Best of 2010

It’s entirely ridiculous for me to offer up an annual “best of” list. I don’t keep up with the latest and greatest. I’d rather plunder the riches of the past than fetishize the new.

Of the twenty or so books I read this past year, only one was published in 2010: The Heart of Higher Education by Parker Palmer and Arthur Zajonc. I could, of course, compile lists of the titles I enjoyed most regardless of when they came out: add Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry by Arthur Zajonc (2008), Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002), and Dark Green Religion by Bron Taylor (2009) to the aforementioned Heart of Higher Education. These were those most interesting books I read this year. I can’t help but notice that nonfiction outnumbers fiction in this short list, and there’s not a novel in sight. That’s a first. But all these books came out in the past decade — so much for “plundering the riches of the past.”

For music, my “discovery” list would be a tad more cumbersome. There would be a slew of tracks to contend with, but who really cares? So I’m sticking with the standard concept: a mix of music and audio bits from 2010.

This is so random it’s not even funny. I’m almost completely ignorant of what trends might be taking place in music over the last year. The only thing I even heard about was witch house, a.k.a. drag, (you know, the artists with the crazy black triangles ▲ and other unpronounceable names) and for all I know that subgenre is dead and buried (no pun intended).

And what about pix? I myself published 1,200+ photos online over the past year. If I could pick out the top dozen or so that might be the most meaningful list of all… but the size of the task is daunting.

Oh, what the hell. I’m on vacation. I’ve got little better to do.
Continue reading Best of 2010

Xmas Xfire

Strange times we live in. Here’s a Christian pastor, C. Joshua Villines, who says we should take Christ out of Christmas. Compare that to noted Pagan, T. Thorne Coyle, who wishes we’d all put Christ back in Christmas. They both make interesting points. As far as I can tell these two essays were written independently within a few days of one another, but they make a wonderfully perplexing point-counterpoint.

Here’s a couple of choice quotes. See if you can tell who wrote which.

Christmas, at least how it is celebrated in the U.S. overculture, has become a sort of Frankenstein’s monster. The sewing together of old Pagan customs, Christian theology, and rampant consumerism has wrought a beast that is ugly, fearsome, noisy, and out of control. Christmas has so overtaken us, that even many Jews have upgraded what used to be a fairly minor holiday into a gift exchanging extravaganza. It is hard not to at least try to compete with the juggernaut that is Santa’s sleigh.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day is not, in fact, the “Christmas Season.” It has become the Christmas Shopping Season, but that is a very different animal. Identifying this time of year with Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity, Jesus, the Nativity or anything theological. Instead, advertisers and shopkeepers use the “Christmas Season” as an emotional lure to persuade people to buy more things they don’t really need. Even Christian fundamentalists realize this.

I don’t really have any wisdom of my own to add, except to note that it does seem evident that whatever “Christmas Season” there is seems to have shifted. Once upon a time we thought of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” which as any New Orleanian knows run from Christmas to Epiphany, aka Twelfth Night. In other words, the season started at Christmas. I found further evidence of this in some old recordings from my grandparents. They noted that in their childhood, a tree would be erected at home only on Christmas Eve, after they had gone to bed; they only saw the tree on Christmas morning. I assume the tree remained up for at least the twelve days if not longer. But today the run-up to Christmas is is so overwhelming that even many enthusiasts are thoroughly and completely sick of it by the time the 25th rolls around. This shift from a post-Christmas to a pre-Christmas season seems significant to me.

In yet another essay, the always fascinating Bron Taylor introduces a new phrase — new to me, at least — and one that resonates: The War on Solstice. Good stuff, and probably the best reflection of where my head is at now. Check it out.


Now we’re taking some time to visit family and friends for Christmas and other generalized festivity.

Just in case you’re wondering, I am healing up nicely from my recent surgery. And so, in the spirit of the hostilidays, I’d like to present this special and oh-so-appropriate video.

Cheers! I’m having an Old Horizontal as I type this. Do love me some barleywine, and it seems like the perfect thing for Xmas Eve.

Happy Solstice

Ready

We exchanged presents to celebrate the Solstice. But when, exactly, does one celebrate? Is the Solstice a day or discrete moment? It’s both, I guess. This year the Solstice took place at 5:38 PM, Central Time. But that’s a matter of celestial mechanics. In terms of real human experience, it’s not a moment but a day, the shortest day, and the longest night of the year. So it seemed to make sense to me that we’d begin our celebrations this evening. We each opened a present. Tomorrow morning, we’ll open the rest and start preparing for our northward journey.

I wish I could say we lit a candle or something of that nature, but we didn’t. I was feeling a little out of sorts. I’d walked too much during the day, pushing Persephone to daycare in the stroller, and apparently that was too much exertion after my surgery Friday. We ended up joining Sue and Steve and friends for their weekly pizza throwdown at Theo’s. I brought a globe and gave a little talk to the kiddies about the North Pole (think Santa) and basically explained the Solstice concept, and we had a little toast.

But exchanging presents is a fine way to celebrate. I’d like to brag about the original artwork which I commissioned for the occasion, but that will have to wait until I can take a photo that does it justice.

Thirty-Four Months

Carousel

Dear Persephone,

You’re thirty-four months old today, but there’s a lot of other things going on as well. For one, there was a full lunar eclipse last night. I explained how the moon would fall into the shadow of the earth, and you’d seemed to understand. I even got you out of bed for it and we looked at the moon briefly, but given that it was around 3:00AM you were a little groggy. You wanted a flashlight — I’m still not sure why.

And this evening it’s the solstice. We each opened one present tonight, and tomorrow morning we’re opening the rest. I spent some time today assembling an easel for you but you haven’t seen it yet. You’ve seen the presents accumulating under the tree, and you’re excited about them, but in no way impatient. I suppose that might be different in years to come.

A month ago we were waiting for my parents to arrive for a Thanksgiving visit. As we sat on the front porch, acorns fell from the oak tree in front of our house. That led you to exclaim: “We need to put them back up!”

I think you enjoyed hanging out with your grandparents. Just after they left you seemed to experience one of those linguistic growth spurts. Suddenly you were formulating complex sentences, such as “When you go fast, it makes me cold.” (That was on our morning bike ride.) I suspect it’s typical for little kids to develop quickly after holidays, when having more prolonged and intensive interaction with adults.

More recently we attended your first dance recital. You’ve been taking lessons in ballet and tap dance for a few months now. At the event they served beer, wine and turkey gumbo. You made it almost all the way through the your age-group’s performance before you lost interest.

Speaking of dancing, one day you started drumming on the toilet seat and singing. You commanded me to dance, and I complied. That was one of those moments I would forget completely if I didn’t write it down. But I want to remember it.

Broadcast television seems increasingly anachronistic, but we still tune in. We watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with you, muting the commercials. It was really perfect for your age. The look of pure joy on your face made me feel like I was seeing the program for the first time.

You also watch cartoons on Saturday mornings via broadcast. Your favorite show is Busytown Mysteries. Unfortunately we do not mute those commercials, and I was alarmed to note you’ve memorized many of them.

Your favorite activity these days seems to be hiding. One day your mother used a sheet to make the dining room table into a fort, and you’ve been hooked on the idea of hiding under that table ever since. Or under another table. Or just about anywhere, actually. Sometimes I’ll run upstairs to get something and when I return you’re still sitting on the couch where I left you, but with your hands over your eyes. You think if you can’t see me, then I can’t see you.

For months stories about “Sephie and Roger” have been part of your bedtime routine. But just recently you’ve lost interest in those two. Now you just want to hear tales of “Dada’s school.” I usually just relate the details of my day at work, but on the weekends and holidays I have to get creative.

One night you surprised me by saying, as I tucked you in: “I love my butterfly quilt. I love butterflies and cats and trees and parks and houses and rocks and people and everything!” I thought that was just about the sweetest thing I ever heard.

Happy Solstice, baby.

Partiality

3:15 AM, New Orleans

Partial

Of course this is a terrible photo, but it proves I was there. I caught some zzz, then got up at 1:45AM. The total eclipse was in full effect. A half dozen people were hanging out in the street in front of Banks Street Bar, gazing upward. I went around the way to Michael’s house, and we raised a toast together, a cocktail of my own invention, brandy and rye whiskey and pecan liqueur and bitters. I called it a “Brown Moon Rising.”

When I got back home I roused Persephone to take a look at the eclipse out her bathroom window. I’d explained the concept earlier, but now she was understandably groggy. I’m not sure she even really remembered the next morning. Fortunately she went back to sleep easily.

I was not so lucky. After lying in bed for a while, I got back up to eat a bowl of cereal and read and check out the moon again.

From a visual standpoint, I found the partial eclipse much more interesting than the total. The total eclipse was just a funky-looking moon, but watching the shadow of the earth sliding across the surface of the moon? That’s drama.

Eclipse + Solstice

An interesting pair of celestial events is in the offing. In addition to the solstice (Tuesday 5:38PM central) there’s a full lunar eclipse which should be visible in North America all night after midnight tonight — weather permitting. Unfortunately, here in New Orleans we’ve got a good chance of cloud cover all night. But it’s the first full lunar eclipse in three years, and the first coincidence with the solstice in something like half a millennium.

Phases of the Moon

Persephone is very much into the moon. It’s one of those aspects of the natural world we can appreciate even though we’re in the city. She knows all the phases, more or less, and considers the moon her sister. I’ve explained to her the concept of an eclipse, though I’m not sure she understood. So, if the weather cooperates, and if the eclipsed moon looks interesting enough, I may rouse her out of be in the middle of the night to take a peek.

Partial eclipse starts at 12:32 AM (Central Time), with the total eclipse beginning at 1:41 AM. The total eclipse will last 72 minutes, until 2:53 AM. Or so I extrapolate.

Moderation in All Things

After much dithering and even more mulling, I’ve decided to implement a new policy regarding comments on this blog. From this point forward, I’ll be moderating all comments. In other words, until I approve a comment, it won’t appear here for public view.

In the past, this was semi-automated. Certain posts would be flagged for moderation, but most comments from actual human beings (as opposed to automated spambots) would just come right through.

I’m a big fan of the first amendment and freedom of speech, but that applies to the public sphere. This blog is akin to a personal newsletter, privately published by yours truly, primarily to gratify myself through narcissistic ego-tripping. I enjoy sharing with others, and hearing back from readers. However, this not a constitutional forum and has never functioned as such.

So far, I’ve been fortunate to have a base of readers who are extraordinarily respectful and thoughtful, with very few exceptions over the years. But this being the wide open internet, there’s no guarantee that such good behavior will continue. Someone could post a death threat here tomorrow. I’d feel pretty bad about that.

Given the highly personal nature of my writing, and the fact that I now have progeny to worry about, it just doesn’t seem wise to leave this venue wide open for any and all to say whatever they want.

So I’m going to exercise some prior restraint. Actually, prior restraint is a technical term, and I’m probably using it incorrectly. What I mean to say is that all comments will be held for review from this point on. Given the generally low volume of comments here, I don’t think this will be overly burdensome.

Inquiring minds will wonder what sort of criteria I will use to separate the wheat from the chaff. I regard the comment section here as akin to a discussion in my living room. That’s the level of decorum and civility I hope to see. Any dialog that I wouldn’t tolerate in my living room will also not be tolerated here. Negative examples include:

  • Blatant spam
  • More subtle varieties of spam
  • Hate speech
  • Threats of violence
  • Incoherent ranting

That’s not an exhaustive list, just some ideas off the top of my head.

Let me also make clear this isn’t about shutting down oppositional viewpoints. I love hearing from people who disagree with me. I enjoy a good challenge to my deeply held convictions. Longtime readers can vouch for this.

But make no mistake — by exercising prior restraint (or whatever the correct term might be) I may actually be taking on a greater level of culpability. Since I am manually approving everything, the legal view might be that I am tacitly endorsing what you write. Therefore, I will err on the side of caution. If you don’t come correct, your comment will not be approved. You will not be notified. Your words will softly and suddenly vanish away. That’s all. There will be no recourse, no appeal. If you don’t like the policy, you are of course free to start your own blog.

Hopefully I’ve been clear and this makes sense to everyone. If you have questions, you can post a comment.

Vasectomy: Before & After Photos, Plus Video

I got a vasectomy today. As promised, here are the before and after photos, and even a video.

Before

Before

After

After

Video

Many thanks to Michael for driving me and taking the pix.

The procedure was, as advertised, no big deal. It took about five or ten minutes. The doctor praised my attitude and my anatomy. Apparently hanging loose has its advantages, if you know what I mean.

Two Dozen

Here’s two sets of a dozen pictures each. For maximum enjoyment, view each slideshow in fullscreen mode. (A button will appear in the lower right corner after you click play.) The first batch is over 40 years old, the second batch was collected (from our refrigerator) over the last three months, but both were scanned yesterday.

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video. Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

I’m especially grateful to Mom for bringing me that first set of photos on her recent Thanksgiving visit.

Five-Star Xmas

When I whipped up a Xmas mix three years ago, I had to engage in some serious scraping to round it out. Times have changed, and my collection has expanded. I can now present a collection of seventeen tracks with zero compromises. This is everything I consider necessary for a Five Star Xmas.

Enjoy! I guess I should add a few caveats. This is probably not safe for work. Parental guidance is strongly advised. There are dirty words, a measure of irreverence, and some loud raucous parts. If that’s not your idea of a good time, you may want to look elsewhere for your holiday cheer.

Frigophobia

It’s been cold in New Orleans lately. The last two nights we’ve had freeze warnings. I don’t think it actually froze, though.

Fortunately the new insulation under our house seems to be making a huge difference in terms of our general comfort level. The energy savings remain to be seen.

I still find cold weather a challenge. My body seems to be deeply offended by any temperature below 70ºF. I’m not really comfortable until we hit 75 or 80º. It looks like we’ll get close to such temperatures again in a couple days, but right now it’s just hitting 40º and it was much colder on the morning bike ride — especially factoring the wind.

When venturing out in the morning, I gird myself my remembering that a) I come from hardy Norwegian stock, and b) I lived for a year by the arctic circle. I even have a photo to prove the latter.

Polcirkeln

It doesn’t look too arctic in that picture, but it was taken in August.

But back to cold mornings here and now: I bundle Persephone up thoroughly, with coat, hood, mittens and a scarf over her face to protect her tender cheeks from windburn. She’s only got a few minutes on the bike, though; I have a longer ride after dropping her off. It’s really not too bad until I turn off Jeff Davis onto Drexel Drive. That’s always the windiest part of my ride. Not sure why. Maybe the Washington Avenue Canal has something to do with it.

And yet I really don’t mind a cold and windy bike ride. It’s a brief ordeal. I dress appropriately, and I get through it. I’m active and moving the whole time.

No, it’s the sedentary parts of my day that are more of a challenge. When I get into my office my body temperature is usually elevated from the exertion, such that I can’t tell how cold it really is. This morning the thermometer told me it was 61º in here. After an hour or so, my body temperature subsides to its normal level and I really start feeling the cold in my fingers.

I’ve never understood why I have a tendency to sweat when I’m cold, but it certainly adds to the general unpleasantness. Some basic net searches turn up plenty of info about people who sweat in all climates, but that’s not me. I don’t sweat excessively in the heat. It’s only in cold weather that this bothers me, in particular when my feet sweat. Anyone with cold, wet feet is truly miserable. My fingers are cold to the bone. No, I don’t have Raynaud’s. They are just uncomfortably cold, not discolored or painful. And my palms are sweating. What the hell is going on?

When I mentioned this to my podiatrist last week, he made a remark about it being a “sympathetic reaction.” That phrase led me to this:

Also sweating responds to your emotional state. So when you are nervous, anxious or afraid, there is an increase in sympathetic nerve activity in your body as well as an increase in epinephrine secretion from your adrenal gland. These substances act on your sweat glands, particularly those on your palms of your hand and your armpits, to make sweat. Thus, you feel a “cold” sweat.

This would seem to bear out a long-held suspicion of mine — that I’m sweating because of anxiety about the cold. In other words, it’s psychological.

In fact, the name of my second, abortive blogging attempt from way back in April 2003 (a good year before I started this one) says it all: Frigophobia.

The universe is basically a cold place. Heat is a mysterious aberration. No one really knows where it came from, but we’re pretty sure that it is slowly going away. The universe is cooling, and in time it will chill out completely.

This morning it was around 60º F when I left the house. I was wearing a light sweater, a shirt, and an undershirt. After a ten minute bike ride to get to work, my hands were still like ice.

The air conditioning is out of control in my office. It’s so cold we all have to wear sweaters. We all run space heaters in our offices to offset the air conditioning, which cannot be turned off or adjusted by us directly.

I’ve been reading about Raynaud’s Phenomenon and Raynaud’s Disease. Many people have suggested that I might suffer from this, but years ago a doctor told me I didn’t. I’m inclined to trust her diagnosis. The coldness of my hands and feet does not come in the form of attacks. My fingers do not discolor. I do not experience pain.

I don’t have Raynaud’s. I just have cold hands.

My hands are cold. My feet are also cold, sometimes colder than my hands, sometimes warmer. The rest of me is fine.

I used to worry about my “core temperature” dropping. But it is very unlikely that my core temperature has anything to do with it. Indeed, the ability of the human body to maintain the same basic core temperature for many decades is a marvel. I’m not going to freeze solid and die anytime soon.

Two concerns dominate the thoughts of one who fears cold, besides the obvious factor of temperature; these twin concerns are: Moisture and Insulation.

Nothing is eternal. Even the idea of eternity is a fraud. Time is only temporary. The universe is ending, slowly, dying the Cold Death.

Calling it a phobia is probably overly dramatic. But it seems possible that my sweating is caused by anxiety. I wonder where that came from? What’s the root of this anxiety? Perhaps that year up by the Arctic Circle has something to do with it. It was a fairly grim time in my life. In any event, I wonder if I could overcome the anxiety and be more comfortable. It seems plausible but I’m not sure where to start.

Acknowledgment

A package arrived at the office Friday containing the latest edition of a psych textbook, hot off the presses.

Psychology Applied to Modern Life

It’s Psychology Applied to Modern Life by Wayne Weiten, Dana S. Dunn and Elizabeth Yost Hammer. That’s right, my boss is one of the co-authors. We (meaning her staff) knew a little something about this book, because we were with her through every step of the writing process. No drama, however small, was left unexplored. We shared her pain at every excruciating deadline. But it’s all good, because look at the acknowledgments.

Acknowledgment

Famous at last. OK, there are too many “finallys,” but still it is always nice to be acknowledged, and even nicer in hardcover. When Olivia saw this she was so happy she showed it to everyone on our floor.

Note that I am listed as “challenging.”

A Few Photos of Habans Post-K

Yesterday the verdicts came down in the Henry Glover case. According to the morning paper:

Federal prosecutors won the first convictions in their sprawling probe of police misconduct in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as a jury Thursday found three New Orleans police officers guilty in a high-stakes case accusing them of killing Henry Glover, burning his body and fashioning an elaborate cover-up that kept the truth hidden for four years.

The jury of five men and seven women, however, acquitted two officers completely. The jury also cleared two defendants of charges that they beat two men who tried to help Glover after he was shot by former officer David Warren behind an Algiers strip mall.

I don’t have much to add to that. Certainly I don’t have any deep insights. I have to admit I have not been following the case as closely as I probably should have been. But I know this is a historic case and an important moment for the city, and I want to remember it.

There is one aspect of the case that stirs personal memories. Some of the action went down at Habans Elementary, the school where Xy was teaching right until Katrina hit.

I visited the school on October 12, 2005, a rough day for me, and I saw for myself that the building was still being used as a SWAT headquarters.

Later, I found myself visiting Habans again and again, hauling supplies to Xy’s new school, Eisenhower Elementary. What a bizarre time that was. Habans was still functioning as a police camp. Here are some photos I took there in December.

School Boats

Class(bed)room

Police Occupation

Old Chalk

The final big haul took place in January, 2006, and we got an assist from some of the cops.

Unloading

SWAT, USMC, SWAT

That’s Capt. Jeff Winn in the tan cap. I’ve run into him a few times over the years. Some of the SWAT types hanging out at Habans frankly scared me, but Capt. Winn always struck me as a good guy. That’s a comment on his interpersonal skills; obviously I’m in no way qualified to comment on his conduct as an officer.

He testified in the Glover case but wasn’t charged with anything. According to an earlier report in the TP:

At the end of his closing argument, DeSalvo switched his attention to McRae’s commander during the storm, Capt. Jeff Winn, who led the NOPD’s Special Operations Division. Winn testified that he told McRae to move the car, but knew nothing about the fact that the officer had set fire to the vehicle.

Winn also testified that after the storm, he didn’t see the top chiefs of the Police Department, at one point saying he essentially ran the department in that first week, coordinating rescues and anti-looting patrols.

“Capt. Winn, here, is the true hero of the storm,” DeSalvo said. “Ask yourself what would have happened to this city but for Jeff Winn. Ask what would have happened to this city but for Greg McRae.”

Yesterday, McRae was convicted of burning Henry Glover’s body. Winn was never charged with anything.

I wonder what might have become of the Keenon McCann case? McCann filed a lawsuit against NOPD for shooting him on September 1, 2005. Specifically it was Winn and Dwayne Scheuermann who shot him.

Scheuermann was one of the cops indicted in the Glover case. He was charged with beating Glover’s brother, as well as destroying evidence and obstructing the investigation. He was found not guilty on all counts.

As for McCann, he was lured outside his home and murdered in August 2008, a case that remains unsolved.

I wonder if the feds are investigating that too.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fish Balls

Yesterday we had our annual holiday open house here at the Center, and faculty came from all across campus to enjoy a variety of treats. I’d say it was pretty successful, in that we saw a number of faculty who haven’t darkened our door way for a good long while, which is the whole point this exercise in hospitality. Credit my boss who made the morning rounds inviting all the academic departments.

Fish Balls

Some people wondered how it was that a gentile like myself ended up bring gefilte fish to the party. The answer is a bit convoluted. We have to go back to our open house three years ago, when my brandy balls were upstaged by my boss’s husband’s bigger bourbon balls. Ever since then I’ve been plotting my revenge, trying to figure how I could bring the ultimate dish — balls that would admit no answer.

At our last staff meeting, it dawned on me that fish balls would make a pretty strong statement. I found a bunch of recipes, mostly for Asian-style dishes that are served hot. That would present logistical problems, besides which cold fish balls would be much more impressive. A net search on this phrase led me to recipes for gefilte fish, which are essentially chopped fish balls, typically served cold. I like pickled herring so I figured I might like gefilte. I believe they are more traditional at Passover, but none of my co-workers here at the Center are Jewish, so I figured they wouldn’t know any better. I consulted Liprap just to make sure that serving gefilte fish during Chanukah wouldn’t be considered offensive.

Liprap also advised me that I could buy commercially prepared gefilte fish at any local grocery. Awesome, that saved me the trouble of actually cooking it myself. Nevertheless I tried to pass it off as homemade. I printed out a recipe and put it on the table beside the gefilte — which I served in a nice ceramic dish. Alas, one of our guests asked me directly, “Did you make this yourself?” I’d pretty much fooled my co-workers up to that point, but I couldn’t tell a brazen lie, so my ruse was revealed.

For the first part of the day, my fish balls were mocked and reviled. My co-workers were in fact openly revolted by the very sight of the dish, to say nothing of the aroma. I actually felt sorry for the very first person who sampled the gefilte (Jason from Philosophy) as it was clear he was not enjoying it; I told him he didn’t have to finish it, and he was plainly relieved.

Then I had to try one myself. I pride myself on trying new things, but I must confess I found it challenging. I choked the whole thing down, however. They’re quite large. The horseradish definitely helped.

Not everyone was so squeamish. Late in the day, we had a run on the fish balls, with no fewer than four faculty of diverse backgrounds apparently relishing the dish. Two of these folks may or may not have been Jewish, but the other two definitely were not. A Japanese teacher raved about how much she liked them. Most intriguing to me was the Muslim historian who wolfed down a fish ball and then went back for seconds.

