Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eat a better breakfast

Good advice?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Expensive?

A college degree, I mean.

I'm afraid it's become an unnecessary expense.Once upon a time, a college degree made you an educated person.  You were worth hiring.  You learned critical skills.  Nowadays, not so much.

And a law school degree is also descending into irrelevance.

It's an entertaining discussion.  From the comments:

What would happen if they lower the salary of a women's studies professor? Would she take a job in private industry bitching at men?

Absolutely.  And she'd be well paid to do it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Someone googled this question:

Did dr kevorkian sign the declaration of independence? 

In a word, No.  But I'm not going to tell you who did.

Clue:  it wasn't President Obama.

Painting: young man with red hair

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Salute to William Penn





I just read a biography of William Penn.  It's a kids' book written by Elizabeth Janet Grey but well worth reading for all of that.  It's the kind of book that used to be written for young people, who were assumed to be literate and interested in the lives of great men.

The King of England gave him Pennsylvania as repayment for a debt owed to William's father.  Yes, one man owned and operated Pennsylvania--and Delaware and parts of New Jersey as well, at different times.

I knew who he was, of course, but not much more.  He was the son of an admiral who owned property in Ireland as well as England.  Given a first-class education,he was handsome and charming.  As a young man, he became a Quaker, against the wishes of his father.   It was a bad time for religious dissenters in England.  Dissent from the established church was a crime for which a man could be arrested.   Penn suffered arrest and imprisonment more than once, but  followed the dictates of his conscience and did not allow himself to be cowed or deprived of his rights.

Penn decided to visit his property in America with an eye to founding a Quaker colony and settling there .  He created a Charter of Government for the colony and granted complete  freedom of religion to its inhabitants.  He established cordial relations with the Indians.  He chose a piece of land on the banks of the Delaware to build a new city, which he called Philadelphia.   He named Broad Street and decided that the cross streets would be numbered.  In short, he had total power.

I don't know of any man in history who had so much power and exercised it so benevolently.  He had no desire to control other men, but wanted to live peacably with everyone.  The country is blessed to have such a founder.   And look at us now.  Is our luck running out?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A musical note

I went to the Delaware Symphony performance last night.  Very good, especially the New World Symphony.  Actually, it was all good, except for the soloist, a mandolin player named Chris Thile.  He was good too, no doubt, if you like mandolin playing.  Apparently a virtuoso on this instrument (!) he played a composition of his own, in which his mandolin playing was completely drowned out by the violins.  He then played a short solo piece, and we were able to hear the mandolin, which he played very well, for a mandolin.  Who would want to devote his life to such a tiny-voiced instrument, so low-key, so reticent?

Anyone who knows me knows I prefer not to hear music by composers who are living.  I like my composers underground, safely nailed into their coffins.  Just a whimsical preference of mine.  I'm not against young people composing music.  I actually realize such activity may be necessary.  I just don't want to hear them.  Especially I don't like to hear their work when they are standing in front of me, eagerly awaiting applause.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Halloween costumes for the seriously weird

Seriously, are they worth it?

The enormous Bush-bashing banana that was never built

Tim Blair brought the banana to my attention.

Here is the link to the fate of the banana. 

From the comments:

[T]his is like the usual weaselly government trick of: "The peasants have denied our tax increase that was going to fund our stupidly generous pensions and such. Fine! No more garbage collection and fire houses for them!"In this case government subsidies for things that I like get cut for punishing me for voting against the things I thought ludicrous & stupid.
This reminds me of the annual budget crisis in the municipality where I worked.  Everyone who did not have a union contract got a cut.  Since the library was .05 percent of the municipal budget, this did not help anything but made the citizenry mad (What do you mean, the library is closed every Monday!  That's the only time I can use the library!) and worry the part-time staff, whose hours would be cut.  When their hours got under a certain number, they would lose their health benefits.

The town solved this problem by cutting health benefits for all but full-time staff.  No more health benefits, no problem.  They would have cut pension contributions as well, but there was a state law mandating pension contributions for all employees who earned above a minimum amount.

So everybody concerned was annoyed big-time, except the mayor and council who amazingly kept their generous health benefits through every crisis.  Funny how that works.

Anyway, I think the banana money would have been well-spent as I personally would love to see a 300 meter banana in the sky.  That would be worth a lot of money, especially if it were Canadian money and not mine.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Respecting your elders

My mother told me that her mother and father never hugged or kissed her when she was a child. They weren't cold, just reserved. Apparently they never felt the need to make buddies of their children.

