Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rust On Our Hawthorns

Our hawthorn trees always have a heavy "parasite load." This year, I've been noticing strange, deformed fruits alongside the "normal" haws, and these eventually pop out in spiny growths which spew forth brilliant orange spores.

These rust fungi are both common and of horticultural interest, so I was able to identify the fruiting bodies as "Cedar-Quince Rust Fungus." Bizarre, are they not? My customary list of links follows.

  • Cedar-quince rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes) kills hawthorn fruit and twigs. Cedar-quince rust affects quince (Chaenomeles), serviceberry (Amelanchier), hawthorn (Crataegus), mountain ash (Sorbus) as well as many other plants in the rose family and can cause a great amount of damage to the fruits, twigs and thorns of susceptible plants. The rust fungus requires two different tree species to complete its lifecycle. On the primary host, juniper or red cedar, the fungus infects leaves and soft shoots, becomes perennial in the living bark and causes swellings that girdle twigs and small branches. During damp weather in April and May, orange spore masses emerge from infected, swollen juniper twigs and may be splashed or blown to hawthorn, one of the alternate hosts. On the hawthorn, this fungus causes distortion of fruit, twigs, and buds. Fruits become shrunken and often die; twigs become enlarged and woody. Pinkish-orange tubes, about the size of a pencil lead, protrude from affected fruits and twigs and shed orange spores that are splashed or blown back to the juniper, completing the life cycle of this rust fungus.
  • UMass Cedar-Quince Rust pdf has similiar information to the resource above, but better photographs.
  • Cornell's Cedar-Apple Rust Fact Sheet has some information on cedar-quince rust, good photos, and a dandy life cycle diagram.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Say What?

iNode: The weblog of Digital Programs and Systems at George Mason University Libraries tipped me off to the existence of an intriguing command-line program on the Mac. It's called Say and it takes a text file as input, and outputs an .aiff file, (a Mac sound file). I tried it out with a Project Gutenberg text file I happened to have lying around. In a few minutes, I had a synthesized voice reading Joseph Conrad to me. It was surprisingly natural reading, with very few odd pronunciations. iNode blogger Wally Grotophorst was clever enough to use "say" to get through some required "reading" materials while he drove to a conference. While I probably wouldn't "read" a book this way for fun, my eyesight ain't what it used to be, and it's nice to know there are future options by which I could have "audio books" of any odd and obscure text I can get on my computer.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lumber Arrives!

I intended to document progress on the new house from start to finish, in painful detail, but until now, all the progress happened when I was away from home. However, lumber (very nice, locally grown and sawn lumber) has arrived, and the house progresses above ground. It may not look like much yet, but I'm excited.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Go Down Moses

I've built up a considerable collection of Faulkner posts, but here is another. I really enjoyed Go Down, Moses, and have finished it since my own personal bear adventure. I have to agree with Sherry Chandler's comment on that post: Go Down Moses is my favorite Faulkner. From the hunter mysticism of "The Bear" through all of the awful history of the Beauchamp family, this is Faulkner ringing his very best changes and using his full range of literary skill. Contrary to what most people think, Faulkner could write effectively in many different styles.

I've found a few more interesting Faulkner discussions since I last posted a list.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rain Lizards

Rain lizards--after a good rain, they come walking out of the woods this time of year. I see them most often squashed in the road, so I was pleased to photograph a couple of living individuals. They were less pleased to be photographed, I think. This one, in particular, seemed to scowl at me, and adamantly inclined his head away from the camera. When I turned him loose, he stomped off into the woods in that odd high-stepping gait they have.

