Thursday, February 28, 2013
In two weeks, I’ll celebrate my eighth anniversary writing this column. And if I do any ruminating during my 15-second celebration, I’ll recognize that one thing still hasn’t changed: there’s still no single technical level of writing that makes everybody happy.
I still get complaints from total newbies, who are bewildered by terms like “smartphone” and “plasma TV.” And I still get bashed by the gearheads, who find the column not nearly technical enough.
I think a lot about the technical level of the column. Over the years, I’ve adopted a number of tricks that are designed to communicate technical points without losing the novices–and one of them is avoiding jargon.
Why tech writers use so much jargon, I don’t know. Maybe it’s self-aggrandizement; they want to lord their knowledge over everybody else. Maybe it’s laziness; they can’t be bothered to fish for a plain-English word. Maybe it’s just habit; they spend all day talking shop with other nerds, so they slip into technospeak when they write for larger audiences.
In any case, I’m making available to all, for the first time, my list of pretentious pet-peeve words to avoid. I used to consider plain-English writing a competitive advantage, so I’ve never leaked this list to potential rivals. But at this point, forget it; any tips that might contribute to clearer writing deserve to be free.
* Content. As in, “Web content.” Ugh. If you mean “Web pages,” say “Web pages.” If you mean “music,” say “music.” Nobody outside the tech industry says “content” when they mean “what’s on your player” or “what’s on your Web site.”
* Device. You know what’s weird? Cellphone companies never actually use the term “cellphone.” They always use the word “device,” as in the wince-inducing sentence, “The user can transfer D.R.M.-protected content to their device.”
Look, I get it: these days, cellphones do more than make phone calls. But you don’t need to abandon the term “cellphone” for that reason; the meaning of “cellphone” has already expanded to accommodate its new functions. If you say “cellphone,” your audience already understands that it means “a gadget that makes calls, gets on the Internet and takes crummy pictures.”
* Dialog. The term “dialog box” is already a problem, since it doesn’t really identify what it is (a message box on the screen, forcing you to answer a question–like how many copies of a printout you want). But unfortunately, there’s absolutely no alternative. And shortening this to “dialog” is definitely a step in the wrong direction.
* Display. “Display” can be a noun (“a display of fireworks”). It can also be a verb that takes a direct object (“He displayed emotion”). It is not, however, a verb without a direct object, except in magazines like PC World: “Shows filmed in high-definition end up displaying in letterbox format.”
Displaying what in letterbox format? Fireworks? Emotions?
The word this writer was looking for is “appearing.”
* D.R.M. What’s so nauseating about this term is that it started out as a euphemism. It means copy protection, which most people don’t like on their software, music files or videos. So with doublespeak like “digital rights management,” the companies who favor copy protection think they’re putting a positive spin on the concept. And by using “D.R.M.” instead of “copy protection,” we’re playing into their sad little manipulation.
Sorry, Charlie. It’s still copy protection, and we should call a spade a spade.
* Enable. Who on earth says, “Enable the GPS function”? Only user-manual writers and computer-book authors. Say “Turn on GPS” instead.
* E-mail client. Originally, someone coined “client” to distinguish your computer’s e-mail program from the computer that dishes it out (the server). But when you’re not explicitly trying to make that differentiation, just say “e-mail program.” The only people with e-mail clients are the lawyers who represent Outlook and Gmail.
* Functionality. WOW, do I despise this pretentious word. Five syllables–ooh, what a knowledgeable person you must be!
It means “feature.” Say “feature.”
* LCD. What I hate about this word is that it doesn’t say what it is (“the screen”). And even if you spell out what it means in parentheses, you still haven’t told readers what the heck you’re talking about. (“Liquid crystal display? Ohhh, so THAT’S what it means.”)
* P.D.A. Here’s another ridiculous term–ridiculous because it’s not self-explanatory. “Personal digital assistant?” Give me a break. It’s a palmtop.
* Price point. What are you, paid by the word? “Price” alone does the job.
