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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

...Among other things, I saw a street corner prophet yesterday. He had his car off the road, with a sound system in the trunk, and was yelling into a microphone. I had a long red light, so could hear a lot of his message. When the light turned green I had to go, but I wished there was somewhere I could pull over to hear the rest of it.

How you gonna give billions and trillions of dollars away, when you ain't got it no mo? Huh?

How you gonna give billions
and trillions
of dollars away
when you ain't
GOT
IT
NO
MO?

People going into DEBT to give away MONEY THEY DON'T HAVE!

God gave me a vision last night.

I saw a box thrown out of heaven. It looked like a meteorite. And I saw
PLANES
with
EXPLOSIVES wrapped around them.

...OBAMA!

You cannot CURSE what God has BLESSED!
And you cannot BLESS what God has CURSED!



...And then the light turned green.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday in Advent



You heavens above, rain down righteousness;
let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
let salvation spring up,
let righteousness grow with it;
I, the LORD, have created it.

Isaiah 45:8. Listen here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Y'all, it is such a hardship to live here.

After a stormy Friday, temperatures are expected to plummet during the weekend.

Bay News 9 is forecasting temperatures that will reach a high in the mid- to upper 60s today. The low will drop into the lower 50s .

On Sunday, the high will only reach the upper 50s. Lows will drop to the brisk low 40s.

Monday morning will be the coldest day, with lows in the upper 30s. Highs will be in the low 60s.

A chance for patchy frost is possible. Freeze warnings could be possible for areas to the north.


Weather System to Send Shivers Into Polk

Highs will plummet into the 60s and upper 50s! Oh noes!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pale horse, pale rider.

UNC student dies from reported H1N1 complications

Chapel Hill, N.C. — A University of North Carolina student, who friends said was battling complications from the H1N1 virus, died Wednesday evening, according to UNC Hospitals and a Facebook post made by her father.

Freshman Lillian Chason had been in critical condition at UNC Hospitals for weeks. Friends said she started feeling bad before Thanksgiving and went into the hospital on Nov. 20.


...

"I think all of us are really shocked and completely devastated. We were so full of hope the past few weeks," UNC freshman Laura Page said.

...

"I can't even comprehend it," she said. "It was so sudden and so soon, and we didn't even have a chance to say goodbye."

How inexpressibly sad.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday in Advent



The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
With wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flame:
"All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady." Gloria!

"For know a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee;
Thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady." Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head;
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said.
"My soul shall laud and magnify God’s holy name."
Most highly favored lady. Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk through-out the world will ever say:
"Most highly favored lady." Gloria!

-Basque carol. Listen here.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Second Sunday in Advent



Christmas time's a coming
Christmas time's a coming
Christmas time's a coming
And I know I'm going home

Snowflakes a falling
My old home's a calling
Tall pines a humming
Christmas time's a coming

Holly's in the windows
Home's where the wind blows
Can't walk for running
Christmas time's a coming

Candlelight's a burning
My old heart's a yearning
Tall pines a humming
Christmas time's a coming

Can't you hear them bells ringing, bringing
Joy to all - hear them singing
When it's snowing I'll be going
Back to my country home

Bluegrass tune.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

So F and the bf left about 30 minutes ago. She's to call when she gets home - it's about an hour and 15 minute drive. They are in separate vehicles. Don't care for her driving by herself at night like that but she's all grown up. Yeah.

Had a good day. The tree is decorated and looks very nice. Some of the more serious ornaments didn't get used so it's kind of a light-hearted tree this year.

We listened to some Brian Setzer Christmas music and ate beef stew. I sent some home with F also. (The beef was very tender and good; I marinated it for an hour before browning it and starting it stewing.) And F brought a card game called "Apples to Apples", which the four of us played. It was a lot of fun.

Friday, December 04, 2009

It's raining, and the temperature is finally dropping just a bit. Maybe you want sleeves when you go outside, although if you are active at all you won't want them.

Our town had its Christmas parade last night. I brought a lawn chair to work on Wednesday, and Kristina put it out on Thursday morning with her family's chairs on a sidewalk lining the parade route. This town is so backward that you can actually do that, and your chairs will be sitting there waiting for you when you leave work and go to watch the parade. Places like Memphis are way too sophisticated for that - anything that isn't nailed down disappears before you can turn around.

It was a very pleasant evening for parade-watching. Floats, marching bands, etc. Next to me sat a dad with his little girl on his lap. He'd bought her a gun that shoots bubbles (lots of vendors with shiny schlock before the parade; I had some cotton candy) and she shot bubbles at everybody who walked by. Just calmly hosed them like she was Al Capone with a machine gun. Hilarious.

Tomorrow F is supposed to come over, maybe with the bf, and decorate the tree we've had up for a week. She doesn't think she will attempt to have one at her apartment, because her young cats are still in their destructive stage. We'll have beef stew, which I'll need to start in the AM, and I'll serve it on the Christmas china that I've had since before she was born. This will be nice, b/c it's been a really stressful week at work - I asked R on Wednesday to get me some rum so I could have a rum-and-coke - I was so tense I thought I would fly into bits. I think things are going to be OK now - I think. But we'll have a nice weekend, regardless.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday in Advent



But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire.

- Malachi 3:2. Listen here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It has been an interesting weekend for the science community. Also for anyone who thought that scientists were egoless, emotionless seekers after knowledge like Mr. Spock.

For anyone who hasn't been keeping up, here is an overview of the climate change controversy, with lots of links.

Anyone who asserts something, especially something that is to be used to make major changes in the economic structures of nations worldwide, needs to be prepared to back up what he's saying. The allegations of outright data manipulation, destruction of data subject to FOI requests, incredibly sloppy documentation of methods of calculating and using data, and exclusions of contrary papers from peer-reviewed journals are disappointing to me but not surprising. The contemptuous rhetoric from climate change proponents toward skeptics ran up a big flag for me. I never mind having my data questioned, ever. Am always ready to take a second look, recalculate, rerun, let someone else have a look, whatever. Especially when my results seem to show a problem in the plant - it's a lot easier to fix an analytical error than a problem with production, even though my pride would be hurt if I found that I had screwed up.

Another red flag was the tight relationship betw. climate change scientists and politicians. I never like to see that. James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is a political activist. That's fine, but when you engage that way then you give up the status of being an impartial and objective investigator. And yet he's considered to be a leading scientist on the subject of climate change.

Another flag was the unbelievable disconnect between Al Gore's crusade to fix global warming, for which he got a Nobel Prize for pete's sake, and his total lack of leadership in demonstrating responsible energy use. If he truly believed the things he's been saying, why isn't he showing us how to maintain a sustainable lifestyle? Instead of buying carbon credits through companies in which he has a financial stake, and pretending that that does anything.

Finally, another flag was the steady reporting of data problems documented on the excellent site Watts Up With That. To pick just one example - urban heat islands. Temperatures in urban areas are always higher than rural areas. And within urban areas, you can't put a temperature sensor on an asphalt roof next to an air conditioning unit, and expect to get a meaningful result. This is common sense, is it not?

So anyway, it's been fascinating to watch this unfold. Will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Note to Cat:

When you ask to go out the front door
and I get up and open the door
and you walk out and around to the back of the house and come in the pet door
and ask to go out the front door
and I get up and open the door
and you walk out and around to the back of the house and come in the pet door
and ask to go out the front door
and I get up and open the door
and you walk out and around to the back of the house and come in the pet door
and ask to go out the front door...

...that must be a very pleasant and fun game in catland, but for humans over the age of 4 years or so, it gets old.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ran across this yesterday.



At first I didn't know what I thought about it. It is not the usual thing. While the arrangement is very true to Gershwin's, the singers' style is different from the operatic style one is accustomed to. Smooth and bluesy and without a lot of emotional intensity. Also some ornaments that are very nice but again, not what one is used to. Maybe it's a bit jarring to hear the black English constructions like "I is" with a very non-black accent: for instance, "I" having the diphthong that people who talk that way don't put in there. ("Ieee", not what's usually written as "Ah" although that's not exactly right.) And the over-pronounced "r" in "Porgy".

