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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Eve housecleaning

Monday, December 29, 2008

Here is an imaginary interview.

Imaginary reporter: "Miss Kennedy (???), why do you want to be a senator?"

Imaginary Caroline: "Well, first of all, I've followed the career of Sen. Clinton with interest. I am very impressed by her accomplishments regarding [issue one and issue two, whatever they might be] and want to make sure that momentum is not lost there.

"Secondly, as you may know, I have long been interested in education. It's my observation that No Child Left Behind has put new and much-needed focus on the performance of students who traditionally have passed under the radar of our education system. At the same time, NCLB has some flaws that I'd like to see ironed out. With the globalization of the economy, the success of public education is crucial to the national prosperity as never before.

"And then the dichotomy between security and preservation of civil rights is tighter than at any time I can think of in our nation's history. We're on a knife-edge here, of either losing the very freedoms that make America unique in the world, or falling prey more and more to the acts of terror that we've seen elsewhere in the world [be prepared to name London, Madrid, Bali]. Serious, informed, knowledgeable people disagree about exactly where on the continuum from absolute security to absolute freedom we need to find ourselves. Our government has to have people pulling both ways on this issue so that we can strike a balance between these extremes. It will be a dynamic balance. At no time will everyone be happy. But we have to try to reach consensus, and be flexible enough to respond to global events, and I want to be part of that conversation."

Imaginary reporter: "Miss Kennedy, going back to NCLB for a moment - what do you see as its flaws?"

Imaginary Caroline: "One flaw is that the states tend to set one standard for all students of each grade. With the mainstreaming of special-education students (a very worthy thing in itself) we see that the standards are being set artificially low in order to prevent these students from negatively affecting the test score averages. [Examples ready.] Another flaw is that there is no national standard so that there is no way to compare one state's performance to another. And I would like to see more analysis of the data we have - we can see which school systems are teaching their minority and special-ed students more effectively within the same state, but I'd like to see more structure for sharing strategies that work.

"Ideally, a public school system should be able to take each individual child as far as his or her innate ability and ambition will go. We can't have one-size-fits-all standards for an entire grade-level cohort and think that we can measure that.

"But NCLB gives us somewhere to start. We need to build on it and make it better."

Well, so much for imagination. Here is the reality.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Somehow I am reminded today of a problem that a coworker had years ago. Her daughter, a middle-schooler and a big girl, rode the bus to school every day. There was a first-grade boy who singled her out for attention: punches, pinches, that kind of thing. She could NOT make him stop. The bus driver would do nothing. The school personnel would do nothing despite her visible bruises - they went to different schools, of course. My coworker got involved but could get no action. The school people could not believe that her daughter had a valid complaint. "She's so much bigger than he is," was all they would say as they brushed all that off.

So she told her daughter that the next time the boy punched or pinched her, she should haul off and slap him. She did. And was banned from riding the bus anymore, forever. The boy still rode it, of course.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

We went downtown today to look at the birds on Lake Morton and get some pix.

Here's an egret. These birds make us think of Edward Gorey sometimes.


I like this shot of a seagull in flight.


Woodstorks


Don't know what this is - it's backlit so you can't see the interesting patterns on its back. It's some kind of fisher.


Pelicans


There were lots of seagulls.


As always, swans.


Turtles sunning


Some kind of blossoming tree - the leaves look mimosa-like but the blossoms don't.


This is definitely some kind of mimosa but it's different from the ones back home - the leaves are bigger and the blossoms are deep fuschia.


Roses - they look more like wild roses than cultivated but they smell really wonderful.


Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side,
'Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Follow-up to the last post; I hope nobody thinks what's going on now is anything new.

Wall Street, the next day, had more reassuring reports of Beaufort's situation. They were not definite, but they were hopeful. It was generally understood that he could call on powerful influences in case of emergency, and that he had done so with success; and that evening, when Mrs. Beaufort appeared at the Opera wearing her old smile and a new emerald necklace, society drew a breath of relief.

New York was inexorable in its condemnation of business irregularities. So far there had been no exception to its tacit rule that those who broke the law of probity must pay; and every one was aware that even Beaufort and Beaufort's wife would be offered up unflinchingly to this principle. But to be obliged to offer them up would be not only painful but inconvenient. The disappearance of the Beauforts would leave a considerable void in their compact little circle; and those who were too ignorant or too careless to shudder at the moral catastrophe bewailed in advance the loss of the best ball-room in New York.

...

On the Wednesday morning, when [Archer] reached his office, Mr. Letterblair met him with a troubled face. Beaufort, after all, had not managed to "tide over"; but by setting afloat the rumour that he had done so he had reassured his depositors, and heavy payments had poured into the bank till the previous evening, when disturbing reports again began to predominate. In consequence, a run on the bank had begun, and its doors were likely to close before the day was over. The ugliest things were being said of Beaufort's dastardly manoeuvre, and his failure promised to be one of the most discreditable in the history of Wall Street.

The extent of the calamity left Mr. Letterblair white and incapacitated. "I've seen bad things in my time; but nothing as bad as this. Everybody we know will be hit, one way or another. And what will be done about Mrs. Beaufort? What CAN be done about her? I pity Mrs. Manson Mingott as much as anybody: coming at her age, there's no knowing what effect this affair may have on her. She always believed in Beaufort--she made a friend of him! And there's the whole Dallas connection: poor Mrs. Beaufort is related to every one of you. Her only chance would be to leave her husband--yet how can any one tell her so? Her duty is at his side; and luckily she seems always to have been blind to his private weaknesses."

...

The butler, hearing a familiar voice, had thrown open the sitting-room door, announcing: "Mrs. Julius Beaufort"--and had then closed it again on the two ladies. They must have been together, he thought, about an hour. When Mrs. Mingott's bell rang Mrs. Beaufort had already slipped away unseen, and the old lady, white and vast and terrible, sat alone in her great chair, and signed to the butler to help her into her room. She seemed, at that time, though obviously distressed, in complete control of her body and brain. The mulatto maid put her to bed, brought her a cup of tea as usual, laid everything straight in the room, and went away; but at three in the morning the bell rang again, and the two servants, hastening in at this unwonted summons (for old Catherine usually slept like a baby), had found their mistress sitting up against her pillows with a crooked smile on her face and one little hand hanging limp from its huge arm.

The stroke had clearly been a slight one, for she was able to articulate and to make her wishes known; and soon after the doctor's first visit she had begun to regain control of her facial muscles. But the alarm had been great; and proportionately great was the indignation when it was gathered from Mrs. Mingott's fragmentary phrases that Regina Beaufort had come to ask her--incredible effrontery!--to back up her husband, see them through--not to "desert" them, as she called it--in fact to induce the whole family to cover and condone their monstrous dishonour.

"I said to her: "Honour's always been honour, and honesty honesty, in Manson Mingott's house, and will be till I'm carried out of it feet first,'" the old woman had stammered into her daughter's ear, in the thick voice of the partly paralysed. "And when she said: `But my name, Auntie--my name's Regina Dallas,' I said: `It was Beaufort when he covered you with jewels, and it's got to stay Beaufort now that he's covered you with shame.'"


From The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton, 1920. Read it here.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

- Edwin Arlington Robinson, 1897

Hedge fund founder Thierry de la Villehuchet kills self after losing $1B in Madoff scandal

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Advent

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third Sunday of Advent


Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Ev'ry valley shall be exalted, and ev'ry mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.

- Handel, from Isaiah 40:1-4. Go here to listen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Got the tree up, FINALLY. Haven't had a chance before now. F and I decorated it while listening to Brian Setzer's Christmas CD.

