Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New fashion in wallets?

Riding the bus home yesterday I sat on a side seat by the rear bench where sat a pair of slightly rotund young black women. One wore an outfit cut slightly low, designed to "lift and separate;" which meant that her hiding place wasn't--everyone could easily see a folded $50 bill plastered against her breast.

Is this the next stage after the clear plastic purses?


Again. No headaches.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Aura again

Crud. Kind of hard to type now.

40 years

We stayed up to hear the Eagle landing, but then my father went to bed. The shortwave was crackly, making the rough transmissions from the moon even harder to understand, but my sister and I stayed glued to it until the giant step. It was late and we were tired, so after about a quarter hour of operations on the moon I went outside to stare at the moon through the African clouds.

It was the culmination of an innocent dream. Not a holy dream, and not something to sustain us, but a happy one and a unifying one--a little of all of us walked with them that day.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

All in a day

After a lunch in which nobody ate exactly what they said they wanted (though they said they didn't want soup again, and stuck with it), we rested a while and after Middle Daughter came by, headed off to Greek Fest. Under protest--Youngest Son was neutral and Youngest Daughter was emphatic in not wanting to go.

We arrived just in time for the 4pm church tour. The 3pm tour was given by the man who had painted the icons, but the 4pm one was done by a priest (not the one for this church, though), and was more process and purpose oriented. The two not only started to perk up and pay attention, but wandered about looking at things afterward and didn't even mind waiting for me to ask a couple of questions. The icons around the worshipers were labeled in Greek and English, though the Greek letters were somewhat individual and nobody knew what the question-mark like curlicue was. Do I need to say that there were icons everywhere? And a gold-plated Gospel on the altar, which is held in procession on Sundays with the resurrection side facing the worshipers, and on weekdays with the crucifixion side facing them.

Obviously the old Methodist building had needed a lot of remodeling. It is now in the shape of a cross, with a dome. We looked past the three doors of the iconostasis at the altar and the cross and the side room where the bread and wine and daily icons (the saint of the day is set up in the antechamber with the candles) are kept. There was a stand with books for the chanters, benches for a choir if they had one that week, a bishop's seat--and pews for the worshipers!

Some of the visitors asked pertinent questions about relations between Orthodox and Catholic, a couple crossed themselves on entering, and some of us only had the general idea of what went where. The priest started off his talk with a quick introduction to Christian doctrine--the Incarnation, Trinity, and so on; and then went on to relate what various parts of the building or service related to them.

I thought it a little odd that the largest and most central icon was of Mary (except for Christ Pancreator at the top of the dome), and quite a number of the icons were of saints unknown to me. And the symbols were unfamiliar. Luke had his (winged??) cow to help identify him, but Joseph had two pigeons? (To symbolize the offering he made at the temple, explained the priest.)

After a while we wandered out and watched the dancers for a minute (the music was amplified), skipped the souvenirs and went back to the food. The youngsters wanted Greek coffee, so back in the church--this time to the basement. I searched out a free table--which turned out to be right in front of the lady who was explaining Greek cooking. Youngest Son took a lively interest in this, and volunteering helped make dolmasi (grape leaf wrapped "appetizers"). Youngest Daughter decided to go get a variety plate, and shared it with us. Some things (the honey doughnuts and the meatballs) were universally acclaimed, others found wanting. She mistook the feta cheese for butter and spread it on her bread.

So instead of the hour I promised we spent two, and everyone left content.

Then it was off to the county fair. We arrived in time to see some of the exhibits before the hall closed--including the Lion King themed cake that must have been 20 inches high. They chased us all out and we wandered the fair for a while--La Movida has the bandstand Sunday evening so we couldn't make out a word of what was going on. YS went to see the rabbits again, and YD and I watched the bear show. Lots of patter, some bear stunts (standing on a ball, dunking a basketball, picking up a ladder and swinging it around, etc), and lots and lots of honey from the little bear squirt bottles, and lots and lots of dog biscuits which they turn out to love. (Last year it was sea lions.)

Back to the exhibit hall to pick up the posters. YD's poster on saddles is going to State Fair next year!

Nobody was much hungry when we got home. I had some of Middle Daughter's leftover fried bananas and coconut curry noodle soup (she and a friend tried the new Thai restaurant today). An interesting change from baklava and olives and spinach pie. And popcorn, which is what the youngsters thought appropriate for Youtube--and I suppose they're right.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Apples of gold?

Youngest Daughter was doing the dishes and complaining about my and Youngest Son's puns. I shouldered the sledge hammer I'd been sinking posts with, came up beside her, and said "You've been griping about my puns. Do you want to see me all angry and Thor?"

She spent the next two minutes sputtering about the unfairness of puns.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Out the window as I work from home there are 4 still-speckled robins scratching in the cocoa mulch with mama watching from the hose draped over the fence; while a still-speckled sparrow tries to stay out of their way.

He said it well

Have a look at a clear analysis of the role of media in our society. Be alert.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Perhaps there's a good reason for this

But I doubt it. Wells Fargo vs Wells Fargo. It isn't almsgiving, where there might be an excuse.

Monday, July 13, 2009

MJ again

Something was nagging at me about Michael Jackson--my post didn't seem finished. I finally remembered what it was: a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne-- The Minister's Black Veil.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ill Winds

The storms that went through a few days ago carried some unexpectedly high winds. The cardinal's nest in the back yard rose bush was blown out, but it wasn't ready for eggs yet so they just went elsewhere. Too bad for birdwatching, but no great loss for the birds.

