Category Archives: Uncategorized

Categorically, All Things Uncategorized.

The Uniform Time Act

I used to resent changing clocks twice a year. I came to appreciate it as an absurdly arbitrary act that inconveniences everyone equally. And I love to see government get under the skin of Conservatives and make them do its bidding.

The Sky This Week, 2015 October 27 – November 3 — Naval Oceanography Portal

This annual ritual now takes place on the first Sunday in November thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress’ most recent modification of the Uniform Time Act of 1966. This Act establishes in U.S. Code the boundaries of the country’s time zones and specifies the dates that Daylight Time is in force. Daylight Time has always been controversial since its first introduction to our clocks in 1918, and many people today still don’t like it. Folks in Arizona are the only ones in the “lower 48” who don’t change their clocks during the course of the year; however, if you visit the Navajo Nation in the northeast corner of the state, you’ll need to obey the Daylight Time rules while there. To add to the confusion, the Hopi Reservation that lies within the Navajo Nation follows Arizona’s rules, so a drive through these regions will have you furiously adjusting your watch! If you are one of the many folks who don’t like the rules, you can contact the Department of Transportation, the civilian agency tasked with enforcing the Act’s requirements. Here at the Naval Observatory we keep only one time-scale, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), to which all American time-zones are tied, but we have no “say” in how that time is used!

The Sky This Week, 2015 October 27 – November 3 — Naval Oceanography Portal

I was a restaurant manager years ago …

[first published 08-23-11 and stirred to the surface by the Facebook memory churn…]

After college (UVa), I lived and worked in Germany for about 9 months (in einer Zimmerei in der naehe von Hamburg). When I returned, I decided I wanted to be a professional host, like the wonderful woman who ran Café Bretzl in Wein. Sigh. I had enjoyed many taverns and restaurants in my travels. It seemed like a potential career. (German Major lacked potential, though I didn’t care at the time. My brief epiphany that I should study semiotics passed quickly, as with linguistics – I lack the discipline for post-graduate work. As for being a poet, another option, that’s still my avocation.)

watch books from Dudley P's and the Japanese Steak HouseWhat I didn’t know at the time was that nobody really makes enough money in the restaurant business, except the owner, and not always the owner. The money seems good, but at every level, people in the restaurant business work very hard for ungrateful customers and indifferent management. You are an easily replaced cog in any restaurant.

Unaware of that, I applied for a job as an assistant manger at Dudley P’s Pizzeria & Pub on M Street, not far from NPR (at the time). The job of the assistant manager is to let the manager escape the restaurant at the worst hours, especially closing, opening – usually hours apart – and weekends. Moreover, an assistant manager must be able to do any job in the establishment at a moment’s notice, a fact that actually suited me. At times, I cooked, I tended bar, I washed dishes, and, most importantly, I waited tables. Everyone should wait on tables (and buss them) for the experience. We would all have much more respect for and kindness toward those who are good at it – you cannot imagine the challenges.

It wasn’t all bad. I liked working at night. I could eat pizza any time I wanted. I got to select the tape played over the sound system. I met some nice people, including a mentor named Tony. On the other hand, hanging around people all hours who drink and smoke takes a toll, especially since that’s what restaurant workers do after work. (Smoking in a restaurant was still legal and common.)

Dudley P’s was owned by a guy who also owned a more-successful franchise in Maryland. My theory was Dudley’s was a tax offset. At some point, I became disgusted by the district manager and I wrote a letter full of high-dudgeon, disgust, and forgotten accusations regarding that manager to the owner. Here, I like to mention that I had been fired from my first job over an incendiary letter regarding the incompetence and cruelty of a supervisor *and* I would be fired from a later job for the same reason. I was born to be a blogger (which pays no better than poetry, except for a few).

I was not meant, however, to manage people, which is the most lasting thing I learned that year. I expect everyone around me to do their jobs well on their own motivation. I’m neither inspiring nor threatening enough to lead.