Bubbe and Zayde raised three children to adulthood and put up with no nonsense. They believed that the only occupation worth pursuing was medicine or law. Their children bowed to destiny and became doctors and a lawyer. Mother and Uncle Moe excelled at their studies, but Uncle Doc made a stab at being a black sheep and misbehaved some in school--what would be called boyish pranks nowadays. He and a friend released some white mice in the hallways in high school, among other things. He became a doctor anyway. Apparently his parents' will was stronger than his.

I've never seen parents more highly esteemed than these two were by their children. Their two sons and daughter, when they were grown up and had children of their own,  would literally do everything their parents requested, and were never summoned without showing up.

I wonder, did my mother whine when she was made to practice the piano instead of hanging out with her friends? Was Uncle Doc grounded when he misbehaved?  How about Uncle Moe, when he skipped school to go to a ball game? 

Or was it that they all pulled together to survive poverty and hunger, to grow and thrive?  I honestly don't know.

The ability to tell your kids what to do has apparently been lost over the years.

Better late than never

Only five years after retiring from my day-evening-and-weekend job as director of a library, I finally came up with the answer to the Gasbag's query:  "Do you know who I am?"

"Obviously you are nobody, because if you were someone I could be expected to recognise I would have recognized you."

Now I'll never get to say it.  Sigh.

The French call it l'esprit d'escalier, or staircase wit.  You think of the proper riposte on the way down the stairs, going home.

Irish poem for St Patrick's Day




Someone gave me a book of Irish poems once, and I discovered this poem, written in the ninth century, supposedly by a monk. The poem is deservedly famous; I in my ignorance of Irish literature, had never heard of it.

Pangur Ban

I and Pangur Ban, my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will;
He, too, plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry thing to see
At our task how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
Into the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den.
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine, and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade ;
I get wisdom day and night,
Turning Darkness into light.'

Translation by Robin Flowers (we think)

I am indebted to vulpeslibris for the translation.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Filling out the census

Last week I got a letter from the Census Bureau warning me that they were going to send out a census form and urging me to fill it out and send it back.

Today the form came. I filled it out and put it out for the mailman. I felt a little queasy about answering the questions about race and ethnicity. For a moment I felt like declaring myself a member of the Hebrew race and describing Mr Charm as Hibernian, but at the last minute I couldn't bring myself to do it. Our family is part of the 1 percent of the American people who have to obey the law. Somebody in this great republic has to do it, and we have been chosen.

Otherwise the full majesty of the law is unleashed on us.

We're not like Tim Geithner who probably listed the family dog on his census form so wherever he comes from could show a larger population and deserve to have a new Congressional district handed to him.

Mr Charm and I only have one Congressperson anyway, and we're not likely to get another, being we live in Delaware. I personally would be willing to split my Congressperson with another small state. Half a Congress critter would be plenty for me. In fact, if this health insurance bill goes through without a vote I'd be quite willing to ditch the institution altogether.

Wait a minute! Didn't someone is U S history once make a fuss over Taxation without Representation? I believe it was some bunch of malcontents from Massachusetts or somewhere, but at present they are nothing but a group of dead white men, so nobody has to pay any attention to them.

Girl in surf

 
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Everything you could possibly want to know about purple shoes

Maybe I have too much time on my hands.

Amusing.

Think about this.

Passover all over again

I can't improve on this:

When I was a child seders seemed to last for eons. All my mother's family, my parents, my two uncles and their wives and children were always present, because anything bubbe hosted was a command performance. The good linens, china, and silver made the table gleam under the light of bubbe's two candelabras.

We children were excited beyond hysteria until the ceremony began, and we were forced to come to the table and stop hanging upside down from the sofa, climbing the walls, and knocking down the furniture. I particularly enjoyed the presence of my cousins because I was an only child at the time, and lonely. My eldest cousin, three and a half years older than me, was a goddess of sophistication to me; her brothers were rowdy playmates. Uncle Doc's little girls were too young to play with but they were mighty cute and dressed to the nines.

Once the youngest child present had recited the four questions the prayer competition began. Both my uncles and my cousin Bernie read the haggadah aloud --individually--in Hebrew as quickly as they could. The conversation went like this:

Uncle I: It's time for the first (or second, third, or fourth) cup of wine.
Uncle II: I haven't gotten there yet. You read too fast.
Uncle I: It's a long service.
Uncle II: All right, all right. Come on everybody. Drink the fourth (or third, or second) cup. Where's the bottle? Pass me the wine, somebody.

