Attack of the Crane Flies

March 10, 2015

250px-CraneFlyThe crane flies have been all over the house and attacking the windows for about a week.  According to Wikipedi, Although crane flies look like mosquitoes, they do not bite humans. Adult crane flies do not eat at all; most adult crane flies only mate and then die.  The larva eat the roots of grass so they no doubt love the golf courses here.  Looked at old blogs — didn’t mention crane flies last year.   Maybe was too busy to notice.  But two years ago they showed up in April, not March.  This must be a warmer year, climate change and all.  (For all of you folks back east, buried in snow, notice that I didn’t say global warming.)


meadow 011
Imeadow 003t’s spring, and with the bit of rain we’ve had, the flowers (mostly alyssum) that I seeded in my “meadow ” are thick, as well as the volunteers in my vegetable garden, from snapdragons that I’d planted years ago to wildflowers, California bluebells (shown here), desert verbena with both thin and wide leaves.    Plus my Lady Banks rose, which I have tied up
to the back fence, is roses 007 starting to bloom more than it ever has before.  BTW, this website is good for identifying flowers and recommending ones to plant:

But even nicer to look at than flowers are the bicyclists of spring, packs of svelte bodies clad in lycra, riding up or down Anklam, taking in Gates Pass.

Seen yesterday: six cars stopped on the main drag through Starr Pass (a road with very little traffic) as a small herd of javelina crossed the street.

Life In The Universe

This week’s lecture, Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Christopher D. Impey, University Distinguished Professor, Astronomy, was killed dinosaursthe best!  Chris has such a great sense of humor. (65 million years ago a comet killed off the dinosaurs; unfortunately it missed Barney.)  You must watch the podcasts.  All are on this site except for this one, which should be there in a week:
Here is the introductory spiel:

One question rises above all others when it comes to our place in a vast and ancient Universe, ‘Are we alone?’ With a billion habitable locations in the Milky Way galaxy, and more than ten billion years for biological experiments to play out, a search for intelligent life beyond Earth is well-motivated. Unfortunately, the single example of life on Earth gives no clear indication of whether intelligence is an inevitable or an extremely rare consequence of biological evolution. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, is more appropriately called the search for extraterrestrial technology. So far, the search for intelligent aliens by their electromagnetic communication has met with half a century of stony silence. It’s challenging to define life, and even more difficult to make general definitions of intelligence and technology. We’ll look at the premises and assumptions involved in the search, the strategies used, and the profound consequences of making contact.

He also mentioned that, according to the eminent physicist Stephen Hawking, “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,” … He argues that, instead of trying to find and communicate with life in the cosmos, humans would be better off doing everything they can to avoid contact.

Scandalous Women

This week we discussed the movie Mildred Pierce,  with Joan Crawford, 1945.  Here is some of the editing that was done:

Mildredmildred pierceApparently the book would not have passed The Code.  So, in addition to the language being cleaned up, the panoply of screen writers (including the uncredited William Faulkner and Catherine Turney), changed the plot to a murder mystery, simplified characters to make them either bad or good, and killed off one of the “bad guys”.  It was a box office hit, and won many Oscars.  You can get it from the library or Netflix.


This is what I picked up at the CSA today: Beets, Carrots, Collard Greens (which I traded for more beets, as I can cook them and freeze them), Hakurei Turnips, Navel Oranges, Salad Mix, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard.  Lots of veggies to finish before the weekend, when I leave to visit my brother during spring break.


You don’t have to see a picture of James Beard to know what he looks like, just read the descriptions of his breads in Beard on Bread, [They] should be eaten fresh, with plenty of good sweet butter.

Morning Laugh

March 8, 2015

dame ednaI was starting this blog seriously about extra-terrestrials, but this morning was laughing at Scott Simon’s interview with Dame Edna Everage1, and had to share. For example, “she” mentioned her mauve hair…

He said, “Well Edna your hair is still a natural, very, very natural mauve.” I was born, by the way, Scott, with this color. I was. It’s very unusual. Very unusual. … But, I said to the doctor, “Well what can you do?”

Well, I was not ROTFL, but I was LOL when “she” talked about adding a double chin:

On how she’s kept her looks all these yearsh

It’s so simple. Now, I looked at my face about 10 years ago … and I thought to myself, “What have I done? A pact with the devil? Why am I looking so young and so unconventionally lovely? Why?”

And, I thought what I need to do is to age myself in some way. I have to look normal. People won’t believe it! So I went to Brazil, and I saw the top man there, of course, a cosmetic surgeon. And I said, “Look, I need to look my age!”

And he said, “Well Edna, you must have some little crow’s feet! … We’ll give you some crow’s feet.”

And he said, “What you need – your neckline is perfect! You haven’t got that horrible turkey neck.” He said, “You need a little soft, double chin. A soft little pillow, a little cushion under your chin.” …

“And do you know what he did? I saw him delving in a sort of white box, a freezer. And he pulled out a little shrink-wrapped package. It looked like a chicken breast. And he said, “We’ll stitch this on. And it will settle in. And it will give you a lovely double chin.”

