Monday, December 31, 2012

Y Word of 2012: Horsy

It's true: horsy has nudged Tripoly to one side and claimed the spotlight.

Sam Sifton now has the dubious honor of being the chaperone of the Y Word of 2012 (as well as the final Y word of the year on this blog, ever). Congratulations to Mr. Sifton and to The New York Times Magazine, which exhibits the right kind of editorial spirit, regardless of whether Mr. Sifton had to fight for the word. I feel I should send him a cut-out y, but fear not: I shan't and I won't.

Instead I'll be setting my sights on other letters, other realities.


 Y 

48 px specimen from the font Rocky Family, via Webtype


Good-bye.

Dimity

From Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas. This is one of Mr Edwards' lines.

I am a draper mad with love. I love you more than all the flannelette and calico, candlewick, dimity, crash and merino, tussore, cretonne, crépon, muslin, poplin, ticking and twill in the whole Cloth Hall of the world. I have come to take you away to my Emporium on the hill, where the change hums on wires. Throw away your little bedsocks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast.

Does anyone -- man, woman, vegetable, or Other -- profess their love so ardently any more?

The OED's etymology tells: "In 15–16th cent. demytdimite, < Italian dimito ‘a kind of coarse cotton or flanell’ (Florio 1598), ‘a kind of course linzie-wolzie’ (Florio 1611) = medieval Latin dimitum (12th cent. in Du Cange), < Greek δίμιτος of double thread, n. dimity, < δι-δίς twice + μίτος thread of the warp. It is not certain how the final -y arose: could it represent Italian plural dimiti? Compare the plural in Du Cange's quot.: ‘amita, dimitaque, et trimita’, explained to mean fabrics woven with one, two, or three threads respectively. The relation to these of the Persian word dimyāṭī, explained as ‘a kind of cotton cloth, dimity’, which has the form of a derivative of Dimyāṭ, Damietta, is not clear."

Mr. Thomas was right to include dimity in Mr Edwards' list, seeing as it is a double thread.

Rumply

If you are giving some thought to what Governor Cuomo is poised to loose upon New York State this winter, also please consider what you will do (send cookies, cakes, flowers, massage certificates, musicians) for the Governor if he draws upon the precautionary principle, shows a little backbone and waves bye-bye to this reckless, irresponsible industry. (Please don't fall for the specious suggestion that it's prudent to bring high-volume slick-water horizontal hydraulic fracturing* to but a handful counties in the state.)

From Sandra Steingraber's article (in 50 parts), "The Fracking of Rachel Carson," published in the September/October issue of Orion magazine.

12. Within the rumply state of Pennsylvania is a place called Triple Divide, where three adjacent springs feed the watersheds of three mighty rivers: the Allegheny (which flows west to the Mississippi River); the Susquehanna (which flows east to Chesapeake Bay); and the Genesee (which flows north to Lake Ontario).  . . . 


14. . . . only some of the frack water stays behind in the shale. The rest, now mixed with brine and radioactivity, shoots up to the surface with the gas. Finding a safe place to dispose of this toxic flowback is an unsolved problem. Sometimes, the waste from drilling is just dumped on the ground. That’s illegal, but it happens. Sometimes the waste is dumped down other holes. In 2010, 200,000 gallons were poured down an abandoned well on the edge of Allegheny National Forest. . . . 


26. April 2012 was a silent spring in Pennsylvania. Funds for a statewide heath registry—which would track illnesses in residents who live near drilling and fracking operations—were quietly removed from the state budget. At the same time, a new state law, Act 13, went into effect, which allows a physician in Pennsylvania access to proprietary chemical information for purposes of treating a possibly exposed patient—but only if he or she signs a confidentiality agreement. Confounded, Pennsylvania doctors began asking questions. Does that mean no contacting the public health department? What about talking to reporters or writing up case studies for the New England Journal of Medicine? Can a physician who signs the nondisclosure agreement (in order to treat a patient) and then issues an alert to the community at large (in order to fulfill an ethical obligation to prevent harm) be sued for breach of contract? . . . .

41. No comprehensive study on the human or animal health impacts of fracking has ever been conducted. . . . In cattle exposed to fracking fluid: stillborn calves, cleft palates, milk contamination, death.

42. In cats and dogs: seizures, stillbirths, fur loss, vomiting.

43. In humans: headaches, rashes, nosebleeds, vomiting.

46. In May 2012, Stephen Cleghorn, a farmer, scattered the ashes of his wife, Lucinda—who died of lung cancer—on their farm in Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, which is in Jefferson County. The ceremony was unusual. It included a press conference, during which Cleghorn announced that, with this deposition of ash, he was hereby consecrating his land and declaring it off-limits to fracking in perpetuity. . . . 

What I keep writing to Governor Cuomo is that is it better to deal with problems before they arise.

via Thalo 


*note to The New York Times: it would be better if the paper would call "fracking" by its full name.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Finalists of 2012

Reader, the finalists of 2012 are:

Horsy

and

Tripoly.

Clerkly was a close contender, but clerkly looks better to me with a lowercase c than an uppercase one. It's best if the word is appealing regardless of an initial capital letter.

What do the two finalists have going for them? Horsy is a prime example of the elasticity and suggestiveness of language. Tripoly includes the word poly (as in roly-poly) and has the good fortune of being embedded in a single sentence the character count of which, including spaces, is 889. A sentence of this length is as pretty as the Empire State Building lit in Steinbergian orange.

public garden, Paris circa 1930
Copyright © AFP / Harlingue / Collection Roger-Viollet
via Catwalk Yourself




Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Feudatory

From "Recollections of a Lost Seascape," a 1947 story in Back in No Time: The Brion Gysin Reader, edited by Jason Weiss and published by Wesleyan University Press. The story begins by describing the island of Herm and goes on to say:

The owner of the island is, therefore, a feudatory of the duke and owes him at least nominal allegiance.

Just do not come across this word much, if at all.

I happened onto this book in the library. Stack-browsing usually brings on some kind of serendipity, doesn't it? Especially when one is searching for one book and finds another, more appropriate, one for the occasion of that particular day.

A Paul Metcalf collection was my intended. Then there was a volume criticizing Gertrude Stein (which I almost took, having seen Rachel Dickstein's newest play, The World is Round, in workshop last weekend at the JCC). And then I spotted a man's face on the spine of a book and took it down from the shelf. Who is Brion Gysin? Who was Brion Gysin? I had never heard of Brion Gysin (and probably because he brought to mind Weldon Kees and Jim Salter--really for no good reason), I wanted to know more.

He was a Canadian-born word player who learned to speak seven languages and traversed various artistic disciplines, from painting to collages, sound poetry (poésie sonore), and screenwriting (he wrote an unproduced screenplay based upon William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch.)

Okay, he was also Burroughs' partner.

The book includes his Permutation Poems, which he discovered "upon seeing in print the Divine Tautology, 'I am that I am,' while reading Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception . . . [recalling to Jason Weiss in an interview] 'I saw the phrase on paper and I thought, "Ah, it looks a bit like the front of a Greek temple," only on the condition that I put the biggest word in the middle. So, I'll just change these others around, "am I," in the corner of the architrave. Then I realized, as soon as I did this, it asked a question. "I am that, am I?" And I said, "Wow, I've touched the oracle!' The full version of the poem I Am That I Am "as put through a computer by mathematician Ian Sommerville, was performed for BBC Radio in 1960, along with a "poem" assembled from a pistol shot recorded at five distances and layered variously. Philip Glass was one composer who was influenced by Gysin's sound poetry.

I just finished Jess Walter's novel Beautiful Ruins (edited by Cal Morgan and published by HarperCollins) (and which made me miss my subway stop last night), it's time to leave Walter's Porto Vergogna and move on to the next book.




Saturday, December 22, 2012

Flossery


Reading the executive summary of the McKinsey Global Institute's November 2012 report "Manufacturing the future: The next era of global growth and innovation," I was surprised to see that “overall in the United States, trade and outsourcing explain only about 20 percent of the 5.8 million manufacturing
 jobs lost during the 2000-10 period; more than two-thirds of job losses can be attributed to continued productivity growth, which has been outpacing demand growth for the past decade.”
The full report [minus the Exhibits / graphics, which the Y blog IT department could not transfer successfully] explains MGI’s approach:
Given the sharp decline in manufacturing employment in advanced economies
 in the past two decades, during which globalization opened up new, low-cost production capacity in developing economies, it appears that trade accelerated job losses. Indeed, from 1980 to 2000, US manufacturing employment fell by
1.5 million, or about 6 percent, but from 2000 to 2010, it fell by 33 percent—or by an estimated 5.8 million jobs.
By decomposing changes in employment levels, we can see more clearly the role that trade has played. In Exhibit 9, we look at three drivers of manufacturing employment: growth in domestic final demand, changes in net trade position, and differences in productivity growth. The results of our analysis show that productivity growth accounted for 3.7 million of the lost jobs.11 This estimate is reduced by 600,000 to correct for cost savings related to offshoring, which we believe national accounts incorrectly record as productivity gains.12 Those jobs are more properly grouped with the 700,000 trade-related job losses during the decade, bringing the total to 1.3 million. So we see that trade and offshoring explain around 20 percent of the decline in manufacturing jobs—still a significant force, but not the main driver of job loss.13
Footnote Number 11 provides a fuller explanation of how the MGI arrived at the conclusion I find so interesting: 
    11    Our approach takes into account analytical difficulties that have been the subject of
academic debate; in particular, it compensates for the vast measured productivity increases from performance improvements in computers and electronics and lower-cost offshored intermediate inputs. These measurement issues are the focus of an ongoing debate among economists about the measurement of value added, which uses hedonic deflation (i.e., adjusting for processing power and so on) in computers and electronics products and also includes profits from sourcing low-cost components. Metrics probably reflect the value delivered to consumers and businesses in mature economies reasonably well. But we take the position that this kind of hedonic deflation and accounting is not appropriate when looking at the number of jobs required to achieve a certain level of output.
Correspondingly, we use non-deflated data for computers and electronics, which leads to a conservative downward revision to the impact of productivity in this sector. We also estimate the impact that lower-cost imports of components have on measured productivity and show the effects as offshoring gains explicitly rather than mixing them with other productivity effects. Of course, there are further uncertainties inherent to the national accounts 
source data. For instance, specialization along the value chain within sectors would affect productivity of the sector; our analysis suggests that the effect is moderate in aggregate, as there is both a shift toward high-value R&D activities and lower-value customer care. While we are not able to fully resolve issues inherent to source data, we believe our approach suggests that the key findings are robust even within the constraints of the data.
See appendix for more detail on methodology. For a detailed discussion of measurement issues in manufacturing output, see R. Atkinson, L. Stewart, S. Andes, and S. Ezell, Worse than the Great Depression: What experts are missing about American manufacturing decline, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, March 2012.
.     If we look at only productivity and demand, we also see that the collapse of demand during the past decade was the key departure from previous trends and caused manufacturing employment to “fall off a cliff” (Exhibit 10). While productivity growth continued to increase gradually, demand growth—which had kept up with productivity in the previous two decades—did not keep up in the 2000s.
       More: 
     To put the trade-related job losses in perspective, if the United States were 
able to eliminate the entire 2010 current account deficit (3.2 percent of GDP) by increasing manufacturing exports, about 2.2 million jobs would be restored to the sector. While this is a sizable figure, it would bring US manufacturing employment back to 2007 levels but no higher. 
This analysis is not intended to suggest that there is no need to strive to improve the competitiveness of US manufacturing. Competitiveness, particularly through innovation, should be a top priority for policy makers in high-wage economies that need to compete on factors other than cost. The thrust of manufacturing policy—if such policy is contemplated—should focus on value added, productivity, terms of trade, and efforts to build on the competitive advantages that manufacturing sectors have in the global economy.

Value added is an interesting term. I have no idea what it means to each company, but from a consuming class member's point of view it means, Why is it preferable for me to spend money on this product versus these other ones? Cost is not the only factor, I don't think, for educated consumers. 

One example:

Yesterday I spent $5.49 to purchase 100 yards of a “100% Vegan Waxed” dental floss made by Eco-DenT. It comes in a coated (is coated paper recyclable?) container and relies upon the consumer to assemble what I will call the flossery. First, one must open the “flavor-saving protective bag” of floss; then, one must thread the floss.

Here were the decisions that affected my purchase: purchase at an independent store, which anchors the street life of my local neighborhood; and purchase a product using minimal packaging that is aesthetically pleasing and, ideally, biodegradable. (The executive summary of the McKinsey report refers to on-the-ground research which informed a frustrated consumer products manufacturer attempting to enter an emerging market that "unlike in every other nation where it sold this particular product, consumers in this emerging market required packaging that could be reused for other purposes after the contents were used up." People really do have their preferences.)

The Eco-DenT packaging reminds me of a cleanup day I participated in several years ago, in Dobbs Ferry, New York. For hours we fished all kinds of mostly plastic debris from the Hudson River. I was very disturbed by the number of Styrofoam pieces sunken and floating along that shoreline. (After that day and a subsequent one spent at a Cooper-Hewitt exhibit viewing packaging materials, I began to pay more attention to which restaurants use Styrofoam takeout containers.] 

My Eco-DenT purchase perhaps relates to a piece of news reported yesterday by the Surfrider Foundation, about President Obama’s signing of the Marine Debris Act Amendments (Farr - H.R. 1171) into law on Thursday. Part of the Coast Guard Maritime Transportation Act (H.R. 2838), the Marine Debris Act Amendments “reauthorizes and amends the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act to create a marine debris program to address the billions of pounds of litter that travel to our ocean every year.  Specifically, the bill requires NOAA to identify, determine sources of, assess, prevent, reduce and remove marine debris and address its adverse impacts on the national economy, the marine environment, and navigation safety.” How much of that debris is plastic? Quite a bit.

The McKinsey Global Institute (whose research, by the way, "is not commissioned by any business, government, or other institution") might classify plastic ocean pollution as one of the “societal challenges” manufacturers face year in, year out.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Note about Voting

Commenters: when you cast your vote, say a little something.

To the commenter who voted for horsy, I ask: Why? Why are you voting for horsy? I know why I like horsy; I'm curious why you like  it.

via theCHIVE.com