Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lust Child

The euphemism is "love child".  I wonder how loved the children of recent celebrities feel?  Would "power child" work better?

I have a fantasy that the next man who drags his dirty laundry across our media pages will say this:

"Today I am stepping out of the spotlight.  I am asking my wife for a divorce so that I can reorganize my life and offer the love and support that all of my children deserve.  I will embrace my children, both those born within my marriage and those born outside my marriage with the same affection and provide them the same support.  My home will be their home when they visit me.  My life will be connected to theirs.  I will be a father to them all.  I realize now that sexual intercourse is a commitment, and a consequence of that commitment is an obligation to children formed in that act.  I do not have a moral choice to claim that my behavior was a mistake that I regret.  It would be wrong to tell any child that he is the outcome of a mistake."

Its unlikely to happen that way.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Singing in the Shower Pays Off

I could not possibly make this up.  Paul Fournier had an unusually good time at Paul Simon's concert in DC this week.  Simon was singing "Gumboots" from his "Graceland" album.  He stumbled over the lyrics and from the front row Fournier shouted out the words.  What followed was fabulous.  Simon invited Fournier up to sing it himself.  Fournier is a patent lawyer who was still buttoned down in work clothes.  Everyman's wildest dream came true for Fournier.  He sang, Simon sang, they harmonized and traded lines.  Simon put his arm around his fan, offered him water and beckoned him back to the microphone again and again.  Watch it yourself.  Get ready to smile.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Please Join Me in Acknowledging this Service

Last night I went to a recognition dinner.  It could have been in any town, for any cause.  It was in my town, a college event, to recognize those who served in leadership.  It was an evening in which the participants applauded for one another and smiled.  The food was good. Spirits were high. There are thousands of such events.  Service and recognition are characteristics of the generosity and good will of the people of this great country.  Those recognized last night came from many different walks of life.  They had in common a commitment to others.  They volunteered their knowledge, skills and abilities. They shared an evening in which each was spotlighted and thanked.  It doesn't get better than that.

I went to the event last night because my sister and brother in law were among those to be recognized.  They have endowed a fellowship to provide full time support for a graduate student in memory of their daughter, a graduate of Evergreen.  Here is how the fellowship is described on the college website:

The Sara Bilezikian Memorial Fellowship

Two years full-time (12 credits/quarter) in-state tuition for one incoming MES (Master of Environmental Studies) student.
This fellowship is offered to one student who demonstrates commitment to environmental protection, environmental advocacy, and social justice. Financial need is also taken into consideration.  This fellowship is awarded every other year (2011, 2013, 2015. . .) to an incoming MES student.  International students are eligible. FAFSA is required.  Next possible round of applications may be in Summer 2011.

My sister shone.  She received their award and turned to the audience.  In few words, simply spoken she told how many of those in the room shared her honor because of the roles they play.  She introduced several recipients of the Sara Bilezikian Fellowship.  She thanked the staff and faculty.  And she acknowledged the loved ones who complete the fabric of community and support.  I know that she will grieve the loss of her child for the rest of her life.  Last night she was bathed in well deserved recognition.  I was proud. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Well Well Well

Do you remember this song?  Although there was no rapture this time, fear of judgment day lives on.  In my formative teens when guitars were acoustic and folk singers wore suit coats,  I sang this song to myself, and with anyone who would sing some harmony.  In light of recent events, its worth 3 minutes.

Friday, May 20, 2011

1 Thessalonians 4:15 - 17

15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 verses 15 - 17 (New International Bible version)

This passage is from the letters of Paul to early Christian communities.  Paul was born of Hebrew parents in the decade following the death of Jesus.  He was a tent maker who became convinced that Jesus was the son of God. He became a missionary, travelled widely and wrote letters to those he had met and proselytized.  He intended that the letters be read out loud.  The letters are chatty at times, sometimes solemn, and both praise the faith and remonstrate the failings of the community.  They make specific reference to events that had been shared by author and audience.  Read in a good contemporary translation the letters sound much like communications on similar subjects today. 

Those expecting rapture tomorrow, and an earthquake signaling the beginning of the end of the world base their reasoning, in part on Paul's first letter to the community of Christians in the bustling Macedonian city of Thessalonica.  Paul was a great communicator.  He painted pictures with his words. He spoke Hebrew and Greek.  The urgency and passion still resonate in his work.

Paul could not envision that Christians in the 21st Century would euthanize their pets, give away their possessions and spend all their savings, believing literally in his words.  Nor could he envision that some might take their own lives if the expected day of rapture passes uneventfully.  From our contemporary vantage point however, we can see the havoc that can be created in the lives of believers. We will know more tomorrow. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

How Many Die?

On my recent travels I filled the long airline hours with Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series trilogy.  These books are great detective stories - good "reads" for the waiting around that goes with any family vacation.  They are best sellers.  Caution: they contain some pretty rough sex that Larsson apparently added after he had plotted the mystery theme.  His web site tells that "... he even reluctantly decided to spice it up with a bit of sex as it would probably please his readers".  Larsson's idea of spice includes sadism and cruelty that may rev up his readers, but made my skin crawl. 

Until recently I had allowed myself to believe that such treatment of women was exaggerated in novels, and only occurred for real is other times and places.  Erik Larson's bone chilling book "The Devil in the White City" is an historical narration of a truly evil psychopath who built a torture chamber in his basement are carried off women whose broken bodies he cremated in a special furnace.  But that was in 1893. 

And then it happened here.  In Western Washington.  Twenty miles from my home.  Subterranean torture chamber and all.  Women who were living their lives in the same time and place that I do.    Kidnapping, abusing, chaining, whipping, sodomizing, burning ... killing.  My pulse races as I write those words.  Only the human animal tortures and kills for pleasure.  How can we explain to our daughters that such things happen?  What punishment is sufficient?  How many women experience this horror?  Are we civilized if such men walk freely among us? How many women die? 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Strange Encounters

The news last week included the account of a truly strange encounter. Two men, in their thirties, met by chance on a beach in Hawaii. In the course of picture taking and small talk they discovered that they are brothers, separated in early childhood, and with no subsequent contact or information. Beyond strange - spooky.

I had a strange encounter this morning. My husband and I are in North Carolina enjoying a small family reunion to see our granddaughter receive her veterinary degree. I set out from our hotel for an early walk. I walked through a residential neighborhood and began to find my way back to the main road. I stopped to ask directions from a homeowner who was lifting a rented carpet shampooer from his car. With my route confirmed I answered his question about the reason for my visit. He told me how proud he was of the NC State Veterinary College and that he was in the habit of rescuing turtles which have been injured - perhaps hit by a car. He takes them to the vet school and leaves $20 in the hope that they can be rehabilitated. The strange part of this encounter is that my granddaughter has been President of the school Turtle Club, and an enthusiastic volunteer in the turtle lab. She has cared for his turtles. My encounter is not quite as strange as the brothers' in Hawaii, but strange enough to make me wonder why I took that path this morning. These things happen.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Note to My Readers

Several of you have called to my attention that you cannot access the speech provided in my Post "The Women Whose Names We Don't Know".  I have fixed the document settings at Goggle Docs and you should be able to open the file now.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Mother

My mother has been dead for only six years.  From our house I can see Mt. Baker in the North Cascade Range.  With the candor of the old, she told me that I had been conceived on a hiking trip there.  I miss her every day.

My mothers' passion was the power of vision.  What she could imagine, she could do.  Whomever showed up was enlisted in her cause.  With volunteers her armies mowed down the opposition.  She believed in belief.  To watch her work a room was to know that you were an amateur to her mastery of teamwork.  As she lay dying people came to her room to say goodbye - people my sister and I could no longer count or account for.

One of her close friends sent us this poem that was written by Edna St. Vincent Millay about another woman who dedicated her life to the cause of women's rights.  We printed it in the program for my mother's memorial service.

To Inez Milholland

Upon this marble bust that is not I
Lay the round, formal wreath that is not fame;
But in the forum of my silenced cry
Root ye the living tree whose sap is flame.
I, that was proud and valiant, am no more;—
Save as a dream that wanders wide and late,
Save as a wind that rattles the stout door,
Troubling the ashes in the sheltered grate.
The stone will perish; I shall be twice dust.
Only my standard on a taken hill
Can cheat the mildew and the red-brown rust
And make immortal my adventurous will.
Even now the silk is tugging at the staff:
Take up the song; forget the epitaph.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Do Pigeons have in Common with Fire Ants?

They both exhibit the remarkable hydrophobicity demonstrated by the Cassie-Baxter law of wetting.  For us non-scientists, this law describes the way in which bumpy, hairy or otherwise rough surfaces repel water.  Try wetting a pigeon's feathers.  If you don't have a pigeon handy, collect a colony of fire ants and dump them in the water.  They will cling together and form a tight raft: jaw to  leg; leg to leg; clinging to each other tightly in every possible way.  The recent Proceedings of the National Academies includes a report that describes the raft formed by fire ants in water.  The Cassie -Baxter law explains that the very rough surface of the raft repels water.  Duck feathers do, too. 

I read about this in the Washington Post.  I wanted to know more about Cassie and Baxter.  My search led me to the Farady Society, a British society for the study of physical chemistry founded in 1903.  Such societies encouraged research and engaged in lively meetings to discuss and critique their members' work.  The Transactions of the Farady Society were published from 1901 to 1971.  I can almost smell the cigar smoke and see the members in their leather chairs, sipping port and arguing.
A. B. D. Cassie and S. Baxter's work, The Wettability of Porous Surfaces appeared in volume 40, page 546 in 1944.  England, and the world were at war - the outcome still in doubt.  Anything that could possibly aid the war effort was strictly rationed.  Damage from the Blitz was tidied but not repaired.  Throughout those dark days, the human spirit was not diminished.  We have many examples, and with Cassie and Baxter's work, another.  They were inquisitive, disciplined and undaunted by the deprivations of war-time London.  You can join the Royal Society of Chemistry, and  read their paper, or just think of them and whisper God Save the Queen.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Young Again

While walking our dogs this morning I came upon a hop scotch course chalked on the sidewalk.  Despite my two leashed border collies, and despite uncertainty about the strength of my knees, I found the lure irresistible.  Hop, hop, hop, two feet down - an so on to "safety" on square 10.  I was momentarily transported to Beach Haven, New Jersey and what seemed at the time to be endless summer.  Hop scotch, jacks, mumbley-peg when the boys would let us use their knives, capture the flag were the games of my youth.  And of youths for centuries.  Variations of jacks are documented in countries around the world.  A game using stones and bones was played in ancient Rome.  An Australian variation used knuckle bones from a lamb shank.  "Scotch-hoppers" are recorded in the 1707 edition of Poor Robin's Almanac.

Childhood is not what it used to be.  Dodgeball has been banned from most playgrounds.  This year the New York Health Department has identified "risky" activities that might warrant new regulated supervision: wiffle ball, kick ball, freeze tag and Red Rover are proposed.  Now, I am all in favor of helmets for bike riders and arm and shin guards for skate boarders.  I recognize that childhood can be made less injury-prone with similar common sense requirements.  But I wonder how "risky" activities can be codified and how regulations can be enforced over the broad spectrum of childhood play.  Will hop scotch be included?  Will mumbley-peg be banned outright because it involves a knife?  Will jacks be limited to objects too big to swallow?  Quick, get some chalk, draw your course and start hopping before its too late.