Monday, November 11, 2019

Five Guidelines for Living

Number 16 presents five guidelines to help you cope with the vicissitudes and difficulties of life.  Keep in mind that there are many more and that these are just a small sample.


1.  Groundhog Day is just a movie.  There are no dress rehearsals in real life.  Sometimes we are given chances to do better, but we can never go back in time and completely erase our original mistakes.  What's done is done and we have to live with the past and move on.  Time is not a renewable resource.  That is why the wisest among us learn from the past, live in the present and prepare for the future.

2.  To err is human, but there are many things we can do about our most egregious mistakes and shortcomings.  We can acknowledge them, learn from them, apologize for them, atone for them and try not to repeat them.  What we can't do or shouldn't do is pretend that they didn't happen.

3.  Some mysteries are beyond human comprehension and human understanding. No one has an answer or an explanation for everything.

4.  Try to look at all sides of an issue, even opinions you disagree with.  That doesn't mean you have to change your mind.  It just means you should not be so rigid as to refuse to give other views a thought, even those which are immoral and reprehensible to you  It is worthwhile to ask yourself why some people hold such opinions.  You should continually examine your own beliefs and those of others.

5.  Try not to panic.  In times of crisis, we always fare better when we remain calm and in control.  Panicking never put out a fire.

- Joanne

Friday, November 1, 2019

The language of Donald Trump


'When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”     

- Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), English writer of fiction
From Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

In Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll's Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland, Alice meets Humpty Dumpty, the nursery rhyme egg.  In the course of their conversation, Humpty expresses his philosophy about words and language.  He boldly declares that when he uses a word, it means just what he chooses it to mean.

U.S. President Donald Trump's espouses the same philosophy as Humpty Dumpty in Looking Glass.
Trump is a master at using language to mislead and misinform.  He endlessly repeats words and slogans until his supporters are so completely brain-washed that they repeat his chants in a cult-like fashion.  How many times have we heard "witch-hunt" and "treason" and "no collusion?"  It's brain-numbing, exhausting and extremely annoying.

Let's examine two of Trump's favourite words - "witch-hunt" and "treason."

In its historical sense, a witch-hunt is a hunt for and subsequent persecution of persons accused of being witches, as in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts.  In a more informal sense, it is a campaign against a person or group holding unorthodox or unpopular opinions.  Since this is not the 17th century, and no one is accusing the president and his followers of being witches, Trump must be referring to the more informal meaning of the term "witch-hunt."  However, Trump and his followers are free to express their opinions as much as they want in a democratic country.  They are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech.  The press regular reports on his rantings and he tweets to his heart's content. 

The truth is that what Donald Trump calls "witch-hunts" are the legitimate and necessary investigations into his criminal behaviour and activities.  Special Investigator Robert Mueller, in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, found evidence that Trump obstructed justice.  That is a crime.  Trump is now facing impeachment because he has admitted to calling a foreign leader (Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky) and asking him to dig up dirt on a political opponent - Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter.  According to a whistleblower, the call was made as part of a campaign by Trump and his administration to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens. 

Alexander Vindman, a decorated U.S, Army officer and top White House Ukraine expert, told congressional investigators that Trump was blocking $400 million in security aid to force that country to publicly announce an investigation into Biden and his son.  That is against the law.

Now, let's look at the word "treason."  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines treason as "the offense of attempting overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family"  It is a very serious offence, but President Trump justs throw around the word.  It's as if anyone who criticizes him or is disloyal to him is guilty of treason.  Treason involves disloyalty to the state or an attempt to overthrow the state.  Donald Trump is not the state.  He is not America. 

Donald Trump has broken the  law, and contrary to what Trump believes, an American president is NOT above the law.  That is why the process of impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.  A president must be accountable for "high crimes and misdemeanors.'  In addition, Trump and the White House have continually attempted to stonewall investigations by withholding information and ignoring congressional subpoenas.

Humpty Dumpty's theory of language, echoed by Donald Trump, is very dangerous to society and to democracy.  If words can mean anything, then words mean nothing.  They lose their meaning.  A drastic loss of communication ensues.  It can become downright Orwellian as in Nineteen Eighty-Four's "Newspeak."  Therein lies the path to authoritarianism or totalitarianism.

Below is an image of Donald Trump as King Louis XIV of France, known as the "Sun King."  Louis famously stated "L'etat c'est moi." ("I am the state.).

- Joanne

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Vocabulary Test #5 (Ten words beginning with the letter "S")

Number 16 Vocabulary Quiz #5 
Ten words beginning with the letter "S"

Number 16 presents a multiple choice vocabulary quiz.  Choose the correct definition of each word listed.  There are ten words for you to define.  Ready, set, go!