* URL. This one’s common, but I still can’t stand it. “Uniform Resource Locator”? Oh, thank you–that helps. NOT!
I use “Web address.” Same number of syllables, and crystal-clear.
* RAM. Here again, there’s a plain-English word that does the same job without the intimidation: memory. That’s a word that says what it means.
* S.M.S. The ultimate pointless term. “Text message” is the same number of syllables, and also says what it is. “SMS” doesn’t do anyone any good–but it does baffle the non-technical.
* Support. I don’t mean “support” as in “tech support,” although even that term is a corporate creepy cop-out (it means “help line”). No, I mean the verb, as in, “The laptop supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.”
In no other corner of modern discourse is “support” used that way. I use “has,” “offers” or “works with.”
* USB. I use this term in my writing, but only reluctantly; there simply isn’t any other term that does the job. But it’s a hateful term–even knowing that it stands for “Universal Serial Bus” doesn’t begin to help you understand what it is. Let’s have more clever, self-descriptive names for jacks, like FireWire or (for Apple’s wireless) AirPort.
* User. There are two industries that refer to their customers as “users” –technology and illegal drugs.
When you’re writing about computers, there’s almost never a sentence where you couldn’t substitute “you” or, worst case, “the customer” as the noun and thereby improve the sentence. Instead of saying, “The user can, at his or her option, elect to remove this functionality,” say, “You can turn this feature off.” It’s not only clearer, but it gets you out of the awkward “his or her” bit.
* Wi-Fi. I use this one occasionally, but only with gritted teeth.
It’s just not a good term. It doesn’t say what it means. People think it stands for “wireless fidelity,” but the Wi-Fi Alliance, which hired a branding firm to create it, says it doesn’t stand for anything.
I use the term “wireless hot spot” when I can, but only because there’s no more comprehensible alternative. (“Bluetooth” doesn’t immediately convey that technology’s function. But at least it’s better than “Wi-Fi.” Once you hear that it’s named for a Danish king who brought together warring factions, you never forget its meaning.)
And there you have it: Pogue’s Anti-Jargon Dictionary. You’re free to use it to launch your own writing careers, with my compliments!
P.S.–Set your TiVo! This Sunday, October 19, I’ll report on the Encyclopedia of Life on “CBS News Sunday Morning.” (The Encyclopedia of Life, eol.org, is an ambitious international “moon shot” of a project. It will attempt to catalog and describe every single one of the Earth’s 1.8 million known species in one place, drawing on both experts and ordinary citizens to fill in the blanks.)
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
John Stuart Mill's classic essay "On Liberty" gives reasons why some people should not be taking over other people's decisions about their own lives. But Professor Cass Sunstein of Harvard has given reasons to the contrary. He cites research showing "that people make a lot of mistakes, and that those mistakes can prove extremely damaging."
Professor Sunstein is undoubtedly correct that "people make a lot of mistakes." Most of us can look back over our own lives and see many mistakes, including some that were very damaging.
What Cass Sunstein does not tell us is what sort of creatures, other than people, are going to override our mistaken decisions for us. That is the key flaw in the theory and agenda of the left.
Implicit in the wide range of efforts on the left to get government to take over more of our decisions for us is the assumption that there is some superior class of people who are either wiser or nobler than the rest of us.
Yes, we all make mistakes. But do governments not make bigger and more catastrophic mistakes?
Think about the First World War, from which nations on both sides ended up worse off than before, after an unprecedented carnage that killed substantial fractions of whole younger generations and left millions starving amid the rubble of war.
Think about the Holocaust, and about other government slaughters of even more millions of innocent men, women and children under Communist governments in the Soviet Union and China.
Even in the United States, government policies in the 1930s led to crops being plowed under, thousands of little pigs being slaughtered and buried, and milk being poured down sewers, at a time when many Americans were suffering from hunger and diseases caused by malnutrition.
The Great Depression of the 1930s, in which millions of people were plunged into poverty in even the most prosperous nations, was needlessly prolonged by government policies now recognized in retrospect as foolish and irresponsible.
