Monday, May 30, 2011

More on Bradley Manning

Pfc. Manning has been moved from the U.S. Marines brig, but is still in prison, with no trial date announced. I recommend that readers here research his name online. I only have space for a short comment on an ethical question. A recent 60 Minutes episode featured an interview with the man (Adrian Lamo) who reported him to the authorities. Lamo and Manning became friends online, and Manning revealed that he was the source of the Wikileaks materials.

Lamo told the interviewer that he was faced with a dilemma: to betray a friend or keep his knowledge to himself. He says that (in effect) he put his country first, only reluctantly reporting that Manning had confessed to him that he was the source of the leaks.

Lamo said that he wanted to stop the leaks, but that Manning told him it was too late. It occurred to me that there was a third choice: to tell Manning that the leaking of secrets had to stop:if it continued, Lano would have to turn him in. I also think it likely that good detective work might have revealed Manning's involvement in time, anyway. Admittedly, this is speculation.

I continue to wonder at the folly of the army in allowing any junior soldier, let alone a clearly disgruntled one, to have access to secret documents. Manning had been reduced in rank from Specialist to Pfc., for allegedly punching a woman officer in the face, and had been informed that he was to be discharged. At that point, he should no longer have been allowed access to sensitive materials.

No-one comes out well in this story: not Manning, not Lano, not the army, including those who made him live in solitary confinement in harsh conditions, and not the politicians who allowed their anger at the leaks to cause them to mistreat Manning.

In my opinion, Manning should be brought to trial promptly, and his eventual sentence should take into account his cruel incarceration over the past year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Oldest Profession

In recent years I have increasingly heard or read the term "Sex Worker". As a feminist and "concerned citizen", I deplore the exploitation of young women, lured abroad and forced into prostitution. I well understand that references to "sex workers" is typically sympathetic to the plight of those who are forced to turn "tricks" to pay for food and shelter.

I guess one of my reasons for disliking the phrase is the juxtaposition of "sex" and "work".Sexual activity, at its best, and when it is what the lawyers call "consensual", is joyful activity. Musing on the concept, I began to run over in my mind the many terms used in English to describe those who "play for pay". These terms are by no means synonymous; let's consider some of those terms, and what lies behind the words.

Starting at the pinnacles of the profession, I like the term "courtesan".I visualize an intelligent beauty, not promiscuous, but able to choose her lovers from the ranks of Society, the European equivalent of a well-trained geisha.

An ambiguous term is "harlot". In the bible, it seems to call for approval, in the person of Rahab, who helped in the capture of Jericho. However that may just be from an Israelite perspective. In general the term (which is seldom used today) simply means a woman who "sells her body"

. A "prostitute" is a generic "sex worker".

Another generic term is "hooker", but the origin of the word has nothing to do with the Civil War General Joe Hooker. Wikipedia led me to the actual origin, via a four-minute video. (You will find Marina Orlova is not your typical philologist.)..

"Streetwalkers" ply their trade outdoors, taking their "johns" to their apartment or a cheap hotel.

A "call girl" sets up her meet her "clients" at the location (usually a hotel or motel) of their choice.

A "tart" is usually an "amateur". A "woman of easy virtue" is also typically an amateur. A "lady of the night" is typically a streetwalker.

There are other terms with the implication of sexual activity, often words used of women being disparaged by a man: "slut", "floozie", "bitch" and so forth. Shakespeare wrote of a child "ditch-delivered by a drab".
"Whores" are looked down on by most folk who use the term.

Perhaps I should disclose not merely that I have never paid for sex, and that I'm not obsessed by the topic. I am just a lover of words!.

Monday, May 16, 2011


When writing a recent blog, in which I remembered Tony and Dale, two barbers whom I would miss more if I were not so content with Nina's work on my hair, I began to think of many other people whom I no longer see. As we age, we become accustomed to the deaths of older (for the most part) family and friends. We may take out an old photograph or postcard, and we almost certainly discuss a loss with loved ones who are close to us. All this is normal and healthy.

Then there are the names of good friends with whom we have lost touch. Looking at a personal phone directory, or checking on a list of contacts, we come across names that we remember, although we have not been in touch for several years, perhaps. Even on Facebook, one needs to take action to stay in contact with those with whom one has not exchanged communication recently.

Barbara and I have found that there are a number of wonderful people we have met on trips abroad, such as when we have taken passage on a ship steaming up the Norwegian coast, or even taken a cruise, folk with whom we have lost touch. Perhaps we exchanged Christmas cards for a year or two, but never met our friends again.

 In this life, there are always new friends to meet, and we should not long grieve over such lost contacts. Once or twice, we have come across old friends whom we had virtually forgotten, and found that the ties of friendship were soon re-established. Even with a fairly recent paring down of numbers, I have 632 names in my email contact list. Of course, some of those are business entries, which brings me to remember a group of people who don't happen to be relatives or personal friends.

Recently, I have become aware of how many people I miss from former days. There was my excellent podiatrist, whom I have not seen since becoming a Kaiser Permanente member. There was a very skillful dentist, who left his practice to concentrate on his hobby,
blowing beautiful glass objects. I was glad when my hygienist moved to another dentist, because we did not like the attitude of her new employer after the glassblower moved on. I was so lucky, because when she chose to retire, I found an excellent replacement. Alas, now the successor has retired.

I used to buy men's clothing from a store on Bancroft Avenue in Berkeley, long out of business. Barbara and I enjoyed being waited on by a young Cal graduate, Stuart. We were delighted to find that Stuart had become the manager of the Walk Shop, where we have purchased many pairs of shoes. I later found another shoe store, which sold the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned, but I miss buying from Stuart.

I used to have many good friends in an organization which I set up for agents representing DPIC (Design Professionals Insurance Company). These friends ran their own businesses in various parts of North America. I miss them all, especially Devon and Sid. We became close friends of the company's president, Peter, and his wife, Ginny. Peter died tragically early, but we are still in touch with his warm and generous widow.

I had many good business friends in England, through my membership of Lloyd's. We often think of Francis, our first Member's Agent, who was adopted into a famous Jewish family as a baby.

I can't leave this list of memorable people without mentioning three really close friends from the business for which I worked for over 40 years, all now deceased. There was Jeanne, so much a part of the business that I named a room after her, at our old office. Then there was Lora, who grew from an effective CSR (Customer Service Representative), into our first and most exuberant Saleswoman. Finally, memories of Sandra, who died while awaiting a liver transplant. She was a wonderful Personal Assistant to me, and became a good friend of us both. We are happy that her widower, Grant, is a frequent dinner companion of ours to this day.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Seasoned scrambled eggs

For your convenience, this recipe calls for four eggs. I usually use just three eggs for the two of us. Also, feel free to adjust the amount of seasonings to your own taste. It is the combination of flavors that makes this recipe special.

Dice one quarter cup of onions and slice two cloves of garlic, and sauté them over medium heat (preferably in a no-stick pan) until the onion is soft. (You can also use minced onion and garlic powder if fresh items are not available.) Turn the heat down to low.

Place the number of plates you will need into the oven to warm them. Toast English muffins (or good bread) and butter them.

Break four eggs into a medium-sized bowl. Add about half a teaspoon of each of the following: black pepper, onion and/or garlic salt, tarragon, oregano, marjoram, and curry powder. Beat or whisk the eggs and spices until they are well mixed. Pour the mixture into the pan. Using a rubber spatula, carefully scrape the bowl to release and include most of the spices.

Bring the heat up to medium, and stir continually with a wooden spoon. As some of the mixture hardens around the edge of the pan, carefully scrape the cooked egg back into the remaining mixture, and turn the heat down to low again. Be careful not to over-cook.

Spoon out the cooked egg onto the warm plates, accompanied by the toasted muffins (or bread). Serve immediately.

PS: Last week, I mainly wrote about how to prepare eggs alone. Yesterday I made Huevos Rancheros, and I also enjoy Frittatas, two of many recipes dependent upon the humble egg. I have yet to meet an egg dish I don't enjoy.

Monday, May 2, 2011


A clever cartoon on Easter Day shows a boy with chocolate smeared on his face, plaintively asking his mother "Do I hafta eat breakfast today?" When I was nine, Easter chiefly meant chocolate Easter eggs. Nowadays, much though I love good dark chocolate, Easter is for me the Queen of Feasts of the church.

When it comes to eggs, I can't remember an egg I didn't like. Eggs are the supreme breakfast item for me--well, good kippers and Finnan haddie (haddock) make great variants, but it is the humble egg that I choose to write about today. It is very versatile. Let's list some options:

1. Soft-boiled, the basic simple dish, needing only a little salt & pepper to bring it to perfection, especially when served with an English muffin. (The Brits don't have these: a crumpet is the nearest alternative.)

2. Fried egg, the perfect companion to bacon. I like mine "easy over", rather than "sunny side up", let alone fried hard.

3. Poached. We have an excellent poacher; alas, someone threw out two of the metal containers, so this is just a treat to share with Barbara.

4. "Sur le plat", a French method, in which the egg is put into a ramekin and baked in the oven.

5. Coddled eggs. The egg is poured into a pre-greased china "coddler", with chives and some grated cheese,

6. Omelets: I like them with cheese, mushrooms, or ham. Well, with any two or three of them is even better!

7. Scrambled (or "shirred"). My specialty: I will share my "secret" recipe next week!

Yes, I also love hard-boiled and deviled eggs, but this is about breakfast...