27 December 2008

Eight Years at Sea with Cap'n Bush

The Wreck of the Hesperus

It was the schooner Hesperus,

That sailed the wintry sea;

And the skipper had taken his little daughter,

To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,

Her cheeks like the dawn of day,

And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,

That ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,

His pipe was in his mouth,

And he watched how the veering flaw did blow

The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailòr,

Had sailed to the Spanish Main,

‘I pray thee, put into yonder port,

For I fear a hurricane.

‘Last night, the moon had a golden ring,

And to-night no moon we see!’

The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,

And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,

A gale from the Northeast,

The snow fell hissing in the brine,

And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain

The vessel in its strength;

She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,

Then leaped her cable’s length.

‘Come hither! come hither! my little daughtèr,

And do not tremble so;

For I can weather the roughest gale

That ever wind did blow.’

He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat

Against the stinging blast;

He cut a rope from a broken spar,

And bound her to the mast.

‘O father! I hear the church-bells ring,

Oh say, what may it be?’

‘’Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!’—

And he steered for the open sea.

‘O father! I hear the sound of guns,

Oh say, what may it be?’

‘Some ship in distress, that cannot live

In such an angry sea!’

‘O father. I see a gleaming light,

Oh say, what may it be?’

But the father answered never a word,

A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,

With his face turned to the skies,

The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow

On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed

That savèd she might be;

And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,

On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,

Through the whistling sleet and snow,

Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept

Tow’rds the reef of Norman’s Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between

A sound came from the land;

It was the sound of the trampling surf

On the rocks and the hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,

She drifted a dreary wreck,

And a whooping billow swept the crew

Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves

Looked soft as carded wool,

But the cruel rocks, they gored her side

Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,

With the masts went by the board;

Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,

Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,

A fisherman stood aghast,

To see the form of a maiden fair,

Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,

The salt tears in her eyes;

And he saw her hair, like the brown seaweed,

On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,

In the midnight and the snow!

Christ save us all from a death like this,

On the reef of Norman’s Woe!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

04 December 2008

DAR Turned Marian Anderson Away on Easter Sunday 1939

Growing up in the US in the 1940's, I often heard the DAR spoken of reverentially and knew that membership was regarded as one ticket punch for entry into the social register. I did not know then that my mother, a Langdon, was descended from John Langdon (my 5G grandfather) of Hempstead, L.I., who served two tours in the Revolution, one as a sergeant and one as a lieutenant despite being a practicing Quaker. Unfortunately, I did not find this out until a few years after my mother died. I'm sure she would have gotten a kick out of the idea.

I have found, similarly, that my wife, through her father's mother's line, Bement's, also has an ancestor who fought in the Revolution and her family didn't know it until I tracked down their family tree.

After my son was married and I worked on our daughter-in-law's family tree, which had already been well researched by her grandfather, I found an ancestor of theirs who had been involved in the Revolution although they were unaware that they also had such an ancestor .

Of course, some of the bloom has gone off the DAR/SAR rose for me as I've learned of some of the less savoury aspects of the DAR. For example, I was a bit shocked to find out that in 1932 the DAR had excluded black artists from Constitution Hall in DC after protests about "mixed seating"!

This exclusion policy came to a head as Easter Sunday, 1939, approached when the DAR refused to allow the great opera singer, Marian Anderson, to perform at Constitution Hall because of her race. I am proud, however, that a distant cousin of mine, Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned her membership and helped to arrange for Anderson's concert to be held at the Lincoln Memorial.

The concert was attended by a crowd estimated to be over 75,000. The concert was a one small victory on the path to overcoming prejudice and hate--a long, bumpy road.

13 November 2008

What? Is Paulson Nuts?

According to Bloomberg there currently is over $356.3 billion in credit card debt, $256.3 billion in student loan debt, and $199 billion in auto loan debt. Paulson wants to increase funds to push more debt out into the system which is hideously overextended!

