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Monday, July 28, 2014

OK vs. Okay

A-OKThere are four common ways I've seen to spell the term referenced in the title of this post - O.K., OK, ok, or okay. Apparently, three of those are accepted spellings, - O.K., OK, and okay, are all okay, but ok isn't.

There are a whole host of proposed etymologies for the term, but the one that seems most likely is actually similar to a popular trend right now. The same way people now use LOL, TLDR, or WTF, people back in the 1800s were using their own acronyms. But the added twist back then was to intentionally misspell the words. So, 'all correct' became 'oll korrect' became 'O.K.' and 'OK'. The 'okay' spelling doesn't appear until around 60 years later.

Different style guides recommend the different spellings, but I definitely prefer 'okay'. It may not be the original spelling, but it just looks better, and with the way the meaning of the term has morphed so much, I don't mind the spelling morphing a bit. And especially with the convention of using all caps to signify shouting, I can't read 'OK' without hearing it in my head as someone shouting the word, instead of just 'okay', which sounds like someone just saying it in a normal voice.

Anyway, not a terribly important subject nor a particularly long post, but there you go.

More Info:

Image Source: Wikipedia

Monday, July 21, 2014

Comparing Platforms - One More Strike Against the Current Republican Party

PoliticsWith my recent posts on politics prompted by the latest Texas GOP platform (see the entry, The 2014 Texas Republican Platform, and the Follow-Up), I've spent a little time looking at political party platforms.

I pulled a few planks from two different platforms for a comparison. Below is a table comparing them. See if you can guess who the parties are.

Party A Party B
We support this and his further offer of United States participation in an international fund for economic development financed from the savings brought by true disarmament. We support United States withdrawal from the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank.
To meet the immense demands of our expanding economy, we have initiated the largest highway, air and maritime programs in history, each soundly financed. We call for all transportation and fuel taxes collected to be used for road construction, improvement, and maintenance only. We resolve that tax revenue derived from gasoline taxes and all other taxes/fees on our vehicles (including vehicle sales tax) should only be used for highway construction, and not be diverted to any other use, including mass transit, rail, and bicycle paths.
We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations. We support the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and the removal of United Nations headquarters from United States soil.
Clarify and strengthen the eight-hour laws for the benefit of workers who are subject to federal wage standards on Federal and Federally-assisted construction, and maintain and continue the vigorous administration of the Federal prevailing minimum wage law for public supply contracts; We urge Congress to repeal the Prevailing Wage Law and the Davis Bacon Act.
Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable; We believe the Minimum Wage Law should be repealed.

It's actually a bit of a trick question. Party A is the 1956 national Republican Party (avaiable at The American Presidency Project). Party B is the 2014 Texas Republican Party (available at TexasGOP.org). Man, what a difference 58 years can make.

I've pulled a few more highlights out below the fold, if anyone's interested in reading them. By and large, it's a platform that I wouldn't mind supporting. Sure, there are some areas of disagreement, but it's a rational platform with reasonable approaches to addressing issues. It's nothing like the current Texas GOP platform, which as I described in another entry, "seems like the type of ranting you'd hear from your crazy uncle at family reunions, not the official platform of what's supposed to be a respected political party."

Man do I wish the Republicans would return to something like what this 1956 platform represents, so that there could be sensible discussions on politics, and that elements like the Tea Party would retreat back to the fringes where they belong.

Here are some additional highlights from the platform, mostly planks that seem pretty reasonable, but that I can't imagine hearing from the current GOP (mostly - a handful you might hear from current Republicans).

