To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Several years ago, F and her friends Madison and Sam had to do a group project about Pompeii. They elected to videotape a newscast, with interviews of survivors. They met at the library, and went up to the fourth floor where they secured one of the meeting rooms - you can close the door but the walls are all glass. I sat down at one of the tables with my book while they set up. Presently Madison came out to fetch me. I went in and allowed them to drape F's Latin Club costume on me, and gave a (stunning) eyewitness account of what it was like to flee the volcano. When we finished, I went back out to my book. Madison then approached a man, a complete stranger, sitting at another table. "Excuse me, Sir," she said, and he closed his book and stood up. I watched through the walls as they sat him down - don't remember them making him wear a costume - and they filmed his "interview". Madison went looking for more victims afterward, but I had to take F home because she was coming down with one of the 1,776 cases of influenza that she's had in her short life (exaggerating here - it's only been maybe 8) but she was able to tell me about that man who followed me into the interview room.

He was an Iraqi immigrant. He and his family had had to flee into the mountains after the first Gulf War, with no food and only the clothes on their backs. If I recall correctly, he was about 14 then. They made it through somehow and were able to get asylum here. He gave them a very harrowing and realistic first-person eyewitness account of exactly what it's like to be a refugee - only he wasn't fleeing a natural disaster, but a man-made one. At the end, F said he apologized and said he knew that wasn't really what they were after. On the contrary.

I'm thinking about that man and his family today.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

I think we're having a good holiday. We saw my family on Saturday and my in-laws yesterday, in between church in the morning and at midnight. R and F will probably head back over to his folks' today. I have penciled-in a migraine for myself for today (joking) (partly) so I will be staying at home getting hold of myself, looking at the book F gave me about Princess Grace of Monaco, resting, and trying not to eat candy. Molly is having a wonderful time hunting imaginary animals among the litter of tissue paper.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fourth Sunday of Advent

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around,
And glory shone around.

“Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind.
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind
To you and all mankind.

“To you, in David’s town, this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign,
And this shall be the sign.

“The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid,
And in a manger laid.”

Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God on high,
Who thus addressed their song,
Who thus addressed their song:

“All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from Heaven to men
Begin and never cease,
Begin and never cease!”

Friday, December 22, 2006

Drudge: "Retailers grumble about first 'Global Warming Christmas'; disastrous sales for cold-weather clothing, from cashmere caps to wool scarves... Developing..."

I well remember Christmas Day, 1987. F was 9 months old. We visited my parents in Mississippi that day, and we took a little walk with her. She was dressed only in a diaper and socks. Her daddy carried her against his chest, facing outward, and as we walked she threw her arms and legs out and coo'd because the breeze felt so good. "First 'Global Warming Christmas'," my foot.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I received a very nice compliment at work today. I always smile and greet and wave at the plant people, some of whom I still don't know after all this time. Today one of them bellowed across the way to ask if I was married. I held up my hand and pointed to my ring. He yelled, "Oh, I thought you wasn't ... I thought maybe you was divorced or ... because I was going to ask you if ... well ... your husband is a very lucky man! You seem very sweet and nice!" I said "Thank you!" of course. Wasn't that random?

Of course I informed R immediately that he is a very lucky man. : )

Monday, December 18, 2006

I have been tagged by Nzingha. I'm supposed to list six strange things about myself.

Well, I'll try to hold it to six.

1 - People think they know me. This happens ALL THE TIME. They think they used to work with me ... they went to school with me ... I've taught their children ... and so on. It's happened at a memorial service, the grocery store, the hospital when I was visiting my brother-in-law, my workplace when we had contractors, you name it. The sad thing is that once in a while I am able to determine that that stranger really does know me and I don't remember him/her at all....

2 - I like literary chick books like Pride and Prejudice and Portrait of a Lady and Anna Karenina but I really like action-adventure as well, if not better. Frederick Forsyth and Martin Cruz Smith, for instance, and Tom Clancy before The Bear and the Dragon (what a horror that was.)

3 - Continuing the above - one of my very favorite movies of all time is "Predator II". Yes, it has violence, language, sex. But for some reason I LOVE that movie and I've watched it so many times I about have it memorized. R says it must speak to me somehow. How weird is that. And I like "I, Robot", too, and having grown up reading Asimov's robot stories I have to believe he would have loved that movie and heartily approved of it.

4 - I cannot think if I can hear a radio, television, or conversation. F thanks me for passing this very inconvenient trait along to her. At work if people are talking to each other in the next room I have to put my hands over my ears and/or talk out loud to myself to get anything done.

5 - I think Mattie was the villain in Ethan Frome and Ethan himself was right behind her. I feel so passionately about that that it was the subject of one of my first blog posts. And I thought Rosamond in Middlemarch was very ill-used. Shocking. I know. I'm sorry.

6 - I hate the feeling of hose on my legs. Hate it. Hate it. I can't wait to get home from church on Sundays and get that stuff off of me. Heels, too. Yuck. But even if I am wearing jeans, I have to dab on a bit of mascara at least.

OK, who can I tag now? I'll have to think about that.
Third Sunday of Advent

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.


For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

- Isaiah Chapter 9

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Second Sunday of Advent

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

(Listen to it here.)

(And here is a nice discussion of this carol.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hershey's Kisses filled with Cherry Cordial Creme.

That's all I'm going to say.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Words from Pope Al, &c. by Jay Nordlinger, who experienced an overabundance of CNN in the Detroit airport:

I found the Memphis airport much better, and for this reason: Jim Neely’s Interstate Barbecue. The young, plump woman behind the counter said, “We specialize in pork,” and do they ever.

Barbecue and no mandatory CNN: Those things make Memphis’s airport a heaven.

I like to take out-of-town visitors to Neely's on Jefferson. Delicious barbecue, prompt service by a very friendly staff, and bluesy music playing in the background. That place just says "Memphis" to me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

First Sunday of Advent

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,
get thee up into the high mountain!
O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem,
Lift up thy voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid,
Say unto the cities of Judah:
Behold your God!

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,
Arise, shine, for thy light is come,
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

- Handel

Saturday, December 02, 2006

This is very strange to me.

Virginia killer's sanity questioned as execution looms

I don't mean to be disrespectful of a fellow human, really. But I am reminded of a funny story that a Hewlett Packard service rep told me, back before HP sold off its lab equipment business to Agilent. It seems that an HP service rep got a call from a customer who wanted a 250 foot power cord for his instrument and couldn't find a part number in the catalog. The rep called the parts department to get a part number. The parts dept. said they didn't stock a 250-ft power cord but they could get him the stuff to put one together. As an afterthought, they asked why the customer wanted a 250-ft power cord anyway. I don't know, the rep said, I'll ask him. The rep called the customer back and explained that he would have to put one together for him. OK, the customer said. Then the rep asked why he wanted a 250-ft power cord anyway. "Because I'm on the 5th floor of this university building," the customer said, "and I'm about to push this s. o. b. out the window; and I want it to still be running when it hits the ground!"

This, you understand, by way of putting in a service call.

Maybe you have to have to really struggled and fought and gone through the valley of the shadow of death with an instrument to appreciate the humor of that story, but trust me, it's really funny.

But the idea of the impossibility of executing an insane person is kind of weird. I am down with not executing an insane person, really, but to insist on sanity before execution is like wanting that mass spec to hit the ground "conscious". Don't you think?

Monday, November 27, 2006

What a week. Miss F was at home all last week, of course, with the flu turning out to be perhaps not so mild after all. Her ped. put her on Tamiflu on the chance that it wasn't too late after onset of symptoms to do her any good. By Friday she looked a little less desperate. But we didn't go anywhere on Thanksgiving. I think I took a nap. I really don't remember. Worked Friday and had to work ALL day Saturday, from 8:00 to after 5:30, and then Sunday after church we took F back to school, a 6-hour round trip. Supper with my parents on the way back, which was nice.