When our open house was over, I felt validated. The gefilte fish was a source of intrigue and humor all day long. I don’t think I will ever eat it again — at least I hope not — though I have to admit this recipe for salmon gefilte looks intriguing.

How will I top this? Next year, I’ll probably have to take Frank’s advice from 2007 and make spotted dick.

Three Strikes & We’re In

Our friend James is kind of like the brother I never had. We’ve even been known to quarrel from time to time. I remember some years ago when James went back to school and started studying history in earnest. That he’s now presenting original research at the Louisiana State Museum fills me with a feeling I can only describe as fraternal pride.

Second Thursdays: Three Strikes & We're In

The subject is a fascinating one. Here’s the official write-up.

Historian James Conrad will explore the rocky but rich history of the New Orleans public school teachers efforts to gain better pay and benefits in the 1960s and 1970s. The New Orleans Public School teachers struck in 1966, 1969, and 1978. During the 1966 and 1969 strikes, the teacher unions were still divided along racial lines. The Local American Federation of Teachers 527, a predominantly African-American union, led the strik…es of 1966 and 1969 with little success. In 1972, the various unions merged to become the United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO). UTNO struck in 1978 and was successful, after teachers formed an interracial union able to work as a unified force in having their demands met. Their unification led to UTNO being recognized by the school board as the main representative for teachers in the New Orleans Public School System.

UTNO Strike
United Teachers of New Orleans, Local 527 Collection, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans

I really want to be there but I’m afraid parental responsibilities may preclude my attendance. So if you can make it, please heckle James on my behalf.

Thursday, December 9 · 6:00pm – 9:00pm
The Cabildo, Louisiana State Museum
751 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA

Free and open to the public.
Wine and appetizers provided by Friends of the Cabildo.
For more information contact Brittany Mulla at 504-568-8526 or [email protected]

This event is listed on Facebook.

Cold Front

Another cold front passed through our area this weekend. On Saturday it was unseasonably warm, on Sunday unseasonably cold, and all day long Sunday I felt out of sorts — not quite right — like my body was out of tune. Nothing severe, but a tiny headache, a touch of fatigue, a slightly upset stomach, general irritability and uneasiness. It adds up.

I found reference to this in an article by Jon Wright.

Perhaps the most stressful weather condition is the passing of cold and warm fronts. A cold front coming through your “neck of the woods” means more than just a drop in temperature. It also means complex changes in the barometric pressure, wind direction, humidity, and even pollutants that may be carried into a forecast area. All of these changes affect our bodies, our endocrine systems, our nervous systems, and our cardiovascular systems.

I do not like cold fronts. I generally don’t enjoy cold weather, period, but as noted above the passing of a cold front entails so much more than that. I swear I feel the drop in pressure deep inside my gut. I’m wondering what I can do to offset these feelings when the next one comes through. Do I need to stock up on calcium, phosphates, sodium, magnesium? Should I regulate my blood-sugar? I wonder if my hypothalamus and pituitary gland are out of whack, and if so what I can do to promote their function.

At least this was a dry front. I really don’t enjoy those cold fronts that drive storms before them. I would like to learn to relish such events instead of dreading them.

Meanwhile we are bracing for the coldest weather of the season so far overnight. We might even see some frost. We’ll be putting our new insulation to the test. I think I noticed a big improvement this morning, in terms of the air temperature underfoot. But the morning bike ride was tough.

Cross Reference

Two headlines from today’s news caught my eye. Each is bad enough on its own, but taken together they are exponentially more infuriating.

So we learn a couple things.

Now it’s clear why BP was blocking access and obfuscating all attempts to estimate the flow of oil from their well. They’re on the hook for $4,300 per barrel spilled. Futhermore, we now know where all that spilled oil mysteriously disappeared. It’s at the bottom of the Gulf, and everything is dead there.

Of course, I’m not supposed to complain about any of this for fear a moratorium will further damage the local economy which is so dependent on offshore drilling operations.