Our Government was created by the people for all the people, and it must serve no less a purpose.
On its Centennial, the ... Party again calls to the minds of all Americans the great truth first spoken by Abraham Lincoln: "The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate and individual capacities. But in all that people can individually do as well for themselves, Government ought not to interfere."
Our great President ... has counseled us further: "In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. In all those things which deal with people's money, or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative."
In four years we have achieved the highest economic level with the most widely shared benefits that the world has ever seen. We of the ... Party have fostered this prosperity and are dedicated to its expansion and to the preservation of the climate in which it has thrived.
We also propose: ...Legislation to enable closer Federal scrutiny of mergers which have a significant or potential monopolistic connotations; Procedural changes in the antitrust laws to facilitate their enforcement; ...Continuance of the vigorous SEC policies which are providing maximum protection to the investor and maximum opportunity for the financing of small business without costly red tape.
We hold that the major world issue today is whether Government shall be the servant or the master of men. We hold that the Bill of Rights is the sacred foundation of personal liberty. That men are created equal needs no affirmation, but they must have equality of opportunity and protection of their civil rights under the law.
America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper.
Workers have benefited by the progress which has been made in carrying out the programs and principles set forth in the 1952 ... platform. All workers have gained and unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions.
Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers;
Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;
Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;
Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;
Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;
[Party] action created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President's Cabinet.
We have asked the largest increase in research funds ever sought in one year to intensify attacks on cancer, mental illness, heart disease and other dread diseases.
We demand once again, despite the reluctance of the ... 84th Congress, Federal assistance to help build facilities to train more physicians and scientists.
We have supported measures that have made more housing available than ever before in history, reduced urban slums in local-federal partnership, stimulated record home ownership, and authorized additional low-rent public housing.
[regarding civil service jobs] We will vigorously promote, as we have in the past, a non-political career service under the merit system which will attract and retain able servants of the people. Many gains in this field, notably pay increases and a host of new benefits, have been achieved in their behalf in less than four years.
The ... Party will continue to fight for eagerly desired new advances for Government employees, and realistic reappraisement and adjustment of benefits for our retired civil service personnel.
We favor self-government, national suffrage and representation in the Congress of the United States for residents of the District of Columbia.
We recommend to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.
Great progress has been made in eliminating employment discrimination on the part of those who do business with the Federal Government and secure Federal contracts. This Administration has impartially enforced Federal civil rights statutes, and we pledge that we will continue to do so. We support the enactment of the civil rights program already presented by the President to the Second Session of the 84th Congress.
The ... Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups, and flexible enough to conform to changing needs and conditions.
The Middle East has been strengthened by the defensive unity of the four "northern tier" countries--Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan--which hold gateways to the vast oil resources upon which depend the industry and military strength of the free world. This was made possible by the liberation of Iran from the grip of the Communist Tudeh Party. Iran has again made its oil reserves available to the world under an equitable settlement negotiated by the United States. We have maintained, and will maintain, friendly relations with all nations in this vital area, seeking to mediate differences among them, and encouraging their legitimate national aspirations.
We will continue efforts with friends and allies to assist the underdeveloped areas of the free world in their efforts to attain greater freedom, independence and self-determination, and to raise their standards of living.
We recognize the existence of a major threat to international peace in the Near East. We support a policy of impartial friendship for the peoples of the Arab states and Israel to promote a peaceful settlement of the causes of tension in that area, including the human problem of the Palestine-Arab refugees.
We regard the preservation of Israel as an important tenet of American foreign policy. We are determined that the integrity of an independent Jewish State shall be maintained. We shall support the independence of Israel against armed aggression. The best hope for peace in the Middle East lies in the United Nations. We pledge our continued efforts to eliminate the obstacles to a lasting peace in this area.
We recognize that no single nation can alone defend the liberty of all nations threatened by Communist aggression or subversion. Mutual security means effective mutual cooperation. Poverty and unrest in less developed countries make them the target for international communism. We must help them achieve the economic growth and stability necessary to attain and preserve their independence.
We shall continue the bipartisan development of foreign policies. We hold this necessary if those policies are to have continuity, and be regarded by other free nations as dependable.
One of the brightest areas of achievement and progress under the ... Administration has been in resource conservation and development and in sound, long-range public works programming.
We subscribe to the general objectives of groups seeking to guard the beauty of our land and to promote clean, attractive surroundings throughout America.
We recognize the need for maintaining isolated wilderness areas to provide opportunity for future generations to experience some of the wilderness living through which the traditional American spirit of hardihood was developed.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The 2014 Texas Republican Platform - Follow-Up

Republican ElephantI'd originally posted my entry on the latest Texas GOP platform based on a draft version of the platform. Now that the official platform has been released, I went and updated a few of the quotes to match the final version, and tweaked a bit of my own commentary. If you want to read this updated version, you can find it at the same place as before, The 2014 Texas Republican Platform.

To add a bit more to this post to make it somewhat worthwhile, I did some word counts on the platform to see how often religious themes came up, since it seemed like quite a bit when I was reading it. The count was nothing fancy - just typing a word into the search box in Adobe Reader and counting how many times Adobe found it. And for comparison, I did the same thing with the Democratic Party platform. Below is the table of how often each term appeared. For reference, there are 37-38 pages of content in the Republican platform (depending on if you consolidate the pages that were only half full), and 61 pages of content in the Democratic platform.

# Appearances of Terms in Party Platforms
Term Republican Democratic
judeo-christian 4 0
christian 5 0
faith 7 2*
faith based 5 1
god 12 1
bible 3 0
church 4 2
religious 19 9
religion 2 8
*Technically, faith was in the Democratic platform 3 times, and faithfully once, but only two of those instances were in a religious sense.

