Friday, June 29, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
So as you can imagine I haven't been following the news as tightly this week. Nothing seemed as important as the little telenovela showing in the little house on Amherst Street where Mojo and Peeper and I talked and organized things to get nearer to little Mei-mei.
So it was a bit of a surprise today when I read about the decision handed down today in the U.S. Supreme Court in the matter of two cases involving school desegregation: Parents v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Ed.
I'll let Scott Lemieux over at Lawyers, Guns and Money break down the salient points of these decisions. But the bottom line is that the Court said today that it is not constitutional for local governments to do anything about de facto segregation through school integration.
But I consider it sufficient to reduce the argument against this decision to this: is it in our (yours, mine, our children's, the nation's) best interest to perpetuate the racial concentration of poverty and disenfranchisement that we live with now?
...THIS sort of thing.
How do I explain to our little daughter that despite the fact that her ancestors were designing great works of engineering, culture and society when my ancestors were wiping their backsides with leaves and looking for stuff to eat it's still okay in a huge part of our country to publicly brand her a "China Doll" or a coolie or a nerdy little brainiac who can't drive?
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Find out what "polydactyly" means and what to do about it.
Watch hella freakin' wierd Pobaby "Porro/Zorro" video. Seriously, check this out. We're talking goofy translated synopsis of the plot of hella freakin' wierd Pobaby Porro/Zorro video, awesome Xiao Ya, Pobaby's baby girl inamorata, and her buttless Chinese red baby chaps (yo, girlfriend is, like, the femme Tom of Finland model of the pre-continent set), Pobaby as Crouching Diaper, Hidden-Don-Diego, and the porcine antics of Pobaby's enemy, San Jie. I find this whole Pobaby camorra intriguing. Here's more oddball Pobaby stuff: this time Ya vs. The Giant Chicken. With an NBA theme. Wierd? Ya think?
Wonder what she's gonna sleep on, how to help her get along with the Peeper, who she is and what she'll be like...
Monday, June 25, 2007
We think we already adore her, little extra bits and all. If hoping and wanting were physical things she would be sleeping in her little bed here tonight. But right now we're still hoping. And wanting. And waiting. And hoping that it's our turn for blessings on the ascending turn of the bhavacakra.
For what price of a whisper in the ear of Guanyin, to help us turn it a little further upwards?
"My brother kneels, so saith Kabir,
To stone and brass in heathen wise,
But in my brother's voice I hear
My own unanswered agonies.
His God is as his fates assign,
His prayer is all the world's--and mine."
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Please, please, please: give Naomi and Ryan a bit of your time. I swear you won't regret it.
We went to Home Depot and ordered a monsterously expensive door for our remodelling project, went to Goodwill and Peep found an enormous snake (now called Jake and living in his bed along with the other four gajillion bed friends), cleaned house, cooked, played with trains, read, napped, went out for a latte or three...
We also went to out little St. John's Library and checked out about a zillion books and a video: The Remarkable Riderless Runaway Tricycle.
That was Saturday afternoon. We have now finished our fifth viewing of the RRRT. Shea is still undecided about which is the best scene: was it where the RRRT avoids the junkyard magnet? Where the RRRT outfoxes the police car? Or evades the street sweeper? No matter - Peeper-double-thumbs-up is the review of the RRRT. Future repeated watching appears inevitable.
What is mom-and-dad funny about this video is the pure artless Seventies-ness of it. It's got everything: Chevy K-cars, Mark Spitz mustaches, joggers in knee-sox (ass-hugging shorts, gold chains and more-mark-spitz-mustaches). It's like this wierd little hommage to disco, polyester and bluegrass. Plus there's no dialogue, so the kid actors can't ham it up. Joe Bob says: check it out.
So in honor of the RRRT and just to prove that no decade has a lock on pure-D wrong fashion choices, here's the Peep doing his "lost-member-of-the-Village-People" impression. We finally got around to Goodwilling a bunch of Mojo's maternity clothes (no more need for that stuff, thankyewvurramuch) and we found a bunch of his baby- and early-toddler things. He loved some of them so much he refused to part with them and even slept in this little ensemble.
Fortunately my little hunka hunka man-meat is now in a less...umm...tittilating ensemble.
As Donna Summer would have said: toot toot heeeeyyy beep beep...
It was "Market-Garden", not "Death from Above" or "Ripcord Slammer".
The landings at Inchon in Korea were code-named "Chromite".
In Vietnam we had operations with code names like "Cedar Falls", "Bright Light" and "Phoenix". Normal, sensible, every-day kinds of names.
But the invasion of some crappy little Caribbean island is code-named "Urgent Fury"?