They raced through the prayers and then had to stop and wait impatiently for the others to catch up. It was rather like riding in a car that alternately speeded up and stopped dead, causing you to lurch forward and back.

Meanwhile, my cousin Sam and sometimes one or two of the other children would drink too much wine and slip quietly to the floor. It taught me the meaning of drinking yourself under the table. After a brief nap the culprit would re-appear, refreshed.

The two little girls were too small to read, so they raced around the table fighting with each other until Uncle Doc started yelling at them and threatening to spank them. My aunt, his wife, would burst into tears because he had shouted at the girls. She would threaten to leave. They would yell some more until he calmed down and apologized to the girls and gave them some candy or gum he just happened to have in his pocket. The girls, of course, would stuff themselves with sweets and would not eat the festive meal when it appeared.

The festive meal! Chicken soup with matzoh balls. We called bubbe's matzoh balls cannon balls. They were heavy but nourishing. Then we had chicken. With the chicken came potato kugel and chopped liver. Gefilte fish. Someone probably slipped a green vegetable in there somewhere, but I don't remember it. Bubbe didn't hold with all this greenery anyway. Her idea of a salad was: take one cucumber; add pint of sour cream; eat. And we couldn't have that, this was a fleisheke meal.

Bubbe would heap each of the children's plates with massive portions of food and then bawl them out for not eating it all. We were starved and ate voraciously. If someone had thrown one of us into the river we would have plummeted to the bottom and sunk without a trace.


Dessert featured, but was not limited to, Manischevitz macaroons, served in the can. The featured wine was Mogen David.

After eating, there was a timeout while the children searched for the afikomen and the adults sat still and burped.

Since I was not used to staying up late, the remainder of the seder was one big blur to me, except for opening the door for Eliyahu hanovi. Then came Chad Gadya, which meant the end of the service and blessed release.

And then we did it again the next night.

(Recycled)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Slow motion in films

Deplorable.

Slow motion in films is no longer a novelty. It's a lazy person's way of making a film "authentic."

And furthermore, the use of hand-held cameras makes me seasick.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

To those who send me nonsensical e-mails

Why do you engage in this futile endeavor? Even if these are spambots, someone has had to think them up and put them online. Then I have to waste my time looking at them and rejecting them.

I don't have enough time left to waste it on you.

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. ~Henry David Thoreau

And furthermore, you are jerks. In any language you care to use.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Lack of teachers causes crime

It must be true, because someone said it on CNN.

So I was at the gym, walking on the treadmill, idly watching CNN, reading the captioning. They were talking about California, of course, and its financial plight.

Apparently the financial crisis is affecting school funding. One poor soul, no doubt a product of the California education system, said: "If they lay off teachers there will be more people in jail."

The first image that flashed into my brain was of a frenzied and desperate mob of pedagogues storming the finer retail establishments of the state. But I dismissed the idea.

However, I couldn't quite follow her reasoning. How could laying off teachers affect the prison population? Are they going to put the laid off teachers in jail?

Or will the absence of some teachers make the already miserable school system more ineffective than it already is in educating young people?

When my children were growing up, lots of their friends attended Catholic schools. Some of these children were in classes with more than fifty children. But they learned. Their test scores were higher than those of the kids in public school, year after year.

Now, after years of giving kids a better education and for less money, the Catholic Church is closing schools all over the country. Only in America! Apparently nothing fails like success.

We urgently need repairs to our roads, so highway money is being spent on bike paths while commuters sit in their cars spewing exhaust into the air. More money is being used to prop up passenger trains nobody uses. Coal and natural gas are available all over this country, but we are not allowed to use it. Instead, laws like cap and trade are passed to hobble business and ensure a continuing shortage of jobs.

Open your eyes, people! Why are we importing engineers and chemists from third world countries when we could be educating our own people for this important work? Our students are leaving college dumber than they were when they started. Yes, the colleges are able to extract common sense from the young and educate them in Grudge Studies. So, after graduation, while they fold clothes at the Gap, they can brood about the injustice visited upon them by Society.

Why are too many students attending law school and too few attending medical school? Weird how that works! The budding lawyers will soon join their Ethnic Studies peers in a career in retail. Meanwhile our hospitals will be filled with interns with incomprehensible accents.

And all because we laid off some teachers!

Good grief, I almost missed it!