More debt is not what the economy needs. It needs more income at the lower and intermediate levels to spur spending and service current debt such as mortgages.

Put people to work in government-sponsored public service projects, infrastructure maintenance and improvement, schools, police forces, and government-sponsored green industries. The system needs money at the bottom to have trickle UP. Trickle DOWN does NOT work!

05 November 2008

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Langston Hughes

27 September 2008

Nondairy Creamer?

As the melamine-in-milk-products scandal in China snowballs, the New York Times reported today:

"The F.D.A. said the King Car Food Industrial Company of Taiwan had called back seven products sold under the Mr. Brown label, mostly sold in stores specializing in Asian foods. The company’s tests in Taiwan had determined that its nondairy creamer, which was made in China, was contaminated by melamine, the F.D.A. said. No contaminated products have actually been found on American shelves.

"The F.D.A. also said that it had itself extensively tested milk-based products imported from China into the United States in recent weeks. It said it had found no contamination so far."

Questions: How did 'nondairy creamer' come to be contaminated with milk-based products?

Fleisch dich? Oder, Milch dich? Oder?

17 August 2008

Persistence of Shadows from 1945

The shadows of the Venetian blinds
Make black, regular diagonals
Across the chenile bedspread,
Dark leaf shadows dance and prance
Across the stripes and chenile
As the bright, clear sunshine
Pours in the windows
Through gigantic maples outside

Doc Rock, August 2008

photo by Greenmonster

19 June 2008

Reagan-Bush-McCain Trickle Down Economics

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Harburg & Gorney

18 June 2008

Why Don't YOU Do Right????

Where Reagan->Bush->McCain Will Take Us

Why Don't You Do Right?

You had plenty money, 1922
You let other women make a fool of you
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Get out of here and get me some money too

You're sittin' down and wonderin' what it's all about
You ain't got no money, they will put you out
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Get out of here and get me some money too

If you had prepared twenty years ago
You wouldn't be a-wanderin' from door to door
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Get out of here and get me some money too

I fell for your jivin' and I took you in
Now all you got to offer me's a drink of gin
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Get out of here and get me some money too
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Like some other men do

17 May 2008

Abou ben Adam

Abou ben Adam (may his tribe increase!)
awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
an angel, writing in a book of gold.
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adam bold,
And to the Prescence in the room he said:
"What writest thou?" The vision raised its head,
And, with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?"said Abou, "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men."
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again, with a great awakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben adam's name led all the rest.

The Stone

"AND will you cut a stone for him,
To set above his head?
And will you cut a stone for him--
A stone for him?" she said.

Three days before, a splintered rock
Had struck her lover dead--
Had struck him in the quarry dead,
Where, careless of a warning call,
He loitered, while the shot was fired--
A lively stripling, brave and tall,
And sure of all his heart desired . . .
A flash, a shock,
A rumbling fall . . .
And, broken 'neath the broken rock,
A lifeless heap, with face of clay,
And still as any stone he lay,
With eyes that saw the end of all.

I went to break the news to her:
And I could hear my own heart beat
With dread of what my lips might say;
But some poor fool had sped before;
And, flinging wide her father's door,
Had blurted out the news to her,
Had struck her lover dead for her,
Had struck the girl's heart dead in her,
Had struck life, lifeless, at a word,
And dropped it at her feet:
Then hurried on his witless way,
Scarce knowing she had heard.

And when I came, she stood alone--
A woman, turned to stone:
And, though no word at all she said,
I knew that all was known.

Because her heart was dead,
She did not sigh nor moan.
His mother wept:
She could not weep.
Her lover slept:
She could not sleep.
Three days, three nights,
She did not stir:
Three days, three nights,
Were one to her,
Who never closed her eyes
From sunset to sunrise,
From dawn to evenfall--
Her tearless, staring eyes,
That, seeing naught, saw all.

