Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Saturday, September 09, 2006
Tea and sympathy
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:11 PM

Yesterday's entry on false security on the airlines got me wondering.

Since last month's London arrests and security crackdowns, how many false alarms have the airlines and airports experienced?

I'm asking about the diverted planes, people kicked off their flights, airports evacuated for strange smells, the t-shirt incident, the dropped iPod, etcetera, etcetera...

I was going to start compiling a list, but before I go through the effort, I thought I'd check with y'all and see if anyone else has already done so.

While we're at it, I'm also interested in stories of people successfully getting "TSA contraband" onboard; again only since the arrests on August 10.

Regarding my entry on tea infusers, I got a hearty recommendation for ingenuiTEA by AdagioAmazon.

Adagio ingenuiTEA

Googling around, I see a lot of devoted customers and rave reviews.

The few negative comments I could find (and there were very few) were mostly related to the fact it's made of plastic. [Somebody said it's too expensive to manufacture from glass, but I share her discomfort about where the boiling brew sits and steeps.]

Steven Pautz has one of the more detailed critiques:
It's not quite as nice as their video makes it seem: wet tea leaves are sticky, and the teapot has to be washed pretty thoroughly to get them out. It also doesn't drain 100% on its own: I have to shake it a bit to get the last few drops of tea out—it only drains out about 98% of the water, and supposedly those last few drops can mess up multiple infusions. It's still far cleaner and easier than most other teapots out there, though. =) The big problem is that they don't hold up well to heavy use: mine is stained brown (which supposedly can have a significant negative effect on the tea), and the mesh filter doesn't work so well anymore (I get a small pile of "tea dust" and tiny bits of leaves in my cup fairly frequently). Despite these issues, though, it's cheaper to buy 2 or 3 IngenuiTea teapots than it would be to buy a single high-quality teapot which would last the same timeframe. (Plus those issues are pretty minor: it's not like the teapot is leaking water or anything.)
Lady Pixel:
if you drink multiple varieties of tea, and you have a particularly potent black one or one which is heavily flavored/spiced like a chai, you may want to either rinse it very well with hot water /right after/ you're done with the tea, or run it through the dishwasher before using it on another tea. It seems to hold onto the potent flavors of clove, cinnamon, etc. fairly well. A good rinsing or washing will fix this problem, however, and your milder green teas won't be affected by it. :)
Cathy SI NY:
My new pot leaks. I had 16oz of tea on the counter and floor three times already [...] not easy to clean, I can not get my hand in to remove the filter.
I would say this thing is great, but only when it actually works. Maybe mine has a defect, but 50% of the time the mesh strainer (that which keeps the tea leaves out of your cup) floats to the top after the water is poured in. No matter how hard I press and triple check that it fits properly, half the time it floats to the top and I dump out the tea. You do the math - if you buy $20 worth of tea, you'll enjoy only $10 worth. Save your money and get something more reliable.
Regarding the IngenuiTea pot- don't leave your used loose tea in it. The tea will etch into the clear plstic and leave opaque white marks that look like you have old rice that you haven't washed off! [...] Sometimes plastic just doesn't cut it.

Teavana makes a similar product, although Adagio has since redesigned their version. [Steven Pautz compared the old and new models; Someone from Adagio confirmedThe ingenuiTEA teapot is made by a third-party that we work with. We do not have an exclusive arrangement [... but the newer model] was designed by Adagio, and is thus exclusively ours.”]

Maybe I should just hold off on the fancy gadgets for now, and just get an insertable strainer with drip-tray like this or this.
[Right now, I have a snapball infuser with a ramekin to rest it in when damp, but it's a handful to juggle them all.]

Meanwhile, a couple other neat tea-tools seen on my searches:

And for something just plain nifty, head on over to TeasWaker.com for a look at combination alarm clock/lamp/teamakers, current and historical.

Friday, September 08, 2006
Wise or otherwise...
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:35 PM

I like tonight's fortune cookie:

     Knowledge helps you make a living;     
wisdom helps you make a life.

And my lucky numbers are 28, 49, 5, 37, 1, and 33.

FWIW, Wikiquote credits this saying to Sandra Carey.

Language Log
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:01 PM

On NPR's All Things Considered tonight, Brooke Gladstone briefly defined canon and fanon (context being Star Trek's Fortieth Anniversary.

Still, interesting to hear those terms cross over into mainstream.

This entry will be updated in an hour or so, once NPR posts the audio for the segment.

Update: Link to the segment

BTW, NPR interviewers really impressed me today, Steve Inskeep with FBI director Robert Mueller and Robert Siegel with Frances Townsend, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Worth a listen...

In local news...
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:01 AM

When I heard this story this morning on NPR, I had to see if it were real:

In a routine training exercise, State Police hid 8 ounces of plastic explosive on the rear bumper of a Massport pickup to test bomb-sniffing dogs and handlers at Logan International Airport.

But the antiterrorism drill went awry Wednesday night when a Massport employee who wasn't part of the exercise moved the truck and the Semtex explosive either fell off or was stolen somewhere near Harborside Drive on Massachusetts Port Authority property.