(This is young Doc Chief and his buddy Doc Clyde doing some emergency splinter surgery during a lull in the fighting during "Operation Urgent Fury")
Bitch-slapping the PDF is called "Just Cause"? Doing the Taliban is "Enduring Freedom"? Invading Iraq is called - wait for it - "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (cunning, guys - those Ba'athists'll never guess what THAT code-name is hiding). And now the latest spectacles brought to you by Bushco: Operation "Arrowhead Ripper" and "Phantom Thunder"?
WTF is wrong with us lately?
IMO this is all part and parcel with the "selling war as fun for the whole family" thing. It's bullshit, it's being sold to the press and the public as bullshit, and if I was the Magic SecDef I'd download a list of about 20,000 one-word codenames into the server at the Five-Sided Funny Farm and force my service chiefs to use them in alphabetical order.
OK, they could petition me to avoid stuff like, say, "Operation Stupid" or "Operation Smegma" as they worked through the S's. But otherwise: that's the end of "Operation I'm Ready For My Closeup" operation names.
Sounds like some 19-year-old private thought that up after a night of sitting up drinking vodka and Red Bull and playing "Worlds of Warcraft". "Whoa, dude, Arrowhead Ripper, that's fuckin' sick, dude!" But this is our multi-billion dollar Department of Defense?
Now that's fuckin' sick, dude.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Barr sems to have been an interesting character: educator, engineer, former OSS agent, and the author of a slew of books on everything you can imagine: kids books, tech manuals and two science fiction volumes, this one and the slightly less-political Space Relations.
The thing is that Barr is just a good writer. He has a knack for creating people you enjoy meeting, as well as how those people talk (providing you could talk as cleverly as you'd like to talk), is erudite without being obnoxious about it, and - this is the most critical part - writes clearly, passionately and vividly. His gift for words lift these little books above the standard genre space-opera fare. They're out of print but you can find them at Amazon for surprisingly cheap prices...
Now Mojo knows my taste in junk fiction as well as anyone, which is why she picked up a copy of "The General's Wench" for me the last time she was at the Goodwill. I bring this up only because it drives home the distinction between well crafted junk fiction and junky junk fiction. The Wench was my other take-along novel. and, well, Barr's work is junk fiction: it has no deeper meaning, will not change your life, but it is written with care and love and will return you an investment in images for your time, a sort of little literary scrimshaw valuable for its own craft.
But The Wench? Well, no matter how many wenchings, whippings, skulduggeries and times Sabrina's bosom (a prominent feature of this thing) gets agitated when she peeks through her window and sees Sir John "take a running jump and land ploof" (seriously, no shit actual quote) alongside Molly, the referenced wench, it's still utter crap. And not even really fun crap. The rotten writing, slow pace, poor plotting and wooden characters make it hell to wade through.
So just as there's a big difference between Jane Austin's elegant prose and the tortured morass of Sir Walter Scott, there's a world of difference between the effort put in and the reward obtained from these two throwaway paperbacks.
Several times the blast launched a mine or three over the road we were parked on - these were sphincter-tightening moments, especially as the mine pop-up hung in the air and you had to guess: is it...long? ...short? ...in between...awwwwshit!
Several of these "engineer" teams took losses, as you can imagine: stepping on mines, mines landing on them... One in particular impressed me, wherein the Egyptian lieutenant showed his troops how a Russian "shoebox" mine worked.
I loved the Sinai back in the day, and had some great times then - probably the most useful, certainly the most peaceful thing I ever did in the Army - and I'd like to tell some of them. If nothing else, to tell you the story of these three not-so-wise men.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
2. There's my fave up on top: Kipper. I think you'd like Kipper , too. He's quiet and thoughtful, in his cartoon doggish way. He has little adventures with his friends Tiger and Pig and is kinda the sort of cartoon person who, if he was a real person you'd probably enjoy spending the afternoon with just hanging out doing nothing in particular. Do people still do that? Peep likes Kipper when he's in a quiet mood - which is a lovely time for me because it's so rare. He's really sweet and huggy when he's quiet.
3. I've talked here before about Dora. Her giant cartoon head scares me, and several of her cartoon aspects are entirely too screechy and/or irritating (and yes, I'm talking about YOU, "Map"...) The Peep enjoys Dora but doesn't actively seek her show out. We'll watch it when it comes on if we're looking for "something good for me"...
4. Diego is one of Peep's favorite cartoons, which I've discussed at length earlier in the blog. Both Dora and Diego are relatively parent-painless (except for the fucking Map)
5. "Meteor and the Mighty Monster Trucks" is purely a Guy Thing. We love Meteor and watch him every morning before daycare. All the stories tell little lessons about stuff like friendship, honesty and caring. But we really watch it because we like to see Junkboy get all dirty. Peep and I, we like our trucks dirty.
