Tomorrow begins my month!

My calendar software informs me about holidays and such and today it said that May 1 is the “First Day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month”. I had no idea.

I am not sure what to do with this new knowledge. Perhaps I’ll order some takeout Chinese food to show solidarity with my fellow Asian Pacific heritagers.

It is strange how May 1, which has been celebrated all over the world since 1889 as a day of worker solidarity known as May Day or International Workers Day, is completely ignored in the US even though its origins lie in this country. But as a result of anti-communist fervor, the labor movement in the US distanced itself from it and shifted it to Labor Day in September, which itself has become a pretty ordinary holiday, shorn of any labor militancy.

Authoritarian delusions

What is happening in Sri Lanka is an example of how authoritarian leaders will cling on to power by trying to give the impression that they still have the support of most of the people. In this case, the current president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was easily voted into office on the strength of his reputation as a ‘strong man’. This was because as defense minister when his brother was president, he unleashed the military in an extremely brutal crackdown on the separatist movement of an ethnic Tami minority. That elimination of the separatist threat made him a hero in the eyes of the Sinhala Buddhist majority, especially since the victims of that assault were largely Tamils. Then in April 2019, a terrorist cell of suicide bombers exploded bombs in eight locations including three luxury hotels and three Catholic churches, an act of senseless violence that saw large numbers of casualties.
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Another cryptic WhatsApp text

I wrote recently about these random WhatsApp text messages that I occasionally get from unknown young women. Presumably, they are the first stages of a scam that will reveal itself if I reply, which of course I never do.

But I am interested in the logic by which they hope to ensnare me and the latest leaves me completely baffled. It reads in its entirety:

“Uncle Ryan will send you to pick me up at the airport next month in a rolls Royce. I’m going back to Ohio soon.”

First off, unlike the earlier ones, this one is oddly specific, mentioning Uncle Ryan, a rolls (sic) Royce, and Ohio. The only part of it that has any connection to me is Ohio.

Also, why does Uncle Ryan need me to pick you up? Why can’t he do it himself or assign the task to the driver of the car? I am a busy person, and cannot drop everything just to go to the airport for no reason.

New trial for Melissa Lucio

I have been highlighting the potential for a gross miscarriage of justice that was due to occur today in Texas when Melissa Lucio was to be executed for the murder of her two-year old child despite the increasing evidence that she might be innocent and the appalling way that she was interrogated, using many standard coercive methods, that resulted in a confession. The potential for a massive injustice was so great that state Republican lawmakers, even those who support the death penalty, joined in a bipartisan effort to have her case reviewed. Five members of the original jury that convicted her said that if they had been told the full story, they would not have voted to convict.

Yesterday, a state appeals court stayed the execution and sent her case back to a lower court to take into account new evidence.
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Great moments in truck protests

Things have not been going well for the grandiosely titled ‘People’s Convoy’ of trucks that was supposed to bring life to a halt in the nation’s capital. They first drove all across the country to Washington DC to protest vaccine mandates or something and then hung around for a week or so at an abandoned racetrack about 50 miles north of the city. After that non-event, some of them then returned to California and decided to protest near the Oakland home of a California state assemblywoman.

But they got a hostile reception from the neighbors who were incensed at big trucks clogging up their quiet and narrow residential streets with their loud air horns blaring and told the truckers to get the hell out of there. As the trucks were leaving, they got stuck in traffic near a Safeway grocery store and a large number of people, many of them young, started purchasing eggs from the store and pelting the trucks, forcing them to flee.
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To hyphen or not to hyphen?

I do a lot of writing and so am often confronted with the question of whether or not to use a hyphen. I am too lazy to develop an overarching theory to govern their use and so use it idiosyncratically, depending on my mood and whether it ‘feels’ right.

Mary Norris writes about the history of the symbol and the various policies regarding their use. I was amazed to learn that there are actual books written about it.

The invention of the hyphen has been credited to Dionysius Thrax, a Greek grammarian who worked at the Library of Alexandria in the second century B.C. Mahdavi writes, “The elegant, sublinear bow-shaped U-hyphen . . . was used to fuse words and highlight words that belonged together.” Much later, in fifteenth-century Germany, Johannes Gutenberg used hyphens liberally (in their modern form) to justify the columns of heavy Gothic type in his Bible.

The hyphen continues to serve a dual purpose: it both connects and separates. In justified text, it divides into appropriate syllables a word that lands on a line break, a task that machines have not yet mastered; and it is instrumental in the formation of compounds, where it is famously subject to erosion. Yesteryear’s “ball-point pen” became the “ballpoint,” “wild-flowers” evolved into “wildflowers,” and “teen-age” found acceptance as “teenage” in most outlets (but not in this one).

The hyphen underwent an assault from a different corner in 2007, when Angus Stevenson, an editor of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, removed the hyphens from sixteen thousand words. Some words he closed up (“bumblebee”), others he divided in two (“fig leaf”). When people objected, he argued that the general public didn’t understand the rules governing the hyphen and didn’t care enough to learn them.

Then there is the problem of the ‘non-breaking’ hyphen, where you use the symbol but do not want to have it break up something at the end of the line. For example, the US interstate highway labeling system consists of things like ‘I-80’. Preventing it from being split requires extra programming.

Figuring out the rules for when to use a hyphen seems like hard work. I think I will continue my hit-or-miss approach.

Shattering the myth of benign British colonialism

The twentieth century saw the decline of the colonial empires that had controlled much of the world over the previous centuries. Especially following the end of the Second World War, the rise of independence movements led to the colonial powers being forced to hand over power to the people of the countries they once ruled. When we look at the history of colonial rule, somehow British rule has escaped much of the harsh censure that was leveled at the other powers, with some even going to the extent of viewing the British rule as benign, with them largely peacefully handing overpower. They even like to portray themselves as a civilizing influence, brining modernity to backward nations.

That is a myth. What distinguished British colonial rule from that of the others was the great effort that they put into suppressing the brutality and cruelty of their rule by destroying and suppressing all the records of their actions and using their propaganda apparatus to create a mythical story that puts them in a very favorable light, at least in the western world. As they prepared to leave the countries, they put into action a systematic effort to either destroy evidence of their brutal rule or ship the rest of the documents to a tightly guarded facility in the UK so that almost no one even knew the existence of them.

The mask began to be ripped off in the last two decades or so as scholars discovered the existence of these documents and forced the government to reveal at least some of them. They showed how awful British colonial rule was. Some of the pioneering work in this discovery of hidden history was by Caroline Elkins who, while doing field work in Kenya as a student, stumbled across the story of the Mau Mau nationalist movement and rebellion and how it had been misleadingly portrayed by the British. [Read more…]

Trump’s health

Although I dislike Donald Trump intensely because of his many awful personal qualities and the policies he pursues (I really do not think I need to list all of them), one thing that has impressed me is his health. He is almost 76 years old, an age when the natural aging process reveals itself in the form of all manner of ailments. And yet, he seems to not have any serious health problems (at least as far as we know) and seems to be able to speak for well over an hour at his rallies. That requires some stamina.

This is surprising since he has all the hallmarks of a heart attack waiting to happen, since he eats junk food, is overweight, and seemingly does not exercise. He does have a florid complexion, but whether that is due to high blood pressure or the tanning and bronzing that he reportedly undergoes in his vanity is hard to say. The only good thing he does is get a lot of fresh air by being outdoors a lot playing golf, even though he rides around in a golf cart, thus foregoing even that little opportunity to walk and stretch his muscles. However he does not drink or smoke, which is a big plus.
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