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Since I Never Get the Last Word

Sunday, August 7, 2005
Attention to Detail, Comma

In 1999, the U.S. Post Office published a commemorative stamp celebrating the grandeur of Grand Canyon National Park. My maternal grandparents worked there in the late 40s and through the 50s. They are buried in the cemetery on the South Rim. Some of the best days of my childhood were spent wandering the south rim, feeding the white-tailed deer named Crooked Horn because one of his antlers grew crookedly, and learning to handle the gut wrenching fear induced by looking down into the canyon, a feeling I still get when I am there.

But this is about quality controlÖsort of. You see, the label the USPO printed said ďGrand Canyon, Colorado.Ē You can imagine the hue and cry of my fellow Arizonans. The Grand Canyon resides entirely within our borders and we donít want them hippies in Colorado taking no credit no way for our masterpiece. [We sort of take personal responsibility for its magnificence.] The USPO had good intentions; they just didnít have enough space. It should have read Grand Canyon of the Colorado inasmuch and whereas the Colorado River is the real construction crew responsible for the canyon. But, too little room caused an Eastern U.S. editor to replace ďof theĒ with a comma, another instance of the most deadly disease likely to beset authors: creeping commas. When an author, suffers from, creeping commas, that author places commas, wherever they feel good, as opposed to following any grammar rules, of English, Spanish, Chinese, or whatsoever.

I am not the one to criticize, though. Dawnstorm, Holbrook, and The Sheep can testify at great length that my first, second, through ninth drafts suffer from creeping commas as well as all other literary viri. *

*[If the singular is Ďvirus,í then the rules of Latin dictate the plural must be Ďvirií.]

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-07 10:57:28

Saturday, August 6, 2005
Selective Attention

The toll of soldiers losing their lives in Iraq continues to grow. Guerilla wars do that. The onlypeople ever to win a guerilla war who were not the guerillas are the British at the cost of 11,000+ lives. They did it in Malaysia and it only took them 12 years. The U.S. President continually reminds people that this cannot be done in a hurry. Folks who know me understand my thoughts on this President. That doesn't make him wrong on this point.

Our beloved media have taken to using the body count (1800 and increasing) to wonder out loud what cost might be too high to pay. That's a valid question. Here are some equally valid statistics to ponder at the same time we are pondering that one:

In 2002, there were 10,898 homicides in the U.S. 42,815 people died in autmobile accidents. In that war on drugs weare fighting? More than a 150,000 died from drug-related causes. More than 160,000 women died from breast cancer.

It's not just the U.S., you know. According to the British Medical Journal, April 10, 2004, "Britain now has the safest roads in the world, in terms both of deaths per capita and of deaths per kilometre travelled. In Britain 5.9 people out of every 100 000 inhabitants are killed on the roads each year," Thatmeans 3500+ die on UK highways every year. There were 854murders in England and Walesin 2004. There were 382 drug related deaths in Glasgow, alone.

During WWII, the last "just" war, more than 400,000 U.S. soldiersdied and another 670,000 were wounded. In Vietnam,close to60,000 U.S. soldiers died and another 150,000+ were wounded.

So, it cannot be the number is too high. It must be that the ratings are too low. That's what keeps the homicide rate and the auto death rate off the air. No one wants to hear what it is costing us to maintain our life style. The issue of building a democracy in the Arabian desert does not resonate with the someones in charge of reporting our news. And wondering about the costseems to bea way of changing the subject.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-06 11:01:51

Friday, August 5, 2005
It Matters Where You Put Your S

In 1658 the State of Virginia passed a law forcing all lawyers to leave the colony. Unfortunately, the law was repealed in 1680. Many folk believe that, for a while there, Virginia was the only place on earth that got it right. If Colorado had passed a similar law perhaps the Colorado Division of Wildlife would allow the export of prairie dogs to Japan.

