Thursday, February 28, 2008

A nice appreciation of Homer

The Weekly Standard has an article attesting to the durability of Homer.

I can attest to the fact that the Odyssey appeals to all ages. I bought a child's version of it for my 6-year-old grandson, thinking it might be a bit too advanced for his interests, as well as too gory. (This is a kid who found Chicken Little scary.)

Anyway, I started to read it to him, and he seemed willing enough to sit and listen. When I got to the chapter about the Cyclops, I was a little apprehensive--after all, the Cyclops seized several of Odysseus's men and ate them alive, among other horrors. But the kid listened, so I soldiered on.

I was reading the part where Odysseus fools the Cyclops by telling him his name is Nobody, and proceeds to put the giant's eye out, when I heard peals of childish laughter. The kid was very taken by Odysseus tricking Cyclops. The fact that his eye was poked out didn't phase him at all. He loved this part of the story, and insisted that everyone in the family read it to him, over and over.

I concluded that different people bring different points of view to the classics.

Lovers with statue of Caesar Rodney

 
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Al Sharpton leads prayer vigil

The old humbug claims police brutality:

The Rev. Al Sharpton conducted the vigil ... outside the courthouse.

Surrounded by a throng of photographers and reporters, Mr. Sharpton referred to two racially motivated crimes from the past, saying: “Twenty-one years ago we were at the same courthouse for Howard Beach. We were also here two years ago for Fat Nick. We are here again determined to have justice.”


I can't believe the almighty didn't strike him dead for his presumptuousness. God does indeed move in mysterious ways. If I were God, I would have taken out old Al in a New York minute.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dear Ann Landers:

I don't understnnd how anyone can run for office when candidates and their significant others can be dragged through the mud over an innocent remark.

I happened to remark that I have not felt proud of my country for all my adult life and they jumped all over me. Yet no-one knows what I have suffered as a minority woman growing up in this racist country.

For instance: when I was in third grade, three (3) kids did not send me valentines even though it was mandatory to send cards to everyone in the class! Racism at its worst! Can you deny it?

Then in high school, the captain of the football team never asked me out--because I did better in geometry than he did--rampant sexism! Nor did I get to go to the Junior Prom with the date of my choice! These incidents--which I attribute to the fact that Ronald Reagan was president--scarred my young life and made me bitter.

Sure, I was admitted to Princeton, but I was never chosen as Homecoming Queen, nor did the white students strew my path with rose petals as I walked through the campus to make up to me for the racism and sexism I had suffered in the past.

Okay, I concede I was admitted to Harvard Law, but the thought that--perhaps--I had been chosen because of affirmative action turned my triumph to ashes and dust.

When my husband (whose name I will not mention) is elected president, every child will get valentines from every other member of the class or the full majesty of the law will be invoked on their parents. Every girl will get to date the man of her choice, and all will be on the honor roll and go to Princeton, Harvard, Yale, or the College of William and Mary. Everyone will also go to law school and pass the bar of their respective states on the first try.

In his spare time, he will capture Osama bin Laden, invade Pakistan, and make friends with Ahmedidnejidad or whatever his name is and clear up the frightful misunderstanding which has clouded our relations with Iran.

Not only will we have universal health care, but legislation will be passed in Congress to prohibit anyone from getting sick for more than five days. Those who violate this law will be forced to watch a DVD of the principal speeches of Fidel Castro. All the way through.

Signed,
An embittered wife (MO).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Suggestions for the obese

Good advice, but hard to put into practice:

The best way not to be fat is simply not to be American. But this may be harder than you think.
Recent scientific studies have shown that even the very air in America is full of extra calories....

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson





We watched a film, "They were Expendable," this evening. In the course of the film, this poem was quoted:

Requiem

UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

I always loved RLS. I first read his children's poems when I was a little girl.

He was sickly all his life, but never let his poor health stop him from doing anything he wanted to do. "[S]ick and well, I have had a splendid life of it, grudge nothing, regret very little ... take it all over, I would hardly change with any man of my time."

He died at the age of 44.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lame ideas

Relying on "hope" and "change" to solve our political problems is like taking care of your financial problems by buying a lottery ticket.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dilemma

I try to send something of mine to Pat Santy (Carnival of the Insanities) every week. It's probably the only way I get readers who deliberately come to my blog, except for the happy few who stop by regularly. She puts the Carnival together late Saturday, and likes contributors to send their stuff as early as possible--and only one per contributor.

But every week, when Thursday rolls around, I look through my paltry contributions for the week, and try to figure out which one is the most amusing, timely, clever, or just plain nuts enough to make the cut.