Despite all this, I went on to be an assistant manger for the Japanese Steak House at two locations. This was a better fit for me if only for the large number of Asians employed, specifically Japanese, Thai, and Chinese. I like diversity, but I was born and formed in Hawai’i and I was drawn to the people I worked with like family (my family chuckles at this, but “like family” makes my feeling accessible to others). Talk about self-motivated hard-working people barely in need of managing. Yeah, I’m stereotyping, but this was my observation. No question, my co-workers were also gentle and kind to me. When I finally burned out on the hours and the commute, I quit before I could write a letter to my sometimes irksome boss. As a farewell, my colleagues took me out to dinner at a special Chinese restaurant. I was honored.

After a year in the restaurant business, I was ready to get back to working at nothing all day. Lucky for me, I found the first grocery in town that took credit cards (this was that long ago). It was a great summer.

Weaponizing Ebola

It doesn’t take any imagination or pessimism to see the inevitable. An imam will get Ebola and his followers will kiss him and his infected clothing, then get on airplanes to the US and Europe. Surely people willing to die with a bomb attached to their bodies won’t hesitate to doom themselves this way.

Even more likely are infected Hajis on their way to Mecca. The Saudis are blocking people from 3 African nations, but they can’t keep ebola out.

We can’t (won’t, shouldn’t) reject all Muslim visitors nor quarantine them all for 20 days.

Gaia may have finally concocted the right antibody.

My Generation

[I stumbled across this from 3/25/07. It’s still germane.]

You can tell it is fundraising time on PBS, if for no other reason than all the concert shows. These concerts frequently feature rockstars of the 50’s and 60’s. It is so depressing to me to see these old stars singing their old hits. More so, seeing the gray audience singing and swaying along. Yes, I’m every bit as gray and, no, I don’t expect this generation or our idols to go gently into that good night. By all means, fellow Boomers, let’s shake the world at least one last time before we go. Let’s make the 10’s as memorable as the 60’s (unlike the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s).

But my fellow silverbacks and graybeards aren’t rocking the world on these shows. They’re sitting in plush seats in concert halls that don’t look anything like a rock venue. If there is tie-dye in the crowd, it must be on their Depends, cuz these folks could be at the opera, but for the singing along. A Frisbee or a joint would draw such a frowning.

I understand, we’ve arrived and we’ve got the money to do what we want (except stay young forever). I also get the message from PBS that they want us to be comfortable and happy, to be at home at PBS, and to cough up for our front-row seats.

Still, I don’t understand the fundraising strategy of screwing up the expected programing to show nothing but music. Is the message: “here’s a treat for you because you won’t pay for our regular stuff?” If I won’t pay for Jim Lehrer, I surely won’t pay for the reunited surviving members of the Shondells. (Appearing next week at some Indian casino.)

Oh, but Jim Lehrer is secure and onscreen. Ironically, I can’t tell you which evening shows are replaced by these nostalgic moneymakers, now that they’ve stopped preempting the news shows on Friday nights. I can tell you that on Saturday, my favorite cooking shows get bumped (ah, finally, he gets to the point). Now, I appreciate that Julia Child is the godmother of all cooking (though I watched Graham What’s-his-name, the Galloping Gourmet, in my preteens). There is some brief delight in seeing the old black and white footage of Julia cracking wise while cracking two eggs at once (“don’t worry, any bits of shell will sink to the bottom”), cooking 10 second omelets on an electric stovetop (can you believe that!), her scarf hiding her Adam’s apple. But how many hours of that can one take? Moreover, how can anyone take more than a few minutes of “one skillet recipes” with that man and woman I can’t stand (“You’re so smart, it never occurred to me to add fresh garlic instead of garlic salt.”). Puhleese. How are those two moneymakers? Why do they replace America’s Test Kitchen or Everyday Foods?

While I’m on a rant ‘n’ roll, let me add my objection to all the commercials on non-commercial television. The previously understated corporate sponsorship is on it’s way to being an infomercial. Is that really what we want from public television?

