There are good ones at Stanford
Friday December 18th 2020, 11:10 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Politics

A dear friend is an attending physician at Stanford and was just offered the Pfizer vaccine.

He has talked about its jaw-dropping success.

He turned it down. Oh yes he absolutely wants it as much as anybody and to protect his wife and kids and he thinks the FDA should have approved those first two vaccines sooner.

But there is such a thing as ethics. He is not on the front lines dealing with covid patients. He’s dealing with a lack of beds for his patients, sure, but he is not directly exposed day in day out one-on-one to a monstrous rush of ferociously infectious people needing so much care and the constant extra shifts and the pressure and the intense grief and lack of sleep and even more exposure.

The residents, the interns, the nurses and the janitorial staff in those areas are, and as headlines all over the country pointed out today, some pointy-haired boss allotted all of 17 shots for those thousands of front liners and saved the rest of their first shipment for People Who Matter More Than You. People who were not working with covid patients at all. Some telecommuting only. People who were as safe as any of us can be right now.

When called on it they blamed it on the computer.

Yeah no. Not his turn. Give his to someone who’s putting their life on the line for their patients and then comes back the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next, to do it all over again.

Turning the corner
Sunday December 13th 2020, 11:14 pm
Filed under: History,Life

George Schultz, who turned 38 the day I was born, turned 100 today and wrote a beautiful essay for the Washington Post.

He writes of attending a wreath-laying ceremony in Leningrad years ago, where his Russian counterpart and the interpreter found themselves in tears.

He answered their unexpected vulnerability with, “I, too, fought in WWII, and had friends killed beside me,” expressing his gratitude for all those who’d fought in this battle for having defeated Hitler–and with that he turned to the graves before them and gave them a crisp soldier’s salute. Their sacrifices and their loss mattered to him.

And with that he won the Soviets’ trust and by that trust the treaty to reduce nuclear warheads later got signed.

One man, in the right place, doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do and it changed the world.

Offering hope that in our own politics we can do a bit better than the possum and the skunk.

Need another Jeopardy clue
Thursday December 10th 2020, 8:47 pm
Filed under: History,Life

Jimmy Fallon was laughing about it, because what else can you do, so I had to check it out and it’s true.

One person in my family loves Yankee Candles so I went to a crowded mall some years ago, something I rarely do this time of year (or any other, to be fair), and bought her one in a jar for Christmas. Or was it two. Vanilla scented, and even just sitting there unlit it was like having baked cookies in the room.

But it’s true. This year the company got slammed with a fair number of bad reviews: people complaining they’d been sent candles with no or almost no smell at all, wanting to know what had gone wrong with their manufacturing this year? It was just not up to snuff.

This is why we Think Things Through, guys
Sunday December 06th 2020, 12:18 am
Filed under: History

We’ve all heard about how Dutch Elm Disease wiped out elms across North America.

Turns out, that’s why pollen season is so bad now.

There were so many dead trees and so much replanting.

And I quote:

“1949 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture. The book advised: “When used for street plantings, only male trees should be selected, to avoid the nuisance from the seed.”

And that became How It Is Done. In species that have male and female trees, males were planted in urban landscapes everywhere and that became what was available in nurseries, since they grow new specimens from cuttings, not seeds, and it was just how it was till nobody knew or noticed anymore.

Until the guy in that article. Who is campaigning to get cities to pay attention to what they’ve got and diversify.

Another quote:

“Where human sperm each have a single tail, or flagellum, gingko sperm have around a thousand. “Once the pollen gets in your nose, it will germinate and start swimming up there to get to where it’s going,” Ogren says. “It’s pretty invasive.”

Mercifully, he only described the one tree as being that way.

And now climate change, I presume because it’s mismatching the temperature cycle from the sunlight cycle, is inducing all these poor lonely males to throw even more pollen in the air.

Whereas had they planted all female trees in the first place there would be no nuisance seeds and no pollen.

Who knew?

I had no idea
Monday November 16th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: History

Did you know we almost went to war with Britain in 1859 over a pig?

Quote, albeit a conjectural one:

Cutlar: “…but it was eating my potatoes!”
Griffin: “Rubbish. It’s up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig”. 


And that several dozen soaked sheep were involved? Not to mention three warships and 2600 troops? A future Confederate General in the future Washington State?

And that Kaiser Wilhelm of all people helped settle the dispute?

Not sure how I stumbled across Interweave’s page about the pig war, but here it is, with more British and fewer American details over here at the UK. I had to read more because I’d never heard of this before.

So, c’mon, you guys, tell us the important part, did they barbecue the pig? Bacon? Right?

So that’s how we have one national park that flies another country’s flag: the Union Jack. A gift from the loser. But then, Vancouver Island’s not bad as a consolation prize.

Goodbye Alex Trebek
Sunday November 08th 2020, 11:52 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Other than the unseasonal warmth having given away to a potential unusually early freeze tonight and I have seven unripe butternut squashes pleading for mercy out there, it’s been a pretty quiet day.

Except for the sounds of my guffawing over this news article that two people had way too much fun writing. The guy from Four Seasons Total Landscaping (not Hotel) answered the reporter about when Trump’s campaign had called. (Note: when you say, Siri, give me the Four Seasons, you really ought to listen to how Siri answers.)

Question on some future Jeopardy episode: Who is, “I was pretty happy because it got me out of Bible study.”

A new world
Saturday November 07th 2020, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life,Politics

Four years ago I was at a doctor’s for what was probably her last appointment of the day. She always took time to really listen and really ask questions, but that meant the number of minutes late piled up. I knew that. I expected that. It meant someone else was getting the care they needed and she loved that from my point of view, it also meant I got to knit: take your time.

It was going on past 5:00 on election day.

The nurse walking by was a tall African-American woman who looked absolutely stricken, putting one foot in front of the other and just trying to get through the day without bursting into tears. I learned from her face in that instant just what it must really feel like to know that Trump, whose daddy had been in the KKK, was actually close to becoming President. After Obama, no less.

So I held up my phone and assured her, It’s looking good. It’s close, but this and this and this toss-up state, it’s blue, she’s got this.

I didn’t know her at all but in that moment we were friends.

Later that evening, though, state after state blipped and flipped and turned unfathomably red after all. I felt almost as if I had betrayed her in my inability to personally keep it how it had been.

One of the great things about all those paper ballots this time is that they are counted on machines not connected to the internet. There is no wondering about hacking, the vote is what the voter said. You can run them through again. It’s all good.

I’ve been thinking of that nurse a lot these last few days.

Chris S was the first to tell me this morning that the race had been called; the Washington Post had not yet. I ran to go look, and thanks to her got to see Van Jones on CNN. Don’t miss it. That’s it, right there.

On a different note: our grandnephew Benjamin arrived last night at 33 weeks 1 day. He is in the NICU to give his lungs some time to play catch up. He is beautiful, we are thrilled, and all those crowds today across the country and even other countries calling out windows in cities banging pans dancing in the streets honking horns singing making music waving celebrating welcoming joining dancing some more–welcome to our world, little one. That was for your future. The terrible man who hated your beautiful brown skin has lost his power. I think you’ll like it here now. You couldn’t wait to see it for yourself.

Thursday November 05th 2020, 11:17 pm
Filed under: History,Wildlife

Watching for updates on the vote count…

…Is like tracking this fish over a lifetime. Who made it past dams thirty-two times to go from her river to the sea and back and again and again to each point where life called her, getting bitten by a sea lion and still just continuing her way forward past those dam walls that kept getting in her way till she succeeded at what she was meant to do: to leave a posterity that would succeed, too.

Tuesday November 03rd 2020, 11:32 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

A rollercoaster of a night. Way up, then down, watching Texas being blue, flipping red/blue/red/blue/red and holding (so far), Florida quite blue then flipping red, Ohio and North Carolina too at long last. Virginia? What’s up with Virginia?! Oh, they hadn’t counted the parts near DC yet. Blue. Phew.

For awhile there it looked like Biden might win the Electoral College and unfathomably lose the popular vote–and I thought, now, that’s the one way that would get those small states to vote to amend the Constitution to get rid of it! But as I type it is 219 to 168 EV and 49.8% for Biden vs. 48.7%. Pennsylvania says it might not be done counting mail-ins till possibly next Monday. California certainly won’t be, but nobody worries about California; we may be 1/16 of Wyomingians but we still speak up.

We’ll know more in the morning. But at least I think I’ll be able to sleep tonight after all.

One of my hopes out of this election is that we’ll get the Fairness Doctrine updated and reinstated.

Watch those vote-by-mail envelopes
Tuesday October 20th 2020, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knit,Politics

Everybody in California gets mailed their ballots now as of this election. In our county, I think it’s our second time. 

My plan was to finish and show off the cuttlefish as well as the small blue jelly (which in this bad-lighting picture looks vaguely Star Wars-ish. Or like an enlarged dust mite.) I’m close, too, but then after dinner the daughter and husband pulled out the sample ballots, the phones, a laptop, and started going over the choices. With me running to the desktop in the other room from time to time.

For two hours. And this is with us having already individually read the state Voter’s Guide and various articles over time.

And then with a flourish, to make it official: the actual ballots.

No not that pen, I said, it smudges and we can’t.

Got it all done, signed the envelopes…

…And realized I’d given it my standard signature of name middle initial name.

The envelope said name name name.

Can I sign it both ways?

That got me a groan of, No! (Meaning, do NOT risk it!)

As Richard put it, you get to make someone’s day difficult tomorrow trying to talk to you on the phone while you find out if that’s how you’ve signed their book in the past. Left unspoken was, Or whether you have to wait till November 3 to hand it in in person covid or no covid so the envelope won’t matter. I said I could take it to the county office and ask for a new envelope and then hand it in right there–to be reminded that probably nobody would be there. Covid. Oh right.

So much for dropping them all off together at the official ballot box tonight. But they are filled out and they are ready and we are so ready.


Update Wednesday:

They looked it up for me. Name initial name is what’s on file for both of us, and they have both our signatures from way back when we registered to vote here in 1986 and our signatures from the most recent election, giving them both a range and any progression with age over time, and whether it was a full middle name or just the initial wouldn’t matter anyway, she said; what matters is that it looks like the same hand signed that new ballot.

We’re good.

Zombie gene
Tuesday October 13th 2020, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

Biology is weirdly messy sometimes.

Yonder daughter and I were sitting talking after dinner. Her favorite undergrad class at BYU had been evolutionary biology.

She told me, Yeah, the difference between hair and spine? One gene. There was this family in history in Australia that for three generations had no hair–but grew fine spines all over instead, as she motioned towards the hair on, say, one’s arm.

I was gobsmacked. Did they crunch when they hugged?

She had no idea.

I tried to picture how one would style, much less cut, such “hair” and how long it might grow, especially if you couldn’t.

She had no idea. But she assured me it was, like, really fine.

I guffawed and said, You know that this is the perfect Halloween subject to be talking about.

The prof had been talking about the genes. I’m still dying to know how it would have been to live with that and what it would look like. It gives a cool wind through your hair a whole different take–you’d be your own wind chimes.

The Divine is a poet
Wednesday October 07th 2020, 8:33 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

The vice presidential debate tonight.

They walked in, she, clearly comfortable in her own skin, he, face tense, wary of hers and her both.

He pushed at the first instance to see if he could talk right through the moderator and keep on going when his time was up and then did so every single time. She studiously avoided reciprocating, although she did several times note to the moderator that ‘I’m going to finish up my time that he took.’ He interrupted again and again when it was her turn, so often with baldfaced lies that, if she called him on them, he claimed them again.

The moderator kept expecting him to behave better and kept letting him keep right on talking. Every time. It was maddening. Pence was just begging for someone in the more immediate audience to yell out what Biden had only said under his breath last week, “Will you shut up, man?”

Winner of the debate: Harris, absolutely, but also the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s white hair and hung on for two solid minutes, exploring a moment and then head down and digging in.

Remember when the little bird landed right there on Bernie Sanders’ lectern at a campaign event and watched him while he was absolutely charmed by it? The two of them looking like long lost friends, and how it stayed there till Bernie moved his arm? And how the crowd roared its approval of the moment? (It was, as far as I could tell, a Pine Siskin.)

Flies eat at the decaying and rotten to recycle it back into fertilizer for the next generation so that life can continue on.

Even Nature knew who Pence is.

How it could be again
Tuesday October 06th 2020, 9:51 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,Politics

The knitting: the cowl didn’t get any further along today because the afghan did, now that the logjam’s been broken through. Man it felt good.

The blog: I got another auto-update notice and checked. Nope. Still no photo function. Sorry, hopefully soon?

The history, from Michael Beschloss:

“On a cold night, seeing a Secret Service agent outside Oval Office, John F Kennedy asked him inside but was told he couldn’t.

Kennedy brought out two cups of hot chocolate, which they both drank in the cold—years later, the weeping agent said, “That’s the kind of President I’ve been serving.”

Well today was busy wasn’t it
Friday October 02nd 2020, 8:40 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

You’ve probably already heard that Trump’s at Walter Reed Hospital with Covid-19. Per CNN, he has an underlying heart condition,along with his weight and age. Melania tested positive.

Hope Hicks was on Air Force One three times this week with him and tested positive after being symptomatic just before Trump decided he was going to meet with 100 donors anyway. Because money. And seeing people who still supported him.

He is not capable of supporting them back by intuiting that it would not be good to risk making them sick. Even his own Secret Service agents have complained that he’s no longer having them tested after they work his rallies.

Kellyanne Conway has tested positive. So has Ronna McDaniel, head of the RNC.

Republican Senators Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, and John Jenkins, President of Notre Dame, were in the Rose Garden Supreme Court nomination ceremony last Saturday where people were maskless and seated close together, and now they have it. (Nominee Barrett’s been there done that.)

Lee started having symptoms but still attended a Judiciary Committee meeting this week, as usual without a mask, before bothering to go and get tested–which means that that’s about to get interesting. McConnell was there.

There will surely be more names in DC tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

Everybody who attended the debate Tuesday agreed to wear masks and the Trump family walked in wearing them–and then all took them off. When offered masks, because, y’know, they’d specifically agreed to this and besides it’s basic human decency in a pandemic, they refused. They were not escorted out in front of the cameras but they should have been, and after today’s news maybe they would be.

The virus doesn’t go by political parties but Trump’s been working hard on that.

I wish them all well, I really do (or in a few cases I’m really trying to at least.)

One wag said that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had argued her first case before G_d and won.

Sunday September 20th 2020, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,History,Life,Mango tree

My mango variety drops its fruit just before they’re fully ripe, and I’ve learned that if you just slightly brush the bottom of one with your fingertips and it falls into your hand, you got it when it was ready to let go.

Two were like that while the fire sky had been gray or worse for three weeks. They were good, but the intensity of the perfume was not at all up to last year’s–they’d needed that bright direct sun the ashes were filtering out.

The third and last one that had survived what the winter had thrown at the tree waited till there was bright sunshine again for several days. It was very small, but held great promise in the palm of my hand.

Like Alphonsos do, it needed a few days indoors. I put it in a beautiful hand thrown rice bowl from my friends Mel and Kris which displayed it with the majesty it deserved.

And man, was I tempted. More than I’d like to admit. I’m not proud of that.

But I was hopefully going to get more mangoes in future years.

There is never enough time, there is not much time, there is hopefully as much time as she and her family need. Her granddaughter gave her a new great-granddaughter this weekend, and there is joy.

I checked with her daughter, who assured me that there was a caretaker there who would open the door; just tell her I’m Jean’s friend from church.

There was no plan whatsoever of my going in and actually seeing and risking her, but I could at least hand something over to them from there.

I had a card that popped up a bouquet of paper flowers for this lovely master gardener. The woman who shared her pomegranates that are why I have such a tree in my yard too, now, having never known before what a pomegranate was really supposed to taste like. Who was eighteen when she witnessed Pearl Harbor, and lived.

Twice she had tried to grow mangoes like back home. Twice the trees had died in our cold. She knew what a homegrown mango could taste like. If only.

At 94, she finally got to have one again.

And I suppose the fact that the sky took away a little of the perfume and presumably (like my figs) some of the sweetness (although it still smelled wonderful), she gets to still believe her childhood Haden ones were the best.