Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not-the-Mexican flu, as seen from Mexico

Ana María Salazar blogs bilingually from Mexico City. To help contain the flu, that whole country is pretty much closing down until the Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Her view of the ongoing brouhaha over the flu outbreak is interesting:
++ President Felipe Calderón met with former health secretaries Guillermo Soberón, Julio Frenk, Jesús Kumate and Juan Ramón de la Fuente to analyze the situation the swine flu epidemic is posing for Mexico. Jesús Kumate said the epidemic could affect the country for at least a year, since there are relapses or renewed outbreaks… He said that in the case of influenza, the renewed outbreaks occur every two months, or what could happen also is that the virus could mutate yet again over that year. (Comment: What Dr. Kumate is trying to tell us that it is unlikely that children will be returning to school and economic activities will not return to normal by May 6th.)

Read all her posts here. Somehow, the govt down south there will manage to blame this on the gringos (and probably the earthquake also).
The powers have lifted the level of seriousness to a 5 on a scale of 6, with the 6th level being pandemic. Talk of closing the border is fascinating, as it contains an implicit concession that closing the border is possible.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Newspaper plaints

Friend sends along a note with a funny twist:
My buddy … told me this and I laughed so hard I had tears running down
my face:
Editor at the SA E-N told him he got a call from a longtime subscriber
complaining because not only is the E-N fewer pages now, they have cut down
the size of the page. The editor said he gave the guy the company line about
cutting printing costs, etc. The subscriber said, "Well, hell, what's next?
You just going to leave a Post-it on my door?"

The San Antonio paper has pulled back, cut the newsroom drastically, and reduced news coverage.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Papers, still

Former Victorian David Crisp, who runs a little rag up in Montana, is one of my favorite bloggers. He has some cogent points about the direction of the newspaper business:
Just in the last six years, the number of full-time reporters working in the nation’s state capitols has fallen 32 percent. Since 1980, the number of full-time political cartoonists has fallen from 280 to fewer than 90. The government keeps getting bigger, and the number of people paid to keep an eye on it keeps getting smaller.
Democracy doesn’t flow from Washington, D.C. It flows to Washington from thousands of local communities, electing representatives to take their concerns to the Capitol from thousands of cities and school districts, counties and PTAs. For a couple of centuries, those concerns have been reflected in and reported by hundreds of local and regional newspapers.

Read it all here. It is seven or eight posts down. He is right; the death of the local paper is a catastrophe for people who want to know what is going on in their communities.
We got another chapter in the Fatal Funnel series in the Vicad. The big illustration was a pic of the number plate on the door of the motel where some plotting took place. Sure made it all clear to me …

Friday, April 24, 2009


Cribbed from someplace, a satirical syllabus for course in writing for modern days:
Navigating the ever-changing landscape of Internet and chatspeak is essential to creating effective tweets, instant messages, and text messages. Students will practice using emoticons to create powerful dialogue and to establish dramatic irony. They'll learn to gracefully integrate complex expressions into their IM writing, substituting the trite LOL ("laughing out loud") and "meh" (the written equivalent of a shrug) with more-advanced expressions like BOSMKL ("bending over smacking my knee laughing") and HFACTDEWARIUCSMNUWKIASLAMB ("holy flipping animal crackers, that doesn't even warrant a response; if you could see me now, you would know that I am shrugging like a mofu, biotch"). Students will be encouraged to nurture their craft, free of the restraints of punctuation, syntax, and grammar.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


OK, here is the deal: We have been working for the census to get up enough money for a new computer, as the old eMac is choking in its death throes. It must be four years old, which reads like a hundred in people years. We have seen lots of dogs while we were mapping census sites. My observation is that about half the dogs in the Bend are yapping little Chihuahuas or Chihuahua crosses, and half are big, sweet, yellow beasts who are glad have someone talk to them for a minute. The other half are nondescripts, but, like most dogs, good dogs. (Nitpickers, forget the math.) Couple days ago, herself was churning the brush down toward Port O when in the rearview mirror she saw something scuttle across the road. She went back and used dog treats (good census employees carry them) to toll this little beauty out of the weeds.
Obviously a pup dumped out on a country road, the pore little thing was starving to death. She is still showing a lot of rib and hip, despite a couple days of pounding down the groceries. She has not yet revealed her name. You want a nice little dog? We got a nice little dog for you. But wait … there is more. You want a nice big dog? Wife took the pup to the vet,and he says the dog should finish out at 40 or 50 pounds. Vet says the pup is some kind of blackmouth cur mix, about two and a half months old. Think of that folks! Blackmouth cur, the dog that opened the frontier. Old Yeller, hounds sleeping on the porch of the log cabin …
history on the paw.
But wait, there is more! Wife got first shots for the pup. And the price to you for this paragon of a pup? Not a thousand dollars, not five hundred dollars, not even one hundred dollars. This dog -- smart, funny, and full of life -- is yours for the asking. Otherwise, we will have another animal at our house. And that is pretty much OK, too. Dogs are the best.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekend stuff

Seadrift, the most inept of the three cats my wife feeds, got lucky a couple of days ago, like that proverbial blind hog that finds an acorn. She caught a rodent, unidentified. A scientist friend said she would have to see the feet of the little beast to know if it was mouse or a young rat. Whatever it was, it managed to escape the molestations of the cat and scuttle up a hibiscus, where we left it to sort out its fate according to the laws of nature.

We did civic duty Sunday afternoon by going to the **Adrift Friends of the Library fundraiser, held in a tent out on Swan Point. There was a good lunch starring étouffée but with other supporting foods of considerable merit. The catering was by Grapevine Cafe of Victoria, a little place up north by the medical lashup on Main just short of the Loop. Music was provided by the CHS jazz group, which had the decency to play mostly old stuff. All the kids wore black, as did the band leader. Reminds that the beatniks were the last attractive hip movement. A musical friend declared them good. We were taken by the coolth of the bassist, a tall slender, and pretty girl jest eat up with 17-year-old sangfroid. She was cute to watch. There is something charming about a luncheon in a tent whence we could look out and see big blue herons scuffling for food in the shallows. The library fund is coming along nicely.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Grumble, mutter, cuss

The NYT has a piece today on hankypanking by Alan Hevesi, the erstwhile state comptroller, with state pension $$s.
But by the time Mr. Hevesi resigned his office in late 2006, investigators for the Albany County district attorney’s office were examining a more troubling problem: allegations that Mr. Hevesi’s associates had sold access to the state’s $122 billion pension fund, using one of the world’s largest pools of assets to reward friends, pay back political favors and reap millions of dollars in cash rewards for themselves.

Read the whole thing here. The Times failed to mention Hevesi’s party affiliation, no doubt a fact unobtainable by the Newspaper of Record. Fortunately, because of my excellent training in investigative techniques at the UT College of Communication and my devotion to staying abreast of technology, I was able to perform a difficult and obscure research procedure known to insider journalism pros as Googling and to determine that Hevesi is a D. Who could have guessed? A pox on both their damn corrupt houses and the mendacious Times in the deal.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Various plaints

In a Page 1A Vicad story today, written by one Rubi Reyes, we have some of the most egregious mispunctuation you are likely ever to see:
"In the story printed in the newspaper you stated that the DA had approached you and in the interview online you said just the opposite, which time were you lying," Watts asked Hagan?

First, there is the matter of the comma splice, always painful. Then there is that lonely little interrogation point, hung out on the end of the sentence for want of understanding where it properly went.
My second plaint about the front page today is that bogus gathering at the plaza of people complaining about taxes and the Congress. The supposedly spontaneous and nonpartisan gatherings are suspiciously thick with Rs named prominently and quoted frequently. I, too, worry about debts generated by borrowing to finance dubious enterprises. I started worrying about it when that bipedal pus pocket GWB began financing off the books his treasonous invasion and occupation of a country that had offered us no real provocation.
I wish there were a genuine Independent party growing in this country; I would attach myself to it in a minute. I loathe the Republicans and have little use for the Dems. They seem hellbent on an immigration amnesty this year, disregarding high unemployment and the sentiment of the American people. The big media are hammering away on the topic in ways that assure us that the fix is in. You frequentlyread and hear maudlin stories about how disruptive and inconvenient illegal aliens find it to be removed from a place they have no right to be in the first place.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nature in her modest manifestations

The natural world impinges on our putative civilization here in **Adrift, sometimes in small ways. Often in the morning when I step out the front door to take a reading on the new day, I will see vultures cruising around my sky. I always wonder if they know something I should know. A nice piece from Slate muses on vultures:
As they ride the wind, vultures seek dead things, not dying things, using a sense of smell far more highly developed than any other bird's. They can detect a dead mouse under leaves from 200 feet up. They are discriminating, preferring corpses between two and four days dead. (The turkey vulture entry in the definitive Birds of North America Online does note, "Takes live prey occasionally in unnatural situations.")

Read the whole thing here. The story discusses puking as a defensive move by beset vultures. Owing to an traumatic incident when she was a child returning from church with her grandparents, my wife has an exaggerated wariness of vultures dining on roadkill and starts braking and swerving a hundred yards away when she spots them in the road. She says I would not be so sneeringly dismissive of her fears if I had ever experienced vulture vomit up close.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sat night miscellany

An ittybitty two- or three-paragraph story on the Vicad business page Thursday indicated that the paper was laying off employees and cutting wages for survivors. Newspapers are surprisingly reluctant to cover their own affairs unless it is to trumpet the little bogus awards that their associations deal out to themselves so everybody can claim to be a prizewinning newspaper. The observant reader will have noticed that the paper barely has enough heft to make it all the way to the driveway these days. Maybe the circulation dept will require carriers to put stones or oyster shells in the little plastic sleeve to add weight. (No extra pay for the work, of course, as everyone is expected to pitch in during tough times like these.)
The newsroom employees have been making sacrifices for years. most of the reporters when I was working up there were earning well below the salary for a first-year schoolteacher, and some bailed to become teachers, immediately raising their wages by 30% or 40%.
While I am making my appointed rounds as a Census employee, I knock on doors and engage residents. A lady I spoke to on Friday came doddering to the door and insisted she needed to sit down immediately. She said she was just out of the hospital, having suffered a stroke. She was also smoking away on a cigarette. You almost have to admire so profound a devotion to self-destruction.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Been censusing all week over in Port Lavaca. At some places in my first block of houses, there was a want of clarity about the house numbers. I ran into a guy from the city utilities, and he told me there were three sets of addresses working on some houses out there, something like emergency responder numbers, appraisal district numbers, and some other thing. Just amazing.
Vicad embarrassments for Wed: ’What drink do you pair with with (sic) Latino food?’
The repeated ’with’ is incidental … my cavil is with the introduction of ’Latino’ as the PC term of the month. The discussion is clearly about Mexican food and the drinks discussed were clearly intended for matching with Mexican food.
And then, from the farm and ranch page: ’And cattle isn’t selling for what it once did.’ And writing aren’t what it were.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ooopsie for today

Vicad headline on page E3:
Woman wants ex to / walk her down the isle

Is that long walks on the beach or the inability to distinguish aisle/isle?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

**Adrift health insurance

Went to a benefit this noon and picked up two plates of fried fish. Down here there is a benefit pretty near every week for someone with overwhelming medical bills. This one was for a friend of mine. She and her husband run a nice little seafood business; they are my principal shrimp source. They work hard, open seven days, the whole deal that the big dogs tell us everybody should be doing. Trouble is, how can they possibly afford health insurance and finance a business and live from one day to the next? Answer is, of course, that there is no way that any ordinary person can afford health insurance adequate to take care of something major, so people go along hoping against hope that nothing major comes up. The lack of a civilized single-payer national health insurance makes us a second-rate outfit compared to other major countries … plus we pay more for medical expenses than anywhere else and do not get superior care for all those bucks we shovel out for insurance.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Close enough (to poverty) for gummint work

A falling stock market and a failing computer have driven us into temp jobs with the Census Bureau. There is a reason they call it a work force; nobody sane would do it voluntarily … no naps, no reading time,no time to cook decent meals. We are now sworn agents of the bureau, small-fry drones. We took a genuine, hand-in-the-air oath and promised not to tell any secrets we might learn. We even have to wear a badge of servitude around the neck. Our job will be to make sure addresses are correct for the big push next year. We go armed with nifty little computers that have GPS systems built in; they will provide precise locations of residences so that enumerators can go right to the door on April 1, 2010.