Sad but true.

And, apparently (as Ian pointed out when I called to tell him) the bomb-sniffing dogs could not track it...

But officials don't want us to worry our pretty heads:

Yesterday, State Police launched an internal investigation, continued searching for the plastic explosive in a nonresidential area, and tried to reassure the public that the material poses no danger without a detonator.

"It needs an ignition device," said State Police Lieutenant Sharon Costine . "If you dropped it, it wouldn't explode."

Oh, I feel so much safer.

Because fuses are so hard to come by...

I was also amused by WBUR's coverage of last night's gubernatorial debate. Since this was WBUR rather than NPR, I'm not sure if the audio will be available online, but I really want the direct quote from their commentator who compared Tom Reilly's campaign to the Fung Wah bus.

But the primary is rapidly approaching, and I've got to take a closer look at the candidates and make up my mind. I suppose my biggest doubt regarding Deval Patrick is that he views the Massachusetts governorship as just a stepping-stone to higher office. Gd knows, that seems to have been the attitude of... basically everybody since Weld.

Airport 2006
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:01 AM

Air travel inconveniences seem to be in the news this morning.

First, Salon's "Ask the Pilot" wonders why more American's aren't trying to do something about the new restrictions:

TSA's new carry-on rules aren't just stupid, they are so stupid that it's hard to believe the agency hasn't yet been called to the carpet. As I learned a week ago traveling to San Francisco, not only is it forbidden to bring a beverage through the security checkpoint, it is forbidden to bring a beverage that has been purchased in the secure zone onto a plane. The lack of logic is absolutely maddening: If somehow saboteurs were able to get a workable liquid explosive into the gate-side Burger King, and from there into the hands of a passenger accomplice, could they not do the same with other forms of explosives -- or for that matter with knives, guns, pipe bombs and bags of anthrax? Airlines have begun making public address announcements encouraging passengers to finish their drinks in time for boarding. The sight of businessmen, clustered at the mouth of the boarding bridge, gulping down coffee at final call was equally amusing and pathetic.

Meanwhile, The Poor Man points out yet another example of air-passenger vigilanteeism hysteria:

Some fellow passengers are questioning why an Orthodox Jewish man was removed from an Air Canada Jazz flight in Montreal last week for praying....

"The attendant actually recognized out loud that he wasn't a Muslim and that she was sorry for the situation but they had to ask him to leave," Faguy said.

Oh good. Because if he were a Muslim, it would have been totally reasonable....

But this is why, even if racial/ethnic/religious profiling were a good idea - which it isn't - it would still be a bad idea, BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE TOO FUCKING STUPID TO EVEN BE PREJUDICED RIGHT. It's like how right after 9/11 people started harassing Hindus and Sihks, because apparently the distinction between "towelhead" and "dothead" is like 50-dimensional quantum brain surgery to your average aspiring bigot. Throw some Jews in the mix, and it's fucking mayhem. WHAT WERE YOU WORRIED HE WAS GOING TO DO, GIVE YOU GREAT DEAL ON WHOLESALE DIAMONDS? God, get your fucking stereotypes straight. Here's a primer.

BTW, as mentioned earlier, we're going to be flying down to Florida for Rosh Hashonah, our first time flying since last month's liquid explosive crisis.

Can somebody clearly state what is and isn't allowed in carry-on? [This is going to be very annoying; if it weren't for new restrictions, we could probably manage the whole trip without checking any luggage.]

Passing along without comment*
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:25 AM

Because if Ian were awake, I'd just be nudging and showing them to him.

But since he's not, he can follow the links like the rest of you:

*Well, I'm not commenting further, but I'd love to hear what you think...

PS: He's waking up now; I'll let him read them in a moment.

Thursday, September 07, 2006
What hath Elmo wrought?
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:15 PM
Itsy Bitsy Spider-Man

It sings and dances: both a variation of the Spider-Man theme song and "itsy bitsy spider."

As much as my godson and nephew apparently adores Spider-Man, I think my brother would kill me if I bought it.

So far we've managed to avoid buying electronic noisemaking toys. And I did find a Batman plushie for him a few months ago at the comic shop...

[Discovered in a roundabout manner from Get ready for the new toon baby boom via Gilmoure]

Posted by Lis Riba at 10:22 PM
graph of SiteMeter monthly stats

Neil Gaiman linked to me on his blog.

For the record, it goes something like this:

Dear Neil
Did you know you look like Disraeli?
See here for proof.
Dell Strum

Okay. That's scary.

In the few hours since it was posted, I've gotten more traffic than any time in the past month, and the day's not over yet.

I'm also rather tickled by some of the comments this has garnered in the LiveJournal feed.

Since LJ only keeps syndicated posts for two weeks, I hope the participants don't mind me quoting them and preserivng them for posterity:

  • Reincarnation, anyone?
    • Both popular authors... only one has yet become prime minister! SO FAR.
      • Someone needs to make Neil some green velvet pantaloons, clearly. They are the key to sucess!
Nevermind the furthermore, the plea is self defense
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:40 PM

These are but a few of the announcements crossing my monitor in recent weeks:

Alas, I know my limitations, and while I'm definitely interested, I haven't the time for any of these.

But I can sigh wistfully, point my friends towards them and hope for the vicarious pleasure should they accept the invitations.

Any takers?

Edith Keeler must die
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:22 PM

So, I guess Harlan Ellison®* realized there were a few remaining folks in science fiction whom he hadn't yet offended.

According to Peter David, "Harlan is launching a legal action against Pocket Books over current and upcoming novels about Edith Keeler," presumably regarding the Crucible trilogy by David R. George III: McCoy: Provenance of Shadows (out now), Spock: The Fire and the Rose (due November), and Kirk: The Star to Every Wandering (next February).

Harlan's board archives are strangely organized, and I'm not sure how permanent permalinks actually are. For now, Harlan's statement can be found on this page (in an entry stamped "Monday, August 28 2006 13:40:25").

Excerpting the relevant portion of his claim:

Neither Paramount nor Pocket Books has the publication or adaptation rights to CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER (which were reserved by me from the git-go when it was originally aired back in the '60s, under the "separation of rights" terms of the Writers Guild of America, West MBA--the Minimum Basic Agreement with all tv/film producers, including Paramount, which licenses the STAR TREK franchise to Pocket Books). Every Pocket Books STAR TREK editor from the beginning of their publishing liaison with Paramount (particularly John Ordover) has known this. I published the story in book form years ago. CITY remains in print in a White Wolf trade paperback, and the publication indicia therein clearly indicates Paramount has signed off on their status! It was copyrighted and registered by The Kilimanjaro Corporation, not to mention that my name is both trademarked and registered, as is that of the Corporation; and Pocket Books has ABSOLUTELY no right to use the characters and/or the story I created, IN ANY WAY without my--and TKC's-- permission. I have my agent, Richard Curtis, on this. I have called the editor Marco Palmiero (who is "out" till Labor Day). I have called the Media Merchandising Division of Pocket Books (and gotten a machine, of course). The wheels are in motion.

If they play nice and tug their forelock and acknowledge where the material came from and pay me a trailer-truck full of cash, I will not sue them in Federal District Court, I will not serve them with an injunction to cease distribution of THIS book, and I will not sue them for a fortune on the "forthcoming" books, which I may or may not allow them to publish. Whether I insist they withdraw all copies of the book out there now, and make them add my credit to the cover and indicia, or just reprint it in its entirety, I have also not decided. We will see if they're smart enough not to drag their feet, thus annoying me the more, and if they're conciliatory, thus permitting me to be civil and not scorched-earth. If they know how I behave in litigious situations, and my track record -- sixteen lawsuits, O losses -- they will move fast, speak straight, and clean this up. It is clearly a case of their left hand not knowing their right hand is in my pocket, and they will be paying the price for having no sense of history or business protocal. They have a smartass generation of know-nothings who act arrogantly and unilaterally, without checking their Contracts Department, or their Rights & Permissions Departments, and they deserve to be whacked over the head to wake them up.

This is not, let me say at the outset, one of those grotesque, disingenuous "it's a matter of principle" locutions. It's the money, dummy.

For the record, a poster on the TrekBBS board discussion has reposted the copyright notice to the script book, and it's not quite as clear as Harlan makes it sound.

I have no clue how any of this will shake out, but if you're remotely interested in these books, you may want to buy them while you can...

The time is out of joint
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:50 PM

So, Actors from the London Stage are returning to the Boston area to perform Hamlet.

Their performance schedule has finally been posted:

Wellesley College Theatre:

Thursday, September 21st at 7pm at 7pm,
Friday, September 22nd at 8pm,
Saturday, September 23rd at 8pm

Friday night through Sunday is Rosh Hashonah. Friday morning we'll be flying down to Florida, meaning we need Thursday evening to pack and settle Boopsie with someone.

AFTLS' current tour schedule said they'd be in town September 18-24 -- seven days! I didn't realize they'd be performing for fewer than half of that time.

Yeah, I'm upset.

Given past schedules, I suspect it'll be several more years before they return to the Boston area and I have another chance to see them perform.

Unfortunate Cup of Tea
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:40 PM

Don't you hate it when you find a product that's almost right... but manages to get certain fundamental basics wrong?

Tea-Zer Tea Tumbler by Pacific Cornetta

The other day at REI, I saw this Tea-Zer Tea Tumbler for brewing and drinking tea. They were marketing it for campers, but I was considering it for the office.

Only two problems:

  1. No handle. Even with the best insulation, I'd still rather have something to hold besides the hot cup itself.
  2. The color. Translusence is nice, but I use the darkness of the brew to evaluate when the tea's done steeping. My preference in tea cups run to clear glass or white interiors. This red would be a hindrance, not a help...

So close, and yet so far.

So, until the right thing comes along, I'm still keeping my eyes open...

[Yes, I have seen the little teapots for one, but for work I want as few separate pieces to wash as possible. I like the recyclable tea filters, particularly infusers which come with drip trays to minimize the mess. I have plenty of ceramic mugs, but they seem to stain so easily. I'm leaning towards tea glasses such as YoYo and De Chine by Bodum or these pretties from Finum.]

Posted by Lis Riba at 12:30 PM

Catching up on news over lunch, I saw the letter from Bill Clinton's lawyer to Robert Iger of ABC.

September 1, 2006

Dear Bob,

As you know
, ABC intends to air a two part miniseries, "The Path to 9/11," which purports to document the events leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. ABC claims that the show is based on the 9/11 Commission Report and, as Steve McPherson, President of ABC Entertainment, has said: "When you take on the responsibility of telling the story behind such an important event, it is absolutely critical that you get it right."

By ABC's own standard, ABC has gotten it terribly wrong. The content of this drama is factually and incontrovertibly inaccurate and ABC has a duty to fully correct all errors or pull the drama entirely. It is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known...

And it goes on to document "at least three significant factual errors" reported so far, along with other

Yes, it literally begins “As you know, Bob...Wikipedia link*

How wrong am I for finding this funny?

Do you think it was written that way on purpose, or is the phrase still too arcane/niche for the mainstream?

On a slightly more useful note, Glenn Greenwald compiles the quotes from 2003 when rightwingers and the RNC (successfully) pushed CBS into cancelling their miniseries on The Reagans.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Life is too short to be small
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:54 PM

But it's time for something brief so my RSS feed stays within LiveJournal's threshhold...

While trying to title my earlier post, I doscovered Wikiquote has some great sayings by and about Disraeli.

For now, three I didn't know were his:

The difference between a misfortune and a calamity is this: If Gladstone fell into the Thames, it would be a misfortune. But if someone dragged him out again, that would be a calamity.

I've heard many variants about many political leaders, but this appears to be the earliest...

Dear Sir: I thank you for sending me a copy of your book, which I shall waste no time in reading.

This is reputed to have been Disraeli's standard reply to unsolicited manuscripts and publications.

Leonard Courtney wrote this in 1895:

After all, facts are facts, and although we may quote one to another with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman, “Lies—damned lies— and statistics,” still there are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of.

This is the first known instance of the phrase "lies, damned lies, and statistics." It's often believed that Disraeli was the "Wise Statesman" in question. Mark Twain certainly thought so when he attributed the phrase in his Autobiography:

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force:

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Conspicuous consumption
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:35 PM

Via WCG:

A "virtually untreatable" form of TB has emerged, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the BBC, it's been seen in the Eastern Europe, Africa, and the United States, "although Western Europe has had no cases."

This is why universal health care is in everyone's interest. Quoting The Boston Globe:

Extremely drug-resistant TB arises when a strain of tuberculosis with a less severe form of resistance is unrecognized, or is otherwise treated inadequately or incompletely.

Access to proper medical care protects us all.

In The Telegraph, a physician provides further context for what this may mean:

It is almost impossible nowadays to imagine what it must have been like to live in a world when tuberculosis was, as it now threatens to become, incurable. Everyone was vulnerable; a cough and temperature would prompt a visit to the doctor, who would confirm the presence of the bacilli in the sputum and an X-ray would reveal the presence of the infection in the lungs.

This signalled a profound change in patients' lives as they were dispatched to a sanatorium for several years to undergo a variety of painful treatments, including collapsing the affected lung - for which they might emerge as one of the lucky ones to survive, or might not. In Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, the young hero visiting his cousin in a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Alps is "suddenly rooted to the spot by a perfectly ghastly sound it was coughing obviously, but coughing compared to which any other had been a magnificent and healthy manifestation of life, a febrile welling up of the juices of organic dissolution".

<snip history of medical discoveries>

[B]y the time I became house physician on the tuberculosis ward at Bethnal Green Hospital in 1974, the treatment routine was well established. ... [S]ix months of NHS care and attention, regular meals, clean sheets and charge nurse ensuring they took their pills every day produced such a miraculous transformation in their wellbeing they were often reluctant to leave.

This happy state of affairs was undermined first by the decision to close down the long-stay tuberculosis wards, and replace them with "directly observed treatment", where the patient would attend the clinic daily to receive his medication. This worked well enough if they were reliable, less so when they were not.


But this takes a lot of money, an efficient infrastructure, good liaison between physicians and public health doctors - and much else besides. Such arrangements in eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa are conspicuous only by their absence...

And sadly, the United States isn't much better.

There are legislative efforts underway to deny medical care to uninsured immigrants, as if contagions checked documentation.

In a related news story, Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed the bill that would have established Universal Health Care in California.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Path to Propaganda
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:24 PM

By the way, if you haven't heard about ABC's travesty of a miniseries, The Path to 9/11, Think Progress is all over it.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, we're talking about one of the major free broadcast networks "airing, for free, two months before a critical election, a false and politically-biased propaganda film, written and directed by two right-wing activists, about the political causes of the 9/11 attacks" containing known falsehoods with a stated goal of blaming the Clinton administration.

On the one hand, they're trying to defend their inaccuracies by saying it's a dramatization and not hard-news; on the other hand, they're distributing classroom materials to encourage the schools to make use of it.

Digby's also giving this story tremendous coverage this week (link goes to the latest post; read it and keep scrolling), focusing on Disney/ABC business decisions favoring extreme right-wing political groups.

Update @ 7:35pm: Just found the Open Letter To ABC blog which is compiling info about the show from multiple blogs. Good to know.

A self-proclaimed "party man"
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:48 PM

As Ian's already blogged, I've been reading Christopher Hibbert's Disraeli: the Victorian Dandy who became prime minister.

So far, I've only gotten as far as Victoria's accession and Disraeli's first year in Parliament (when he was just over 30 years old). But I must say, even as a young man, he paints quite the colorful figure. By which, I'm largely talking about his fashion sense.

I've been reading some of the more entertaining excerpts to Ian -- largely descriptions of Disraeli's more memorable outfits -- which prompted Ian to quip "Benjamin Disraeli's fashion sense would make a pimp's eyes bleed."

A few quotes from the book, by way of elaboration:

Christopher Hibbert:
[S]etting himself apart from his colleagues by a style of dress — a black velvet suit with ruffles and black stockings with red clocks — as well as a manner which was considered flamboyant, even in those early years of the reign of King George IV.
William Meredith (a friend and contemporary):
He came up Regent Street, when it was crowded, wearing his blue surtout, a pair of military light blue trousers, black stockings with red stripes, and shoes! ‘The people’, he said, ‘quite made way for me as I passed. It was like the opening of the Red Sea, which I now perfectly believe from the experience. Even well dressed people stopped to look at me.’ I should think so!
Edward Lytton Bulwer:
He wore green velvet trousers, a canary-coloured waistcoat, low shoes, silver buckles, lace at his wrists and his hair in ringlets . . .
Footnote to above:
‘I never wore green velvet trousers,’ Disraeli protested when this description of his attire was published in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘nor do I believe that anybody ever did; [and] I never wore buckles in my shoes except at Court.’ However, the description remained in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia in 1911.
‘the costume of a Greek pirate, a blood-red shirt with silver studs as big as shillings, an immense scarf or girdle full of pistols and daggers, a red cap, red slippers, blue broad-striped jacket and trousers . . . Excessively wicked.’
‘white trousers, and a sash of all the colours in the rainbow. In this wonderful costume he paraded all round Valetta, followed by one-half the population, and, as he himself said, putting a complete stop to all business.’
‘Figure to yourself a shirt entirely red with silver studs . . . green pantaloons with a velvet stripe down the sides, and a silk Albanian shawl with a long fringe of divers colours round his waist, red Turkish slippers and, to complete all, his Spanish jacket covered with embroidery and ribbons. Was this costume English or fancy dress? asked a little Greek Physician. He was told “Inglese e fantastico”.’
[T]he young man with the lustrous black curls would stride about in clothes which seemed almost to excite ridicule, suits of satin-lined black velvet with embroidered waistcoats, rings on his gloved fingers, gold chains round his neck. ‘He wore waistcoats of the most gorgeous colours and the most fantastic patterns with much gold embroidery, velvet pantaloons and shoes adorned with red rosettes,’ wrote one observer. ‘his black hair pomaded and elaborately curled and his person redolent with perfume’.
Disraeli was at his most splendid. He was wearing a ‘black velvet coat lined with satin, purple trousers with a gold band running down the outside seam,’ Lady Dufferin recalled, insisting that there was no exaggeration in the description, ‘a scarlet waistcoat, long lace ruffles, falling down to the tips of his fingers, white gloves with several brilliant rings outside them, and long black ringlets rippling down upon his shoulders’.
Henry Layard:
There was something irresistibly comic in the young man dressed in the fantastic, coxcombical costume that he then affected — velvet coat of an original cut thrown wide open . . . and ruffles to its sleeves. Shirt collars turned down in Byronic fashion, an elaborately embroidered waistcoat whence issued voluminous folds of frill, and shoes adorned with red rosettes — black hair pomatumed and elaborately curled, and his person redolent with perfume — announcing himself as the Homer or Dante of the age.
A contemporary:
He was very showily attired in a dark bottle-green frock-coat, a waistcoat of the most extravagant pattern, the front of which was almost covered with glittering chains, and in fancy-pattern pantaloons. He wore a plain black stock, but no collar was visible.

And those all refer to incidents before he turned 31.

Also, get a load of this anecdote, which seems just labored enough to be an ex post facto reconstruction of a wished-for retort, rather than what they actually said spur-of-the-moment:

One day in [the Bulwer] house, wearing his exotic green velvet trousers, he rose from a cane chair to stalk about the room with his coat-tails over his arms, revealing the marks of the chair imprinted on his seat. Who is that? asked Samuel Rogers. Rosina, violently anti-semitic, answered, ‘Oh! Young Disraeli, the Jew.’ ‘Rather the Wandering Jew,’ said Rogers, ‘with the mark of Cane upon him.’

I'll confess to some reservations of the title. None of that describes a "Victorian Dandy" since they're all events from prior to Victoria's reign. I'll have to keep reading to see whether his wardrobe tones down as he rises in rank...

Amazon customer reviews (only 4 so far) are relatively negative, but Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker has a more in-depth and insightful essay on the book.

By the way, does anyone else see a resemblance between this portrait of the young Disraeli and Neil Gaiman?

Neil Gaiman by Sara Jorde Benjamin Disraeli, painted by sir Francis Grant in 1852 Neil Gaiman, from the back cover of 'Anansi Boys'

Disraeli's face is a little more tapered, but the upper two-thirds of the face, perhaps?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Is it just me?
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:11 PM

By the way, for all my past complaints about LiveJournal's lackadaisical schedule for reading my syndicated feed, I suppose I owe them recognition for getting things right.

They seem to be reading my feed at the rate predicted in the status field of my userinfo/profile page.

Of course, this raises the question in my mind whether LiveJournal actually fixed the feature overall or if something else is going on.

In the last few weeks, my LiveJournal readership has been rising.

The other possibility I could come up with is that LiveJournal syndication only follows the stated hourly schedule for the more popular feeds. Until recently, I was below that threshhold and didn't have enough readers for LJ to care about prompt polling.

This leads me to a question for LJ users who read other syndicated feeds through LJ: Have you noticed an improvement across-the-board in your syndicated feeds in the past week or so?

Posted by Lis Riba at 8:25 PM


At 8:21 pm, Ian realized that the new season of House began tonight.

Turned the TV onto a scene between House and Cameron...

Where's a good place to find out what we missed, and how last season's cliffhanger was resolved?

Lightening the load
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:40 PM

The blogroll on my sidebar has gotten a bit long -- 143 links -- so I've decided it's time for a pruning.

By removing invalid links and inactive blogs and sites I don't visit terribly often (as tastes have changed), I've trimmed it down to about ninety:

A Distant SoilAlas, a blogAMERICAblogAmygdalaAntiprincessare you effin kidding me?ASP: Behind the ArrasBaghdad BurningBalkinizationBard in BostonBeing Amber RheaBitch Ph.D.Bitch|LabBody and SoulBoing BoingBookslutBrad DelongChimes at MidnightDemagogueDirac Angestun GeseptEchidne of the SnakesEschatonEzra KleinFeminist Law ProfessorsFeministeFetch me my axefiredoglakeGirls Read ComicsGlenn GreenwaldThe GritHenry JenkinsHow to Save the WorldHullabalooInfothoughtIntel DumpInteresting TimesIsThatLegal?Kathryn CramerLawyers, Guns and MoneyThe Left CoasterLiberty Streetlibrarian.netMadame VerdiMagpieMahablogMajikthiseMaking LightMalcolm GladwellMark KleimanMedia NationNeil Gaimannews from meNo QuarterObsidian WingsOnce Upon a Time...OrcinusPandagonPen-ElaynePeter DavidPharyngulaPolite DissentPretty, Fizzy ParadiseRagnell's Written WorldRespectful of OttersRiba RamblesSchneier on SecuritySCOTUSBlogSeeing The ForestShakespeare's SisterThe SideshowSisyphus ShruggedStephen's LighthouseSteve GilliardSteven JohnsonSuburban GuerrillaSuch Shakespeare StuffTalking Points MemoTalkLeftTAPPEDTaylor MarshThink ProgressThis Modern WorldTom @ CorrentewireuggabuggaUniversal HubUnqualified OfferingsVichy DemocratsWampumWar and PieceWashington MonthlyWhen Fangirls AttackWill ShetterlyXiphias Gladius

And the fifty or so links I'm eliminating (although judging by my last weeding, I may re-add a few):

allied: Jeneane SessumAltercationAngry BearBack In IraqBalloon JuiceBig Brass BlogBillmonblogdriverswaltz.comBlogging the President 2004Bull MooseBurningbirdcadence90correnteCrooked TimberDaily KosDaniel W. DreznerDeep BackgroundDemocratic Veterandifferent stringsDNC: Kicking AssElectroliteGallimaufryHalley's CommentHow AppealingInformed CommentLean LeftLeft In LowellLibrarian AvengersLibrary StuffMatt Rolls a HooverMatthew YglesiasMedia LogMyDDNathanNewman.orgNobody Knows AnythingNothing IsOliver WillisPacific ViewsPhilobiblonPoliBlogpolyglot conspiracyProBloggerSirotablogTBOGGThe American Mindthe american streetThe HamsterThe Jewish BlogThe Leaky CauldronThe Light of ReasonThe Shifted LibrarianThe Stakeholder (DCCC)The Third AvenueWHEDONesque

Look neater?

Any objections or suggestions?

[For the record, I created my blogroll on October 2003 and my last major recorded pruning was April 2005. It was overdue.
Links are added as I find them. The new blogroll will start out alphabetically, but I have it set Blogrolling to organize them by update, so hopefully things will soon reorder themselves accordingly.]

D'oh!main glitch
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:30 PM

Sorry if you had problems with the site earlier today.

The osmond-riba.org domain expired yesterday and I somehow missed the notices reminding me to renew.

Fortunately, no squatters or speculators picked it up before I discovered my error, and it's now safely registered for another year.

My apologies to anyone who experienced problems; I don't know whether e-mails sent to me would've bounced or are stuck in a holding queue somewhere. [They're working now, but if you sent me anything earlier, let me know...]

Monday, September 04, 2006
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:00 PM

Just a few recent finds:

House Blooper Reel, apparently from the most recent season. Impressive how even when screwing up, Laurie avoids letting his accent slip.

And from Inside the Actors' Studio, a fan asks Hugh Laurie about the House/Wilson relationship and who he thinks House might end up with... The answer may surprise you.

Speaking of fandom, may I recommend a short and funny Harry Potter fic called Accidents Happen in which Trelawney's first prophecy was complete tosh and Harry may not be the one to kill Voldemort. Very funny, and even Ian (who normally avoids fanfic like the plague) laughed over it.

Original Star Trek with remastered effects? Gary Farber has some clips and it's much better than I feared. Certainly better integrated than Lucas managed for his Special Editions.

Speaking of which, DVD releases of the original trilogy (Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi) are hitting stores September 12. Amazon reviews are amazingly negative, both from fans who already bought the films on DVD bitter over the duplications, and folks upset that it's a lower resolution laserdisc transfer, not anamorphic widescreen nor HD nor has the print been cleaned up in any way (leading to suggestions that despite the "limited release", Lucas will clearly have to offer a better version later).

Posted by Lis Riba at 2:22 PM

So, today I read Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, this year's Hugo winning novel.

Good book.

It has a slightly classic feel to it.

I was twelve, and the twins were thirteen, the night the stars disappeared from the sky.

Those aren't quite the first words -- the story is mostly reminisces interspersed with happenings in the mysterious now... Happenings that are explained over the course of the book.

Yes, the stars disappear from the sky. And the moon. And all the man-made satellites fall down to earth. But the sun still rises with apparent normalcy.

It's a mystery to be unravelled and understood -- through both science and faith -- with worldwide and possibly galactic consequences.

The first person narrator is friend to important people, giving him a frontrow seat to important events in a more comprehensible manner to readers.

Like I said, it feels very... old-fashioned science-fiction in narrative structure and scope.


Sunday, September 03, 2006
The Wonderfull yeare
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:15 PM

So, I just finished After Elizabeth: the rise of James of Scotland and the struggle for the throne of England by Leanda De Lisle.

The account is largely chronological, starting with Queen Elizabeth's last Christmas, where she was clearly ailing, and focusing primarily on her, James, the court, and other power-brokers. There are occasional backtracks to provide context, but it makes for a very coherent narrative.

For all the praise over the smooth transition, that was largely due to behind-the-scenes manipulations. There were rival claimants, some with foreign backing, and it could easily have led to a Queen Jane-like civil war.

The figure who really stands out, of course, is Robert Cecil.

For example, I (and many of my friends) often marvel at the bizarre event in history known as the Essex rebellion. The Earl of Essex, sometime favorite of Queen Elizabeth, led 300 armed men against the Queen in an attempted coup. [One of Essex's followers paid Shakespeare's company to play Richard II the day before the rebellion, in hopes of inciting the public opinion.]

De Lisle reveals several tidbits I haven't seen in other histories. Essex was regularly corresponding with King James of Scotland, and was working to make James the next monarch. In fact, during the revolt, he wore around his neck a bag containing a letter from the Scottish King, who had also sent aides to London to offer assistance. [Fortunately for James' chances at the succession, Essex's letter disappeared and the ambassadors arrived too late, allowing James to claim innocence.] Oh, and Cecil himself was the one who first introduced Essex to Shakespeare's play.

After Essex's death, Cecil presented himself to James as the Stuarts' best hope, in part by suggesting that Essex was seeking the crown for himself, rather than trying to get Elizabeth to declare James as her successor. Which is how the current history portrays the incident.

Furthermore, during Essex's tenure as favorite, Cecil and Raleigh were allies. Afterwards, Cecil did all he could to blacken Raleigh's name, not only badmouthing him to James, but actively discouraging his efforts to make any motions to gain the king's favor during Elizabeth's lifetime. Such as this incident in late 1601:

James's latest envoy, Ludovic Stuart, Duke of Lennox, son of his beloved Esmé, had arrived at Dover. Cobham, as Warden of the Cinque Ports, was there to attend on him. He seized the opportunity to express to Lennox his wish to forward James's claim, but unfortunately he then boasted about it to Cecil, who, after listening to his excitable brother-in-law, delivered an icy warning. He told Cobham that if James informed Elizabeth of what he had done, he would be in terrible trouble. Cobham protested that he had only spoken from excessive zeal, to which Cecil piously retorted that he hoped the Queen would outlive him and that no dealings with James would thus be necessary. Cobham and Raleigh were desperate to retain the Queen's favor, which appeared to be mystriously evaporating, and it was a shaken Cobham who relayed Cecil's words to Ralegh. He fell straight into the Secretary's trap. Instead of pursuing Lennox, Ralegh told Cecil that Lennox had approached him, but he had told him that he was "too deeply engaged . . . to his own mistress" to seek favor elsewhere.

Keep in mind that Cecil had been secretly dealing with James for well over a year by this point...

As I've related some of these manipulations to Ian, he quipped that he can't decide whether Cecil qualifies as Lawful Evil or Neutral Evil. Certainly Slytherin, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, I'm also seeing the first signs of dashed hopes that probably led to the Gunpowder Plot. For example, during Elizabeth's reign, English Catholics were so divided among the "secular priests" (who hoped to maintain allegiance to the Queen while adhering to their faith) and the hardcore Jesuits who would accept nothing less than a Catholic monarch. It was a division that Cecil had been more than willing to exploit, And at Elizabeth's death, the seculars supported James accession in hopes he'd improve religious tolerance.

James had told Cecil that he expected the seculars to be expelled from England along with the Jesuits. He was not interested in "the distinction in their ranks"; both were subject to the authority of the Pope and he wanted both "safely transported beyond the seas, where they may freely glut themselves on their imagined gods." Cecil was now trying to work out how this could be best achieved. It was important that people not feel inclined to pity the Catholic clergy or resent their treatment. The most effective way to achieve that was for them to be tarnished by treason. . . .

And from later in that same chapter,

A priest called Tillerton had informed the authorities that a few of his fellow Jesuits planned to murder James and his children. Coincidentally a suitable method of achieving mass murder had suggested itself only the previous day. A gunpowder mill had exploded at Redriffe on the Thames,. It killed thirteen people instantly and injured many others. The accident was noted by the charismatic future gunpowder plotter Robert Catesby...

My greatest complaint with the book is the author's repeated attempt to diagnose James as having attention-deficit disorder, with descriptions like "He regularly spent money he did not have (a common problem in adults with ADHD)." or "Excessive drinking is also a problem associated with ADHD..." Not convincing, and not terribly fair -- neither to James nor to people with the condition.

Last year*, I was deeply disappointed by Christopher Lee's 1603: the death of Queen Elizabeth, the return of the Black Plague, the rise of Shakespeare, piracy, witchcraft, & the birth of the Stuart era, and found it generally an incoherent mess. This book has much of what I hoped to learn from the earlier one. It isn't quite James Shapiro's 1599 -- for one thing, it has a much narrower focus on the court politics -- but they're both excellent books.

Books imprint
Posted by Lis Riba at 4:40 PM

Speaking of eclectic reading, even though I've got three books out of the library and am barely halfway through one of them, I'm still noticing other books I suspect I'll want to read.

And I've also had my eye on a few forthcoming books:

I still want to find and read The making of the national poet: Shakespeare, adaptation and authorship, 1660-1769 Michael Dobson, though I'm not sure when I'll manage to get a copy.

I think I may try to obtain Oberammergau: the troubling story of the world's most famous passion play James Shapiro for Yom Kippur reading; it seems appropriate...

Chasing Shakespeares
Posted by Lis Riba at 4:22 PM

Earlier this week, Brian Williams interviewed the President, and they had this exchange:

WILLIAMS: We always talk about what you're reading. As you know, there was a report that you just read the works of a French philosopher. (Bush laughs)
BUSH: The Stranger.
WILLIAMS: Tell us the back story of Camus.
BUSH: The back story of the the book?
WILLIAMS: What led you to...
BUSH: I was in Crawford and I said I was looking for a book to read and Laura said you oughtta try Camus; I also read three Shakespeares.
WILLIAMS: This is a change...
BUSH: Not really. Wait a minute.
WILLIAMS: A few months ago you were reading the life story of Joe DiMaggio by Richard Ben Cramer.
BUSH: Which was a good book.
WILLIAMS: You've been on a Teddy Roosevelt reading kick.
BUSH: Well, I'm reading about the battle of New Orleans right now. I've got an eclectic reading list.
WILLIAMS: And now Camus?
BUSH: Well, that was a couple of books ago. Let me look. The key for me is to keep expectations low.

[Quoting MSNBC's official transcript; Crooks and Liars has the video.]

First of all, I've now heard several people mocking Bush for talking in terms of “three Shakespeares.”

Who talks like that?

Well, I once blogged my delight in finding two Marlowes.*

And the summer reading list provided by the White House press office did include Hamlet and Macbeth. While I did express some doubts about its veracity, that does line up to make two out of his latest claim of three.

And, you know, as someone who strongly believes Shakespeare should be perceived as more accessible than he's currently treated, I find I don't mind so much. I think people can get more out of the plays by seeing them rather than reading alone, but heck, if the President can make Shakespeare seem easy and enjoyable, all the better for the Bard.

I understand it can be enjoyable to bash the Prez, but let's not go overboard.

Now, that's what I intended to blog about this interview. Then I watched the video, and was struck by Brian Williams' "This is a change."

Williams seemed amazed that someone might not want to read the same thing over and over again. As if somebody reading history wouldn't be interested in literature, or vice versa.

Maybe he ought to check out my reading list - SF, fantasy, history, science, biography, fanfic...

*Just to be really obnoxious, a selection of book titles I discovered after a few minutes searching:

The truth is out there...
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:20 AM

I have to agree with Susie:

Best. Headline. Ever:

Should this surprise anyone?



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