Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day: The Eternal Flame

This is footage from July of 1938: a newsreel of the reunion of the last survivors of Gettysburg. On this occasion, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the Eternal Flame at Gettysburg, made of Maine granite and Alabama limestone.

The music is perfect accompaniment and very moving.

This newsreel is about continuity, gallantry, reflection and hard-won wisdom. At the end, FDR has a voice-over: "All men are created equal." Yes. And in unity is strength.

Thank you to all our military personnel, past and present, living or dead, prosperous, homeless, in serenity or in travail. For those in travail, may your burdens be lifted by hands at home and abroad, in the sky or here on earth.

For those that died in war, may we remember that you were human and petty sometimes, and that you had desires and needs that were not met and not allowed to flourish. That you sacrificed much of your liberty, at least some of your happiness, and then your life for this nation.

May your deeds and your memory, in both great and small things, burn in us forever.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hey, First Responders: Something Better than STFU

It's called Police Mental Health blog, and its author calls it "Emotional Kevlar for Cops." 

Jeff Shannon is both a police officer and a certified Marital and Family Therapist in California. Here is an excerpt of one post, and it's funny plus relevant:
In response to a mass text message to all my cop buddies about the blog and what it’s about, I received multiple versions of this simple reply: “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK.” Cute. Mental health isn’t interesting to most cops. Shrinks are seen as “quacks,” unnecessary, overly-sensitive hippies who want to give hugs all day.
Those hippie-type therapists? I hate them too. I call them "mental-health creeps" and Jeff Shannon is not one of them.

Everything he has written is substantive but not hard to "get" right away: about stress, the police social network, warning signs. He gives names to phenomenon that you see every day, and naming is a powerful analytical tool.

It looks like a great resource, for oneself or to help others. Go check it out, whether you need Kevlar today for somebody or not. Then it's there when you need it, ready-to-hand.

I learned a few things that I can use too. I like it a lot.

Zombie Warlock Returns

Unbelievable!! The Zombie Boss before this one:

cut himself a check for salary in lieu of vacation (against the by-laws),  without informing anyone,
quit with no notice,
later tried to get unemployment from us as a fired employee instead of a quit employee,

de-trained Zombie Assistant as well as the two Hulks in the basement,
screwed up the billing and
almost got the power cut off by not paying bills for almost 300 units,
lied about his engineering qualifications so now we STILL are re-working the hot water system,

is back in town. I have seen him three times in three days. He lives in our neighborhood.

Has Zombie Warlock NO SHAME? Why am I asking myself this, after all that went before?

They sneak up, you know. This one likes to bake.  I am pretty sure his portly self recruited our portly Zombie Assistant with the use of Infected Madeleines--Zombie Fruit Tarts with Special Infusions--Flaky, Contaminated Croissants. Beware the Roast Beast au Jus!

He also wanted to have an affair. Beware the closed door!!  And now, since he is out and about, I must even beware the sidewalks and coffee houses!

So I am thrilled, just thrilled, that he is back.  So thrilled, in fact, that I applied for a concealed carry permit for my Zombie Smack Ray.  He cannot prevail! Something tells me he and Zombie Assistant are just yakking it up every lunch hour they both have off.  Hmmm, I wonder if those Fruit Tarts had an aphrodisiac in them. Maybe that is why Zombie Assistant had lap-band surgery.

Bzzzzzwhack! If he tries anything, anything at all.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Photos: Be Darned if I Know

Who is this mysterious lady? I was thinking Barbara Jordan, but why a 51? Maybe I am not up on the new reformers.

What the heck green flower is this? Is it from Australia?

Who is this little man and what does he stand for? He looks like trouble about to happen--and that you pay in advance to get.

At least he looks like a past danger. Or--?

This water ran for days . . . and they knew it, because cones were out. So . . . (?)
This in the city that charges a nickel per grocery bag in order to preserve the watershed.  Probably that's irrelevant. However, I have wanted to complain about it since January 1st, and this is as good a place as any.

And, Why did I wear high heels on a five-mile walk? Ouch. Where are my band-aids?

Yes, have a Great Weekend! From a Clueless Ann T.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thomas Wortham IV--A profound loss

Today was the funeral of a man I never knew or even met. But I know he stood for the best things in American life. For the power of ideals in action.  For youth in its strength bringing timeless virtues forward.

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd is a poem about grief for another son of Illinois, another Great Soul we could ill afford to lose.  I offer two last parts of the poem, dedicated to Officer Wortham and to his parents and other loved ones, who shoulder on with new burdens on this earth.

. . . . .
And the white skeletons of young men--I saw them;
I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war;
But I saw they were not as was thought;
They themselves were fully at rest--they suffer'd not;
The living remain'd and suffer'd--the mother suffer'd,
And the wife and the child, and the musing comrade suffer'd,
And the armies that remain'd suffer'd.

Yet each I keep, the retrievements out of the night;
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo arous'd in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star, with the countenance full of woe,
With the lilac tall, and its blossoms of mastering odor;
With the holders holding my hand, nearing the call of the bird,
Comrades mine, and I in the midst, and their memory ever I keep--for the dead I loved so well;
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands . . . and this for his dear sake;
Lilac and star and bird, twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines, and the cedars dusk and dim.

--Walt Whitman

My previous obituary for Officer Thomas Wortham IV is here.
Second City Cop has a short review of the service entitled
May the Work That I've Done Speak For Itself

In Flanders Fields

Memorial Day was originally a celebration of the re-unification of North and South after the Civil War. It was expanded to commemorate all soldiers who have died in service to this country after World War I. One tradition is the planting of poppies in American graveyards for soldiers. That tradition started with a poem.

Lieutenant Colonel James McRae, a Canadian physician, wrote it upon the death of his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer on May 3, 1915. It's a poem, in other words, by someone who was there.  The torch he speaks of belongs to all of us, I am sure.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nice people

Today I wrote a card to a neighbor of mine. He is a small-business owner who helps self-employed  keep their offices organized. In the process, he has made friends with every one of them.

Every year he has a huge Epiphany party. So much food that it takes a trolley cart to bring it to the community room. Part of the gag is that you bring the worst present ever--the thing you wouldn't even "re-gift" and everyone draws a lottery.  He also has a huge Thanksgiving potluck and oh, for heaven's sake. You never ate so well in your life.

There's another lady here whose brother recently had a stroke. He's doing great. She's running from her house to his, fixing him all up: washing curtains, bugging him to cook again, (he is a chef), teaching him and laughing with him when he uses the wrong proper noun. Every day she has a huge smile. When she was young, I bet you twenty dollars she was vivacious and popular. She still is.

The president of my Board has a ready tongue and a sarcastic way about him. But he sees everything really clearly. He is also very kind to people in difficulty. He does not "go off" on people who need a gentler hand. He also has an unexpected patience much at variance to his temperament.

Mr. B. is afraid to ask for favors. But if you do something for him, he will find out what book you like to read. He probably has it in stock and it will be on your doorstep the next day.

Mr. G is a retired professor. He raises turtles and always wants to know how you are doing. Lately he has gotten a caretaker and looks much better.

All of these people have troubles: diabetes, family worries, frustrations with the way the world works, maybe even money troubles. They are all highly intelligent. It does not stop them from spreading little bits of goodness, each in their own way.

And then there's the good people I know here . . . . my electronic neighbors . . . . I feel very fortunate.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Forces of Chaos, Temporarily in Abeyance

Two reasons for a short post:

1. I am shampooing carpet. The big part of the job is not the actual shampooing, but the temporary dismantling of my desk (right when I am reading instructions, too!).  All this weight-lifting is good for the arms.

And the cats see the new divisions of space as a Sign to Play! I realize that no corner is loved like a new corner. They have re-associated themselves with every piece of now-murphy-oiled stick of furniture and played some interesting games of chase, hide-and-seek, and King of the Mountain.

2. Today BoyCat has his staples removed. He has been such a good patient i am not even mad at him for eating all my hair-ties.

At the Hathaway 'crib', we are all nearing the end of extra effort just to keep things at a good normal.  And re-discovering all the good corners and spaces . . . .

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That Number Nine

One of the great things about my husband: he was not above a Low Entertainment.  It must have been amusing to take around a naive Ann T. and introduce her to pool halls. Especially low-life joints like Joker in the Pack.

So I learned to play pool in crazy joints and, to eat dubious tacos in places like Elena's No. 2. They were delicious. If you turned the tortilla back, you would see what looked like McDonald's french fries in there instead of papas fritas. The tacos were only 59 cents and I quit looking.

So, we had a date, driving down the road. These were always great. We liked to talk in the car. My future husband would detour for pretty-looking roads or street-side marvels. There was never any telling where we'd end up.

"Oh, look, a carnival," I said. "I've never been to one of those."

One U-turn later, we were parking in the grass. He flipped off the ignition.

"What do you mean, you've never been to a carnival? Like since you were eight?"
"I mean never. My dad thought they were tacky." I paused. "Low class."

"Let's go." He bopped out of the car and I jumped out like a Mark in a box.

We were early, so it wasn't crowded. The cotton candy was spinning. So were the rides. We rode the Spinning Spider, the merry-go-round. We went up the Ferris wheel because I've always wanted to go on a Ferris wheel. I am deathly afraid of heights, too, but that didn't matter.

At the top, it stopped. We were the only ones on it, so it must have been ordained. He started rocking the bench.
"Stop it!" I screeched.
He laughed. "Come on, there's a rail."
"When we start down," I begged. Shoot, when would that be?

Once down, we were both happy. I had been on a Ferris wheel at last. He had scared the daylights out of me. We sashayed into Shill's Boulevard, i.e., the arcades.

I cannot throw. Much. But my husband insisted. I tossed ping-pong balls at glass jars and lost all my tickets. He tossed ping-pong balls and lost all his tickets. Of course he had at least scored. We tried other games and lost more tickets. It was great. Eventually my guy presented me with a stuffed armadillo. Hey! And we'd only worked our way down one side of the arcade. That was probably a river of red tickets, but I wasn't keeping track.

At the end of the row, we reached the Kentucky Derby, much less detailed than the one above. You throw tennis balls and they go into a funnel. Every time a tennis ball goes down, your horse advances a notch. The carney calls it out just like it's flesh-and-blood horses instead of flat pieces of tin notching across a green  billboard.   "Number Two coming from the outside, what a slippery track! Number nine still ahead by a nose!"

Clang clang. "And we have a winnah! Number Nine!"

For some reason, those tennis balls were working for me. I won three races in a row, lost one to Number Two, and then won three more. I won something much like a crackerjack toy each time. This enabled me to trade up for a pink bear or something. Then we laid down more tickets and played again.  And I won again.

The crowd was starting to pick up, because we were laughing so hard. And the barker was good at the patter, with a carrying voice.

"Come on up and try your luck!" The carney called out to the bystanders. "Can anybody beat that Number Nine!"

Years afterward, when I would score somewhere in life, my husband would look at me and yell, "Can anybody beat that Number Nine!!"

I tell you, Low Entertainment kicks butt!!!! I also won my own stuffed armadillo at the Kentucky Derby. A nice matched happy set.

Balance and Progression

'Unless a capacity for thinking be accompanied by a capacity for action, the superior mind exists in torture."

--Benedetto Croce (1866-1952, Italian philosopher)

"Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: give me leave to do my utmost."

--Isak Dinesin, (1885-1962, Danish author, Babette's Feast)

Short good sentences, not my own devising. But I carry them around. They speak better than I do.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Miss Ellen Affects Men

Miss Ellen and I are waiting for a light to change Green. Some man on some bicycle gives her the once-over. Then he looks at me.

"Three-speed, huh?" he says. " I never thought anyone would ride one of those anymore."

Now that he has established a Spurious Superiority, the light turns Green. He leaves on his bike, which probably had no name. That's because it had no personality.

I was temporarily peeved. Worse, Miss Ellen was somewhat deflated by this.

"Forget it, Ellen," I said, filling her tires. "You're more than a match for any bike that ever lived. After all, you have been to Amsterdam, the Himalayas, and Egypt. Not to mention our long distance runs."

I had to explain the Inferiority Complex to her.

"Ellen, the truth is, you are the perfect bike. You're the right height. Your switch gears to perfection. And your pedals are indestructible. Girlfriend, you are quality make."

That and the air put some bounce in her humps. We were now ready for Adventure.

That time we almost broke Perimeter at a Secure Installation.  A police officer took two steps toward us and spread his arms like a big bear hug.

We swerved away, just in time.

"Sorry," I called out. He was grinning at us. I told Miss Ellen he had his arms out because she was so attractive. And since that is also true, how can it be a lie?

Eight more miles that day. We are confident ladies, staying on just this side of trouble.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gentrification: Signs, Windows, and Doors

My personal favorite place to be in the urban neighborhood is where rich meets poor, i.e., the frontiers of gentrification. That is what I see now. Plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, the new sidewalks going in: all brick and cork lining and brushed new concrete. But I also love the old stuff hanging on.

If I walk three blocks east, there are overpriced lovely loft condominiums for sale--all refurbished older buildings, with new windows jutting out and sometimes new 'skins'. Across from that, there is a hardware store run by whatever generation it is (that whole stupid classification Gen-X,Y, Z, or I for I-phone apps--I don't know). They have a mural that extends all the way down the side of their building, full of exuberant revolution. Here is one part of it.

Next to that is an art gallery. And then a barber shop with its own kind of art. You just know this place is a hotbed of black male gossip, and it must be great. Oh, to be a fly on the wall!!

Next to that is a take-out food place. My favorite thing about it is the fish picture in the side window. This picture is well past its shelf life: covered in dust and sagging badly. Therefore it is not good advertising. But I know better. Probably the best fish around if you can just walk in the door.

If I turn right, I see another hardware store, clearly dying. But its owner must have loved Lionel Trains. People, I love rust and crud. If this sign comes down, I will count it a loss.

If I turn left, I run into recently-closed pawn shops (very recently closed) and other dilapidation. Interesting tile work from the last mid-century. It's a toss-up whether it will be preserved or not. Behind it is a day care center. Yup. For dogs. All these fancy lofts are for single people.

New groceries going in, to serve the new condo dwellers. Other groceries served the lower-income folks and are starting to show prosperity.  New paint, more merchandise. Different culture. Isn't this lovely? And you can still get a money order, no sweat.

It's still a clash of cultures. I don't find it ugly, at least not in daylight. But it represents immense struggle. This garage retrenched. It gave up half of its square feet for a funky boutique in hot pink. They repainted their garage door to fit in with the boutique, and then it was defaced. The garage is an urban vocational training center. So much wrong with this--and yet fascinating. Here, graffiti is a sign of hostility, but also identity. It's a rear-guard action, but fate still hangs in the balance.

I find it interesting to view the frontier. It's slipping away, at least here. But it will come back. All this was prosperous once before, and then it failed. Neighborhood services left. Now they're coming back.

Small business expresses their dreams, their identity: Lionel Trains. Fish pictures. Murals of revolution, carefully rendered in bright red. The floating heads of the Six Famous Barbers.

It has character when it's new, and it keeps character when it is old.

We are seeing a renaissance around here. That means birth is now included in the long death of this neighborhood. It's a full cycle now and to me, it is beautiful, every fresh-paint and peeling-paint piece of it.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Some landscaping firm is doing the wondrous. I caught these the same place I saw the hyacinths earlier this year.

Three more below the jump.

Flowers Too Girly? Here's For Heavy Lifting

For everybody out there with a mountain of you know what. You know who you are. I can think of at least three people right now who could use a Ditch Witch to get to the bottom of something. No, four, including myself.

May all that you know what get levered out. And may it go you know where.
Happy weekend to all my readers!!!  Onward past the trenches!!!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Officer Thomas Wortham IV

Every death has meaning, for individuals, for communities as small as families and as large as cities.

Each violent death of a police officer stands for a special assault on our society. They are the representatives of law and order, the keepers of our perimeter security and the security of our possessions, our children, our spiritual homes on earth and our material goods, our lives and in a way, even our good fortune. Over the past few decades, they have also been charged with duties related to many of our burgeoning ideals: safe schools for all, safe public housing, youth efforts, battered women efforts, and a method of policing that brings back community and reinforces the equality of all.

After the Lakewood massacre last year, I took a long hard look at myself. Is it enough to talk about the deaths that everyone talks about? Does it take four officers at once and a thousand news articles to get my attention? I decided I would not be a fellow traveler on the journalistic surge. I would make a commitment to pay constant attention despite the rise and fall of information, and write a monthly post.

But this police death resonates for me, I think in part because it shows quite clearly that these murders disrupt love and attachment as well as law and order. I am moved to tears. But that's enough about me.

Officer Thomas Wortham IV
Officer Thomas Wortham IV of the Chicago Police Department was killed at 11:30 p.m. on May 19, 2010, right in front of his parent's house. Three people were trying to steal his motorcycle. They shot him for it, an off-duty police officer who had stopped by to visit his parents.

His father is a retired police officer also from Chicago. He shot two of the murderers. One survived. The third murderer escaped.  The amount of sorrow and stress on Thomas Wortham III must be huge right now. I hope you will keep him in your thoughts. Mrs. Wortham must be in considerable pain of grief as well as worry for her husband. I hope you will send a wish for her strength.

By all accounts they raised a fine son. Thomas Wortham IV was back from two tours in Iraq. He had recently attended the National Police Week memorial services. Both he and his father are getting comments of sincere respect for their fine body of police work in the past at Second City Cop blog, a place where honest rudeness is not unknown.

So he was a sterling officer who worked hard for his country and risked everything for us, at home and abroad. You cannot think that he was oblivious to death. He and his family probably knew that he was in danger of dying before they did, for a good long time. But he probably never thought his parents would have to see it happen right in front of them.

I never knew Officer Wortham, but I grieve just the same. I offer condolences to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wortham III, who loved and raised a fine man. All that you did for the society I know and love, I thank you very much. I thank your son for what he contributed. I am so very sorry for your loss.

The picture is from this good article in the Chicago Tribune.
The initial post on Officer Wortham at Second City Cop is has comments conveying heart-break, anger, frustration. I am sure Second City Cop will have more posts in future.

Vigil for Thomas Wortham; fourth assailant arrested--at Chicago Tribune's Breaking News.
Grief and bad politics at SSC  and the Tribune over Officer Wortham's death

A Woman of Parts--Partly

Time for a laugh and a happy ending. Therefore I am going to tell you about the day I rebuilt my carburetor.

I had a friend whose husband had retired from a garage in LaDucque Texas, a suburb of a major city. We flushed out my car's radiator and changed all of its filters, re-seated the front headlight that I had replaced six months before. (Have you ever seen a cross-eyed Honda Civic? I had one.)  I learned how to change oil and underwent a new lesson on how to change a flat.

When you are a twenty-year old woman, the best way to change a flat is to Try to change your tire. Usually somebody male will pop right up and help you. If not, you have lost nothing, because you are already started. This is sort of the Stoic Meets Opportunity Method.  But I digress.

Despite these numerous procedures to clear out my car's fuel lines, adjust the air going in and the quality of the radiator cooling, the darn thing still stalled from time to time.

I had purchased the Repair Manual for Honda Civics. I know, I know--the idea of me actually having a book is a big shock. At that time, I used to keep it in the car, along with a toolbox, a blanket, an airjack, a jacket, and a box of provisions should the World As We Know It suddenly end. I had three jobs--probably why I had this Doomsday Attitude--and sometimes an extra hour between them. So I would sit in the car and read it while waiting for the next gig. I finally decided that the carburetor was at fault, studied the exploded diagram, and made the fatal decision.

"Piece of cake." Was the foremost thought.  In the back of my mind, very far back, was a doubt that had to do with my skill pertaining to screwdrivers. I banished it. How hard could it be? Was the next thought.

So that Sunday, when miraculously I had no job to go to, I parked my trusty Civic in the grass parking lot between the office of job number 2 and the car wash. I opened the hood, took out the spanking new air filter, unscrewed the filter pan, tossing all onto the roof of the car. I then opened the book to the exploded diagram and did my level best to explode my carburetor.

Did you know that left-handed people are at a distinct disadvantage with a screwdriver? Something about the direction of torque and the muscle mass of the forearm. I think I stripped the head of every screw I could get at, but the carburetor was not exploding according to diagram. Plus I suddenly realized I was in the grass, and if I lost something, I was in big trouble. I took the hubcaps off the front tires and used them to set carburetor parts in.

Hours later, I had reached every screw possible with my trusty screwdrivers, I became frustrated. There were two large shiny screws showing, and I went for them. Maybe THEY were holding the next level of the carburetor down where I could not get to it. I unscrewed them and gas started leaking out.

Needless to say, I popped those suckers right back in. I put everything back the way I found it and called Triple A. Because even though I had put it all back EXACTLY the way it was supposed to go, the Honda naturally would not start at all.

The Triple-A representative was doing Red Man, so his face was a little lopsided. Maybe that was what kept him from laughing in my face.

"Looks like it's floodin'," he said, after a quick listen.
"Well, I did take my carburetor apart," I told him. He spat, reached in, and took the carburetor pan off in exactly one minute. A screwdriver came out of his back pants pocket. He tightened everything back down.

"Your valves is loose," he told me. "Those big screws? You don't want to mess with those."
"Okay." I probably nodded for a solid minute.

A couple of quick turns, a little more spit. "Hand me that pan."
I handed it over. Slam, bam, all together in less than thirty minutes. How hard could it be, right? Of course it does help to know what you're doing.

"Try it," he advised. The engine turned over and caught. I was good to go.

"What do I owe you?" I asked him. He shrugged. "Triple A." He got back in his wrecker and drove off.
Me too.

Now you talk about a fool's luck and casual, open-handed generosity . . . .

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hemet Anti Gang Task Force Still Under Threat

I have an update/correction/amendment to a previous post. Then two announcements that are somewhat related.

Hemet, California Update
In late March, I posted that the Vagos Motorcycle Club were under some suspicion for attacks/ambushes on the Anti-Gang Task Force of the Hemet, California Police Department. As of this posting, a $200,000 reward is still being offered.

Shortly thereafter, a four-state crackdown on the gang commenced, netting at least one meth lab, and numbers of weapons, drugs, and people in violation of parole.  On April 22, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that one or more white supremacist groups (neo-Nazi gangs) are also being considered for these crimes targeting law enforcement. A crackdown on Neo-Nazi groups took place in Riverside County, California, where Hemet is located.

The investigation continues, so Hemet PD is not confirming which group or groups they feel is responsible. Anyway, their alliances with other local, state, and federal law enforcement means that they are pushing forward on anti-gang work. I hope they do get everyone who tried to ambush them.  This cannot be tolerated.

Vagos MC Post Up (Finally)
The Vagos MC bibliography and notes is finally posted. It was difficult to find good news articles to make a history of sorts--references to articles suggesting long history do exist. Unfortunately the newspapers are not keeping deep archives on the Web for our use. I am sure that budgetary pressures provide a reason. Nevertheless, this represents a regrettable loss of good information.

News Articles Posted As Needed
Because of this, I am now going to cut-and-paste newspaper articles that seem important in gang information and place them somewhere on the gang page posts. I hate when this stuff gets lost. These won't become a daily posting on the main blog page, however. I will also reference them properly. And of course I won't get them all.


I never saw this man in my life, but I always called him Packer. He would have been at home in a mule-skinning outfit, as a trapper, prospector, or other frontiersman.  Unfortunately those days were done well before 1912. Those professions were in Western Territories. Packer lived on the East Coast. I believe he died in the early years of the twenty-first century.

How do I know Packer existed?

He had one grocery cart, purloined. To the front of it was tied a plush teddy bear, splayed out like the prow on an old-fashioned ship, or, alternately, a Catharine Wheel. For one two-week period of one summer, he had eight stuffed animals hanging from the grocery cart. I particularly remember a red-and-white elephant. Always, two five-gallon buckets, one for washing and one for rinsing, sat drying in the open air. The cart was full of neatly-folded blankets and clothes, as well as found salable objects. Over this, tarps would be neatly stacked, everything roped in, if the weather was good. There was always a sense of industry and cleanliness, purpose and regimen about his camp.

Only his camp was next to a bank. Stone-throwing distance from a major city intersection.

Did he have a body? Oh, yes. I never saw it though. I would leave mass transit and head home late at night. By then he was always asleep on a neatly-made bed. The bed consisted of a groundsheet and quilts ranging from small nursery-printed dumpster treasures to government-issue felt. They covered him completely, including his head.  On rainy or snowy nights I would find him completely encased in tarps, his buckets lined up to catch rain for washing, his grocery schooner wrapped into a cube of blue plastic, and, as always, tied down.

I believed he was one of the few homeless people who might have chosen to live that way by true preference. He was too competent to blame it entirely on constitutional deficits or bad luck.

One winter morning, on my way from home to work, his camp was gone. In its place was a large soot-blackened stretch of pavement, from the front of the structure pictured above to the edge of his normal camp. The globe on the lamp-post you see was now a Janus-head shape where one side was perfectly formed and the near side melted horribly, wrongly, into a distorted icicle. It looked like the lamp had a stroke. It looked like Packer had lit a cigarette under the neat bundle of tarps and blankets and burned to death. Or perhaps he had a brazier going, and everything caught on fire.

I am not sure how my fiction ends--did Packer die by fire or live to get treatment? Did he recover, but the bank finally told him to shove on? Or did this lapse from order cause him to be ashamed, to lose his sense of home, to go away and never come back?

The cart and buckets were gone.  I never saw them elsewhere. The soot marks remained, uncleaned, for a year. The city replaced the melted glass globe on the lamp-post about two years later.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

From an Empty Panel

It's been a long time since I posted any art. This is Manfred W. Jurgens' Portrait of Ulrich Tulkur, Actor and Musican (2005) using egg tempera (pigments ground into a traditional mixture of egg as a binder, very difficult). Mr. Jurgens is sometimes grouped under the "New Realist School." The word school is sort of a misnomer--it's an inclination and handy label, not a school. Here is a quote of his, as stated at Wikipedia:
"I can only set a functionalism, a powerful silent against today's inflation of pictures. I believe that it is the attraction of the direct view which enables insights into the soul. When colour becomes not only skin, cloth, water and sky but also soul, then I have overcome the empty panel."

Many people think contemporary art has degenerated into a splat and sh*t kind of school--I will say that some of that is interesting and some, gratuitous. In the meantime, other contemporary artists still work in  traditional media and with traditional subjects. They cannot, however, think exactly like Rembrandt did or portray the world as Chardin did. The world has changed far too much.

But sometimes an individual brings eternal values or old disciplines to the contemporary world and makes it resonate for us. And isn't this a marvelous example?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Miss Ellen Wants a Calculating Rogue

Considering that the Darling Miss Ellen could barely get her motor to churn for fifteen minutes: she is now making forays into distance. I think (after calculations which would no doubt faze a Rocket Scientist) we are now trekking 8 to 10 miles on a weekend jaunt.  This is because the motor has toned up and tuned up. Miss Ellen has also lost 20 pounds of freight.

You may congratulate me on the freight. Seven to go.

And I may have found a Track of sorts: a place where, unlike city traffic, one can more or less keep a constant speed and heart rate. This might work out for us until perhaps October. Miss Ellen's Hathaway-Issue Motor always stutters and gives up when it's cold.

Today Miss E. informed me that I am a Replacement Motor--remember, she has been to Amsterdam without me, where she enjoyed herself thoroughly--and that Replacements can also be Replaced.   I told her that I would festoon her with gym towels or Drying Laundry this winter unless she got a proper attitude.

In the meantime, we are going to try for more ten-milers and trend to more, farther, faster. We are in need of a Rocket Scientist to perform distance calculations. The rocket part we are going to take care of ourselves.

Oxycontin Junkie JailCat

This afternoon, GirlCat still hissed and cursed her beloved brother whenever I lost my will to run Solitary Confinement. That will was Easily Renewed, considering the Spite and Bad Manners, not to mention AntiSocial Tendencies displayed. No remorse? No freedom!

I don't know what drugs BoyCat's getting, (they did not label them, which is a distinct clue),  but as long as GirlCat stays away he looked pretty darned tranquil. Those staples don't bother him one bit. Two doses to go, and then all hell will probably break loose. I will have to wrestle that cone onto his wringable neck.

I would say poor baby, but does he write the checks? Aw, poor sleepy baby. Twenty four more hours, and then it's lock-down rehab for you.

Anyway, GirlCat made a truce at last with society. She doesn't have to Like society to get along in it. There must be Some Way of endangering it where she will Not Get Caught.  After several intercepted forays into the Medicinal Cat Food, she finally gave up. I found her hours later tucked under the bedspread AND the pillows, trying to shut reality out. Maybe she wanted a dose of Oxycontin too.

If anyone deserves it, I am first in line. However, as the premier keeper of Order in this joint (and who nominated ME, anyway? Must have been the checkbook) my chance at Oxycontin is dead last.

Fortunately, there is coffee. I understand it has a totally different effect, but that works for me.

Update: Here is the evil Princess. Does she look p.o. 'ed or What? Anyway, in this picture one can see she has Completely cut off her nose to spite her face. And I do mean spite.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

National Police Week: Part Five, Bagpipes Alive

This is billed as The Lost Song. But it hasn't lost anything. This has rhythm, the heartbeat and the dance.
A counterpoint to the sadness of Amazing Grace. Just like good Gospel music, the sadness doesn't cancel out the joy and the vigor in this piece.

I hope this week has given balm to your souls, the gift of thanks from perfect strangers, renewal in relationships, some ease to the loss, relief from the stress. Last of all, I hope the appreciation crops up like good weather on unlikely days, making the rest of the year a little more as it should be.

Thank you for your sacrifice, your humor, the spirit within.

Blue House

Saturday, May 15, 2010

National Police Week, Part Four: Those Who Gave More

Today's Event:
Today the 29th Annual National Peace Officer's Memorial Service will be taking place in front of the Capitol. Normally scheduled for noon, it starts at 11:00 a.m. this year. For those who are independently getting there, this is the intersection of 3rd Street and F, the restricted parking lot. You could also take a cab to the Sam Rayburn Senate building and come around the side. No matter what you choose--cab, bus, Metro--you will do some walking.

Today's Tiny Tribute:
Today I offer a fiction. It will never encompass the reality. But this is the best law enforcement movie ever. Best political movie ever. Best Western ever. Best movie about Bravery, and Conscience, ever:
High Noon.
Here's the trailer.

His bride-to-be didn't understand. His deputy wanted him to compromise, do something splashy. The lawful cowards went to church, scared to death and still somehow acting superior. The bad men come. On a lonely street, Gary Cooper looks around, he hitches up his pants--a gesture conveying every sickness, sadness, fear, and resolution--and he goes forward. He has not one comfort or reassurance to help him. He stays true to himself. True to his ideals. In the movies, this works out.

Not everyone who goes forward comes back.
Today we honor fallen officers for their ideals and their life. Each one made a sacrifice we cannot forget.

National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial: Candlelight Vigil

The weather was cool and almost felt rainy. I've uploaded ten pictures, nine below the jump. I hope they convey some of what it was like on Thursday evening.

I Run a Country Club (Prison)

Adventures in Fine Dining
Two days ago I took my hellion BoyCat in for a persistent tummy-ache (Manifested by Mucho Gack) and general listlessness. This poor cat had that inward look: never a good sign.

He received Ringer's solution and an anti-nausea shot. The shot wore off at 3 a.m., and the Hellion gacked saline everywhere. Naturally, we went back the next day. He looked like he would die any minute.

Well, hmm, yesterday two stomachs were incised. Twenty four pony-tail holders, one green rubber band, and a sheet of cellophane were recovered. And here I thought he was interested in my chicken dinners and yogurt breakfasts. And I have TRIED to keep him off my desk--

Today I brought him home. He has a bald and stapled belly, a shaved place on one forearm, a no-worry collar, (which I removed since I am home) and general tiredness. He is eating though. I give him a little at a time.

The Queen of Spat.
However, GirlCat--normally a little princess, oblivious to all that does not suit her--is spitting mad, yowling, howling, growling, cursing and hissing. For some reason she does not want BoyCat around any longer and is a positive danger to his feeble person.

I assure you the evening we spent together as just girls was not at all special. There were no dancing Toms jumping out of fishcakes or anything like that.

She is in solitary confinement in the bathroom with all the amenities: food, water, catbox, chiffon shower curtain. There are no hair ties left, so this is safe. But I think I just heard the toothbrushes fall in there. When I take my shower in the morning I will be careful. She may be sharpening a toothbrush handle into a shiv. I wouldn't put it past her.

And poor Boy-Boy is devastated. He's cleaned her ears for her every day that I have known them. This favor is never reciprocated. And this is the thanks he gets.

Friday, May 14, 2010

National Police Week: Part Three, Law & Order Ain't Free

National Police Week is May 9th through 15th, 2010. The D.C. Events will be from the 12th through 16th.

Today's Events:
Today the 8th Annual Honor Guard Competition begins at 8:30 a.m., corner of 4th and Pennsylvania NW.

The Emerald Society Pipe and Band March starts about 6 p.m. at 415 New Jersey Avenue, around Capitol Hill.

Today's Tiny Tribute:
This is Number Three in a Five-Part Series celebrating Police Officers: Jack Webb with the asshats that pay his salary. A classic.

Good luck to all the honor guard contestants. It is a grave and wonderful thing you do. Your excellence means, in the times of deepest stress and sorrow, that honor and brotherhood will continue perpetually.

It's my understanding that you do this as volunteers. Which makes Jack Webb even more relevant today.

Working Conditions: Notes from All Over

Whistle While You Work
1. Your office building is full of mold, or is cracking at the seams. Your employee lounge has a persistent stream of water through the ceiling. They've installed open drain pans with little pipes, that funnel water down behind the refrigerator and go--somewhere.

2. Every time you turn right in your company car, you do a little shimmy because the tires are bald. A fellow employee even died in the same kind of beater you're driving right now. But you have calls to make, all day long, specialized equipment to cart around. You have to use this car.

3. Your company forecasts an increase in demand for services. But, incredibly, they start downsizing. They get rid of all the experienced workers. They get rid of the motivated people your company spent millions to train. They are going to your competitors or getting the hell out of the industry. How will you meet the workload? You've already got overtime to the max. And the bean-counters don't like that either.

4. You have a huge, growing problem on the job site you're inspecting. You call for other experts. They can't come, but disaster is on its way.  Or they can be there in ten minutes, and your disaster starts Right Now.

Okay. Three Questions.
Employee: How long before you quit, call OSHA, call the newspaper, or give up? Or do you just get sick from some environmental pathogen from your crummy employee lounge, or injured in a traffic accident?

Outsider: If you heard of these dangers for an oil refinery, you would demand they spend the money required for safety. If it was a food factory, you would be sick at heart and sick to your stomach. You would insist they call for an exterminator, a scrub-down, a health check--for the Good of All.

Owner: Your employees' health is continually at risk. You'd be skating darn close to fines, class action suits. The suits would say that a consistent atmosphere of risk and shortage taught those employees not to protect themselves. Because they did accept it, they died, were injured, got sick, went into danger without proper safety equipment, and failed to ask for necessary backup. If you were the owner, you wouldn't win. You'd lose on the grounds of a hostile, harassing workplace. The punitive damages would be huge.

Well, guess what. The links above come from news media and blog media all over the country for police departments. Since we are the taxpayers and voters, we are therefore the responsible parties.

The principles for workplace security and employee relations don't change when you enter a police precinct. They become, if anything, more important.

Google search the name of your state, the word "police", and the words "budget cuts". It may be time to let your city or county officials know that it's time for a change in priorities.

The Notes From All Over came from: unknown Northwest; Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, and Michigan. I could have included all fifty states without breaking a sweat.

Deepwater Horizon, Update 2: Photos

Over at the Big Picture Blog, they have outdone themselves again.
This time with a collection of 40 pictures on the oil in troubled Gulf waters. Here is one, where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. It looks like a weather front, but unfortunately, it will never end that fast.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

National Police Week: Part Two, For All That You Do

National Police Week is May 9th through 15th, 2010. The D.C. Events will be from the 13th through 16th,

Today's Event:
The 22nd Annual Candlelight Vigil will be tonight at 8 p.m. to honor 324 officers who fell in the line of duty.
For those who can't be there, there will be a webcast. Anyone can light a candle at home and watch.

You can also check the Officer Down Memorial Page for histories on these officers.

Today's Tiny Tribute:
This past April, the NLEOMF announced that--at last--the National Police Museum will begin to be built, mostly underground, across from the Memorial in D.C. It will be a place for the public, but also a learning resource for police themselves. The groundbreaking will be on October 14, 2010. It's been a long time coming.

To celebrate, here's a short video on a case nobody had to fight to close.

Sometimes justice is still actually swift !!!

. . . of course this video doesn't include the hours of paperwork and processing necessary to confine these sterling examples of human achievement. . . . thanks for that too.

The Gladiator's Wife

I found this picture looking for something else. But it made me think about the spouses of the police officers we are honoring this week. When they hear of a catastrophe and wonder. When the catastrophe strikes home.

Underneath the sound and fury of the court battles, the reviews, the risk assessments, the media, the state of the Union--and even underneath the candlelight vigils, the honor ceremonies, there is Family. Their losses are personal. Their fears are concentrated. Their pain is greater.

The Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) is one group that works hard and intelligently during National Police Week and throughout the year.  Their concerns should also be ours.

Illustration from

Say What? Say Anything.

Dear Readers,
I was interviewed by the Red-Headed Stepchild for her "Say Anything" blog. She features interesting blogs and their writers, and somebody (thank you, Slamdunks!) saw fit to recommend me. Today the Say Anything blog features Momma Fargo from The Boogie Man is My Friend. Tomorrow Ann T. (me!) Hathaway will be featured--I think early in the schedule--because, for once, procrastination worked!

The link to the post is here. Wow.

Mostly I thank Dee, the Red-Headed Stepchild,  for coming up with such a selfless concept for a blog. You should check it out: not necessarily today, but often. The blogger you encounter might be your best new read!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

National Police Week: Part One, The Sheepdog Has Fun

National Police Week is May 9th through 15th, 2010. The D.C. Events will be from the 12th through 16th.
This is a Five Part Series Celebrating Police Officers.

Today's Events
Today, the Police Unity Tour comes to D.C.--after a 330 mile trek, bicyclists in law enforcement and their supporters will converge on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. 

Today's Tiny Extra 
Here is a video of sheepdog trials in Islay, Scotland.  This one has some wind noise, but it's five minutes instead of ten or twenty.

The dog makes an "outrun" to fetch the sheep. They must go between the two gate panels. In another exercise, the sheepdog must separate the sheep into two distinct groups. In still another, he must get them all into the Pen. The sheep fight the Law, but the Law wins.

 I did notice:

1. Sheep tend to stick together, but they don't seem to understand why.

2. When they see the sheepdog coming, they invariably hesitate, wondering which way they are supposed to go. When that happens, they get in each other's way. Probably reminds you of every hot run you ever made.

3. The sheepdog spends a majority of time looking at the butt end of the sheep.

4. Despite this, the sheepdog seems pretty happy. Also relentless.

Thank you for your service, officers!
Many happy days of job satisfaction to you all!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Epictetus (55 A.D.-135 A.D.) and his usefulness

Epictetus is a famed Stoic scholar. He was born lame and a slave. His name means 'acquired'. It is suggested in spotty historical accounts that he had an uncaring master when young, a freedman close to Nero. In the second house of his slavery, he was taught philosophy. He went on to teach it, and teach it well.

The Encheiridion of Epictetus means "to hand" or handbook. It's eighteen pages of class notes from one of his notable students, 53 entries. In his philosophy, Epictetus thinks you should deal with triumph and defeat the same way, which is, to recognize that those things are outside of you. Only how you feel, decide, and act is your decision. That remains the truth of every matter.

In other words, the world can honor you, leave you alone, or hate you, and what really matters is the quality of your decision. Did you act with virtue, or did you act for the externals? Here are a few quotes:

1. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us. Our opinions are up to us, our impulses, desires, aversions--in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whavever is not our own doing. . . . . If you think that only what is yours is yours, and that what is not your own is, justa as it is, not your own, then no one will ever coerce you, no one will hinder you, . . . . and no one will harm you, because you will not be harmed at all.
8. "Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well."
53. He quotes Euripides: "Whoever has complied well with necessity / Is counted wise by us, and understands divine affairs."

Vice Admiral Stockdale, Medal of Honor Recipient, Prisoner of War
James Stockdale was a Navy flier captured by the Vietcong and held as a prisoner of war. He was also a student of philosophy. His understanding of stoicism, especially The Handbook of Epictetus, enabled him to teach the other prisoners of war how to survive the worst prisons in Hanoi--torture, unfit food, little medicine, quarters sometimes too cramped to allow a man to extend his arm, and constant questioning,

He calls stoicism "a premium mind game"--something that provides all the answers to do your duty (whatever that might be) under adverse conditions. By putting it this way, Stockdale implies it is not necessarily good for everything--and I think it does not always allow for making change happen in the external world. But in a prisoner of war camp, it would be fatal to show your triumph over finding a scrap of food or maintaining silence under punishment. It would be equally fatal to wallow in self-defeat.

When Stockdale went into prisoner camp, every prisoner he met said, "Don't talk to me. I have been a traitor." He organized these men teetering in despair into a network. They stood together. Even when one or another was confined to solitary, the network helped. It took him back in and bolstered him.

VADM James Stockdale on Stoicism, especially Epictetus, and being a Prisoner-of-War of the North Vietnamese. (pdf1) and (pdf2). These two are slightly repetitive, but each is worth a read.

Some of the Aw, Cute

BoyCat and GirlCat, sitting in the Cake Plate. We call this watching T.V.

Being cats, my subjects were not patient about a Portrait Shot. GirlCat's reaching for a bird, a plane, a flying scrap of paper. BoyCat's wondering what b.s. is headed his way This Time.
Responsibility for Cat Matters weighs heavy on him.
They both have incrrredible whiskers. The longest tails you ever saw, and they always bend into a Question Mark. They are litter mates, with similar tails and many similar habits, but they don't look very much alike otherwise.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Miss Ellen Goes First

We had a windy weekend in HotWinds. So Miss Ellen and I had a good workout, riding into steady winds on two sunny days (although a bit cold). Traffic was light this weekend. It was great. We just kept moving.

As a driver, I've always noticed that motorcyclists and bicyclists seem to have their own version of traffic laws. But I am a former pedestrian run over by a car.  I think stop signs should be obeyed, and hot-dogging should be kept to a minimum. I use hand signals. All of that. Yesterday I was stopped at a meaningless light , no cars, and a police bicyclist ran a red. Okay, maybe discretion meant I got my breath back.

There's also no doubt that your skin is right next to the road and the tires of the car next to you. It does tend to change your view of the rules somewhat, even if you want to follow them completely.

So. At a traffic light, I move into first position, right lane. I want Everybody to see me. I don't want to be misled and then sideswiped by their Failure to Signal a Right Turn. I am sure a lot of curses have been heaped on my ass. But this ass remains uninjured, thank you very much.

If I have to turn left on busy intersections, I will frequently signal a stop, walk the bike across the crosswalks, and hop back on and go.

The one time I had cars chase me off the road, an old man yelled at me for biking on the sidewalk. Hey. He was the ONLY guy on the sidewalk, more than six feet away. And my nerves were not good, especially having one car in reverse down the block, one advancing up the block, and Miss Ellen between two advancing bumpers. Probably he has been frightened by deviltry on bikes before. Go ahead and yell, Gramps. I am celebrating continued life here.

Double-parking in the bicycle lane: yeah, I know. It seems logical because you are out of the way of CARS.
Now I have to get in the way of CARS. All those other CARS expect me to be in the BIKE LANE.

The other day, I, Ann T., pointed my Hathaway finger at a cab driver (index digit, now, now) and forced him to stop with that pointy thing, rather than ram me and Miss Ellen with his four-door sedan. The eye contact also helped. Driving is still about intimidation. And cooperation, too. I've mostly had the latter.

Believe me, I know who is the vulnerable party.

So Miss Ellen must be SEEN. She goes first, unbroken, unbowed, and untrammeled.
That's the way she likes it.

Deepwater Horizon Update

Although no one is finished investigating, they do seem to have an idea what caused the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. A methane bubble heated and rose, exploding through various seals. The gas cloud covered the rig, causing other engines to malfunction and explode. The oil surging up behind the methane ensured that the entire rig was inundated.

The heat was caused by the cement being applied around the pipe. You need the cement--it reinforces the pipe and its joints. Oil is a pressurized load, pipe has to be reinforced. So this was, as previously posited, a bad-all-around, unlucky shitstorm.

In a previous post, I talked about the various remedies for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Gulf fisherman have been hired to put out a lot of barriers/booms across fragile wetlands. The use of chemical dispersants and controlled burn-offs have continued. These have been either completed by, or monitored closely by, the U.S. Coast Guard.

The engineering solutions
The drilling of a detour well is supposed to take three months. In the meantime, oil is still pouring out at a rate of 5,000 barrels/200,000 gallons a day, unimpeded.  BP had two other solutions it wanted to try: the first was having robots fix the leaking lengths of pipe. The robots could not accomplish a fix, but they are still in use as eyes to the underwater surface and assisting in solution number 2.

The second was a cap over the leaks, a sort of umbrella or 'box' that would trap the oil underneath it where it could be pumped out.  But they couldn't stabilize it in the proper position. Once again, methane is the culprit. Methane crystals are lighter than water. They have frozen in the colder temperatures below the surface and made the trap too buoyant. Various solutions are being parsed out: a smaller box, methanol to un-freeze the methane, raising the box to warmer temperatures (but then still allowing a gap). Nobody is giving up. None of these stop-gaps are full solutions. And until a full solution, things will get worse in the Gulf.

The best round-up article (comprehensive, even-handed) I've found is at Associated Press.

BP's Timeline of Operations (shipments, actions, processes) with the Joint Response Team, at the BP site.

States of Emergency
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Forecast for  May 11 is here. (pdf format: it takes a minute to load. It looks really bad for Louisiana's Atchafalaya Bay (pronounced "chuff-a-lie-ah"). Louisiana's coastline has 3.5 million acres of coastal wetlands, or 40% of all of the coastal wetlands in the lower 48 states, so a lot is at stake already. Among other important things, like oxygen production, the barrier islands and wetlands protect the coast from other seaborne disasters such as hurricanes.
The oil may drift fairly easily to Mobile Bay and then Pensacola some time after that. This disaster is just multiplying.

Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes (Counties, ya'all) have both declared a state of emergency May 9, 2010. Terrebonne Parish already has a Coast Guard approved plan. Lafourche Parish is meeting with officials today. The governor had already declared an emergency on April 29th--for Plaquemines, St. Tammany, Orleans, and Jefferson Parish.

The Feds have already named the spill "of national significance", which clears the way for Federal assistance.

Mississippi's governor declared a state of emergency on April 30; Alabama's gov declared their state of emergency on May 1. Florida's governor declared a state of emergency for areas around the Panhandle coast on May 1. On May 3, he expanded the state of emergency to include Big Bend and Tampa Bay areas.

More Blowhards and Plenty Blowback on the Blowout
The Congressional hearings with independent oil CEOs start with some private sessions on Tuesday, and move into full howl through the next few weeks. There is nothing so ugly and so beside the point (in my opinion) as a Congressional hearing on oil. The Katrina hearing was an exceedingly bad, over-acted operas by both participants and spectators. That was during the titularly 'oil-friendly' Bush administration.  This is going to be another disaster, nothing will get done there. I will probably report on those in future. It's an eye-opener, all right.

I hope the know-nothing pols on either side of the carpet leave these engineers and the Coast Guard to do their job. They are working as fast, smart, and hard as possible. They deserve credit for a good solid effort. Let's give that credit, and let them stick with it. We'll get to the punishments when we can take a better stock of the damage. Remedies come first.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

National Police Week in Washington, D.C.

May 9 through 16, 2010 is National Police Week.
 A huge convocation will take place in the District of Columbia the latter part of the week.  Every morning, May 12 through 16, Ann T. Hathaway blog will post some tiny tributes, 6:00 A.M. Eastern Time. Most of them should be worth a laugh, a smile, or maybe a nod. They are just to add something to the day, a sprinkle of raisins in the pancake batter, so to speak. I hope you enjoy them. I hope they convey some small thanks for the law and order I presently enjoy year-round.

On the off-chance someone reading this is attending the events, here are two useful sites:
1. The National Law Enforcement Memorial site. But you knew that already.
2. Check Washington Metro Area Transit Authority ( for transit schedules.
They have a Trip Planner that's really good with directions and times.

My sidebar has a D.C. Local blogroll. The DCist usually has the local bop. The Washington Post is represented twice, in blog and news, and it's an easy hop to the entertainment section.


On a wind-whipping day, I found these clematis growing between an ugly driveway and a construction site, on a garish fence. One can only applaud the person who tried to give something nice to the eye under such adverse conditions.

The buds on a new vine:

and then, I think perhaps geometrical clematis, i.e., after the petals are gone.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"If" by Rudyard Kipling

It's all good, except I don't want to be a man if I accomplish all this. :-)
Harvey Keitel gives a good reading of this very important poem.

Closing and Opening Pandora's Box

Bad News First: 
I lost traction on the road to serenity and health. My therapist is leaving. She was a grad student, a little older than me (how is that for inspiration? starting anew, right?) and is now moving on to the next stage. Once again, I face the unknown--a new therapist. I start over. Another good-bye. Don't hack me off and say it's another hello, too. It's a loss. 

All the pep talks in the world (self-administered) are not working. Those don't work.

But I see what happens. The lid goes back on. I can't talk about it, not even to myself after awhile. Then all demonstrativeness fails for a demonstrative me. Once the demonstrating stops, progress stops. Pandora's box with a lot of darkness trapped inside. Screwed-down lid. No trouble to anyone but myself.

The Legend of Pandora
We mis-cast the legend of Pandora as a silly girl, a disobedient child who opened the jar of the world's ills out of simple curiosity (kind of like Eve in the Bible, but not exactly). Immediately, the Seven Deadly Sins, disease, bad attitude, and shame fly out of the box like malarial mosquitoes, infecting mankind. After everyone blames her, she finds Hope in the bottom of the box. I always thought it was stupid to call it an emerald. It had to be a flying thing too, like all the rest. A thing of the spirit.

What I think is this: I think the Names of these things were locked up. Nobody could see the ills of the world until Names were attached to them. When Pandora (name means "giver of all") opened the box, we were somehow able to examine these things, decide on right and wrong. And Hope for better. Privilege virtues over faults. Examine them as abstracts and in ourselves.

There's a huge invitation out there not to see right and wrong. Keep the lid on, Pandora. Until somebody opens the box, attaches the names, people can just go on willy-nilly: no wonder they were mad at her. They had to realize they were sometimes weak, cruel, diseased, and oblivious. 

There's no Hope in Oblivion. Only Inattention and False Remedies.

So, no more slippage. No more False Remedies, no more, no more. I am naming names and kicking ass again, starting today. 

Good News Last
The good news is I have had a few victories in the meantime. Kept on with some good rituals. Now I just keep adding.  And you see why pep talks don't work? Or was this one? 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dinah Washington: All of Me

According the the YouTube comments, this video is from the Newport Jazz Festival, July 1958. The club was hopping. Max Roach was on drums.
Happy Friday to you all!

Horace. Odes II., 15

I posted this earlier in the week, but it got lost in the oil spills and the party. But Horace deserves a quiet minute to be appreciated:

Building Rage

Soon princely palaces will make
Ploughed acres rare, and ponds will spread
As wide as is the Lucrine lake,
And lindens that no vine has wed

Will rout the elms; while gardens rich
In violet and myrtle pour
A world of scent o'er olives which
Gave elder owners goodly store;

And thickly-matted laurel boughs
Rout out the sun. Ah, other ways
Had Cato wrought, and Romulus,
In those untidy, good old days!

With them the state was rich, the man
Was poor--he had no colonnade
Set north and stretching many a span
To pamper him with air and shade.

Their laws allowed no man to scorn
The wayside turf for building stone
The state provided to adorn
The temples and the towns alone.

Trans. William Sinclair Marris

Most people believe this is about the spread of an over-luxuriant state--but in a way it is also about the loss of wild nature, and unsustainable development. So more than one value is expressed.

The Lucrine Lake was a popular resort, also mentioned in Juvenal and other Roman poets. Violet and myrtle make perfume/are ornamental, while an olive is a harvest crop.
My favorite image is the mat of laurels (awards, and triumph) blocking out the sun: so busy embellishing themselves, no light can get through!  Cato and Romulus were founding fathers of Rome.

We were simpler and more vigorous back then, Horace seems to say. But almost any phrase here is worth a philosophical discussion about one issue or another. The title is different for different translations. I like this one for a. the trend toward overbuilding and b. the anger of the people.

Another man's reading and his own, personalized translation of II: 15 at Horace, et al blog--and it does look intriguing for further browsing, too.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Pain, More Setbacks

This is for my friend who had surgery. His prognosis was good; he was cleared back to work.
Now, new setbacks. I hope minor.
Get well soon.
Here is dogwood, from a beautiful tree in my neighborhood, now spanning two seasons. May its progress presage yours.


A World Come and Gone

Two nights ago: three police cars, one ambulance, and a lot of uniformed men stood between my walking desires and the Soviet grocery. The small group of onlookers moved restively to my right. I was afraid someone inside the Soviet had been robbed and hurt.

I wasn't there soon enough to see it as a narrative. Instead, someone had set a portmanteau on the ground and opened it, and a new world had popped out, an irregularly shaped cloud defined by red and blue lights.

Every responder's back was straight but not rigid; everyone's face was serious but not grim. They were having a consultation. Something had happened; it was serious enough but manageable, even routine. Still, my jar of fruit preserve and stalk of broccoli were not first.

Someone came out of the store, ponytail bouncing, and crossed through the cloud. I covered her like a guard in a basketball game. "Everything's cool," she said cheerily, and walked away in the dark.

I crossed that world but did not count in it. Ms. King, a store clerk from Jamaica, was watching everything from the front door, her face a mask. A man with a beer gut and a dirty shirt was demanding answers from somebody official.

Broccoli, cucumbers on sale, peach jam. I get in Ms. King's line to gossip. A woman was under arrest for stealing groceries. She was in an advanced stage of pregnancy.  I had a sense, unconfirmed, that this arrest was intervention, in more ways than one. The world I crossed as a ghost was under control.

When I came back outside, all the vehicles had departed. The lamentation was elsewhere, inside that portmanteau. Peace reigned on the street.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Engineering and the Deepwater Horizon

Oil supply is finite. The oil companies therefore work pretty hard on new ways to get it, new sources, and new efficiencies. Standards of safety and cleanliness rose with the ecological movement--and the rise of international banking and insurance risk pools. But geological terrain remains a huge challenge for the oil industry. So does human error.

The Deepwater Horizon was a new advance in offshore drilling, a "seventeenth generation" oilfield platform: large, built in 2001 so new, 396 feet x 256 feet wide, (100 feet wider than a football field), holding a 126-person crew. The drilling was done, and they were cementing the steel casing at the time of the blowout.

The final assessments on the DH catastrophe are in the future. But as the Christian Science Monitor said, the risk of blowout is always present in the oil industry. Geology is going to be a major factor.

According to the Schlumberger Oil Glossary, a blowout is:
An uncontrolled flow of reservoir fluids into the wellbore, and sometimes catastrophically to the surface. A blowout may consist of salt water, oil, gas or a mixture of these. Blowouts occur in all types of exploration and production operations, not just during drilling operations. 
In other words, an unforeseen extra volume flows up due to a drastic change in pressure or volume of fluids or gases. Some geologic turbulence occurred, and despite state-of-the art technology, everything went to hell. Seventeen workers were injured; eleven died. Five fireboats responded, both private and Coast Guard. Search and rescue by the Coast Guard by sea and land. The platform is gone.

How to Clean an Oil Spill
Here is a good general introduction: the four ways to clean an oil spill  Then I added one more large category.
a. Nothing. Truly, that sometimes is the best thing. Just as you would not scrub your face with a floor brush, a cleaning effort can do as much or more damage as leaving Nature to sort it out. (Not right now, though.)

b. Booms and Skimmers. This is what we heard about first. A boom is like a long hot dog with a flange or draft. The flange keeps it upright in the water. The cylindrical part may or may not be absorbent of oil. They are rated for use according to the turbulence of the water. A swamp flange, for instance, will be different than the ones used in the Gulf.

For this disaster, we've also heard about spreading booms for containment and then burning the oil off. The no-win/no-win: air pollution or oceanic pollution? For various reasons, the air pollution seemed a better choice.
I would say, chief among these is the economic health of shore communities and the fate of wetlands. Like a. above, it is a dispersal method.

c. Dispersant Chemicals. That's kind of like help for a. natural breakdown of the compounds in wind, water, salt, and sun.

d. Biological Agents: bacteria that eat oil for dinner. Here is a picture, much magnified of course. This one sounds better than all the rest. Reason: because the oil does not have to go anywhere else. With other methods, even boom-and-skim, something has to happen to the oil collected afterward. Also it gives us a warm feeling to know that Earth can handle its own problems.  In truth, oil is geologically under pressure. That means it leaks naturally, too, and frequently from the ocean floor or through seeps on land. (That's why these bacteria exist in nature. It's not a reason to yawn over massive industrial oil spills though.)

Here is a 1992 article about MIT's study of bacteria that can eat oil, methane, and even PCBs, transforming them to carbon dioxide and water. The study was trying to figure out the biochemical mechanism so it can be duplicated chemically as well as understood biologically. Now you can buy those bacteria by the drum at janitorial supply firms.

e. Feats of Engineering.
This video gives a good basic explanation of the situation and the engineering problems, from al-Jazeera.

The best place to find out what's going on with the Oil Spill is at the British Petroleum site. This is one of their strengths--they always give excellent information. Right now, I am sure they are employing the first through fourth remedies (the first, nothing, by default), but the permanent remedy will be one of engineering: drilling a new shaft that diverts the oil before it gets to the break points in the old pipe. BP started working on the alternate well on Sunday, May 2. They expect this procedure to take three months. Usually off-shore well-drilling takes seven to ten years--this is not nearly as deep though. But it must be done right/safely, so anything faster is not realistic.

Here is a map of the spill, updated daily at British Petroleum.

A Little More Overview
Bloomberg reports Business News--so before anyone gets riled--this story is partly about stock prices. It also reviews the problems that BP has had in the United States this past decade. The Alaska Pipeline spill could only have been human inattention. The final report on the refinery disaster in Texas City blamed most of it on bad management, i.e., outdated infrastructure and lax training. That will probably not be the finding in the report for the Deepwater Horizon.

Those problems began to surface under the latter part of the reign of CEO John Brown. Brown worked diligently to internalize UN standards of cleanliness and environmental safety to business as usual. His enthusiastic response to the British "Publish What You Pay" campaign added fiscal transparency to an industry that has a poor reputation in that regard. So much of BP's work has been very fine. You won't always hear that, and especially not now--not even from Bloomberg.

Risky Business
But regardless of BP's tarnished reputation or its gleaming internal values, a platform exploded. Seventeen people were injured. Eleven people were killed. Now the turtles are dying, the tourist and fishing industry will take a body hit, the oyster beds may be ruined. A massive effort by government agencies, private citizens, and firms has been employed.  BP will spend millions on it, and like all disasters, things will still not be the way they were before.

Pressurized parts of the earth do not answer to any safety or health regulation. The burden is on the oil companies to plan for these contingencies. Yet somehow like farmers who depend on weather and land knowledge--you can consult an almanac or a geological table, use an army of consultants, build new technologies, and get better equipment. You will still take a risk. This time we are all sharing it, someplace besides the gas pump.