Monday, March 19, 2007

A week in my life: March 11-17

It was a good one, despite me being sick the whole time. It started out with a leisurely Sunday afternoon walk through the Karst landscape in the company of a visiting friend and Lyra, who knew exactly what to do when we came across a kal:

A kal, for those who may not be able to read the Slovene Wikipedia article linked to, is a small Karst pond, a depression in the landscape that fills up with rainwater (and may dry up during a severe drought). In the past they were used as a source of drinking water for human households (before being superseded by wells, which offered a cleaner and more constant source of water for human consumption) and for watering the livestock which were driven to pasture every day:

(The pond pictured above is now a road; for more photos and information about Karst ponds go here and here.)

Typically, every Karst village has a man-made kal; a couple of weeks ago, during a village party held in part by the Kopriva kal, a local woman now in her sixties recalled going there to wash clothes in her childhood.

This particular kal, which Lyra so happily made use of,

is a natural pond, located beside a piece of land (one of about thirty) that belonged to my ex-husband and has now passed to our daughter. It's about half an hour's walk from the village along a track just wide enough for a tractor. About 18 years ago we spent several days cutting wood on that land; as we worked, Miloš mentioned drinking from the pond in his childhood, when he and his mother and grandmother would be out there mowing in the hot summer weather (by hand, using scythes--before the land became overgrown by brush and trees).

On the way back, we stopped to play some tug of war:

The weather was stupendous all week long. My health was notably less than stupendous. I had a nasty head cold, characterized by a very sore throat, long and frequent fits of explosive incontinence-inducing sneezing, and nonstop production of vast loads of thick yellowy snot. Lovely. Tea helped. And being outside—it was actually easier working outside than in, though my physcial stamina and consequently labor productivity were low.

On Monday I finished raking the old dead grass and cleaning up the brush around the property, transplanted strawberries, and sawed, split and stacked some wood cut from my pasture in January and hauled home a few weeks ago. Tuesday (having canceled my Ara EFL classes since I couldn't talk) I dug up the garden bed by the garage, scattered manure pellets, planted black currant and white currant bushes (no red to be had, will add later), and installed tomato poles--at the edge of my yard as a slalom obstacle for now, since tomato-planting won't occur till later in the year. Wednesday I dug up the garden beds by the cottage and the flower bed in front of the house, planted a few flowers, and sowed lettuce and radicchio. Thursday I again tackled the pile of wood, sawing the ca. one-meter-long pieces into shorter lengths with the chainsaw (2-3 cuts), splitting the thicker ones, and stacking the cut and split pieces in the shed under the garage, before heading up to Ljubljana for agility lessons. Where I nearly expired, since I couldn't breathe, run, or call out commands to the dogs for shit.

On Friday I took the day off. I had day care for the dogs, drove to Nova Gorica, took the train up through the lower Soča Valley and Baška Grapa to Bohinjska Bistrica (map here), where I luxuriated in the pool and especially saunas at Vodni park Bohinj. Outstanding. I was practically alone in the saunas (just two other people) and the Turkish (steam) sauna in particular was just what my respiratory system needed. For the first time in a week I could use my partially unclogged nostrils for taking in air. Stopped off in Most na Soči on the way back for a scrumptious dinner with a friend, got home about 10 p.m., exchanged greetings with the dogs, fell into bed.

On Saturday we went to an agility competition in Prestranek. No need for an extremely early start, since it's only about 40 minutes' drive and now that we're in dvojka (level 2), we start later. Oli came along and behaved very well. And we got a delivery of seven dog frisbees and got to try them out. AND...we were second in the competition! We had a clean first run (agility)--she did the teeter without much hesitation or prematurely jumping off and she entered and proceeded through the slalom from our "bad" side without mistakes, a performance good enough for second place after the first run. I got disoriented in mid-course during the second run (jumping), momentarily lost sight of the next obstacle, had a terrible line, and she ran by a jump while I was trying to recover, picking up five faults. After that mistake I wasn't expecting to place but other competitors also made mistakes, and we somehow managed to retain second place overall. A nice end to the week, and a good start to the 2007 season.

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AIPAC Democrats

Inside America's powerful Israel lobby
Before and after the dinner, the presidential candidates and their colleagues from Congress schmoozed with the AIPAC delegates. Circulating through the crowd, Joe Biden made sure his presence was registered. "Hi, I'm Joe Biden!" he said repeatedly, adding several times, "I've been hanging out with AIPAC for years!"


Following the dinner, Clinton and Obama held competing dessert receptions in the conference center -- in rooms about 25 yards apart -- both eager to highlight their pro-Israel credentials.


Leaping Lyra

(Click to enlarge photos.)

It's a border collie thing.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

This day in history

International Women's Day (IWD) originated as part of a protest against the abysmal wages and working conditions which women faced in textile factories. On March 8, 1857 women workers in the garment industry in New York City stopped working to draw attention to their conditions; 12-hour days, lack of benefits, sexual harassment, sexual assault on the job, and unfair wages. Three years later women garment and textile workers formed their first union, but conditions did not improve significantly. Fifty years later on March 8, 1908, women once again mobilized to ask for change. This time they were also demanding an end to child labour and lobbying for votes for women.

The protests about working conditions did not move the government to change the labour laws until a fire on March 25, 1911 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory killed 145 women in New York City. They were locked in the building to ensure that they would not take breaks away from their stations even to use the one washroom, which did not work adequately.
Police and onlookers standing by the bodies of women who leapt from the burning building in the Triangle Factory fire, New York City on March 25, 1911:

The factory conditions which led to the deaths of these women were common in the 1,463 sweatshops existing in the garment industry of the time. The women worked in a sea of flammable materials with no sprinkler systems. The fire escapes, which did exist, were accessed by inward opening doors, many of which were locked. Eighty thousand workers marched through a pouring rain to the funeral held for the women who perished.

The government was silent. No laws were immediately changed. The following January 11, 1912, fifteen thousand women garment workers went on strike, demanding shorter working hours, an end to child labour, safe working conditions, and equal pay. Their claim was, “Better to starve fighting than starve working.” The women stayed out on strike for nearly three months.

Their slogan and song – “Bread and Roses” – rang through the streets – bread a symbol of economic security, and roses symbolizing social justice and a better life.

The Bread and Roses Strike of 1912:

Each year on March 8, women around the world take time to reflect on the current status of women and demand equity under the law, safe and equitable working conditions, and freedom from violence in society at large.
Reflect on this, please:
Outrage following more Bangladesh garment worker deaths

Three tragedies hit Bangladesh factories in one week, leaving scores dead, wounded

Hundreds were reported dead or injured following three separate incidents in the Bangladesh garment and textile sector last week, according to various local and international news and Bangladeshi trade union reports. [...]

[...] The spate of tragedies began on Thursday, February 23 when a fire, possibly caused by an electrical short circuit, destroyed the four-story KTS Textile Industries in Bangladesh's port city of Chittagong. Initial reports stated that 54 were killed and at least 60 were injured, however other sources peg the death toll at several hundred in what local garment workers rights' advocates are calling the worst tragedy in the history of the Bangladesh garment industry. Over 1,000 workers were reportedly in the factory at the time of the 7 p.m. fire. According to the workers, the exits were locked. [...]

Garment workers participating in a national strike March 2nd 2006 in Bangladesh to demand justice in the wake of recent deaths and injuries in garment and textile factories:

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose?


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Good question

"Do they have a nice broad roof on that embassy to land helicoptors on?"

--from a commenter responding to a Washington Post article about the billion-dollar mega-embassy the Americans are constructing on expropriated land in the center of Baghdad.

Update: It appears that the photo is of the current US Embassy, which is housed in a palace built under Saddam Hussein. See comments for more information.