The fourth night when I came from work,
I found her at my door.
"And will you cut a stone for him?"
She said: and spoke no more:
But followed me, as I went in,
And sank upon a chair;
And fixed her grey eyes on my face,
With still, unseeing stare.
And, as she waited patiently,
I could not bear to feel
Those still, grey eyes that followed me,
Those eyes that plucked the heart from me,
Those eyes that sucked the breath from me
And curdled the warm blood in me,
Those eyes that cut me to the bone,
And cut my marrow like cold steel.

And so I rose and sought a stone;
And cut it smooth and square:
And, as I worked, she sat and watched,
Beside me, in her chair.
Night after night, by candlelight,
I cut her lover's name:
Night after night, so still and white,
And like a ghost she came;
And sat beside me, in her chair,
And watched with eyes aflame.

She eyed each stroke,
And hardly stirred:
she never spoke
A single word:
And not a sound or murmur broke
The quiet, save the mallet stroke.

With still eyes ever on my hands,
With eyes that seemed to burn my hands,
My wincing, overwearied hands,
She watched, with bloodless lips apart,
And silent, indrawn breath:
And every stroke my chisel cut,
Death cut still deeper in her heart:
The two of us were chiselling,
Together, I and Death.

And when at length my job was done,
And I had laid the mallet by,
As if, at last, her peace were won,
She breathed his name, and, with a sigh,
Passed slowly through the open door:
And never crossed my threshold more.

Next night I laboured late, alone,
To cut her name upon the stone.

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Punishment Central--the US of A

Adult, American, poor--book 'em, Dan-o!

According to Adam Liptak writing in the NY Times:

One out of every 100 adults in the United States is behind bars!

One out of every 36 Hispanic adults in the United States is behind bars!

One out of every 15 African American adults in the United States is behind bars!

While one of every 335 white women in the US is behind bars, one out of every 100 black women is incarcerated!

Today the NY Times tells us the US is planning a big new prison in Afghanistan!

What the hell kind of animals have we turned into? In a recent interview on NPR Adam Liptak reported that in the 19th century the US prison system was a model for the world, people came from all over to see how rehabiltative incarceration could be made to work. Nowadays no one comes, we have become the poster child for a different sort of prison system--one which punishes and gives no thought to rehabilitation.

We have become a nation that kidnaps, carries out renditions, tortures, warehouses, ignores due process, runs kangaroo courts, military tribunals (with mulligans), and warehouses millions for their addictions.

We have become addicted to vengeance, inured to cruelty. When will we try to be better?

30 April 2008

The Starved Beast

How ironic! Bush whines that there are no easy fixes to the nation's economic woes that his profligate leadership has been responsible for.

How ironic that the Conservative philosophy of "starve the beast" that he has implemented to kill social programs and leave Medicare's and Social Security's long term prospects in jeopardy should have taken away most of the levers of power that might be quickly applied to alleviate the misery that his tax breaks for the wealthy and insane war against Iraq have engendered.

19 April 2008

Huoguo Shacha 火锅沙茶 Chinese Hotpot

People enjoying Chinese firepot 火锅 at a large restaurant.

For hotpot, broth is kept simmering in a hot pot in the center of the table into which thin strips of meat and pieces of vegetables are dipped to cook and then dipped in sauces. My favorite was always sha cha sauce 沙茶酱--a dark brown, pungent, thickish dip that has a somewhat gritty mouth feel. The Chinese characters of the name mean "sand" "tea" "sauce". The sauce is made from flatfish, shrimp, soybean oil, chilis, garlic, and shallots. It is also known in southeastern China in the Min dialect as "satay." The food, after being cooked quickly in the hot broth, is whisked out on one's chopsticks and dipped in the sauce which often has had a raw egg stirred into it and then popped into the mouth and eaten.

Canned shacha sauce -->

A fancy hotpot & Shacha sauce with raw egg--below.

Pineapple shaved ice 鳳梨刨冰

Pineapple shaved ice 鳳梨冰
Originally uploaded by fuyanyu.
When I was studying Mandarin language and T'ang poetry in Taiwan in the summer of 1968, one of my favorite treats at the market place was fengli baobing 鳳梨刨冰. Baobing 刨冰 means shaved ice and fengli 鳳梨 is pineapple.

In those days baobing was generally served in a bowl with sweetened condensed milk over it and for an additional few cents with fresh fruits. My favorite was the pineapple! Pineapples in the market were always at their peak of juicy deliciousness on the day they were being sold. This was a truly refreshing and wonderfully delicious summer time treat that I still think of on hot days all these years later.

25 February 2008

Ralph Nader at his Nadir

The great ego has lifted Nader's head for another plunge but I view Nader at his nadir like the protagonist of Oscar Wilde's prose poem "The Master":


Now when the darkness came over the earth Joseph of Arimathea, having lighted a torch of pinewood, passed down from the hill into the valley. For he had business in his own home.

And kneeling on the flint stones of the Valley of Desolation he saw a young man who was naked and weeping. His hair was the colour of honey, and his body was as a white flower, but he had wounded his body with thorns and on his hair had he set ashes as a crown.

And he who had great possessions said to the young man who was naked and weeping, 'I do not wonder that your sorrow is so great, for surely He was a just man.'

And the young man answered, 'It is not for Him that I am weeping, but for myself. I too have changed water into wine, and I have healed the leper and given sight to the blind. I have walked upon the waters, and from the dwellers in the tombs I have cast out devils. I have fed the hungry in the desert where there was no food, and I have raised the dead from their narrow houses, and at my bidding, and before a great multitude, of people, a barren fig- tree withered away. All things that this man has done I have done also. And yet they have not crucified me.'

06 February 2008

The Doctor is "In"

Let's face it, some astrologers are doing a better job than ARG and Zogby. If you believe in polls, then the electorate is one huge flock of sheep being constantly led hither and then yon by a bunch of spin-merchant border collies! The polls are being given too much credit by the media which needs horse races to supply talking-head fodder.

If you believe in polls, clap your hands. If you believe in polls, clap your hands! Oh, yeaa! Arg and Zogby are coming back to life, quick give them money!

The only polls that count are those on election day!

The doctor is in, please be seated.

20 January 2008

Twa Corbies

Photo by Doc Rock

AS I was walking all alane

I heard twa corbies making a mane:
The tane unto the tither did say,
'Whar sall we gang and dine the day?'

'—In behint yon auld fail dyke

I wot there lies a new-slain knight;
And naebody kens that he lies there
But his hawk, his hound, and his lady fair.

'His hound is to the hunting gane,
His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,

His lady 's ta'en anither mate,
So we may mak our dinner sweet.

'Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane,
And I'll pike out his bonny blue e'en:
Wi' ae lock o' his gowden hair

We'll theek our nest when it grows bare.

'Mony a one for him maks mane,
But nane sall ken whar he is gane:
O'er his white banes, when they are bare,
The wind sall blaw for evermair.'


13 January 2008


Back in the late 1980's I was a technical advisor/member of the US COCOM delegation. We met periodically at the US Embassy Annex in Paris with other member delegations to negotiate the export control lists.

My wife and I had traveled twice previously to France/Paris on vacations when we lived in Germany, but our experiences had always been somewhat frustrating since neither of us (nor our son) spoke much French. My son who attended German schools spoke fluent German, my wife spoke fluent Spanish (with some Italian) with decent spoken German as well, and I understand German fairly well, had a BA, MS, and PhD in Korean language & literature with minors in Japanese and Chinese--but we were treated like uneducated bumpkins because of our very limited, halting French.

Traveling in a delegation with several French speakers and dining with international colleagues while in Paris for negotiations, however, proved much more gemütlich. Since I was normally in Paris for two weeks at a time, I started studying guide books to take best advantage of sights to see and take advantage of the food specialties available in Paris.

I used to stay at a very small hotel, the Roblin, near the Madeleine , across from Hediard Tea (where you can find a marvelous assortment of almost every imaginable tea), and down the road from Fauchon . Fauchon is a gourmand's paradise, as much a feast for the eyes as is it for the palette.

Studying the guidebooks, I came across a reference to raclette--a Swiss country dish that originated warming cheese in a pan by a fire and scraping (French: racler = to scrape) the melting cheese onto boiled potatoes, a crusty bread, ham, etc., accompanied by cornichons and a good wine (I like a nice Cotes du Rhone). Researching, I found that there was a Swiss fondue restaurant, which also offered raclette, within walking distance of my hotel, so I went. None of my colleagues wanted to come, all saying that fondue was for tourists. So I went alone.

I was seated at a small table alone and ordered. The first thing the waiter brought out was a large device (see 2nd picture above or click here) which turned out to be a crystal heat lamp that quickly produced heat sufficient to melt the cheese, and a very large hunk of cheese. I was served a basket of boiled, new redskin potatoes, a crusty baguette, a small plate of cornichons, and the wine I ordered. I timidly scraped some of the melting cheese onto a small plate, cut one of the potatoes in half, spread some cheese on it, popped it into my mouth and tasted. Good grief! It was wonderful. I had been wondering how I'd manage that large chunk of cheese and all the potatoes and bread. It was surprisingly easy as I then tucked right in!

I really wanted to share my experience and joy with my family and (eat it again myself). But I couldn't find raclette cheese in Bavaria for quite awhile thereafter and didn't know about other suitable cheeses yet.

Finally, I did find it and set about making a meal for my family. I had gotten a nice baguette, bought French cornichons, and boiled up a pot of baby redskin potatoes. I figured I'd melt the cheese in chunks in the microwave.

My wife was upstairs as the meal was about ready and I began melting the first chunk in the microwave and the very "stinky" odor of the raclette cheese began wafting upstairs. My wife later "confessed" that she was thinking, "How can I tell him I can't eat this! It smells like a gym locker. Yuck!" But being a"good sport", she tried a couple of mouthfuls. Bam! Another convert! It is delicious.

French Morbier cheese is also an excellent raclette cheese, not so pungent, but a fine flavor with very good melting qualities. It is marked with an ash line down the middle like a number of cheeses.

We came across another mildly pungent cheese that is a good-melter while in Germany, butterkaese, which was used by our neighbors in Bavaria and which became a favorite with our kids in making raclette. Bavaria produces a number of excellent cheeses, many of them pungent.

Also, after moving back to Germany afew years later, we also first saw a different kind of raclette melter/cooker--see the machine on the right. It has a grill plate on top of the heating element which allows you to grill sausages, meats, onions, peppers, etc., while it also has eight popsicle-shaped metal "pans" with non-heat-conducting handles for melting individual portions of cheese under the heating element at the same time. It has a rheostat for regulating the heat of the element.

I recommend you try raclette and, if you love it, as we do, consider one of these machines.

For some recipe ideas, click here.

10 January 2008

Obama Voters Voted for McCain Instead?????

Not being an independent, it is hard for me to see/understand/believe that if I were going to vote for Obama, why on earth I would go vote for McCain instead (or vice-versa). I think it is bull, but, like I say, I don't know.

What I do know is that the excellent weather made it easier to get out older voters who apparently supported Clinton--none of the talking heads, it disturbs me, ever seems to regard issues or enlightened self-interest as playing any role in the vote. The pundits wonder at the size of crowds that Obama drew versus Clinton--younger folks tend to be more attracted to and less put off by crowds than some of us older fogies, I think.
I have no desire to go and be part of Clinton's or anyone else's crowd, to touch the hem of a God's gown, or such. If there is a young/old split, the punditry may have been missing it just as they seem not to have credited differences in on-the-ground organizations and their abilities to get voters out.

Check out this Clinton volunteer's view from the ground level in NH: