Numbers, Large and Small

“As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens.”

It’s an old Vermont weather proverb and reads like one, too. I can see the crusty old dude by the potbellied stove with the gumboots and plaid mackinaw draped over the back of his chair.

Alert readers will remember I referred to the proverb a year ago this week, writing how the cold ain’t so strong as it used to be. (Forgive the use of “ain’t,” but I’m in Vermont geezer mode now.) As I wrote last year, the season for below zero temperatures in Vermont runs roughly from New Year’s Eve through Valentine’s Day. So far, not only are we not below zero on the Fahrenheit scale, we’re not achieving it often on the Celsius scale (32 degrees F for those stuck in the ‘70s). It snowed for Christmas, then it melted, then it snowed again and now it’s melting again.

I’m eccentric; I know that, but just as I feel I haven’t had my summer without a few scorching days and sleepless, humid nights (no problem there the last few years), so I also don’t feel I’ve had a winter absent a week or so of bone-numbing cold. Also good for keeping down the population of northward-migrating insects.

Same week, different number. Wednesday, President Obama was quoted by the New York Times saying departing spokesman Robert Gibbs has served long hours for “relatively modest pay.” I think the key word here is “relatively.” Mr. Gibbs makes $172,000 a year. The census bureau says median household income for the District of Columbia (what a coincidence!) is right in the middle of the American scale. That number is $53,685 per year, which means Mr. Gibbs has three households?

I think the president means “relatively” in the sense of Einsteinian relativity, in which he, Mr. Gibbs and the rest of the west wing staff are sucked through a black hole and land in Weimar Germany, where it takes 172,000 dollars (or Deutschmarks) to buy a loaf of bread. That must be it.

In another case of “don’t hear what I say, hear what I mean,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) says when he called Mr. Obama “corrupt” he didn’t mean, like… y’know… “dishonest.” He meant “corrupt” like a computer drive that won’t boot up properly. How could anyone misunderstand that?

Back to numbers. This morning, Mr. Issa’s fellow Congressional reps are reading the US Constitution on the floor of the House, as a tribute to their tea party supporters. Or at least the “amended” version, that leaves out language counting African Americans as three-fifths of a human being or that women couldn’t vote or that we once prohibited the consumption of booze.

Finally, I’m sure you’ve heard a new edition of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (two books, one binding) replaces the “n-word” with “slave,” ostensibly because schools are passing the books by rather than let the kiddies see how we used to talk (or in the case of the Constitution, count).

Come back to the raft, Huck honey.

© Mark Floegel, 2011

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