Thought of the Day: The Atrocity of Non-Specificity, a.k.a. "Who's Washing What?!"

Thought of the Day: The Atrocity of Non-Specificity, a.k.a. "Who's Washing What?!"

I always get a kick out of those signs in restaurant/store bathrooms stating that "Employees Must Wash Hands" (often concisely printed without the optional "Before Returning to Work" qualifier). The way it's phrased, the familiar government-mandated (I think) directive fails to specify precisely whose hands said employees should be washing.

For all we know, it could be interpreted as indicating that washing customers' hands is one of an employee's myriad responsibilities.

And who's to say they have to be genuine, living hands? Maybe mannequin's hands need to be washed too. And who better to do it than those poor beleaguered employees?

Furthermore, isn't everybody who has a job considered an "employee" somewhere? The signs don't specify that the rule applies specifically to employees of the establishment in which the signs are posted. And it's not like one ceases to be an employee the moment (s)he leaves his/her workplace for the day, provided (s)he has not resigned or been laid off or terminated.

So really, the only people who aren't required to wash hands (again, we're not sure which hands exactly) are the unemployed.

Which includes children.

That scares me.

It all reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Pirates of the Caribbean:

Will Turner: Barbossa, you lying bastard! You swore she'd go free!

Barbossa: Don't dare impugn me honor boy! I agreed she go free, but it was you who failed to specify when or where!

Repost: Heartfelt Words from Friends in Tucson

Repost: Heartfelt Words from Friends in Tucson

Much has already been said, many times over, about the recent horrific events in Tucson, Arizona. The shooting and the aftermath touched us all in various ways, some of those ways strange and unexpected. (For instance, Congresswoman Giffords and one of the other surviving victims are both fellow Cornell alums.)

Of course, nobody feels the pain of such events as acutely as friends and relatives of the victims, or to a lesser but still very real degree, residents of a community brought to its knees by such an unspeakable, unthinkable, chilling act of wanton violence hitting far too close to home. At times like these especially, we are indeed all part of a greater community, and the burden shouldered by our fellow human beings in Tucson is all of ours to carry.

Two Bay Area friends of mine -- a former co-worker and his partner -- have been living in Tucson for several years now. Granted, I had forgotten their exact location in Arizona (a completely unfamiliar state in my mind), and it wasn't until I received the below message that I remembered they were right at the epicenter of this disaster.

I believe these sentiments bear repeating, and so with Jean Bellour's permission, I am reposting his words (followed by my response) for any and all to see:

Dear friends and family:

It is hard to express how devastated and shocked our community remains after the massacre that took 6 lives and left Congresswoman Giffords in critical care.

A total of 19 people were shot in this senseless violence. Each of us in the Tucson Community have connections to many others, so we all have felt immediate effects.

Our house is is just 5 minutes from the Safeway at Ina and Oracle, and I pass by it twice a day to go to and from work. I use the Wells Fargo branch on the corner. We buy holiday hams in a store in the complex. My barber has a shop there. We treat ourselves to dim sum at a restaurant next to Safeway. Our sense of place has been distorted as we see our local landmarks on national TV with helicopters, police tape, injured people and commentators the background to this national tragedy.

But more than our sense of place, we all have been affected emotionally. My neighbor and great friend was planning on going to the event, but decided to do some chores. A co-worker at the Wells Fargo branch emailed several of us speaking of the terror of the customers in the branch and the heroic efforts of the staff to make sure they were safe. The story of the 9 year old born on 9/11 then killed yesterday has us all in agony.

This cannot happen here. This is a diverse community, evenly split politically between Repubs, Dems and independents. Latinos represent about 35% overall of the vote here and are proud to point out that this town was founded in 1776 by a Spanish priest. Much of our land is held by the Tohono O'odham and Apache Nations, and there is nowhere near the friction between Native Americans and others that I have witnessed elsewhere. The Western trait of being open to one another yet being respectful of one's privacy is what this place is about. Live and Let Live is writ large here. What attracts many to Southern Arizona is the casual mix of Mexican, Indian and Anglo cultures which add vibrancy to the others.

Gabrielle represents a huge slice of Southern Arizona, including our suburban area, the urban areas of Tucson, high technology entities such as Raytheon and the University of Arizona, a major Air Force base, grassland ranches along the border with Mexico, and vast desert country with smuggling and immigration issues. And she is respected by many. There are shrill people on either side of the political spectrum which take exception to her moderate path, but she does work hard and tries to represent all.

This cannot happen here. But it has. They said the same thing in Oklahoma City. The victims were simply people going about their day.

The lessons to be learned from this are yet to be defined. Civility certainly needs to be returned to our public discourse. Respecting the right to disagree without fear needs to be reinforced. I personally have issues with firearms here. But are we simply trying to make some sense, to put some framework around this tragic event that is so chaotic at its core?

Let's not hesitate to talk about what happened here. But with respect and understanding that this can and does happen anywhere.

We grieve for our losses.

Jean Bellour
Ron Tedder
Tucson, AZ

Jean and Ron,

Thanks for speaking out in response to this tragedy. We need rational voices to stand out amidst the chaotic maelstrom of anger that has commandeered so much of the realm of reasonably civil discourse. And I had no idea you guys were so closely peripheral to these events.

I am reminded of a few short years ago when a deranged man went on a shooting spree in a government building in my hometown of Binghamton, New York, a place you never hear about in national news of any kind; and suddenly, for a few days, the horrific incident was covered by news organizations around the world. (A friend in Brazil messaged me frantically to ask "What is going on in your hometown???" and linked me to an article on a Brazilian news site. Seeing events in my hometown described in Portuguese was a peculiar experience.)

The motive was different -- that's assuming there was a motive, in any rational, coherent sense of the word, in either case -- but I certainly understand the chilling, haunting feeling of something so unthinkable hitting so close to home. In this case, right down the street from my mom's workplace.

Realizing that this latest incident may very well be but a symptom of a greater epidemic of violence institutionalized by certain pundits and politicians as a means of communicating dissent, I join you in hoping that awareness of the utterly inhuman senselessness of this may somehow help turn the tide, and thus not be in vain.

I wish you and your community strength and resolve in picking up the pieces and moving forward -- hurt and scarred, no doubt, but perhaps ultimately stronger and more united for it.

- Mike

Snowman's Best Friend

Snowman's Best Friend

Spotted this evening in front of the building next door:

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That's right, it's a snowman and his snowdog (apparently a Scottish Terrier).

An interesting detail is that while the snowman uses the familiar abstract representation of a human form (three spheres stacked in order of decreasing size, carrot nose [not visible in photos]), the creator went to significant lengths to make the snowdog as literal and true-to-life as possible given the constraints of the medium. Thus the two figures, despite being borne of the same physical substrate, are artistically completely different.

That makes sense, given that it would be difficult (if not impossible) to use those same abstract elements to build a structurally stable representation of a quadruped, and if one somehow did, it would leave far greater ambiguity as to what kind of creature it represents. (Granted, "dog" would probably be a safe assumption for a number of reasons.)

But this took some genuine skill, and the canine detailing is what makes the work stand out. Anybody can make a snowman, but that dog is in another class.

If it Weren't for You Meddling Kids!

If it Weren't for You Meddling Kids!

Here's a campaign flyer I received back during election season, which, taken literally, might have had you wondering whether New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton was pursuing a rather questionable strategy in her attempts to solicit votes from parents in her district (relevant portion outlined)...

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Well, if you think about it, improving either the education or the students themselves technically would generate results!

Although the dissemination of this scandalous flyer launched a controversy that set off a month-long coordinated rampage by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and the ghost of Ronald Reagan, Assemblywoman Lifton managed to survive this typo-gaffe-ical error and went on to retain her seat in the New York State Assembly.

(Somebody somewhere is still demanding a recount.)

Can You Get That in Black?

Can You Get That in Black?

At the risk of taking a walk on the morbid side of humor (or alternatively, stirring consternation in the arachnophobic among us), I thought I'd share this little tidbit from CMS, a maker of computer backup products that I personally have used for some time:

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It seems that in an effort to be all things to all people, Microsoft is targeting ever-more-nuanced market demographics with each successive edition of its product line.



While I'm on the whole "posting screenshots of funny job announcements" thing, I've got another one to "throw in" (sorry, couldn't help myself ... see picture immediately below for pun context):

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The humor behind this one is a bit more subtle and esoteric, but there are two non-mutually-exclusive groups of people most likely to be familiar with the relevant backstory: fans of college basketball, and people affiliated with Cornell University in some capacity.

Last year, the Cornell men's basketball team made history because of how far they got in the annual championship series, and also for the number of consecutive years in which they had attained some level of accomplishment in that series. I'm not being vague intentionally; I am completely ignorant of this subject. (I'm in the second category of people I mentioned above, and not the first.)

They didn't go all the way, but what they did accomplish was still historically significant for various reasons. Anyway, the worldwide Cornell community was wildly excited for a time, with some alums and alum organizations even organizing and hosting local game watching events, and head coach Steve Donahue attaining celebrity status for a time.

After it ended and the whirlwind died down, I heard something about Donahue moving on after his climactic tenure at Cornell. And then not long thereafter, the above job posting appeared in my inbox.

I had to do a double-take on account of this odd contextual intersection. I'd been receiving numerous Cornell job postings via e-mail, since I'd signed up for notifications and had been applying to as many even-remotely-relevant postings as I could in attempted preparation for moving home. But it was an amusing reality check to see that even "glamorous, potentially high-profile" positions go through these same normal, mundane HR channels -- at least in some token capacity systematized to satisfy the mountainous pile of red-tape requirements with which such large institutions have encumbered their hiring processes. Indeed, it isn't just the paper pushers, technicians, and janitors who have to go through the motions and jump through the hoops -- even the "rock stars" of the world aren't exempt (on paper, at least).

Plus, it just seems funny having an outgoing celebrity-status icon's shoes filled in such a plebeian, pedestrian manner.

But, I suppose every Superman needs his Clark Kent.

I'll have to make sure I'm subscribed to receive job posting announcements the next time Cornell is in need of a new president or something, just out of sheer and vaguely morbid curiosity.

Matrimonial Engineering

Matrimonial Engineering

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Maybe it's just me, but this strikes me as a little overly fancy. I mean, what's wrong with just calling them "wedding planners" like they always were before?

Just Don't Forget to Click Submit

Just Don't Forget to Click Submit

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Wow, it's that's easy?! Who knew! And to think transsexuals have been going through the hell of hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery for nothing...

Blame Canada!

Blame Canada!

Can anybody look at this receipt (relevant portion outlined) and please tell me what the Regis Corporation has against Canadians?!

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I don't know about you, but I'm growing suspicious that Sheila Broflovski is secretly in charge. "...with their beady little eyes and flapping heads..."