Monday, January 14, 2008


The nuns in grade school would be proud that I have finally mastered the dictionary. As a matter of fact, the word missal has become a part of me, like an appendage, and I troll it whenever a new word pops up. Sometimes even an old word is dissected and information is gleaned about its origins. Three years of Latin in high school certainly has given me a leg up on tracking down the core meaning of words. . .and Jim's Latin dictionary doesn't hurt either. Yes, Jim owns a Latin Dictionary and a couple of German ones, too. You could say we are both word junkies.

Because of my passion for words and creating new words when the right one isn't available, it has become necessary to create a whole new dictionary. After all, there's no reason that
Webster should continue to have a corner on the market. Thus, Susan's Brand New Word Dictionary is being created right now, right here on this blog. Here's the first entry:

ponderings (n.) (1) seemingly random seed ideas or thoughts that may or may not be ultimately true or useful and may spur action, or not as the case may be; (2) the waves created when a rock is thrown into a pool of water.

Used in a sentence (the nuns would insist): Saturday night I hunkered down with two WSJ's and a TIME in anticipation of uncovering those ponderings that have not been elevated to trends, but are worth watching, none-the-less. Ponderings are more fun, in a sense, because the reader can consider the matter with as many brain cells as available at the moment. There is no push to think too deeply--but, that is OK too, if desired. The freedom of contemplating, or not contemplating, ponderings opens the brain and let's the sun shine in.

Pondering One: A new word is emerging that is an offshoot of the green movement--biomimicry, literally "imitating life." What it means practically is taking those great fractal shapes--you know the ones from whirling sunflower seeds, sea urchins, serrated owl's wings--and creating household items that are appealing to the eye and, in fact, many times improve the performance of an already existing product. A good example is a new building in Zimbabwe that looks like a termite mound in order to vent heat better. Other newly emerging words are biomorphism (resembling a living organism, a tooth stool that resembles a molar,) biophila (love of living things, a wall made of plants) and biotechnology (technology based on biology, biodegradable plastic based on bacteria.) Someone with a better sense of humor than I could most likely make up other pithy words along these lines. Feel free to send me those for posting in the New Word Dictionary. In a year or two's time, we could have quite a collection.

Pondering Two: The latest best pick-up spot is the Home Depot. Why? The Home Depot has introduced a "Do It Herself" class to teach woman how to do such things as using a stud finder. Men have figured this out and dally in the isles following the classes. (Beats meeting in the bars, don't you think?) The WSJ further reports that the Girl Scouts now offer a Ms. Fix-It Badge for "members eager to learn how to wire a lamp or fix a leaky toilet." I think the real reason is that these young women have been conversing with the older gals in the "Do It Herself" classes and want to get a head start. It's never too early to learn the skill of using power tools wisely, wouldn't you agree?

Pondering Three: The Swedes are the kings of pirated technology. I thought that crown went to the Chinese, but no, it's those smart Scandinavians who have too much time on their hands during those long, cold winters. However, at the insistence of the US, Swedish authorities recently raided the offices of the greatest perpetrator, an outfit called The Pirate Bay, and are hauling them into court. The pirates are not worried. They believe that pirating cannot be legally stopped because it's so widespread, but have taken measures to move their servers out of Sweden, just in case. A majority of Swedes believe that pirating is fair game and an inevitable outcome of the World Wide Web.
So, will the current rule of law prevail, or will a new rule emerge that includes sharing without cost?

Pondering Four: Scientists have figured out a way to create stem-cell lines without killing an embryo. How do they do that? These smarties take out one cell of an embryo's first eight to create the stem-cells, which can be theoretically remanufactured into any kind of cell imaginable. However, the scientists don't know if this extraction process damages the remaining seven-celled embryo in any way. Seems to me
that they ought to settle that question before announcing this as a big breakthrough, or we'll be right back to where we started. Or am I missing something?