I thought today I'd leave work on time for a change and come home, eat something, and fall in the bed, but I got a call from my former boss this AM telling me that my former lead analyst, John, died last week. Quite a shocker. I knew he was sick. He had a kidney transplant 26 years ago, which is a phenomenal amount of time for one transplant to last, but he had run into problems. The process of trying to diagnose them shocked his kidney into inaction. They were thinking to put him back on the transplant list, but in doing dialysis in the meantime, the kidney was allowed to rest and get hold of itself, so to speak, and actually regain some function. And that's the last I had heard, but apparently he was in a lot of pain; they did MRIs and so forth and couldn't find the source, and concluded that it had to be the kidney and operated to remove it, but when they did they found a very large tumor that had invaded everything and for which nothing could be done. So it wasn't the kidney after all. This was Wednesday, and he died on Friday. I left the job in which I worked with John in September before he got sick, but R and I went to see him in the hospital. He didn't look that bad. I think this was kind of a shock for everybody. John was 53 years old and he talked kind of loud, like people do who have hearing loss although as far as I know his hearing was fine. I remember him walking briskly into my office virtually every morning and bellowing HELLO MISS LAURA at the top of his lungs. I had to shut my door sometimes when he was talking to someone in the lab next to my office because his voice projected so. I remember once he had the radio on in there and they were playing fight songs and challenging their listeners to name them, and I heard him hollering out those song titles as he worked - "On Wisconsin!" and so forth. That was so funny. He knew all kinds of stuff. F emailed me from school one day in despair, wanting to know how and why JFK deflected interest toward third world countries during the cold war. (I have to say that her Western Civ course was exponentially more grueling than the one I had.) At a complete loss, I read her email out loud and John gave me an entire detailed, expositive answer. He was one of those people who know stuff because everything is interesting to them. Gosh, I hate that this happened.

So after work I went to his memorial service, at the church where he apparently was very active. They spoke affectionately of him and will miss him a lot, not only for the things he did but for his friendship. One's thoughts turn to what would be said at one's own service, of course. "Laura loved her family, and her kittycats, and she was much happier in the laboratory than doing housework." Ha ha.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Poor F is at home. She was supposed to come home Tuesday evening for Thanksgiving, but she called last Friday - Come get me. The doctor at the minor medical said sinusitis and an ear infection, but I'm not convinced it's not a relatively mild case of flu. She would not say it's mild, but she's been much sicker with flu than this. The thinking was that F would come home, go to the doctor and get antibiotics if appropriate, sleep in her own bed, and go back today. They always plan some pretty intense stuff during the two days before Thanksgiving break because so many kids want to go home the previous weekend and not come back. So F was pretty upset when she turned out to feel so bad this afternoon that going back was out of the question. But she emailed her professors to tell her sad story, and she's already heard back from one telling her not to worry, she can make her work up when she comes back.

Of course she didn't pack for a week at home so R and I made a run to Target to get her some more underwear and stuff. Her roommate told her that if she plays her cards right I will buy her an entire new wardrobe.

***Update 11/20. Not being filled with confidence by the doctor at the minor medical, R took F to her pediatrician today. He sez it's the flu. I am not surprised. Fever and body aches don't logically follow from ear infections and sinusitis, especially in this kid who had multiple ear infections, sinus infections, and bacterial pneumonia at age 4 with no fever. All but one of her teachers are being merciful, I'm glad to say. She has a note from the doctor, just in case.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Change Destiny has a new pet. Feed it a T-bone. Make it howl.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Saturday we drove to F's school for Family Weekend. It turned out to be so cold that we didn't participate in any of the activities, but just visited with her, which was nice. Took her out to lunch, shopped at Wal-Mart for various little things she needed. She's trying to get over the headcold that everyone seems to have to one degree or another.

Funny conversation with her roommate, who flew to Detroit the previous week for an Anime con, and who was singled out for extra security checks. The way F described her question of the security people was, "So, is this random, or, like, not?" But the roommate said she actually asked, "So, is this random, or do you think I look creepy?" Long pause, during which she realized that what she thought was a joke was being taken seriously. F's roommie has a pink-and-white face but long, long, straight, BLACK hair and she favors black fingernail and toenail polish. Perhaps she looks a bit Goth. She said the security person said that they have to take an extra look at people who seem "different" [making the quote marks with the fingers] and that "different" is OK, it's a good thing, really, but not in an "airport". So we live and learn.

We learned something about R's truck on the way home. (My car is in the shop.) It seems that his thermostat gets stuck on heat when the car is warmed up. You can turn off the heater, but you still get heated air from the flow-through ventilation. So we drove 3 hours in the 30-something-degree evening with the windows open so that we didn't absolutely die. I was surprised that my feet weren't blistered when we got home. I suppose his trips around town are short enough that he never really noticed. It will probably be an easy fix, once we get my car back, which has his tools in the trunk.

My job, well, my job is bounding along. New challenges every day. I think my computer is here, finally, so I can move my office down to the laboratory where I belong. Our e-notebook is being installed on the server later this week. The wireless hub has been installed in the lab, and the tablet we ordered is here; this is what we'll carry around to the workstations to enter data into the e-notebook. This is going to be so extremely cool. There's still a whole bunch of stuff to work out, but we'll get there.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Interesting election. I didn't really have a chance to post about it until now.

1 - Harold Jr. is out of a job. It's rumored that he will run for mayor of Memphis. I think that's kind of a comedown from US Congressman, but actually I wish he would. I'd vote for him.

2 - Ophelia Ford won her election to the Tennessee State Senate by a very wide margin. It irritates me that newspaper articles referring to the fact that that the Senate voided the tainted election she "won" before, and refused to seat her, invariably remark that there was no indication that she had anything to do with the fraud. Of course she (probably) didn't. That wasn't the point. The point was that it was an improperly run election and they were right to void it, and therefore the seat wasn't hers any more than it was any Joe Blow or Jane Doe Memphian's. But it's hers now. We'll see how she does.

3 - And Steve Cohen did beat both Jake Ford and Republican Mark White to win Jr's vacated 9th district Congressional seat, despite being white, and a Jew, and not a Ford. Even though I would have preferred seeing the Republican win, I'm still glad for Sen. Cohen, and what this says about the willingness (let's be blunt) of black Memphians to vote for a white man. But he needs to get in there and PERFORM for the next two years, because he has to win the Dem. primary again if he's to keep that spot.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I added Nzingha's blog to my sidebar. I've been reading her stuff for quite some time. Nzingha lives in Saudi Arabia with her husband, "Mr. Man", and her four cute kids. I should have added her at the beginning of summer, when she and her mother and children went to Kuala Lumpur for a fairytale vacation that those of us who had to WORK all summer got to enjoy vicariously.

Nzingha wants to be a virtuous wife and mother, and raise her kids to be Godly people (if Muslims use that term) and she appreciates living in a country in whose culture she has some expectation of support in those goals. But her current post is about an unspeakable miscarriage of justice in SA. This is horrifying to her, partly because it just is, and partly because it is rationalized by people who pervert Islam and the teachings of the Koran to try to justify evil. I ask all of my two or three readers to join me in praying for the woman Nzingha writes about, and for justice for everyone in SA.

And for those who may feel a bit self-righteous that we don't have this kind of abomination in the West, may I direct your attention to the post below this one.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Well, I am stunned.

I've long thought that people who support abortion, or rather that subset of such people who say there's nothing wrong with it (as distinct from those who admit that it's murder but support it anyway) show an extreme lack of logical thinking when they confer human status on a baby only after it's born - as if it might be a cat or a walrus beforehand. There's nothing magical about the birth process. It's not like a baby was a blob of featureless protoplasm that the magical act of birth put a human stamp on.

Now that idea is turned on its head. Doctors: let us kill disabled babies.

The college’s submission was also welcomed by John Harris, a member of the government’s Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University. “We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” he said.

One used to read about primitive cultures that exposed newborns who weren't perfect. One used to read about them in such a way that it was made clear that these were uncivilized and unenlightened people. Apparently those cultures are us.

God, forgive us. God, save us from ourselves.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Seems to me, if all Person A can find to talk about is what an idiot Person B is, then Person A needs to make it his business to get his dadgum line straight. And then if he does screw it up, and screw it up in such a way as to insult the intelligence of thousands of Americans who are serving their country, he should say so immediately and apologize, and not try to find a way to make it Person B's fault. Because that is so puerile. Like a little kid who keeps insisting "He started it!" and can't just take his licks and shut up.

Seems to me, if Person A really has something to offer he isn't going to waste time insulting Person B in the first place.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

We have heat now. They finished installing the new furnace on Friday. I knew they would, because the sun came out and it was nice and warm. At work, walking between buildings, I remarked that the furnace must be just about finished up because otherwise it would have still been rainy and miserable.

It sounds very different when it comes on. Molly looks all around, trying to figure out what that new sound is. She is so observant and perceptive.

