Mimi’s Lamp Article

September 7th, 2020

My Aunt Mimi went to Europe just before the end of WWII with the USO to draw pictures of wounded GIs for them to send home.  I knew that a year or two later she went back, hired by Standard Oil to paint for an article about the effects of the postwar shortage of oil that was going to be in their company magazine The Lamp. I don’t remember ever seeing what she did, except this one that was on the cover. My mom had saved a copy! This was the cover illustration:

Cover illustration of Jan 1948 The Lamp, Mimi Korach; Place Ste Germaine Des Pres, Paris
M. Korach ’47 Place Ste Germain Des Prés Paris

Mimi wrote a wonderful memoir in 2012 including a detailed story of how the article came to be. In it she says that the magazine received more requests for copies of that picture than any other cover picture they had used. Although the memoir includes delightful descriptions of how she hung out in the cockpit of the plane going to Europe sketching the pilot and co-pilot and how the luxury dining room on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth gradually emptied out as the sea became rougher from one day to the next on the way home, it does not have all the pictures from the magazine. Here they are, with her captions.

“His gasoline ration exhausted, the doctor makes his rounds by bicycle.”
“On the farm the penury of fuel is deeply felt, and many farmers must fall back on the old horse-drawn plowshare to till their soil while the bright red tractor, often of American manufacture, remains idle in the barn. The farmer protested, when I asked him to move one of his tractors into the courtyard for the sketch, that no Frenchman would be stupid enough to leave a tractor out when it is not in use.”
“Milk is rationed to assure the children getting as much as possible. There is no shortage at the farms but it is impossible to transport enough to the large towns and cities. Due to lack of gasoline, a horse-drawn cart replaces the more efficient Diesel or gasoline truck. Average rations are half a liter (about a pint) for children under ten; quarter-liter for ten-year-olds; there is nothing for those over twelve.”
“The Place De L’Etoile in Paris presents this familiar scene every evening. The people line up for blocks in orderly fashion and wait their turn for the busses into the outskirts. Lowering of the gasoline allowance has reduced the circulation of private cars and listed the number of busses on normal service. As a result, a great deal of patience is needed for the journey home after the day’s work is done.”
“These pensioners owned a pretty cottage that was destroyed during the war. They live now in one miserable room; no water, no gas, no electricity. Bits of driftwood are the only fuel for warmth.”
“In the big towns one can often see, early in the morning, the ‘No Milk’ sign in front of the dairyman’s shop. On such days the meager distribution of milk to children and sick people is suspended.”
“St. Lo is a city of cellars and caves. In this little hut four people live. There is only rain water to drink and wash with. For light, there is a ration of half a liter of kerosene a month for a family.” [If you look closely over the door, you can see the name of the house, “El Rancho Grande” — DeanB]
“Today I found a queue waiting to buy materials for warm clothing, wool to guard against the bitter cold of the Paris winter. Whenever the cloth arrives (it is rationed) lines of patient people form.”
“This is the depot of a hauling and trucking company in Le Havre. The owner has fifty trucks which would be usable but for the lack of motive force. Twenty-three trucks are now idle. Reconstruction of the harbor and piers, sorely needed for the import of necessary cargoes, has been halted for lack of oil. It is shocking to see the sunken ships and ruined waterfront of such a perfect harbor.” [and if you didn’t know, Mimi grew up a block from Long Island Sound in Milford, Connecticut, which had a harbor with a small fishing fleet as well as pleasure boats]
“Tragedy hits you hard in Le Havre. I found it to be a most terrible, indescribably dead city, as are most of the destroyed towns of Normandy. The fact that people can live and laugh in these places is a great wonder to me. On the site of great devastation, construction was started of many permanent buildings — the new Le Havre. But now work has been slowed down because of lack of fuel.”
“Most Breton fishing vessels burn oil. Because fish are an essential food, the fishing fleets rate a high priority in the allocation of the available supplies of oil. But despite priorities, the boats are sometimes laid up for lack of the oil to run them, as is shown in this sketch of the idle sardine fleet in Concarneau Harbor near the Atlantic tip of Brittany. Such lay-ups have a direct effect on the food supply ashore.”

— to see how things have changed, Google Map “Concarneau, France”. If you stroll along Quai Peneroff in street view you can believe it’s the same place, but seventy years have made a difference.

