#433rds: 4/10/14

This is part of a month-ish-long blog/Instagram project. For more, go here.


I was sitting on the 3:50 train into New York City yesterday, curled up in my window seat, reading a book for class, jotting down some notes. A group of Yankees fans were lit, openly pregaming in the aisle, and the two undergrad/high school boys in front of me alternated between talking about sex and girlfriends vs. the music they were listening to. It was otherwise quiet.

Somewhere in western Connecticut, the train slowed, the electricity flickered, and only the lights by the doors stayed lit. The Yankees fans exchanged tipsy jokes about being stuck on the train, the youths talked about Brand New. The conductor announced that the pantographs weren’t connecting, and that mechanics were on their way to reattach them. I don’t think many passengers know what a pantograph is; I didn’t.

I immediately wondered if there were any phalanges on the train.

#433rds: 4/9/14

This is part of a month-ish-long blog/Instagram project. For more, go here.


The weather is finally getting better. And by better I mean the wind is still awful, allergies are kicking in and I don’t even get the pleasure of real warmth, but at least it’s not freezing and there’s no ice packed onto the sidewalks. The sun’s out, but I still need a sweater, although it doesn’t have to be wool (I don’t own anything wool anyways). The weather’s nice enough to be deemed enjoyable.

The sky is clear, and while I was walking outside I snapped (yet another) photo of a late 19th-century building that belonged to the owner of a New Haven garment factory, since turned into a fancy apartment complex.

Living in a factory is one of those chic, trendy things that middle-class people do in urban settings these days. With walls of brick, exposed pipes, and all of the downtown lifestyle that comes with it. The people who live in factories might not generally wear a full outfit of pink with golden horses like the suit I laid my Scrabble tiles on.

But, damn, they should.


A friend of mine is doing a thing, and it is a thing I am going to try to do too. It’s called #433rds, and it is fairly simple:

For the month of April:

  1. At 3 pm every day, take a photo. Post on Instagram.
  2. Take 30 Bananagram tiles and arrange them into words in 3 minutes or less.
  3. Write something that day based on those two inputs. (Or, if you’re feeling Cage-y, don’t.)

I don’t have Bananagram tiles. I also will not always be free at 3pm. I also have pressing matters to attend to. But these are precisely the reasons that I will occasionally be playing with Scrabble tiles and photographing and writing about it. The desire to take photos, the need to not thesis, the fun of finding new ways to write. Anyways: Day 1 (err…. the 8th) is below:


I just heard about this project earlier this afternoon. My decision to participate (however briefly it will last) was impromptu. I thought about sitting in a café to try and do some work, but decided that if I came home I could play with Scrabble tiles before getting down to business.

My day and the plans I have for it are certainly seeping through. I tried twice to spell out “thesis” with my tiles, but ended up with “these.” I had to include “meow” the second I saw the M and W. Not only is Jonathan, our new cat, the subject of my photo, but this morning I publicly debated letting him have his own Twitter account. And this isn’t the first time I’ve taken a photo I’ve taken of him overseeing his fiefdom from on high. Also he’s adorable.

Lastly, Men in Black is on Syfy this week. Not only did I already know that, but it prompted me to place those peripheral tiles down in that form as I ran out of time. I am clearly bad at this game and these projects.


In the spirit of year-end posts, I’d like to put this year at Backslash Scott in perspective. But I’ll begin with a heartfelt thanks to everyone who still comes here to read random things that I write – you’ve made it a great year for me by caring enough to read what I have to say, for exchanging opinions and ideas in comments (and through other social media), and for being pretty a pretty swell group of folks.

It’s been a pretty good year for the Backslash blog. We started off with a bang when I shopped David Brooks’ class at Yale. Other popular posts from this year included a look at early 20th Century slang, a rant against Teach For America, and a reading of justice in The Hunger Games. I take it you all are really into casual, justice-focused education.

