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

Monday, February 27, 2006

I need to go to bed, but before I do I have one more thing to say. This is kind of in reference to a conversation I'm having elsewhere.

A few years ago a white couple were driving in a pickup truck somewhere in rural Tennessee. A car with some black folks came up behind. The pickup driver reached his arm around to the Confederate flag he had on the back of his truck and kind of waggled it at them. They pulled up alongside the truck and shot and killed him.


When they were caught, they and his wife told the same story and they were charged and convicted of murder.

I asked my husband if it's possible to say that those black guys were unregenerate murderers and at the same time say that the white guy was a ridiculous a-hole. He assures me that it is.
This is a sad story about George Michael. And he looks like heck in that picture.

The report of finding him slumped over in his car reminds me of a funny/scary thing that happened in my neighborhood one day. I came home from my deaconly duties early one Sunday morning and passed a car parked on the side of the road. The woman behind the wheel had her head propped on her arm, against the driver's side window. Something about that looked funny to me. When R and I went back to actually go to church that morning, I wanted to drive that way again and see if she was still there. She was. I pulled over in front of her and told R that I'd seen her earlier and I was worried that she was dead or something. He nicely went back to her car - I watched him through the rearview mirror - and started pecking on the glass. I could see him saying "Ma'am? Ma'am?" At first she didn't move and I thought she really was dead but suddenly her arm dropped and I saw her head turn to look at R. They talked for a moment and then he came back to the car and told me that she was OK, she'd just been sleeping. But the funny thing was that as he walked away from her car, a firetruck pulled up behind her and paramedics got out and approached her car. Apparently somebody else had seen her and been alarmed too, and they went on and called 911. How mortifying for her. At least R woke her up so maybe she had her wits about her when she talked to the paramedics. I guess she'll find somewhere else to take her naps, ha ha.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

R and I attended another American Chemical Society meeting and talk tonight. This talk was about polymers made from lignin which is extracted from wood pulp. Our speaker said that this is very green, because wood is renewable, and that it will reduce our dependency on petrochemicals. However, he talked a lot about styrene. During the Q&A I asked if their styrene was derived from petroleum or if they were recycling it. He said that they are using petrochemically-derived styrene but that you can produce acetylene (C2H2) from lignin and make other chemicals; specifically, you can hit it with benzene and make styrene. Hello, benzene is a petrochemical too. I suppose the other chemicals he was talking about - little bitty hydrocarbons like methane and propene and so forth - could be produced in fermentation vats, but I'm not seeing benzene being produced that way.

Oh well. It was an interesting talk. He showed us a diagram of an extrusion device consisting of a screw being turned by some sort of motor. The stuff being extruded is introduced between the threads at the motor end of the screw and is forced along its length as the screw turns, until it is pushed through a dye at the end to form whatever shape you want. You can start with deep threads and make them progressively shallower if you want to compress your material before you extrude it.

This reminded both me and R of a time when F was quite small. She had some blocks with holes in them that you could drop marbles through, and messing around as kids will, she forced play-dough through one of the blocks. "Look, Mommy, I'm making a worm!" she said. I admired her worm, and then I told her that that process was called "extrusion" and she could say that she was "extruding" a worm. Then I suggested that she go and tell her daddy that she was extruding a worm. Which she did. R's shock and horror overtook him before he asked could himself how a very small child would know that word and he shouted, "From where?" We've laughed about that ever since, but I'm secretly glad that R is not as mischievous as I am. I don't think I would like it if he was.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I've been thinking about this:

Thousands of Katrina Victims Evicted

Some verbiage from the article:

Hauling everything he owned in a plastic garbage bag, Darryl Travis walked out of the chandeliered lobby of the Crowne Plaza, joining the exodus of Hurricane Katrina refugees evicted from their hotel rooms across the country Tuesday.

The occupants of more than 4,500 government-paid hotel rooms were ordered to turn in their keys Tuesday, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency began cutting off money to pay for their stays.


Travis, 24, and his five childhood friends all in their 20s had been living on the floor of another evacuee's hotel room, never having registered.

"All I got is a couple pairs of pants and some shirts. The pressure is on," said Jonathan Gautier, 26, one of the six, who was also carrying a single plastic bag filled with clothes.

After what, 6 months, the pressure is now on?

Since this article came out almost two weeks ago, I've had a few thoughts.