One of the key differences between mistakes that we make in our own lives and mistakes made by governments is that bad consequences force us to correct our own mistakes. But government officials cannot admit to making a mistake without jeopardizing their whole careers.
Can you imagine a President of the United States saying to the mothers of America, "I am sorry your sons were killed in a war I never should have gotten us into"?
What is even more relevant to Professor Sunstein's desire to have our betters tell us how to live our lives, is that so many oppressive and even catastrophic government policies were cheered on by the intelligentsia.
Back in the 1930s, for example, totalitarianism was considered to be "the wave of the future" by much of the intelligentsia, not only in the totalitarian countries themselves but in democratic nations as well.
The Soviet Union was being praised to the skies by such literary luminaries as George Bernard Shaw in Britain and Edmund Wilson in America, while literally millions of people were being systematically starved to death by Stalin and masses of others were being shipped off to slave labor camps.
Even Hitler and Mussolini had their supporters or apologists among intellectuals in the Western democracies, including at one time Lincoln Steffens and W.E.B. Du Bois.
An even larger array of the intellectual elite in the 1930s opposed the efforts of Western democracies to respond to Hitler's massive military buildup with offsetting military defense buildups to deter Hitler or to defend themselves if deterrence failed.
"Disarmament" was the mantra of the day among the intelligentsia, often garnished with the suggestion that the Western democracies should "set an example" for other nations -- as if Nazi Germany or imperial Japan was likely to follow their example.
Too many among today's intellectual elite see themselves as our shepherds and us as their sheep. Tragically, too many of us are apparently willing to be sheep, in exchange for being taken care of, being relieved of the burdens of adult responsibility and being supplied with "free" stuff paid for by others.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Barton gives some history of Mohammed and his religion; gives lots of "new" information about the Barbary Powers war against the new nation, no-navy America. Keith Ellison should not be regarded as a threat to America or Judeo/Christianity, but the use of deception, betrayal, and barbarity are shown elemental to the faith.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
A ventriloquist gave a show in a small-town bar. He
Was going through his usual jokes poking fun at the
Rednecks, when a big strapping man in the audience
stood up and said, "I've heard enough of your smart-
alec hillbilly jokes. We ain't stupid in these parts!"
unsure of what to do, the ventriloquist began to
apologize profusely, but the angry guy stopped him,
Yelling, "You stay out of this mister! I'm talking to
the stupid little guy on your knee!"
A little Girl goes up to her Dad and says, Daddy when my cat died, why did its legs go in the air?
Daddy replies, "well its legs were in the air like that to make it eaiser for Jesus to grab hold oh him and pull him into heaven."
"Oh my gosh, says the girl that means Mummy almost died this morning ! "
"what do you mean by that ?" asks the Dad,
"well" replies the girl "when I looked into Mummy's room she was lying on the bed with her legs in the air shouting 'Jesus I'm coming' and if it hadn't been for the postman holding her down he would have got her !"
Friday, February 22, 2013
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bride kidnapping, also known as marriage by abduction or marriage by capture, is a practice throughout history and around the world in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry. Bride kidnapping still occurs in countries spanning Central Asia, the Caucasus region, and parts of Africa, and among peoples as diverse as the Hmong in Southeast Asia, the Tzeltal in Mexico, and the Romani in Europe. In most countries, bride kidnapping is considered a sex crime, rather than a valid form of marriage. Some versions of it may also be seen as falling along the continuum between forced marriage and arranged marriage. The term is sometimes used to include not only abductions, but alsoelopements, in which a couple runs away together and seeks the consent of their parents later; these may be referred to as non-consensual and consensual abductions respectively. However, even when the practice is against the law, judicial enforcement remains lax, particularly inBulgaria, Turkey, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Chechnya.
Bride kidnapping is distinguished from raptio in that the former refers to the abduction of one woman by one man (and his friends and relatives), and is still a widespread practice, whereas the latter refers to the large scale abduction of women by groups of men, possibly in a time of war (see also war rape).
