Chapter 17: Succulent Karoo.
magazine has a new feature this month: "conservation hot spots" around the
world. One of them rejoices in the name of The Succulent Karoo. It
is a coastal desert area in the southwest of Africa. I just LOVE that
name. If I had known about it in 1991, when I started playing on the
Internet, I would have named myself Succulent Karoo. As it is, I am too
well known as me to get away with it.
Isn't that the stuff just
north of Capetown? I've been there. Its pretty boring.
Capetown is in a little wet microclimate caused by Table Mountain in what
would otherwise be the middle of the Karoo. It was the only place in
that part of the world that had enough fresh water to make a settlement
You've been there! How cool. It's like Hawaii. In geography
in third grade we learned that everything around the world at our latitude was
desert, except for Hawaii, and we were not desert because of Mauna Kea and
Mauna Loa, which reach up high enough to snag moisture out of the air.
the leeward sides of the Hawaiian islands are, indeed, desert.
They probably tell you it mixes up the
air or some bollocks like that.
Relief Rain: Saturated maritime air rides up the mountain
slopes and expands adiabatically as it rises and the barometric pressure
consequently falls. This expansion cools it until it reaches dew point and
clouds form. Yes.
It's called adiabatic cooling, and I believe it is 1 degree (or a little bit
more) for each 1,000 feet it rises. Under given conditions of
temperature and saturation, dew point always happens at the same height, so
the clouds have flat bottoms. The droplets in the clouds grow until they
are carried down again below the dew point altitude, and they fall through the
air at a rate dependent on their size, so if the clouds get big enough the
droplets will grow big enough and fall fast enough to keep on falling till
they hit the ground before they evaporate completely. Bingo! Rain!
QED. I just thought you'd like to know.
I do know, thank you.
I'm from Hawaii.
Good. They taught us some awful
rubbish at school about air currents mixing up, and we live in a relief rain
zone too. I couldn't understand where it got the mixing energy from,
feeling tired after mixing a cake. (We didn't have an electric mixer
when I was a kid.) It just doesn't happen on that scale, air is thick
stuff, just ask a fighter pilot. The teacher didn't have the
imagination to realise it. I didn't know then that other people
couldn't do that trick of pretending to be an air current or a gear wheel or
whatever. When I did find out, I made my living out of
Hmm. This I'd like to
see. Do you spin around, emitting a pocketa-pocketa noise, or is it a
Sometimes the thin whining if it is difficult, but usually it is
restricted to imagination.
You haven't lived until you have seen Table Mountain with
its table cloth. When there is a mild east wind and the mountain sticks
through the inversion layer, you get a thin trickle of uplifted wet air
flowing over the top of the mountain forming a thin close layer of cloud which
drapes itself down the leeward side as it evaporates and looks for all the
world like a piece
of white linen. I've never seen a good photo of it,
you'd think they'd have it on postcards, but the time I saw it, it was much
clearer than any postcard shot, and it was the only day I left my camera in
The Koolau Mountains do
the same thing, but not so often. They frequently have what we call a
"lei" cloud, which is a long narrow cloud that forms about a hundred feet
below their peaks. Mount Rainier, which fills most of the windows of my
house, has a little lenticular cloud that develops over it some days. It
looks like a cap hovering over it.
When I was installing a machine in Capetown, the customer CEO
was very hospitable and having arranged my accomodation, asked if there was
anything I needed. I thought I'd be cheeky, and asked if he knew
anywhere I could
get a ride as crew on a yacht. He didn't sail
himself but sometimes crewed for a friend, CEO of a sister company, so he
arranged for us all to have dinner together and go off sailing one
weekend. It was really fun. This guy kept his yacht in a
marina in the big Atlantic bay about 100km north of Capetown. He told me
it was a much better natural harbour than Capetown but they had not made the
settlement there only for the lack of fresh water. We drove up through
the Karoo for a couple of hours to get there. Of course they were taking
advantage too, as soon as we got afloat they left me to it
and sat back
with the beers. So everyone was happy, I got to play with an expensive
yacht, and they got driven around the bay for the afternoon, and just had to
haul the odd jib sheet now and again and point out the local landmarks.
I found some waterproof factor 15 transparent suncream, which meant I never
burned and didn't have to go around looking like a marble statue either.
Its kind of important when you don't have hair, and hats tend to be unstable
on yachts. I've used it all up now, and have never seen that stuff here.
We have gobs of it here,
and I'd be happy to send you some.
Well, only if you can send sunshine too. I don't exactly
need it often in this country. Thanks anyway, and if I feel a foreign
holiday coming on, I'll ask.
When are you going to
come to Hawaii? I swear that I will meet you and The Kid there and take
you to all the cool places.
Alternately, if The Kid is interested in
museums and stuff, there are tons of neat museums here. An Indian
museum, a kid's science museum, a doll museum, etc. And of course the
EMP, otherwise known as The Building That Looks Like Vomit. But it's
great inside -- they have a feature where you can stand on a stage in front of
thousands of (not real, but realistic) screaming people and be a rock'n'roll
God give me money. I'd love to, but between cash and
school holidays (with associated premuim prices) travel is difficult. I
have a good friend in LA who has been asking me to visit for years, and a girl
in China that wants to marry me, but that had to go on ice when I got ripped
off last year. Probably wouldn't have worked anyway.
(brr) Of COURSE she
wanted to marry you. Anything to get out of the third world. Well,
if and when you do go to LA, you could at least take The Emperor Of The North
(a train) up the coast to Seattle. It is inexpensive, and stunning
SUCculent KaROO. It
sounds like something out of Kipling.
He who takes Succulent
That the Parsee-Man makes
Makes dreadful mistakes.
