Sunday, January 31, 2010

Kamikaze Robin Influx

We had a sudden influx of robins today, flying with great frenzy around our building's grounds. They are my favorites, sparrows next. A neighbor of mine, a horticulturist by trade, was watching them out in the driveway.

“Look at all these robins,” I marveled. “I didn’t think it was time for them to show up.”

“It’s too early,” he said. “Look, most of them are young. They still have down feathers.” They did. Flashes of white fluff made a stripe between the redbreast and the brown. “It’s too early for them to migrate up here.”

The robins were flying back and forth, high, low, across, from tree to tree and back. You could tell it was a pattern, but not what that pattern was. And they were all calling out.

“Wow, look at that, did you see that? One almost got creamed by a car, flying too low. I tell you, they’re young and inexperienced. My gosh, I’ve never seen so many at once. Look how many are in that tree!”

"Either they know something we don’t, or they were displaced,” I said.

 “Displaced. They’re really hungry. See how they’re swarming? They know they only have an hour before the sun goes down.” He pointed. “They don’t eat seeds, they eat bugs and worms. Look, they’re pecking the ground next to the buildings, because that’s the only place the snow has melted. They can’t get enough food. I wish I had a shovel.” He kicked some dirty snow. “It won’t melt by tomorrow.”

“No, it’ll just get a crust on top of the ice,” I said, and he agreed. “Damn.”

I went upstairs and brought back down my dustpan. We dug up snow around the bases of the trees and along a line of turf. John had the knowledge and the strategy. All we needed was the dustpan. Now hopefully the birds will stick around.

From Goop to Drip: Zombie Osmosis

Three p.m. Friday afternoon: Board member walks through hallway, sees wall bubbling in the hall. OMG. The trek to the zombie basement was quick.

"We have a bad water leak! The wall is growing pouches and when you push the bubbles, water swishes in the plaster!"

Efficiency devices halfway installed. Big piles of computers getting downloads. All this handled by a corporation of outside consultants, not the Zombie Basement Dwellers. The ZBD are free to tackle this.

"I'll call somebody," Zombie Secretary promises. "But I don't know where they are."
"How Are you?" another assistant asks. "I like your blouse."
"Look, our computers are mostly installed." The Head Zombie walks in.

"It's three p.m. on Friday," I say. "We have a bad common area leak. Can somebody go look at it now?"

"I ordered the notebooks you requested," Zombie Secretary promises. I asked for them yesterday, in January, February, March, April, May, and June, (skipped July), August, Sept, and October of 2009. So, good. Efficiency rocks.

Over the next two hours, various ZBDs shamble up by way of elevator and stairwell. One maintenance man is popping bubbles with his keys and wiping up the water. The keys leave grime stains and pock marks.
"Gonna have to take an axe to this wall," the other one says. They walk off, muttering umyeah-umyeah-um.
There is no sign of an explorer mission to the source. Then it's five o'clock.

I have had my eye on this wall all weekend. So far, the leak has not accelerated--although, it looks much worse.
Zombie heads will roll--photo, BBC/AFP.

January Muster

Introductory note, for January only:
Texas A & M University has the annual "Aggie Muster", where a living, breathing Aggie answers 'here' for an Aggie who has died in the past year, until the roll is completely called. The tradition, borne of the school's early military roots, dictates that all lights in campus classrooms be turned off in honor of the dead while muster is held. The college had schooled many of the Marines who died on Iwo Jima. The Aggie Muster ceremony is considered sacred and that particular year's Muster is a hallowed one in Aggie memory.

After last year's terrible number of law enforcement deaths, I determined to pay attention all this year. The Muster is the tradition I know that seems both the least and most sentimental, the simplest and most dignified. You can count them present in the privacy of your thoughts if you so desire.

January Muster
In the United States, we lost fifteen law enforcement officers this month.  To honor their service:

--Tommy Bishop Jr.--John Bernard--Stanley Cooper--
--Josie Fox--James Szuba--Alfred Celestain--
--Duane Dalton--Craig Story--Paul Richey--
Chad Reed--James Anderson--Christopher Milito--
Jill Mattice--Carl Worley--Eric Shuhandler--

Please go to the Officers Down Memorial Page to read more about the many who have died in the line of duty.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yes, Sir, I Got The Picture

I read Second City Cop daily.  I go where he tells me to go, and I mostly keep my mouth shut if I disagree. If I was in Chicago, and he did my traffic stop, I'd do what he told me to do then, too.

Thursday night, he posted a link to a site about Illinois' bankruptcy. I am not in Illinois, so my focus is more broad. Did you know that nearly every state government in the nation is running a deficit? Most at least 20%.  (It's the fourth graphic down on the page, but I will include it here.) There are few break-even states. The rest are out on tick.

I'm so used to thinking Federal, I missed this boat. Not a good boat to miss, either.

The information came from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan think tank on government spending.
You can write your Congressman by checking here.
You can write your Senator by checking here.
It would be worth the effort to find your Governor and your state legislators. If you're in a white or grey state, you can write and tell them good job. Everybody else has some explaining to do.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gooped Again! Zombie Slugs

I went to the labyrinth of Zombie Slugs this afternoon. Just to confirm our appointment.
Something's come up, the Head Zombie said. We won't be able to do anything tomorrow. I'll send you an e-mail.
Mindful of reader advice, I'm going down anyway. I want to confirm the cataclysm supposedly in store.
In case you are wondering, they are getting efficiency devices tomorrow. We call them computers with memories unfilled with old cartoons, restaurant menus, and Mary Kay orders. They call them Horror!
I expect Zombie escape tactics. Add in that it's Friday. You'll never see a Zombie any faster.
Photo: Austin Probe.

The War Inside

I find no peace and all my war is done,
I fear and hope, I burn and freeze like ice,
I fly above the wind, yet can I not arise,
And naught I have and all the world I seize on;
That looseth nor locketh holds me in prison,
And holdeth me not; yet I can scape nowise;
Nor letteth me live nor die of my devise,
And yet of death it giveth no occasion.
Without eyen I see, without tongue I plain,
I desire to perish, and yet I ask health;
I love another, and thus I hate myself;
I feed me in sorrow, and laugh in all my pain.
Likewise displeaseth me both death and life
And my delight is causer of this strife.

Thomas Wyatt the Elder

Many of Wyatt's poems regret age, but there's more than that here. I think it's partly a look back on false remedies to pain, or more likely a description of despair. Wyatt was a courtier and a womanizer, well-acquainted with the false words of the false heart. He also fought in wars. Perhaps that is also part of it, the way unusual stress hangs on after work is done.

Sometimes poetry gives voice to things we need to say, in a concise, controlled, intensified way. I wish we looked to it more, or gave it to those who need it. One phrase or the entire engine of a poem might explain the inexplicable.

I have one copy of a slim, privately-printed edition of poems. A shell-shocked British peer came back from World War I and collected an anthology to suit himself, a fine mix of poets from that war and earlier. He did it to save his sanity. He tells us this in the foreword, in that British stiff-upper-lip way.

