Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
In the past three months, I have thrown away two pairs of jeans. There is something very odd about discarding denims; they're personal, a reflection of one's self and of one's perceived social standing. New or used, they range in price from a few dollars to a small fortune and many people will wear them until they--the jeans--disintegrate.
"A similarly woven traditional American cotton textile is the diagonal warp-striped hickory cloth that was once associated with railroadmen's overalls, in which blue or black contrasting with undyed white threads form the woven pattern. Hickory cloth was characterized as being as rugged as hickory wood—not to mention the fact that it was deemed to be worn mainly by "hicks"—although neither may be the origin of that term [from a nickname for "Richard"]. Records of a group of New Yorkers headed for the
Why do we so love our jeans? I know some people--men and women--who have more than twenty pairs. How do we equate something everyone wears with individuality? It makes no sense, yet there's no doubt that every jeans wearer will attest that the jeans he is wearing are his and no one else's. There are jeans for tiny babies and jeans for the morbidly obese. Rodeo cowboys and movie stars wear them, as do socialites and working moms. At one point, jeans were a standard trading commodity in Eastern Europe and the Soviet bloc, and I remember being in Spain in the early 70s and getting a better than average guitar for two pairs of Levys.
Here's something else: everyone knows a pair of bad jeans at first glance. They're too blue, and the stitching is too yellow. Bad jeans worn at school attract bullies and derision; a bad jeans wearer knows it, and his stride reflects the knowledge. No one struts in bad jeans, and bad jeans can never, ever, become good jeans.
So throwing them away is hard. I tried to make rags out of a worn-out pairs years ago but for some reason, jeans make poor dust cloths. Maybe, like worn out flags, dead jeans should be burned with quiet ceremony. Ashes to ashes, jeans to dust.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Eight years ago when the madmen struck, I was working as a counselor in a suburban methadone clinic. It was a bad job in a drab place stuck between a warehouse and an animal shelter. I would get there shortly after 5 a.m. to open up, and already the addicts, recovering or not, were queud up and waiting for their daily doses. The dispensing nurse generally arrived at the same time and we would take our respective stations, me behind an inch-thick plate of bulletproof glass, she farther down the hall organizing the tiny cups orange juice and methadone phials.
- Why have our good and wealthy friends the Saudis not given us bin Laden and his crew? The House of Saud is rich beyond description and has contacts throughout the Middle East; it is impossible to believe they didn't know something was up--most of the madmen were Saudis--and bin Laden comes from a wealthy and influential Saudi family. By now he should have been delivered, gift-wrapped, to the White House.
- Why, with hundreds of millions spent annually on intelligence, didn't we know about this? Where were the CIA, the DIA, military intelligence and all the other experts whose jobs it was to protect the nation? Have we been so hampered by legislation that our intelligence people can't do their work anymore? Or is intelligence gathering a lost art...
- How does taking my shoes off at airport security make us less susceptible to attack?
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
My father, Jean Octave Sagnier, died on this date 13 years ago. He was a good wise man who without being secretive hated talking about himself. He was an architectural student working as the traveling secretary of a wealthy Brit when the war broke out and he walked from the south of France to St. Malo in Brittany, then hopped a boat to England so he could join the upstart general Charles de Gaulle and become a Free French. De Gaulle assigned him a mobile radio station which roamed occupied France and relayed Allied news to the maquis and other underground forces. He never fired a shot during the war but was nevertheless awarded the Légion d'Honneur, France's highest honor, for deeds that I do not know.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Lately I have happened upon the advantage of timers. I go to a 12-step meeting that has discovered the best way to stop people from being windbags is to give them a limited number of minutes to talk. Three minutes seems to be the norm, after which the timer begins to beep and the speaker has a few extra seconds to wind things up.
OK, here's something I've been pondering for awhile--nothing too deep, and I'm certain there will not be an original thought there, but here goes.
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.