The Power Of Language

If the San Fransisco Board of Supervisors have their way, the words “felon,” “offender,” “convict,” “addict” and “juvenile delinquent” will be part of the past in official San Francisco parlance under their new “person first” language guidelines.

“Going forward, what was once called a convicted felon or an offender released from jail will be a ‘formerly incarcerated person,’ or a ‘justice-involved’ person or simply a ‘returning resident.’

Parolees and people on criminal probation will be referred to as a ‘person on parole,’ or ‘person under supervision.’

A juvenile ‘delinquent’ will become a ‘young person with justice system involvement,’ or a ‘young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.’

And drug addicts or substance abusers will become ‘a person with a history of substance use.'”

Cue the protestations of political correctness. The intent, however, is quite noble. Matt Haney, one of the Supervisors says, “We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done.” Imminently sensible.

Tyler Cowen has a concern worthy of serious consideration:

“. . . here is my worry.  It is we who decide how powerful language is going to be.  The more we regulate language, the more we communicate a social consensus that it has great power.  And in return the more actual power we grant to those linguistic ‘slips’ and infelicities which remain.  It is better to use norms to regulate the very worst speech terms, but not all of them.  By regulating too many parts of speech, and injecting speech with too much power, we actually grant more influence to the people and ideas we are trying to stop.”

My worry is different. I fear the proposals open the floodgate to an unprecedented wordiness. Case in point, from the San Fransisco Chronicle article:

“The language resolution makes no mention of terms for victims of crime, but using the new terminology someone whose car has been broken into could well be: ‘A person who has come in contact with a returning resident who was involved with the justice system and who is currently under supervision with a history of substance use.'”

If that level of wordiness becomes the new normal, I will not survive this world for long.

Weekend Assorted Links

1. The future of bicycle racing is a group road/gravel ride with music at the start?

2. Minneapolis just banned drive throughs. Last sentence is perplexing.

3. A tiny house in every backyard.

4A. Trump’s America. The shining city on a hill is an ugly pile of ruble.

4B. U.S. Significantly Weakens Endangered Species Act.

“. . . the revised rules appear very likely to clear the way for new mining, oil and gas drilling, and development in areas where protected species live.”

5. Are You Rich? Where Does Your Net Worth Rank in America?

“Why are the wealthy so much wealthier than everyone else? One reason is that the rich tend to store their wealth in businesses and stocks, and those in the middle class store theirs in housing. The top 10 percent of the wealthiest households own nearly 90 percent of the stocks in America, while those in the bottom 90 percent own a little more than half of all the real estate in America.

So you can think of wealth inequality as a race between the stock market and the housing market. . . . In periods when home prices are rising, wealth inequality tends to shrink as the wealth in the middle class grows. But during periods when the stock market outperforms real estate, wealth inequality tends to increase.

Another reason is that income inequality feeds wealth inequality. . . . Even if the rich and the poor had the same proportion of stocks and bonds, and saved at the same rate, the rich would simply put away more money.”

6. Are you sure lap swimming is safer than open water swimming?

7. The long wait for season three of Netflix’s The Crown is almost over. The Crown’s production quality boggles the mind. Like watching one movie after another. So good, it’s turned this anti-monarchist into a huge fan. And we’re getting Olivia Colman to boot. Forget football this Thanksgiving.

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In Praise of Kenshin Sugawara

Dan Gartland of Sports Illustrated:
     “The Japanese high school baseball championships (known colloquially as Koshien, after the stadium where they take place) are unlike anything in sports on this side of the Pacific. Crowds pack the nearly 50,000 seats in the stadium and people watch on national TV as 56 teams from around the country compete over the course of 15 days to be crowned champs. Daisuke Matsuzaka once threw a 17-inning complete game, because the tournament is such a big deal.
    The stakes are incredibly high. The vast majority of these kids will never have an athletic moment as important as this. And yet, one player in a game on Sunday passed up a free base. Kennobu Sugawara from Tokuei Hanasaki was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning of his team’s game against Akashi Shoten. But rather than take first base, he admitted that he leaned in to the pitch. Sugawara bowed to the pitcher, then to the opponents’ dugout, and stepped back in the box. Then he blasted a homer.” 

For the life of me, I don’t see any leaning, it looks like he just maintains his stance. Regardless, big props for refusing the free base and then going deep.

The Selfless, Spiritual Nature of Paying Attention

A recent New York Times newsletter chastised “You’re Not Paying Attention, but You Really Should Be.” The subtitle, “How to actually notice the world around you,” promised more than was delivered.

As a sociologist minded academic, I like to think I’m more observant than average. At the same time, close friends and I sometimes poke fun of the Good Wife for often driving right by us oblivious to our pointless honking and waving. She claims it’s because she’s focused straight ahead, but her awful vision probably contributes to the sometimes funny phenomenon as well.

