The Language War: Confusing the Issue?

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog criticizing a grammar program’s caution that I might offend someone with my narrative. It suggested I change the wording of a sentence to be more inclusive.

If you’re interested in the details and the discussion that evolved around it, click the link below to see the blog in question. However, this piece will stand on its own, even if it is a continuation of the rant from Artificially Speaking.

Recently, I was working on a draft for future publication concerning some of the so-called bits of wisdom shared on social media. It is one of those pieces that needs to age a bit before being shared, or deleted. However, as I was trying to wrap it up, the grammar algorithm raised its ugly head again.

The piece in question comments on a meme using the term child as the object of discussion. The meme used the terms “the child” and “a child” to make its point. Accordingly, I used the term child several times without any indication of pronoun preference when referring to the message in the meme. Nothing in the meme, comments about the meme, or my blog referred to gender in any fashion.

The meme’s creator discussed a hypothetical incident involving a hypothetical child. I might have been one of these kids or one of a million others. I analyzed the meme in the same way. Yet, someone, or more likely something, decided that was a problem, and sent the suggestion below.

To me, the suggestion came completely out of left field! The program suggested a pronoun when nothing in the meme or my draft alluded to gender or sex in any way. And, the “Learn more” link simply opened a section that rehashed what anyone with a background in writing would know about pronouns. There was no allusion to why itself would not suffice in this situation.

Please keep in mind that this was a meme discussing a hypothetical person’s response to the actions of a hypothetical child. In analyzing the meme’s message, I used the word child five times, as that was the term used in the meme. Again, “child” was used without any suggestion regarding gender, age, ethnicity, or intellectual level.

It was when I made the mistake of trying to make the child even more of a hypothetical figure the stuff hit the fan! I wrote, “…it is possible the child was trying to defend itself…” The suggestion above was the response to that phrase.

At first, I was a bit confused. My favorite writing aid changed from inclusive to biased in a few weeks. After all, the only thing in the meme or my writing that might suggest gender or sex was the child’s behavior as laid out in the meme.

My first thought was the program or some human accessing the program decided the behavior was masculine. Being the curious, analytical dork I am, I looked into the matter.

It was then I discovered why the program came up with this suggestion. When I searched to find out if the term “itself” would be considered gender-neutral, I discovered the English-speaking world is somewhat divided.

Some writers, educators, and others opined that using “it” when referring to a person is dehumanizing. Others thought it was okay to use “it” for a “baby.” Of course, there was no discussion about when a child was no longer considered a baby.

When does a baby become a child? Can it be referred to as an “it” until it crawls, until it walks, until it can eat solid food, until it can speak coherently, or what?

The bottom line is this. The program wasn’t biased. It, like much of the rest of the world, is confused.


Looking for artwork for your blogs? Click below to see where I got these.

Little Boy Image

Winter Wonderland

Posted in artificial intelligence, communication, Humor, social media, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Soldiers: Then, Now, and Forever

Today, May 30, 2022, we have a twofer. The traditional Memorial Day and the last day of a Congress-crafted three-day weekend fall on the same day. For most folks, that makes little difference. For those who have a personal reason to hold Memorial Day in our hearts it does.

I guess this is better than celebrating the government “holiday” and forgetting the day originally set aside to remember those who died in the service of our country. That happens most other years when May 30th does not fall on the last Monday of the month.

I know! I am a bit of an old fuddy-duddy about some things. For example, Memorial Day should not be the last day of a three-day weekend.  It should be a day of remembrance, contemplation, and memorial, not a “let’s have one more party and get ready for Tuesday” day. 

The names on this wall, deserve more recognition than a three-day weekend.

On the other hand, since it is a government holiday, I feel less remorseful about co-opting it for something akin to Veteran’s Day. Yes, another day that is often confusing to the last couple of generations. Is Veteran’s Day for those who died, are still alive, or what!?

The reality is, individually, we can remember whomever we like. There is no way to make one day sufficient to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice or survived their service but carried the scars for the rest of their lives. For example, the picture below includes a guy whose buddy promised to look him up after Vietnam when they parted company in-country. As with many others, the reunion was not what he hoped.

