New Friends Intro Meme

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Who are you?
- Jewish, American, veteran, Portlander by choice, age 53. Social liberal / libertarian, fiscal conservative / libertarian, pro-Zionist, anti-jihad, queer-friendly. Registered Republican. Co-parent to two wonderful kids, TNG and Bunny.

For those of you who have not run screaming from the room shrieking "Eeeeeek! A Republican!" - thank you for not doing that.

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'Forgotten Illinois'

Newton faces many of the same trends as other downstate communities. Jobs have left, residents have moved, and politicians aren’t listening.

The sense of community, though, remains strong. Jonathan Broscious, a pastor at Newton’s New Hope Church, moved to the city in 2013 after attending school in Pennsylvania and growing up in the Washington, D.C., area. His wife grew up in Newton, and the city’s strong sense of community has made Broscious happy to call Newton home.

“I went to the bank – this was maybe six months after I moved here – and I went to make a deposit,” Broscious recalled. “I’m not the kind of person who has his account numbers memorized or whatever, so I walk up to the teller – and I’ve never talked to this girl ever before in my life. And I walk up to her, and I say, ‘Hey, I need to make a deposit but I don’t know what my bank account number is. I can give you my driver’s license or my debit card or something if you needed to figure it out.’

“And she said, ‘Oh no, I got it; what account do you want me to put it in?’ She knew exactly who I was because evidently she’d seen me walking with my wife and knew who my wife was.”

It’s not difficult to recognize people in Newton, a city of 2,800 people covering less than 2 square miles. The close-knit feeling is everywhere. ...


Read the rest at the link.  Of interest to allaboutweather on LJ.


Thinking About Numbers

To keep my mathematics circuits free of cobwebs I've been reviewing facts from algebra. Looking at the Law of Cosines, I noticed for the first time that it contains an expression familiar from vector math. Under the Wiki entry for 'Dot Product' I found this very cool proof: if you let vector C represent the vector between the endpoints of A and B - that is, A-B=C vector-wise - and you square both sides (using the dot product), you get the Law of Cosines. That is, C dot C equals (A-B) dot itself; and you expand the latter as a binomial square-of-difference. That's where the "-2AB cos c" term comes from, it's the same as "2 * (A dot B)".

I've started poking through my old Dynamics textook too, to see if there was anything forbiddingly difficult therein, and I don't think there is. Just for kicks I skipped ahead to take a look at Sample Problem 17.5, where you've got two rigid rods hinged together with the end of one hinged to a surface and the free end on a frictionless roller. The strategy involves finding something called the "instantaneous center of rotation" which is given by drawing lines perpendicular to the moving points (i.e. along the radii of an imaginary wheel) and finding where they intersect. It's a cool concept, and I will probably think about it every time I see a book slide down flat after losing its grip on the bookend. Anyway, if I ever manage to earn a college degree before I die, I'm still interested in engineering.


Sunday morning: Clearing.

It looks like Portland may be seeing the last of winter weather, finally. Forecast calls for clear skies for the early part of this week, then some rain, but no more freezing temperatures.

I'm coming to the end of six months at my current gig, and starting to look around for something that pays better. Meanwhile the downsizing continues apace, with regular trips to Powell's to lighten the load of surplus books.

Getting ready to move forward to the next phase of life.


So, I've been driving around town with this crazy woman in my car.

She talks too fast and too much, as if she's had way too much coffee. She gives me confusing, contradictory directions, takes me on seemingly random detours, and can never seem to make up her mind what she wants me to do. She is, literally, driving me crazy.

She is Google Lady, the voice of the Google Nav on my Android phone, and she's the one I've gotta follow when I do my deliveries using the Uber app. She makes me long for the soothing tones of my longtime companion, Garmin Lady, but I guess you can get used to anything.

Last night I thought I'd try to get along without her for a run. Big mistake. The delivery was just straight down Burnside and I thought "Oh I'll just go down Burnside and turn right on 1st." Except that I don't know the city as well as I thought I did: you can't turn onto 1st from Burnside, and I ended up having to continue across the bridge to Eastside and turn around - using the nav, of course. Google Lady had had the last laugh. I felt compelled to apologize.

"Okay, Google Lady, I'm sorry I doubted you - "

"To use voice command, say 'OK Google', and then ... "

* sigh *

It's going to be an interesting relationship.

PDX Peeps

What's your favorite thing to do / thing to see / place to visit in the Portland area?

Favorite coffee spot?

Favorite night spot?

Favorite indie movie house?

Favorite Atlas Obscura destination?

Most interesting experience?

Favorite area destination for a day trip? (Say, 20 - 100 miles radius from the city.)

Any interest in local LJ/DW meet-ups?

Monday morning: Random.

Was planning to drive some deliveries yesterday (Sunday) but fatigue and housework got the better of me, and except for my lunch date I spent the day at home.

The good news is, I got well rested up and am looking forward to doing some driving tonight. I'll look at it as a chance to explore new places in the neighborhood.

Last night before bed I decided I was tired of looking at the four walls of my room, and needed something both visually stimulating and relaxing. Realized I hadn't logged in to Flickr for a while, and that turned out to be just the thing.

With the weather getting better, I am going to start planning an out-of-town day trip soon.

Irresistible Island: 'Tar Baby' by Toni Morrison

‘Tar Baby’, Toni Morrison’s fourth novel, breaks new ground in more ways than one. Published in 1981, it is set in the recent past of the post-Vietnam 1970s and so is her first novel set in contemporary times. (In fact it is the first of four TM novels to date – the others being ‘Paradise’, ‘Love’, and ‘God Help the Child’ – set in the 1970s or later.) It’s the only one of her novels to date set outside of the continental United States; geographically speaking, it is literally an outlier. It’s her first novel to include significant non-black characters, something she won’t do again until ‘Paradise’ (with its famous opening line, “They shoot the white girl first.”). And I think it’s also unique in the degree to which the setting itself becomes a character, with the fictional Caribbean island being described in heavily anthropomorphic, feminine terms throughout. (In ‘Beloved’, of course, the house at 124 Bluestone Road is inhabited by the baby's ghost, but the house itself is just an inanimate structure.)

Driving the story of ‘Tar Baby’ is the passionate, taboo love between Jadine and Son – in many ways the archetypal union between the civilized city person and the wild child of the country. Their romance builds slowly and has everything working against it. Their relationship is stormy and difficult, like a lot of couples in real life.

In the 2004 Foreword, TM discusses the theme of the ‘tar baby’ in folklore, and its appeal to her own imagination. In the version of the legend she recalls, a farmer uses a figure of tar, dressed in feminine clothing, to entrap a troublesome rabbit. But the rabbit, after getting stuck to the tar baby, "now becomes the clever one" and employs reverse psychology to induce the farmer to throw him in the "briar patch" - the wilderness to which the rabbit desires to return.

The lead characters are Jadine and Son. Jadine is a young, successful model with a promising career and a scholarship. Following a moment of personal crisis, she leaves Paris to live with her aunt and uncle (who are parent figures to her) on Ile des Chevaliers, where Ondine and Sydney work as personal servants to the Valerian and Margaret Street, a wealthy retired white couple whose home is called Arbe de la Croix. Son, who does not appear on-scene until the end of chapter 3, is an Army veteran who has spent the past eight years as a fugitive. They are a study in contrasts: she, the epitome of civilization and culture; he, the archetypal wild man.

'Tar Baby' incorporates many of Toni Morrison's trademark elements. There is a sub-text of skin color (as distinct from 'race'): Jadine is a light-skinned African-American woman, which causes her some anxiety and friction with some of the other black characters, while Son is dark.

Jadine isn't the only one with skin color issues: Margaret, the Italian-American former beauty queen who is the wife of the candy tycoon Valerian Street, was blessed (or cursed) with flaming red hair and alabaster skin. In one flashback, she recalls the comical lengths to which her father went to prove his paternity to friends by summoning a distant red-haired relative, thus demonstrating the presence of the red-haired gene in his own DNA. Margaret also continues the Toni Morrison tradition of 'problem mothers', as we discover through revelations about her relationship with her long-awaited but never-seen son Michael.

Like many of TM's men characters, Son is a veteran, but he's the first lead character to come out of the military. (In 2012's 'Home', Korea vet Frank Money will take center stage.) And, as with so many TM characters, his unusual name has a story behind it.

Names and naming figure prominently in 'Tar Baby'. First, there's Son's name, with no more official status than any of the many aliases he has used over the years, but the one by which he knows himself. Then there is Gideon, who at first is known to the other characters only by his nickname 'Yardman', much to Son's disgust; and finally there is Alma Estee, whose name Son himself forgets.

Abortion is referenced by Therese (p. 151) in the context of her wildly distorted imaginings about life in America. ("Is it true? American women reach into their wombs and kill their babies with their fingernails?")

Folklore plays an important role in 'Tar Baby', as in 'Song of Solomon'. Here the legend of the blind horsemen from which the island takes its name proves crucial to Son's final decision.

Who or what is the 'Tar Baby' of the title?

Apparently it refers to Jadine, whom Son calls a "tar baby" (along with a string of other colorful terms) during a fight in their New York apartment. As TM explains in the Foreword, the tar baby legend implies a love story: "Difficult, unresponsive, but seducing woman and clever, anarchic male, each with definitions of independence and domesticity, of safety and danger that clash."

I wonder, though, if there is another level to the role of the tar baby - the feminine, irresistible image that first seduces, then traps the rabbit. Both Son and Jadine are drawn toward the island by inexorable, almost supernatural forces: Son by the ocean's current in the prologue, Jadine by the mysterious figure of the African woman in the yellow dress. And it is Jadine who becomes trapped in the island's black, tarry mud in chapter 5. So I wonder if the 'Tar Baby' of the title also refers to the island itself.

The book's ending is unresolved; it's a frozen moment in time, again like 'Song of Solomon'.

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I remember 'Paradise' also ending with an image of ships on the sea at night, and I'm gonna want to go back and compare the two. Both passages hint at journeys to another world.

Tuesday morning: Ready to roll.

I've had my new phone for about two weeks now and I'm happy with it. I bought a handsfree headset at the same time, in preparation for my debut as an Uber delivery driver, and started wearing it daily. I thought it would be hard to get used to (I'm of the generation that grew up with corded dial phones) but it became natural almost immediately. I forgot to put it on today and it feels weird *not* having it on.

So, I stopped by the Uber Greenlight location on the Eastside last night - my first time dealing with any of the staff in person - and they were great. A guy named Paul helped me and he was very nice and professional. And I'm officially ready to start driving! I'll turn on my driver app tonight after my day job and we'll see how it goes.

And my social life is moving right along ... got some dating happening, yay. Details anon. For now, got to get to work at my day job!

Thursday night: Digging out and catching up.

The weather today was milder and mostly fair, bringing a much-needed thaw to the city and the roads in particular. I'm on track to work something close to a full week for the first time in seemingly forever. (Worked a short day Tuesday due to road conditions, but I was able to make up some of those hours tonight.) Regular employees at the Clinic get compensated for snow days, but I'm a contractor so I'm just out the money.

The good news is I got a call from my agency yesterday to check in and see how I'm doing. (I'm approaching the six-month mark at this gig.) I told them, truthfully, that I like the people I work with and have no complaints about the work, but that in the near future - after I've passed my 6-month obligation - I may be looking to make a little better rate of pay. So the agency guy said he'd talk to my boss at the clinic and see if he could work something out. Fingers crossed.

I'm almost at the end of 'Tar Baby' - I'm listening to the audiobook at work, and reviewing in the dead-tree edition after work - and I hope to get a write-up done this weekend.

The two Crock-Pots I ordered are sitting in the kitchen waiting to get used. I've promised myself that this coming week will be the week I start practicing making cholent, in time for next Shabbat. Anybody know any good, easy cholent recipes? (Meat and/or meatless.)

Monday morning: Weather drama.

Portland, Oregon is near the Pacific coast and it's generally a mild climate. Two inches of snow is a lot for us. Last week we got eight. The city had to borrow snowplows and sand trucks from Seattle.

And the temperature has stayed below freezing since then. Now the snow is supposed to start melting today and tomorrow ... just in time for a monster storm that's supposed to dump tons of rain on us Tuesday and Wednesday.

So, lots of fun.