For the Republicans, that's an awful lot of religion squeezed into a political party's platform for what's supposed to be a secular government with separation of church and state. The Democratic Party platform has much less overtly religious language, which is an even starker contrast considering their platform is 1.7 times longer. And the context was different, as well. The Democrats mostly wanted to protect religious freedom, while keeping government and religion separate. The vast majority of the references in the Democratic platform were in the section, 'Religious Freedom', where you'd expect them to be, not interspersed throughout the platform in unrelated sections like foreign policy.

I've come across a few good articles from other sources addressing this platform. They're much shorter that what I wrote, which is probably a good thing since they're the right length to keep people interested. Having reviewed the platform myself, I can say that the selection of planks in those articles isn't cherry picking, but representative of the overall craziness and extremism. So, if you think my post is overwhelmingly long, or you want to see what other people have to say, here are the links. The first one from the New Yorker is my favorite.

Updated 2014-07-18: Added the Democratic Party column to the table and the related commentary.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Foreshadowing of More Shenanigans from the Texas SBOE (Social Studies Textbook Review Panels)

TEA LogoWell, the Texas State Board of Education looks like it might be preparing for another foray into the culture wars rather than just focusing on sound education. According to a recent release from the Texas Freedom Network, SBOE Politics as Usual: Textbook Review Once Again Plagued by Lack of Expertise, a few of the board members have appointed idealogues to the Social Studies and economics textbook review panels, rather than qualified academics or historians. To quote from the release:

TFN analyzed panels assigned to review textbooks for courses such as U.S. and world history, geography and economics. Out of more than 140 individuals appointed to the panels, only three are current faculty members at Texas colleges and universities. TFN has identified more than a dozen other Texas academics including the chair of the History Department at Southern Methodist University as well as faculty at the University of Texas at Austin who applied to serve but did not get appointments to the panels.

But the TFN analysis found that political activists and individuals without social studies degrees or teaching experience got places on the panels. One reviewer, Mark Keough, a Republican nominee for the Texas House District 15 seat, got an appointment to a U.S. History panel after being nominated by SBOE chair Barbara Cargill. Keough, a pastor with degrees in theology, has no teaching experience listed on his application form. Keough recently told the Montgomery County Tea Party that he does not "believe that there is a separation of church and state in the Constitution."

Ugh. I hope that in the end it's no worse than the science textbook review process, where the idealogues only had minor influence in the process, and in the end, the textbook manufacturers didn't capitulate to unfounded objections. And the current SBOE isn't quite as crazy as it was a few years ago, so maybe that'll be the case, but their past performance still has me worried.

If you want to do something about this, you can go visit the TFN page to sign their petition, or of course, write your representative on the SBOE.

For background, and why I'm so worried about this news, here are my previous blog entries dealing with Texas education issues (in chronological order, with the newest at the top). Like I've probably said before, there are a lot of good things about Texas, but the politics can be infuriating sometimes.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Homepage Facelift

Face LiftI gave my home page a minor facelift, creating icon links to the major sections, and moving some of the text to the About page to make the home page cleaner. The previous version is still available for comparison, if you're interested. So, if you haven't seen it yet, go take a look:

jefflewis.net Homepage

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for June 2014

Top 10 ListWell, with another month come and gone, it's time again to take a look to see what pages on this site were the most popular. Eight of the ten pages have made the list previously, but two were newcomers - Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army? and Happy Fastnach Day 2014. I'm actually really happy to see fastnachts making the list (though my Fastnacht Recipe did make the list once before).

I've slightly changed one aspect of the way I do this list. Previously, I'd prefaced all blog entries with 'Blog - ', and just listed my static pages with their title. I'd started off that way because I used to think of my blog as a separate little side project for the site, and it was interesting to distinguish the few blog entries that made the list. But in recent years, the blog has come to dominate the site, both in terms of the effort I put in, and the amount of traffic it generates. It had gotten to the point where practically every entry in this top 10 list had the 'Blog - ' designation. So, I decided to just drop that distinction.

As far as overall traffic, June was down just a little bit compared to May, but still the third busiest month for the site as measured by unique visitors.

Anyway, here's the top 10 list for last month.

Top 10 for June 2014

  1. A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  2. A Skeptical Look at Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
  3. Obamacare Lives (A Discussion of the Individual Mandate)
  4. Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army?
  5. Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  6. Gamera II Human Powered Helicopter Sets New Record
  7. Happy Fastnach Day 2014
  8. Friday Bible Blogging - 2 Chronicles 31 to 2 Chronicles 36
  9. Running AutoCAD R14 in XP Pro 64
  10. Email Debunking - Tips on Pumping Gas

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