Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ah, the moments of incongruity, the times when one wants to keep the outside world at bay for just a little longer...

...kind of like that moment this past weekend, when, after the Argentina vs Mexico World Cup match finished up, some not-so-kid-friendly images cropped up on the big screen amidst the spacewalks and inflated obstacle courses, the steep slides and the jump shot games that the kids at the birthday party were going berserk over, and I could tell from the graininess of the video and the grit of the scenes that an episode of Cops was about to start. It was time for the teenaged-to-twentysomething'd staff to whip out the remote and see if the DirecTV could conjure up something more family-oriented than the occasional peace officer diapering a newborn or settling a domestic dispute out on the street...but the signal was weak and, eventually, the TV was allowed to fade to blackness. The world of what my husband considers to be one of the best travelogues out there (as, according to him, Cops tends to show its viewers the places all over this country that are best to avoid) was pushed away from sheer bounce-around kid fun in sock feet. Quite the save.

What I would have given anything to save this week, and for the past couple of months, were the moments when my son became a pretty good contact hitter, when his enthusiasm in games made up for the moments when balls would slam into his shin guards behind the plate and he wouldn't react, not even to chase the ball, when parents would come up to me and ask me when I'd get a t-shirt proclaiming to everybody that I was The Little Guy's Mom, when we'd all chat in the stands about how much the team was gelling as a unit - and, when I'd fret a little about how much the kiddo was interested in the dirt around home plate and how little he was into actually trying to catch and field the ball, a parent would tell me it was what it was and would marvel over how he made contact with the ball and tapped in the tying run that eventually helped get the team into position to win that game.

Quite the emotional save.

Been one helluva season.

Monday, June 28, 2010

From Toulouse Street, a poetic requiem for the Deepwater Horizon Eleven and the wildlife affected by the oil disaster:

And, from Blackened Out, some kudos for Abita's SOS (Save Our Shore) pilsner, the sales of which will help contribute to a fund that will help the Gulf Coast recover from the terrible events there. 100% of the sales from SOS swag will go to the fund as well, so head over here for more information and to donate.

Second Harvest Food Bank needs contributions from you now more than ever, as the folks affected by the oil geyser can't pay their bills for want of fishing grounds. Head over there today and give what you can.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I come home from a schlep up to the Jewish sleep-away camp my son attended for ten days and loved (he was gaily waving to all the counselors and to fellow campers and proclaiming that he'd see them next summer - and God and money availability willing, we'll do our best to make that come true) to find this article from Daniel Gordis in my email:
Those who argue that the two-state solution will not work are right. It’s more likely that we’ll need five: Hamastan, Fatahland, Palestine, Haredia and Israel.

At long last, even if years too late, Israelis woke up this week to the realization that we face yet another existential threat. Yes, it took 100,000 “Men in Black” in downtown Jerusalem to make the point, but finally, we get it. As dangerous as are the delegitimization of Israel and the specter of a nuclear Iran, Israel is no less threatened by a growing population of religious fundamentalists who insist on the right to racial discrimination in their schools and who utterly reject the legitimacy and authority of the Supreme Court. They reject, in other words, the idea of a “Jewish and democratic” state.

There’s more, of course, including their treatment of Sephardim (even haredi Sephardim), the often despicable attitude to women in their communities, their tendency toward violence (when irked, they attack city workers, police officers and even the haredi rabbi who urged the Sephardi parents to go to the Supreme Court) and, most obvious, their unwillingness to share the burden of defending this country.

This cancer threatens to destroy everything we have built. Yes, that’s a harsh metaphor, but it’s apt. As Dan Ben-David of the Taub Center has shown, despite its current economic stability, the State of Israel is simply economically unsustainable if matters continue this way. Barring a dramatic shift in policy, the country will collapse under the weight of these haredi “cells” that drain the energy from the best of the body. There’s nothing inherently evil about a cancer cell; we dread it only because it kills the organism we desperately wish to preserve. Haredim have every right to live as they wish, but that does not mean that we must allow them to destroy the country that we have built at such great cost over the past century.
A press release from Ben-David screams the headline Non-Employment amongst ultra-Orthodox men has risen by 200% during the last 30 years. Why the lack of haredim contributing to the Israeli economy? The higher premium within the haredi communities on the study of Torah over more earthly concerns such as making a living is a factor, for starters, but the way the ultra-Orthodox have been able to manipulate the Knesset and the institutions in Israel into giving them their inch of religious freedom and then letting them take over the economy is going to murder Israel well before the Muslim world and Israel's Arab neighbors do.