Pondering Five: Poachers may be out of the abalone business because they have taken most of the catch. These criminals are pretty smart guys; the more they take, the higher the price goes, and the more they take. Humans are pretty wiley animals themselves, however, and have devised methods to subvert the subverters. In the case of abalone, the tasty crustaceans are now being farm raised all over the world--and are more tender and taste better than their poached counterparts. Thus, the price of abalone has dropped precipitously, leaving the poachers holding the bag. The abalone may now get a chance to regenerate in the wild without the criminal pilfering. Could this model be extrapolated to other criminal activities, such as diamond trafficking or drug dealing? Maybe the lighted use of the mind--coupled with good old fashioned capitalist ingenuity--could prevail over activities meant to hoard wealth into the coffers of a chosen few in ways that circumvent the law.

Pondering Six: Kofi Annan, the past Secretary General of the UN, will be the next mediator to try his hand at fixing the Kenyan election mess. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who I mentioned on this blog last week, has had little luck in the matter. Nor has Barack Obama, who is half Kenyan and was called in by Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice to intervene. Nor has anyone else even though the political pressure to do so has been great. Maybe they will all fail in this round. Turns out, that although the current President espoused democracy and was supposedly a shining African example of such, economic inequality ran deep and cut along tribal lines (42 tribes = 42 lines.) Therefore, a allegedly stolen election exploded the democracy myth and the country went up in flames with it. What is the answer for Kenya and the rest of Africa? Jeffrey Sacks thinks he has some ideas, and they rest on accountability and real economic improvement for the masses. When I read his book, it didn't seem like rocket science. Only thing is, the ins will have to give up on their insatiable greed and share the fruits of the labor with the outs. Just makes sense to me, how about you? To read more about Sacks' ideas, turn to his book The End of Poverty: The Economic Possibilities of Our Time. If that doesn't sate your appetite, try The Mystery Of Capital by Hernando DeSoto or Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. That should seed your own ponderings for a long time to come--at least on this subject.

Pondering Seven: You might think I have a thing for Barack, and I do in a way. He is undoubtedly the most interesting politician we have had to look at in some time, probably in my lifetime of 50+ years. Mind you, my observations will not necessarily translate into a vote, but looking at the changes his popularity creates is fodder for all sort of ponderings. This current one, number seven, reflects some pundit's comments that
go like this: with the ascendancy of Barack to his place in history--even if it is just giving Hillary a run for her money, folks like the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will no longer be able to capitalize on their proxy victim roles. Although that may speak truthfully about a purely American phenomenon, I would add that Barack's example could give hope to blacks worldwide. This thought came to me after seeing an interview of Barack's uncle from his humble home in Kenya. The reporter asked the uncle how Barack's presidential race made him feel. The man used the words "pride" and "honor to the family" but his beaming face said it all. How many times have we had a Presidential race when foreign-born relatives are watching the outcome with as much expectancy as the rest of us? How many times have these relatives been black? Thus, Barack, whether he wins the Democratic nomination or not, has changed our grandkid's history books for good. They will now read that America went from segregation to a run for the Presidency without using the race card in the short span of fifty years. What is fact now could not even have been imagined a year ago and that speaks volumes about the evolution of the United States.

And finally, Pondering Eight: Diapers-Go-Green was an announcement in this week's TIME magazine (1-21-08, p. 57.) My two kids were raised on clothe diapers, the ones that had to be swished in the toilet, so I read this with interest. Certainly, modern moms would not go back to that obnoxious toilet routine, I thought. Well, I was right and wrong. Modern moms may give up the 27.4 billion disposable diapers that get transported annually to landfills, but they will now be serviced by diaper companies or new improved clothe diapers. These new contrivances have pockets for disposable pads and elastic bands around the legs to keep in the wet and goo, just like the environmentally unfriendly models. My question, what will be next? Tampons, after all women used to use clothe, or toilet paper? Cloth, anyone?

This line of speculation could head straight to the toilet fast, so we will say, "Good evening, and it will be on to more enlightened topics when we return."

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