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This is my 2002 journal.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Also available: 2003 2001 2000 1990s 1980s

Everything on this page:
Copyright 1985-2002 by Thane Plambeck, except where obviously not.

22 July 2002
Exploring The Republic of the Congo & The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Let me be your tour guide.

First—they're two different countries.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire, in white)
with The Republic of Congo (above and to the left)

The capitals are Brazzaville and Kinshasa, respectively. Brazzaville isn't shown on the map above, but it is just across the border to the north of Kinshasa. Perhaps "Banana" (near the coast) is also a Republic?

The answer is no. The CIA's World Factbook is useful for resolving such questions.

Mobutu Sese Seko led a coup in Congo in 1965 and then renamed it Zaire in 1971. He ruled Zaire for more than 30 years. In 1997, his successor, Laurent Kabila, renamed the country Congo again. Laurent Kabila was killed by a bodyguard in 2001. His son, Joseph Kabila, is the current President.

Knowing that SESE and SEKO go with MOBUTU often proves useful in crossword puzzles.

Mobutu liked to wear big glasses and strange outfits. Perhaps it was just the times.

Left: Mobutu Sese Seko, ca 1972
Right: Miles Davis, ca 1971

Here's some information taken from two recent "Travel Advisories:"
Travel within the DRC (Zaire) is problematic. You are not permitted to journey overland if your mode of travel is local public transport, hitchhiking, or foreign vehicle. Nothing ever runs on time. Even if a road shows up on a map, assume that it may not exist. If it does, it may prove to be one of the worst roads in Africa.

Travel through the downtown areas of Lubumbashi and Kinshasa is generally safe. The more remote areas are not as secure due to various command-and-control difficulties, the continuing presence of fighters who were previously Zairian military, huge numbers of weapons, and high levels of crime.

Travel after dark anywhere in the DRC is dangerous and unwise.

The Republic of Congo is a developing nation in central Africa. Civil conflict in 1997, late 1998 and early 1999 damaged parts of the capital and large areas in the southwest area of the country. Peace accords, which concluded in late 1999, have largely brought an end to the conflict, and no new hostilities have occurred. Restoration is now underway in Brazzaville and other cities; however, facilities for tourists remain limited.

The U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville suspended operations on June 18, 1997, and there remains no resident U.S. diplomatic presence in the Republic of Congo to provide consular assistance to U.S. citizens. A Brazzaville U.S. Embassy Office was opened in neighboring Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo in April 1998 and may, in some circumstances, be able to provide limited emergency services to U.S. citizens.

21 July 2002
Why They Kill (maybe)

Great Britain's worst serial killer, the physician Harold Fredrick Shipman, was convicted at Preston Crown Court on 31 January 2000 of the murder of 15 of his patients. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In fact, he killed at least 215 patients, according to The Shipman Inquiry, which has published a huge number of documents about the case on its website. Shipman killed his patients on house calls via overdose injections of diamorphine, a narcotic analgesic. He was only discovered when he made a lame attempt to forge a will of one of his victims. He wrote:
He followed that with a bogus letter to a local lawyer, purporting to be from his victim, sending the lawyer a copy of the forged will for safekeeping. Finally he typed up another bogus letter purporting to be from a (nonexistent) friend of the victim called 'J. Smith' or 'S. Smith', informing them of his victim's death.

All of this deception was very poorly executed, and Shipman was hauled in.

The Shipman Inquiry's analysis of his methods, character and motivation is included in the Inquiry documents and makes for interesting reading. Here's an excerpt:
The following picture of a typical Shipman murder emerged. Shipman would visit an elderly patient, usually one who lived alone. Sometimes, the visit would be at the patient's request, on account of an ailment of some kind; sometimes, Shipman would make a routine visit, for example to take a blood sample or to provide repeat prescriptions; sometimes he would make an unsolicited call. During the visit, Shipman would kill the patient. Afterwards, he behaved in a variety of ways and had a variety of typical explanations for what had happened. Sometimes, he would claim that he had found the patient dead when he arrived. If asked how he had gained entrance, he would say that the patient had been expecting him and had left the door 'on the latch'. Sometimes, he would stay at the premises and telephone relatives or call upon neighbours and reveal the death to them. He might say that he had found the patient close to death or he would sometimes claim that the patient had died quite suddenly in his presence. Sometimes, he would leave the premises after killing the patient, closing (and thereby locking) the door behind him. Either then or later, he would go in search of a neighbour who held a key, or to the warden if the patient lived in sheltered accommodation, and together they would go to the premises and 'discover' the body. On other occasions, he would leave the body unattended and would wait for a relative or friend to discover the death.
After serving as a juror on a murder trial in Santa Clara County, California, in 2000, I became interested in the question of why people commit murders. I was led to an interesting book, Why They Kill, by Richard Rhodes. The basic idea is that although it is customary to express befuddlement at violent crime, in fact the "violentization" of an individual follows a path that can be clearly traced out, and almost always involves abuse in childhood.

Whether this theory might apply to Shipman would be interesting to know. But he's not talking.

19 July 2002
At the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Sea Dragon: A seahorse artfully camouflaged as seaweed.

18 July 2002
Herbie Nichols

This boxed set of 3 CDs has the ("tragically unappreciated") jazz pianist Herbie Nichols playing his own jazz trio compositions (ie piano, bass, drum), ca 1956-57. I bought it after it finding it on a list of 101 recommended Jazz albums at Cootie's Jazz. I was particularly struck by these two numbers:

2300 Skiddoo (CD 1, takes 14 and 15)
House Party Starting (CD 2, take 10)

Here is Stan Dick writing for The Spectator, 11 April 1998:
Nichols's compositions are characterized also by his penchant for impressionist musical vignettes. Many of his compositions work as abstract plays, with the title clueing the listener to the setting for the drama. For example, Nichols described his tune "Pick Up" this way: "It's about a pick-up band... they're not quite together here... they play nine measures instead of eight, then it starts to get better." The tune has a weirdly fascinating balance, conveying the initially failed integration of the trio, while simultaneously, the trio is obviously dead on its mark. Similarly, "House Party Starting" conveys the arc of a party, starting with the first, awkward, early guest, trying to figure out what to do with himself until the other guests arrive. As the composition progresses and other guests arrive, the tension dissipates and the party moves into gear.
Herbie Nichols died of leukemia on 12 April 1963 at the age of 44.

While we're on the subject of "weirdly fascinating balance"—check out the theme music at Seussville. I would love to know how it was produced (ie, who composed it? what tools were used for the MIDI production? etc—if you happen to know, please let me know).

Note added 19 July 2002: Here is Herbie Nichols writing in the original liner notes from HERBIE NICHOLS TRIO (BLP 1519):
There is nothing mystical about becoming a graduate jazzist. One should be willing to enjoy and study all the great jazz musicians of the past and present. In addition, each one of these artists' limitations should be pinpointed and analyzed. As a lover of chess I would predict an easy and rewarding individuality as the outcome of the these drudge moves...

[Note added 10 October 2002] Cootie writes The Knitwear Specialist! [email]

17 July 2002
Advice on turning 40 years old

1. Make a list of ten things you want to do.
2. Find the most difficult thing on the list.
3. Cross that one off the list. (It is, in fact, too difficult).
4. Pick some other thing on the list.
5. Ask yourself, "do I really want to do this, or do I just like the *idea* of doing it." Somehow this seems to be an important distinction, at least for me.
6. Throw away the list.
7. Buy a copy of Charles Mingus's "Ah Um".
8. Listen. Listen.
9. Listen.
10. Listen.

15 July 2002
An Amazon Review of Dave Brubeck's Take Five

Reviewer: Jimmy G. Mahuron from Salem, Indiana:

I was attending Purdue University from 1961-63 and I was walking through the Student Union Building and I heard the Sax of Paul Desmond playing Take Five. I walked through the doors into the main lobby which were open and lo and behold there large as life and live were the Dave Brubeck Quartet and I just stopped and listened to these musicians.
Amazon reports: 0 of 6 people found this helpful.

15 July 2002
The a cappella archipelago

Cole in the car: "Why don't they play instruments in archipelago singing?"

13 July 2002
Some Lunches

Sashimi Bento Box, Sumo Restaurant, Los Altos (photo above)
Sashimi Bento Box with Tobiko roll, Sushi-Ya, Palo Alto
Vegetarian Burrito, Senor Taco, Palo Alto
Chinese Chicken Salad, Perry's, Palo Alto
Turkey Sandwich with Provolone Cheese & No Mayo, Palo Alto Coffee

9 July 2002
Classical Music in the movie Minority Report

Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Cantata 147, but arranged for organ)
Haydn: String Quartet Op 64, No 1 (Minuet)
Tchaikovsky: "Pathetique" Symphony (the "lopsided" 5/4 Waltz)
Schubert: Symphony no. 8 in B minor, D 759 "Unfinished"