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Joan’s PBK congratulations

August 24th, 2020

One of the things we found in the latest carton of stuff we got from my mother’s house when Rachel and Luanna cleaned it out was the congratulations card from her family for when she was named to the Phi Beta Kappa academic honorary society at Smith College. The symbol of Phi Beta Kappa is the Phi Beta Kappa Key, once something useful — a key to wind a pocket watch with. Even when she became a member in 1939 that was obsolete, but since it was still the symbol, it makes sense that the congratulations were in the form of five cutout cardbord key shapes with a message from each member of her family.

Here’s what they say:

Dearest Joanie!

A very small, faint voice insisted all this time that you’ll make it and when the news came, it was like the fulfillment of some precious hope.

We hope that these keys open the various locks to your hearts desire. We’re awf’ly proud of you.

Your loving Dad.

Dearest Joanie, If you are walking on air over the marvellous good fortune of earning your Phi Beta Kappa Key, we to are thrilled beyond words! Never did we expect anything like this to happen to a Korach! May great success be yours always.

Love Mother

Dear Joan,

It is very annoying to have a sister who always makes you work. In high school you had to start something we had to live up to and now you have to get this slight honor. Of course, we realize that practically every girl in school gets the same thing. Honestly, though we were just as excited as you must have been, and you know that it is only on great occasions that I write at all. All I can say is “That’s my sister”!!!!

Your worshipping brother Malc.

Dearest Joanie!!

Many ,many congratulations on your swell job but it’s going to be mighty hard on your little sister. Already people are holding you up to me as a good example and asking me if I’ll ever do as well. I sadly shake my head and say it is impossible. I also thank my lucky stars that I am going to study only art. But all fooling aside I’m really very, very proud of my big sister.

The best of everything to you – Mim

And, if you’re counting we’re only up to four so far. The fifth is a dog’s pawprint in blue ink, “Queenie, her mark!”

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Covfefe explanation

June 4th, 2017

Disclaimer: I did not see this happen. I do not have a keylogger on Trump’s computer to watch keystroke by keystroke. This is just my hypothetical reconstruction of what happened.

Claimer: I have not read this elsewhere. This is original work. To the extent this may correspond with any other explanation, it merely corroborates the plausibility of that other explanation.

So, to understand what happened, we need the context:

“… bad press covfefe”

Is that so mysterious?

“… bad press cov…” — now we can read it. Undoubtedly “coverage.”

So, here we are, in the Oval Office at 3 AM. Trump types

“… bad press coverage.”

What’s next? His famously short attention span has given out, and he can’t remember what he was thinking of.

[One finger rests on the backspace key. It auto-repeats five times.]

“… bad press cov”

[Absentmindedly drums fingers on the desk. Except they’re not on the desk, they’re on the “f” and “e” keys]

“bad press covfefe”

[Dozes off]
[Wakes up]

Huh? I never finished sending this!

[No need to look at it. Hits “Tweet”]

… and that’s how it happened.

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Dear Editor,

December 12th, 2014

I had a letter to the editor published in the Boston Globe today!

Here you are:

[supplied by the paper] The ‘broken window theory’ works both ways

[my letter] In the discussion of the Ferguson and Staten Island police behavior, I’ve seen a lot about the “broken window theory” — the notion that, since small nuisance offenses change the public attitude and make the public less law-abiding, being tough on minor offenses reduces significant crime as well.

I would like the police to recognize the opposite side of it: Any overreach by police reduces the public’s respect for police and willingness to cooperate. This goes for unnecessary traffic stops, an “accidental” blow in the course of making an arrest, and any other, more minor excess. It’s the same psychology, people.

photo of newspaper

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HTML Tagging my neighborhood

October 31st, 2013

As part of the P2PU web design challenge, I took pictures of some things in the real world that vaguely represent  HTML tags. I didn’t get all the tags that the assignment listed, but I did like some of the results.

<bq> and <ul>:
blockquote and unordered list

The words at the top of the stone look like some formal text that needs to be set off in a big blockquote. Besides, it’s on a block of stone! The names are a list that doesn’t need a particular order.

<ul>: It was the day before Halloween. This porch looks like a <ul> of pumpkins.

unordered list

<ol>: Traffic was heavy on my way home. I was the third car in an ordered list of cars at a traffic light. This picture really has two OLs in it, because there are two lanes of traffic.
ordered list

<q>: Here’s some text, quote:

<q>: Here’s the window of a store that’s closing after many years. Customers have written goodbye notes to it on the windows, quote: “Brussels Sprouts is my favorite store. I’ll miss you. Bye.”
lots of quotes

<img> and <q>: For Halloween, stores around the city encourage kids to paint pictures on their windows (under supervision, I guess). That results in an <img>, and this one as a bonus has two word balloons, <q>.
image and quotes

<img>: This house is painted so as to be an attention-getting visual statement, not just a house, so I think it counts as an <img> all by itself:

<div> and <span>: The porch is divided into two <div>s, and the arches and sunburst triangle above them span those divs and the entrance div.
div and span

Dudes, where’s my <nav>? I’ll be lost without it!

Phew, the transit authority posts these at every streetcar stop to help people navigate the system:

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Web 101 – text editor

October 23rd, 2013

I already own BBEdit for my main computer (and laptop). It has all the features of TextWrangler, which is by the same people, and a lot more; so there’s not attraction to TextWrangler instead.

I liked the word completion from Text Mate a lot, and very likely would have picked it if I were starting from scratch. The completion for Sublime Text was just about as good, for this simple task, after I changed the configuration (settings, I should say) file to have completion-on-enter-tab or whatever it was — wait a second and I’ll open the editor, look at the settings file, and get it right — the whole line was

“auto_complete_commit_on_tab”: true

which wasn’t totally obvious from the help file, and a little long to spell out.

A big attraction of Sublime Text is that it is available for Mac, Windows and Linux with a single license fee per user, so I could buy a license and use it all over the place. That could be a reason to get it right there.

So, I guess the bottom line is, BBEdit chose me just by being there on my computer in the first place, but I will likely get Sublime Text also.

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‘First’ web page

October 22nd, 2013

Aha! I have my wordpress update system fixed, at least enough that I can get a picture on my blog. Here’s that page that I wrote from memory. With only one scratchout, which I did before I peeked.

Picture of web handwritten web page

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Roll up them sleeves

October 22nd, 2013

I have just signed up on P2PU, Peer-to-Peer University, to study web design. I’ve done some web design before, but it’s probably hopelessly out of date — at least that’s what my son, who works on the Harvard Extension School web site, says. So, I’m going to roll up my sleeves and start studying some of the links he referred me to, starting with the P2PU Webmaking 101 challenges. Let’s see if it can keep me out of trouble for the rest of the afternoon! And maybe, who knows, get me back into blogging.

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Surface Design meeting at Fuller

October 2nd, 2011

Several months ago Arlene found out about an article about Adinkra stamps in a magazine published by the Surface Design Association, a group of fiber and textile artists. It turned out the the most cost-effective way for us to advertise our stamps in the magazine was for her to join the association. We went to a meeting of the local chapter yesterday at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton. I was just tagging along, having been warned that I was welcome but would have to put up with a lot of gabby women. The fact is, I went to an all male college where I had to either bicycle or hitchhike 17 miles to Bennington College if I wanted to talk to a woman. Eventhat was only spring and fall — Bennington wasn’t in session during the winter, and then it was something like a 50 mile drive to Smith, or farther to Mount Holyoke, Skidmore, or Vassar. I’ve never recovered from that; I have a high tolerance for gabby women.

The meeting started off with a tour of the basket exhibit at the museum. It was pretty impressive! The tour was given by the museum’s education director, who is a member of the group. She had an excellent idea of how to tailor her presentation to the interests and level of knowledge of the group members. Besides that, she had recently taken a workshop on ash (wood) splint basketry. There were a few “normal” baskets in the exhibit, and a lot of unconventional ones that you might not think of as baskets at first. With a little justification (“well, it’s made of fiber, and it could hold something, maybe”) you could probably accept them as baskets, or at least as basketry. One, a lamp with a shade woven from cable ties, looked like something you might be able to make in an afternoon. Others were so complex that you knew you would have to study for years before starting to duplicate them and then work most of another year on the one item.

After lunch in the museum cafeteria there was a show and tell session. Arlene showed off a discharge-printed T shirt she had done at the Nature Printing Society meeting a couple of months ago. Here’s a photo of someone else talking about her recent experiments with dyeing indigo over fiber-reactive dye colors. Also in the picture is someone else’s shibori-dyed fabric and a basket made from watercolor paper painted with acrylics and cut into strips by being run through a pasta maker.

Drat! I’m doing this on my PC, without my familiar software (Photoshop and Interarchy). I seem to have uploaded photos that didn’t get sized and rotated the way I wanted.

And here are close-ups of more indigo over fiber-reactive dye samples:

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Shad in the Charles

June 29th, 2011

A few days ago Arlene called my attention to an email I got from the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) announcing an upcoming release of American Shad Fry into the Charles river. It sounded interesting and wasn’t too far from work, so I decided to go.

Shad are the biggest members of the herring family. Like other herring (and also like salmon), they live in the ocean most of their lives and swim up rivers to spawn. Anglers love them. They’re relatively big, challenging to catch, and good eating. They haven’t been breeding in the Charles since early in the industrial revolution, when the Charles was dammed for water power and there was no way for the fish to get upstream past the dams. Besides that, the Charles used to be badly polluted. The CRWA has been very active in helping enforce environmental laws and raising public awareness of the desirability of having a clean river, and by now the Charles is one of the cleanest urban rivers in the world. In recent decades fish ladders have been added to the dams, but fish ladders and clean water is not all it takes. The fish return to the river where they grew up, and if no fish have spawned in a river, no fish are going to return to it (except for a few strays, perhaps, but that’s not likely to establish a population.)

Fisheries biologists have found that it’s possible to re-establish a population of anadromous fish in a river by taking adult fish from one river, getting them to spawn in captivity, and stocking the baby fish in the river with no population of those fish. I’ve heard about that, and heard that it has worked in the Connecticut river. Here was my chance to learn about it in person.

Here’s an adult American Shad. This is a fish any fresh-water angler would be delighted to catch:
Adult shad that came along for show and tell

The US Fish and Wildlife Service had brought several hundred thousand shad to the Charles, but not that big. These were five days old, about the smallest fish I’ve ever seen. This bucket probably had a couple hundred of them:
Those thread-like things are each a fish

In that picture, it looks like water with some pieces of lint in it, but the lint is fish! Each one is only about twice as long as a mosquito wriggler, maybe half an inch or three quarters of an inch long, transparent except for the eyes and backbone.

I got to the event in good time. There were two trucks parked close to the river, official US Fish and Wildlife Service flatbed trucks with big tanks on the back. One tank had several adult shad in it, including the one in the picture above. You could climb up on the truck to look in the tank. The F&W people were scrupulous about warning everyone, “Be careful! There’s nothing behind you to keep you from falling off!”
Looking in the tank of adult shad

The other truck had a tank of the fry. It had a hose coming from the river which was bringing in river water so that the fry would be at river temperature when they were released — a sudden change of temperature wouldn’t be any good.

One of the first people to show up after me (the F&W people were there before me) was Derrick Z. Jackson, a Boston Globe columnist who writes almost as often about environmental issues as about social ones.
Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe columnist

Two other spectators, who might have come to the river just to go fishing rather than watch the event, were this father & daughter:
Note the Disney fishing rod
Before any fish fry hit the water, the little girl had caught a sunfish. It doesn’t show in the picture, but it’s splashing there at her dad’s feet.
She just caught a sunfish

These folks spoke briefly.
Presenters at the event
I had been talking to the guy in the khaki before things really started; he’s from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He was telling me about how successful the shad restocking efforts have been in many rivers, especially in the middle atlantic region. Perhaps the most interesting thing he told me was that all the fry have been marked so they can tell if fish they catch five years from now are wild fish or come from hatchery stock. How do you mark millions of fish fry that small? By adding some fluorescent dye to the water they’re in. If you want details, try this.

The woman on the right, in serious hip boots, is Mary Griffin, commissioner of the Massachusetts department of fish and wildlife. Later on she got to hold the hose that the fry were released through. The man in the middle is Bob Zimmerman, the director of the CRWA.

There were lots of people from the press, from local paper through community access TV to Boston Globe.
Press corps
OK, now we’re getting ready to release the fish!
Ready to release the fry

I love that smile. It really looks to me like, some days you have to spend all day worrying about a department budget and some days you have to spend all day arguing with legislators, but every so often you get to remember why you wanted to be a wildlife biologist and it’s all worth while.
Pumping fish

And here’s Derrick getting his version of that last picture:

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