I generally settle for something moderately amusing--I'm a really moderate writer, sort of. By this I mean I am not screamingly, side-splittingly funny, like Iowahawk or Johnny Virgil. No-one has accused me of making them roll on the floor laughing, or spit out their diet drink. An amused smile, perhaps a chuckle, or a slight upturning of the lips are the usual responses of that happy few, my regular readers. That's when they're not saying to themselves: "What on earth is she going on about now?"

So here I am, it's almost the deadline, and I can't decide between the Hillary-Coulter post or the Ed Rendell one. There's a slight chance I might come up with something even more amusing and to the point by Friday night, but I wouldn't bet on it. Still, stranger things have happened.

And who knows, Pat may decide to give my humble submission a pass this time around.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ed Rendell sounds off

He's worried about Obama's candidacy:

"You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate," Rendell told the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in remarks that appeared in Tuesday's paper.


I, personally, resent the assumption that conservatives are bigots. I know that I am not.

He doesn't seem to have a high opinion of Pennsylvania voters. Of course he has a point--they elected him, didn't they?

New poem discovered

Scholars are excited by the discovery of a new manuscript by Geoffrey Chaucer. It was found wrapped around some rather odd-smelling fish.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tutorial

Everyone who knows how to use the Dewey Decimal System, (or the Library of Congress system, for that matter), skip this.

There is no mystique about the Dewey Decimal System. The only people who find it mysterious and arcane are catalogers, of whom the less said the better.

The DDS is a way of putting books in order, nothing more. You put your socks in your sock drawer and your sweaters in your sweater drawer, don't you? What if you had to look through every drawer in the house to find your socks? Imagine finding one of 100,000 books by looking around, without any guide. Librarians know that if a book is mis-shelved, it is as good as lost.

Or compare it to house numbers. House numbers are in order, odd numbers on one side of the street, even numbers on the other. If 23 came after 67 but before 18, chaos would ensue, or you would have a bunch of baffled drivers going 15 miles and hour down the street peering at all the buildings and muttering to themselves. Just like they do now, on Foulk Rd in North Wilmington, DE, in the good old USA.

I'm glad I could straighten that out.

Artful Kisser interviews me

She had some interesting, thoughtful questions.

1. You've been blogging since January 2005. What motivated you to start? What's motivated you to continue and how do you think it's evolved over the past three years?

I had just retired and was looking around for something to do that wouldn't get me into jail.

2. Excuse my ignorance, but I think the dude on the horse at the top of your blog is Paul Revere. (If not, please correct me!) What does he signify for you and what inspired you to grant him such a prominent place on your blog?

The dude on the horse is Caesar Rodney, a signer of the Declaration of Independence for Delaware. The statue sits in Rodney Square, in the heart of Wilmington, DE, where I live now.

3. In your very first post you wrote about being a librarian. You've written some entertaining anecdotes about your perceptions of strange characters you've encountered on both sides of the counter eg. the cross dresser, the lonely heart, the three year old patron amongst others. How do you think you were perceived? eg. the helpful librarian, the sexy librarian, the grumpy librarian, the pedantic librarian etc, etc.

I hope my staff perceived me as someone who would always stand up for them and encourage them to do their best. The public? Probably some of them hated me, because I was the person they encountered after they had been dropped on their head a few times. I grew to really like some of our patrons, and worked with them on several projects, including our Centennial Celebration. As for our Board of Trustees who were serving when I left, I would feel just fine about finding them dead in a ditch, individually or collectively.

4. Are you a Dewey Decimal fan? Have you ever had patrons complaining that books aren't in the same order as at Borders and asking where they can buy their frappucinos? Speaking of which what are your thoughts on how the place of the library has changed for the public over the years?

The Dewey Decimal System is just a method for putting the books in order so you can find them. I do feel Borders has a more attractive layout than the library--that's because they have to sell books. We struggled to find attractive ways to promote our books, displays, etc., with greater or lesser results.

American public libraries are the best in the world. They really welcome readers and try to help them. They don't do that in other countries. However, I really feel that librarians started to lose readers when we became cheap substitutes for the video store. Now no-one needs the video store, there are so many options. I love the fact that libraries preserve the best that humanity has written through the ages and that people still read these. But I fear that with our present education system people will be so ignorant that libraries will fall into disuse.

5. Is it true that our borrowing habits are monitored and certain books are flagged for nvestigation by the powers that be? Or is it urban legend and just more fodder for the paranoid?
Not in New Jersey. Library records are confidential by law, and librarians respect this. Borrowing habits are not monitored in libraries. However, if you buy books and DVDs online, they do have a record of your preferences, for business reasons. In the library, after the books are returned--we do have to know where they are when they are out--the records of who borrowed that particular item are erased from the database. So we couldn't tell anyone what you were reading if we wanted to.

6. Politics is clearly a passion of yours with a definite Republican flavour coming through. You briefly wrote about your transition from being a Democrat to becoming a Republican. Can you elaborate on how, when and why that change came about?

I was just starting to write about this. My father was an ardent leftist. I believe he voted for Henry Wallace back in the day. I got lots of leftist indoctrination in my private school, where they were ardent cheerleaders for the Soviet Union. When I grew up I started to read a lot of American biography and U S history, and began to think for myself. I was always a Democrat, though. At one time, someone I wanted to vote for was running in the Republican primary and I switched parties to vote for him. It was easy to switch in those days. Later, when I wanted to switch back, it was more difficult. I was still a Democrat at heart though. I thought Reagan was a damned fool for asking Gorby to tear down the Berlin Wall--everyone knew it was there to stay! But Reagan was proved right, and I and all the other Dems who thought he was a jerk were revealed to be the real jerks. Another thing that turned me off about the Democrats was their attitude to the space program --they wanted the money to be spent on "alleviating poverty." I thought the exploration of space was exciting. The late 60s and early 70s anti-war crowd annoyed me, too. I didn't like their self-righteous attitude. When we deserted the South Vietnamese, making the world safe for the massacre of thousands who had counted on our support, I was ashamed of my country.

7. Which politician, past or present, has inspired you the most in your life? What of their qualities appealed to you and why?

I loved Harry Truman and both Roosevelts. The more I read about Teddy the more fascinating I find him. I admire Rudy Guiliani's honesty. I admire John McCain and ardently support the war in Iraq. If we turn tail and run again, we will have a lot to answer for. As for the rest of the politicians, I can take them or leave them alone.

8. Which politician, past or present, has angered you the most and why?

None of our American politicians really anger me, but the rapturous crowds around Barack Obama scare me. They remind me of a Hitler youth rally. Also, he is a good speaker and a likeable guy, but insofar as he has admitted having any ideas, I disagree with him. However, he seems to think everything will be hunky-dory if we just join hands and sing Kumbaya--if it were that easy, Bush would have done it.

9. Who do you hope will be the next President of the United States of America?

I wanted Rudy, but will vote for McCain. I don't think anything else matters, if we lose the war against terrorism.

10. Your mother sounds like she was a formidable character; a lawyer who represented the tired, poor, huddled masses. You've written a couple of posts about her with great fondness. What influence did she have on you growing up and which of her traits, good or bad, do you recognise in yourself today?

I wish I could be like my mother--she cast a long shadow. I admired her honesty and generosity. The older I get, the more I realize how smart she was. I always thought my father was the smart one, but I think she had him outclassed. She could drive you crazy, but I drive my daughters crazy sometimes.

11. Your husband, Mr Charm, comes up occasionally in your reflections, as do other members of your family. How did you meet and how long have you been married? What brought you together and what has held you together? And does he read your blog?

Mr Charm and I met in the unemployment line in New York City. He was very good-looking and had beautiful blue eyes and a soulful look. I have always been a romantic and he looked romantic so I fell for him. By the time I knew better it was too late. We like some of the same things--music, books, and our gorgeous daughters and their absolutely beautiful children.

He doesn't read my blog. But he read my book, as I was writing it, and made intelligent comments.

12. You have an extensive blogroll. You're on a desert island with a laptop but only have access to 5 blogs - ever. Who are they? And why?

Oh, dear. I wasn't sworn in, so I can lie about this. Anyway, my favorite bloggers have links. Okay: I love Tim Blair and read him first thing. Mark Steyn is another favorite. Iowahawk is an extremely clever writer, and I love the Nose on Your Face. And Neil. And the Passing Parade--and...

13. And the obvious question that had to be asked on receiving Miriam's answers - You wrote a book? Can you tell me about it or is that something you prefer not to mention?

The book was a joint effort and was called Distinguished African Americans in aviation and space science. It consists of 100 short biographical articles about--you guessed it--African Americans in aviation and space science. Some of the biographees were pioneers who paved the way for others, some are contemporaries. We included all the Tuskegee Airmen we could locate. Most of these are gone now, and their stories are worth preserving. One of my subjects was Ron McNair, who lost his life in the Challenger disaster. It was a terrible loss--he was a brilliant man.

It was a perfect project for me. I enjoyed the research, especially communicating by e-mail with some of my subjects. The writing was fun, too.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Carnival of the Insanities is up

Good bloggy reading!

An unexpected supporter



Hillary: good news! I'm going to campaign for you!




Um, thanks.



Where do you think I would be most effective?



Guam is lovely at this time of year.



Guam?




Okay, then--how about the Aleutians?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Obama as spiritual leader

Jeff Jarvis expresses misgivings, which I share:

Though he catalogues his issues — Iraq, health care, the standard list — his message is made up of little more than stock marketing taglines. He’s not so much running for office as branding himself.

Listen to last night’s medley of his greatest hits: “Our time has come… Our movement is real… Change is coming to America… We are more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always will be the United States of America… This time can be different…. Not this time. Not this year…. This time we have to seize the moment…. This fall, we owe the American people a real choice…. We have to choose between change and more of the same, we have to choose between looking backwards and looking forward. We have to choose between our future and our past…. We can do this… We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek…. Yes we can…. Yes we can….” Cue crowd chanting: “Yes we can…”

His supporters... buy his image and believe he is less political and that he is indeed different. I think he’s more political and his campaign is the greatest example of the selling of the president I’ve yet seen. To state it harshly, I say that relying on these stock phrases — believing that we are going to swallow empty oratory about “change” punctuated with chants of “yes we can” — is a cynical political act.


There's more:

When I complained on my blog that I want to hire a manager not a spiritual adviser for the White House ... my commenters responded with their dreamy wishes for an uplifting Obama administration instead. Said one: “I don’t want an executive, I want someone to stoke the fires of political engagement so that the people will be involved in thier government again.” Said another: “We don’t want an executive to lead us - we want someone who will amplify our voices and give us the ability to reach into government.” Nevermind the job title is chief executive.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The worst Oscar-winning picture ever



Joan Crawford plays a self-sacrificing mother, a woman whom fate has singled out for a blow on the head with a sockful of wet sand.

In one memorable scene, Mildred--a real self-sacrificing ninny, who has stooped so low as to take a job as a waitress--comes home after a long day slinging hash to be comforted by the old family retainer, Butterfly McQueen.

Only in Hollywood would a humble waitress who works in a diner have live-in help.

I didn't know we had a primary in Delaware




Delaware is so low-key that no-one even mentions such a thing. In New Jersey, where I was one of the few Republicans in the city, I actually got letters inviting me to be district leader!

Anyway, the state of New Jersey knows that its residents are such blockheads that if we are not officially notified by mail that there is an election we are likely to sleep through it. If that is not enough, we get letters and phone calls telling us how important our vote is. So by the time the election is held, we are really psyched about it and eager to go to the polls. I guess that's because it matters who New Jersey votes for--they have a relatively large population.

I actually wasn't sure we were having a primary in Delaware, but I didn't get too excited about it. Most of the state elected officials are Democrats anyway, so who cares which loser gets picked to run against them? As far as the Presidential election goes, Delaware can't have too many delegates, because we don't have too many people living here.

But I voted anyway. I went over about 1 p.m. to the school where I vote--lunchtime. All the election workers were nodding off over their sandwiches and coffee. We were seven to one--seven people working the polls, and me, the lone voter.

But--and I've never seen this--there was no American flag prominently displayed outside the building! Not the flag on the flagpole, but the flag that is usually pasted up over the door or walls outside the building. I've voted in three states--New York, New Jersey, and Florida--and I've never seen a polling place without that flag. As I said, we're a laid back bunch in Delaware, but where was that flag? It was a funny feeling, not seeing it.

On the evening news they actually reported the results from Delaware, as if anyone cared, and I'm happy to say that my candidate won! So I guess it was legal and everything.

But where was that flag?

Monday, February 04, 2008

People hate politicians

All of use exercise fans talk while we ride the bikes, mainly because riding the bikes is incredibly boring. But I heard something new today. One man swore to me that he had heard on good authority that Teddy Kennedy had deliberately murdered Mary Jo Kopechne because she was pregnant with his child.

I thought this a little far-fetched--murder by driving a car into a body of water? Surely there are easier ways? A bit risky to oneself, and besides you lose a perfectly drivable car. It's sort of like burning the house down to get roast pork.

I think I'll disregard this one along with the slanders about Bush's National Guard Service, Barack's slumlord friends, and Whitewater shenanigans.

Advice for McCain haters:

Stop whining, you losers! McCain won fair and square, by popular vote--no putsch put him in first place. He is the popularly elected candidate of the Republican Party, and vox populi, vox dei--the voice of the people is the voice of God.

I happen to disagree with God on this, as on many other topics, but who cares what I think? I personally loved Rudy. But seeing as Rudy has withdrawn from the race, I can't vote for him. McCain will be running against either Hillary or Obama. I don't approve of her politics, and he absolutely frightens me. I would no sooner give him the country to play with than I would give a six-year-old a Mercedes to drive.

