Saturday, December 30, 2006
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
An article in City Journal presents a vibrant picture of the Queens Library:
The Queens Library is that rare New York phenomenon: a government-funded social-uplift program that works. It succeeds by doing what it has done for over a century: giving New Yorkers with ambition (however modest or grand it may be) the tools they need for self-improvement.
It's an excellent article, with many wise things to say, but what I want to focus on is the need, largely unmet, to teach new immigrants English.
On the wall of my study, I have a certificate given to my grandfather for his proficiency in English. Instruction was given in the Columbus Public Schools, in cooperation with the Department of Labor. In those days, immigrants were required to learn English as a path to citizenship, and publicly funded instruction was provided.
My uncle Max was a little boy when his parents came to the US, and my mother was a toddler. He became a doctor, she a lawyer. What kind of outlook would they have had if they never learned English? If they had lived in some sort of self-imposed ghetto, and been taught in Yiddish? A pretty poor outlook, I believe.
From my experience in the library, people desperately want to learn English. We had a program where we instructed tutors and matched them to students. We could never get enough tutors. Potential students? They came in droves.
They came from Korea, Poland, Russia, Iran, Senegal, the Dominican Republic, and a lot of other places, but they all wanted to learn the language of their new country.
We tried to get grant money to start classes in ESL, but could not raise enough. Nobody gave a hoot. It was not a glamorous cause.
The beauty of ESL classes is that students who speak different languages must converse with other students in English. In some cases, this is the only English they ever hear.
The government funds so much crap, why couldn't they make ESL accessible for anyone who wants it, as they did in 1922, when my grandfather learned it?
Posted by miriam sawyer at 8:52 AM
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
What kind of bumper stickers, do you have? Yes, I said bumper stickers. In New Jersey, where else?
[A] criminal defendant won't want a "Hug a Cop" juror deciding his of her fate and the prosecution sure as hell doesn't want a "Question Authority" juror just itching to screw it to "the man." But what about people who have something like "If You Can Read This, Then You're Too Fucking Close" or "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student"? Do you want them on your jury?
Posted by miriam sawyer at 9:48 PM
We spent a lot of time eating, getting ready to eat, discussing what we would eat next time, eating out, and wishing we had eaten less. As we had a house full of full people, including a five-year-old dynamo, no-one could concentrate on anything more intellectually taxing than re-runs of Meet Me in St Louis, the bespoke Christmas film of the Charm family. And burping.
I did notice, though, that all the adults had had time to scrutinize the latest copy of In Touch Weekly, and were all well informed on which actresses had had boob jobs and which hadn't. The verdict of our panel of experts: Renee Zellweger--probably. Britney Spears, probably not. Nicole Kidman--a provisional yes. We also had read and had opinions on whether Mel Gibson was back on the sauce (We're pretty sure he is).
My younger daughter, mother of the five-year-old, likes doing laundry. She brought some dirty laundry with her but soon was finished with that, and offered to wash the dirty sheets that were on the floor of the laundry room. The next day, she discovered some more laundry had magically accumulated and did that. I was afraid she would go around to all the neighbors offering to do their dirty laundry, but thank God it never came to that. It was a close-run thing, though.
I think everyone was happy with their presents. The five-year-old worked on his first Science Kit with his cousin. Mr Charm got a new watch, and was so pleased that he read the whole manual. He likes watches. I got a gift certificate, which was a good thing, as I like shopping. The Laundry Lady got a cashmere sweatsuit, which I sincerely hope she will send to the cleaners.
However, my camera is broken. It took pictures all right, but when I went to upload them, there was nothing there. Bummer.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 1:38 PM
when he said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
It used to be true. I am old enough to remember windbag senators and congressmen trying to outdo each other in their pure and disinterested love of the flag, motherhood and apple pie. They were also for the American Way of Life, the Boy Scouts, whiskers on kittens, etc. Everyone knew they were a bunch of humbugs and hypocrites, but what the hell; you might say they were on the side of the angels just the same. None of them maligned our servicemen or said that America (Amerikkka) was corrupt or evil.
I actually miss those guys. Now, the last refuge of scoundrels is the old bait and switch attack on our country, the military, and the commander-in-chief.
A perfect example is John Murtha.
In 2001, Murtha announced the creation of Scialabba's nonprofit agency for the disabled in Johnstown, Pa. The next year, with Scialabba still on his staff, Murtha secured a half-million dollars for the group, the Pennsylvania Association for Individuals With Disabilities (PAID), and put another $150,000 in the pipeline for 2003, according to appropriations committee records and former committee aides. Since then, the group has helped hundreds of disabled people find work.
But the group serves another function as well. PAID has become a gathering point for defense contractors and lobbyists with business before Murtha's defense appropriations subcommittee, and for Pennsylvania businesses and universities that have thrived on federal money obtained by Murtha.
Lobbyists and corporate officials serve as directors on the nonprofit group's board, where they help raise money and find jobs for Johnstown's disabled workers. Some of those lobbyists have served as intermediaries between the defense contractors and businessmen on the board, and Murtha and his aides.
That arrangement over the years has yielded millions of dollars in federal support for the contractors, businesses and universities, and hundreds of thousands in consulting and lobbying fees to Murtha's favored lobbying shops, according to Federal Election Commission records and lobbying disclosure forms. In turn, many of PAID's directors have kept Murtha's campaigns flush with cash.
In order to divert the voters' attention from his dirty dealings, he calls our military forces murderous crazed lunatics.
Unfortunately, the voters drank the kool-aid so obligingly served to them.
According to Texas rainmaker, the story was published in the WaPo on Christmas Day, when the electorate were busy emptying their Christmas stockings.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 12:54 PM
from Doctor Anonymous.
My person of the year is not actually a person. In addition, there is not even an agreed upon name of this "person." ....[H]ere are the many names that have been used for my "person": Bug, Bacteria, Virus, Germ, Infection....
Well, you get the idea. In 2006, the population of the world has gotten to know more about microscopic organisms than ever before.
From the comments, by supersteno girl, this bit of snark:
Anonymous - don't rag on bacteria. It's the only culture some people have. :(
Posted by miriam sawyer at 11:56 AM
Saturday, December 23, 2006
It's not perfume, a piece of jewelry or a spa treatment. Giving cosmetic surgery as a gift trivializes a serious medical procedure," says David Sarwer, an associate professor of psychology at the Center for Human Appearance at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
"The giver may have good intentions, but it could place undo pressure on the person on the receiving end," Sarwer says.
The gift giver may also offend the recipient, says Zachary Gerut, a Long Island plastic surgeon and assistant clinical professor at Albert Einstein Medical Center in New York. He says it's not uncommon for a husband to bestow the gift of a breast implant upon his wife this time of year. "Why don't you just insult the poor lady and be done with it? It's like telling someone they have bad breath," he says.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 9:57 PM
for people you don't know very well, or even for those you do know?
How about handkerchiefs, a mug that says "World's Best __________," a smartass t-shirt?
The local drugstore has a selection of gifts for the clueless: among them, an anti-cellulite kit, a microdermabrasion kit, or Jennifer Lopez's new perfume, "Tacky."
Husbands, beware: do not give your wife an anti-cellulite kit! Or a months' free membership in Jenny Craig. Or a toaster, iron, or blender, even if she swears that's what she wants. A more tactful choice: buy some lacy things at Victoria's Secret, even though you know she can't wear them.
You'll be glad you did.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 10:39 AM
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
Well, the curtain has rung down on the girls, who were last seen talking loudly and wearing their hats at family functions.
Rose died a few years ago, but Ellen and Shirley were still going strong. Last Thursday, they played bridge with "the girls." Women were called girls to this demographic, whether they were 19 or 90. On Friday, Ellen's assistant was taking them somewhere, probably to play cards again, and ran her car off the road, killing both of them. Shirley had just celebrated her 97th birthday, and Ellen was almost 95. Lives tragically cut short!
I'm not kidding--those girls had lots of mileage left on them. They played cards like Las Vegas cardsharps, and had opinions on everything, loudly and confidently asserted, often but not exclusively concerning the activities of the younger generation.
It's the end of an era for their nieces and nephews, who will never see their like again.
Well, they had a nice time Thursday. And neither had the sad task of burying the other.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 9:28 PM
|What military aircraft are you?|
You are an F-15. Your record in combat is spotless; you've never been defeated. You possess good looks, but are not flashy about it. You prefer to let your reputation do the talking. You are fast, agile, and loud, but reaching the end of your stardom.
|Click Here to Take This Quiz|
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.
But I'm cute.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 11:09 AM
Friday, December 15, 2006
From the economist:
...[T]he results of two trials, announced on Wednesday December 13th, conducted in Uganda and Kenya under the auspices of America’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), unequivocally show that circumcision can protect men from infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The circumcised are half as likely to catch the virus as the uncircumcised. The result is so strong that the NIH has stopped both trials: ethical considerations require that circumcision be offered immediately to the uncircumcised control groups of men in both, should they want it.