Some modern cultures maintain a symbolic kidnapping of the bride by the groom as part of the ritual and traditions surrounding a wedding, in a nod to the practice of bride kidnapping which may have figured in that culture's history. According to some sources, the honeymoon is a relic of marriage by capture, based on the practice of the husband going into hiding with his wife to avoid reprisals from her relatives, with the intention that the woman would be pregnant by the end of the month.
Background and rationale
Though the motivations behind bride kidnapping vary by region, the cultures with traditions of marriage by abduction are generally patriarchal with a strong social stigma on sex or pregnancy outside of marriage and illegitimate births.
A familiar example from the Hebrew Bible is the passage in Book of Judges (Judges 21:19) (7th century BCE based on earlier tradition):
"Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh. (…) Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards. And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty. And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them."
In some modern cases, the couple collude together to elope under the guise of a bride kidnapping, presenting their parents with a fait accompli. In most cases, however, the men who resort to capturing a wife are often of lower social status, because of poverty, disease, poor character or criminality. They are sometimes deterred from legitimately seeking a wife because of the payment the woman's family expects, the bride price (not to be confused with a dowry, paid by the woman's family).
In agricultural and patriarchal societies, where bride kidnapping is most common, children work for their family. A woman leaves her birth family, geographically and economically, when she marries, becoming instead a member of the groom's family. (See patrilocality for an anthropological explanation.) Due to this loss of labor, the women's families do not want their daughters to marry young, and demand economic compensation (the aforementioned bride price) when they do leave them. This conflicts with the interests of men, who want to marry early, as marriage means an increase in social status, and the interests of the groom's family, who will gain another pair of hands for the family farm, business or home. Depending on the legal system under which she lives, the consent of the woman may not be a factor in judging the validity of the marriage.
In addition to the issue of forced marriage, bride kidnapping may have other negative effects on the young women and their society. For example, fear of kidnap is cited as a reason for the lower participation of girls in the education system.
The mechanism of marriage by abduction varies by location. This article surveys the phenomenon by region, drawing on common cultural factors for patterns, but noting country-level distinctions.
Bride-kidnapping is prevalent in areas of Rwanda. Often the abductor kidnaps the woman from her household or follows her outside and abducts her. He and his companions may then rape the woman to ensure that she submits to the marriage. The family of the woman either then feels obliged to consent to the union, or is forced to when the kidnapper impregnates her, as pregnant women are not seen as eligible for marriage. The marriage is confirmed with a ceremony that follows the abduction by several days. In such ceremonies, the abductor asks his bride's parents to forgive him for abducting their daughter. The man may offer a cow, money, or other goods as restitution to his bride's family.
Bride-kidnap marriages in Rwanda often lead to poor outcomes. Human rights workers report that one third of men who abduct their wives abandon them, leaving the wife without support and impaired in finding a future marriage. Additionally, with the growing frequency of bride-kidnapping, some men choose not to solemnize their marriage at all, keeping their "bride" as a concubine. Domestic violence is also common and is not illegal.
Bride kidnapping is not specifically outlawed in Rwanda, though violent abductions are punishable as rape. According to a criminal justice official, bride kidnappers are virtually never tried in court: "When we hear about abduction, we hunt down the kidnappers and arrest them and sometimes the husband, too. But we're forced to let them all go several days later," says an official at the criminal investigation department in Nyagatare, the capital of Umutara." Women's rights groups have attempted to reverse the tradition by conducting awareness raising campaigns and by promoting gender equity, but the progress has been limited so far.
In parts of Ethiopia, a man working in co-ordination with his friends may kidnap a girl or woman, sometimes using a horse to ease the escape. The abductor will then hide his intended bride and rape her until she becomes pregnant. As the father of the woman's child, the man can claim her as his wife. Subsequently, the kidnapper may try to negotiate a bride price with the village elders to legitimize the marriage. Girls as young as eleven years old are reported to have been kidnapped for the purpose of marriage. Though Ethiopia criminalized such abductions and raised the marriageable age to 18 in 2004, this law has not been well implemented.
