September 13th, 2005

with foo dog


A long time ago, when orkney and I were working at the University of Maryland, we got a notice that Azalea Lane would be closed for the installation of bollards. This rather mystified us, as we didn't know what bollards were. I asked my dad, who explained that they're specially tapered poles for boats to tether to in locks, the taper allowing the rope to slide up and down as needed. Informative, but unlikely. The dictionary wasn't a huge help either, but we were left with the impression that it was a post of some kind. Sure enough, a row of creosoted posts appeared along Azalea Lane over the next couple of days.

But we were quite taken with the term. Bollard. Bollard. Sort of reminds one of the famous Commander Bullard, of science fiction fame. I eventually wrote a video game called Bollards, which involved navigating an increasingly long ship through an increasingly crowded harbour, sucking up oil drums. Bollards eventually became part of our family lore, prompting blueeowyn to refer to the raised circular bumps sometimes used for pavement marking as "bollard eggs".

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I found a group of bollards in jail. Collapse )

Then, with bollards again on my mind, I noticed the term in use on an episode of Butterflies (Yes! A decent pressing of Butterflies episodes 1-6 is available!), except apparently the British pronunciation has the accent on the 2nd syllable: bollARD.

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books and suit


Today's post on fine points of nature photography has been pre-empted by a rant on politics. I seem to be in a ranty mood today, as I posted a blathering comment on fundraising techniques in someone else's journal.

A bunch of people keep after me to sign petitions, send email, go to various political rallies, marches on DC, and other stuff in support of various worthwhile goals. I generally demurr. Why is that?

It's because I don't honestly believe it's an effective use of my time. Politicans aren't stupid. I know, it's cool to pretend congress is populated by a bunch of dumb puppets, but it's self defeating and untrue. People rise to positions of power in politics by shrewd knowledge of how politics works. And this most certainly includes the actions mentioned above.

It's common knowledge that it's not too hard to procure huge numbers of signatures on petitions, even (purposely or not) from people who don't know what they're signing. Accordingly, they aren't given a lot of weight. Similarly for online polls and email.

Politicians also know that rallies and marches are basically huge parties where people go and have a good time. They aren't impressed. It doesn't accomplish much, even if you do make the 6 o'clock news.

They're also aware that a lot of this time consuming action is provided by people who don't work and have a lot of free time. However, those people aren't considered politically important, except to the degree that they influence big money or large numbers of voters.

So what's the alternative? Just like in the Christmas specials about Santa Claus, you have to do it the hard way. Write a letter. A real letter. On paper. Delivered by the US Postal Service. It doesn't have to be handwritten or long. In fact, you'll get better consideration with a neat, typewritten (or laser printed), brief, note concisely stating your point of view, with proper grammar and punctuation. I happen to live in the 10th congressional district in Virginia. This is not a district with a lot of politically active people. It's mostly a bunch of busy yuppies with better things to do. So my occasional letters tend to get noticed. I know I've gotten non form letter replies more than once.

The other alternative is money pooling. This is how groups like the NRA and AARP derive their real power. They channel the implied clout of huge numbers of members that pay real money to support their organizations. And, of course, they can afford their own lobbyists and other directly effective political tools*.

I'm not saying I'm against other forms of political action. Just don't think I'm belittling your efforts and/or goals when I (ahem) elect not to participate.

* heh heh I said "political tools" heh heh heh. So much for not making fun of politicians. Ooops.

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