At its deepest, darkest root, the nagging guilty feeling that Orthodoxy is indicative of a "truer" Judaism is a huge internal threat to world Jewry as a whole...but that is nothing new. What is new is that, for the first time, we can grasp at numbers that show how much the old ways of the shtetl and the insular-to-a-huge-fault mentality of the ultra-Orthodox are hurting the GNP and GDP of a nation in which these people were supposed to thrive despite their near-obliteration a few generations ago.

What sort of tales of our time will enter the continuing saga of the Tanakh, then? They won't be those of Jewish zealots kicking some Syrian Greek butt in Mattathias' time, then slaying any Jews who disagreed with them, nor will they be of Bar-Kochva's revolt or a last stand at Masada. It will be a self-righteous, highly vocal group of extremists who are not above using threats and violence to get what they want -but their biggest and deadliest weapon is simply that of holding the shekel hostage in the name of their piety. The enemy, at long last, is indeed us.


....Oh, and the casualties of a trip to camp are many - the list includes missing towels, swim shoes, nail clippers, bath caddy, small plastic bucket, various shorts, swim trunks, t-shirts, socks, and undies, and a laundry bag that is long gone. The funny thing is that we've got two shirts and four socks that are not the little guy's. So much for labeling everything if the kids and the counselors are going to ignore the labels.

Has anybody designed some planned obsolescence camp supplies yet? If we get him going next year, we need stuff that will self-destruct after ten days.

Along the way to central Mississippi, I listened to this report on the intertwining fates of Big Oil and Louisiana. Nice to know that the BP oil disaster actually prevented the state senate from killing Tulane's Environmental Law Clinic. Let's hear it for timing.

Once we got to camp and collected our kids' and their stuff, I got into a stall-to-stall conversation in a bathroom with a mom from Oxford, Mississippi, who was a big fan of Treme and wanted to know how much of it was based in fact. She hopes the show gets some Emmy nominations. We'll see...we'll see...

Update, 5:03 PM:

Dan: "Well, do any of the clothes the kiddo brought home with him that aren't his (two shirts, one pair of shorts, two pairs of socks and three stray socks) belong to girls?"
Me: "Well, no."
Dan: "Oh, no big deal, then."
Me: "Oh, thanks."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I can't decide if Edie is blessed or cursed with her insatiable curiosity concerning disasters. Her need to know can get her following her nose into things big and small. The way she gets things right is by initially getting them wrong - the pronouncements she makes compel us, her closest friends, to jump in and correct as much as we can and get her on the right track before her erroneous assumptions lead her into trainwreck territory. It sounds worse than it is, really...

...but there have been days when she's yanked me right into places where I haven't wanted to go, but, it turns out, I've needed to be there. One of those days was my first day back in New Orleans in 2006...and the most recent one was yesterday.

Why did I go to Venice? Edie wanted to volunteer to help clean the oiled birds at the facility set up near Fort Jackson just outside Buras. We didn't need to go down there just for that; all we needed to do in that case was to sign up over here. Neither one of us has experience trying to get crude oil off waterfowl, but we could probably pass supplies to those who do have the experience and the certification. Yeah, fine, I was curious, too...and we both had the impulse to do something, even if it amounted to driving to the mouth of the Mississippi River to have a look-see. So off we went, taking in Garland Robinette and Spud McConnell on the radio the whole way down.

We reached a point past Belle Chasse when the river was constantly on our left and the structures became more temporary. Nearly five years ago, the eye of a downgraded-to-category-3-at-landfall storm named Katrina had passed directly over Buras, and the fierce winds closest to the hurricane's center had turned the structures in Plaquemines Parish into tangled masses that were indistinguishable from the houses, businesses, marinas, and boats that they had once been, and what hadn't been knocked down had been flooded out. Plaquemines' physical recovery has largely consisted of modular homes that originally traversed the country on the backs of trucks to rest on blocks at Port Sulphur, or Empire, or Boothville, or nearly-obliterated Buras. Some houses are rebuilt on slabs as though nothing ever happened to change the homeowners' minds to rebuild any other way, and some structures are jacked up high in the sky on stilts, but this is no longer a country of homes older than a few short years.

