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.


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.


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?