But it's growing on me, definitely.

Here's a very nice, very sweet example of the usual thing, for comparison:



I suppose that the fact that these two very different expressions of this song each work so well shows the versatility and the - structural strength? - of Gershwin's work. Not a musicologist, don't know how to express this really.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Here is a thoughtful and interesting blog post. It's about what to do when people who you think should be on your side fail you - and who hasn't had that happen, on a national-politician scale, right on down to close family members - but also there is a list of ways to act when you've hurt someone's feelings through unthinking racism, sexism, whateverism. It's actually just a list of ways to act when you're having a conversation with someone whose experiences you don't share, starting with opening your ears and closing your mouth.

Frequently I read blogs written by people with whose politics I don't agree. I run across posts that have me rolling my eyes, of course, and I run across posts that cause me to think new thoughts, which is a major reason why I read those. I also run across posts that I think make excellent points, independently of any political content.

I think that in some ways white women make a bridge for privilege/non-privilege. Perhaps especially white women who were raised in the south and expected to be ladylike and not make waves. You can achieve, but you aren't supposed to make a big show or a spectacle of yourself. But in the workplace, achieving frequently isn't enough. You have to put yourself forward, even if it feels immodest or audacious or inappropriate or uncomfortable, and it's probably hard for certain segments of the population to understand that somebody could ever feel that way, let alone anticipate it, empathize, or know what to do about it.

I remember when we terminated the coworker I've written about before. He left a spot in the chemist rank, which we wanted to fill by promoting a black female technician named Libby. I'd worked with her while we were trying to save his job, and had discovered that she had chemist potential. Like most of our techs, she had a science degree, but more than that, she was very smart and curious and cared a lot about getting the job done right. But when I told Libby that the boss and I wanted her to apply for that job, she kept saying that she didn't want to do it. She didn't think she could do it, I thought, and I knew better. I kept encouraging her to put in for it, she kept not wanting to, and I finally told her - "you're doing the work, you might as well get the pay." That made sense, she applied, and we promoted her. (She turned out to be one of the most productive chemists we ever had, besides personality-wise being a pure delight to work with.)

All of the techs shared an office, sharing desks as people came and went on their shifts, but the chemists shared separate offices, two by two. The desk left by the man we terminated was in an office that he shared with another white male chemist, Randy. I told Libby to get her stuff and move into that desk, and once again, she held back. She would just stay with the techs - she would be more comfortable.

Now let me stop here and say that in a situation like this you have to be really almost a mind-reader. You can't bully people into leaving their comfort zone so far that they are stressed out and actually fail at what you're pushing them to do. On the other hand, some people have been trained to hold themselves back and if you care about them, you have to bust them out of that. One clue that I had was that Libby had told me that her mother had said she must major in education or social work - that "they" would never let her get anywhere with a degree in biology. She was surprised when we hired Libby on as a tech, and very surprised when we promoted her. "You be nice to those white folks," she told Libby, "they've been good to you." We aren't being nice, I told her, we promoted you because we thought you could do the job.

So I told her: "You have a chemist job. You get a chemist paycheck. You go to chemist meetings. You sit at a chemist desk. Get your stuff." She still didn't want to.

"Why not, for pete's sake?"

"Because Randy won't want me in there," she finally said.

"Why don't you think Randy will want you in there?" I asked.

Silence.

"Is it because Randy's white? You're prejudiced against Randy because he's white?"

"I'm not prejudiced!" Libby protested.

"Then get your stuff!"

So Libby moved into that office, and of course she and Randy got on like a house afire. He's a very nice person, easy to get along with. I wouldn't have put her in an office where anyone would have been ugly to her.

Was I bullying her? Probably. I don't know what to do in situations like that except to think with my head, and feel with my heart, and act, and hope for the best. And, as the writer of the linked blog post says, educate myself as much as possible as to how other people's experiences affect them, not expecting other people to be like me. Ignore the buzzwords that tell me I've left my comfort zone of political thought that I agree with, and have an open mind about stuff. It's not easy but you have to do it to be a righteous person, I reckon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

So what do we think about the new breast cancer screening guidelines?

I've had a few false positives. In 2005, when we were in Memphis, I had to get a diagnostic mammogram b/c the screen appeared to show "something" in both breasts. The report from the diagnostic mammogram + ultrasound was that there were "somethings" but that they were not cancer.

(BTW, there's normally a lot of stuff in there, so they do have to be read by experienced radiologists. And the tech told me that the reason women don't get mammograms before 40 is that the tissue typically isn't fatty enough to get a good picture before then. She said that mine hadn't turned to fat yet, but give them time, ha ha.)

The next year the screen was positive again, but this time when I went for the diagnostic, the radiologist said that she didn't see the need; she saw the stuff but it hadn't changed in the years I'd been having mammograms.

After we moved to Florida I delayed getting a mammogram, which was stupid given my mom's history of breast cancer, b/c I didn't want to deal with that again. I did have a screen last month, and of course, had to follow up with more views. Got the films from Memphis to compare but had to do it anyway. Once again, a clear report.

It's a pain in the butt (well, not the butt,) to have to repeat these things, but a screen needs to err on the false-positive side if it's to do any good at all. If the concern is that women are made anxious when they have a positive screen, then that concern is easily addressed if they are told at the time of the screening mammogram that X% have to get a second look, most of these don't turn up anything, so if it happens to be you, don't freak out. If the concern is that women are being irradiated and the data show that lives aren't being saved, that's probably a valid argument. If the concern is that it would save money to not do the mammograms, that ticks me off. And no one need argue with me that delaying mammograms until age 50 is only a guideline - it's a guideline today, a mandate tomorrow.

They don't start pap smears in the UK until age 25. Here, it's 21 or at onset of sexual activity, whichever is earlier. So is it that pap smears don't save the lives of young women under 25, or is it that the NHS can't afford to spend the money? Hello, government-run healthcare.

Monday, November 09, 2009

John F. Kennedy, 1963:

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is Ich bin ein Berliner... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner!


Ronald Reagan, 1987:

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

George H.W. Bush, 1989:

Just as the barriers are coming down in Hungary, so must they fall throughout all of Eastern Europe. Let Berlin be next—let Berlin be next!

Bill Clinton 1999:

We are here today to celebrate the ideal we cherish above all others - human freedom - and to celebrate the day that ideal triumphed in one city in the heart of Europe. We must remember the role America played in the victory of freedom in Europe, and all we've done since to help realize its promise. Most important, we must reaffirm our determination to finish the job.

George H.W. Bush, 2009:

The point needs to be made that the historic events we are gathered to celebrate were set in motion not in Bonn, or Moscow or Washington but rather in the hearts and minds of the people who had too long been deprived of their God-given rights.

The Wall could never erase your dream, our dream of one Germany, a free Germany, a proud Germany.

Barack Obama, 2009:

Doody doody doo.

***Edited to add:

In a surpise video appearance yesterday, Obama did address the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall:

Few would have foreseen ... that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent.

(Because it's about him, isn't it?)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

It seemed to us that we had a very warm October, and I wondered if global warming was finally upon us. But it turns out that Florida appeared to be an exception.

Cooled down today, plus lots of wind (from Ida, somehow?) and we hung out a bit, ending up as usual at Lake Morton.

You can feed some of the birds by hand but I always draw back quickly because I'm afraid they'll bite me. Some of the birds are a bit jumpy too.



The pelicans are back.



Ibises like to hang out with them. They look like they must be related, but the pelicans look a lot calmer. The ibises are a bit frenetic. Maybe that goes with being smaller.



Sometimes when the pelicans are resting they turn their heads all the way around and nestle their beaks between their wings. It is the strangest looking thing.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

I get spam.

