Warning! These shoes will self-destruct in 5 seconds....

Actually, I don't know how long it took for them to self-destruct. I noticed the heel of one of them made a "sticky" noise on my kitchen floor as I was leaving for work. I didn't think anything of it and figured whatever it was would get worn off during the day. As I stood in the hallway at work waiting to sing "Happy Birthday" to Susan, I noticed that the left heel of my shoe felt like something was stuck to it.

After I sat down in my cube, I discovered that the outside of the heel had started to peel off the shoe. By the end of the day both heels had pretty much disintegrated. I hadn't worn these shoes in the at least three years, but didn't expect this sort of thing.

What's funny is that I set out a different pair of shoes to wear initially, but changed my mind because I wanted to wear socks since it was cold. Except that the socks I chose wouldn't fit in these shoes and I ended up wearing "trouser socks" or knee-high tights instead. Obviously I should have changed the shoes when I changed the socks.

Assimilation or not:
I overheard on the news today that the wearing of a veil by a Muslim woman prevents her from assimilating into society. That's every bit as intelligent as saying women who wear jeans or have short hair don't assimilate into society. I think it would be more accurate to say that the speaker's perception of "American society" is rather closed-minded and restrictive.

It's funny, but while the US was founded by a bunch of folks who fled various countries for various religious and political reasons, the only acceptable religious and political views today are those found in western Europe. If you "look American", then you can't be an immigrant. Of course, by "look American" people seem to mean people are white and non-hispanic. Once they open their mouths, they have to be able to speak English fluently or they're somehow of lesser quality than "real" Americans.

I received an e-mail last week ranting that immigrants these days don't try to learn the language and instead expect us to learn their language and cater to them. Funny, when Americans go abroad we still expect everybody around us to speak English and typically make little effort to learn any of the language in the country we are visiting. I suppose that's different. What if the person who was speaking French to her child in the grocery store last week was 1) teaching her child French, 2) just visiting in this country or 3) attempting to help her child retain her native language. According to the author of the e-mail I received last week, the only acceptable solution is that this person is refusing to become a part of the US and shouldn't be allowed to stay here. Perhaps that's why few Americans are bi-lingual--having a second language would get you labelled as an immigrant outsider which apparently is a bad thing.

The e-mail asserted that it is the immigrants who are screwing up immigration. I would argue that it's the attitude of the citizens which has changed. Perhaps that's a function of post-9/11. Anything which isn't "us" is bad and not trustable. The fact of the matter is that we still live in the best country in the world and that is a privilege.

Here's to the "immigrants"
I am an immigrant. My ancestors immigrated here >200 years ago, but I'm still an immigrant. I am certainly not descended from any native culture in the US. So why don't I get lumped into the category of immigrant? How long ago did someone's family have to enter this country to qualify as American now? Is it because nobody from my cultural background has caused significant problems in this country? That argument doesnt' fly. Americans of European descent blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Jim Jones was a white guy. So were Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. So were the folks in the US government who decided that slavery was a good idea. Fortunately they were outlasted by the people who decided it was a bad idea.

Is it because my family speaks English? At least a few of my ancestors were from England, so they had a head start on learning the language, but not all of them did. There is some Scandinavian blood in me. I'm willing to bet the Norwegians and Swedes in my background didn't speak English at first. Depending upon how long ago they arrived in this country, they may not have had the option of learning English *before* they came to this country as they would today. Even if they learned English before arriving here, they'd have accents. That would still mark them as immigrants. It takes a long time to lose an accent. I lived in Australia for a year as a teenager and was still identifiable by the Aussies as an American. I know people who have lived in the US for over 40 years and still have their native accent, even if they grew up bilingual.

I think the issue is that those who rant and rave about "immigrants" are feeling insecure. Americans are accustomed to being on top of the world and the best at everything. Things which we do not excel at are called "stupid" or "unimportant". We would, as a society, rather complain about how other people are getting ahead of us instead of working harder to get back on top of the game. If we spent half of the bitching time working instead of bitching we'd be a lot better off. Recent studies have indicated that American HS and college graduates are not competitive in the workforce when compared to foreign graduates. I'm willing to bet that the reason behind that is simple: effort and desire. They are willing to exert the effort and have the desire to succeed. Americans have a tendency to peform to the level of "good enough" and let it go at that. We wouldn't want to strain ourselves, after all.

The downside to this attitude is that we're getting passed up by the rest of the world. The response to this event seems to be more bitching ("All the Indians, Asians, etc are taking up all the college spots so "real" Americans can't go to college", which of course eliminates the possibility that said Indians and Asians are actually citizens of this country). The other response seems to be the mandating of school curricula. This may start to fix the problem in the elementary and secondary school systems, but doesn't fix it at college.

We've dug ourselves a deep hole and we're not making any effort to get out of it. Guess what folks, we're about to become obsolete. If we don't learn to adapt and put in the effort to keep up or get back to where we once were, that won't change. There are growing opportunities in other countries. They have no reason to suffer brain drain any more. The brightest and best in other countries aren't coming here to bail us out any more. They are staying in their own countries and our brains keep saying it's not fair and too hard to keep up. It'll be interesting to see how this trend develops over the next 10-20 years.

Ok, that's enough ranting for one day. I had a pretty good day at work. Time to put myself back in a good mood before bed.

Dialogue of the day, courtesy of CSI:
"Why are you throwing phone books?"
"Because beakers get glass all over the place."

I've had days like that. I throw yarn balls. Once I almost threw a baseball at the wall instead. That would have been bad.

Related trivia:
In an interview with Paul Simon (the singer/songwriter, not the politician), Mr. Simon showed the interviewer where he wrote his songs. It was in a room under the eaves of his house and he showed exactly where he thought up lyrics. It was in a corner of the room. Throwing a ball against the wall and floor in a rhythmic manner. The interviewer asked him why. I remember he said something along the lines of his mother always telling him to not throw the ball in the house, but this was his house so he could throw the ball wherever he wanted. I liked that.

Knitting update:
Here's the latest photo of the cashmere shawl. I've got three repeats done of the pattern. My goal is to get one repeat done a night. This will take more time as the shawl gets larger, but for now it takes about 30 minutes.


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