This is the Red Eft, the terrestrial phase of the Red-Spotted Newt. This animal always reminds me of my college linguistics class--so that I think of linguistics every time I see a newt, which was once "an ewt," as in "ewts and efts." The "n" migrated from the article to the noun in the case of the newt, but remained where it had begun in the eft. Why didn't it become a neft? An eft is just as difficult to articulate as an ewt.... It's a melancholy subject for me, because, as I mentioned before, I most often encounter my efts as road kill. Perhaps if I took up the local name and called them rain lizards, I'd remember linguistics as a happier topic.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Milkweed Dreams

I've mentioned before my lifelong fascination with milkweeds, and how I find the fleshy flowers incongruous and disturbing. At a distance or up close, they seem alien, dream-like. How does something that looks like this turn into a pod of silky parachuting milkweed ladies?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Painless Linux Solutions to Problems I've Been Dodging

Yippy, Skippy! I fixed my Flash plugin problem on my "too new" Linux box! I was moping around, whining that "I don't wanna learn to build a 32-bit chroot and put Iceweasel inside it! I don't wanna!" when I ran across a couple of pointers to Unofficial nspluginwrapper & ia32-libs-gtk packages for Etch. The lovely folks at DIP Consultants put out a nspluginwrapper for Debian Etch AMD64, and included detailed directions for installing it all at the command line. There was no thought, no comprehension required on my part (although I have some glimmer of understanding about what happened), and it worked, right off the bat!

So now, I can watch cute kitty videos on YouTube on my Linux box. Life's good, eh? But every silver lining has a dark cloud. I had thought the sluggish loading of Web pages was due to Iceweasel's futile search for the Flash plugin, but such is not the case. Iceweasel still took 15 to 20 seconds to look up and load Web pages.

I searched for solutions to the problem, and found several Debian forum discussions on topic. One set of solutions involved the /etc/resolv.conf file; they offered a good DNS address, and when I put this in my /etc/resolv.conf my browser speed picked up nicely; however, as soon as I rebooted the computer, the "NetworkManager" rewrote the file with the bum nameservers (which are actually my router's address).

One approach to the problem would be to learn about DHCP, how DNS addresses are assigned, and generally learn about networks, NFS, and technical details of my service provider's settings. Fortunately, I found a way to postpone improving my knowledge: Browsing very slow in iceweasel/firefox/konqueror/etc from

in firefox type about:config into the address bar, and set 'network.dns.disableIPv6' to true. I'd imagine this will probably sort it out.

This did, indeed, sort it out, allowing me to postpone education and self-improvement for another day. Here's a bit of knowledge about network.dns.disableIPv6, so that I can truthfully say I've learned a little something today:

IPv6 was designed in part to solve the problem IPv4 will soon be facing: the exhaustion of all possible IP addresses. Mozilla implemented IPv6 support in early 2000, but that support did not receive widespread testing until recently as IPv6-capable OSs and network software/equipment became more common. One particular bug that has appeared exists not in Mozilla, but in IPv6-capable DNS servers: an IPv4 address may be returned when an IPv6 address is requested. It is possible for Mozilla to recover from this misinformation, but a significant delay is introduced.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Basswood Flowers

The basswood tree has has been in full bloom this week. I wonder if Coleridge's lime tree smelled this sweet?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Getting the Gimp on the Mac

I haven't been settling in smoothly with my new computers. I haven't yet got a flash-plug-in running on my 64-bit Linux box, nor have I set up an NFS network between my Mac and Linux boxes. I haven't had much success running my favorite Unix programs on the Mac yet, either. (I run Carbon version 1.6.0 of Emacs.) I downloaded two different versions of GIMP from the Apple web site, and neither would launch; meanwhile I got OpenOffice to limp along enough to print some files, but not enough to use.

When I saw an article in Macworld's August 2008 issue (you get a free year's subscription when you buy a Mac) called "Secrets--Geekfactor: OSX's Other GUI: Run Unix apps from the comfort of X11's graphical interface," I read it with some interest. It includes a source for a different version of GIMP: Wilber Loves Apple.

What follows is the step-by-step narrative of installation, something I find useful to keep because it preserves the mistakes and mishaps, which recur all too often, and are never found in "real" documentation.

  • I go to Wilber Loves Apple--we bring GIMP to the Mac. It warns me that I need to first install the latest version of X11, Quartz 2.2, and it sends me to "XQuartz X11 2.2.3 : Released: 2008.06.17 This release contains Xquartz-1.3.0-apple21."
  • So I download the latest X11 .pkg file, and click on it, which launches an Installer window. Click, click, it goes.
  • Ever hopeful, I wonder if this will make OpenOffice launch better. No, it doesn't. Now, OpenOffice won't launch at all. So, let's check OpenOffice downlaods page, 2.4.1 for Mac OSX Intel. Hmmm. I have 2.3, so let's update to the latest one. Start downloading. (Big package, takes a long time, even with broadband.) Well, this doesn't work either. I check the Open Office Community Forum and find that there's a native Aqua version of OpenOffice in beta.
  • I got to 3.0 Beta 2 and grab the MacOSXIntel Aqua download.
  • OK, I install this, and it works! So, I'm a little better off than when I started (Open Office opens more smoothly, and more of its functions work than before.)
  • Now, hours later, back to the GIMP....I go to Wilber Loves Apple--we bring GIMP to the Mac. I download the MacOS 10.5 (Leopard) Intel GIMP....
  • Note: there are some tips from the end of the Gimp Install page that are important, and easily overlooked: There's one small operation we can now perform to make it easier to use (note that this is not necessary). Doing this will save you many unnecessary double-clicks during editing by not requiring you to activate GIMP windows before you can click on them. While Gimp and X11 are closed, open /Applications/Utilities/Terminal, and paste the following command in it and press enter: If you installed the XQuartz packages :
    defaults write org.x.X11 wm_click_through -bool true
  • Hey, it launches! It opens files, closes them, and doesn't crash! I blew a lovely summer morning on this--it'd better come in handy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

James Weaver: Campaign Trail Blazer

When TV political commentators make historical comparisons with current events, it seems to me they seldom venture back before the Reagan administration. (I know some of them are at least as old as I am, and I remember Dwight Eisenhower, albeit vaguely. The vice-president had a little dog named Checkers....) This is too shallow a dip into the history lesson well. I'm thinking Teapot Dome comparisons would be valuable, as would railroad monopolies, miners' wars, the International Workers of the World, etc. I was heartened to hear John McCain define himself as a conservative in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt. At least we're breaking out of the anomalous bubble of the last 30 years.

That's why I was pleased to see this article: Egad! He Moved His Feet When He Ran: James Weaver, the First To 'Run' in a Presidential Race by Robert B. Mitchell, Washington Post, July 5, 2008, adapted from "Skirmisher: The Life, Times, and Political Career of James B. Weaver," to be published this fall by Edinborough Press. While the emphasis is on Weaver's innovation in presidential campaigns, I was pleased to see mentioned some hard times that put modern day troubles in perspective, including the Panic of 1893, the violence of the Pullman strike and the legions of unemployed who marched on Washington under the banner of Coxey's Army....

In the early hours of July 5, 1892, before an enthusiastic convention of radical farmers and their allies in Omaha, a 59-year-old Civil War veteran from Iowa made a solemn pledge that helped give birth to the modern presidential campaign.

Gen. James B. Weaver...had just won the nomination of the People's Party. Looking out over the assembled Populist delegates, Weaver predictably declared his fealty to the party's platform in the campaign ahead against Republican President Benjamin Harrison and the Democratic nominee, former president Grover Cleveland.....Weaver vowed to campaign on his own behalf for the White House. "I wish to make you here and now a promise that if God spares me and gives me strength, I shall visit every state in the Union and carry the banner of the people into the enemy's camp," he declared to the convention.

Such a promise hardly seems unique today, but in the 1800s it challenged prevailing political custom....presidential candidates of the period usually avoided soliciting votes in person because -- in a textbook example of 19th-century hypocrisy -- they were not supposed to appear too eager to hold the highest office in the land.

....Weaver's pledge in Omaha injected an element of drama into what was shaping up as a tedious rerun of the campaign of 1888. With Harrison paired against Cleveland, yet another election fought over the dreary terrain of tariffs, the tired Civil War symbolism of "waving the bloody shirt" and states' rights appeared inevitable. The cynicism engendered by the prospect of another contest between Cleveland and Harrison was so pervasive, one observer joked, "either party would have been glad to defeat the other if it could do so without electing its own candidate."

....Energetic, articulate (though given to occasional flights of florid rhetoric) and combative, the blue-eyed, mustachioed Weaver had spent the better part of the previous two decades campaigning for the economic and political reforms advocated by agrarian radicals. Before the Civil War, Weaver addressed anti-slavery rallies across southern Iowa in support of the Republican Party. A lifetime of stump speeches and schoolhouse debates provided ideal preparation for the presidential campaign ahead.

In the West, where miners strongly supported the Populists' commitment to expand use of silver in the money supply, the People's Party campaign generated enormous excitement. Appearing with Populist firebrand Mary E. Lease, and accompanied by his wife, Clarissa, Weaver drew wildly enthusiastic crowds in Denver and Pueblo. He spoke to a large and friendly audience in Los Angeles. Bands and celebratory cannon fire greeted the Populists as they toured the small towns of Nevada.

In an unusual and quite possibly painful fundraising stunt, Lease invited the crowd in Denver to hurl coins at her. The invitation prompted laughter, applause and "a rain of silver dollars," according to a Washington Post account.

....Weaver and Lease campaigned in Lincoln, Neb., where Rep. William Jennings Bryan was running for reelection and had endorsed Weaver instead of Cleveland. Nebraska voters returned their young congressman to Washington, but by a narrow margin of 140 votes. In the end, Cleveland returned to the White House, but his second term -- marred by the Panic of 1893, the violence of the Pullman strike and the legions of unemployed who marched on Washington under the banner of Coxey's Army -- was hardly triumphant.

As for Weaver, his Populist campaign proved stunningly successful; for the first time since 1860, a third party won electoral votes. He carried Kansas, Colorado, Nevada and Idaho and won additional electoral votes in Oregon and North Dakota. Despite the intensely negative campaign against him by Southern Democrats, he received 36 percent of the vote in Alabama and 23 percent in Texas. Overall, it was a vast improvement over the dismal third-party showings of the 1880s.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Red Wing--She's Stickin' To the Union Too

The tune "Red Wing" (in G major) is popular among the Old Time musicians we know around here. Every time I hear it, I think of Woody Guthrie's "Union Maid." I knew that was a parody, so I used the wonders of the Internet to track down the original lyrics. I found these and more at All about "Red Wing" by Perfessor Bill Edwards. First, the lyrics:

 "Red Wing"
Words by Thurland Chattaway, Music by Kerry Mills

Verse 1: There once lived an Indian maid, a shy little prairie maid,
Who sang a lay, a love song gay, as on the plain she'd while away the day;
She loved a warrior bold, this shy little maid of old,
But brave and gay, he rode one day to battle far away.

Chorus: Now, the moon shines to night on pretty Red Wing,
The breeze is sighing, the night bird's crying,
For afar 'neath his star her brave is sleeping,
While Red Wing's weeping her heart away.

Verse 2: She watched for him day and night, she kept all the campfires bright,
And under the sky, each night she would lie, and dream about his coming by and by;
But when all the braves returned, the heart of Red Wing yearned,
For far, far away, her warrior gay, fell bravely in the fray.

Chorus: Now, the moon shines to night on pretty Red Wing,
The breeze is sighing, the night bird's crying,
For afar 'neath his star her brave is sleeping,
While Red Wing's weeping her heart away.

"The Perfessor" also provides audio samples of the original music, which is somewhat different than the banjo tune I play. He explains the musical changes and describes the early history of the composition..

Frederick Allen (Kerry) Mills (M) and Thurland Chattaway (L) - 1907: Mills, who has been credited with writing the first compositions that set the standard format for published cakewalks, spent twenty years trying to keep up with current musical trends and fads. With this piece he was addressing a craze for Native American (Indian)-themed compositions established in 1902 by the publication of Hiawatha by Charles N. Daniels (as Neil Moret). So Mills composed a standard pop tune and titled it with a Native American name, supplying a cover to match the theme....

....Red Wing...was published in at least three different forms. The first was as an intermezzo, a popular three-sectioned piano composition format. This version of the piece features a rarely-heard trio which was excised when he commissioned Thurland Chattaway to retrofit lyrics representing an "Indian Fable" to go with the tune. The other two versions of the piece are represented by the song sans trio, and the song with a male "quartette" section tacked on to the chorus. Why this is such a little known fact is in part because the song versions outsold the intermezzo by an overwhelming margin (the song was reprinted in later years while the intermezzo was all but forgotten), and because of an odd decision (or non-decision) by Mills to use an identical cover for all versions regardless of the content....

...following Red Wing's publication (1908), a 24 year old Native American girl from the Winnebago reservation started to break into films, eventually making some with the venerable D.W. Griffith. She was also a star in the first silent adaptation of the novel Ramona. Her name just happened to be Princess Redwing (one word). There is no definitive evidence either way as to any connection with the titling of Mills' composition, but the timing was, perhaps, fortuitous for both. It is not too likely that she openly endorsed the piece, as from the 1930s until her death at 91(?) in 1974, Princess Redwing was an advocate and spokesperson for Indian rights, and also fought against stereotypes of Native Americans....

Just because it's what will always spring to mind when I hear the tune, here are Woody Guthrie's lyrics:

There once was a union maid, she never was afraid,
Of the goons and the ginks and the company finks;
And the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the Union hall, when a meeting it was called,
And when the company boys came round,
She always stood her ground.

    Oh you can't scare me, I'm stickin' to the Union,
    I'm stickin' to the Union, I'm stickin' to the Union.
    Oh you can't scare me, I'm stickin' to the Union,
    I'm stickin' to the Union till the day I die.

This union maid was wise to the tricks of the company spies,
She couldn't be fooled by the company rules,
She'd always organise.
She'd always get her way when she struck for higher pay,
She'd show her card to the National Guard,
And this is what she'd say:


You girls who want to be free just take a tip from me!
Get you a man who's a union man
And join the Ladies' Auxiliary.
Married life ain't hard when you've got a union card.
A union man has a happy life
When he's got a union wife.


According to Songs of Work and Protest by Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer, the third (unfortunately condescending) verse was added by Millard Lampell, one of the Almanac Singers, with whom Guthrie first performed the song. I came across this substitute from a Maritime Union of Australia Web page documenting Songs and chants for the MUA & Community Assembly Picket Lines in a 1998 action.

A woman's life is hard, even with a Union card,
She's got to stand on her own two feet,
Not be the servant of a male elite.
It's time to take a stand, start working hand in hand,
For there's a job that's just begun & a fight that's got to be won.

I like that bit about not being a servant of a male elite.

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Lingerie Links

I've been organizing my sewing patterns in real space, and thought it was probably time to do the same for my virtual pattern collection. The lingerie drawer is restocked, and I have these links neatly folded to put away for future reference.

  • Early 20th Century Sewing Patterns from La Couturiere Parisienne. This is a handsome and information-packed Website on history of fashion and costume, with emphasis of real examples. Very interesting. (Wish my German weren't so rusty; but there are English translations of many pages.)
  • Sewing Lingerie that Fits: Fitting and Creating Patterns Excerpted from Sewing Lingerie that Fits by Karen Morris. Here's the book blurb: ...if you can buy lingerie for $1.99, why bother sewing it? In Sewing Lingerie that Fits, author Karen Morris encourages sewers to approach a whole new level of quality with the goal of creating beautiful and functional lingerie in the colors and fabrics they want, in their perfect sizes. In this excerpt, you'll find out how to fit and create patterns, whether you're copying a favorite garment, modifying a commercial pattern, or drafting your own custom pattern.
  • "Lingerie Secrets" Sewing Patterns by Jan Bones. Nice lingerie patterns with more fitting flexibility than most commercial patterns offer. The price lists are currently missing from the Website--not a good sign.
  • Lingerie: Feminine and Modest by Edythe K. Watson (1971) has advice on using nylon tricot, adapting outerwear patterns for lingerie (to save the cost of lingerie patterns), and embellishing to personal taste. The article appeared originally in an LDS print publication.
  • Elizabethan Corset Page with information and patterns for re-enactors.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Counting Our Skunk Blessings

skunk under bird feeder

Skunks drop by the house pretty regularly in warm weather. They like sunflower seeds, the compost pile, and grubs, and sometimes they spend a day or two under our house, where we hope they never hit their little heads on the floor joists. Apparently, we're lucky to have plentiful skunks here on Droop Mountain. No Skunks in Arlington Isn't Good News for Humans appeared in the Washington Post Sunday, May 11, 2008. (I have quite a backlog of unfinished weblog posts, even though school's been out for over a month now.)

...Skunks, known far and wide for their stinky spray, can survive in urban areas on garbage, bugs and pet food. But for years, no one has seen a skunk in Arlington. And Zell, a county naturalist, fears that they might be gone for good.

"We're 40 percent paved over, so there's not much nature left," he said, shrugging. With a growing population of 200,000, the 26-square-mile county might be reaching a "critical mass" of dense urban landscape, he said, where even the hardiest wild survivors, such as skunks, can no longer make it.

White skunk eating sunflower seeds

I lived in Arlington over 20 years ago, and at the time, I was amazed by how much wildlife you could see in the odd little overgrown corners. 40% paved? No skunks at all? Perhaps my migration outward sprang from the same impulse that moved the skunks. I'd like to think I have sense equivalent to a skunk, but I may flatter myself.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Sip Of My Columbine

Columbines are much-loved and much photographed, but I couldn't resist when I saw this solitary blooming plant today. I'm glad I did, because I hadn't noticed before was how hairy the stems and blossoms are.

I never see columbine anymore without being reminded of Louise McNeill's The Milkweed Ladies, her brief but vivid memoir of childhood and early life in Pocahontas County. The book title comes from a poem McNeill composed as a child for her playhouse tea parties, where her guests were made of milkweed pod fluff:

    Milkweed ladies so fair and fine,
    Won't you have a sip of my columbine?
    Or a thimble of thimbleberry wine?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Well-Grown Poison Ivy

"Beautiful specimen" and "excellent example" are inappropriate for the less admired plant species, I've been told by botanists. When we see a Giant Ragweed in luxuriant bloom, or a fine stand of Deadly Nightshade, these efflorescences are more properly described as "well-grown." Therefore, let me present this well-grown Poison Ivy plant. I neglected to photograph it in full flower, but you can see the fruits of pollination developing nicely--I mean, they are well grown. This well-grown poison ivy specimen has twined around and completely overshadowed a little willow tree, and looks quite lovely in a corner of a neighbor's yard, provided you don't recognize what it is.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Shape Of Peaches To Come

We're still picking cherries, but my eye is wandering to other fruit trees in the yard. These peaches are tiny but delicious, provided they remain on the tree until they ripen in the fall.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Phantom Bears In Our Dreams

I believe we have scared our bear away for the time-being. The bigger fellow in this picture visited us in 2006, the last time we had a big cherry crop. Whenever I see a real bear, for several days thereafter, I see phantom bears--every black shadow in the woods looks like a bear until I settle down again.

This time, I was pursued by phantom bears even in the book I'm reading: Faulkner's Go Down, Moses. I know I read "The Bear" in an anthology many years ago, but I didn't remember much about it. Obviously, that was before I lived in woods where phantoms come real.

....Then, standing beside Sam in the thick great gloom of ancient woods and the winter's dying afternoon, he looked quietly down at the rotted log scored and gutted with claw-marks and, in the wet earth beside it, the print of the enormous warped two-toed foot. Now he knew what he had heard in the hounds' voices in the woods that morning and what he had smelled when he peered under the kitchen where they huddled. It was in him too, a little different because they were brute beasts and he was not, but only a little different--an eagerness, passive; an abjectness, a sense of his own fragility and impotence against the timeless woods, yet without doubt or dread; a flavor like brass in the sudden run of saliva in his mouth, a hard sharp constriction either in his brain or his stomach, he could not tell which and it did not matter; he knew only that for the first time he realized that the bear which had run in his listening and loomed in his dreams since before he could remember and which therefore must have existed in the listening and the dreams of his cousin and Major de Spain and even old General Compson before they began to remember in their turn, was a mortal animal and that they had departed for the camp each November with no actual intention of slaying it, not because it could not be slain but because so far they had no actual hope of being able to.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Meetings: Practical Alternative To Work

This cartoon made the rounds at the middle school this past spring. I traced it to Johnnie Moore's Weblog on marketing and other business-related matters that I seldom read about. I'm not sure if it's Mr. Moore's own cartoon or if it comes from the (now moribund) site he links to in this post. Whatever its origin, most of us can agree that a chance to point with a stick and eat donuts is not to be missed.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

More Summer Lingerie Sewing

This week I sewed up more lingerie sporting my newly-developed skill in adding lace details. Because they are such small, quickly-made garments, and because minor mistakes don't make the garment unwearable, underbritches are an enjoyable place to practice new skills.

My favorite reason for sewing lingerie is making something useful out of scrap fabric, ill-considered outerwear purchases, and garments damaged while still new. I tried turning my favorite, well-worn cotton turtlenecks into underwear, but they didn't last as long as new fabric (although they were comfortable while they lasted).

I didn't think to photograph them when I sewed them, but I made amusing underwear out of my collection of silkscreened tee-shirts commemorating various events. Often enough, what looks good on a flat surface doesn't translate into a flattering ladies' garment, and most of these tee-shirts were gifts, worn once and set aside. I probably have more pairs of underwear sporting concertina pictures than any woman in the continental United States.

Not Gentle-Hearted, Please

I just ran across this excerpt from a letter of Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

For God's sake, don't make me ridiculous any more by terming me gentle-hearted in print, ... Substitute drunken-dog, ragged-head, seld-shaven, odd ey'd, stuttering, or any other epithet which truly and properly belongs to the gentleman in question.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

This Basswood Bower My Prison

I lived on the prairie when I started reading English poetry. "Trees" meant small cottonwoods, willows, or silver maples--fast-growing and short-lived, split open by ice storms and high winds. I was in graduate school before I saw a forest, and it was much later that I discovered what Coleridge meant by a "lime-tree bower." (Someday I'll tell you how I imagined "gem-set walls of jasper.")

There was a huge gap between the Romantic poets' natural world and my natural world. For me, "splendor in the grass" calls up big bluestem and buffalo grass, not "England's green and pleasant land." I love Wordsworth, but after visiting the sylvan Wye, I realize I probably don't understand him at all.

This big and fecund basswood tree always reminds me of the gap between my imagination and STC's. I first identified this tree by keying it out in New England, so in my head I call it Tilia. If I want to talk about it around here, I call it "basswood," but in the suburbs, where these trees come from labeled nursery stock, it's a "linden." It was in a graduate course in plant taxonomy that I learned this was Coleridge's "Lime-Tree." Until then, I'd imagined him near a hothouse under a potted plant in the Rubiaceae.

This Lime-Tree Bower my Prison
Addressed to Charles Lamb, of the India House, London
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
Had dimm'd mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,
Friends, whom I never more may meet again,
On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,
To that still roaring dell, of which I told ;
The roaring dell, o'erwooded, narrow, deep,
And only speckled by the mid-day sun ;
Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock
Flings arching like a bridge ;--that branchless ash,
Unsunn'd and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
Fann'd by the water-fall! and there my friends
Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds,
That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
Of the blue clay-stone.

                        Now, my friends emerge
Beneath the wide wide Heaven--and view again
The many-steepled tract magnificent
Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
In gladness all ; but thou, methinks, most glad,
My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
And hunger'd after Nature, many a year,
In the great City pent, winning thy way
With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
Silent with swimming sense ; yea, gazing round
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily ; and of such hues
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
Spirits perceive his presence.
                               A delight
Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad
As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,
This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark'd
Much that has sooth'd me. Pale beneath the blaze
Hung the transparent foliage ; and I watch'd
Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov'd to see
The shadow of the leaf and stem above
Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree
Was richly ting'd, and a deep radiance lay
Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
Through the late twilight : and though now the bat
Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,
Yet still the solitary humble-bee
Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure ;
No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes
'Tis well to be bereft of promis'd good,
That we may lift the soul, and contemplate
With lively joy the joys we cannot share.
My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rook
Beat its straight path across the dusky air
Homewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing
(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)
Had cross'd the mighty Orb's dilated glory,
While thou stood'st gazing ; or, when all was still,
Flew creeking o'er thy head, and had a charm
For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom
No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.

This Lime-Tree Bower my Prison from The Samuel Taylor Coleridge Archive.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

West Virginia Politics and Reality-Based Stuff

Lincoln Walks At Midnight points to several articles on the presidential race in West Virginia, including The Washington Post's A New Political Geography: Role Reversals in Virginias Reflect National Shifts By Alec MacGillis (Sunday, June 29, 2008). While cable TV news seemed content to write off West Virginian support for Hillary Clinton as redneck racism (redneck sexism having died off, I reckon), the print journalists are analyzing demographic trends. (Bless their hearts.)

....As the gap grows between places that are prospering and those that are not, Democrats are strengthening their hold in major metropolitan areas, particularly in places faring well in the technology-driven economy.

The trend generally bodes well for Democrats. Major metro areas are growing faster than the country as a whole, the party's strength with young voters promises a lasting edge, and well-off, highly educated urban voters are valuable campaign contributors in the Internet age. The weak economy and soaring gas prices could accelerate the shift if more Americans move closer to urban hubs in search of good jobs and shorter commutes.

But the Democrats' ascendance in prosperous areas leaves them with weak spots in key swing states such as Ohio. And it presents questions about their identity: The party that fought for the little guy against the party of the wealthy has, while still representing racial minorities, increasingly become defined by the metropolitan middle and upper-middle class....

The transformation goes beyond politics. As the distance between the rich and the poor grows, so too does the gap between regions. In places such as Northern Virginia, success has fed on itself, as firms seek educated workers and proximity to rivals and clients, and people with college degrees flock to the opportunities. Such areas are also seeing a surge in foreign-born residents, who favor Democrats.

In places such as West Virginia, manufacturing and mining have been decimated by automation and foreign competition, and hopes for reinvention are undermined by the stream of young people leaving. "There is a realignment going on here. It's a long-term shift that has to do with the economic decline in some areas in the modern economy," said Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton University.

The presidential campaigns seem ready to write West Virginia off, both parties. We don't expect to see much money spent on advertising, or see candidates and their surrogates appearing in person, now that the Clinton campaign is out of the race.

....Obama barely campaigned in West Virginia, lost it by 41 points and will probably spend little time campaigning there.

Leading Democrats in West Virginia lament Obama's lack of effort, contrasting it with the campaign of John F. Kennedy, who, like Obama, faced hurdles as a minority in West Virginia -- in Kennedy's case, as a Roman Catholic -- but set out to win the 1960 primary there.

....Democrats still control state government and all but one of the state's seats in Congress, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. But the state voted for Bush by six points over Gore and 13 points over Kerry. Its pro-Democrat unions have declined.

Since 2000, an argument has raged over why voters in West Virginia and elsewhere have voted against Democrats who offered health-care and tax plans that favor them. In his 2004 book "What's the Matter with Kansas?", Thomas Frank argued that Republicans have used social issues such as abortion to win poorer voters.

Bartels, at Princeton, disputed Frank with data showing that higher-income voters are more likely than poorer ones to cite issues such as abortion. Outside the South, low-income whites have stayed loyal to Democrats, he said.

These demographic shifts leave me feeling confused. My dad was a member of the Merchant Seaman's Union (busted as a bunch of Commies by Joseph McCarthy and his lawyer-for-hire Bobby Kennedy), and The New Deal and The Great Society made it possible for me to have an education. When I finally landed in the "liberal elite" world of academe, I didn't fit in, and eventually moved away from all that. I was rather miffed when the quiz Sherry Chandler posted called me "Reality Based Intellectualist."

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what's known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

It's just a silly quiz, I told myself, but I went back and changed answers until I qualified as "Working Class Warrior." It was the science-related material that sent me into that "liberal elite." Evolution is just a theory, like gravity. (That's not even funny, just true. After teaching sixth grade science for a semester, I can tell you that many Americans don't believe in Newtonian physics, either.) And I'd save The Origin of Species over those other books because it's more interesting and better written. (Darwin was an excellent prose stylist.) I don't even know what "non-Jesus-based thought" means.