Thursday, September 24, 2009

My people make the news

The Anglo-Saxons weren't just uncultured beasts who spent all day pillaging and all night reciting poems about tearing off the arms of monsters. They made jewelry, too - okay, yes, they did apparently then pillage it from each other.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh, the irony

These articles about anti-nanny-state protesters complaining that the government didn't take good enough care of them last weekend during the 912 March in Washington, D.C., practically make me pee myself from hearty laughter:

Goodbye, Mary

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary died yesterday in Connecticut. Thanks for bringing a bit more brightness to my childhood and beyond, and for showing the world that alto voices really are sexier.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tell it like it is, Jimmy

Just can't express my gratitude enough for what Jimmy Carter said about the racism that underlies the extreme disrespect being shown toward President Obama. Joe Wilson et al can argue that they, as individuals, aren't racist. Maybe so.

But if it's not societal racism, it's hard figure out where the most extreme of this crap is coming from: the unusual number of threats against President Obama, the questions about his citizenship (who was challenging Bill Clinton's citizenship - you sure he ain't Ukrainian?), the unprecedented interruption of his address to Congress, and the vociferousness of the rhetoric compared to what was said about our previous Democratic president (who was white and also tried to get universal health coverage). Maybe Wilson isn't personally racist, but if there weren't an existing racist milieu that foments distrust of black politicians and results in black people in public positions being put under unusual scrutiny, would he be as angry as he is about the proposed healthcare policy?

Pink grasshoppers

This article about the discovery of a bright pink grasshopper in England was much too short. More pictures, I say!

Or maybe the article was too long, given that the unsubstantiated claim "Most people find insects annoying" should have been excised from the text, as it implies that most people find all insects as a class. The author cites no surveys. Yes, there is a vocal group of people who dislike all insects, but whether they are in the majority is questionable. Lots of people eat insects and would be dietarily deprived without them; lots of people love to watch butterflies and moths; and lots of people depend upon pollinating insects for their livelihoods. I find gnats and mosquitos annoying, but it would be misleading to say that I find insects annoying. And I love collecting dead insects and putting them in shadow boxes so I can admire them whenever I like. But I don't kill them for such purpose. They're too important.

A more even-handed article can be found here on the BBC.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sometimes it takes a while ...

So, after more than two years working at this place, I notice that everyone seems to bring treats in on their birthday. You know -- cake, brownies, muffins and other things that we probably don't need to eat. If people aren't in on their birthday, they bring it in their last day of work before the birthday or the first day after.

Well, everyone brings them in but me.

The last time I was in an environment like this was in elementary school. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me -- the place is like elementary school in other ways, too. But maybe it's a Wisconsin thing, and I was heretofore sheltered from it because I'd never worked in an office in Madison, unless you count my internship at that lefty rag, and I wasn't there for a full year, so how would I have noticed?

Now I'm wondering if this means that I should consider bringing in junk food on my looming birthday. I'd really rather not, because it smacks of drawing attention to oneself, and I really don't like to draw attention to myself at the office. My boss is already prying enough; she's always wanting to get to know me "on a personal level" and my natural response to that is suspicion and secretiveness.

And, on the mean side, I figure there are plenty of people in my office who really don't need the temptation.

Of course, if I don't bring anything in, there are some Nosy Nancys here who would be sure to note that and keep it in their files of reasons I am a horrible person. But I don't really care if they think I'm horrible; they've already told lies about me to my boss in an attempt to get me in trouble, if not fired, and so I know they can be quite horrid themselves, and thus I deem them not very good judges of such things.

If, however, they were more specific and accused me of being miserly, I would have to acknowledge they were right on that account, and perhaps gain new respect for them.

Moving glaciers

When I was around 7 years old, we took a trip to the Swiss alps and my parents thought it would be a great treat to take the kids to tour a glacier. Unfortunately, my understanding of physics and chemistry, in particular thermodynamics, was just about nil. I decided I'd rather not go into the glacier for fear that it would undergo a catastrophic melting during the span of the tour. So my memory of the trip involves sitting in the car reading a book, although at some point my mom probably convinced me that the area was sufficiently safe to go for a short walk. Until I saw my siblings and dad exit the mouth of the glacier, though, I accepted the possibility that they could be crushed to death and/or drown at any moment.