Am Juliet,a tall good looking young girl,so lovely
and caring with good understanding.fair in complexion,care with good
sharing,honesty.I saw your ad at www.jihadwatch.org which interested me much
and i decided to contact you.I really want to have a good friendship with you
even if you have married we can be friend ok ,i have a reason of
selecting you as my friend,pls if you wish to know more.Pls contact me
through this my id We need to talk and
know ourself more and equally share pictures to each other.hope to hear
from you.

Bye with a warmly
huggs.
Juliet


Who among us doesn't need/wouldn't like a warmly huggs? Still, I think I'll pass.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Either a flu-like virus or a light case of flu this week. So here is my comment on one of the newsworthy events of the week:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Personal maintenance weekend.

Friday I had a mammogram, which, as somebody (Linda Ellerbee?) pointed out sounds like you put your breast in an envelope and mail it off somewhere.

Yesterday morning I hit Curves, b/c I was only able to go twice during the week.

Today I got a haircut.



The woman who cuts my hair always kind of bugs me to let her color it or add highlights, and I always tell her no. I told her today that I'll be 49 years old next week, and I'm kind of pleased that I have no more gray than I do. She then whispered to me that she thinks my hair color is very nice, that she has to push the color, but that if her hair looked like mine she wouldn't color it either.
: )

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vision.

Excerpt:

As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner (quote):

"This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality."

Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall, for it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.


Thank you, President Reagan.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A whole lot of stuff has happened since I talked to you last, dear diary.

We had massive layoffs at work yesterday, and pay cuts for those left standing. I got about a 25% pay cut. Not pretty but we'll be all right. Other people's pay cuts were much deeper and some, of course, were cut to zero. Among them were Kelly, and her husband, who worked with us too.

Adding insult to injury, Kelly is sick with flu this week. I made a pot of chicken soup for her last night. Kelly called today to tell me that that was the best soup in the universe, and to ask me to email her the recipe. Well, I don't have a recipe, I just threw some stuff in the Dutch oven. But I wrote one for Kelly, in the format I am accustomed to using. Here it is.

Production of Chicken Soup

1 Purpose
   The purpose of this work instruction is to describe the production of chicken soup.
2 Scope
   The procedure includes instructions for preparing the ingredients, cooking them, serving them, storing extra production, and cleanup. It is intended for family use, not for commercial soup production.
3 Safety
   3.1    General kitchen safety procedures regarding hot cookware and sharp knives are to be followed.
   3.2    Because raw chicken is used, care must be taken to clean the cutting board, cutlery, and any other objects that contact the meat.
4 Apparatus
   4.1    Kitchen stove.
   4.2    Dutch oven with lid, 4 or 5-quart capacity. A stock pot may be used.
   4.3    Cutting board.
   4.4    Knives suitable for cutting meat and for chopping vegetables.
5 Reagents
   5.1    Chicken.
      5.1.1    Three or four breasts. If boneless and skinless, cut into small pieces. If not boneless and skinless, remove the skin. Wash with tap water.
      5.1.2    Four or five thighs. Remove skins. Wash with tap water.
   5.2    One jar of hot salsa.
   5.3    Onion, about a 1-inch slice, chopped.
   5.4    Celery, two stalks, chopped.
   5.5    Bell pepper, one half, chopped. Yellow and red bell peppers should be considered for the addition of color.
   5.6    Rice, one handful.
   5.7    Frozen corn, one handful.
   5.8    Carrots, two, chopped.
NOTE: Vegetable amounts may be altered, or other vegetables added or substituted, if desired. Hard vegetables like potatoes should be processed with the carrots. Soft vegetables like tomatoes should be processed with the corn.
   5.9    Optional garnish: Avocado, peeled and cut into bits.
   5.10    Cornbread muffins.
6 Procedure
   6.1    Place the chicken in the Dutch oven with enough water to cover. Add contents of the jar of salsa and stir.
   6.2    Place the Dutch oven on the stove and adjust the burner to medium high.
   6.3    Add onion, celery, bell pepper, carrot. Stir occasionally as mixture comes to a boil.
   6.4    When mixture is boiling vigorously, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Do not leave unattended.
NOTE: Heat must be adjusted so that simmer is maintained, but material does not boil over.
   6.5    After 45 minutes, remove meat and place on a large dish to cool slightly.
   6.6    Add rice and frozen corn to the Dutch oven. Stir.
   6.7    When meat is cool enough to work with, pull the meat from the bones, taking care to remove all bony material from meat. Cut or pull the meat into pieces of desired size.
   6.8    Return deboned meat to Dutch oven. Stir.
   6.9    Once mixture has returned to boil, remove from heat.
   6.10    Prepare an ice bath in the kitchen sink. Place Dutch oven in it for rapid cooling.
   6.11    Soup may be served immediately.
      6.11.1    Dip into individual bowls.
      6.11.2    Serve with cornbread muffin, and a garnish of avocado pieces if desired.
   6.12    Soup that is not served immediately must be refrigerated or frozen.
      6.12.1    The Dutch oven, once cool to the touch, may be placed in the refrigerator with the cover on. This material is good for up to a week and a half, individual servings to be warmed in the microwave as needed.
      6.12.2    Alternatively, individual servings may be placed in freezer bags and stored in the freezer for up to six months.
7 Cleanup
   7.1    Scraps left over from the chicken, containing skin, bones, and meat that was not separated from the bones or not used, should be taken out of the house immediately so that it does not begin to smell.
   7.2    Vegetable waste is not hazardous and may be disposed of or composted.
   7.3    Each family member should return his or her own bowl, spoon, and other dishes to the kitchen after use. The designated family member shall wash the dishes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I went to Kissimmee yesterday to visit F.

She had a cold last week. It's better now, but her supervisor is home with her kid, who has swine flu. So I brought my Dutch oven with me, and F and I went to the grocery store and bought some chicken, vegetables that she picked out, and a jar of hot salsa. We made a big pot of soup in her kitchen and I left the soup in her fridge, in single-serving tubs that she or her roommate can heat in the microwave.

She laughed when I told her what my plan was for the day - "did my distress signal reach the mothership?" Yes, it did, I told her.

De-boning the chicken after it had cooked turned out to be a little bit too gross for Miss F. I think I'm going to tell her she can try canned chicken in her next batch. It won't taste the same but the tradeoff might be worth it. I can't say that's my favorite part of the soup-making procedure, either. My favorite thing about making soup is that I can put into it whatever I feel like at that time. Every batch is different.

I've ordered a Dutch oven and a set of cooking knives for her, from Amazon (I heart Amazon!), and when her soup is eaten up I think we'll do a pot of beef stew. Probably make some cornbread to go with.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I have to write approvingly of President Obama again.

I've been really irritated by all of the people - Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, Former President Carter for example - who have stated that the reason health care reform is being attacked is that the attackers are racists who don't want a black president to get what he wants. I was indifferent to President Obama's race during the campaign but I wouldn't have been if I'd realized that it was going to be made into a club to beat dissenters with.

But here's this article in the NY Times: Obama Rejects Race as Lead Cause of Criticism

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Friday that he did not believe his race was the cause of fierce criticism aimed at his administration in the contentious national debate over health care, but rather that the cause was a sense of suspicion and distrust many Americans have in their government.


Well, yeah.

“Now there are some who are, setting aside the issue of race, actually I think are more passionate about the idea of whether government can do anything right,” he told ABC News. “And I think that that’s probably the biggest driver of some of the vitriol.”


...

“Look, I said during the campaign there’s some people who still think through a prism of race when it comes to evaluating me and my candidacy. Absolutely,” Mr. Obama told NBC News. “Sometimes they vote for me for that reason; sometimes they vote against me for that reason.”

But he said that the matter was really “an argument that’s gone on for the history of this republic. And that is, what’s the right role of government?”

The president said the contentious health care debate, which came on the heels of extraordinary government involvement in bailing out banks and automobile companies, had led to a broader discussion about the role of government in society.

