Where’s Willy

No! That title isn’t for a porno-lite blog post.  There are people and websites that allow you to track the movements of certain currency bills.  I mentioned this a couple of years ago, and it happened again recently.  The son received a 5-dollar bill with whereswilly.com on it.  He graciously donated it to my blog-theme account for the mere fee of….a different 5-dollar bill.

Willy 3

Willy 4

“Willy” is/was Sir Wilfrid (not Wilfred) Laurier, whose stern face graces the Canadian fiver.  The smaller local university began as Waterloo Lutheran University.  As they expanded, and outgrew the religious connection, they took ‘Willy’ as their mascot, and became Wilfrid Laurier University, so that W.L.U. remained W.L.U.  (Saves on paperwork.)

Willy 1

I accessed the website, and entered the bill’s serial number. When I submitted the short report of where I (the son) got it, and its physical condition, I got a webpage which showed where it had originated, and how long/how many miles/kilometers it had been on the road.  If you can read the fine print, Americans are invited to play this game by visiting “Where’s George?”

Willy 2

I was the first one to report this bill since its originator set it loose 174 days, almost six months before. As you can see, (but probably not that map) it began its tattooed journey in a town in Quebec called Listuguj, 1185 KM (750 Mi.) east of here, almost to the end of the Gaspé Peninsula, across the river/bay from New Brunswick.  How and why did it get from there to here?

When I found that it started in a Quebec town, I wondered why it didn’t say, “Ou est Willi?” That was explained when I investigated Listuguj.  I thought that it might have Polish or Czech founders, but it’s actually a treaty M’iq M’aq Indian enclave.

Have any of you got bills like this and/or played this game?

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Auto-prompt: Knowledge Challenge

Dictionary

Continuing on my theme of researching shit that will do me absolutely no good….

I recently accepted a challenge to write a blog about a piece of knowledge that I hadn’t previously known, and had just found out.

BOUDIN

I am reading a book wherein the 30-something, male hero returns to the family mansion in southern Louisiana, situated on the mud of a small bayou island, about six inches above high tide, to do some hunting. His Papa, drinking beer on the porch, tells him that his 60ish Maman, is cooking in the kitchen, and has disassembled, cleaned, oiled, and reassembled his hunting rifle.

Down there, everybody knows guns.  Guns are important.  Guns provide food.  There are no Applebee’s or Tops Friendly Markets out in the swamps.  She has also packed him a cooler with food and drink, including chitlins and boudin.

These people are French(ish). For just a second, I wondered if this was a variant spelling of poutine.  Then I remembered, they’re Cajuns, who are rednecks with hot sauce.  They might make jambalaya, but not poutine, which needs to be eaten immediately, because it doesn’t pack well or last long.  Only the Frogs of Quebec would concoct ‘Heart Attack on a Plate.’

Chitlins are actually chitterlings, a difficult word to pronounce when you have a mouthful of them.  She probably packed him some pork chitlins.  We eat beef chitlins once a year, at New Years, when we have prime rib, and baby potatoes roasted in beef suet.

We render down steak and roast trimmings for the fat, and then sieve the crisp, meaty bits out, sprinkle them with salt and serve them in a bowl, like popcorn. You could put some of them on the top of your head and your tongue would beat you to death, tryin’ to get at them.

Then there’s Boudin, a new word, and a new food.  I gotta look that up.  Boudin, I found, is a French, poultry sausage, chicken or turkey.  There’s boudin noir, and boudin blanc, the equivalent of the German ‘blutwurst’ and ‘weisswurst.’  The dark version is made with blood, while the light version has milk.

Like a recent rant I had about a single newspaper, DICTIONARY DOT COM IS DRIVING ME CRAZY!

Whenever I look up a word, below the definition are a few example sentences, showing its meaning/usage in context. Below BOUDIN were two each, from two different English-language books, about two Frenchmen, who each called their wife/girlfriend, Boudin.  “Don’t worry about the animals Boudin. Come back to bed.”  Not much demonstration of the proper use of a French sausage there.

When I looked up ‘prerequisite’, there was a link to ‘fair territory.’ HUH?! A batter must hit a baseball between the foul lines – into ‘fair territory’ – for it to be a prerequisite for a ‘safe hit.’  Quite a diagonal relationship.  The two examples were from the same British book, trying to preserve the English countryside – ‘this fair territory.’ The Brits don’t even have Baseball.  The riff-raff play ‘rounders.’