Maybe we Jews are onto something.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 9:29 PM
running for president:
EVERYONE who laughed when the elfin Dennis Kucinich threw his hat in the ring to run for president in 2004 should realize why he smiles.
He had 2,955,963 reasons to smile. That is how many bucks federal taxpayers gave his ridiculous campaign for president....
[U]nder the bizarre federal election rules, taxpayers had to give this fool $2,955,963 just to humor his vanity.
Ralph Nader took $798,827 from taxpayers in 2004 to indulge his fantasy of being elected president. ...
Lyndon LaRouche is another likely candidate. Last time, he squeezed $1,456,019 from taxpayers.
In 2000, Pat Buchanan hit the jackpot, drawing $16,635,624 in federal matching funds. He drew just 0.4 percent of the popular vote.
Another example of your tax dollars at work.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 5:18 AM
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Most of our friends are a mixed lot: lapsed Jews, lapsed Catholics, lapsed Catholics married to lapsed Jews, Unitarians, Druids, and people who can't be bothered with religious stuff. These are nice, socially conscious people, who think that the greatest gift they can give someone is a donation to some charity in the recipient's name.
Like most people, they like to send cards to their friends during the holiday season, but they do not want to offend. So, pictures of the Virgin Mary, the Wise Men, stables, Christmas trees, and country churches in the snow are out.
Santa Claus or snowmen are okay, if a little juvenile for their tastes. They prefer to send pictures of doves, other cute birds, puppies, kittens, mailboxes covered with snow, or stylized abstract designs.
The messages are becoming increasingly vague and noncommittal. Forget Merry Christmas--they now wish you happy holidays, joys of the season, or a very jolly time.
Any day now, I expect to receive a card wishing me and mine a very successful fourth quarter.
My friends are being too sensitive: I don't mind anyone wishing me a Merry Christmas. I assume it's well meant. And I like the festive nature of the season, the sheer Bing Crosbyness of the whole thing. Chestnuts roasting, performances of the Nutcracker and the Messiah, bustling stores, you know the drill. Even a bit of snow doesn't come amiss.
What I don't like is the wretched excess--Christmas seems to take up about a sixth of the year nowadays. Right after Halloween, as the skeletons are being put away and plastic turkeys make a cursory appearance, Christmas decorations come out, the radio stations play nothing but Christmas carols, and the television networks run It's a Wonderful Life 24/7. By about December 15, my enthusiasm starts to flag.
Still, I wish everyone a very merry whatever you like. So there!
Posted by miriam sawyer at 3:42 PM
from the differing standpoint of men and women.
Men are not big gift wrappers....
[B]ecause of some defect in my motor skills, I can never completely wrap them. I can take a gift the size of a deck of cards and put it the exact center of a piece of wrapping paper the size of a regulation volleyball court, but when I am done folding and taping, you can still see a sector of the gift peeking out....
On the other hand, if you give my wife a 12-inch square of wrapping paper, she can wrap a C-130 cargo plane. My wife, like many women, actually likes wrapping things. If she gives you a gift that requires batteries, she wraps the batteries separately, which to me is very close to being a symptom of mental illness. If it were possible, my wife would wrap each individual volt.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 3:37 PM
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Can NBC tell both sides of illegal immigration?
NBC will be running "Tom Brokaw Reports: In the Shadow of the American Dream" a special about illegal immigration on December 26.
Color me skeptical, but every single time they've run one of these "specials" it has turned out to be full blown "blame America" pieces that show a bunch of poor, "do gooder" illegal aliens and some evil "racist" Americans who want them deported.... They never show the families that have been destroyed by illegal alien criminals, drunk drivers and vicious gangs like MS-13.
You may hear the word "illegal", but more than likely you'll hear the word "undocumented" once and then after that just "immigrant", lumping the illegals in with immigrants as a whole. You'll see plenty of crying illegal aliens and no crying Americans, as we all know the illegal aliens are the victims. Right?
I stand squarely on both sides of this issue. It gripes me to see people breaking our laws, but I feel for the poor immigrants who just want a chance to work and get a better life. However, when I see them demonstrating and threatening to take this country back it pisses me off.
Why don't we appoint a bipartisan commission, with Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton at its head...oh, wait, we all know how well that works!
Posted by miriam sawyer at 10:42 AM
From Rachel, a lament:
Ostensible adults continue to appropriate holidays meant for children.
As far as I can see, Santa photo ops have always been for adults. My younger daughter always wept copiously when she was handed over to this putative child molester, perhaps for good.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 10:19 AM
Monday, December 11, 2006
I mean, I know we have our agents (known in tradecraft as neo-cons) controlling the highest ranks of government, international banking, labor unions, socialist agitators, Thomas the Tank Engine, etc. We also direct the media.
So what's gone wrong? We've got to get it together if we really, sincerely want to take over the world. No more calling in sick, long lunch hours, flirting around the water cooler, vacations in Aruba, or playing games on your computer. Keep your noses to the grindstone, and hatch out some more of our trademark fiendish plans. In the time you waste chatting up your friends on the cell phone, you could be finalizing plans to take over Iran and make slaves of the Iranians. Or ousting Hugo Chavez. Or terrorizing the Syrians with hailstones and frogs. Maybe foment a riot in Cuba. The possibilites are endless. You're bone lazy, that's your problem.
Get to work.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 9:59 AM
|You Are a "Don't Tread On Me" Libertarian|
You distrust the government, are fiercely independent, and don't belong in either party.
Religion and politics should never mix, in your opinion... and you feel opressed by both.
You don't want the government to cramp your self made style. Or anyone else's for that matter.
You're proud to say that you're pro-choice on absolutely everything!
And here I thought I was a real right-wing crank.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 2:04 AM
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Why tell your children about Santa Claus?
One of the truly magical aspects of baby's first Christmas is that he won't know what it's all about, which means you don't have to buy him anything. Baby's ignorance can be your financial bliss .... In fact, fiscally responsible parents understand that keeping their children in the dark about Christmas for as long as possible pays enormous economic dividends. Look at this way, sooner or later your little so-and-so is going to discover that Santa Claus doesn't exist, so why bother to tell him about the irresponsible fat fool in the first place?
Posted by miriam sawyer at 9:45 PM
Norman Borlaug "has saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived." This is a profound distinction. Like the society that sustains it, American academia takes achievements like this for granted. One must wonder how many professors, outside schools such as Tuskegee and departments dedicated to agriculture, have any idea that an American university professor holds the all-time record for lives saved. A Congressional Gold Medal is the very least that America can do to honor Norman Borlaug, a hero to all and a friend of humanity.
Read the whole tribute.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 2:19 PM
The final word:
[T]here is very little that is surprising arising from the efforts of these elderly celebrants of diplodancing to whom every problem can be solved by talking and, perhaps, treating the people most at risk as expendable and non-contributory. After all, there is really no other way to understand the thinking behind a report which proposes to determine the future of Iraq and Israel (the connection between the two remains difficult to grasp, but Baker assures us the connection exists) without ever consulting the peoples involved. There were no Iraqis, no American military, and no Israelis on the panel and very few were actually consulted.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 8:26 AM
Friday, December 08, 2006
There were four of them. Millie, the oldest, was kind of dowdy but hardly counted because she got married young and settled down, to be more or less forgotten.
But the three youngest! They were all drop-dead gorgeous, with dark hair and beautiful smiles. Ellen was tall, angular and boyish, Rose (my aunt) looked just like Rosalind Russell, and Shirley was smaller, curvaceous, and had dimples. Their parents had to chase the young men away with baseball bats. They went to dances and parties, and were the belles of the ball. The florist's delivery van had the route to their house memorized.
By the time I knew them, they were all grown up and married to men of means. They were still a formidable group when they got together--the hoots of laughter! The fun of ordering everyone around! The joy of dishing the dirt on members of the family who weren't present! When my brother got married, my mother was far from well, so the three sisters planned the wedding, decided the guest list, sent out invitations, and bossed around everyone from the florist to the caterer to the rabbi.
In due course they all became widows, and went to family functions as a group. They were stately by this time, and wore enormous hats, the kind of hats only a person who could get away with it would wear. One of these hats would be sufficient to serve as a sail on a fairly large boat. They were made of regal fabrics, and decorated with feathers and flowers. Think black church lady hats, only much more so. If you sat behind them at a function, they appeared to be a solid phalanx of hats. They were splendid.
I miss seeing them. I particularly miss the hats.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 10:01 PM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
All flying Imams will automatically get second package of pretzels without needing to ask...
and from Frater Libertas, this observation:
I have to think that one of the Top 11 highlights of the Iraq Study Group is that all these geezers were all able to meet for nine months without anybody breaking a hip, getting lost on the way home, or passing away. The average age of the members was SEVENTY-FOUR....
... When ... advice is being offered by people with more experience driving ten miles under the speed limit with their turn signal on in Florida than investigating what's taking place on the ground in Iraq, it's a complete farce.
He's disrespecting us grannies!
Posted by miriam sawyer at 10:04 PM
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
How about a three-foot-long rubber iguana?
Or how about a nunchuck, which catapults a nun? Or how about a real classic?
These are just a few of the items that can be found at this website. Perfect for any ten-year-old boy on your list.
How about a pencil sharpener in the shape of a nose? Or a book of soda can experiments, guaranteed to lead to really messy experiments?
Mr Charm, who is older than ten, found their catalog fascinating. Go and look for yourself.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 9:36 AM
Monday, December 04, 2006
9. Recording of Islamic Rage Boy's hit single, now topping the charts;
8. Funeral plot of your very own;
7. Facelift by Joan Rivers' plastic surgeon;
6. Year of skin treatments by Michael Jackson's dermatologist;
5. Three nights and two days in picturesque downtown Baghdad;
4. All-expense tour of Cape Cod, with Ted Kennedy;
3. All-expense tour of Washington DC, with Patrick Kennedy;
2. Exciting boat trip to Cambodia, with John Kerry;
1. John Kerry's magic hat. Autographed.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 1:12 PM
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
How should I know? I've never been there, I've never spoken to anyone who has, and I don't know how wars should be fought. I only know what I'm told in the media.
Whenever I pick up a newspaper or magazine, I encounter an entrenched belief that the war is going badly. Television nightly shows us people blowing themselves and others up. Left wing or right wing, nearly all the pundits are discouraging. Even most bloggers seem to think the war is a disaster. The drumbeat goes on, people never hear about anything good happening in Iraq, and we are encouraged to believe that the war is going very, very badly.
Then, on occasion, you read about good developments in Iraq: schools being built, towns which are tranquil, the Kurdish area's functioning government, marshes being restored so people can make a living from them.
Are all these people writing about the same place? The same war? The same universe, even?
I think the reason people are so pessimistic is that, until recently, no-one from the administration made the case for this war. Bush appeared to think he was an administrator, not a leader. Maybe they taught him in Harvard Business School that the art of managing consists of sitting at your desk, emptying your in-box into your out-box.
Bush should have gotten out in front of the American people and try some leadership. If he had used the bully pulpit and persuaded the electorate of the necessity for this war, things might have developed quite differently. But he allowed the Democrats to set the national agenda, and whoever sets the agenda wins the argument.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was able to persuade the people of the necessity of World War II. Do you think the electorate were sheep? They were not. There were many who were strongly opposed to our participation. Famous people, like Charles Lindbergh, spoke out against it. But FDR was able to persuade the people to get behind the war, to allow their sons to be drafted, to put up with rationing, to allow Japanese-Americans to be confined, and to buy war bonds. People, enough of them anyway, trusted him. That is leadership.
We could use some of that now.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 9:49 PM
Christmas is the prime season for useless or ugly gifts.
Someone sent us an Object all the way from England. It was a ceramic figure, about 6 inches high, obviously chosen for its esthetic value, as it had no discernible purpose. It would have been the perfect gift for the P G Wodehouse heroine who thought the stars were God's daisy chain.
You wouldn't think you could get that much ugly into an object only 6 inches high. It was a statuette of a stump. At the foot of the stump were some contorted mushrooms. There were also bunnies, and perhaps a bird. Some flowers. Vines twined around the stump. It was a puky pink in the places where it wasn't white, grey or beige, and made of English bone china. I would post its picture, but somewhere in the move to Delaware it got lost.
Our children's librarian was given a dickey with pictures of those little flags--you know the ones ships signal with, made of the finest polyester. I thought it was a real contender for the ugliest, most useless gift I've ever seen.
One of my friends, a teacher, told me about a room in the school where she taught-- a small room, not really used for anything. It was there that the teachers put the gifts that were too awful to take home or even look at. Some time in April or May, after the shock had worn off, the janitor cleared the room.
Another friend, who had just gotten married, had his car broken into, and all the wedding gifts stolen. He was immensely grateful. It was a twofer. Not only would he and his wife not have to look at these objects, but they didn't have to display them when the donors came to visit.
And what's with those teeny-weeny jars of jelly? Has anyone ever eaten any of them? Has anyone ever been grateful for a fondue pot?
How about you? What are the most useless, ugliest gifts you've ever received?
Posted by miriam sawyer at 10:20 AM