Archive for the ‘Ceditra’ Category

Ceditra: Poorhouse

The news came out today that the unemployment rate in the United States dropped slightly to 7.5% (a four-year low) and that 165,000 jobs were created in April of 2013.

The “paltry” and “disappointing” figure of 88,000 jobs created last month was revised by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to 138,000. I will be curious to see if news outlets revise their stories to reflect the fact that 50,000 more jobs were created in March than announced…or it will simply be ignored.

What cannot be ignored is that when I wrote today’s ceditra entry two years ago, the unemployment rate stood at 9.0%. While it is good news that the rate has dropped a percentage point and a half and that 4,000,000 jobs have been created since April 2011, it’s not all that much of a boon if you are still one of the unemployed.

The depression that can overcome someone who is not working was definitely on my mind as my random process for discovering topics to write about (which can never be described as “discouraged”) brought me to page 612 of my local dictionary.

poor-house, n
1. a house of correction for petty offenders
2. a public institution in which the destitute of a parish received board and lodging in return for work

The original theme of this ceditra entry was going to be a discussion of my fear of being poor. Granted, in the 21st Century America, debtors are not placed by the government in a workhouse to do labor to pay off their debts. Now, those who are poor face other challenges – like living in unsafe neighborhoods, attending low-performing schools, and generally existing in a cycle of poverty. From the days of the 1980 Reagan-Era recession when my father’s and grandfather’s business went under, our family – for the first time – had to cut back on luxuries. From that time, I have always been in fear of not having enough money.

Yes, I am fully aware in hindsight that my family’s “privations” were insignificant compared to the what other families went through, but I didn’t see it that way at the time because I was twelve.

My parents still managed to keep our house (and still have it), keep us fed, AND send all of us off to college. So part of me realizes that my fear is somewhat misplaced.

However, like all irrational fears, it is still there.

It is there when M. and I met with our financial advisor and he suggested that we place X amount of money in some account that would have left us with an amount in our checking account that was below the amount I felt comfortable with. This unnerved me because I believe (and this belief only exists to quiet my fear) that I am safer when I have more liquid assets available in the checking account. However, I also realize that that belief completely defeats the purpose of investing.

Crap! Being an adult is hard.

I am currently part-time employed. I will soon be out of a job in a pair of months. I will be looking again when we make the jump to the other side of the world.

I keep the fear in check.

Read Full Post »

What’s in a name?

My apologies to The Bard but I have no idea what the best answer to his query is.

What I do have at my disposal is a ceditra entry from two years ago. My random process for selecting subjects to write about (which still smells as sweet as a rose despite whatever it is called) landed me on page 203 of the book Boyd’s Curiosity Shop which states…


Hells Canyon” originally was “Hellers Canyon” – in memory of an early Idaho miner.

First question…Was the canyon named for the miner Heller because this eponymous gentleman dies in said geographical feature?

Second question…Was this chap Heller related in any way to the only other famous Heller I can think of – the author of Catch-22, Joseph Heller?

Third question…How did the name morph from its original designation to the appellation we have today?

Why do names change?

Throughout history, people have altered what places have been called for one reason or another.

I’m not even going to dive into the “euphemism” phenomenon expertly articulated by George Carlin where the horrors of certain conditions are softened via linguistic obfuscation (i.e., “shell shock” become “post-traumatic stress disorder”).

One obvious reason why names change is for political reasons, also known as “winner’s prerogative”. After the Russian Revolution, St. Petersburg was renamed Leningrad. After the Soviet Union broke up (but continues to remain good friends despite the fact that Tajikistan still has Russia’s albums and Ayn Rand books), the name was changed back.

Another reason is for cultural sensitivity. Aboriginal names are starting to make a comeback and replace the names imposed upon them by Western explorers. Ayers Rock in Australia is being known again as Uluru. Alaska’s Mount McKinley becomes Denali and India is now referring to Bombay as Mumbai.


Of course Constantinople is now called Istanbul. Why? It’s nobody’s business but the Turks.

Read Full Post »

Ceditra: Technology

Another 24-hour period on Earth, another story about technology and its effect.

In response, here is my ceditra entry from a shade over two years ago. On April 8, 2011, my utterly random method for choosing topics to write about (which uses no silicon) provided me with this entry from the dictionary…


au-to-graft, n
a graft of tissue from one point to another of the same person’s body

Ain’t technology grand?