The bride of the forced marriage may suffer from the psychological and physical consequences of forced sexual activity and early pregnancy, and the early end to her education. Abductions of schoolgirls still occur in Oromiya, for example. Women and girls who are kidnapped may also be exposed to sexually transmitted diseasessuch as HIV/AIDS.
Forced marriages continue to be a problem for young girls in Kenya. The United States Department of State reports that children and young teenaged girls (aged ten and up) are sometimes married to men two decades or more their seniors.
Marriage by abduction used to be, and to some extent still is, a customary practice for the Kisii ethnic group. In their practice, the abductor kidnaps the woman forcibly and rapes her in an attempt to impregnate her. The "bride" is then coerced through the stigma of pregnancy and rape to marry her abductor. Though most common in the late 19th century through the 1960s, such marriage abductions still occur occasionally.
The Turkana tribe in Kenya also practiced marriage by abduction. In this culture, bridal kidnapping (akomari) occurred before any formal attempts to arrange a marriage with a bride's family. According to one scholar, a successful bridal kidnapping raised the abductor's reputation in his community, and allowed him to negotiate a lower bride price with his wife's family. Should an attempted abductor fail to seize his bride, he was bound to pay a bride price to the woman's family, provide additional gifts and payments to the family, and to have an arranged marriage (akota).
In Central Asia, bride kidnapping exists in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region ofUzbekistan. Though origin of the tradition in the region is disputed, the rate of nonconsensual bride kidnappings appears to be increasing in several countries throughout Central Asia as the political and economic climate changes.
Despite its illegality, in many primarily rural areas, bride kidnapping, known as ala kachuu (to take and flee), is an accepted and common way of taking a wife. Studies by researcher Russell Kleinbach have found that approximately half of all Kyrgyz marriages include bride kidnapping; of those kidnappings, two thirds are non-consensual. Research by non-governmental organizations raise the estimate of the frequency of bride kidnappings to between 68 and 75 percent of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan.
The matter is somewhat confused by the local use of the term "bride kidnap" to reflect practices along a continuum, from forcible abduction and rape (and then, almost unavoidably, marriage), to something akin to an elopement arranged between the two young people, to which both sets of parents have to consent after the fact.
Although the practice is illegal in Kyrgyzstan, bride kidnappers are rarely prosecuted. This reluctance to enforce the code is in part caused by the pluralistic legal system in Kyrgyszstan where many villages are de facto ruled by councils of elders and aqsaqal courts following customary law, away from the eyes of the state legal system.Aqsaqal courts, tasked with adjudicating family law, property and torts, often fail to take bride kidnapping seriously. In many cases, aqsaqal members are invited to the kidnapped bride's wedding and encourages the family of the bride to accept the marriage.
In Kazakhstan, bride kidnapping (alyp qashu) is divided into non-consensual and consensual abductions, kelisimsiz alyp qashu ("to take and run without agreement") andkelissimmen alyp qashu ("to take and run with agreement"), respectively. Though some kidnappers are motivated by the wish to avoid a bride price or the expense of hosting wedding celebrations or a feast to celebrate the girl leaving home, other would-be husbands fear the woman's refusal, or that the woman will be kidnapped by another suitor first. Generally, in nonconsensual kidnappings, the abductor uses either deception (such as offering a ride home) or force (such as grabbing the woman, or using a sack to restrain her) to coerce the woman to come with him. Once at the man's house, one of his female relatives offers the woman a kerchief (oramal) that signals the bride's consent to the marriage. Though in consensual kidnappings, the woman may agree with little hesitation to wear the kerchief, in non-consensual abductions, the woman may resist the kerchief for days. Next, the abductor's family generally asks the "bride" to write a letter to her family, explaining that she had been taken of her own free will. As with the kerchief, the woman may resist this step adamantly. Subsequently, the "groom" and his family generally issues an official apology to the bride's family, including a letter and a delegation from the groom's household. At this time, the groom's family may present a small sum to replace the bride-price. Though some apology delegations are met cordially, others are greeted with anger and violence. Following the apology delegation, the bride's family may send a delegation of "pursuers" (qughysnshy) either to retrieve the bride or to verify her condition and honor the marriage.
In Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region in Uzbekistan, nearly one fifth of all marriages are conducted by bride kidnapping. Activist groups in the region tie an increase in kidnappings to economic instability. Whereas weddings can be prohibitively expensive, kidnappings avoid both the cost of the ceremony and any bride price. Other scholars report that less desirable males with inferior educations or drug or alcohol problems are more likely to kidnap their brides. In Karakalpakstan, the bride kidnapping sometimes originates out of a dating relationship and, at other times, happens as an abduction by multiple people.
Bride kidnapping is an increasing trend in the countries and regions of the Caucasus, both in Georgia, and Azerbaijan inthe South and in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia in the North. The traditions in the Caucasus, though appearing in distinct cultures, may have emerged during Ottoman rule. In the Caucasian versions of bride-kidnapping, the kidnap victim's family may play a role in attempting to convince the woman to stay with her abductor after the kidnapping, because of the shame inherent in the presumed consummation of the marriage.
In Azerbaijan, both marriage by capture (qız qaçırmaq) and elopement (qoşulub qaçmaq) are relatively common practices. In the Azeri kidnap custom, a young woman is taken to the home of the abductor's parents through either deceit or force. There, she may be raped. Regardless of whether a rape occurs or not, the woman is generally regarded as impure by her relatives, and is therefore forced to marry her abductor.Despite a 2005 Azeri law that criminalized bride kidnapping, the practice places women in extremely vulnerable social circumstances, in a country where spousal abuse is rampant and recourse to law enforcement for domestic matters is impossible. In Azerbaijan, women abducted by bride kidnapping sometimes become slaves of the family who kidnap them.
Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia
The Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia regions in the Northern Caucasus (in Russia) have also witnessed an increase in bride kidnappings since the fall of the Soviet Union. As in other countries, kidnappers sometimes seize acquaintances to be brides and other times abduct strangers. The social stigma of spending a night in a male's house can be a sufficient motivation to force a young woman to marry her captor. Under Russian law, though a kidnapper who refuses to release his bride could be sentenced to eight to ten years, a kidnapper will not be prosecuted if he releases the victim or marries her with her consent. Bride captors in Chechnya are liable, in theory, to receive also a fine of up to 1 million rubles.As in the other regions, authorities often fail to respond to the kidnappings. In Chechnya, the police failure to respond to bridal kidnappings is compounded by a prevalence of abductions in the region. Several such kidnappings have been captured on video.
Researchers and non-profit organizations describe a rise in bride kidnappings in the North Caucasus in the latter half of the 20th century. In Chechnya, women's rights organizations tie the increase in kidnappings to a deterioration of women's rights under the rule of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.
In Georgia, bride kidnapping occurs throughout the country, but primarily in ethnic minority communities, such as Samtskhe-Javakheti. Although the extent of the problem is not known, non-governmental activists estimate that hundreds of women are kidnapped and forced to marry each year. In a typical Georgian model of bride kidnapping, the abductor, often accompanied by friends, accosts the intended bride, and coerces her through deception or force to enter a car. Once in the car, the victim may be taken to a remote area or the captor's home. These kidnappings sometimes include rape, and may result in strong stigma to the female victim, who is assumed to have engaged in sexual relations with her captor. Women who have been victims of bride kidnapping are often regarded with shame; the victim's relatives may view it as a disgrace if the woman returns home after a kidnapping. In other cases, the kidnapping is a consensual elopment. Human Rights Watch reports that prosecutors often refuse to bring charges against the kidnappers, urging the kidnap victim to reconcile with her aggressor. Enforcing the appropriate laws in this regard may also be a problem because the kidnapping cases often go unreported as a result of intimidation of victims and their families.