“I think that what’s driving passions right now is that health care has become a proxy for a broader set of issues about how much government should be involved in our economy,” Mr. Obama told CBS News. “Even though we’re having a passionate disagreement here, we can be civil to each other, and we can try to express ourselves acknowledging that we’re all patriots, we’re all Americans and not assume the absolute worst in people’s motives.”


I agree with all of this. As I said earlier, it's crucial that we have disagreements about the way things are done, because there's no in-depth conversation, no investigation, no oversight, if there is no skepticism or dissent.

Monday, September 14, 2009

ABC's Terry Moran set the Twitter-sphere all aflutter when he wrote:

[I'm typing this]
Terry Moran: Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a "jackass" for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT'S Presidential.


We've reached out to Moran and will update this post when we learn more.

Now, an ABC spokesperson explains to POLITICO what happened:

"In the process of reporting on remarks by President Obama that were made during a CNBC interview, ABC News employees prematurely tweeted a portion of those remarks that turned out to be from an off-the-record portion of the interview. This was done before our editorial process had been completed. That was wrong. We apologize to the White House and CNBC and are taking steps to ensure that it will not happen again."

The White House had no immediate comment.


If true, I have new respect for President Obama.

Obama Calls Kanye 'Jackass'

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Quinctilius Varus, WHERE ARE MY EAGLES?

The 2000th anniversary of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest is upon us.

(The backstory in this dramatization starts at about 7 minutes here.)

(And thanks to Jeff at Quid plura? for the heads-up, back in April or thereabouts.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Roger, who is with the Memphis/Shelby County Health Department, and I have been talking a bit about infant mortality in Shelby County.

IM correlates to poor education and to low socioeconomic status, and also to pregnancy in young girls. It does not necessarily imply lack of health insurance, although many people make that assumption.

Anyway, Roger wants to continue the conversation here b/c we were off-topic where we were.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I read the text of Pres. Obama's speech to the schoolkids yesterday, and since I haven't read that he changed anything up, I suppose this is what he said.

In pursuit of political moderation of the type I strive for, and knowing my biases, when I read this I allowed the voice of President Bush to read it to me in my head, to see if anything stuck out as being really out-of-place. I meant for it to be W's voice but as I go back over it I believe it's George H. W. Bush I hear.

The part about the father abandoning the family was a little jarring, of course, and Obama's voice slipped in there but we got past that. For the rest, the only things I really noticed were a kind of lecturing tone I don't remember from either Bush, and the fact that the speech went on a little. People, especially kids, listen more if you talk less, I've found. Other than that, it seemed like a fine speech to me. If he makes a yearly tradition of this, I suppose it will not continue to draw the kind of negative attention it got this year.

...

Thinking about squirmy kids being expected to listen to a 15-minute speech made me think of this article: Don't Alienate Your Professor.

During class, do not: a) beat out a cadence on your desk while the teacher is lecturing; b) sigh audibly more than three or four times during a class period; c) check your watch more than twice during the hour.

Fewer families attend church every Sunday nowadays than in years past, and of those that do, children through their elementary school years get hustled off to children's church. So there isn't really a venue for them to sit by their mother and be trained to be still and not fidget when the adults are talking. Last spring at my MIL's funeral F sat between me and her six-year-old cousin Sarah. About midway of the service Sarah began to twist around in her seat. F reached over and put her hand on Sarah's leg and she straightened up and got still. (I told her later what a big girl she had been and that I was proud of her.) The thing is that Sarah's mother, my SIL, had explained to her how people act during such events, so she knew what was expected of her. I have to wonder how many college students who don't know not to beat out cadences or sigh loudly never had the opportunity, as little kids, to be made to sit still and behave.
Public service announcement.

Here is how you post a link to a URL.

In this example, the site URL is http://link.com and you want it to show up as my article in your post.

Select the address of the site you want to link to, and type [ctrl]c.

Then type the following up to the first "

type [ctrl]v

and type the second " to the end.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

More thoughts about that political balance.

1 - The term "moderate" means different things to different people. For some, it means middle-of-the-road. For some, it means only moderate caring about the issues. For some, it means that they can't call themselves Republican or Democrat, or conservative or liberal, because they choose some opinions out of column A and some out of column B. That's not to say that they don't feel and argue strongly about those opinions. So IMO "moderate" is just about useless as a description unless there is some explanation as to how it is being used.

2 - There's not much point to having balance just to say you have it. I am pro-life, and adamantly so. I've described the thought processes that led me to this conclusion here and here. This is not a conclusion that I reached b/c I thought I was supposed to, or to toe somebody else's political line, but was the result of my careful thought about the subject. So I'm not moderate about it and I don't feel the need to balance it.

Other issues I am on the fence about, b/c I can't reach a decision I'm comfortable with. I'm OK to leave them on there; I'd rather do that than take a stand if I can't defend it. Still others I go back and forth about. Other people demonstrate strong opinions about them, and that's fine for them. Eventually I may reach some hard-and-fast conclusions on my own.

And I call myself a conservative, and vote Republican (usually, not always) because after I thought about the issues and reached conclusions as to what I thought, it seemed to me that they lined up more with these schools of thought than the alternatives. It doesn't mean that prominent conservatives and Republicans don't say things sometimes that irritate the stew out of me, or that I don't disagree pretty profoundly with some things that come out of my side of the aisle. It's been amusing to see the fancy footwork needed to support Sarah Palin's political ambitions, given that she has small children. I've never had a problem with working moms - I was one, myself - but that's been a sore issue for many on my side and I'm glad to see some people forced to think different thoughts there.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I went to Curves after work today. (And let me interject that I appreciate the stress-relieving property of exercise very much right now.) There are two circuits of exercise machines. When I started there, the trainer showed me how to do the stuff on the circuit on the left, so that is the one that I always go to. Today there were four women on that one, and only one on the other, so I went to the circuit on the right. The trainer pointed out to me that I was on the different one, and I told her, deadpan, that I didn't want the building to tilt. That tickled her, and she repeated it to the other women. One of them asked me if I am a Libra.

Well, yes, I am. Ha ha. She is too. We Libras like balance, she said.

I like a balance in political thought, too, and it has to be a dynamic balance: it moves back and forth from the tension of people pulling it one way and the other. I'm not bothered too much by differences of opinion. I am bothered by people who pick up opinions from other folks without thinking them through, or who think "because I agree with the Republican/Democrat position on this issue, I have to agree with the Republican/Democrat position on this other unrelated issue". Or who have to criticize politicians of the party they don't favor, on principle. (Case in point - Michelle Obama's shorts. What the heck? Now that she's First Lady, she's supposed to morph into Dolley Madison? Ain't going to happen, and there's no reason why she should. If Dolley were a First Lady of today, she might wear shorts on vacation too.)

So partisanship isn't a dirty word to me, unless people put party ahead of country. I don't like to hear national politicians talk about defeating the other party, or about Americans who disagree with them being bad people. But people who think through issues and end up with different conclusions - that is absolutely necessary for the country to survive. America has changed a lot over the 200-plus years since its birth. It has had to, because the world has changed. Adapt or die. Having tension and even a certain amount of fighting and power-struggling in the various branches of government is kind of like recombinant DNA, in that it's a mechanism for change, and the government needs to change in response to the changing world.

I'm not comfortable with looking only at news sources and conversations that are biased the same way I am. Always afraid I'm going to miss some crucial argument and either look like an idiot or at least not draw the conclusion I would if I had all the facts.

Sometimes there's quite a difference between the lessons other people draw from current events. When Sodini killed those women at the gym, one opinion I saw was that their being at the gym was symbolic of people spending money frivolously to do things in such a way that they don't interact with other people, as they would if they got their exercise by walking or biking; and that this tendency of people in general to insulate themselves led to Sodini's loneliness, so that in a way those women brought about their fate. Even though they didn't even know him, nor he them. My thought here is that people need to be able to go to the dang gym without thinking they are making a sweeping social statement or taking on responsibility for the loneliness, or lack thereof, of total strangers. Sodini had some problems, all right, but they would not have been solved by these women not going to the gym.