We’re now at a point in surgical technology where a burn victim can be helped to survive by taking a piece of skin from one point of the body and putting it over the burn.

This does raise the question of what happens to the gap in the skin where the healthy patch of dermis came from. I’m sure the creators of this procedure thought about this, but I would wonder how many technological advancements were made and touted as breakthrough only to discover there was some unintended consequences.

Well, there was the discovery of oil as an energy source whose continued use has led to the changing of our planet’s climate.

There was the discovery of thalidomide, a drug touted as beneficial for pregnant women but then was determined to cause birth defects.

There was the asbestos which was touted as a fire-retardant for buildings only to be later discovered that breathing in the fibers caused lung damage.

There was lead in paint in water pipes.

And then there are the countless experiences of humans introducing an animal species into a non-native environment to solve problems only to have that foreign species go haywire (please see kudzu, zebra mussels, cane toads, starlings).

Back to 2013 and the story about Google’s new policy about allowing users to decide what is to be done with their personal data after their death shows that the creation of the Internet and social media will continue to have ramifications to our society for years and decades to come.

Read Full Post »

A ceditra entry from exactly one year ago today.

From page 349 of Dictionary of American Slang (4th Edition) by Barbara Ann Kipfer and Robert L. Chapman comes…

n. 1. a moocher; a beggar; a borrower
v. 1. to beg, borrow, cadge, sponge

In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the character of Polonius tells his son Laertes, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” It’s good advice because you want to avoid the messy entanglements that come when you are beholden to someone or someone is beholden to you because of money.

Someone who does not follow this advice is a person who sponges off other people. This person is known as a mooch as they constantly are begging and borrowing money, food, and other items from people they know.

They most famous moocher in pop culture that I am aware of is Minnie the Moocher from the song sung by Cab Calloway. I first heard of this song from one of my favorite movies, The Blues Brothers. Near the end of the movie, Calloway’s character goes on stage to stall for time because Jake and Elwood haven’t yet arrived at the final concert. Calloway steps on stage in his regular clothes, but the moment he starts singing his signature melody, he and the band behind him are transformed into big band/swing costumes. It is a wonderful homage to Calloway who shines with this song. Besides the great comedy that John Belushi and Dan Akroyd bring to the movie, their reverence and respect to the greats of music (Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles) is what make this flick a classic among comedies that were spawned from skits from Saturday Night Live.

To me, all other SNL-inspired movies mooch off their success on television and that is why they did not fare well. The pair of exceptions are Wayne’s World (only the first one) and the above-mentioned The Blues Brothers (and, again, only the first one). This duo brought more to the silver screen that just their characters’ stock catchphrases.

Read Full Post »

A voice from the Right predicts economic collapse if President Barack Obama is re-elected.

A voice from the Left alleges that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney used creative make-up for an interview with Univision.

On those extreme hooks do I base this ceditra entry. Ceditra – for those who need a refresher – is the term created by Brazilian artist Abril Pajyaso for the process by which art is created through a random process. My procedure for finding a subject to randomly write about (a completely fair and balanced process) left me at this entry from The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs

Talk is cheap
It is easy to say that something can or will be done, but it takes money or effort to do it

For the people who make their living chatting away on the airwaves (both radio and television) giving their opinions on anything and everything, talk is nowhere near cheap. These pontificating personalities make good money. Regardless of the ideology, both bloviators on the right and left take home good paychecks for their insights.

The point I want to explore courtesy of this snippet is the fact that it is the people on the extremes of the spectrum who get noticed, get press, get space, and get the money.

Where are the voices in the middle? When I am surfing my sites on the Web, the headlines that pop to the forefront are items that involve outrage, or politicians being slammed, or somebody making an outrageous statement (truth be told, there were far too many examples for me to include one as a link, so I passed). I guess that’s what people want to read for if Netizens didn’t click on those stories, they wouldn’t be there.

Or do people click on the links because they are there?

There must be people who are centrist and who espouse such a sensibility in their columns and blog posts. However, they are a silent group because they do not spew forth ridiculous and incendiary statements. Because they are so rational, they are not controversial, and – ergo – are not popular in the media universe dominated by the metric of eyeballs and hits. It is only, for whatever reason, the emotional buttons of extremism, outrage, and hate that gets people a-clickin’. Therefore, writers and opinion-makers who want to be noticed gravitate towards the poles so they can be heard.

