Sweet, sweet Australian blood oranges

Love those blooooood oranges.

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Political witch hunters and taking back the witch brand

It seems like every time someone anonymous wants to discredit a female politician, instead of talking about policy and credentials, they pull out the old witch meme.

Like the anonymous blogger (of course they never sign their real names) who says  “pray that the witch known as Sarah Palin flies away on her broom.”  And no, I’m not going to give a link.

A google search for “witch Hillary” turns up 2,470,000 hits.

But “Nancy Pelosi witch” only gets 159,000 hits.

Forget that.  Today I’m going to have a little fun.  I’ve unearthed my Halloween witch hat and dusted it off–yesterday I wore it to class. I totally forgot I was wearing it until people started smiling and waving to me on the street.  So instead of putting the hat discreetly away, today I will wear it again everywhere I can think of–with a big smile on my face.

People like witches.

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Who wants Sarah Palin dead?

Last night I wrote a post about Chad Micheal Morisette in West Hollywood, California who thinks lynching Sarah Palin is nifty Halloween art.

Already this morning I had a creepy comment. Someone with the handle “Buzzometer” left a message saying:

If only this was real!

Now this isn’t exactly a political blog. Sometimes something about politics catches my eye and has enough depth to write about it, but only when it intersects with culture or language or the general topic of understanding between divergent groups of people. When I wrote about Barack Obama’s church, long before it became popular to do so, and then wrote about it again after attending a service, I got a range of comments, some of them difficult to process, but all of them sincere.  Many had strenuous disagreements, but none of them said they wished Obama dead.

So who exactly is this “Buzzometer”? A quick check of Arin’s Whois shows an IP address from Comcast in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. And another search shows the IP is listed on a spam database. Spammers, huh. But even more interesting, he left his blog address and his email address, even though none of that is required to post a comment. Apparently he (yes, the name is male) doesn’t see anything at all wrong with what he is saying and isn’t worried in the least about having his name associated with that comment.

Oh, and the website?  Well, I’m happy to say that although he left a link, absolutely NOBODY has clicked on it.  But just for giggles, if someone were to click on it this is what they would see.  The title “Buzzometer (DOT)net” , and the subtitle “internet buzz, measured rectally”.  Yeah, I bet. It’s nothing but a series of polls. Clicking through one of the polls will lead you to an advertisement, the same one, no matter which poll you click :

And who are the corporate sponsors for this little gem of a website (whose archives go back a whole two months)? One is Consumer Incentive Promotions with an address in Davie, FL. The other appears to be FedEx, whose name is also featured prominently on the page.

I wonder if either Consumer Incentive Promotions or FedEx is aware that someone is using their corporate brands to wish for a genuine Sarah Palin lynching.

Lynching Sarah Palin? Not “intense”–it’s only a white woman.

Whatever you think of Sarah Palin’s politics, there is no excuse for the hate speech that has been unleashed against her.   The latest is some guy in West Hollywood, California, Chad Michael Morrisette, who thinks hanging Sarah Palin with a noose makes for good art.  Is anyone else as dumbfounded by this as I am?  Here is the link.

Listen to the video too. The guy who put it up, Chad Michael Morrisette, says:

I know if we had done it with Barack Obama people probably would have thrown things through our windows…I mean, the image of a hanged black man is a LOT more intense than the image of a hanged white woman…

I am thinking of one person who has the eloquence to talk about this disgraceful episode in the way it deserves to be talked about.

A year ago, a certain candidate for president stood up for justice in Jena , Alabama :

Today I stand with those who stand for justice in Jena. The thousands of Americans from every race and region who have descended on this small Louisiana town carry forth the legacy of all those who sat at lunch counters and took freedom rides to strike a blow against injustice wherever it may exist. When a noose hangs from a schoolyard tree in the 21st century and young men are treated in a way that is not equal nor just, it is not just an offense to the people of Jena or to the African-American community, it is an offense to the ideals we hold as Americans. I renew my call for the District Attorney to drop the excessive charges filed in this case, and I will continue my decades-long fight against injustice and division as President.

Yes, it was Barack Obama who uttered those words.

During the last presidential debate John McCain was asked whether he approved of threats that Barack Obama said were shouted at his rallies (the accusation was later found to be untrue). McCain unequivocally said he did not.

Then McCain brought up the t-shirts (language alert) with degrading slogans (NSFW) worn by Obama’s fans. Obama talked and talked around the issue, but could not bring himself to say he did not approve.

Now imagine this scenario–Obama makes the following statement about the Sarah Palin noose:

When a noose hangs from the roof of a house in the 21st century and young women are treated in a way that is not equal nor just, it is not just an offense to the people of West California or to the women and girls of this nation, it is an offense to the ideals we hold as Americans.

Does anyone think Barack Obama is ready to utter these words as part of his  “decades-long fight against injustice and division” this time? Will Barack Obama stand with those who stand for justice?

Nope. Not gonna happen.

UPDATE: The contempt for women behind this display is especially poignant since the last person to die in a lynching assault in this country was actually female–6 year old Hanna Mack.

U.S. Military action inside Syrian border

In 2001 I pulled my shoulder and ended up in the doctor’s office. While the doc pulled and poked and tested my range of pain, he peppered me with questions about the middle east. Was Iraq unstable enough to break apart into separate Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish areas? What area was the most likely to cause a problem?

Syria, I said without blinking.

A lot has changed in the Middle East since then. I’m no longer in touch with the Arab street. But Syria has just blinked. And the U.S. has crossed borders for a new military action:

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – U.S. military helicopters launched an extremely rare attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people in a strike the government in Damascus condemned as “serious aggression.”

A U.S. military official said the raid by special forces targeted the foreign fighter network that travels through Syria into Iraq. The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area because Syria was out of the military’s reach.

“We are taking matters into our own hands,” the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

The attack came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an “uncontrolled” gateway for fighters entering Iraq.

But the official Syrian statement is even more outrageous.

Syria also calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and launch and immediate investigation into this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria,” the government statement said.

Nothing in there about the Syrian government investigating the use of Syrian territory for aggression against Iraq, is there.

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Sorting out the Software for the Western Data Passport Elite 320GB Portable Drive

Two weeks ago I wrote about my new Western Data Passport Elite 320 GB portable drive. At that time I had gotten as far as formatting the drive to use with a PC instead of a Mac.  It wasn’t as easy as the reviewers said it would be, but it wasn’t a nightmare either.  Just time consuming and a question of figuring out how to do something I’d never done before. So now I’m using the drive with no problem, right?  Not yet.

First there was the small matter of getting both my PC, which runs WindowsXP and my laptop, which runs VISTA to recognize the portable drive.  You’re supposed to be able to just plug the drive in and it will autorun through the installation process.  The way to disconnect the drive, they tell you in the user’s manual, is to click on the icon that says “remove drive safely”.  But my VISTA system wasn’t displaying that icon, so I had to run shutdown before disconnecting the drive. This week, that problem has healed itself and the drive is suddenly visible to the operating system.  But I’m not ready to rock and roll just yet. There’s still software to install.

So what software do I need to install to get myself up and running on my new toy?  How much of the included software is real software and how much is bloatware, or as they say “a demo”? The package doesn’t say anything about trial software.  But according to a review:

A generous five-year warranty is included with the product, as is a good wad of software including WDSync (a folder/e-mail/bookmarks synchronisation tool); WD Anywhere Backup (based on Memeo technology); a diagnostic tool; and a Drive Manager Status tool, which reports capacity and temperature from your system tray. There’s a great thicket of unneeded software as well, including a MioNet trial (allowing remote access to your computer’s files/desktop/webcam), Google’s Picasa, Desktop search and Toolbar, and Adobe Reader. Mac users are less endowed with just WDSync and WD Anywhere Backup, but we consider this a positive.

So the Mionet program is a demo?  But not WD Anywhere Backup or WD Sync? So I guess those are the programs I need to install.

“WD Anywhere Backup” program asks for a product key. I find it on a sticker at the bottom of the white “My Passport Elite” multilingual  Warranty Information booklet.  Backing up the recommended files to my VISTA system took about a half hour per 5 GB, or two hours.  But now I am trying to do the same backup on my XP system–the thing is supposed to “Sync” between computers and devices, right?–and it tells me I have 7 days left of the trial period and if I want it on multiple computers I have to buy it for thirty dollars. The product key can only be used on one computer, it says.

The back of the portable dirve package says the features include “backup software” and “sync & encryption software (Windows only)”. Nowhere does it say this is trial software.  The side of the package says “Automatic backup” and “Mionet Free remote access (Windows only)”. No mention of Mionet being trial software either. When you synchronize watches, you need more than one watch…so how can you synchronize only one computer?

Finally with the backup complete several hours later, I’m ready to take the portable drive to my other system.  But now a new problem.  I was unable to “remove drive safely” from the VISTA system–it kept telling me some files were being used by WD  Anywhere Backup–but where? what?   Don’t tell me you can’t remove this device without running shutdown and restarting the system. Fortunately restart did the trick and I was able to remove the drive.

And now the XP system with the “trial version” of  WD Anywhere Backup is deploying annoying little popup messages from the bottom row of icons informing me of various advantages of the product. I’m starting to think of disadvantages on my own.

I’ve already spent several hours this morning working with this device, but I’m still not ready to start using it.

To be continued.

Is Brookings, South Dakota funny?

Today’s Onion yields us the following diamond in the rough purportedly from Brookings, a non-fictional town in South Dakota:

BROOKINGS, SD—Local 11-year-old Dylan Adams entered the stage in childhood development Wednesday in which a boy feels the uncontrollable desire to run, jump, and touch the top of every doorframe he encounters. “It is perfectly natural for young males to start exhibiting a tendency to touch things that are slightly higher than they can reach from a normal standing position,” child psychologist Gerald Bakerfield said. “In many cases, the child is experimenting with his newfound ability to make his own choices, whether that means jumping to touch ceilings, street signs, or low-hanging tree branches.” Bakerfield added that Adams would soon progress from the jumping-and-touching-doorways phase to the crossing-your-arms-over-your-chest-turning-around-and-pawing-at-the-back-of-your-own-shoulders-to-make-it-seem-like-you’re-making-out-with-someone phase.

Some Onion pieces leave me Rolling On The Floor Laughing. Others merely transport me to a slightly quirky place. But this one doesn’t give me any visceral response at all. I just want to dissect it. And why not. According to Aristotle, “Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.”

So where is the joke here? First there is the psychologist. Psychology has a reputation among some as “the study of the obvious by the incompetent” as well as a propensity for advancing theories of development by stages. So is this a question of a psychologist making a comment about something many would find obvious? Or a comment about the field’s endless supply of development stage theories?

And why South Dakota? Is this a type of bumpkin joke? Or is South Dakota considered to be so common-sense oriented that it’s an unlikely place for a psychologist to make a comment, much less be quoted in a news service?

And why Brookings (so many historical buildings and not one photo)? Is Brookings funny?  Maybe the Campanile?  Hobo Day (the local homecoming parade)?

Maybe the Lake Woebegone style three Lutheran churches and one Methodist Church?

Or Nick’s Hamburger Shop on Main Street? Or maybe their old-fashioned attitude towards witchcraft?

If there is something even remotely tongue in cheek about Brookings, someone please point it out to me.

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Izbas, Le Corbusier, and Grain Elevators

A comment about Russian izbas–a sort of country cabin–from commenter AJP Crown on Language Hat has led me on an interesting visual digression into grain elevators and Modernist Movement architect Le Corbusier. The links are listed below.

Modernism is all right, I guess, being a sort of cousin to Deco. But Le Corbusier is a bit troubling as a supporter of the now discredited urban sprawl. He also originated the concept of slablike high-rises like Cabrini Green. These public housing projects used to litter Chicago’s south side and are in the process of being demolished.  Any visitor to Chicago who took a drive south on the Dan Ryan Expressway would always comment on the old smoke stains rising from the windows of one huge dilapidated building after another.

Still, some of Le Corbusier’s other projects are visually interesting.  These would be great buildings to have somewhere in the neighborhood as a destination for walks.  I wouldn’t care to live in one, though–there’s something soulless about them.

I much prefer the 1940’s style WPA projects.  A lot of these, like the Starved Rock Lodge in Illnois built by the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, were built by quite good craftsmen who were tickled pink just to have work.  They poured all of their skill into massive lodges with stone fireplaces and solid furniture made with quarter sawn oak and mortise and tenon joints. Walking into this type of building just gives me a comfortable feeling–maybe reminiscent of being spoiled by grandparents. It feels like the kind of place where you don’t have to wipe your feet.


High rise izba in Russia with disturbing proportions.

Russian museum izbas.

Le Corbusier

Four minute film–montage of Le Corbusier buildings.

List of links to photos of Le Corbusier architectural works.

Photographs of grain elevators

Some great photos of cylindrical grain elevators on rivers.

According to comments on this landscape architecture website, “Le Corbusier was completely fascinated by them, by their simplicity, honest use of material, and the fact that they were mostly conceived through function. In fact, according to Lisa Mahar-Keplinger in her slim volume on grain elevators (see link in post), he and along with Erich Mendelsohn and Walter Gropius had ‘no difficulty adopting it, both formally and symbolically, as a model for their international vision of architecture.'”

Typical midwestern grain elevators from a historical society here, here, and here.

A Canadian grain elevator being rescued–and appearing to move by itself in a Monty Python-esque manner across the screen.

Interiors–Photo of large granary here, 2 minute video of small granary here.

New uses for old grain elevators

Interior of grain elevator power station as museum.

Grain elevator as hotel-the Quaker Square Inn at Akron, Ohio.

“The Granary”–office space in Philadelphia here and here.

Rock-climbing gym in Bloomington (?), Illinois.

Student housing in Oslo, Norway. (photo on right by saipal)

The Silophone–a weird art/sound project in Montreal (click “about Silophone” circular target logo then click “concept”):

Silophone makes use of the incredible acoustics of Silo #5 by introducing sounds, collected from around the world using various communication technologies, into a physical space to create an instrument which blurs the boundaries between music, architecture and net art. Sounds arrive inside Silo #5 by telephone or internet. They are then broadcast into the vast concrete grain storage chambers inside the Silo. They are transformed, reverberated, and coloured by the remarkable acoustics of the structure, yielding a stunningly beautiful echo. This sound is captured by microphones and rebroadcast back to its sender, to other listeners and to a sound installation outside the building.

Condos from grain elevators at Lake Calhoun–Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Exterior sketch from architect here (scroll down to last page of photos at end of article); interior here (scroll down).

Taino: a dead language rises from the ashes

Today is the day when many bloggers write posts commemorating Columbus Day.  Even more write pieces celebrating the Native American contribution to the New World.   I was leaving my “Columbus had a Norwegian Map” slogan on a comment thread as my own ethnic Scandinavian take on the holiday when I came across a comment about the first edition of a Taino dictionary.


According to the message: “Taínos come from the Guaraní tribes from South America which migrated to the Caribbean islands.” Looking further, wikipedia informs us that Taino is one of the dead languages of the maritime branch of northern Maipurean family of South American languages and includes the dialects Baicawa in Hispaniola (now Haiti), Cayaba in Hispanola and the Keyes, Cubaba in Cuba and Hispanola, Eyeri in Boriquen (now Puerto Rico), and Lucayo in the Bahamas.

So Taino is a dead language–and now it has a dictionary?  Looking further, the dictionary seems to be the project of Puerto Ricans who have preserved some of their language in the mountainous regions of their country.  Why am I not surprised.

Last week I read somewhere that you don’t really know a language until you write a dictionary of it. How do you write a dictionary, I thought? That might be interesting to try. Then I forgot all about it until this week when some language buffs were buzzing about whether the ideal Chinese dictionary could be compiled with a donation of a million dollars from Bill Gates, or if it would take $50 million. So much for my hypothetical dictionary, I thought.

But take a look at these Tainos.  They don’t know a dictionary takes a million dollars and a bunch of impossible credentials.   They don’t even know their language is dead.  They just went ahead and did it. I kind of like these Taino folks, whoever they are.

Oh, and they have dance music.


Ramadan is over, Eid is over, time to retire the Kul ahm intum bxeer widget.

And to replace it?  What could be more appropriate than Insha’Allah? The phrase can function as a polite refusal, a pious sort of Murphy’s law, or just a reminder for stressed out types that everything is NOT under their control.


In the words of one American who lived in Guinea, the word Inshallah was tied up with ritual greetings and difficulties in transportation that made American-style punctuality impossible.

Now, I’ve learned to be very patient. I’ve also become more tolerant. I realize that I don’t have control over certain things, and that sometimes I must accept my fate and not get upset about unexpected events and problems. Also, instead of letting misunderstandings complicate a situation, I take the extra effort to talk about it until all the confusion is cleared up.

Good advice anywhere.

[Art calligraphy by Salma Arastu.]