Friday, September 29, 2006

A Cautionary Tale About Global Weather

I first heard the word "ecology" in my biology class my sophomore year in high school. I was excited by the idea that all life on Earth existed in a state of dynamic equilibrium, always seeking homeostasis, but never quite staying there. All systems on the Earth are interrelated; we are all part of the whole.

Heady stuff when you're 15.

Around that time "Ecology" and "Environment" became buzz words. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring had been published some seven years previously and the general population was becoming aware of the impact of man-made pollution. (My father was still arguing that there was no smog in the Bay Area, despite the golden brown haze on the horizon.) Big corporations became the villains as we discovered that chemicals banned in the U.S. were marketed in the Third World and countries in South America were burning the rainforest to encourage cattle grazing, supplying cheap beef for McDonald's.

Burning the rainforest not only destroyed the ecology (rainforests, it turns out, can't support the grasses cattle need for grazing), but released particulate matter in the atmosphere, reflecting sunlight back into space and cooling the Earth. Particulates were also being released by coal- and oil-fired power plants as well as auto emissions. We needed scrubbers and catalytic converters and low-sulfur coal. Otherwise, we were all going to have to move south to Mexico.

The popular science fiction of the day posited an England buried under snowdrifts. Canada was uninhabitable. People starved because the Great Plains were too cold to grow corn or wheat or soybeans.

We had to do something and we had to do it now! There was no time to waste. Yes, scrubbers and converters were expensive. Yes, steel mills and coal plants had to be either retrofitted or abandoned. But new technology would rise in its place! New plants would be built! Workers retrained! This is America, after all, and we are nothing if not resourceful!


Yesterday, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed what the San Francisco Chronicle called "a sweeping global warming initiative."

"We simply must do everything we can in our power to slow down global warming before it is too late," Schwarzenegger said during an address before signing the bill."

Further on in the article, it's deja vu all over again:

"Schwarzenegger said it is possible to protect the environment as well as the state's economy. He expects the law will lead to a new business sector in California devoted to developing the technologies industries can use to meet the tougher emission requirements.

"We will create a whole new industry that will pump up our economy," he said."

Of course, business leaders see it quite differently:

"Industry officials say California lawmakers must ease other regulatory burdens to counter the higher costs they face with the tighter emissions standards.

"An example could be eliminating the sales tax levied on new equipment, said Dorothy Rothrock, vice president of government relations for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.

"If we do continue to discourage California manufacturing, emissions will happen elsewhere without regulation, and we will not have achieved our goal of reducing emissions," she said."

However, the Law of Unintended Consequences will not be denied. Reality will be quite different. And what if, as seems very likely, the threat of global warming is not as bad as predicted? The database of accurate temperature readings across the globe is not really very big. Accurate computer models of dynamic systems is even more recent and have less of a track record. What if the best guess of the social and economic impact is off, way off? (And, in fact, the article makes no mention that the social and economic impact was even considered.)

Meanwhile, Gov. Schwarzenegger has scored significant political points, very important during an election year.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Freshmen Outscore Seniors in U.S. History

Okay, I'm not really too surprised by this. After all, most of the freshmen, especially at the elite colleges, probably took AP U.S. History. Once they were done, that's it. They didn't have to remember any of it any more. Over the course of four (or five or six) years, the details of U.S. History became buried under the flotsam and jetsam of other courses.

I admit that I took two semesters of U.S. History and one semester of California History only because it was required at my community college and (back then) at Cal. I mean, if you're going to a state-tax-supported school, you should know something of the history of your state.

I'm also not really surprised that Cal is 49 out of 50 (Stanford is 31). Disappointed, but not surprised. I can't wait to hear how the Chancellor is going to spin these results.

In defense of some of those students, though, I'd like more detail about how the different colleges within the University did. Math, Engineering, and hard science majors have extremely rigorous class loads. I can remember complaining about having to take those history classes, especially since my science classes all had labs as well as several prerequisite classes that I had to take first, but that didn't count toward my major.

