Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from April 2005

Whither “Duck Cheney”?

April 30th, 2005 · Comments Off on Whither “Duck Cheney”?

The mother duck under Secret Service protection just hatched a nestful of fuzzy ducklings today. Duck names being discussed include “Duck Cheney”, “Quacks Reform”, and ‘Treasury Bill.”

The official plan is to move the duck family, tomorrow, out of the gardens of the Treasury Department and into one of Washington’s many parks.

May I propose that instead we move the ducks north, to one of Alaska’s National Wildlife Areas. Maybe the compassion Washingtonians feel for this family of ducks may thereby extend to the 40,000 caribou whose habitat is threatened by Republican plans to drill there for oil

Tags: Life, the universe, and everything

Update: Filibusterin’ Frank

April 30th, 2005 · Comments Off on Update: Filibusterin’ Frank

FilbusterFrank: Frank Wilczek at Princeton University's pro-filibuster filibuster, April 29, 2005 They’re up past 100 hours now, filbustering in the rain.

If you’re near Princeton, stop by and give them a hand.

Tags: Editorial

Filibuster-defending filibuster: Now with extra Einstein

April 29th, 2005 · Comments Off on Filibuster-defending filibuster: Now with extra Einstein

Princeton students planned a protest “filibuster” outside Frist Hall for a couple of 12-hour days–but 90-plus straight hours later, the Frist Center Filibuster continues.

Rush Holt dropped by to read from Aesop’s Fables. When we showed up, a student was reading from the last book of the Talmud. And recent Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek, recruited to speak April 29 at 8:30, read selections from Einstein’s early papers on relativity, earning frequent applause from the evening’s crowd.

“I’m amazed by the level of enthusiasm,” says biology post-doc Teresa Leonardo. “People keep coming back, to speak and to listen–and they keep getting more empowered, more forceful, more eloquent.”

Senator Bill Frist, whose family donated millions for the Princeton University building that bears his name, has called for “the nuclear option” to stop Democrats from using the filibuster against anti-abortion judicial nominees.

Check out the Daily Princetonian for more–and I’ll be watching the filibuster webpage for photos of Frank–and Einstein–in action.

“This is about preserving our democracy from a lust for power that seems to have no end. Our message is that people will pay attention if you tinker with checks and balances to perpetuate your one-party rule.”

Jason Vagliano, history major at Princeton

See also blogposts by Kos, Liberal Oasis, and Josh Marshall…hey Josh, can Frank get a “Privatize This!” Tshirt?

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

Formal garb meets TSA, formal garble meets Willie Nelson

April 27th, 2005 · Comments Off on Formal garb meets TSA, formal garble meets Willie Nelson

We are on the road again tomorrow–Princeton, Barcelona, Madrid, and then Oxford–so I’m glad to know our airports are secure from avian terrorists wearing tuxedos.

But I’m taking a break from packing to play games with Google’s language tools and the lyrics of some of my favorite traveling songs. For example, here — translated into French and then back into English–is one of my favorite songs by Willie Nelson:

On the road still,
like a band of the gipsies, we descend the road.
We are best friends, insistent on the fact that the world is turnin ‘ our manner, and our manner:

Is on the road still:
Just cannot wait to still obtain on the road.
The love of life I is music of makin ‘ with my friends,
and I then not to wait to still obtain on the road.

Nancy Sinatra’s standard became even stranger after a three-step translation(English to German, German to French, and French to English again.)

You to hold to say something for me that to have you.
Something to name with loves, to admit you however.
They to confuse, where you not a one to confuse to have
and now somebody the other gettin ‘ your better entirety.

These loadings are formed to go,
and that is right what they do
With of these days which will go completely these loadings on you.

Okay, back to packing some more.

Are you ready, loadings? I then not to wait to still obtain on the road…

Thanks to Chris Marcum for this new lyrical tool.

Tags: Pilgrimages

“Dare to be Bare” at the Harvard Square May Fair

April 27th, 2005 · Comments Off on “Dare to be Bare” at the Harvard Square May Fair

Take it off–take it all off!

…your hair, that is…

May Day is coming to Harvard Square, and the big May Fair promises to make this Sunday afternoon, May 1, a wonderful outdoor party.*

Food, crafts, merchant displays, buskers, the strolling crowds–and something special and wacky from Diego Salon–“a haircutting event to raise money for breast cancer and to donate hair to be made into wigs for children who lose their hair to chemotherapy.”

Don’t you absolutely love Cambridge, MA?

Last year, Diego’s event collected $3,000 for Mt. Auburn Hospital, from pledges made by friends of 30 participants. This year, they’ve got lots of pledges and want some more.

You don’t need to get a close shave to participate–anybody who donates 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love gets a free Diego haircut and makeover. Considering that Diego Salon has been voted “Best Haircut in Boston” for the past ten years, that’s a pretty good reason to cut your old ponytail down to size for summer.

Sign up by email at Harvard Square Charity Shave.

* Rain date May 8–and since everything on the Internet is immortal, let me specify that I’m talking 2005.

Tags: Pilgrimages

Un-bargained bargain

April 26th, 2005 · Comments Off on Un-bargained bargain

If you’re a bad bargainer–like me–here is a great discovery!

After test-driving a car that I want to buy, I told the nice salesman the truth: I printed out its entire New Car Price Report ($12 download from the
Consumer Reports website)–and then left it at home by mistake. So, I said, we’ll have to talk price after I go home and look at my printout.

“Wait a minute,” he said–then he went to talk to his manager and came back and offered me about 10% off the sticker price of the car–even more than Consumer Reports claims the average buyer saves!

