Friday, September 30, 2005

Today's Quiz

From today's reasoning class:

Short Test 3

I. Identify the terms with the most emotive meaning in this passage, then rewrite it as a logical argument in emotionally neutral terms.
In male dominant culture, "kinky" is the most prized of all the sexbot sub-classes. Kinky women express the greatest and most dude-affirming allegiance to male supremacy by their willingness to endure the most pain for the dubious pleasure of gratifying male horndoggitude. … I further assert that sadomasochism, which glorifies like no other -ism the dominance/submission dynamic, represents the absolute zenithical epitome of patriarchal ideology. Which would be no big whoop if patriarchy were the bee's knees, but I further further assert that S&M is a totally bogus practice because patriarchal ideology sucks the bag.
--Twisty Faster

II. Which of the following are terms?

kinky, further, sadomasochism, the absolute zenithical epitome of patriarchal ideology, horndoggitude, dude-affirming, sucks the bag.

Note: A word that is made up on the spot (what linguists call a “neologism”) is perfectly legitimate if the audience can immediately identify (1) what the word means and (2) its role in the sentence. Furthermore, if you know the role of a word is in the sentence, you know enough to determine whether it is a term.

III. Identify purpose of the following definitions. Give reasons for your answers.

6. “Abortion” means “the deliberate murder of a human fetus.”

7. Some anthropologists define “culture” as “a set of attributes and products of human societies, and therewith of mankind, that are extrasomatic and transmissible by mechanisms other than biological heredity.”

8. “Main Entry: wal-la-by
Pronunciation: ’wä-la-bē
Function: noun
Inflected Form: plural wallabies also wallaby
Etymology: Dharuk (Australian aboriginal language of the Port Jackson area) walabi, waliba
Date: circa 1798

: any of various small or medium-sized kangaroos (especially genus Macropus)”

—Webster’s 11th Collegiate.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Correction and retraction regarding suicide girls

Aparantly I and many others misread the Suicide Girls' statement about withdrawing pictures from the SGs' website. John Markos O'Neill in the comments for an earlier post, links to a page at Boing Boing where an SG represetantive explains that they were not contacted directly by the FBI asking them to remove pictures, but removed the images preemptively. While this is still a case of a chilling effect on speech, it nullifies my claim that the act of censorship was caused by the Christian Rights' neurotic fear of Goths.

Boing Boing also discusses a dispute between SG and its models which indicates that SG may not be the land of perfect feminist porn after all.

Some recent racist remarks by prominent Republicans

Bill Bennett on his radio show, Morning in America:

"[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down"
(from Media Matters, via Rox Populi and her ever changing graphic design.)

Rep. Richard Baker (R-LA):
"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."
(from CNN, item about half way down the page, via Gretnasucks.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What were they afraid of, part II.

The NYTimes has another, longer and more detailed, piece up showing that most of the reports of violent crime after Katrina were simply false.

Represetative quote:
During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the head of the New Orleans Police Department's sex crimes unit, Lt. David Benelli, said he and his officers lived inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end, they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other attacks had not happened.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

First post about Greenwood farm visit.

Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.

My first post is on the class website here. There are plenty of pictures, including a baby calf licked by its mom. Go take a look and comment, and maybe you will inspire my students to actually comment and use the blog that is supposed to be for their benefit.

Michael Brown: It is not FEMA's job to manage emergencies

A quick note before I go on my factory farm field trip.

Michael Brown just told congress that "the Federal Emergency Management Agency had gotten a bum rap because many people incorrectly believe it serves as something of a federal rapid-response force." (quote from NYT) {added: The NYT has changed the posted article so that the quote I had is no longer in there.)

But this is what it says on the web site for DHS, which houses FEMA
In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.

What part of "primary responsibility" don't you understand?

Factory Farm Field Trip

My environmental class is visiting a factory dairy today, known in the business as a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation.) I’m doing some last minute cramming so I can ask good questions. You, the internet, can see my notes.

Background: We had a big manure spill around here. On August 11, three million gallons of liquid manure spilled into the Black River near Lowville from the Marks Farm, killing about 200,000 fish and closing the river for several weeks. The Marks’ ran a 3000 cow dairy, the same size as the dairy we are visiting today, and the spill came after an earthen wall gave way. Here are the NCPR stories, in reverse chronological order. one, two, three, four, five


Give us the basic run down on your operation: What do you produce and how much? What inputs to you use? What wastes do you produce? May I ask what kind of profit margin you have?

Where does the animal waste go? Does it go back into the soil on the farm? Does it go into the soil on other farms? Does it go into animal waste lagoons? What measures to you take to keep animal waste out of the water supply? Is your lagoon design similar to the one on the Marks Farm? Have you had complaints filed against you with the department of environmental conservation?

What do you think of the way CAFOs are regulated? The Citizens' Environmental Coalition has called for tighter regulation in New York, and a moratorium on new CAFOs. What do you think of this proposal? Do you think you should be regulated like a farm or like a factory? (Have you read their report, Wasting New York? What does it say, because I haven’t read it.)

What do your animals eat? Commercial feed? Grass or corn? Do you give them regular doses of antibiotics in their feed? Bovine growth hormone?

How long is the lifespan of an animal in your operation?

How much space do your animals have? How often are they let out to pasture? Do they graze when they are outside, or just stand in dirt? Do they have shade and shelter from wind and snow? How is drainage? Inside, can they turn around and sit down? What kind of bedding to they have? Can they groom?

Do you use de-horning and tail docking? How and at what age? Why? Do you have problems with lameness? What is causing it: diet, hygiene, flooring? Do you have problems with mastitis, cancer eye? What do you do with downer animals, are they killed right away on the farm, or are they dragged someplace else?

As I understand it, to keep cows lactating, the must produce calves yearly. What do you do with all those calves? How soon are they separated from the mother? Do they receive any colostrum (first milk?). Are the calves housed in a place where they can interact with each other? Are bull calves castrated?

What do you think of the move towards larger and larger diaries? I’ve heard about dairy herds number 20,000 animals. Is this where the industry is going? Is that a good thing? Would you be a larger operation if you could?

How have you made the farming and business decisions that you made? What concerns drove you? Making a decent living? Making a living in a lifestyle you enjoy? Environmental sustainability?

According the Environmental Working Group, Greenwood Dairy received $34,512 between 1999 and 2000. You haven’t received any since. Is this correct? Why did you turn to federal assistance? How did you qualify? What do you think of the way farm subsidies are distributed?


