing source (you shoulda been here in the Land o' Peaches, Peanuts, & Pecans for the State Flag Follies) as well as for you if you accept one from a left-wing source.

We have an electoral system, and no, it's not flawless. But it's better than most and is equipped with certain safeguards that make achieving a measure of fairness possible. If nothing else, you can always mount a "throw the bums out" campaign in time for the next one. Believe me, if you have clear-cut evidence of shady doings that you can produce and a sympathetic media, that shouldn't be difficult. Remember Watergate? But you'll note that I said "clear-cut." Allegations won't do; evidence will. It's not what you think or wish is true that will convince others; it's the facts you can produce.

Now, since you like cautionary tales, try this one on for size:

Sometime in the American future, a radical (or call 'em reactionary, if you prefer. I don't much care if they've been reading Mao or Mein Kampf; in my book they're equally evil) group bent on overthrowing the republic concludes that the simplest way to do this is through undermining the electoral system. So every time an election goes against them, they raise an uproar. They challenge the results, claim the machines are rigged, produce "victims" who claim to have been duped or intimidated. After a few go-rounds, a lot of people who weren't necessarily in their camp to begin with have so come to doubt the electoral system that they've given up on it. Others who continue to participate are perpetually on edge: every poll worker who lingers a little too long over their information is a potential harasser, any minor error on their own part is due to machine rigging. (I believe you may have stopped into my post "Election Thoughts." If you read the combox, you will have noted my own "vote flipping" experience--owing entirely to my technical incompetence. I wonder how many "flipped vote" reports occurred merely because somebody failed to take into account that touchscreens are sensitive and if you brush one check box en route to another, you might just mark that one instead?) Pretty soon our cadre doesn't need to produce victims; self-identified victims are coming out of the woodwork.

Once they have a substantial portion of the public convinced that the electoral system is fatally flawed and unsalvagable, they're in the catbird seat. Maybe they can just take a page from the current situation in Mexico, and, on losing a close election cry fraud, refuse to concede, and inaugurate themselves, potentially triggering a split in the country or a civil war. Or maybe they can offer an alternative to the "fatally flawed" system--say, oh, direct federal-level democracy instead of fifty state elections and an electoral system. After that, all they have to do is whip up mob followings in a handful of densely populated states, maybe rig a few carefully-chosen elections, and they're in charge, perhaps for a very long time. Think Huey Long. Think the Byrd machine in Virginia, or the Daley machine in Chicago. Suddenly, "throwing the bums out" after four years isn't so easy. They can follow up ridding us of our "fatally flawed" electoral system with ridding us of (or at least gutting) a few other "fatally flawed" systems, ensuring that they consolidate and stay in power.

Maybe you don't accept this possibility. Well, it's happened before, in various permutations (some noted above.) Maybe it doesn't matter as long as the oligarchy is doing things you agree with. What if it isn't?

Your second and third points were that fraud was a deciding factor in recent (not including the last) elections, and that the Republican party was largely if not entirely responsible because it was in power at the time. I think we can deal with these two points at once. As I think I've gone on quite long enough for one post, I'll get to these in a day or two. As for your fourth point, that disaster was averted in this most recent election through vigilance, I'll post on that subsequently. It seems a news story or two has come out recently on that matter.