Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, April 25, 2016


Coming out of this closet may be as perilous as coming out of one that has to do with sexual preference.

I am a social sports fan, with every team sport except baseball and swimming. That is, I follow other sports simply to deflect needless peer pressure to show an interest in socially acceptable team sports. Today, we hear that Tom Brady's perennial four-game suspension for, um, something, has been reinstated by a three-judge panel of the Second US Court of Appeals.

As a social sports fan, then, here is my message to the teams, the courts, the NFL, and all actual fans of pro football everywhere:

For different reasons, this seems to be the court's message too. Even before this decision, the Second US Court of Appeals had a reputation as the most pro-business, anti-union court in the country. It appears that this panel of that court has upheld that reputation. The court doesn't care a rat's ass whether Brady actually committed an offence: they said as much in the decision. They only care about upholding Roger Goodell's rights under the collective bargaining agreement. The numerous fans and players of other teams who are no doubt cheering the decision ought to read it twice. The substance is that the NFL commissioner can punish any player, on any team, for any reason, or possibly for no reason, just because the player's union lawyers were bargaining pushovers. Roger Goodell now is confirmed in rights that no English monarch, for example, has enjoyed in some 400 years, rights that Donald Trump would have wet dreams about. These rights are not given to just any boss, but to an individual running an organisation with more money and more power than many countries.

The cheering yahoos and players need to realise that this was never about Brady, or his guilt or innocence. If the appeals process goes on until Brady is 50 or so, to the point at which the penalty is moot, it will never be about Brady's guilt. Goodell simply picked the biggest target to show what a tough guy he is.

One of the reasons I can't gin up a lot of profound interest in pro football is, by coincidence, coming up just as this insanely pro-business decision is announced. We appear to have another domestic violence indictment against an NFL player. Johnny Manziel, who should have finished college, isn't as much of a target as Brady. What I will watch with interest isn't the games this fall, but whether Manziel will get the customary two-game suspension for violence against women. I suspect we'll have to see whether Rockin' Roger wins his tilt against his favourite windmill.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Oh, and there's this on the name business

...About the name business. There have been recent studies demonstrating the extent to which "black-sounding" names have become a liability in the job market. From experience, I suggest that any strange-sounding name, any name that demands that HR ask how to pronounce it, and above all, any name that HR's resume screening software can't handle, is a liability in the job market.

Take that, cutsey baby name vendors and buyers!

How do I know about this? Ever had a job coach suggest that you change your name to be competitive in the job market? I have.

I don't think the average Anglo has had that experience. But the higher up the search ladder an African-American reaches, or an Hispanic reaches, the more likely it is that they hear this expert advice.

So too, I think, it is with those descended from the "small peoples" around the fringes of Europe (and Asia). Of these, the Irish are the best-known. There are many others: some with their own nations, but all with their own languages. Americans know, or think they know, the Irish and Highland Scots. They barely know the Welsh. There are also Bretons, Basques, Suomi, Sami, and so on. And any of these who have names that don't fit the Anglo-Saxon template? Well, along with people of colour, they'll just have to change their names to get a job equal to their abilities.

Some--most--of my Welsh relations took names in Saesnaeg. In a fit of nationality, they gave me one that wasn't. And with all its disadvantages, I'm not changing it.

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Missing time

The few who have hung around here long enough know that, courtesy of the U.S. Navy, I am short about two months of my life, from March until mid-May, 1970. This is the period in which I was conned into accepting unnecessary surgery. During that time, my chief preoccupations were getting well, and helping people far worse off than I to get well. For most of that time, my exposure to media was limited to the cacophony of  50 radios in a 40-bed ward, all tuned to one form or another of pop music.  I was barely conscious during the Apollo 13 crisis. When I saw the film, it was entirely new territory to me. Next, I had only the vaguest idea that the first Earth Day was happening. My thought at the time was something like "cool," but ever since an idea that otherwise should have, and does, resonate with me, is something with which I haven't totally connected. Perhaps if I had been present at the creation, I wouldn't have to be reminded of it each year with a dope slap. I had the annual dope slap today, which is why this is on my mind.

I was somewhat more aware of things by May 4 of that year. If you don't know what May 4, 1970 means, you're the one who needs the dope slap. Even that was barely on the radar of someone on a big ward full of broken sailors and Marines. None of those 50 radios was tuned to news, and in any case in those long-gone days there was no such thing as a 24-hour news cycle.

So, if that era is only something you studied in high school history, do keep in mind that a few of us have gaps in our recollection that owe nothing to early dementia. We had other things on our minds.

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Monday, April 04, 2016

Old rant, new arrangement

Those who care to shuffle around in older posts here will find variations on these themes.

  1. Americans who can pronounce my name correctly amount to a fraction of a percentage. It is a simple, one-syllable Welsh name, easy to pronounce if you stayed awake in third-grade grammar class long enough for the uses of "y" as a vowel. But most red-blooded "real 'Muricans" can't spell or pronounce English, proving that they were very sleepy in grade school, or their teachers were lazy, or they are lazy, or a combination thereof. I've observed that recent immigrants are much more attentive to things like this. If they come across a name they can't pronounce, they'll usually ask, politely, how to pronounce it, and listen to the answer. 'Muricans, even those who ask, are too arrogant or lazy to listen.
  2. Despite this, gen-X Americans in particular, and regrettably some millennials, are moderately obsessed with digging up cute and "original" names for their spawn. African-Americans, who devise entirely new names, are the ones who are really original in this line. The white begetters and consumers of cute baby names either take a European gender-appropriate name from a language they don't understand, or take a name that sounds "interesting," regardless of its gender in the original language, and apply it to their offspring whether it fits or not. Thus, if you rummage around Google for "Bryn," in the U.S.A, you'll find a significant number are female, bearing a name which in the U.K. is as gender-specific as Fred or George.
  3. The purveyors of cute baby names assert that it is much better to blend genders like this. However, the blending usually works out better for the girls than the boys. First, there is a social bias favouring the use of traditionally male names for female children. Second, it has been noted (when I get around to finding the citation I'll link to it) that when a male (or place) name is used often enough for female offspring, it loses its male or neutral identity and becomes female. This rather works against the purveyors' hypothesis.
  4. My latest observation is that while American parents are earnestly blending the genders of their little sprats' names, or favouring the practise, few among them are prepared to have their children, or someone else's, actually blend their genders. Note that I'm not talking about gay children, who still have troubles of their own with many parents. While my interest here does encompass transfolk, the area that is still beyond the pale for most of the parents happily playing gender games with  childrens' identities is that broadly called non-binary. I rather doubt that there is a clear indication that gender-neutral names produce non-binary adults. I know of too many non-binary and trans individuals who began their lives with some sort of gender-specific name to see a correlation. All the same it would make an interesting study. What I do suggest is that parents who are willing to accept gender-blended names, but unwilling to accept children whose actual identity doesn't match expectations, are thirteen different kinds of hypocrite. This is true, I think, whether the child in question is theirs or someone else's, and whether the individual is still a child or has become an adult. It is especially true when the person rendering judgement is a legislator or other authority figure. While we're proposing studies, how about one checking up on the sort of names reactionary lawmakers are giving their kids?