Posted by: emjb | December 22, 2004

Scarves, steam heat, solstice, and schadenfreude

It’s taken me a while to get the hang of scarves. I think I wore a scarf once, maybe twice in my life before I moved here. In fact, I couldn’t find any good scarves in Texas when I was shopping before my move. And here, they’re on every street corner. But there are different varieties: short, medium, long; knitted or polar fleece; narrow or wide like a shawl; tassels, balls or neither. And then, how do you wrap it? Do you knot it in front? Toss one end over your shoulder like the hipsters prefer? Stuff it inside your coat?

I tried the long-end hanging behind my shoulder thing, but a) you don’t really keep your neck warm, and b) the wind will keep blowing it back anyway. Knotting it in front is really bulky. So now I’ve developed a sort of complicated wrap, once around the neck, the two ends crossing in front, buttoned inside the coat, the looped part pulled up enough to protect the chin and lips. My scarf isn’t any more fashionable than the rest of me, being just a plain long green knitted one, but it works surprisingly well. And I’ve gotten a lot better at judging scarf vs. no-scarf weather. Also, hat or no-hat. Gloves are only for the coldest days, because they’re a pain when you’re pulling stuff out of your pocket. I hate not being able to feel what’s in my pocket when I wear gloves; I start being paranoid that I’ve dropped my keys or that someone’s stolen my wallet. And then you take them off and they never fit into your pocket right.

Scarves are kind of an interesting invention, actually. We can’t seem to design coats that don’t expose the chest and neck a little too much. Even ski jackets with zippers and flaps still let some cold air in. So we have to have these little strips of fabric to stuff in the openings.

It’s been mostly scarf weather this week, with occasional hat; a few days ago, it also required gloves and long johns. Our roommate deanpence hasn’t adjusted to this concept quite yet, and spends a lot of time cursing when he goes outside to smoke, then comes back in to huddle next to his space heater. Our apartment radiator, like all radiators, has only Hot and Off settings, and works on its own mysterious timer, so you learn to just add and subtract layers throughout the day. You get used to the fact that your shampoo is very cold after sitting on the bathroom window ledge all night. You develop a connoisseur’s taste in socks: little thin cotton ones won’t do, they must be thick and warm or your toes will never get un-numbed. You occasionally put on your robe over your clothes while you walk around the house in your wooly socks. Then you peel it all off when the radiator kicks on and you start sweating.

Of course, summer has its own demands. Living in a place where you have to use radiators and window a/c makes it harder to ignore whatever temperature it actually is outside. With central heat and air, you’re in a more enclosed world, and don’t spend much time opening and closing windows, or noticing that it gets colder when the sun goes down. I’m not saying that’s better or worse, but I think it’s interesting how much more I notice the weather in a place like New York City than when I lived in more-rural Texas, sealed up in buildings or my car.

Speaking of sundowns, happy solstice everyone. The days get longer from here on out. Enjoy the holiday of your choice this week, or else just enjoy the time off.

I just saw the following at and wanted to include it, because I think it sums up so much so nicely.

Bush’s War

So, who is to blame for all the deaths in Iraq? Let’s mull this one over a bit, shall we?

Bush claims Saddam is a threat. Bush claims Saddam has WMDs. Bush claims Saddam has ties to Al Qaida. Bush and his administration promote questionable intelligence that supports their preconceptions and prejudices, and reject that which counters it.

Bush puts Rummy in charge of the war. Rummy fires general who says “we need more troops”. Rummy says we can do more with less. Rummy says “lighter is better than armored”. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld say we’ll be met with flower petals. They say the war will be entirely paid for by oil revenues. They say the reconstruction will be paid for entirely by oil revenues.

Bush says he’s giving diplomacy a chance, but he’s giving the world a middle finger. Powell says he’s showing the Security Council evidence of Saddam’s duplicity, but he shows them pictures of warehouses. Bush claims a coalition of the willing, that’s really a coalition of the billing — a mish-mash of third-world nations with token contributions. Only England offers tangible support.

Bush sends the troops into battle, claiming he had no choice. But Saddam had caved on every Bush demand (inspectors were allowed back in, his long-range missiles were being destroyed).

No WMDs are found. No ties with Al Qaida are found. No military capable of threatening Iraq’s neighbors is found. Saddam’s army collapses quickly and the country’s defenders retreat into “insurgency” mode.

Bush declares mission accomplished. Bush taunts the insurgency. (i.e., “bring it on”). The insurgency kills our men and women. The commanders on the ground scream for more troops. They scream for armor. They scream for protected mess halls. Those screams fall on deaf ears.

More soldiers are killed. 1,320 Americans, 74 Britons, seven Bulgarians, one Dane, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Hungarian, 19 Italians, one Latvian, 16 Poles, one Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and nine Ukrainians. The wounded number in the five figures.

Nevermind the innocent Iraqis who have been “liberated” to death. And while we scream about Saddam’s torture chambers, we create new ones of our own.

So thousands die, for a war built on false justifications, managed poorly, with underequipped, undermanned, and under-armored forces. And to add insult to injury, we’ve had to pay for this mess, to the tune of $200 billion.

So who sent our troops into Iraq on false pretenses? Who sent them in unarmored? Who refused to provide enough troops to stabilize the country effectively? Who taunted the Iraqi opposition with “bring ’em on”? Who approved the American-branded torture chambers? Who has rewarded the secretary of defense who has negligently ignored the armor shortage in Iraq?

And who keeps them there as they continue to die?


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