It's the battle of the technical education versus the classical liberal education and speaks to the heart of why one goes to college. Do you learn for learning's sake or do you learn to increase your earning potential? Historically, Americans have been pragmatic people and our educational system seems to have emphasized skills that can be used. If those skills can be immediately applicable, so much the better.

I don't see that changing. So I don't see a huge, sustainable outcry for more U.S. History or Political Science classes in the near future. Us college grads will have to rely on our younger siblings, colleagues, or even our children to understand the foundations of our country.

Sometimes You Need Your Dark Side

Dr. Sanity writes about the consequences of denial: "The denier will feel justified in acting out against those who threaten the peacefulness of their fantasy (check out the "peacefulness" and "reasonable" slogans chanted at most antiwar rallies these days).

"Problem solving and decision making will deteriorate as the entire focus of energy becomes the maintenance of the denial. In place of rational alternatives, excessive emotionality in general; and specifically anger and rage escalate toward those who are "blamed" for the reality that does not conform to the denier's worldview. "

Once upon a time there was a Star Trek (Original Series) episode where the transporter malfunctioned and Capt. Kirk was split into two personalities. One personality was kind and compassionate. The other was ruthless and aggressive. The "evil" Capt. Kirk plotted to kill the "good" Capt. Kirk and the "good" Captain was helpless to fight back. The "good" Captain couldn't make a decision because every decision carried the risk that someone would be hurt.

Mr. Spock was finally able to convince the "good" Captain that he needed his "evil" twin in order to be an effective leader. Mr. Scott was able to fix the transporter and the two Capt. Kirks were rejoined into one body.

I was 13 or 14 when I saw that episode and the idea that we humans need our dark side was an intriguing one, especially in the context of the time. Opposition to the war in Vietnam was heating up, the Civil Rights movement was intensifying, and the Summer of Love had come to San Francisco. Everything was about "peace" and "luv." Being "child-like" was a virtue; adults were seen as the cause of all the misery in the world (just listen to the folksongs of the era).

Here was a T.V. show that challenged that view. We need to be strong. We need to make hard decisions in order to protect our crew, our ship, our family. And once we've made those decisions we have to move ahead.

It took me a long time to learn that sometimes just making a decision is more important than whether that decision is the absolute right or correct one. It's easier to correct course if you're already moving than if you're standing still.

I was in college when the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam and when the government in Saigon fell. I was in the dorm at U.C. Berkeley and I could hear the celebration going on at Peoples' Park. I wrote a letter to my high school history teacher, a classic liberal, that night wondering why I was crying. I couldn't bring myself to celebrate; I felt my country had reneged on the promise they made to the South Vietnamese.

My former teacher agreed with me. He wasn't celebrating, either.

I see much of the same mindset in the current crop of war protestors. A mindset that claims that we did something to deserve this and if we just "think happy thots" then we'll all be able to fly away to Neverland (forgetting, of course, that Neverland is full of conflict itself). If we can just ignore our dark side, our aggressive side, our mean, cruel side, if we can eliminate it totally, then we'll live in peace and happiness.

Life doesn't work that way. Sometimes we do have fight for our families, for our values. Sometimes people hate us just because. We don't always make the right decisions, but we do the best we can, accept responsibility, and learn from our mistakes.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What Kind of Cookie Am I?

You Are a Fortune Cookie

You're a rather normal person, except that you have extraordinary luck in life.
People want to be around you (even when they're a little sick of you), in hopes of being lucky too!

Hmmm... I never thought of myself as a Fortune Cookie--I would have picked oatmeal or chocolate chip myself.

(H/T: Julie D. at Happy Catholic)

Confessions of a T.V. Addict

My name is March H. and I'm addicted to T.V.

I decided to confess my addiction after reading Michael Medved's latest column on Townhall, "Beating Back the T.V. Takeover," followed by Michelle Malkin's column in the same forum, decrying the lack of appropriate role models for young girls, and The Anchoress, who discussed her family's viewing habits. Or lack thereof.

I am the first T.V. generation--I don't remember life without T.V., although it was in black-and-white, and limited to three network stations, one local station, and PBS. On non-school mornings, I sat in front of the television (Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room, Miss Frances and Ding-Dong School) and again in the afternoon (Captain Satellite, Skipper (later Sir) Sedley, What's New?, The Charlie and Humphrey Hour, Marshall J). When Dad came home, the T.V. stayed on, but what we watched depended on him. If we didn't like it, we were free to leave the room and find something else to do. Like read. And since the T.V. was seldom off, we learned to read while the T.V. was on, a talent which surprised Hubs when he first met me. Unfortunately, sometimes I miss the fact the commercial is over and miss part of the action. So I have to ask what is going on.

"Either read or watch," he said, early in our marriage. Now he just answers my questions.

By the way, that's probably the worst part of needing bifocals. If I take off my glasses to read, I can't see the T.V. screen. If I leave my glasses on to watch T.V., I can't read.

Of course, it doesn't help that Hubs' job is intimately connected with television. If he's home, the T.V. is on so he can "monitor" it.

Although we have four sets, television viewing seems to be a group activity in our family. I sneak up to my room to read or watch T.V. in peace, only to be joined by the rest of the family within twenty minutes.

When the children were younger I used to put on a Disney video and nap "with one ear open", waking when I heard the distinctive tune at the end. Now that the "children" aren't really any more, my concern has shifted from what they watch to how late they stay up, especially on school nights. I do try to keep the T.V. off during the morning rush since it tends to distract everyone as we're trying to get out of the house.

As for the influence of commercials--well, let's just say we had an eye-opening experience with a Christmas present for Hubs where the reality of the product was quite a comedown from "as seen on T.V."

So, I'm not ready to pull the plug completely. I am, however, not very eager to plug them in further. I fought long and hard against GameBoys and portable CD players. None of our cars has a VHS or a DVD player or separate CD channels. Electronics are banned on Scout outings (Boy Scout and Girl Scout), which means DS#2 and DD#2 are unplugged at least one weekend a month.

Besides, if I record my favorite shows, I can skip over the commercials and save about 20 minutes.

Monday, September 25, 2006

People of The Book

I've read a lot about Pope Benedict's remarks and the outrage caused by his reference to a Byzantine Emperor's remarks about Islam and Mohammed.

The outrage was predictable, by the Muslims and by those who refuse to understand religion but feel compelled to comment about it. They brought up the Crusades. (No mention that the Crusades started because the "infidels" took over the Holy Land and were killing the pilgrims.) The Inquistion. The forced conversion of indigenous populations. (There lurks the idea that Frank McCourt gave voice to--that the natives were perfectly happy in their local religion and the conquerers had no business ruining their lives by converting them.)

However, one thing about having your religion written down is that you can look and actually compare it. And while the Koran does talk about forced conversions by the sword, the New Testament does not. In fact, the one time the sword is used by an apostle, Jesus tells him to put it away and heals the ear that was cut off. The conversion that happen on the first Pentecost, in the Acts of the Apostles, is due to the eloquence of the apostles. The Holy Spirit, speaking through them, touched the hearts of their audience.

The Evils done in the name of the Christian Religion were done by men and not at the direction of God. And there was probably as much carnage done to Christians by Christians and to non-Christians by Christians. (Doesn't excuse it; just demonstrates that religion has been misused.)

The Old Testament is pretty violent but I don't remember the violence being directed towards conversion. In fact, Jews have serious misgivings about prosletyzing and are even reluctant to convert the non-Jewish spouse in a mixed marriage. The battles I remember in the Old Testament were about freedom from oppression, securing their homeland, and protecting it.

I admit, I am not a scholar, nor to I have a Bible ready to hand to verify this. But I would have thought someone would have mentioned this.

So now Pope Benedict brings several leaders of Islam together and stresses the need for dialogue. Some commentators see that as groveling and appeasement. I see it as putting Islam on notice. Yes, Pope Benedict could have been more forceful. But his message was plain, especially the message about expecting reciprocal respect.

The imans had no comment, except for those from Turkey and Iraq. It's up to them to deliver the message. Will they?

Family Matters

Yesterday was my uncle's 90th Birthday. His daughters had an open house with enough food to feed an army. And since my uncle's mother (my grandmother) was one of thirteen, there was, in fact, an army of cousins there.

We are fortunate that most of us live in the Bay Area and that we know not only our first cousins but our second cousins as well. In fact, my second cousin and I went through 12 years of Catholic school together. My mother has so many cousins, in fact, that while on a cruise to Alaska, she and my dad went to a bar in Skagway and happened to find one of my mother's cousins there--who was on a different ship. And Mom, as the primary Family Historian, was busy catching up with her cousins and introducing her me to people I knew of but hadn't seen for years.

DD#2, well on her way to becoming the Family Historian of her generation, was having a field day as well, trying to figure out how she was related to all these people she met. My cousins had pulled out pictures from the various decades of my uncle's life, including rare pictures of my grandmother and my great-grandparents. As my uncle's only sibling, my mother was in a couple of the photos as well. The visuals helped me explain some of the relationships, but raised a couple of questions.

"Why is the height of the palm trees so important?" DD#2 asked about one picture.

I looked at her in surprise. Could it be she has never been down Dolores Street, lined with now-stately palm trees? Time for a field trip! And I should take her to the house where her great-great-grandmother lived (which was "in the country" in 1906) as well as the house on Church Street that her great-grandparents bought and where her grandmother grew up.

My uncle's short-term memory is gone, but he can remember stuff that happened thirty years ago, especially if it's sports-related. And he knows what's going on in real time, so he still can enjoy watching his beloved Cal Bears in football and basketball. (He just can't tell you what the score was or who they played the next day.) His sense of humor is still intact.

"How are you?" I asked.

He heaved a huge sigh. "Still breathing," he answered.

His first cousin, also 90, was there.

"Hey," he told my mother (one of his "baby" cousins), "send me an e-mail! I just got a new address."

And, of course, there was talk of having another Family Picnic, a tradition that was tried for several years and then sort of died out. While I see my uncle and his daughters several times a year, I generally only see my second cousins at funerals. With each passing year, I realize how important celebrations become. They bind us together, all the generations, and give us roots and history.

How do people live without their family? I don't understand it. I'm glad I don't have to.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mr. Caurant!

Today is Pat Caurant's birthday. He would have been 29. In his honor, DD#2's school, where Mr. Caurant taught the last four years, encouraged the kids to wear orange, Mr. Caurant's favorite color.

DS#2 had Mr. Caurant for three years, as well as his 7th Grade Homeroom teacher. When I told him about it, he decided to wear orange as well.

Then he took a step that I never expected him to: he encouraged his friends to also wear orange.

Now this year DS#2 is a sophomore. He's also in a new high school, one that is out of our district. A couple of his former classmates are there (and one of them is wearing orange), but, basically, he's had to make friends from scratch.

He seems to be good at it.

DS#2 and DD#2 had their battles with Mr. Caurant. He challenged them, held them responsible for their work (or lack of it), and demanded they do their personal best, always. He wasn't their favorite teacher--but they respected him. And as they move on through high school and college, they're going to appreciate him even more.

Tomorrow, the Student Council has organized a "Tour de Caurant" bike race around the school. And they're selling orange rubber band bracelets.

The picture above seems to be everyone's favorite of Mr. Caurant--Hubs has it on his desktop, the Student Council used it for their flyer. I'm not sure why this picture and not others with him and his students. Maybe because he's got a 'tude in this picture we didn't often get to see.

Oh, yeah. I'm wearing orange, too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ahoy, Mateys! Aarrrhhh!

Remember, today is "Talk Like a Pirate" Day. Although, if ye asks me, it should be "Parlay Like a Pirate Day."

Eat an apple. Get a tattoo. Bring yer parrot to work. Watch Pirates of the Carribean or Captain Blood. If yer inta lame comedy, there's Cabin Boy. Down Periscope has a great pirate scene, although the movie takes place on a submarine.

Unlock the brig and let yer inner pirate out!

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Ending for Harry Potter, Book 7

According to J.K. Rowling, the last word in Book 7 is "scar." So, last Friday LaShawn Barber issued a challenge: to write the last several paragraphs of Book 7.I was under the weather last Friday, but I still want to play. Rather than hijacking her comment thread, I thought I'd post my ending on my blog.If anyone else would care to play, please be my guest! Either post in the comments or Trackback.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron stood on the platform at King's Cross Station, between No. 9 and No. 10. Their trunks, rather the worse for wear, were beside them. A large, empty cage stood on top of Harry's.

"What will you do now, Harry?" Hermione asked softly.

"Dunno," Harry answered, shrugging his shoulders. "There isn't much call for wizards who've lost their magic."

"You know Fred and George will hire you at the shop," Ron chimed in quickly. "And there's room at the Burrow now with Bill married and Percy gone. Mum'd love having someone to fuss over."

"Or stay with my Mum and Dad. They're used to not having magic about." Hermione tried to keep her voice light, but her eyes betrayed her.

Harry smiled. His two best mates, always concerned. Always loyal.

"Thanks," he answered. "I mean it. But I'll make do. Just let me know when the wedding is."

Ron and Hermione exchanged a quick glance. Ron's neck and ears matched the color of his hair.

Hermione cleared her throat. "But how will we find you, Harry?"

"I'm sure you'll find a way," Harry said. "After all, didn't someone once say you were the brightest witch of your age?"

Hermione's eyes were suddenly bright with tears. She hugged Harry, hard.

"Take care of yourself," she whispered.

Harry stuck out his hand to Ron. "Good luck in..." he began and found himself locked in a bear hug.

Ron quickly released him, sniffed, and said, "Thanks. You, too."

He left quickly, dragging his trunk and the empty cage across the station to the taxi stand. Despite his assurance to Hermione, Harry really didn't have a place to go. Without his magic, he'd never find 12 Grimmauld Place and returning to No. 4 Privet Drive was out of the question. But he couldn't live in Diagon Alley, either. If the wizarding world had made a fuss of him before, now he'd never a moment's privacy. He needed to be alone, to grieve for those he had lost: mother, father, Sirius, Professor Dumbeldore, Ginny, even Professor Snape. He needed to learn to be a Muggle again.

Harry blinked in the bright sunlight.

"Taxi, guv?" a gruff voice asked.

"Oh... uh... Sure," Harry answered. He climbed in while the driver wrestled his trunk into the boot.

"Where to, ‘Arry?" the driver asked.

Surprised, Harry glanced up at the rearview mirror. There was something familiar about those blue eyes. Something about the twinkle…

“I’d know you anywhere, Harry,” the voice was familiar now. “Even without your scar.”

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Outlandish" Book Reviews

Update: I forgot to give my Golden Bookmark ratings!

For The Outlandish Companion: 5 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks. Which means I'm seriously considering buying this book for my library!

For Fiery Cross: This one is a bit tougher because it's a "bridge" book in the series, although I enjoyed it more than Drums of August. It definitely is not a stand-alone book and there are still a lot of loose ends. I'm going with 4 out of 5.


I am a regular patron at our local library and I always check out the "New Books" section. So I was really, really excited to see the latest book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Only one problem--it's been four years since the previous book and I couldn't remember if I had read it or not. (Diana Gabaldon writes slower than J.K. Rowling!)

So it was off to the computer files to request The Fiery Cross, the title of Book Five. As I was searching, though, I came across another book, The Outlandish Companion. I decided to request both of them.

About a week later (just in time for the Highland Games, in fact), both volumes had come in. I decided to "read" The Outlandish Companion first.

Wise choice.

Companion has a summary of the first four novels: Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of August. While I have a pretty good memory, these summaries helped bring back some of the details. But the real treasure of the book comes after.

The subtitle of Companion reads as follows: In Which Much Is Revealed Regarding Claire and Jamie Fraser, their Lives and Times, Antecedents, Adventures, Companions, and Progeny, with Learned Commentary (and Many Footnotes) by their Humble Creator.

There are three pages of Acknowledgements. There is a Prologue, which starts, "Well, it was all an accident, is what it was. I wasn't trying to be published; I wasn't even going to show it to anyone. I just wanted to write a book--any kind of book." And then Ms. Gabaldon goes on to explain exactly how the first of the series, Outlander, came to be written. She does not have a degree in English Literature or History. She had never been to Scotland. She is a scientist and a storyteller, and she knew how to do research in those pre-Internet/early-personal computer days.

As I read this, I felt a sudden kinship. Later on, I discovered why: we're almost the same age.

Other Sections include Characters, including discussions of where they come from, a list of them (very helpful), and a horoscope of Jamie and Claire. There is a Family Tree. There is a Comprehensive Glossary and Pronunciation Guide that includes some archaic English terms, Latin and French phrases and pronunciation, and--best of all--Gaelic translations AND pronunciations, including a discussion of Gaelic grammar and the subtleties of Irish Gaelic versus Scots Gaelic. Since whomever came up with the rules for transcribing Gaelic (of either type) into the Latin alphabet must have been sampling some of the famous Gaelic "water of life," this guide was very useful.

Ms. Gabaldon mentions that she had wanted to put this glossary at the end of Dragonfly in Amber, but her publisher felt the book was already Long Enough. This, by the way, is a theme that recurs regularly throughout Companion: how she decides on the length of her books. And, for those of you who have read them, yes, she actually does edit out scenes.

Other sections include Outlandish Web Sites and Online Venues (if you haven't already discovered some of them like The Ladies of Lallybroch), Research, Where Titles Come From, The View from Lallybroch, Frequently Asked Questions, Controversy, Work in Progress (which includes an excerpt from Fiery Cross and what became A Breath of Snow and Ashes.) Just to be thorough, Ms. Gabaldon included an Annotated Bibliography and Appendixes, which include Errata.

I liked that last section. Ms. Gabaldon explains why the series begins in 1945 in the U.S. edition but in 1946 in the U.K. edition and the problems that single year's difference caused in the second book. She also answers one question that bugged the heck out of me when I first read Outlander: why does Claire think Jamie's last name is MacTavish? (It was an editing goof that no one caught until after publication.)

Companion is a marvelous reference work. I enjoy picking it up and just reading pieces wherever the book happens to open or whatever catches my fancy, although I did read the summaries straight through. Ms. Gabaldon writes in a self-deprecating, chatty style, and seems to be really surprised that she is now a best-selling author.

The Fiery Cross refers to a Scottish custom. Highland clan chiefs would fashion a cross of wood and set it on fire. The charred cross would then be carried through the area as a sign to the men of the clan that they were about to go to war and their chief needed them. (If this sounds similar to the Ku Klux Klan ritual, that's because it is. Many Highland Scots settled in the hills of Carolina.)

SPOILER WARNING! If you haven't read any of the Outlander series, stop reading this review now and go get the book! ;)

The Revolutionary War is coming. Claire, Brianna, and Roger all know this. Jamie knows only because Claire has told him. Out in the backwoods country, taxes must be paid in cash which most landowners don't have. Those who can't pay are evicted, allowed to take only that which they can carry. Often the land is given to those who are connected to the sheriff or the local Justice of the Peace. This heavy-handed behavior has caused desperate men to protest to the governor. When they are ignored, they riot.

The governor requests the help of those landowners who have a royal grant, including Jamie Fraser. Although Jamie's sympathies lie with the displaced, he is a Catholic--and Catholics legally cannot have a royal grant. The governor knows Jamie is Catholic and chooses to ignore the fact--as long as Jamie is loyal to him. So Jamie receives orders to raise a militia.

Most of Jamie's tenants are fellow Highlanders who were with him at Ardsmuir Prison after the Battle of Culloden. Thus, when he burns the cross and sends it out, they respond, for Jamie is their "chief."

Subplots abound as well. Jocasta Cameron, Jamie's wealthy aunt, is set to marry Duncan Innes, who was a fellow prisoner with Jamie. A murder is committed during the wedding reception--who would have killed a slave and why? Jamie and Roger are looking for Stephen Bonnet, a pirate who raped Brianna shortly after her arrival in the Carolinas and who may--or may not--be the biological father to her son. (The son could be Roger's, after all. And Roger has acknowledged Jemmy as his own.) Claire tries to grow penicillin and avoid being cast as a witch. There is also the possibility of Brianna and Roger returning to their own time (1968 or so), but they're not sure how. They're also not sure if their son, Jemmy, can "travel between the stones," and, of course, Brianna won't leave him.

The book is 979 pages (hardcover edition) and I was sucked in from the beginning. Stayed up way too late reading it and my family heard those dreaded words, "Just let me finish this chapter!" (Never a good sign--for them!)

Some questions are answered, some are asked. Ms. Gabaldon does an excellent job recreating the Revolutionary War era and doesn't shy from the less-pleasant parts of it: slavery, anti-Catholicism, death, and sex.

The point-of-view shifts among the different characters in this novel, more than I remember happening previously. Most of the time this works and I knew who was speaking. A couple of times, I had to read a bit before I was sure who it was. Claire, though, is always in first person.

I love her ending sentence: "When the day shall come, that we do part," he (Jamie--ed.) said softly, and turned to look at me, "if my last words are not 'I love you'--ye'll ken it was because I didna have time."

As soon as A Breath of Snow and Ash comes back to the library, I'll be ready for it!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Me Pirate Name

According to Uncle Jay, (see his entry for September 8. He doesn't seem to have Trackback) September 19th is National Talk Like a Pirate Day. To get ready for the occasion, Jay was kind enough to direct me to a site that will tell me my Official Pirate Name:

My pirate name is:

Red Bess Kidd

Passion is a big part of your life, which makes sense for a pirate. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network
Got to admit, I kind of like it!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Morning After

So now it's September 12. What next?

Yesterday, the flag on the Ferry Building was at half-mast. Today, it's back at the top. But the flag outside of the fireboat station house is still at half-mast. A tribute? A jammed pulley? There was no one outside to ask.

In the plaza of AT&T Park, behind the statue of Willie Mays (who was both a New York and a San Francisco Giant), there are simple red, white, and blue banners listing the names of all those who died. Ezra Aviles's name was there--I checked. There is a red, white, and blue "ribbon" of bunting and the words "We Will Never Forget." It was there yesterday. It was there today.

Michelle Malkin has two important posts. The first is "Never Forget: The South Tower Collapse". It's a recording of the 911 call Kevin Cosgrove made while trapped in the 105th floor. The video is powerful. Mr. Cosgrove was only two years younger than me and left behind a wife and three children.

The second is the text of President Bush's address to the nation last night. Since I prefer to read President Bush's speeches, I can't tell you how he sounded. But the text is an eloquent statement of what we're up against. Of course, I happen to agree that we're in a fight for civilization itself and that there is no appeasing Islamic terrorists. Their reality is not our reality and what they mean by "peace" is not what we in the West mean (usually). Unlike Alice, however, we cannot simply say, "Why, you're nothing but a pack of cards!", wake up, brush the leaves from our faces, and continue on as if nothing had happened.

I have no answer for those who see conspiracy around every corner, who think that Bush is the Epitome of All That Is Evil, who do not see the irony of publicly and loudly proclaiming that "America is becoming a fascist state!" without fear of becoming "disappeared," who want to examine minutely What America Has Done to Make Them Hate Us.

Y'know, sometimes people hate you. If love is not logical, then why does hate have to be?

One thing the 2996 Project showed me is the incredible strength of the ordinary American. The elites may scorn them as "ignorant," "hicks," or "unsophisticated." But when the time came to take action, they did. Flight attendants spoke with officials on the ground, giving them information. Passengers recited the 23rd Psalm and stormed the cockpit. Firefighters and police officers rushed in, whether off-duty or on. Port Authority personnel took charge and tried to move people to safety. One man wouldn't leave behind his wheelchair-bound co-worker, staying with him until the end.

And then many more joined the military to fight the True Evil that threatens our homes and our way of life.

I should not have been surprised. The Continental Army was made up of ordinary men who worried about leaving their families, their farms, their businesses behind, but who also knew that something more was required if they--and their children--were to be able to live their lives as they chose.

Most of these heroes and heroines don't seek the spotlight. They are just "doing their job" and don't understand why that should be so special.

Frankly, give me one of these "common" men and/or women in an uncommon situation over any of the "elite."

Monday, September 11, 2006

We Will Not Forget: Ezra Aviles, Age 41

Today I join with thousands of fellow Americans to honor those killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11. I dedicate this post to Ezra Aviles, 41, of Commack, NY, who worked for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey at the World Trade Center.

From the Newsday website:

Ezra Aviles
He Worked to the Last Seconds

October 11, 2001

As the first hijacked plane struck One World Trade Center, Ezra Aviles was on the phone calling Port Authority officials from the 61st floor, describing the plane crash, giving emergency guidelines and warning colleagues to stay away from the building.

Aviles, a Port Authority senior manager for strategic planning and development, had seen American Airlines Flight 11 pass his windows before it plowed into the North Tower some floors above. Rather than flee for safety, Aviles stayed on the phone informing police of what was happening. He also briefly called his wife, Mildred, in Commack at about 8:50 a.m., but continued working, helping others to escape. His body was found in the rubble four days after the collapse of the towers.

Lewis Eisenberg, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, praised Aviles' heroic action, calling it "the best of America in the worst of times." He listened to Aviles' voice-mail messages on his cell phone as he toured the wreckage.

Aviles, 41, formerly assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, had responded to the previous terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, when six died and many suffered smoke inhalation. An expert on building materials and air quality control, he came to the Port Authority six years ago where he "hoped he could do something to make a difference," said family friend Debra Ferguson.

A geologist, Aviles was also a dedicated environmentalist. His daughter, Jacqueline, 13, who eulogized her father at services Sept. 19 at Christ the King Church in Commack, said, "We have all been impacted by his passionate pursuit of a better environment for all and future generations ... he made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of his fellow co-workers before his own. My dad is a hero never to be forgotten, a peaceful warrior of the 21st century."

Another daughter, Kathryn, observed her fourth birthday Sept. 30. She was given a party and gifts at the Pumpkin Patch Day Nursery in Commack, where she attends with her 2-year-old brother, Andrew.

"Ezra's first priority was his family," said his wife's aunt, Carmen Rivera of Puerto Rico. "He would not schedule any meetings on the first day of school so he could take his children to school, and he would always be there when one of his children had a dance recital or a soccer game."

His co-workers "absolutely adored him. He would make them laugh. He was always in a good mood," Rivera said. A busload of Port Authority workers attended his funeral.

Born in Far Rockaway, Aviles graduated from Beach Channel High School. He met his wife, the former Mildred Marti, when both were students at York College. He earned his bachelor of science degree at York and a master's degree in geology from Brooklyn College. They were married 21 years. --Rhoda Amon (Newsday)

This link will take you to a page where those who knew Mr. Aviles recorded their memories about him and offered condolences to his family. The portrait these leave is of an ordinary man; a man who cared for his wife and his family; a man who was not looking to become a hero.

But, like the passengers on Flight 93, when the call for heroism came, he answered it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

September 11, 2001

I turn on the TV and watch as the plane slowly flies into the Tower.
Hail Mary, full of grace
My daughter wanders downstairs, shoes in hand,
Turns to look at what has me transfixed on a weekday morning.
The Lord is with thee.
"Where is that, Mommy?" she asks.
Blessed are you among women
"New York," I asnwer. She nods. The name is familiar,
Like Venus,
Like Mars
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
"Do we know anyone there?" Her eyes are blue and full of innocent concern.
"No," I answer, thinking of friends, family, business associates, safe here.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
She has seen the green glass tower where I work,
Tucked amongst taller builders.
Pray for us sinners
But a skyscraper in one city looks much like one in the next.
"Where's the tallest building in the United States?"
And at the hour of our death.
My daughter looks relieved.