Saturday, January 29, 2011

We May Have A Rock

Tuesday we had a Board Meeting. I wrote three reports for it and analyzed all the financial data for the year, except for the Utility Bills, which I didn't quite finish. Mycroft went through every "Zombie To-Do List" that has been sent to us (or not) over the past two years and compiled a Master List of Items That Have Never Been Attended To. This was probably 500 repetitive pages, but he got it down to three.

Then we had Yet another meeting of the Condo Board Thursday. It was for Yet another round of Manager interviews. The first three were our top contenders on the list, and oh, were we disappointed! This time, we were all a little depressed, going for the "second choices."

On the first Round:
1. "Strict Machine" Diva who would have been great, except we can't afford her and she doesn't want to come here.
2. Young, bright, enthusiastic young man who would be eaten alive in two weeks. Nothing wrong with him. Everything wrong with us. He deserves to live.
3. Experienced, dynamic man who is not over the shock of losing his last job and talks more than the rest of the Board combined (how is this possible?)

Last night:
1. Cannonball who was all enthusiasm but never answered a damn question, although he talked a lot. He brought extra items for us to read, even, but none of them were anything we asked for. This would have been okay if he had actually brought what we DID ask for.
He needs some time with the Strict Machine above. (Zam, boom!) Not our guy. He was also young and would have been eaten alive, but less trainable than the other guy.

2. The Rock of Gibraltar. Very calm, answered our questions almost before we asked them. Stayed on point, said exactly what he meant, and stayed on schedule. Worked his way up in this field from a maintenance man, and then into a head position at a 14-story mixed-use condominium high-rise.

I kept imagining the surf of B.S. we have around here knocking him on the chest, only to be beaten back again while he still stood. This is a man with tight control. No hysteria from Zombie Assistant or any Board Member is going to keep him from using a method and imposing order.

3. Mr. Suavity:  Well, he was our favorite going in. And upon impact, he's suave, charming--and arrogant. He was so sure he knew it all. Actually, I'm pretty sure he did. But he's a careless talker. "I'm not going to do it by myself," he said, which is true--it was just the way he said it. (Halfway through the interview, I was just writing quotes that made me mad.) He talked about "disguising his weaknesses" "stealing knowledge" and about preparing the Board for a meeting, he said, "I can read you my report. Or you can read it in advance." This is also true. And then, when asked about how he handles different personalities, he said: "I may not like you. You may not like me. You move, you change; new Board Members come in; they're happy." What???!!! He wants to get rid of us already?

On a scale of 1 to 5, I gave him a big fat Zero. Two people gave him "5", and the remaining two gave him "2" Everyone wanted to know why I would do the Zero. I blurted out, "He's a drunk."
And I think he was drunk--a charming, belligerent, cynical, witty drunk. However, you can give me a diplomatic FAIL on that one.  The entire room got Really Silent.

As for The Rock, he received all "5"s and one "6" on a scale of 1 to 5. We are now plotting how to get him in. Everybody, cross your fingers! I am fairly ready to end my sixty-hour work-week without pay. It looks like it might be less than two months away.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sun Tzu: Waging War

"When employing [an army] in battle, a victory that is long in coming will dampen their ardor. If you attack cities, their strength will be exhausted. If you expose the army to a prolonged campaign, the state's resources will be inadequate.

"When the weapons have grown dull and spirits depressed, when our strength has been expended and resources consumed, then the feudal lords will take advantage of our exhaustion to arise. Even though you have wise generals, they will not be able to achieve a good result.

"Thus in military campaigns I have heard of awkward speed but have never seen any skill in lengthy campaigns. No country has ever profited from protracted warfare. Those who do not thoroughly comprehend the dangers inherent in employing the army are incapable of truly knowing the potential advantages of military actions."

--Sun Tzu

from Sun Tzu, The Art of War. Ralph D. Sawyer, (Trans.) and Mei-chun Sawyer. Barnes & Noble Books, by arrangment with Westview Press, 1994 (pp. 173, paragraphs 2-4). I recommend it!

Part of the Terra-cotta Army of Xi'an. Picture by Maros at Wikipedia.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Zombie Soap Operas and Cat Tantrums

Well, these poor cats. They have all the food they want, and plenty of loving attention, a nice clean litter box, and more toys than I can find--
but they want more.

The idea that I would do laundry, fight zombies, disappear for Board Meetings for hours and hours! BoyCat laid himself on the rug in front of the front door, stretched across the entire doorway. He was just like a human chain stopping the Bulldozing of the Old-Growth Forest or the Family Farm.  He has also taking to mewing at the door--poor abandoned baby. I don't know how he stands life as he knows it.

Pets of a Different Sort
I had a near-suicide note from on person who owes us $1033.00 this week. I am stressing her out!! She can not pay her bill. She addressed the letter to Madame Ann H.
Please do not make me pay my bill.  I pay all bills on time. I never have late notices. I obey all rules at the ZombieLand Condominiums. I can not live with this stress. You must understand.

Well, unfortunately for her I do understand. I was mostly afraid she would come Emote over the entire Board last night, driving our meeting into the wee hours. Thankfully, she did not show up. The Board, in true gratitude for her non-attendance, forgave part of her charges. Next!!!

I had ten disputacious accounts to go over last night. I wrote them all up carefully, in consultation with Zombie Assistant. However, this morning I found out we have a burgeoning lawsuit which she forgot to tell me about in time for the meeting. She is very sorry. (Grrrr.)

I handled that today . . . .

I know you Midwestern sufferers of winter will find this amusingly minor, but we had three inches of snow this evening.  Slippery, rainy slush--dirty on impact. Oh, the suffering! I address this letter to the Estimable Groundhog:

Please do not see your shadow on Groundhog Day. I try to conserve energy. I wear many sweaters. I obey all rules at the Zombieland Condominium. I cannot live with this stress. You must understand.
Sorry gang, this is what I have today. I am working up a couple thematic series, but they aren't ready yet. In the meantime, I'm afraid not to let you know what's up, so . . . you get these Soap Operas and Tantrums. Hopefully they will make you laugh. They make me laugh.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Unceasing Indoctrination

What more reinforcing propaganda is there than to give a political swan song before death?
For you are bound to tell your truth, whatever truth that may be.

We believe this in our country, too. We believe in deathbed confessions, suicide notes, and dying declarations. The truth is, we can lie at death and know it. We can lie at death and think we are telling the truth.


Then there is the time of learning fundamentals--the foundations of truth. If you don't watch the first one, watch this one, where an imitation Mickey Mouse has an appalling job and probably does it quite well.


Palestinian Watch is an "Israeli research institute that studies Palestinian society from a broad range of perspectives by monitoring and analyzing the Palestinian Authority through its media and schoolbooks. PMW’s major focus is on the messages that the Palestinian leaders, from the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas, send to the population through the broad range of institutions and infrastructures they control."

According to Wikipedia, the organization seeks to let the European Union know what its foreign aid and business investment in Palestinian media is bringing forth. However, their offices are in Israel and they have a Director in North America, not the European Union--at least, not at the Web site I visited. What I am saying is that there is more than one competing indoctrination embedded in this post. The first is the videos. The second is the editing I have done, and that Palestinian Watch has done.

Nothing is straightforward in the Near East--or perhaps anywhere. No one is perhaps blameless, or free from prejudice there as well as anywhere else. However, these videos are quite a shock.

I originally went looking for indoctrination videos and pictures--I keep trying to understand the limits of my own values, and (less personally) also how groups perpetuate themselves. The way I examined my first set of values was to go to school--and get perhaps a competing indoctrination, and then try to work with the contradictions to decide for myself. According to these videos, there is not a lot of competition here--only 1 Big 1 indoctrination.

--Wikipedia on Hamas
--Wikipedia on Fatah
--Wikipedia on Revisionist Zionism

 I'm looking for some great thoughts here. If you have some, I'd love to see them in the comments.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Officer Friendly Precinct

This is the front of the Sixth Precinct in Detroit, Michigan, where on January 24, a lone assailant came in and started shooting, wounding four police officers. It is a low building in civil-service brick, in deference to the cash-strapped taxpayers of Detroit. The pillars are there to remind us that this is a Hall of Government.


The huge window and open entrance convey that law enforcement is for the community; that it is transparent; that you may come in and make your concerns known. The big window serves to also to show the officers within what community they are connected to; what prevailing conditions are. It is a no-barrier. The glass is not even bullet-resistant.

Well, that's not going to work in the world we have now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Walking in Circles

I had an interesting visit with the shrink today. If I am walking around in shoes that are barely holding together, I am not respecting myself.  Yes, it sounds bizarre.

I was waiting to get new shoes until I had a job. The master repair job on these seven-year-old quality-make shoes only lasted six months, if that. And quality-make shoes are cheaper in the long run, but expensive up front.

I don't know how professional I will look in shoes coming un-stitched for those job interviews.

So I can't wait that long.

On the way back from the appointment, I was offered a job.
(So much for good shoes being a requirement.)

It's for the same company I left because they had an employee theft ring that I exposed, but the thieves started hiding jewelry during my shift to implicate me. I gave two weeks' notice and got the hell out.

So I think maybe I will get new shoes. And a different job than the one I was offered today.
Still, I may be walking out of that circle I've been walking. . . . .

The Trash Collector--On the Poetry Bus

This week's Poetry Bus is from The Science Girl at Have Genes Will Travel. She prompts for a poem about things we like that others don't like.

The Souvenirs

In Guadalajara
I picked up trash:
wrappers from cakes,
cigarette packages,
coasters and matchbooks.

Before dawn I went alone
to a cathedral. I watched
a priest, resigned,
bless a penitente off his knees
then walked to our hotel.

We ordered big breakfasts.
Bank security had machine guns.
Once moneyed, we drove to
exclusive shops, refueling
at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

They took naps after lunch
While I looked at bakeries
and scraped curbs near cantinas.
I heard I was much woman
From men with red-veined eyes.

I drew pictures of buildings
Before returning to the hotel.
We drank whiskey, ate salted peanuts
and cut oranges on toothpicks.
Then to dinners I couldn't eat.

and drinks after dining every night.
One afternoon in the market,
I bought a bright blanket
And wore it like a shawl after dark.
The hotel staff laughed at me
When I went out to hear the singers.

I heard La Paloma. I asked for Jalisco,
for La Malaguena. A young man sat
To see if I wanted company.
I held my purse. In poor Spanish
I told him to move along.

I brought back trash
for souvenirs, now pressed like leaves
in a file cabinet. They thought
What a stranger. Who needs

"El Rey, cigarillos, clase A"?
at once familiar but odd
attractive enough to sell once
then common, with no value
crumpled record of lone adventures.

--Ann T. Hathaway

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Research and Rumination on Homicide

Today I went to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Web site to look at the relationship of assailant to victim, and found some other things besides. I also checked out the Center for Disease Control.

Mostly, We Lived
In the last year of reported data (2007) at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC FastStats site), there were 1.4 million emergency room visits because of assault/attempted homicide/homicide. Murder was the 15th most likely cause of death (behind heart disease (#1), cancer (#2) , and suicide (#11)).

There were 18,361 homicide deaths in 2007. 12,632 of those resulted from firearms use.

You have to say those emergency rooms are doing a good job: assuming that all the murder victims died in an E.R. (which they don't), that would still be a 1.3% death rate to overall visits for assault.  If you're dying, the paramedics and the E.R. are generally going to save you. Unless you go out afterwards and continue to do whatever got you there in the first place. The same of course is true with heart disease: can't do what you've been doing and expect to live a long life.

But Sometimes We Didn't
The BJS site is a little behind the CDC: most of their reporting ends at 2005.

Victim/Offender Relationships: 1976--2005.
All Homicides       1976-2005     100%   594,276

People kill their spouses about 7% of the time. Wives and ex-wives usually die of gunshot wounds.
They kill their boyfriend or girlfriend about 3.8% of the time. Boyfriends usually die of knife wounds.
They kill some other close family member about 8% of the time.

They kill "non-intimate family", friends, or acquaintances about 32.1% of the time.
It's more likely that these acquaintances will be male, and of age 18-24. This is also the age that uses guns the most. Gang violence has increased 800% (eightfold) over the reported thirty years.

The relationship was undetermined for 35.2% of all homicides in that time period.
That particular statistic "undetermined" is trending upward: no doubt caused by a variety of factors, including a lack of police manpower for apprehensions and for murder investigations. In 1975, 79% of all homicide cases cleared; in 2005, 62%.  That's a pretty strong correlation to the undetermined percentage, which has also trended up.

So at least 50.8 % of all homicides are committed by people that knew the victim. Arguments factor into most of them: that's how the homicide starts. That's opposed to homicide in commission with another crime--robbery, rape, and so forth. Mostly it's people getting mad and settling it forever. With a gun. Usually. The BJS says gun-related murder is trending downward, but I don't think the CDC believes it. That's why it's good to check more than one site for your stats. Each producer of stats has a vested interest. Each of them has a different means of getting their reports.

Strangers committed 13.9% of all homicides in that time period.
None of these figures add in 9/11, which according to Wikipedia, killed 2977 people.  If you add those into the total, the figure for "homicide by strangers" goes up to 13.95% . The Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania--as awful and symbolic as they are--do not add appreciably to the number of murders that happened in the United States from 1975 to 2005.  But perhaps it's not fair to dilute that by 30 years.

Murder per capita, selected years:
1974--10.1
1980--10.7
1991--10.5
2001, including 9-11-- 7.1. According to the CDC, 20,308 people total died in 2001 of assault/homicide. Even if that includes the 9-11 deaths, then less than 15% of that years' homicides were from this frightening terrorist attack in three locations. Not even equal percentage to the number of intimate family homicides that same year.
2006--6.2
2007--6.1

According to the BJS, homicides clear more often than any other type of case. 
And that makes me wonder something else about police work. Big crimes are fascinating to us: they are discrete (separate) events. Crappy crimes like armed robbery or car theft are more likely to happen to us. They are more likely to impact our daily life.

We hold the loss of human life as the most important, but is it really the most important to us? A murder across town--does it affect us as much as having our handbag stolen? It takes forever to get a duplicate license, a new picture of our boyfriend or grandchild, to cancel our credit cards. A wallet costs more than $20.00 these days, and requires a trip to the store when we don't have our new driver's license yet. Plus we're anxious, angry, afraid, and maybe kicking ourselves for being careless.

But these crimes have a less successful clearance rate. I wonder if our society's dissatisfaction with policing comes from the difference of our moral expectations--and our real expectations. I wonder if our real expectation is to be spared inconvenience--not to worry about human life.

Doing More Triage with Band-Aids
And more than ever, a quick look at statistics shows us this: whichever we pick, the "life is precious" road or the "convenience is precious" one, we've underfunded our police departments. We've got mixed motives in our policing expectations, and a far from clear set of priorities. That's made us ambiguous at best and hostile at worst toward law enforcement and its officers.  "Shouldn't you be out fighting real crime?" they hear. Yet accidental injury (including drunk drivers and road war) is #3 on the CDC mortality statistics. Way above murder. Way above suicide.  It's life-affirming to write traffic violations. Why is that so hard to believe?

I believe law enforcement agencies have realized this societal ambiguity between life-affirming and convenience-affirming. The LEO on the street is inconvenienced and importuned by it and the agencies have internalized it. We now have a lot of bean-counting inside the agencies, which the police officers seemingly don't like and we don't pay attention to anyway. Statistics on robbery or loitering seem to figure more highly in "police performance assessment" and reportedly can be fudged by knocking down the charges to a lesser violation, or inflating the number of contacts. It's artificial. On some level, it's meant to appease. And get funding. Our ambiguity trends into our funding for the departments. The bean-counting is their fight back. It only works half the picture at best, and reinforces our ambiguity at worst.

As long as society at large fails to realize that police "productivity" is in direct but also inverse proportion from the stats, society will not get either the convenient or the life-affirming law enforcement response. The more crimes solved or prevented, the less need it seems we have for police. But prevention means placing resources before the fact. You can't go by need alone (crime is going up; case clearance going down), but also by the effect (crime is going down; case clearance is up). When law enforcement succeeds, we cut funding. It only makes sense in statistics, not in real life.

This is not what I was starting to look for when I studied homicide statistics. It's just what grabbed me. I was looking for stats comparing Bubba Terrorism to Islamic Terrorism.  Haven't found those yet. I got distracted.

Support your local law enforcement agencies. That's what I really have. Do it from the pocket--you get what you pay for. And do it with a smile. That would be life-affirming. Might even work on the convenience scale, too.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Today I'm Reading

visiting you all . . . so behind!
Ann

Friday, January 21, 2011

Small Crime, Big Damage Control: part one of 1 or 2 or who knows

Okay, I've kept mum--believe it or not--on the big issues our condo has been facing lately. After we found that Evil Zombie Building Maintenance Tech (EZBMT) had stolen from a unit, (BAM BOOM) life changed for us all. I'm talking practical details. But also, emotions are engaged. There is work. There is also the rehabilitation of everybody who is left. And there is the spirit or zeitgeist of business operations, which is conducted on so many levels. It is not black and white, and oh I wish it was.

But it can't be. It's a business. It's also the home of many people, including my own. It's trust and security and money and oh-so-minor in life's big issues. Cleaning up after one Jerk: it happens all the time.

EZ's just another of the many shady asshats out there. Not a big in the scheme of things. Not smart; just clever. Not successful; except lately. But he has 24 hours every day to study how to stay away from us. Our 24 hours per day is trying to get back on even keel. And that's just wrong.

But though I insult his intelligence, his style, and his habits, he did pull one over on us. So maybe this account will also be wrong. It's just what I see.

That Missing Two Ounces of Prevention.
1. Yes, hindsight: he's done other things. He's got court-ordered child support in other states and no driver's license. I think it's a sign of one or two flaws that may have kept us from hiring this dude--except we didn't do a background check, so I can't say for sure. The idea of background checks is horrid to me--until now. And we all accepted this payroll garnishment and lack of full I.D.  by not focusing on it. And some heavy glossing from somebody else, who took it cheerily in stride: Zombie Assistant.

2. Our stupid policy manual didn't have a good enough anti-nepotism policy. And his sister-in-law is Zombie Assistant. More on that later.

Two Tons of Cure.
I rammed it through. The Board wasn't even thinking about it. They were still in shock (or, Captain Nemo was panicking)--and right after that, depression. The old Board wasn't completely averse--they just weren't thinking of it. The new ones weren't averse, they just didn't have the details.

I called firms; got bids; informed our financial professionals; prepared a presentation. We had a Special Session. And the Board said "Yes, we have to do it."

So we had a private investigator come in. After that, the tension level ratcheted up in the Board. We had to keep a secret. Employees were officially under suspicion. And so forth. It was hard.

And the employees did know they were under a shadow. They had a hard time with it. No reassurance anyone could make was untainted. We all knew that, secrets or not.

I sent the P.I. more prep documents than you can imagine, writing them all up myself. I looked at pictures of items from the on-line market--you could see parts of our maintenance room in some of the backgrounds. Others were of unknown upholstery, possibly EZBMT's house. I investigated a pile of invoices, looking for prices and buying trends. Some things I had to look up on the Internet to get a price--expensive items for building repair that are custom-made for old buildings, or out of date on price lists but still useful to us, that still belonged to us (allegedly). Investigation of other items, all priced and listed on an Excel sheet--not my favorite computer program, but damn it works well for some things.

Some of the Board yelled at me for going overly. I just kept going. I didn't even have time to tell them they were full of shit. It was delegated to me, and I did everything I could think of except rent a car and a pair of handcuffs. I knew we might not get anything out of the employees. I wanted the P.I. to have every smoking gun I could get him.

I checked Vendor Ledgers to see if we had accounts with dummy companies (possibly run by employees). I checked for shipping contracts, trying to figure out how this stuff got sent out, if its origin of shipment was from our building.  I studied forensic accounting on the Internet so that I could figure out how to get more information out of what I was looking at already.

I say alleged because I have everything except proof. And that's the critical part.

In the two weeks' worth of items I could try to track, EZ sold $1300.00 worth of stuff for less than $500.00. It's not like he was making a killing out there. In fact, if he was buying it himself to re-sell, he lost a lot of money.

Zombie Assistant
In the meantime, all of staff was reeling. Angry as we were, tense as it was, we had to project confidence.
I had to write a new conflict-of-interest policy, so that Zombie Assistant didn't open up mail about her brother-in-law. I made her sign it. (She broke it twice. That I know of.)

In the meantime, she was "Embattled Dowager", "Plucky Maiden", "Crying Victim", "Servant of Us All" and "Evil Bitch When Nobody's Looking" by turns. (The last one is customary, but heavily accented under pressure.) You should know that her work ethic, already abysmal, took a nose dive. Sure, I understand--her family and her job were in peril. I do understand. It has to be hard.

The conflict of interest policy review happened on Thursday. By Friday she was laughing as she took off early from work. Do I sound bitter? Well. I took it as a sign of what I could expect. Maybe I am right, or maybe it's a self-fulfilling bad attitude on my part.

Zombie Boss
Shortly thereafter, we fired Zombie Boss. Unrelated: but he couldn't figure out what to do. I had to call all our maintenance suppliers, because otherwise EZBMT could have allegedly continued to order everything in sight and allegedly sell it on-line. The look of mystification on ZB's face when I did this was just awful.

While I was down there handling that, EZBMT's lawyer called and asked if he could have his job back. Unbelievable. But they called the weak link. I just happened to be there.

Firing ZB has added work. Or maybe not; he couldn't cope. But there is a lot of work.

Other Zombie Maintenance Tech (OZBMT):
The pleasant surprise in this is how OZBMT has managed to shake off the Zombie virus. He understood everything right away.
     No going into units for repairs alone anymore? Thank you for covering my ass.
     Nobody else to take call? That's okay, I'll take it: we'll work it out later.
     No snow removal contract, because Zombie Boss forgot about it? Order some ice-melt; I know what to do.

It was like the sun coming out. He could show what he was made of, at last: now that EZ and Zombie Assistant weren't running their dog-and-pony show about who was the competent building tech. It conveyed that we had also missed some of the good.

Yet he seemingly had to know something about the allegedly missing items. So there's still all this fog in front of the sun. There's still this feeling that maybe he's Compensating for past transgressions. The better he got, the more I worried; I think we all did.

OZ was worried for EZ, he felt for him. EZ betrayed a lot of people. But in other ways--and OZ doesn't even know it himself--he was instantly happier, his shoulders instantly straighter. When bad things are allowed to continue, people suffer. Even if they don't know it. And that is just another reason why we have to fight the crimes, petty meanness, small evils. Even in the intangible ways, this all causes suffering.

Two or three weeks later, we informed the staff that we would have investigative interviews. We told them Friday for Monday. . . . . . .

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dombey and Son

While my computer was down, I started reading Dickens again. I've reviewed Little Dorrit in this blog before, about people caught up in debtor's prison--and other prisons. This time, I am reading Dombey and Son.

Dombey and Son is a family-owned firm. All the sons are named Paul. The book starts with the birth of a new Paul, and the death of his mother. The newborn's sister, Florence, is about six years old. She is completely ignored by her father because she cannot take over the business. She's considered a mistake and a disappointment, because she cannot be groomed into an heir to the Dombey tradition.

Dickens is known in the contemporary academic parlance as not having a good handle on women. It's an interesting question, but I'm not so sure it's altogether true. For instance, Dickens didn't invent a lack of business opportunities for women in the Victorian Age, did he? He was telling what he saw: girls were not looked at as viable heirs to a commercial enterprise.

In Dombey and Son, Florence is a paragon of virtue. In the Dombey family, she is the one person who can meet life and death with appropriate emotions. She's not the head of anything, and doesn't look to be.

The "selfless female" comes up a lot in Dickens (Little Dorrit, for instance), and I think forms part of the basis for what is considered Dickens' misogyny. What I think the literature critics don't see is the constant self-analysis and focus that these paragons undertake in order to forgive, excuse, prop up, and otherwise maintain goodness in the face of one disaster after another. But in this book, Dickens distinctly describes how hard it is on the paragon--it's not always natural to them, but a product of self-training and focus. These paragons get blown around and hurt all the time. But they don't give up. And eventually, they prevail. They find happiness.

As Florence comforts her mother on the deathbed, Mr. Dombey watches, mostly over his son and heir. But afterward, he avoids his daughter because he is ashamed of what he lacked when his wife died. Over and over in the book, Florence garners true affection and admiration, only to wish her father would notice her. He only responds to servility: in adult family members, his employees, and the false friends who eventually surround him. Though Florence is obedient, meek, et cetera, it doesn't have the same feel to it as a craven or opportunistic submission. And Mr. Dombey never knows what to do around her. He always feels rebuked, when all she wants is to be accepted. He only hits one note. She hits nearly all of them.

When her brother goes to school, he is physically weak and inundated by the curriculum. Dickens plainly shows that Florence is up to the intellectual task--she gets all of her brother's books and studies them so she can tutor him. The non-modern part of this is that she never shows any ambition to use it for herself, but to help another. Nowhere in the book does she spout off a quote from something she's read, or put herself forward in any way. People do it for her. They want her around. After awhile, you learn who's really moving forward, though: Florence. Her dad is in full retreat. He just doesn't know it.

I find myself wondering how different the world is post-Freud. In this era, we believe that we are the product of our early experiences--Mozart in the crib, judiciously-chosen educational toys, no shoes that pinch the foot, no corsets that bind us up. We don't believe people can be good just in themselves. We don't think they extend themselves emotionally if someone else hasn't done it first, like a parent, to show how it's done.  There's a lot more to this book, but I just keep thinking, this time around:

How much of the disconnect between Dickens and a modern reader is Dickens' fault? He had a world view. We think we're past all that. But we are as firmly entrenched in our world view as Dickens was in his.

He thought a good woman could do no wrong. That's not a lot of wiggle room for us non-perfect females. Never to have a resentment, or say a cross word, and to have that "shine through" to perfect strangers, even though someone nearer to us might not see it.  It's not that easy. To try to be Florence would twist me like a rope.

On the other hand, in this era, some people still grow up in emotionally distant environments, still have "right" feelings and the impulse to virtue. These remarkable individuals did not have all the advantages, but still bring emotional consonance and decency to their dealings in the world. They do not fit our current formula.

I think Dickens is saying that a good person is able to function with emotional power, to "do the right thing" in whatever role they might have. When emotion enters it, the right thing is sometimes distinct from the "proper" thing.  It transcends rank, class, income. A good person listens, sees, feels, and develops internal character.

I also think it is not easy, and that it never was. I think Dickens would say the same.

Just my two cents.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Five Days, Four Nights, No Potato Chips

Dear Readers,
Yay! I'm back. Whenever I typed, I had to wait for each word to come up. I thought I would punch holes in the keyboard trying to make it type--word, excel, e-mail, you name it. I was gritting my teeth and giving myself carpal tunnel syndrome. Time to change that scenario--

Naturally I took my computer in on the Friday before a National Holiday. And it took this long to get it back.
I felt like an idiot when I picked it up.

I thought about mentioning potato chip crumbs and decided against it. I don't really like to tell people I eat potato chips. It seems wrong. So I just blame the pets instead.

"Did you vacuum the cat hair out of the keyboard?" I asked.
"No, I lost the attachment to the vacuum."
I thought about mentioning that he'd had my computer for Five Days and Four Nights, but didn't. Still, he must have seen it in my eyes. With a huge sigh, he dug his vacuum out of the box. Sure enough, he had a tiny wand-like attachment, but no hose to hook it to the motor. He used a regular corner attachment. I do that at home all the time. It's not enough. Sometimes I use a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol, with mixed results.

"What about cleaner?" I asked. "What do you use to clean the monitor screen?"
"I'm out of it right now."
"Does it have rubbing alcohol in it?"
He gives me a strange look. "No."
"I've heard you can use Windex."
"Not very much," he said. So now what am I supposed to do?

Did you fix the "e" key?" I asked. "It wobbles."
"No, and don't touch it!!" he said. "I'm afraid it's going to break off."

"Did you fix my memory? I should have 4 gigs of memory, but it's only reading two."
"You're okay on memory," he said. It still only reads 2 gigs.

"Do me a favor when you get it home," he says. "Run the Disk Defragmenter."
"I do run it," I said. "It's on a schedule." Wasn't he going to run it?

"Well, I dumped 9 gigs of temporary files from your hard drive, and you need to run it."
How can I have 9 gigs of temp files on a 4 gig memory? I didn't ask.
"My computer is supposed to run a temp-file dump automatically, too."
He checks. Yes, it is on a schedule. He says, "Huh." He looks at me.
"Just run it."
"Okay."  It took hours for the hard drive to defragment, so I guess it was necessary.

And I had to order a new battery. It's not in yet. They don't know when it will come in. They have no idea. Either two days or nine, or something like that. They did know when I had to pay, though: in advance.

But, I will say, this poor laptop is running MUCH better. He used the upholstery brush to clean the keyboard. Cat hair went everywhere. No potato chip crumbs were found.

Competency

I like to let you know I am making progress with the outside world. Every time I write how I am failing, you guys write me back and say to keep trying. So, maybe we have some results from all this trying--yes?

Due Thursday:
Two reports on two months of financials (one incomplete, because the financial statements have not yet arrived.)

One incomplete because all the invoices I need to examine are lost. This seems significant to me--not in a good way. How can we lose SIX invoices? The very ones I want to see? It's Zombie filing--in short, a shambling plot.

One report on A Year of Investments. Four pages of Excel Tables. Done.

Two unpaid insurance policies found and paid up. Every insurance policy examined to make sure they are ALL paid up. And, now back in Department of Labor compliance--oops! That was a near thing.

Insurance expires next month--oops! Two sets of contracts coming by Thursday.

One report on major repairs and the financing for that. This sounds rather more grand than it is, because all of the information is done by expert consultants. I only compiled it.

One report on Collections, still in work. Each account takes twelve to sixty hours to fix. Each person is angry.
Each ledger is screwed up. I have a list of twenty-three, and have completed eight of the Top Ten Debtors, plus various other people whose voices were the loudest.

Reconciled two bank accounts, updated ledgers for five accounts in legal collections, prepared hearing documents for three complainants to the Board, four petty cash reconciliations, one holiday fund/two disbursements,  and one major systemic payroll snafu.

Interpersonal Relations
Four personnel conferences, one scheduling training session.

Somebody promises to pay $3K this Friday and asks me to check out his leaky shower with him. I have no ability to assess showers, so I write him back to bring the money and a plumber.

From Zombie Pandemic dot com.
Another debtor writes me that she will die of stress if I don't forgive her over $1K of outstanding debt. I don't think she's going to blow her brains out, because she is manipulative and constantly in debt. Still, you can never be sure. I gave her an avenue to pursue.  The next day she thanks me. I am not sure this is good news yet.


Not done yet. The meeting is Tuesday, and the League will have tons of Ann T. and other papers to read before then.

The Zombies are sitting around and eating candy. I would cut up stiff about it, but I don't want them to screw up my work. I told Mycroft this, and he said, "Don't let them do a thing."

I still have my Zombie Thwack Gun, but they won't let me use it.

We are still looking for a manager . . . .

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday, January 16: Honoring our Dead in Iraq.

Last week, I posted the U.S. dead for 2010 in and around Afghanistan. But we should never forget the many casualties of the Iraq War, sixty of which occurred this year. I found these names at icasualties.org, an organization which has been tracking the losses for the coalition forces for a long time.

I hope you will take a minute to read through these names, listed two or three across.

Please also remember their families, friends, and comrades who needed them. Please remember these men and women who are still with us, still serving. Remember the wounded, the permanently injured, and their caregivers. Their battles are not done.


--Finch, David D.--Luff Jr., David J.--Gandy, Loleni W.--
--Jones Jr., David R.--Reid, Dylan T.--Whisenant, Marc C.--
--Carrillo Jr., John--Noonan, Gebrah P.--Burner III, John F.--
--Hansen, James A.--Jenkins, Philip C.--McClamrock, James F.--
--Maggart, Brandon E.--Rhett, Jamal M.--Hinkley, Faith R.--
--Runyan, Michael L.--Tuttle, Jordan E.--Lumpkin, Johnny W.--
--McBeth, Morganne M.--Haynes, Bryant J.--Dohrenwend, Jacob P.--
--Cassidy, Michael P.--Opat, Christopher W.--
Obryan, Israel P.----Yauch, William C
.--Theobald, Steve M.--Guardado-Ramirez, Francisco J.--
--Sessarego, Alvaro R. Regalado--Culver Jr. Ronald W.--
--Gonzalez, Amilcar H.--Sokolowski, III, Stanley J.--
--Mena, Ralph--Gonzales, Esau S.A.--
--Magee, Anthony O.--Coe, Keith A.--Worrell, Christopher D.--
--Antonio, Charlie C.--Patton, James R.--Collins, Robert W.--
--Blount, Anthony--Kruize, Kurt E.--Pacleb, Raymond N.--
--Rieckhoff, Robert--Jordan, Richard J.--McLyman, Erin L.--
--Bishop, Steven J.--Arthur, Aaron M.--Bailey, Lakeshia M.--
--Spencer, William C.--O’Leary, Daniel T.--Grinder, Billie J.--
--Alford, Marcus R.--Caughman, Sean L.--Alvarez, Adriana--
--Barnett, Scott G.--Hurt, Gifford E.--Hopkins, Ryan J.--
--Jarrett, Michael R.--Croft Jr., David A.--Anderson, Brushaun X.--

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Our Homeless Veterans: The Human Face

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates nine thousand veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are homeless. Others say it's more. To me, nine thousand is too many, by about nine thousand.

The other thing is, contrary to narrative, it doesn't have to happen all at once. There's slippage: a military man is trained to react to a crisis. When he or she comes home and it's totally different, they may cope for awhile in crisis mode. Then one thing happens, or another. The mask cracks. They end up on the street.

It's easy to say something needs to happen. There's a feel-good level to that. But then there's the part where people back from war actually have issues: broken families, the community safety net broken since they left. Others have hypervigilance, drug abuse, alcoholism. Still others: organic brain damage, or constant pain. Those things aren't pretty. Neither is war. We know who endured the most. Still endures the most.

Of the homeless population, it's estimated that 47% of them are Vietnam veterans. We failed these vets: it was partly our popular culture at the time, which I have never understood but must accept. It was also a failure on the part of  military culture, the VA culture. The lack of advance in psychology over PTSD. The enduring contribution of the Vietnam Veteran Homeless may well be that the current returning veterans are getting treatment sooner.

Good word is coming out from Eric Shinseki's work with the VA. But as I have said before, the VA doesn't work for everyone. Or it isn't the only thing a person needs.  Hey: hire a vet. Or if you're not in a hiring position, maybe just talk to one sometime. Every hello and how are you is part of their return to us. It may lead to something deeper or better. Try to know what you can in the way you can do it.

There's a few interesting stories out there. This one is from ABC News.


At Vets Edge dot Org: A true story of a veteran who nearly failed twice, written by himself.
From the Beloit Daily News: about two-thirds of the way down, the veterans' accounts start in this story.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

now experiencing technical difficulty

I think the Zombies have finally infected my Laptop. I'm still here, but this computer is Un-Happy.
be back soon. Miss you all already--

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Poetry Bus: Art Appreciation

This week's poetry prompt comes from Kate of the Emerging Writers blog.
One of the prompt choices was  L'esprit d'escalier. This is a French term I've run into before. It means "the spirit of the staircase", but really it's the moment you think of the Crushing Comment that you would have made, except the moment is gone already. (Oh! I should have said that!) but too late.

So, poor Grandma. She's in for another poetic slam today. However, she was also a fun lady much of the time. This is not a revenge poem--it's the Esprit d' Escalier. No going back to fix this one.


you have to have a man for this

Amid a trendy traffic, my cousin Angel admires
Lichtenstein’s Pop: triadic blue, red and yellow.
We live by design: me in fashion, and Angel, graphics.
Grandmother’s pleased we have such passions. She’s
With us too, and fairly doting. We’re all dressed up
And later lunching: just us girls. Grandma was
Past president of this museum’s Guild. Art is not
The thing that drives her, but without what social
Ladies willed, this building would be dust and stone
So she also feels just right at home.

I’m beguiled by Angel’s exposition, but Grandma’s
Worried over Angel’s dating. And just to take this past the top
Angel broke up with grandma’s pool-boy lately, and this
Is none of Grandma’s business. But in front of comic paintings
Begins a maternal inquisition. When will you marry, Angel darling?
There are men all over as you can see. How about that
Handsome fellow? Now there’s a work of living art.

Her voice has always carried well, and
Angel’s always been so shy. She turns bright red.
The man selected turns his head. He’s standing
In a group of gay. So much for this
Artistic day. If Grandma’s voice is loud enough, her whisper
Carries in the crowd: All you have to do is try.
Angel is about to cry. I intervene:
Grandmother. And she says, What? I only want her
To have a life. It’s so much better as someone’s wife. Angel flees
Under the attack. I glare and say I’ll be right back.

That night, I am still seeing red. Right before we go to bed,
My husband says, You should have laughed
Said you and Angel would find some cuffs
So Grandmother could get her stuff.  
Then you and Angel could enjoy the art
And Grandmother some lesser part. 

Starts with Tears, Ends with Zucchini

Well, my day started yesterday with two personnel crises, and I worked on personnel items.

Back to the shrink. It's been a month due to holidays. And just in time, too.

I then swung into three interviews for Manager of the Condo. No Zombies this time!

The first person was our Choice # 2. She was great, but I don't think she's working for what we're paying. It was obvious though: she could whip this place in shape, including the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with one hand tied behind her back.

I kept thinking of Goldfrapp's song: I'm in Love with your Strict Machine. Not that she showed up in this get-up for the interview, LOL!

Goldfrapp - Strict Machine
Uploaded by Rian2k. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

The next man was our # 4 (#3 couldn't make it) and would have been great, except staff would have eaten him alive. We still have Zombies left, you know. I liked him but it would be cruel to hire him. He's not ready for the stuff we have.

The third man was our favorite before interviews. # 1!! And he was not quite there. He rambled too much, and I think he came out of a bad job situation that still has him shaken. We don't need him shaken: we need him stirred. He just couldn't stay on point--although it was obvious he knew plenty.

But I'm really glad that we're getting the kind of candidates we're getting.

After that, we had a personnel meeting. After that, we had an argument. After that, we made up. After that, it was 11:00 p.m. and I came upstairs and had dinner. I did not have lunch. I'm not sure I had breakfast.

However, all seems to be hanging in for the moment. We may be better off. All of these candidates, even the poor gentleman that wasn't quite ready--was head and shoulders above Zombie Boss. So things are looking up.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Running after the (Poetry) Bus

Poem tomorrow. Idea finally surfaced.
Ann

Hoy Sun Ning Yung Benevolent Association


This is the building in HotWinds, USA in the Chinatown area. I snapped this photo and later wondered what the heck it was. As it turns out, the H.S.N.Y. Benevolent Association and others like it do some good, and have done, for more than a hundred years. Although I don't know if this particular office has been here for more than a hundred years.

In general, there are more than one Chinese Benevolent Association, generally in cities that have enough ethnic Chinese to form a Chinatown area. Many of these societies banded together into a Consolidated Benevolent organization, tying efforts in New York to those in San Francisco, for example.

Historically they have helped Chinese immigrants get on their feet, and also lobbied for guidelines for immigration. They represent a self-help approach to acclimation to American culture, and also a network within American culture.

They are also the kind of group that in Singapore's public assistance model would be funded for social good instead of the Welfare system we have now.

Interesting, no? And all I did was just walk by.

Hoy Sung Ning Yung B.A. in Atlantic City Web site.
New York City's Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Web site, which I found interesting.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday, January 9: Honoring Our Dead in Afghanistan

In late December, I went to iCasualties.org and learned that the United States lost 498 military personnel in and around Afghanistan this year. 

Year 
2010
Jan
30
Feb
31
Mar
26
Apr
20
May 
34
June 
60
Jul
65
Aug
55
Sep
42
Oct
50
Nov
53
Dec
32

Below are the names of the men and women we lost. This does not count the 16 Canadian dead, the 103 from the United Kingdom, the ninety-three others who died from around the world in Afghanistan. If I did not note your country, icasualties.org did. You can find your countrymen listed there.

The Americans died at an age somewhere between 18 and 45 years old. I hope you will take a minute to read through these names, listed two or three across. 

Please also remember their families, friends, and comrades who needed them. 
Please remember these men and women who are still with us, still serving. 
Remember the wounded, 
the permanently injured, and their caregivers. Their battles are not done.

I am sorry if this page takes awhile to load, but I am not hiding any of these names after a page break. They are listed from most recent death to January 1, 2010.


--Nguyen, Tevan L.--Misener, Garrett A.--Corzine, Kenneth A.--
--Crouse IV, William H.--Javier Jr., Conrado D.--
--Torbert Jr., Eric M.--Maldonado, Jose L.--Osterman, Sean A.--
--Cutsforth, Sean R.--Schmalstieg, Justin E.--Hernandez, Jose A.--
--Collins, Sean M.--McLawhorn Jr., Willie A.--Deans, Patrick D.--
--Necochea Jr., Kenneth E.--Simonetta, Derek T.--Villacis, Jorge E.--
--Goncalo, Ethan L.--Green, Stacy A.--Mixon, Kelly J.--
--Ayube II, James A.--Geary, Michael E.--Peto, Jason D.--
--Rusk, Colton W.--Wyatt, Derek A.--Aleman, Nicholas J.--
--Reeves, Jason A.--Ashlock, Vincent W.--Scott, Lucas C.--
--Thode, James E.--Abbate, Matthew--Wade, Chad S.--
--Milley, Scott F.--Jarvis, Barry E.--Oakes, Curtis A.--
--Ramsey, Matthew W.--Gassen, Jacob A.--Staggs, Austin G.--
--McLain, Buddy W.--Harris, Devon J.--Donnelly IV, William J.--
--Buenagua, Ardenjoseph A.--Middleton, William K.--Flannery, Sean M.--
--Robinson, David S.--Smith, Jason T.--Holder, Kyle M.--
--Culbreth, Justin E.--Locht, Gwendolyn A. Ortiz Rivera, Javier O.--
--Pape, Kevin M.--Senft, David P.--Ahmed, Shane H.--
--Lillard, Nathan E.--Nagorski, Scott T.--Warriner, Christian M.--
--Snow, Jesse Adam--Carroll, Jacob C.--Carver, Jacob R.--
--Rivadeneira, Juan L.--Chihuahua, Shannon--
--Fannin, Shawn D.--Bubacz, Andrew S.--
--Lutes, David C.--Bolen, Edward H.--Stack, James B.--
--Huse, Dakota R.--Kelly, Robert M.--Vargas, Anthony--
--Hutchins, Andrew--Cruttenden, Aaron B.--Kridlo, Dale J.--
--Braggs, Randy R.--Reifert, Shane M.--Paranzino, Michael F.--
--Whipple, Blake D.--Emrick, Jordan B.--McCluskey, Jason J.--
--Pearson, Brandon W.--Broehm, Matthew J.--Young, James C.--
--Harris, Todd M.--Zimmerman, James R.--Meari, Andrew N.--
--Curtis, Jonathan M.--Land, Brett W.--Solorzanovaldovinos, Diego A.--
--Maldonado, Pedro A.--Dickmyer, Adam L.--Honeycutt Jr., Terry E.--
--Kirspel Jr., Michael D.--Tanner, Phillip C.--Sadell, Charles M.--
--Dupont, Steven L.--Moffitt, Thomas A.--Pallares, Ronnie J.--
--O’Malley, Aracely Gonzalez--McAninch, Kenneth K.--Jenkins, Gerald R.--
--Jackson, Francisco R.--Cullins, Joshua J.--Villarreal Jr., Jorge--
--Tawney, Ian M.--Boelk, James D.--Catherwood, Alec E.--
--Benitez, Carlos A.--Martinez Jr., Rafael--Billingsley, Tramaine J.--
--Lopez, Joseph C.--Ceniceros, Irvin M.--Newman, Eric C.--
--Cain, Justin J.--Vinnedge, Phillip D.--Rodewald, Joseph E.--
--Dew, Victor A.--Byrd, Jordan--Johnson, Raymon L. A.--
--Powell, Matthew C.--Zaehringer III, Frank R.--Weigle, Dave J.--
--Hess, David A--Sparks, John T.--Gonzalez, Edwin--
--Sockalosky, Stephen C.--Lynch, Scott A.--Johnson, Daniel J.--
--Clark, Ryane G.--Prentler, Joseph T.--Campbell, Karl A.--
--Board, Cody A.--Pedro, Brian J.--Vogeler, Lance H.--
--Matteoni, Anthony D.--Harley Jr., Willie J.--Rabon Jr.,Luther W.--
--Jackson, Timothy M.--Officer, Justin A.--Harrison, Calvin B.--
--Forester, Mark Andrew--Fabbri, Ralph J.--Morrison, Donald Scott--
--Simpson, Mark A.--Springer II, Clinton E.--Dawson, William Brandon--
--Petree, Jaysine P. S.--Rosa, Anthony J.--Buras, Michael J.--
--McClellan, Jonah D.--Baldwin, Robert F.--Calhoun Jr., Marvin R.--
--Powell, Joshua D.--Wagstaff, Matthew G.--Miranda, Denis C.--
--Smith, Adam O.--McLendon, David B.--Looney, Brendan J.--
--Ose, Joshua S.--Vieyra, Barbara--Yates, Eric--
--Harton, Joshua A.--Carron, Paul D.--Grider, Ronald A.--
--Newman, Jaime C.--Fleming, Scott J.--Snow, Deangelo B.--
--Johnson, Timothy L.--Kramer, Aaron K.--Sanchez, Daniel R.--
--Weaver, Todd W.--Bishop, John C.--Charte, Philip G. E.--
--McMahon, Jason T.--Balthaser, Jesse M.--Carver, Ross S.--
--Montoya, Diego M.--Twigg, Joshua T.--Rodgers, Christopher B.--
--Roberts, Cody A.--Bovia, Joseph A.--Adkinson III, Vinson B.--
--Alcaraz, Raymond C.--George, Matthew Eric--Page, James A.--
--Goetz, Dale A.--Infante, Jesse--Kessler, Kevin J.--
--West, Matthew J.--Clements, Chad D.--Noziska, Mark--
--Grochowiak, Casey J.--Holley, Floyd E. C.--Wallace, Ellery R.--
--Raver, Bryn T.--Ide, James R.--Castro, Andrew J.--
--Durham, Patrick K.--Robinson, James C.--Fedder, Daniel L.--
--Coleman, Chad D.--Novak, Adam J.--Swink, James Michael--
--Shoecraft, Justin B.--Newton, Robert J.--Rodriguez, Ronald A.--
--Deluzio, Steven J.--Southworth, Tristan H.--Meletiche, Pedro A. Millet--
--Calo, Jason D.--Maldonado, Alexis V.--Schultz, Nathaniel J. A.--
--Childers, Cody S.--Wright, Christopher S.--Lugo, Martin A.--
--Thomas, Collin--Boyd, Christopher J.--Oratowski, Kevin E.--
--Roberts, Edgar N.--Farley, Derek J.--Chisholm, Benjamen G.--
--High, IV, Charles M.--Bock, Michael A.--Karch, Christopher N.--
--Saenz III, Jose L.--Greer, Kristopher D.--Cuzzupe, Paul O.--
--Rappuhn, Bradley D.--Nicol, Andrew C.--Andrade, John E.--
--Gammone III, Vincent E.--Cornelius, Kevin M.--Donahue, Max W.--
--Van Aalst, Jared N.--Stout, Kyle B.--Stansbery, Michael L.--
--Holbrook, Jason E.--Warren, Kyle R.--Martin, Shane R.--
--Howard, Abram L.--Vazquez, Frederik E.--Mora, Conrad A.--
--Lim, Daniel--Bauer, Joseph A.--Hand, Andrew--
--Newlove, Jarod--McNeley, Justin--Oquin, James J.--
--Weis, James M.--Carazo, Mario D.--Vargas, Julio--
--Piercy, Brian F.--Miller, Paul J.--Wrightsman, Joe L.--
--Eastman, Christopher L.--Bennedsen, Robert N.--Santiago, Anibal--
--Allen, Justin B.--Weikert, Matthew W.--Tilton, Jesse R.--
--Bartelt, Justus S.--Santos, Dave M.--Winters, Leston M.--
--Jarrell, John H.--Stanley, Chase--Reed, Jesse D.--
--Johnson, Matthew J.--Fisher, Zachary M.--King, Brandon M.--
--Goeke, Christopher S.--Stout, Christopher T.--Tate, Sheldon L.--
--Moon, Christopher J.--Garvin, Nathaniel D.--Antonik, Christopher J.--
--Mittler, Shaun M.--Negron, Carlos J.--Ainsworth, Jesse W.--
--Crow, Robert W.--Edgerton, Donald R.--Roads, Tyler A.--
--Dimock II, Joseph W.--Raney, Daniel G.--Simmons, Anthony W.--
--Arizmendez, Marc A.--Pridham, Michael S.--Lee, Roger--
--Fastuca, Louis R.--Cabacoy, Christopher F.  Wood, Edwin C.--
--Osborne, Jerod H.--Cooper, Keenan A.--Creighton, Andrew J.--
--Dennis, Jacob A.--McGarrah, Clayton D.--Wisniewski, David A.--
--Jefferson, David--Grady, Ryan J.--Harris Jr., Larry D.--
--Hennigan, Matthew R.--Rogers, John M.--Chapleau, Kristopher D.--
--Shaw, Eric B.--Thomas, David W.--Richards, William T.--
--Caskey, Joseph D.--Holmes, David A.--Plunk, Jared C.--
--Thompson, Blair D.--DeBoer, Daane Adam--Repkie, Robert K. L.--
--Loredo, Edwardo--Madden, Russell E.--Justesen, Anthony T.--
--Dumaw, Joshua R.--Turner, Eddie--Patino IV, Claudio--
--Cueto, Kevin A.--Looney, Andrew R.--Miller, David T.--
--Andrews, Scott A.--Serwinowski, Timothy G.--Silk, Brandon M.--
--Hunter, James P.--Park, Benjamin J.--Ortega, William--
--Cox, Nathan W.--Bailey, Michael C.--Johnson, Joseph D.--
--Hotchkin, Gunnar R.--Standfest, Jeffrey R.--Osborn, Benjamin D.--
--Anderson, Brian M.--Rodriguez, Mario--Adams, Christian M.--
--Hoover, Bryan A.--Fike, Robert J.--Brummund, Gavin R.--
--Plank, Michael G.--Flores, Michael P.--Gentz, Joel C.--
--Smith, David C.--White, Benjamin D.--Klusacek, Erick J.--
--Walters, Zachary J.--Shanfield, Derek L.--Catlett, Matthew R.--
--Jirtle, Charles S.--Barton, Robert N.--Lukeala, Joshua A.--
--Redding, Blaine E.--Rankel, John K.--Neenan, Brendan P.--
--Bury, Brandon C.--Hernandez, Derek--Marler, Donald M.--
--McGahan, Michael E.--Theinert, Joseph J.--Peney, Jonathan K.--
--Dilisio, Anthony A.--Suter, Jake W.--Leicht, Jacob C.--
--Rivera, Edwin--Barton, Christopher R.--Fingar, Jason D.--
--Barnard, Shane S.--Clark, Philip P.--Xavier Jr.,Patrick--
--Tomlinson, Joshua A.--Tieman, Richard J.--Belkofer, Thomas P.--
--Bartz, Paul R.--McHugh, John M.--Paradarodriguez, Nicholas D.--
--Anderson, Billy G.--Perkins, Adam L.--Wood, Zarian--
--Kisseloff, Denis D.--Desforges, Joshua D.--Lamar II, Donald J.--
--Johnson, Jeffery W.--May, Jr., Kenneth B.--Shea, Kurt S.--
--Brown, Jeremy L.--Comfort, Kyle A.--Davis, Joshua M.--
--Slack, Wade A.--Penny, Richard R.--Rangel, Christopher--
--Barrett, Brandon A.--Benson, Austin H. Gates--Coleman, Mark W.--
--Finniginam, Eric M.--Corma, Salvatore S.--Rivers Jr., Thomas E.--
--Kennedy, Nathan P.--Wichmann, Grant A.--Kubik, Ronald A.--
--Santora, Jason A.--Laborde, John K.--Barrett, Robert J.--
--Sigley, Randolph A.--Ingram Jr, Michael K.--Caron, Joseph T.--
--Durkin, Sean M.--Jankiewicz, Michael D.--Lackey, James B.--
--Voas, Randell D.--Hall, Jonathon D.--Borio, Roberto E. Diaz--
--Swenson, Curtis M.--World, Frank J.A.--Griffin, Tyler O.--
--Zilberman, Miroslav--Brunkhorst, Scott W.--Miller, James L.--
--Heck, Randy M.--Ross, Jacob A.--Centanni, Rick. J.--
--Cottle, Robert. J.--Wilson, Justin J.--Santos-Silva, Carlos M.--
--Brown, Adam Lee--Clarkson, Joel D.--Gilbert II, Robert L.--
--Whetten, Glen J.--Porto, Jonathan D.--Gamble, Garrett W.--
--Kropat, Jason M.--Richardson, Jonathan J.--Cook, Nicholas S.--
--Dikcis, Alan N.--Paci, Anthony A.--Olsen, Nigel K.--
--Owens, Vincent L.C.--Aragon, Carlos A.--Gelig, Ian T.D.--
--Huston, Matthew D.--Crumpler, Josiah D.--Ricketts, William S.--
--Gorra, Marcos--Hanson, Matthias N.--Ward, Eric L.
--Peak, Adam D.--Salvacion, JR Robiniol--Eckard, Christopher W.--
--Cardenaz, Michael David P.--Stultz, Gregory S.--Birchfield, Joshua H.--
--Dunn, Kielin T.--McQueary, Jeremy R.--Coutu, Kyle J.--
--Johnson, Larry M.--Yazzie, Alejandro J.--Currier, Eric D.--
--Pier, Noah M.--Estopinal, Jason H.--Turbett, Jacob H.--
--Reiners, John A.--Wittman, Jeremiah T.--Pagan, Bobby J.--
--Ray, Adam J.--Williams, Charles A.--Foxx, Dillon B.--
--Hartman, David J.--Sluss-Tiller, Matthew S.--Stets, Mark A.--
--Lovejoy, Zachary G.--Whitten, Daniel--Freeman Jr., Michael L.--
--Thompson, David J.--Decoteau, Marc Paul--Christian, Rusty H.--
--Smith, David J.--Gill, Carlos E.--Smith, Zachary D.--
--Angus, Daniel M.--Poole, Timothy J.--Kane, Jeremy M.--
--Qi, Xin--Montgomery, Thaddeus S.--Pena, Paul--
--Ginett, Adam K.--Shannon, Michael P.--Donevski, Robert--
--Hrbek, Christopher R.--Wright, Kyle J.--Beachnaw, Lucas T.--
--Merriweather, Daniel D.--Whitsitt, Geoffrey A.--Ingham, Matthew N.--
--Lowe, Jamie R.--Uzenski, Nicholas K.--Meinert, Jacob A.--
--Juarez, Mark D.--Hickman, Jason O. B.--Smith, Bradley R.--
--Dion, John P.--Lengstorf, Joshua A.--Bowman, Brian R.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Plantation Architecture: part 2, Arlington House

The following pictures show pieces of the Robert E. Lee plantation home, called the Custis-Lee Mansion or Arlington House. Robert E. Lee married a Custis cousin. They share family with Martha Washington.

The mansion used to overlook orchards. Part of the war reparations (which besides describing payment also describe 'repair' of injury) was that 624 acres of land surrounding this plantation was deeded to the nation for a military grave site, the place we call Arlington National Cemetery. Later, the house was purchased by the Federal Government. The history of the transaction is itself a sign of Northern resentment and shady dealings, later made right with the Custis family in part by Abraham Lincoln's own son, Robert Todd.


It's interesting to note that the first Memorial Service at Arlington National Cemetery was officiated by President Herbert Hoover in 1929, a man that most of the U.S. despised at the time. And interesting that the Lincoln Memorial is sited to architecturally answer Arlington House, starting from 1867 when the site was only swamp. Every single marble slab on the Lincoln Memorial is a specific planned inclusion; every possible message that could be made is reinforced in the execution of it. Just as the Custis-Lee House was meant to advance one family, the Lincoln Memorial was always meant to include every state and every citizen of the United States. It was built to advance Union: to honor the man who stood for Union.

President Lincoln faced off Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in his last, most fateful years. Now the Lincoln Memorial faces and answers Arlington House. The arc between these two historical tacticians calls and answers to victory and defeat, personal sacrifice to personal loss, classical Greek to classical Roman, justice to injustice, a temple in a flat park to a home on a hill. Along this arc rests the costs of victory, defeat, ultimate effort, and ideals in contention: our nation's military casualties.

Arlington National Cemetery is administered by the Department of the Army. The Custis-Lee home is administered by the National Parks Service. It is currently undergoing some renovation, but it needs a lot more.

Yesterday, I posted on my ambivalence to historic preservation of plantation architecture. But for this site, I have none. Because it stands amidst Arlington's hallowed ground, because the Lincoln Memorial answers it in full, I believe it should be restored to the utmost. Every strength we give the building shows what Lincoln was up against. Every trapping we add to its interior gives Lincoln's complex simplicity and stern but compassionate code all the more significance.


The next pictures are not so beautiful. I could have cropped them to be, but I wish to show you what kind of work preservation might entail.

A humidity sensor on a marble mantel with oak-leaf carvings.

Probably much more than a simple paint job required.
Cracking lintel.
The slave quarters have been partially preserved and provide their own answer to the house and to Lincoln himself. The Parks Service exhibit inside shows that they tried to preserve as many memories as possible from these slaves, through the gathering of geneologies and spoken or written accounts.

Mrs. Lee liked to entertain, whether General Lee was home or not. She had a built-in chaperone, a cousin who never married, and whose economic health was therefore precarious. As a family hanger-on, she was apparently irritatingly cheerful. The slave quarters exhibit recalls a slave who used to do a good imitation of her. It called to my mind that the woman's suffrage movement and the abolition movement were entirely linked in their first years--that women could rarely own property, and that no slave could.

But most of all, the story was exceedingly funny. And I think that is also worth memorializing:

Next to the house on the hill, a tiny cabin held a contingent of oppressed people. But even oppressed, they still had intelligence, and opinions, and many tactics for endurance, including humor. These slaves are part of Lincoln's self-perceived care and duty; his Memorial looks to them as well. The slave quarters also represent the Custis-Lee stake in the argument: their right to extract care and duty. The argument expressed in the architecture is therefore three-fold. The slaves were more than a class or concern: They were individuals with wit. The account also recalls that history is full of little moments. The slave's humor under duress is akin to the humor of military men who endure under duress.

Well-built but small, and no amenities inside.

The Custis-Lee Mansion and its slave quarters make Lincoln's memorial complete: they recall the totality of moral argument and military effort, political certitude and uncertain outcomes stated whole in Lincoln's Second Inaugural address. The slave cabin finishes out the Custis-Lee argument in a moral sense, reminding us that grandeur lived through the toil of others. The slave quarters also resonate to that other answer: those that lie all around, out of pain at last and some for over a century, in Arlington National Cemetery. They remind us that those that suffered in war are more than a number. They were individuals who did not attain, for the most part, their full span of years and its expression.

May they rest in peace, along this arc of conflict and care, under flat turf or on the hill. May we care over these questions, and these dead, forever.

The Lincoln Memorial and Inscription

Friday, January 7, 2011

In Which I Traded Out Granny's Necklace.

Well, I went to the Epiphany party last night, from 6:30 to about 8:30. And I indeed traded out grandmother's necklace.

In its place, I have a cheap plastic Menorah with nine brand-new light bulbs, of which six work.
I put it on my bed stand. For now, it is sitting next to the cheap red plastic Santeria Buddha I bought in Juarez in 1995.

Plantation Architecture, part I

I have cynical feelings about restoring Plantation Mansions. Most of them are depressing indeed: in want of funds, with period wallpaper books open to show what they want donations for, and  a dusty mayonnaise jar for you to put those donations in.

Most of these homes are mouldering faster than John Brown's body. In Louisiana along the (Mississippi) River Road, you can see them gradually cut out from under by river water, industrial development, weather, mold, cockroaches, mice, and human neglect. Most of them have elegant proportions that speak past the shabbiness and decay. They represent a type of architecture which will never return.

European Tradition
If this was Europe, we would prize the chateaus where elegance once reigned at high human cost. Europeans don't raze their architecture just because there were dungeons in the basement full of torture implements, or even though rich young lordlings raped servant girls in the pantry or peed on the marquetry table legs in marble halls. During the French Revolution, they chopped off the heads of the Lords in the palace and those who tried to sell luxury goods to those Very Royal. This scared the hell out of the rest of Europe, but not enough to change central government.  Napoleon showed up, and the Royal Pageant went on. So did war--but it was not a war to free the oppressed. It was a war of Kings against an Emperor. Like his forbears in French leadership, Napoleon sought to control all of Europe with a ruling class, not to abolish central rule.

Our Idea
But in this country, we ended slavery through means not strictly class-driven. It was a regional break, and yes an economic break, but not by class: all classes went to war against slave states or to preserve their 'peculiar institution'. Today I'm not delving deeply into the long but true history of how the slave class had to suffer too long, and never got an even break afterward--that's for another time. But this is where some cynicism lies when it comes to preserving Plantation Architecture.

The American ideal of equality for all, plus a disdain for losing, makes a full-out federal preservation protection of plantation items seem ludicrous. Why would the United States of America revere the homes of its lost oppressor class? Yet those who don't grow up in the South never quite figure out that shabby plantation homes recollect war depredations (Sherman's torch) or reparations (carpetbaggers). Each failing site signifies that an entire economic class was decimated, that they were taxed and driven out of business, that they gave their all (gallantly) and lost. So in the South, preservation of the "highest achievement" is complicated by the fact that their best wasn't good enough. It was too long on grandeur, too short on foundries. Too cruel to sustain, but it propped elegance. A shabby Southern plantation denotes high ambivalence due to unresolved injury and the memory of historical outrage. Pick the injury and the outrage depending on who you are.

Therefore, any restoration of plantation architecture seemingly speaks to a lack of ambivalence: that the North should have left the South alone, and onward to that slavery somehow was acceptable. Onlookers who wish the Confederate flag to disappear distrust the motives of plantation preservation. .In this country, such preservation is a political statement. But I think the statement could  and should be be more complex.

Yes, these plantation homes describe the high living of careless  and cruel rich white people. Maybe some were "good to their slaves". They turned the cruelty over to subcontractors: foremen, patrollers, estate agents, so they could accord themselves this luxury of kind treatment on the face-to-face or escape altogether. And we do this now whenever we buy goods produced by slave labor elsewhere. These homes have the capability of throwing present sins into our faces, too. The ambivalence may be about a present international economy as well.

These homes also describe, just as the Egyptian pyramids do, or Versailles, or any Gothic chapel, the workmanship and artisan craft of the working class. Plantation sites don't just describe a place where whipping posts were used--but a place where black artisans designed and built sugar refineries, timber mills, environmentally suitable homes, levees that held back swamps, defensive avenues of fire, forest fire abatement, and strong buildings for storage and their own, far-lesser habitations. Most of these artisans are not recorded in history, just as the masons of palaces and cathedrals and pyramids are not. Most of them were never remunerated and hardly recognized.

And Just Maybe . . .
Maybe historical preservation can bring out that an enslaved people contributed mightily to American historical infrastructure. That without the unnamed architects of the sugar refinery, the unnamed engineers of the levees, and the faithful work undertaken, we would not be who we are and what we are today.  I think when we preserve mansions and slave quarters, we should preserve technological works as well--less glamorous, far more important. Then we could see that despite every attempt to stifle personality, capital aggregation, and justifiable pride in the slave, their contributions remain. Our very map would be different along the Eastern seaboard and the Southern coastline were it not for these unnamed souls.

We could find a way to honor slaves at these sites as well as deplore their situation. We could advance our understanding of history and the human spirit--gifted and superior, even in slavery. Something past Gone With the Wind, King Tut, European Lords and Medieval Popes. Something that reconciles this historical ambivalence by refusing to bury any part of it. Something that gives shape to current national aspirations.

Still, though I believe this could be achieved, I remain cynical. I wonder, when the last plantation house in the South collapses, will we be done fixing the scars by then? On the other hand, I remember that forgetting history is like being blind to a warning. We have long been blind to the achievements of the unknown laborer, whether we espouse their cause en masse or not. So I do not know the answer.

Tomorrow, a plantation architecture that should be preserved . . . . or at least I think so . . . .