Seems odd to be putting the tree up when the highs are around 80°.

We had a Christmas potluck at work yesterday. We decided to do that instead of a dinner like we had last year. The company bought steaks and we grilled them, and people brought side dishes. I said I would bring vegetables. The production manager requested squash, so I brought broccoli and cheese, and squash and zucchini. Steamed them in the microwave while the steaks were grilling. I had no room for dessert, and I don't think anyone else did either.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In the interest of updating my memoirs - I spent Sunday evening and all day Mon-Wed in Tampa at an ASTM meeting.

I enjoyed the meeting quite a bit. Met some people I've dealt with by phone and email only - funny how, today, when I looked at emails from them their faces popped into my head. There's a lot to learn about how these standard-setting organizations are set up, and some interesting group dynamics. I had to speak just a bit b/c of the work group I chair. Everyone was very nice. Driving back and forth wasn't very nice - I live close enough to Tampa to day-trip but it meant leaving early enough to miss some of the hospitality things where the instrument vendors show their products. The next meeting, in June, is in Norfolk, VA. I can't day-trip there.

I ran into the instrument vendor who recommended me for this job. My sulfur analyzer had just started to act up when this meeting started - I discovered Sunday morning that it had lost its mind and didn't have time to fool with it. The vendor and his boss told me what to do for it, and also how to optimize it for my application, so that was worthwhile right there. This came after a technical and strangely satisfying discussion about detection limits. Perhaps you didn't know, reader(s), that when you analyze a material for a particular thing, and you don't find any, you can't report the result as zero. You have to report it as less than something, that something being your detection limit, and settling on what that detection limit is, is surprisingly complicated. For instance, you can analyze a standard that is two to five times as concentrated as what you think your detection limit is, seven times, and then multiply the standard deviation of your responses by pi. Or you can look at your signal-to-noise ratio when you run a solvent blank - but how do you know your solvent is really blank? One way to verify that is to use that solvent to make a set of standard solutions at various concentrations, plot concentration against response, and see how close your best-fit line is to going through the origin - in other words, how close your y-intercept is to zero.

I had lunch with various people every day, too. We mixed technical discussions with talking about our families, politics, a whole lot of other stuff. Yes, I had a very nice time.

I think I'm going to see if I can kick my local professional organization into a higher state of activity. I need this kind of thing.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Second Sunday of Advent



Owt of your slepe aryse and wake,
For God mankynd nowe hath ytake,
Al of a maide without eny make;
Of al women she bereth the belle.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell.

And thirwe a maide faire and wys,
Now man is made of ful grete pris;
Now angelys knelen to mannys servys,
And at this tyme al this byfel.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell.

Now man is bryghter than the sonne;
Now man in heven an hye shal wone;
Blssyd be God this game is begonne,
And his moder empresse of helle.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell.

That ever was thralle, now ys he fre;
That ever was smalle, now grete is she;
Now shal God deme bothe the and me
Unto his blysse yf we do wel.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell.

Now man may to heven wende;
Now heven and erthe to hym they bende;
He that was foo now is oure frende;
This is no nay that Y yowe telle.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell.

Now blessyd brother, graunte us grace
At domesday to se thy face.
And in thy courte to have a place,
That we mow there synge 'Nowel'.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The princess is home for winter break. I picked her up at the airport in Orlando this PM and she is now ensconced on the couch, reading and eating popcorn, with the cats studying her.

I am proud of my girl. F has a well-developed sense of self-preservation, and while this has saved R and me many anxious moments that other parents have to go through, it is inconvenient for her at times when it manifests as a little extra apprehension before a new experience. When she and I flew to Florida last year to find a place to live, she became white-faced and had to sit down in the airport in Memphis. Maybe a bit of a panic attack? She didn't say anything about it but just gritted her teeth and rode it out. Today she flew by herself from her college town in Mississippi, changed planes in Atlanta (a very large, busy airport) and arrived at Orlando cool, calm and collected.

Many of F's friends in Memphis stayed there to go to school, some moving to dorms and some continuing to live at home. I told her starting in middle school that she would have to go away to college. She is such a homebody and her dad and I are happy to have her around, and it would have been very easy to shelter her too much, solve problems for her that she should be able to solve, and so forth. Her first semester at school, a 3-hour drive away from Memphis, wasn't the easiest thing in the world but she got through it. Last year and this year she volunteered for the welcome week team, to help incoming freshmen get situated and figure out how to live apart from mommy and daddy.

At 21 you're supposed to be all grown up. It's not that at 21 you know everything and won't make mistakes. It's that you have the tools and also the self-confidence to take responsibility for yourself. Of course we're not going to shove her out in the cold the minute she graduates next May. But I think she has what it takes to make her way in the world.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pretty, dreamy, romantic. Are they still doing music like this?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sunday in Advent



Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk,
And Mary bore Jesus, who was wrapped up in silk:
And Mary bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly
Holly
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.

Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died on the cross:
And Mary bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly
Holly
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.

Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died for us all:
And Mary bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly
Holly
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.

Now the holly bears a berry, as blood is it red,
Then trust we our Saviour, who rose from the dead:
And Mary bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly
Holly
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.

Sans Day Carol, 19th century Cornwall

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So I'm sitting here waiting for the pies to cool so I can put them in the fridge, and eating a stolen orange.

Yes, I stole an orange from my neighbor's tree. We have an orange tree, but it apparently was neglected for awhile, or maybe the yard got a treatment it didn't like. We coaxed some blooms from it (and you could smell that sweet smell from the street) but the oranges stayed small and green and hard. Maybe next go-round.

But our neighbor's tree is stiff with oranges. She's been away for some time. Last weekend another neighbor told us that her family had moved her into a nursing home. They're gradually getting the house cleared out to sell but seem to be in no hurry. Meanwhile the oranges are going to fall on the ground and rot. He encouraged me to get some and eat them - they're good, he said.

And they are, they're delicious. Pink inside like grapefruit - I don't think I've ever seen oranges like that. Seedless. Very sweet. I got to thinking about them a minute ago and had to go and get one.

It's very dark between our houses, though, and I know there are snakes around. Last weekend the little girl kitties chased a good-sized one out of the backyard. I had my little mini-mag flashlight but the batteries are tired and I could only see, like, one step at a time. All the way back to that tree I kept thinking I'd step on a snake, and this wouldn't be a black snake, but a rattler or copperhead, and I'd lie down and die, and be found with a stolen orange in my hand. Didn't happen, though.
I hope you all are ready for Thanksgiving. R is flying home tomorrow to visit with his folks, and F isn't coming home until next week, so I will have dinner with my friend Kristina and her family.

Kristina told me that her sister instructed her to get at least a 24-pound turkey this year.

"Does your family kick in to help pay for this?" I asked.

"No, they don't have any money," K said.

"People left the table hungry last year?" I asked.

"No," Kristina said, "but they'll all want to take leftovers home."

That's family for you!

But I admit to having grilled Kristina about the kind of gravy she will have to put on the dressing. K doesn't have any strong feelings about gravy one way or the other. I then quizzed the internet, and my mom, about how one goes about making giblet gravy. And I put together some chicken broth I had in my freezer, some onion and celery, and a bit of flour I stirred into some of the broth and then returned to the mix, and separately, a couple of boiled eggs to be chopped and added, and delivered this to her today so that all she has to do is chop the turkey innards and put them in and simmer. And I'll be bringing chocolate chip pies as well.

Jeff at Quidplura offers this recipe that appears to have stood the test of time:

A goos in hogepotte. —Take a Goos, & make hure clene, & hacke hyre to gobettys, & put yn a potte, & Water to, & sethe to-gederys; þan take Pepir & Brennyd brede, or Blode y-boyled, & grynd y-fere Gyngere & Galyngale & Comyn, & temper vppe with Ale, & putte it þer-to; & mynce Oynonys, & frye hem in freysshe grece, & do þer-to a porcyon of Wyne.

He made a run at this dish, and offers his observations on the results, with pictures.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kill me now.



Along the same lines, check this out:

civics quiz

After you do the quiz, look at the table to see the percentage of citizens v. the percentage of self-identified elected officials who got each question right.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Brief shoulder update.

I have been off Celebrex for about a week now. I'm still taking turmeric, and that will probably continue indefinitely, but otherwise no pain meds.

When I read that adhesive capsulitis can last for up to two years I thought that I wouldn't survive that long. But the painful stage is mostly behind me. There's some pain when I get to the end of my range of motion: when I reach to the side, for instance, or too far in front. Last July and August, though, even with both Ultram and Celebrex, it was fairly excruciating just to pull up my pants. One can imagine what a drag that is. It came to my attention this morning that it really didn't hurt to get dressed, so there's definitely been some progress. I can't put my hand on my hip - it just won't go there, because the arm won't rotate in far enough - and I can't cross my arms on my chest. Putting on or taking off anything with long sleeves is an adventure. But the range of motion is continuing to increase in all directions so I reckon eventually I will wear this thing out. I'm thinking late Spring for the end of it, which will mean that it will have been about one year. Pity the people for whom it does last two years, and especially the small group who get it in both shoulders at the same time. They must be utterly disabled.

In other news, my dad called this evening to remind me that a shuttle launch was scheduled. I walked out to the end of the street, got there about 5 minutes before the launch, and called him to tell him I could see it. During the day you can see the sun glinting on the body of the shuttle. This was the first night launch I've seen, and what I saw was the rocket fire. It would be really cool if we could arrange for him to visit sometime when a launch is scheduled.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

So I had to call an instrument company today to ask how to take the rotor out of the centrifuge, and when they put me on hold I found myself listening to "Every Valley". Had to look for it on YouTube when I got home. I found this charming video.

(I LOVE the little ornament he puts on at the very end - I've not heard that before.)



It's too early to get into the Christmas spirit, isn't it?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Obama reviewing drilling, stem cells

Among the measures Mr Podesta raised were the Bush administration's move to authorise oil and gas drilling in the western state of Utah, and embryonic stem cell research, which Mr Bush has limited because he views it as destruction of human life.

"They want to have oil and gas drilling in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah that they're going to try to do right as they are walking out the door. I think that's a mistake," he said.


Oh, let's worry about the sensitive, fragile lands in Utah but totally disregard the destruction of human life. Is it just me, or is this a bit off-key?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

McCain's concession speech.

Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona evening.

My friends, we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.

A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.

America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.

Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

It's natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.

We fought as hard as we could. And though we feel short, the failure is mine, not yours.

I am so deeply grateful to all of you for the great honor of your support and for all you have done for me. I wish the outcome had been different, my friends.

The road was a difficult one from the outset, but your support and friendship never wavered. I cannot adequately express how deeply indebted I am to you.I'm especially grateful to my wife, Cindy, my children, my dear mother and all my family, and to the many old and dear friends who have stood by my side through the many ups and downs of this long campaign. I have always been a fortunate man, and never more so for the love and encouragement you have given me.

You know, campaigns are often harder on a candidate's family than on the candidate, and that's been true in this campaign.

All I can offer in compensation is my love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead.

I am also, of course, very thankful to Governor Sarah Palin, one of the best campaigners I've ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength... her husband Todd and their five beautiful children... for their tireless dedication to our cause, and the courage and grace they showed in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign.

We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country.

To all my campaign comrades, from Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, to every last volunteer who fought so hard and valiantly, month after month, in what at times seemed to be the most challenged campaign in modern times, thank you so much. A lost election will never mean more to me than the privilege of your faith and friendship.

I don't know what more we could have done to try to win this election. I'll leave that to others to determine. Every candidate makes mistakes, and I'm sure I made my share of them. But I won't spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.

This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Senator Obama and my old friend Senator Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.

I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century.

Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it.

Tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Senator Obama -- whether they supported me or Senator Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender.

We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.


...

Obama wasn't my choice, but he'll be my President.

Onward and upward.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I have discovered that I like to play free cell while listening to music that I pull up on YouTube. YouTube is like Alice's restaurant. If you want to listen to Louis Armstrong singing "Mack the Knife" in Germany, you can. Jerry Lee Lewis's cover of "Chantilly Lace", live in London, ditto.

What does it say that when I was listening to Zubin Mehta's conducting of "The Beautiful Blue Danube" I could not escape seeing, in my mind's eye, this:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Australia denies residency for dad of boy with Down syndrome

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Thirteen-year-old Lukas Moeller has Down syndrome. His father is a doctor who came to Australia from Germany to help fill a shortage of physicians in rural communities.

But now Australia has rejected Dr. Bernhard Moeller's application for residency, saying Lukas does not meet the "health requirement" and would pose a burden on taxpayers for his medical care, education and other services.

The case has provoked an outcry in the rural region of southeastern Victoria state, where Moeller is the only internal medicine specialist for a community of 54,000 people.


Here's the chronology.

1 - People have special needs. Their families take care of them. It's rough sometimes. Usually extended family, neighbors, church members, etc., pitch in. This was before "family values" were talked about - they weren't talked about b/c it was taken for granted that families took care of their own.

2 - The government sees that it is a burden sometimes, so it steps in to help. Inevitably, over the years, as more and more people draw a paycheck for helping, the care from the government becomes more and more encompassing, and the families lose some measure of control.

3 - The government completely takes over responsibility for caring for special-needs people, or sick people, or whomever, and immediately begins rationing way beyond anything the original family/community help network would have needed to ration.

The community in this story isn't rejecting this kid b/c his care is too onerous. His parents certainly aren't. If the government had not presumed to take all that on, it wouldn't have to worry about it.

Think this couldn't happen here?


Health plan covers assisted suicide but not new cancer treatment


Her doctor offered hope in the new chemotherapy drug Tarceva, but the Oregon Health Plan sent her a letter telling her the cancer treatment was not approved.

Instead, the letter said, the plan would pay for comfort care, including "physician aid in dying," better known as assisted suicide.


Physician-assisted suicide is legal in Oregon. It's voluntary ... for now. For those whose healthcare is provided by the state (and for which they paid taxes during their working years) you see what the state's preference is.

Ronald Reagan said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Eternal vigilance, folks.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chicagoboyz has a post up: Blinded By His Narrow Focus. It's about an article the blog author read, that seems to extrapolate conditions in a county in California to the rest of the country.

I started to comment on it and then realized that my comments were running too long, so I decided to park them here.