Things have been irritating me the last few days. After I finished ranting Thursday evening I asked R if he thought I had PMS. Startled, he replied that he certainly hoped so! It feels just like it but I'm not scheduled for it yet. A person at work offered his unasked-for opinion that something I was trying to do would not work ... he offered it repeatedly. Repeatedly. Irritated the living stew out of me. As it happened, what I wanted to do did work, but if it hadn't, it would have been no great loss; I'd have gone another way. Either way, it was none of his concern.

Then I encounted a conversation in which it was explained to a person that she should never tell an adoptive parent, who is discussing all her plans for being the perfect mother, that the child she was getting was a "lucky kid". Wrong! Bad! Dang, I hate that kind of thing. It's like those lists of rules Ann Landers used to publish, where people would write in to explain to the world how to talk to X person who was dealing with Y (divorce, cancer, bankruptcy, etc.): DO say this. DON'T say that. You'd think you have to memorize a million rules that some stranger dreamed up, just to know how to behave like a decent person. As if everybody wants to be treated the same way everybody else in that situation wants to, anyway.

And then people who pay no attention to their surroundings. Stop cold in a doorway to dig around in their purse. Park their car IN the drive when there are plenty of empty parking places - and this is a car with a handicapped plate, which always has the best places empty and waiting anyway.

So I stayed inside yesterday with the door shut. Took a nice long nap. I had a lot of stuff that needed to get done, but I didn't do any of it. R thought I needed to get out, so I went to supper with him and that was OK. Sometimes I feel like F, I have a love/hate relationship with the fact that I share the planet with other people.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ah, the race card.

The RNC made an ad about Harold Ford Jr. with a woman who claims to have met him at a Playboy party and who says, "Harold, call me!"

Apparently the ad is racist, according to the NAACP, because it's a white woman.

For God's sake.

Do they not see interracial couples every single day? Maybe they need to get out more.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A manatee has turned up in the Wolf River. How about that.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

F was in town this weekend for a flying visit. She and a friend came up on Friday. They went to the Agicenter Friday eve. for the corn maze (a little pun there, methinks - "maize" maze?)(well, yes, now that I actually look at the site I linked to), to the cat shelter and the zoo on Saturday, and the concert they actually came up for on Saturday eve., and to church with us on Sunday before they headed back to school. I have to say that it is gratifying when one's grown child takes for granted that she (and her friend) will be attending church, and takes the trouble to pack appropriate church clothes. She attends church in her college town, too - I know this because she got letters over the summer.

We have no heat in the house right now. Every year R has lit the pilot light on the furnace and said "this is the last year", and this year he said it really isn't safe and he isn't going to do it anymore. So he had somebody out to look at it, and this person balked at our old Midtown house (duh) and the stairs to the basement, etc. Apparently the original one wasn't installed according to code, which it might have been at the time because it was old when we moved here in 1990. But it will probably be a big deal to replace, she said sighing. It isn't very cold yet, but I'll be glad when we can warm up the house in the morning. This could get to be a bit more character-building than I really care for, even with the gas fireplace and the wall heaters in the bathrooms. (Oh gosh, I am spoiled.) On the other hand, our utility bills will be fairly merciful.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Work is still going OK. I am taking on Environmental (not Health and Safety, at least not yet,) even though the quality system still isn't in place. Why? you ask. Because I opened my mouth and asked some questions about the sewer permit. The sewer permit is just fine, but we have a copy of Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater winging its way to us now. We needed it anyway. It has some really cool and useful discussions of significant figures, normality of concentrated acids, and statistical stuff like outlier tests, as well as specific procedures for things that should be no-brainers (taking pH with a meter) but aren't. Any self-respecting lab ought to have a copy.

In other news - I poached a person from my previous workplace, which is closing some time in the not-too-distant future. And there is one more person I want to poach. I am so bad.
: )

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So we were practicing our Christmas music tonight, and I realized I really need to work on that Vivaldi Gloria. Came home and went online, went to my favorite search engine, Dogpile; clicked "audio" and searched on "Vivaldi Gloria", and found this. It's a little slower than we will be, but it will be fine to practice with.

I LOVE the internet.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Today was Personal Maintenance Day for me. It started out with a trip to the dentist at 8:10 to have a filling redone, a followup to the checkup I had last month in which I knew there would be something and indeed there was. Then my yearly physical at 10:30, then at 3:00 the mammogram redo which turned out as I expected - there's nothing there. Well, there's a little something there, happily, but nothing of concern. Now I'm done for a while unless there's something to follow up on from my physical, which could happen. I need to go back to the eye doctor because it's been 3 yrs since my last visit and I find myself taking off my glasses to read things, but that actually can wait. I've taken ibuprofen to deal with the toothache I developed after the novocaine wore off. It's windy and rainy outside, R isn't home from work yet, and I think I'll go out and sit on the porch swing for a bit.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

R and I just got back from the opera. See if you can guess what it was.

Me: "I know Robbins' wife loved him and all, but she was trying to save money for their burial and he kept gambling it away. Ibedanged if I'd work my butt off trying to bury him. I believe I'd let the medical students have him."

R: "I know you would."


R: "And let him be scattered."

Me: "Yeah."


The opera is Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess", of course. It's a bit controversial these days. A lot of black performers don't like it and don't want to do it. One sees why.

But it was a great performance. The featured singers were good, but the entire cast drew us into the story. I suppose any operatic story has its majorly flawed character(s). In this case, Porgy has the physical flaw: he's a cripple of some unspecified kind, and he spends the entire performance kneeling on the floor or on a little cart that he can wheel himself around on. But Bess has the more serious flaw: she's addicted to cocaine and to an abusive relationship with Crown. Porgy is drawn to her, he stands up for her with the church women, and he shelters her when she needs him. And she is drawn to his goodness and his love for her, but ultimately it's not enough. She leaves him for a life, one supposes, of prostitution and drug abuse in New York. To quote Jake, "A woman is a sometime thing." (A bit of irony there, because when Jake's boat is seen to have capsized in the hurricane, Jake's wife, Clara, hands her baby off to Bess and runs out to find him, and is lost in the storm. Clara is not a sometime thing for Jake.)

There are some cringe-inducing moments. The people who live in Catfish Row love Porgy, respect him, and look to him for leadership in some ways. But they plan a picnic that he will not be able to attend, and in his presence they invite Bess and tell her that "everybody" will be there. Their thoughtless cruelty is pointed up also in a little song he sings about how lonely he is. During this song you see the whole ensemble on the stage, but they're kind of frozen, while the spotlight is on him. It's to communicate the fact that his loneliness is something they could see if they would just look at him and think about the way he lives his life, but they can't or don't want to. Other cringe-inducing moments involve the white folks. They don't sing, they talk; which I suppose is to point up how colorless they are. The black folks have to say "boss" and "sir", which is authentic for the time period, I'm sorry to say.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

F went back to school today after fall break. Her dad took her back so I didn't have to miss work. I did go with him on Friday to pick her up.

Saturday we went to Shelby Farms because the weather was just too pretty to stay indoors. It's strange going there with her, a young woman, because it's so easy for the mind's eye to see her ten-year-old self struggling up the path on her roller skates. And apparently it's not only her dad's and my mind's eyes. She and I went into the ranger station so I could visit the ladies', and while she was waiting for me someone asked if she was lost. Poor F ... maybe she should wear a big sign around her neck: "I AM NINETEEN YEARS OLD."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I spent the afternoon at my sister-in-law's house in a small community outside Memphis. She needed babysitting for her four children. My SIL helped me so much with F that I can never pay her back. But even though her kids are very nice and well-behaved, they just about wore me out. I don't know how she does it. Little Sarah, who's four, used to not extend to me fellow membership in the human race. I was not supposed to be in the same room with her, or if that was unavoidable, to look at her or address her. I am very used to fractious little girls and so thought it was funny. This situation started to turn around this year. Today Sarah had to sit right next to me wherever I was, lean on me if possible, and copy the exact way I crossed my legs at the ankle, etc. And ask a million questions. "Aunt Wauwa, Aunt Wauwa - what do you call those pants you are wearing?" "Blue jeans." "Ohhhh!" and "Aunt Wauwa - what numbers do you use to make your name?" "L-A-U-R-A". "Ohhhh! That's like my name!" "Yes, it is very like your name." I let the kids eat pizza in the living room, which they thought was hysterical. We drew pictures of bugs. And so forth and so on. I ended up with a tremendous migraine by the time my SIL relieved me but it wasn't the kids' fault at all. I reckon I am just getting old.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Still having fun on my new job. I have a whole bunch of stuff to figure out, more all the time as people off-handedly mention things that I realize I will need to bring into my sphere of influence, ha ha. We're getting the lab squared away. It's starting to look nice. Quotes on equipment we'll need. I'm looking at electronic notebooks for data capture, archival, and reporting. I described how I think that's going to work and my boss was very pleased. He will have access to real-time data, from his office, of all the lab results, including in-process testing. This will be so cool.

When I said that the week would be work-and-home, I forgot about choir last night. We're working on Christmas music, which could be irritating except that it's good stuff. We're doing some of the Robert Shaw "Many Moods of Christmas", including Patapan, and a new setting of "The First Nowell", which is pretty cool; and "Ding Dong Merrily On High", and Vivaldi's "Gloria" which I have not done before. This last is very satisfying to me. I am a complete sucker for baroque music. I suppose that we will do "And the Glory" from "The Messiah" for the first Sunday of Advent, as we usually do. Never get tired of it. Lyrics: "And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed. And all flesh shall see it together. For the Mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Short and sweet. The music is spectacular.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Second week on the new job started today. I did go back.
: )

Yesterday afternoon R and I started out to go to the grocery store. But the day was so nice, cool and bright. R said we really ought to go to Shelby Farms instead. I said, "Let's do." So we u-turned the truck and went out to Patriot Lake, and parked, and walked around the lake. That place always reminds me of "Saturday In the Park". Kids, grownups, old folks, bicycles, kites. One guy had a contraption that R and I guessed must have been a para-ski - he held a huge sail-like kite and was dragged across (and occasionally into) the lake on a cross-ways ski. We had a wonderful time. Plenty of time to go to the store when we were done.

This evening after work we went to an American Chemical Society meeting, had dinner and then heard a very interesting talk by a former ACS president about patent medicine and the first FDA legislation, around the turn of the last century.

I guess the rest of the week will be work and home, work and home. R is slowly but surely getting the house painted. I need to do some housework. I have been doing housework for several decades now, and it is beginning to get a bit tedious to me.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Well, I failed my pre-employment drug test (that I took post-employment) due to a prescription medication that I am taking. Got that all straightened out, they reported me negative for drug use this morning. Immediately afterward I got a phone call from my OBGYN's office, that I failed my mammogram of last Saturday. I've been expecting that, it happened last year and the ultrasound tech who ultimately cleared me said it would happen again, but I still have to go for followup. Next is my dental checkup on Tuesday morning. Let's see, should I have degraded fillings to refurbish, or what? Because nothing can be simple and uncomplicated.

But I'm having fun on my new job. I have embarked upon a very steep learning curve and I always enjoy that. I like a challenge. And everybody is still being extremely nice.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Today I got an email from the company I interviewed with on August 16:

"Prior to your interview, please complete and submit the attached employment application."

Um, it's too late, guys.

I was sent for steel-toed shoes today. I've never had steel-toed shoes before. They're actually pretty comfortable, and it's nice to know I could kick the crap out of anybody who bothers me. Alas, there is no spike on the toe.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I know the entire world is waiting to see how my first day on the new job went.

It went OK.

It's kind of strange going from one job to another so quickly. I worked at the previous one pretty hard until about 4:45 on Friday, when I got to a reasonable stopping place and told my boss that I was rapidly losing interest. So I had one weekend for the anxiety dreams (don't remember one last night, fortunately) and now that I've actually started at the new place maybe I can skip ahead to the next set. Probably I'll dream about finding myself at work in my underwear tonight or tomorrow night.

But I had some thinking time today, to think about the issues I probably need to start with and how I'm going to handle stuff, and questions I have for various people. Everyone is still being very nice. I hope that continues. I see them being nice to each other, so it probably will.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I start my new job tomorrow.

Had an anxiety dream last night. On my first day, I went to the old place very early to just take care of something. I looked at the clock and it was 9:00. I had meant to be at the new job at 8:00. They would think I had abandoned my job. They would not want me. I was helpless to call, or leave to go over there right away. Then I woke up, thank goodness.

The thing is, I had that EXACT dream when I left the previous job, repeatedly. It's really pretty irritating. No more anxiety dreams, OK? I will be at my new job at 8:00 sharp. I will. Not going back to the old place for anything.

At the grocery store today an old man saw me and came toward me with a happy look of recognition and greeting. I flipped rapidly through the mental index cards and could not place him at all. It turned out that he was convinced that I was his physical therapist. I have never been a therapist, physical or any other kind. He was so sure that was me that he kept trying to think of my name so he could tell me who I was. And hadn't I just had a baby? Dang, I'll be 46 next month. He was really kind of rattled that I wasn't who I was supposed to be. That happens to me ALL THE TIME. I guess that I am a type. I usually just laugh it off and tell people no, they don't know me, and that I'll add them to my list.

Friday, September 15, 2006

So, last day today. I'm unemployed until Monday.

On Wednesday they gave me and Vickie, who left for a job with Homeland Security, a potluck lunch. It was really nice. I enjoyed the spinach dip, although if I'd known about the e. coli thing I probably wouldn't have; and the chicken salad, and the meatballs, and the pasta salad, and the strawberries with desert. That would really have been enough, but today I was taken to lunch at Molly's La Casita in Overton Square. It's one of my favorite lunch spots. I've had cards and hugs and sad looks for the past two weeks. I've promised to stay in touch. And I've promised to meet anybody who wants to at Starbucks on Saturdays to work on their resumes.

But I'm looking forward to the new job starting Monday. New people to get to know (they've been very nice so far) and new challenges.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Here's a funny article about a parent showing off on a bus by bellowing at his "taciturn" four-year-old.

Dad: Now Benjamin, would you like to keep playing I Spy or shall I teach you to count past 100?

Benjamin: Count

Dad: Okay. Now you already know how to count to 100 and it’s surprisingly easy after that. What do you think comes after 100?

Benjamin: Silence

And so forth. The other riders are irritated. They look away, sigh, snap their newspapers, but they don't know how to shut this guy up.

For future reference, here's what you do: Identify another rider who sits not too far away and looks fairly irritated, and engage him/her in loud conversation, as loud as the obnoxious dad: "EXCUSE ME. DO YOU MIND IF I ASK YOU WHERE YOU GOT THAT SWEATER? I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR ONE THAT EXACT SHADE OF ORANGE - I HAVE A PAIR OF TAN PANTS AT HOME..." This works when people are shouting into their cell phones too. I used to feel vaguely irritated at being tricked into being quiet while somebody else carried on private conversation in public, but not anymore.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

This morning the preacher said (among other things) that you can't legislate morality. That statement is mildly irritating to me. I know what he meant, (and disagree with him on that particular issue,) but we legislate morality all the time. It's immoral to murder, steal, beat people up, abuse or neglect children, etc. It's even immoral to cheat the taxman so that other people have to pay your share. Taking this not-legislating-morality idea to an extreme causes you to end up with this: Teen nudity exposes town's bare-bone rules. According to CNN, teenagers in Brattleboro, VT have taken to public nudity and the town fathers are unsure about what, if anything, they can or should do about it. Is it not OK to set community standards for acceptable public behavior and codify them?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Birthday party today, for my husband's sister's youngest, who is four. She has three older brothers, so it's her turn to say, "Thank you, Aunt Wauwa." That just slays me, every time. Pronouncing "Laura" is just very problematic for the three- and four-year-old set. It was a nice day. After the cake and ice cream we went outside. Sarah and her daddy kicked/pushed/threw a ball back and forth for a long time. The ball was almost as big as Sarah. Her dad would kick it very high in the air, and she would run around and try to figure out where it would land, and when she caught it, she sent it back to him with her whole body. Beautiful, exuberant child.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I looked up Sara Teasdale the other day, because it crossed my mind to wonder about her poem, "There Will Come Soft Rains", and the Ray Bradbury story it inspired; and to wonder whether she was thinking about nuclear holocaust when she wrote it. It turns out she died in 1933, so most likely not. But I ran across this little thing she wrote:

The Look

Strephon kissed me in the spring,
Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
And never kissed at all.

Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes
Haunts me night and day.

- Sara Teasdale

And it reminded me of this, by A. E. Housman, included in his collection entitled A Shropshire Lad:

When I Was One-and-Twenty

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
"Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free."
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
"The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue."
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.

- A. E. Housman

Teasdale was American, and Housman, English. But their lives spanned the same time period: 1884 - 1933 for her, 1859 - 1936 for him. I think the poems' similarity has to do with the simplicity of the language and the wry, gentle humor each has, as well as the fact that there's obviously a story not being told here.

There's a terrific discussion of Bradbury's story here. I like the part about how the story parallels the poem.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I told everybody I was leaving yesterday. They all congratulated me and wished me well, and hoped they would be next. My boss was happy for me, but as she was smiling she said "We are so screwed" through gritted teeth. Because it's not just me; other key people will be leaving too. She's got her feelers out there, herself.

I have two weeks to get everything buttoned up, because I want to leave them in good shape. My group is to go to designated people when they have questions, so that I will be there if questions come up that no one anticipated they would not be able to answer. So my last day is 9/15 and my first day on my new job is 9/18 because they really need to get this show on the road. And even during the next couple of weeks there will probably be things I need to do for my new employers.

I have not taken off work more than a day at a time since the first four days of the year. R says we need to lie on a beach for a week. I'm afraid if I did that I would never come back.

But my new job looks pretty cool. It's a departure for me. I thought I'd segue what I currently do (animal health) into pharmaceutical lab work. Instead, I'll be setting up a QA lab for a manufacturing plant that's bringing out a new product. Most of the actual lab work will be fairly low-tech. Karl Fischer moistures, ash, acidity, and so forth. There will be some GC and HPLC stuff. The big thing is that they want to go for ISO certification and it will be my task to get them there. There's an ISO consultant for me to work with, so I won't be guessing about requirements. Keeping ISO certification is a real plus on a resume, getting it is even bigger. Setting up a lab is pretty good, too. So while it will be intense for a while, and always when we are audited, I believe this will be a good career move, whether I stay with the company for a long time, or end up leaving after a few years.

And the people seem really nice and happy that I'm coming on board. That counts for a lot, too.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

9 days since my last post. During that time I had two more j. i.'s at that company. I just left the last one.

I think they are going to offer me the position.

I won't have to move out-of-state.

: )

Update: They just called! And offered me a position! At a pay increase! WHeeeee!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

OK, so I had my j. i. this morning. First of all, the careful selection of "business casual" clothes backfired on me. The plant manager took one look at my khaki pants and nice red top, and then he said that we would try to wrap up my interview pretty quick so I would not lose my job at Target. Well, I laughed my head off because that was pretty funny, but next time I am wearing my navy suit, dang it.

And there will be a next time. The interview went very well indeed, and he wants me to come back Thursday or Friday to meet with some corporate people and so forth. So we'll see what happens.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Got a call from a headhunter today ... and I have a j. i. IN THE MORNING. And he hadn't even seen my resume.

What happened was, someone had given him my boss's resume, and he called her last week, and wanted to know if she had manufacturing experience. She didn't, and the closest she knew about among people at our workplace was me. I used to work for an environmental lab that was owned by a chemical company. The lab was actually located at the plant for about 18 months.

The importance of this was hinted at by the fact that I am to wear, not my navy suit, but "business casual" to this interview. I have to not look like I will be scared to work at a plant. R and I found the place this evening so I won't be hunting for it tomorrow. It isn't very fancy looking, for sure, but you know, I really don't care about that.

I used to wear blue jeans and loose knit tops (T-shirts, really, but never with pictures or writing) to work every day. When you work in a lab, you don't want to dress up very much. My boss dressed the same. We had a meeting one day, though, with some men from corporate and a couple from our location, and it occurred to me at the meeting that my boss and I were the only people in jeans and with shirts not tucked in. On our way out, I told my boss that we really needed to upgrade our appearance. "I was thinking the same thing," she said. At my next opportunity, I bought some khaki pants and a nice belt, and started tucking my shirts in. There was some commentary at first. People seem to have my wardrobe memorized. Let me buy one new blouse, and I get comments all day long. It's kind of funny.

So when I told my boss that I have to wear "business casual" to my j. i., she said something about getting some new pants. "You don't like my khakis?" I said. "They're getting kind of roomy," she said. R is on a diet, and I have been so supportive of it that I have actually lost a little weight. So I was FORCED to go to the mall this evening and buy some clothes. Some new khaki pants (size 10; I never thought I'd see that again) and a red twin set in a pretty, bright fine-gauge knit whose sleeves push up nicely so it won't look dorky in a Memphis summer. I'll polish my walnut SAS loafers and there I'll be. And everyone at work will wonder about my new outfit, and about five people will ask if I have a j. i. I love my coworkers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I know the entire world is waiting with bated breath to see how my j. i. went.

I think mostly it went OK. They liked my lab experience and the approach I take to supervising, and to quality. I don't have the regulatory experience they would like to see.

And two different people asked me what I think about 9- or 10-hour days. I don't know if they liked my answer, which I didn't expound upon as thoroughly as I will here.

I used to work for an environmental company. We did a lot of lab work in support of our engineers, who were remediating hazardous waste sites. When there was a project going on, the supervisor would schedule us to work 10-hour days, 6 days a week, for the three or four weeks of the project. I told him that that was a mistake, and eventually he got it. Here's why: If you schedule a 40-hour work week, and things go wrong, which they inevitably will, you can stay late in the evenings and come in on the weekend and catch up. If you schedule all of your available time and base that on a best-case scenario, then when a run fails or you have a power outage or there were unexpected matrix problems, whatever, then you can never catch up. The domino effect knocks out your entire remaining schedule and even though you're working your butt off, you get a black eye because you didn't do what you said you would do. After that happened a couple of times he got the message and started scheduling 40-hour weeks for us. Of course we still had to work late quite a bit during those projects, but we started being successful in meeting our obligations.

It's the same way, I would guess, in any job.

So I told them that I do not mind working long hours. I work them now. I don't have little children at home, my husband usually works late, so I don't have pressure to leave work at a certain time. What I do mind is putting in those long hours and still not being able to get my job done. If you schedule that 50-hour workweek doing the routine stuff, when anything extra happens, the routine (but necessary) functions have to go. Then the routine stuff is what bites you on the butt when you get audited. Foolish and short-sighted.

Am I the only person who sees it that way?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Saturday I scoped out the site of my j. i. With no traffic, it's about a 20-minute drive from my house, so I figure I'll double that Wednesday morning and that ought to be OK. My references are just about ready and my suit still fits.

Took F back to school Sunday.

And on the way back home, R and I stopped at a fast-food place that caters to people on the highway, to take a break from driving and have a snack. I saw a little vignette that made little sense to me at the time, but when I thought about it this morning it kind of fell into place.

The people waiting for their food when we got there were all white folks. One man had a t-shirt with a picture on it, a skull and maybe a fist or something, that for some reason made me think of white supremacists. That coupled with the way they were looking at and talking to the black teenagers behind the counter raised the hair on my neck. It wasn't anything overt really, just a gut feeling I had. And I grew up in Mississippi, so I don't see racists behind every tree. When R and I sat down, I told him that I hoped those kids didn't see what I saw. "They're innocent children," he said.

But this morning for some reason I replayed a bit of the scene before we placed our order. One of the teenagers, a pretty girl with a charming smile, handed the t-shirt guy his order and said, "Here's your specially-made salad." He said suspiciously, "I just ordered a salad from the menu - nothing special." "Oh, we had to make yours special because we didn't have any made up ahead," she said, and she turned her back. He stood there a moment with the bag in his hand before he walked away.

When I remembered that this morning I laughed my head off. Maybe I don't have to feel bad about her having to deal with those people after all.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Funeral yesterday. Short and sweet. This was my husband's brother's ex-wife, who had a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer recently and that was that.

I have to say that I have never heard Elvis played at a funeral before. It was "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" (not the MLK funeral version) but although the tape was cued up the preacher hit the wrong button and we heard the opening strains of "Man of Constant Sorrow" for a moment. Everyone laughed. Lynn would have loved that. She probably would have said he should go on and play that instead.

Friday, August 11, 2006

More etymological spelling help from the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Define: c.1384, from O.Fr. definir "to end, terminate, determine," from L. definire "to limit, determine, explain," from de- "completely" + finire "to bound, limit," from finis "boundary." Definite (1553) means "defined, clear, precise, unmistakable;" definitive (c.1386) means "having the character of finality." Definition is recorded from 1645 as a term in logic; the "meaning of a word" sense is from 1551.

So "definite" and "definitely" have common roots with both "define" and "finite". Therefore it's never "definately".

Here's another.

Despair: c.1325, from O.Fr. desperer "lose hope, despair," from L. desperare "to despair," from de- "without" + sperare "to hope," from spes "hope" (see speed). Noun replaced native wanhope.