A man in my hometown had the nickname of ‘Potlicker.’ When I looked that term up, Dictionary dot Com told me that it was ‘a poor person, often uncouth and uneducated.’  That describes my guy.  And….the sample sentence read, “She used a spoon to dip vegetables from the mug of potlicker.”  Apparently a cheap stew, not mentioned in the definition.   👿

So, I’ve learned that Boudin is a French-style chicken or turkey sausage, and that Dictionary dot Com is the vanguard for Skynet, and/or The Matrix. There are no human beings within it, only robots and sentient programs who, despite the non-relevant examples, speak better English than most people.

Hurt Feelings

*Crying

The problem is world-wide, but North America in particular has turned into a bunch of whimpering, whining, wimpy, wussy, wieners. I’m all for being respectful, and not intentionally hurting feelings, but more and more, within any larger group, is a smaller sect, driven by the usual ego and insecurity, who make an industry out of being offended.

Quebec flag

In Quebec, Canada, there are actually provincial government agents – Language Police – who drive the streets with notebook, dictionaries, and tape measures, to assure that theirs isn’t bigger than ours.  Signs of all kinds in stores and shops are examined.  The French language must come first and be shown above any others.  English is the most censored and censured.  All non-French lettering must be less than ¾ the size of the French.

Indian

In the past, in the USA, the whites were contemptuous of the Native Americans. Over the years, things have improved greatly.  It’s not perfect.  Nothing is.  At least now, whites aren’t giving Indians smallpox-infected blankets.  Within the Indigenous community, rather than accepting that sports teams’ names like Washington Redskins are now a show of respect and acceptance for a different kind of warrior, there are strident ‘Native American’ voices insisting that these names be changed.  If you want insult, how ‘bout The Washington Lawyers, or -Congressmen?

Confederate flag

Last year there was a big fooferaw about the display of a version of the CSA flag on State properties. South Carolina was forced to remove it from the Capital Building.  While the ancestors of the white citizens may have owned Negro slaves, the flag is a symbol of White resisting White, cultural independence, in a political situation, having little to do with slavery, in the modern day.

Still – down it came. The goofy little, long-rerunning show, The Dukes of Hazzard, has now been removed from the airwaves, because the car – the real star of the show – is named The General Lee, after a Confederate leader, and displays the Rebel flag.

Ion Wall Design

My city, Kitchener Ontario, used to be known as Berlin. It still has a strong Germanic population and feel.  In 1916, in an effort to not offend surrounding non-Germans, it changed its name.  Recently the Twin Cities have been pushing the infrastructure, in an effort to imitate some of the bigger cities.

Among other things, we are installing a street-railroad, down the length of an already overcrowded main artery. A non-German design engineer has been hired to produce design themes for stops, including the one shown above, across from the coming new train/bus station.

Scarcely had the artist’s drawing hit the internet, than there were howls of complaint. “How dare he produce a design with a Nazi Swastika in it??!” Don’t you see it?  It’s as plain as the nose on your easily offended face.

These all remind me of the story of the little old lady who phoned the police, to see if they could do anything about the guy in the apartment across from hers, who wandered around in the nude. The Police detective carefully looked out her window and said, “I don’t see anybody nude.”  She replied, “You have to go into the bathroom and stand on the toilet and use these binoculars.”  😳

This really is a First World problem. Too bad we can’t still use Australia as a penal colony.  We don’t hear this kind of entitled shit coming from down there.  I’d like to see how much complaining we’d get if these easily-offended butt-wipes were scrabbling to survive with subsistence farming.  ‘Take a pill and get over yourself.  Life’s a bitch.  Don’t be another!’

Lost And Found – In Translation

“WARNING; the following publication contains opinions and statements, disparaging to the French language and culture, which visitors of Gallic ancestry may find disturbing.  Reader discretion is strongly advised.”

Non-Spanish-speaking Americans, especially in southern areas, are being forced to acquire a working knowledge of that language because of a continuing influx of immigrants – some of them even legal – from Mexico and points south.