I lived in Memphis, TN from 1982 until last year. When my daughter was in first grade - that would have been in 1993 or so - there weren't very many Hispanics in Memphis. Her class studied Mexico during multicultural week. One of my coworkers, a Mexican-American, was kind enough to speak to her class and answer questions about Mexico because no one in the school had any direct experience. By the time she finished elementary school, there were a few Hispanic children in some of the classes. Not long after, a third to a half of the school was Hispanic. (This was a parochial school.) Memphis experienced a big demographic shift, during which we saw some things we were not used to seeing, including Hispanic-looking people standing around outside Home Depot. (I never inquired as to their immigration status.) Billboards, flyers, newspapers in Spanish appeared and then increased in number too. No one planned this or decided it should happen, it just happened

My point(s)?
1 - Nothing, NOTHING is static. It never was. Memphis was never frozen in time. The Hispanic demographic shift was visible because of the Spanish-language stuff, and the schools suddenly had to add a lot of ESL classes, sure. But busing for desegregation happened, white flight happened, etc., long before this. Also waves of immigrants from countries where they were fleeing oppression, so that certain parts of town began to see Vietnamese restaurants and grocery stores, and various things of that nature. You can't really pick a moment in the past and say "this is the real Memphis". The only constant is change, right? Xenophobes and other people who can't handle change are going to have heartburn but they can't stop the process.

2 - Nothing stays put, either. Today Marin County, CA, tomorrow Podunk, OH. I should say "nothing people-related". El Ninos aren't going to suddenly start causing drought in Texas and flooding in California. But there's not a wall up between California and Ohio so even though the article might not speak to conditions today, the blog post author might re-read it two or three years from now in a different light.

But I keep thinking about cells. Cells have membranes, not walls, so that things can move in and out of the cells as needed for the cells to survive. [Edited to add: some non-animal cells have walls, of course.] The movement in and out is strictly controlled. If a cell membrane is destroyed, the cell no longer has integrity and it can't function any longer. I think eventually the world will be like one big cell. This process started happening with pre-Roman Empire trade routes and really started accelerating with steam ships and railroads and trans-continental air travel, and the internet by which we can read newspapers in other countries and have conversation with their inhabitants; and NAFTA and free trade and all that other stuff. But we're not there yet, and I wonder what kind of cell membrane the USA really needs. Maybe I'm a xenophobe but I wonder if we've let our membrane weaken prematurely.*

When I think about all the illegal immigrants who come here to find work, and why it is that they can find it (because employers can sidestep OSHA regs and labor laws if they know their employees won't complain) I wonder about capitalism. I wonder if it's true, as Marx(?) said, that capitalism requires an underclass. First the US had slaves, then black people without civil rights, then when black people got the same rights that white people had, suddenly we needed a new class of people without rights. Is that it? Or is it not necessary except for those capitalists who want too much profit and are willing to break the law to get it? I bet Fred Smith and people of his ilk aren't hiring illegals, and they're not hurting. I've had to show proof of eligibility to work at every job that I remember filling out paperwork for.

Still, it seems that we must somehow want these people here, and in the status they have. If we truly didn't want them, we'd send them out and close our borders, right? Instead of discussing whether, for instance, they should get driver licenses and pay in-state tuition. But since they are here, why is it so hard for those who are self-supporting and law-abiding (as far as they can be) to be regularized? Is it just the usual lumbering monster of bureaucracy, or an inherent flaw in our political system? I wish I knew.

*To continue the membrane analogy - one could look at immigration or at occupation, as a kind of endosymbiosis. The idea of endosymbiosis is that some of the organelles in eukaryotic cells - mitochondria, chloroplasts in plant cells - started out as prokaryotes that moved into other cells either as parasites or as food, and because the larger cell offered some protection and the smaller cell offered energy, it stayed around and reproduced with the larger cell. There's some evidence to support this (mitochondria have their own ribosomes, which are like bacterial ribosomes, and they have their own DNA, which is configured like bacterial DNA, not the X and Y of eukaryotes' nuclear DNA). These things have evolved so that you can't independently culture the mitochondria or the chloroplasts; they can only function as part of the eukaryotic cell. The point is that it doesn't matter now whether the prokaryotes that gave rise to these organelles started out as food or as parasites; they are a vital part of the eukaryotes either way. In the same way, it hopefully doesn't matter whether an American's ancestors came here for a better life, or fleeing famine or oppression, or were brought here in chains - they should be able to both contribute to the "cell" and enjoy the "cell's" benefits, and see themselves and be seen as part of the larger whole. This is hopefully true of our Hispanic immigrants as well. They change us, we change them, and we all benefit.

Adapt or die, right?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wesley J. Smith has a post on his blog, Secondhand Smoke, about abortion in Australia.

Australia: Abortion Through the Ninth Month--Culture of Death Brooks No Dissent

A new law out of the Australian state of Victoria must be discussed. First, it permits abortion through the ninth month, meaning that viable babies are subject to being killed, which is to say it gets close to the land of infanticide. Second, it requires all doctors to either do abortions, or if they have a moral objection, to find and refer to an abortion friendly doctor....

From the statute:

Part 2: (5): Termination of pregnancy by registered medical practitioner after 24 weeks:(1) A registered medical practitioner may perform an abortion on a woman who is more than 24 weeks pregnant only if the medical practitioner--(a) reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances; and (b) has consulted at least one other registered medical practitioner who also reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances.(2) In considering whether the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances, a registered medical practitioner must have regard to--(a) all relevant medical circumstances; and (b) the woman's current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.


The woman's future social circumstances?

Sometimes I actually am tempted to become an atheist. It would be so comforting to think that things like this really don't matter. Wouldn't it? That there will be no Day of Judgment? I read these things and in my mind I am hearing


Dies illa, dies irae,
calamitatis et miseriae,
dies magna et amara valde.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Does anybody but me think the INVESTIGATION of Joe Wurzelbacher is creepy as hell?

The man opened his mouth and expressed doubt at Obama's plans for taxing small businesses, and for this his tax records, voting records, and God knows what else have been minutely scrutinized, mischaracterized, and reported to the entire world?

FOX News contributor Howard Wolfson, former Hillary Clinton spokesman, had at it when Joe the Plumber was broached as a topic on air Friday morning.

"He's not a plumber, his name's not Joe and he would actually get a tax cut under Barack Obama," he said. "What it says is that John McCain's campaign didn't vet Joe the Plumber."


Vet???

And may I add, after this, Hillary Clinton's spokesman is the last person who ought to say anything.

Feeling Plumber Fatigue, Media Turn on 'Joe'

Friday, October 17, 2008

Two Papers in One!

* "In Wednesday night's debate, John McCain warned that a group called Acorn is 'on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history' and 'may be destroying the fabric of democracy.' Viewers may have been wondering what Mr. McCain was talking about. So were we."--editorial, New York Times, Oct. 17
* "Several F.B.I. offices are reviewing reports of fraudulent voter registrations submitted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, a liberal community organizing group that has been under fire from Republicans."--news story, New York Times, Oct. 17


Dummies.

From WSJ Online.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh, where've I been?

Work work work.

Regular stuff in the lab PLUS getting the quality program off the ground again in preparation for maybe running the plant, which means lab trials (more work for me), PLUS somehow I'm chairing an ASTM committee, good for my resume but more stuff to do, PLUS a bit of lab work for another company that doesn't have a lab, that somehow I got volunteered to do. I feel like a pie chart. The thing about a pie chart is, it can only add up to 100% of the pie, so if X gets done then Y did not, and that's all there is to it. It's all about the priorities.

F had a long weekend with us recently for fall break, during which time she cooked for us (she's taking a culinary arts class this semester) and made me a birthday cake. Yes, it's my birthday month. Whee.

I think the economic issues have pretty much guaranteed Obama the presidency. In a way I wish we didn't know about Jeremiah Wright, about Rezko, Ayers, ACORN, and all that other stuff (plans to redistribute wealth, broken promise to help the school back in Kenya). If you don't know and you elect somebody, that's one thing. If you do know, and you elect and support him anyway, you've changed the standards. I remember wishing and hoping with tears in my eyes (so to speak) that nothing would be found on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress. Because I knew that nothing would happen to Clinton if the stain was his, and that would mean the country accepting something that previously had been unacceptable. So we're going to swallow blatant vote fraud. Far-left-wing radicalism. Back-scratching with corrupt figures. Racist demagoging. (Why hasn't anyone asked Obama about his membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, which excluded Steve Cohen because of his race? Because we already know what he's about and apparently don't care.) I know the argument will be offered that they all do this-and-that, and maybe a lot of them do, but this time we know about it in advance and are taking it anyway. So how can we ever object to this stuff again, ever?

And my boss asked me the other day what I thought all that voting "present" was about. I told him I thought it was the same as "above my pay grade" when asked at what point a human gets rights - not when does life begin, which may be a philosophical/religious question, but when does he/she get rights, which is a question pertaining to law and government. (I know Obama later said he regretted his flippancy.) I said to my boss, "President Truman had a sign..." and as I said, "...on his desk" my boss was already nodding and saying "yep". Production manager sitting next to me said, "What?" Dang, I mean, I know he's very young, but is this really not part of the culture anymore? My boss and I simultaneously answered, "The buck stops here". Would Obama have such a sign on his desk?

Well, there's nothing I can do about it but hope for the best.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I have finally entered the 21st century.

Today at work I made a powerpoint presentation all by myself. I had never done it before, ever. There was only moderate swearing.

I think F would be proud of me. Back in 8th grade, which is 8 years ago, she and some of her classmates had to do a ppt about bioethics. They chose cloning as a subject. F and one of her friends had powerpoint, so they put the thing together, emailing it back and forth and incorporating the input of the other group members. F drew a really cute sheep in Paint and it scooted onto the slide about Dolly, followed by bullet points. At the end of the presentation they rolled credits, and since F was (is?) a Weird Al fan they ran "I Think I'm A Clone Now" in the background. (You can listen to that here if you've a mind.)

I didn't have any special effects on mine. Boring, I know. Maybe next time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This is funny as heck.

Laws Concerning Food and Drink;
Household Principles;
Lamentations of the Father"


An excerpt:

On Screaming

Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch each other are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault. Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you, and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even now I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat of it myself, yet do not die.


This writer knows about little children.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Star Spangled mess: Mavs' Howard insults anthem

DALLAS (AP) — The battered reputation of Josh Howard took another hit this week when an online video surfaced showing the Dallas Mavericks forward disrespecting the national anthem.

In a video posted on YouTube, Howard is shown on a football field at a charity flag football game. As the national anthem plays in the background, Howard approaches a camera and says: "'The Star Spangled Banner' is going on right now. I don't even celebrate that (expletive). I'm black."


Why am I reminded of The Man Without a Country?


“WASHINGTON (with a date which must have been late in 1807).
“SIR—You will receive from Lieutenant Neale the person of Philip Nolan, late a lieutenant in the United States Army.
“This person on his trial by court-martial expressed, with an oath, the wish that he might ‘never hear of the United States again.’
“The Court sentenced him to have his wish fulfilled.
“For the present, the execution of the order is intrusted by the President to this Department.
“You will take the prisoner on board your ship, and keep him there with such precautions as shall prevent his escape.
“You will provide him with such quarters, rations, and clothing as would be proper for an officer of his late rank, if he were a passenger on your vessel on the business of his Government.
“The gentlemen on board will make any arrangements agreeable to themselves regarding his society. He is to be exposed to no indignity of any kind, nor is he ever unnecessarily to be reminded that he is a prisoner.
“But under no circumstances is he ever to hear of his country or to see any information regarding it; and you will especially caution all the officers under your command to take care, that, in the various indulgences which may be granted, this rule, in which his punishment is involved, shall not be broken.
“It is the intention of the Government that he shall never again see the country which he has disowned. Before the end of your cruise you will receive orders which will give effect to this intention.

“Respectfully yours,

“W. SOUTHARD, for the

“Secretary of the Navy.”


You couldn't really do what was done to Philip Nolan in the story. It was cruel and it certainly was unusual. I wonder if they even teach that story anymore.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

F called me today to ask how come teachers feel like they have to be [crude expression]s.

I said, to prepare you for the rest of your life.

: (

It's not all teachers, of course, just this one. Perhaps F will not mind if I tell her story.

F is unnerved by this teacher anyway b/c she is the only person whose name he seems to know. When he wants to ask the class a question he always calls on her, by name. Half the time she doesn't know the answer, and then he pulls out the roll book and starts calling on other people, who, she says, never know either.

This teacher is from another country, and English is not his first language. F doesn't have a problem understanding accented English. Perhaps this is why he calls on her first. Or maybe because she's smart. I would suggest, or because she's cute, but I think she'd be horrified at the thought that her teacher, who you understand is probably older than dirt in her eyes, and who acts like a [crude expression], would notice such a thing.

So today she had a test in which she was supposed to draw a thing. The wording, as she described it to me, was ambiguous. She asked him for clarification: do you want X, or do you want Y? His answer was to take her test and carefully read to her, word by word, the test item. They stared at each other. So, she said, do you want X, or Y? Draw as many as you want, he said. They stared at each other. He called upon the class to hear him read out the test item; the other students were like, "What?" F wanted to throw her test on the floor in frustration, but she did not, because it would not be ladylike.

I told her that I was gratified that she was not unladylike.

So she went back to her seat in defeat, and drew both X and Y. It will be interesting to see how he grades that.

Now I ask my readers: is this not excellent preparation for life in the adult world?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9/11/01 ... I usually try not to think about the date because if I start thinking about it I'll cry. Saw a flag at half-mast on the way home from work ...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

“Children with Down’s syndrome require an awful lot of attention. The role of vice president, it seems to me, would take up an awful lot of her time, and it raises the issue of how much time will she have to dedicate to her newborn child?” CNN anchor John Roberts asked during a live segment on Aug. 29, the day McCain announced Palin’s candidacy.

...

Dr. Brian Skotko, a physician at Children’s Hospital Boston who serves on the board of directors at the National Down Syndrome Society, told FOXNews.com that, in many instances, it is no more challenging to raise a child with Down syndrome than any other.

“We know that about 50 percent of babies who are born with Down syndrome have a heart condition within the first few months after they are born,” he said.

“But thanks to the advances in technology, we have been able to correct many of these conditions, and after the initial medical issues have been addressed, raising a child with Down syndrome does not involve much more time than it would take for any child.”


Palin’s Candidacy Reignites Feminist Debate

I believe that John Roberts was acting as what the left-wing bloggers call a "concern troll".

In other news - I am so amused at the little girl kitties trying to make sense of my nightly shoulder exercises. The tomcat could NOT care less.

I start out using the pulley over the bedroom door to stretch my arm as high as it can go, hold for a count of fifteen, repeat several times. They have to watch this, or sit close to me with their backs turned, or get in my lap as I do it, or as Bonnie did tonight, anticipate where I am going and get on the chair first (what a funny joke). The next thing I do is to go to one particular wall that's convenient to do external rotation stretches and then wall pushups. So while I'm using the pulley, one or the other kitty might run over to that wall and reach up to scrabble on it with her paws. "See, I got there first."

Molly's done after that but Bonnie precedes me into the bedroom where she sits on the dresser and supervises my working with weights.

