I Don’t Want To Hurt Your Feelings

There is tact, and then there is over-the-top, bureaucratic-nonsense, political-correctness.  The New York City Board of Education clearly demonstrated the latter recently.  They put out tenders for the printing of new standardized student tests.  In an attempt to ensure that none of their students get their little feelings hurt, there was a list of 50 words/thoughts that could not be included, lest someone be offended.

Here is the complete list of words that they believe should be banned.

  • Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
  • Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
  • Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
  • Bodily functions
  • Cancer (and other diseases)
  • Catastrophes/disasters  (tsunamis and hurricanes)
  • Celebrities
  • Children dealing with serious issues
  • Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
  • Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
  • Crime
  • Death and disease
  • Divorce
  • Evolution
  • Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
  • Gambling involving money
  • Halloween
  • Homelessness
  • Homes with swimming pools
  • Hunting
  • Junk food
  • In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
  • Loss of employment
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
  • Parapsychology
  • Politics
  • Pornography
  • Poverty
  • Rap Music
  • Religion
  • Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and      Ramadan)
  • Rock-and-Roll music
  • Running away
  • Sex
  • Slavery
  • Terrorism
  • Television and video games (excessive use)
  • Traumatic material  (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
  • Vermin (rats and roaches)
  • Violence
  • War and bloodshed
  • Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
  • Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

Incidentally, I notice that one of the words on the list is pornography. The chancellor has offered no explanation for how schools will avoid including this term on standardized tests considering it is part of the middle school curriculum.

The tests can’t refer to the number of birthday or Christmas presents Mary got, because Jews and Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas and Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays.  I see they didn’t include weather.  Presumably we can still discuss that.  Dinosaurs can’t be mentioned, because that assumes evolution.  Expensive presents and homes with pools would depress the financially downtrodden.  References to homelessness, job loss and poverty would just rub their noses in it.

I’m all for not offending the next guy, but this just seems to take it to the level of absurd.  This is George Orwell’s 1984.  If there isn’t a word to describe it, the concept doesn’t exist.  If either the potential offender, or the possibly offended actually knew what they were talking about, I might accept the concept, but neither does.

I worked with a young Jehovah’s Witness.  Shortly before Mother’s Day the inspector on the line asked him what he was doing for his mother.  “We don’t celebrate mothers.  We celebrate Jesus.  We do what the Bible tells us to do.”  One of the important passages in the Bible, perhaps THE most important, The Ten Commandments, orders us to, Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother!  Surely this applies to Jehovah’s Witnesses, as much as to the rest of us.

We can’t make it a nice world, just by wishing it so.  It would be nice if bad guys didn’t have, and use, guns.  Canada is still busy taking guns away from responsible owners.  A .22 calibre varmint rifle has been declared a dangerous weapon, and all of these guns sold in the last twenty years must be turned in to police, with no compensation.  The reason is, that they were designed to look like an AK47, and AK47s, by Government definition, are evil.

Seventeen states passed legislation allowing concealed carry for handguns.  Canadian pundits almost had a bird.  The words Hell, and hand basket, were bandied freely.  Two years later, gun-related crimes in those states are down an average of thirty-seven percent.  When the bad guys don’t know whether or not a potential victim might lethally fight back, they’re not so likely to commit a crime.

I don’t feel that the school system is doing students any favors when they pass them on to the next grade, even though they didn’t achieve the required marks.  They don’t want to make the students feel like failures.  Check the definition.  They are failures!  Better to find out now, than when the boss asks, Do you have that report finished? and you reply, Well, I’ve got some of it done.  Do you want fries with that?  Damn it Hopkins, the customer ordered onion rings.

If an inner-city black youth is not told about the existence of a $17,000,000 mansion, he is still stuck in poverty, and maybe, he thinks there’s nothing better.  If he finds out that other people live better, he has something to aspire to.  These words and ideas will exist whether kids are told about them or not.  I feel that there should be short-term pain for long-term resistance and health.  Like germs, continual, light exposure can produce immunity.  Remember, the ostrich with his head stuck in the sand, can still get it stuck up his….Ask me if I still feel this way in five years.