And I said, “What is that?” He said, “What? More like what was it, Edna … That was Elizabeth Taylor’s left love handle.”

Elizabeth Taylor’s love handle is now my soft, little chin. And if you look at it very closely, you can see some indentations where Richard Burton’s fingers held. … Isn’t it beautiful? It’s history in my face. History.

Life in the Universe

Last Monday’s lecture was Amazing Discoveries: A Billion Earth-like Worlds by Laird Close, Professor of Astronomy, Steward Observatory2. On Mount Graham (the research arm for the Department of Astronomy, in the the Pinaleño Mountains northeast of Tucson) they are looking for Goldilocks planets (which are not too hot or too cold, but just right), Earth-like planets. Here is the UA Science Lecture Series lead-in the lecture:

One of the most fascinating developments in the last two decades is humankind’s discovery of alien worlds orbiting stars near our Sun. Since the first such discovery in 1995 there has been a truly exponential growth in the detection of these new planets. Scientists have been puzzled and surprised by the diversity and extravagance of these new extra-solar systems. For example, we now know the most common type of planet is actually missing from our own Solar System. Recently, the space-based NASA Kepler Mission has discovered thousands of new worlds and suggests that one in five Sun-like stars may harbor an Earth-like planet. We will take a grand tour of some of these amazing new worlds, specifically noting where life might already exist, beyond our Solar System. The latest developments and difficulties of direct imaging for life on an exoplanet [extrasolar that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star] will be discussed.

According to Wikipedia, the Milky Way… contains 100–400 billion stars.  If one in five Sun-like stars may harbor an Earth-like planet, and we use a conservative estimate of 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, then there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of sun-like stars and red dwarf stars within the Milky Way Galaxy (also from Wikipedia).

This is the Department of Astronomy’s blurb about the professor:  Laird specializes in novel astronomical observations utilizing new adaptive optics instrumentation. He is utilizing adaptive optics (which removes the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere) to study at very high resolution: low-mass stars, brown dwarfs, and extrasolar planets…  He is the head scientist of the Magellan Adaptive Secondary AO [Adaptive optics] system in Chile.

He explained how a deformable mirror can be used to correct wavefront errors in an astronomical telescope, such as the one in Chili, shown in this diagram.

Today, the largest telescope in the world is the Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona, with two 27-foot mirrors made in the SOML, Steward Observatory Mirror Lab (beneath Arizona Stadium, home of the UA Wildcat football team), and that telescope has had a lot of exciting discoveries; at least Professor Laird Close told us so, at least 27 times.  It was pretty amazing to think that telescope could see, from Phoenix, two dimes he’d hold up in Tucson.  (Which is how we can see so many other planets.)

Giant_Magellan_TelescopeBut the Giant Magellan Telescope (artist’s concept here), also constructed in our  SOML, will be more than 80 feet in diameter and is planned for completion in 2020. The GMT will be located on a mountain top in Chile (where, according to Wikipedia, the night sky in most of the surrounding Atacama Desert region is not only free from atmospheric pollution, but in addition it is probably one of the places least affected by light pollution, making the area one of the best spots on Earth for long-term astronomical observation).  Obviously, Tucson has the best mirror lab in the world!


In Joan Didion’s recollections of the year after her husband died, The Year Of Magical Thinking (which was pretty depressing, but you could probably identify if your spouse had just died), she spends a lot of time feeling sorry for herself and quotes D.H. Lawrence,  I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.   But disagrees:  This may be what Lawrence (or we) would prefer to believe about wild things, but consider those dolphins who refuse to eat after the death of a mate. Consider those geese who search for the lost mate until they themselves become disoriented and die.  I feel worse for the dolphins and the geese, (and all of the great apes, and elephants, who grieve) because they cannot understand death, where we at least can.  (BTW – Misao Okawa, the world’s oldest human being, has officially turned 117. She lives in a retirement home in Osaka.  Would you want to live that long?)   This segues into a poem about Death of a Tulip by my friend, Krista:

Have you watched a tulip fade?

It is so simple, really –
a few white petals

on a long slender stalk
stretching up
once rooted with its family in the good earth.

A gentle gravity
begins their journey,
the petals in a graceful

each hour, each day
a bit more

a pleasurable
each time you glance their way

the journey
marked by their firm, juicy
skin, soft and supple.

This gorgeous tulip
welcomes your long look
into the heart
of its very being.

Days pass

the petals reach out sideways
open to the world
finding their way
inviting your relationship.

Then in full innocence
they begin to fold downward.

Their shiny vibrant softness

Soon these dear familiar petals
are dry ruffles

a dancer’s skirt,
its fluted edges
embroidered with a wisp
of earthy brown.

The drape is ever more pronounced,
the flower’s soul pushing
delicate sepia striping
from its center.

* * * * *

Reach your arms high overhead:
a baby seeks its mother

at infinite slow intervals
arms fall open
open to the world

o'keefe tulipnow parallel to the earth
at last they stretch across the universe
you can embrace it all
and all can come to be enfolded

the transformation to a dancer,
graceful skirt
hands gently fluttering to your side.