Aloha, The Succulent (but
"It wasn't the High Veldt or the Low Veldt or the Bush Veldt
but the 'sclusively dry and prickly Succulent Karoo. Catharine would lie
in the bushes looking like nothing in particular until along came a rock rabbit,
when she would jump out and get her husband to breathe on it, until it ran away
in fear of its life to join the Aboriginal Flora."
Do you know,
they told me that rock rabbits are actually pachyderms! The attached
picture of one, with chips, is actually atop Table Mountain but they are all
over the Karoo. The locals call them Dassies.
Wow, Tim, are all the boys in England like you, or are
I love it when people know what I'm talking
about. Not many people in the U.S. know their Just-So
Of course I'm special. I
suppose Just-So Stories were pretty popular in the 50's, so most upper and
middle class kids of the baby-boom generation were probably introduced to
them. Of that group, those with young children may well have read them
to their offspring and so become more familiar in adult life. Even then
I don't suppose too many would be able to mangle quotes from it without
looking them up. And
modest, too. : ) That is partly down to hearing that tape
over and over quite recently, and partly from having read them out loud many
times over the last few years.
Yes. They're also called
hyraxes. I think they're very cute, but I don't know if they make good
Yes, that is the proper
name. I never heard of anyone keeping one. I don't know if they
are edible either but according to Kipling the Leopard and the Ethiopian got a
big tummy ache after eating them.
Natasha recently got a tape of
the Just So Stories which we play in the van on long journeys. The reader,
Johnny Morris was famous in the 60's for his animal impersonations on TV.
Of course I have read them all to her dozens of times when she was
younger. I still think my reading of Old Man Kangaroo is better, it has a
rhythm like a railway train. Probably. I think the more rhythm something one is reading
out loud has, the better. As a pseudonym Succulent Karoo
sounds decidedly sexy, or at least it would without the associations with the
actual place. I think it must be the 'suck' bit, or perhaps the thought of
I don't think the average Web TV user knows that
fleshy leaves are called succulents. I know that a couple of weeks ago,
when out with my stepdaughter eating pizza, I described the (excellent) pizza as
"succulent," and a woman looked at me as if I had said a dirty word. God,
woman, get a thesaurus. And yes, that pizza was absolutely
ROFLMAO! She probably
though 'thesaurus' was a swear word too. Of maybe something reptilian with
scales and big teeth.
My cat still hates my husband. He (the cat) has taken to sleeping on
Is that a substitute? Maybe I
should have one sleep on my head. (Allan's shin pads at the
I don't know. I know that babies love to cuddle up to my (now very
bony) chest, and I think it's because they can feel my heartbeat better.
Maybe the cat is the same way. It's certainly not the warmest or softest
part of me.
I go to bed before David does, and I am often awakened by hissing and
lurching, as David has tried to kiss me good night and the cat has defended me
bravely. I have to act kind and sorry, but actually I want to laugh my
head off. I'm so awful.
You KNOW he has bad breath if a cat objects to
We got a real traditional
winters day today. It snowed last night, then froze all day, so we had
bright clear blue skies over an inch of crisp snow. Here is are two picture of
the views from outside our house. This is the first sub-zero day of the
year. We don't get many. There was considerable betting on a White
Christmas, but most places remained stubbornly snow-free until a couple of days
after Christmas, so the bookies cleaned up yet again.
As they are wont to
pictures. England just looks the way countryside is SUPPOSED to. It
is mysteriously RIGHT, I don't know why. Race memory?Or
media imagery. Christmas cards. Bing Crosby singing about a White
Christmas. Where apart from here is White Christmas just rare enough to
wish for, and why should Americans want to sing about it when for most of them
it is either always or never? I never understood that. "May all of
your Christmases be in sub-temperate latitudes"?
Oh, not for most of them at
all. About the only people who can count on having a white Christmas are
those in, like, northern Minnesota, North Dakota, and maybe Michigan's Upper
Peninsula. Sometimes upstate New York, e.g. Buffalo's Big Blow this
year. Everyone else is just grimly frozen and gray. The big snows
come in January and February, for the most part.
that was the reason I took the photos, and whenever these weather conditions
occur I feel the need to photograph the scenery. Also, having views like
that was one of the reasons for buying this house. It was definitely not
reflected in the price, so I suppose it doesn't appeal to others so much, just
my little secret pleasure.
weird. I would think that would definitely be a selling point. Our
house sells for $15,000 more than the one next door (well, it would if it ever
got sold) because of the big Mt. Rainier views.
Of course, people think it's
cool. Me, I just see it as a better view of the source of the mud and ash
flow that is eventually going to suffocate/boil us to death one fine day.
But it is kind of pretty, especially right at twilight when it appears to be
suspended in the dark dark blue sky.
Possibly it is offset by the
Pakistani community occupying about 60% of the houses on the road, and by the
fact that it is one of the larger houses in a low-income area, so unaffordable
to the community and uninteresting to the wealthy. Personally I have
nothing more against the Pakistanis than I have against the low-income drinking
class which occupies the rest, probably less.
Ah. See, Pakistan is part
of the world that has always interested me. I want to go
there. I think the shalwar kameez (the long dress and trousers
that a lot of the women wear) is the best-looking clothing for women on the
planet, and if I wasn't afraid of being thought a poser, I'd wear it a
You certainly wouldn't look out of place here. Or in a black
'bio-hazard suit' (burkah is it called?). Seeing it written there I
wondered, does kameez have an etymological link with camisole?
I would guess. Think of
the word chemise.
In sailing I learned a mnemonic for the cardinal point marks around a
hazard: West is two black cones stacked point to point, like a wasp-waisted
little black dress - Western woman. East has the cones stacked base to
base, like a burkah - Eastern woman. Totally unforgettable. North
(both cones up) and South both cones down) seemed obvious enough
Natasha's school is around 50% Pakistani, Lyudmila the racist immigrant
was furious and tried to get her into another school. I was quite pleased
that she failed, because it is a nice school, and I think living near to your
schoolfriends and spending a minimum time travelling to school are more
important than fine tuning the quality of the teaching or mixing with a 'better'
catchment population. I don't regret it.