So you can imagine how horror-stricken I was by the opening of this AP article: "Suddenly and without warning, the gigantic river of ice sped up, causing it to spit icebergs ever faster into the ocean off southeastern Greenland." Even though later text indicates that the glaciers' maximum speed (about four feet an hour) is one that most humans could probably outrun or outcrawl, it turns out they could cause a disaster much worse than an isolated, sudden collapse might.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More faunal news from the British media

From The Guardian, news of 40 species never identified before in modern science, including a rat that's the size of a large housecat. It's supercute and it doesn't eat babies, just tubers -- or so the scientists say.

The animals and plants reside in a volcanic crater in Papua Guinea that's difficult to get to no matter what form of transportation you use. The crater is also home to animals heretofore known to science but heretofore unknown to me, including the silky cuscus and the beautiful fruit dove. That "beautiful," by the way, is not just the opinion of The Guardian; it's part of the dove Ptilinopus pulchellus' common name.

Like a dachsund takes to water ...

Dekalb sent me this article from The Daily Mail about a dachshund with back problems who recovered from surgery by swimming. It reminded me of our old family dachshund Duke, who loved to go down to Lake Anne with us and ride in the raft peering over at the water. He probably would have swum all day if we let him, but we didn't let him. We'd only let him go for a little bit in the shallow area for fear he would drown himself. Too bad they wouldn't let him in the baby pool at the local pool complex; he wouldn't have peed in the water nearly as much as the kids did.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Overheard in the office

Featuring the woman who thinks she's the boss of everyone (henceforth TWWTSTBOE, or "twitsbow") and the woman who allows everyone to be her boss (we'll call her "pawn")
Twitsbow: "We have an unwelcome visitor."
Pawn: "Huh?"
Twitsbow: "A spider. It's up there. I don't like the looks of it. Kill it."

I felt like I was getting a privileged inside look into how our country makes its foreign policy decisions.

Baptist pastors

I'm no big fan of Baptist pastors (except of course Martin Luther King Jr. and Marcus and ...) But please. Agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation fatally shot John Paul Ayres for driving away from them after they tried to shoot his passenger outside of a gas station.

Dude, I think anyone's first thought if a bullet comes through their car window from the gun of someone in street clothes who has just jumped out of an unmarked SUV is not, "Oh, the police must be trying to peacefully apprehend me," but rather, "What the fuck, some psycho is trying to kill me. Must flee fast."

And the reason they shot at the passenger? Because she was suspected of possessing cocaine. SUSPECTED. And there's no indication that she threatened them with a weapon. I realize that cars are weapons, but neither passenger nor driver appear to be using theirs as such. (There was one point where an officer jumped behind the car as it moved in reverse -- apparently in an effort to stop it -- and it didn't stop, so the officers could argue for assault with a deadly weapon, but it's by no means improbable that the driver did not see the officer in question. And people who know me know that it takes a lot for me to give a driver the benefit of the doubt.) You can watch the video (caught on the gas station's security cam) here.


Meanwhile, I'm staying the hell out of Georgia.

Looking for something new

I ran out of cherries to pick on Wednesday -- at least, the sweeter ones. The tree with the more bitter cherries still had plenty, but I decided that it might be best not to pick them, as I then would feel obliged to juice them, and that could very well mean a most unpleasant drink.

With no cherries to pick, I spent yesterday's lunch break looking for a special woodworking fastener (failed mission) and buying batteries (most of which I will return, because they're way cheaper on Amazon than at Walgreens).

Today, I decided to head out to the elderbush behind the west side St. Vinny's and start the season's harvest of elderberries. But I got there only to discover that someone had mowed it down. Dude, what were they thinking? They didn't even plant anything in its place, and it's not like turf is going to plant itself there.

So I coasted up and down the path in search of something else. I found quite a few wild grape plants, but these too taunted me. The most prolific vine, full of fat, ripe fruit clusters, was located right behind an auto body shop where a chemical that smells like banana-flavored toffee was in use. A similarly scented chemical is a compound in one of my bike chain lubes, and it's not healthy stuff, I hear tell. So I was left to pick the punier vines while this nice healthy one sat basking in the sun, untouched.