For me, it's all about the war. As the late Vince Lombardi said, winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. Everything else is irrelevant. And McCain has been consistently right on the war. If we are defeated by Islamofascism, none of the other stuff will matter. We won't have the luxury of nattering on about the economy or health care--we will be too busy learning Arabic and trying on burkas.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

This creeps me out

Welcome, Carnival of the Insanities readers!


Maria Shriver puts her two cents in:

The California first lady added that Obama "is about the power of us, and what we can do when we come together. Because as everybody up here has said, there is much more that unites us than divides us.

"He is about empowering women, African-Americans, Latinos, older people, young people. He's about empowering all of us."


This reminds me of "One people, one nation, one leader," the Nazi Party slogan. Now don't go crazy sending me comments, I know she is not a Nazi. I know Obama is not a Nazi. I am referring to the over-the-top irrationality of Obama's fans. These people are so emotional they scare me. You are supposed to use your brain in choosing political candidates, not your emotions.

Shriver is so gaunt and starved-looking that she looks like a capo in a concentration camp. Yes, it is possible to be too thin.

Get yourself over to the Carnival of the Insanities

Befitting the season, it's mostly about politics.

Something that Elisabeth said reminded me...

of something that happened to a friend of mine:

Interestingly, about four years ago, I made an attempt at becoming involved with the democratic party in my little town (which is overwhelmingly republican.) I thought that this would help me meet townies who were not connected to the university where I teach. This proved to be a bust, because the people involved in the democratic party in my town form a tight-knit clique that was not really into opening itself to newcomers ...


True story: My friend Joan had always been a member of the Democratic party when she lived in the city, and did a lot of volunteer work for them. She worked hard, because she enjoyed politics. When she moved to the suburbs, she called the local (Democratic) party leaders and offered herself as a volunteer. They told her they had nothing for her to do and had no need for her services.

So Joan volunteered for the Republican party. They were delighted to get her, and last I heard, she was county chairwoman. She is now, of course, a rabid Republican.

C'est le premier pas qui coute. I'm not too sure I remember the French rightly, so I'll paraphrase: it is the first step that counts--or to put it another way and quote a Chinese proverb, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

My interview with Elisabeth

Neil has a thing going, where one blogger interviews another, the second interviews the third, and a great human chain is created. I was lucky enough to get to interview Elisabeth, a very interesting and intelligent person, and with Delaware ties to boot. So here goes:


What an interesting CV you have. Your choice of college majors intrigues me. Why political science? Are you a political activist, or would you describe yourself as an observer?

I actually started my post-secondary studies in France, by attending the Classes PrÈparatoires aux Grandes …coles, at the LycÈe Faidherbe in Lille, for two years. There, my major was English. I was not particularly great at it – my aural/oral skills were abysmal – but I was in love with the language and with American popular culture which, in retrospect, I barely knew. The atmosphere in the Classes PrÈparatoires aux Grandes …coles, especially during my second year there, was rotten to the core – things were way too competitive – and I went into a state of pretty deep depression (and having a depressive boyfriend did not help either.) I did not do terribly well during that second year, and that’s when I decided to go spend a year in the U.S.A. I basically never went back to school in France after that, except that, after my one year in the U.S., my father “forced” me to attend a nine-month, government-sponsored program, during which I was trained as a bilingual secretary (to this day, I am still a bit resentful that he made me do this, but I did acquire decent typing skills.)

In August 1975, I married an American whom I had met during my year in the U.S. He was a French teacher at a catholic high school in Wilmington, Delaware. I wanted to go back to school and get a B.A. very badly and, at first, I thought that I would major in French, so that I could teach that language at the high school level (and I did take a few French literature classes at the University of Delaware.) But my husband vehemently opposed that idea. He thought that I would not be able to find a job and that, if I did, I would not be happy with it. He would always tell me: “You do not want to teach high school.”

I began developing an interest in political science, and thought that, perhaps, I’d like to go to law school someday. It was the late 1970’s, and everyone was going to law school. I declared a major in political science and economics, but dropped the economics major after a bad experience with a totally inept professor in the economics department at the University of Delaware, and after I realized that I hated accounting, and would have to take two semesters of accounting to fulfill a requirement for the economics major. I did finish the B.A. in political science, though, by going to school part-time for the most part (I did go to school full-time for just one year), and graduated from the University of Delaware, Summa Cum Laude, in June, 1982.

