Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Israel and enemies cooperate on scientific project

Some good news from an area which is not known to generate good news.

PETRA, Jordan, May 24 (JTA) — .... Iran and Israel, bitter enemies, .... cooperate on an advanced scientific project.

In Alaan, a town just north of Amman — and at a comfortable remove from the spotlight thrown by political conflicts — representatives of the two countries are involved in developing SESAME, an acronym for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East.

It’s a rare and possibly unique example of scientific cooperation between Israel, Iran and other countries with which Israel has no ties, such as Pakistan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.[]
Other members are Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. Libya is expected to join soon as an observer.

“The political importance of the project cannot be underestimated,” professor Khaled Toukan, Jordan’s minister of education and the project’s acting director, told JTA.

“Scientists in the region work together in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of developing the Middle East,” Toukan said. He was in Petra for the Conference of Nobel Laureates, which convened in that ancient Nabatean town last week.

SESAME, the Middle East’s first major international research center, is a synchrotron accelerator. It uses magnets to create a circular path for electrons traveling at nearly the speed of light, producing a beam of bright ultraviolet and X-ray light, about the diameter of a human hair, that is directed down beam lines to end stations.

“These beam lines are so much stronger than the known X-rays that they open up new options for scientific research,” professor Moshe Deutsch, chairman of Israel’s national council for synchrotron radiation and one of two Israeli participants in SESAME, told JTA.

SESAME is exepcted to contribute to a wide range of scientific research, including structural molecular biology, molecular environmental science, X-ray imaging, archeological microanalysis, materials characterization and clinical medical applications.

Synchrotron radiation is widely used in materials science and biomedical applications, including lithography for computer chips, absorption and scattering measurements and high-pressure applications to create artificial diamonds and other substances.

An international synchrotron-light source in the Middle East was first proposed in 1997, when peace seemed to be on the way. European and Middle Eastern scientists worked together, and with the contribution of an old German synchrotron, SESAME got underway.

Get in shape in three easy lessons

I subscribe to all sorts of fitness magazines. (They make great reading on the starimaster.) These magazines are full of inspirational articles about people who, after fifteen years of staring bleary-eyed at the tv, smartened up, saw the error of their ways, and started to shape up. Inevitable, they lost 76 lbs--on average, of course.

So I figured out a way to lose weight:

1. Exercise 60 minutes every day. Check.
2. Lift weights. Check.
3. Eat healthy foods. Check.
4. Pounds come rolling off--well, not exactly.

You see, all these people spent their days eating and goofing off before they started this program. I, on the other hand, have been exercising, eating right, and gaining one pound a year for 20 years. Which makes me 20 lbs overweight.

I come from a long line of short, fat people. My mother: short and fat; her mother, ditto. My extra 20 lbs makes me the lightweight in the family-of-origin photo album. Reading from left to right: my grandmother, fat; my mother, fat; me, not that fat.
My children are slim and gorgeous, however.

Monday, May 30, 2005

And how are you feeling today?

However you feel, don't tell Akaky at the Passing Parade:

THE MAY STORM: This morning my Aunt May was complaining again…well, let me rephrase that a little, since my using the word again might, simply by definition, cause the reader to infer that Aunt May has, at some hitherto undocumented and therefore constituting one fairly humongous suspension of disbelief, point in her life stopped complaining about whatever the annoyance of the day was and had a conversation about politics, religion, the economy, sports, sex, her husband, her kids, the dog, or some other subject that either could not, would not, or otherwise did not lend itself to the usual metamorphosis into a long list of grievances, said grievances aired at length and then discussed in excruciating detail by herself. [ ]
her prolonged jeremiads against the fates that hate her so much, and with good reason, if you ask me, usually begin with how bad her health is these days.[ ]

It’s strange to think that I have known this woman for more than forty years now and in all that time I don’t think she’s enjoyed good health for more than two hours straight at any given time; we do not, as a society, appreciate how much hypochondria can be a life’s vocation, even, in the best of cases, raised to the level of art.


Working in the library, we often got to know gruesome physiological details of various patrons' health. When I saw one of my staff cornered, I usually summoned him or her to my office, thus liberating him or her.

I did however, get cornered by a board member who had suffered an abdominal complaint. She waa my boss, and there was no one to summon me into the office, so I had to listen--until the point where she mentioned the mucus in her, shall we say, stool?--after which I remembered a letter which urgently needed to be written.

Seasons of modern life

In New York City, there are really only two seasons -- "Winter" and "Road Work." Winter was cold and inconvenient. "Road Work" was hot and inconvenient.My coworker ... never failed to signify [Road Work] by dropping by my office first thing in the morning, his Starbucks commuting coffee mug in his hand, and saying, "Boy, oh, boy, do you believe how hot it is? Damn!"

He was a living, breathing, mind-numbing example of why the number two fantasy of people who work in offices is the ruthless slaughter of one or more of their coworkers....

When I moved to southern California, this was one little daily irritation I was happy to leave behind along with "Winter" and "Road Work." Instead, I got only one season, "Traffic," but since you have to go to "Traffic" that was okay. I no longer needed to kill my coworker, so that was a win.



In the New York New Jersey metropolitan area, we have one other season: "Frightening rainstorm with flooding." There are some areas of New Jersey that are flooded as regularly as the swallows return to Capistrano. People who live in these areas tend to keep their most prized possessions on the second floor.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Flickr

This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Mark Steyn offers his opinion of the US Senate

An excerpt from Hugh Hewitt's radio show;

I absolutely loathe the United States Senate. And all this business, this sub-Star Wars cliches about how the Senate has saved the Republic, that we're seeing in the newspapers today. You know, I think the Senators are just generally over-inflated, isolated people, wandering around the country with bigger courts of flunkees than your average Gulf emir has. I don't think they save the Republic. []

...I don't believe Senators should be presidential candidates. And whenever they try, they're always shocked at how no real people have heard of them.... And I think, you know, to be honest, I wish I'd never [heard]of most Republican Senators, either. What a blessed world that is to live in. And I don't think Senators make good candidates. Obviously, with the one great exception of Hillary Rodham Clinton. And Hillary's potency as a candidate has not derived from the fact that she happens to be a Senator. Although as a Senator, she's played a much shrewder hand than most Democrats have, when it comes to a lot of this stuff.[]
HH: Now let's switch to a different Senator, George Voinovich, who, hours ago, took to the floor of the Senate to denounce the Bolton nomination. Here's one minute of his speech that I want the audience to hear so you can comment on it.

HH: Mark Steyn, I guess you and I are not worried about grandchildren of George Voinovich sufficiently. We're indifferent to them.

MS: Well, I am completely indifferent to the grandchildren of George Voinovich, and I don't really see why that's an issue that will be impacted one way or another by John Bolton becoming U.N. ambassador. And this business about going to the well, you know, this guy choking up with tears over the appointment of a U.N. ambassador, I mean I think that's great if he wants to be subbing for Sally Field's Oscar speeches. But this is a pathetic performance. And the sobbing, and the weeping and the wailing is just ridiculous for a man who, whatever you feel about him, John Bolton, is someone who deserves examination for his view of international institutions, international law, and their effectiveness. And this is why people loathe the Senate, because some empty, vapid, puffed-up poser, just sobbing and bleating about his grandchildren on there, I mean there are one hundred U.S. Senators out of a potential pool of 300 million. 400 million if you include all the fine, upstanding members of the undocumented American community in your part of the country. And it should be possible to get a hundred people who can stand there and discuss the issues in an articulate way, instead of blathering cliches about the well being dry. And it isn't. It's overflowing with his sob sister routine.
[]
One of the things that is ridiculous is that these people have such huge staffs in the United States, that they're very much the creature of their aides and these swollen offices they have. I mean, with the fellow like Jim Jeffords, for example, unless he's actually reading out the words that his aides have written for him, he's not someone who makes a lot of sense on a lot of these topics. And I think George Voinovich is a classic in that example. And America really shouldn't have a House of Lords. ... It should have citizen legislators. And this is what makes the Senate not the glory of the Republic, but a disgrace.

Friday, May 27, 2005

blogger loses something, restores family solidarity

I can't get the bloody link to work. This blogger calls himself poopy.farpoint.org but the link doesn't take you to him. (I'd like to give him credit, though.)

Improbably
I lost my keys and my wallet within one hours time. And I do not lose things. I know you don't have much to go on if you're just some random stranger looking at me.
[]

But I am not lying when I tell you that I do not lose things. Of course, like everyone, I HAVE lost things. My aunt Bernice insists that I lost some pendant she had let me play with during a Christmas celebration in 1976. That's right, your vision did not deceive you. My 50something year old aunt is still blaming me for losing something when I was three years old.

And the crazy thing is:

These stories stick to your life like a criminal record. Because maybe in the rest of my thirty three years I've misplaced or had to look for three things (and I'm being generous with this number) and one of my siblings or my parent, or another of my damnable aunts would say:

Oh, but...

Remember!?

Aunt Bernice?

And these stories get leaked out of your family to the general public, too. If you ever have the misfortune of having the general public meet your family-of-origin.

Which is precisely what happened with Brittany. When I first brought her to a family Thanksgiving, Aunt Bernice (bitter old hag...) filled her ear with the apocryphal story of the missing pendant. That night when I delivered the mashed potatoes to the table without a serving spoon, my mother looked at me:

David, honey?

-Mmmm?

Did you forget the spoon?

A beat while I look around the table (my mistake. *this loss*, the loss of my presence of mind for only this second, is the only thing I actually regret losing in this post...)

Aunt Bernice, to my chagrin, did not miss a beat:

Or maybe he lost it!

HOWLS of uproarious laughter! ....This was the kind of hysterical laughing that sprung not from any genuine or improvisational mirth. This laughter was a collective expression of relief on the part of a group practically bereft of any common sensibility. But OH! this thing we share. Little David and his Losing Things. Ha. Ha. Fucking Ha.)

Seriously, they didn't stop laughing even when I brought the spoon.

My mother patted my cheek over her shoulder.... This gesture on the part of my mother was proof positive that I had been scapegoated here. All the fears of the family that the recent falling out between Aunt Beverly and Aunt ReeseAnn would rent us into a million unrelated strands of loosely connected strangers (not unlike most modern american families and not unlike the structure of the internet...), were resolved in this laughter.