Mexico recently observed Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of the defeat of politically interfering French forces.  Of course, if we celebrated for every time French forces were defeated, we’d probably all die of liver failure by the first of August.

Up here in the Great White North, the little cultural terrorists are constantly pushing the rest of Canada to revere the version of French (?) they speak which confuses both Anglophones and Parisian-French speakers alike.  They insist that they are “pur laine” (pure wool) French Catholics, ignoring the fact that even the king of 250 years ago, thought so little of them, that he shipped them boatloads of Protestants and prostitutes.

I know of no other language whose spelling and pronunciation have been so totally changed because of the stupidity, laziness and incompetence of engravers, who could not create the letter S, when movable type became common.  These were replaced by accents, and French words like scole (school), became école (eh coal), and beste (beast/animal) became bête (bet).

Things in Canada, like signs, notices, Government documents, and especially packaging, must be bilingual English/French, everywhere except Quebec, where French-only is the firmly enforced rule.  Many packages – boxes, jars and cans – have a French side, and an English side.  Hormonal, pubescent grocery clerks just pile them on the shelves, willy-nilly.

Armed with the Maximum Daily Allowance of linguistic intolerance and OCD, I can often be seen wandering store aisles, turning the English sides out.  I want peanut butter and oatmeal.  If some Frog wants beurre d’arachides or farine d’avoine, let him look through the clear packaging, or turn the French side out.

When I first began studying French in high school, the instructor proudly declared that “French is the language of diplomats.”  It wasn’t till later that I realized that diplomats are highly skilled at speaking incessantly, for days, weeks, months, even years, without actually saying anything.  It’s a great language for doing that.

French is a language created by morons, to be spoken by morons.  Every word is modified, and then the modifiers are modified, yay, verily, unto the third and fourth level.  French labels take twice or three times the space to say what English says.  French coconut milk is lait de noix de coco – (the) milk, of (the) nuts, of (the) coco (tree).

When a Francophone drinks water, he drinks “de l’eau” (of the water), because he’s dumb enough to believe that, when he starts, he might drink all the water in the world.  French insists that things which aren’t even alive, have gender, usually with no justification.  A pencil (le crayon) is masculine, but a pen (la plume) is feminine.

If BrainRants is leading a squad of recruits, and they meet a French general and his wife, “les hommes levent le chapeau”, 17 guys raise one hat in respect.  French insists that each man has only one hat.  I think they’re building a float for Mardi Gras.

If you’re smart enough to speak English, you’re expected to be smart enough to understand things from context.  French gives you a walker and a white cane.  If you buy Baby Powder, you know that it’s a type or quality suitable for use on babies.  Ignoring Johnson and Johnson’s survey, which reveals that 74% of talcum powder is used by/on adults, French insists that it’s “poudre pour bébés”, powder for babies.  Apparently that distinguishes it from “poudre de bébés,” perhaps made of freeze-dried and ground, aborted French fetuses.

My manly bath gel is Ocean Fresh, an already questionable English marketing claim.  French describes “le fraicheur de la mer” (the freshness of the sea.)  I try not to think of the French product containing whale snot, seal semen, seagull shit, dead fish and rotted kelp.

People who don’t speak English too well (too damned many), have trouble translating into French.  The makers of ketchup directed the guy in their graphics department to put a warning on the plastic bottle, that it needed to be refrigerated after it was opened.

He spoke that it should happen “once” the bottle was opened, not bothering to think that that referred to the (once) first time it occurred.  He looked up “once” in the English/French translation dictionary, and printed “refrigerer une fois ouvert,” (refrigerate one time opened.)

An American goes into a French bistro in Paris and asks the smarmy waiter, “Do you have frogs’ legs?”  “Oui, oui, m’sieur!”  “Well then, hop in the back and get me a real steak!”

No Francophones were injured or killed during the construction of this post.    DAMN!

Book Review #5

Finally, a book I can be proud to admit I read.

The Author – Jonathan Haidt

The Book – The Righteous Mind

Subtitled – Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

The Review

4-The Righteous MindI might as well start with the book itself.  The dust cover is printed with what looks like a knife slash from corner to corner, with a black gap, showing how “good people” are “divided.”  Despite the subtitle promising to tell why people are divided, nowhere in the book is it explained.  That folks are divided on many topics is emphasised, and the How and Where is demonstrated, but the Why is never given.