1.  scintilla (noun)
A.   A spicy Mexican dish

B.  A Spanish coin

C.  Dust

D.  Spark, trace

E.  A South American cocktail

2.  septuagenarian (noun)
A.   A person who was born in July, the seventh month of the year

B.  A person whose age is in the seventies

C.  A person who believes the number seven is lucky

D.  A person who dies  at 70 to 79 years of age

E.   The seventh child born into a family

3.  soporific (adjective)
A.  Causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull alertness or lethargy

B.  Causing or tending to prevent sleep, such as drinking caffeine at night

C.  Not professional, amateurish

D.  Quiet and soft-spoken

E.   Very talkative and garrulous

4.  solipsism (noun)
A.  A witty remark; a quip

B.  A theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; extreme egocentrism

C.  A kind of poem with an unusual rhyming scheme

D.  A deep scar

E.   A word that is commonly mispronounced

5.  serpentine (adjective)

A.  Fast-moving and nimble

B.   Of or resembling an insect (as in form or movement)

C.  Of or resembling a serpent (as in form or movement)

D.  Magical and mysterious

E.   Thin and gaunt

6.  sycophant (noun)
A.  One who is cunning and devious 

B.  A fruit merchant

C.   A devoted friend

D.   One who is poverty-striken

E.  A servile self--seeking flatterer

7.  supplicate (verb)

A.  To replace one employee with another

B.   To delegate responsibility

C.   To delay intentionally in order to prevent something from occurring 

D.  To make a humble entreaty: especially to pray to God

E.   To actively hide the truth

8.  serendipity (noun)

A.   The quality of having a wild or creative imagination

B.  The feeling of having a beautiful thought

C.  The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

D.   A loud and disturbing sound

E.    The feeling of triumph after overcoming a difficulty

9.  supine (adjective)

A.  Having an arrogant and dismissive manner

B.  Something that is delightful and pleasing to the senses

C.   Supple, not stiff; easy to bend

D.   Standing in an upright manner

E.  Lying on the back with the face upward

10.  sashay (verb)

A.  To strut or move about in an ostentatious or conspicuous manner

B.  To do needlework

C.  To run back and forth

D.  To deliberately attempt to attract the attention of a celebrity or a dignitary

E.   To leave a room quickly and quietly

(Note:  The definitions for the correct answers have been taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary or thesaurus)

1.  D
scintilla (noun): Spark, trace, as in not a scintilla of doubt.

2.  B.
septuagenarian (noun): A  person whose age is in the seventies, as in The septuagenarian is fit and healthy.

3.  A
soporific (adjective): Causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull alertness or lethargy as in This medication is soporific, so do not drive after taking it.

4.  B
solipsism (noun): A theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; extreme egocentrism

5.  C
serpentine (adjective): Of or resembling a serpent (as in form or movement). as in The restaurant had a large sepentine-shaped bar.

6. E
sycophant (noun):  A servile self--seeking flatterer, as in The sycophant paid his manager compliment after compliment, trying to win his favour and gain access to his social circle.

7.  D.
supplicate (verb): To make a humble entreaty: especially to pray to God; to ask humbly and earnestly of, as in The homeless man was not too proud to supplicate for change to buy foodThe ill woman uses her nightly prayer to supplicate for strength.

8.  C.
serendipity (noun): The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for, as in We have all experienced the serendipity of relevant information arriving just when we were least expecting it.  

9.  E
supine (adjective):
Lying on the back with the face upward, as in Not all abdominal exercises need to be performed in the supine position.

10.  A
sashay (verb): To strut or move about in an ostentatious or conspicuous manner, as in She sashayed around the room as if she were a queen.

-  Joanne

Friday, October 18, 2019

16 Riddles: What do you get when you cross . . .?

Do you need a bit of humorous wordplay in these troubled times.  Well, you've come to the right website.  Here are 16  "What do you get when you cross . . ."  riddles  from Number 16.


1.  What do you get when you cross a fish with an elephant?


 A swimming trunk

2.  What do you get when you cross a lawyer and a skunk?


Law and odour

3.  What do you get when you cross a shark with a snowball or a vampire with a snowman?



4.  What do you get when you cross a sheep and a bee?


A bah-humbug

5.  What do you get when you cross a dyslexic, an insomniac, and an agnostic?


Someone who lays awake at night wondering if there is a dog

6.  What do you get when you cross a kangaroo with a skyscraper?


A high jumper

7.  What do you get when you cross a clown with a goat?


A Silly Billy

8.  What do you get when you cross a vampire with a mosquito?


A very itchy neck

9.  What do you get when you cross a cow with a trampoline?


A milkshake

10.  What do get when you cross a lemon and a cat?


A sourpuss

11.  What do you get when you cross a chicken and a chihuahua?


Pooched eggs

12.  What do you can when you cross a monster and a pig?



13.  What do you get when you cross a hula dancer with a boxer?


Hawaiian Punch

14.  What do you get when you cross a chicken with a ghost?



15.  What do you get when you cross Bambi and a ghost?



16.  What do you get when you cross a chicken with a centipede?


Extra drumsticks

- Compiled by Joanne

Great first lines from great novels

"All great authors know that a killer first line is almost more important than the first few pages, and authors put in hours of work just to get the right sentence on paper."

- Mary Jane Hathaway
Huff Post, December 18, 2015

Not all great novels have memorable opening lines but most do.  Opening lines are like a fishing rod.  They hook the reader and reel him in.  I have pondered the first words of many great works of literature and they have inspired me, intrigued me and delighted me.  Here are some of the best opening lines from some of my favourite novels.  There are many more, of course, and this is just a small sample.

Some of the Best Opening Lines in Literature

lt was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all gong direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

- Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English writer and social critic

From A Tale of Two Cities [1859]

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

- George Orwell (1903-1950), English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic
From Nineteen Eighty-Four {1949}

All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian writer
From Anna Karenina [1877]

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

- Jane Austen (1775-1817), English novelist 
From Pride and Prejudice [1813]

It was a pleasure to burn.

- Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), American writer of science fiction, horror and mystery
From Fahrenheit 451 [1953]

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.  "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), American author
From The Great Gatsby [1925]

- Joanne