Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recent Discoveries

Here are some serious and not-so-serious things that I have learned in the past few days.

First, here are some disturbing statistics about recent trends in the United States. Thirty years ago, 10 percent of California's general revenue fund went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons. Today nearly 11 percent goes to prisons and 8 percent higher education.--Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz reports that "The top 1 percent of Americans now take in roughly one-fourth of America's total income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, . . . the top 1 percent now controls 40 percent of the total. This is new. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent." In other words, the rich are getting richer. Yet some politicians and special interest groups oppose higher taxes for the wealthy--The Pentagon now reports that 75 percent of young Americans, between the ages of 17 and 24, are unable to enlist in the military today because they have failed to graduate from high school, have a criminal record or are physically unfit.

On a lighter note: Everyone has heard Dr. Seuss's story about green eggs and ham. I always thought that he had made up the part about green eggs. But a couple of days ago a neighbor of mine gave me some eggs from his chickens. Two of the eggs are green! It turns out that at least one breed of chickens, the Americana, actually lays them that color.

Finally, a personal anecdote. When one is trying to learn a foreign language, the hardest part is figuring out the slang and various colloquial expressions. Many years ago I was giving a paper at a scholarly conference. Most of the persons in the audience were francophones. Speaking in French, I started out by saying that I was suffering from a slight cold and had a frog (une grenouille) in my throat. Well, in English that's what we would say. A few days ago I learned that in French one says one has a cat in one's throat. Now I am embarrassed to consider how amusing I must have seemed to many in the audience.

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