I’m not a good bargainer–but the salesman assumed I was, and then he bargained with himself on my behalf.

Tags: Life, the universe, and everything

Searching the infinite heavens with our flashlights

April 25th, 2005 · Comments Off on Searching the infinite heavens with our flashlights

EinsteinPrinceton: Illustration by Ron Barrett: Albert Einstein stands on his porch in Princeton, shining a flashlight toward the starry sky. “The years of anxious searching in the dark, with their intense longing, their alternations of confidence and exhaustion and the final emergence into the light – only those who have experienced it can understand it.”

Albert Einstein (Nobel 1921)

This tiny cartoon* seems to express so much in 15K of pixels.

In the temporary quiet of midnight, on the front porch of a house where Frank and I much later lived, an emblematic scientist searches the starfield–using a tool that is plainly inadequate–but much better than failing to search at all.

Clifton Fadiman told the relevant anecdote well:

A certain distinguished astronomer once declared at a scientific meeting: “To an astronomer, man is nothing more than an insignificant dot in an infinite universe.”

“I have often felt that,” said Einstein. “But then I realize that the insignificant dot who is man is also the astronomer.”

* This illustration by Ron Barrett comes from the April 6, 2005 issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Tags: Nobel

One dress, one jacket, one suitcase packed at all times…

April 23rd, 2005 · Comments Off on One dress, one jacket, one suitcase packed at all times…

Dame Miriam Rothschild (1908 – 2005), mother of 10 children, was the world’s greatest expert on fleas, as well as a wildflower advocate, code analyst, tuberculosis detective, and … I could go on but I won’t except to add that she once dressed up as a man to play cricket for England.

Dame Miriam simplified her life by wearing exactly one dress with a matching jacket, every day. That is, she had found an outfit she liked somewhere around 1960, so she had it made up in multiple colors and patterns–and that was her wardrobe.

She also kept her suitcase packed at all times, to make traveling simpler.

Dame Miriam very recently died–I just found out today. She has been one of my personal heroines since David McCullough profiled her in 1992 for Smithsonian Magazine. If you’re looking for a good scientific role model, check out this excellent and amusing retrospective.

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

How readable is your blog?

April 22nd, 2005 · Comments Off on How readable is your blog?

How readable is your blog? If you think a good answer would include decimal points, plug in your URL here.

I found this blogtest via Kevin Drum, than whose blog mine was more readable….at least until this post!

Tags: Metablogging

Portrait of a 1918 blogger

April 20th, 2005 · 1 Comment

My great-grandfather,Hugo A. Dubuque–his 1928 obituaries described him as “a credit to his race,” said race being French-Canadian. He put himself through college, trained for the bar, and ultimately became a Massachusetts Superior Court Judge, spending many days riding the circuit far from his home and family in Fall River.

And, late in 1918 he became something very like a blogger.

My sister and I discovered his “blog” tucked away in the pages of our father’s baby-photo album–a series of short letters, written almost daily, that Judge Dubuque mailed home from his travels, addressed to his brand-new grandson.

The series begins with a letter to his daughter Marie. The judge, clearly shaken by his youngest and dearest daughter’s delivering her first child in her girlhood bedroom:

…I cannot tell you how glad we all are that you came through the ordeal all right. How pround Frank will be when he gets the happy news, and his folks also.
You can now see, better than you ever realized before, why a mother is the center of such sweet and tender affection. The explanation is that she has earned it by going through the great trial and suffering for, and devotion to, her offspring.
Suffering purifies and ennobles all things….
May God bless you and your dear little son, and bring back to you safely his father home [from the World War I battlefield]…

Here’s a characteristic “post” from January 1919:

I envied you this morning, my boy, nice and warm in your cozy bassinette. It was very chilly for grandpa — the wind was North and snowing — the walks were very slippery, but Gaga is always careful so he did not fall down.
There is no heat at all in the Elevated cars in Boston on account of the influenza.

What was that I heard this morning? that you gave an unearthly shriek, like a sort of Indian war whoop, because you were so hungry? That is very rude for a little boy to do that, and scare his Mamma and Atta Paul [Aunt Pauline]. But, of course, when a young man is hungry he cannot always repress his feelings. So be a good boy and we will all love you dearly.

Two weeks later, the proud grandfather has something new to blog:

It is the first time, yesterday, that my voice as a singer was ever appreciated. And you, sweet little grandson, were the one to do so. Nothing pleased me better than to see you apparently enjoy grandpa’s singing. You evidently could stand it with delight, on the ground, presumably, that any noise will do as an amusement.

Wait until your Dad gets home, he will sing “lullybys” for you. It will be great for you to be carried around by a hero of the greatest war in the history of the world, that of 1914 – 1918.

Springtime is a great inspiration to bloggers–even those of March 1919:

You missed it, Murray, in not getting up at 5 A.M. the same as your Gaga did this morning– There was a nice white frost, the harbinger of spring, spread over the trees and ground. The air was so sweet and pure. It is a real delight to be out early.

The spring will soon be here, and by the way this is your first spring. While you have seen flowers in the house, they are much nicer on their own stems in the sunlight outdoors.
Gaga expects to have a garden this spring, back of the house; so you’ll see things grow and you will learn farming and horticulture — garden and flower production — And you will sleep surrounded by flowers and vegetables, which will form a background to the picture of my little grandson–I hope your dad, when he takes you to Manchester, will have a little garden, if it is only to grow some flowers and a few of the ordinary vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, rare-ripes, and the like…

I transcribed only a few of these letters–of course I now wish I had copied out all of them. A good excuse to go visit my sister again…

Tags: Metablogging · My Back Pages · Sister Age · Stories