This summer I also traveled to Uganda and D.R. Congo for some fieldwork. While I was there I wrote some notes about my work. This was also the first year I’ve written outside of this blog, which is pretty exciting thing for me to do. In 2013, I was very happy to have my writing appear in Guernica and African Arguments, among others.

As we move into 2014, I hope to have more to say, and I’m thankful that you’ll be here to read. Looking forwards, I’ll be doing lots of thesis-writing and will be working through a formidable semester of coursework. I’ll also be graduating in the spring – and hopefully starting at a new school in the fall. And, through all of that, I will blog.

Early 20th Century American Slang

For those who don’t know, I work part time at a library of rare books and manuscripts. It often involves stamping books, organizing magazines, opening the mail, filing receipts, and loading packages into the freezer. Recently, it involved putting a giant collection of Haldeman-Julius Little Blue Books in numerical order. They are small 3.5″ x 5″ books published in Girard, Kansas, during the early- to mid-20th Century. The books include everything from Shakespeare and Ibsen plays to the U.S. Constitution and French-to-English guides. One that caught my eye was #56, A Dictionary of American Slang.

Included in it were some things that we still use today, like geezer, gold digger, high jack, and hot dog as an exclamation. But there were also some things that I have never heard of, and some of the definitions were just as strange. So, without further ado, some examples of ~1920s slang:

  • absotively – absolutely and positively
  • acknowledge the corn – admit responsibility for
  • Adam’s ale – water
  • all to the mustard – excellent
  • almighty dollar – money, god of America
  • applesauce – blah, tripe, nonsense, foolish talk
  • go to the bad – attend Sunday movies, dance, or otherwise offend the Rotary Methodist god
  • birthday suit – nature’s garb
  • cake eater – tea-hound, lounge-lizard, lady-bug
  • snake’s hips – something excellent
  • cracker – poor white, as in Georgia
  • dude – one who follows “What Men Are Wearing” in the theater programs
  • flumadiddle – humbug, flummery, nonsense
  • full of prunes – you’re crazy, you’re wrong
  • gibble-gabble, mulligatawny – foolish talk
  • to ride the goat – to be initiated into a secret society
  • fluzie – a daughter of joy, prostitute
  • Heavens! – formerly, god’s resident; now, an expletive
  • hotsy-totsy, tootsie-wootsie – a girl all to the mustard, all O.K.
  • izzum-wizzum – hotsy-totsy, red hot sweetie
  • Jericho (to send one to) – Hell, or Hoboken
  • justice – slang for what is obtained in legal courts
  • late unpleasantness – the last war; long used for the Civil War, in 200,000 AD it will be used of the most recent war
  • low-brow – an average person; one who prefers the poetry of Eddie Guest
  • Bible Marathon – the latest American indoor sport, in which both Testaments are read aloud in relays at breakneck speed, to the glory of God
  • mollycoddle – excessively effeminate person
  • mossback – a fossil, dodo, conservative stand-patter
  • to get one’s nanny – to get one’s goat
  • necktie partie – a hanging bee, lynching
  • to pass on – Christian Science euphemism for “to die.” It has become general throughout these Rotaried states. Nobody has died since Christ; all the rest have “passed on.”
  • paste – to strike a blow; “I’ll paste you in the bean”
  • piffle – nonsense, twaddle, applesauce, stewed rhubarb
  • poor white trash – a 100% free and un-terrified Nordic financial and mental pauper in the Southern States, whose family never owned slaves. If a child of poor white trash becomes President, historians will at once raise his ancestors to the aristocracy.
  • pop the question – to propose marriage; to dare congual shipwreck
  • primrose path – road to Hell, anything pleasant
  • puritan – one scrupulous about the morals of others; one who holds that the pleasant is always wicked
  • red – Communist, Socialist, Bolshevik, radical, prohibitionist, anti-prohibitionist, or member of any belief different from yours
  • right-o – annoying, the British expression of approval
  • rough diamond – an uncalcimined daddy; a rich man who eats peas with his knife 
  • rum row – the liquor-laden fleet 12 miles out
  • Sam Hill – the devil, as in “what the Sam Hill?” Sam’s father was Bunker Hill, shortened to Bunk Hill
  • stork – long-legged bird, purveying all human babies. In the U.S. the cabbage and rose bush methods have become slightly obscene; the biological is verboten. The Stork, Santa Clause, and Yahweh live in St. George Washington’s cherry tree.
  • strawberry blonde – red head, carrot top
  • V spot – five dollar bill
  • whangdoodle – mythical creature, akin to the gymnascutus, leg shorter on one side than the other, to let him feed n a hillside; nonsense