Don't know what I'd do without them - I'd probably get everything in the wrong order.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

I want to talk about raising a literate child. I can do that because, since the definition of "expert" is "parent of one child", I am an expert. Disclaimer: You can't make your kid be literate any more than you can make him or her anything else. People are who they are from the get-go. But you can influence a kid to go the way you want. You might as well try, since you'll pretty definitely influence him or her to go the way you don't want. I've read that "the footsteps your kids follow in are the ones you thought you'd covered up".

Anyway, back to the literate child. Before I became pregnant with F, I was listening to the radio one day - and I can tell you exactly where in Memphis I was driving at the time - and I heard someone authoritative talk about the importance of reading Mother Goose rhymes to babies. The cadences and the rhymes point out the way the language is put together. That made a lot of sense to me. When F came along, we acquired a big green Mother Goose book. Maybe my mom gave it to us? It has lots of big colorful pictures and lots and lots of nursery rhymes. I held F on my lap and read them to her. When she was big enough to turn the pages, I'd read all of the poems on one page and she'd study the picture for a while, then she'd turn the page and I'd read the poems on that page.

By the way, on that studying the picture thing: I and my sibs were read to quite a bit, and I can run across the Little Golden Books, which are still in print, and know what the pictures inside will look like even though I haven't cracked those things in decades.

F had short books when she was a toddler. We belonged to a book club, maybe associated with "Parents" magazine, and we got lots of little short books from them. R or I read one or two of them to her every night before bed.

At age 4 I thought it was time to start reading chapter books to her, a chapter a night. I took inspiration from Dick Estelle, the Radio Reader - anyone remember him? I thought if he could do it I could. We started with The Hobbit. I paraphrased just a bit as needed for clarity and when the story might bog down from a 4-yr-old's perspective (in Mirkwood, and after they found the dragon) but other than that we read that sucker straight through. After that it was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. That one really motivated F to learn to read. She wouldn't let me stop after one chapter. I had to keep reading every evening as long as I could. I remember once croaking, "I have to stop now," and she said, "Oh, no, Mommy, I have to find out what's happening to Edmund and the White Witch!" and she took the book from me and tried to force meaning from it.

After that we skipped over to The Magician's Nephew, and then we left Narnia and read some other things. We did Ramona the Pest right before she started kindergarten, and The Door in the Wall (terrific story) and then we started the Little House books. We read ALL of those, and there are quite a few. If you start with the first one, Little House in the Big Woods, and proceed chronologically, the reading difficulty progresses as Laura gets older. Sometimes when I was reading F her chapter, R would come in and sit and listen to the story. He enjoyed taking a turn doing the reading too, if I was busy or tired or just if he wanted to.

And let me interject - when you're doing this you don't just read every word on the page, one after the other, like a robot. You stop and ask questions: What do you think is going to happen next? Do you think it was a good idea for her to do that? What should she have done? Or if a scene has an incomplete description, ask the kid to fill in from her imagination. This encourages the child to pause and reflect while reading, and it's an excellent opportunity to get those little character-shaping lectures in that parents need to do. "See, all of this happened because she didn't tell her mommy the truth" - that kind of thing.

We read to F every night until she could read faster to herself. When she reached first grade, they sent her back to read to the kindergartners because they wanted those children to see that a small child like themselves really could read. She chose The Monster at the End of This Book and she read with great expression, because that's another thing: when you read to a kid, you have to do different voices for different people, and slow down dramatically, or sigh as you read, or whatever it takes to make the story real.

(Never stopped reading to her altogether, by the way - I remember reading a Katherine Anne Porter short story to her, for instance, probably close to the end of high school. And I took my inspiration there from The Princess Bride, the book, in which it's the father reading to the kid, and he tells the kid's mom that his father continued reading to his children into their teens.)

After that my boosting of F's literacy mostly consisted of suggesting books for her to read and talking with her about her reading material. I read virtually all of the books she had to read, from elementary school through high school. Some of the selections made me wonder: I was not the only parent horrified at The Giver for kids going into 5th grade; the boy watching his father kill the low-birth-weight twin even as he talked baby-talk to it was a bit much, we thought. And then in high school, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I had not read it before, and loved it. F hated it. But I read it identifying with the adult narrator, looking back at all of the sad, funny, scary, horrifying, infuriating events of her girlhood that made her into the person she became. F read it identifying with the little girl in the story, and if you read it that way it's pretty much unbearable.

I wrote here about forcing her to read Rider at the Gate, a book she didn't initially want to read and subsequently loved, and here about using Jane Eyre and The Good Earth to make a point about what makes a person a moral person. We talked about poetry, too.

This summer I inflicted A Yellow Raft in Blue Water on her. She read it all pretty much in one sitting, complained bitterly about how depressing it was (although she liked the parts about Rayona), and I'll bet anything she'll be taking it off the shelf again at some point even as she is asking herself why.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

couple of interesting links

Palin Rumors is an ongoing list of rumors about Sarah Palin and some rebuttal. I'd like to see more links to news articles and such.

Lawmaker accused of politicizing Palin probe.
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (AP) - A Republican lawmaker wants the Democrat overseeing an investigation into Gov. Sarah Palin's dismissal of her public safety commissioner removed because he seems intent on damaging her vice presidential candidacy.

Democratic state Sen. Hollis French "appears to be steering the direction of the investigation, its conclusion and its timing in a manner that will have maximum partisan political impact on the national and state elections," state Rep. John Coghill said in a letter dated Friday.

...

Coghill wrote in the letter that French was quoted in media reports that the results of the probe were going to be an "October surprise" that is "likely to be damaging to the administration." The comments lead Coghill to believe the investigation is lacking in fairness, neutrality and due process, he wrote.


No kidding. Apparently French admits to "saying some things he probably shouldn't have". Imagine that.

I want to add one thing about all of this. I have cautioned people I don't even know about falling in love with a candidate. I realize I'm writing a lot about Sarah Palin. This story is new and fresh and it's sparking some interesting discussion. But I don't know Gov. Palin. I don't really know that much about her. None of us do. We're going to learn a lot more, not only about her history, but about her personality, her character, and so forth. It's very possible that something will come out about her that I can't stomach.

(Or about McCain, but he's been an open book for so long that that's not likely. He's said some things I wish he hadn't, and it was bad the way he left his first marriage 30 years ago, and he admits that, but reality is such that none of this is a deal breaker for me.)

Anyway, it's possible that something will come out that will prevent me from supporting her and voting for McCain/Palin in November. I am not so foolish as to be a rock-star fan of a politician. She's a fallible human, and as I say, I don't know her. I see people swooning over Obama and I don't get that either. Maybe as a pragmatist I am less about cult of the personality, and more about what have you done for me lately. Or maybe I don't want to end up being made a fool of.

I remember having a conversation with some women on Salon Tabletalk back when the Kathleen Willey story came out. I admit to having some fun with the conversation, pretending to defend Bill Clinton. Women on Tabletalk were complaining about Bill, that Kathleen said that she went to him to ask for help for her husband, she was very distraught about the state her husband was in (and he did commit suicide) and that Clinton took that opportunity to grope her. Did it happen? Who knows. Anyway, I said that as long as decent women knew not to be alone with him, no harm was done. OMG! OMG! Is this what we fought the feminist wars for - to support and uplift a man who turns out to chase the secretaries around the desk? Well, Clinton's character was well known before all of that. It's why this story was believable for so many people. You just can't have unreasoning loyalty to ANY political candidate. People will let you down every time.
Another thought. Now that I am emerging from the Ultram fog, perhaps I will have more of them.

Before McCain's VP pick, I read in various spots that perhaps Obama's candidacy would inspire us to have a national conversation about race.

