Last spring I was cynical when my students and I received pandemic kits from the Illinois Faith-Based Emergency Preparedness Initiative. Illinois received $20 million from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and used it to fund grants to African-American and Latino churches for “preparedness information and resources”. At the time it looked to me like a sneaky way to get around the constitutional separation of church and state and give money to particular religions, but I took the chocolate energy bar out of the kit, ate it, and kept my mouth shut.

Now my Mexican students tell me that Mexico City is shut down.  School has been canceled and nobody went to mass Sunday. Where there used to be crowds, the streets are deserted, and those who do go out are wearing masks. Sitting in a Mexican restaurant last night, I watched non-stop news coverage of “Gripe Mortal” on Univision. So far there are 149 dead, some 1900 hospitalized, and masks being passed out everywhere. Today the Mexican government closed all restaurants, except for take-out. Take-out?

Hmm. Maybe it’s time to check my pandemic kit and see what’s in it. Here’s the inventory:

img_3743green safety glow light stick

whistle made in China on a green rope

Coast Guard approved packet of drinking water (recommended: 4 packets per day)

packet of tissues

small box with band aides, gauze pad, towelette, alcohol preps, and ibuprofen (with an expiration date of 3-2009–oopsie!)

plastic bag with  hand sanitizer, hand wipes, more alcohol wipes, disposable thermometers, a pair of gloves, and 2 masks

Yay. I’ve got masks.  And I’ve got the government pandemic website.

But I’ve still got one question.  If you got President Ford’s swine flu vaccine back in 1976, and did not die suddenly or become paralyzed from Guillain-Barre Syndrome at the time, are you still protected?

Posted in Curiosities. Comments Off on Pandemic

Jordan’s King Abdullah: “Israel is at a critical juncture…”

Jordan’s King Abdullah was optimistic as usual about the possibilities of peace in the Middle East when he talked to NPR’s Michele Kelemen yesterday.  The transcript and a link to the audio are here.  Some notable sound bites:

The core problem in the Middle East is the Israeli- Palestinian one. From that resonates all the other problems that we have and most people in the Middle East understand that this is the core issue. And so we’ve got to be very careful that if economic outreach is going to be a substitute for a two-state solution, then it’s not going to work.

On the Palestinian side, more than 85 percent want their Palestinian leaders to have a negotiation of peace with the Israelis. Even in Israel the overwhelming majority of the population still wants a negotiated settlement. And so it’s really empowering the people to convince their politicians that peace is the only way out as opposed to the other way around at this stage.

…Israel, I think, is at a critical juncture: whether it wants to be …integrated into the neighborhood or whether it wants to continue to be Fortress Israel. And what Fortress Israel means is no two-state solution; therefore, tension and violence between Israelis and Arabs/Israelis and Muslims, which nobody can afford. This is a small world and we’re all affected by it

Posted in King Abdullah II, Middle East, Palestine. Comments Off on Jordan’s King Abdullah: “Israel is at a critical juncture…”

Pullman: World’s Most Perfect Town 1896

The historic Pullman neighborhood at dusk after a freak hailstorm. (Images are clickable.)


pullman2 pullman3

Sometimes the view from the back is more interesting.


pullman7 pullman5 img_3683
(Pullman town architect Solon Spencer) Beman rarely discussed his work, and when he did, he did it laconically. At the opening of one of his buildings in Terre Haute, Indiana, he quoted an architect in Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit:

My friends… my duty is to build, not speak; to act, not to talk; to deal with marble, stone and brick, not language.

(Source: Pullman museum website)

According to one of the residents:

We are born in a Pullman house, fed from the Pullman shop, taught in the Pullman school, catechized in the Pullman church, and when we die we shall be buried in the Pullman cemetery and go to the Pullman hell.

(source: about company towns and about the labor movement)

A Martian Painter

Minuit sur le lagon [Midnight on the lagoon]

Midi sur le lagon [Noon at the lagoon]

Siganus Sutor: “From a Martian painter I know.The paintings were done before the picture was taken and I don’t think the photographer saw the paintings before taking his photo. Or maybe he saw them?”

Bleu du fond [Blue background]

Lever du jour, tombé de la nuit [Sunrise, nightfall]

Siganus Sutor: “And there are also these ones. The first one has an extraodinary blue. The two others paintings, “Dawn” and “Dusk”, are much darker but they are interesting, especially when placed next to each other as on this photo (actually they shouldn’t be touching one another).”

I have separated the two paintings with a white line.  The French I managed with Google Translate.  Click on a picture to see it larger.

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Rothko Seascapes

Okay, that one wasn’t really by Mark Rothko, it was by Siganus Sutor, a Martian in the Indian Ocean. Here is some real Rothko.

rothko rothko-blu-and-rose rothko-blue rothko-mark-blue-and-grey rothko_blue seascape-sig2 rothko-chapel-houston-texas rothko-dark-greens-on-blue-with-blue-band seascape-sig3 seascape-sig4
Yes, I snuck in another one or two of Sig’s just to see if you could spot them.

Happy Spring Break

Happy Spring Break.. and Happy Easter. There’s nothing like a Chocolate Holiday.

Posted in Goats. Comments Off on Happy Spring Break

Viking Horned Helmets

viking-reproduction-helmet1Viking have horns on their helmets? Nope. Only in Hollywood.

At least that’s what everyone thought until an April 1st news article in the Council for British Archaeology revealed Vikings may have worn horned helmets after all.

Millinery specialist Professor Paul Norn of the University of Reinstädt explains all:

It is clear that the helmet was worn with one horn up and one down. Equally important is the fact that it was worn fore and aft not side-to-side, as the front horn was worn down to provide a nose guard. These guards in metal are clearly portrayed on the Bayeux tapestry on the Normans (who were themselves descended from the ‘Norse Men’). In the past people were shorter, so the rear horn pointed upwards so that the Vikings could find one another in long grass. By 1066 the rear horn was unnecessary as the Normans rode horses (again evidenced in the Bayeux tapestry) and so were now visible in all situations.

“…the rear horn pointed upwards so that the Vikings could find one another in long grass.” hee hee.

Yes, it was an April Fool’s Day joke.

The helmet in the photo is a museum reproduction I was borrowing for a little, uh, light pillaging shopping.