I never went to law school. I started working as a translator and coordinator of translation services at The Franklin Mint (headquartered in Wawa, PA, between Wilmington, DE, and Philadelphia), and remained, in various capacities, with that company until August, 1988. In the meantime, my husband had started a PhD in applied linguistics at the University of Delaware, and we did not have any money to pay for law school for me. I am very glad that those plans never materialized, because I think that I would have been incredibly unhappy as a lawyer (there is not a single attorney that I have ever met whom I have liked, in fact, I have found every lawyer that I have ever met insufferable.)
To answer the second part of your question, no, I am not a political activist by any means and, frankly, I do feel a tad guilty about that, but there is really no time for political activism in my life. I follow U.S. politics very closely, and French politics a bit more loosely (but enough to know what’s going on.) I faithfully watch Meet the Press, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday mornings, and I have followed attentively most of the presidential debates. I am a heart-bleeding liberal and, since I became a U.S. citizen in 1993, I have always voted democrat. Even though I really like both Obama and Clinton, I am a tad more inclined to support Hillary than Barack – I think it has more to do with the fact that I have liked and admired her for a very long time, and that I feel a bit less connected to him. But I would basically be happy with either as the democratic nominee. I despise John McCain, and it scares the hell out of me that he might end up being the republican nominee, and I would not be one bit happy if he were to win the 2008 presidential election (I am a tad scared of Mitt Romney as well, but my belief is that, if Romney gets nominated, we have a greater chance of ending up with a democrat as president.)

By the way, I avoid like the plague discussing politics on my blog, because this type of discussion only brings out the worst in people in the blogosphere. But I have great admiration for those who do, and one of my favorite blogs to read is Major Conflict (http://majorconflict.blogspot.com/). I occasionally discuss some social issues, but not terribly often.

Interestingly, about four years ago, I made an attempt at becoming involved with the democratic party in my little town (which is overwhelmingly republican.) I thought that this would help me meet townies who were not connected to the university where I teach. This proved to be a bust, because the people involved in the democratic party in my town form a tight-knit clique that was not really into opening itself to newcomers (it does not help that I usually find myself being a little shy among people whom I do not know.) I am not sure that I will ever try this again.

You describe your childhood as a series of moves. Would you say your
childhood was a happy one?

This is a very tough question to answer honestly, because I think that one always romanticizes one’s past – either to paint it much darker, or much rosier than it really was.

I frankly believe that my childhood, although not thoroughly unhappy, was not exactly a very happy one, and here are the reasons why:
- My father was a depressive hypochondriac, who was extremely controlling, and spent his entire life trying to prove himself (why he was that way is another story, which I cannot really tell here.) He would sometime get into fits of rage that were very scary. He was never physically abusive to my mother or to my brother and me, but I could probably claim that he was mentally abusive to us at times.
- My mother was morally rigid (my father’s oldest brother, who was a catholic bishop, claimed that there was a Jansenist streak in her family!), incredibly strict, and I spent my entire childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood being afraid of her (I still have lots of issues dealing with her – she is now 86, and I am 55!). She was never physically abusive to my brother and me either, but it seems that she took some sort of evil pleasure in torturing us mentally. I often think that I ended up settling permanently in the U.S. to escape my parents.
- My parents put me in boarding school when I was nine years old. I remained at that school until I was 12. This was one of the most painful experiences of my entire life. I realize that they did this because, at the time, we lived in a small town where there was no good school, but, after they moved back to a more urban area, they immediately took my brother out of boarding school, while I stayed at my boarding school for another two years.
- I always felt that my parents could not care less about my future – what did it matter, since I was going to get married to a man who would support me financially! – and that they were only preoccupied with my brother’s. Remember my father thinking that the best I could ever achieve, career-wise, was becoming a bilingual secretary. Hell, I wanted to be the boss!
- My parents always complained about monetary issues. My brother and I were told, throughout our entire childhood and adolescence, that we were “poor.” But, frankly, we never lacked for anything. We did not live in the lap of luxury but things were fine.

But my childhood and adolescence also had an extremely happy side, and here are the reasons why:
- My brother and I were close in age (he is 14 months older than me) and very tight, and I am still incredibly grateful that I got to grow up close to such an exceptional human being – he is amazingly smart, funny, creative, and he has a very good heart. Being so close to him helped take the edge off from having such crazy parents. We also always had great fun together.
- If there is one childhood/adolescence memory that I cherish, it is that of our yearly, one-month vacation in Talloires, a resort on lake Annecy, in the Alps. My uncle was the bishop of Annecy, and he let us stay at his “country” house (not anything luxurious by any means, but a very cool place nevertheless.) That’s the only way that my family could afford this yearly vacation. It was amazing. One of my dreams is to take my daughter to Annecy someday, just because that place holds so many great memories for me, and also because, to me, it is the most beautiful place on earth.
- We always ate superbly well, especially during those years when my father worked as a chef. I still miss some of the wonderful dishes that he would prepare.
- I had some amazing relatives who, I always felt, were connected to me much better than my parents ever were: My godmother, who was my mother’s cousin, was an amazing lady who taught me to appreciate the arts. My uncle Jean (the bishop) loved me to death, and always let me know that he did, and my uncle Michel (another one of my father’s siblings), who was a Christian Brother and a great intellect, always let me know that I had the capacity and ability to become anything that I ever wanted to be. I did not see those folks very often, because they lived at some distance from us, but I cherished every single moment that I was able to spend with them.