2012 in Review

It’s the end of a long year, and everyone’s doing some reflecting. As usual, it’s nice to take a look at how this blog has fared in the past year and to reminisce about its author.

The past year has been pretty crazy here at the Backslash blog. This humble wordpress blog saw almost five times as much traffic as the year before, and has gained a wonderful group of readers and followers. I have yet to fully come to grips with that fact, but I continue to try as you continue to keep reading. The upsurge in readership was predominantly due to what I actually thought was a mediocre post – “Catching Joseph Kony” – in response to the Kony 2012 phenomenon. There are actually two other LRA-related pieces I wrote that I am happier with – a history of peace and conflict and a look back on Invisible Children’s work. That they didn’t see much light is a result of bad timing as much as it is the result of how damn long they are.

Other popular posts this year include a brief look at Japanese internment in Arizona, the progressive history of Arizona’s constitution, and my contributions to the annual Caine Prize discussions. My favorite rant was probably a chance to direct my anger at a state legislator I dislike and defend lower tuition, but it’s unnerving how often people get to it by doing a web search for “students are irresponsible.” No doubt, the writing on this blog has improved primarily because of what I read – and I’ll continue to relay that through the weekend reading feature.

I spent a lot of this year in a lost state, but I’m gradually getting my footing. After spending most of 2011 doing something that I loved (teaching) that was unsustainable (read: unpaid), I started this year back in a public high school – a place I consider my domain – and ended up leaving that path. While that’s a somber fact for me, I’m happy to be where I am now, immersed in academia once again. The people here at Yale have taught me a lot just in these few months, and I’m sure they will continue to do the same. My wife has helped make the transition bearable, and technology has allowed my friends to keep me company and to make me want to improve my academic work as well as my blog-writing. Y’all rock, and I hope you’ll stick around for next year.

My Secular Holidays

This has been one of many three day weekends that dot the calendar for workers. In addition to the ten federal holidays, many public school calendars are peppered with other holidays, including the aptly named “Spring Holiday.” It’s the weekend which I find myself in the middle of – straddled by yesterday’s Good Friday (which I spent doing chores) and tomorrow’s Easter Sunday (probably big meals and egg decorating). Early in my schooling years I remember being told that every month had at least one day off except April, which is where Spring Holiday comes in. This holiday is also conveniently on Good Friday. Every. Single. Year. (Except 2005, which brought about this protest at my rival school).

As an atheist, I don’t have many holidays to observe, and I usually get pushed into quasi-celebrating the major Christian holidays around me. But while I don’t believe, I do so like tradition. My parents raised me with little in the ways of religious tradition – everyone assumed I was Protestant, while I was rarely if ever aware of that fact. And so I find myself settling in by re-appropriating all of the pagan traditions that were stolen by the Holy Roman Empire. While Easter might signify some major events in Christianity, to us non-believers it’s a time filled with the most fertile things nature has to offer: eggs, bunnies, and spring time. And chocolate. My traditions don’t include fasting and morning mass – I usually just blow up Peeps in the microwave.