I think so, too. I think part of
school's purpose is to introduce you to the people you will truly be working
with when you are an adult, not the people your parents wish you would be
And as Britain is no longer and will never again be lily
white, I think it's grand that she has brown friends. Most of the world is
brown, after all.
In as far as it goes, yes, but of course she
cannot play with -them- outside school, their parents would not dream of letting
their children go to a non-Moslem house.
Oh, GOD, do they not see that
that is interpreted as standoffishness and will not lead to happiness?
Probably, but they interpret their religious rules very
strictly. Maybe GOD should have a word with Allah.
That would be taking integration too far. So she doesn't really
count them as 'friends'. Not that it's just the Moslems, one of her white
school friends is not allowed to visit because her parents think Natasha is
Huh?!? I believe that any
child whose mother dies is entitled to a little spoiling. She doesn't seem
that way to ME, but then I don't know her. Now, Artyom...
Of course it is never that simple. Firstly the opinion was formed
before Lyudmila got cancer, and secondly, it's mostly -their- problem anyway,
what it really is is that they don't want to expose their own family
inadequacies. This girl I think lives with her grandparents, father
absent, mother inadequate or something etc etc. I don't pry. Not a
moral stand, I just don't care.
Ah. And raised by the
standards of two generations ago, she probably is spoiled. I know I
was. Well, consider the source. Whoever's parents they are, they
didn't raise THEIR child to be a good parent.
Now Artyom... I am getting around to feeling I have done enough
to pander to him and will have to get a big stick out. I think I have to
accept that this problem is not going to go away if I ignore it for long enough.
"Artyom, this is the road. Allow me to introduce you." With only
nukes left in the armoury, I have to devise a credible threat that doesn't
actually lead to war but gets him off his arse.
You should talk to Allan
Grossman. He has had much the same problem.
Maybe I will, we'll see how it goes. Did he reach a satisfactory
I think they have reached
détente, at least. He would certainly understand what you are going
through, though, and he is an excellent listener. Shall I set it
Let's wait and see the current manouevre goes. From people I
have talked to it seems a pretty common situation. It seems hard to find
a kid in that age range who doesn't behave like that. I seems to be
something to do with the society our generation or the one before created for
Surely there's something like
Yesterday I told Artyom I thought it was time he found himself
somewhere to live, and that I wasn't prepared to go on supporting him
indefinitely. His response was that he would go to the factory where he
had been working previously and see if he could get his old job back, and
failing that, apply to join the military. Well, I don't take issue with
any of that, if it happens.
The military are recruiting quite strongly now;
after years of cutbacks they are suddenly flavour of the month again with the
Does the British military have
the same kind of deal that we can get here, where if you sign up for
ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) they will pay for most of your college,
and then you will graduate as a lieutenant, and either be able to go
career-track through the military or go into the reserves, and pray you never
get called up?
I think that is a wonderful idea, and if I had it to do all
over again, I would do that.
Yes, something similar with student sponsorships, but you can't do
that if you already flunked college.Oh. That must be the difference between your military and
ours, where we tutor people. You can just keep trying over and over.
It does sound like a good deal, although there was one
famous-for-fifteen-minutes one who might have had second thoughts. She
was an RAF sponsored student, I think at Cambridge. She was featured on
the 999 program after being taken for a ride in the second seat of a Harrier.
During a terrain-following exercise in the Lake District (lots of terrain
there) a bird-strike took out the windscreen and the pilot's facemask and
broke the pilot's jaw. The passenger was screaming "What do I do! What
do I do!" and he was unable to reply. She took the cue to eject from the
rocket assisted departure of his seat. Well, she appears to have had SOMETHING holding her ears apart.
She went, some 1.5 seconds from impact, well outside the
envelope: her chute was inflated by the fireball and she landed in the
wreckage. She escaped with a broken knee after the pilot dragged her
from the debris
Around 100 intelligence reservists actually got called up this week,
first call-up in nearly 50 years.
Oh, wow. We have been
having reservists called up periodically for everything since Desert Storm, so
we're kind of used to it by now. I am still stunned by the number of
people whining, "It's not convenient for me right now. I don't want to
go. I don't agree with why we're over there." Hey, as far as I am
concerned, you took the military's money already, so go do what you promised
Could be worse, if he was in Russia he would be conscripted. He
saw a documentary on the Russian Army recently. Seems like a Dickensian
image of boarding school life, complete with fagging and all that
Catharine, I just read your post
re your bone scan result.
Such wonderful and unlikely news.
I just hope the rest of the tests show such positive results, and
that it 'sticks' that way.
I hope so, too. I actually had to go and take several
plain-film X-rays of my right femur
yesterday, as a result of the bone
scan, so maybe I don't know how to read them as well as
I guess one might have to take
another look at faith healing?
But it was faith healing that I didn't agree in! And, by
the way, the spinal MR, read by the same doctor, showed that the spinal mets
But, as I said in the ng, I think the MR would show that,
it's showing the holes in the bones, not the cancer that caused them.
The holes take a long time to close even with the help of Aredia or
whatever. But the bone scan shows -activity-, and suggests they are at
last headed in the right direction.
I am very sad today because I'm
doing the horrible prep for the colonoscopy. I'm a big crybaby.
Yuk. Rather you than me.
It went well, and was a lot less
awful than I expected it to be. I remember opening my eyes at one point,
and feeling a bad pain in my okole, and someone in the room saying,
"Owwwwww", but then I closed my eyes and opened them again and the nurse was
telling me my ride was there.