Manure use by CAFO is regulated by the Clean Water Act. The marks farm passed a DEC inspection in 2003.

Notes from Rollin Farm Animal Welfare: Points out need for ethnogram for cattle, that is, a model for what the “natural” behavior of the beast should be. Calls the treatment of calves from dairy cattle the biggest sore spot. Describes tie-stalls as the most problematic form of housing for animal welfare. Given the chance, cows prefer other flooring over concrete. BST = Bovine Somatatropin = bovine growth hormone.

Monday, September 26, 2005

SLU Labor Protest

Today union workers are protesting a contracting decision made here at SLU regarding the construction of the new science center. Here is the local radio piece about it. A sub-contract to erect the steel frame of the building went to a Vermont based, non-union shop. Ironworkers Local 440 objects to this, saying the contract should have gone to a local, unionized company. They also point out that a lot of local ironworkers are Mohawk, and SLU has been trying to develop a good relationship with the Mohawk nation.

SLU counters that it is not involved in subcontracting decisions: after it picks the general contractor, it stays out of decision making, to prevent cronyism and corruption. SLU also emphasizes that about 65% of the work on the new science center is union, and the whole project does a lot for the local economy.

I think we have all seen how ugly crony capitalism can get with the botched response to Katrina, and ongoing corruption in the cleanup. I also hesitate to call Vermont "non-local." At both of my previous universities, the cleaning labor was handled by international firms that shipped labor from the former Soviet bloc. SLU is really quite labor friendly compared to the rest of the world.

Still, SLU could create a policy that mandates that a certain percentage of all subcontracts must go to union, local or Mohawk companies without risking conflict of interest. They could also adopt a policy of simply encouraging contractors to hire subcontractors that are union, local, etc. The Union has a legitimate complaint. But in the interest of avoiding cronyism, we should handle it at the policy level.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

First they came for the suicide girls, but I said nothing, beacuse I was not a suicide girl

This post has been corrected and the ranty parts retracted.

Initially, the media played it as a joke. The FBI created a new porn squad assigned to go after images made by consenting adults for consenting adults and transmitted over the internet. Here is the lede from the Washington Post story
"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."
As you might expect, voices from the libertarian IT community immediately protested (ars technica, via /.)

Well what exactly would they target? We can all think of images made by consenting adults for consenting adults that strike us as deeply wrong, but what counts as obscene these days? Again, WaPo
"Based on a review of past successful cases in a variety of jurisdictions," the memo said, the best odds of conviction come with pornography that "includes bestiality, urination, defecation, as well as sadistic and masochistic behavior." No word on the universe of other kinks that helps make porn a multibillion-dollar industry.
Actually it turns out the first people they target are the punky, goth-y women at You may have heard of them because they advertise on the celebrity blog site boing boing This is a link to their discussion board where they announce that they have been pulling pictures at the request of the feds. (Work safe, unlike much of the content you can get to from that page.)

I have not seen the offensive content, or indeed any content at Suicide Girls other than what is on their front page. The front page, however, looks like playboy magazine with tattoos and piercings. This makes me think the site was targeted because goth culture gives the Christian right the big time heebie-jeebies. Do you remember the town in Mississippi that set aside part of its budget to "fight goth culture"? When they see people dressing like vampires, they don't think "my, what a melodramatic fashion sense," they think the person really is the pawn of some sort of real live demon. It wouldn't surprise me if Alberto Gonzales, who ordered the FBI to establish the porn squad, had a mandate from the Family Research Council to specifically target sites like Suicide Girls.

This was always the problem with the feminist case for censorship of pornography. We are handing over the right to censor to the most ignorant bozos imaginable. And these are people who feel threatened, first and foremost, by those who are different. Andrea Dworkin learned this when the Canadian censorship law she wrote was used to ban the import of her own books.

More requests for internet advice!

If I grade two more outlines, I'm going to reward myself with a donut. What kind should it be?

Also, check out Jo(e)'s list of things she would rather be doing than grading papers.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I'm a bigger commie than my wife

This is how I scored

You are a

Social Liberal
(88% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(3% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

This is Molly

You are a

Social Liberal
(76% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(16% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

Gretna story pulled from the comment section

Jonquil, in the comment section for the big Gretna post, repeats this story from the LA Times. The full story is about a family in the funeral home business who had to flee New Orleans, but burried in it, is this story:
The Rhodeses are proud people, and they feel deeply wounded by what happened in New Orleans.

Among the people trapped in the city were Sandra's son and her ex-husband, Otis, 61, a diabetic who has used a wheelchair since his leg was amputated.

Otis had gone without dialysis for five days when their sons, Otis Jr., 35, and Orrin, 34, decided to push his wheelchair down the highway in search of help. They ended up walking miles.

They were near safety that Wednesday after the hurricane — most of the way across the Crescent City Bridge into Gretna, La. — when an armed officer told them to turn back because Gretna officials were concerned about looting.

By the time they made it out of New Orleans, hitching a ride on a truck, the younger men's feet were bloody and covered with rashes. Otis Sr. had fallen out of his wheelchair three times while they were walking and had open wounds on his head. He was nearly in a coma.
Why was this not the lede?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

This looks like it could have been a good book.

Updated Title: New York Review of Reviewed Books, issue 1

Research on sex differences in mind and brain is an important and interesting field, which is often badly served by those pursuing it. Over at Metapsychology, there is a review up of a new book that describes research done attempting to correlate exposure to testosterone in utero with rates of eye contact at 12 months, and language ability at 18 months and four years of age. One promise of this sort of research is that it can separate out different components of biological sex and the different physical causes of those components. The sexes can be divided anatomically, hormonally or chromosomally (do you have a penis? Do you have a lot of testosterone? Do you have a Y chromosome) and each of these traits can vary independently and allow for middle ground (for instance, XX babies exposed to a lot of testosterone in utero can develop a rudimentary penis.)

Science should be able to identify the different causes of different biological aspects of sex. We already know that fetal hormones, not the sex chromosomes per se, are the agents of genital development. We also know that the brain is sexually dimorphic. Men's brains are on average more lateralized, and this may have something to do with the much vaunted male ability to mentally rotate three dimensional objects. So it would be nice to know if the roots of neurological sexual dimorphism are genetic or hormonal.

Unfortunately, if the reviewer is to be believed, what this book gives us is a few weak statistical inferences, tantalizing rhetoric about the power of testosterone, and a blurb from Stephen Pinker, the current king of using mid level science to reinforce crappy stereotypes. It looks a lot like the research Helen Longino criticized fifteen years ago which purported to show that fetal testosterone turns girls into great big lesbos.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Caroline Situation

She is having more dreams where she is bitten by clowns. Curse you evil dream clowns! You have used your vampire-like powers to make my child a biter! With this incantation, I banish you and your evil mojo from my house, and restore my child's good nature!

NOAA on Rita

Added: Hey, this picture is automatically updating. I had just pasted the url of the the NOAA image to the correct field in the blogger image menu, and assumed that this meant I had created my own file on one of google's servers somewhere. Does this mean that other images I post using the same function are unstable?

I'm counting on Blogger/Google to archive my life here. I can do that, right? They will always be around, right?

Page on Grenta

Via orange, is this editorial on Gretna by the Chicago Tribune's token moderate Clarence Page. Page tells the story of Grenta, and lists the factors that mitigate against calling them a bunch of racist clowns, namely that they did help out 5,000 people before panicking, and that the city is only 56% white. But Page seems to accept this defense and then argue that what is needed is a bi-partisan commission to investigate miscommunications.

The problem here is that the mitigating factors aren't all that mitigating, and there are several exacerbating factors. First of all, there was no need at all to block the whole expressway. They could have simply blocked the exit to their suburb. Second, the fear of looters is looking less and less justified. Not only were most of the people trying to cross the bridge obviously not a threat, but many of the stories of crime seem to be groundless rumors. Finally, there is evidence the police engaged in much more harassment than simply blocking the bridge.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What did they have to fear?

The NYT reports that most of the stories of crime and looting in New Orleans were simply false. In fact, when the NYT tries to come up with horror stories that were actually true, one of the first things they mention are the actions of the Gretna police. This fits a story linked to by No Nym in the comments for my conversation with Harris: empirical data show that cooperation usually increases during disasters. Outbreaks of crime are rare and usually have other causes.

With Katrina, you now seem to be hearing a lot of stories like this:
"I talked to a friend and, after the flood, they heard on the radio that a gang of 400 armed black looters were coming over the bridge to Hanrahan, where he lived," said Ken Bode, a professor of journalism at DePauw University and a former correspondent for NBC. "He and his neighbors were sitting in the street with guns and they decided to load up all they could and caravan out. He said the looters never got there because the National Guard turned them back."

Update on The Caroline Situation

My eldest child, The Caroline Situation, has entered a new and troubling phase: biting. So I'm looking around the web for advice and help. This is what I expected to find on my google search for "biting toddler parenting"
Normal children do not bite. Since your child is biting, you must be a BAD PARENT. No doubt your child will soon be kicked out of Montessori school and grow up to be unhappy and friendless. She will be entirely correct when she blames you.
Oddly, that is not what I have found so far.

The page offers standard advice, most of which we have already implemented: be sure there are consequences, put the child in time out, lavish attention on the child that was bit and pull away from the biter, be sure that all caregivers (parents, daycare people, etc.) are on message. Another parent recommends this children's board book.

But all of these parents are dealing with children in the 12-18 month range. The Caroline Situation will be three in december. Why has my child started biting now? Part of the issue has to be the arrival of Tiny Joseph. Part of the solution, I think, needs to be letting her know she is still loved.

Should we establish a long term penalty for this? Should we say "no treats for a week" and whenever she asks for a treat, say she can't get one because she bit her friend? Does she have enough of a sense of time to understand this? Are we putting too much emphasis on negative reinforcement? Should we spend more time reinforcing her good behavior?

NPR Gretna Story

Is here. One fact that comes out in the NPR piece that you can see from the map is that Gretna does not own the whole highway, nor is the highway a highway to Gretna. Gretna is the first exit on the highway. So we have another question: Why block the bridge, rather than just the exit?

The NPR story also repeats several claims we have already heard:

1. Many people at the bridge claim that evacuees included people in wheelchairs and people in strollers. If helped, they could have continued down the highway without endangering Gretna.

2. Gretna officials say they evacuated 5,000 people over 12 hours before giving up and closing the bridge.

3. Gretna officials were spooked by a fire at a nearby shopping mall. NPR characterizes the fire as "vandalism."

Some Gretna Facts

In lieu of more complete coverage, two standard public documents about Gretna, LA.

First, the basic wikipedia page on Gretna. Interesting fact: Gretna is not "all white" or even "almost all white" it is 56% white.

Second, this map, from google. (Click for larger image.)

The "B" points to the Convention Center. The big bridge labeled "crescent city connection" is the one that was blocked. As you can see, it leads to a highway that goes over Gretna and on to other neighborhoods, showing that able-bodied and non-threatening individuals could have simply been allowed to walk through Gretna. They also could have assisted more feeble people in making the journey. Later I hope to locate the bus station and mall the mayor described to me.

Finally, this is an attack page on Gretna. They allege that multiple shots were fired by several white cops, that the gunfire scared off rescue personnel, and that the police actively raided and broke up refugee camps. I haven't read the whole thing to see what evidence they have for these accusations.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

skynyrd did what they could do.

NOTE ADDED: The account below is my personal recollection of something that happened to me. It is NOT an interview or a piece of journalism. Coorections and clarifications are welcome.

I just got off the phone with Mayor Ronnie Harris of Gretna. I'm still reeling from the conversation, so all I can do is report approximately how it went.

He said "is this Doctor Loftis?" The whole time he kept calling me Doctor. It was like that when I taught in Alabama as well. "I just got your fax"

Me: Wow, I didn't think you would respond. I imagined you are getting a lot of faxes and emails.

Him: Emails, but no faxes. That's why I wanted to respond to you. I figure if you took the time to fax, well, I just wanted to tell someone how things look from here. But wait, let me hear you. What do you think happened here.

I tell the story as I read it in the LA times and SF Socialists. As a start, there is a click and a bit of an echo. Either he switched to speakerphone, or he was recording me.

After I say what I thought happened, he starts on his side of the story. For a long time, I don't even interrupt him to say "uh huh." I started writing down as much as I could of what he said. Here I have only notes. For this part of the conversation, I’ll simply transcribe my notes in the order I wrote them down. The notes where written from his perspective. When I switch to my own voice, I will put it in brackets.

* It was never our intent to call New Orleans and ask "how can I help you."

* Our department had already arrested looters.

* On Tuesday two busloads got dropped off in our community. Our bus station. They were regional transit workers who were evacuating with their families. We supplied them with water and port-o-lets until they could move on. But then more busses started coming without notification. And the incident on the bridge, let me tell you, it was 16 hours, it was not a five minute thing.

* New Orleans policemen had looted and stolen a mail truck before they were arrested. You couldn't tell friend from foe.

* It took five days for FEMA to get to us.

* Geraldo was on the TV he said "go to Gretna. They have power and water. They have safety." But there was no safety here. A community of 17,500 was reduced to 5,000. We had no water. Power, fortunately, was restored quickly to essential buildings and to a hotel.

* There was a diesel spill in our drainage system. [I couldn't follow his explanation here. It sounded like a boat carrying diesel crashed in such a way that all the contaminated a large area. He said he was lucky though, because the boat could have breeched their levee.]

* I'm still waiting to hear from Nagin. He gets on the media, but I haven't heard from him yet.

* "People want to paint Gretna like the bad guy, but let me tell you New Orleans and the State of Louisianan has problems."

* The mayor of Baltimore sent aid (and I can tell you he’s in political hot water). Baltimore responded quicker than your federal government. I broke down in tears when that aid came.

* And the incident on the bridge, what was it, it was civil disobedience. Where they were, the convention center was as safe as safe can be…except for the criminals. And I’m not saying they were all looters.

* “Sir, there will be bloodshed on our borders if someone keeps making these bad decisions.” [recounting a conversation with someone who was directing refugees to Gretna]

* A shopping center near us was looted and set on fire. For my community to hear that the Parkwood shopping center was burning was like, ‘what do you mean?’

* We did what we could for them [I think he meant the people at the convention center]. We commandeered busses and we brought them to safety. There were roundtrips for 12 hours. We moved five to six thousand people.

At this point he asks me what I think. I don’t feel like I have the right to pick a fight with someone who has been through so much, but I still don’t see how he has justified his actions at all. I say something like “I still think it was the wrong decision for you to make. That’s where I am, but I’m far away. There is no point in going over the past again and again, though. I hope you and your community can recover.”

Then he starts again. We are back to notes.

* You say from where you are, but from my perspective, it was one of the best decisions we made.

* I see from these emails people are saying lives were lost because of what we did. That’s bullshit. No one died on that bridge. If people died it was because of the city of New Orleans.

* No one died in my community.

* The wrath of God struck New Orleans, and it spared us. We were hurt, but we did not see the wrath of God.

He asks me again what I think. I tell him I feel how much fear he felt, and how that affected his judgment. He says “fear—you bet you, you know. But you can’t blink. You do what you can.” He then assures me he can sleep well at night. “We did what we could do,” he says. “I had to move a ship.” He still hasn’t seen the Red Cross. He mentions that I talked about the fundraisers were doing here in my fax. He says that he hopes we give the money to people who actually come. The faith based organizations have helped him a lot. He talks about an organization called “Friend Ships” and emphasizes that it has two words. He talks about an Israeli team he met, who went against their governments orders.

He tells me about the person who got the water back up. He did it in a day and a half. And he knew that his house in St. Bernard Parish was under twelve feet of water. He is a hero. He gets choked up about here.

Let’s go back to note form.
* I can tell from your letter that you have a lot of emotion. Your emotion is no near mine.

*It was the right thing to do at the right time.

*Not a life was lost on the bridge. And the officer who fired the one shot was Black. And that shotgun blast set them straight. You do whatever is necessary to get these criminals in line. And they aren’t all criminals. [I believe he said "They aren't all criminals" three times during our conversation. The sentence says more than he realizes.]

* His community lost a police officer.

* When they rebuild New Orleans, Gretna will be the stopping off point, because at least we still have a community here.

*You gotta do the action for the greater good of all.

I told him I felt lucky he chose to call me, and I hope he and his community recover quickly. Then we hung up.

I can see quite clearly where he is coming from: He thinks he did the right thing, because he protected his people. His problem is that he has too small a view of who his people are.

Southern Man, Better Keep Your Head. Don't Forget What Your Good Book Said.

Ronnie C. Harris, Mayor
City of Gretna
P.O. Box 404
Gretna, LA, 70054-0404

Phone: (504) 363-1505
Fax: (504) 363-1509
E mail:

Dear Mr. Harris,

I read online the account of your town sheriff turning away refugees from the flooding in New Orleans. I read in the LA Times about your decision to back the sheriff in his choice.

My community chose to respond very differently to the tragedy. In the days after the hurricane struck, people started pitching together to send relief aid to New Orleans. There were garage sales, bake sales, small children selling lemonade. Members of a local college fraternity stayed up for 25 hours collecting dollar bills at the main intersection of our four stoplight town. The university where I work has taken in displaced students free of charge. My wife and I put our names on a list of volunteers to take refugees into our home.

But we are far away from the disaster, and can ultimately do little. You could do a lot, but chose to do nothing. No doubt you consider your actions a form of self defense, because hidden amongst the sick and elderly may have been a looter, who would break a window, or take a television. Crises bring out people's priorities. Others would have taken the risk in the name of compassion.

We live in wicked, secular New York state, but we know the meaning of Matthew 25:35
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.


Rob Loftis

[address and bible quote via the comments at Making Light.]

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Our fax machine is possessed by evil spirits. As a result, this was faxed to Senator Shumer's office three times

Senator Charles Schumer
313 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-6542
Fax: 202-228-3027

September 17, 2005

Dear Senator Schumer,

Please vote against appointing John Roberts to the Supreme Court. In the hearings he was charming and exuded the rhetoric of moderation. Unfortunately, he said next to nothing of actual substance. I, and many other Americans, still legitimately fear that Roe will be overturned and executive power will grow without restraint.


Rob Loftis

Friday, September 16, 2005

Two More Versions of The Aristocrats

This one is via Majikthise, this one from Molly. The first, though deeply appaling, is 100% work safe, and even educational. The second is only about 95% work safe, but funny.

Do we want a supreme court justice without a thesis statement?

That's Dr. Crazy's question. She's commenting on a really funny line of questioning from my man in the Senate, Chuck Shumer. Via dr. B.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Knight Ridder on Chertoff's role

Knight Ridder news services has an important article on Chertoff's role in the Katrina catastrophe. Michael Brown lost his job in part because of the failure of the government to "pre-position assets" before the storm hit--basically get the busses and rescue teams ready in advance. But the person with the real authority to do this was Chertoff. Knight Ridder found a memo, though, that shows that Chertoff did nothing until 36 hours after the storm hit, when he delegated the relevant authority to Brown. This memo also officially declared katrina an "Incident of National Significance," which triggers all sorts of federal responses, and announced that Bush would form a new task force to deal with the situation. From these facts comes the first bit of stonewalling the KR reporters got from the Bush administration:
White House and homeland security officials wouldn't explain why Chertoff waited some 36 hours to declare Katrina an incident of national significance and why he didn't immediately begin to direct the federal response from the moment on Aug. 27 when the National Hurricane Center predicted that Katrina would strike the Gulf Coast with catastrophic force in 48 hours. Nor would they explain why Bush felt the need to appoint a separate task force.
Did Chertoff's stalling have an effect? Check this out:
Chertoff's Aug. 30 memo came on the heels of a memo from Brown, written several hours after Katrina made landfall, showing that the FEMA director was waiting for Chertoff's permission to get help from others within the massive department. In that memo, first obtained by the Associated Press last week, Brown requested Chertoff's "assistance to make available DHS employees willing to deploy as soon as possible." It asked for another 1,000 homeland security workers within two days and 2,000 within a week.
Read the whole KR piece. Very informative.

Via flint in the Majikthise comments

The Adventures of Intrepid Majikthise

Majikthise has been acting as a freelance reporter in the flood zone. Read about her attempts to interview Blackwater operatives.


Email is back up! I can't wait to see what important messages I missed! Let's see, there is this from IT:
The Faculty and Staff mail server has experienced a hardware failure. The part has been ordered, however the server will not be operation for today, September 13. We realize that e-mail communication is important for day-to-day operations and want you know that electronic communications with faculty and staff will be delayed but received when the server goes back online. We understand the inconvenience this causes and we apologize.
Um...I appreciate that you are working hard for us, but what's up with sending us an email to say that email isn't working?

Next piece of important mail I missed while the serve was down:
MORE-SIZE - it will work out!

Go on, give it a try. You'll sure enjoy it!
MORE-SIZE: {URL redacted}

Discreet, unmarked packaging.
Why did I miss email again?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Joseph can roll over

Molly reports several cases now where she swears she put him down on his back, but turned around later to find him on his belly. We are waiting for video taped confirmation.

In Honor

Email is down at SLU. People are coming out of their offices, rubbing their eyes, and addressing each other face to face, mostly to ask "when is email going to come back." In honor of the email blackout, I give you an old joke

Why Email is Like a Penis

1. Those who have it would be devastated if it were ever cut off.

2. Those who have it think that those who don't are somehow inferior.

3. Those who don't have it may agree that it's neat, but think it's not worth the fuss that those who have it make about it.

4. Many of those who don't have it would like to try it, a phenomenon psychologists call "Email Envy."

5. It's more fun when it's up, but this makes it hard to get any real work done.

6. In the distant past, its only purpose was to transmit information vital to the survival of the species. Some people still think that's the only thing it should be used for, but most folks today use it mostly for fun.

7. If you don't take proper precautions, it can spread viruses.

8. If you use it too much, you'll find it becomes more and more difficult to think coherently.

9. We attach an importance to it that is far greater than its actual size and influence warrant.

10. If you're not careful what you do with it, it can get you into a lot of trouble.

11. If you play with it too much, you go blind.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Another Genetics Survey

The NERD team at U British Columbia has another computer survey up on genetic policy. I noted a previous survey they had up about environmental impacts of Salmon genetics. Now they are tackling human genetics and Beta Thalassemia. These surveys are very good, and an educational experience in themselves.

I think I want to work for these people.

Blackwater Private Security Forces

Lindsay wants to know what they are doing on the streets of New Orleans. I'm just impressed with their bitchin' line of mercenary apparel.

From the website: We are not simply a "private security company." We are a turnkey solution provider for 4th generation warfare.

Hey, I can steal bandwith from the New York Times

I know stealing bandwidth is wrong, but doing it anyway becuase (1) I'm impressed that the system is set up so I can do this easily and (2) damn, look at that picture.

To compensate, I'm giving an approving link to the old gray lady, esp this article.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Self reliance and mutual aid

I posted this in the comments at Bitch PhD. I'm pleased with the way it came out, and am as self absorbed as any blogger, so I repeat it here.


I've been thinking a lot recently about the relationship between self-reliance and mutual aid. The Right has not been alone in championing self-reliance, nor is self reliance a vice or even an indifferent thing. Self-reliance promotes personal agency and responsibility, just as mutual aid promotes compassion.

The question is surely when and how much to be self reliant. The left emphasizes self-reliance in thought, and the right self-reliance in the creation of material well being. I tend towards the left here, as in many places. As for how much, I would borrow terminology from the Buddha and from Aristotle, and define "right independence" as a mean between rugged individualism and bland conformism.

Well, that's what i've been thinking recently.

The interenet is sad today.

The interenet is sad today.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

When things should work, but don't work

Indecision by decree

from the NYT comes a description of the weirdest FEMA mistake yet.
Hundreds of firefighters, who responded to a nationwide call for help in the disaster, were held by the federal agency in Atlanta for days of training on community relations and sexual harassment before being sent on to the devastated area. The delay, some volunteers complained, meant lives were being lost in New Orleans.
They block! They block! They block!

Who insisted on community relations and sexual harassment training? What were they thinking? Were they Bush political appointees saying "the most important thing is that this looks good for the press. We don't want these yahoo firemen saying anything embarrassing"?

They walk, but never for the distance

Looks that way:
Ms. Rule, the FEMA spokeswoman, said there was no urgency for the firefighters to arrive because they were primarily going to do community relations work, not rescue.
When things should work but don't work, that's the work of all these governors

Ian and Amy wrote that song in 2004 specifically about government officials who, for ideological reasons sabotage government programs to help the needy. I assume the governors that they were thinking about then were former govenors of California and Texas. It seems prescient, but it isn't foresight to complain about a problem already there. The only thing that is new is the scale.

So we won't wait. We won't wait for all these governors.

The Evens end by calling for the governed to support themselves. A revolutionary call for mutual aid. But you can't build a levee without a lot of resources, and if the people marshalling those resources are to be publicly accountable, they must wind up working in a structure that looks like a civil government. The question is, do we want one that works?

I've been promoted.

Caroline calls me "Dad" now. I'm still "Daddy" most of the time, but sometimes now I'm "Dad."

Do I have to get a pipe now?

Friday, September 09, 2005

The press and washington political culture

...have this annoying habit of focusing on small mistakes that they uncover rather than big mistakes that are obvious. Here are some questions you might ask Michael Brown:

* Why were so many people prevented from leaving the city after the flood hit?
* How could FEMA have been "unaware" of the situation at the convention center when it was in the news for four days?
* Why was assistance from other cities, countries, and private groups turned away?

Instead, the press seems interested in questions like:

* Were you really a city manager in charge of emergency services, or were you an assistant to the city manager in charge of emergency services?

I know that asking any of these questions are not mutually exclusive, and many people are asking the first ones. but really, why is the resume thing above the fold in the NYT?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Audrey Niffenegger

via Pippy comes word that Audrey Niffenegger, whom I dated for a while, has a show of new paintings, drawings and prints at Printworks Gallary in chicago. The website also has a collection of small jpgs of her prints from the 80s to the present. At the beach Pippy also informed me that her novel Three Incestuous Sisters, told largely in etchings, is coming out in affordable coffee table book form soon. The hand colored editions currently around cost a bazillion dollars.

When the only tool you have is a gun, every problem looks like someone to shoot.

The priorities of the federal relief effort remain fending off the risk of scary black people with guns. This is the first order of business
No civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns, or other firearms, said P. Edwin Compass, the superintendent of police. "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons," he said.

But that order apparently does not apply to the hundreds of security guards whom businesses and some wealthy individuals have hired to protect their property. The guards, who are civilians working for private security firms like Blackwater, are openly carrying M-16's and other assault rifles. Mr. Compass said he was aware of the private guards, but that the police had no plans to make them give up their weapons. NYT

The double standard lets you know what they think the risk is. Meanwhile, the risk of cholera gets lower priority
Efforts to recover corpses have also started, although only a handful of bodies have been recovered so far.
The authorities believe that disease is a risk, that's why they are evacuating people from the city after the hurricane.
Mr. Compass said today that the city's plans for a forced evacuation remain in effect because of the danger of disease and fires.
Everything here say that the authorities are more intereted in controlling the population than preventing further damage.

Salon's Katrina Coverage

I would like to commend to you Salon's Katrina coverage. Among the highlights.

1. Sid Blumenthal's roundup of Federal level mistakes, and the bad ideology that drove them.

2. The first attempt I've seen to get a grip on the exact number of the dead. It is in the tens of thousands, not the thousands.

3. A great video highlight reel of the news coverage, including reporter freak outs.

Complete listing here.

A plea from a logic teacher

Much of what we teach in college consists of undoing bad teaching in high school. I often think that if colleges and high schools could actually coordinate on curriculum and goals, the whole educational system would be a lot smoother.

To that end, I ask all high school teachers to stop teaching students the distinction between "fact" and "opinion" and replace it with the more conceptually coherent "belief" and "knowledge." The fact/opinion distinction that you seem to teach is a mutation of the fact/value distinction combined with total relativism about values, blind dogmatism about facts, and the bizarre notion that if an empirical issue becomes controversial enough, it becomes a value issue.

Here is an example of the pernicious effects of high school education. I asked a student why the following sentence was badly written, and if he could rewrite it more clearly.
My reasoning for disregarding Rachels arguments is because I feel that there is a moral difference between active and passive euthanasia.
The student replied that what was wrong with the sentence--grammatically!--was that it was a matter of opinion. Someone had told him in high school that you cannot write down beliefs on ethical subjects because they are "opinion." "Facts" on the other hand, you can write down, because you really aren't involved in them at all. When you write down a fact, you are not asserting a belief about the world, it seems. You aren't supposed to be involved with it at all. Indeed, there seems to be no distinction between the fact in the world and the representation of the fact on the page.

Just stop it. Stop teaching students philosophically incoherent nonsense. The distinction between belief and knowledge is much clearer and more useful. You can have beliefs either about ethical issues or empirical issues. Those beliefs can be right or wrong, and justified or unjustified. When you assert a belief about the empirical world, you are still involved with it. You need to justify and support it. When you assert a moral belief, there is still the possibility of being right or wrong. If you belief is true and justified and perhaps meets some other criteria, it is knowledge. We like knowledge.

You know who else propagates this stupid fact/opinion distinction? Journalists. Y'all need to knock it off, too. The distinction between the "reporting" and "opinion" sections of the paper is completely incoherent. For starters, by journalism's own standards, the opinion pages are full of reporting and the reporting pages are full of editorializing. But worse, on both pages we get assertions of belief without justification. It is all authority with you guys, and not very good authority either.

Stop it. Just stop it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Hurricane Katrina, Our Experiences"

Here is a first person account of Katrina, featuring both apalling law enforcement ineptitude and heart warming spontaneous mutual aid among ordinary people. What follows are some fragments:

So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. ...We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military....The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.....We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City....Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! ... We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles....In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again.... All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more....Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches....Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.

via dr b.

Update: "Ooh, but those people are so obviously politically motivated, their story can't be true." Yes, they are left wingers, but the story checks out. See Health Care Blog, and the comments at Making Light

Even if the female orgasm

Even if the female orgasm is not an evolutionary byproduct, female ejaculation surely is.

Quote for the day

"The higher these SAT scores go, the lower the general knowledge" Ali Pomponio

Stupid Fucking Scary Dream Clowns

Caroline woke up at 6 AM today, after months of finally sleeping until 8. As I sat watching her pick the sugary raisins out of her bran cereal, eat the raisins and abandon the bran, she explained why.

Caroline: Up there, a cwown bit me right here.

Me: A what? A cwab?

Caroline: No, a cwown, up there.

Me: Oh, a clown. Up there, in your bedroom.

Caroline: He bit me right here.

Me: Oh, don't worry sweetie, that was just a dream. There aren't any clowns upstairs, and no one bit you on your side. See you don't have any marks.

Well, Caroline seemed unhurt by her encounter with the scary dream clown, but I want to put y'all on warning: None y'all scary dream clowns better fuck with my child. Stay away from our fucking house, you fucking fuckers. I learned a lot about psychic dream combat in graduate school (all analytic philosophers have to study this stuff, it's like modal logic) and I can kick your ass.

Scary clown picture moved below the fold to protect delicate sensibilities.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Caroline's First Day of School.

Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.

She's a little scholar now. She's learning her numbers and her shapes and how to tie her shoes. She's so big.

DSCF0431It's a half day, Montessori program. Normally they don't take you until you are three, but they made an exception for Caroline's December birthday. She looks a little grumpy in these pictures, but she didn't cry at all when we left. She's so brave.