Intimate tulip friend,
in your center
the soul of Georgia O’Keefe

-Krista Neis


The Cost of Beauty

March 2, 2015

rita hayworthThis week in my Scandalous Females in Film class at the U we’re studying Rita Hayworth.  She was born Margarita Carmen Cansino, of an English mother and a father who was a Spanish classical dancer.

To anglicise her, her first name was abbreviated and she took her mother’s maiden name, but the electrolysis was the worst.  This is from a journal article we read: Being Rita Hayworth: labor, identity, and Hollywood stardom by Adrienne McLean:

The half-moon eyebrows were all the rage then.  My mother plucked hers too (she lived in LA and wanted to look like the movie stars), and they never grew back.

In a previous week we read in an article that, In the United States more money is spent on beauty than on education or social services.  (Can’t remember which article; this quote from the NY Times1.)

We watched the movie Gilda, 1946, supposedly Hayworth’s best.  She had learned dancing as a kid and Fred Astaire, who co-starred with her in two movies, said in his autobiography that she was his favorite dancing partner.  Life magazine called her The Great American Love Goddess.  She was married five times and had a rainchild each by Orson Welles and Prince Aly Khan.


It’s pouring outside, and there’s a science lecture at the U tonight.  Bet they’ll be a bunch of empty seats.  Think that instead of parking at my friends’ house six blocks away and walking, I’ll cough up the $4 to park in the Tyndall Avenue garage, only a block away.

Also a 1932 film, based on a short story by  W. Somerset Maugham that I had read years ago, with Joan Crawford, another scandalous woman.


dried lizards 001
My feathery cassia hedge is in bloom, about two weeks behind the rest of the city.  The quail love my wildflowers out back.

Kehinde Wiley

kehinde wiley
Raphaël_-_Les_Trois_GrâcesAt the end of January the Sunday New York Times had an article on Kehinde Wiley and his giant portraits and I realized that the collectors we had visited in Phoenix2 had a huge Kehinde Wiley taking up an entire wall, similar to this one, and I tried to get my head around it.  Now I understand.  This one is based on Raphael’s The Three Graces.

He is known for vibrant, photo-based portraits of young black men (and occasionally women)… their images mashed up with rococo-style frills and empowering poses culled from art history.3

This is a show at the Smithsonian, and you can tell how large the paintings are by the size of the people.

Here, a portrait of Ice T based on Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne by Ingres.

napoleon Ice TNapoleon_on_his_Imperial_throne

Mostly plants

February 24, 2015

Picked from my garden yesterday: lots of arugula, spinach and peas.  Eight pea plants but after shelling the pods, only a cup and a half.  Not only is my refrigerator crisper overflowing (from the CSA greens), but my two composters are almost full from kitchen trimmings!  Am just starting to dig it into my garden.  But still have to wait for a few items to ripen.  Seems funny that I pulled dandelions a week ago and got a bunch of dandelion greens from the CSA (albeit professional dandelion greens) last week.  Pulled London rocket, a weed that is growing crazy around town with our winter rains – it’s also called also called wild arugula, and my garden is replete with domesticated arugula.

Made a soup, from a new recipe, with my peas and spinach, lamb meatballs, and lemon (did I mention that friend N had given me two dozen lemons from her tree?) but it was thickened with rice flour which gave it that shiny appearance mustardthat Chinese soups have that have been thickened with cornstarch.   Plus I added bland leafy greens  (yes – from the CSA) that I needed to use up.  Now I have three servings of a soup which I don’t like – what a waste of those peas.  Was it because of the lamb, the bland greens (which they told me today, when I asked, are a leaf mustard, shown here), or the rice flour?

Just found out that I can put my CSA membership on hold!  I should do that every other week.  Either that or I have to start eating salad for breakfast too.  Today I picked up bunches of Beets, Broccolini, Carrots, Purple Top Turnips, and I’Itoi Onions, and Navel Oranges (3), Romaine Lettuce (2 heads), Sweet Potatoes (3).  Making a turnip frittata for dinner, and a salad, of course.


HeneryhawkI have wondered if my cat has been spending more time indoors as the Cooper’s hawk (which is also called a chicken hawk, but doesn’t look at all like Looney Tunes’ Henery Hawk, shown here) has been sitting on the parapet of my house, and in the large mesquite tree next to the back yard.  One it even swooped diagonally across my deck, under the ceiling!  But I think a cat is too large and feisty for a Cooper’s.  Yesterday I saw two hawks in the mesquite.  Spring mating, I gather.  (Too difficult to take a photo through the branches.)

Cooler weather

After a few weeks of temps in the low 80’s, high 70’s, today’s high of only 58° (because of the rain) is a bit of a change.  But heard on the radio this weekend that areas of the northeast, with the windchill factor included, would be 30° below.  My condolences to my friends back east! This from Saturday:

Hundreds of daily record lows and at least three all-time record lows were set as a frigid air mass with a connection to Siberia gripped the central and eastern United States with dangerously cold conditions. Friday morning brought the most widespread and intense cold of the winter to many areas, sending temperatures into the 30s below zero as far south as Kentucky.

