Archive for the ‘Words and communications’ Category

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about a “whistle-blower” in the news. Ever wonder where the term comes from?

This week’s blog entry comes from the NYTimes “Your Friday Briefing” (9/27/19) a newsletter that I subscribe to:

The term “whistle-blower” owes its origin to a 19th-century English toolmaker named Joseph Hudson, the inventor of referee and police whistles.

The first whistle used in a soccer match was probably an early model made by Mr. Hudson in 1878, and he invented an even more piercing whistle for Scotland Yard in the early 1880s. Soon after, in both sports and on the streets, blowing a whistle became a signal that a situation needed urgent attention.

“Whistle-blowing” as a metaphor sporadically appeared in literature in the 20th century, including in works by P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler.

While whistle-blowers have existed in the U.S. from its founding, the term itself is relatively new to the political lexicon, appearing to enter the mainstream around 1970.

Soon, the consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader put a more positive spin on the term with the phrase “responsible whistle-blowing,” which eventually led to the passage of the U.S. Whistleblower Protection Act — a piece of legislation that’s playing a role in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

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Long before Alexi, Siri, and Cortana, us geeks had a habit of naming our non-sentient devices. Individual mainframe computers connected together had to identify themselves to us humans, so system managers gave them names. In the early years it was cutesy, pop culture ones like Spock, Kirk, Dr. Who. When PCs hit the scene, we, of course, christened them too. I had Attila, a PC who ever day would assault me with error messages in an attempt to take over the digital galaxy. Then there was Excalibur, who helped me cut thought the tedium of grammar and spell checking. Some of my PCs names were a derivative of their brand names: La Nova was a Lenovo, Delilah is a Dell Latitude!

Once the habit of naming devices became part of my life, I felt compelled to name all non-computer ones as well. Jedra is my Jetta VW wagon, before her was Jeffrey, a Ford Focus named after the salesman who sold her to me. Of course my cell phone had to have name too: Turtle, because it wasn’t a fast Smart phone!

No I don’t name refrigerators or stoves, or TVs. Though I did name my digital camera “Casi” which is the brand name emblazoned on its cover. But I draw the line on watches and clocks. However, items I touch, that have some sort of “operating system” that gives it a form of intelligence and can carry out my commands, those get named.

Oh goodness, I just read about a refrigerator you can talk to and which will remind you when you run low on milk or lettuce. Now what should I name it? Maybe I’d call it “Iceberg”.

We are quickly approaching the 18th anniversary of 9/11. This poem was written in memory of all the first responders and individuals who rushed to Ground Zero on that day and died. And for those who died years later from 9/11 related illnesses. 

Their spirits rise like the smoke in the pit.

Like the wind swept Twin Tower’s ashes on 9/11

Their remains are scattered in graves across the nation.

Their memories impaled forever in loved ones hearts

Like the particles that rained down from above that day.

 

They were there and saved lives

In heroic acts of physical strength and bravery.

They ran to the epicenter like moths to a flame

To save the innocent from the devil’s inferno

Caring not that death could be their reward.

 

Some died in an instant.

Some died saving lives.

Some came out alive

Only to face a slow and painful death later.

 

They never asked to be heroes.

They were only doing their jobs.

They were examples of humanity’s

Greatness in time of tragedy.

 

As the years march on

They are remembered

By loved ones and

A few memorials here and there.

 

The sacred ground that was their battlefield

Was rebuilt with a memorial remembering the Twin Tower’s dead.

The names of these first responders appear nowhere.

But heroes never die…

 

As long as one person remembers them they shall live on,

A flame burning brightly in human hearts.

And those still lingering on the doorstep of death

Will remind us, the living, more strongly than a monument

Chiseled with names, the sacrifices they once made.

 

Suicide…if you’ve ever known anyone who committed suicide or had to console someone who lost a love one to it, you know how this word will stab you in the heart forever in time.

However, not all suicides are alike in the pain they create. I’m not talking about comparing the note leaving kind to the “done it to get attention” one. What I am referring to is asking the question “Can any good ever come from this terrible act?” I got to thinking about how some suicides, though emotionally painful to those who knew the individual, bring a good in the aftermath. Others just leave anger, hatred toward the person and negative unfinished business.

An example of the latter is Jeffery Epstein’s suicide this past weekend. No one knows why he did it but speculation has he could not tolerate the thought of being locked up in a box for 45 years. Poor guy…now all his victims will never have closure and never be able to see him brought to justice. He refused to suffer the consequences for his heinous acts so now his bad karma will contaminate the survivors of it for their lifetimes.

On the other hand, we have Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. We also don’t know why this kind, intelligent human being who produced such a great TV show as Parts Unknown, decided to take his life. But his good karma follows him even after his death. His life and his adventures have been showcased in the year since his death even to the point where his friends and CNN created an “Anthony Bourdain Day” this past June to honor him. I am also amazed as to where his name pops up. In my recent issue of Cowboys & Indians magazine, as part of the Editor’s Notes, Dana Joseph referenced him as a person who was a one of a kind artist (cook, chef, explorer, the Aug/Sept issue always focuses on artists) and mentions Anthony Bourdain Day. (There is also a “Bourdain Food Trail” in New Jersey based on the episode in Parts Unknown)

We discover that a word like suicide, standing alone can hurt, heal or have two emotional sides. Now I’m waiting, to see if after decades of “mass shootings”, any good can come from those two words. I believe that anything is possible through prayer and action. So Congress, I’m praying that you move your butts on gun control! That could transform those two horrendous words into something positive.

This poem is dedicated to those who died in the shootings in El Paso Texas and Dayton Ohio

She stands in the harbor
A tear in her eye
As bullets in El Paso fly.

She stands in the harbor
Her torch a dim light
As nine are murdered in Dayton that night.

She stands in the harbor
Stoic in her pain
As more bullets from guns rain.

Her cities turned to killing fields
Littered with mass shooting’s dead.
The river in the harbor runs blood red.

Citizen against citizen no value for life.
Such hatred for strangers in her land;
Is her country damned?

She can’t stop the killing, but someone must.
When will this hatred be addressed?
“Give us your hungry, your tired, your oppressed.”

What do Pope Francis and President Donald Trump have in common? They both have a social media presence. Specifically, they both use Twitter to reach out to their followers. However, the similarity ends there. You could not have two more divergent tweeting styles than these two individuals.

I’m not talking about specific content. We all know that the Pope would not tweet about the Russian investigation, and Trump would not tweet about matters of scripture. What is so diverse is the style, the approach, and the reasons each has for using this specific social media platform.

President Trump loves to get up in the middle of the night and dash off a tweet. In fact “dashing off” a tweet is his signature style regardless of whether it enhances or debases the message he’s planning to send. The Pontiff, on the other hand, has a staff who culls tweet worthy messages for him to use. However, they do not send it for him until he has reviewed it. Nonetheless, you would never find him sitting at his desk after dinner and spontaneously sending a tweet!

“Some people can be good on Twitter, and other people can realize that Twitter brings out the worse in them,” he [Bishop Paul Tighe] said. Quoted in American Magazine, January 8, 2018 – Following Francis: The Pope’s Social Media Ministry Takes Off

Wouldn’t it be nice if President Trump took this quote to heart. We’d have a lot less controversy running through the White House these days.

Although the Pope doesn’t tweet about politics specifically, he does comment on topics that impact humanity across the globe: a 2017 tweet dealt with “welcome migrants and foreigners”, and one in 2015 was about the earth looking like “an immense pile of filth.”

According to the social media analytics group, Twiplomacy, from 2013-2015 the Pope was the most influential global leader on Twitter. In 2016 he became number four, knocked out by, you guessed it, candidate Trump! The Pope and the President continue to battle it out for the title of most followed global leader on Twitter, though Trump has consistently taken the lead since last summer. Both men have over 40 million followers but they both still have a long way to go to catch up with pop stars Katy Perry’s 108 million followers and Justin Bieber’s 104 million followers!

 

What’s in a word? The words we use to describe people, events, or our environments ultimately color our view about them. In my previous blog post, Facing An Invasion, I investigated how the word “invader”, applied to the immigrant/refugee caravan on our southern boarder, colors our attitudes toward these people. In this posting I would like to explore applying to them the word “pilgrim”.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a pilgrim with a small p as one who journeys in foreign lands; one who travels to a shrine or holy place as a devotee; The Oxford dictionary also adds: A person traveling to a place of particular personal interest i.e.“thousands of pilgrims converged in Memphis for the 16th anniversary of Presley’s death”

We all know that a pilgrim with a capital P refers to the one of the English colonists settling at Plymouth in 1620.

My question is: can we consider the people trying to enter our country as pilgrims?

I came across a fascinating interview of an author who wrote a book around the topic of how the immigrants of today mirror the Pilgrims of yesteryear.

In British author Rebecca Fraser’s book, The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America, she addresses the question of why the Pilgrims left their home country. Just like the immigrants of today, she says they were treated with disrespect and forced to live in hovels and take low-level jobs that nobody else wanted. She also makes the point that many of today’s refugees from other countries are surgeons and doctors and lawyers who have nothing to show for their status in their home country. Like the Pilgrims they came here fleeing oppression, leaving not only material goods behind but also their entire way of life and identities to start over in freedom. (Interview by Randy Dotinga for the Christian Science Monitor, November 20, 2017 https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2017/1120/How-do-the-Pilgrims-relate-to-immigrants-today)

(yes, yes, I know, most of the “refugees” camped on our boarder are not doctors or lawyers, but like the Pilgrims, they are fleeing intolerable situations in their home countries be it political or economical.)

In another article, American Spirit, The Pilgrims Were the Original Refugees, Michael Daly writes for the Daily Beast:

“In that sense, all the refugees who followed,[the Pilgrims] the Irish and the Jews and the Syrians and the rest, have been pilgrims. And all these pilgrims have given thanks of some kind, if not a historic feast of wild turkey and venison, then at least a heartfelt sigh of relief.”

He also recounts the Elmaris family from Syria’s journey to the United States, saying, “They then set to building a new life with the spirit that has always made America great [my emphasis], the spirit of the refugees who have come here.” 11/25/15 https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-pilgrims-were-the-original-refugees

The immigrants and refugees of the 21st century are indeed on a journey to something holy. They are seeking America’s most scared and holy value “freedom”.  Robert Cushman, a church leader, in a famous sermon, said immigration was a solution if there was nowhere for people to exercise their talents, which he called “that knowledge, wisdom, humanity, reason, strength, skill, faculty, etc. which God hath given them.”

Our modern immigrants/refugees are fleeing from threats to their lives, and oppression for their beliefs. They are seekers of a higher, good freedom, and even those who are uneducated are seeking a better economic existence being willing to take the lowest level jobs our country has to offer. Doesn’t that meet the definition of pilgrim with both Ps?

However, if you want to do a rebuttal to this posting, do a Google search on “pilgrim vs immigrant”. You’ll find lots of information to back up an opposing viewpoint!