Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bit of a blog holiday

I have not fallen off the face of the earth. Cooked then went to a lovely thanksgiving dinner. Worked Friday, had dinner with a dear friend last night, brunched today (Saturday) with susankay and her hubby. Doing other stuff for a while and enjoying it. I'll be back.

--the BB

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dan Savage sums it up

When Are Your "Privately Held Religious Beliefs" Not So Private Anymore? When you donate $1500 to a political campaign to strip other people—people who are not your co-religionists—of their civil rights.


A donation to a political campaign is a public matter; and civil marriage rights for same-sex couples did not infringe upon the religious freedom of Mormons, devout or otherwise.


In the wake of Prop 8 millions of gays and lesbians all over the country have decided that we're no longer going to play by the old rules. We're not going to let people kick our teeth down our throats and then run and hide behind "Nothing personal—just my private religious beliefs!" That game's over.

Read it all here.
--the BB

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Latest Coalition Fatalities

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
Capt. Warren A. Frank, 26, of Cincinnati, Ohio, died Nov. 25 while supporting combat operations in Ninewa province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liasion Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.

DoD Identifies Army Casualty
1st Lt. William K. Jernigan, 35, of Doraville, Ga., died Nov. 24 in Baqubah, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division...
11/25/08 MNF: Marine, Soldier attacked by SAF

May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

"It's that other doxy's fault" -- the studly Eric Duke

Yes, I'm referring to that tattooed denizen of the sultry swamps, Ginger Laharpe!

She tempted me and I did eat. You betcha.

So here we go with the Other Names Meme:

1. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names): Victor Bell

2. NASCAR NAME: (first name of your mother’s dad, father’s dad): Charles Victor 
- though I prefer what grandpa was always called: C. B. Victor

3. STAR WARS NAME: (the first 2 letters of your last name, first 4 letters of your first name): Stpaul – oh my, not him again!

4. DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal): Blue Dog 
(those effing Bushocrats, ¡de ningún manera, José!)

5. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you live): Eric Duke – Albuquerque is known as Duke City, so I took liberties
. Then again, when you are starring in the telenovelas you can probably take a few liberties here and there.

6. SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd favorite color, favorite alcoholic drink, optionally add “THE” to the beginning): NO, this one just is not going to work – The Green Rhône – can I use Russian? Zilony Rhone?

7. FLY NAME: (first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name): Paid – makes me feel like a stamp on an invoice

8. GANGSTA NAME: (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite cookie): Dulce de Leche Pepparkakar – hmmm, how about Dulce Pepper?

9. ROCK STAR NAME: (current pet’s name, current street name): Cocoa Meadows – no pet, so my largest teddy bear’s nickname

10. PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on): Sarge Madison

I don't know about the rest but this method of creating a name for porn acting has long been used, according to urban legend anyway. I have flirted in public with a few porn stars in my day (when I was thirty-odd years younger and sixty pounds lighter) but never actually met them to ask whether it be true.

I tossed in a version of the subjunctive in that last sentence just for Padre Mickey.

You will find several rounds of this in the comments at Ginger's place.
--the BB

Thanksgiving Eve

For the beauty and bounty of the Earth our Mother

For the first peoples of this land

And for countless blessings

I give thanks.

--the BB

[Upper photo taken on the way to the parking lot after work tonight; lower photo of a statue in the building where I got my security badge.]

Hats off to Her Majesty

Jordanian Coat of Arms courtesy of
the Jordanian Embassy to the United States

No, you dear, silly Episcopalian anglophiles, I do not mean Her Brittanic Majesty, Mrs. Mountbatten.

I refer, this time around, to Queen Rania of Jordan who has started her own channel on YouTube. I read about this at Juan Cole's Informed Comment (and recommend the post and its links to more videos with the queen.)

She is educated, articulate, drop-dead gorgeous but taken (I really don't want to offend King Abdullah II or Queen Rania here), and a great spokesperson for modern Islam.

She also knows how to take a David Letterman meme and use it brilliantly. I present, without further ado, the Top Ten Reasons she posts on YouTube.

Awesome, no?

Cole also notes:
The queen, who (like me) is a graduate of the American University in Cairo, worked at Citibank and Apple Computers in the region before marrying Abdullah bin Hussein of Jordan in 1993 (he is now King Abdullah II). She has been lauded for her work for women's rights in Jordan, and she is a new breed of queen, holding the rank of colonel in the Jordanian armed forces.

--the BB

Gratuitous nature shot

3 November 2005

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A good time for poetry

Is this a good time in our nation's history to ponder Langston Hughes' poem "I, Too, Sing America"? You will find it at the Poem of the Week on November 6.

--the BB

And the horse Akinola and Minns rode in on too

It seems lots of Mormons are taking offense at being called bigots.
I noticed in all the local news coverage of the Prop 8 protests that Mormons being interviewed were often furiously denouncing the idea that they were bigots. They seemed a bit puzzled and hurt by the accusation and very upset that anyone would accuse them of such a thing..

I think Digby speaks for me:
I have no pity for them. they spent many millions defending bigotry and they can't expect that there will be no pushback. If they don't like being called bigots, they shouldn't be bigots.
I commend her full article to you.
--the BB

The out-of-body experience: a different kind of geography lesson

Map courtesy of the Perry-Castañeda Map
Collection at the University of Texas

No, I'm not talking astral travel, just my own silliness.

I have always wondered how far one would have to drive if one missed my exit from I-40. Last night I found out.

I was inattentive, listening to the Randi Rhodes show on the radio, you could say "spaced out." I usually get into the right-hand lane at least a mile in advance. This time I was barreling along in the left lane when I realized I had just caught a glimpse of my exit over to my right. "Glimpse" as in "that exit sign 90 degrees to your right is where you are supposed to be right now and you cannot neither bilocate nor, within the realm of physical possibility, alter the fact that you just went past your exit." You may be assured that I was well past the exit in the time it would have taken to think that sentence, even silently.


So I got to find out the answer to that long-standing question. I had a little geographical adventure.

I have driven I-40 west of here several times, I just had never been focused on this, not even when coming home from the road trip.

So, a little background: the Paseo del Volcán exit is the last Albuquerque exit. It is located up on the West Mesa. I take it heading south from I-40 in that lovely drive through lots of nothingness until I come to Dennis Chávez and turn east, descend from the mesa and, voilá, come to my home.

It was dark at this time so there was no delighting in scenery, just noting the miles.

And the answer is: the next exit is 9 miles further west at Rio Puerco and the Route 66 Casino.

So I had an 18-mile detour last night. Ah well, mistakes are how we learn.

I was very attentive tonight.

Yvette, if you are reading this I hope it triggers fond memories of my driving in New Orleans. Which is to say, I am hoping the memories are fond. I certainly did my best to provide amusement.

[Note to the rest of you: I knew my way around - I'm just scatterbrained.]
--the BB


Thief graphic from kenya.....kritique

Bob Herbert has an apt comment:
The idea that the nation had all but stopped investing in its infrastructure, and that officials in Washington have ignored the crucial role of job creation as the cornerstone of a thriving economy is beyond mind-boggling. It’s impossible to understand.

Impossible, that is, until you realize that bandits don’t waste time repairing a building that they’re looting.

h/t BarbinMD
--the BB

Monday, November 24, 2008

Изучаю русский

Храм Спаса–на–Крови
Resurrection Church of our Savior
aka Church on Spilled Blood
St Petersburg, Russia

A coworker this afternoon asked when my trip was. He assumed I would not be working this hard on learning Russian unless the trip were near.

Alas, it's not.

There is no schedule, though my fantasy is that we will visit St Petersburg and Moscow in 2010. This means I have a good year and a half to work on learning Russian. But the point is not to put all that effort into conversation for a week or two - it is to learn a new language so that I can use it on more than a trip.

The good news, for me, is that Russian is an Indo-European tongue with most of its structure comparable to languages I have studied before. Cases have diminished in English to the point that "whom" is almost lost in public speech and writing but Latin and Greek were good preparation for Russian declension. The anarthrous aspect is like Latin (in shorter words this means there is no article, either "a/an" or "the"). When translating into English one must supply the appropriate article, inferring it from context. The doubling of verbs involves a major shift in gears - i.e., having most concepts expressed by pairs of verbs. One might be perfective and the other imperfective, or one might be unidirectional and the other multi-directional. That is very challenging. Still, the overall structure makes sense. I just need to learn the rules, the patterns, and the vocabulary, then practice, practice, practice.

It's work. But for me it is pleasurable work.

Which is a long preface to noting that I just finished another hour with Rosetta Stone. Stuff is beginning to come at me faster and faster. Since I understand some of the grammar I can see what they are trying to teach (e.g., masculine and feminine forms of the possessive "my" or singular and plural verb forms). When they get into usages we had not yet covered in class last spring I can guess what's up but I scramble to figure it out and answer correctly. One minute I get all that "correct" harp music and the next there are repeated "dings" to tell me I got it wrong.

I had learned from CDs in prior years about multiple plural forms, shifting between 4 and 5. For example one hour (or one o'clock) is "chas" without a numeral. With 2, 3, and 4 the plural of hour is "chasa" (sounding like ch'sa). 5 upward gets "chesof." The pattern is clear and we learned it with rubles also (rubl, rubli, rublof). Tonight I got it with boys and girls. Having gotten dyevochka and dyevochki now I learn dyevochek. But that is simply counting in the nominative and does not even touch the usages in other cases. The head begins to spin.

My goal is to learn enough Russian that I can carry on elementary conversations and polite interchanges with relative ease, whether on Nevsky Prospect in St Petersburg or Santa Monica Boulevard just east of Fairfax in Los Angeles. I have a long way to go but it is lots of fun.

Oh, and the bad news, for my learning, is that it is a Slavic tongue and not a Romance language. This makes vocabulary and sound combinations much more like an obstacle course. By the time the Russians shove about four consonants together and then put an accent on a syllable that has four unaccented syllables following it my mouth starts doing weird things. It feels like the vocal equivalent of tripping in the clumsiest possible manner.

So, here's a general question for any takers:

If you could learn a foreign language you do not yet know, what might you choose? And why that one?
--the BB

I note only a fraction

The fatality count for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq is really just one part of the toll of war. Mark Harris adds in the wounded and reminds us of this sorrowful statistic.

US Casualties top 35,000, almost unnoticed.

There is enough going on that we need reminding from time to time: The war in Iraq is costing the lives of men and women from the US, many more in the country whose leadership we so massively rearranged. Sometime in the past two weeks US casualties, the dead and wounded, pasts the 35,000 mark - 4,204 dead, 30,832 wounded.
To that one may add the peoples of the land who have perished in the needless war in Iraq or the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. Now we are in the hundreds of thousands.

We must never forget the reality of war when anyone tries to make it glorious. Great bravery and sacrifice occur and much admirable behavior amid the horrors but war remains inglorious, brutal, and devastating.

Godde have mercy on us all.
--the BB

Eileen had nothing to do with it - UPDATED

This morning's quiz
is published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute American Civil Literacy Program.

Intriguing stuff. When they did a survey they found elected officials scoring lower than regular citizens overall.
All survey respondents were asked whether they have ever engaged in any of 13 different political and civic activities. These included, for example, registering to vote, signing a petition, contacting a public official, publishing a letter to the editor, and whether they have ever been elected to a government office.

Among the 2,508 respondents, 164 say they have been elected to a government office at least once. This sub-sample of officeholders yields a startling result: elected officials score lower than the general public. Those who have held elective office earn an average score of 44% on the civic literacy test, which is five percentage points lower than the average score of 49% for those who have never been elected. It would be most interesting to explore whether this statistically significant result is maintained across larger samples of elected officials.
Feeling civic today? Take it here.

h/t to BarbinMD

linc at Daily Kos points out that the folks who sponsor this test are a bunch of serious right-wingers and the questions are subtly designed to foster conservative thinking in several areas (linc gives examples). Simply given the graphic layout of the test site, I am not surprised; it just has a conservative feel. I suspect linc is right but still found it an interesting test to take. Maybe some progressives should put together their own civics test.

Let me toss in a yes/no question of my own:
Have you read the United States Constitution any time in the last five years?

--the BB

Sunday, November 23, 2008

4204 - updated

Latest Coalition Fatalities

DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Pvt. Charles Yi Barnett, 19, of Bel Air, Maryland, died on Nov. 20 of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident in Tallil, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team...

DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Sgt 1st Class Miguel A. Wilson, 36, of Bonham, Texas, died Nov. 21 in Abu Sayf, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a rescue attempt of another soldier while their unit was conducting a dismounted reconnaissance mission.


11/21/08 Reuters:
US soldiers killed in Afghanistan
A suicide car-bomber killed nine people and wounded 16, including two US soldiers, in an attack on a government compound in eastern Afghanistan, a government official said...The wounded US soldiers were from a NATO-led force...

May they and all slain in war rest in peace and rise in glory.

This is fascinating

Love them, hate them, or not know what to think of them - the Code Pink peace activists have ovaries. I just read a post by orangecloud115 about the dialogue some of them have had with President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Some of them are in Iran right now. No preconditions, it seems. Very interesting, as is the realistic (to me) assessment that Jodie Evans gave on the subject of trusting Ahmadinejad.
I look at trust in an interesting way. I trust people to be who they are. So, in witnessing who he is, I trust him to be a fundamentalist Muslim leader of a country that's quite wary of another country - an Imperialist country that has definitely violated the trust of that country in the past. I think he's got anger from being left out. I trust him to behave from that place.

I watched him and I saw someone who was very intelligent, that was able to use humor, that was able to connect on a human level, but also when he spoke about his commitment to peace I saw that he doesn't think much about freedom, that he's very committed to his religion and the ideals of that religion, not in the sense of freedom but in the sense of control. Very "it knows what's right" - not in ways that me feel good - I felt he couldn't see his own shadow.

He talked a lot about his commitment to peace but I didn't see any of the tenets of peace in that conversation, so I'd love to be able to have a deeper conversation with him about exposing to him the places that I find that don't coincide with what he says, but I didn't get to do that.

Read more here.
--the BB

We need to keep on dreaming

And working.

And praying.

And speaking truth.

And practicing justice, mercy, humility.

John F. Kennedy 1961-1963
Courtesy of the White House Historical Association

OPOL has a touching post up today, titled "Dreaming of a Better World."

It ends with this video:

A Simple Song from Randall Shields on Vimeo.

[I know that when I flare up I am anything but compassionate or humble. I can only trust in grace to calm me down and set my feet on the good road again.]
--the BB


Somewhere in the last half hour this blog had its 40,000th page view (since 10/7/2007). It was just last September 7 that we hit 30,000 (I remember it happening while on the road trip).

Many thanks to all who visit here, and especially commenters and online friends.

Now, off to church.
--the BB

May we all feel and know that we are part of this enterprise

Photo by Derrick Z. Jackson/Globe Staff

I profoundly enjoy the thoughtful articles of teacherken, who posts frequently at Daily Kos. He is a social studies teacher who helps kids not only learn about how government works but to recognize its vital importance in their lives and their need to engage it.

He has a great one out today, one reflecting on Derrick Z. Jackson's column at the Boston Globe titled 'It's OK to be an American now.' Teacherken talks about issues of inclusion and participation.

Jackson begins thus:
IN CALLING President-elect Barack Obama a "house Negro," Al Qaeda missed the memo from Grant Park. Before Obama's victory speech in Chicago, the crowd of 125,000 people said the Pledge of Allegiance. In my 53 years I have never heard such a multicultural throng recite the pledge with such determined enunciation, expelling it from the heart in a treble soaring to the skies and a bass drumming through the soil to vibrate my feet. The treble and bass met in my spine, where "liberty and justice for all" evoked neither clank of chains nor cackle of cruelty, but a warm tickle of Jeffersonian slave-owning irony: Justice cannot sleep forever.

Spontaneous street bursts of the pledge and the national anthem came from notoriously liberal Madison, Wis., and the People's Republic of Cambridge. The day after the election, children claimed they said the pledge in school like they never said it before, in places like majority-black Washington, which still does not have a vote in Congress, and Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
A taste of teacherken:
Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the Civil Rights era and of Vietnam saw the flaws of our nation. Many of us sought to alleviate the pains, to correct the failings. Some feared change. Others sought to use that fear in ways that further damaged the country. That applies to those who encouraged violence whether to suppress dissent and protest or to undermine the government and the polity. Too many withdrew and focused on their immediate needs and desires. Others began to participate, but mainly to resist changes that they feared. And our nation suffered.

We need to heal. That is incumbent upon us all. Such healing can only come through participation. That participation requires a commitment to something beyond ourselves, our immediate wants and perceived needs. It requires political participation. It requires a meaningful commitment. That is one important expression of love of country, commonly called patriotism.

I commend them both to you.

Additional note: Juan Cole points out the following:
In the video, al-Zawahiri does pointedly refer to Malcolm X's distinction. But he speaks in Arabic of "`abid al-bayt," "the house slave," and does not use the word "Negro" (which the al-Sahab translators are rendering 'zinji.') The connotations and implications are much the same, but it is not exact to say that al-Zawahiri used the phrase "house Negro" himself.

--the BB