On the blurb page, a promise is given to show how to win an argument against someone whose views you do not agree with.  I read it very carefully.  It involves empathizing with your opponent until you Become them, and then slowly and gently lead them away from their position, towards yours.

Sort of like, if I want my neighbor to stop kicking his dog, I bring him over to my place to watch me kick my dog, to show him how much the dog hurts.  I don’t want to lose my morals and empathize till I become the narrow-minded asshole I’ve come to hate.  I’d sooner use the direct approach, and just kick the neighbor till he agrees to stop.

The book itself is a hardcover, each page with twice as much printing as my little paperbacks.  A quick check at the back shows 420 pages, equal to 840 pages of my normal reading.  If I’m not careful I might end up learning something before I’m done.

But wait, it’s been a while since I read a book like this.  The final 110 pages aren’t actually part of the book.  A third of it is a list of people and their research that he stole from, to formulate his theories.  Another third is notes to explain how he twisted their square ideas to fit his round pigeonholes, and the final third is an index to guide you to where you can worship his multifaceted brilliance.

That leaves only 310/620 pages of real reading.  Perhaps I’ll only get a clue when I’m done.

The author is a moral psychologist.  This doesn’t mean that he gives a damn if you’re screwing the neighbor, drinking, drugging, or even dancing.  He’s the guy who explains why and how we make decisions about what we feel is acceptable and non-acceptable behavior, for ourselves and others, even in the face of conflicting opinions, or facts.

The Atheist/philosopher, Richard Dawkins wrote a book called The Selfish Gene, in which he claimed that evolution insists that everything we do, from love, to altruism, to charity, must somehow benefit the individual.

Haidt raises this thought a couple of levels by comparing human society to biological evolution.  Single-cell organisms united to create multi-celled ones, right up to humans and large animals.  Groups of specialized cells and organs allow achievements that single cells could not achieve.

Humans first grouped by family, then by clan, then village, right up to nation.  Things like sports, politics, religion and armed forces create focused groups through synchronized sounds – prayers, hymns, chants, etc., movements – dances, marching, calisthenics – rituals and sacred totems – salutes, uniforms, crosses, even cheeseheads.

Successful groups outperform, and absorb or drive out lesser ones, and can cause actions that are not beneficial to the individual (suicide bombing), but are, to the group (Islam).

To the scientist, for any group, hypocrisy is a good thing.  For the liar, whether group or individual, it gives them a chance to reap their desired ends and feel good about it.  That makes for more confident leadership and an increase in following and obeying.

About the strange, often conflicting beliefs of every religion, including Christianity, the author says:

The memorable nymphs and fairies and goblins and demons that crowd the mythologies of every people, are the imaginative offspring of a hyperactive habit of finding agency wherever anything puzzles or frightens us.  This mindlessly generates a vast overpopulation of agent-ideas, most of which are too stupid to hold our attention for an instant; only a well-designed few make it through the rehearsal tournament, mutating and improving as they go.  The ones that get shared and remembered are the souped-up winners of billions of competitions for rehearsal time in the brains of our ancestors.

Haidt shows that, once we learn something, even if it’s wrong, it takes more mental energy to unlearn it, than to merely absorb the correct information.

The researchers saw similar results when they told participants that pressing a button would reduce the chance of shock by as much as 90%. Those participants who had to make a proactive choice to press the button opted to leave it untouched about half the time, even though it meant they had to withstand shocks they themselves rated as highly undesirable.

It gave me a slight, momentary sympathy for those I’ve viewed as merely too lazy or bull-headed to accept apparently clear proof of their invalid stances.  Then, he went on to state that, having taken a stance, we will expend even more energy to come up with, sometimes very convoluted, justifications for it, all in the name of support from and for, “our group.”

Since there are limits to most people’s ability to reach outside themselves, there are limits to how large the groups may grow.  The book crystallized and explained why I am a non-joining loner, just shy of being a psychopath; yet rail at Quebec for not “joining” Canada, or the Baltic States for each wanting to rule their own little valley.

This was deep and enlightening reading.  My hopes for an informed quick-fix were soon dashed.  Rather, as I wrote in a long-gone post, if we can keep the momentum in the right direction, thousands, millions, billions of tiny steps and nudges may make mankind a better race.