On a different site, which I visit to get the left-wing viewpoint, I saw the argument that society caused Sodini's murderous spree, because it is a logical outgrowth of the misogyny that we see all around us every day. No explanation of why all the misogyny caused Sodini alone to do this thing, if we're all immersed in it. In this conversation, it was desired that the term "mental illness" not be applied to Sodini, because it smears people who have various degrees of mental illnesses of one type or another. If you can't place the blame on Sodini, I guess you have to blame society. My thought there is that "mental illness" must be too broad a term if you can't apply it to Sodini without smearing other people, and we need to find some way to express the deviation of a person who is fixed on the idea of killing other folks, lest that come to be thought of as normal. R suggests "homicidal maniac" and that works for me.

But I told R about these two views of society causing that incident, and he sighed, and then he said that as much as it pains him to agree with the left about anything, he thinks those folks are right about the misogyny. I don't watch TV anymore and haven't for a few years, but he does, and he says that what you see on the shows and on the ads is that women are things to be acted on. If you see this and you don't have the thinking skills or whatever it takes to compartmentalize this from your actual attitude and actions, then killing a bunch of women to express your dissatisfaction with life in general is the logical thing to do.

Sometimes I think that all of the bickering that we do about the hot topics of the day actually distract us from the real problems that need to be addressed. How the crap on TV affects society is one big issue, IMO. I've walked past the TV when one of the CSI shows is on, and am APPALLED by the images of dead and mangled people, and the coolness of the protagonists when they are confronted by this. If you set about desensitizing human beings to the torture and agony and death of other humans, I can't think of a better way to go about it than those shows. We have some godawful crime in this country and we just live with it. Murder rates that rival Baghdad at the height of the Iraq struggle. We aren't going to do anything about it because we can't focus enough to figure out what the problem might be and we lack the will to do anything about it. Teen pregnancy and the sexualization of little girls - that's another one that's killing us and we won't do anything about. I guess culture changes are the hardest changes of all to bring about, but cultures do change - no one would have dreamed of having the garbage we now have on TV and the radio a few years ago, and little girls used to be protected from sexual messages; somebody or something evidently is changing the culture, and not always for the better. But try to talk about these things, and you're pushed into a box with a label - "puritan" or "feminist" or whatever - and there's no engagement. It's discouraging.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Doesn't it irk you, when you are reading a long comment thread somewhere full of interesting back-and-forth stuff and a certain amount of repetition, to have people comment "I haven't read all the comments but ..." and then proceed to make a point that's been made about ten times previous?

Like, if you can't be bothered to read the thread, why do other people who evidently can need your special wisdom?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What do you suppose happens when you have a separatory funnel with a slow leak, and material that polymerizes when it contacts air?

This happened over Friday night.



Next day:



BTW, my lab doesn't look like this. We set these up elsewhere, in an un-airconditioned storage area, so the samples would be exposed to the same temperatures as the material out in the plant. No, we do not want this polymerization in our process. Still, it looks kind of cool.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I had a moment today.

My tech moved a beaker on the hot plate. I asked why he did that. He did it because he didn't like hearing it sizzle (there was some water trapped beneath it).

I said that that reminded me of "The Cremation of Sam McGee". (Here's a fun reading.)

He didn't know what I was talking about. He has not read poetry.

Not "Lochinvar". Not "The Highwayman". Not "Little Orphant Annie". (I've seen the movie, he said. Not the same story, I said.) Not "Casey at the Bat". Nope, has not read poetry.

Sometimes I feel like an anachronism.

If I am, F is a worse one because she's the next generation. I remember that one day she called me from school, having a fit because in her Brit Lit class they had read Yeats' "The Stolen Child"* and her classmates were saying how cool it was that the fairies were taking the child to make his life better.

F broke her policy of keeping her mouth shut in that class to say, "It is not a good thing to be abducted by fairies!" Her classmates did not agree.

She pointed out that the fairies are giving trout "unquiet dreams" - did that sound like a good thing?

Her classmates pointed out that the child is "solemn-eyed".

"He's bewitched!" she said.

I asked F if they had not read "La Belle Dame Sans Merci". "We just read that in class!" she said. "Thomas Rymer?" *Sigh*.

So we're losing the important parts of our culture that warn us of danger and keep us safe. I fear for the republic.

*Here's the text and here it is beautifully set to music.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Apparently a 14-foot python was not pulled from a storm drain.

Trapper Admits Python Hoax

Justin Matthews’ account of capturing a 14-foot Burmese python gave him 15 minutes of fame last month in the opening days of a statewide anti-python campaign.

Thursday he got his 15 minutes of infamy at a press conference convened by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after wildlife officials concluded the whole thing was staged.

...

Matthews told Bay News 9 that he had bought the snake, which he called Sweetie, at a Tampa reptile store and then staged the capture, saying the snake was found in a culvert in Bradenton.

He said the staging was part of a plan to educate the public about the python problem.

Matthews said, when the original owner who sold the snake to the reptile store saw his snake on the news, he contacted the Wildlife Commission.

“I do want to apologize to anybody that thinks this was wrong, what I did,” Matthews told Bay News 9. “To me, I’ll never do it again but as is turns out, like I say, I’m getting more calls, and I did raise awareness by doing this.”


Sigh.
Willie Herenton picks up petition to run for Memphis mayor -- again

Less than two weeks after retiring as Memphis mayor, Herenton walked into the offices of the Shelby County Election Commission this morning and picked up a petition to run for the office again, election commission officials have just confirmed.

...

A special election is set for Oct. 15 for the mayoral vacancy created by Herenton's retirement July 30.

“I think it’s shocking for everyone to know that we’re about to spend a million dollars on a special election to replace a man who intends to run in that special election,” said Bill Giannini, chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission.


Words fail me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

After the harrowing events of yesterday evening, during which I briefly considered calling 911 but ultimately prevailed without help, I am left with a question it is probably futile to ask:

Why would a cat want to try to eat a threaded needle?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

We had a perfectly wonderful evening today. (About to be yesterday.) We decided to go to Clearwater for dinner and then to the beach.

Dinner was had at the Mandalay Grill. Good food, good service.



And then to the beach. I had not planned to swim, so was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The water, when I stepped into it, was not just not cold or not cool, but actively warm. I was beguiled further into it until finally I had to give R my watch and whatever else, and just go on in. If any of you were at Clearwater Beach on Sunday and saw a crazy middle-aged woman go swimming fully clothed, that was me.

Loved the warm, warm water, the sand under my feet, the swells lifting me and setting me back down - splashing my face if I wasn't paying attention. And watching the sunset. The water was lavender against the peach sky - you could see that from the beach - but actually in the water you could see the orange from the sun reflecting on the backs of the waves. Absolutely stunning.



That's me, coming in. I remember the feeling from childhood, of feeling very heavy as I came out of the water.

R is not so impulsive as I am. I offered to hold our stuff if he wanted to go in, but he declined. I asked him if I embarrassed him - he said no. I guess he's used to me.

We went onto the pier afterwards, and looked at the vendors' stuff, listened to the band (which wasn't bad at all) and got a snack for the drive home.

Now I have to go to bed. Work tomorrow. Work is the curse of the drinking class, I told R today. It's the curse of the wannabe beach bum class too, I reckon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Was going through the spam folder on my hotmail account, to make sure I wasn't missing anything.

Hotmail does a pretty good job these days, segregating this stuff.

Besides the usual lotteries I have won, and the rich childless widow who has cancer but is most disturbed by her stroke sickness, people who have died without wills whose attorneys have selected me to inherit from ("Being a well traveled man, he met sometime in the past or implicating him were nominated by one of his numerous friends abroad who wished you are not too sure again."), and phishing attempts from several different credit cards I don't have, I saw a new one. Subject line: "To see her pretty plaything once more". Body: "When it had got to the top.". And then a link.