There were families who came to Memphis right after the hurricane. The paper had articles about them being helped by various churches and so forth, to get some kind of housing, jobs, their kids in school, while they worked out what they needed to do. Lots of people's employers helped. Some are living in their houses as they fix them up, or in trailers if their houses aren't livable yet. Plenty of people apparently decided enough was enough, have permanently moved elsewhere and are going on.

And then you have these people who apparently are taking it one day at a time. As long as they eat and have somewhere to lay their head, they are taking no responsibility and are not looking to the future at all.

I suppose FEMA was and is trying to do the right thing. It's also possible that spending billions of dollars on post-Katrina efforts (when it's no longer an emergency) seemed the best thing in light of the mostly-undeserved black eye it got immediately after the disaster, and if that's the reasoning, somebody needs to get their butt kicked.

Because before you give somebody money to help them get back on their feet, you need to find out if they were on their feet to begin with. These people clearly have no coping skills whatsoever, and most likely never have had. Spending half a year sleeping on a hotel floor did nothing for these healthy young people. Not for their self-esteem (she said seriously), not for their welfare, not for their future, not for their ability to be productive citizens, which is an obligation we all have. It must be an obligation, because while I am willing for my tax dollars to go to helping people, I am never asked if I want them to.

The condition of Travis and his friends is such that the hurricane might as well have happened yesterday.

I hate it when people play Monday-morning quarterback, but I'm going to anyway: There needed to be some triage when those hotel rooms started being paid for. Some control, because apparently a bunch of people were squatting in those hotels and FEMA didn't even know it (but if there's damage I'm sure the gov't will be billed for it). Some of these people clearly needed some kind of counseling as to how you get and keep a job, rent an apartment, and other things that healthy young grown-ups in America ought to expect to do. It was a WASTE of the refugees' time and of taxpayers' money to allow this situation to go on so many MONTHS after that wretched hurricane. No one was helped by this. They might as well have not bothered.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

File this under "duh" I guess.

Danes say apology would be pointless

First of all, "Danes" aren't saying an apology is pointless. The foreign minister is saying it. He does not comprise the entire population of Denmark. Presumably there are Danes, especially Muslim Danes, who do not feel that an apology would be pointless.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said the government had no reason to apologize for the drawings first published in one of Denmark’s largest newspapers.

“First, you cannot apologize for something you have not done,” Moeller said in a telephone interview.
[I'm with him there. It wouldn't be pointless for the newspaper to apologize, but it probably would for the government to, because they didn't print the cartoons and didn't direct the newspaper to ... as far as we know.] “Second, nothing illegal has been done because no one has been found guilty by a court.”

There's the stupidity. You don't apologize only because something is illegal or because it has been found to be illegal in court. You apologize when you realize and are ready to admit that you are in the wrong. That frequently has absolutely nothing to do with the law.

Which leads me to the idea I keep seeing expressed, that because we have free speech and free press in the US, American newspapers are somehow obligated to print those cartoons. "I can, therefore I have to" is the way we all reasoned when we were two years old. If we lived past toddlerhood, we learned better. I will say that if the local paper does not print the cartoons, I'll appreciate their restraint, and I'll appreciate it even more if they apply it to things that might unnecessarily offend me in future, even though I am not threatening anyone.

Friday, February 10, 2006

I miss my baby. And I know she misses me. But at least she has Bunny. F received Bunny as a present on her first birthday, and they've been inseparable ever since. Bunny went to daycare every day until kindergarten started. She went to the pediatrician's office, the grocery store, my parents' house, R's parents' house, her friends' houses - if F went, Bunny went too. And as you can see, Bunny was no tiny object. Sometimes when I had to carry the two of them it felt as though I had twins.

Here's Bunny at the Living Dinosaurs exhibit. She appears to have been eating a brochure.

And yes, Bunny went off to college last Fall. She's old and fragile and spends all of her time on F's bed. Sometimes when F's friends are feeling fragile they're allowed to hold Bunny while sipping a cup of F's vanilla chamomile tea.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Nothing like setting an example of the behavior you expect from other people.