I like "wanhope" myself. It sounds pale and wistful.

Ran across the Spanish name "Esperanza", which is rendered "Hope" in English. This helps me remember that "desperate" means "without hope". "Desparate" is more like "disparate", meaning unequal (without parity).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Good news: I have a j. i. next Wednesday. I have to nail down some references and make sure the navy suit still fits. The person who called said that she saw good things in my resume. : )

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Back to the old place this evening. I don't think I'm going to be able to help them. The equipment is too old and there's no prospect for replacing it, and I don't need the stress. So much for walking-around money.

On a happier note, I got an email yesterday from a company that I sent my resume to a few months ago, asking some questions about my qualifications. I answered it as thoroughly as possible. Hopefully I'll get a call for a j. i. soon. This happens to be a job that they interviewed my boss for a few weeks ago. She's actually better qualified for this job than I am, but we'll see. It occurs to me that I've gotten every job I've interviewed for since 1987. But it's not that I'm desperate to avoid going to Kalamazoo. We are still coming up with pro's and con's.

People ask me if F is dreading going back to college. Since she started packing about 3 weeks before dorm move-in, I'm guessing not. She's got her things in the living room floor so we can see how best to pack them for the move next Sunday.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Children's moment at church this morning: The minister had two branches, a dead one he'd picked up off the ground, and a still-green one that he had stripped off a tree this morning (and therefore will soon be dead, but we won't mention that.) He asked the kids to tell him the difference between the two branches, and they obliged. "One is dead, and one is ... not dead." Then he asked them how church members could be like those two branches. Answer: Because some are old and some are really, really young.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

So I spent the day at my previous workplace getting some things straightened out. It was interesting. Trying to remember how to use Windows 3.11 for instance, and there is a whole story about why that's necessary.

Funny thing - when I still worked there I dreamed that they had to let me go because the work had fallen off or something. They said they would help me find another job, so I wasn't worried about that. What worried me was leaving those instruments. I knew no one would love and care for them like I did. When I woke up I thought the dream was really funny but also probably true, at least as far as the instruments were concerned.

I was warned before I went today that the PNAs were gone. These are polynuclear aromatics, they elute at the end of the semivolatile chromatogram, and if you are having problems with your baseline, contamination, bad column, whatever, they just go away. I looked at the latest calibration check and it looked like crap. But I went back to the lab, with the boss's permission b/c this is out of the scope of my contract, and did a little maintenance on the GC. Just a little. The sensitivity shot up 100-fold (I'm not kidding) and those PNAs popped right out of the baseline and marched along like little soldiers. The problem now is that the chromatography is so much better than it was when the calibration curve was done that it really needs recalibration. I'll let the boss decide what to do about that.

So my dream was kind of true.



Cool, huh?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Interesting election we had yesterday.

Harold Ford, Sr. was elected and re-elected to Congress from the 9th district for many years. If memory serves, 1994 was his last election, the one in which the Republicans achieved a majority, and in his distress over losing chairmanship of the Ways and Means committee, he made his famous statement about East Memphis "devils" who voted for his opponent. But he passed the baton to his son, Harold Jr., who appears to have better self-control and has had lots of favorable attention, and who has held that seat ever since. Now Jr. has set his sights on the senate seat that Frist is vacating, so that left the 9th district seat open.

One of the contenders for the Democratic nomination in 1994 was Steve Cohen, a state senator who lives in Midtown. As I recall, Cohen expressed some hope that Republicans would cross party lines to vote for him in the primary. Since he certainly isn't any less liberal or less of a Democrat than Jr., the only reason a Republican would have to do that would be because Cohen is white. To his dismay, we white Republicans didn't turn out to have the racial solidarity he hoped we would have, and he was soundly defeated.

But Cohen has come out on top in this primary, to the distress of many local black politicians. There were lots of people running in the Democratic primary. The second-up, Nikki Tinker, came really close to beating him. Walter Bailey, county commissioner, wished that some of those also-rans would clear the field so that a black person would win the primary. Because white people can't understand the "unique" needs of the 9th district: unemployment, for instance. Here is Bailey's letter to the Commercial Appeal. Because you have to register (it's free) I'll copy a bit.

The challenges that confront African-Americans in the predominantly urban Ninth District are unique. They include unemployment, poverty, crime, income disparity, lack of educational opportunities and the realities of racial discrimination. These challenges demand a congressional voice that would be more inclined, by virtue of the personal experience of being black, to have the necessary commitment, passion, knowledge base and undivided loyalty.

(Yes, we have a certain amount of crime in the 9th district. Just last week somebody broke into our 6-ft privacy fence and stole our lawn mower. I don't know how many mowers we have had over the years. We've never had the opportunity to wear one out before it's liberated.)

Lack of educational opportunities? Every child has access to a free education in the public schools. Moreover, besides University of Memphis, Christian Brothers University, LeMoyne-Owen, and Rhodes College, Southwest Tennessee Community College is right there, as well as various trade and technical schools. I don't know what more he wants.

And I have to wonder about the "undivided loyalty" thing. Is this a dig at Sen. Cohen being a Jew? Surely not.

Well, anyway, so Steve Cohen won the primary. Congratulations, Sen. Cohen. But he'll face the Republican primary winner in the general election, who ordinarily I'd say doesn't have a snowball's chance, except that Jake Ford (how many Fords are there? don't ask) will be running as an independent. For those who who think that seat belongs to a black person and/or a Ford, he will be a strong candidate. It will be quite interesting to see how this one turns out.

Oh, and I like the new voting machines.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I added Cute Overload to my side bar. I need to look at some fuzzy kittens and bunnies every now and then. Things are kind of weird.

My coworker Libby from my previous job called me at work to say that she had moved on. While we were talking, my phone light came on. It was the previous boss wanting me to come back and do a little consulting work while they figured out what to do next. I don't want to go back to that job - I'll go to Kalamazoo first - but it won't be unwelcome to have a little extra walking-around money.

R actually said to me today that he wants to go to K. I think it's the traffic. Or maybe it's the weather. Our AC cut out yesterday. He was able to fix it this afternoon (my hero) but he had to spend a couple of hours with a hacksaw making tbe metal shaft he had to buy fit the structure. The temperature in the house is now down to 79F, a vast improvement over 90+.

There's some pretty strange stuff going on at work. Maybe it's inevitable with the decision to close the local facility. I don't like it very much. There's a nice severence package if I don't relocate but just stick it out here, but I think maybe I'd rather just say "so long and thanks for all the fish". R will support whatever. F's view of Kalamazoo is less dim since she was attacked by a palmetto bug the other night, in her bedroom, and I told her they don't have those in Michigan.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I am not the only one in a bad mood.

F said this: "I have a love/hate relationship with the fact that there are other human beings on this planet."

I countered with this: "My own thoughts irritated the crap out of me the other night. Every single one. Can you have an autoimmune thought disease?"

So how are things at your house?

Monday, July 31, 2006

It happened again.

I was at work today, well actually I was standing around in the front office. A man came in to deliver something from a competitor lab, where I worked until December of 1986, and when he saw me he broke into a smile and said, "Hi, Laura! It's been a long time!" I was and am stunned. I don't remember him at all, neither his name nor his face. That was TWENTY YEARS AGO. He sez I have not changed.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Baaaaackkk to the vet today. Somehow our indoor Bonnie got fleas and she speedily transferred them to the other cats. We have tried three different flea treatments that we bought at Petco with only slight success. F has been telling me that the tomcat's tail is in bad shape b/c he keeps licking it. R and I trimmed some fur away and took a look last night - holy cow. I know flea bites can drive them nuts, but I didn't feel comfortable assuming that that was his skin problem. Turns out that was his problem, so he got a steroid shot, a dose of Frontline (and we bought enough for the girls, plus another set for next month) and we went on and got his rabies shot so he won't have to go back soon.

I hate to tell you what this cost. Damn cats.

R went with. Normally F and I take them to the vet, one at a time of course, the girls on their harness and leash, and Himself in a solvent box. But R said he'd carry him. The cat is 15 years old but he is wiry and strong. I would not have attempted it. He did fine with R carrying him, though. R is his buddy. He was much less stressed than he usually is, with R there, but even so there was growling and hissing and even a bite or two. Poor kitty. (I always think it's funny when I'm sitting in a chair reading or something, and he grimly and arthritically clambers into my lap, displaces my book, and settles himself where he can stare into my face. "Aren't you supposed to be aloof?" I ask.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A construction worker in Ireland found a very old artifact:

Ireland Worker Finds Ancient Psalms in Bog

Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

"This is really a miracle find," said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, which has the book stored in refrigeration and facing years of painstaking analysis before being put on public display.

