October 9th, 2009


Hey, it's a floathole!

Years ago, this idea was presented in science fiction as a "floathole," and if I recall right it was even on the Mississippi.

In New Orleans, New Home Floats To Withstand Floods
A house was unveiled this week in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood that was largely wiped away by Katrina floodwaters. The house is different from others that were rebuilt: It floats. Made of polystyrene foam and covered with glass-reinforced concrete, the Float House is a new model for flood-safe, affordable and sustainable housing that is designed to float securely with rising water levels.

Stamping Out Columbus Day

I found some interesting posts on this topic today, including:

"AIM Opposes Columbus Day"
When Taino Indians saved Christopher Columbus from certain death on the fateful morning of Oct. 12, 1492, a glorious opportunity presented itself. The cultures Europe of and the Americas could have merged and the beauty of both races could have flourished.

Unfortunately, what occurred was neither beautiful nor heroic. Just as Columbus could not, and did not, "discover" a hemisphere that was already inhabited by nearly 100 million people, his arrival cannot, and will not, be recognized as a heroic and celebratory event by indigenous peoples.

This line caught my attention: "Defenders of Columbus and his holiday argue that indigenous peoples unfairly judge Columbus, a 15th century actor, by the moral and legal standards of the late 20th century. Such a defense implies that no moral or legal constraints applied to individuals such as Columbus, or countries, in 1492." What, we're not supposed to learn from past mistakes? I firmly believe that historic figures and events should be examined both through what we know of the context at the time and our current understanding. Otherwise we are doomed to repeat the past. And the past sucked in many ways, this being one of the more garish examples.

"Columbus Day Should Not Be Celebrated"
Columbus is considered by many to be a villain, not only did he ruthlessly murder thousands of natives but also engaged in acts of torture in his role as viceroy. During his second voyage, he enslaved and murdered the natives of  Hispanola named the Taino Indians. Within a short time (two and a half years) an approximate number of two hundred and fifty thousand Taino were dead.

I was particularly taken by this bit, which I had not encountered before: "The use of Indian bodies as food for the dogs is well documented..." I couldn't find any .edu references to this with a quick search, but I did find this solid-sounding article by an anthropologist. I think I've even read his book.

However, I have to quibble with the comparison of Columbus to Hitler. Hitler murdered millions of people on purpose, while Columbus seems to have done so largely out of indifference. Columbus was more interested in slaves, gold, etc. while Hitler had an explicit goal of genocide. Of course, dead is dead, which makes Columbus a figure of horror; but I prefer to reserve an extra layer of condemnation for people who do that sort of thing deliberately. To get that on this side of the pond, we have to wait a bit, until the American government realized that wiping out tribes was an effective way of seizing their land.

"Why Columbus Day Should Not Be Celebrated"
It is my belief that: although many people celebrate the holiday of Columbus Day, I do not think that day should be celebrated because this man is not who he seems to be. From the given sources, I have learned that not only was he a thief who deliberately took from the indigenous people as well as his crew; he also killed Arawak Indian children and took many adults as slaves. He also was not even the first person to find North America and the fact is that he found it by accident.

Here is a petition you can sign to revoke Columbus Day as a holiday.

And to think I used to get sent into the hall for calling Columbus an invader. (Pity I didn't have the dog food quote back then. I made do with describing some of the mutilations I'd read in Dad's history books.) I am gratified to see more people expressing this opinion.

Reheating Food Safely

I found this alarming article that strongly suggests microwaving leftovers did not protect from food-borne illness, whereas reheating leftovers in a skillet or other conventional cooking did.

I eat leftovers occasionally. I almost always microwave them. And I'm probably too lazy to use a skillet for reheating leftovers. *sigh*