Iran to publish Holocaust cartoons

It seems to me that once a person takes on the behavior he's been criticizing, he loses the right to criticize it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

To carry on with the 20's theme I started with "Sally Brown":

I love the Canadian Brass. I have their Red Hot Jazz CD in my car and I listen to it all the time. The trumpet work in "Black Bottom Stomp" is so delicate you would swear you're listening to traditional Dixieland clarinet. "Kitten on the Keys" is just delightful. The conversation that takes place between different instruments in "Mamie's Blues", plus the triple-against-duple rhythm, is really cool. But my favorite track is "12th Street Rag". The rhythms get more and more complex through the piece. The trouble is that they get stuck in my head, and when I'm at work doing the usual tedious paperwork I have to do I find myself tapping those rhythms out with my pen. I know it probably drives my office mate nuts.

Among others, I also have the Essential Canadian Brass CD. I like it well enough but it jumps a bit from one style to another. There are two tracks that I'd add to my "Red Hot Jazz" CD if I could. One is "Beale Street Blues", which features the same conversation-among-instruments thing that "Mamie's Blues" has. The other is "Tuba Tiger Rag". "Tiger Rag" is also known as "Hold That Tiger" and it's been a favorite fight song for college football teams for decades. This version, which features their world-class tuba player, makes you feel like you're at a football game wearing a raccoon coat and drinking a toddy.

I'd rip some of these tracks and upload mp3s for the listening pleasure of the cool cats who read my blog, but since they're copyrighted, that would be illegal.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Okay, this is a bit much. "Syrians Torch Embassies Over Caricatures".


Friday, February 03, 2006

There's an interesting post in Online Journal today: Speaking in Tongues. Tunku Varadarajan reports that the mayor of Los Angeles delivered a response to the State of the Union address in Spanish.

Why not a gay response? A Teamster response? A vegan response? A gangsta response? More nitty-grittily: Why not a response in Farsi or Korean--languages spoken by people toward whom Mr. Villaraigosa has no fewer mayoral duties than he does toward his Hispanophones? There is, also, a radical question from which there should be no glib escape: If response there must be from the mayor of Los Angeles, why not one in plain old English?

I'm generally cold to the argument that people have to be stamped out of a cookie-cutter to be American. I think he does have an argument that the Persian and Korean, not to mention non-Hispanic whitebread American, people in Los Angeles might wonder if he takes his responsibilities toward them seriously. I have wondered that myself, when our black mayor has gone on the black radio stations I hear at work urging voters to vote for black candidates so "our people don't lose the gains we've made". That would make me feel a lot funnier if I didn't know some white people who've called the mayor's action center about some problem or other and gotten immediate results.

But this:

I am a first-generation migrant to this country. I believe that in settling abroad, foreigners make a brutal contract with their land of adoption. They may speak their language, eat their food and practice their religion--but at home or by private arrangement. That is as far as I would go with multiculturalism. All else--including an insistence on a public affirmation of ethnic frills and fancies--cripples the process of integration.

Does this go too far? I enjoy the ethnic character of different parts of my city. Areas where the restaurant signs or church marquees are in Spanish or some Asian language I can't recognize. Nobody is telling me I can't act like an nth generation Scottish-descent white Southerner.

On the other hand, the distress being reported in the Muslim world over the Mohammed cartoons is evidence of a severe culture clash. We in the Western world are used to being offended by cartoons (among other things). Maybe we shouldn't put up with these things, but we do. We've made a more-or-less conscious decision to tolerate a whole lot of offensive garbage because our freedom of speech is extremely precious to us, and we haven't been able to work out a way to eliminate the garbage without encroaching on our liberty. One could say that if western Europe had not seen a huge influx of immigrants from North Africa and other Muslim areas, Mohammed wouldn't have been brought to their attention and their cartoons would be about something else; so that if people have got to keep their culture exactly like it is, perhaps they should stay at home. But that's not realistic today. I used to read about globalization all the time and I thought it was a meaningless buzz-word. But it's not, it's happening in the economy, on the internet, and in real life as people mix together in unprecedented numbers.

Maybe it would be good if cartoonists developed some restraint about drawing cartoons that are gratuitously offensive - not because of fear or censorship, but just to be civil. It would also be good if Muslim women who have immigrated to France or Denmark enjoyed the same personal freedoms that ethnic French and Danish women do. Culture-clashing could be a very positive thing. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out when the dust settles. I wonder if that will happen in my lifetime.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

More high school lit:

The Highwayman


THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.


He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

- Afred Noyes