Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Muster

Once a month, the muster honors police officers who have died  in the line of duty: thirteen this February in the United States. That's thirty-three too many this year.

--Andrew Baldridge--Ellane Aimiuwu--William Schuck III--
--Jeremy McLaren--Timothy Bergeron--Don McCutcheon--
--David Zolendziewski--Davy Crawford--Bob Heinle--Michael Vogt--
--Kevin Wilkins--Alan Haymaker--Joel Wahlenmeier--

Our good life is upheld by these and other sacrifices to it.
You can learn more about these officers at the Officers Down Memorial page.

Dogged Persistence

I used to train dogs, not for police work, but for family life and one for obedience competition. My beloved dog Rosie showed me that we teach them, but they teach us in return--only better. In Rosie's case, that included the cat, too. BoyCat and GirlCat would be the better for a little Rosie time, for sure.

Perhaps the most intense dog training is in police work, or its military equivalent. These dogs have discipline and courage, focus and drive. They coordinate with their partners, obey a higher order. Here is a demonstration of their effectiveness:

For those who want to read about a great police dog/handler team, go to Constable Glendinning's blog for the Vancouver Police Department.  Under the tag cloud, hit 'Dog Squad' for a number of adventures.  The Constable writes so well about both the amusing and the terrible on Vancouver streets. 

Here are two adventures:
Stopping a car thief--PS Hondo gets the last word.
Saving the bacon--Everybody needs somebody, sometime . . .

Right now, PS Hondo is under the weather.  Get well soon, lovey!  Ah, sir, I mean . . . 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Braudel: Fate, and a Break, on Jammed Streets

This is from the Prologue to Bounty Hunters: Crowded, unraveling Manhattan, March of 2109. Braudel's homicide squad is slammed; he has two red-ball cases running at once. He's solved one, made the 'vid and the street papers, but can't get caught up on the other. At the new homicide in this series, he gets a tip handed to him from one of the first officers on the scene. He has no idea that his tipster is another investigator doing tactical. Or that he will be on her investigation team later in the year.

Eventually the wagon came for the vic. Fricke and Verdero were waiting for someone to lock up. Braudel walked two blocks to Paddy Brickell’s Irish Pub and ‘Dub Station. This made the sixth knife murder in an all-night grocery store in three weeks, and he was the investigator for all of them. The Boiler Case had taken his full attention for one of those weeks. He needed momentum. So maybe this ‘dub.

The back stairway was plain. He pushed on the door, hand on his Lapis. She sat on the plastene-covered mattress, applying mascara. Great ankles. Two sleeves of gaudy tattoos: this trickster was never leaving the curb.

“I’m recording this conversation, Miss. We’re here for my job and not yours.”

“Right, Spike.” She batted her eyelashes at him. “Your jerk is five-seven or so, very light brown, with brown hair. He’s called Barrata, and he’s mean as shit. He lives somewhere around the Crimson Club. Or so Cat Charlie says. That’s on East 23rd.” She held out her ‘dub registration card. “I wasn’t there. I only caught the Cat. You want a wit to that, there isn’t one.”

He checked his Police Pad. Her name was Lily Smile, born Las Vegas, Nevada as Lily Miles. Her ‘dub stats were in order: no priors. He didn’t believe her anyway.

“Where’s this Charlie Cat? I want to talk to him.”

She shrugged. “Cat Charlie’s a street kid. Won’t talk to a cop, Braudel.”

So she knew him from the ‘vids, too. Because he’d never run into her before.

She stood, slinging her bag onto her shoulder. “That’s one big you owe me, if this Barrata checks out.” She plucked her ‘dub card out of his hand. “Good work on the Boiler Case.”

Okay, fine: it was a tip, anyway. “Don’t call me Spike the next time we meet. You know my name.”

She started on his shirt.

“No.” He put his hands around her wrists. She looked up: dark brown eyes like his, only larger, painted. He smelled perfume, a little sweat. He never did ‘dubs. He liked amateurs, the babes who wanted to dance, play, get busy for laughs.

But just this once: make the spot and get some sleep.

She finally spoke. “I’m buttoning, not unbuttoning.”

He looked down. Yeah, he’d dressed in a hurry all right. She disengaged her wrists.

“I like kids, you know. So I mean it, about the Boiler thing. Take care of yourself.”

“Is Cat Charlie a boy or a girl, Miss Smile?”

“Didn’t drift that past you, huh?” She grinned at him. “I’ve never been sure. The Cat’s too young to tell.”

She slid her skinny lacy ass out. Braudel used his PolPad and started looking up Barrata in the cop’Base. It didn’t work. He tried some variations: finally Barry Resata, 616 East 23rd, previous convictions for StreetKing possession, right description.

Braudel got on his TeleSat. A sweet nice face showed on the ‘screen.

“Officer Verdero, you’re detailed to me and my heap until I say otherwise. Call it in and then wait for me.”

He sat down on the rent-a-bed just for a minute. He put his elbows on his knees and rested his head on his hands. Two dead girls appeared inside his eyelids: the ones that kept him from sleeping, the ones in the boiler.

Time to get moving. He walked into the bar, still wondering if Lily’s tip was a set-up.

“You know Lily Smile?” He had to shout over the prismatic banshee band.

Brickell’s face lit up. “Fine bartender, sweet girl,” he yelled back. “She treat you right?” He pointed. “You don’t look happy.” He laughed, but Braudel couldn’t hear it.

Braudel lifted two fingers. “Tell me about her.”

Brickell poured two coffees, yelling, “Stops in sometimes. That’s all I know.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

On Two Feet, in Paradise

At the bottom of this post, there's an appeal. It will cost you two minutes and some thumb-clicks, but not one penny. If you can see your way clear, please consider doing this read-and-click for Densey and Mary Cole.

Last year, Officer Densey Cole of the Chicago Police Department was engaged in a police pursuit when someone pulled out into the intersection he was traversing. Officer Cole swerved to avoid impact, but there was a three-car pileup that smashed his car into  a streetlamp post. Officer Cole was immediately paralyzed from the chest down.

While helpless in the car, another man entered it, and stole Officer Cole's gun, badge, and money. He threatened to kill Cole, but ran off instead--(    ).

Since then, Officer Cole has undertaken intensive rehab. His fiance Mary married him from the hospital bed. He was transferred to a notable rehab center in Denver, where the Denver PD looked after him as their own. He completed that rehab program and moved back to Chicago. Police officers from many areas made contributions for a van, so he can go to his doctor appointments and get going on a daily life.

Here he is, on the news in Denver, telling you himself: unfortunately, the video won't embed here.

Recently, the Coles registered for a dream wedding contest at Crate and Barrel. In the entry Mrs. Cole wrote, she says her husband can stand up now for brief periods of time with some mechanical assistance. It's my understanding if they win, they're going to renew their vows, in some warm tropical place that's not about sickness, and have a honeymoon this time. He'll be on his feet this time. But they can't afford it alone.

for Densey and Mary Cole's Ultimate Dream Wedding.

To win, the Coles need more votes.  Please register at Crate and Barrel, give them your e-mail address, then click the confimation on the e-mail you then receive. With such a large prize at stake, C & B is looking for fraud, so just vote once and pass the word. You will probably get a few ads in your mailbox thereafter, which you can either enjoy or cancel. And the Coles might get a good memory to balance out some hard ones.

H/T Second City Cop

Bessie Smith

The video picture doesn't change. You can get up and get your next cup of coffee while you listen. Or read through the next post, or whatever you desire.

Because I love the blues, and Ms. Smith, and the blues love me . . . .

Going to Extremes

I’ve got a radical impulse and you do. It’s the tendency to take any issue, infuse it with passion—and then exaggerate. Hopefully I won't do it here. Or, not too much.

The Pipeline Through the Former Soviet Union
I studied radical impulse while writing my Master’s thesis, which was about an oil pipeline across former Soviet states.  I was predisposed to favor this huge, megabuck construction—and readers, the oil companies did a socially-aware, risk-avoiding job on this project. Plus, they brought capitalism and opportunity to places there was none. In the former Soviet world, nobody knew how to make a deal outside of a furtive back room. Suddenly they were meeting international bankers, insurers, and engineers in broad daylight, filling out forms, and learning how to set this up for domestic banks, insurance, and engineering. Whoa!!

It’s equally true that the oil was bypassing rural townships that needed an electrical grid and some oil to fuel it. Trade would help these people, including this counterintuitive pipeline trade. But I didn’t kid myself about whose lifestyle we were supporting. Oil-greedy Europe and the U.S.? Answer: Yes. High mucky-mucks in poor states? Yes. How about the world’s political economy, the entire world? You bet. 

It wasn’t going to help these poor to Not build that pipeline either. Especially with this kick-ass job the operator did, supported by an army of expert consultants and following the codified social /financial/ environmental regs of the World Bank. Three countries now have savings accounts for sustainable development and education. Before that—they only had decreasing security in every arena. Personal safety. Little hospital equipment. Unemployed teachers and empty schools.

But groups protested. The Kurds. Extreme British-based environmental groups. Extreme American environmental groups. They demonstrated, they spilled green paint and threw stuff at oil conventions. They screamed on their Web site. They harassed the World Bank, who gave them an open process and plenty of venues to make their points. The more the World Bank gave, the more the radicalized groups shouted that they were pushed out, that ‘deals’ were being made, possibly around water coolers. Do people talk in the employee lounge? Of course they do. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s shooting the shit at work. But radicalized groups can’t afford to concede that.

The Kurds wanted information pamphlets published in Kurdish languages for their ethnic group. They got it. A self-appointed watchdog discovered a problem with one of the sealants (paint, okay, is a sealant). No amount of delay, repair, or re-certification would shut these protesters up. They scared the crap out of the Republic of Georgia’s administrators, who were (after all) not used to a citizenry that believed it could scream at its government. I’m sure those functionaries wished, at least briefly, for a few Soviet manners that summer.

Was this really about the environment? Some were truly concerned. Most wrote reports that consisted of some travel pictures and a few drunken conversations, some interviews with people not used to having their opinion asked and fumbling for polite answers. Those were mostly taken out of context. In the end, I thought the radical gig was about seeing the world and funding the travel plans. This sounds terrible, even to them, so they lie to themselves and others about a Cause.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
We have this at home, too. Radicalizers latch on any exception and use it to prove a conspiracy against some segment of us. Extremists can’t afford to think an honest mistake was made or a legitimate complaint was filed. That goes for a lot of advocacy groups, left and right.

We are pushed, pulled, and yanked through knotholes, sussed for donations and told to be afraid. We are even taught to hate, to berate others, to despair. Somewhere, beyond this whirlwind, there is compromise, good faith, good judgment, a procedure in place. We almost never hear about that. 

Heroic efforts been scarred by lying dissenters and lying advocates alike. They have stopped the questions half-formed in our mouths. Distracted us from thinking it out.

This is not right. I will hold to that until my last breath. Call me radical if you like.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fissile Material--Toward a Price Prediction

I'm just beginning to study this.

This is a map of nuclear power use in the world. You can see that Europe is highly invested in nuclear power plants, especially for its small land area. The U.S. has as many plants, but a great deal more land mass. Europe's reliance on nuclear power, a lot of plants around a lot of people, also shows that nuclear power can be secure and useful to us.

The two big economies in South America have started building nuclear plants, although Brazil is a world leader in biofuels. The depressed economies of Africa, the Arab states, Central Asia and the Pacific have not invested. This may be good for security and non-proliferation, but mostly it represents disinvestment.

It's especially ironic that Central Asia has none. Several of those states are very rich in uranium. In some cases, the mines are abandoned and off-limits, which by no means tells us they are secure. I might add that Afghanistan is just south of those states, and Iran only a short sail across the Caspian Sea from Kazakhstan. In some ways, greater demand for the fuel could increase security. Those mines will be attended, and starving Tajiks will work for legitimate wages.

And here's a closer look at nuclear power plants in the United States.

Reactors are powered by nuclear fission. Eventually the fissile material degrades and must be removed. That's one issue with world-wide political ramifications world-wide and within nations. Here is a map of U.S. spent fissile material storage. So far, we are storing it where we use it, with the exception of New Mexico and Utah.     Both of those states have a great deal of defense-related waste.

The second issue is that nuclear material, once removed, must be replaced.

The rate of growth in nuclear power plants is high. Eventually the price of fissile material will create a cycle, just as oil prices do. That cycle will affect the boom and bust of uranium and plutonium-producing countries. e don't know the shape of that cycle yet--how gradual or constant the demand will be over time, but most plants need to refuel every twenty-five years. Chances are the price cycle for nuclear fuel will sometimes offset and sometimes heighten future tensions over oil and gas pricing.

Consumer countries that use this fuel will have a. a price cycle that coincides with b. a disposal cycle.  These two together will create their own price spike--as the fuel price goes up, so does the price for storing the spent fuel. Thus, there will be periods when end-use consumers feel as though it costs too much to operate nuclear plants. Between those times, we will still buy toasters and wide-screen televisions.

It's also good to note that the fuel is going to go up in price from high point to high point. But what is really going to cost, in the long run, is the price for storage of spent fuels. It can't just go anywhere. It can't go in just any way. That's something to think about over the long haul.  A plan now is best. I hope we have a comprehensive one. Otherwise, the world will be sending it to dubiously-attended storage facilities in, say, Central Africa.

Maps: Renewable Energy Articles blog; WikiInvest (oh yeah, definitely money to earn here); NEI (nuclear energy institute)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Don't Mess w/ a Nerd, Sucka

Some Saturday, I'm at the bookstore information desk, and a tall black muscular man in nice clothes comes up.
"Hey. I'm looking for two poems, like in a collection. I don't care what other stuff is in the book, I might like it too. But it has to have these two poems."

Uh-oh. I've had these requests before.
"Well, our computer doesn't list what's in each anthology, but I can try. I like poems."

Just then, we are interrupted by another clerk.
"Hey aren't you [John Doe] that plays [position] for the [pro team]?
"Yeah, I am. Hey, thanks."

He turns back to me, a pro player not to be diverted from the goal.
"The first poem is If-- by Rudyard Kipling, but I don't know the name of the second poem."

Uh-oh. I've had these requests before.
"Do you know anything about it? Maybe we can figure it out." That's a Hail Mary, you understand.

"Yes, I do." He straightens up. "Out of the night that covers me--"
"Oh, that's one of my favorites," I exclaimed. "It's Invictus by W.E. Henley."
"You know it??!!" he exclaims back. "It's like the best."

On either side of the Info desk, we step back and start chanting. In unison.

"Out of the Night that covers me
Black as the Pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

Our voices get louder. People start edging away.

"In the fell clutch of Circumstance.
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of Chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.

Beneath this path of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the Shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid."

Our fists come up, each of us, at the same time. By then, Info Desk has evacuated. We're triumphant, invincible, our voices ringing out--

"It matters not how straight the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll
I am the Master of my Fate
I am the Captain of my Soul."

We grin at each other. He relaxes. "Yeah, that one. Do you have a book like that?"
"We can check tables of contents," I said. "Let's just go look in the stacks."

So this post is for SlamDunk. He's written two great blog posts on extraordinary football players, here and here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ezra Pound -- Canto XIII

This is only the last part, lines 69-82. Kung is most commonly known in the U.S. as Confucius. Pound took much of this canto from his studies (and translation) of the Analects. He 'collaged' (my word for it) passages from the Analects here, and then according to my guide, the last three lines are his own. (So is the repetition.)

And Kung said "Wang ruled with moderation,
        In his day the State was well-kept,
And even I can remember
A day when historians left blanks in their writings,
I mean for things they didn't know
But that time seems to be passing."
A day when the historians left blanks in their writings,
But that time seems to be passing.
And Kung said, "Without character you will
        be unable to play on that instrument
Or to execute the music fit for the Odes.
The blossoms of the apricot
        blow from the east to the west,
and I have tried to keep them from falling."

Ezra Pound, Selected Cantos, New Directions Publishing.
William Cookson, A Guide to the Cantos of Ezra Pound, Revised & Expanded, Persea Books

Selling the Summer Reading List

The Battle of the English Teachers has always been the Battle of the Parents, and more recently become
the Battle of the Booksellers. About ten years ago, schools started assigning books for summer reading. They thought students didn't keep their skills over the summer, and that getting a few book reports in between June and August could make the difference.

The Parents reacted as they always do. I give it four basic reactions.
1. Those that privilege reading at home brought their kids to the store, had them pick out books, added some others that looked interesting, and went home to enjoy their narrow, bookish existence.
2. Those that want their kids to get into Harvard came in and selected the books they wanted their children to read. Whatever war occurred, it took place in the MacMansion, and I suspect bribery is used.
3. Those that don't like reading come in yelling on their cell phones: "I don't care! Teacher says you have to read!" They curse, close the phone, and ask for the shortest three books. They don't care what.
4. Those who were scared to death to be there, intimidated by the whole process, clutching a dog-eared list.

For me, group number one was the most reassuring, group number two the most boring. But group number four was the most fun for me. Mostly you had to get them at the door. They were too afraid to go all the way to the information desk.

Scared of Books
"Hi. It looks like you have a school reading list."
"He doesn't like to read. I don't even know where to go."

I would take the list and scan it. Then I would not move toward the books; I'd ask about the kid. What he liked, what interested him. What he wanted to do. Then we'd sort through the stacks. Anything too long, forget it. I love Dickens, but you have to be realistic. Three books of any size represented Living Room Wars.

So if it was a boy, I'd pick the guy books. I'd pick a short book. I'd pick a book next to his interests. Then I'd give mom a quick version of each one. Something she could use, when she asked him about it. Something that would make it interesting to her, so that she could talk about it to him or even read it herself. I'd try to give each parent the confidence: this was the best choice, they could connect with the child over the book, that the parent had done their level best. Go forth. Get your child to read.

Resentful of Books
Group three was always difficult. Judging a book by the number of pages sounds quick and easy, but it's the scam of scams. Number of pages does not indicate Word Count. And what if the boy only likes basketball? Does he really want to read junior chick-lit and write a book report on it? What if he has to present it to the class?

This actually went easier when I had the surly teen standing next to mom. "I can give you the three shortest books," I'd tell the kid. "If I do that, you're going to be bored out of your mind."

Since they already knew that, I looked like a trustworthy individual from the get.

"We could try to get you something that would make reading it seem less like a pain in the butt. I'll show you some things, and then you can decide."  It's really important to give all surly adolescents a choice, especially since they really don't have one.

Then I'd ask about his interests. I did not even talk to the parent after the initial greeting. Maybe you think this is rude, but they were relieved to have it out of their hands. And I was manipulating events. No parental coercion involved. That blocks the reading from the outset.

We'd narrow it down to six or less. The three shortest, and the three most interesting, perhaps some overlap. It was always a crap shoot which ones they would take. But when they picked up the stack, they had chosen for themselves.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Calling all cars, calling all cars, Idiot on Main Street"

Every once in awhile I post something past my purview about cop work. It’s going to happen, because I read about police work every day. I have always reflected back what I learn. It’s the extroverted way of learning—to check my understanding out loud. Sometimes it makes me look like an utter fool. But I always end up in a better place.

Every time I post on policing, I wonder if I have done wrong, offended people. I perceive a great privacy in the LE profession. Only two kinds of comments on that profession are expected:

A. The one that every LEO seems to expect, which does not concede any virtue to law enforcement, is selfish, mean, self-righteous, and unmerciful.
B. The one that every LEO will accept, which is an unquestioningly thankful comment, and too often left out of an officer’s day.

But between these is a spectrum of half-informed or trying-to-be-informed comments and questions. A fool’s questions are clumsy, phrased poorly, or miss the point. These are frequently met with silence. I have learned there are good reasons for the silence:

1. Tired of justifying one’s existence after shift, prefer to do something else.

2. Same idiot questions always come up. Read a book and find out.
3. TV is not true, especially CSI. See number 2.

4. The explanation opens a can of worms—more questions. (Ann T.'s category.)
5. The explanation opens a can of snakes--leaves the LEO to further calumny and ammunition against him from group A.

6. Explaining stuff in public forums is against agency rules.
7. Each situation is different. There is not always an over-abiding principle from agency to agency, officer to officer, dumbass civilian to hostile civilian to courteous one.

So, I think I dimly perceive. At the same time, I do think there has to be a way to educate the public in law enforcement matters. No police officer wants to give information that gives thugs knowledge. But why not teach people what you wish to heck they knew? And some police blogs are doing this, which seems largely unappreciated by the agency. They're wrong. They should be pleased, and following suit:

1. You want better information from 911 calls, but agencies don’t teach how to make them.
2. You want relevant 911 calls, but agencies rarely teach what is relevant.

3. You should be able to expect courteous exchanges, hmmm. There’s got to be a way to frame expectations for that. If you’re parenting on the curb, can’t you parent on the Web site? You only have to do the Web site once.

There’s got to be a way. A lot of people who start out dumb can get smart. If they knew more, they would support their police more intelligently. Or support them anew.

Underneath this whole issue I have presented, I see a profession sometimes teetering toward despair. Their despair, if not alleviated, will be despair of our country. We are based on law, and an informed citizenry must pay attention to it: not just idealistic policies, but the reality on the ground. A statistic tells a civilian some things, but they are often poorly-presented. And even correct statistics do not tell us everything.

Those of us who want to be better citizens are only getting a limited chance to improve the debate for us all. We need each other. So I think first responders should say what they need, and we civilans should find out what we need to give.

Here's one fun example. Hat tip to Ten-80 blog, from last October--and it's just the beginning. I would take the bicycle repair out, or, add gunfire or hecklers, and then make a series out of it--

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cantos & Curses: What to do w/ Ezra

And then went down to the ship
Set keel to breaker, forth on the godly sea
And we set up mast and  sail on that swart ship
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping:

Ezra Pound wrote Cantos, or long poems, during most of his life. Above are the first lines of the first Canto. It's a translation of Greek Homer into English using Anglo-Saxon metrics. You know, like Beowulf and Grendel.

He is my favorite poet and a pain in the butt to read. Generally you need a biography, footnotes, and a stout heart. He was a man of incredible self-taught skills and many deep, abiding enthusiasms. He is a premier architect, not just of modern poetry, but modern culture.

He translated old English, Provencal French poems and brought them back into modern discourse.
He embarked upon the study of obscure Italian prince-kings and made poems about them, studied their ways of war and power, trying to prescribe for modern social ills, but also, just because they were interesting.
He brought Confucius out of the university and into a poetry and philosophy that others could have interest in, and did the same with Chinese poetry, Noh Theatre in Japan, poems from Egypt, obscure Greek texts.

In short, he rediscovered World literature for the non-professorial reader.

He also sponsored the art of many others. He made sure James Joyce got published, that James Joyce got eye surgery, and glasses, and a patron.  So we have Ulysses, and James Joyce had sight. When T.S. Eliot had his nervous breakdown, he helped him edit one of his masterpieces, so that Eliot did not kill himself, ever, and we have The Wasteland. Consistently broke, he befriended poor artists and scholars.

He wrote about art, studied it, and tried to make new principles of modern art into principles for poems.

He was also a traitor to his country, a madman, a Fascist, a bigamist, a poor father (my guess, anyway, though nobody's talking) and wrote some of the most hurtful anti-Semitic words I have ever run into by accident. Later in life, he denied that they were anti-Semitic in intent--more against international business than Jews--and yet this was Europe between the World Wars--with bad international business and anti-Semitism rushing the world into atrocity.

What To Do
Early on in my Pound studies, I learned not to make excuses for my interest. I learned that quiet librarians would yell at me for half an hour when I asked for obscure Pound stuff, that the bulk of his work is never taught but is available, that his lifestyle is admired or reviled but not well understood.

I learned that re-writing Pound's opinions into something acceptable was unacceptable.  The reputation-repair he has undergone is totally earnest, verbally deficient, and laughable. Because it can't be done. You must take this man as he was.

Problematic, brilliant, vigorous, tainted. His own vanity made much of his work less than it could have been. Yet other poems are completely brilliant. He will never rest easy on a thoughtful conscience. He is my favorite poet.

102,955 words

Okay, I know you guys think I have been phoning it in here. Truth to tell, I was wrapped into that editing I wrote about. The police/suspense/science fiction/with romantic interest series. Yeah, something for everybody.

Manuscript 2 (The Red Riders--The Syndicate Wars, October 6-21, 2109) is now less than 103K. I'm kind of hoping they don't completely disprove global warming, since I factored it into the city upheaval in Manhattan.  Scrap the setting on two manuscripts--I could fix that though.

Anyway, I had a blast writing it. Syndicate Wars in a densely-populated city. What that would mean.

The head of the operation, my Detective Mel Kean, is well up on her Sun Tzu, her jakido, and her abiity to bullshit. She's a detective in organized crime bureau, who came out of a foster home in Nevada to become a police officer. The other protagonist is Leonidas J. Braudel, a homicide detective and naturalized citizen from Canada. Braudel fits into MPD chain of command. Kean is either a huge frustration or a huge solution wherever she walks. Either way, supervisors lose hair around her.

Her idea is to start a new syndicate and get access to the other syndicate leaders. The MPD is short-handed and overwhelmed by not just war but a suffering populace and constant riot conditions. So the unthinkable happens: her idea is approved. The brass figures they'll at least get street forecasts out of her.

So, Kean's teamed up with that short jerk Bud Fogarty of FinCrim and the unknown but obviously sour Hawkins. But then Braudel has related homicides. He and Carney of Electronic Investigations get drafted into the operation. This is Braudel's beginning assessment:


No one had a name for the op yet. Braudel wanted to call it Fairy Tale. The plan was all Mel: a flow chart of action and reaction. Their war had two theatres of operation: the curbside and the ‘scraper high. They fought against two or three enemies: the deVane syndicate, the Gallagher syndicate, and the Fragonard Society if they could squeeze it in.

Fogarty would track money flows and cut syndicate income. Mel would track and reduce syndicate influence. The big bad wolves would be desperate for cash and juice. Little Red Riding Hood would scam them with the deal in her basket. They’d fall for it. Then Red Riding would have the hammer. Axe. Whatever. Manhattan would live happily ever after.

So, lying and faking. Also anti-racketeering. His homicides would have to fit in somewhere. He would have less time for them, even when he put his foot down.

He took Carney to the VendLounge for coffee. They conferred in the one place in Plaza where you would never be disturbed. They needed a lot of supply chain, fast. Fogarty would forget anything routine. Mel would go anywhere and do anything for her op, backed up or not.

“Poor Granny, you’re out of StreetKing,” Carney hooted. “And what big teeth you have. Rock and sword: we’re in the magic forest of crap and shit.”

She popped out of the mop closet and strode down the hall. Braudel followed her silver skimpants and yellow sweatshirt, red plastic flips and crazy blue-green hair back to the op room.

“Fogarty, pay attention,” she said. “I’m naming this op. It’s Red Riders.”

“Hey. Whatever. Just remember it’s my act of genius.”

So now Carney was fully invested in the op. Braudel could turn to items other than supply.

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Artist Says To Like What You Like

"Don't follow the critics too much. Art appreciation, like love, cannot be done by proxy: It is a very personal affair and is necessary to each individual."

Robert Henri (1865-1929) was a painter who studied in Europe and America. He also founded what is known as the 'Ashcan School' --with a showing of great artists he felt that the National Gallery of Art ignored-- and therefore "ash-canned". He was also a teacher. A collection of his sayings from letters, pamphlets, classes, and other places is continually in publication. It's called The Art Spirit. The quote is from page 126.

Portrait of Carl Sprinchorn (1910) 24 x 20 inches. By Robert Henri. You can see he studied the Impressionists, but somehow loved the dark tones of Velasquez and Rembrandt too much to stay in the pastel-colored world. At Cornell University's Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

Supervisor Job Security

I guess these could also have gone to the FAIL blog.

The snowplow truck and snow mowers completely covered the parking spaces, filled and unfilled, with snow. Therefore, people couldn't go to work. Fail One.
Our condo paid $35.00 an hour to some snow shovelers, so that people could get to their cars.
Okay, they can get to them all right! Fail Two!

Just to top this off, snow chunks fell off in the way of the automatic garage. So the door was open all night until one person put her coat and boots on over her pj's and went down to kick them out of the way.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good Luck Today, Bill Cozzi

Today is the 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals review of William Cozzi Jr.'s incarceration.
The expert but partisan blog on this subject is Second City Cop. The comment section of this post from another blog also gives an explanation and a range of civilian reactions.

The Incident
Bill Cozzi was a member of the Chicago Police Department. He was filmed hitting a prisoner in a hospital wheelchair, somebody who had apparently been antagonistic to him verbally and was restrained physically. Video from a hospital security camera shows him walking away from the wheelchair, an expression on his face that shows his last nerve was suddenly reached, and his response. It shows nothing about what came before. Neither does it include sound. Only the violence is unmistakable.

 I also wonder what had happened before. This video is not the full story.

The Punishment
Bill Cozzi was reviewed and disciplined for that action, upfront about it, showed remorse for it, and served out an 18-month probation given him by state court (and duty suspension). From what I have read in the media, it should always be this upfront. Instead, it has been a lesson that honesty is not the best policy.

He was due to return to work when the new Superintendent of Police asked that it he be indicted again, this time as a Federal offense. He was sentenced to 40 months and incarcerated twice as far away from home than Federal regulations normally consider appropriate placement. This means that unlike many prisoners, Bill Cozzi gets few visits from his family and friends, who are very far away. As a police officer in a prison, his position is extra dangerous.

Management Issues
Like some of SSC's commenters, I believe the incident was wrong. I also have a management opinion, which I feel more confident about. Bill Cozzi's incarceration has been a major management mistake of the Supt. Jody Weis, decimating morale. He went outside customary procedure, dissing not just Cozzi but his own agency's review process. What could have been done quietly was done in public without advance warning and untempered by any mercy whatsoever. Whatever good Weis has tried to do with reorganization and new equipment has dissolved in the acid of resentment to his uncustomary, unprecedented, and never repeated disciplinary treatment.

So it's also my belief Bill Cozzi was screwed. The reparations he tried to make were used against him. Today I wish him the very best.

I believe it will help his loyal friends in the CPD believe in the process of law and order that they are sworn to defend.

--Free Bill Cozzi--

Who's Talking Straight about Climate-gate?

Well, if carbon emissions don't heat things up, this scandal surely will. I've tried to find a non-partisan voice in this matter, and just forget it. So this is what I think.

One Damned Scientist v. A Robust Discipline
Scientists are like everybody else. They love their own results. Sexy science gets funding, approval, attention. 

But---Scientific work is conducted in a community. If some scientist gets a Eureka!, he writes a paper.  Other scientists try to duplicate his results. If they can, or if they cannot,  they write a paper about That. Thus there is a lively confirmation process, or, a huge argument.

If you are competitive for grants, (and you must be), there is a temptation to fudge data. Against this temptation, there is a huge reputational risk. If you screw around, it will come out--your lab has lab assistants, equally ambitious or idealistic grad students (from all over the world, and all smart), colleagues dropping by, and a bunch of people reading your papers. Fudge, and your reputation is toast. Good luck, you jerk.

Big-ticket science grants are reviewed by other science foundations--multiple governments, foundations, and organizations. This is sometimes a grant review. This more formal process is exhaustive. These foundations, etc. also have reputational risk. So the majority tendency is honest results.

There is a law of thermodynamics that says moving objects tend to keep moving. Things sitting on their ass tend to stay there.  Therefore, a number of books, pamphlets, reports, and foundations will look like they are not refining their stance, long after they have begun their own review process.

A lot of people seeking funds (such as environmental groups) will also have to stand pat on their old rhetoric until the revisions of data come in. They have to wait for some confirming or correcting data.

A lot of people seeking funds (such as non-environmental groups) can start their editorials NOW. They only have to add one sentence to what they've already said.

Neither side is done reviewing the science. We know some of the most partisan won't review the science either, on either side. So we will have to listen carefully for the academy's quiet reviewing voice.

Conspiracy Theories
The U.S. Press
The U.S. press is not covering this well now. They weren't actually covering it very well before, either. They had lots of material but no understanding. Now they don't know what to do. Their scientific illiteracy is really what is exposed here--much more important than their partisanship.

This issue has always been full of coalitions. That does not make them conspiracies. It does make them special interest groups.

Pro-business states 
Countries that have never had industry want it. The cost of anti-pollution devices creates a barrier to entry into a market economy. They stay doomed to subsistence agriculture. They starve and maybe get handouts. Barriers to entry make it harder to achieve self-help.

Defenders of the downtrodden
These countries are the same ones with cheap labor. A lot of large manufacturers would prefer to keep everything cheap, and make smutty, silty, polluting factories far away from home. A diseased populace also cannot help themselves.

World government sneaks
Many people are against 'world government', but they don't know what form that has taken, so it means little. It's market-driven. Many industries prefer to have international standards, so that
a. they confront similar facilities and methods across the world (think air traffic control, for instance, or airplane repair) and
b. their insurers continue to insure them.

There is an International Standards Organization already. It does a lot of good for companies, cuts their costs over time (but not immediately) and creates worker and public safety. If there is a conspiracy, it is the conspiracy of international insurance and standard practices. And that's pro-business but anti-risk. Not a bad set of conspirators.

For the conspiracies of the UN,  think tanks, the liberal left and the conservative right, etc, see thermodynamics above.

Last of all: three thoughts:
It can't be wrong to be clean. If not for climate, then for public health. How clean, it would be nice to know.

One crazy editorial I read had one very good point. What the Earth does is separate from what we believe. It doesn't matter what we prefer. It only matters what's true. Whatever that is.

Forecasting correctly is a great help to business and the economy. (For instance, do you want your ship running into a hurricane?) So we want to know what's true. Not what's exciting. Not what's expedient.

Answer to the title question: Nobody yet. They're working on it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Spartan Supply, Sixth Century B.C.

Richmond Lattimore writes that Alcaeus of Mytilene (620 B.C.-- 6th Century B.C.)  lived a turbulent life, 'first fighting tyranny and then resisting social reform' in his city. He also notes that this famed politician of his day has left only a more personal poetry behind.
The Armory
The great hall is aglare with bronze armament and the whole inside made fit for war
with helms glittering and hung high crested over with white horse-manes that nod and wave
and make splendid the heads of men who wear them. Here are shining greaves made out of bronze,
hung on hooks and they cover all the house's side. They are strong to stop arrows and spears.
Here are war-jackets quilted close of new linen with hollow shields stacked on the floor,
with broad swords of the Chalkis make, many tunics and many belts heaped close beside.
These shall not lie neglected, now we have stood to our task and have this work to do.
A greave is shin armor. Chalkis was a town on the Greek island of Euboea. The name derives from the Greek word for bronze, so probably it was a town with considerable reputation for manufacturing weaponry and armor.

The Real Thing

We got married on February 17th. I picked that day because it was an anniversary of our first date. I learned on that date that you cannot talk about real feelings when eating a salad. I did not eat on our first date.

It was an old-fashioned kind of ceremony, but not a church wedding. We had an eloquent Justice of the Peace. She said the words of the service like they were totally new for us. Another couple invited to the wedding asked for her the next year.

We had the wedding in the somewhat rangy backyard and back patio of a friend's newly-purchased  'fixer upper'. The day before the wedding we pruned the trees in the yard, set up the chairs, and prepped all the food for the reception. We did not have a rehearsal, but we had a fun rehearsal dinner.

Girl stuff: My mom made my dress. It was off-white linen, waltz-length, not a scrap of lace anywhere. I had blue iris, yellow tulips, and orange lilies--it looked very spring. One carrot cake, white frosting, purple flowers. One chocolate cake, yellow flowers.

My husband made the music tape. I made the tablecloths. We had around fifty people attending. My father-in-law cried with happiness and everyone else was just--joyous. I cried a little too. My husband was the only one who wasn't nervous.

Then we stuck around instead of running off with new luggage. It was an afternoon dressy picnic.

My aunt gave me 16 wine glasses. She'd asked me what I wanted, and that was it "because we always break them". I meant by washing them in a porcelain sink, but she thought we were throwing them in the fireplace.

We had a good marriage. We were happy and we improved each other. Consoled each other. Made big plans and little ones. Argued. Talked things out. Did stuff together. And we laughed a lot.

Months after he died, I dreamed he was walking in a forest with his two favorite dogs, one of whom I never knew except through stories--so I know it was true, him beyond just me. We talked awhile in a clearing in the woods. He transformed into a ball of light before I was ready. The light folded under my ribs and moved behind my breastbone. Then I woke up.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Big (un)Happy Birthday to Evil Weirdo Jr.

Although in Democratic People's Republic of Korea (aka DPRK or North Korea) Tuesday has already passed, we can still take a minute to contemplate the 68th birthday of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il. The DPRK is the country that keeps lobbing nuclear missiles at weird intervals. After prolonged negotiations, they always agree to shut down their nuclear enrichment facilities. Yet somehow they just keep popping out the radioactive, and we go through it all over again.
Kim Jong-Il's fiefdom is a rock in cold Northern latitudes that grows nothing. Whatever commerce could come from it has been killed by communism and corruption. What little is known about it looks like a cross of Jocko's merry-go-round, a Dizney production, Orwell's 1984, and a Soviet gulag. His people are starving, apparently brainwashed by a personality cult, and deeply desperate. But the party for Dear Leader has never stopped.

China has a huge border control effort against the DPRK. If they didn't, there would be no one left inside. South Korea might let them in--many of its citizens long for unification--but there is the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ). No DPRK citizen is likely to make it across. The U.S. is still patrolling its side of the DMZ with troops of the Republic of Korea (aka ROK or South Korea). It's my understanding this is justifiably considered a dangerous assignment. There is no truce in the DMZ.

In US memory, that conflict was over fifty years ago. But it is not over.

We Can't Always Get Who We Want
1. We can learn from this man, primarily known for his immorality and his laughably transparent extortion schemes, how important the international community views the institution of the state. Despite the over-excited accusations of some anti-war protesters (of which I am occasionally one, depending, but rarely over-excited)  it remains a huge decision to enter another states' territory. Especially since DPRK does fulfill, at least in half-measure, the criteria of a state--

      --A failing state. We try not to invade too many of those. (Afghanistan, for instance, but not Somalia.) The people who usually invade failing states are brigands and/or neighbor states. When neighbor states invade in this enlightened era, it is generally for peacekeeping purposes.

Furthermore, Kim Jong-Il came into power under a peaceful transfer from his father--not democracy, not transparent, but no civil war ensued. Therefore, we are still trying to reason with him, bribe him, contain him. The effort has been a drawn-out, careful, considered labor for some of our best diplomats--primarily those of the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea--in what is called the "Six-Party Talks" or "Six-Nation Talks."  This makes all states at the table sound equal: three hegemonic states, five powerful economies, and the DPRK. And all states are indeed equal in the international system. They get the same privileges of sovereignty.

2. We can also learn from this man, who always seems to have nuclear material, how incredibly easy it is to get plutonium. There are no indigenous plutonium deposits in the DPRK. Nor is there much technological basis for the development of these weapons. We do know that A.Q. Khan of Pakistan sold information and equipment to the DPRK, among others. If we know the Dear Leaders' other suppliers, we're not telling. Every time we close one door, somebody else climbs through the window, bearing dangerous gifts.

3. We can also learn from this leader that extortion payments are sometimes necessary to make. He's got the radioactive trump card, so that makes him someone to listen to. It does not augur well for nuclear non-proliferation.

The Wham Bam Option
The biggest reason we stall with Dear Leader is that three major powers find it necessary to avoid the expansion of any one of the others. We don't want China on the ROK border. China has enough border with Russia already. It doesn't want any with us. And so forth.

The second reason is that all five major economies are under some risk of nuclear damage--fallout, bombing, reactor meltdown. Flattery and promises help keep Kim Jong-Il from destroying those economies in a tantrum. Likewise, a setback or a partial dismantlement creates delay and confusion for development of fissile weapons. So we use anything that interferes--if not a sword, then a stick. If not a stick, then a twig, or a carrot, or a shipment of wheat.

The third reason to persevere is that this failing state is a huge mystery. We have no idea who will control it when the Dear Leader dies, or who will control its fissile material.  A huge politico-military class will either solidify into another dictatorship or fight between themselves. This latter would be a huge heaping mess. It would create clandestine, amateur nuclear sales, not a good development for the fight against terrorism or international crime.

It's said that Dear Leader has pancreatic cancer. I am sure he has enough opium to get by. I find that a great pity. But in other ways, I wish him a long life. We do not sufficiently focus on this man and his state. We are not ready for him to depart his own barren rock and enter the great beyond.

1. The Center for Defense Information (2003) on the restart of the DPRK uranium program and its plutonium program.
2. BBC Timeline (2002-2007)  that shows DPRK accession to, abdication of non-proliferation--and a record of agreements, aid given, and agreements reneged. 
3. Wikipedia Timeline (1989--2009)--a longer timeline and different references.
4. The DPRK Space Program at FAS.  The Federation of American Scientists is not a pretty site--but very functional. And it is a GREAT site for U.S. security matters.
5. The New Yorker magazine (e-subscription only). For gossip on Dear Leader's Wonderland, try 'Kimworld' by Ian Buruma. For a look at its persistent famine, try 'The Good Cook', about a woman trying to feed her family of 6. The New Yorker also has articles on some U.S. agency work, and (Bill) Clintonian ambassadorship in the DPRK.
Images; University of Texas Perry Castaneda Library for the map; East Asia Forum for the pageant. Both are also good sites to know.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Urban Reconstruction

Bucket under sink. Plumber will arrive. Advil still works.

So I wouldn't call it a crisis, exactly.
Just can't stand behind the quality of my thoughts today-- 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ten Most Nutritious Foods

When my husband was a freshman in medical school, they had a class that was sort of a 'grand rounds'--a guest speaker every week in alternative medicine, cultural awareness, medical research, and even finance.

One day he came home, very excited. "We had some nutrition researchers today in survey class," he told me. "They told us what the Ten Most Nutritious Foods are. You won't be surprised that broccoli's top of the list."

"No kidding," I said. "I guess it's good we eat a lot of it."

"It is," he informed me. "The Brassica family. Lots of vitamin A and C, the fiber, all that. It's like the nearly perfect food."


"Yeah, you won't believe what the second one is. I couldn't believe it myself." He waited until I asked.

"Beer," he said. "The research shows that the grain is good, especially in liquid form. And it exercises a benefit to the parasympathetic nervous system."

"No way," I marveled. "I would never have guessed it."

He laughed, and he laughed . . . . he laughed some more . . . . .

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

A big box of Russell Stover creams or caramels to my readers. And an armload of the yellow roses of Texas, the color meant for friendship, the color of the shining heart.

Valentine's Holiday Trivia: 
The St. Valentine, Patron of Love & Marriage, (as well as Epileptics and Bee-keepers) might be any or all of three different people. Like St. Christopher, the Patron of Travellers, he was bumped off the Saint List as possibly imaginary in 1969.  That was a bad year for the fun saints.

Lupercalia, the Roman holiday that Valentine's day supersedes, was a festival of Pan, the god of shepherds, drunkards, tricksters, and pastoral dalliance. He was a satellite of Dionysos. This festival in turn replaced Februa, of similar origin and behavior. So now you know where the month name for February comes from.

It became a holiday for love in the days of Chaucer. The Middle Ages were not really great for women, but the tradition of courtly love served to focus warriors on one ideal upper-class woman (they could not marry, not having land to support a family). That idealized woman got a little slack in the scheme of things, not to mention a whole lot of poetry whispered into her ears.

Valentine's Symbols
Doves. The symbol of love and peace, the messenger of God and also of troop movements.

Cupid--The son of Venus and Mercury. A god of love, although, in many renditions through art history, he sort of gives me the creeps. Those Rococo French were a bit of the sick. Like the dove, he is also a messenger, and has been modernized into the cute babies on many schoolchildren's penny valentines.

Roses came from Central Asia, 50 to 70 million years ago, and somehow managed to travel all across the Northern Hemisphere, where they developed into distinct regional species. For instance China roses are a different species from indigenous North American Rosa carolina.

China, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, England: roses have always been prized as tokens of love. Talk about timeless. Lovers get red, for the passionate heart, or, red-and-white streaked ones, which in the language of flowers means 'love, united'.

Chocolate comes from cacao beans, indigenous to Honduras first, then Mexico through South America. When it was first brought back to Europe, it was ground and served much like coffee. Very bitter, Europeans would spoon sugar and sometimes milk into it. Chocolate bars were not invented until the Industrial Revolution sometime in the 1700's, and that's when Dutch chocolate became famous.

So, enjoy this day. Its symbols come from myths, lies, misunderstandings, albino pigeons, thorny wildflowers and bitter fruit. But love has a transforming power, after all.

Torch Song in Blue

Out of the blue, bam, it came on. And if it comes on, it might as well come out.
Just a lyric and melody. Just practice for a bigger war.

Being Blue

The world’s a live wire, angel
The trouble’s on the right.
It’s on the left, in front, behind,
Most days and every night—
Being blue, being blue. It’s all about you.

The streets are full, they’re crazy
With screamers on the wild
And you’re the trouble, baby
Full grown but like a child—
Being blue, being blue. It’s all about you.

I see you laughing, angel
You’re never home to stay
You come around and cry again
And then you’re out to play—
Oh, being blue, being blue. I know what to do.
What does it matter to you?

Don't know how to get the notes on the notepaper into the blog. So, it won't convey length of notes, but what the heck.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Tao of Victory by Sun Tzu

One who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot fight,
will be victorious.

One who recognizes how to employ large and small numbers
will be victorious.

One whose upper and lower ranks have the same desires
will be victorious.

One who, fully prepared, awaits the unprepared
will be victorious.

One whose general is capable and
not interfered with by the ruler
will be victorious.

These five are the Way to know victory.
 ---- ---- ----
Thus it is said that one who knows the enemy and knows himself
will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.

One who does not know the enemy but knows himself
will sometimes be victorious and sometimes meet with defeat.

One who knows neither the enemy nor himself
will invariably be defeated in every engagement.

from The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.
6th Century B.C.
the end of Chapter 3: Planning Offensives
Trans. Ralph D. Sawyer.

Illustration below: French planning map for Breisach (anonymous, 1743)
Garwood & Voigt Books and Fine Prints/ War of Austrian Succession--


The following does not apply the same way to stalkers and maniacs, of course, who have out-sized expectations and screwed-up emotional radar. But in general, (my husband told me this from one of his many shrink classes);

If you like somebody, they probably like you too.
Maybe not quite as much. Maybe a little more. Maybe they want more, or less, than what you offer.

And then there's the other kinds of reciprocity.
If, when you talk to someone, they make you feel helpless, that is how you learn how helpless they feel themselves.
If someone makes you angry, they are showing you how angry they are.

It explains so much of the emotional landscape. I think knowing this is a way to feel reassured, (of course they like me) or a way to resume control of one's own reaction (that's their anger, not mine), or a way into greater involvement or compassion (this is how helpless they feel; that has to be dealt with first).


I have two complete manuscripts, same characters, just as most of the bestselling novelists in crime fiction seem to do. They are both a little too long to send to an agent. I have been working on the second one this week. So far I've trimmed 2K of the 5K I think I must go.

I don't like doing this by numbers not merit--however, when one is new, one does as one is told. The other, more lowering thought is that really those 5K were superfluous to begin with. The numbers game is a trick that forces one into a more even quality. So, forget that resistance. I am willing.

My eyes hurt from peering at words. New glasses, too. It's the reading on a screen for hours and hours. Mostly I think it is fear. Fear to try. As long as they sit at home, they are mine and universally loved by all who see them. But that is not how art is appreciated, wars are won, or books are published.

So, once I carve some more off of them, out they must go. I don't like to think of myself as a coward, and in general I don't think I am. But this kind of fear has slain me all my life.

"The coward dies a thousand deaths; the brave man only one."

So far this phrase has been of no help to me whatsoever.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How To Cook a Peacock--

Two poems that are reaching for Spring and for the upcoming holiday, just below.  Now something different, even gruesome:
I wanted to get back to the historical research, and feature some skills that are not generally known now but make excellent trivia for a magpie mind.

The Archeologist's Lament
So I've been reading Apicius, the first food writer I know of, on Roman cuisine. Another book, Food in Antiquity, I keep putting down. Unfortunately for them, archeologists learn about human diet by excavating old outhouses and counting and typing grain pieces. What a job. I'd rather keep slogging through Apicius, and the Roman diet does deserve a long post.

Bird: It's What's For Dinner!
In the meantime, I have learned that modern American poultry cooking is remarkably narrow-minded compared to that of Rome and the Middle Ages. They ate every bird; larks, the four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie, thrushes, shrikes, fish-eating birds, as well as insect or grain-eating birds.  Many marinades were devised to get rid of the taint of fish in the pelican dinner--and the decay of the old bird. This must be odd to most of the people I know, who are buying one part of the chicken already boned, skinned, sauteed, and stuck in a microwaveable tray with dubious sauce.

I don't know if you are aware, but the custom with game birds has been to hang them, dead, until they become 'aged' for better flavor. I have sought in vain for this formula, and it didn't seem like it should be hard to find. Eureka! At last! Basically, once the birds have lost their rigor mortis, they are tender enough to cook. In the days before refrigeration, you left the feathers on the bird, strung up outside by its neck, until that happy period was achieved.

The Royal Poulterer
I also did find a recipe for the medieval feast in Fabulous Feasts--on how to cook a peacock. This was quite the sensation at Medieval tables. No kingly banquet could be said to be spectacular without it.

The recipe is basically a turkey recipe (stuffed bird in wood-burning oven), except you must preserve the head and the skin with feathers still attached. This is accomplished by beheading the bird incompletely, preserving its head and neck, and flaying it very carefully. Once the bird is stuffed, marinated, and roasted, it is wrapped in the feather skin and arranged on the plate, for service at King Richard's merry table.

I've thought about this and decided the opening has to be between the wings in the back. Then the server can get to the actual dish, picking it out of its feathery shell from the top. The recipe does not say. It mostly conveys the woe that betides the serf who does not save every peacock feather on the bird.

You could not have lived a complete life without knowing this.

Illustration from the Tres Riches Heures of le Duc de Berry

the things we know

This is part two of a two-part series. I'm thinking Valentine's, but they aren't doggerel for the holiday. More like, ways of speaking to or thinking about the lover in one's life.

Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) was an early Beat Poet, a factory worker, itinerant, jazz stylist and artist who wrote remarkably complex love poems. This one reminds me of the first on in the series (Tennyson) in that it is a male voice, a seeker, and the seer in a garden. The poet is perhaps equally mystical, but his sense of beauty does not require the exotic. 

The Character of Love As Seen As a Search for the Lost

You, the woman; I, the man; this, the world:
And each is the work of all. 

There is the muffled step in the snow; the stranger;
The crippled wren; the nun; the dancer; the Jesus-wing
Over the walkers in the village; and there are
Many beautiful arms around us and the things we know. 

See how those stars tramp over the heavens on their sticks
Of ancient light: with what simplicity that blue
Takes eternity into the quiet cave of God, where Caesar
And Socrates, like primitive paintings on a wall,
Look, with idiot eyes, on the world where we two are. 

You, the sought for; I, the seeker; this, the search:
And each is the mission of all. 

For greatness is only the drayhorse that coaxes
The built cart out; and where we go is reason.
But genius is an enormous littleness, a trickling
Of heart that covers alike the hare and the hunter. 

How smoothly, like the sleep of a flower, love,
The grassy wind moves over night's tense meadow:
See how the great wooden eyes of the forest
Stare upon the architecture of our innocence. 

You, the village; I, the stranger; this, the road:
And each is the work of all.

Then, not that man do more, or stop pity; but that he be
Wider in living; that all his cities fly a clean flag. . .
We have been alone too long, love; it is terribly late
For the pierced feet on the water and we must not die now. 

Have you ever wondered why all the windows in heaven were broken?
Have you seen the homeless in the open grave of God's hand?
Do you want to acquaint the larks with the fatuous music of war? 

There is the muffled step in the snow; the stranger;
The crippled wren; the nun; the dancer; the Jesus-wing
Over the walkers in the village; and there are
Many desperate arms about us and the things we know.

the lily all her sweetness

This is part one of a two-part series. I'm thinking Valentine's, but they aren't doggerel for the holiday. More like, ways of speaking to or thinking about the love in one's life.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), was the most Victorian of Victorians, a poet laureate, wildly famous in his day.  This is a mystical poem full of longing in a time where certain phrases to a lover could not be published clearly, but were felt just the same.

Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal

"Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the the white;
nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font.
The fire-fly wakens; waken thou with me.

"Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

"Now lies the Earth all Danae to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

"Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

"Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake.
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me."

[Porphyry--a dense purple-red stone used in carving, here for a large stone fountain containing goldfish. Danae--a princess who was kept by her father underground; Zeus discovered her and she became the mother of Perseus and ultimately an ancestress of Herakles.]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Krewe of Everybody--Tout 'Semblage and a Ma Lai Lah

Since I lived in RiverTown, I could go to New Orleans' Mardi Gras with little or no trouble.  It was an amazing human drama, and I went every year. The best place to stay was Uptown. You could walk to the French Quarter, but there was more variety and less drunkenness if you stayed near the Garden District. I won't say you'll go anyplace completely tasteful--but--

For those of you who might not know the history, Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday. In the French Rococo period, when the King and other spendthrifts held glorious sway over France, Carnival Season started after Christmas, a time of revelry. Parties, balls, hunts, operas, masquerades, bed-hopping--think Dangerous Liaisons, the movie.  (Note: Noble folk are not gentle folk--a gentleman thinks of others. A nobleman has others to tie his shoes.)  Revelry ended at midnight when Ash Wednesday began.

Carne vale means 'farewell meat'. During the Forty Days of Lent, all those swinging courtiers became vegetarians. They also forswore sex and grand living.  For those that don't believe that--and why should you--at least the parties became fish dinners for one hundred instead of rotisserie beef with flowers around its neck (boeuf gras) for five hundred.

The French influence came to Louisiana early, and became part of its culture. This year, Ash Wednesday is on February 17, the Saints won the Super Bowl, and Carnival has already geared up for the first of two weeks of parade, ending at 11:59 p.m. on February 16th. After the influence of the Louisiana Purchase (Yankees and Kentuckians), the influx of slaves with very distinct cultures, and the French Revolution for that matter, it has become a party for the entire city. That means the Entire city--four year old girls, boys of seven, crooks, janitors, accountants, visiting movie stars, satirists and costumers of all types.

This is one of the Indians--slaves frequently ran to Native American communities--the beadwork and feather work is all hand done, usually by the wearer. It takes all year and significant bucks to make a costume like this. Opposing tribes meet and conduct ceremonies of truce or engagement. Music is involved.

The Good, the Bad and the Strange is below the jump--

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Do You Miss Me Yet? Nope.

That's the title of a post over at The South Kansas City Observer--
I'm not putting this guy's picture on my blog.
I'm not going to rant all over my friend's page of good will, either.

She brings it up to note that 'liberals' have said it's inappropriate. I wouldn't say that was very liberal, and I think it's right to call the naysayers into serious question. I expect free speech to disagree with my own, more frequently than not.

This billboard is civil. And it is clever. In the United States, we frequently pick clever over principled in our politicians. I don't suppose that makes us unique.

But I do Not miss him. I will NEVER miss him, or his mean-spirited, officious, spendthrift crew, if I live to be a hundred.

The curse of the American people is a short, short memory--

Monday, February 8, 2010

Little Condominium on the Prairie

What I know of blizzards comes from the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. In The Long Winter, she writes about blizzard-after-blizzard on the Northern plains where there were, for instance, no trees to burn. Houses were made of plywood with tar-paper insulation (not good). The fuel of choice was coal, with a second choice (not mentioned by the very-proper Ms. Wilder) of cow chips. As an adult, you read Ms. Wilder differently than you do as a child.

The farms there were hardly established. Railroad distribution was essential, and the trains could not get through, not even by hiring crews to shovel snow as they went. The communities that depended on rail nearly starved and froze to death. For fuel, they braided straw into tightly packed rope and burned it. It didn't last worth a damn, next to the coal they couldn't get, and the snow just kept coming. The entire day was spent making more fuel for the fire they were sitting right in front of as much as possible.

But in the Twenty-First Century
Well, here in my hometown it's not that bad. The last of the chips left before the Super Bowl, mostly, except for the exotic flavors such as Carolina Crab Chip. You can still buy soft drinks, cookies, and regular bread.  The frozen pizzas are mostly gone, but the upscale ones remain. Frozen lima beans are still available. So is prepacked sushi--eat at your own risk. I'd seriously have to boil it first. But:

The juice case is completely empty, the butter and margarine is down to dropped boxes/other rejects.

Eggs disappeared three days ago, and milk two and a half days ago from the grocery and the drug store.

What's left of the meat case is reduced for quick sale and starting to reek.  Ditto, bananas. There's one bag of kale left and no broccoli or potatoes.

Everyone must have become ill, because nearly all the toilet paper has disappeared.

It's all about storage and distribution. The cows are still making milk, it can still be churned to butter and cheese, the fruit is still shipping into Florida from Chile--they just can't figure out how to get it into my store.

I'm not complaining. I still have milk. I was also able, by going to the liquor store, to find the last quart of orange juice in my neighborhood. $3.50, but worth it to this post-flu patient.

However, we are supposed to get another 16 to 24 inches starting tomorrow. I will get grumpy when the milk for my coffee runs out.  Perhaps I will at last learn to like it black.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

One-Way Hand-basket on the Bean-Counter Express

Those of you who are already in police work have probably checked Inspector Gadget's blog. But civilians should also check there occasionally. You may avert a crisis in your own community vis-a-vis law enforcement. Read a little further and I will link you up.

One of Inspector Gadget's main themes is that of the police under fire--not by the 'yobs' or 'trashy people' or even the extremist 'Londonistan'-type enclave close by--but by their own government. Truth to tell--it looks like Big Brother has already shown up in the British police precinct, leaving Animal Farm everywhere else. It scares me greatly. That's just what the Inspector intends.

Use and Abuse of Statistics
On January 29, 2009, Gadget reported that the police in his precinct were to clean up 'any outstanding crime reports'. Sounds constructive, but go to the next sentence:
  • They must not, under any circumstances, get out on the street and find any more crime. Not until the next financial year anyway. All their accumulated leave (and there is lots of it being as we don’t pay overtime any more) is to be taken between now and April. It’s best to have them out-of-the-way, they just cant be trusted to stay indoors.
  • You see, when a proactive team get outside, be it CID or uniform, they just will insist on executing warrants, finding stolen property, stopping known criminals on the road and discovering nicked motors. Each time this happens, they have to put on a crime report. Being as we don’t care about detecting crime any more, and its all about the amount of crime, this kind of behaviour is a nightmare for senior police officers and their annual cash bonus.
In this country, some Police Departments have introduced COMPSTAT (that's NYPD's, but the model has been adopted elsewhere). Like all stats, knowing which corners get which crimes, how often, and at what times of the day are great for crime prevention and apprehension. And precinct commanders have been made more accountable for the crime in their district. But what seems to happen instead, the crime is not reported within the district--or--its severity is downplayed. Thus an attempted rape is listed as a simple assault, or a purse-snatching doesn't make it onto the stats, in order to gloss the statistics and avoid shit from above.

Bureaucratic Correctives
The bean-counter response to under-reported crime within a department (because this response is corrupt, after all) will be to hire a bunch of auditors. That's ten thousand more investigative statisticians in your police department. Not a one of them will be catching the street. Instead, they'll be pulling street officers in to answer questions. Do you think a game-playing precinct command will own up to this? Or will they shove the blame downward, to the beat cop who wanted to report the assault as a rape in the first place and therefore get some help?

Now attach the idea of bonuses to this. The fakery becomes cash fraud. In this scenario, the victim's rights are also forgotten, particularly a victim who is distressed or otherwise afraid to make a fuss. But there's a bureaucratic response to that, too:

On January 27, 2009, Inspector Gadget reported the UK government will start a National Victim Agency. Good luck paying for that.

Customer Satisfaction Ratio
On January 20, Inspector Gadget informed us that he must submit customer satisfaction statistics for every shift. I do think customer satisfaction counts. However, he got two complaints for the same call--one for responding too quickly, and one for not being there yet. As he informs us, he is supposed to have a 75% satisfaction rate on each shift. He's already 0-2 on one incident before his personnel even arrived.

Now let's say there's a bar fight, and Inspector Gadget's team wades in to keep the peace. That's thirty disgruntled customers, not to mention their spouses and aggrieved parents. One grateful bouncer, one grateful bartender, and one pissed-off bar owner who wonders why Gadget wasn't already in the bar when the first pint was thrown. They stopped a riot, but their approval rate is 6%. Johnny Law, good luck to you. I mean it.

As civilians, we can call in customer satisfaction all day to try to make our police officers look good. What will we say? "Dear Customer Service Officer, today I am happy with my police because nothing bad happened to me."  Do they really want to hire the switchboard for that? Do you expect a crime victim, bashed up in the hospital, to call a Customer Satisfaction hotline? Who is thinking this up? Nothing bad has ever happened to them. That I can tell.

Sincerely, how do we use statistics as a tool instead of having them tool us? There's got to be a way to stomp this pre-Orwellian condition--we'd better figure it out. Quick.

And in the meantime, all of us should be thinking: What is customer satisfaction to us, as taxpayers and as people walking the street? Is our satisfaction so shallow that it cannot take in the deeper picture?

O, Snowy Day! O, Breath of Beer! O Glacier Mountain!

Just two pictures. This  is the corner of O and 17th Street. On the left, the cars are almost completely buried. The streets were plowed enough so that they were coated with about 4 inches of densely-packed snow. It's going to be tough to drive for at least a week, because that ice is not coming up. It was fun, however, to see the entire neighborhood become a pedestrian walkway.  You people in Canada and Scandinavia can laugh. We are completely discombobulated around here. And supposed to get more snow Tuesday.
I took a fairly long walk. At Dupont Circle, one guy was flat on his back at the back of a massive snowball fight. I headed toward him because he looked to be in some distress. Someone woman was trying to get him to stand up and couldn't do it. I speeded up.

Necessitan assistencia? I asked.
Assistencia? The petite girl in the ski jacket and watch cap turned out to be a white male, red hair, strip thin and about five-seven. 'What do we need assistance for?"
I just stared at him.
"Oh, you're trying to Help," he said. I hate jackasses. Especially with sour beer breath. Some college student or Congressional Aide. God save the world.
"Yeah, he can't stand up and he's peed himself." He also needed a tissue. My non-medical opinion.
"My friend is from Brazil," he sneered. "We don't need anything."

Now there's a logical construct for you. With friends like these--and me not being a speaker of Brazilian Portuguese--
There were enough people around, and the guy was now sitting up on a bench. My authority was nil and he was not going to freeze to death. I left him with the Future Diplomat. And when I walked back through the park, they weren't there.

This is a great old Victorian that used to belong to some brew master back in the day. Oh, LOL! I just tied that together. Generations of beer-breath money. Still, the architecture is for the ages. I must say dark brick is enhanced by the snow, too.
When I got back home, some young lady was cross-country skiing Southbound on 17th Avenue. Incredible! The world is full of marvels, that's for sure. Supposedly we remember them all. Some are to save for sure, just so you remember there is pleasure and fun and lasting accomplishment in the world.

Today my neighbor that knows so much about birds? I bought rock salt for the princely sum of $1.99, then appropriated the shovel he had thoughtully left in the back of his truck. He and I shoveled the back door so people can get out without climbing the Apennine Range. Our snowplow service is UA, baby. I called the GM to call them again.

I keep checking Mr. Bloom, but he's not answering the door. He's in his late eighties, and I'm afraid he's out of soup. But the front desk has heard from him. He's okay for now. And if he decides to go to Safeway, he can go outside now. I hope he doesn't try.