Cargo, car go
Friday May 05th 2023, 8:12 pm
Filed under: History,Wildlife

You know Russia doesn’t think their invasion plan is going so well when one of their guys goes on record claiming the Americans started the whole thing because they’ve got a volcano in Yellowstone that’s going to wipe out all of North America so they were out to expand their territory.

Say what now?

Ukraine is like this warden: Get this snarling thing out of here and send it back where it belongs.

A little decorum
Wednesday April 12th 2023, 8:57 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

It has been in the news that a far-right Federalist Society judge was asked to speak at Stanford and was shouted down by the crowd. Many, including me, are disappointed in those students and think they could have handled it better.

So it was interesting to read these two comments in the NY Times, with #1 providing context I’ve seen nowhere else and #2 being exactly what I think they should have done. (Hey! The Mighty Moo! WJ was built next to one of the last dairy farms in Montgomery County, Maryland, sold ice cream to the kids during lunch break, but later became the new headquarters of Marriott International while the cow mascot lived on. The resident alumna can brag all day about what a great high school it is.)

Quote 1: “I’m a Stanford law student and feel it’s important to share some missing context here. Judge Duncan did not enter the room with the intention to give a lecture. He taunted people. He recorded a video as he walked in of the people in the room, his phone inches from students’ faces, seemingly to force a reaction to escalate the situation. When students engaged peacefully, such as by asking him pointed questions, he mocked them. (Two examples: one student prefaced a question by sharing that it was a personal question to her, as a survivor of sexual assault, to which Judge Duncan told her “nice story”, and moved on. Another student asked about another one of his decisions that also impacted minority rights and, rather than respond to the question, Judge Duncan told them to read his judicial opinion and moved on.) He called students “appalling idiots”, among other names. Meanwhile, trucks paid for by some unidentified groups have been circulating around campus with students’ names and alleged quotes from the event printed on the side. These trucks were even driven outside the homes of parents of four separate students. Not to mention the threats they’ve been getting. Many many students engaged much more civilly with Judge Duncan than he engaged with them. And yet they’re the ones being targeted.”

(Me: Yeah, I’d like to hear a lot more reporting on that aspect, if it was as described here. I believe doxxing is illegal in California and threatening certainly is.)

Quote 2: “In 1969 I was a student at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Members of the American Nazi Party were allowed to visit the school and present their point of view that the Holocaust had not happened. The event was held after school in the cafeteria, and expectations for students who chose to attend were made absolutely clear to us by the principal. We were to be respectful at all times; we were not to interrupt the speakers; anything we had to say could be said in the Q & A afterwards. Those of us who attended prepared ourselves extremely well and did as we had been directed. During the presentation we took notes, sat on our hands, kept our mouths shut, and did not interrupt the speakers in any way. Then afterwards in the Q & A we absolutely shredded them. When they left, they knew they had been soundly trounced by a bunch of high school history geeks. It was a very valuable experience to me, and a lesson that ideas, no matter how vile, should be argued, defended, and defeated in public.”

Now: just imagine if those Stanford students had kept their silence and instead simply recorded what Duncan did and how he treated them and had waited for the Q&A afterward to speak up. Who then would be being excoriated nationwide?

He wouldn’t have been able to twist a thing.

What on earth were they afraid of
Saturday April 08th 2023, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,History,Life

His migraine. So I ran off to Safeway to try to buy a leg of lamb for Easter, but there wasn’t much to be found but flapping tags and empty shelves. So I did what I could and yes that ham was, um, cute. Definitely for people who don’t like leftovers.

But he wanted it to be what he wanted it to be more than I’d realized, and after a few hours of psyching himself up and a quick toasted cheese sandwich each to keep us from shopping hungry we found ourselves heading for Costco quarter after 5. They close at 6 Saturdays, normally; today, turns out, they made it 7. Because customers.

Going to Costco on a Saturday is never my thing and going right before Easter Sunday was really not my thing and I simply wasn’t going to, but if he was that determined even while feeling like that then of course I would go with him.

And he found one!

A few goodies in the cart, a few practical items, and then I headed for the lines while he went looking for one last thing.

It felt odd. Most of the lines were now self-checkout, but a number of people were like me and wouldn’t use those. And yet…

Well if they’re not going to get in this one I certainly am, look how fast that woman is scanning things and her bagger is tag-teaming with her to speed it up. They’ve got this down! Wow, I’m going to look for them next time.

And yet.

Even though it kept becoming the shorter line, people were coming up, and in an echo of what I’d seen on approaching that I hadn’t quite put my finger on, were starting to turn in behind me and then abruptly pulling away into the other lines that were quite a bit longer, and at one point there were five people waiting there and there that I could see while my stuff was going onto the conveyer as they rang up the guy in front of me, and still nobody was getting behind me. And now another person coming up started to, took a look, and moved into one of the longer lines, too.

The clerk was an older heavier black woman. The young bagger was mixed race and part black.

And the people who turned away out of her line after they saw her, every single one of them was Asian.

This is not to stereotype. This is to report what I saw. Note that the guy in front of me was Asian. But it took me straight back to the college American history class where the professor said that one of the things about immigration to the US over the centuries is that unless they were black, every newcomer had someone they could punch down at and wrongly think they were better than. (Edited in the morning to add by way of explanation, 64% of the local Asian population are immigrants, and by their accents at least some of these were.)

Finally, a Hispanic man turned in behind me, quite happy to somehow snag the short line on such a day.

She was checking me out now. I had to do something. I made a point of looking her in the eyes and saying, “You are amazing. You are so fast. Thank you!”

I saw in that moment that she’d been keeping it all in check but at those kind words and the noticing implied behind them, she suddenly nearly burst into tears and she thanked me, the  bagger thanked me, too. We could have given each other a hug on the spot if the counter hadn’t been in the way.

I left wishing them a happy Easter and meant it as fervently as I ever have (even while thinking, I should have said and Passover and Ramadan, too, since they all come together this year and you never know.) They both wished me one as well, and clearly meant it, too. I felt befriended.

I know I’m choir-preaching here, but, man, just go love one another. What else matters? I wanted to tell those people who made their bigotry visible how much they were missing out on because that is one gracious, lovely woman there who was trying her best to give them a better day in the one way given her to do so, and the young man, too.

I am so glad we went to that store when we went to that store near the end of her day. Richard had no way to know that’s the real reason he so strongly felt we had to go there.

And that going at the last minute was the only time to go.

Between a rock and a wet place
Monday March 13th 2023, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Life

The phone rang at dinnertime.

It was a reverse-911 call from the county warning of the incoming storm and pleading for residents to stay home and stay put if you’re not in an evacuation zone. And don’t drive through water in the roadway!

We are staying home and staying put. It’s supposed to start pouring any minute, strong winds, the works, and then another atmospheric river is expected next week. You know the “Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry” line? The levy wishes. They are dropping boulders from helicopters at this point to be able to reach it.

And yet all was quiet here so far. So I took a moment to photograph the biggest Anya seedling: I love its formation, it’s such an elegant little bundle of hope, and its leaves have really grown. It just makes me so happy.

There was enough air movement to twirl its skirts a little.

The flowering pear is at that glorious moment of full bloom mixed with the incoming leaves; it had waited all winter for this.

The start of the storm keeps being pushed back–11:00 pm, they think now. Edit, nope, 1:00 am.

That pear tree was a staked newly planted whip when we moved here. Hey, little apricot? You’ve got this.

Petal power
Sunday March 12th 2023, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Politics

One of the companies affected by the bank failure: Etsy. 95 million buyers, 7.5 million sellers, per the Washington Post. The Feds have declared that tomorrow all depositors are to have access to their funds after all, at no cost to taxpayers. Such a relief.

And to change the subject: the one peach that needs a pollinator is going to do just fine this year, rain willing. I love how similar and yet how different the flowers are. The Indian Free, with the darker pink interior, produces peaches with a dark red center.’s silk ribbon leaped onto my needles.

I don’t know how this is going to go (understatement alert)
Saturday March 11th 2023, 10:48 pm
Filed under: History

The abrupt Silicon Valley Bank collapse: the accounts that vanished in the last few days were the ones that smaller-to-middle-sized companies simply doing normal business rely on to make payroll.

If the early reports and gossip are true, the richest investors triggered the run via insider information. They bailed themselves.

California law does not allow businesses to not pay workers on time, not anticipating situations where they’re scrambling to get at their own funds in their own bank accounts so they can do so. Legally right now, they could tank as fast as that bank.

This isn’t about bailing out the rich, it’s about rescuing those of us at the worker level who rely on that next paycheck, whose employer was perfectly solvent, successful, and had fully expected to continue from day to day.

Note that a few decades ago, Chrysler repaid the Feds in full and early. Different business but still a useful precedent.

Edited 3/12 to add: one of the companies that had its money in that bank? Etsy.

And that is why
Thursday February 23rd 2023, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

(In real life, those lilacs at the top are as bright as a spring morning.)

I have mentioned the woman who sold me two beautiful gerdans in November–whose shop then disappeared from Etsy and there was no way to send her a message to make sure she was okay. Of all the people in Ukraine that I’d interacted with and had tried to do my part to help support, she was the one I was most worried about.

I had bought the second one because I loved it, but also to keep the conversation going. And suddenly all I was getting was Etsy’s notification that this shop was no longer listed.

I googled the name of it in case it might appear on some other platform. No luck. I only had her first name. It hit hard, to a degree that surprised me–and yet didn’t at all.

I have grieved that lost connection. I have wanted to know that she was as alright as possible.

Two days ago, the thought struck me: yes Etsy wouldn’t let me send a message to her shop–but what about responding to months-old previous messages? Were they still there? And if so, why hadn’t I thought of this before?

I felt a combination of, I have to at least try, and a sudden and unreasonable hope.

They were still there! She got it! She answered!

It meant the world to her that it meant so much to me to finally find her again, that it matters how she and her family are doing. The world. It cares. About them.

She told me the way to find and follow her now. Oh my goodness, there was a year old picture of her showing off her latest design and saying how proud she was of it, that she thought it was her prettiest ever–and it was sitting in a box across the room from me as I read that because I had also thought it was the prettiest ever, I had not found anything quite like it from anyone else and it’s what got me to ever pay attention to anything about her in the first place.

But also on her page was a video of a large apartment building collapsed by missiles with fire raging across the bottom, with her cri de couer: “There are people under there!”

And here I suddenly showed up telling her how hard I’d tried to find her and that I’d been praying fervently for her safety and so grateful to find her again. Unspoken was the word, alive.

That is when I realized why I not only have been buying but wearing these hand-beaded pictorial necklaces from Ukraine: each one connects me to the person who made it.

But also, I feel as if in some small and thoroughly irrational way I am somehow helping to protect that person from the terrors and the harm by keeping them right there close to my heart throughout my quiet, peaceful day.

In plane sight
Friday February 03rd 2023, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Got a Hey look at this offer! from Southwest Airline. Which reminded me.

At the niece’s second wedding reception, my husband the computer scientist was talking to his cousin the pilot.

Who had been stuck in the Christmas meltdown. But who had managed to get through such that he flew the plane that got Richard’s sister (and himself) to the actual wedding, and he was pretty happy about that: he got a planeload of people to where they were fairly desperate at that point to go.

He said, The thing people don’t get is that Southwest allows its crews to live wherever they want. They have a great deal of autonomy because in each city they’re assigned out of, there’s central management to report to who take requests and adjust personal schedules and smooth things and make people happy. There are unwritten rules that everybody understands and abides by, and you have this authority centralized to where you live and by people you get to know like a big happy family.

And that’s usually good, he said–but when it was bad it totally melted down, and we on the inside could see this coming and tried to warn them.

Hubby the software guy said, But if you do it that way then you can’t update because you can’t write software that manages operations better without having the rules being written down. Which means adhered to. Which means giving up power: everything across the system would become centralized to the system.

Computers have no human empathy component. Things would have to be Done A Certain Way to make the automated system work–which means a lot of those managers would become completely unnecessary and lose their jobs. And the crews and the pilots would lose a whole lot of autonomy (not to mention their friends they’ve worked with forever.) You just go where/when you’re assigned.

I thought, There’s got to be some degree of middle ground.

So it’ll be interesting to see what the FAA does as it plays grown-up to the various sides here.

Musical interlude
Friday January 27th 2023, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Food,History

So I did, I had some of those kale gnocchi cubes for lunch, and they were okay enough.

Meantime, I have heard for decades descriptions of Yoko Ono’s screeching. I always thought that was just a put-down of her singing. I had no idea. My stars. (Chuck Berry’s face!)

Which leads to, as YouTube does, John Lennon and Chuck Berry doing Johnny B. Goode and decades after that, Berry reprising it with Julian Lennon and telling him how proud he was of him and that he was going to tell his dad when he sees him. Wow.

Sunday January 22nd 2023, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,History,Life

The day began with the news of the unspeakable horror of the mass shooting at a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in southern California.

I kept thinking of my friend Jean’s 90th birthday party a half dozen years ago where her grandkids brought out a long elaborate paper dragon, bright red and yellow and held high to celebrate properly as they waved it up and down racing around the room in sheer joy. Their grandmother had survived Pearl Harbor as a teen. And so they themselves had come to be. She is with us yet.

That is what Chinese Lunar New Year should be about: a shared celebration of all that is good in life.

This afternoon, the doorbell rang.

It was our newest neighbors across the street, the mom and her two young kids–with her daughter holding out a tray covered in little things that were inviting but unfamiliar to me.

I was having a hard time hearing and I did not want to get this wrong.

It was Chinese New Year, they explained, and it seemed they wanted me to pick one of these. We are going around to the neighbors, the mom said; this is what we do on this day.

I said that I was unfamiliar with the tradition and wanted to make sure I got this right (while thinking, Richard, come!)

He had heard the bell and the voices and he did just that, he came up behind me and I got to introduce him.

Her little boy made a point of moving a step to the side to be right opposite my 6’8″ husband and looked up and up and up at maybe the tallest man he’d ever seen up close and thought it was so cool and they both enjoyed that moment together very much.

Pick one, they explained. And they thanked us for the pomegranates I’d brought them from my tree a few months ago.

I briefly touched a package holding what seemed like a baker’s rendition of a golden sand dollar and asked the daughter holding the tray, Which one would you pick?

The mom picked that one up and the two others like it arrayed like a set and held them out: I saw your daughter! Does she live here?

A few cities away but yes, in this area.

(Of course, my mother always taught me anyway that it’s good manners to take the one you touched so it felt just right that she wanted us to have those for each of us.)

Because this is what they do on Chinese New Year. They visit their neighbors. They share sweets. They made sure we had plenty.

They offered love and connection as a way of being in the world.

There were two wonderfully crunchy cookies in that first little packet and we can both attest that they were delicious.

A bridge too far gone
Tuesday January 10th 2023, 8:24 pm
Filed under: History

This very old bridge is scheduled to be replaced at long last and if you watch the Twitter video it’s obvious why.

I like how it looks like alligator jaws opening wide: Gotcha! (Man, that takes serious skills.)

Thursday January 05th 2023, 10:51 pm
Filed under: History

I can’t imagine believing all your life that your father had never learned to read or write and only finding out ten years after his death that he most certainly did. In a system going back to the 10th century.

I remember reading a profile of Richard Nixon years ago where he justified his intense racism by saying, All those people in Africa and across all of history they never even came up with a written language? They never kept records?

But they did.

Ajami, a modified Arabic, was never taught in school by the colonialists nor acknowledged.

With help from my friend Lise, I stumbled across this very cool story from my late father’s alma mater.

The Athena
Thursday December 29th 2022, 11:18 pm
Filed under: History

Meaning, Protector of the City.

Let me give you the link to her picture on Instagram: Miss Ukraine, competing for Miss Universe, in a costume that took four months to create under repeated power failures and missile strikes.

Beauty pageants are so not my world. But that costume is one for the history books.

When someone tells you who they are
Monday December 26th 2022, 9:59 pm
Filed under: History

The rain began about 6 pm and is expected to do the atmospheric-river-dumping thing for eight of the next ten foreseeable days, and maybe even more after that. Not fun, but so needed.

Meantime, this is a few years old, it is long, and I will warn you on the language, but someone clearly writing under a pseudonym wrote an essay on what it’s like to be an ordinary Russian living in Russia. With photos. It’s real, it’s heartbreaking–and it’s who the Ukrainians don’t ever want to be.

The author despairs that his countrymen will ever rise up against the corruption because, as he details it, they live it themselves every single day in order to survive. He gives the example of a child pointing out the injustice of an ingrained bribery at school and the teacher harnessing the power of bullying kids in order to have them be responsible for shutting him up so that she won’t get in trouble for what he said. And she wasn’t even the one being paid off.

The only video I clicked among the guy’s links was the one of the missile being officially blessed bottom to top with official holy water right before it went off.

It tilted left as it lifted, it tilted right, and then it flopped over and exploded right there on the ground.

I can just hear the Ukrainians of today giving their blessing on that outcome.

Zelenskyy and the Joint Session of Congress
Wednesday December 21st 2022, 10:20 pm
Filed under: History

It was to be on the anniversary of when Churchill spoke before Congress to tell them WWII really was our war, too.

Yesterday I was horrified: they leaked that he’s coming? They compromised his security like that? Why did we need to know this? Why didn’t he just visit by video again?

And yet: the actual presence of Zelenskyy with Biden. The clear admiration in each other’s faces.

Zelenskyy, again, did the right thing for his country and for his people whatever the personal risk to himself. I pray for his safety.

And then when he spoke to Congress! What a speech. What a riveting effect–on most, anyway, with reporters calling out the very few members of Congress who didn’t show or who did but refused to stand or clap, invoking for me the famous line from Watergate, Follow the money. Given that it has been documented that Putin funded the NRA who funded his favorite Republicans–he got his infiltrator Buttina back in a prisoner swap after she was convicted here of that illegal funneling.

But I took heart in the many, whatever their politics, who rose together as one to applaud long and hard the man and his cause of freedom from tyranny and death, who represented well all of us Americans who admire the greatness of what Zelenskyy has risen to become.

Here’s the video of his speech, which was given in English. Fast forward to about the 20 minute mark for his entrance.

I was waiting for the transcript so I could fill in the gaps that the captions didn’t always help with.

Here’s the transcript, behind a NYT paywall for now but I expect it will pop up in more places by morning. But the words alone cannot convey the depth of passion of the man in the righteousness of his cause and in the defense of his people.

Meantime, I wore my quite large bright yellow sunflower necklace from Oleksandra this afternoon while running an errand, wanting to mark the day that everything, I pray, will have begun to change for the better.

For every hero of Ukraine.