No, wild horses could not make me click on that link.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

College Grad Can't Find Job, Wants $$$ Back

She went to college to boost her chances of finding a great job once she got out of school, but now that that hasn't happened, Trina Thompson wants her money back.

Thompson, a graduate of Monroe College, is suing her school for the $70,000 she spent on tuition because she hasn't found solid employment since receiving her bachelor's degree in April, according to a published report.


I may be the only person in the US who feels this way - but I kind of support her in this.

First of all, the student loan situation is a nightmare for a whole lot of people. Kids - and I say "kids" because many of them are 18 or younger - and their parents are promised "financial aid" but then the "aid" turns out to be loans that you have to pay back. And the schools and loan brokers promise them unicorns and rainbows once they get that degree. Well, if you're majoring in something like pharmacy, and you finish, you'll have your pick of high-paying jobs lined up. (Unless health care reform screws that up, and it could happen.) Otherwise, you're no different than any other person out there with a degree looking for a job, except that now you have this tremendous debt burden. Your parents, if they borrow money, are even worse off, because nothing is expected to change for them so that they have more money - and if they didn't have it for your tuition, they aren't going to have it later.

But people get snookered into these loans, probably because everyone they know is doing the same thing. Does that sound like the housing bubble, with an incredible number of people taking on debt they can't support to buy an overpriced product?

The girl in the story studied information systems, so it's not like she majored in women's studies or some other what-were-you-thinking subject.

The question is frequently raised, why does tuition cost so much. It goes up and up and up every year, well ahead of COL and things like that. And then one reads about extra programs that big schools offer, that cost a lot of money, because supposedly the kids and parents demand them.

What is the mechanism for a high school student or his or her parents demanding programs in universities that they will then have to offer their firstborn to pay for?

No, it's that if money can be got, a way will be found to spend it. Parents and working students are willing to cough up X to pay for college. If that's all there is, a college education will cost X. If the government steps in and offers Y, then magically the college education will cost X + Y. If it's expected, and accepted, that loans to Z amount can and will be gotten, then the education will cost X + Y + Z. Then you get the whole student-loan thing, which became parent loans too, and tuition costs skyrocket.

Unless you go to a modest state school, without the prestige of the Ivy League name, and where the classes are taught by professors and not by TAs who are concentrating on getting their own degrees while the professors are doing research and so on. F went to such a school, on an academic scholarship that covered everything except a very modest bit which we were able to kick in with no trouble. She doesn't have an Ivy League degree, but she does have a degree and a job, and is debt-free except for her car loan.

I think one of these days people are going to wake up, like they've had to wake up about the housing market. Lawsuits like the one Trina Thompson is bringing hopefully will speed this up. It would be good if people stop and think, think critically, before they blunder into that student loan trap. Much better for the tuition bubble to be corrected that way, than for there to be another bank crisis and another government bailout - although from what I read it may be too late.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Memphis has undergone yet another change. This one almost has to be for the better.

Myron Lowery is sworn in as 66th mayor of Memphis

Thus ending the long reign of King Willie.

This is a plus:

Before his first official day in the mayor's office began at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Myron Lowery had already surveyed damage from Thursday's severe storms.

This is a minus:

Lowery has been using a city-issued vehicle and security staff provided by the Memphis Police Department. The mayor pro tem said he was pleasantly surprised when he encountered a traffic jam Friday afternoon, and his bodyguard flipped the police lights on and cleared traffic.

"He said, 'We do this all the time and we're going to get you there,'" said Lowery with a laugh.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another weekend, another dollar.

Yesterday we went to Kissimmee for various reasons, one of which was for me and F to practice driving to the airport in Orlando b/c her visiting Memphis friend goes back Tuesday. That didn't go real well. I will be taking off work Tuesday to pick her friend up and take her to the airport. To make a long story short, due apparently to amblyopia that didn't get totally resolved despite our best efforts, F can't see well out of her left eye and therefore can't see cars coming up alongside her in order to merge into traffic and so forth. We discovered this first in the midst of trying to make that drive, then with her sitting in the parked car and me walking around it - at the crucial spot I could see her face but she couldn't see me. She's been knowing that she wasn't using that eye a lot of the time but we didn't realize that her vision was so negatively affected. So this is kind of a drag. It does make her driving phobia more understandable, of course. F will be working with her sideview mirror to take up the slack, but in the meantime she will have to not drive on the expressway.

And then she's got some other stuff going on too, and is fairly stressed; so her friends having eaten pizza during our driving-to-the-airport ordeal, R and I took her to dinner at Abuelo's. In addition to her delicious chicken fajita salad, F had the first margarita of her life. She ended that meal very relaxed and perhaps a bit giggly, so that was a plus.

Had a lazy day today. R and I ate popcorn and watched "Supernova".
14-Foot Python Pulled From Storm Drain

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I guess I will duck in here to say that things appear to be straightening out. F has her car ... she has driven it to work and back by herself, without incident. We continue to run across things she needs to have, so not one but two trips this weekend; R went by himself today. You'd think we'd have this down pat after moving her to school and back so many times. Well, today I made up a care package for her and L too, so not just things we didn't think to pack or take.

I made a pot of soup today, and cooked enough chicken for sandwiches as well. You know how you slice the chicken after it's chilled and make a sandwich on whole wheat bread, with black pepper and just a bit of mayo, and maybe a lettuce leaf. I've been thinking about sandwiches like that and I think that will be some good lunches to take to work next week, with baby carrots, etc. Okay, enough with the mundane.

We are at the 40th anniversary of the moon shot. I remember 40 years ago tomorrow. I was eight years old, running little trucks around in our gravel driveway, when my mother made me come inside and watch Neil Armstrong's "one small step for [a] man" on TV. "This is history," she said. I stood on one foot, as it were, waiting for it to be over so I could go back out to my trucks.

Now with the space shuttle program nearing its end, plans are being made to go back to the moon as a preliminary step to going to Mars. I want them to get this done while I am still alive to see it. I would be part of the Mars mission, if they would have me, even if I knew I would not be coming back. We are going to have to get off of this planet. We're too vulnerable here - another such asteroid as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, and there we'd be.

The next step - well, maybe next after some of Jupiter's moons - will be a generational ship that will go beyond the Solar System. I will not live to see that. But it's been thought about, dreamed about, written about, a thousand times. I have to believe it will happen.

We'll take human nature with us, of course, with all of its strengths and terrible flaws. God knows what fashions people will be wearing - now that's a fun one for the SF writers and lots of them have had ideas. Will the various ethnic groups have intermingled by then so that our eyes and skin and hair will all look alike? Racism and sexism and all the other isms- will they still be talked about and fought about? How much of our brain functions will we have outsourced to technology by then - I'm kind of surprised every now and then to see how much I already have. What music and what literature will be considered to be classics? And what will language be like?

Without something cool and totally theoretical like hyperspace or warp drive, those hypothetical generational-ship people will be permanently cut off from Earth. The closest star is 4 light-years away, so if they end up somehow setting up a colony there, everyone who could possibly remember them will be dead, and their children, and their children's children, and so forth. And communications will take 4 years to go each way. That sounds like an impossible thing to ask humans to undertake ... until you think about explorers and pioneers and such. A young family could leave home in a covered wagon, travel a couple hundred miles, and never see their extended family again, ever. Or travel further than that with not much idea of what they would experience and having to make it up as they went along, and live or die by their strength and their wit. Of course, one can think back to the Mongols who crossed the Bering Strait and came into this continent and even South America thousands of years ago, and moved all through it and made it their home despite the very different climate and geographical regions and plant and animal life. So we've got it in us to do it.

And then, think how determined the life force, or whatever you want to call it, is, here on Earth. There are organisms that find a way to exist and even thrive in just about every conceivable environmental niche we have here. I can't believe that this happened only once and that we're it, in the universe. I want to know where everybody is.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So yesterday, back to Kissimmee ... after I got all the way there the dealership called and said they wanted to keep the car another day b/c they couldn't figure out why it stalled. Told F it was her decision but she'd have to work out her transportation because I couldn't keep driving to K every day, it's wearing me out. She did figure out what to do, and then we went to the dealership and talked to the service people.