Community Supported Agriculture

February 20, 2015

I don’t remember life being so rushed before, even when I had two kids and worked full-time and did volunteer work, as well as entertaining friends.  Why?  It’s the CSA1.  I joined two weeks ago and I have never spent so much time in the kitchen, making salads and soups.

(According to the US Department of Agriculture, a woman my age should eat, in a week, 1½ cups of Dark green vegetables, 4 cups of Red and orange vegetables, 1 cup of Beans and peas, 4 cups of Starchy vegetables, and 3½ cups of Other vegetables2.  I’m going to be so healthy that I’ll outlive my savings!  But Michael Pollan, whose book I mentioned in a blog3, and who said Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. would be proud of me.)

This week I gave half of my daikon with greens to the Japanese woman I work with, but she brought me two of the rice balls she made with the greens the next day.  Give greens away, they bounce back.  Yesterday I gave her two bunches of my own mizuna, Japanese mustard greens.  (Doesn’t help that I am growing too much mizuna, arugula, and spinach in my garden.  Replete with greens!)

I’ve frozen five helpings of soup so far (and shall shortly run out of containers), but still have so many bags of luscious organic greens that the crisper drawer in the refrigerator has overflowed!

Borrowed an onion from my neighbor (no onions from the CSA) but she refused mickey-mouse-sorcerers-apprenticegreens in trade.  Have been giving my two carpoolers arugula for weeks, but feel like Micky Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  (Can you hear the music as the greens flow over me?)

Another comparison would be like having a subscription to the New Yorker magazine.  It’s a weekly that should be a monthly; only shut-ins could keep up!  But at least you can read the current news and save the fiction for another year; I don’t have a large enough freezer for six weeks, the minimum subscription, of soup.  Note: the soup I’m having tonight, Coconut Cilantro Potato, is delicious.  You can check out the CSA website below for the recipe.  (I had salad too, of course.)

Life in the Universe4

Last week’s lecture was Life on Earth: By Chance or By Law, by Brian J. Enquist, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Life on Earth is amazing and multifaceted. Ultimately all of life has descended from one common ancestor and has been guided by evolution by natural selection.

I took no notes, remembering only that it was good, and that climate change will create further evolution.  And that all animals have a bit fewer than a billion heartbeats in life (a hummingbird has a shorter life because its heart beats so fast – click on cartoon5 to read it better), except humans and chickens which have over two billion. Go figure.


Last Monday’s lecture by Anna R. Dornhaus, Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was Complexity and Evolvability: What Makes Life So Interesting?  She studies insects and is into complex behavior.

Humans are also involved in pretty complex behavior.  As a mathematician I especially like the Mandelbrot set (the set of values of c in the complex plane for which the orbit of 0 under iteration of the complex quadratic polynomial: z_{n+1}=z_n^2+c). Anna had some nice diagrams, this being one6:


Plus I was fascinated with the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency which commissions advanced research for the DoD, Department of Defense) horse robot:

Scandalous Females in Film

For those of you who are not interested in Mandelbrot or DARPA, I’ll note a few items from my Humanities Seminar.  I am large, I contain multitudes… (from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.)

First-wave feminism, which was active during the 19th and early 20th century, focused mainly on suffrage and gender equality.

Second-wave feminism, which started in the 60’s, was characterized by unruly women such as Roseanne, Maud, and Murphy Brown.  (Remember Dan Quayle vs. Murphy Brown, The Vice President takes on a TV character over family values?  Because Murphy, who wore masculine clothes, was an unwed mother.  She rejected abortion!)  Also Enjoli (remember its commercial song, I can bring home the bacon…6), Virginia Slims, and Mary Tyler Moore from the 70’s and 80’s.

Third-wave feminism started in the 90’s and was characterized by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Emma Watson speaking of her HeForShe Campaign at the UN7, as well as Katniss and SNL’s Kristen Wiig in the female Hangover, Bridesmaids.  There is discussion on whether Beyoncé could be considered a feminist with the way that she dresses.  Then there are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the 2015 Golden Globes8.  (If it seems like I’m focusing a bit much on women in the movies – the class is entitled Scandalous Females in Film.)

6 By Binette228 (Own work)


Old is the New Black

February 15, 2015

celineIn today’s T, the NY Times’ style magazine, as I zipped through the opening ads (about 20 full-page ads before even the index), I stopped at the Céline advertisement with an old woman.  Figured she must be famous, so I googled her.  Sure enough, she’s the American author Joan Didion.  I’ve read a few short articles by her, but felt guilty that I haven’t read any of her books, so I just reserved The Year of Magical Thinking from the library.  It’s a memoir she wrote it just after her husband died of a heart attack, after they had returned from the hospital where their only child was lying in a coma.

dolce&gabbanaFurther on in T, Dolce & Gabbana showed old women in its ad.

Picture it: Sicily. Dolce & Gabbana’s spring 2015 campaign… [T]he ad features elderly Italian women posing in the collection’s black lace jackets, paired with ornate jeweled mini-bags and tiaras.1

old is the new blackSomething was going on, so I checked out Joan Didion and Céline2 and followed a link to a blog, Advanced Style, from February 12 of this year, and discovered that Old Is The New Black!

Aging never goes out of style, but the fashion world is definitely having a senior moment. This season’s It Girls are all over the age of 60! We are thrilled to see so may brilliant, powerful, and gorgeous older women in campaigns and on the runway. 3

Film Censorship

This from my Scandalous Females in Film class.

Today we have a rating system for movies  (G, PG PG-13, R, NC-17 – which replaced X in 1990), but back in 1934 there was the Hays Code.  You may get a kick out of reading the whole code.  It could never fly today.  This is just the preamble (my highlighting):

The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (Hays Code)

If motion pictures present stories that will affect lives for the better, they can become the most powerful force for the improvement of mankind…

Motion picture producers recognize the high trust and confidence which have been placed in them by the people of the world and which have made motion pictures a universal form of entertainment.

They recognize their responsibility to the public because of this trust and because entertainment and art are important influences in the life of a nation.

Hence, though regarding motion pictures primarily as entertainment without any explicit purpose of teaching or propaganda, they know that the motion picture within its own field of entertainment may be directly responsible for spiritual or moral progress, for higher types of social life, and for much correct thinking.

During the rapid transition from silent to talking pictures they have realized the necessity and the opportunity of subscribing to a Code to govern the production of talking pictures and of re-acknowledging this responsibility. On their part, they ask from the public and from public leaders a sympathetic understanding of their purposes and problems and a spirit of cooperation that will allow them the freedom and opportunity necessary to bring the motion picture to a still higher level of wholesome entertainment for all the people.3

10030265_1Our professor said that the Hays Code was a response to Jean Harlow.  I just watched her in The Red-Headed Woman.  This from Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

During the course of the film, Harlow breaks up a marriage, has multiple affairs and pre-marital sex, and attempts to kill a man…

The film proved difficult from its inception. Producer Irving Thalberg was concerned that the original story [novel by Katherine Brush] and the first draft of a script by F. Scott Fitzgerald were too serious, and offered the job of rewriting it to Anita Loos, instructing her to provide something that was more fun and playful and with a greater emphasis on comedy.

Prior to its release he worked with the Will Hays Office to ensure it would receive approval for general release. Under the Production Code, a criminal could not be seen to profit from the crime, or to go unpunished, and sin must be punished. Adding further to the problem was Harlow’s overtly sexual portrayal, with several scenes in which she was partially undressed, or making obvious sexual advances.

Although the Hays Office could not ban a film as such, a refusal to issue approval for a particular film could lead exhibitors to refuse to screen it. Thalberg agreed to seventeen cuts to enable it to screen in the United States; however upon release, it …was banned in the United Kingdom…

mae westOur assigned readings for next Monday included The Code, details about The Red-Headed Woman, and two essays on Mae West (shown here in her youth).

I also checked out names of “talkies” between 1929 and 1934 – Merrily We Go to Hell, New Morals for Old, Night After Night, Night Nurse, Of Human Bondage, Party Girl, and many more5.  My, but films were risqué back then.



February 13, 2015

There was an article in the Sunday Times regarding the United States Pond Hockey Championships1.  Reminded me of the skating rink we had in our backyard when I was a kid. Mom didn’t want us going down to the Rouge River, which was only a block away, to ice skate – she was sure the ice would break and we would drown.  So she and Dad flooded the back detroit 003yard.  Before going to bed Dad would spray water on it so that we’d have a good skating surface.  Then Mom would get up at about 3am to do the same.  I had a hockey stick, but boy, was I bad at it.  (My father was small, so never played hockey, but when he had been at Michigan State, he jumped barrels at half-time.)  Photo of my brother on the rink.  I’m the shadow.

The Times article (January 31) on Nigerian electricity2, or the lack thereof, evoked memories of Jamaica, where I was in the Peace Corps 35 years ago, teaching elementary teachers (who had only graduated from high school) how to teach math.  You’ll have to read the article to appreciate this (see 2 below).  Anyway, the workers at the electrical plant in Jamaica were often going on strike, so we’d have brownouts.  One night I was reading in bed and noticed that the book was an inch from my nose.  The light had been going out gradually so I kept moving the book closer.  I looked at the bulb – it was almost brown.

Another time one of the schools I worked with was going to have the equivalent of a PTA meeting.  My husband at the time wanted to impress them by showing a rented movie.  The meeting was scheduled for 7pm, we had a quorum by 7:30, and at 7:35 the lights went out.  So much for a movie.  The principal gave the parents a tour of the school by candle light.

Because of the lack of confidence in the electricity,  many people who could afford refrigerators (not many where I was stationed, “in da bush”) had kerosene refrigerators.  It took a lot of hard thinking on my part to figure out how you made ice cubes from fire.