I know you are a devotee of museums. Is music important to you, and if so,
what sort do you like?

Music does matter a great deal to me. Actually, I have written in my blog before that music is the only art form that can bring tears to my eyes, or chills down my spine.

I wish that I could state here that I am a real connoisseur and aficionado of classical music (as you are, Miriam), but I am not, and I am extremely ashamed of this. In fact, a fairly short-term goal of mine is to build a solid, basic classical music collection, and to educate myself about classical music (going a bit beyond that music appreciation class that I took in college, back in 1979!). I would especially like to become more knowledgeable about opera, because I am quite fond of opera, and I have an unbounded admiration for those who have a great operatic voice.

So – what kind of music do I like? Well, when I was 11, I heard the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and that was the start of my life-long love affair with rock & roll. In my adolescence, I became a huge fan of the Beatles, as well as of the Rolling Stones (although I could not care less about anything that they put out after 1975 or so.) There were many other “classic rock” bands that I liked a lot. Later on, I became a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, who I still think is the best live rock performer in the world.

In the late 1970’s, I discovered The Clash, Elvis Costello, and The Talking Heads, all within a very brief time-span. I am still a huge fan of Elvis Costello (whom I have seen in concert twice within the past three years – he is phenomenal, much better in his fifties than he ever was in his twenties) and of David Byrne (who was the lead singer of The Talking Heads) who, I also think, is phenomenal live. I also adore Patti Smith, whom I finally got to see in concert this past summer – she is one hell of a cool woman!

I am also connected to current “indie” music and, to name only a few, at this very moment, I like to listen to The New Pornographers, The National, Belle and Sebastian, Feist, the Decemberists, and M. Ward.

Of course, I also like French music. My idol is a French singer named BÈnabar, because he writes great, well-crafted, and incredibly clever songs.

I am also quite fond of World music, especially north African and African music. My favorite African musician is, by far, Salif Keita.

I do not care much for jazz – I am not turned off by it, but it’s not my favorite kind of music. American rap leaves me cold, but I kind of like French rap.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

By far, hanging out with my boyfriend (who, unfortunately, moved away today to start a dream job in another city, located about six hours away from where I live, on February 4) and with my daughter or with my friends. I also like to travel, something that I have started doing more and more since I landed the university teaching job that I have now. I also enjoy reading (I recently went on a kick, reading a bunch of books having to do with food), and watching good movies.

What was the best day in your life, so far?

I have written about that day in my blog before (unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact date when I wrote about it), it was probably the day of my 16th birthday.
Other days that could qualify:
The day I defended my doctoral dissertation (I think that it was November 1999.)
The day that I found out that I had ranked first among the candidates for promotion to the rank of Associate Professor at my school (it was in April, 2006.)
I do feel a bit guilty that I did not answer: “The day my daughter was born.” Yes, it was a happy day, that’s for sure, but giving birth is nothing fun, so I cannot claim that September 12, 1986, was the “best” day in my life. But, and by far, it was the most important day in my life.

What would you secretly like to do, if you dared?

This is a tough one, because I am not a daring person, by any means. I will answer this: Driving cross-country – only because I suffer from an acute case of driving phobia, especially when it comes to driving on highways. This is my own shameful secret (only a handful of my friends know about it), and I would love to be able to overcome this phobia some day.

Why did you start blogging, and what did you want to accomplish? Has your
blog changed emphasis as you went along? (Mine did.)

I have written about this a number of times over the past three and a half years or so since I started my blog, because, every so often, I question the usefulness of blogging. I started totally by accident. I am on FLTEACH, a list-serve for foreign language teachers and, sometime in June, 2004, someone on that list-serve mentioned something about blogs. I was pretty much unaware of what blogs were at the time – except that I knew that my daughter and many of her high school friends had a LiveJournal (which, by the way, I did not know was a blog.) I was intrigued, looked at the blog that this person had created, and decided to start a personal blog.

I was not really sure what I wanted to accomplish with it, except perhaps to keep a record of events in my daily life, and of issues and matters that made me tick. I had never really kept a journal (for fear, when I was a teenager, that my mother would find it and read it – she was always snooping in my personal belongings, but I think that snooping in their kids’ stuff is something that all mothers do), except during the year that I had spent in the U.S., back in 1973-74 (that journal was destroyed, but I would pretty much use a lot of its content in the weekly letters that I sent to my family during that year and I believe that my mother still has those letters – I will ask them next time I visit her.) The whole idea of keeping some sort of an online journal intrigued me.