7. The funny thing is that the GNS exposed me to Peep's first crush: he luuuurves him some "Nina", the ectomorphic hostess of the show. Who, I admit, is pretty cute, and how cool is a kid's show host who does yoga? And since in PeeperWorld two people can't like the same thing (that is, if the Peep says "I like diesel engines" then I can't like diesel engines, I have to like steam engines, or hotcakes, or something...) I have to like Star. In fact, the person I really liked was Melanie, Nina's predecessor. Melanie turned out to be a very smart, articulate young actress who was canned for making a funny commercial suggesting that teaching kids "abstinence" was as useful as encouraging them to have anal sex so they wouldn't technically lose their virginity. And you thought that KidVid was all cartoon animals and things that blow up!
9. Scooby Doo. OK, how wierd is it that your kid is watching and enjoying a show that YOU watched and enjoyed when you were a kid.
The Scoobster hasn't changed, and the jokes are still just as dumb and the "ghosts" and "monsters" just as silly. The animation sure is better, and as the picture at right shows, the Scooby Gang has been slicked and updated for the 21st Century. But Shaggy and Scooby are still gluttonous cowards, Fred still stalwart, Daphne still heroic and Velma still cute n' nerdy.
Which, BTW, brings back the most divisive question of my adolesence: Daphne or Velma: hot, or not?
Let's face it: a four-year-old could care less. But that's the Daddy's job - to guide little feet towards a proper manhood, to nurture the little fellow into an appreciation of geek-girlhood (and -womanhood) and the understanding that knee socks, a pleated skirt and baggy sweaters are the epitome of feminine coolness.
10. I hear the stirring of little Peepers and mommies. Time to go to work - see you again around here later in the week.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The Peeper was entranced with the idea that he could become the Fishmaster of Oscar the Big Honkin' Fish. He explained in great detail how he would feed Oscar, show him where everything in his new room was and keep the cats out so they wouldn't try and catch Oscar the Big Honkin' Fish.
Miss Lily, who knows that fish are best found in small aluminum cans, was skeptical of the project, as you can see.
So was my bride. As you can also see. Note Miss Lily is displaying some mild interest in the new resident of the Fire Direction Center. But not so much as to be vulgar.
But...happy ending! Oscar the Big Honkin' Fish was just to big and mean to die. Sunday morning saw him still with us, and by Monday he almost took the tip of my finger off lunging for his Cichlid CibbleTM. Yay. Death, where is thy sting, or, the Fish Too Mean to Die.
I did want to link this little note re: the whole "it's your business when your neighbor's house is on fire" theme from last Friday.
The money graph from John Robb's article linked to above: "The Zetas (a drug cartel originally formed by 50 Mexican special operators, some with US training, recruited by the Gulf Cartel as enforcers) has ballooned to a network of 2000 members, including recruits from Guatemalan counter-insurgency forces called the Kabiles."
So what I said: border-crossing hispanics aren't a disease: they're a symptom. Much of Latin America is politically and economically sick and getting sicker, NAFTA or no NAFTA. If we'd get our head out of our American Idol ass we might recognize that for the potential train wreck it is.
Will we? Doubt it. Our politicians are too busy scoring off each other, and the massive money flooding the system is being used to direct our attention to Big Shiny Objects.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Also typically, his answer to the terrifying invasion of the Little Brown Meskins is to throw up a wall and, presumably, mine, shoot and/or harpoon those who will insist on trespassing.
His money quote re: all this contravallation? "The Chinese had success with it, as did Hadrian. In our time, the barrier Israel has built has been so effective in keeping out intruders that suicide attacks are down over 90 percent."
Well, I hate to use artillery to flatten one weasel-like conservative columnist, but let's stop and think about this for a moment:
These societies were or are AT WAR with their enemies on the other side of the wall. Their choice was simple: keep the enemy out or fight them constantly. Is this what Krauthammer is saying? That we're at war with the Terrorist Beaners? That it's win or die, the barbarians pour in over the wall and we're all burning alive in the rubble of our villas, without even our lawns mowed, babies diapered and food processed? Heavens!
Or is this just the typical vaporing of a conservative idiot, whose knowledge of history is as self-serving as his political orientation?
I note with some grim humor that the Hammer of the Krauts doesn't add to his list this wall, equally useful in controlling movement across an international border.
Perhaps because he doesn't want to remind us that governments who build walls between peoples often find themselves building walls and barriers against their own people. Or that even the most fearsome barrier can and will be overcome if the people trying to cross it are desperate and brave enough.
The real issue - the one Which Dare Not Speak Its Name - is that the institutional poverty, misgovernance and social maladjustment of most Latin American countries is so profound and so destructive that to address it would take every penny that the U.S. has spent on poorly planned foreign adventures and more. Much more.