For me, this year is a bit more confusing than normal. As usual, I want to remember my brother David who was KIA in Vietnam. He was a character, and we were estranged for years. Still, his service changed him, and I was hoping we could become friends again. That hope ended on February 26, 1969.

Also, I am thinking of some friends I lost in the past few months. They served our country honorably in their military and civilian careers, and they are on my mind. This may not be their holiday. Still, as the title of this piece implies, serving in the military is not limited to one’s time in uniform. It is impossible to ignore their passing. RIP Fred, Steve, and Ernie.

My friends did not die in combat, but each has the right to be buried here, just like those who were killed on February 26, 1969, with David.


Posted in Family Vaules, Patriotism, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Conspiratorially Speaking

Recently someone responded to a blog I wrote admonishing me for assuming a conspiracy where none existed. My response was to apologize for not being as clear as possible. I was not proposing a conspiracy but rather a “go along to get along” mentality. That exchange, which ended amicably as far as I can tell, came to mind when I ran across the image below.

My immediate thought was that everyone reading this would think something different. For example, someone who watches Fox News or listens to conservative talk radio would think one thing. A fan of late-night television personalities or CNN might see something else.

The same could be true of a devout Christian and an atheist. For that matter, any two strong-willed people with opposite views, politically, socially, or religiously might see posts like this differently.

Then, I pulled up the homepage for the entity sharing the meme. It is possible to interpret almost all the posts I reviewed as ambiguous, open to interpretation, or propaganda. As one might expect, comments, threads, or whatever one wishes to call the various dialogues illustrated one perspective or another. Now, one might ask, is this part of a conspiracy?

Is this a group of people coming together to sow discord or taint the thinking of those around them? Or is it the brainchild of someone simply finding amusement by pulling others’ chains? The problem with answering this question is complex.

First, if you remember the so-called telephone game, you know distortion of a communicated idea does not require a conspiracy or even conscious intent. It simply requires people willing to repeat things they heard or think they heard without verifying their understanding.

Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

For instance, I hear something and repeat it to you based on my worldview or understanding. You hear what I say based on your worldview and experience. You share it with someone else, and they share what they think they heard.

Every time the information is shared, it changes. In some cases, by the time it comes back to the person who first shared the information, they cannot believe how distorted it is.

The problem today is that one person can share something such as the item above, and thousands of people will be able to read and interpret it based on their worldview, understanding, and biases. Then they can share it, or their understanding of it, with hundreds or thousands of others.

The bottom line is this. Conspiracies1 still exist, but they are no longer required to spread fear, bigotry, and propaganda. Social media lets people do that without breaking a sweat.

1For clarity’s sake, conspiracy here is not used in the criminal sense, which requires some level of criminal intent. Conspiracy through social media is often more akin to groupthink or trolling.

© – 2022

Posted in Daily Life, Political Extremes, Politics, social media, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Who Gives a Poop?

Social Media and the twenty-four-hour news cycle have seriously affected society in the 21st Century. Okay, this is not news to anyone with half a brain and the ability to pay attention to anything more than their smartphone. Still, the depths so-called journalists, writers, commentators, talk show hosts, and others plumb to have something published, posted, or shared is almost unbelievable.

Here’s Why There May Be Poop In Your Lunch

Yes, one could charge I am sinking to the same depths at the moment. However, I have only used the term poop twice in a little over 100 words to make a point, unlike the writer whose work inspired this piece.

I can only imagine a stir-fried Caesar Salad!

The lead story headline on my start-up page the other day was the line above about poop in your lunch. The post continued for over 1,400 words, detailing all the horrible things that could happen to someone who dared to assume eating a salad was healthy.

The story quoted statistics, gave testimony from experts, and generally did its best to make certain anyone reading it would think long and hard about eating raw vegetables. In fact, at one point, an “expert” said people would be wise to cook their lettuce, especially Romaine.

To be as fair as possible, the writer did include comments and statistics that highlighted the low probability of someone contracting a serious illness from a poop-infused salad. The author of the piece also highlighted things consumers of fresh produce could do to minimize the danger.

