Archive for Monday, January 30, 1995

LABELING

January 30, 1995

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Super Bowls are supposed to entertain and distract us. But sometimes it's good when the game disappoints.

For the second year in a row my wife, Jenny, and I watched the Super Bowl with our Texas friends, who were married three weeks ago. A few others joined us, and the snacks and friendship were welcome.

But it was a dull game and a dull cap to an important week.

Forget O.J. for a minute.

It was an important week for the starlings that devoured the food we left for them in our bird feeders. The birds swarmed around the sunflower seeds, then chewed on suet, and now they want more. A pair of cardinals also made several brief appearances in the front yard of our duplex.

It was an important week for some of our bulbs, which have been confused for months. Now every week is important for the tulips, irises and muscari that have poked through the soil in anticipation of spring growth. They flirt dangerously with the cold.

We all know the cold. A Kansas University senior majoring in atmospheric science, Scott Stanford, told me that the amount of frost that collects on my old Toyota's windows each night is related to the temperature and humidity of the air -- both of which are described by something called the dew point.

The dew point is the temperature at which condensation forms.

If the dew point is 20 degrees and at sunset the air temperature is 30 degrees, as the temperature drops through the night and approaches the dew point condensation will form on surfaces like car windows. If the temperature is below freezing, the condensation will freeze.

So last night the temperature must have hovered close to the dew point for some time, because the frost was thick and took several minutes to scrape off early today.

Last week was important, like all weeks, for understanding how the planet works.

It was also important for the Chinese restaurant I visited several times to buy wonton soup for Jenny, who battled a tenacious sore throat. The soup helped.

And it was an important week for those of us who bothered to note the significance of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland 50 years ago.

It was an anniversary that would have come several years ago if the Allies fighting Nazi Germany had acted sooner to save Europe's Jews, the prime target of the Nazi's barbaric campaign of slavery, torture and genocide. But the United States did not act until long after it had knowledge of what the Nazis were up to.

That is not a matter simply for the survivors or for the history books. Today, fighting has resumed in a war in the former Yugoslavia in Eastern Europe. The war there began nearly three years ago. By August of 1992 reporters and witnesses had described atrocities -- rapes, maimings and random killings -- and Nazi-like concentration camps for emaciated civilian prisoners. The U.S. State Department confirmed these reports.

But no country has yet mustered the will to intervene or live up to a now-empty pledge: Never Again.

It was an important week. The Super Bowl was a minor sideshow.

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