Trips With Mom and Dad II

I just went on a forest bike-ride and fishing trip with Ted from SightsandBytes.  What a lovely chunk of get-back-to nature, beautiful, bucolic bliss it was.  I could almost smell the grass and trees, and only worried when we saw bear marks.  When I went on trips with my parents, we didn’t go quite as far back in the bush, because forests in Southern Ontario aren’t as big and wild as they are in Newfoundland, but we still managed to commune with nature a bit.

My home-town butts against an Indian Reservation.  To make a little extra pocket-money, in the spring, some of the Indians would go into the bush on their land and pick morels, which they sold to town-folk.  Morels are a type of mushroom with a tall cap which looks like a sponge.  Soaked in salt water overnight to remove any dirt, etc., and fried in butter, they are rich and flavorful, much like French truffles.  The few Indians who picked and sold them, knew their own forest well.  The morels usually come up in the same places each year, so the natives knew where to look.  I don’t think any Indians pick them anymore.  The price used to be the equivalent of a half a day’s salary for a six-quart basket.  Now, IF you can find them for sale, the price is like truffles too.

A couple of times when we went for a drive, Dad would find a spot, and we would wander through the bush trying to get a gourmet meal for the cost of a hike in the woods. Dad also knew folks who had apple trees.  One farm, after normal harvest time, would let us pick our own, for next to nothing – but don’t tell anyone you paid, to pick on Sunday.  A different farm let us take as much as we wanted, for free.  We just had to supply our own containers.

Something else we picked when we went for rides, were beechnuts.  Mom was the one who identified the trees.  This one farmer’s field had a row of them, outside the fence, on public land.  Beechnuts grow as a ball, between golf and tennis ball size.  These dry out and split, and inside are dozens of individual triangular seeds, much like Brazil nuts, only smaller.  Dad hoisted me up, till I could reach the ones on the lowest branches, and then my brother and I climbed the trees to snap off and drop more from higher up.  We snacked on a few au naturel, as we drove, and took the balance home for a light roasting.  Not only a fun and educational pastime, but a treat that made the labor worthwhile.

Like the directions to BrainRants’ place, a lot of the by-ways we drove included the description, “Turn off the paved road.”  We enjoyed hilltop views, pretty little valleys, and picturesque streams.  Some roads were so narrow that, if you met an oncoming car, each had to move over and drive with two wheels on the grass, to get past.  There were some quaint little one-lane iron bridges over the streams.  If two cars approached at the same time, the one to the bridge first proceeded, while the other pulled over and waited its turn.

While I liked the park in the “big city”, there was a town, smaller than mine, which had an even nicer one.  Like everything else, parks cost money.  The bigger the park, the more it costs to build, and usually, the larger the urban area needed to finance it.  The exception to the rule in this case was an artesian well.  People came from miles around to see cold, crystal-clear water spouting from an eight-inch pipe, ten feet into the air.  The charge to enter was only a dollar a car, but over the days, weeks, months and years, the money added up, and went to expand and improve the park.  Back before communicable diseases were a big deal, there was a tin cup on the end of an eight-foot pole.  You could just reach out the pole and fill the cup with God’s own ambrosia.

The park included a grassed area big enough to play a game of pick-up football.  There was a baseball diamond.  They had built the largest checkers game I’ve ever seen, a big concrete pad, with squares marked on it.  Checkers were solid wood, sixteen inches wide and six high, with iron loops in the top, and another eight foot pole, with a hook on the end, to move them.  There were several large oak trees, and from a high branch hung a forty or fifty foot long swing.  Guys loved to push their girls, or share the seat for a ride back and forth, that seemed to take forever.

There was a food-service booth, and it, and the park, escaped the can’t-open-on-Sunday rule by declaring a tourist-area exception.  There were gardens and flowering shrubs all around.  They had even imported volcanic basalt and piled it and some dirt into a conical pile thirty feet high, with a double helix path, almost to the top, to show desert-type low-water plants.

