Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Thought for the Day

Battling, Bending and Breaking

Friend Maria B sent me an email in response to the Anthony Hordern “While I Live I’ll Grow” tree post, part of such email reading:
“. . . because of its connection with King Arthur's round table which was made from a single cross section of a large Oak. I love the poem and how strong you can become even when others put you down!”
Maria accompanied the email with the folowing poem:

The sentiments expressed are contrary to what a lot of wise men, philosophers and sages have expressed through the ages:

newborn – we are tender and weak
in death – we are rigid and stiff

living plants are supple and yielding
dead branches are dry and brittle

so the hard and unyielding belong to death
and the soft and pliant belong to life

an inflexible army does not triumph
an unbending tree breaks in the wind

thus the rigid and inflexible will surely fail
while the soft and flowing will prevail

- Tao Te Ching

The Oak and the Willow, a fable

In a field, there was an oak at one end, and a willow-tree at the other.

Whenever a wind moved through the field, the willow swayed in the wind, while the oak remained unmoved.

When this happened, the willow said to itself, “I wish I was as strong as the Oak, instead of bending over with every breeze“ then one day a large windstorm whipped through the field.

When the storm passed, and the darkness lifted, the willow looked across the field, and was shocked to discover that the oak was laying on the ground, broken. When the Gardener came into the field, the willow said, “Oh sir, what happened to the Oak? How is it that I survived the storm, weak as I am, and the Oak fell?”

The Gardener said, “Oh little willow-tree, do you not understand what happened? When the winds blow, you bend with them, while the oak remains still. So when a really powerful wind comes along, you can bend with the wind, and survive it. But the Oak cannot bend, and so if the wind is strong enough, it will break. For the Oak had a secret, a weakness within that no one looking at the outside could see. And the Gardener went on his way, leaving the willow to ponder what he said.

Moral: Strength within and strength without are not the same, and one should cultivate strength within first. Also, when the winds of life blow, bend, and you may survive the real storms when they come. Try and resist them, and when the real storms come, you may break instead.

Even Bruce Lee expressed the same sentiment:

And talking of trees . . .

Monday, January 22, 2018

Thought for the Day

Origins of some political terms and expressions:



It is not correct that the word “politics” comes from the word “poly”, meaning many, and “ticks”, meaning small, bloodsucking things. That is only a joke. The origin of “politics” is the Greek word “polis,” meaning “city.” This produced the Greek “polites,” meaning “citizen”. This in turn produced “politikos,” meaning “regarding citizens or matters of state.” In Latin, the Greek “politikos” became “polticus,” which eventually gave us “politics,” “political,” and, with the suffix “ian” indicating action or agency, “politician” for a person whose jobs involves affairs of government or civil administration. Hence “politics” is the system of governing a society, and a “politician” is someone who works in that apparatus.



The word gerrymander means to manipulate boundaries for political advantage. It dates from 1812 when the governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, signed a bill that redrew districts to favour his party. One of the districts resembled a salamander, giving rise to the term Gerry-mander and from there gerrymander.


The word “caucus” originated in the US shortly before the Revolution where it meant a private meeting of the leaders of a political party to pick candidates for office or conduct other internal party business. Over the years it has broadened to mean any sort of closed political meeting to decide policy and has spread to use by numerous other countries. There is no definitive explanation for the origin of the term.

Old joke:
Q: What's the difference between a caucus and a cactus?
A:  A cactus has all the pricks on the outside.

"Pork barrelling":

Pork barreling is spending government money on a local project in order to win the votes of the people who live in that area. 

From an item by Hugh Rawson in the American Heritage magazine:
The metaphor [ie pork barrel spending] stems from the practice in the pre-refrigeration era of preserving pork in large wooden barrels of brine. The political usage may have been inspired by the distribution of rations of salt pork to slaves on plantations. "Oftentimes the eagerness of the slaves would result in a rush upon the pork barrel, " wrote a 'journalist' named C.C. Maxey in 1919, "in which each would strive to grab as much as possible for himself. Member of Congress in the stampede to get their local appropriation items into the omnibus river and harbor bills behaved so much like negro slaves rushing the pork barrel, that these bills were facetiously styled 'pork-barrel' bills."

Rawson closes with the wonderful quote from a Senate chaplain in the early 20th century. Asked whether he prayed for the senators, the man of the cloth responded, "No, I look at the senators and pray for the country."

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Thought for the Day

While I live, I'll grow . . .

Yesterday I was briefly discussing the Anthony Hordern “While I Live, I’ll Grow” tree with some friends and I promised I would do a Bytes on it today. It occurs to me that, today, few people would know of it so it is worth recalling and recording . . . 
  • In 1823 free immigrant from England, Anthony Hordern, founding member of the Hordern family in Australia, established a drapery shop in Sydney. A large menswear store and one of the largest mail order businesses in Australia were additional ventures. The business, eventually known as Anthony Hordern & Sons, remained in family hands for a century, although not without legal tussles and court cases.

  • A six-storey building, called The Palace Emporium, was opened in 1905. Located on the corner of George, Pitt and Goulburn Streets in the CBD (now occupied by World Square), it was once the largest department store in the world, covering 21 hectares in floor space.
Some pics:

  • Downturns in trading saw Anthony Hordern & Sons taken over by Waltons in 1970.
  • The Palace Emporium was used by the NSW Institute of Technology (now UTS) for some years but it was demolished in 1986 for the World Square development, which remained a hole in the ground for nearly twenty years (due to shutdown after union problems) before finally being completed in 2004. Saving the building was determined not to be feasible due to the state and condition. The owner, Singapore based Ipoh Garden Development, did however refurbish the Queen Victoria Building back to heritage standard.
  • Anthony Hordern & Sons used a tree as a logo with the motto "While I live I'll grow". It appeared above all the store's window fittings and on all its stationery.

  • Apparently there used to be a large Port Jackson fig tree on a ridge at Razorback (hi Steve and Diane) near Camden, that resembled the Hordern logo tree. AH arranged with the land owners at Razorback to erect a large, long sign alongside bearing the motto "While I live I'll grow". 
  • I have read that vandals poisoned the Razorback tree and that thereafter the Palace Emporium hit the hard times that eventually finished it off.
  • The Razorback tree must have survived because there is a report that a 2014 gale destroyed the 109-year-old Port Jackson fig, splitting it in two and blowing it over.
  • For the AH 100th anniversary, 50,000 oak seedlings were imported from England and given away. Sydney is still dotted with many of these trees.