My question there is, when has anybody ever shut up about it? Is there anything new to say?

Now with the Palin candidacy, I'm seeing, from people on my side of the political aisle, something other than disapproval of a mother having a life. I'm seeing some discussion of what we reasonably ought to expect of a mother versus a father. And from a right-wing site that I visit for information (they link to interesting news articles from all over the world) but have never registered at b/c of the hateful commentators, the suggestion that now perhaps we can do without the ugly insinuations about Chelsea Clinton's parentage (yes, really). That's a step in the right direction, surely. I've seen conversation about what it really means to be pro-life, and why it matters that Sarah Palin chose life for her baby with Down Syndrome. There's discussion of Palin's looks, and discussion of why there is discussion of her looks. (I'm kind of bummed out by the fact that if she weren't physically attractive she likely wouldn't be getting quite the positive response that she has; some positive response, surely, but not all that she has now.)

All of this moves us forward. Obama said this: "I assume she wants to be treated the same way guys are treated, which means their records are under scrutiny." One of these days the assumption will be made so automatically that it won't be mentioned.

Rush Limbaugh said once that feminism came about so that unattractive women could have access to the mainstream. I think he's exactly right. Remember Christine Craft? She was a news anchor who was fired because focus groups said she was "too old, too unattractive, and wouldn't defer to men". Never mind that male anchors could broadcast until they were good and ready to retire. This was in 1981, by the way, not that long ago. I don't think that nowadays that kind of sexist garbage is openly expressed or thought by anyone to be really socially acceptable. Certainly it is widely frowned upon to suggest that a woman's value rests largely in her appearance, and we have the feminist movement to thank for that.

So every woman who comes close to high office - we don't forget Geraldine Ferraro, of course - or who has a position of great responsibility, like Condoleezza Rice, gets us a little closer to that happy day when women in those spots aren't a novelty anymore and we can quit discussing their hair and their pantsuits and talk about what they actually have to offer.

And just to finish up this rambly post, here's Gerard Baker in the Times:

The best line I heard about Sarah Palin during the frenzied orgy of chauvinist condescension and gutter-crawling journalistic intrusion that greeted her nomination for vice-president a week ago came from a correspondent who knows a thing or two about Alaska.

“What's the difference between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama?”

“One is a well turned-out, good-looking, and let's be honest, pretty sexy piece of eye-candy.

“The other kills her own food.”
I should have seen this coming when I read, yesterday, that Chuck Norris wears Sarah Palin pajamas.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I have some thoughts related to the revelations of the weekend.

I want to address the idea that having a baby with Down syndrome, and now as it turns out a pregnant daughter, means that Sarah Palin should not have accepted the VP spot on the ticket.

Women have babies. It happens all the time, and it's a good thing too, because that's how the race struggles on. Thank you Captain Obvious, right? Well, apparently it isn't so obvious to some people. They seem to see childbirth as almost an exotic event, a major interruption in a woman's life, not part of the normal process that a woman goes through (if she has children) between her own birth and death. They seem to think that when a woman has a baby then her previous life needs to shut down and contract until it consists ONLY of caring for that child. I've seen that before from extreme conservatives, like the Baptist church in Arkansas (I think) that abruptly closed its daycare because kids need to be home with their mommies, leaving those mommies who had to work to put food on the table scrambling. It's as if a woman stops being a person in order to be a mommy. I didn't expect this attitude of the "progressives" though. So although Gov. Palin took her baby with her when she went back to work (when you're the boss you can do as you please) and although she has a husband, Trig's daddy no less, who can care for him too; and although people have hired nannies and such since the dawn of time, and although special-needs kids sometimes benefit very strongly, once they reach toddlerhood, from going to preschool with their age-mates; she apparently is a bad mother if she doesn't shut her life down and do nothing but care for her child 24/7, and you see this on the "progressive" sites if you can hold your nose long enough to look at them. (Except this one. The sexism irritates them as much as the sexism about Hillary irritated me, although they don't want to see Palin win any more than I wanted Hillary to.)

My mother grew up on a farm in Mississippi. Her mother and the kids all had to work in the fields. When you have a farm, time waits for no man nor woman. Cotton gets ready to pick and you must pick it, and so forth. When there was a baby (and there were eight) my grandmother would put it in a wheelbarrow with some toys and things, and wheel it to wherever they were going to work that day, and park the wheelbarrow under a shadetree. Everyone from toddlers on up had to work. I imagine that if someone tried to explain to my grandmother that when she had a baby its care was supposed to completely subsume her life she'd have thought they were an idiot. How could it? The family would not have survived.

And she didn't resent having all those kids. My mom remembers her older sister telling her mother she should have used birth control (some nerve, huh?). My grandmother invited her to pick out which of her sibs she wanted not to have been born.

But if my grandmother had had the opportunity to live in a nice, air-conditioned house, with a husband who didn't think it was not his place to do some childcare, or to hire a nanny, or to put her kid in a bright, comfortable, child-centered daycare, she'd have jumped at the chance.

I am amazed at people who want this country not to have a Vice President Palin simply because she has children to care for.

I remember that during Reagan's presidency, Bush Senior felt a bit frustrated at his largely ceremonial role as VP. He had represent the USA at a bunch of state funerals and he said, "I'm George Bush. You die, I fly." People act like when you're VP you're locked in a box 24/7 for four or eight years. I just don't think it's that strenuous a job. Ah, but if McCain dies she'll be President. Well, I think the most recent President we've had die in office was JFK back in 1963. It could happen, of course, but it's far from a certain thing. And speaking of JFK: he had small children when he was President and no one batted an eye. Aren't we past all that sexist crap yet?

It's also argued that McCain shouldn't have picked her, although he thought she was right for the spot, because Bristol did what teenagers have done since the dawn of time, and let biology take over. I am utterly unclear on the relevance here. People are accusing the Palins of being hypocrites about "family values". To me, that phrase means that you take care of your family, which the Palins have indicated that they have every intention of doing.

As to the rumors that had to be put down, all I'll say is that I hope to God that Bristol hasn't been surfing the net this weekend. I think about her reading that stuff, and I think about my F, and it makes me sick. I'd wondered, when I saw her face in the pictures this weekend, why she looked so tense and unhappy; and put it down to her age and so forth. Caught a glimpse of her on TV when her story came out and she looked so relieved. Poor little thing, she probably feels that she really let her mother down. Well, Bristol, life goes on, and this is exactly how it does.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I am so pumped. Seriously. I am so excited. We are going to have a woman VP. And what a woman.

I read about Sarah Palin months ago on Secondhand Smoke, when Wesley reported that she found out her last baby had Down Syndrome during the pregnancy and she and her husband chose life for him. Everything else I read about her I liked too ... she's a strong conservative and I like that, being somewhat conservative, myself. When I learned that she was on McCain's short list I had my fingers crossed.

I think she'll make a great VP. But also, I hope that her son's story will give people second thoughts about the automatic choice so many seem to think necessary, to abort babies who have Down Syndrome and other challenges. Women report being told, in the same office visit that they get their amnio result, that they need to go on and schedule the abortion right away ... it's assumed that they'll have one. If they have the baby, they report being asked why they didn't abort. Nzingha reported that. We need to bring that culture-of-death stuff to a squeaking halt.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Well, ha ha, ten days later.