Most folk in the Western U.S. consider prairies dogs to be pests but the Japanese prize them for pets. Theyíll pay up to $30U.S. per animal. [From pest to pets in one easy operation.] The Colorado Wildlife folks point out that prairies dogs are intrinsically wildlife and, since wildlife belongs to the public, no species of wildlife may be sold. This makes perfect sense if your talking about deer or eagles or wolves. But, prairie dogs?

Legally, prairies dogs have the status of pest in Colorado. This meansthe law-abiding citizens of that state may shoot them, poison them, drown them, or call them bad names; they just canít sell them. Isnít it nice to know that someone is looking after the rights of the poor prairie dogs?

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-05 13:38:52

Thursday, August 4, 2005
I Should Be Worried

I am having a little difficulty today deciding what I should be worrying about. I know I should be worrying. That is not the issue. As an adult of some experience, it is my goddess-given responsibility to worry about something. Usually, I prefer to keep it simple, e.g., will she be in the mood or not? But, on the first Thursday of every month, I know I need to get beyond myself and reach out for the big worries. The trouble is that I donít know which one I can rely on to get me through the day.

I like Brysonís Yellowstone-as-disaster-overdueĖto-happen. Iíve been to Yellowstone and, if something is going to kill me, I canít imagine any place more beautiful for the job. Itís just so damned quixotic. Imagine walking around with a sign saying ďRepent all ye sinners. Yellowstone is coming and sheís pissed because itís that time again.Ē Just doesnít satisfy me, you know? And imagine NOWís reaction.

I could be trendy and use astronaut Eileen Collinís warning reported by Reuters today: ďSometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation. It's very widespread in some parts of the world," Collins said in a conversation from space.Ē Except that I keep having these thoughts late at night that maybe the ecology is reacting exactly as it is supposed to react and we are all in for a frightening Gaian adjustment. Would be perfectly consistent for Gaiaís dreams and schemes to apply to us as well as to the rest of the environment, just wouldnít mesh with our hubris, thatís all.

Maybe I could go with worrying about the global war on terrorism. Thatís pretty safe. There have always been, are today, and will be tomorrow some disgruntled people. We used to call them gangs but gangs were kind of localized. Today we have the WORLD WIDE WEB of terror so itís different than, say, the Mafia or the Tongs. Just because they are a group of people willing to kill to get their way, you canít use that to compare them to ordinary thugs and gangsters. Why? Because they donít have an easily definable profit motive. They donít seem to be doing this to enlarge their bank accounts. Any self respecting hood knows itís all about the money.

But, the WORLD WIDE WEB of terrorists seems to want me to worry about them and I hate to be manipulated like that. Itís bad enough some governments want me to be an ostrich. Why, if we could just schedule an election, Iím certain the alert level would go up immediately and all the networks would spend hours discussing the new threat level. Sort of miss that. Hasnít happened sinceÖ.November 2004. Wonder what happened in November 2004 to make the threat level become passť?

Oh, hell, Iíll just worry that I donít have any of my favorite beer. Will have to substitute a poor second and third Ė something from Colorado, I think Ė and fret that my taste buds will be roont for life.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-04 14:53:05

Wednesday, August 3, 2005
My Fair Share

Isaac Asimov wrote in 1979 that there are no statistics to indicate the concentration of land ownership in the U.S, and there has never been a land census. Information about the size of farms can be obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture but no one knows the identities of the people who own the land or how much they own.

According to the U.S. Dept of Agriculture 1998 census, my home state of Arizona has almost 10.8M acres of taxable land. You will be pleased to note I pay taxes on 7.407 (10*-7)% of that amount and Arizona has a mere 1.2% of the taxable land in the U.S. However, knowing how much taxable land there is and knowing who owns that land are two different problems. The situation seems to remain as The Good Doctor described it in 1979.

I see this as a simple metaphysical demonstration of the original American belief that no one can own land so, in the grand scheme, no one does. Of course, as with most philosophical propositions, that doesnít stop the government from collecting taxes on it.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-08-03 09:39:30

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