One important function that I see my blog fulfilling is that of being a link between me and my relatives and friends who live far away from me. I know that they read my blog faithfully, and appreciate the fact that I keep it. This is the #1 reason why I continue blogging. I can also say that I have met some cool folks through blogging, and that the few faithful readers that I have keep me going.

I cannot really say that my blog has changed emphasis since I started it. My posts alternate among accounts of my daily life (I make a concerted effort of writing about such mundanities regularly, if only to keep a record of what’s been going on in my life), brief “essays” about issues that matter to me or about quirky things in life. I occasionally write reviews of books, CDs, or movies. I have written a number of long posts about my childhood, my youth, my past, and my relatives. I do write about highly personal matters, but the core of my private life remains very private – I would find it repulsive to write about my bedroom antics, for example - that is nobody’s business but mine and, to boot, my daughter reads my blog. I think that, through blogging about my past and my life concerns, I have been able to cast a light on a number of things, and to understand myself better.

Maybe, because of one very nasty experience that I had with an individual who took pleasure in insulting me on my blog and in the comment section of another person’s blog (which I promptly stopped reading), I have stopped entirely writing negative things about anyone else’s blog (that “feud” had started with a post I had written in reaction to an entry this guy had written, in which he expounded, in a derogatory tone of voice, on the classic stereotype of the prevalence of body odor among the French.) Let’s say that I stay away from any sort of controversial topic much more than I did when I first started my blog.

What's your favorite foreign country? And why?

I would have to say France, if only because it is my native country, and there are so many things about it that I still miss immensely. (interviewer note: Me, too.)

Frankly, I have not traveled to very many foreign countries, and I hope to remedy this in the years to come. I went to Turkey last spring, and fell in love with that country and its people. I would return to Istanbul at the drop of a hat – it is a magnificent and incredibly vibrant city, and I like it as much as I love Paris. I saw my trip to Istanbul as my very first baby step into the “exotic,” and I definitely want more. I am considering going to Morocco this coming spring, and plan on going to Thailand within the next couple of years (I hope that my not-so-ex-husband, who has traveled to that country many times and adores it, will be my guide.)

Which would you rather do--listen to your favorite music alone, or take a walk with a friend?

This is a really tough choice, because I am a bit of a loner – in that sense that I am not a naturally social person, and I relish my “alone” time. So, as much as I love my boyfriend and my friends, I would answer that I would rather listen to my favorite music alone than taking a walk with a friend. But to be honest, not by much, and I think that my decision to do one or the other would depend on my mood at the moment when I would have to make that choice.

Beer or wine? Or neither?

Beer, by all means. I come for northern France, the land of beer.

What would you like to improve about yourself?

The way I dress, I think – I’d like to be more stylish and to wear skirts (on any given day, I always wear pants, and I find that fairly pathetic) and sexier clothes.
I also need to lose about 10 to 15 pounds, and to reconnect with the concept of physical fitness.

What do you most value about yourself?

Probably the fact that I am a very nice and easygoing individual, and that I am incredibly tolerant of others (except of assholes and of people who are homophobic or racist.)

What would your ideal friend be like?

It would be someone who can provide sound advice without passing harsh judgments on me, someone who is a great listener and whom I can trust and count on 100%. It would have to be someone with whom I can have a special bond, a great deal of complicity, and with whom I could feel very comfortable and laugh a lot. I am lucky to count a few friends who fit that bill. Only one of them lives close to me, though, and that would be my very dear friend, Mary-Jo.

Many thanks, Elisabeth. I enjoyed your answers very much--they were thoughtful and entertaining, and I plan to add you to my blogroll and keep up with your blog in the future.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Oracle makes a bid for Delaware

Why not?

Wilmington, DE - Oracle CEO Larry Ellison today announced his intention to purchase the state of Delaware for $300 million in cash and Oracle stock. The move comes on the heels of Oracle's bid for rival software firm PeopleSoft, and is the first time that an offer has been made to buy a U.S. territory.

Delaware governor Ruth Ann Minner responded to the bid with shock and seemed certain that the hostile takeover could be avoided.

"Oracle's bid comes as a big surprise to the government and people of Delaware", said Minner at a press conference. "At this point, we are checking into whether or not a company, such as Oracle, can buy a state, and whether or not Delaware is actually for sale."


As one who has driven over Delaware's toll roads and bridges, I see the State as a real source of revenue if handled rightly. I'm just surprised that Warren Buffett didn't see the possibilities first.