A home win, Catharine
One; Drain Nil!! [Catharine had posted an article
to Usenet entitled "Am I circling the drain?"]
After seeing BC
roll over Lyudmila and everything chemo could do like a tank over a marshmallow,
it is great to see someone I care about beat the odds for once.
That's so sweet of you.
Grossman and Deborah will be in Seattle next month. We'll all raise a
glass to you in spirit.
What about house swapping? I mean, if you and
Natasha wanted to come to Seattle (or Honolulu, if I ever leave David and move
back home), how about swapping houses for a couple of weeks or so? Then
all you'd have to do would be pay for airfare and
Sounds like a nice idea, when I've caught up with the
finances enough to feel that taking a couple of weeks off wouldn't cripple
us. I'm getting there, would have been there already if I hadn't got
ripped off last year. How too, too
miserable. Its slow because so much of my income goes on
child-minding. Now that brings us back to Artyom, it does seem a bit silly
to pay a child minder while he lies in bed, but I have to think longer term, I
can't just hire and fire whenever he gets or loses a job, or fit around his odd
days' work. I live in hope that he will be working soon.
Get him to get trained in child-minding. There is a crying
need for normal men in child-care. I assume he's normal, but just
That would go down like a lead balloon I'm sure. As
far as I know he is normal, but making the effort to get trained for something
would feel like a commitment to making a career in it, and he has dreams of
spending his life doing something a bit more financially rewarding and
intellectually demanding than child-minding. Admittedly the way he is
going the dreams are likely to stay a very virtual reality. It would mean
admitting that the laziness was congenital, not just a passing difficulty.
I am sure he still sees himself getting over this little difficulty, getting
offered a plum job on a plate and becoming some sort of wizard, but then he
rolls over and goes back to sleep.
I thought that way at that age, but it got beaten out of
BTW, Hey what's with the sudden change of status. Last year
America was declaring war on terrorists. Now they caught some, suddenly
they remembered having signed the Geneva Convention and word 'war' seems to have
become inconvenient. So now it isn't a war, and they are illegal
combatants or something. Illegal under whose law? Is anybody, doing
something in their own country which happens to be illegal under US law, now to
be hunted down by God's own military? I thought that only applied to
Panama. I knew the IRS taxed Americans in America, Americans abroad and
foreigners in America, and was still working on ways of taxing foreigners
working abroad. The military seems to have taken a leaf out of their
I think that we reclassified them
for their protection. I think (I'm not sure) that if they were classed as
prisoners of war they would have only been eligible for courts martial, which
are secret in America. The press (and many citizens, like me) screamed
that this is not fair to them or to us, that they have a right to know their
accuser and know the charges against them. I think the illegal combatants
classification is a UN designation.
I see. Then their PR people have let them down badly. Our
media is at the moment portraying this as if torture were imminent.
We were told they had been reclassified so that they could legally be
interrogated for more than "name, rank and serial number".
Yes. There has been so
much publicity about torture, and should we openly engage in it, and so much
revulsion from all segments of society, that I HOPE no one will be
tortured. Not MY country, please!
I fear trial by media may be the alternative to trial by court-martial,
and am not sure which is frying pan and which is fire.
If these guys are, as
would appear, the sworn enemies of the west in general and murderers who would
happily kill our nearest and dearest, then I have no problem with disposing of
them in whatever way is convenient. But that does have to be proven, it
would be all to easy to grab the nearest half dozen guys on the street "You, you
and you, you're terrorists!" in order to satisfy the bloodlust. But that
is not the problem.
I'm still very nervous
about all these videotapes that conveniently show up in bombed-out
rubble. Frankly, I think the much bigger story this year is the collapse
of Enron. I think Enron's officers are far more evil than bin
Laden. At least he (I don't think) is in it for the money.
That is another story entirely,
and far more real and intractable. Could we go around bombing
corporate fat-cats? Could we perhaps recruit bin Laden to do it?
It sounds like his sort of field, he could hit his real targets and win
popularity with the western populace at the same
One could wish. My sister says that, at Thanksgiving,
some of the people at my brother's house were his next-door neighbors, the
COO of Enron and his family. My brother, the last time I saw him,
(which was in September) told me to tell David to sell his Enron stock: that
a "little birdy" had told him to do so. As far as I am concerned, that
is clear evidence of insider information and it infuriates and shames
I think you commented in
another place that there has never been a society that was not ruled by thugs
and bullies, or some such. So what else is new, a rather bigger piece of
thuggery that usual? I don't know the details, but that is what it
sounds like. This is free enterprise isn't it?
Yes. I think it
was the Treasury secretary who said something like "Companies come, and
companies go. It's part of the genius of capitalism." To me,
this exposes the hazards inherent in the way we buy and sell stocks
now. We rely a lot on what analysts say. Analysts rely a lot on
the information coming out of companies via their auditors. Now we
know that it is possible for auditors to lie. ARGH!
The genius of it is that
accountants, lawyers and other parasites get to rake off a cut every time
they come and every time they go. Also the transition does a wonderful
job of revaluing the assets and laying off staff without all those annoying
Look at the UK railways. The infrastructure
was sold off to the private sector (Railtrack Plc.) a few years ago, a nice
boost to the treasury war chest for handouts and tax cuts before the
following election (although not a loony as the 3G mobile phone licence
auction), and it has just effectively been renationalised without
compensation on the grounds that it was insolvent (which it was because the
gov. decided to stop paying its subsidy). The seemingly crazy part is
that the government still expect the private sector to invest in whatever
successor organisation takes over the assets. The investors are
willing, but remark casually that the price has gone up. Now they know
they have to carry the risk of the gov. having their hand in the till, they
will charge a lot more interest, which will of course
have to be paid by
the good old taxpayer.
Now ain't that good for the City, ie the
institutional investors, pension funds, investment trusts etc. Just
when they thought the shit was really hitting the fan as inflation
disappears and interest rates approach zero, and parasitism loses its
profitability, along comes the gov. and demands a huge loan over decades at
premium rates. Wasn't that convenient. Of course, heads will
roll, they may have to sack the Minister for Trade and Industry or someone
for his 'incompetence', but the gravy train will keep rolling and all the
boys will be happy. I'm sure the minister will get a few nice non-exec
directorships or something for his troubles if they can't find another
scapegoat. He is after all a saviour.
Am I the only one to ask "who
profits?"? If they held a murder enquiry after a company was killed,
that would be the first question.
Now they're saying that
the chairman of Enron had to start selling stock suddenly to meet personal
loan payments. Hmm. As he has made a public fetish of living
frugally for the glossy business magazines over the last few years, one
wonders what those loans were for.
This is human nature, to try to
rip off one's fellows, although some of us manage a veneer of civilisation
over it (that seemed to stick better than elbows-off-table). Just ask
the ghost of Karl Marx. The probability of the population smoothing out
into an equilibrium of near-equality is about as likely as all the mass in the
universe becoming equally distributed throughout it rather than clumping into
stars. Nature is lumpy by nature, entropy increases. Any physicist
could have told him that all animals being equal is an unstable low-entropy
Our government has just woken up to the fact that CEO's of major
public companies and utilities are hired at vast fees, with contracts
which include termination penalties. So it is actually in their interest
to blow it totally and get fired because then they get an early termination
payment. No-one, it seems, writes in clauses requiring the executives to
actually -perform-, or relates bonuses to share prices or whatever.
BTW elbows-off-table reminds me of a funny line in the cartoon
'Shrek' which seems to have stuck with me. The home of irascible ogre
Shrek is invaded by fairytale characters, as he discovers when seven dwarves
dump Snow White's casket on his dining table. His reaction is "No!
Dead broad OFF the table!". Now that is what I say every time Natasha
brings one of her toys to the dinner table. Excellent. There should be no toys at the table,
I seem to have got a dose of some sort of alliteration
bug: popularity with populace, equilibrium of equality, Nature by nature.
Hmm. That's in the
DSM-IVR as a symptom of disassociative psychosis.
The problem is
holding the moral high ground. If the US is not seen to
meticulously adhere to the highest moral standards then it creates hostages to
fortune, driving more disgruntled and impoverished citizens into the arms of the
terrorist organisations, and weakening the alliance against terrorism.
Ezackly. We must lead by
example. The 'war' begins to look more like a playground fight, with
neither side having any particular moral right, and the USA then looks like it
is more interested in protecting its oil supplies than in suppressing terrorism
and achieving peace.
I see in the paper today that AOL/Time/Warner
(or whatever it's calling itself) is trying to buy Red Hat, the Linux
distributor for the U.S. Heavens. They can't beat him, so they're
joining them? Paper said that they wanted to be the distributor for
an OS challenge to Windows. I just have a strong feeling that, as the
elephants fight, all us little ants are going to get squished.
think anything which threatens the Microsoft hegemony is to be applauded, and
Linux is the only halfway credible threat. Really the only way we can ever
defeat such a well entrenched monster is with a popular uprising. I am
sure I am not the only one who doesn't like the idea of spending the rest of my
life paying taxes to Microsoft to be able to access communication
There was an article in Silicon.com on the subject this week . They
don't think it is to be taken seriously, basically because Linux needs the
support of AOL like a hole in the head (same as everyone else). I suspect
that the elephants will wander off into the forest again shortly without
squishing anything important.
Our gov. exhorts us to improve our diet and to aim at
five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. It this the William Tell
What do you call tiger-striped cows? Pussy cattle.
has a soul? R. Everyone has an arsehole.
We finally finished reading Harry Potter,
as far as it has been published anyway. So now the choice of bedtime
reading is variable.
Hmm. I highly recommend the "His Dark Materials" trilogy,
starting with "The Golden Compass." It, especially, is right about at
(what I imagine as) her comprehension level, and it's very
Tonight she asked for Just-so Stories, and
chose one we haven't done for a long time, The Crab that Played with the
Sea. If I can make out the notes in the foreword correctly (it is a
Russian educational edition with notes in that language) this year is the
centenary of that
don't know, you naughty boy, I've never Kipled. (Hardy-har har) I bet you have!
Wow! Do you read
to her in Russian, or is it an English textbook with only Russian
The latter I am afraid.
They are good because they aren't edited to death like most of the available
editions of children's classics. We also have an Alice in Wonderland in
a Russian edition, a lot different from the Disneyfied edition one usually
I don't like the Disney version at all. I actually
prefer "Through the Looking Glass." It has informed a lot of my dream
imagery; or is it that the imagery in it is universal dream
My Russian is extremely limited, I can just about comprehend enough
words to understand the general gist of the notes. Maybe.
hoped I would marry a bilingual Russian woman who would keep up Natasha's
spoken Russian, but it doesn't seem to happen.
There has to be something you
can do. Maybe a Russian phone friend for her?
Motivation is the problem there. She'd rather phone an
English friend, it would be like doing homework, and I don't think it would
be sustainable. I can't even get her to keep in touch with friends who
she doesn't see regularly, even though she enjoys their company when they do
get together. Its to easy to just phone her best friend all the time.
Only when she is away on holiday does anyone else get a look-in. She
has been a bit better recently, but she is still good at cutting off
She puts up with friends if their parents are my friends, like
the surgeon's kids, but they've moved a few miles away and to another school
now. Oddly I knew the place they bought, a farm with an airstrip. It
was previously owned by an eccentric aero-engineer who was a light aircraft
enthusiast, and who married an Azerbaijani woman, which is how I got to know
them. He had filled in the ditch between two fields to make the
strip. I had heard of him before, read in the local paper about
neighbours complaining about him having a flying club at his farm. We
visited them on New Year's eve 1996 or 7ish. His wife had just
completed a research dissertation on environmental factors in infections of
sheep's eyelids. "Upper or lower?" "Oh, upper of
course!" Her daughter, a doctor, was taking her UK medical exams
to convert her Azeri qualifications to UK (I later learnt that she
failed). He and I talked engineering and planes and air-accidents
until the small hours.
He showed us a video of his flying club, since
ceased due to him working mainly abroad. Talk turned to his problems
with his neighbours. He didn't know why they had suddenly turned on
him several years after he started the club. He said they complained
it was unsafe, but none of the accidents had been blamed on the strip.
WHAT?!? Um, how many accidents? Only two, both pilot error, one
guy and his wife had been seriously injured aborting a takeoff, the other
had walked away. "If you've got to come down, go to full throttle at
the end, then you get lots of airflow over the control surfaces and you get
the best choice of impact site." he commented. The problem was the
strip ran uphill from the farm, so takeoff was generally downhill, with the
farm outbuildings as backstop. They were lower than the strip, but
hard if you fell on them.
Anyway, the point was that the surgeon's kids
are hyperactive, tease-and-bully types and give Natasha a hard time, but she
put up with them because it was convenient for me. And it was good
education for her, she generally managed to give as good as she got.
The brightest and worst one is the second son, who is almost a year younger
(though in the same class) and smaller than her, so it sort of balanced
out. And now he has gone she can be top in maths, he was the only one
who could beat her consistently, I reckoned it was because he had "math" in
his name, Matthew.
L did introduce me to a young Russian widow who lives near my parents
(with a son about 12), who however shortly afterwards went off to live in
Russia in pursuit of some job. It didn't work out, and she is now back
in Scotland. I called on her when visiting my parents at
Christmas. She's quite cute but nothing special I think.
And here I thought that all
that mattered was that she be quite cute. I'm impressed.
Good grief. She has to be stunningly beautiful, hourglass
figure, devastatingly intelligent, an heiress (or non-exec director),
bilingual (at least), expert in bed, wonderful with children, suffer slobs
gladly, and not expect flowers. Oh yes, and non-smoking and
engineer-tolerant. Or any of these. Well, 'interested' would do.
Well, what about if she
doesn't *expect* flowers but is fond of them, and brings them home herself
so she can have them in the house?
I guess that just depends where she nicked the flowers.
Yes, it's nice having flowers around, but not so nice that I would pay for
Actually I can't quite figure out what I do want a wife for.
I'm sure they are useful for something, but I can't remember what.
Natasha would like a Mum, and I'd like to get laid, but I'm not sure either
of those justifies the price tag.
We exchanged email addresses etc. but she did not reply to my
mail. That's how it goes, maybe she thought the same. Or maybe her
I tried talking to Russians on the 'net but that wasn't
much good. Mostly their English (or intelligence) is too poor to hold a
useful conversation, and some of the more attractive photos on the agencies
lists are plants from other agencies or spammers. And anyway,
international marriages are very expensive, I know from experience.
There's a huge hoo-ha going on
right now in the murder trial of a man who, with a friend, killed his (quite
cute) Russian mail-order bride. She actually suspected that he was going
to try to kill her, and left information with her parents in Kyrgyzstan.
They are here in the U.S., now, watching the trial.
That sounds pretty desperate, to go marry a guy you think
wants to kill you. Importing brides I can understand on cost-effectiveness
grounds, but importing murder victims is weird. He must have thought
he'd ordered a disposable model.
Taking "Till death do us part" a bit
I e-ed with a single mum from Kyrgyzstan for a while,
but she sort of faded out. Mostly there just isn't the bandwidth to
make it take, either in the translation process or else in the brain at the
far end. Look how much bandwidth we use, Outlook Express says 432
messages total both ways so far. Doing that in a second language is damned
hard work. Luydmila was after all an
expert, having studied English all her
There's a state legislature bill right now that is aimed at mail-order
brides. It says that anyone who wants a mail order bride in the state of
Washington must pay a fee. That fee will pay for a criminal and marital
history check, and translation of the results into the wife's
language. I think it's great, but I think it should be available
to everyone when they take out a marriage license. Half the time
when some woman is beaten to death by her husband you find out that he's been
married before, his ex-wife had a TRO taken out against him, he's been locked
violating it, etc.
Medical tests too? I guess it
has to be federal else guys will just order them from a mailing address in
another state. Someone on the 'net was spreading a rumour that it
works the other way too. Mafya pimps hire girls to marry Americans,
then they kill them so she (therefore they) get the estate. This I can
believe if the Americans go and get married in Russia rather than bringing a
fiancee home. My Chinese girl says to go to America as a fiancee you
have to deposit a $10,000 bond to ensure you leave if you don't marry and
stay married. Obviously the buyer ends up paying that (which makes it
rather pointless) so that must be an incentive to marry abroad.
Err, I don't know where she gets that information.
Maybe its some scam arranged by
Chinese bride export agencies. It's certainly not true for UK, you
just have to convince the immigration authority that you are bona fide, and
you have to have at least met.
We do seem to have a huge number of mail-order brides, both from Asia and
Russia, in this area. I thought we would have more in Hawaii, Nah, Hawaiian girls are just too gorgeous if present
company is anything to go by. but figured out that guys who want
to dominate their Filipina wife wouldn't do it in Hawaii, where there are LOTS
of Filipinos to whom she can run for support and information. That is
kind of changing for the Russians here, though. There are a LOT of
Russian immigrants here. I swim with a couple of them every day -- Pavel
and Alexei. They are more interested in improving their English than my
Russian, though. I, of course, want to know how they can afford to swim
from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. daily, and don't they have a JOB, but I am far too
polite to ask. Every state and medical document is translated into
several languages, and Russian is one of them. I could get a Russian
Driver's Education book for you, if you wish!
Not if it teaches Russian
driving!<g> Been there, done 5000 miles, got the tee-shirt.
Maybe it would teach Artyom to drive, but I doubt it, his English is better
than his Russian and anyway he did eventually pass his theory. I quit
buying him driving lessons when it got up to around £1000 and he didn't seem
to be taking it seriously.
Why do you have to PAY for driving lessons?
When he was at school and couldn't be
expected to pay himself. You can do it yourself, but a) teaching
someone you know to drive is one of the best ways to fall out
permanently, b) I'd have to buy another car, the van is clumsy and the
insurance would be prohibitive, c) driving instructors come cheaper than
Firstly, the poem at the end. It is basically a list of Victorian
era Shipping lines, and invites the reader to locate the shipping routes on an
atlas. I wonder if it can still be done, or how long it would take to work
It could probably still be done,
though lots of lines have been folded into other companies. I could get
you help, if you wish.
Not only have the lines gone, but the routes mostly succumbed to the
coming of airlines. Don't think I'm going to give you an excuse to get
in touch with your sailor boy. ;-) I have quite
enough to do without making up any more unpaid
The sailor boy has been back
in touch with me. He tracked me down. Sadly, he called on a day
when the sun was going down at 4:00 in the afternoon, I was feeling very sad
and cold and blue and ugly and homesick, and David was out shopping.
We talked for a long time, and I felt desireable and witty and charming
afterwards. So there. He wants to come up to Seattle and take me
to Vancouver for a couple of days. I think that sounds wonderful, but
I am MARRIED now, and what would I tell my husband?
That you've got a date with a RICH lover?
Well, I could tell him that,
but I think it would be tacky.
Yes, but then doing it would be tacky too.
I don't particularly care for
him, but I take being married very seriously. Not seriously enough to
hang up on Sailor Boy, apparently, though.
I nearly had an antique atlas, Edwardian I suppose. When my
Grandmother died, I found some old reference books, I suppose from her
schooldays. I was fascinated by the atlas with the old borders and
half-remembered country names, and the odd extra province in Canada. My
Uncle, the executor, arrived a few days later, so I left the books alone in
case he wanted any. When I spoke to him about it he had already thrown all the
books into the rubbish skip and had it collected. Damn!
Argh, indeed. How can people throw out books?
One of my chiefest treasures was a GE Telechron world time-zone clock
that was my grandfather's. It was large and square and had many dials
and sliding things, and since it was made in about 1936, it had the
time zones for places like Batavia and the Belgian Congo. When we had
the earthquake last February it fell off the little table I had it on and
broke into (what looked like) a million pieces. I was in the hospital
with neutropenia at the time of the earthquake, and went home a few days
later feeling weak and wobbly, and cried for DAYS after discovering that
What a shame. Can't your
Dad fix it? It's never as bad as it looks.
No. It had a zillion gears inside, and some of them were
actually broken. It fell onto a slate floor and then rattled
around. The earthquake was around a minute long.
Did you ever read Kipling's short
story "With the Night Mail"? It is a futuristic story about dirigibles,
complete with fictional newspaper adverts for used airships and
accessories. No. I
must track it down. Here in the U.S., in school, we really just get the
Just-So stories and the poem "If." I think the
collection is called something like "Devices and Desires". I found the
imagery of a Victorian idea of the future very strong, and it stuck with me
more than almost any story I can remember. A lightship keeper holding a
conversation with a passing airship's captain across half a mile of silent
empty sky. Puncturing rogue ships to prevent them causing accidents.
(Shades of that big weather balloon that ran away in Canada last year)
And the poor sods in the engine room who had to tend the fickle lift-producing
'ray' 24 hours a day.
I love Victorian future literature, and really love Victorian
machinery. Did you ever see the Elephant Man, the movie that came out in
the '80s? It looked to me as if it was made by someone who shared that
I seem to recall the BBC did a
documentary on it a few years ago, discussing recent development's in the
study of his disease. I don't recall now whether I actually saw the
whole original film, or just excerpts in the documentary, but I know what
Victorian future literature got me interested in alternative
history at a very early age.
Alternative history? Is that
history through different eyes (like communist Russian history books - hey
I've got an English-language propaganda recording of the life of Lenin
somewhere on vinyl disk) or is it "what might have been", like
It's what might have been. Like what things would look
like if Alexander hadn't died early, etc.
I was just
thinking about my attitude to "what might have been" and realised I almost
never do it, there is enough work to do figuring out "what might be" without
wasting effort on that. I guess that's why I never got really upset
about Lyudmila's death or misdiagnosis or whatever; never look back.
Oh, I think "what might have been" in personal life is a waste
of time, and does nothing but makes you feel awful. "What might have
been" as far as civilizations goes, though, is cool and
Or if Jesus was assassinated by a
time traveller. Takes me back (pun accidental) to the time when I used
to devour science fiction.
I'd probably talk a bit more about it but I'm
going back to bed. I got a dose of a flu-like virus. There has
been an epidemic, mainly among kids, with about 30% off school. Natasha
had it last weekend and was off Friday and Monday. Today I felt mostly
immobilised. Fortunately it is mild and short lived, but I felt dismal
all day and slept a lot.
Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm making you chicken soup in
spirit. Here, drink this.
I hope you feel better. Allan
Grossman and his wife, Deborah, and David and I are going out to dinner
tonight. Then on Monday Deborah and I are going to tour Seattle, city of
many tourist attractions. We will collect souvenirs for you, if you
Maybe one should still follow his suggestion of obtaining the Shipping
lists from a copy of a newspaper (of the period). I daresay the British
Museum still has them. Probably most of the place names have changed by
now too. My Japanese penfriend mentioned something about Myanmar, and it
took me quite a while to realise that she was talking about what I know as
Secondly, I feel that the Rat that lives in the Moon has a tale to
tell. He is probably the first redundancy in history. To summarise,
his place in the order of things was to bite the line spun by the Fisher in the
Moon, frustrating his intention of catching the earth. However the Fisher
is redeployed to operate the tides for the convenience of terrestrial fishermen,
and the lunar Rat is laid off. So one can only conclude that there must be
a sizeable colony of 'scrutiatingly idle rats somewhere on the moon, drinking
beer, fornicating, and hanging around Lunar Social Services complaining what a
rough hand fate dealt them.
Maybe that's where we go when we die if we're
ROFL. I imagine something out of
Bladerunner or Star Wars.
The BBC did a drama around Christmas time ("I Was a
Rat") based on the idea of what happened to Cinderella's rat page-boy after she
married the Prince, he having somehow missed getting de-transfigured, along with
the glass slipper. Maybe that subconsciously prompted me to think of this.
I am sure there is a short story in there somewhere.
With Lord of the Rings being in the cinema and
serialised on BBC radio, we were just noticing the parallels between the One
Ring and Windows XP.
Six systems for the DP Lords
In their server halls
Four systems for mortal men
crash and die
One System to access them all
One System to
One System to tax them all
And in the network bind
As with the One Ring, no-one who possesses the One System can
use its power, except its creator, the Dark Lord himself. So we think that
a Disk Bearer will have to travel to the Dark Land of its forging, somewhere
around Seattle and cast the One System into the Cracks of Doom. Beware of
earthquakes, Orc invasions and strange men with hairy feet.
Did you write this? Because it's
wonderful, and if I send it to people, I'd like to credit you.
Well thank you Ma'am <blush>. Thanks.
It arose from a
comment that Artyom made over dinner, that Sauron sounded a lot like Bill
Gates - after hearing "No-one who possesses the Ring can use its power except
the Dark Lord" in the Radio serialisation. I more or less made it up as
I typed it to you. I'm sure I could figure out the missing lines if I
tried a bit harder. It might help if I reread Tolkein's
By the way, Allan Grossman and
Deborah Nickerson say hello, and they hope you are feeling better. We had
a very nice and spectacularly delicious dinner last night.
Regards to Allan and Deborah, glad you enjoyed the
dinner. Yes I am somewhat better thank you, but still rather bronchial and
needing more sleep than usual. Natasha is a week ahead of me, but she
still coughs and gets tired too.
You two both need steam, steam and more steam. Steam your
faces. Breathe the steam. It will help all that nasty stuff to
leave. Aloha, > Dr. Catharine
Is that Dr Catharine or Catharine the Yiddishe Mama or Catharine the
Russian Baba? Lyudmila would have had us use menthol crystals in the
water. Personally I always found that it worked for a fairly short time, but so
did sitting down and relaxing without the steam, and it was never available when
actually needed - at work in a cold dry factory, or at 5am when the cough wakes
I wouldn't have the
faintest idea where to find menthol crystals.
Oh, I know where to find them, they are in the right hand small
drawer in the kitchen. The local pharmacist sells them in 5g bottles for
aromatherapy buffs. Lyuda kept losing them and buying more, so there are
three bottles in the drawer. You only use a tiny bit at a
One can be both Dr. Catharine,
Catharine the Yiddishe Mama and Catharine the Russian Baba all at the same
At any rate, it's not the menthol or whatever other goop you put in the
water. It's the steam. In a pinch, it's just moisture. In a cold dry
factory, one can go to the bathroom, run some water into your hand, and snort it
up your nose. Warm is best but cold will do. After you snort the
water in your nose, gargle some in your throat. Then blow your nose
Its not my nose, breathing is OK, its mostly
bronchial. Moisture does help the tickle in the throat, outdoor air and
exertion make it worse. Usually a hot cup of not-too-strong coffee, nursed for
as long as it stays steamy does the trick. The disreputable sludge that
comes out of the factory 'coffee' machine is ideal. Today I remembered
to take plenty of coins for the machine.
Anyway I did the steam thing
yesterday and I did sleep better, the cough didn't wake me until 5am, and it
was then quelled by a glass of water for the rest of the night. The
menthol has an anesthetic effect, but it only lasts about an hour. Today
I had a long factory day with monkey impressions (I had to make repeated
observations and adjustments at the top of an 8 foot high automatic press,
without the aid of ladders). So my respiration came under some load, and
survived reasonably well. The bug is definitely on the
It sounds like
With coughs, it's often the
sugar in the cough drops that works the best. So I keep a small stash of
hard candy by my bed when I have a cough. Sucking on a hard candy is
possible at 5:00 a.m.
Can I use chocolate, please
No. Chocolate contains
milk, which produces mucus. (So sayeth my
Oh yuck. That ought to put me off chocolate.
But it doesn't.
Are you sure that idea isn't just designed to stop kids
eating so much of it.
Chocolate that is.
I don't know. We
certainly were allowed dairy products at any other time, and chocolate
at Halloween, Christmas and Easter, but neither product if we were sick.
It's too mucus-producing if you have a cold, and too difficult for your
stomach to digest if you have something gastro-intestinal. Or that is
the received lore. I know that dairy products mess up many antibiotics,
so you're not supposed to eat them while you're on the antibiotics, but I
don't know about anything else.
And then, of course, there's
always codeine. But I use that as a last resort only.
Over and out,
Dr. Catharine, Y.M.,