National Poetry Month starts April 1!

What holy city?

American Thinker discusses whether to call Mohammed a prophet. Or The Prophet.

The Times, the AP, and Reuters all have style manuals setting forth their policies about usage for proper names like "Jesus." Both the Times and Reuters manuals explicitly caution against using the term "Christ" when referring to Jesus because it is a theological term, "a title non-Christians would not give him," as Reuters' handbook says.

Similarly, the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage does not list "Prophet Muhammad" as an acceptable usage. It says only: "Muhammad. Use this spelling for the name of the prophet of the Muslim religion." Both Reuters and the AP Stylebook identify Muhammad as "Prophet," but neither explicitly states whether "Prophet Muhammad" is a preferred, disfavored, or neutral usage.

[snip]
If the New York Times views Jesus as "undisputed and therefore preferred," its current practice regarding Muhammad does not meet the same standard. As a historical personage, Muhammad is, well, at least as "undisputed" as Jesus. Thus his name alone should presumably be preferred. But in fact the paper regularly refers to Muhammad by his religious title, "Prophet Muhammad."

A pet peeve of mine is the use of the term the holy city of Najav, (or any other currently "holy city" in some Arab country). Oh yeah? Holy to whom? Did Muhammad water his camels there, or something?

I don't hear anyone referring to Jerusalem as a holy city. Or Rome. I personally consider New York City a pretty sacred place, the undoubted center of the universe, where moreover you can get decent bagels, and I resent people bombing it.

So one person's holy city is another person's dump, and let's keep religion out of it.

Ht to Opinion Journal.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Listening to public radio

I love WRTI, a public radio station maintained by Temple University. Thank you, Temple. I put my money where my mouth is and paid my annual membership dues. I don't even mind when they have a pledge drive.

I listen to WRTI every time I am in the car, and have heard some lovely music and learned about more music previously not known to me. The also broadcast short pieces on astronomy which are really neat.

But when I turn on the radio, expecting music, and hear the humorless hectoring and pompous posturing of the Nag in Chief, it's like being slapped in the face with a wet fish.

Unpleasant.

By the way, tomorrow, Tuesday, March 10, WRTI will be playing the music of Samuel Barber in honor of his 100th birthday, which took place in West Chester, PA, not far from where I am now sitting.

Heroism

Just call it British pluck.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Being unfair to Captain Bligh

An American naval officer is called a female Captain Bligh.

Captain Bligh got a bum rap.

When the Bounty arrived in Tahiti in 1788, the breadfruit trees had to be seeded and grown into saplings large enough for transport, a process that would take at least six months. Contrary to popular opinion, Bligh was the sort of man who wanted his crew to be happy, so instead of sailing the South Pacific exploring and mapping, he decided to give his men six months of shore leave in paradise. In hindsight, it was the biggest mistake of his life.

Many, if not most, of the men had formed deep attachments with the islanders during their long layover, and were quite naturally reluctant to leave when the time came. The mutiny is well documented and even fictionalized extensively. The part of the story that few people know about is what happened after the Captain and his men were cast adrift. With nineteen men in a single longboat, very few supplies, his log books and navigational tools, Commander Lieutenant Bligh was able to navigate almost 6000 kilometres (3700 Miles) across the Pacific, to finally make landfall at the island of Timor. This staggering feat of precision navigation was accomplished with no loss of life....
Sir Joseph Banks defended William Bligh to the Admiralty, and believed in Bligh so much he insisted that the newly promoted Bligh lead the return expedition to Tahiti and finish what he had started.
[snip]

William Bligh went on to have a long and relatively distinguished career in the British Navy, despite the fact that the family of his former colleague, Fletcher Christian, did their level best to discredit him. In particular Edward Christian, Fletcher's brother, who went to great lengths to alter public opinion.

Ht to Instapundit.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Missing Charlie Rangel

Charlie Rangel isn't gone yet, and I already miss him.

Charlie was a good old boy, New York City division. He was sort of a crook--that's a given. He's a member of Congress, isn't he?

Now we will have a raving lunatic in his place:

Pete Stark is just a bully — a crass, tasteless, and stupid bully.


Thanks, Nancy.

Misty evening

 



Sketch in acrylics.
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Monday, March 01, 2010

Bessie Coleman, first black woman aviator

 



I remembered Bessie Coleman too late to post her picture for Black History Month, so I am posting it for Women's History Month. This mosaic is in the Charleston SC airport, but I think it appears in other airports as well.
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