Transporter or Time Machine

Which you you prefer be invented, a Star Trek Transporter or a Back to the Future Time Machine?

If we all had transporters it would eliminate all cars, trucks, buses, trains, planes, ships, all gas-powered vehicles, reducing the need for so much gas, thereby helping solve Global Warming.  (Gas would still be used for heating, cooking, drying your clothes, and so on.)  And transporters would eradicate traffic jams.  Plus you’d be able to sleep in an extra half hour, as you’d be rid of the commute.

chinaPhoto of: August 2010, China was crowned the unofficial “host” of the mother of all traffic jams,  with a huge car panorama that stretched for more than 62 miles and lasted for 12 days.

However, everyone I asked would prefer to go back in time, preferably to when they were young.  There are problems, of course, of messing with the past.

To better understand what we’re dealing with here, consider the famous grandfather paradox. You’re a time-traveling assassin, and your target just happens to be your own grandfather. So you pop through the nearest wormhole and walk up to a spry 18-year-old version of your father’s father. You raise your laser blaster, but just what happens when you pull the trigger?

Think about it. You haven’t been born yet. Neither has your father. If you kill your own grandfather in the past, he’ll never have a son. That son will never have you, and you’ll never happen to take that job as a time-traveling assassin. You wouldn’t exist to pull the trigger, thus negating the entire string of events. We call this an inconsistent causal loop...3

But I’d rather go back 2000 years to meet Jesus.  (Yes, I would need a good translator for Aramaic with a Galilean dialect, so good that it would not only translate into my brain in English, but would speak my thoughts back in Aramaic.)

jesusI would like to take surreptitious photos of him and his disciples to show in every church and cathedral in the world (bet he didn’t have blue eyes).  But I’d really like to take Christians (one at a time, for a large sum of money, rather like space tourism, if I had the only time machine) to Galilee.  Have a feeling that would charge Christianity today, all the way from the Pope to the Shakers.

Jesus was quoted as saying, It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 19:24.  So all the money I’d amass would go to good projects, say maybe schools in Africa, if the men in charge agreed to allow girls to go to school too.

Gee, if Jesus and I got friendly, I could travel with Him to the 21st century.  Would show him the movie Jesus Christ Superstar, take him to St. Peter’s in Rome and a prayer breakfast for the US House of Representatives.

bearValentine’s Day

Really – a Fifty Shades of Grey Bear for Valentine’s Day.  (No – I haven’t read it. David Edelstein of NPR called it: writing so painful it leaves welts.)

Seen and heard yesterday

Since my kids got me a tablet for my birthday/Christmas, I can sit in bed and read my assignments for Scandalous Females in Film.  Was doing so late yesterday afternoon when the cat started up and dashed from the room.  Sure enough, a large coyote appeared from behind the creosote, on the other side of the fence, and sniffed around what I think is a rabbit warren.

A goldfinch (but only one!) visited the goldfinch feeder, which I had washed out and filled with new birdseed.  Heard a lot of hammering on the far side of the saguaro, but chose not to fight the brush on the other side to possibly take a photo of the woodpecker.


Scandalous Females & Sex

February 5, 2015

This semester I’m taking a class from the University of Arizona Humanities Seminars1 (once a week classes for old people for no credit, presented by professors), Scandalous Females in Film, taught by Mary Beth Haralovich, Ph.D.2 (film and television historian).
In previous semesters I have taken Climate Change3Classic Comedies of European Theatre4, Twentieth Century Art Movements4Utilitarianism: The Greater Good?5 What’s Bugging You: Insects and Culture6Nobel Laureates of Literature7,8The Cheat (1915) Posterand Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!9,10

Last week, for early film melodrama and the conventions of femininity, we were to have viewed a silent film from 1915 by Cecil B. DeMille, The Cheat. (There are youtubes of most of the films, and the others I’ve ordered from the library or netflix.)  We watched a few shorts in class. If the hapless female got caught up in “white slavery” (prostitution) or sex outside of marriage, she was saved at the last minute, thus teaching the women in the audience not to be dumb.

Interesting readings, concerning Love, Marriage, and Hollywood Performance.  I love this quote about the basis for most marriages over the centuries:sex2
A Free Soul (1931) PosterThis quote did not come from class, but it fits:

Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
Ambrose Bierce

For this week, the independent woman: resisting the companionable couple, we are to have screened A Free Soul (Norma Shearer), who gets saved from the bad guy (Clark Gable!) by her father (Lionel Barrymore, who won an Oscar for his performance), but (spoiler alert) still doesn’t marry the good guy (Leslie Howard, who you probably remember as Ashley Wilkes from Gone with the Wind).  Our readings for this are about Romantic Love, and The Love Goddess.

junoFor net week, teen moms and 3rd wave feminism, we are to see either Juno, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2007 (and which I just watched, about a pregnant teen and her decision to have the baby and give it up for adoption – it’s called a comedy-drama) or Precious.

I read the book, Push, by Sapphire, and the character’s plight was so horrible, being raped by her father, having learned neither to read nor write, and having an abusive mother, even if it does have a somewhat hopeful ending, that I hadn’t Preciousoriginally wanted to see the movie, but I got it.  The movie won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Academy Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Mo’Nique (who is a stand-up comedian, but plays the mother from hell), and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay for Geoffrey Fletcher (who became the first African American to win a Best Screenplay Oscar) as well as many other awards.  The film was was produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.

I found it interesting that the nerdy dad in Juno is played by J. K. Simmons who plays the foul-mouthed, abusive music instructor,  Terence Fletcher, in Whiplash, which I saw over the weekend at the Loft (and was at Sundance last year, and is nominated for five Academy Awards , including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and Best Adapted Screenplay).  I did a double take when I saw him in Juno, and had to look on the credits to make sure that it was the same person.


Commentary from Sunday’s New York Times regarding The Manners of Downton Abbey:

And on a different tack, also from the times, Flesh of my Flesh, about Bat Sheva Marcus, an Orthodox Jewish sex counselor.  (If you’re not well acquainted with ultra-Orthodox Jews, they have many similarities to Muslims.  The women have to cover up, although not with a burka or niqab in the United States, but they do cover their faces in some other countries.  They have to walk behind their husbands.  They are separated in the temple.  Unmarried men and women should not touch each other.  Marriages are arranged – although Jews are only allowed one wife – and so on.)

The Talmud “indicates that during marital relations, the husband may not look at or kiss the wife’s makom ervah,” her private place, the manual warns. The lights should be off, a sheet should cover the couple, the position should be missionary — the wife is charged with keeping sex spiritual, keeping it chaste.

Fascinating that this exists in the US.  But most Hasidic Jews do not watch television, go to movies, or read popular secular magazines.  Guess that’s where we’re supposed to be informed.



January 28, 2015

I know, it’s an age old phrase that many people use – “You shouldn’t talk about religion or politics.”   Oh well.

This from Sunday’s NY Times:

[Pope Francis] was on the papal plane, en route from the Philippines back to Italy, and he was reflecting on the relationship between third-world poverty and extra-large families. He told reporters that Catholics needn’t feel compelled to breed “like rabbits,” a zoological simile that’s sure to have legs.1

OMG!  (A bad expression for me, as I have no god.)  But imagine if the pope figures out that families would do better with only two children.  Maybe he could start handing out condoms to the poorest of the poor?  Zero Population Growth2 would help solve most of the world’s problems.  (See my note towards the bottom of my blog, October Evening3.)

God and Me

… But what is he

Who fills the world with trees and stars
And leaves us alone
With our wars and atrocities
Our deadly human nature
Our sad dominion over the fish and the fowl

No one knows why
There is so much silence in the upper spheres
And so much suffering down here

The Almighty skipped over our houses4

— Edward Hirsch

Seen today

OK, a lighter topic.  In my neighborhood – a woman driving a golf cart as she walked her dog.  At the college – a guy with short hair except a long swirl of orange sherbet hiding half of his face.

Life in the Universe

In January/ February of each year the University of Arizona’s College of Science offers free evening lectures once a week at Centennial Hall.  (Of course, because they’re free, the audience is mostly retired people, which means that if you get there half an hour early, you won’t find a seat.  We ended up sitting behind the camera, leaning way over in each direction to see the stage.  Oh, and talking about the camera, these lectures are recorded.5)

I had previously attended Living Beyond 1006 and Genomics Now7.  (These lectures from previous years can be seen on or chose a lecture from a previous year here and watch it on youtube:  This year’s series concerns Life in the Universe8, and the first lecture on Monday night was What is Life? presented by a Jesuit Brother, Guy J. Consolmagno (BA and MA from MIT, PhD from U of A, postdoc at Harvard and MIT, and served in the Peace Corps in Kenya before he took vows as a brother, now Planetary Scientist, Vatican Observatory Research Group), who was a fantastic speaker!  He even got Stephen Colbert cracking up on the Cobert Report9.  Marvelous sense of humor.  Our hour listening to him went all too fast.  (But the conclusion was that there is little agreement among scientists on What is Life?)

Riffing on Cobert’s comments (watch that video), I had read The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber10 back in December.  Plot: a preacher goes to another planet in another galaxy to convert the natives, along with a group of people going there to colonize and mine the planet, leaving his wife back on a collapsing earth.  Not your typical scifi, but I was rather captivated.  (Note: you have to employ suspension of disbelief as Peter has to be put into a state of suspended animation to travel the vast distance to the planet, but emails to and from him and his wife go through almost immediately.)

2 (ZPG is now Population Connection.)
52015 – Each lecture will air on television after a one-week delay on Mondays, beginning February 2 at 8PM. The broadcast will repeat: Tuesdays at 2AM, Fridays at 1PM, Sundays at 1PM and again on Mondays at 12AM and 2PM.
Comcast Subscribers: Channel 76  Cox Subscribers: Channel 116

State of the Union + Reading

January 23, 2015


race-riotIf the wealthy can purchase $5,000 purses (by Hermès, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, or Louis Vuitton), $60 million artworks (Warhol’s Race Riot, 1964 went for $62.9 million at a Christie’s auction), or fly into Davos on a private jet with a spouse, children and two nannies (billionaire Jeff Greene), they can probably pay 28% rather than the 23.8% on qualified dividends and long-term capital gains taxes that President Obama has suggested.  (The percentage was 28% under President Reagan.)

Single filers with taxable income above $406,750 (almost $200/ hour, but that probably doesn’t count your lawyer, who has to rent his/her office, pay the secretary and possible legal assistants, the water and electric bills, etc. out of that) and joint filers with taxable income above $457,600 pay the highest capital gains rate.  Americans are noticing:  …more than half [of Americans] would raise taxes on the wealthy and businesses.1

Keystone XL Pipeline

>Jobs: John Boehner says Keystone XL pipeline would create 100,000 jobs.2  But …both the federal government and the Global Labor Institute at Cornell University …examined TransCanada’s application and made their own job creation estimates, at 6,000-6,500 and 2,500-4,500 [construction jobs] respectively.  A State Department study projects only 35 permanent jobs in pipeline maintenance and inspection.3


What a TransCanada pipeline will do is put a major underground water supply at risk. Keystone XL would be built directly above the Ogallala Aquifer, located beneath most of Nebraska and extending to seven other states. The Ogallala is a shallow aquifer, meaning a pipeline spill could easily pollute this drinking water source for 2 million Americans.
The pipeline would cross thousands of acres of farmland in the Great Plains; a spill could make this land unusable for years. In 2013, an oil pipeline spilled 840,000 gallons of crude near Tioga, North Dakota, and crews are still working to clean it up. Keystone I, which runs from Canada through Illinois, had 14 reported leaks during its first year of operation.

turtleJanuary 21, 2015
GLENDIVE, Montana — When an oil pipeline burst in July 2011 and poured 63,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River 200 miles upstream from Dena Hoff’s farm of wheat, beans and corn on the Great Plains in Glendive, she felt disgusted.
When it happened again Saturday, she felt terror. This pipeline breach was underneath the Yellowstone River, just a few feet from her sheep pasture. The new spill poured out some 50,000 gallons of crude oil. Leaders of this small riverside farming and ranching community in northeastern Montana warned residents not to drink their tap water, because benzene, a carcinogen, was found in the municipal water system. Oil slicked the river for dozens of miles, almost to the border with North Dakota…

>American support: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Tuesday shows that [only] 41 percent favor construction of the pipeline to bring crude oil from Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.6

Whatever your opinion on these issues, let your members of Congress know, by email or letter (do people still do that?)


Read The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus, by Richard Preston, in two days.  It’s 352 pages, but goes quickly as it’s hard to put down.  This is a true account, most of it takes place just outside Washington D.C., and it is very scary.  (Truth really is scarier than fiction.)  I highly recommend it.

Just finished In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan.   (A friend had lent it ages ago, with Pollan’s The Botany Of Desire7, which I read first.)  Highly endorse!  Am inspired to join our local CSA.  (Before I had moved back into my house five years ago I had stayed with friends who live next to the CSA and got used to the weekly piles of vegetables.)8  The book knocks the entire Western diet.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. He gets specific: avoid products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup. Guess goldfish crackersthat eliminates the Goldfish® Baked Snack Crackers that my daughter gives her kids in the car. They don’t really qualify as food. Food should not be so over-processed that it has to have nutrients added back in.  Here are the Goldfish ingredients:

Made with smiles and unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), cheddar cheese ([cultured milk, salt, enzymes], annatto), vegetable oils (canola, sunflower and/or soybean), contains 2 percent or less of: salt, yeast, sugar, autolyzed yeast, leavening (baking soda, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium bicarbonate), paprika, spices (contains celery) and dehydrated onions.

Plus he said, Do all your eating at a table.  None of this car snack stuff.

Had a huge salad (mostly mizuna from my garden) for lunch yesterday, and homemade bread, but also ate the last two tiny Snickers bars left over from Halloween.  Ingredients: Sugar, Roasted Peanuts, Glucose Syrup (Sources include Wheat), MilkSolids, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Vegetable Fat, Salt, Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Egg White, Natural Flavour (Vanilla Extract).  Too many ingredients. They flunk.

I buy tiny containers of Häagen-Dazs®, and last night checked the ingredients. Phew! They passed.  I had made a soup for dinner – all of the fresh vegetables passed (well, they should have been organic, but only the spinach from my garden), but the cheap can of navy beans that went into the soup had a bit of corn syrup!  Must look at ingredients from now on, not price.

Before that I had read Julie Schumacher’s novel, Dear Committee Members, made up mostly of  letters of recommendation written by the protagonist, an English professor in a failing department.  I would recommend it to English teachers or professors, current of retired.  (I taught English for five years.)



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