So instead we get this idiotic argument that all we need to do is fence these little heatherns out and everything wil be Good. God will once again be White and in His Heaven, the food will magically get harvested, processed, cooked and served by Real Amurikans (actual Citizens) who will suddenly, magically, want to work for the pittance we want to pay for these jobs to prevent our food, clothing and service costs from reflecting what it would cost to pay humans actually living wages to do these things.
As Hadrian himself might have said: Nam tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet.
It is your business when your neighbour's house is on fire.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
This brought out all the usual suspects for comment: those of the Left, [including, interestingly, Portland's mayor and former top copper] complaining of targeting poor hispanics simply trying to make a living, while the letter column of the Oregonian filled with the normal carping of the Right, complaining about the Brown Peril and the immanenet demise of Western Civilization because of the hordes of dusky little invaders.
Now the Chief is probably more Left the Right, but most plainly he is White, which means that he and his were the beneficiaries of the most bare-faced illegal immigration scam ever perpetrated, so he feels it only proper that he should STFU about other people getting over on immigration laws. The warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu is supposed to have said that the only excuse for breaking the law (in his case, rebellion) was success. Us white folks are the biggest immigration-law-breakers in history; for us to be lecturing people trying to sneak into the Land of the Big PX now smacks more than a little of the rich robber-baron beating up on the small time sneak thief.
Update: Sunday 6/16: Tbogg links to this James McMurtry song which says everything I've said and want to say about this but says it better.
Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the damn little war
And we can't make it here anymore
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
500 cubic miles. Cubic. Fucking. Miles.
Glacial Lake Missoula.
Imagine, then, the pressure at the base of the dam. The ice wall, seamed and fissured by pressure, by the stresses of traveling thousands of miles from the snowy field of its origin. And the water, beneath tens of millions of gallons of water above it, forcing its way into the cracks, wedging into those fissures. Fingers of water driven by incalculable mass; melting, shearing, driving deeper and deeper into the glacier. Wedging the frozen mass away from the bare rock on which it rests. Burrowing ever closer to the far side of the monster jumble of ice, snow and rock. Closer…closer…
And then, finally, a jet of water from the base of the ice dam. Another. Three more, a dozen; the first block tumbles from the bulging pile. Groaning, shrieking, the ice wall collapses, the water boiling through.
Another flood has begun.
“When Glacial Lake Missoula burst through the ice dam and exploded
downstream, it did so at a rate 10 times the combined flow of all the rivers of the world. This towering mass of water and ice literally shook the ground as it thundered towards the Pacific Ocean, stripping away thick soils and cutting deep canyons in the underlying bedrock. With flood waters roaring across the landscape at speeds approaching 65 miles per hour, the lake would have drained in as little as 48 hours.”
“From stratigraphic successions of approximately 40 rhythmic beds at exposures in Montana, Washington, and Oregon, Waitt (1980b) inferred that approximately 40 great jökulhlaups had escaped last glacial Lake Missoula. The number "40" is a minimum; there were at least that many huge floods during the last glaciation. Although problems remain on the number and correlation of events attributed in various areas to successive Missoula floods, regionally scattered sections indicate that there were more than 40 colossal last-glacial floods, probably more than 60. “
Of all the geologic acts that shaped my home here in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps the most dramatic and greatest were these: the Missoula Floods. Everywhere I go, every day, I see the work done by the last of these inundations. Even our little house, way up in North Portland, is set on the tail end of the monster pendant bar of Alameda Ridge, a pile of boulders, gravel sand and silt that settled in the calm water behind the volcano we now call Rocky Butte, the then-conical hill serving as a flowbreak and being ripped to pieces in the process.
One of the questions I was always asked by my students during our PCC geology field trips was: “Were there any people who could have actually seen the floods?” As of today no fossil remains have been found in any of the flood deposits, although we know there were many large animals living on the Columbia Plateau at the time. When Harlan Bretz’s flood theories were accepted our notion of human arrival in North America postdated the last flood by about 1,000 years. Those ideas are in the process of changing. So it is possible, and even likely, that small bands of firstcomers were abroad on the high plateau at the time.
Maybe it’s a tiny tremor in the ground beneath you. Maybe it’s a sound, a breathless hush of a sound, just below the threshold of true hearing. Maybe it’s just a feeling inside you, like the feeling you’ve learned to trust while hunting, the feeling that something has changed. You sit up, then you stand up. You stare out into the darkness, willing your eyes to see whatever it is that is pressing on you like a stone on your chest. You know, now, you know that something is out beyond the ring of firelight, something moving, something vast, something frightening, but you can’t see and don’t know what it is.
Perhaps you have time to wake your companions. Perhaps you all jump up, try to run, try to hide, dissolve into hopeless panic before the wall of water sweeps you all away into chaos and the darkness of the vanished years.
Or perhaps you can only stand there, transfixed, staring at the long white line across the black horizon, as the first cold puff of wind racing out before the waters shivers your cheek like a lover’s last caress.