I’d pay to have 28 minutes of my favorite shows instead of 24. I’d pay to see my shows when I expect them. I’d even pay to see a concert filmed in the late 60’s without comments. I’d pay to see The Great American Dream Machine again — that was Public Television.

Cue the MP3 of The Who’s “My Generation.” “I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation).” mjh

PS- Some think there won’t be a PBS in another 40 years (or TV, we might hope), but it may hang on with inheritance from lonely Boomers. Imagine the fundraisers in 2050, the oldsters with their rorschach tattoos and horribly stretched piercings nodding to the venerable Eminem and SnoopDogg, Jr. “Next up, the surviving members of Gorrilaz and NiN sing a tribute to the late, great Beyoncé, ‘Dat Old Bitch Da Bomb!’ . That’s tonight’s bonus download with a donation of 500 Reagans. Peace out, Dawg!”

Grief and puppy love

We had to return Autumn to her foster-mom today. I can hardly finish that sentence without tears. She’s a sweet, adorable puppy who made herself the center of our household in no time.

Unfortunately, I had several allergic reactions to Autumn. Sometimes my hands simply burned and itched. Other times, I had hives. I started taking Benadryl regularly, but I don’t want to do that forever.

Perhaps, all puppies are adorable and smart. It was interesting to watch Autumn at play and to watch her face. She makes great eye contact. She adored Luke, followed him, and emulated him.

Everyone knows puppies are work. I keep thinking about my Mom, who made taking care of everything and everyone look effortless and a pleasure. Where does that strength come from? We all rise to certain demanding moments. (Not to make raising a puppy sound heroic.) How many of us keep smiling under the pressure?

It has been a year of grief. First, our weeks in Memphis caring for Merri’s mom who died in July. Then, in August, the death of my old friend, Madeline, virtually my second mom or an aunt. With her dies the last contact with my Mom’s life before me. In this context, the near-destruction of Mer’s car seems a mere inconvenience.

Now, Autumn has come and gone. It breaks my heart to let her go. The one thing that makes that bearable is seeing her joy at returning to her foster-mom and her pack. And I know Lap Dog Rescue will make sure she finds the great home she deserves. I hope she completes a home as Luke has ours.

‘Epic Pale Whale Fail’: Oswalt’s Contribution To ‘Moby Dick’ : NPR–you must hear this

I laughed throughout this hilarious interview, but then, I’ve never read Moby Dick. Fantastic zingers aimed at Americans in general and bloggers, along with the main topic. My highest recommendation.

‘Epic Pale Whale Fail’: Oswalt’s Contribution To ‘Moby Dick’

September 21, 2013 3:00 PM

Listen to the Story

All Things Considered

9 min 50 sec

Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt appeared at three Los Angeles library branches Saturday to read aloud from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and discuss its complexities with audience members. Host Arun Rath talks to Oswalt about his obsession with the white whale.

‘Epic Pale Whale Fail’: Oswalt’s Contribution To ‘Moby Dick’ : NPR

BBC News – German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out

This is an absolutely fascinating piece from my friend, Walking Raven (in her Cognitive Surplus guise). The video portion is well worth your time. These towns should advertise in Deutschland sofort. Germans love the American Southwest and they would be delighted to visit these towns. Such an influx could reinvigorate the local usage, though that too might mean the end of Texas German. Note in this pidgin the same forces one sees at work in Spanglish. Ausgezeichnet!

BBC News – German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out

Still the biggest ancestry group in the US, according to Census data, a large majority of German-Americans never learned the language of their ancestors.

Hans Boas, a linguistic and German professor at the University of Texas, has made it his mission to record as many speakers of German in the Lone Star State as he can before the last generation of Texas Germans passes away.

Mr Boas has recorded 800 hours of interviews with over 400 German descendants in Texas and archived them at the Texas German Dialect Project. He says the dialect, created from various regional German origins and a mix of English, is one of a kind.

BBC News – German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out