So the fact that I'm owning this absence...Keys, Wallet....Is not a confession of general guilt. It is a repudiation of this large myth and a simple statement of frustrating fact. Improbable. But true.


San Francisco and kids--not so perfect together

San Francisco has a lot going for it: its beauty, fine restaurants, cultural life, etc.

But the presence of aggressive, out-of-control homeless, screaming, fighting, defecating, negates it all. They're everywhere. And the city fathers must clean the streets at least once a year. Even Willie Brown couldn't reverse the trend, bucked as he was by the ACLU.

Rudy Giuliani, call your office!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Republican senators act like jackasses: Black Republican blows a fuse

It only took them three days to find out what jerks the Democrats made of them.

In the unlikely event you should want to rent a German, click here

Getting ready to leave

Lileks is ready to leave his home, but reluctant:

I have identified with this place for so long it feels like treason to leave, and there’s something dangerous in disengaging long before you actually go. I love my home, I love my job, I love belonging here, and I love this place, but it’s trying my patience. And to be frank, it feels like it’s done with me, too. This is hard to describe. But.[]


In my case, I feel that the motor vehicle-auto insurance-law enforcement complex is after me and my family. We keep getting tickets. Once my daughter was going over the speed limit on a stretch of US 80 tht was deserted--except by a cop. I myself got a speeding ticket on a highway on which if you don't exceed the speed limit they run you over. And my grandson--he received a letter from the Insurance Surcharge Dept, or somewhere, saying that they will hold his various offenses against him going back to 1974. He was born in 1984. Oh yes--there is the time they suspended my license for failure to pay a parking ticket. The motor vehicle establishment in NJ believes that every holder of a driver's license is a felon they haven't caught yet. Unless you are an Arab terrorist. All of them, including the 9/11 guys, spent time in Paterson or Jersey City and enjoyed it to the max.

Meanwhile I see kamikazi motorists cutting in and out of traffic, cutting off others, making illegal u-turns and otherwise behaving like dangers to themselves and all the other drivers.

My auto insurance, for three rust buckets, is equal to one month's income. And don't get me started on property taxes, which they have been promising to fix at least since 1978, when I moved in. They only fix them higher.
But of course you’re running away from yourself when you do something like this, right? Well, no. Wherever you go, there you are. But at least in Arizona, you’re warmer....


It's not warmer in Delaware, but taxes are lower. And automobile insurance could not be higher, because NJ is the highest of the 50 states. Nice to be a standout in one area, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

John Kerry's uncle dies

A journalist, and an eccentric in the best British tradition, though an American, Forbes did not easily take criticism.

[L]iterary editors tended to take the view that it was easier to print Forbes verbatim than to remonstrate with him.

This policy occasionally landed The Spectator in a libel action [] This obituary will be one of the few published pieces about him which will not be followed by one of his instant ripostes. []
In his work as a reviewer, Forbes would occasionally offer praise. He tended to reserve his admiration for obscure minor masterpieces emanating from Middle Europe, while the more obviously commercial endeavours of successful writers were as a red rag to his bull. He left many an author seething, muttering threats of revenge through clenched teeth.

He enjoyed sexual innuendo, and teased the late Michael Wishart for describing Ali Khan as a great lover, pointing out that Khan's idea of sex reminded him of Father Christmas: "He came but once a year," and adding that any girl "not in a multi-orgasmic mood" would end up feeling "like Michelangelo after a hard day's work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling". Wishart was furious.

Of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll's memoirs, Forbes ventured: "Her father may have been able to give her some beautiful earrings, but nothing to put between them."

A long-term tax exile in Switzerland, Forbes would telephone The Daily Telegraph's obituaries desk after lunch with an anecdote about a subject who had appeared on that morning's page. Periodically, he would remove from his retreat at Château d'Oex to London, where he would immediately take centre stage. []


Alastair Cameron Forbes was born in Surrey on May 2 1918, and held a British passport although he sprang from an American family. He was the third son (in a family of 11) of James Grant Forbes, who had been born in China. The Forbeses were cousins of the Roosevelts, and one of Alastair's sisters was to become the mother of Senator John Kerry.

[]
He was often invited to Chequers, where he observed Roosevelt's special envoy, Averell Harriman, making his way to Pamela Churchill's room; Forbes was prompted to remark: "Hey ho, he's taking his presidential envoy duties very seriously!", and it became one of his favourite anecdotes.

In the 1945 General Election he stood for Parliament as a Liberal, against strong opposition, at Hendon South... coming an honourable third to the Conservative, Lt-Col Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth, Bt.... The contradiction in Forbes's character is illustrated by the fact that, while standing for the Liberal Party, he actually voted Labour.

Forbes listed his recreations as reading (he devoured a number of newspapers each day and not only the British ones), conversation and "walking and cross-country skiing". He was a long-standing member of White's, though not by any means its most welcome or respected one, and of the Beefsteak.

[Fprbes was] guardian of many secrets - often about matters of paternity - which were sometimes shared with other interested parties: "Ah," he could be heard booming as he arrived at a society wedding, "how nice to see the biological uncle of the bride here today!"

Forbes was a handsome man and enjoyed a number of love affairs, boasting that, thanks to his ministrations, at least one of the Queen's maids of honour at the Coronation was not a maid in the accepted sense of the word. He was frequently dismissed from lunch tables, and viewed the early train home on a Sunday morning after upsetting his hostess as an occupational hazard.


He sounds like a lot more fun than his nephew.

Elm trees make a comeback

The campus where I spent my college years, Ohio University, in Athens Ohio, had a beautiful college green graced with elm trees called the McGuffey Elms, after one of the founders of the college. (He was the same chap who invented McGuffey Readers.)

The trees were ancient,venerable,stately, majestic. They were also doomed, afflicted with Dutch elm disease, which eventually killed them all off.

New trees have grown on the campus since then, and it looks pretty good. But I am glad to see that elm trees are making a comeback.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

How can a quagmire exist in the desert?

I've always wondered about the term quagmire. It sounds, you know, kind of marshy to me. Mire I know is mud. But quag? I googled "definition of quagmire." This is what I found:

Definitions of Quagmire on the Web:

* A soft boggy or marshy area that gives way under foot.
www.contractorschool-online.com/glossary/glossary_construction_terms_q.htm

* Wet muddy ground
www.wolverhamptonarchives.dial.pipex.com/local_faiths_glossary.htm

* mire: a soft wet area of low-lying land that sinks underfoot
www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn

* A quagmire (from "quake" + "mire") is, literally, shaky, miry ground; as a political term used to describe a foreign military campaign in which there is either no foreseeable possibility of victory or the objectives are unclearly defined, and at the same time no clear exit strategy has been formulated in the absence of victory. The military campaign is likened to a kind of swamp or marsh in which the warring nation is unable to remove itself.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quagmire


I totally reject the political use to which the word has lately been put, as per the last definition. It reflects sloppy thinking (and defeatism). We must have been mired down plenty in Vietnam, due to the climate. But how can you get bogged down in a desert where the temp is 140 degrees?

You can get stuck in sand, as I did in Florida once when my car had to be winched out. So how about a new term? Sandstuck? Doesn't sound right. Suggestions, anyone?

The worst job interview ever? I don't think so

A job interview is a horrible experience, ranking somewhere between a car accident and a root canal. Actually, I prefer the root canal--they give you painkillers.

Overshop2 describes her experience:

If there were an award for Worst Interview Ever, I think I'd get it. Back in the spring of 2000, I was trying to find a different job. I was working at a place that I totally hated. []

I got a call from a Fortune 500 company to come in for an interview. The pay was enormously better than what I was making at the time, and the work sounded interesting. I put on my nice interview outfit, which wasn't really that nice, but it was the best I had. Black polyester skirt suit with big shiny gold decorative buttons down the front, black purse, black shoes from Payless, and an organizer to hold my resume and other important papers.

I drove over in my 15 year old Crown Victoria, paint completely rusted off, smoke pouring out, car totally covered in bird shit. We called it the Poopmobile. I didn't want anyone to see my car, ..., so I parked way in the back.

As soon as I put the car in park, I heard a ping, and realized one of those big gold decorative buttons - the one right over my belly button - had popped off my jacket and rolled under the car seat. I didn't have enough time to go home and change, so I decided to open up the jacket, and hold my organizer in a way that would cover the missing button.

Got out of the car to walk all the way around the building. A stiff breeze came up. My hair is whipping around me in every direction. This is not good. I go into the lobby, trying to rake my hair down with my hands. I ask the receptionist if I can take a moment in the bathroom to fix my hair. She says NO. Bitch.

While I wait, I notice all the other people walking around who work there. They're all extremely tall and thin and attractive. Like clones. I, on the other hand, am short and dumpy and incredibly plain. Not a good sign. People generally hire those who fit in well with the rest of the company.

The woman interviewing me shows up in the lobby. Just as I stand to greet her and shake her hand, the sole of one of my crappy Payless shoes lets go and flops loose. Now I've got a missing button that I'm covering with my organizer, wild hair, and this shoe thing. The only way to keep it from flapping about is to sort of slide that foot. Step, slide, step, slide. I look seriously deformed. Even I know it.

We walk down the hall to the woman's office. The blinds are open. There - not three feet from her desk - is the Poopmobile in all its glory. I know I don't have a chance in hell, but I'm determined to do this professionally and try to leave with a shred of dignity.

She gestures to a chair and asks me to take a seat. My feet are dangling. I feel like a little kid. She asks a couple of questions. I know she's made up her mind but is going through the formality. At that moment, my organizer slides off my lap, hits the floor, and pops open, shooting papers everywhere.

As I scramble on the floor trying to retrieve all my paperwork, I ask her,

"I'm not getting this job, am I?"

"No."

I went home totally dejected, but less that 2 weeks later I found the job I have now, which pays better and I fit in here better also. So I have no complaints.



I believe I've had a few worse ones. There was one where the search committee sat in a circle around me, shooting questions at me from every direction, like cops questioning a suspect in an old gangster movie. My neck hurt when I left.

Another one I thought had gone pretty well ended when the zipper of my dress broke, exposing my bra and panties for all the world to see.

Another interview, on a dark and rainy night when I had taken off from New Jersey to travel to Westchester, really ended for me when the interviewer told me that job had already been filled, but would I like to work part-time?

Monday, May 23, 2005

I try to read a bestseller

Lately, I've looked at the NYTimes Bestseller List with dismay. The books aren't just bad, they're bogus, usually, canned autobiography ghost-written by some ink-stained wretch, or something read into a tape recorder by a right- or left-winger columnist or television celebrity without correction or proofreading. (or grammar or syntax.)

Well, a closed mind is no good, so I had a try at Father Joe, by Tony Hendra. Hendra wrote it, all right; no ghost writer could be so egotistical. It's all about him and his spiritual quest--his desire to be a monk, his lapses of faith, etc. Not to mention every other achievement of his egocentric life. He also gets in a few snipes at people he doesn't like, among them P. J. O'Rourke.

The aforementioned Father Joe seems like a sweet old man who sees the best in everyone. Hendra, in contrast, is a smug, sanctimonious PC sort of judgmental left-wing dingbat who dismisses his own sins all too readily, but can point out those of, for instance, those who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, waged the Cold War, etc. ad nauseam.

If I had time, I'd tell you how I really feel.

Passing Parade doesn't like gambling

I have never bought a lottery ticket. I know, as the commercials say, you’ve got to be in it to win it, but I’ve noticed that most of the people in it don’t win it, either. Maybe it’s just me, but the whole concept of gambling simply goes by me, leaving not a wrack of understanding or ribs behind. If I go to the store and I give them money, I get something in return; if I go to a casino and give them my money, they take it and then try to get me to give them more money, and I don’t get anything from them. My brother the racetrack tout says that they give me a good time while I give them my money, but I seem to be missing the good time; all I know is that I have less money now than I did before I placed the bet and I have nothing tangible to show for it. Then, of course, here in New York the proceeds of the lottery go to supporting education—at least that’s the official story—but if that’s the case, how come my school taxes never seem to go down? Millions of people play the lottery here every day of the week and the vast majority of them don’t win so much as a nickel for all the money they shell out playing the various games, so someone must be getting a hold of all that money and I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts, or I would if I were a betting man, that whoever’s getting that money sure as hell ain’t spending it on education.


I don't like gambling either, but that's because I'm a sore loser. I bought a lottery ticket when NY first got the lottery and didn't win. The mistake was never repeated. When the first casinos at Atlantic City opened, I lost $20 in quarters in a slot machine, and decided that was the last $20 they get from me.

I've stuck to both these resolutions. Now if I could just swear off ice cream....

Sad news from Britain

There seems to be no reason why this sort of thing will ever end.

Another blogger rises to the challenge

Welcome to the real world

Another lefty joins the grown-ups.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Bessie Coleman, aviation pioneer

Every Memorial Day, black men and women aviators fly in formation over the grave of Bessie Coleman, dropping bouquests of flowers on the grave of the first black woman ever to earn a pilot's license.
Coleman was born in 1892, the twelfth of thirteen children. The family earned their living picking cotton. It was an impoverished existence, and as her siblings reached adulthood two of them left for Chicago, where opportunities were better.
Bessie Coleman followed when she grew up. She trained as a manicurist and got a job at the White Sox Barber Shop, situated on the Stroll,an 8-block section of State Street where black-owned businesses flourished. It was there that she encountered Robert S. Abbott, the editor of the Chicago Defender, a prominent newspaper read widely in the black community.
She developed a desire to become a pilot, inspired by stories of the derring-do of the Wolrd War I flying aces. This was an unthinkable ambition for a black woman at the time. Yet Abbott saw something of the potential in Bessie, and offered her financial help to attend a French flying school. He guessed that she would make great copy, and he was right. On her return from France with her pilot's license, she was greeted by representatives of both the black and white press.
Beautiful and flamboyant, she became an overnight sensation. Barnstorming and stunt flying were all the rage at the time, and no one's exploits were more daring than Coleman's. She became a hero to the black community, who dubbed her "Queen Bess." Her ambition was to start a flight school for black people, to encourage them to follow careers in the promising new field of aviation.

Her career was fraught with peril: many of the barnstorming stunts were daring and dangerous. Coleman also suffered from a lack of sufficient funds and therfore often relied on decrepit and unsafe planes. In California, on February 4, 1922, a plane she was piloting stalled at 300 feet, smashing into the ground. She suffered multiple injuries which landed her in the hospital for three months.

Undaunted, she relocated to Texas and resumed her barnstorming career. She had previously performed in the North, to appreciative white audiences. She now visited venues mainly in the South, where African Americans were her most enthusiastic fans. They opened their homes and hearts to her. Colemans' beauty, skill and daring inspired her African American fans.
According to her niece, "The airplanes she was flying, they were just old things....They weeren't worth a darn." The lack of adequate funds did not stop her, however, from planning a flight in Jacksonville, FL. in a ramshackle plane.

Coleman waas planning a parachute stunt, so she went up to scout the territory with her mechanic, William Wills, at the controls. Wills lost control of the plane, and Coleman, with neither seat belt nor parachute, was hurled to her death. She was 34 years old.
Her influence, however, lived on. Within a few years William Powell founded the Bessie Coleman Aero Club, both to honor her and to inspire other African Americans to follow her example. Her dream lived on, and still lives on to this day.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The deer ate my Internet

Johnny Virgil doesn't care much for wildlife:

I have to write this quickly, before they find me out. They're out there, right beyond the wire, waiting for their chance. If they knew the fence was down, if they even suspected it, it would be all over. They'd be on me like flies on shit.

All week long I have been unable to get on the internet with my pathetic dial-up connection, and tonight I finally figured out why. It's the deer. Those ... oversized, flower-eating forest rats have cut me off from the internet....


They couldn't just live and let live -- no they had to get in my shit. They forced me to put up an electric fence to keep them out of my wife's garden, and now the fence is interfering with my phone lines. The only way I can connect to the internet is when the fence is down, so I have to write this quickly, before they realize things are wide open. If word gets out, there could be a riot in the yard.
[]
. So far, these deer have cost me about a grand, and a ton of inconvenience. First the flowers, and then this fence, and now my goddamn internet connection. They're taking it all, piece by piece. By this time next year, they plan to be living in our house, watching our TV and drinking my Guiness.

Over my dead body. Yeah, I know they were here first. I'll be here last.



posted by Johnny Virgil at 10:21 PM 7 comments


Thursday, May 19, 2005

I'm mentioning Diet Coke with Splenda

I've never had any, I'm just mentioning it.

However, I am now permanently a Diet Coke person, since that Pepsi lady gave us the finger.

The Germans are getting bad ideas again

When in doubt, blame Bushitler and the Jews.

Librarians are strange

The more I think about it, the more I realize that librarians are weird. We're always so stingy about the taxpayer's money. When I started my last job, in 1991, I had a box of paper clips on my desk. That was the last box I ever got. When I received correspondence, I would remove the paper clips and put them in the box. Staples never got rich off me.

We also used to write on the back of catalog cards, so they shouldn't go to waste. Someone took the paper out of wastebaskets and cut it in pieces for patrons to write on. They wrote with a pen that was tied to a string, so we shouldn't waste the money on golf pencils ($5 a truckload, probably.)

We are so stingy with the taxpayer's money that when they cut our budget, we can't cut anything more. So we cut the nice little perks. We don't put in our mileage for re-payment. We pick up the cost of conferences ourselves, or at least the hotel charges, which we minimize by sleeping three to a room. (The youngest gets the folding bed.) To raise money, we sell (donated) hot dogs at the Winter Carnival, on our own time.

Our reward? They cut our budget even more, because we are doing such a fine job with what we have!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A challenge for Isabel

I keep reading your blog, Isabel (nice name, by the way) and I'm seeing no new posts. Get going, girl! Here's a challenge: list ten things you've never done. I dare you!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Official challenge

I officially challenge this blogger to compose a list of things she's never done. So there.

Why don't I blog about books?

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.
Logan Pearsall Smith, Afterthoughts (1931) "Myself"

The above has been my motto for a long time. So why don't I write some witty, insightful criticism about some of my favorites? Well, partially because I frequently write reviews.

Reviews are tough. It's extraordinarily hard to find something original to say in praise of something you really like. It's also tough to criticize someone who has labored long and hard to produce a worthy but dull book.
Once, but only once, I wrote a truly scathing review--and the author called me!

Okay. I will now mention some books I've recently read and enjoyed.

Natasha by David Besmogiz: the Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri;and the Tula Springs novels of James Wilcox.

One of my all-time favorites: Morte d'Urban, by J. F. Powers. Powers wrote lapidary prose that was as clear as a window pane. He is dead now, and his output was pitifully scant. Morte d'Urban is a masterpiece.

One of the most hilarious books I have ever read is Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.

Ten things I've never done

Decision '08 challenged me by name. Very well then!

10. Attended a high school reunion;

9. Knowingly purchased "health food" or "organic food";

8. Bought any potion or lotion or drug that has not been thoroughly tested on animals; (What am I, a guinea pig?)

7. Played the car stereo at full blast with the windows open;

6, Joined a bowling league;

5. Demonstrated for or against anything whatever in public while waving a sign or crude homemade puppet;

4. Visited a third world nation;

3. Managed to stay awake during an entire Merchant-Ivory movie;

2. Watched the World Wrestling Federation;

1. Taped any series or episode of the Sopranos.

Wow! Somebody puts shock absorbers into high heels!

I am very, very impressed.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Illiterate porn

OK. I get e-mail from porn sites, luscious babes luscious being the only one I can type without the computer going up in flames. I don't open them. I block sender. Sender changes his/her name. I get another. This I can cope with. I don't like it, but I can cope.

But illiterate e-mail from porn sites? Listen, my anonymous friends, if you can't spell hardcore, you belong in another business. And you should really get your GED.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The joys of recycling

I've often felt that recycling offers a matchless opportunity to the OCD-American community. Let me count the ways:

Separate corrugated cardboard
separate regular cardboard
Separate discarded mail;
separate discarded newspapers;
colored paper;
white paper;
bottles;
cans.

Of course, the result of all this zeal is to turn your house into a garbage-sorting facility, with 8 (count 'em) garbage cans. If you just get rid of the dining room table, you'll have plenty of room. Or move all the furniture into the driveway.

Good grief, I've forgotten the big stuff: medical waste, hazardous stuff like spray cans or paint, computers, and large appliances. More garbage cans!--recycling containers to you. You could build up quite a collection. And feel very smug.

I forgot plastic. What was I thinking?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Surfing

I like to surf other people's web sites in search for hidden gold. Found one or two cute things. Not many, though.

What I found was a lot of adolescent or post-adolescent posting. Typical posts:


Mom did it again! I'm sooo mad.

I don't know how I'm going to endure the agony of my breakup with Chad. Life looks bleak.

I still haven't written that term paper which is due tomorrow.

Got drunk and stoned last night, again.

No one will ever love me again.

Life is pretty darn meaningless. And boring.


I probably would have written the same thing when I was an adolescent. Thank God I confined such thoughts to my diaries, which I later burned.

What shocks me is the illiteracy and the cutesyness (Is there such a word? Well, there is now.). I is lower case: i--can't be bothered holding down the shift key. You, of course, is "u." Opinions differ on how to spell because: "cos," and "cuz" are popular but no consensus has emerged. For is, naturally, the numeral 4.

I forgot to mention the awful, heartfelt poetry.

Poor things.

Real Estate Woes

Modern life means so much homework.
Explanation: I am trying to sell my house and buy another. This is like scratching your head with one hand while rubbing your tummy with the other. I'm surprised anyone ever moves.

My lawyer gave me the homework. Find the title insurance. What's title insurance? Do I have it? If I do, where is it? Find the deed. Where can that be? Maybe in the safety deposit box, which I haven't opened in, oh, ten years. Find the key to the sdb. Where is it? It used to live in my jewelry box. Haven't seen it in the aforementioned ten years. Oy vay.

I forget the other assignments, but I have them written down. Turn all info in by Monday, or your grade will be lowered.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

In case you want to reach Satan, here's his new area code

James Lileks gets it absolutely right, again

I have no bumperstickers, for the same reason I do not paste editorials with which I agree on the seat of my pants. I’m always fascinated by people who load up the bumper with so many stickers the tailpipe scrapes on the pavement, and – correct me if I’m wrong – the more stickers you see, the more to the left the sentiment. The other day I saw a car whose owner had, shall we say, Issues. Sticker #1: “If ignorance is bliss, you must be orgasmic.” This seems rather presumptuous, no? Taken by itself, it’s innocuous, but then you note its brethren: “Born OK the First Time.” So the owner doesn’t like Born-Agains, obviously – but the sentiment is still rather naïve. No one’s born OK the first time, inasmuch as we come howling out of the womb as selfish ethically blank bundles of appetite whose nascent sociopathic character has to be shaped to deal with the human community. Then there’s the third sticker: “It’s your hell. YOU burn in it.”

Gee. And you’d put this on your car . . . why? Because you think that someone behind you might note the absence of a chrome fish emblem and assume you’re some godless swine destined to tumble down to hideous ruin and perdition, of course. How angry do you have to be to flip off people in a way that not only presumes the worst about their opinions, but assigns them to the very fate you think they want for you? GO TO HELL YOU IGNORANT BORN AGAINER!


Bumper stickers made me a conservative, one bumper sticker in particular. Here I was, a war-hating liberal, demonstrating for abortion on the capitol steps in Albany, when I saw the bumper sticker: "War is bad for children and other living things." I believe it featured a flower decoration and appeared on a Volvo.

That enraged me against all reason. How self-righteous! How smarmy! Now lots of things are bad for children etc., like slavery, famine, insecticide, and nuclear fallout. And not brushing your teeth and flossing every day. I developed a loathing for people who put such things on their Volvos or brave, gas-saving little Volkswagens which has endured to this day.

And that was a relatively polite one, unlike some of those which portray Bush (President of the United States, remember) as a baboon. But never mind. C'est le premier pas qui coute. (Probably spelled that wrong.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

15-minute lunch does it again

Tinkerty Tonk says it all

Oh boy, I could a tale unfold--many tales:

One patron accessed a porn site and called the reference librarian over to "help" him. She was a young, pretty girl, of course. I threw him out of the library. His actions constitute sexual harassment, a no-no in the workplace.

Another, accessing s porn site, motioned to several boys, 13 and 14, to come and enjoy the view. The lawsuit on that one has not yet been settled.

Unaccompanied children, we've got them. Fortunately the town's social services director worked with us on this.

Etc, etc, etc.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Terrific hairstyles of the 20th century

Click on the pix for other styles. I love this stuff.

I rather like this

Library situations

The Passing Parade mentioned an unusual incident--a man dying in the men's room at the library.

I can top that! At least dead patrons do not pee on the upholstered couch or expose themselves to children in the stacks.

One patron we called Dudley Doright used to sit at one of our tables playing chess, either with or without a partner. He also smelled. This was not the problem. The problem was that he did not wear a belt, and his trousers were continually falling down until--how can I put this delicately?--the crack in his ass showed. A fearsome sight.

Joan Jones used to monopolize the ladies' room, putting on makeup and washing it off, then crying and repeating the process while the bladders of the other patrons, waiting outside the locked door, were about to burst.

We also had a library child. Not a cat, but a child, three years old. Her parents ran the Chinese restaurant around the corner and never noticed that she was missing. When I spoke to them about it, they suddenly became monolingual, and not in English. Eventually we gave up and set Lisa up in her own corner, with her own crayons and paper and let her make the library her home. It was better than sending her out to play in traffic.

There was the lady from Chicago. We knew she was from Chicago, because she complained that we weren't as nice and efficient as the librarians in Chicago. She would call up and ask us to print out all the information we had on, say, nuclear weapons, put it in an envelope, and leave it at the main desk. The Chicago librarians would do it, but we wouldn't.

One of our Board members was going to college. We were glad indeed when she graduated and we no longer had to do her homework.

There are plenty more stories where these came from.

In between these nuisances were the very, very nice, grateful people who made it a joy to work there.

Advice columns are not what they used to be

I used to enjoy reading Dear Abby and Ann Landers when they were written by the original sisters. You know the ones I mean--the ones with the same picture featuring the same helmethead hairdo for 50 years. Both are dead or incapacitated now.

Their answers to readers' vexing problems were not outstanding, but the questions themselves were fun. I remember a long-standing, impassioned discussion on different ways of placing toilet paper in its holder. I forget what was decided, but you can be sure it was earth-shattering.

Readers anxiously inquired on what to do when in-laws made unexpected visits; when neighbors pranced around nude in front of open windows; when their married lovers claimed that it was only a matter of time before they got divorced from their wives who did not understand them (Ann and Abby were quite caustic about this one). Girls wanted to know whether marriage would rehabilitate their drunken fiances and turn them into solid citizens if they just loved them enough. (No.) In short, the whole catalog of human vexation passed before our eyes.

Nowadays all their successors ever print are articles about celebrating Mother's Day, not driving drunk, and writing to our soldiers in Iraq. We already know that!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Welcome to the teen years

Poor airforcewife! (The link doesn't work, damn Blogger!)


My #1 daughter turned 13 yesterday.
... She's officially a teenager, with all the horrible things that entails....
I can't shake this feeling that I need to lock her up in a room and feed her through a slot so that she doesn't do anything she isn't supposed to.

If you know what I mean.


Do I ever! My #2 daughter begged me to allow her to go on a camping trip with four boys when she was 15. Naturally I played the "your father would never hear of it" routine. Why was dad so unreasonable? I mentioned that he had been a teenaged boy himself and knew what they were like. She looked at me in disgust and said: "You have such a dirty mind!"

Yes. And we didn't have Internet, and television was the Brady Bunch. She didn't need help in finding things she wasn't supposed to do. She managed it in the pre-digital age!

Weird proposals for films

These letters are funny--but some of them are no worse than films I have actually seen.

Indiana Jones and the Financial Center of Doom!

"An action suspense film set in India's financial center.

This is an electrifying suspense thriller that features martial arts action! A burnt out enforcer now working for a multinational corporation is preparing to travel to India for an E-commerce convention. Upon arrival he meets an online friend. They have dinner and the following day, she mysteriously disappears. His search leads him into a web of international intrigue as he is challenged by street thugs and crooked cops. After questioning company executives about his friend's whereabouts, he is assaulted later that night in his hotel room. When he awakens, he finds himself imprisoned on an 18th century fortress known as the Bombay Deathtrap. He must survive skilled martial arts fighters, a snake-filled pit, female assassins, quicksand, flaming traps, poison gas, and crocodiles! This sets the stage for an unforgettable sequence of events guaranteed to have audiences on the edge of their seats as he defeats all the elements of evil and rescues the girl! He attends the convention, purchases gifts for friends, and heads to the airport. He is unaware that one of his packages has been switched, and will be the driving element for killers tracking his every move in:

The Sequel - Set in Los Angeles.

This has also been fashioned as a video game concept."


Is this any dumber than the average Indiana Jones film?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I know it's May, but...

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
--William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Ode: Intimations of Immortality
from Recollections of Early Childhood


I enjoyed this poem so much, I couldn't resist.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I'm Back!

I went to Ohio for a college reunion, Athens Ohio as a matter of fact. I had forgotten how beautiful it was, or maybe I never noticed, being heavily involved in adolescent angst at the time. Everything smelled to good, and was so green! And I saw old friends so that the event was a significant, but poignant experience for me.

Then to Columbus, home of my extended family. And are they extended. One cousin of mine and I are the only members of the family that ever escaped Columbus for any length of time. The rest are rooted there like thousand-year-old oaks.

I love all my relatives, probably because I see so little of them. But when I am with them, they seem to do little but talk on the phone. They call me to tell me they will call me later. They call each other off and on each day.

A typical conversation:
ME: I'll see you tomorrow at eleven.
RANDOM RELATIVE: Call me in the morning.
ME: OK.

The next morning:
ME: I'll see you at eleven.
RR: Call me before you come.

Later:
ME: I'm coming over.
RR: OK.

What is the significance of all this phoning? Nobody ever says anything they haven't said several times that same day.