"There's two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out. First of all, it's unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing."


The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to wipe out the name of Israel.

And here is Psalm 83:

1 Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.

2 For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.

3 They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.

4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.

5 For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:

6 The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes;

7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre;

8 Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.

9 Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison:

10 Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth.

11 Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:

12 Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.

13 O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind.

14 As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire;

15 So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm.

16 Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD.

17 Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:

18 That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

How timely.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I am feeling kind of negative these days, and I don't want to post negatively. So I will probably be a bit terse until my mood rights itself.

But I will talk about the word "nausea". The spelling of this word apparently is a stumbling-block to some. You can easily remember how to spell this word if you realize that it has a Greek root: "naus", meaning "ship". "Nautical" has its root in that word. Jason, if you'll remember, had a ship called the Argos, and his crew were the Argonauts. An astronaut is a star-sailor. To be nauseated literally is to be seasick, but the term means any kind of queasiness or feeling that you might toss your cookies. A related term is "nauseous", which people use to mean that they are nauseated, but which actually describes something that invokes nausea.

Homonyms present a great stumbling block to some people. Homonyms are words that you pronounce the same, but have different meanings and may have different spellings. "There" is a location, like "over there". "Their" is the possessive of "they", which if English was a logical language, would actually be "they's". "They played with their dog." "They're" is the contraction of "they are". "They're playing with their dog."

I, me, myself. "I" is the nominative case. "Me" is the objective case. The object of a to-be verb takes the nominative case. It is I. This is she. The objects of other verbs take the objective case. Let me do that. She spoke to Harvey and me. "Myself" is reflexive. I hit myself in the eye. I'm going to sit right down and write myself a letter. If "I" is the subject, "myself" is the object; otherwise, not. "She spoke to Harvey and myself" is WRONG. Do not be afraid of the word "me".

A NY Times article complains that on average, the performance on standardized tests of both publicly and privately schooled children is mediocre. What the heck else would it be? The whole country can't be Lake Wobegon. And one should be careful about drawing conclusions about test scores being below average. Some test scores are going to be below average, and some above. That's what "average" means. A related issue is rank: for instance, the fact that some state ranks 50th in per-pupil spending. If the states don't all have the same per-pupil spending, and you rank them, some state will rank last. It's inevitable.

Sometimes I read stuff like this and it bothers me, and I feel that I am hyper-critical. Other times I gloss over things that are incorrect or illogical and I worry that eventually they will seem right to me. My spoken grammar has definitely suffered in this way.

Okay, well, I am going to put my headache to bed. Things will look up this week. They'll have to. I will make them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A man introduced himself to me today. He has started attending our church and recognized me in the choir. Apparently we were coworkers in 1989. I do not remember him AT ALL. Still don't. Not his name, not his face. So much for wondering why other people don't remember their work history.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I may get a j. i. next week. Haven't ruled out Kalamazoo, but options must be considered. But I have to get over this bronchitis so I'm not coughing myself silly or stoned from the codeine. Yes, my nice doctor prescribed codeine for me yesterday because the tessalon perles he prescribed Monday just aren't doing the job. Codeine knocks out the cough, but it knocks me out too. But maybe this weekend I can just sleep.

Why bronchitis all of a sudden? "Something's blooming," he helpfully said.

I dreamed the other night about a big coffee can that had a lot of tools in it: a hammer, a pencil, a 12-inch ruler, etc. In my dream I was taking these tools out one at a time, looking at them, and putting them back in. It was a happy dream. I think I was dreaming about my skill set, as outlined on my resume and on the three-page cover letter I sent to a headhunter last week. (He liked it.)

I had to miss the brown bag lunch yesterday b/c when I got through with the doctor at 11:30 I was so tired I just called in and went to bed. But I told them that I might not come back and that they were to go on without me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

We expect a low of 79 tonight. A LOW of 79. Dang.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I frequently check the Mystery Worshipper site for interest, and because my church expects to be visited this year. We'll probably get written up for the choir talking during the prelude! But I hope we are as friendly to our Mystery Worshipper as we usually are to guests. Here is a very nice description of a worship service in London to commemorate the first anniversary of the 7/7 terrorism. This kind of thing gives me hope.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

We have primary elections coming up on August 3. These will be more interesting than most primaries, because of the recent scandals involving longtime incumbents who won't be running, and because of the shenanigans at one of the precincts for which criminal charges are being pressed. I think some people don't realize that voting, and running a precinct, aren't patty-cake. There are serious laws about it, and there have to be, because without rule of law where voting is concerned, a nation like ours would cease to exist. On a local level, that's how you get graft and corruption and political machines and wasted tax dollars and stupid decisions that bring about FBI investigations.

At primary election time I always remember a funny thing that happened at an election I worked at years ago. It was one of those with a Republican primary, a Democratic primary, and a general, all together. We have voting machines that you can enable for either primary plus the general, or the general only. This was back when Sundquist, a (supposed) Republican, was running for the primary the year he was subsequently elected Governor, and our current governor, Bredesen, was running in the Dem. primary. A voter came over to me, very upset, and said that he couldn't seem to vote for Bredesen. I told the machine operator that he must have enabled the Republican primary by mistake, and that the voter wanted the Democratic primary. No, the voter said, he wanted the Republican primary.

"Then you can't vote for Bredesen," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because he isn't running in the Republican primary."

"I've voted in this precinct for 24 years, and I've always voted for the man of my choice, regardless of party!"

"You've never voted for a Democrat in the Republican primary."

Ooh, he was mad then. I tried to explain that he would have the opportunity to vote for the man of his choice in the general, but he hollered at me that I didn't have to explain to him how elections worked, he understood it very well. I bit back "evidently not" while he stormed out, and I had to fill out a report on why we had one more person signed up than we had votes cast.

Another voter wanted a paper ballot. There's just a whole lot of extra stuff you have to do if anybody wants a paper ballot, so I asked him why. So he could vote in both primaries, he said.

"You can't vote in both primaries."

"Really? Are they going to do something about that?"

Uh, no.

I explained to F probably when she was in elementary school, that the primary is the party's opportunity to pick who gets to say they are the Republican nominee or the Democratic nominee, and the general is the election that decides who is actually going to get into office. She understood right away. What is the big deal, really?
Took an online job match test and they want me to be an architect or a graphic designer. Good grief.

I did get an email following my online resume posting, from a headhunter with a couple of jobs that pay well and that I am very well qualified for. Trouble is, they are in San Jose, CA. That's even further away than Kalamazoo.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Also yesterday F got her room assignment. They did put her in the honors college dorm, which she was not sure about because the room application didn't have anywhere to put "honors college" or dorm or anything like that on it, and she got the roommate of her choice. Her renewable scholarships renewed, too, so she is set. She moves back to school on August 13. It feels different this year than last year - a lot easier for her and for us. We need to pick up the pace now on the math we're reviewing over the summer. F doesn't feel that she had a good math preparation in high school. I think the teachers rely far too much on graphing calculators - I've gone on about that before, I think. If I haven't, I will. But I found my own old pre-cal textbook from college, before the days that the calculators were supposed to understand and do all your work for you, and we've made a start at going through that. F took pre-cal in high school and had a decent grade but she wants to go through it again and nail it down. I think it's a good idea. You don't want to skim over this stuff just to check it off your list, you want to make sure you get it.
Another brown-bag job-search lunch yesterday. One of my coworkers asked how long we are going to have these - "Until everybody has a job?" I thought, until I have a job, but I said "yes". I still might end up going to Michigan and if that's the case I'll be there for several months. And of course they can go on without me. I asked the branch manager to talk about resume formats, what to put and what not to put on there, and so forth. People still have the idea that there are RULES. "I can't get everything on one page." I don't think anybody over the age of 35 ought to have a one-page resume. It looks like you haven't done anything. I used to have a boss who questioned "ten years of experience" - is that ten years, or one year of experience ten times? So even if you've worked at the same place since you were a baby, hopefully you didn't do the exact same thing all that time. Unless you did. But still you ought to be able to flesh that out a little bit. One coworker fretted that if she only goes back 10 years in any detail, that leaves out her human resources experience, which would be relevant if she wants an HR job. Put it in, we told her. Put in whatever you want (as long as it's true). You could have a resume for applying for HR jobs that's different from your other resumes.