Fay turned out to be, for us, the storm that wasn't. We were right in the path for a while but we ended up getting the usual amount of rain that we get every day in the rainy season, maybe just a bit more wind than usual. It's pretty breezy right now, in fact. One of the many things I like about living here is that after the sun goes down the temperature drops, there's a breeze, and you might want sleeves even in August. I keep a sweater handy for my evening stroll. I do feel for the people east of us who are being flooded out of their homes. A spectacular amount of rainfall will do that. When F and I came here last year to find a place to live we were very conscious of wanting whatever high ground there was, and we have it.

And she cracked me up on Tuesday afternoon, calling to check up on us. She gets jittery not being here to look after us, because we probably won't have any better sense than to run out to look at the hurricane - "I've never seen a hurricane before!" she imagined me saying in a ditzy voice - and have a tree fall on us, or something. But I have, I've seen what there was of Camille when it swept through north Mississippi when I was a girl, and I think we got some stormy weather when the remnants of Katrina blew through. And Hurricane Elvis, of course, which was bad news. No fun at all.

Eventually I will stop talking about myself, but here's some more stuff. I stopped Ultram on the weekend. I was on it for 3 months and that's possibly long enough to get a little used to it. Major insomnia. So I added another herb last night (Valerian) and it made all the difference in the world. Will do the same tonight. Before long I should be re-adjusted. I feel not having Ultram in that my shoulder is griping at me more, and more often, but it's nothing like it was three months ago. I'm very hopeful of getting past this, maybe completely by the end of the year.

Work has been pretty busy. We're trying some things to get the plant back up and running and back to the usual 30 or so employees. I've called back another tech to help with that. Kind of miss being by myself in the lab, but I knew it couldn't last.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My mom told me a couple of weeks back to "get off my duff and update my blog". I guess I will.

I think it's the Ultram. I can read stuff and comment on it but it's hard to initiate writing, for some reason.

First a quick synopsis of my physical difficulty. I have adhesive capsulitis in my left shoulder. This is growth of scar tissue inside the joint capsule. Wikipedia has an excellent article about it. I have had a cortisone injection into what there was of the joint space, physical therapy, and oral steroids, with little or no effect. In addition, I am taking Celebrex for inflammation and pain, and Ultram to help with the pain. The orthopedist told me at the beginning of July that we had tried just about everything (as I cried in his office) and that the next step is surgery. I couldn't schedule surgery right then so I said I'd call his office when I could. When I did call, I had to leave a message which was never returned. This had happened before. So I was given pause as to whether I should let this man perform surgery - if I had post-op problems, would I be able to get in touch with him?

I had decided to try some "snake oil" while I was waiting to be able to schedule surgery - things I couldn't miss at work were going on and then I needed to go back to Mississippi last week, which I did. So I ordered this device and began using it 2 or 3 times a day, doing stretching and strengthening exercises at home, and taking yucca and turmeric 3 times a day in addition to the other meds. I actually think all this is going to do the trick and I'll be able to avoid surgery. I feel a little less desperate and depressed now, so that's a plus. And I only have a few days left on my Ultram prescription. If the pain isn't so bad that I have to ask for more - and it is greatly diminished from what it was - maybe I'll be able to keep this thing updated again.

So that's that. I'll write more later.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I just do not feel very expressive.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Look what we saw today.



At last.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I read of black people who are confused as to what to think about J. Wright. They are confused because their own pastors say some of the things Wright says.

The church I attended in Memphis, while predominantly white, has black members, deacons, and elders. But time was, in conscious memory of some of the older members, that black people would not have been allowed to attend at all; they would have been turned away at the door. I daresay that if the black folks who now say that their pastors have said "some of" what Wright has said could have attended those services, they would have heard some familiar things from the preacher there too. It's not impossible that a church, and a pastor, can get the major things about Christianity right, and still be profoundly wrong about some pretty important stuff. Of course, one might say that racism and race relations are the most important things there are. If that's the case, then we aren't dealing with a church anymore.

Wright says that white people aren't comfortable with the styles of black churches; they are loud, the members move around. Surely he is not so stupid as to think that style is what we might find objectionable. "God damn America" is not style, it is substance, and inexcusable substance at that. His recent assertion that criticism of him is actually criticism of "the black church" is arrogance in the extreme. And his complaints about being "crucified" (while looking like he is mightily enjoying the attention) are actually blasphemous. Does he think he's Jesus?

Here is what I think is happening to Obama. I've seen it happen to some white folks a generation or two back. They spend a lot of time, a LOT of time, associating with people like them and they fall into a habit of thinking and speaking a certain way. Maybe they don't mean any harm, but they never stop and really think if they're being racist, or if they're being fair, or how others outside the group would think of what they're saying and doing. At some point they get caught out, and they are extremely embarrassed, mortified if they have the character to be, and they have to apologize and hopefully straighten up. I think Obama meant all that stuff he said about wanting to be a unifier and I think he truly never really thought about how that was not compatible with lending his supporting presence and money to a church that preached that hateful stuff. I bet he gets it now.

And I hope we get to the point that more black people in America can feel comfortable openly disagreeing with racist claptrap when it comes from people like Wright. Maybe, in the end, that will happen and it will end up being a positive thing for America.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thinking more about Abortion Girl. Erin O'Connor has a few posts about her and about Yale, with a couple of judicious comments from me.

I am reminded of a column that Mona Charen wrote in 1999. It apparently made an impression on me.

Banned in Boston?

Back in the '80s, the heyday of muscular conservatism, when the Cold War still offered the contrast between left-wing totalitarianism and the free world, we contrasted ourselves proudly with the left by proclaiming our dedication to freedom above all else.

But there was always a small voice in the back of our minds whispering that freedom cannot be an end in itself. Freedom is precious, worth dying for, we believe. But it is possible for freedom to become a fetish. The founders of this country were lovers of liberty, but they did not place liberty at the apex of desirables. That spot was saved for virtue.

And the founders would have been amazed, it is safe to say, to see their documents interpreted as license for the sort of degrading, conscience-killing, soul-destroying stuff with which we regularly entertain ourselves.

The founders sought to establish a virtuous republic, free of the vices, competitions and decadence of Europe. Whether they achieved it or not is a matter of debate (nothing human is ever perfect), but it does seem odd to find ourselves at the end of the millennium, so keen to protect our physical health and so fastidious about shielding our children from every imaginable physical danger, yet so unwilling even to consider measures that would protect all of us from moral degeneracy.


Shvarts's teachers are in trouble for not stopping her asinine, puerile "art" project. One wonders why they didn't: because they didn't think they could? Because they couldn't be sure it really wasn't "art"? Because they are completely, utterly lacking in taste and judgment? Because they didn't want to censor her or to appear like a bunch of fuddy-duddies?

I'll say up front that I don't get a lot of art. The fact that I don't get it doesn't mean there's nothing to get, of course. If other people get it that's enough. I don't pass judgment on things and say "that's not art" because it doesn't do anything for me. That is totally different from saying that something is so disgusting and inhuman that no one should even contemplate it, let alone pretend to do it. Call me a fuddy-duddy, I don't mind making that judgment call at all. Is that where her teachers were confused?

I had a conversation with a friend who happens to be an artist, about what photography and then programs like Photoshop have done to art. Up until 100 years ago, the ability to put pen or brush to paper or canvas and create a recognizable and perhaps flattering portrait was enough to make an artist's career. Once it became easy and commonplace for anyone to make a likeness of a person or a landscape or a close-up view of a flower, especially when it became possible to enhance it on the computer, the idea of what constitutes great art and a great artist inevitably had to change. If enough people get the idea that Shvarts's project is an example of what art had to change into, we might see the dismantling of university art programs. Even now the administration at Yale is promising closer oversight of the art department. What hath Ms. Shvarts wrought.