If you were going to give a book of poems to somebody in the thick or on the move, I would recommend this old mainstay: Six Centuries of Great Poetry (from Chaucer to Yeats), Edited by Robert Penn Warren and Albert Erskine, 1955. It's still available for $7.99, or you can buy it used. It's a paperback, hardly weighs anything, and can take abuse. I have a used copy that has endured for decades. Wyatt is in there, but if he does not serve the day's purpose, someone else will. Kipling, maybe, with a call to duty. The anonymous author of Sir Patrick Spens, about REMF. And a whole lot of revenge on She Who Dared, the writer of dear john letters.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This Is Your Lucky Day

Reading Palms
The third story of the pictured building is the consultation room of a woman whom I will call The Gypsy. In the summer, The Gypsy sits outside in one of two yardchairs and tells fortunes to drunk marks for $5.00 each. Once, on my way to the grocery store, her mother offered to tell my fortune for free. She divined that a 'great weight' had settled on me, blocking my luck. A Very Serious Situation.

This great grey cloud would go away with a candle ceremony, conducted with a Catholic priest's help, and it would only cost me $1,000.00. The money would go in a box, sit on a priest's altar, and be blessed by the saints and the smoke of many candles. My life would be purified and my barriers would crumble. My Luck would Return! Participation was not required. She would take care of everything.

I told her I didn't think so. Finally she decided that $181.00 would be enough to satisfy the candlemaker, the priest, all the saints and leave a few pennies for The Gypsy's Mom. With a discount like that, I figured only one-fifth of that cloud would be lifted, so I told her no thanks. I did pay her $5.00 though. This story cost me a voluntary $5.00, and I can tell it over and over, although, not to the same people twice.

Doubled Down
One week, my husband and I visited New Orleans. We were walking down Bourbon Street, which is of course an inevitable consequence of going to New Orleans. A woman came up to us in the light of the street lamps. She was dressed in baggy jeans and a t-shirt. Her hair was not styled and she was neither ugly nor attractive. But the silver on her eyelids glinted in the lights of Bourbon Street. She looked up into my husband's face and breathed,

"Today is your lucky day."

She was mesmerizing. We followed her into a shabby storefront. I swear it was the silver eyelids.

A thin balding man who looked like the biggest loser ever stood behind a cheap counter made of old paneling and Formica. He held a dice cup in his right hand. We had a chance to win a prize. All of the prizes were on shelves along the back wall, which was a scabrous green. All of the boxed prizes were covered in a good half-inch of dust.

We got five rolls of the dice for free. Unbelievable! It really was our lucky day. Or night, really.
The man counted the dice so fast we were sure he was miscounting. We even tried to ask, but he just kept rolling, counting, putting the dice back in the cup. It was a lot of dice. And he was satisfied.
And we were Winning.

Then we had the opportunity to Double Down for two dollars. We had the chance to Double Down again. Finally we were at octuple chances for the prize! Oh, Wow, it was Our Lucky Day! And it only cost Eight Dollars for Eight Chances! We only needed thirty-eight more points!
My husband started to laugh. "No, thanks."

We would have run faster, except we were laughing too hard.

I was afraid to be in New Orleans streets after dark, so I had limited the amount of money in my bag before we left the hotel. We counted up our respective cash after Silver Eyelids and The Counter Man had their chance at it. One of the best $20.00 lessons ever. And hey, we were Doubled Down. Two of us learned it for the price of one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Wicked Witch Succumbed to Zombie-dumb

Year of the Living Dead
For over thirteen months (number of months May be significant, but I doubt it) I have tried to be a humanistic treasurer. My goals have been accuracy, transparency, and consistency. And to be nice but firm about my expectations of the managerial staff.

I have undertaken, taught, given color charts, shown what I wanted, lived it, modelled it by example, listed it, met over it, called on it, visited it, encouraged it, ordered it, persuaded, cajoled, empathized, sympathized, pleaded, begged, nagged, chirped, demonstrated, supervised, edited . . . are there any other verbal verbs left?
 Then I flat ran out of nice ways to talk. I could feel my throat tighten and my voice get hard. I didn't like where that tone was going. So . . .before I started cursing, kicking, or whupping donkey . . .

They always thought I was interfering. Yeah, I was.

I went away for a couple months. Still didn't get done.

Well, it's past the end of the year. I told them in December I would audit all the individual owner accounts. That's almost three hundred accounts. They Couldn't figure out how to print the reports. I made them send them to me. And I audited them.

Over forty percent of the accounts have a mistake, a question, a serious problem, an overbilling, underbilling, hot check, wrong balance, freakazoid use of improper discretion or total lack of discretion. Umm, it does represent some improvement . . .

Today's Meeting of the Past-alive
So we had our Condo Bored Meeting. I came, I saw, I demonstrated, reported, displayed, contradicted excuses, blah blah and you know what?
The manager and I are supposed to have a meeting. I think I already did that, times past count.

But once more I will ride my broom down to the den of the zombies . . . . hello, my pretties . . . . wake up . . . it's time to clean house. . . . probably get the old umyeah-umyeah-um.

Pix from and

Ancient Greek Warriors

Classical Greek sculpture shows a progression of art aided by science. It gives us the centuries-long effort to depict how anatomy really worked on a living person.

Once the Greeks figured it out, the work was mostly lost in successive waves of invasion, rediscovered in the Renaissance. Now it is available to civilization, but it's still continually rediscovered--by individuals. Frequently their steps follow, in the course of study, the same trip that the Greeks first forged over the centuries. That's one real miracle of Greek sculpture.

New artists see in one statue what what had been missing in their own work all along: an understanding of the way muscles and bones lever cooperatively, create balance, give readiness or agility. The improvements in anatomical rendering allowed a god, goddess, or warrior to dominate space, convey physicality, and hold ground.

I'll give you three examples. All three are nudes, so they come after the jump. Just in case you're at work or otherwise surrounded by Philistines.

Monday, January 25, 2010

from The Secret History of the Mongols (c. 1250 A.D.)

I've skipped the part where the two eldest sons wonder how the other three sons came from their widowed mother, and deleted her explanation in the middle. But it deserves a mention, because in many endeavors, we come from different places but must work from what basis we have. This is from the first section of the Secret History--The Origins of Chinghis Khan.

Then one day in the spring
after boiling a soup of dried mutton,
Alan the Fair assembled her five sons together.
She seated them all in a row,
gave them each the shaft of an arrow
and said to them, "Break it!"
A single arrow shaft,
It took no strength to break it,
and each of them broke it and tossed it away.
Then she bound five shafts together in a bundle,
and giving the bundle to each one in turn,
said to each of them: "Break it!"
Each of the brothers held the five bound together
and no one could break them.
. . . .
Then Alan the Fair said to each of her five sons
"You five were all born from one womb.
If, like the five single arrows you held
you separate yourself, each going alone
then each of you can be broken by anyone.
If you are drawn together by a singular purpose
bound like the five shafts in a bundle
how can anyone break you?"

The Secret History of the Mongols, pp. 6-7.  An Adaptation by Paul Kahn of the Yuan Ch'ao Pi Shih, based upon the English Translation by Francis Woodman Cleves. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1984.

True Confessions: The Library Lover

Read on to learn the Strange Preferences and Bent Attitudes of an amateur librarian . . .lurid! shocking! detailed!

True Confession no. 1: Withstanding the Wiles of Eve!
I have been at considerable pains to avoid reading Milton's Paradise Lost my whole, entire, life.

True Confession no. 2: The Matchmaker from Hell!
And aren't they All?  But I can never get very far into Jane Austen's Emma before I get embarrassed for her character's meddlesome snobbery and put the book down.

Confession no. 3. Gave Free Love--Got Searing Contempt!
Some hippie and beat authors are fantastic, but I despise Jack Kerouac. He lived on other people's hospitality and casually insulted them in his books.

Confession no. 4. Studly General Blackmailed!
One prize in my library is a two-volume set written by Harriette Wilson, the mistress of (among others) Arthur Wellesley, future Duke of Wellington. From this diary, you wonder how British government ever got out of the brothels and duelling fields long enough to fund a war against Napoleonic France.

Those clients that survived into old age were then blackmailed by Harriette for specific sums, depending on the nature and longevity of their relationship. If they paid up, she left them out of the memoir. (And still two volumes.) Wellington's wrote a  very short letter in reply that said  "Publish and be damned."

Confession no. 5.  True Love, But With Hundreds!
Poems I like I write out in longhand, in a leather-bound book I picked up on sale for two whole dollars. Writing them out in longhand helps me understand how they were crafted.

I have done this twice in my lifetime. The first book wore out after a good twenty years of consultation. Very few of the poems from the first book were left behind for the second one. I am their very true lover. But we are not exclusive . . . anybody else can love them too.

 Don't forget . . . True Confessions can be found in your local library!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oil Spill in Port Arthur

This is a bad news but good news story. The bad news is that the tug w/ 2 barges collided with the tanker. The good news is that the Coast Guard and the oil company got right on containment, it's in a low-turbulence area, and not in the immediate vicinity of any wetlands.  The water movement matters because high turbulence increases the spread. It also makes globs of oil-mixed-with-salt-water foam, a kind of stinky soapy glop that's harder to suck up or get rid of.

Because crap happens, people learn to deal, and they know what to do. But I'm not Pollyanna. There's always a loss when a mistake like this is made. This matters extremely for the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico and the near environs of Houston.

One note: the area was evacuated because of sulfides in the oil. Everybody needs to know that this is going to be forever common. The oil we are drilling now is increasingly more sulphurous or 'sour' crude. The wells of sweet light crude are lucky finds among the newer wells, pumping off the top. As we return to old wells with new technology, to get more of what we couldn't reach before, the oil is not as sweet. Other top-producing wells world-wide are sour, too: it depends. It's the refining that takes the sulphur out, and increasingly sulphur disposal is becoming a problem in the oil industry.

So the presence of sulfides also suggests that the oil had not yet been refined. There are refineries in the Caribbean, in fact the political climate for building one there is much more friendly. But you can bet things are screwed up for refining with all the rescue traffic to Haiti. The effects of Haiti's earthquake aren't just in Haiti, but all over--including, this minute, probably Houston.  We are all one.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Message in a Bottle

(What if this message embarrasses you, or me, or causes others to be uncomfortable? What does that matter compared to your happiness?)

Your world is more turbulent than most.
You struggle and get angry. Time after time, that anger yields no result.
The struggle lives on. It never ends.

So you say screw it. You go for escape.
Laughter works, but you don't forget.
The incidents blur, but all the pain is everywhere.

You find your anger is now at yourself.
The effort of maintaining a personality seems more and more hollow.
Fatigue sets in. The simplest thing becomes hard.

There's a way to fill back up and be happy. There is.
You are good, smart, decent. Each pain you feel is a sign of great love.
Sounds like sentimental claptrap. But I can only use the words we have.

I am as sure you will be loved as I am afraid for you now  . . .
Guardian of good, sufferer for mankind, you matter in this world.
You matter to me. Whatever you feel or don't feel--come through--

Haiti Update 4--Security Round-up--new video added

For the mostly-good-but-absolutely-true news, check the Big Picture blog entry for Haiti, ten days in. Forty-six photos show a range of human emotion on Haiti's people and their caregivers. Nearly every photo depicts a human being who has their humanity back, full force.

It's impossible to evaluate security measures completely without access to Command Centers somewhere. But this round-up of articles may give a sense of the challenges and victories, holding actions and improvements. This picture is of a security guard on Jan 19th or thereabouts, someone attempting to keep order. (Reuters/London Telegraph)

January 19, 2010
The Telegraph reports that Haitian police have conceded that they've lost control of security, particularly in the waterfront slum Cite' Soleil. Rescue workers have been attacked, which probably means that rescue work is suspended in that area.
Police officers, whose limited success against slum gang lords has been based on the support of armoured UN troops, have now effectively given up by appealing to local vigilantes to take the law into their own hands.
"If you don't kill the criminals, they will all come back," Haitian police officers announce over loudspeakers from heavily armed checkpoints in the slum area.
Residents say that people have been killed and several women raped in a turf war between gangsters nicknamed "Belony" and "Bled" in the six days following the earthquake which destroyed the prison.

CNN similarly reports that the Haiti police are ill-equipped., with looting everywhere. Also according to CNN on January 19, (substantive article) the UN Security Council would be asked to approve another 2,000 soldiers and 1500 police officers into Haiti. The word is "quickly" rather than an actual date. Logistics again play a factor, and also diplomatic wrangling about who's going when, but still a good move.

January 20, 2010
Apparently the appeal to vigilantism was answered with vigilante enforcement within several areas. Former gang leaders and others have been executed without trial. From the Guardian. Several vigilante groups have blockaded neighborhoods in an attempt to keep order.

January 21, 2010
The Washington Post reports seven police officers  from Prince George's County, Maryland, will deploy to Haiti. All are of Haitian descent, who will know the language. Godspeed to them.

Orphanages have been attacked, and food stolen, at CNN.

January 22, 2010
The BBC headline "Haiti police appeal for help over escaped prisoners' makes it sound like the police are utterly overwhelmed, but further down in the article, BBC notes 'vast majority is calm' and 'sporadic violence in the historically troubled Cite' Soleil area.' So it sounds like definite progress. Here is a video, from,  that shows calm among the debris:

This video, however, displays the difficulties attendant with that 'sporadic violence':

**Canadian RCMP volunteers seek to replace their two officers fallen in Haiti. This is a wonderful article, because it includes part of Sgt. Mark Gallagher's assessment of Haitian crime and policing Before the Quake. From the Toronto Star: if you read nothing else, this article will be worth it.

This video shows great footage of the peacekeepers from China, and a great deal about how it looks from the inside of an armored vehicle--now preferred. Note: the introduction reads twice in this video before you get to the actual story.

January 23, 2010
Increased security is going to facilitate every other kind of security there is. For instance:
from the Wall Street Journal: Haitians regain access to cash. The banks are full of soldiers and private security, but you can now buy instead of steal or barter. A huge step forward, for this grim and terrible trouble.  Many thanks to our security providers everywhere.

From Big Picture Blog, linked above.

Forbearance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Over at Chiron, Rory wrote a post on Iraqi translators and the perilous, stressful work they did for the military. And the way he wrote it reminded me of an inspiring poem. It's not a perfect fit in the first stanza, but the second stanza rocks for everybody.

Since possibly the onset of behavioral psychology, we have been trained to give words to everything. But sometimes honor or propriety demand silence. That's what the Chiron post is all about.

Hast thou named all the birds without a gun?
Loved the wood-rose, and left it on its stalk?
At rich men's tables, eaten bread and pulse?
Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust?

And loved so well a high behavior
In man or maid, that thou from speech refrained
Nobility more nobly to repay?
Oh, be my friend, and teach me to be thine!
The 'pulse' Emerson was eating was grains, perhaps oatmeal or corn mush. No healthy man I know eats oatmeal at any man's dinner table, rich or poor--but it's a metaphor, you know, for simple pleasures.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Crazy Landlord Story No. 8: A Dog's Life

When we first moved to RiverTown, we had to find a place in advance. I went everywhere with a cab driver we met, getting advice and help. He was the best cab driver ever. I still have a horror story about that apartment hunt, but I'm saving it for later. Meanwhile, my husband was busy meeting his future bosses and touring the hospital where he would serve as a resident.

Eventually Leon the cabbie and I found the perfect place, which was the scene of so many of my street conflicts. With the park across, and the landlord working next door, it seemed perfect. Second floor, and very secure. There was just one problem: No dogs allowed.

The American Success Story
The potential landlord was a carpenter, and I'm talking A-mazing furniture construction. His father had fled an economically-stagnant Europe to come to America during the Depression. Craftsman there learned in the old apprenticeship-to-wandering journeyman system until they either married the boss's daughter or founded their own shop. Germany in the 1930's had not much market for European crafted end tables, so he hopped on a ship to America with his rucksack of tools.

"Ha, I was so stupid," the old guy laughed. "It was the wrong America. North America, South America, what do I know?"

He worked again until he could get back on a ship, I think from Brazil, and started making furniture in a RiverTown furniture store during the Depression. The store bargain was, if you bought a dining table, they threw in eight chairs for free. He made a lot of chairs. And eventually he found his own wife and started his own shop, making Federalist/English Regency/French Rococo style furniture. They had marquetry. They had veneer. They had carved arms. All old-World style craftsmanship. And he brought his son up into the business. Decades later, he handed over the leadership to his son, but still showed up every day for work.

Oh, yeah, that'll work.

"I don't see why they can't have an itty bitty dog, son," the old guy complained. 'What's wrong with you?"
"Papa, we agreed a long time ago this was the policy," his son complained. 'And this is not a little dog."
I kept my mouth shut for another five sentences.
"You've got an apartment with a slob living in it on a month-to-month lease, she hasn't even paid the rent! And I don't like her boyfriend!! He doesn't work!!"

'We'd be here June 1," I said. ''Really, June 10, but we'd pay from the 1st.'
"Charge 'em a pet deposit," the old guy said. "It's just a cute little dog."
"Rosie's obedience trained," I volunteered. "And of course we'll pay a pet deposit."
Score, one apartment, thanks to the old guy.

It was a theme down there in the workshop, with the abdicated king allowing the prince of carpenters to make all the tough decisions, but stepping in with a heavy foot whenever he wanted to. The son was constantly nervous, and you see why.

Years Later
The old guy stopped at a suburban Kentucky Fried Chicken. Somehow, the car engaged in drive not reverse and slammed right through the restaurant. Thank God, nobody was hurt. He came back to work a few days later, his face covered in contusions and tiny cuts. He was also riding hell on everybody in the shop.

"I was really worried. I'm so glad you're better," I told him, and he scowled at me. "What was the matter, Mr. Carpenter? Did they run out of extra crispy?"

His son howled with laughter. "Get out of here," he told me. "Go now." And he started laughing again.

a little higher on the trail

This is a follow-up to the new frontier post earlier this month.

I don't know if you'd call it work in the traditional sense, but I've been doing some metaphorical lifting and organizing on the 'big pile of miscellaneous ick covered in heavy fog' that sent me to the therapist in the first place. Then we started on small steps first. Once I get these on the near-automatic, I think the ways of a good life are going to come back full force. Then the heavy lifting will come in, but I don't worry about that the same way. Or maybe it's not time to worry about it yet.

Mainly I've been worried I'd lost my backbone. The big bad Ann T. who could live in RiverTown and make a difference and/or access her luck just seemed totally lost. She still winks in and out, but the fog is lifting more often and the little pieces, as I said, are getting organized. Actions that looked like unacceptable, limping compromises now look like solutions. That's not settling for second best; it's the new wind from the mountain top clearing my field of vision.

Nobody can work through this miasma except me, but as an extrovert I have needed to make it somewhat public so that I could examine it better. My therapist is of course trying to cheer me on, but I believe her when she says, 'See, see! We've only been doing this for a month, and just look."

I took her pictures of my husband and all my dead like the fourth visit. Something so simple: just to make them real and valued for fifty minutes. That was a true restoration. We are I guess eight or ten visits in.

So there's a way up, and I thank you very much for the fresh air and light that's made it through the grey. In case you are worried, absolutely you need not; you have propped me up already and restored much of my confidence. I am also very grateful for your well-wishes and prayers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

He's a Litterbug, but it Works for Him

Wallace Stevens is praised as one of the 'Big 4' Modernist poets. He is known for his huge vocabulary and "the supreme fusion of creative imagination and objective reality."
But so what.  The poem has to be worth it to you.
Many times I think his voice is that of a man in a suit with a strong baritone, telling everybody what to think. A guy who makes fearful waiters run whining to the cook. However, I do like this poem very much:

from Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around; no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

A lot of sculpture defines space with its differentness to what surrounds it. And a lot of litter is like this too, distracting from the more beautiful panorama. It depends on what we see and how we see it.

I hope he cleaned up after himself.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

America Fries the French Potato

First, you have to read about the tantrum: US accused of 'occupying' Haiti. Mon Dieu!!!! A functionary from the country that gave us the Napoleon complex disses the nation that birthed film noir AND Jerry Lewis, not to mention the Marshall Plan.

--from AFP wire service---

Alors! U.S. invades Back Yard

(Agence-France-Presse) In a stunning coup de foudre, the vile Americans have announced their imperialist intention of ruling the Caribbean Ocean. The initial move was accomplished over a twenty-four hour ‘action period’ which occurred after forces mobilized from Haiti in a 'deployment staging subterfuge'.

In Operation Rolled Cigar, the Americans completed their takeover of the island of Hispaniola. Simultaneously, U.S. Marines took over the British, French, and Dutch Antilles with a report of two total casualties. Jamaica surrendered in the face of one gunboat, the USS Golightly, which supported five landing craft. It is believed the lack of Jamaican resolve was clinched by the use of reggae and reggaeton soundtracks, which boomed at high amplitude from shipboard speakers.

‘It’s just amazing,” Admiral Forthwith said, at a dawn press conference. “Those island-hopping tactics we learned on our way to the Phillippines are still totally relevant, over fifty years later. This shows why we never throw anything away in War Plans.” He added, “Music is one universal language; but firepower is what the U.S. Navy calls the universal amplifier.”

The U.S. Department of Defense has blacked out satellite pictures on Google Earth, but early indications are that a force is now converging on Cuba, with major supply chain being routed through Puerto Rico.

"It is not the first time that the land-sucking and imperialistic Americans have enforced their schizophrenic will on a carefree Caribbean," French think-tank director Remi Toulouse asserted. [Ed. note: Agence France Presse continues with various military actions in the Reagan years] "It is obvious to all of France and indeed, the entire European Community, that these previous forays were merely practice for an all-out display of crude American machismo."

UN Security Council attempts U.S. rebuke, but can't get quorum
The move stunned the UN Security Council, which broke out into a fistfight at about 2 a.m. this morning.
The American diplomat was rushed to the hospital as diplomats from France and the United Kingdom forcibly protested the loss of their Caribbean territories. Unsubstantiated reports say that delegates from various Latin American countries held the U.S diplomat immobile while the delegate from France tried to make his point.

"He hits like a baby," the Venezuelan diplomat noted. "He whined about hurting his hand, too."

The Russian delegate to the Security Council was also carried to Bellevue, reportedly after choking on his own laughter.

“America is doing only what we are attempting with Japan,’ he explained, once released from the hospital. When pressed, he did admit it had been a shock to the Russian government as well. “But opportunity knocks. We feel same way about Russo-Japanese War,” he said. “Who knew American government had such long memory for insults?” He laughed again. “We know they are merely avenging the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

When asked if Russia expected any repercussions from its part in the Cuban Missile Crisis, he shrugged

“That was idiot Krushchev and USSR. We are new Russia, with many oil contracts. I think Castro must be shitting cocaine turds by now.”

Nobel Peace Prize??
At the White House press conference, Obama looked grave and determined. “All the hardship of the American people in the fight against drugs will be halved after this operation is completed,” he said, striking his fist on the podium. “We do not anticipate this operation to cost American taxpayers any additional funds, especially since we now have control of the Cayman Islands and the other financial paradises of the Caribbean. Already, American accountants have located lost funds and drug money that should pay for everything, including reconstruction. We may even pay off the deficit.”

On the streets of Paris, citizens deplored the American move, but did not seem unduly worried, as interest spikes over the pret-a-porter fashion shows that begin next week. “Merde, it is the crime committed to spread Disney World," said the one concerned person this reporter located. "We would rather have the heroin. Mon amis, have you any?"

---end of wire---
With apologies to Agence France Presse, which is a Very good news agency--and thanks to Beat & Release, for bringing the article to my attention!

Walter Inglis Anderson

Walter Inglis Anderson (1903-1965), born in New Orleans, painted from life on a mosquito-infested, hurricane-attracting, and hotter than heck Horn Island off the Mississippi Coast.
I didn't think it would be so darned awful if we had something nice to look at. We have to rest our eyes so that we can renew them.

Check out the blue crab painting at the site linked above. Perfectly beautiful.

Haiti, Update 3--The Public Health Matters

The UN continues to be Fact Central for charities and governments all over the world, including our own. They are the leading proponent and most coordinated system for ensuring world public health.

Epidemic Worries
According to the paper I read, epidemic disease has always been a concern of aid organizations during quake disasters. Historically, though, post-quake epidemic has not occured on the feared scale. That can be because rescue always kept it in mind and so averted a second wave of disaster. But Haiti has significant health deficits, and of course their infrstructure for public health is gone.

Good Figures to Work With
Haiti has participated in the UNICEF and World Health Organization data collection, so we do have some information on the risks that will complicate health care delivery there. It's important to note ALL countries self-report  health stats to the UN. That means each number relies on the skill and the honesty of the reporting country. Looking at these figures, I would say that Preval's tenure as president/ the MINUSTAH presence has shown a marked increase in capability and honesty in reporting figures. The figures will still probably be somewhat low, since the population was still underserved.

The reported immunization rate in Haiti against diptheria, tetanus, measles, and other childhood diseases is all over the map, generally between 40-60%. The WHO goal was to deliver immunizations at a rate close to 80%.  You can say what you like about immunization in this developed country, but diptheria, tetanus, and measles are potentially fatal diseases. The immunization level indicates that about 50% of population is threatened.

Population: 9,035,536. (all ages, entire country). Figures are 2009 unless otherwise specified.

Bad Sanitation/Waterborne and Foodborne Disease
Port-au-Prince, before the earthquake, had 70% of its population able to access clean water; for the country in full, about 58% had access to clean water. Therefore, the system never reached everybody. Previous to the eathquake, the country was already considered a high-risk area for bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever. Another water-borne disease noted by the CIA Factbook as a high risk includes leptospirosis.

Water facilities were one of the first apparatus brought by many rescue teams, and bottled water continues to be delivered by the Joint Task Force and others. Yet this capacity will need to be increased--and worse--maintained. Some of the purifiers came as portable factories and were initial or stop-gap measures. Some of these facilities (e.g., Oxfam's) have run out of fuel and are therefore shut down temporarily. Water will continue to be part of the logistic nightmare. New systems of distribution (not using damaged or vandalized water mains) will undoubtedly be a priority.

Injuries and Injury-based Infections.
Tetanus: There's a 72-hour window from exposure to tetanus-exposed soil and the ability to immunize against tetanus. The disease itself is extremely lethal, causing muscle rigidity and excruciating pain. According to some reports, there are long lines where Haitians have been able to seek tetanus shots. So the word is getting out.

Estimates of the number of injured are still incomplete. Latest reports estimate 250,000 injured. That would be a quarter of a million tetanus injections--

Malaria, HIV, Tuberculosis
Haiti is a tropical state with endemic malaria (164,590 cases). The ruins create more possible avenues for mosquito-borne disease. January is traditionally a dry month. The rainy season begins about May, right along with hurricane season, so this is a deadline of a sort for bulldozing, demolition. amd mosquito control, as well as housing.

Haiti also has a high percentage of HIV in the adult population: 2.2%, or about 120,000 adults. (100,000 to 140,00; 120,000 is considered best estimate.)

Tuberculosis: a reported 35, 099 cases. 29,333 of those cases were first reported in 2007. Now you see what I mean about recent improvements in Haiti's public health reporting.

Note: The Red Cross notes on its site that dead people, while distressing, are not significant carriers of disease. The danger of epidemic comes from living people. Those who work with the dead need to be able to clean up in order to remove any bacteria from fecal matter, but are not likely to otherwise become ill. So we are back to water again.

References/Further Reading: UNICEF, Haiti Country Statistics; World Health Organization research portal; Index Mundi with a huge list of possible diseases to catch.
Picture from Big Picture blog at a vandalized water pipe in Cite Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

This pyramid is used in every social science, from psychology to nation-building. The theory is, you need the bottom layer before you can get to the second layer, then to the third, etc.

I'm working on a longer post on Haitian aid, but it's fun and instructive to look at this for your own life, and as a way to understand the actions of Haiti's desperate people--and the strategies for aid.

You can see that food comes before security--which is why people continued to loot grocery stores, even when a police officer with a rifle was ordering them away.  Aid workers see security as primary, because their more basic needs are either met or deferred in a selfless action. Once they are assured some security, the camaraderie can develop between organizations, and so forth.

Pretty cool, huh? How does it apply to you at home? (click on it to see the fine print).

Image from bk one web site

It's Just Too Good

I once knew a woman who had converted to a non-Christian religion. Her minister (if that is the right word) told her that false prophets are reincarnated into cockroaches.

It's one of the greatest metaphors ever--

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti: Crime, Police, and Keeping the Peace

[I guess I'm turning into a talking head. Shame on me. But a little on the past, a bit on the future: and this could be a twenty page paper, so I can address specific questions in comments.]

In recent years, Port-au-Prince has a number of slums controlled by gangs. These gangs were heavily involved in the drug trade that runs through the Caribbean. They also ran syndicates involved in multiple kidnappings, and extortions of other types. They are typified by rampant lawlessness and petty dictatorships. Successive governments either recruited them into paramilitary organizations or bought them off. The police were at once sidelined by these paramilitary groups or mired in corruption.

A concerted effort since Rene Preval became president in 2006 has led to a gang crackdown, aided by the U.N. Stabilization Force in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and several police training and reconstruction initiatives. The anti-gang interdiction has had a number of successes, but those engagements have been controversial in some quarters. There are at least two reasons for this:

1. The gangs have been a de facto part of Haiti's political security (and simultaneously, the lack of security) through a number of corrupt governments. The gang connections to the-then legitimate government tend to shift the blame around somewhat.

2. The gangs had become so powerful, in fact competing with the state, that apprehending their members was as much a military operation as a police operation. When battle occurs inside a city, the number of potential bystander casualties is greater and incidents are witnessed by more voters/citizens. This tends to add to post-conflict resentment.

When Crime approaches Civil War
The state cannot survive if competing gangs are allowed to vie for power with it on an equal or better-than-equal basis. As it stood, Haiti was past the tipping point where the state had little control over security or much else. Haitian government, gone from corrupt to criminal, also assisted in its own irrelevance.

Peacekeeping and Policing are Not the Same
Preval's reform government had to address the competing claims for territorial jurisdiction. As long as gang leaders were dictators that commanded territory, legitimate government could not function effectively--in fact, certain slums and districts were completely lost to state control. The anti-gang process started from a point where state government had a distinct power deficit and a reputational disadvantage. And following a best procedure meant Preval got flack from either side.

People who believe in strong anti-crime measures disapproved of Preval's first, conciliatory efforts toward gang leaders. Yet 'bringing all parties to the table' is considered a best practice with conflict resolution, even when hostilities continue. Likewise, government-sponsored military actions to regain authority over lost sections of Port-au-Prince were measures consistent with stabilization and peacekeeping operations elsewhere--especially when talks are refused. Those interdiction measures have also garnered some disapproval for Preval and MINUSTAH.

The process is bound to be full of setbacks, violence, and extreme partisanship, including a litany of grievance on both sides. Mistakes will be made by the government of Haiti and its lawful allies. These should of course be evaluated, but with the standards of a peacekeeping force, not a police force. The goal has been nothing less than the life of the country and the return of law.

It is supremely ironic that the government of Haiti has been pulling itself out of its deficit position over the last six or more years, when an earthquake, 7.0 on the Richter scale, reversed much of this very fine work.

Preval: "The palace fell down, the parliament has crumbled, the justice palace has fallen down"
All three halls that represent and hold democratic government have perished, and with it, the MINUSTAH heaquarters and the stabilization forces' two top officials within it. Other government services are severely compromised or nonexistent. 3,000 prisoners have escaped back into society from the crumbled prison, many of them who are already organized with gang affiliations, many with the prison guards' weapons. According to the Telegraph:
Haiti's threadbare police force has been largely powerless to keep law and order, although one local police chief said that they were rounding up known gang leaders and criminals, some of whom escaped from a prison damaged during the tremors.
So far the looting and robbery has not been as bad as feared. But rescue officials sense the mood in the city is sullening, and believe violence could become widespread . . . The stifling heat has made the shortage of drinking water and stench from corpses all the more unbearable.
The Sisyphean work of building Haiti just gets harder and harder. Reports also suggest that the disaster has been even more fatal than initial estimates suggested.

It's expected that the U.S. will send 10,000 soldiers and other support personnel; others will come for long or short-term duty. To date, MINUSTAH has been primarily staffed by personnel from Brazil and other OAS or African countries. This will not be a disaster rescue without controversy or grievance or the use of force. It will not be a quick tour of duty for our troops, either.

That may be partly the compassion of the American people. But it is absolutely important for our own security, too. We cannot afford to have Haiti's potential failure bring an extended criminal influence, including piracy and increased drug traffic, across the Caribbean and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Fighting Words for Any Protest

On Dr. King's day, I'll offer four quotes from Frederick Douglass, escaped slave, shipbuilding worker, writer, publisher, suffragist, and abolitionist. The last two are in my permanent notebook, and I was going to share them eventually. Why not today?

I can assure you, that whatever you feel politically revolutionary about, from the First Amendment to the Second Amendment,  the Thirteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth, or the Twenty-Fourth, Mr. Douglass is the man to heat up your fighting sentiments and stiffen your resolve.
I prayed for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
A little learning, indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people.
Find out just what any people will quietly submit to,  and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.
So, you know, kick some ass and take some names! In the non-violent way we remember especially fondly today, of course.

The U.S. Constitution, including Amendments
more quotes at BrainyQuote dot com

She Found Me Amusing & Large-Minded: No, Big-Headed--

 . . . or was that pig-headed?

Peedee of Queen of the Dogs selected me for this award. If I wasn't big-headed before . . .

I now have the power to confer Best Blog Awards on fifteen others. Almost everyone on my blogroll has either been chosen already or they are gentlemen and/or professionals who I am not sure will put a valentine-looking thing on their blog. Fear not: I am going to award you, not check up on you! Place them as you will!

my first encouragement, a font of unique wisdom, beautiful poems and powerful prose, committed to everything he does.

someone who thinks about the homeless, how to cross a street safely, and how to love a dog the best; in short, a person with compassion both professional and personal.

a man with wide interests and varied friends, on a mission to find missing persons and restore families, as well as nurture his own.

treading the fine line of disaster with heart, humor, and a really clear eye. another early encouragement and an excellent writer.

it may be about Chicago, and it may be by a cop only for cops, but I've learned more about municipal government reading his blog than I ever did in Poli Sci.

another blog by a cop for cops, but his approach makes me feel that all things can be undertaken well

a perfect lady, writing the perfect newspaper about South Kansas City, and about life. her blog is one of the more friendly places on electronic earth.

for police and military, but also a wonderful place for any strategic thinkers. this blog is all about philosophy and practical knowledge written by a highly intelligent practitioner.

9. Chiron
another erudite blog with strategic thinking, philosophy, and a different way of exploring the nature of conflict and how to think it through when you don't have time to think.

a good man, a hard job and a clear vision of what's what. yep, he's got a talent for it.

poet, photographer
minimalist encyclopedist
paradox? not at all!

I am sorry this is not a necktie. If it was a tie, It would have Betty on it. Gia already picked you. Why not 2?

13. 14.  Mrs. Bunker, Captain Schmoe, you may also double-heart as you see fit. For encouragement, insight, and laughs.

teaches in an NYC elementary school. She doesn't write often enough for me, because her prose is enchanting . .

Thanks a million, to Peedee and my readers! You don't know what a breath of fresh air and sunlight you have been to me.
Say goodbye, Felix . . .

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Opportunity Lost--Sixth Century B.C.!

Imagine your life’s work is pioneering in the field of philosophy. You are one of the first authors on record to decide that man has a soul or spirit and to discuss its separate and universal nature. You identify that there are four important elements (fire as well as earth, air, water), not just three, a theory that will affect everything from astrology to agriculture to medicine until about 1400 and beyond.

You offer your one manuscript up to the gods. Or specifically, your manuscript languishes in the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus but your reputation lives on, you are misquoted and misrepresented, and when your manuscript is recovered, it’s in small pieces due to floods, fires, and rain damage.

Good thing Heraclitus was a Stoic. Well, of course he was dead, too, so maybe it really didn’t bother him.

There’s a huge argument over whether this pre-Socratic philosopher wrote a treatise or a bunch of sayings. Somewhere in obscure corners of the Academy, philosophers labor over the scraps and the quotes from other sources, trying to put them in order and interpolate the thrust of his arguments. For now, with only fragments, I figure sayings are all we get. And they are the kind of thing that make you go huh.
“The way of writing is both straight and crooked.” Fragment 59
“The road up and the road down are the same road.’ Fragment 60

Even the most profound people screw up. Heraclitus insulted a colleague, another pre-Socratic scholar. It's funny, but a big mistake. It's all the worse because it's his last word, the last fragment (129):
“Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchus, trained himself to the highest degree of all mankind in the art of investigation, and having selected these writings, constructed a wisdom of his own—a lot of learning, [for] a disreputable piece of craftsmanship."
Ahh, the Pythagorean Theorem, just to review:

He laughs best who laughs--first.

Heraclitus lived in Ephesus, now part of Turkey, from 535 to 475 B.C. The temple was rediscovered by archeologists in 1869.

References: Heraclitus, Fragments, Text and Translation with a Commentary by T.M. Robinson, U Toronto, 1987. Also, Heraclitus entry in Who's Who in the Classical World, Ed. Simon Hornblower and Tony Sawforth, Oxford UP, 2000. And Pythagoras and the Temple of Artemis' sad history, both at Wikipedia, illustrations by Wikipedia and

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sonnet: The Care-Giver

for care-givers everywhere--

What love is this, that surrounds me
That demands and pleads with me to behave
With care to careless love, and wants me
To save them first, and once again to save?
My voice has soothed thee, warned thy fears away
My hands perform thy large and tiny tasks
My spirit has encircled thee, from day to day
And though it dulls from care, care thou still asks.
The cares thou have, thou have not: they are mine.
Still pleadest thou for care, but where is thine?

--Ann T. Hathaway

Canada and Haiti: Operation Hestia

Canada's response to Haiti is partially recorded at their Defence Force site and partly at their Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)  site. They are not writing as many press releases as the U.S., so the information I have is a little less robust. And they write them differently, so straight-on comparison with the U.S. will not work. In fact, you can bet that both countries are doing much the same things but with style variants.

Operation Hestia is commanded by Brigadier General Guy Laroche and includes search-and-rescue teams, a destroyer with enhanced helicopter detachments, and some additional guards for the Canadian Embassy. The Embassy will likely become a hub for communications and administration on land.

Their Disaster Alert Response Team (DART) is trained to enter 'permissive environments' where the local government allows them to give aid. They have a shining record of humanitarian response. 200 members of the team left for Haiti on January 13th amid a land, air, and sea campaign of other Defence Force elements. The DART will provide primary care, temporary housing, a drinking water facility, and 'limited engineering capability': in other words, first needs first.

The Canadian effort is at least partly focused on evacuation. At least 100 members of the distressed Haitian community were evacuated into Canada on the fifteenth of January. The way Operation Hestia is set up includes coordination at home for evacuees.

Canada has long been committed to Haiti's development. They are the primary recipient of Canada's long term aid. Canadian forces entered Haiti in 2004 to bolster MINUSTAH, and a second Operation Horatio delivered food aid in 2008. They also have a police contingent in Haiti as part of a United Nations police training project. Sadly, one of those officers, Sergeant  Mark Gallagher, died in the quake.

A most informative article on Canada's commitment to Haiti is at the Police One wire service.
Picture above is from the DFAIT site.

Joint Task Force Haiti--U.S. Military SouthCom Command

This is primarily from the U.S. Department of Defense site. They have a rolling run of good pictures, too. The one below is a shot from the USS Carl Vinson, off Haiti, where helicopters are loading up with water.

After reporting everything is going to hell on Friday, the journalists all look like they've gone home for the weekend.  But maybe that's for the best. Let the people of good will get on with the work, unobstructed by cameras.

From the American Forces Press Service, plus comments of my own:
--Army Lieutenant General P. K. "Ken" Kean iis the commanding officer, with 4200 personnel on the ground and another 6300 ready to be staged in. They are working with the U.N. MINUSTAH force. Even if MINUSTAH's offices and communications are down, those forces will have a lot of insider knowledge. It's also going to be important to bolster MINUSTAH so that U.S. forces will be able to exit with a strong stabilization force still in place. Working together will lessen the problems of MINUSTAH authority later. I do notice that nobody is talking about working for or with the Haitian government. I'm wondering where they are.

--They opened the airport for 24/7 use. It can handle 90 flights per day. That's 90 relief flights, provided no movie stars or politicians require entrance to moan for the cameras or piss and moan about special treatment behind the cameras. Watch for this!!

One aircraft carrier and one navy destroyer are in close waters. The aircraft carrier is coordinating helicopter runs. Also coming to Haiti's offshore, the USS Comfort, which is a shipboard medical facility with surgical theatres and limited beds. The Navy expects they will be needed in Haiti for at least six months. The amphibious ships USS Carter Hall, USS Fort McHenry, USS Underwood and USS Normandy also are en route to Haiti. The main port is dysfunctional, and mostly destroyed" according to earliest reports. They'll probably fix that to get supplies and personnel in, and it will be functional for later trade as Haiti rebuilds.

Troops: I imagine this will be partial information, but it's the best I can do. if you know more, send it in and I'll add it in.
--100 troopers from the 82nd Airborne came in on the 14th.
--The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard the amphibious ship USS Bataan and composed of more than 2,200 Marines arrived in Haiti on Jan. 18 with heavy-lift and earth-moving equipment and additional medical-support capabilities. They're recently back from deployment in Iraq. While we are praying for Haiti, we need to pray for them too.
--The West Virginia Air Guard is running a staging depot for supply.
--South Carolina is also a staging ground.

Other U.S. Agencies:
VATF-1 and CATF-2, as well as other response teams from our local rescue forces, mobilized through FEMA.

Disaster Mortuary Teams have been sent in, a very tough job and in terrible conditions.

Anyone who knows more, please send it in.

Thank you for being the hands, the minds, and the face of the American people during this tragedy.

We could not ask for better.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti, Update 2--Perilous Conditions

The critical 72-hour mark is passed for the Haitian people. Conditions will rapidly worsen for both Haiti and its international caregivers.  Everything just gets harder to resolve, whether it be an excavation, a broken leg, or just standing up. As the Reuters Alertnet home page puts it, "despair is turning to anger.' This is what I am most afraid of.

The picture above shows that shipping aid in has been compromised also by the quake. Fortunately, the airport is still functional. I imagine it is under security right now, which would be the wise and proper thing to safeguard first; supply entry and those who can help.

Reuters: "No one is running the country" which is a sure recipe for anarchy.
From their rolling updates:
a. Some people are barricading the streets with corpses, (to ambush any organized aid effort with looting and pillage.) This is probably reported a little too sensationally. Likely the bodies were already being stacked for removal and created an opportunity; part of the dire conditions. Remember also that desperation and/or theft vis-a-vis aid is not exclusive to Haiti.
b. The number of MINUSTAH personnel dead has risen to 36 as more bodies have been recovered.
c. Cuba has opened up its airbases for logistical staging of supplies and personnel.

"Port-au-Prince should be evacuated" at Firefighter blog. He's right.
Report on Conditions explains the logistic challenges to aid relief in a good outline form.
The South Kansas City Observer finds video of the actual quake; no bells, no whistles, just the power of nature.

Background papers for care providers and interested people at, both in easy to read pdf.
1. A forty-page summary on lessons from 29 different earthquake relief efforts. Looks good. The first 15 pages are the important ones right now.
2. A thirty-one page summary on lessons from urban disasters. Also looks good.
If you can't read it all, read the first page table of contents for the principles/priorities.

Pictures are from the Big Picture blog.

The Best Dog in the World

is of course the dog you love. I love Rosie. Best dog ever. I was not the only one to say so. She had a fan club, unofficial but unwavering.

We moved to that year's murder capital of the world (which happened more than once) when my husband entered medical school. I was afraid to be alone in the house and started lobbying to get a dog.  I like a working breed; they're intelligent and watchful and they respond readily to all situations. So I decided on a border collie.

She was tiny and cute. Her mother knew this was it. She kept walking back and forth with her last puppy, biting the hair at the back of Rosie's neck, lightly. I had a definite sense Mama was passing on the last-minute instructions on how to be a good dog.

The little baby threw up in my lap on the way home. After the first time, she sat on a newspaper on my lap and threw up two more times. The stuff must have been like styrofoam, expanding in the presence of atmosphere, because there was no way this tiny puppy could hold that much ick. A friend of ours said she got sick from reading the headlines from the murder capital of the world. After awhile, this did not seem like a far-fetched explanation. This dog learned more words than any dog I've ever known. She could almost read, I swear.

House-training went well. Teething didn't. Eventually she learned to chew on the legs of my husband's home-made blackboard and save everything else for us. And then the fun never stopped. I trained her in obedience, which was a snap. Then she trained my husband. Double snap. We took her any place not expressly forbidden to dogs by law, and she adapted to everything and behaved perfectly everywhere. We moved five times, and she kept up without missing a beat. But I think the best year she had was right before we moved to RiverTown, and she could swim in the local lake almost every day.

1. On Which Rosie Plays a Shell Game
Near RiverTown, there was a state park on the bayou. We would take her there on weekends. The first time, she found a turtle. "That's a Turtle," I told her. "Turtle. Turtle. Good Rosie."
The rest of the afternoon, she made fun of me. If she had been a pointer, she would have pointed. Instead, she would go down the path, come back, go back down, and wait by a turtle. Then she'd look at me: You want a turtle?
The crowning moment was when she leapt, slid, swivelled, and ended up staring at me with a turtle between her two front legs, grinning as dogs do: I can see them better than you, smell them better than you, and find them better than you. So is this the one you like?
"Okay, Rosie," I said, laughing back. "You win."
She pointed out no other turtles that afternoon.

2. On Which we Take a Trip
Rosie's staying at Grandma's house. On the second night, she goes to the front door.
"Woe, woe, woe," she says.
"They'll be back," Grandma replies. "They'll be back Sunday night."
Rosie goes into the living room and lies down.
Afterwards, my grandmother gets a dog.

3. In RiverTown, Rosie's guarding groceries, calm and doing the normal, while we truck them down the hall. A man passes by that I learn later is a prominent drug dealer on our street. For the first time since training, Rosie breaks her sit-stay. She goes after him: Leave my people alone. I collect her, but I do not correct her. Because I believe her.

4. In Which We Are Herded
I get a black and white cat; Daisy. The three of us spend weeks of free time where the cat sits by my lap and Rosie by my feet while I do homework. Now that all the family knows they're supposed to get along, the circle widens. Eventually, we develop an evening tableau:  the cat lies on one side of the room and Rosie on the other. Their bodies describe two ends of a perfect oval, in which my husband and I are encircled.

5. In Which Planning Allows For Smooth Execution.
Rosie and the cat have deals: Daisy can play with any toy, except a ball belongs to Rosie.
Daisy has first dibs at the water, no matter what. Rosie has first dibs on any disputable food, including cat food. Daisy has to eat on top of a dresser.
Rosie trains the cat to jump on the kitchen counter and knock the lunch meat package to the floor. A lot of ham and turkey disappears before we are trained to put the lunch meat away immediately. I am never sure the cat gets any of the lunch meat.

6. After my husband became ill, Rosie switched her allegiance to him. She never left, literally, the back of his knee for two solid years--whenever she could be with him, she was. If he was asleep, she waited at the foot of the bed. She had duties that were now inexorable. No one told her to do this. She chose it. Immediately.

When he died, her heart and mind broke. She became sick and vacant. I tried and tried, but I couldn't fix it for her. She was already with him when she took the last trip to the vet. She was fifteen years old.

Two days later, Daisy disappeared. She came back after three days. I think she was looking for Rosie, who had always been her wise counsellor. Whatever reason she had, when she came back, it had been satisfied.

Once my sister told me, "You learn unconditional love from a dog."
From Rosie, I learned what God had in mind when He made the angels. She understood better than most. Served more than most. Loved more than most.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Update

There's a ton of articles out there now. We are starting to get into the "Talking Head" part of the media process. I urge everyone to remember that speculation and argument in T.V. studios is far, far away from the truth. At the disaster, these policy choices and opinions are shoved aside to save life and preserve humanity.

Some good news sources:
1. Reuters Alertnet is an international news wire that is very good on foreign aid.
a. This article on the logistical nightmare. It tells what charities are doing and what they are out of.
b. "Money is worth nothing, water is the currency", also at Alertnet. This same article estimates 45 to 50 thousand dead.

2. Why Haiti always seems to have catastrophe at the Washington Post: bad weather, bad placement, bad government, and bad building standards.

3. Urban Search and Rescue from the U.S.
a. The Virginia Task Force 1 has a Web site. They promise news, but beyond deployment, they haven't given it yet. That's because they're working. They'll have news in a day or so. In the meantime you get a sense of how aid and emergency preparedness is set up in the U.S. for our benefit and for others.
b. Report on Conditions tells us that California Task Force 2 was airborne yesterday evening.

4. The South Kansas City Observer has made a list of wise places to donate. It's possible to be generous and prudent at the same time. She's done a wonderful job finding great links. I notice some of hers are what I had found already, so I won't duplicate--.

5. Blogs on the ground Gwenn Mangine and  Livesay are both saying they want volunteers, but not right now. They need money now. (H/T CNN)

5. Canada is conducting evacuations. The first 100 evacuees went to Ottawa via the Dominican Republic. All over the world, generous impulses are being acted upon.

6. The Big Picture blog at has a new entry for 48 hours on. Heartbreaking pictures. Since my first post was on MINUSTAH, this is members of the stabilization force working rescue. The U.N. Peacekeeping Force has not accounted for 200 members. The head of the MINUSTAH mission has died in the quake.