But don’t sell her short. She picks up on things others, like me, often do not. Por exemplar, a few days ago she left this for me on my corner of the kitchen island.

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My dad died 24 years ago. If someone asked me what his favorite bird was, I would reply, “No idea.” But the Gal Pal, who interacted with him 1% of the time I did, knew.

The New York Times newsletter writer unsatisfactorily scrapes the surface when trying to teach others to pay attention.

Paying attention is one of the most concrete ways one person shows another they care for them. My wife knows my dad’s favorite bird because he was important to her. Her default is to care for everyone, but she cared even more than normal for him because he was important to me. She paid extra attention to him, and to my mom, knowing how important they were to me.

She cared for and loved me by paying extra close attention to them. There’s a spiritual component to truly paying attention that the New York Times writer misses. Paying especially close attention to the details of others’ lives is a selfless habit of mind most evident in spiritual people.

Another example. An Olympia friend of mine is visiting his wife’s family in the Midwest. He shared several pictures of her hometown online with explanatory captions. At the end, he wrote, “I was glad I stopped and took the time to find out out more about the town which played a big part in the lives of Mary, her parents, and her sisters and brothers.”

“I stopped and took the time” is the exact advice given by The New York Times writer. To pay closer attention he writes, unplug, slow down, look around. But the second half of my friend’s summary sentence, “. . . which played a big part in the lives of Mary, her parents, and her sisters and brothers,” speaks to the selfless, spiritual nature of truly paying attention.

My wife and friend are two peas in the same paying attention pod. They demonstrate genuine, heartfelt care for their closest family and friends by observing, hearing, and remembering what matters most to them.

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Left to right, less attentive, more attentive.

Weekend Assorted Links

1. ICE Came to Take Their Neighbor. They Said No.

2. The best US soccer player does not have purple hair.

3. The Right Way to Understand White Nationalist Terrorism.

4. Twenty-five of the worst home designs ever. Caution, can’t unsee them.

5. Why is it so hard to take time off work?

6. The most deadly highways in the USofA.

7. Triathlons Fight Decline and Seek Ways to Attract the Young. Case in point, your lapsed triathlete blogger friend.

Thursday Assorted Links

1. Toni Morrison’s global impact.

“History can be manipulated, whitewashed and rewritten, but people who have lived in history all have their stories, which no single dictator or censor can rob. Memories, kept in stories, keep history alive. And who, among American writers, is a fiercer and braver keeper of the memories that have made America the country it is today, in the most beautiful and powerful language?”

2. Scenes From the 2019 Pan American Games. Quants increasingly slice and dice sports in ever greater detail, but athletes’ passion and emotions will always resonate most.

3. The Dream of Open Borders is Real—in the High Arctic.

“In a place with open borders, crafting incentives is complex: If you make life on Svalbard appealing—with good schools, for instance, or better housing—there’s no way to guarantee that it will be Norwegians who come. At the same time, Svalbard cannot turn away anyone on account of nationality. The result, which can be easily justified with the treaty’s mandate of low taxes, is that the Norwegian government provides as little as possible: Unlike the mainland, the islands have minimal health care, child care, and housing benefits.”

4. What happens as opioid abusers hit middle age?  Where the most people die of drug overdoses—Scotland, USA, Estonia.

5. Inside the ten days, two hours it took Fiona Kolbinger to ride across Europe. Only 400k a day. Twenty four year-old cancer researcher who plays the piano and cycles a bit on the side.

6. Consumer Report Indicates Slushies Lose 35% of Their Value Within First Year of Purchase. Eldest daughters second appearance in The Onion, a satirical newspaper. Making me semi-famous.

Corrections

I’ve been a wee bit sloppy lately.

Middle brother, who self identifies as “Smarter Brother” wrote in to say Mother Dear did not gift the Gremlin to him.

“I paid FULL blue book for that car… dad even made me pay the extra $35 for the AM/FM cassette player.”

That is the most funny thing I’ve heard in a long, long time. Middle/Smarter brother added that it took “serious game” to attract women in a purple 73 Gremlin. I concede that point.

Which begs the question, what WAS the Blue Book value?

“$1800.  I had to call the guy at the AMC dealership to get the number… I wanted to pay $1000, dad said ‘No.’  I walked up stairs and grabbed the cash and fat-stacked him at the dinner table… the look on his face was classic! He and mom always thought I was out messing around, when in fact, I was at work.”

The second most funny thing I’ve heard in a long, long time. Damn parents. Glass is always half empty.

Finally, for a correction on the driveway accident see comment #2 at the end of the “Tesla-fy What?” post .

Secondly, it’s somewhat worrisome to me that the Gal Pal informs me that we both went to see Pulp Fiction and walked out somewhere in the middle. We were in a distinct minority. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, “There’s a special kick that comes from watching something this thrillingly alive. Pulp Fiction is indisputably great.” To each is own.