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Bird House

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I know a bird in hand is better than two in the bush. But what value do we put on a bird flying around in the house? An outdoor sparrow, that is, not an indoor pet. Joel shouted to me from upstairs an hour ago, a shout that made me think flood. Or leak. Not a good shout. I ran to the stairway and shouted, “What?” “There’s a bird in my room.” I told him to open the window, figured he had it under control, and went back to get the two copies I was printing of tomorrow’s NYT crossword, one for each of us.

Now, I forgot to say that we had our first snow of the year this morning, and an unexpected one at that. It was supposed to snow to the south of us, and well north, but here in Seattle, as the temperatures dropped, we weren’t supposed to have enough moisture to bring snow. Around 6:30 this morning, there were traces. I figured that was that. What I didn’t realize is that it was just beginning. An hour later, there was an accumulation on the grass, on our outdoor table, and on assorted other surfaces, though not the road yet. A couple of hours later, Gail drove me to campus. I figured I’d rather hitch a ride with her all-wheel drive and walk home. The snow started and stopped through the day, just passing snow showers, nothing big. But when I started walking home, it was blowing right into my face. The wind has picked up tonight, the temperatures have dropped, and the snow continues to fall.

When I got up to Joel’s room, crosswords in hand, it was snowing there too. He had the window wide open, and the sparrow was having none of it. There might be a reason he had chosen to fly in and take up residence. I sure wouldn’t want to go out that window. And there was Emma, pacing around, meowing away. We got her out the door, leaving just us and the bird, but no plan.

Joel reminded me that we had wild bird seed. He went down to get some. We chased the bird around a bit. I went down and did the crossword. I came back just as the bird landed on the window ledge, by the seed, but he showed no interest in either the food or the stormy outdoors.

We resorted to trying to get a towel or blanket over him. I succeeded once, but next thing I knew, he ran out the side. Many minutes later, Joel and I got him covered on the floor, we slid a piece of cardboard under him, Joel got a box over the blanket, we got him wedged in-between, Joel carried him down, I opened the back door, and Joel placed the ensemble on the ground. Released, the sparrow flew right off.

I hope he manages out there. We’ll be sure to spread some of the wild bird seed on the back patio in the morning.

Alas, I took no photos of the snow or the bird. I’ll content myself with the generic image above.

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Categories: Animals, House

Forty-Seven Years

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Like so many others who were around 47 years ago, I am aware each November 22 that it is the anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination. I was in 7th grade, the first year of junior high school, of moving through multiple classrooms with multiple teachers each day. At the end of the school day, we would return to homeroom for 5 minutes to check in with our homeroom teachers for any final announcements before heading home. I was sitting at my desk when the teacher across the hall rushed in and whispered something to my teacher. He then followed her into the hall. I don’t have a clear memory of what happened after that. He returned. He must have told us the news. I got on my bus and went home. I remember my sister crying at home, but I don’t remember how she got there. Why wasn’t she on the bus with me? Or maybe she was.

Last January, Gail and I were in Dallas for the first time, visiting my old friend Won. I wrote then about our visit, with one post containing a description of our tour of the The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. In honor of today’s anniversary, here’s a paragraph from that post:

Before taking us to the museum, Won drove us around it to the front — Dealey Plaza — and westwards on Elm Street, under the three-part railway bridge. I didn’t understand at first the point of the detour, but once upstairs, on the sixth floor, as I read about and studied the map of the motorcade route, I appreciated how driving that stretch was an excellent prelude to the exhibit. The permanent exhibit is so well done. It is an intense, powerful, painful experience. First you read about the Kennedy’s early career, marriage to Jacqueline, run for the presidency in 1960, the early days of the administration, political troubles, the decision to travel to Texas to shore up support. And time begins to slow down as the Texas trip begins. San Antonio and Houston on the 21st, with the flight up to Fort Worth that night. Fort Worth on the morning of the 22nd, then the short (really short!) flight to Love Field in Dallas and the motorcade. Years, months, days, hours, minutes, and soon we are studying photos of the motorcade second by second as it heads west on Main, turns north on Houston at the eastern edge of Dealey Plaza, and then makes the left turn west on Elm, with the Texas School Book Depository building on the northwest corner of the intersection. As you work your way through the exhibit, you are also working your way to the southeast corner of the building. You can’t believe he’s going to be shot. But he is. You read. You tear up. And there you are, staring at a mock-up of the corner as it was when Oswald fired, with book boxes piled up to provide a blind from which he can shoot, and with the very window he fired through — the easternmost one on the south side — pushed up no more than a foot. The space is enclosed by glass, so you can’t actually walk into it, but you can view it from different angles, coming ultimately to the south side, at which point you look down on Elm yourself and see Oswald’s view. It’s shattering, 46 years later.

Categories: History

Change We Can Believe In, X

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Change we can believe in: Perpetual war

The death Saturday of political scientist Chalmers Johnson led to reflections by, among others, James Fallows, Steve Clemons, and Daniel Larison. Larison quotes the following passage from Johnson’s 2004 book The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic:

If present trends continue, four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative impact guarantees that the United States will cease to bear any resemblance to the country once outlined in our Constitution. First there will be a state of perpetual war leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut. Second, there will be a loss of democracy
and constitutional rights as the presidency fully eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from an
‘executive branch’ of government into something more like a Pentagonized presidency. Third, an already
well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there will be bankruptcy, as we pour our economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and shortchange the education, health, and safety of our fellow citizens.

Reading this yesterday, I was reminded of Saturday’s news from the NATO meeting in Lisbon that we will be in Afghanistan until at least 2014:

NATO and Afghanistan agreed Saturday to the goal of a phased transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan government by the end of 2014, but NATO officials acknowledged that allied forces would remain in Afghanistan, at least in a support role, well beyond that date.

NATO and American officials also warned that if Afghanistan had not made sufficient progress in managing its own security, 2014 was not a hard and fast deadline for the end of combat operations.

“We will stay after transition in a supporting role,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO, said at a news conference on Saturday after signing a long-term security agreement with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

NATO officials had previously said it was likely that tens of thousands of support troops would remain in Afghanistan past 2014 to provide training and other security guarantees to Kabul.

. . .

Mr. Obama also confirmed the American military, which now has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, would remain in some form. “Certainly, our footprint will have been significantly reduced,” he said. “But beyond that, you know, it’s hard to anticipate exactly what is going to be necessary.”

It would appear that President Obama anticipates being at war — should he be re-elected — for the full eight years of his presidency. That’s as perpetual as it gets. And he’s well down the road to visits of Johnson’s other three sorrows.

Categories: Politics, War