I wonder how many x-wingers actually believe what they say? How many say what they say solely to be noticed?

So while the Net has people alleging that the President hates the middle class and that his Republican challenger participated in a tax amnesty program, my question still remains…

Where are the middle voices?

Read Full Post »

I have no hook for this ceditra entry, so let’s dive right into it.

This snippet, produced at random (by a process that has withstood the test of time), comes from the book Consider This… by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

Page 227 had this question, “How does youth view old age?”

My reply…

I can only speak to the now (21st Century) and here (United States). Other times (say, the 1900s) and places (France, Japan, Belize) may be different but since I have not lived then nor did I grow up outside of the US I have to go with what I know.

Here and now I can make the general generalization (oh, that is redundant now) that youth looks down upon old age. Seniors are seen as dim-witted (jokes about ‘senior moments‘ and Alzheimer’s Disease are still considered legitimate), out of touch (jokes about parents not being able to program a VCR; calling the Internet a ‘series of tubes‘), and a burden on society (news items about the Baby Boom generation draining Social Security and Medicare).

There was a time, I am told, when elders were revered by the younger set. At some point, this dynamic changed. If I may play CSI:Culture, I will pinpoint this change to the late 1950s-early 1960s. It was around this time that the figures of the rebellious teen and challengers to authority emerged. I will cite the characters from The Wild Ones, Rebel Without a Cause, and Blackboard Jungle as cinematic examples. Television would take longer to warm to this stereotype…but come around they did. The counter-culture, with the hippies, yippies, and Merry Pranksters (and others) would start the ball rolling on not believing people over 30.

It is quite the epitome of poetic justice that the cultural upheaval of the generational order of things that the Baby Boomers started is now being used against them in the form of jokes and in the debate about entitlement programs.

A man reaps what he sows” as the quote goes. The same can be said for generations.

I would like to know if the reverence for the elderly comes back by the time Generation Y is handed the label of “senior citizen”, but I will be long gone when that changeover takes place.

Read Full Post »

Scouring the news feeds that I have that keep me updated on the happenings and occurrences of the world, I came across this annual chestnut (this year’s offering comes courtesy of Forbes) nugget that documents the cities in the United States that have the highest traffic congestion.

Courtesy of the INRIX Traffic Scorecard, Honolulu, Hawaii, is the city that earns top honors (as of April 2012) as the metropolitan area with the most congestion on its highways and byways. Personally, two urban areas that I have called home were in the Top 10 as Los Angeles won the silver medal and the Washington, D.C., locale came in 6th.

Fascinating data, but another – and similar – news item caught my cyber-eye as I read about a place that is also experiencing congestion. That place, the highest spot on Earth, is Mount Everest. This story talks about how the number of climbers to this mountain has grown and is causing congestion.

At least, when I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-66, I could always listen to the radio. I don’t think you can do that on the Hillary Step.

All this news about congestion jams reminded me a ceditra entry I created on July 20 last year.

My random method of generating items to write about (rubbernecking not allowed) provided me this quote from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, which I found courtesy of the book Oxymoronica by Dr. Mardy Grothe…

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.

Lewis Carroll’s adventures concerning Alice is chock full of absurd characters and odd situations. This snippet is from the White Queen (I believe), but it might as well have come from the Mad Hatter or Twiddledee.

An oxymoronic rule of this type has a name that also comes from literature, the Catch-22, from the book of the same name by Joseph Heller.

Rules are made to be followed, but what happens when a set of instructions exist in such a way that they cannot be followed. The White Queen’s edict appears to suggest that jam can be enjoyed (which is good) but the logic of the rule means that jam can never be enjoyed (which is bad).

What other examples are there of a remark that appears to be benevolent but is in practice tyrannical? Henry Ford’s famous line about this cars – “Any customer can have a car painted in any color he wants so long as it is black.” – comes to mind.

I wonder if I do the same thing as a parent? Do I tell the kids stuff that appears on its face to be generous and benevolent but in practice is impracticable?

I probably do but I can’t think of those examples right now. I do tend to be blinded by own weaknesses.

I guess I have a bit of the White Queen in me. Perhaps we all do.

If that’s the case, I still would like my jam.

Back to Mt. Everest, I am curious to know if all the negative news about congestion and litter will keep people away. If that happens, it would prove that oxymoronic adage from Yogi Berra, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »