March rambling: quotation marks

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In a world-historic first, microplastics were detected in human blood

The Our World in Data COVID vaccination data

 How American conservatives turned against the vaccine

The Lancet: Paul Farmer

Cameroonians fleeing conflict are in dire need of Temporary Protected Status – cf.  Inside “the most diverse square mile in America”

What Caused the War? Ukraine and Russia in Historical Context

The Race to Archive the Ukrainian Internet

Ukrainian Actress Oksana Shvets Killed in Russian Rocket Attack

Non-war conflict

Hate and extremism

How did Christianity become so toxic?

The Interactive Theater of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation Hearing

Addressing racial inequality in paid leave policy

Sara Jacobs, one of the youngest members of Congress, talks about sexism and ageism in politics. 

Writing Women into History

Women in medicine are running up the wrong side of the escalator

Where Does the Religious Right Go After Roe?

Sojourner Truth’s Battle to Free Her Son from Slavery

Actor Tim Reid on addressing racial issues on WKRP in Cincinnati

Texas’ New Voting Law Disenfranchised Thousands Of Otherwise Eligible Voters

The Tangled, Messy Roots of Fake News, long before it became djt’s favorite term

Ginni Thomas demanded Congressional Republicans take the fight to overturn the 2020 election to the streets

John Bolton admits that ‘it’s hard to describe how little [djt] knows’

I Know There’s An Answer

Climate Change Brings Uncontrollable Wildfires

 The Illinois town that got up and left

The 1950 Census is Coming: What You Need to Know

Timbuctoo Institute would build opportunities in the Adirondacks 

About Those Gas Prices

Concert  Tickets: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

2021 County and Economic Development Regions Population Estimates for NYS

Luka’s mural

Jobfished: the con that tricked dozens into working for a fake design agency

“They’re called ‘quotation marks’.”

Phobias. Aibohphobia is the (unofficial) fear of palindromes. Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is used to describe the fear of very long words.

The official Girl Scout cookie power rankings

The Result of a Rabbit Hole

Audience participation

GoFundMe page for the Albany High School Robotics Team to compete at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Houston, TX on April 20-23. They placed 2nd in the New York Tech Valley Regional Competition.

Four Open Seats on Albany Public Library Board in May 17 Election. Nominations are due to the Clerk of the City School District of Albany by Wednesday, April 27, at 5 pm.

New York Bike Census

Now I Know

The Biggest Bread Soup in the World and Why Are My Baby Carrots Always Wet? and The First Computer Bug and The Phone Booth in the Middle of Nowhere and Beware the Ire of Caesar and Which Came First, The Algorithm or the Pi? and World War II’s Pre-Email E-Mail


Livinliv – Aleksandr Shymko

Irish tunes

K-Chuck Radio: The musical tree of Ida Red  and green songs

Holiday at Ferghana -Reinhold Gliere

Lullabye of Broadway from 42nd Street

Coverville: 1393 – John Cale and Velvet Underground Cover Story and 1394 – The Blink-182 Cover Story II and 1395 – The Smashing Pumpkins Cover Story II

Word debates: sheroes and herstory

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly statuesSomeone on a Facebook page that is about words asked a question. “Heard on NPR a discussion of heroes and sheroes. What’s wrong with heroine?”

Folks on the list replied that heroine is a diminutive for “hero” and may demean and trivialize the qualities of the women. They noted that words such as comedienne and poetess have fallen by the wayside. I remember that, in my lifetime, some people were trying to reintroduce the word authoress. For what purpose, I no longer recall. It hasn’t been embraced, fortunately, except as an “old-fashioned” word in some dictionaries.

The one word that has survived is the word actress. While I’ve often heard “actor” used for all performers, “actress” still is in the lexicon for awards, such as the Oscars and the Tonys. That is understandable. Getting rid of categories by gender might be someone’s idea of “equitable,” but one could reasonably believe that men would end up receiving the lion’s share of recognition.


“Heroine” also has people thinking that it sounds very much like something else, which I’ve believed for a half-century. Even the Free Dictionary and others note this. “Not to be confused with: heroin – highly addictive narcotic derived from morphine: He had a hard time kicking heroin.” This I did not know: “The name heroin was coined from the German heroisch meaning heroic, strong. Heroin is stronger (more potent) than morphine.”

One objection to sheroes was this: “I just think it’s mostly patronizing. If a woman is a hero, she’s a hero. ‘Sheroes’ sounds like the Women’s Auxiliary of Heroes. It’s the ‘Hear Me Roar’ version of heroism.” I don’t hear it that way, but OK.

We can beat them, just for one day

Another noted all the female heroes we have had for decades. “Alice Stebbins, first American woman police officer hired in the 1910s. Loretta Walsh, the first woman to enroll in the military in 1917. A whole century earlier in 1815, Molly Williams was the first woman firefighter and I’m pretty sure women have been doing ‘everyday stuff’ since the beginning of time.

“I mean, sure, let’s go with sheroes but don’t excuse it thinking that women police officer/military/firefighter are some progressive new thing. That’s just the wrong narrative and honestly, most of my personal heroes are some (my mom and grandma for example) and a new word just seems unnecessary in my opinion.” Ah, but what of severe pushback are some of those women still receiving, particularly in the US military?

“Language is a social thing and if the majority decide to start using this kind of language, then my opinion becomes irrelevant. Let society decide.” Which, inevitably, it does. I really don’t have skin in that game. Maybe it’s because of the ease people are presently dubbed heroic, IMO. Though I’m rather fond of the Misty Copeland-inspired Barbie ‘Sheroes’ Doll.


On the other hand, I’m rather fond of herstory, though my spellcheck is not. Sure, women’s history IS history, just as black history IS history. But there are so many examples where it’s not as well-known as it should be.

I was particularly taken by a monument of several statues honoring journalist Nellie Bly opening on Roosevelt Island. It was created by sculptor Amanda Matthews. “In 1887, Bly went undercover as an inmate at the island’s asylum. Her report ‘Ten Days in a Mad-House’ revealed the deplorable treatment of women in the facility and prompted outrage and reform.” On the backs of the sculptures are engraved with the quote from Bly’s writings that inspired the selection of each subject.

“Matthews also made a sculpture of educator Nettie Depp. It will be installed next year at the Kentucky State Capitol. She said she made the statue after she discovered the state lacked sculptures honoring women.” The only female who had been honored with a statue in KY heretofore was a horse.

“‘Women’s history didn’t show up in our history books the same as men. It’s not written down as much. It’s not portrayed as much. So, we have to reach back into history, find this information, bring it into the 21st century,’ said Matthews.” And I would agree. For instance, I had never heard of Alice Stebbins Wells, Loretta Perfectus Walsh, or Molly Williams.

What do you all think of sheroes and herstory?

Middle Passage Descendants: Negro?

Afro-American? BIPOC?

Negro“What Should You Call Middle Passage Descendants?” That’s the title of a recent article that Peter Feinman wrote in The Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, which I receive regularly.

After an annoying, all-caps defense of his use of “HISTORICALLY ACCURATE TERMINOLOGY WHICH MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO READERS…” he discusses the historic use of the word Negro. This is not the first time he has tackled the subject.

He quotes Marc Lacey, the National Editor of The New York Times. “Everyone in this country who traces their ancestors back to Africa has experienced a panoply of racial identifiers over their lives, with some terms imposed and others embraced. In the course of a single day in 2020, I might be called black, African-American, or a person of color. I’m also labeled, in a way that makes my brown skin crawl, as diverse, ethnic, or a minority.”

Feinman’s primary point is clear. “The constantly changing name for Middle Passage people poses a dilemma for historians and museums… Do you use the historically accurate name from the time period of the people you are discussing – meaning the name they used themselves for self-identification – or do you use the name from the present and impose it on the past?”

With a capital N

Booker T. Washington called the Greenwood District of Tulsa, OK “the Negro Wall Street of America.”

In “What Thurgood Marshall Taught Me” by Stephen L. Carter, Yale School of Law (NYT 7/2021), he notes the first black SCOTUS justice “would answer that he’d spent his life fighting for the capital N in ‘Negro’ and wasn’t going to let a ‘bunch of kids’… tell him what he should call himself. Today we scarcely recall the titanic struggle over [the] capitalizing [of] ‘Negro.'” I had read about this, and it was indeed a BFD at the time.

Feinman quotes John McWhorter at length. “Yes, the word [Negro] should not be used to refer to Middle Passage descendants today, that would be ‘tacky.’ However, it is a historically-valid name that is not a slur.”

I was watching the PBS/Ken Burns series about Muhammad Ali. The boxer in fact did use the word Negro as an insult towards Floyd Patterson and other black boxing opponents that marketed themselves as the “real Americans”, presumably Christan. They would take down Cassius Clay, using a name the champ, who had joined the Nation of Islam, had by then rejected.

McWhorter wonders “What purpose does it serve to generate this new lexical grievance?… Does Black America … need yet another word to take umbrage at and police the usage of? Do we, in Black America, need fellow travelers — sorry, allies — to join us in this new quest, eager to assist in the surveillance out of some misguided sense that this is ‘doing the work’?”

Yes, we don’t need to change the names of the United Negro College Fund or Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Of course, we ought not to change the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. from “Negro” to whatever term is more “current.”

My take on present usage

When I was growing up, one of my siblings used to nag my maternal grandmother every time she’d talk about “colored people.” “What color ARE they, grandma?” “Black.”

I grew up with the term “Negro” which got stretched to silly comments about how my knee grows to more, er, problematic uses. So I was cool with black, even though, FOR YEARS, people would, unsolicited, say that I wasn’t really BLACK, but more a BROWN, and white people were more a shade of PINK… Please stop.

I remember being corrected over a sociology paper in college that I should use Black rather than black, the logic being that it’s replacing Negro. OK, if I’m using White, I’ll use Black. But if I’m writing white, I’m also writing black.


I know that African-American resonates with a lot of people. When I worked the 1990 Census as an enumerator, one choice was “Negro or black.” More than one respondent replied, almost defiantly, “African-American!” That’s fine. But the word, as well as the briefly popular Afro-American, never resonated with me. Over the last half-century, it’s been even more problematic.

1. It is a very narrow term. We’re talking about black people from sub-Saharan Africa who are Americans. So it doesn’t mean Charlize Theron, who is a white South African actress and a naturalized American citizen. Or the black terrorist during the Charlie Hebo incident, described initially by CNN as an African-American, when he was Afro-French. Or a number of black people in the US who aren’t Americans at all.

2. It has too many syllables, 7 (or 5) versus 1. Black History Month flows a lot easier than African-American…

That said, I prefer it to the newish, labored term BIPOC. In addition to sounding ugly, it works so hard to distinguish the Black experience of Middle Passage Descendants from the Indigenous experience of being pushed off their land, from People Of Color, who are Hispanics or East Asians or South Asians et al., as though THEIR experiences are all the same. Meh.

Black History in Nazi Germany

“Rhineland bastards”

Blacks in Nazi Germany
Afro-German Hans J. Massaquoi tried to join the Nazi youth, per

There’s a guy named John Hightower who posted a story on his Facebook page called Black History in Nazi Germany, a story. John is about a decade older than I. We attended the same church, Trinity AME Zion, and the same high school, Binghamton Central, plus I know or knew a number of his relatives.

I wanted to find the location of the piece he shared. Initially, I found it on the Facebook page of  Great Plains Black History Museum in Omaha, NE. It has a lot of interesting artifacts. Its Mission Statement: “To preserve, educate, and exhibit the contributions and achievements of African Americans with an emphasis on the Great Plains region. To provide a space to learn, explore, reflect, and remind us of our history.”


But that’s not the original source. Finally, the librarian found it on AAREG, the African American Registry. Here’s just a segment.

“On this date (Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27) from 1933, the Registry looks into the Black history of Nazi Germany. The Nazis seized power on January 30, of that year with Adolph Hitler’s appointment as chancellor…

“Hitler had a white vision of a Master Race of Aryans that would control Europe. He used powerful propaganda techniques to convince not only the German people but countless others, that if they eliminated the people who stood in their way and the degenerates and racially inferior, they, ‘the great Germans’, would prosper. This included mandatory Sterilization for Black Youth.

“Before World War I, there were very few dark-skinned people of African descent in Germany. But, during World War I, the French brought in Black African soldiers during the Allied occupation. Most of the Germans, who were very race-conscious, despised the dark-skinned ‘invasion’.”

You should read the whole thing.


Related, check out the bibliography from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in a section called Blacks.

Part of the introduction: “Though Hitler’s racial policies toward Jews, Sinti, and Roma, have been well documented, researchers have given less attention to actions against Blacks…

“Individuals of African descent living in Germany were socially and economically ostracized. They could not attend university; they lost their jobs; they sometimes lost their citizenship. Mixed race marriages were forbidden, and doctors illegally and secretly sterilized between 385 and 500 biracial children, most of them offspring of French Black soldiers and German women, children derisively referred to as the ‘Rhineland bastards.’

“Blacks, including African Americans, were also imprisoned or sent to internment or concentration camps. There, they were often treated more harshly and subjected to medical experiments or extreme brutality. The SS and Gestapo commonly mistreated Black prisoners of war, working them to death in concentration camps or killing them immediately rather than imprisoning them.”

Most of these references direct the reader to their local library, as well it should.

Finally, check out the AAIHS article, The Erasure of People of African Descent in Nazi Germany, the source of the picture.

Does Pearl Harbor still “live in infamy”?

You’re not entitled to your opinion

infamy-fdr-speakingI asked a not-so-random teenager if she happened to know what December 7, 1941, signified. No, but she did know the magnitude of the bombing of Pearl Harbor as the entry of the United States into World War II.

I’m constantly reminded why some folks keep chanting, “Never forget.” And as the generations pass, people WILL forget. I mean, these may be events that are marked in the history books, but it just won’t have the same resonance to another generation. 1776 and 1861 and 1941 all signify ancient history.

Born a little over a decade after Pearl Harbor, I can still hear in my mind’s ear not only the words of FDR’s address to Congress on December 8 but his speaking pattern. But I was learning this a mere quarter-century after the consequential event, as opposed to 75 or 80 years later. December 7, 1941, for many, I surmise, will not always be “a date which will live in infamy.”

What Holocaust?

It is inevitable that elements of history fall through the cracks. But it troubles me that history can be so distorted. I’m thinking of the Holocaust both-sides-ing debacle, in Texas, unsurprisingly.

One can analyze the Why. For instance, the Germans could not accept they had been defeated in World War I. They needed convenient scapegoats. The Holocaust was partly a result of that.

Surely, one may analyze what other countries, such as the United States, could have done to avert some of the slaughter. But what IS the “other side” that suggests that the events did not take place at all?

Always learning

This is not to say that ‘history” is inviolate. In my lifetime, I’ve learned a great deal, from the NASA women immortalized in the movie Hidden Figures to Tulsa 1921. These were not stories that were in my history books growing up. Invariably we will recontextualize what we learn.

But denial of facts troubles me greatly. I came across this article from 2012. “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion,” a philosophy professor wrote. “No one can stop you saying that vaccines cause autism, no matter how many times that claim has been disproven. But if ‘entitled to an opinion’ means ‘entitled to have your views treated as serious candidates for the truth’ then it’s pretty clearly false. And this… is a distinction that tends to get blurred.”

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