There are jobs out there but most seem to want biology lab experience. This is a big change from a few years ago, when labs I worked in hired biology majors because they couldn't find work except in a chemistry lab. I could do quality. That would mean cGMP stuff, writing IQs and OQs and PQs and other kinds of protocols, charting things and writing investigations and so forth. This irritates me in my current job, but I think maybe that's because I'm wearing too many hats. If I'm doing quality I'm not supervising in the department and things start going to heck, and if I'm taking care of things in the department then the quality tasks pile up. I don't ever feel like I'm taking care of anything the way it deserves. At the lab in Michigan they split the supervisory functions so that there are quality supervisors and people supervisors. That makes much more sense.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

If you can think of the word "aphasia", does that mean you don't have it?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

So I ran across this poem yesterday:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

-- William Carlos Williams

F says it has been in every literature book she has ever had, which possibly is hyperbole. But the poem is sort of expressive of her experiences in the last week or two: twice I bought cottage cheese and blueberries and ate them up before she got any. Not all at once, you understand, but over 2 or 3 days. I didn't mean to, honestly. You cannot look at a partial container of cottage cheese and tell if someone else has gotten any after the last time you did. It kind of settles and rearranges itself. Besides, cottage cheese and blueberries just taste so good to me and I'm not going to leave them languishing in the refrigerator. If this sounds self-justifying and defensive, that's because it is. The third time I bought them I told her that I WOULD be eating them and that if she expected to get any she'd better dive in. And she has.

But I also ran across this poem:

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

-- Kenneth Koch

Isn't that a hoot?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sunday, July 02, 2006

INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population.
Free Jung Word Choice Test (similar to MBTI)
personality tests by

This is F's result. Funny thing is that I took this test long ago in management training, and I am INTJ too.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

We had our second job-search brown bag lunch yesterday. I'd hoped to talk about resume formats, but a whole lot of people were out (taking a very long weekend) so we did more sentences and then practiced nutshell autobiographies.

There are differing schools of thought as to what a person should answer to the interviewer's prompt of "tell me about yourself". My boss thinks you should stick to "X years of HPLC experience" and so on. My thinking is that they don't ask that just to hear your resume read out to them. I know that's not what I want when I ask that question. But since she says that, and presumably that's what she wants, there must be interviewers who view it that way.

Which leads me to mention that there are no laws about resumes or cover letters or job interviews. The resume police will not take you away because you didn't have bullet points. People say "you aren't supposed to" this and that, and sometimes that's true, but it's nothing to panic about and there is no one right way to do any of this stuff.

What we practiced yesterday was giving just a brief overview of personal history starting with college. If possible you want to account for your time so that there aren't large gaps leaving the interviewer to wonder if you did jail time for embezzlement or couldn't work because you were being treated for murderous psychosis or something. If you do have gaps for unattractive reasons you need to give some thought to how you are going to explain or get around having to explain those things. For instance, you wouldn't want to say that you quit a job and moved back home because you were allergic to work, but eventually your parents kicked you out so you were forced to find something to do. Also you want to bring out positive things that you wouldn't put on your resume or that people don't want to ask. For instance, I married right after graduation, so R and I are approaching our 24th anniversary. Interviewers that I've talked to have reacted positively to this b/c it makes me look steady and possible to get along with, and without complicating drama in my life. One coworker worries because she was out of the workforce for a few years when her daughter was born; she wanted to be a SAHM. We assured her that this should not hurt her at all in job interviews. Besides, who would want to work for a person who viewed this as a reason not to hire her?

But it was surprising to me that many people could not remember what they had done in any kind of chronological order. Really. Some were younger than me, even. How could you not know where you have worked and what you have done in your life? After all, you were there. One person left out two very important things that he had done; I knew about them because he had mentioned random experiences over the months I've known him. Others could not remember the names of companies they had worked for. They act like they have just stepped into a life that someone else has lived up until now. This is very puzzling to me. In my post about the meaning of success I mentioned the importance of taking stock periodically to see if I'm on track. To do that I have to think about what I've done and how that relates to where I am now. Am I really that much more introspective than other people?

So we are all to take a walk down memory lane this weekend, at some point when we can have some time alone, and try to think about all these things. Some folks are going to consult tax records and so forth to try to reconstruct their job histories. We're going to practice some more "tell me about yourself"s. No one likes the stress of knowing that their job they thought they could count on forever is ending. But really if you have any sense you already knew you couldn't count on your job forever, or anything else for that matter. Maybe this will end up being a positive thing for some folks, jolting them out of their ruts and helping them take charge of their lives again.

I have to say that some people are reluctant to take that walk down memory lane because of trauma that they have endured. I'm pretty sure of that in at least one case. It's understandable that people who have been through really bad times in their personal life would forget details about their jobs too. I don't have any training in counseling. I have to try to be discreet about pushing people to remember things they may have very good reason for forgetting. Some people who have been through some very bad things are able to look back on them with a certain amount of objectivity, realizing that all the experiences they have had have shaped them into the person they are today. (Bad sentence, sorry.) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings comes to mind. To be that way you have to be a strong person and you have to like yourself. You have to think you turned out OK. I do try to affirm people and tell them they have a lot to offer. Beyond that I am fairly squeamish about probing too much.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm seeing posts elsewhere about racial preferences, affirmative action, Prop 209, and so forth. A lot of arguments turn on qualifications, as in, the relative importance of hiring the best-qualified person for the job if it means compromising on diversity quotas, or the question of whether two people of equal qualifications have equal chances if they are of different races. Here is an article about an experiment done by University of Chicago and MIT, in which resumes with black-sounding names got far fewer calls for job interviews than the identical resumes with traditionally white names. That is telling.

But speaking as a person who has conducted many job interviews, and dealt with the people we've hired, I'd say that no two people have identical qualifications, and that paper qualifications don't mean that much. Given that you want a person with at least a B.S. in science and "some" lab experience, you don't necessarily end up hiring the person with the highest degree or the most experience. You hire the person who looks you in the eye and convinces you that she can get the job done.

I remember my job interview for the job I have now. My prospective boss was going on about how they wanted someone from outside the company, with technical skills they didn't have in-house, who had a fresh perspective, blah blah, and I thought, I can't sit here like a bump on a log. So when he paused for breath, I asked, "Are you looking for better productivity, or better customer service, or adherence to the methods, or documentation to show adherence to the methods?" "Yes, yes, yes, and yes," he said, smiling and sitting back, and I thought, "I've got the job." And indeed I did. This had nothing to do with my qualifications on paper, which actually didn't match what they had in their newspaper ad.

Monday, June 26, 2006

CU plans to fire Churchill

The interim chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder announced today that CU wants to fire ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill.

"Today I issued to Professor Churchill a notice of intent to dismiss him from his faculty position here at the University of Colorado," said Phil DiStefano at a press conference.

Struggling to hold off the schadenfreude.

A university committee that investigates academic misconduct recommended two weeks ago that Churchill be fired for a "pattern of repeated, intentional misrepresentation."


In a 20-page report, the committee agreed with a May investigative committee report that Churchill intentionally falsified his research, plagiarized other people's work and ghostwrote articles and then cited them to buttress his work.

Thus saith Mr. Churchill:

Churchill and his attorney have threatened to sue CU if he is fired. They accuse the university of retaliating against the tenured professor because of his essay saying some World Trade Center terrorism victims were not innocent and comparing them to a Nazi bureaucrat.

Churchill said at the time that the investigative committee's report read like a warning to other scholars to "lay low."

"Do not challenge orthodoxy," Churchill wrote in his response to the committee. "If you do, expect to be targeted for elimination and understand that the university will not be constrained by its own rules - or the Constitution - in its attempts to silence you."

He's not really that stupid, is he? He's not that stupid. To be that stupid, you would have to think that being truly offensive about X absolves you of any guilt if you happen to engage in Y. Perhaps he would be better off saying "Do not challenge orthodoxy IF YOU HAVE ENGAGED IN PLAGIARISM OR OTHER BEHAVIOR THAT SHOULD GET YOU FIRED."

Because the fact is that CU hired him because he was thought to be an American Indian. And that right there means they deserve the black eye they got when it was discovered that he was playing them for fools. No one ever looked into the allegations of plagiarism and lying about his ethnicity and so forth until he opened his mouth about the WTC and people started wondering who the hell he was. CU would still have countenanced him if they had dared.