Wednesday, November 30, 2005

red-tailed hawk

Kathleen Connally, my favorite photo blogger, made this excellent photo of a red-tailed hawk:

And this one of two dogs:

Her blog: A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Story of a backhoe and a bike

Yesterday. One of those days. A Monday. One coming after four days of fun, feast, and family.

A morning of rain, not heavy but enough. A wet commute. The psychology of it caught my attention - my own feelings. First, a wish - very emphatic - that the rain stop. Then, once stopped, a new feeling. You can take it; bring it on. Then rain again and misery. But misery in moderation - not a soaker - all garments did dry during the day. No wet shoes riding home.

At work the day was a burden. Myself sleepy. Unmotivated. Growing weary to the bone as afternoon wore on.

But the afternoon commute was something else. Warm with light cloud cover and breeze mostly from behind or to my side. Shorts instead of tights. A shirt without windbreaker.

And an intersting encounter. On a longish climb but not steepish up Sherman Ave I found myself behind a big backhoe tractor going about 18 or 19 MPH. Didn't I speed up to ride in his draft! Tiring but exhilerating. An affirmation. Yes! After four days off the bike, a big bike pleasure.

Heavy rain forecast for today, but not in the morning. I ride in, expect to subway home. Dentist Thursday. No bike then. I think - At least one good ride this week. That's something.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sarah Thorn's warnings

I haven't posted anything from my great- great-grandmother's composition book lately. As you'd expect, some of its contents are morally uplifting in a way that's a little offputting today. We don't voice these sentiments any more. All the same, though not complete in themselves, they contain simple truths. I expect it's Freud more than anyone else who keeps us from appreciating them in what I expect is their unselfconscious integrity. Examples include the following couple of maxims:
Bear and forbear a maxim true
As erring mortals ever knew.


Beauty displays a twofold kind
That of the body and the mind.
That said, Sarah had a good ear for poetic phrases. I particularly like "Joy rings our steps" in the following verse. If you can make out any of the missing words, please supply them in comments.

Pleasure's a syren with inviting arms
Great is her voice and powerful her charms
Lur'd by her call we tread the flowery ground
Joy rings our steps, and music wafts round
Lull'd in her arms we loose the flying armies
And lie embosomed mid'st her ..... .....
Till armed with death! she watches our undoing
.... ! while she sings, and ..... in ......
25th Febr. 1834

I like the flowery penmanship of this, which comes at the end of the little manuscript:

Saturday, November 26, 2005

How do you pronounce that?

Some unintentional humor from people who register domain names from a site called Webmasters who didn't think when they registered their URL

1) Who Represents?, a database for agencies to the rich and famous:

2) Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange
advice and views:

3) Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island:

4) Need a therapist?

5) Mole Station Native Nursery, based in New South Wales:

6) Gas central heating anyone?

7) New to Milan and you need electric light? Why not sign up on-line with

There are a few more and some explanation at:

Hilarious Domain Name Mispronouncings

Friday, November 25, 2005

London theatre and other important subjects

Natalie Bennett, an Australian who's been living in London for the past seven years, writes two interesting blogs, Philobiblon and My London Your London. She says: "I'm a generalist. I want to know about everything, but not in too much detail."

Philobiblon focuses on history, science, and art, particularly from a woman's point of view (as she says "always feminist"). The blog's name comes from a Medieval book by called The Love of Books, Being the Philobiblon of Richard de Bury.

My London Your London contains sections on Natalie Bennett says "I've lived in London for seven years, and I still love every minute of it. With the theatres, the museums and galleries, the streets dripping with history, there's so much here that many visitors miss."

Here are extracts from a recent post on an exhibition at the British Library:
Listening to history: Fashion Lives at the British Library

Lily Silberberg's story might be that of the 20th century - the good side of the period, not its darker hue. She was born in London in 1929, to Jewish parents whose had fled Russia after the Revolution. Her father was a "journeyman tailor", her mother an outworker spending her evenings sewing buttonholes late into the night by the light of a gas lamp.

Yet by the time Lily retired, well into her seventies, she had a full, satisfying, successful career behind her. She'd been a respected higher education lecturer, published a book, The Art of Dress Modelling, and spent the last years of her working life teaching her skills to the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets.

When I heard of the exhibition I feared a parade through the usual glamorous suspects, but this is a show on the other side of fashion, the behind-the-scene characters who do all of the work while designers swan around collecting the glory.

Here's a post from Philobiblon that I like, though they're all good:
But where's the loo?

It was in the Indian city of Varanasi that I first realised that provision of lavatory facilities is a feminist issue. Simply there are none, or at least weren't when I was there eight or so years ago. For the men this wasn't a problem; they just went anywhere. (One of the many things in Varanasi that contribute to it being a total hole of a place - if someone tells you to put it on their tour itinerary, ignore them.)

Women's movements were effectively restricted to the range of their home, and the homes of any relatives or friends that might be along their intended route.

The above image is of London, Kensington High Street, about 1860. Then the same restrictions applied on Englishwomen.

"The middle-class diarist Ursula Bloom explained that when she was a girl 'there were no public lavatories in England, and it was thought the height of indecency ever to desire anything of the sort.' She went on to recall that 'in London fashionable ladies went for a day's shopping with no hope of any relief for those faithful tides of nature until they returned home again.' ...

Edith Hall, a working-class woman who was born in Middlesex in 1908, recalled that while walking with her mother along the Thames during the First World War, she asked, 'There aren't many lavatories for ladies, are there?' Her mother matter-of-factly answered: ' Well, we are more lucky now ... There didn't seem to be any at all when we were young ... Either ladies didn't go out or ladies didn't 'go'.' " (Quoted in Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London's West End, Erika Diane Rappaport, Princeton University Press, 2000, p. 82)
This also brings back memories of my agricultural science studies (my first degree - my only explanation is that I was only 17 when I chose it). We were the first year in which women were a majority, and the first-year excursion included virtually no facilities. Only wholesale revolts forced the bus to wait for the long queue using each farmer's one and only loo. (And this was in northwest NSW, so no trees as an alternative option.)

*Image from Old and New London, By Edward Walford, Illustrated, Part 49, hard to date, but perhaps 1890s.)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Giving thanks

I like the old Protestant hymns. They're generally within the range my voice encompasses and I generally know them well enough to sing them out confidently. When we go to Mass I check the We Celebrate hymnal to see whether there's one of these to look forward to. Years ago I was surprised to see them there. A Mighty Fortress has such rich Lutheran connotations that it used to take me aback to find myself singing it in Catholic church. But now I just welcome these chestnuts as old friends.

This Thanksgiving day the song of choice is likely to be We Gather Together.

The hymn has an interesting history. Like many, it takes its tune from an old folk or tavern song. In this case it's a Dutch folksong which has the opening line: "Wilder than wild, who will tame me?" It's first transformation occured in 1597 when it was rewritten for use in a patriotic celebration on the defeat of the Spanish in the Battle of Turnhout, in which a relatively small calvalry troop under Prince Maurice of Orange defeated a large cavalry army of Spanish occupiers in a Flemish town. It was the first open-field victory for the feisty Dutch and the beginning of a string of successes that ended with the independence of the Dutch Republic (officially recognized in 1648).

Although the opening line sounds ecumenical, it was probably intended to be an in-your-face defiance of the Catholic Spanish by the Protestant Dutch. A paraphrase might be "your prohibition of our religion means nothing to us; we meet in our churches to defy you. God is on our side."

Here's a common English translation from the Dutch. As you read it, keep in mind this triumphal intent.
We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
he chastens and hastens his will to make known;
the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing:
sing praise to his Name, he forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
so from the beginning the fight we were winning:
thou, Lord, wast at our side: all glory be thine!

We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
and pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation:
thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
Though hymn-like, this patriotic song would not have been sung in church. It wasn't until 1937 that Dutch Reformed churches permitted the singing of anything but psalms.

It's probable that its transformation into a Thanksgiving hymn was a recent one. And it probably occured in other Protestant churches before being adopted for use in the Dutch Reformed churches of our heritage. Evidence suggests that the impetus came from Theodore Baker, an American scholar studying in Leipzig. Baker translated the song into English in 1894 as a "prayer of Thanksgiving" to be sung by a choir. HIs is the translation that's most commonly used today.

So, this Thanksgiving, let's honor the freedom fighters among our Netherlandish forebears. But let's also gather together to recognize and celebrate the religious toleration of our time, imperfect to be sure, but not the worse for that.

This commemorative coin shows the Battle of Turnhout and Spanish Defeat of 1597. On one side it show Spanish troops in flight, pursued by those of Prince Maurice of Orange. On the other it shows the nine towns captured by the Allies: Alpen, Berchem, Meurs, Grol, Bredevoort, Enschede, Oldenzaal, Otmarse, Lingen.

My main source: A Hymn's Long Journey Home, BY MELANIE KIRKPATRICK. And see also Volokh, Crooked Timber, and the links I've inserted in text.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A A Milne pegged us all

At some point in my adolescence, my father started calling me Spike and he started calling Peter Tigger. Eeyore might have done as well for me. At that time, I think Tigger was pretty good for Peter.

Which Winnie the Pooh character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Maybe you are Eeyore! If so you are accepting and depressive. Would never complain about your situation. Although your situation is awfully gloomy right now. Could be worse. Some might confuse your accepting nature with cynicism. Some might worship you as a god...

Maybe you are Tigger! T - I - DOUBLE G - R! If so you are happy and bouncy and insane and busy and running and falling and hungry and talking and leading and showing and... Gods, you're annoying, but everyone seems to like you - at least, for a while.


I saw a link to this in a post by Ralph E. Luker on Cliopatria - the collaborative history blog - Which Winnie-the-Pooh Character Are You?

It turns out Liker is Winnie the Pooh: "Although very loyal to your friends, your drive to fulfill your own desires sometimes gets the better of you.

Monday, November 21, 2005

How many leaves do you think that is?

I imagine most of us are familiar with the Harper's Weekly Index, that list that gives funny, thought-provoking, and frequently shocking bits of data. Well our local index for the past weekend, B's and mine, reads like this: Number of bags of leaves collected off the surface of our yard in this the second weekend of leaf cleansing: 37

Mind you these are packed, brim-filled, overstuffed leaf bags and a few garbage cans.

Here's part of the Harper's list for last month:
Harper's Index for October 2005

Estimated amount of African wealth held in foreign accounts, expressed as a percentage of African GDP: 172

Chance that a U.S. MBA obtained since 1980 was awarded to a woman: 1 in 3[U.S. Department of Education]

Chance that a corporate officer of a Fortune 500 company today is: 1 in 6

Percentage by which the average amount of anesthetic required by redheads exceeds the average for everyone: 19

Chance that a medical study may be inaccurate or misleading, according to the AMA’s journal: 1 in 3[JAMA (Chicago)]

Months of vacation that President Bush has taken in five years: 11

Years after the Watts riots that the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation trademarked “Burn Baby Burn” for a hot sauce: 40

Rank of 2004 among the most fiscally reckless years in U.S. history, according to the comptroller general: 1[U.S. Government Accountability Office]

Projected cost of disability payments to Iraq War veterans by 2050, based on rates for Gulf War veterans: $285,000,000,000

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Keats, the Romantic who was not

Nick chose Keats' Grecian Urn as his poem of the week a while back and I commented on my appreciation of Keats' letter-writing and particularly one to his friend Bailey. Keats was a feisty kid and even in his twenties, as old as he got, he wrote about getting into at least one fight. He also liked to use sexual slang in bantering with his brother and guys he wrote to. He wasn't your typical image of the Romantic poet neuresthenic, hyper-sensitive, verging on campy or fey. He looked up to his uncle the Officer, hero of naval engagements with Napoleon's fleet and might himself aimed at a military career if his guardian had not steered him otherways.

To me that makes more wonderful his choice of poetry to express his growing sense of self in all its mutability and uncertainty. Wonderful too his practically magical command of language and the intense use he made of the limited educational opportunities that were given him.

As I said in my comment, There was much pain in his life, but though his letters contain much that is sad, he doesn't indulge himself in self-pity and his poetry is the opposite pole from the ego-centered confessional variety so popular in my lifetime. He cared for his tubercular brother and described his own agony and Tom's at his horrid death, the while he rarely let on how serious were his own symptoms.

Though he was tenacious in following his own muse, he didn't make grand claims for poetry or ART. Though a Romantic, he was not a didactic one; a critic of his Augustan predecessors, but by example, not polemic.

His prose has great charm. His written correspondence is often in phrases and run-on sentences linked by dashes. His conversational letter writing seems much like the style used by many of today's bloggers and emailers.

In writing Bailey he says:
I am sometimes so very sceptical as to think Poetry itself a mere Jack a lanthen to amuse whoever may chance to be struck with its brilliance. As Tradesmen say every thing is worth what it will fetch, so probably every mental pursuit takes its reality and worth from the ardor of the pursuer - being in itself a nothing - Ethereal things may at least be thus real, divided under three heads - Things real - things semireal - and no things. Things real - such as existences of Sun Moon & Stars and passages of Shakspeare. Things semi-real such as Love, the Clouds &c which require a greeting of the Spirit to make them wholly exist - and Nothings which are made Great and dignified by an ardent pursuit - which by the by stamps the burgundy mark on the bottles of our Minds, insomuch as they are able to "consecrate whate'er they look upon".
This is worth reading a few times over. He staked his life on poetry; endured poverty and sacrificed greatly for his art -- he and his work were ridiculed in the most respected periodicals of his day, and despite this determined perseverance, he could say he wasn't at all sure he was right. He's witty in dissecting the real, semi-real, and unreal, but not trivially so. "Nothings which are made Great and dignified by ardent pursuit" is meant to be funny, but I think it's also deadly earnest. He knew the powers of his own creative ability.

After giving Bailey a new sonnet, he goes on:
Aye this may be carried - but what am I talking of - it is an old maxim of mine and of course must be well known that every point of thought is the centre of an intellectual world - the two uppermost thoughts in a Man's mind are the two poles of his World he revolves on them and every thing is southward or northward to him through their means. We take but three steps from feathers to iron. Now my dear fellow I must once for all tell you I have not one Idea of the truth of any of my speculations - I shall never be a Reasoner because I care not to be in the right, when retired from bickering and in a proper philosophical temper
I am struck by these thoughts: "every point of thought is the centre of an intellectual world," the "uppermost thoughts in a Man's mind are the two poles of his World," "three steps from feathers to iron." They aren't transparent, and aren't meant to be. He knew "Nothings," not as fancy, not ornament, not frivolity, but the emptyness which is the creative center of intellect. And he knew well the antithetical elements of life.

For me he stands out from his peers in his recognition of the paired nature of what we generally think of as negative and postive experiences. As he put it in the sonnet on Melancholy, we cannot know what we mean by pleasure unless we have experience of unpleasure, of pain. The same with beauty and its opposite, of self-regard and compassion, of optimism and pessimism, belief and skepticism.

This foundation of dicotemy is most striking in his sense of emptyness and fullness, particularly within himself. He said his "poetical Character" was "every thing and nothing." He meant he could overcome his own egoism (rejecting "the wordsworthian or egotistical sublime"). He could enter into other beings and things (giving as examples "the Sun, the Moon, the Sea").

All this suggests both a full acceptance of the paradoxes that are abundant in human life and the mastering of a technique for coping with them. I think it's certain he was not influenced by Eastern religion or philosophy, yet the way he lived his life and approached his art have much of these belief systems and practices in them.

Dwell a moment on every point of thought as the center of the intellectual world, or the acceptance of polarities, or the emptying out of self. All these are Eastern in orientation.

His genius is so much the greater, as I see it, for the innovation of this way of life in his time and place.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

just a thought

One thought leads to another. Cynthia wrote an interesting piece on how well Cuba deals with emergency evacuations (like the one Katrina made necessary) compared with the US (or at least the powers, local and national, that attempted to evacuate New Orleans). I wrote a blog entry on my own coping with my own adversity at work. Writing the entry brought the word "malaise" to mind and of course also Jimmy Carter, a kind of hero to B and me. It turns out that Carter didn't say malaise, the word was put into his mouth by the press. He wrote about "the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation." Cynthia's comparison of a socialist nation and a free one, Carter's sense that the electorate lacks a sense of purpose, and, finally, Emerson's eloquence on shouldering our own burdens in "Self Reliance" led me round to a recurrent worry about the gullibility of Americans -- those who think the imperfect Republicans are better than the imperfect Democrats, to be exact.

Nick blogs about the imperfections of politicians from another point of view.

Just a thought.

Friday, November 18, 2005

• on walking abreast with my days, and not doing so

I said yesterday that my motivation levels are low these days. This morning I've a sense of at least one main cause. At work there are many retiring and no prospect of replacing them. The departures are being spurred by a kind of bribery (in local parlance "voluntary separation incentives") but that's only an immediate impulse; the retirements will continue for years and it seems just as likely that the prohibitions on hiring will go on as well. We, in my area of operations, are trying to make do -- simultaneously trying to get the work done with available staff while making plans that we hope will enable us to serve the needs of the many thousands of libraries which depend on us while also making a transition to more efficient production (faster, less costly, and not so dependent on highly-trained professionals), while not degrading the product more than we really have to. This approach is sensible, but it brings home what is becoming more and more obvious: those of us who work in my area haven't got anywhere near the clout that we used to have and are forced to accept a lower place in the institution's power hierarchy (the congressional budget process being what it is and the institution's priorities being what they are).

Our position is made complicated by a real desire to employ automation to its fullest potential and change workflows and responsibilities (to realign ourselves) so that we can make the best possible contribution in what everyone accepts as a new digital environment. No one knows what's going to be needed to bridge to this new environment, but we've pretty clear ideas. The problem is that we lack the resouces we need to implement our ideas.

I serve on an institution-wide group that grapples with this problem from a broader perspective than does our own planning and my experience is not heartening: there's a great deal of wasted energy and of money, many voices of reason not being heard, lots of expert advice being ignored, all the appearance of a pretty soggy mess. I'm sure the institution will overcome many difficulties and change -- probably on the whole good change -- will take place.

Right now, in my chair, however, the outlook is bleak and I'm feeling overwhelmed -- by the addition workload on myself as well as my division as folks leave, by the barriers to moving forward to solve problems, and by the complexity itself: no crystal ball view into the future, no simple arguments in favor of what experts whom I work with believe to be the right path forward, and no assurance that decisions won't be made arbitrarily and without consultation. And so on and so forth; a bit wearying. Perhaps I need to find the source of the determination that drove me on through Wednesday afternoon's wet, cold, and windy weather.

I would be Emerson's "sturdy lad" who
walks abreast with his days, and ... does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. Let a Stoic open the resources of man, and tell men they are not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves; that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear... (from Self Reliance)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A wonderful weekend, and what came after

I agree with Nick that last weekend was fantastic: all the comings and goings, so many informative and enjoyable conversations, good food prepared by lots of imaginative cooks, a good mix of indoor and outside things to do, and an ideal location -- community, house, and especially hosts. It's been hard to get back into the routine of my daily life.

I plan to do a photo site for the reunion; hope to work on it over the coming weekend.

There are many things to write but I'm weak on motivation. I had a list running in my head in a wakeful moment a night or two ago. Right now I'm drawing a blank.

I do want to say a few words about the weather and my commute. Fall's generally a good time for bike riding and there have been some spectacular days lately. I vividly recall the uplifting sensation of coming into a tunnel of light as the setting sun before me illuminated the red, gold, and orange leaves on overhaning trees; all this in Rock Creek Park on an evening when I was late and a worried about my lateness and the growing dark. Not just the visual sensation but the moist warmth of the air and the quietness of that space in that time.

Yesterday another story: warm temperatures and a gusty wind in my face as I rode in. Rain forecast for the afternoon which I believed would hold off until afte I made it home. Unfortunately, I didn't leave as early as I'd hoped and got caught in what seemed to be an instant change of weather: the temperature dropped from 73 to 50, the wind swung round to the north west and gusted mightily, and rain poured down in buckets. I was immediately cold, drenched, and, not miserable, but surprisingly angry. This mental state got me though the worst of it with much cursing. I arrived home with no feeling left in my poor fingers (I've got Raynauld's disease) but not really much feeling sorry for myself.

My spirits actually shifted a bit from determined-intense to relaxed-awed on seeing the gushing torrent of water, swelling Broad Branch Creek to many times its normal volume. I rode along side it for an enjoyable 10 min or so.

I was actually grateful that I hadn't gotten a flat tire, something that happens very more fequently when it's wet than dry. (Also that traffic wasn't impossible and drivers weren't being more than usually irrational.)

As it turns out my rear tire had been punctured, but held air until after I got home. This I discovered in the morning, forcing me to delay for the 10 min. it takes to do a fix. I also found that my headlamp mount had broken (just a coincidence and nothing I imagine to do with the wet) forcing another delay of 5 min or so to change to a different one (small self pat on back for having a new one to change to).

What image would go with this post? Here's one of a rushing book something like Broad Branch yesterday afternoon:

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A timber wolf

I still keep Kathleen Connally's photoblog in my aggregator. Her's is the only photoblog I keep up with, and though I've tried others, the only one I've stayed with. Although she's been doing more postprocessing that I like, the images are still handsome and somehow consoling. Here's one from a current set on timber wolves.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An ALD compilation on burning the burbs

Arts & Letters Daily has a bunch of links to stories and commentary about the violence in France. I haven't have time to review them, and am passing them along because ALD usually collects good stuff.
Paris intifada. If burning the ’burbs gets you more “respect” from Chirac and Sarkozy, then you might as well burn ’em again, and again
... Cath Field
... Mark Steyn
... Spiegel

... NYSun
... Naima Bouteldja
... WSJ
... David Aaronovitch
... Frank Furedi
... Daniel Pipes

... Antoine Audouard
... Olivier Roy
... Jon Freedland
... Jim Hoagland
... David Ignatius
... Nidra Poller

... Anne Applebaum
... WP roundup
... Slate roundup
... Joel Kotkin

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

breaking windows

If you do a web search on breaking windows, you'll see a lot of chatter about the Microsoft Windows operating system. My topic, however, is real breaking of real windows. The newspapers say the rioting in France results at least partly from the ethnic discrimination suffered by the children of Algerians who resettled in France in the past few decades. These are French citizens who are not being treated as citizens ought. The unrest itself and the pattern of escalation remind me of the revolution of 1848 in Germany in which my great- great-grandfather took part. The Guardian has good overall coverage of the French riots. There's a good review article in the NYT as well. For a summary of the events in Germany in 1848 see: The German 1848 Revolution: A German Perspective.

Common to both are a pervasive sense of disenfranchisement, participation mainly of young people, and action via street violence aimed at maximum visibility through destruction of property. In 1848, the goals of the youths were not achieved. Taking the goals of the youths in France very broadly (as aiming for social justice), it seems that the outcome in France may not be better, or not much better.

My great- great-grandfather described his participation in an interview published in 1909:
In 1848 the Parliament at Frankfort on the Main proposed Johann of Austria for Emperor of Germany and the Republicans in Munster had a jubilee in honor of the event. All but the conservatives decorated their houses. The Republican boys -- I was one of them -- broke the windows in all the undecorated houses of the conservatives. My father was a conservative and I broke all his windows. Some of the boys were arrested but I escaped."[This is from a news clipping among the papers he left to posterity.]

An end note on the Romantic image of workers on the barricades I've used: I got it, as I usually do, from a search of Google Images. It appears on a page whose text is all in Hebrew, so I took it to a cataloger on the Hebraica team for translation. I thought it might connect the events of 1848 with demands for social justice from Germany's Jews. This would have been interesting since my great- great-grandfather came from a Jewish family (or a partly Jewish one, it's unclear). As it turns out, the page is not about Jews in 1848, but is a general report on the history of the 1848 riots in Berlin from a student in an Israeli school.

Another end note: The papers refer to the French riots as "unrest." I suspect the term is a useful one because its connotations are pretty much neutral -- conveying neither approval nor disapproval. Though it also seems to be a euphemism for savage violence, the OED shows that it has long been associated with intense emotion. In OED example phrases, it's coupled with discorde, agony, and anarchy. As you'd expect, this isn't always the case. One example from the 14th century, directs of monks in a monestary that "none schal..make any noise of unreste, aboute makyng of ther beddes."

Three nice "unrest" quotes in OED: "Viv, Furth streamde the teares, recordes of his vnrest" (1563), "If the foolish race of man..Cou'd find as well the cause of this unrest, And all this burden lodg'd within the breast." (1685 DRYDEN), and "And mutters she in her unrest A name" (1815 BYRON).

Sunday, November 06, 2005

every point of thought the centre of an intellectual world

Nick told us about his poem of the week in a blog entry last Monday: This Week's Poem. His choice, John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn, reminded me of my pleasure in reading Keats' letters a while back.

I wrote a comment on one particularly interesting letter and a poem it contained. You can read the comment when you read his post. Or just go to the comment itself.

What's on my mind now, and has been on and off since I wrote the comment, is an enigmatic paragraph Keats wrote at the close of the poem:
Aye this may be carried - but what am I talking of - it is an old maxim of mine and of course must be well known that every point of thought is the centre of an intellectual world - the two uppermost thoughts in a Man's mind are the two poles of his World he revolves on them and every thing is southward or northward to him through their means. We take but three steps from feathers to iron. Now my dear fellow I must once for all tell you I have not one Idea of the truth of any of my speculations - I shall never be a Reasoner because I care not to be in the right, when retired from bickering and in a proper philosophical temper.
What did he mean by this? Can devine his intent by a careful reading of the words themselves, or is an exporation of their context essential to understanding them? I've tried both and am still mulling over the words and also reviewing what's known about his life and thought at the time he wrote them.

I'm writing now only to say that I'm enjoying this little mania.

Throw away the key

Correctional Populations

Click on image to see the data on which it's based.

It's been years since I've seen reports on incarceration in the U.S. I remember my shock when I first saw figures about the proportion of black males who are in jail or in one way or another being controlled by the criminal justice system. Now I can't say I'm pleased to see these. It's good to have the information made available, but what a dismal state of affairs.

First, here's a link to a press release from DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics (the capitalization of the heading is theirs): ALMOST 7 MILLION ADULTS UNDER CORRECTIONAL SUPERVISION BEHIND BARS OR ON PROBATION OR PAROLE IN THE COMMUNITY.

Second, a link to the AP follow-up to the release: Report: Correctional Supervision Rising. This article says, in part: "Blacks comprised 30 percent of probationers and 41 percent of prisoners at the end of 2004." It also says "Hispanics made up 12 percent of the probation population and 19 percent of the prison population." The BJS used to produce tables and charts showing racial characteristics but, so far as I can see, stopped doing so in 1997.

The news is bleak, but, an increase in incarceration doesn't necessarily mean that the number of convictions has increased. In fact I believe the national crime rate has not been increasing. Instead, the increase in the number of adults under correctional supervision is at least partly accounted for by what a DOJ statistician calls "sentencing reforms of the 1990s." I don't want to be guilty of leaping to conclusions, but, again at least partly, this seems to me to reflect a punitive attitude toward poverty and attendant social problems.

Third, this is Chris Bertram writing about all this in the CrookedTimber blog and redirecting us to other sources:
Land of the free

I don’t often just reproduce someone else’s post verbatim, but I just surfed over to the Virtual Stoa where Chris has the following from the US Department of Justice

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The number of adults in prison, jail, or on probation or parole reached almost 7 million during 2004, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The number has grown by more than 1.6 million adults under correctional authority control since 1995.
The nation’s total correctional population was 6,996,500 in 2004, of which 4,151,125 were living in the community on probation; 1,421,911 were in a state or federal prison; 765,355 were living in the community on parole; and 713,990 were in jail, according to the BJS report on probation and parole. At year-end one in every 31 adults were under correctional supervision, which was 3.2 percent of the U.S. adult population…

As Chris says, wow.

Surfing over to Nationmaster —which uses the stats for 2003 and so has slightly fewer actual prisoners—I see that the US also has the highest absolute number of prisoners in the world (more than China!) , and the highest number per capita (715 per 100k). For comparison, the higher number per capita in the EU is 210 per 100k (Poland) and 144 for “older” Europe (Spain). For some reason the UK isn’t listed, but I think the figure works out at about 125.

Not-so-incidentially, it took me a lot of searching to find the image at the top of this post. It may be that our problem is not just the usual bias of conservatives in favor of coercion and against social welfare policies. The problem might also lie, to some extent, with a mainstream media that has ceased to care. As I say above, BJS seems to have stopped producing data by race. Why hasn't there been some in-depth reporting on this and why so great a reliance the superficial, top layer of the story?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Farm team on Dalmeny Road

No, not aspiring professional baseball players, but a team and wagon from the first decade of the 20th century.

I found this is a book about my home town. The photo shows the street where I grew up, long before my arrival. Back when we moved in, the address was RFD #1, Box 31. It was some years later when we got a house number (106) and years later still when we got a zip code.

The book was written by by Mary Cheever, noble wife of the prize-winning author -- The Changing Landscape: A History of Briarcliff Manor-Scarborough

It's a good book. Though lots of "distinguished residents" are identified and pictured, it's not all millionaires' estates and their contents. She celebrates many ordinary folk along with the upper crust, for example, Bill Bowers, who was my drive's- and phys-ed teacher, under whom I served as manager of the basketball team (when I was a 9th grader), and whom I played for on JC and Varsity teams. He's been in the school system for quite a few decades before he came into my life. When he retired, my father, member of the school board, saw to it that a ball field was named after him.

A chapter called "Briarcliff Arts and Letters" singles out painters, including Brice Marden (with photo) as well as writers, not dwelling excessively on hubby (others named include James Barrett Swain, Barret Harper Clark, John Hersey, E J Kahn, and Carroll B. Colby). It also lists architects, publishers, and musicians. There's a nice tribute to Henry and Flora Krinsky who made a success of Briarcliff's Books and Things store.

One anecdote in this section of the book discusses the house that was at the end of myt long and hilly paper route: "Ely Jacques Kahn (Senior) designed the house at the west corner of Ridgecrest and Long Hill Roads for Red Barber, a pioneer in playu-by-plauy sports broadcasting, who was known as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bike commute map

I'm fond of my commute -- homey suburb; the ups and downs of back roads through the park, Adams-Morgan's heterogeneity, the old black neighborhoods around Howard U, acres of lawyers at the foot of the HILL, and that mound itself in all its unbelievability.

Here's a map showing the whole nine miles of it. The blue segment - right through the park -- lacks street lamps and isn't suitable for travel when it's dark. (I could ride it in the dark, but more slowly than I wish to, even with my little bright beam up front.) So I take the blue route in the afternoons and on those precious few mornings when the sun and I arise together.

Click the map for larger view.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Cassette Jam '05

I try to avoid just pointing at sites that take my fancy, but sometimes cannot resist the urge. Take for example this one -- nothing but images of audio tape cassettes (with a few other types thrown in). I hope you find this as aesthetically pleasing and, to be sure, reassuring, as I do.

Here is a link to the page of cassette images:
Cassette Jam '05
※Project C-90

Here are some samples from the page:


We were talking about the Count of Monte Cristo movie the other night at Richard's (his party; night the Spit ball joint came loose). I remembered how much we all -- the four of us, B, Nick, Julia, and I -- liked Depardieu's Cyrano. We rented the video back in 1990 or maybe '91. No way could Nick or Julia read the English subtitles to comprehend the dialogue, but they could and did comprehend the characterization, dramatic conflicts, and basics of the plot. More than that, they really liked the movie. This says something about the acting I think, as well as the power of the visual images, the costumes, the action, and so forth. Now I read that Depardieu's decided to stop making films.

Depardieu ends film career, paper says
PARIS (Reuters) - Actor Gerard Depardieu is ending his film career, a newspaper quoted the popular Frenchman as saying on Sunday.

"I have nothing to lose. I have made 170 films. I have nothing left to prove. I am not going to hang on like an idiot," Depardieu, one of France's best known actors at home and abroad, was quoted as saying by Le Parisien Dimanche newspaper.

"I'm in the process of stopping filming," said the portly star of films such as "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Green Card" and "Jean de Florette."

Depardieu, 56, made the comments on the set of the upcoming French film "Michou d'Auber." He would also star in an Asterix film to be made next year, the paper said.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Seven Practices for Safer Computing

Something useful from the government provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.

7 Practices for Safer Computing

  1. Protect your personal information. It's valuable.

  2. Know who you're dealing with.

  3. Use anti-virus software and a firewall, and update both

  4. Be sure to set up your operating system and Web browser software
    properly, and update them regularly.

  5. Protect your passwords.

  6. Back up important files.

  7. Learn who to contact if something goes wrong online

Access to information and entertainment, credit and financial services, products from every corner of the world — even to your work — is greater than earlier generations could ever have imagined. Thanks to the Internet, you can order books, clothes, or appliances online; reserve a hotel room across the ocean; download music and games; check your bank balance 24 hours a day; or access your workplace from thousands of miles away.

The flip-side, however, is that the Internet — and the anonymity it affords — also can give online scammers, hackers, and identity thieves access to your computer, personal information, finances, and more.

But with awareness as your safety net, you can minimize the chance of an Internet mishap. Being on guard online helps you protect your information, your computer, even yourself. To be safer and more secure online, adopt these seven practices.

Source: BeSpacific