They were very nice, and concerned, and want to make sure the car is OK before we take it back. A rental was discussed, if it could not be checked out pretty quick; but, the service man said, age might be an issue.

"She's 22," I said.

He visibly jumped. And that was funny, b/c the finance guy on Friday was shocked when she handed him her license; he looked from it to her and back again, and finally apologized; he'd thought she was about 14. F may appreciate this later, but right now I think it gets tedious.

Subsequently I stuck around until it was time for her to leave for work, and she drove my car through the bowels of Central Florida without incident. Her dad picked her up in the morning, and she drove the car back to her apartment. Passed that hurdle.

The dealership folks called her today. To make a long story short, they could not find the problem and could not reproduce it, and they are now thinking it was bad gasoline. I've had that happen before and it seems reasonable to me. She didn't have to work tonight, so tomorrow her dad is going to drive BACK to Kissimmee to take her to get her car, and probably see if she wants to swap cars for a week or so, so we can make absolutely sure that her car isn't going to do that again.

And then it will be on to the next crisis.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another happy late night driving through the wilds of Central Florida.

I left out a lot of stuff that we have gone through trying to get that car for F. We nailed down a 4.99% interest rate but that obviously was not done at the dealership, so there's been a lot of phone calls and emails and faxing - you'd think no one had ever arranged their own financing before. Friday we thought it was taken care of, but no. R had left me and F there b/c he had to get to work. Somebody swears she faxed something - somebody else swears he didn't get it - no, we couldn't take the car yet. The salesperson who had sold us the car was kind enough to drive us the hour it took to get home - she lives on the way and was coming into town anyway. She was fairly mortified that we weren't able to drive away but is new at the dealership and couldn't budge them. On the way we stopped at her place and picked up her spouse, an electrical engineer, and he and I had a happy convo about science and numbers all the rest of the way to my house, so it wasn't all bad.

But we thought we'd get the paperwork squared away today, and after a bunch of back-and-forth I think everybody just got worn down and said, come get the damn car, we'll work it out.

So F and I did. I left work at 4:30 or so and drove the 1.25 hours back to her apt and picked her up. We went to the dealership and signed the rest of the papers we had to sign, and then she followed me back to her apartment. Let me interject that F had a terrific wreck about four years ago. Totalled the car. Even though she walked away, it was somewhat traumatizing for her. She could drive a few blocks at a time after that, in little or no traffic, but it was always a heart-pounding experience for her, and she's only done that about five times in the last four years. So for her to follow me home in Kissimmee, driving this new-to-her car, in multilane traffic and unfamiliar streets, took a great deal of courage. F is one tough cookie.

We got back to the apartment, and had something to eat, and she got hold of herself, and then I was going to sit in the passenger seat while she drove the 35-minute drive she will have to her workplace and back. Then I was going to follow her to work, and then come home myself.

So we got a short distance away from her apartment ... and the car died. Shut down. In traffic. F sat there and quietly freaked.

"Stop the car," I said, "and turn it off." We happened to be in the right lane, at a traffic light that quickly turned red, which gave her a little cover to get hold of herself.

There was a BP station on the corner, so I told her that when the light turned green she was to turn the car back on, and pull into that gas station.

"I can't," she said.

"Yes, you can," I said.

She was seriously shaken up. It would have been so easy for me to go around and get in the driver's side and take over, but no can do.

"Nothing has happened," I told her. "We're all right. You can do this."

The light turned green, she turned the car back on, pulled into the BP station, and parked it. And I called the dealership, they sent a tow truck, F and I were dropped back off at her apartment, and I took her to work. L will pick her up in the morning. And tomorrow I'll start calling AGAIN to try to figure out next steps.

Sick of this. But as I told F, this kind of thing happens, and sometimes the only way past it is through it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We got in about 10 minutes ago from moving the girls.

Wow.

The rental place where we rented the pickup truck to get F's stuff from school no longer has pickups. Everywhere else charges by the mile, and we didn't think we could get everything in one trip in a pickup, so we decided to rent a 10' U-haul. Only they didn't have any 10' available today, nor any 12', so we ended up with a 14' (paid the 10' price.) R was horrified because he still remembers the trip here from Memphis with him driving that thing. This wasn't so bad, b/c it's only an hour trip through Central Florida, not 14 hours through Atlanta and all, except that when we got to the girls' apartment the heavens opened and it rained like there was no tomorrow. We waited for a bit, decided it would not let up, and offloaded her stuff in the POURING RAIN. It took a long time b/c we had to put a lot of stuff in plastic bins to carry from the truck to the door, even though the truck was right there, because seriously, the volume of water falling was unbelievable.

You know what happened as soon as we got the last bit in.

Then a whole bunch of other stuff had to happen, just peripheral details and blah blah, but anyway we didn't get away till after midnight.

Monday I have to go back b/c F had picked out a car at a dealership in Kissimmee but there was a paperwork glitch that prevented us from bringing it home last week. It will be smoothed out on Monday, and I'll go with her to get that car. Will let her drive herself to her workplace and back to her apt to nail down the route, then come back home. And it will be just R and me and the two cats here again.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I'm about to empty-nest again. F and L have signed a lease on an apartment in Kissimmee. It looks like a nice place. The apartment is cheerful and attractive and has about 3 times as much room as they had in the dorm. We also located a car that F likes and will do a bit of research before we (probably) buy it tomorrow. Saturday we'll probably move the girls' things. And that will be that.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

This is just about the coolest thing ever.

Vice President Joe Biden celebrated American patriotism and mocked the ghost of Saddam Hussein during a Fourth of July visit to Iraq on Saturday.

He presided at a naturalization ceremony at one of Hussein's former palaces, where 237 U.S. service members were sworn in to become American citizens.

"We did it in Saddam's palace and I can think of nothing better. That S.O.B. is rolling over in his grave right now," Biden said of the former Iraqi dictator, who was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and executed by the Iraqi government in 2006.

...

Biden extolled America's diversity and its destination as a refuge for immigrants, saying newcomers are the "lifeblood" of the country and that "there's always room for more."

"As corny as it sounds, damn I'm proud to be an American," he said. "Thanks for choosing us. You are the reason why America is strong."

Thanking the troops from their military service, Biden said "you are the source of our freedom, you and all who came before you."

"What a sight you are today. What a powerful symbol for the rest of the world you are," he said.

Mentioning America's founding fathers, Biden told the new Americans from across the world that "as of today they're your founding fathers."

...

Biden later met with troops from his home state of Delaware, including his son, Beau, and he visited the mess hall where a Fourth of July feast was served.

Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, also lauded the newly naturalized troops, saying the Fourth of July and Iraq were the appropriate time and place for a naturalization ceremony.

Invoking the words "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" from the Emma Lazarus "New Colossus" poem inscribed at the Statue of Liberty, Odierno said, "to be honest I'm not so sure that its legendary inscription is applicable to this group here today, because when I look at the men and women sitting out in front of me here, I'm having a hard time because I don't see them in terms of tired, poor or huddled."

He said if he had to write an inscription he would say "give me your best your brightest and your bravest. Give me your warriors, your heroes who will enhance our great nation and strive to keep her free."

Many of the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen were from places like Mexico, the Philippines and Haiti. Some were from Iraq.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Well. So L, F's college roommate/our houseguest, has landed a job, at one of the parks in Orlando. She and F will be looking for an apartment somewhere this side of Orlando probably, where they will be in between both of their workplaces. L's job is an hour and 15 minute drive from our house, so doable in the very near term but not for long.

Another milestone approaches. But F says she won't take all of her stuff with her. We'll see about that.

R and I have an anniversary coming up tomorrow. This will be our 27th. There'll be some July 4 things going on downtown - fireworks and concerts and such - and we'll probably take advantage.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Remember when I said this:

I wonder if there's always been a tacet "if you believe me you're a sucker" whenever they've [Obama and his spokesmen] made these promises.

?

WASHINGTON — President Obama defended his policies on gay rights on Monday, telling an audience of gay men and lesbians that he remained committed to overturning the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule and that he expected to be judged “not by promises I’ve made but by the promises that my administration keeps.”

On Gay Issues, Obama Asks to Be Judged on Vows Kept

So if he makes 40 promises, keeps 2 and breaks 38, we are to judge him on those 2.

"Promise". I don't think that word means what he thinks it means.

7/2 Edited to add: my friend emailed me to tell me I probably meant "tacit" instead of "tacet". The words have basically the same meaning, but "tacet" is usually used in music, which is where I've seen it enough for it to impress upon my vocabulary.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I did arrive home on Thursday as scheduled, having had a wonderful time at my nerd convention.

A lot has happened.

Michael Jackson, RIP. Farrah ditto. (A lot of people are kind of struggling with the MJ thing. I've seen too many instances of false accusations to assume that he was guilty of anything other than extreme eccentricity.)

And then two interesting SC cases have wound up. The girl who was strip-searched b/c another girl reported that she had A SINGLE IBUPROFEN TABLET (OH THE HUMANITY) in her underwear was vindicated. And the city of New Haven had it expressed to them that when you have a procedure you can't abandon it when you discover that only white people will benefit, esp. when no one can find any evidence that the procedure actually discriminated against anyone.

I'm kind of tired of the word "privilege" because it assumes a fairytale existence whenever somebody comes out on top. Sometimes they had an unfair advantage and the word is apt; and sometimes they didn't. It's the assumption that I object to.

Ricci is a New Haven firefighter stationed seven blocks from where Sotomayor went to law school (Yale). Raised in blue-collar Wallingford, Conn., Ricci struggled as a C and D student in public schools ill-prepared to address his serious learning disabilities. Nonetheless he persevered, becoming a junior firefighter and Connecticut's youngest certified EMT.

After studying fire science at a community college, he became a New Haven "truckie," the guy who puts up ladders and breaks holes in burning buildings. When his department announced exams for promotions, he spent $1,000 on books, quit his second job so he could study eight to 13 hours a day, and, because of his dyslexia, hired someone to read him the material.

He placed sixth on the lieutenant's exam, which qualified him for promotion. Except that the exams were thrown out by the city, and all promotions denied, because no blacks had scored high enough to be promoted.


Article here.

Yes, I've seen the outcome of this case referred to as another example of white privilege. I suppose it's a privilege to have the guts to confront your disadvantage head-on and plow past it, but that is not a privilege confined to white folks, as we have repeatedly seen.

I wonder how many of the black folks who didn't do so well on this exam would have done better if they had not made the correct assumption that it didn't matter b/c the city would not let those jobs go to white folks. If they'd known from the outset that they really would have to compete, would they have shown the drive and determination that Ricci did? We will never know.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I did go back to Curves yesterday, and had a brainstorm when I got home - I iced my shoulder. It is not bothering me today. On Thursday it had some very stern things to say to me, but not today. So that appears to be the ticket. When I get back from Norfolk next week I believe I'll join.

Working out is good for stress, as I discovered yesterday concurrently with rediscovering what an idiot I am. I gave my office key to my tech in case he needs to get into my office for anything next week. After he left, and I finished up and changed clothes, I picked up my stuff and left my office, locking the door behind me; locked the building, which was quite a procedure b/c the lock sticks and I had to go put all my stuff in the car so I could use both hands; got into my car; and realized that I still had on my safety glasses, with the side shields. I actually went through the process of unlocking that stiff door before I remembered that my tech has my office key. So I locked it again, saying some very bad words that I'm glad no one overheard, and berated myself all the way to the Curves place.

Jumping around and using my muscles did make me feel better, srsly. I calmed right down.

Today the production manager is going to meet me at the plant and let me into my office so I don't have to wear my nerd glasses to Norfolk all week.

****************

Just saw this:

WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor resigned Friday from an elite all-women's club after Republicans questioned her participation in it. Sotomayor said she resigned from the Belizean Grove to prevent the issue from becoming a distraction in her confirmation hearings.

In a letter to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the federal appeals court judge said she is convinced that the club does not practice "invidious discrimination" and that her membership in it did not violate judicial ethics.

But she said she didn't want questions about it to "distract anyone from my qualifications and record."

Federal judges are bound by a code that says they shouldn't join any organization that discriminates by race, sex, religion or nationality.


Did Obama ever give up his membership in the Congressional Black Caucus? The group that wouldn't admit Steve Cohen b/c he's white?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Checked out a Curves today.

(I was careful about my shoulder, which does seem to be responding nicely to ultrasound treatment.)

I had a 30-min workout and I'll have another on Friday and then I'll decide if I want to join. Probably will. It's not so much for weight loss but rather for muscle tone - we middle-aged women have to watch it or we lose muscle mass, and bone mass too. It was actually kind of a fun workout, and the location is right on my way home.

Next week I'll be in Norfolk from Sunday through Thursday.

Hm, what else ... F's on night shift by herself now, which is kind of quick IMO. She's not supposed to be, but the other person on that shift hasn't been showing up. There are a lot of other employees there at night and apparently they're being kind to her - she feels that she is being too slow and not getting enough done, but they know she's new. She's doing lab work and also taking samples out in the plant. When she gets around to updating her resume I think she'll be shocked at all the stuff she can now put on there.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Had a nice weekend.

Yesterday the girls and I went to the mall. L needed some job interview clothes and we had a wonderful time shopping. She picked up some nice stuff, on sale of course. (I suspect a lot of the "on sale" and "clearance" stuff was always meant to sell at the reduced price. So you have to make sure you really are getting a deal.) F got some wonderfully nerdy t-shirts at Hot Topic, including a yellow one with a Star Trek emblem, which she wore today. Shoes, etc. We ate at the food court and had a nice girls' day out.

Today it rained and rained. We made chocolate chip cookies and ate them, I made stir fry for supper (beef, celery, bell pepper, carrot, onion, mushroom, snap peas, soy sauce; angel-hair pasta; orange Creme Saver yogurt for dessert) and then we watched "2001 A Space Odyssey".

Tomorrow, back to WORK.

...My shoulder is kicking up again, for some reason. Range of motion is still OK but it is aching a lot, hurting suddenly when I reach for things like light switches, and that is a horrifyingly familiar feeling. I don't want to go back through all of that. I mention it b/c I need to keep track of this, I guess, so I'll add that I started the daily ultrasound treatment back up day before yesterday. Well, we'll hope for the best.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

I'm still around. Got a lot of stuff going on, none of which I particularly want to talk about on the innernets. F's job is going OK, I reckon. L, her roommate/our houseguest, had an interview today, of sorts - they called her and scheduled it but weren't prepared, somehow. My job is, um. Hm. R's OK, and so are the cats.

I made chicken soup last weekend. F ate the veggies out of hers, L ate the chicken, then they switched bowls. They saw the Wolverine movie yesterday. I myself favor action/adventure movies whose protagonist is a regular person who steps up to the plate - like the police chief in "Jaws" who is afraid of the water, but goes after the shark anyway.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I noticed something today.

I have an art calendar on my office wall: it's this Reading Woman thing and all of the pictures are very pretty.

The maintenance manager and the production manager both have calendars with pix of women, too, but they aren't quite the same genre, somehow.

How come none of us have calendars with pix of men?

...Well, I had a Star Trek calendar at work once. Maybe twice.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On Memorial Day it's right to remember and be thankful for our fallen soldiers. We can do that, and still hate war, wish it was never necessary, and grieve for what it does to people. I think that if we observe Memorial Day we can't just glorify sacrifice in the abstract - we have to count the cost.

DULCE ET DECORUM EST

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.


- Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 - March, 1918