DSCF0432I told Molly I wanted to drop Caroline off at her first day of school, and she started talking about what I had to do to meet the teachers and see the facility (something she had already done.) I said, no, I just want to drop her off for her first day of school. She's so smart.

Update: I had to crop the first picture after this conversation.

Molly: I don't think you should most Mrs. Randi's picture to the internet without her permission.
Me: Well when you drop Caroline off at school again, can you ask her?
Molly: Why don't I give you her number, and you can ask her.
Me: I'll just crop the picture.

Monday, September 05, 2005

more flood linky

I don't know what to say anymore. I'm just linking to things that appall me in hopes that raising their google rank is contribution enough

At DailyKos, via jenny, in the comment section of Bitch, comes this list of FEMA screw ups.

FEMA won't accept Amtrak's help in evacuations

FEMA turns away experienced firefighters

FEMA turns back Wal-Mart supply trucks

FEMA prevents Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel

FEMA won't let Red Cross deliver food

FEMA bars morticians from entering New Orleans

FEMA blocks 500-boat citizen flotilla from delivering aid

FEMA fails to utilize Navy ship with 600-bed hospital on board

FEMA to Chicago: Send just one truck

FEMA turns away generators

FEMA: "First Responders Urged Not To Respond"

Links at the Kos site.

Disaster going according to plan

China Mieville among others, are reporting on an astonishing fact: last summer Mayor Nagin and other New Orleans officials started producing a DVD aimed at the 135,000 residents known to have no emergency transportation out of the city. The message of the DVD: We can't do nothing for ya, man. The DVD was originally covered in July 24 Times Picayune story, which is not available online, but is excerpted extensively here.

Mieville brings this up as a part of an attack on Nagin, cataloguing his failures to prepare for the storm, and pointing out that he was a lifelong Republican who switched parties to run for Mayor of NOLA. I suppose Nagin's "You're shit out of luck" message to the poor could have been a reluctant admission that he simply hasn't been given the funds to prepare an evacuation. Still, it doesn't look good.

As I have said in other forums, I like Belle's suggestion, which I reprint in full:
The thing about captaining the ship of state is this: if you lose a good part of your fleet, you get relieved of your command. Even if you did all you could---but especially if you didn't. Even if you made a reasonable guess about the future that turned out wrong---but especially if you ignored prescient warnings from that lowly lieutenant. Even if a damn meteor strike holes your ship without warning. What about all the Democratic mayors, senators and governors? Yeah, kick their asses to the curb too. Everybody, up and down the line. Enough failing upwards, enough medals of honor. Once things get stabilized, I want everybody to fucking resign their command, because this just wasn't right. Come on: WWHD? (What would Hornblower do?)

In fact, I go a step further. People like Nagin should merely resign their posts. But the President of the United States, should, as a matter of honor, commit ritual suicide in response to this disaster.

Another one for my scientific reasoning class

This NYT article, really an ad for a new book, claims that women make less money than men because they choose other job perks, like flexible hours.

The author sounds like a cretin, having written a book called The Myth of Male Power. And this excerpt from the publishers weekly review of the book makes the authors agenda clear.
he considers men the real victims, taken advantage of because of their innate chivalry and social expectations that they trade earning power for love and sex and be "willing to die to support the wives and children." He decries anti-male discrimination in occupations like teaching, nursing and cocktail-waitressing, and pillories comparable worth initiatives as "spoiled-brat economics." A whole chapter is devoted to "genetic celebrities"-i.e., beautiful women (exemplified in photos of same) whom men shower with free dinners, gifts and home repairs and who "marry up" into cushy lifestyles paid for by workaholic husbands. Ostensibly a road-map to workplace equality, Farrell's portrait of pampered, ungrateful women and stoic, self-sacrificing men may strike some readers as an unhelpful caricature.
Even if the pay gap did disappear when you control for other benefits, that doesn't mean that job discrimination doesn't exist, because the forces that drive women to look for more flexible hours and similar benefits are themselves a form of discrimination. They are features of society created by peoples attitudes that they affect men and women differently. At the very least, the pay gap is hardly the only piece of evidence for the existence of the patriarchy.

That said, I would be interested to see if the pay gap really does disappear if you control for other factors they way Farrell says they do. I think I will assign this project to my scientific reasoning class next semester.

Switching to unjustified personal attack mode: Can someone who hates women this much have a good sex life? (I'm assuming, for no good reason, that Farrell is heterosexual.)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Misc non-flood related

1. Good posts on the sequencing of the chimp genome and related research: Pharyngula, John Hawkes.

2. Caroline broke my robot. I am mad at her. grr.

3. I went over my self imposed credit card spending limit this month. So I can't spend any more money, even on flood relief. grrr.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Googlevoting for Realclimate

From Real Climate:
Due to this semi-random nature of weather, it is wrong to blame any one event such as Katrina specifically on global warming - and of course it is just as indefensible to blame Katrina on a long-term natural cycle in the climate.

Yet this is not the right way to frame the question. As we have also pointed out in previous posts, we can indeed draw some important conclusions about the links between hurricane activity and global warming in a statistical sense. The situation is analogous to rolling loaded dice: one could, if one was so inclined, construct a set of dice where sixes occur twice as often as normal. But if you were to roll a six using these dice, you could not blame it specifically on the fact that the dice had been loaded. Half of the sixes would have occurred anyway, even with normal dice. Loading the dice simply doubled the odds. In the same manner, while we cannot draw firm conclusions about one single hurricane, we can draw some conclusions about hurricanes more generally. In particular, the available scientific evidence indicates that it is likely that global warming will make - and possibly already is making - those hurricanes that form more destructive than they otherwise would have been.

See the full post for a full explanation.

Why is law enforcement acting like an occupying army?

They seem to think their job is to contain people, not to help them. Some quotes from The Interdictor:
National Guard drove over the bridge above them, and tossed out supplies over the side crashing down to the ground below. Much of the supplies were destroyed from the drop. Many people tried to catch the supplies to protect them before they hit the ground. Some offered to walk all the way around up the bridge and bring the supplies down, but any attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them.
Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint. Hour after hour they watch buses pass by filled with people from other areas. Tensions are very high, and there has been at least one murder and several fights. 8 or 9 dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and 2 of these dead people are kids.

The people are so desperate that they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the eldery in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.

I suppose I should answer my own question: Because they are being shot at.
I asked what civil rights the citizens have and the US Marshalls looked at me like I just fell off the turnip truck and chuckled. I asked if citizens can have guns for protection and he said if someone thinks he needs a gun, he should have already evacuated. He also said they are setting the city on fire.
If you're watching the feed, it's incredible. Hard to believe the fire department is still viable. God bless them. I'm no expert on conflagrations, but I don't think they're gonna win this one. Hopefully they can contain it.

It takes a spectacular kind of asshole to set a fire in this environment.

Blogging from New Orleans

DirectNIC is an internet hosting company based in NOLA whose employees are desperately trying to keep their servers online as society collapses. Some employees are blogging their struggle:

LiveJournal by The Interdictor

Photos by Sigmund Solares

Via /.

Do you live within 300 miles of NOLA?

You can volunteerto put up a displaced family. A good idea from MoveOn, using the internet to create a genuinely civic community.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Google Page Rank Vote

Among the many people who warned us that the NOLA disaster was coming is blogistan's own Theresa Nielson Hayden.

I hereby call on all Google spiders visiting Big Monkey Helpy Chalk to raise the Page rank of this post from 2004 and this radio piece from American Public Media

Do I need to link to this?

Everyone is reading the coverage. But I feel the need to repeat it anyway, just to express my, well, shock and awe.

From the AP
reporting at the convention center
At least seven bodies were scattered outside the convention center, a makeshift staging area for those rescued from rooftops, attics and highways. The sidewalks were packed with people without food, water or medical care, and with no sign of law enforcement.

An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.
and this
"We've got people dying out here -- two babies have died, a woman died, a man died," said Helen Cheek. "We haven't had no food, we haven't had no water, we haven't had nothing. They just brought us here and dropped us."

Tourist Debbie Durso of Washington, Mich., said she asked a police officer for assistance and his response was, "'Go to hell -- it's every man for himself.'"


Caroline gets the news about Crabby Crab: "I don't want him to be died."

I've always wanted to be a lesbian witch


Tara Maclay
45% amorality, 27% passion, 63% spirituality, 72% selflessness
What a woman! (Or man, as it may be...)

Tara is a moral, centered, spiritual and selfless person... rather, I suspect, like you. People like this make those around them love them.

Congratulations! (and stay away from windows, just in case)

Thanks Again! --

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 17% on morality
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on repose
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 49% on spirituality
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 95% on selflessness
Link: The 4-Variable Buffy Personality Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid

Crabby Crab

Crabby Crab
Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.

Crabby Crab is either dead or molting, and I don't think he's molting.

This is not the saddest news item right now, but it is the one that is most local to me. Let me start at the beginning. A while back there was a funny story going around our little blog circle about an art project that involved providing artificial shells for wild hermit crabs featuring corporate logos. While we were at the beach, we discovered that low culture is again light years in front of high culture.


Hermit crabs with artificial shells bearing corporate logos were for sale all over the beach. Hello Kitty. Spider Man. God Bless America. The works.


At first Caroline just wanted to go look at them. I was happy to indulge her, because they were cool. I didn't want to buy one though, because of an old lesson from Dale Jamieson: "It is prima facie wrong to keep a wild animal in captivity." I thought things were safe, because Caroline didn't seem to even understand that the crabs were for sale. But when she saw one actually sold, she caught on, and I gave in, frankly, because I thought the crabs were cool.


Caroline named the beast Crabby Crab, which we liked a great deal, and I immediately set about trying to find a way to keep the critter alive, knowing in my heart that it was useless, that these benighted animals were sold on the boardwalk like goldfish at a fair, a disposable "pet" for people who can't say no to their children. On the drive home we kept Crabby Crab's cage covered in a wet towel, so that he wouldn't overheat. When we got home, we found the web site of the crab lady, which had lots of good care advice. We bought an aquarium, heatlamp, and thermometer. We lined the new crabitat with playground sand. We kept the environment moist and used only filtered water.


We live a complicated life, like most people. So I never sat down and read the Crab Lady's whole site. I just read a snippet here and there and used the info for small alterations to our crab-care system. We read about bathing the crab to keep the air gills moist, so we tried a bath. Crabby Crab didn't move much, although sometimes we would wake up to find that he had burrowed in the sand, or moved his sponge. He would generally come out of his shell, though, if we took him out of the crabitat and placed him on the floor (after exiling The Ediedog to the backyard).

But he wasn't eating, and was moving more and more slowly. We put several different kinds of food in. I ordered more crab merchandise online, including a humidity gauge and water purifying equipment. The last night, after we put crabby crab on the floor, Caroline became distracted and started running around. While running, she accidentally kicked the crab, who then slid across the floor. We put crabby crab back in the crabitat, and hoped for the best. After Caroline went to sleep, Crabby Crab shed a limb. The next time I checked on him, he had fallen out of his shell and stopped moving.

When we got the crab, I worried to Molly about having to teach Caroline about the cycles of nature. Molly soon recognized that I was in fact the one who was not ready to learn about the cycles of nature. Me, the environmental philosopher. After I saw that crabby crab had expired, I stayed up late looking at pictures of the flooding (12:30, late for me) and feeling sad for nature, red in tooth and claw.

Look around the universe. What an immense profusion of beings, animated and organized, sensible and active! You admire this prodigious variety and fecundity. But inspect a little more narrowly these living creatures, the only beings worth regarding. How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of them for their on happiness. How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind nature, impregnated by a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children.

Philo, in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, bk. XI.

Caroline still thinks Crabby Crab is just sick. There is an off chance he could be molting, but he should have been eating more food beforehand, not less. I told Molly I wanted a shoebox in the backyard--a good suburban animal burial. She asked if I was doing the production for Caroline or for me, and strongly implied that Caroline would not benefit from such an experience. I dunno.

I also don't know what we are now going to do with all this crab stuff.

Fats Domino Missing

The R&B musician and founder of Rock and Roll, known best for hits like "Blueberry Hill" and “I’m Walking (Yes, Indeed, I’m Talking)” told his publicist he and his family were going to ride out the storm in their house, which is now completely submerged. At 76, I don't think he could swim far.

Also missing according to Fox News, Irma Thomas who originally sang "Time is on my side" and the composer and arranger Allen Toussaint.

The website for Preservation Hall says that their bandleader made it to Atlanta, but has no word on other musicians or the state of the Hall, which is itself quite a historical landmark. Preservation Hall was, however, three blocks from the Mississippi river.

Why some people couldn't leave

Again via the Nielson-Haydens: Cherie Priest on what it is like being a poor person, with no car, and nowhere to go, and being told to evacuate.

Also check out the discussion at the House of N-H a great deal of insight by all.