It was a wondrous place.  Even if all you did was enjoy the cool shade and watched the darting dragonflies, it was an idyllic way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  To me, and many others, it was Eden on Earth.  I don’t know whether it was the internet and video games that killed it, but sadly, the park no longer exists.  A brewery bought the property and uses all that clear spring water to make crappy beer.  It is now, the gate to Hell.

What We Say – What We Think

Cognitive dissonance.

No, no!  Don’t reach for the mouse yet.  This isn’t a post about difficult English words.  That will come a little later.  Cognitive dissonance is just a term to describe holding two conflicting opinions in your mind at the same time.  This happens in everyday life, but is most common in politics and religion.  The scientist who carbon-dates fossils goes to Catholic Church on Sunday, and Believes that the Earth was created seven thousand years ago.  It’s a delicate mental balance.  Some people are much better at it than others.  George Orwell, in his book 1984, described the process perfectly.  He also showed how people can be trained to change their opinions, without even noticing that they have been changed.

Having given a Christian example, I also have a couple of Canadian Muslim female examples.  The weekend paper had an article about The Veiled Vogue.  This is a new type of fashion show where the models are veiled, or head-scarfed Muslim women.  The clothing isn’t quite as outré or revealing as normal, but the point of the veil is supposed to be modesty.  It’s pretty hard to claim modesty, when you’re strutting your stuff, on the runway.

Speaking of modesty, I almost had a Muslim-modesty car-crash the other day.  I stopped at a red light, near a high-school.  Students streamed across the crosswalk in front of me.  Almost the last to cross on the green….well, it had gone to orange, but high-school students don’t give a damn, were three 14ish girls.  Two appeared “normal Canadian”.  The third, definitely a Muslim, was identifiable by the scarf concealing all of her head and neck, except the face.  This was two feet above a skirt which didn’t have quite as much fabric.  She buys her yellow panties at Muslims-R-Us.  I know.  If she wanted to look like a little slut, why didn’t she just do it like her two slutty girlfriends?  This outfit speaks two conflicting opinions at the same time.  Who’s she lying to?  Herself, or the rest of us.  Or both?

The Church has always been good at this type of two-faced, or two-brained stance.  One of the most obvious instances was Joan of Arc.  When she was winning battles and saving the country, she was a heroine.  When the war had been won, she was an embarrassment, able to do what the Church and its knights could not do.  Suddenly she was declared a heretic and burned at the stake.  A couple of hundred years later, when the Church needed heroes, especially outstanding women, in an organization too full of men, she was hauled out, dusted off, her “heresy” ignored, and she was raised to the status of saint.  The “unchanging” Church has many of these volte-faces, where conflicting positions rapidly reverse themselves, or where both are held at the same time.

In the Middle Ages, the Holy Catholic Church sold indulgences.  People with enough money could donate to the Church, and be forgiven their past sins.  This soon progressed to prepaying for sins which were anticipated to happen in the future.  Sort of a Cosmic Monopoly, get-out-of-Hell-free card.  The Church eventually realized, but didn’t publicly admit, that the selling of indulgences was immoral, and wrong.

Several hundred years have passed, and the Church’s revenues are going down as more and more people leave the Church, or can’t afford to pay the tithe.  Suddenly, indulgences are back.  This time, instead of giving money directly to the Church, those who wish to pay for play, can donate money and/or time and effort to Church-approved charities and projects.  See how different this way is from the old way?!  I guess immoral and wrong are actually okay – for the right price.

Priests diddle little boys, and little girls.  Family-values political figures hire hookers.  Anti-same-sex-marriage Senators have gay washroom assignations.  Flag-waving patriots are caught selling military secrets.  My head would explode from the stress of trying to go in two opposite directions at the same time.  It’s too bad some or all of these people couldn’t manage to do that.

A Penny For Your Thoughts


Quick!  Take the offer!  The penny won’t be around too much longer­.

BrainRants did a post about a week ago, about the American government considering stopping production of the penny.  Like the flying cars that we would all be driving, I’ve heard that story every six months or so, since the late 1950s.  I got so used to it never happening, that the announcement in the paper, that the Canadian government had actually made the decision, came as a complete surprise.  Look to the Americans following suit soon.  Perhaps they’ll even try replacing the one-dollar bill with a coin.

In Wednesday’s paper, it was front-page, front-section News.  There was a photo of 30 or 40 pennies.  Side by side were a 1978 penny, and a new, shiny 2012 penny.  As a coin collector, I haven’t even seen one of the ‘12s yet.  I occasionally get pennies older than 1978 in my change.  Very occasionally I still get the odd, pre-1952 penny, with the head of Elizabeth’s father, George.  I haven’t seen a penny in change with his father, Edward, for 15/20 years.  The 1978 to 2012 range was fairly representative of what’s out there.

By Saturday’s paper it was just a business story, with another, different photo.  This one shows only eight pennies, but interestingly, two of them are American.  I’d have thought to check the pile, but then I’m a numismatist, Plus, I can think.  A local company had a quarter-page ad a while back.  Save big bucks with us, with a picture of a fan of bills, all of them American.  I called them up and suggested that the next time they pulled something off the internet; they might try harder to make it Canadian.

There’s another difference between Canadians and Americans.  American coins circulate with Canadian, probably about one in fifty.  Two, in a pile of eight, is a little heavy.  Canadians will accept American bills, almost anywhere, close to the border or not.  They might not allow the same rate of exchange as a bank, but they will let Americans spend them.  Americans, even those in border cities, still react as if we were trying to spread Ebola.

I went into a little shop in Kissimmee, and saw two pennies sitting on the edge of the cash register.  Looking closer, I realised that they were Canadian.  I thought perhaps someone was saving them, but the almost-hysterical clerk insisted that somebody had STUCK them with these two man-eating monsters, and nobody wanted them.  I offered to exchange them for two American pennies, but she wouldn’t even have that.  I should please, just take them away.

In my youth, I had a summer friend from Windsor.  He and three of his buddies wanted to bar-hop with some Americans they’d played baseball with.  Back then there were no debit cards, so they went to the bank, stocked up on U.S. cash and crossed the bridge.  At the end of the evening they wanted to have one for the road, but he’d run out of American money.  He asked the bartender if he could pay with a Canadian five, and the guy agreed.  I mean, he could almost see his house, across the river.  Just as he was finishing, he got a hand on his shoulder.  The bartender had called the cops.  Not merely a local Smoky, this was state trooper.

Tall, dark and retarded wanted to charge him with COUNTERFEITING.  Even if the bill had been a counterfeit, it would have been a Canadian counterfeit, produced in a foreign country.  A case of fraud might have been applicable, but not counterfeiting.  Without “resisting arrest”, he argued with the trooper for over fifteen minutes.  The guy’s hat was on so tight, he just didn’t get it.  Finally my friend insisted that he call his Sergeant, who finally arrived and set both the trooper, and the bartender straight.  I could see this reaction in Arizona, or even Kentucky, but, Detroit??

Zero tolerance also means zero thought applied, zero consideration, zero actual work done and one hundred percent cover-your-ass.  Establish a policy and hide behind it, and you’ll be able to piss customers off without ever having to make a decision again.

A Canadian man returned from a trip to Mexico.  He had promised to get his eight-year-old daughter a present, but had forgotten to do so before he left.  He had to land in Toronto, and take a connecting flight to Nova Scotia. While he was in the airport, he went to the gift shop and purchased a horse-shaped piñata.  When he attempted to board his plane, an Air Canada flight attendant confiscated the piñata, claiming it was a security violation.

The piñata was bought inside the secure area of the airport.  The attendant claimed that it had been soaked in kerosene.  Kerosene is what fuels the plane; piñatas are papier-mâché, newspaper and glue, just like the newspapers or books on the plane.  An Air Canada spokesman, in charge of Cover-Your-Ass, announced that airline personnel consider passenger safety first, when carrying out their jobs.  I don’t think any consideration at all was given in this case.  I think a PMS Princess, angry at her boyfriend for forgetting her birthday, took it out on the first convenient passenger, and instead of admitting that maybe someone had made an error, or been a little over-zealous, Air Canada just started waving the Passenger Safety banner.  Feel safe yet??!