Optimism, or perhaps sheer doggedness in the face of those who would tell Plaquemines residents to leave the only home many of then had ever known, showed its face in the signs proclaiming that one roadside site or another was to be the future home of a health care facility, an elementary school, a secondary school, a seafood restaurant. The Conoco Phillips refinery captured the railroad tracks that had been traveling alongside the highway we were on and pulled them away from the road halfway through our trip - that facility looked quite new as well. Much was reinvested in this, the gateway for the harvesting of edible Louisiana sealife and offshore oil - but not too much. The people who live in the parish aren't wealthy by any means; their lives are still susceptible to the next big storm, and could well be blown away again. Little did they know that their next challenge wouldn't come from 75+ mph winds, but from a black death silently climbing its way up from deep deep under the nearby Gulf.

I find now, as I look through all the pictures I hastily took when we missed the turnoff for Fort Jackson and decided to keep going to Venice, that my quick impressions, the incompleteness of my feeble attempts to try to understand what was on the ground and in the water from internal-combustion-fueled wheels are extremely piddly in the face of one fact: that the Adams Grocery in Venice is no longer crawling with fishermen and women talking of where they've been on the water or where they'll be next in their boat. Working people's towns like those we passed through yesterday are supposed to be hopping some, even in legendarily laid-back Louisiana....aren't they?

I want to hope that we might have come to town at the wrong time, or we missed a place...which we did, but we went back and took that turnoff to Fort Jackson. The early-nineteenth century fort was itself closed, damaged by Katrina and its storm surge with no available funding for the fort's repairs in its foreseeable future, but, at the other end of the site, the warehouse containing the bird cleaning facility was surrounded by cars with license plates from many states on their bumpers, some refrigerated semi trailers for the dead birds that couldn't be saved, and a fence with a checkpoint booth from which a nice security officer emerged and gave us information about volunteering to help clean. Midway between the closed fort and the guarded warehouse was a nearly empty field in which some people labored to erect another chain-link fence and to prepare the field for even more emergency facilities and refrigerated trailers. Across the highway from the Fort Jackson turnoff, one could see and hear the helicopters that were constantly picking up sandbags to haul towards the sand berms being constructed in an attempt by the state's governor to do something, anything, to try to prevent the oil-filled tides from depositing themselves into the wetlands. It reminded Edie of the choppers that tried to stick sandbags in the New Orleans levee breaches nearly five years ago.

Looking at Plaquemines Parish on a map gives one the impression that it is a region out on a tenuous limb of a piece of land. It's been flooded out many a time, either intentionally or unintentionally, but its people kept on coming back. As to whether or not things have gone much too far this time for its residents...only time will tell.
Register, register, register, all!

Rising Tide V has a when and a where. August 28th, at the Howlin' Wolf on South Peters Street. There's also a spiffy website here where one can enjoy the homepage graphic of our webmaestro Varg.

Head over to this link to get your registration in now for the conference...you snooze, you pay a little more. You will also get RT organizer and emcee Loki giving you the evil eye if you aren't in on this early...

Really, I kid you not.

Go forth and pay your fees today.

Friday, June 18, 2010

In which I go off...a few times.

In a recent email to my grandpa, who asked how the BP oil disaster is affecting us here:
What is the BP oil disaster like for us here? People working in the fishing industry, people working for primarily seafood restaurants and for local seafood suppliers who get their wares from the Gulf - this is hitting them the hardest. The drilling ban is going to hit the people working in the offshore industry pretty hard if it continues. Beaches and birds are getting oiled as well, and we can occasionally smell some of the stink from the oil slick all the way up here. BP's actions in all of this were positively criminal, all done in the name of speed and greed, and now we are faced with months more of this - they say that if the relief drilling is successful, it might not be capped until late August-early September. But now that it's finally coming out that the structure of the well head is compromised, it may take much longer than that.