However, the writer buried those comments in the story after many descriptive sentences detailing how feces could invade an agricultural area, potentially tainting the veggies. Yes, the writer mentioned the risk level after describing, in some detail, problems such as runoff from barns, feedlots, cow pastures, pig pens, chicken coops, and other sources that could potentially contaminate your Ceasar Salad.

The makings of a poopy salad.

Of course, the writer did not stop there. The piece also mentioned all the other sources of contamination. These included bird poop, wild animal poop, and the dried poop that might blow in on a stiff breeze.

So, if you’re not completely pooped out by now, remember one thing. These days, many of the posts online, especially on the start-up page, money-making websites, and certain social media platforms, are little more than clickbait, including poopy articles warning you that your veggies are trying to kill you.

© – 2022

Posted in Daily Life, Food, Humor, Journalism, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Speaking of Pain

A bit over two years ago, I wrote a piece titled “Seriously Doc?!.” It was my take on modern medicine’s way of assessing pain or having a patient assess pain. Yes, I am speaking of that tired old question, “On a scale of one to ten, what is your level of pain?” If you want to know why that makes me a bit crazy, you’ll need to read at least part of “Seriously Doc?!

“On a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest, what level is your pain at the moment?”

And why you ask am I bringing up a two-year-old post dealing with a two-year-old incident? Well, I found out recently there are times when you do not need to answer that question. One of course is when you are unconscious or worse, and you cannot answer the question.

Another way to avoid the question is when the decibel level at which you are groaning, gasping, or screaming makes the question redundant. I found that one out the hard way, on the morning of January 20, 2022.

My little lesson on the shortcomings of pain management in the modern age started the evening of January 19 with some serious lower back pain. However, I was able to handle it with OTC pain meds and an OTC sleep aid. Unfortunately, when I awoke the next morning, all the OTC meds in the house couldn’t help me.

The little pain in my back now felt like I’d been headbutted by a Brahma Bull and tossed over the corral fence. Okay, I’ve never been tossed over a fence by a bull, but I had some pretty good shots from Welsh and English rugby players, who thought they’d teach us Americans a few lessons about how real rugby was played. The biggest difference between those pains and getting bucked by a bull I can imagine is that the rugby clubs always provided the beer needed to forget the trauma.

My first clue no one was going to ask about my pain level was when the ambulance team showed up. The lead paramedic took one look at me and started apologizing because he did not have any medication strong enough to completely relieve my pain. Watching his face every time the ambulance hit a bump helped me pass the time on the way to the hospital. Things got really interesting at the hospital, but that is a tale for another day.

So, why the sad tale of woe, without completing the story? Well, due to the distraction of this incident, my plans have been sidetracked a bit. I was in the middle of planning a new web/blog site when this problem arose. I have made some progress and managed to publish a few things, but my new venture has been seriously delayed.

With that said, I hope to have the new site up and running soon. It will focus on the things that try to stop us, you and me, from achieving our goals, completing our plans, and staying on the path set before us.

So, stay tuned as I complete my physical and mental rehabilitation. Hopefully, something here or in the future will help you Keep Knocking someday.

© – 2022

Images by Mahmud Shoeb and F. Muhammad at Pixabay

Posted in Daily Life, Humor, Medicine, Verbal Communication | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Language War: Artificially Speaking

This is not my first piece about the manipulation of language, and it probably will not be my last. The inspiration for this little diatribe was the information in the screenshot below. To me, it is an excellent example of how ludicrous the woke culture’s desire to change the way we speak and think can be.

First, let me make something clear. I do not care how someone identifies, what pronoun a person prefers, or what lengths someone goes to seek a balance between their vision of themselves and their physiology. To the best of my ability, I will honor their feelings on the matter.

With that said, I am becoming more and more perturbed with the grammar police, be the enforcer human or algorithm. For example, consider this comment by an editing program. It popped up when I wrote, “most of the lakes in Texas are man-made.”

Again, I understand it is important to be inclusive and open as much as humanly possible. For decades, I worked with an organization providing diversity, equity, and inclusion training.

We helped community organizations, schools, colleges, universities, corporations, and law enforcement deal with issues of discrimination and harassment.

I co-led seminars on dealing with discrimination in the workplace from south Texas to Connecticut. I also briefed government officials on hate crimes issues in higher education from California to the District of Columbia. In short, I understand and have worked to deal with issues of discrimination, exclusion, and mistreatment by employers, governmental entities, and the average Joe.

So what is my point here? It is this. I understand why many people become concerned when others use terms or labels that can be used to denigrate, directly or indirectly, people they see as different. Still, I am troubled by how some politicians, academics, and other leaders are pushing an agenda that will likely cause more issues than it solves. Consider the “sensitivity” critique I received above.

It is true that some within society may be triggered by the term man-made. However, the solution offered by the editing system I use is confusing and inaccurate. That is part of the problem with attempting to adjust the language to fit the societal biases of the moment.

The fact that human effort helped create a lake does not make it “artificial.” It is still a lake. On the other hand, there are small bodies of water today some might call lakes that are completely artificial, except for the water. You can find such artificial lakes at resorts, planned communities, amusement parks, and other locations.1

The man-made lake about which I was writing when the algorithm admonished me. Looks pretty natural to me. And, for the record, the walkway to the nature area is also man-made, and there is nothing artificial about it either. It is a real walkway over the shallows.

They are artificial for several reasons. The most important is they are not fed by natural sources. Water does not come from a spring, a creek, or a river. The water used to fill these “lakes or lagoons” comes from wells or is piped in from other locations. Bodies of water such as this are no more natural than a swimming pool. Humans completely manufacture them.

On the other hand, a “man-made” lake exists because humans constructed a dam or dug a new channel for a river or creek to form the lake. Once the human efforts were finished, the natural flowing water and rain finished the work.2

I realize some readers may still be scratching their heads, wondering what real difference this makes. They will wonder if I am not splitting hairs, but that is not the case. The reality is that how a lake came into existence is not the issue. The issue is the need to change the language because it might distract or upset someone.

One way to change society or culture is to change the language. Historically, the language evolved with societies or changes such as massive immigration, scientific advances, and similar stimuli. Today, we change the language to meet the agenda-driven outcries of activists, politicians, and others who feel superior to the rest of us.

© – 2022

  1. Some might quibble with this comment, but there are companies promoting their services to provide artificial lakes and other bodies of water.
  2. If someone wants to split hairs on this matter, it is possible to claim lakes created through human effort should properly be called reservoirs. However, every reservoir I’ve visited in my life of any size was called a lake by those who lived near it.
Posted in Daily Life, Leadership, Political Extremes, Politics, Uncategorized, Verbal Communication | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lost Dogs and Tall tales

We watched the movie Dog the other night. If you haven’t seen it, you should, especially if you are a dog or pet lover. It chronicles the trials and tribulations of two disabled veterans. One was human and the other canine.

Together, they were on a road trip to the funeral of the dog’s fallen handler. The best way to describe the movie might be to call it a comedic near-tragedy. Many will have tears of laughter, and some of sorrow before the credits roll.

However, this is not a movie review. Rather it is to share some memories. Yes, a silly movie about a disabled veteran trying to prove he was still capable of being a soldier and a disabled dog just trying to survive took me down a path I did not expect.

I first cried over the body of a beloved pet at five. A neighbor poisoned her, and as she was dying, she dragged herself home. We found her lying in our driveway. Yes, she roamed free a bit, but this was long before leash laws and other governmental intrusions into our everyday lives. Also, she was somewhat of an escape artist, and the old fence around our rent house was not hard to breach.

The yard where Lady was supposed to stay.

Perhaps my folks should have done more to keep her home when the neighbor complained. However, he reportedly complained about everyone’s pets, kids, cars, and yards. It meant nothing to David, my little brother, and me, whatever the reality. Lady was gone, and we were heartbroken.

We lived in a “no pet” zone after that. We tried to domesticate a raccoon once, and we rescued several litters of rabbit kittens, feeding them by hand until they were old enough to put back in the field. We also had a few parakeets and an aquarium or two, but baby rabbits, crazy raccoons, goldfish, and birds cannot replace a dog. Then Groucho came into our lives.

Groucho, Mom, David and me.

I cannot remember where we got Groucho or who named him, but he was a piece of work. He was a mutt, but he was a loveable mutt. He also thought he was the king of all he surveyed.

He tolerated us because we’d scratch him behind his ears and play chase with him. He was our four-legged little brother until the day we came home from school, and he was gone.

The story of Groucho’s disappearance is a bit complex, and details are of little consequence. The facts are these. Dad had a chance to take in a registered German Shepherd with great lineage and obedience training, Sven.

Groucho did not take well to a new alpha male, and within a short time, he disappeared. Supposedly, Dad gave him to another family. David and I seriously doubted that story, but the truth made little difference. We were in shock and mad at Sven and Dad for a long time.

David & Sven

Eventually, we forgave Sven. I’m not certain we ever forgave Dad completely, but he was our dad. Besides, Sven was a great pal and protector. There was no way we could stay mad at him. Once, he saved my brother from a bad situation by annihilating a very large cottonmouth water moccasin.

He also stood guard regularly when dad was away at night. He was always ready, beating us to the door if someone knocked and letting them know he would not tolerate any nonsense with a deep growl.

Then, we came home from school, and he was gone. This time there were no tall tales about a new family. Sven injured himself as a pup, which is why we got him.

He was always in some pain, and as he aged, it was worse. Finally, the vet told our folks there was nothing more they could do, and my folks agreed to have him “‘put to sleep.”

We were teenagers and old enough to know what that meant. We even understood why it was necessary, but it took a long time to get over not being able to say goodbye.

© – 2022

Posted in Daily Life, family, Old Fort Worth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Road Trip Flashback

The story you are about to read took place at The Point, a restaurant on Bomber Road, just west of Lockheed Martin. If you are not familiar with The Point on Lake Worth, let me introduce you to one of the best places for fried catfish on the west side of Fort Worth.

Of course, the joint serves other good down-home favorites, but the catfish is outstanding. Also, the place has been there in one form or another since I was a kid.

Every time I go there, I look out over the lake and smile. I spent a lot of time on Lake Worth, fishing, water skiing, and just hanging out. Looking down from The Point’s patio lets me revisit some of those memories, but this time it was not the view that made me smile.

This time, my smile, probably more of a grin, broke out on the parking lot. Sitting right there on the end of a row of parked cars was a beat-up old thing that might have been waiting for the wrecker. I mean, it was rough looking.

Thankfully, it was not a junker when I took a closer look. It was just partway through restoration. Even if it had been a clunker that was waiting for the tow truck, it would have gotten my attention. It was a Hudson!

I know a lot of folks reading this will read that last sentence with a puzzled look on their face. They’ll be thinking, “What the heck is a Hudson? I would be in that group, except we owned a Hudson when I was in grade school.

Sadly, the brand disappeared when the Hudson Motor Car Company merged with Nash Motors in the late 1950s. Still, in the picture below, the one we owned was a legend in our family. It was a great car, and we used it for one of our more memorable road trips. That trip and the stories told for years afterward are what made me grin when I recognized the Hudson on the parking lot.

Me, cousin Jimmie, and my brother with our Hudson.

The road trip was in the summer, with no coats required, unlike the picture above. Also, it was a combination business and pleasure trip. Dad was an engineer and helped develop an after-market air conditioner for automobiles. The trip was primarily to test the A/C unit, but since he wanted to test it over a long haul, he made a road trip to Arizona out of it.

Most of my memories from that trip come from stories and photos. We took a lot of road trips during that period, remembering all the sights, adventures, and what have you was difficult as a kid. Today, only bits and pieces stand out, and only a couple are from the trip in the Hudson.

Still, finding the old Hudson parked at the Point was an unexpected delight. My only regret is I did not know who owned the thing until I saw him and his family drive off in it later. I believe he is a regular, so I hope to see him and the Hudson again soon.

I restored a car or two in my younger days and would love to visit with him about the car and swap stories about cars, trips, and hanging out at the lake and The Point.

© – 2022

Posted in Daily Life, family, Family Vaules, Food, Old Fort Worth, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Of Bluebonnets, Flower Beds, and Politics

Years ago, I wrote a piece titled “A Blind Eye.” The title referenced humanity’s ability to turn a blind eye to the signs of something larger than themselves. Depending on your belief system, something larger than humans might refer to the god of the Bible, a higher power, mother earth, or a state of consciousness beyond what most of us can imagine.

Whatever belief system one has, or doesn’t have, has little to do with closed minds, closed hearts, and the blind eyes that support them. For example, consider the title of this post. It is clear two of those things have something in common, but politics? What in the world does politics have to do with gardening and wildflowers? Hopefully, I can shed a bit of light on the idea.

The Bluebonnet happens to be the state flower of Texas. The fact it is the state flower points to a problem of sorts with politics. Often, the people in charge, politicians especially, only see one aspect of a situation. The Bluebonnet is a pretty and plentiful flower for part of the year. The rest of the year, it is less than adorable. You see, the Bluebonnet is essentially a weed.

Bluebonnets and Paintbrushes

It can beautify a large area and become the site of many gorgeous and heartwarming photographs when it is blooming. Unfortunately, once the bloom is off the weed, its weediness comes into play. If it is not dealt with properly, it will become an eyesore, if not worse.

Now that I’ve denigrated a state flower, let’s think about flowers in general. The picture to the right is a “flower bed” that brings oohs and ahs from many folks in this neighborhood. The homeowners spend many hours taking care of the bed, even though they cannot see it from their house or yard.

To be fair, the residents spend a lot of time on their yard in general. It is, in some ways, a very attractive bit of residential property. In fact, from the street in front of the home, it looks like a small mansion. Unfortunately, if it were not for the flowers, the side street view would be a vine-covered fence hiding a driveway and storage area.

All right! Pretty weeds, a heavily planted strip of flower bed, and politics, where am I going? Here is my point. The government often talks about the big picture and the long-term benefits of its work.

In that way, it is a bit like the folks who spend hours, if not days, every year working on a flower bed that will look like the picture to the left, or worse, much of the time.

However, their efforts distract passersby for a time and outright hide the less attractive parts of their property. And, the neighbors and passersby overlook the dead, ugly months, waiting for the beauty they expect to return.

That is how government works. Politicians keep us looking at the shiny objects of new benefits, green energy, and what-not planned for the future. They hope that keeps us from noticing the crime, destruction, and chaos surrounding us. Sadly, for many, it seems to work.

© – 2022

Bluebonnets and flags courtesy of lorimalhiot from Pixabay

Posted in Daily Life, Leadership, Political Extremes, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Snow, Sleet, and Neighbors

Texas is a special place in many ways. It has miles and miles of miles and miles. It has a storied history that many love, while others think it is an example of Texas narcissism. And, like the rest of the United States and the world, it has its share of blowhards, smart-alecks, and just plain jerks. Still, it has some of the most neighborly people in the South, unless you get on our wrong side.

Here, I want to share a little story of neighborliness I found amazing when it happened. Heck, I still find it amazing in a way.

In the winter of 2000, we bought a new house in a small development of semi-custom homes. This little neighborhood was at the far south end of a street full of large older homes and was to some degree isolated, with one way in and one way out, a ski-slope steep hill.

Less than two months after we moved, in February 2001, a winter storm paid us a visit. Our neighborhood might as well be somewhere on the Iditarod Trail in Alaska when that happens. There is simply no way in or out until the ice melts. In most cases, like the February 2022 winter storm, that is not a problem.

Everyone is prepared. The pantries are stocked, emergency supplies, if needed, are handy, and the kids are just waiting to be unleashed on our steep snow-covered driveways. Not to mention, our snow and ice-covered street. This time things were a bit different.

Two of us had important business meetings in other states that we could not miss. We were both flying out the same morning if we could get to the airport, which did not seem likely. Then the neighborliness kicked in.

The nearest snow shovel was likely somewhere north of Oklahoma City. Yet, there were gardening tools in every garage and a neighbor ready to wield them. A few hours after sunrise, our neighbors had chiseled a path up the hill so we could make our flights. When we drove out to head for the airport, the only thing missing from our little two-car parade was ticker tape showering down from the surrounding yards.

Twenty-one years later, some of the neighbors moved on, and new ones moved in, but the mood remains the same. We look out for each other, we help each other, and if one of our older neighbors, my wife and I included, needs a hand, three people, at least, seem to appear out of thin air.

© – 2022

Posted in Daily Life, family, Family Vaules | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment