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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Local Quake Tremor

Two days ago, toward twilight, I heard a terrifically loud noise that sounded as if it had come from somewhere just outside my workshop building. I rushed out on the deck, fully expecting to see huge plumes of some shooting up over the nearby trees. But none such, and no successive noises either. That wall of trees to the west was peacefully interlaced only with the light of the setting sun as usual, and the sky held only some large, dark clouds, which made me think that I had heard only a thunderclap. But I know the sound of thunder, and this had been definitely something else. It had sounded just as if somebody's house had been packed with explosives, and a fuse had been set to it -- or as if a blockbuster bomb had been dropped by a plane and detonated just a few hundred feet away.

I decided to blame the noise on the thunder of a gathering storm anyway, one that never arrived, though I wasn't convinced of that at all.

I was surprised to realize that I had given no more thought to it till somebody brought it up yesterday at the Thanksgiving dinner that every year we share with two neighboring families. This person said that the noise had been due to an earthquake tremor.

If true, that would be the second quake tremor that I have experienced while living here. (They are illegal and, for obvious reasons having to do with power and such, are not allowed to take place where I was born and raised, in Washington, D.C.) But I was outside during the first trtemor here in Virginia, about 10 years ago, and the sensation then had not been any sort of noise that I can remember, aside from the comment of the trees. Instead it had felt like all the world around me had undergone a slight, short-lived ripple, like a sheet of thin metal being flexed.

So I am wondering. That explosion had been far too loud not for something to have been drastically damaged somewhere under the trees and fields..

I wonder if it had been a warning of worse to come, and soon.

Quite often the rains here are like that. We'll get a scattering of a few drops, and then nothing for 10 minutes or a half-hour, before the full storm sweeps in, in all its glory.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Supreme Effrontery

Here's something that I thought I had posted a week ago, but I guess I didn't:

A woman who is running to unseat one of the two current U.S. Senators from California, recently accused Barbara Boxer (D) of being arrogant because during a Senate hearing, Boxer requested that one of the witnesses, a brigadier-general, address her as "Senator." This female opponent said that Boxer should prefer to be called "Ma'am" or some such, and she said that Boxer's directive was a poor way to treat one of "our military leaders."

What is it about Democrats that cause their usual opponents to take leave of their senses so routinely, and, having shown their weak to non-existent grasp of reality, how do they ever get elected anyway?

Boxer after all is a full fledged U.S. Senator, which is supposed to be a highly exalted position, and she has been one for quite a long time. And if her opponent thinks that poorly of the country's civilian leaders that they have to defer to the military, when things have been set up so that it is the other way around -- and we should all be highly thankful for that -- why is this woman even running to take over Boxer's job?

Chalk this up to the myriad of things that I don't understand at all.

Outlasting Things

In the period leading up to his departure from this life some years ago, a close friend liked to tell me, only half-jokingly, that to his great consternation he was finding that, despite his several illnesses, he had outlived his money. He was speaking of the funds needed to help provide the large amont of health care that was necessary to keep him still functioning, even at a badly impaired level.

Such a consideration is part of the effort to put through health care reform that's raging so heatedly now, as various dark forces b attle to keep good health care from being affordable and available to everybody.

I was reminded of my friend's lament this morning, though my concern had nothing to do with money, and it was on a much happier level. I suddenly thought instead of how, where my gardening is concerned, I have outlasted my ambitions and my energy, and I don't see how I can can do much about it.

I actually have two gardens -- the upper one, called that because it is on higher ground, and the much larger lower one, which stretches for about 200 feet next to the creek.

These are not gardens in the usual sense of the word, because, except for some Eastern White Pines, not one row of anything can be found in them, especially nothing edible. I used to have lots of rows of things, but now all that's left is a large assortment of trees and shrubs that I planted, as distinguished from all the surrounding and eager-to-encroach greenery supplied by nature.

My trees and shrubs don't call for nearly as much effort and time as regular crops, but the trouble is that over the summer, while my attentions were diverted, the way too vigorous weeds draped themselves over everything they could reach, and now, before it gets too cold, and before Spring, I have to "rescue' most things up to a height of about three feet so that they at least become clearly visible again.. I'm including in this a number of strategically placed, important rocks, which are a big feature of my garden.

It's far from torture to clean all this up, but there's so much stuff that I've planted over the years, apparently under the assumption that I would always be able to care for it as handily as I did at that time. Not too much stuff but so much, and even in a semi-abandoned state it all still manages to look good, at least to my eye.

You would think that this development could've been easily foreseen, but the lesson I think this holds is that it's not at all easy to move out of the moment. Maybe it is backward but rarely forward, for all the looking that one might try to do in that direction.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Scozzafava Case

Politico" is running an article titled "GOP Mulls Stripping Dede of her Top Post." (They must know Dede Scozzafava personally, to be calling her by her first name like that. This is somewhat presumptuous, isn't it? I mean that we would automatically know who "Dede" is, and also that they can feel so free to approach her with such familiarity. But such a thing is common when the person being referred to is a female or a member of a minority. And it is also foolish, when you think of the chance they're passing up here to roll their tongues over yet another of those beautiful Italian names of the elaborate kind.)

This article speaks of how enraged New York Republicans are that after feeling that she had no choice but to drop out of the race as the Republican candidate to be the U.S. Representative from New York's 23rd District, Scozzafava then threw her support to the Democratic contender, Bill Owens, who then won the seat and thereby replaced a moderate Republican named McHugh, who had joined the Obama White House by becoming Secretary of the Army. As punishment, the leader of the Repubs in the New York legislature is now seriously considering stripping Scozzafava of her leadership post in that body. He and other NY Repubs are accusing her of having committed treachery to the party.

But there's something highly important missing from this article and also, it seems, from the minds of all those angry Repubs, namely that there is no mention of how Scozzafava, after a lifetime of faithful service to the party, was rewarded by seeing the R. Limbaugh wing of the Republican Party, which now seems to be the body and the soul of what's left of the GOP, flew up into the arctic fastnesses of northern New York and roundly attacked Scozzafava. They called her entirely too moderate to be a good Republican, and instead they urged the voters of the 23rd to forget all about their local interests and their local traditions and to instead adhere to the malevolent ideology of today's most common Republicans by rejecting Scozzafava and instead choosing a man who didn't even live in that district and in addition was running under the aegis of something called the "Conservative Party."

I didn't know there was such a thing. I thought the Republicans were the " Conservative Party" in all but in name. And in addition, the tactic made no sense. Those hardheads must not have know where this district is. People in that part of New England are a hard-bitten bunch (it gets very cold there -- I can tell you from personal experience), and they don't take kindly to such things as being told to forgo their local interests and instead kowtow to talk show and Alaska refugee rowdies, and the (nearly) predictable thing happened, even if, till the D. Armey and S. Palin vultures showed up and started circling, that district's electorate had voted Republican for a solid 100 years..

So it was not the Repubs but Ms Scozzafava who suffered the high treachery there.

Now, after reacting to that betrayal in an entirely logical and fitting way, the lady is finding out how the party for which she had labored with love for so long has actually been, for some time now, much like those countless and perfectly straight ranks that marched so often through the streets of places like Nuremberg and Berlin in the 1930's, with everyone forced to stay in step or face drastic punishment, up to and probably including the application of sharp blades to their necks.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Lament for All the Forsaken Chinese Girls

As'ad, the perpetually grumpy and endlessly industrious proprietor of the Angry Arab News Service, claims that the Economist is the best of all the magazines.

That may be. In any case this week the Economist is running an especially interesting and wide-ranging article on world population, and specifically the fertility rate, which in most places seems to be dropping, which is good news.

I was especially interested in China, because that country's middle name is "Population." I had been wondering what its ratio of men to women is, in light of the one-child policy that has been in effect there for some time and has led to quite a few Chinese putting their personal advantage ahead of common sense by going to extreme lengths to avoid producing girls, because they would greatly prefer boys.

It turns out to be just what I had feared, and as a result the Chinese are looking ahead to some tough times ahead, even though, according to this article, the result has been 400 million less Chinese on the planet than there would've been, and that is not to be sneezed at. But another result is that nowadays 118 Chinese boys are born to every100 Chinese girls, and that has led to predictions that in not too many more years there will be millions of Chinese young men who will look up suddenly and discover to their horror that the pickings for wives are short to almost non-existent, and that could lead to some serious turmoil in the streets.

And well there should be. No country needs that kind of surfeit of blustering, baboonish males. A preponderance of much better behaved women is much to be preferred in any country and maybe even in any situation.

This population imbalance reminds me of how, when I was in the military nearly 60 years ago, I discovered that if the guys I met there were any indication, the U.S. was -- and most likely still is -- filled with ignoramuses who believe some really weird stuff, near the top of which is their certainty that there is a severe gender imbalance in my hometown, the Nation's Capital. And these guys with whom I would have these arguments, trying to set their dumb-ass carcasses straight, didn't stop at any halfway reasonable figure, such as maybe the ratio was 105 women in D;C. for every 100 men. No, they would swear by all that was holy and right because by God they knew! -- that there were five women to every one man in D.C. !

I would answer that if that supreme nonsense were true, then the streets downtown would be solidly lined with beauty parlors -- a situation that I had never noticed. But no one ever took my word for it.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder why, instead of the draconian one-child policy, why the Chinese didn't instead hit on some other idea, such as salting all their water supplies with some substance like saltpetre, concerning which, while I was in the military there were also not one but two beliefs going, which may or may not have been myths. One was that saltpetre cools down the libido considerably, and the other is that the Air Force cooks routinely laced our food with saltpetre. Doing away with all those Chinese girls while they were still in some sort of fetal stage or even shortly after birth, and who would otherwise have grown up into nice Chinese women was a collective crime scarcely to be imagined.

Of course I am one of those benighted males who will swear up and down to you with all the will in the world that he has never ever seen a bad-looking Oriental woman. But there you have it.