Friday, September 09, 2005


I'll be shutting this blog down shortly. Everything has been moved to

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Blood and treasure

I think we need to declare a moratorium on "blood and treasure." It has a good cadence, and unlike many rhetorical flights, it sounds manly and military and serious. Which is no doubt the reason pundits have latched onto it. But it's gotten to where I can't read an article on without running into it (or its flatter cousin, "lives and treasure").

One good thing about "blood and treasure" is that it forced me to look up what kind of rhetorical device it is. The Handbook of Rhetorical Devices was the first hit on Google and was exactly what I wanted. "Blood" is a synecdoche, where a part is used to stand for the whole--the "hand" in "hired hand," for example. "Treasure" is metonym, where something closely allied is substituted for the thing itself--referring to reporters as "the press" is a common example.

According to the Wikipedia (which I probably should have thought of before Google), synecdoche is a form of metonymy and is pronounced "sin-EK-duh-kee," sort of like Schenectady. In fact--and this is something only Google would tell you--there is a blog called , written by a professor of writing at Syracuse University. I bet she thinks "blood and treasure" is hackneyed, too.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sky High

My local paper gave "Sky High" just one and a half stars, saying that it was a poor conglomeration of "Spy Kids," "The Incredibles," and any of the "Harry Potter" movies. Well, everyone is entitled to his opinion, so I won't quibble with his rating (except to say that he's full of shit: it's a very fun movie), but the resemblance to those three movies is superficial at best. What "Sky High" is most like is a John Hughes movie. And the likeness is clearly deliberate. Apart from the obvious high school setting and in-crowd vs. outcasts theme, every song in the movies is from the 80s, and the female lead is a delicate-looking redhead cast from the Molly Ringwald mold.

I was pretty proud of myself for making this connection, but then I did a Google search on the phrases "sky high" and "John hughes." 5460 hits. Guess my insight isn't so rare.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Spam, eggs, sausage and spam

That's not got much spam in it

The spam section of my gmail account is getting smaller. Gmail has a special folder for spam that automatically deletes messages after 30 days. A few months ago, my spam folder had about 3000 messages; now it has 1200-1300. There are no spam filters upstream of this account, so this is a real decline in spam of over 50%. I haven't read any accounts of spam being on the decline, but is for me.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Dress Code

Having spent much of the previous two days in airports, I am reminded of the knit golf shirt's ubiquity as traveling attire for middle-aged white guys (MAWGs). Apparently, the MAWG believes the golf shirt is a statement, a statement that he is of a certain class--to those of us who are middle-aged, golf still carries the aura of the well-off--but not stuffy. It says, in the mind of the MAWG, that he's a success, but still a guy's guy.

Knit three-button pullover shirts with a collar come in many colors and patterns, of course, but solids and subtle stripes just don't say "golf" and aren't the kind of shirt I'm talking about. No, the true golf shirt is of one of two types:

  • The first is the bold pattern, usually some abstract leaf motif or something reminiscent of a dashiki. No doubt the pattern is thought to add to the "I may look like your father, but I'm not a square" statement.

  • The second is the logoed shirt. It could be solid or thin-striped, but it has a company logo on the left breast or, less commonly, the sleeve. The logo certainly detracts from the "I'm not a square" statement, but it fairly screams "GOLF OUTING!!!" And if the logo is for a company other than your own, that means you are a Valued Customer and not just another salesman. Of course, you have to let anyone you're traveling with know that you work for another company and the shirt was given to you by your good friends at XYZ Inc. at their last outing in Myrtle Beach. In fact, there's a funny story about that...

The golf shirt is always tucked in. MAWGs who go to the gym often benefit from this, because it tends to make muscular guys look trim, even if age has made them thick in the waist. Oddly, truly thin MAWGs don't get the same benefit. I suspect this has something to do with the golf shirt's tight sleeves drawing attention to the muscular MAWG's arms, but further research is needed.

While the appearance of the thin MAWG is not helped by the tucked-in golf shirt, at least it is not hurt. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the fat MAWG, especially the most common type of fat MAWG who carries his weight around the middle. The golf shirt clings to the spare tire and, in a freshly-tucked shirt, hoists it up so passers-by can get a better view. Worse, though, is what the golf shirt does to the fat MAWG's bellybutton. The shirt, which follows the large tummy's convexity, suddenly goes flat at the navel, stretched tightly across the sinkhole. The rapid change in curvature plays tricks with the light; from some angles it appears that you can see through the shirt into gaping maw itself.

I have two more plane trips scheduled for the next two weeks, and with luck that will be it for the summer. With cooler weather, the golf shirts go back in the drawers, waiting for Memorial Day to bloom again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Travel Day

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'

Route 41 runs along the west edge of Superior's Keweenaw Bay in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. As I drove south on 41 from Houghton to Baraga at around midnight, I went past a break in the trees between the road and the bay where I could look straight down the bay and into the full moon. The moonlight reflected off the water in a short shiny streak that shimmied with the waves. It was gone in less than a second, but made the trip worthwhile.

It's been a long day and my planned posting on the bore three rows behind me on the flight from Chicago to Minneapolis--the one with the voice that cut through the engine noise, you've probably run into him yourself--will have to wait. So, too, my thoughts on how the knit golf shirt has become the unofficial uniform of middle-aged white guys.

One thing I will say is that the world has become a very different place when you can get a wifi connection in a crummy little Best Western in the YouPee. And the place doesn't even bother to advertise it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Third-Rate Leak

The Rove thing and the White House response (or non-response) reminds many of us of a certain age of the storied days of the Nixon administration. "Stonewalling" is the term being used to describe Scott McClellan's recent performance, but I'm hoping for the reappearance of the "modified limited hangout route."