Every year I hear a lot of people lamenting the commercialization of their favorite holiday, but I can’t help but think it’s awesome. The only thing I find significant about Christmas is spending time with family and decorating the house (and gifts, of course). So if Target’s annual explosion of decor makes this easier, I’m for it. If it becomes easier to find winter-themed plates and reindeer salt and pepper shakers, then I suppose I’m happy. For me, virtually all of my holidays are comprised of shopping for things, helping my wife bake something awesome, and then hanging out with people. Plus, I’m sure one of those actions helps the economy or something.

Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting up with a number of people who will be celebrating Easter. I’ll be celebrating warmer weather by decorating eggs and seeing who wins Peep Fight 2012.

Fighting with Fashion

Last week, Dan Drezner tweeted about the mid-range cruise missile, the Seersucker. It quickly generated a conversation about less-than-intimidating weapons names, but I immediately embarked on a quest to find as many fashion-forward weapons, munitions, and operations as I could. That is the sole reason for this blog post – and so I present you with these trend-setting factoids (pardon the Wikipedia links):

  • The USS Moccasin, an early 20th Century submarine, was later given the

    This submarine is available at Target for $13.95

    more boring name of A-4. It was preceded by the Civil War-era Moccasin tug boat.

  • The British love their argyle – with a 17th Century, WWI-era, and current version of the HMS Argyll.
  • There’s a British patrol ship named the HMS Blazer, which is pretty trendy.
  • While not specific to clothing, I can’t help but assume that Ethan Allen class submarines are filled with wood furniture (the store was also named after the Revolutionary War hero).
  • The UR-100 is a Russian ICBM that NATO likes to refer to as the SS-19 Stiletto.
  • The R-12 is apparently a less sexy Russian missile, since NATO calls it the SS-4 Sandal. It was one of the stylish missiles involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

The most terrifying sandal to ever reach the Caribbean.

  • Both of these are nothing compared to the super-secret Galosh missile.
  • A British mission in the Pacific Theater during WWII was called Operation Zipper.
  • The Mohawk was a plane used for reconnaissance in Korea and Vietnam, and a divergence into the hair category for aircraft nomenclature (but it did stand alongside several other Native American tribes, I admit).
  • The Airspeed Oxford flew throughout WWII.
  • Allied Operation Bolero was the troop buildup in Britain during WWII.
  • WWII Operation Raincoat was an Allied attack in Italy.
  • The German counter-offensive in North Africa was called Operation Capri.
  • The short-lived X-3 Stiletto was an early Cold War-era jet.
  • Operation Coronetwould have been the largest amphibious assault in history, landing on Japan in WWII – but it was never crowned.

    Let's just be honest, bow ties - and Robert Downey, Jr. - should be the names of weapons.

  • A U.S. operation in Vietnam was code-named Operation Bolo, which just reminds me of the official neckwear of the state of Arizona.
  • There is also a bomber, the B-18 Bolo, which is reminiscent of neckwear.
  • Supposedly, there is a classified program to develop unmanned reconnaissance aircraft called Senior Prom, which is so high school.
  • Australian involvement in the Gulf War was codenamed Operation Damask.

A New Year

It’s been a while since I tried to recap a year in my life, but I figure it’s worth a shot. After all, 2011 was a pretty momentous year for me and it might as well be documented. It was a pretty busy year, so here is a brief explanation of my 2011.

I got married! The wedding was awesome and it was wonderful to start the year off with friends and family – and my wife! After eight and a half years together we sealed the deal before hanging out on a rooftop together with everyone. We also went on a super cool honeymoon that involved biobays and walking under water which was a really cool way to celebrate before going back to reality.

Starting in January I did my student teaching in a suburban high school. For those who didn’t hear my tales of adventure, the teacher was fired partway through and I ended up teaching with a substitute sitting in the corner. The semester was wonderful and stressful and I was so happy to be teaching again (I hadn’t been in a high school for almost two years at that point). I had some failed lessons (mock Congress was a disaster and Kennedy’s speeches didn’t go as planned) and some real successes (still fond of my public works lesson and I refined lecturing really well). I had some amazing students and some terrible students, and I had a solid group of coworkers to help me through everything. All in all a good experience.

With some fundraising drives wrapping up early in the year and 25 in April, Schools for Schools closed its imaginary doors in 2011. I started the student organization by myself in September of 2007, forcing all of my friends to sit with me once a week and talk about rebels in central Africa. It had grown and collapsed multiple times, and we finally wound down with something like three active members and a couple inactive. It was a pretty big deal for me; the club had never really grown past its nascent state, so it was my perpetual advocacy baby. Saying goodbye to it was quite the step.

For almost the entire year I was unemployed. Throughout student teaching I was too stressed to work, but we made that call hoping I’d find a job after graduating. After losing the job I subbed for, I ended up applying for six other jobs and only got to interview for one. In the end I spent the fall substituting more, which isn’t ideal but worked.

Another highlight of 2011 has to be going to the White House. Even though the college club was over, I couldn’t not be involved in Resolve’s work. When they invited me to DC for a couple of days I gladly found a way there. A dozen new friends descended on the District to go to the White House to hear from and talk with public officials. In addition to that, I also got to see old friends in the area and actually see some sights. Also, poetry slam.

This summer I was in quite the rut, and one thing that got me out of that was my internship at a refugee agency. I spent about two days a week working with newly arrived refugees, which has been eye-opening for me and seemingly helpful to them. It included riding buses and teaching three classes on a rotation – public services, laws and rights, and apartment care. It was also my first time working with interpreters, which is a unique experience. I also had a pretty sweet supervisor who helped me a lot learning the ins and outs of the system and showed me the ropes in working with refugees.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the wife and I went on a little road trip to Vegas for an early anniversary vacation. It was nice to get out and do something, and it was nice for me to go back to Vegas (I grew up with random trips to Vegas all of the time, for whatever reason). We also did a mighty bit of walking and had a lot of fun. I’m hoping to get a few little trips like that in during 2012.

And that was my year. 2012 promises to be pretty exciting, even if the world doesn’t end. We’re probably moving and I’ll probably be going back to school, so things will be a-changing. Now that the year is moving forwards I feel that I should stop dwelling on the past. Happy (belated) New Year to you all!

Looking Back at 2011

So, I might have fallen off the blogging wagon a little bit, but I’m hoping to be back once the year’s up and running.  Right now I’m under the weather, waiting for the new year at home with my wife, but I thought we could take a look at the past year on the blog. Early in the year I speculated at how huge things would happen during 2011, but I did not expect just how much happened this year. It’s been really interesting to see everything unfold, and it will be interesting to see how things continue to develop next year. As far as things happening on this blog, I think it makes the most sense to take a look at the top posts!

Coming in at #5 was my quick rundown ahead of Uganda’s elections, which has accumulated views steadily despite being way, way outdated: What’s Happening in Uganda Tomorrow?

#4 is last month’s rant on Why I Will Never Vote to Drug Test Welfare Recipients, thanks to a Facebook poll and a free evening for research.

My third most popular post this year was also from last month, on why I disagreed with people who praise Rwanda: Rwanda Isn’t a Model for Anything but Autocracy.

Coming in second this year is a post that’s been around almost two years, back when I took a look at Ethos Water and TOMS Shoes: For-Profit or Not-For-Profit?

And the most popular post this year, by more than double the hits for the others, was from when I took part in blogging the Caine Prize. The big hit was when I covered “Hitting Budapest” by NoViolet Bulawayo.

So, those are the big posts from this year! It’s been quite the year over on this end. I started off by getting married, and have since blogged my way through teaching and protesting and took a look at deployments and governance. The last couple of weeks have been pretty blog-free, but I’m hoping to change that. With that, I’ll leave you to your New Years – catch you in 2012!