The news keeps getting worse each day, and everyone is upset and angry to some degree. This is worse than Katrina and the levee breaches - at least you could try to rebuild your house or try to fight to get your life back here in some way after that. What can we do with a massive oil geyser 5000 feet down in the water? Watch and wait and try not let it get to us.
I'm glad this has come out from Chris DeBarr today. Read it through. He says many things so much better than I have. Guess I'll forward that on to Grandpa.

Maitri has had some great recent posts concerning women in science. Go read them first:

Women in Science...Again
Women in Science...Again - Reading List

My comment on the first of her posts:

Woohoo, women in science! As the daughter of a woman in science who should have gone further and gotten her Ph. D. (my mom, not me), I’ve seen a lot of this business you’re describing. Yes, it does start at a very early age here, the brainwashing by gender from talking Barbie on up through the years, and we get so shocked…shocked!…by it because as a country, we’ve been deluded into thinking all the doors are open since we see women doing all kinds of things – but we don’t delve too far into the realities, which is that we still don’t have a strong government-subsidized family leave and child care program, women are still paid less than men on average, and life is still going to be harder for you if you have a vagina because women’s academic achievement has them outnumbering men so much in the colleges that the men are starting to whine about their supposed emasculation….and nobody wants to just tell the guys to buck up and work harder. Nobody wants to really change.

What I am left with from my own personal experience is that if my mom hadn’t had me at an early age, she’d have gone for that advanced degree, and have been damned good at it, too. To achieve in the highest echelons of science, women still have to act as though they’re men, only they still have to work harder. And it’s not just science, either – it’s the arts, too, and damn near any other profession with possibilities of advancement. This not only leaves women with tough choices in making a living, it makes motherhood some sort of lesser state for women. Nobody wins. Not much has changed except the bare veneer of acceptance of women in the workforce….because, really, the economy will collapse without it.

If women had loads of money and lobbyists at their disposal, I wonder how much things would change here… There are nascent mother’s movements like Moms Rising trying to get something started, but it’s an uphill battle with boulders in the way.

I saw it with my mother - the thwarted aspirations once I was in the picture, and she had me just before she turned twenty. I was mostly with my grandparents 'til she finished college, got out of a marriage that wasn't working, and got a job elsewhere, taking me with her. I never got the feeling that I was unloved, just the constant reminders that life was hard, especially if you were a single woman with a kid. And the easiest way, as a woman, to truly make a living doing what you wanted? No attachments, no strings, no children. Mom couldn't do that anymore, but I still had a chance....until I had my son seven-and-a-half years ago.

There's still a part of me, deep down, that wonders if being the mother of my son marks me as a failure in life somehow. I want to kill it, to shoot it down, to scream bloody murder at those who would want to resurrect it, at everyone who hears the word "mom" in descriptions of me and immediately tunes me out. Because, despite all the lip service we give to equality between the sexes, that's just words, even in this day and supposed enlightened age.

Just because a brilliant mind happens to have a vagina attached, don't stuff it down and into a category reserved for "girl with brains - what an anomaly". It ISN'T an anomaly. And the brains do not leave when children arrive. This keeps needing to be said over and over and over again. Doesn't the world get sick of it, ever? I mean, a broken record eventually gets smashed to bits, right?

I simply hope that, when the record is finally broken, women's backs don't go with it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The filtering I've imposed on myself concerning Gulf oil disaster news is doing well by me, for the most part. Which isn't to say I'm completely in the dark concerning oil news...I do read other folks' blogs, even though I can't bring myself to be a devotee of The Oil Drum just yet. I've also started some book readin' on the subject - beginning with one of Clay's recommendations:

I'm in the middle of Chapter 4, when the late '50's technological advances Shell Oil brought to offshore drilling give way to the tightening of the purse strings on Shell's exploration and production division in the '60's due to greater emphasis put on "refining, transportation, marketing, and chemicals as profit centers" rather than on the crude oil itself. Up 'til this point in the book, the development of the technology used to discover and drill for crude oil offshore has been masterfully explored by author Tyler Priest and peppered with anecdotes such as this one concerning the test of Shell's Blue Water 1, equipped with a Remote Underwater Drilling and Completion (RUDAC) system that would enable the rig to drill in deep water without having to be anchored to the sea floor. The advances that enabled the rig to stay upright even in the bad weather that accompanied its first test were too much for some:
Contract crews who came out to service some of the equipment refused to believe the unit was floating. On one occasion, several welders cut off a piece of plate that fell off the side into the water. Standing nearby, (Shell engineer and naval architect Bruce) Collipp told them that the plate had just fallen almost four hundred feet. "I don't think so," replied one welder. "We're sitting on the bottom." When told that they were actually floating in three hundred feet of water, both of them quit.
It wasn't until recently that I learned that the Mr. Charlie, one of the earliest submersibles used by Shell in offshore exploration, is now a museum in Morgan City (thanks, Clay). One of these days, we'll take that tour. The little guy is expecting it.

Then, while popping into the library to pick up some books I'd reserved, I spotted this one on the shelf and have started in on it:

Really, I haven't gotten beyond the preface excerpted here in its entirety, and I don't know how much of a continuation of The Prize it really is (note to self: read the copy of The Prize that's been sitting on your shelf, all right???...then again, I may have to take its author's assertions with a grain of salt...) , but this one paragraph jumped out at me:
United by a smelly, unattractive product, most of the millions of employees who work in the oil industry are strangers to each other. Unlike manufacturing cars or planning a space program, oil offers no natural bond. The gas-station attendant, the crews of the supertankers, the offshore engineers, the dedicated geologists, the excitable traders, the sober accountants, the nationalistic politicians, the rig workers in the prairies, deserts and jungles, the refinery workers and the corporate chieftains are all interdependent in their efforts to produce and convert crude oil. Yet there is no bond between them to overcome their separation and rivalry. Oil unites all their destinies, but they are professionally isolated. Since the late 1980s, however, there has been a common thread: some squeeze markets, some squeeze rocks, some squeeze crude oil through refineries, while others squeeze governments and rival corporations. Oil is not a business for fools or the faint-hearted.
Discovering and drilling, transporting and refining, distributing and selling oil may not be for the faint of heart, but it seems cleaning up the messes resulting from when this whole process goes wrong turn all these people supposedly in charge into scared children grasping at any excuse they can find to justify why they aren't doing right. I'd say we've got one of our clues right there as to why, when things fall apart, they do so so spectacularly. The finger pointing can only result in all of these people arguing in the mucky crude unless they can all work together - but, judging from what this book's beginning says, getting them to do so could be well-nigh impossible.

Guess the biggest question now is: how can we get them to make that impossible possible?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

When we first learned that some Jewish organizations were giving sizable grants to first-time sleep-away campers a few months ago, we asked the little guy if he wanted to go to the closest one by us in northern central Mississippi. He said yes, and I made all the arrangements, filled out all the paperwork, shopped by a huge list for the things he needed for ten days...and then, the day came today.

It was one hot drive to the campsite, but we made it in time to sit in a line of cars that stretched for nearly a mile outside of the camp entrance for twenty minutes, a line that gave even the local authorities pause - they called the camp director to voice their concerns, and he reassured them by telling them of the camp's record numbers that year and by opening the gates a little early to let us all through. They were organized there, directing us to the kiddo's cabin across the lake with no trouble at all. We encountered even less trouble ensconcing him in a top bunk, unpacking his duffel, and getting him settled.

Big hug to him, big kiss as he climbed up to his new perch.

"Okay, bye-bye, guy."


"Okay, bye," he said. Then he turned to the kid in the top bunk across from him and tried to chat him up. Mom and Dad were clearly dismissed.

Friends and family have since expressed surprise at his actions. They can't believe that someone so young with nobody he knows in his age group right off at camp didn't try to hold onto us for dear life and declare his intention to never let us go unless he was back at home. But he didn't.

And I find myself unsure of how to feel about that.

The parenting manual for the first-time camper tells us we shouldn't be saying too much to him in our short missives to camp about how much we're going to be missing him, how miserable we're going to be without him, how much he means to us. He's going to camp, not to Afghanistan, overstuffed duffel notwithstanding.

I sent him a welcome email (oh, how summer camp has embraced technology in this day and age) and had to work to refrain from inserting such sentiments in there.

The house is emptier without him, a little less sunny without his smiling face and his seven-and-a-half-year-old's sense of humor. Of course, we are left with his mess, which I could do without - but I find that I want the stuff he left behind, the kid disarray, to stay a little longer.

Tonight, he's asleep with 11 other peers in a cabin by a lake.

Tonight, so is a part of my heart.

Friday, June 11, 2010

From the article Two-State Dissonance by Gershom Gorenberg:
What strikes me as I listen to the family fight between the hawkish Jewish establishment and other American Jews -- the pro-peace Zionists, the furious anti-Zionists, the "don't ask me about Israel" non-Zionists -- is that they're all dealing with a shared family problem: They have a hard time fitting Israel as it actually is into some of their deepest assumptions about the world....

...As Festinger wrote, one way of dealing with facts that "disconfirm" a belief is to try to convince as many people as possible that the belief is true: "If more and more people can convinced that the system of belief is correct, than clearly it must, after all be correct. " [emphasis in the original]. Hence, the efforts of establishment Jewish groups to convince us that the year is always 1938, that Israel is about to be wiped out, and that it is a paragon of liberal values serve a psychological as well as political need. Another response to dissonance is to accept that the belief is wrong - and then direct the fury of the betrayed at "the God that failed." Hence the obsessive anger of some Jewish anti-Zionists. Yet another response is to simply try not to think about the problem. As Beinart notes, it's the response of many American Jews.

I don't expect to settle the family argument, but I'll note here: Yes, Jews can be as stupid as anyone else. They have no inborn immunity to being racist, intolerant, or brutal.

However, there's also something decidedly unprogressive about believing that the country of the Jews must be progressive from the outset, inherently liberal, with no effort needed. Progressives are supposed to be people willing to work very hard for a better society. The only thing that a state of the Jews offers is an arena in which Jews can work for such a society, without the excuse that other people are responsible for the failures. For American Jews willing to look at the illiberalism of Israel in 2010, turning away isn't the only answer. There are organizations ready to harness your dissatisfaction. Don't give up, get involved.

Green emphasis mine.

The other thing I'd add: the weight and, occasionally, the burden of Jewish history seems to demand that all of us as Jews have to have a position on Israel - and that's correct.

What we who don't live in Israel haven't gotten over is the idea that a Jewish state is not an isolated entity fighting against the world. Jewish people, after all, are human. We are influenced by everyone around us, even those who would wipe us off the planet if they could (and no, it isn't 1938, but those folks are still around). The Neturei Karta view that only the Messiah can found a Jewish homeland is convenient and excuses current imperfections and mistakes. That's not what we can afford to subscribe to in Israel or in any other Jewish organizations today. That's not reality. It's well past time for all Jewish people to start facing it head-on.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Pronunciation: \ vā-ˈkā-shən, və- \
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English vacacioun, from Anglo-French vacacion, from Latin vacation-, vacatio freedom, exemption, from vacare
Date: 14th century
1. a respite or a time of respite from something : intermission
It seemed like a good idea at the time - help a friend take her friend's car over a few states in a road trip and have a little fun between some stretches behind the wheel. Once the car was delivered, we'd head back to New Orleans on a plane. But the conversation kept turning towards the oil disaster, compounded by the fact that my driving pal Edie was retracing most of the evacuation route she, her daughter, and their two dogs took to get out of New Orleans nearly five years ago.

Two days straight on the road - but I did at least get her slightly off it for a short time to check out one of my favorite public art works for the first time. Of course, in light of all the things we'd been discussing off and on when I wasn't playing all my CDs (thank God I brought so many; thank God the player in the car was a 6 CD changer), this quirky '70's-era monument to Route 66's remains and to the American automobile in general can certainly take on a new meaning:

Of course, those have been my interpretations of Cadillac Ranch. Visitors are more than welcome to spray-paint their own versions onto the cars, and they absolutely do.
2 a : a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended b : a period of exemption from work granted to an employee
Two days straight of being behind the wheel and gradually increasing the altitude at which you reside when you aren't driving to New Mexico made for a few things happening when we actually got the car to where it needed to go: lots of snoozing, and the initiative of our wonderful hosts, who gave us a nice mini-tour of a few places in their area. They wanted more time to show us around - we were originally slated to be there until Tuesday - but, as the youngest of the group, and being not even close to retirement age, I had to work on Tuesday.

Yeah, I was a bummer, but the bigger bummer was trying to hike up the beautiful mountain I was brought to on Saturday. We were already 9000 feet up at the ski lodge, and trying to go just a couple hundred feet more left me feeling as though someone had decided to shrink my lungs on me when I wasn't looking. I salute the mountain bikers who repeatedly went up the ski lift and biked their way down the slopes; I couldn't get enough air to simply put one foot in front of the other. My greatest sympathies were reserved for my pal, Edie, however, who felt the effects of the dryness of the heat all in her nose. The only things that worked were the high-powered antihistamines that made her drowsy, so they were only good for the nighttime. There was no way she wanted to be half-asleep for Santa Fe. And she was right about that.
3 : a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation <had a restful vacation at the beach>
It's a lovely place, Santa Fe, and also the first place where I began to encounter the folks from whom, when they heard where I was from, a renewed "I'm sorry" came concerning the predicament the Gulf Coast is currently in.

I should have worn my Saints jersey or something to remind these folks we had more to be a tad cheery about, but I simply thanked them and moved on. I didn't have much choice in that matter, as we flitted from art gallery to art gallery all over the central area of the city, after we'd had a fantastic brunch and before we stopped in to have an iced coffee and browse hurriedly at a bookshop next door before trying to enter two galleries that turned out to be closed on Sundays. Despite the rushing, it was a beautiful time, filled out at the tail end by a viewing of the latest Treme episode at our hosts' home, in which I couldn't believe how much I recalled of the way things were - and are - in post 8/29 /05 New Orleans.
4 : an act or an instance of vacating
We ended our trip with a visit to what was once a giant prehistoric volcano, the effects of which were probably felt in faraway Lubbock, Texas, if there had been any humans around to have seen the effluvia a-comin'. Edie and I had to go through Los Alamos and its National Laboratory's checkpoints to get there, and she marveled at how much the security had been beefed up since her evacuation stay in the area a while back. There are allegedly 70-plus scientists at the Lab working on the oil disaster and the real deal concerning the amount of oil in the Gulf and where it could go. I hope they get more good people on it.

Our return began with the TSA lady checking our IDs and giving us another "I'm sorry" on seeing where we were from. It ended with Edie getting off the plane in Kenner and exclaiming with great delight, "I can breathe! And my nose isn't bleeding anymore!"

It's good to be back.

*all definitions, parts 1-4, are from the Merriam-Webster Online
cross-posted at Humid City
It's the 100th birthday today of Chester Arthur Burnett, who sang one of my favorite blues songs once upon a time:

Considering our current debacle in nearby waters, however, I should probably pick a different song of his. Maybe "Spoonful"? "Evil"? "Smokestack Lightning"?

When the blues is right, it is damn right.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Back From Travel Quick Notes:

Picked up a copy of this magazine at a nice cafe in New Mexico and read an article about the nifty uses of human hair and the ethical dilemmas surrounding those uses. Though I wouldn't necessarily freak if I found a hair in my food (unless the atmosphere in which I dined was pretty filthy to begin with, in which case I'd turn on my heel and vamoose before I had to order a thing), I now feel the urge to search every food product in my home for L-Cysteine and then toss them out and avoid any foods with it in there from here on out. On the other hand, I think the guy who runs this company now has a body of water adjacent to his state that could use his human hair mats.

While waiting for the plane back to New Orleans, I caught some of Larry King chatting with James Cameron and noticed in the closed-captioning that Cameron was offering his services as a big-shot blockbuster Hollywood director in helping plug up the Macondo Prospect spewage. I can't tell you what the exact suggestions were because I was too busy suppressing the impulse to scream at the TV, so if anybody wants to check it out, here's some of it. The overwhelming thought I had was that Cameron's idea of helping would be to throw another bunch of cameras down there with the BP-bots and next thing I know, we'd be seeing MACONDO in IMAX 3-D. No. Thanks. Schmuck.

More later from me. Still enjoying being back in the humidity. And being near sea level again. Really. You have no idea.

Update, 6/9: Okay, Maitri says in the comments that having the king of the world actually coordinate all the well-plugging aspects might not be such a bad thing. We do need all the help we can get, I guess.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Apologies for the lack of posting lately. Been on a road trip to a dry climate state - more on that another time.

My trip-mate Edie just couldn't stop talking about the oil disaster at significant intervals along our two-day jaunt through a few states these past few days - maybe it was the effect of retracing the drive she, her daughter, and their dogs took in a small Japanese car in order to run away from another man-made disaster in New Orleans nearly five years ago. ANYway, she just had to see what Obama said to the folks in Grand Isle yesterday, and I checked the NOLA blogpocheh's posts while we were all at it only to find news that Mr. Bean, aka Frodo, aka, the Lord of the Rigs, aka BP CEO Tony Hayward was performing some surgery on his corporation:
It's so sad. We live in a time when the criminal dishonesty of our institutions which leads directly to widespread death and destruction is viewed first and foremost as an opportunity to build a more effective lie. The problem here is not that BP is too British or that their corporate communications have been ineffective. The problem is that they have been criminally negligent and our coast is dying as a result. What kind of people are we who prioritize the maintenance of our bullshit above the preservation of our lives and the world we live them in?
The too-simple answer is that what's happening here is not human behavior at all.

What it reminds me of is something my tree man pal Justin once told me concerning the efficacy of the Sentricon system for handling Formosan termites underground. The reason why it isn't as effective as a certain fungus he uses for sending the li'l wood-eating goobers to kingdom come is that Sentricon's bait works too quickly - the colony sees significant numbers of their comrades dying and it gives the healthy termites a head start on walling themselves off from the affected members of the colony. Hence, the bait doesn't really kill them all off....so it keeps Sentricon system developers and termite control companies that install Sentricon and its bait in business.

So just when we thought the oil disaster was going to tank BP for good - they decided to wall themselves off. It's America's problem now.

I think I'm going to see if some of Justin's termite fungus works on some of these BP execs. Then we'll really know what we're dealing with.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

For a person like me who hasn't been watching much TV lately, seems there's been a lot of good visual aids coming out concerning what's been doing down here, and all I can do is watch 'em and pass 'em on...

Like this one debunking recent hysteria over Louisiana seafood in other states:

Really, if you're going to trust Tony Hayward over Chef Paul Prudhomme, I wash my hands of you. The Louisiana seafood that is reaching the market these days is the good stuff. Eat it before the prices double and then your local restaurants won't want to carry it anyhow. When they start buying the stuff from China, you'll know by the taste.

That's the taste of helplessness and hopelessness.

Thanks again, BP.

Update, 10:50 AM: Oh, and speaking of debunking myths concerning this mess, head to Maitri and she'll set you straight. And that whole deal about Michael Bay in the xkcd comic predicting seeing James Carville surfing his way out of a fictional hurricane-whipped conflagration and rerouting of the Mississippi on an alligator? I'd love to see it, but I think he'd have to get training from this guy first:

Also, Maitri says we're on Day 42, but the Gambit blog is on 44. What the hell, people? I don't want us to be further along on the futility of BP's attempts to staunch the flow than we have to be. We've already suffered enough.

Anudder update, 11:49 AM: Well, crud, it is 44 days. I was hoping for less. Like, maybe, none.

One mo' time, 2:41 PM: Ladies and gentlemen, say it with me, please: no matter how bad things get, no matter how powerless you might feel in the face of this disaster, no matter how angry you are, NO NUKES IN THE GULF. Doubled prices on Gulf seafood is better than none at all, which is what an underwater thermonuclear blast pretty much guarantees. Just count to ten if you're feeling bad, call up your elected officials and the BP execs and yell at 'em some more, then go get some Zapp's. You'll feel better.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ian Hoch's speech at the protest this past Sunday in Jackson Square, via Levees Not War:

Good on all the folks who attended and all who spoke.