Much worse was the freak accident that killed one of the scientists on my floor--a tree crushed his car. We were on different teams on different experiments in different sub-fields of physics, and so I'd never actually run into him though I'd seen him around. We'll have to find out what his family needs.

Fete vs Fest

We went to the Fete de Marquette Saturday evening. We arrived in time to hear the last dozen minutes or so of Watcha Clan from Algeria (and Marseilles). We had to stay quite some distance from the bandstand, since they were cranked excessively loudly. The keyboard(s) player was in white robes and jumped and gestured and flailed like a madman. After the band reintroduced themselves and left the stage the MC told the crowd (among a lot of things the amplification obliterated) that he liked to see people dance, and though he wasn’t trying to tell anybody to do anything, it would be good if people would move their chairs out of the dance area. (I didn’t see anybody move.) After about 45 minutes a Malian griot (Balla Tounkara et Group Spirit) and band played. They were still overamped, but I liked the music much better. Have you ever seen a giant calabash-based instrument with a plug-in jack? The drummer was good and versatile too.

There was a huge beer/wine/ATM tent, a furniture sale, WORT booth, tent (where Middle Daughter had taken Youngest Son and reserved some space on the unused stage) which was more for family eating/kids playing, crafts for sale, a booth for solar panels, and lots of food booths. Some of them were the usual food cart denizens of library mall and the capitol square (with standard prices, not jacked up for the fair). Lots of people were ordering a tomato/potato/pickled lentil and sourdough flatbread dish from Baraka, others slurping down ice cream, or doughnuts fried while you wait, or kebab wraps.

The tent we sat under was anchored to large concrete blocks topped with coffee cans pleading: “cigarette butts only.” These were of course set aside to let people plant their seats.

We’d been to the Stoughton fair earlier that week—which was very like the Sun Prairie Corn Fests which are like smaller versions of the Dane County fair which… You get the picture.

What was different? Aside from there not being a midway, that is. And the bands being all Francophone/New Orleans-based. Or a petting zoo for the kids.

The food, for one thing. The vendors at the Fete were often restaurant-based and often provided rather different fare from the usual corn dogs and cotton candy and pizza (though you could get Glass Nickel pizza at the Fete—good but not cheap).

The physiques and outfits for another. I see the oddest outfits at fairs, but somehow the Fete attracted even odder ones. There were plenty of Hefty-Americans at both, but a larger fraction of the 50-plus set are slim at the Fete.

The tone was different too. I got the sense of high levels of education, but also of alien attitudes. While standing in line for doughnuts several of us saw a large kite, with what must have been a camera motoring up the line. The two gentlemen behind me speculated on its nature in terms of malevolent surveillance. It simply didn’t occur to them that the fair organizers might want some publicity photos of the grounds from above. One seemed almost relieved when I suggested it.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay to hear Lura. Although that might not have worked so well anyhow—it was very noisy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Who represents American Catholics?

I don't know if Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is presenting Newsweek's official recognition of the new true leader or if this is her own opinion. She claims that Obama represents American Catholics better than the Pope--and is a much better person (more empathic, understanding, etc). Catholics have long been infamously poor at explaining the faith to their faithful, so it would not be a huge surprise to discover that a large fraction had started worshiping the secular messiah instead of Jesus--though I'd not care to take Newsweek's word for it. I gather that the anointed one garnered a majority of the Catholic votes, but that doesn't quite support Townsend's contention that Obama should teach Benedict the ropes.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Pig in a Poke

Want to be smarter than your Congressman?

You can read the Clean Energy bill for yourself, something your congress-critter did not do.

If you want a few tidbits from the 1200 pages you can read over this fellow's shoulder: Part 1 and Part 2.

Bill Foster is a physicist I know who is now in Congress. I have some bones to pick with him about how to treat the Constitution, but I was glad to see he had the sense to vote against this pile of junk.

I'm agnostic about Anthropogenic Global Warming, though I think I'd be more favorably disposed if they'd get the sign right. But I'm not agnostic at all about the motives of the politicians aboard this bandwagon--for them it is all about control.

From Liberia

Boarding the flight from Brussels to Chicago were a number of youth in shirts saying Ricks Institute. I said to one that I used to live there, and asked what the connection was. She said they'd been there through Mercer University, apparently student teaching.

I also saw, but did not meet, a very busy woman who I instantly identified as a missionary. I asked myself why and realized: White woman in an African print dress with no bracelets or other jewelry.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Palin Resigns

I wonder what comes next. I suppose she'd accomplished her main objective--the renegotiated agreement over oil.

One fascinating thing about her was how intensely she was hated, and how hypocritically. It wasn't merely political--quite a number of conservatives indulged in the most amazing nonsense. There is something about her that aroused a gut level tribal hatred.

She spoke of and others confirm systematic legal harassment. I wonder if this was unique, or if high-level politicians surround themselves with legal hedges to forestall this kind of thing. Bad news either way; the former probably and the latter clearly on the road to oligarchy.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


When is a coup not a coup? Is it Constitutional? The case is not nearly as clearcut as the general condemnation suggests. Set aside the claims that Zelaya is driving the country is terrible directions--was he in violation of this particular law? If so, the machinery set in motion was legal and not a coup. I don't know the details of the case well enough to judge it, and I trust I may be pardoned for not believing that most of the condemnatory voices know any more than I do.