Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Things, and stuff; or, Georgia on My Mind

Today was grocery shopping day. My mom gets a 5% discount on Tuesdays and every little bit helps, particularly in this economy. We didn't get out to the store until around 6:15 this evening*, and didn't get out until nearly 7:45 PM.

As we left the store the sun was already sinking behind the nearby Honeypot Mountain. "Look at that cloud," I said, pointing to a wispy cloud overhead that was dark on the bottom but light in the upper reaches. "Some parts of it are already in shadow, and some parts are still in sunlight."

"Look at the cloud over our house," my mom said, pointing to a dark cloud in the distance. We were about a mile from our house.

"It's glowing orange in its lower part," I said. "That's weird."

"Maybe our house is on fire," my mom said.

It wasn't.

I decided to take a scenic route that would take us on a road with a clear view of the mountain ridge to the southeast, where the cloud was. As we approached we could see that the cloud was very big, and very dark, and very red in spots.

"It must be raining there," my mom said.

"Rainbow!" I shouted. "It must be raining!"

And what a rainbow! I have written about the maximum limits of rainbow size, and - well, this was it. Just one leg, the right leg, almost perfectly vertical - as far as I could tell, the sun was already below the horizon, so this may have actually been a segment of a rainbow larger than a half-circle, in which case it might even have been leaning out a bit. But I don't think it was.

Oh, and it was red. The setting sun casts its light through hundreds, thousands of miles of atmosphere. This tends to screen out all but the longest wavelengths. So red is all the distant raindrops have to play with.

There was no point in trying to get a camera. It was too faint, and fading too fast. All we could do was enjoy it while it lasted.

Then we went home and unloaded the groceries.


I wanted to write about the Russian incursion into Georgia yesterday. I really did. Instead I sat down at my Adobe PhotoDeluxe and manipulated a cartoon to make it look like Blondie was shooting Dagwood in the head.

This took a lot more work than you might think. I had to isolate and move each element on its own layer. Then I had to erase the bits I had moved, and then copy and paste and stretch and clone what remained until there were no traces of the originals anymore. I'm not 100% happy with the results, but it was good enough. Perfection would require an investment of many more hours.

Which was a bit much to go through to avoid writing about Georgia.


A few weeks ago Newsweek ran an article called "The Mythology of Munich", about Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler and Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, about how the world watched and waited and held its collective breath until Chamberlain announced that an agreement had been made with Hitler, which basically said "OK, you can go this far, but no farther." "Peace in our time" are the words the world remembers. Only that wasn't what it meant at all, and the Blitz rolled into Poland a few months later.

So the bottom line is, no politician wants to be Chamberlain, engaging diplomatically and appeasing the aggressor and getting dumped on by history when it turns out you were wrong. Everyone wants to be like Churchill, fat and drunk and bald and smok- I mean, all decisive and stand-taking. The problem is, the stories told in children's histories of WWII don't really provide a complete image of the complexities these men were up against, where there were no good options, only a spectrum of unpleasant choices and likely consequences. And when the chips are down, do you really want to rely on the historical equivalent of "Once upon a time..." to serve as your guide?

The chips are down. This is no longer a hypothetical situation.

Russia is telling the world that the old Soviet Bloc states belong to Russia, and it will invade and occupy them if it damn well pleases, and to hell with independence and democracy and alliances, and what are you pampered pansies in the West going to do about it? Send troops? Is this pissant little country of Georgia really worth fighting a nuclear state over? Besides, you and what army? I see you have troops in Iraq, and troops in Afghanistan, and - gosh, you're looking a little overextended...

So what do we do? What can we do? So far, the approach appears to be harsh (but not too harsh) language. And Russia has responded with language of its own - the language of George W. Bush, his own catchphrases about peacekeeping and national security.

Is there a way out? Are there any good options? Or just a spectrum of unpleasant choices and likely consequences?

Is the best that we can hope for peace in our time, bought by the sacrifice of one little nation's freedom?

*When I was a kid I always wondered where "afternoon" ended and "evening" began. I mean, "day" = light and "night" = dark, so that was pretty easy, except on very rainy days or during eclipses. And "afternoon" == "after" + "noon", so the beginning is pretty well defined. But where does "evening" begin? I arbitrarily decided it would be at 6:00, when the news came on. That was the time when after-school TV would have to stop and homework would have to begin, since the adults were now hogging the television. (We had one TV when I was a kid. We didn't get a color TV until I was seven.)

So if "evening" begins at 6:00 PM, where does it end? Clearly "evening" and "night" are synonymous, at least for a time. But "morning" begins at midnight in my book. So the day is divided thusly:

Night - Dawn - Sunrise - Day - Sunset - Dusk - Night


Morning (12:01 AM - 11:59 AM) - Noon -
Afternoon (12:01 PM - 6:00 PM) -
Evening (6:01 PM - 11:59 PM) - Midnight -


...tom... said...

"There was no point in trying to get a camera. It was too faint, and fading too fast. All we could do was enjoy it while it lasted."

D4mn..!! . . .I mean for us, h3ll ...you got to enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

There is definitely a difference between night and evening, since I can't keep them straight. Just ask someone who works 2nd or 3rd shift.

I define evening as 6 PM til 11 PM. Night as 11 PM til 5 AM. Then morning starts at 5 AM.