Saturday, December 31, 2005

Dads, adventures, blogs, baby names, etc.

I have been having fun going over, from time to time, to visit A Dad Is Born, Mark Correa's blog at the CourierPostOnline, a New Jersey newspaper. It's refreshing to see a father talking about the impending arrival of his first child. Mark, you may remember, took a stab at selling the baby naming rights, but let his wife Amanda talk him out of that :-).

Last night, late, I stumbled across a new blog, just started mid-December, called Dances With Kiwis. In the "About Us" box, Paddy and Yvonne say, "We have left our safe and secure jobs in the UK to work in New Zealand. We are having our first baby in February. It really sounded like a good idea..."

Among their early posts is Help, in which they ask for suggestions on names for the baby, and explain what they're trying to avoid in the way of names. They don't know the sex of the baby, but at this point they're working on a name to use if it is a boy. Arnold, Quentin, Basil, Sam, and Dennis are out, for various reasons.

We are trying not to use friend's or family names, and would like to avoid anything that would instantly lead to bullying. A final complication is that we have bad memories of names due to kids we have taught!

Maybe you could help them out?

Writing and Living: My Year of Dickens: The Strategy

The blogger at Writing and Living has announced that she intends to read Dickens in 2006. All of Dickens. In the order written. Now that's a New Year's resolution!

She has gotten a head start by already starting on The Pickwick Papers. It's been some years now since I read The Pickwick Papers, but I loved it. It was more humorous than I anticipated, knowing Dickens at the time only from movies long on gray tones and cruel old men.

For myself, I don't think I could read all of an author's works in one year, any author, even, say, Joseph C. Lincoln, who is as nice an author as I've ever met in print. I think I'd feel overdosed, or something. Or would start to talk in a manner reminiscent of what that author puts in the mouths of his characters ;-).

(You think I'm joking? I assure you, life and conversation around this household aren't quite normal after someone's been reading P.G. Wodehouse for any length of time. It's like an infection, or something. Of course, Wodehouse is a special case.)

Here's hoping 'Writing and Living' has great fun with her project. She's launching the project with humor and gentle jabs at herself for announcing she's going to try to do it one year, so I expect she will have fun. Go, girl!

P.S. Here's the post where she explains where she got the idea.

Hat tip: "Reading Lists" at Semicolon

Keys to Rhein-Main Base Given to Germans

From the Associated Press, as picked up at Fox News Friday, December 30:

FRANKFURT, Germany — The U.S. Air Force on Friday handed over the keys to Rhein-Main Air Base to the operator of Frankfurt International Airport in a final act of closure for the base, which for 60 years hosted American forces.

The 120 buildings on the base are to be bulldozed to make way for a third terminal for Frankfurt's sprawling civilian airport — continental Europe's busiest. It officially becomes German property on Saturday.

The ceremony, at which Brig. Gen. Mike Snodgrass gave the keys of the base's buildings and main gate to Manfred Schoelch of airport operator Fraport AG, followed Rhein-Main's formal closing in October.

"It's bittersweet — after 60 years of partnership, to see it come to an end," said Capt. Jonathan Friedman, a U.S. Air Force spokesman.

Full article

The Scotsman - Business - Brazilians feel the pinch as EU retains FMD import ban on beef

Jim Buchan of The Scotsman reports:

IT APPEARS increasingly likely that the EU ban on imports of beef from Brazil will remain in place for most of 2006, if not longer, as foot-and-mouth (FMD) continues to spread in what is fast becoming the largest cattle country in the world.

FMD was first confirmed in the Mato Grosso do Sul province in early October, but has now spread to several other regions. A total of 52 countries have now banned the importation of beef from Brazil.

In the first nine months of 2005, the UK imported just over 27,000 tonnes from Brazil worth around £90 million.

Full article.

Russian Turn at G8 Helm Seen as Leadership Test | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 30.12.2005

The world's most elite club faces a critical test starting Sunday as Russia takes the helm of the G8 for the first time, determined to prove it belongs despite stark differences with fellow members on basic issues ranging from democracy to Iran's nuclear program.

The Russian presidency of the Group of Eight top industrialized nations will also be a milestone for President Vladimir Putin, whose two terms in the Kremlin have focused on restoring Russia, humbled by the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the league of big powers...

The presidency is by rotation. Putin says he'll make "energy security" a priority. Full article here.

The Scotsman - Business - Royal Mail to 'fight' for every letter

Jennifer Hill at The Scotsman reports that the Royal Mail declares itself ready for the revolution:

ROYAL Mail has pledged to "fight for every letter" following the New Year's Day postal revolution that will see it lose its 370-year monopoly on letter delivery.

The UK's postal service market will be opened up tomorrow, allowing rival companies to collect, sort and deliver stamped mail for the first time since the reign of Charles II.

The postal revolution will see "independent" post boxes for letters appearing on street corners for the first time, as rivals are given the legal right to deliver first- and second-class letters.

Royal Mail faces competition from more than a dozen companies that have already registered with regulator Postcomm to handle post in the UK, including German firm Deutsche Post and Dutch postal service TNT.

Oh, wait a minute. Going down the article I find:

Royal Mail currently loses 5p for every first-class letter delivered and 8p for every second-class one.

Despite that and years of under-investment, which mean only 50 per cent of its letters are sorted mechanically, compared with 90 per cent among competitors, it claims it is ready to take on its new rivals.

"Royal Mail will fight hard for every single letter," said spokesman David Simpson. "Royal Mail is determined to compete successfully in the open market, but in order to do so we need a fair regulatory regime and the ability to invest £2 billion in the modernisation of the business..."

And, of course, down a bit more there's the obligatory warning from a union spokesman that the sky will fall if the union has to give up any ground.

But the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) warned that the universal service was "officially under threat". General secretary Billy Hayes said: "Postcomm is threatening the universal service. It should not under-estimate the public affection for daily mail delivery to home addresses."

There's more. Full article here.

Friday, December 30, 2005

The year in review, the 'first lines of first posts' version

This is silly, ridiculous, and trivial, and I'm going to do it anyway. (Heh.) The idea is to reprint the first line, or sentence, of the first post of each month. (It's one of those things that's going around...)

January. N/A. I wasn't blogging yet.

February. File this article under the "My Roof Or Yours?" category.

March. I somewhat accidentally subscribed to the Scotsman's business headlines e-mail newsletter a while back.

April. Johnny Gunther died well before I was born.

May. Certain ladies and gentlemen of my acquaintance are always trying to top each other with funny stories.

June. We’re having a rainstorm here.

July. Just as a historical side note, New London has seen earlier battles between respectable citizens and over-reaching government...

August. In my latest stack of books to de-label, wipe clean, and find the market price for (I sell used books for a living), I came across one called The Venus Probe by David St. John.

September. Good news from Afghanistan.

October. Judith Martin - otherwise known as "Miss Manners" - briefly discusses the following novels:

November. Amy Welborn took a look at Ann Rice's new novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, and gives us her first impressions.

December. Gotta love the Internet.

OpinionJournal - Rodney Dangerfield Revisited

The subhead on this editorial is "Will the economy finally get some respect in 2006?". It begins:

Less than a year ago, we labeled the current U.S. expansion the "Rodney Dangerfield economy"--because it "gets no respect." Ten months later our now $12.5 trillion economy has only maintained its strength even as it still gets disparaged in the media, which continues to fret about the fragility of what has undeniably been a resilient expansion. There are a few policy lessons here, assuming Washington is awake.

The 3.5% to 4% rate of growth in 2005 has been especially remarkable given eight Federal Reserve Board interest rate hikes, oil prices as high as $70 a barrel, and one of the most devastating natural disasters in American history. Yes, fourth quarter GDP may come in softer thanks to limping auto sales, but the entrepreneurial U.S. economy will still have grown at about twice the pace of Old Europe in 2005. As economist Michael Darda of MKM Partners, puts it: "This is the most derided and ridiculed growth cycle in post-World War II history, even though by many measures, including productivity and corporate profits, it's one of the most impressive."

The full editorial gives some details on 2005, and looks ahead to 2006.

Book recommendations from 2005

These are some of my books reviews and recommendations from 2005.

The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives: An Illustrated Guide to Their Evolution and Natural History, by Alan Turner. The illustrations by Mauricio Anton are incredible (if sometimes gruesome). The text was a bit too technical to hold my interest, but maybe that's just me. Published in 1997 by Columbia University Press.

Birds of Oregon Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela. If you don't like the usual field guides, you might try this one, which has birds categorized by color instead of type.

The Bronze Horseman: Falconet’s Monument to Peter the Great, by Alexander M. Schenker. A serious historical work, more than 400 pages long including 50 pages of notes, 15 of bibliography, etc., but overall reads well: smooth, interesting, thick with facts without being bogged down in facts. The book covers the political intrigues, personalities, feuds, friendships, engineering, technology, art vogues, and more, related to the building of the famous equestrian statue of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg. This book is in the same vein as Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King (see below), but (fair warning) is priced much higher.

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, by Ross King. Although this book is about architecture, it is also about life and politics and scandals and innovation and ingenuity and legislation and monopolies and class and warfare of Florence of the 1400s. Think David McCullough type history books. It's not quite the same, Mr. King having his own style, but it's similar. You get the big, broad picture, with context. This book is as lively as a good novel, with lots of history and science and technology, too.

Cardinal Tetras by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod. From the cover, it looks like a standard 'how to take care of your pet' book from T.F.H. Publications, which does a lot of pet care books. But it's more like a 'real-life Indiana Jones-type goes into Brazil in hopes of breaking a monopoly on fish imports into the United States' book. True-life adventure. Travel. Memoirs. A little science. Some history. Stories about early attempts to raise and breed cardinal tetras in captivity. Copyright 1980, but some of the adventures are in the 1950s. A bit of this and a bit of that, loosely mixed, a hodgepodge, really. But not what it looks like from the outside.

China Doctor of John Day, by Jeffrey Barlow and Christine Richardson. Herbalist Ing Hay was a legend in his own time, and he and storekeeper Lung On of the Kam Wah Chung & Co. remain two of the most beloved historical figures in my neck of the woods (central/eastern Oregon). This book is the only book I know that tells Ing Hay's story.

Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn, by Larry Colton. Not my cup of tea at all, but an eye-opener. Reminded me of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Nonfiction. A hard slog in places, and with language and content issues. But interesting, and different.

Dear Mad'm, by Stella Walthal Patterson. Relates the adventures and misadventures of a delightful lady who decided - at the age of 80, mind you - to go off by herself and manage a placer mine in the north California mountains for a year. From the 1950s, but still in print, and still a kick.

The Electra Story: Aviation's Greatest Mystery, by Robert J. Serling. Also published as The Electra Story: The Dramatic History of Aviation's Most Controversial Airliner. Out of print and usually hard to find, but a compelling read if you can find a copy you can afford. Nonfiction. The Lockheed Electra airliner was a pilot's dream to fly - but in late 1959 and again in early 1960, an Electra went down. In both cases, investigators concluded that a wing (or two) had snapped off in flight. Answers had to be found, and fast.

Father and the Angels, by William Manners. I wish someone would put this memoir back in print. There's no reason I should like a book about the boxer son of an orthodox rabbi in Ohio - except that it's a wonderful book, wise and funny, refusing to fit stereotypes. I read the abridged version, published by Scholastic in 1966. The original was published in 1947.

The Generous Years: Remembrances of a frontier boyhood, by Chet Huntley. Not what I expected from the famous news anchorman. An interesting read.

Hard Bargain: How FDR Twisted Churchill's Arm, Evaded the Law, and Changed the Role of the American Presidency, by Robert Shogan. From the title, I was expecting more slant, but up until the last chapter it's a pretty straightforward, well-documented look at history as it unfolded rather than any sort of advocacy book. FDR is neither demonized nor put on a pedestal, but treated as a working politician, weighing one goal against another, principle against expediency. It's a good read, but not a fast one. I'd recommend it for history buffs, WW II military buffs, and anybody trying to get a handle on how the United States government morphed into its present shape and size. Lots of endnotes, extensive bibliography.

Haunted by A Paintbrush: A True Story, by Al Price with Margaret Friskey. Inspiring, different children's book about the life of a Chicago artist who might have had his career ended with an injury to his right hand - but who came back better than before after learning to paint left-handed. Nonfiction. 1968.

How to Wrap 5 Eggs: Japanese Design in Traditional Packaging, by Hideyuki Oka, 1967. An interesting book to look at, but also a good one to watch for at yard sales and thrift stores if you're into treasure hunting. Twice now I've been able to sell a used copy of this book for more than $100. Copies in really good condition sometimes sell for $500 or more. The sequel, How to Wrap 5 More Eggs, is also collectible, but the prices aren't quite as high. Unique, fun, informative, with a catchy title and good resale potential - what's not to like?

I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven. Some people dismiss this book as simplistic and naive and maudlin. I prefer to think of it as only deceptively simple.

"In God We Trust": The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers, by Norman Cousins. Nonfiction. Cousins provides some background and commentary, but he mostly lets Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Jay and Thomas Paine speak for themselves via pertinent material from relevant letters, diary entries and official papers. From 1958.

In the Teeth of the Evidence, by Dorothy Sayers. Short stories, originally published 1940. Two Lord Peter Wimsey short stories, five Montague Egg stories, and ten "other" stories.

Jim the Boy, by Tony Earley, 2000. Recommended, even for those who have become wary of contemporary fiction. It feels pre-PC.

John and Tom, by Willem Lange. This wonderfully illustrated children's book tells the true story of a remarkable Morgan horse named Tom, who rescued a young man pinned by a fallen tree in the winter-cold woods of Vermont. Illustrated by Bert Dodson.

Litigation as Spiritual Practice, by George J. Felos. This falls under the "know thy enemy" category. Strange and disturbing. Written by the lawyer who headed the campaign to kill Terri Schiavo. In this book, he tells of his sometimes desperate search for spiritual meaning and how he found it in 'helping' people 'die with dignity'.

Maudie in the Middle by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Lura Schield Reynolds. Children's fiction based upon Mrs. Reynold's childhood in the early 1900s. Eight-year-old Maudie is secretly campaigning to be named her aunt's godchild, and is, without telling anyone what she's up to, trying to be perfect in Aunt Sylvie's presence. It's not possible, of course, for any child to be perfect, and Maudie has a knack for getting into trouble, despite her repeated attempts to be as good as she possibly can be. Has some wonderful descriptions of life on an Iowa farm a hundred years ago.

More Poem Portraits by James J. Metcalfe (1951). Light verse, in a distinctive style, about everyday life, with great attitudes, terrific rhythm, normal people, humor, longing, faith, love. Pleasant. Witty. Upbeat. (I found it to be a great book for reading in the hospital...)

Mrs. Jeffries mysteries, by Emily Brightwell. A fun, clean, Victorian 'British cozy' mystery series.

No Entry, by Manning Coles. This novel, c. 1958, features trips back and forth between East and West Germany, and puts across the differences in the lives of the people under the different regimes. This sobering message, however, doesn't get in the way of the adventure. Never fear, when British agent Tommy Hambledon is on a case unusual circumstances are almost sure to follow, not to mention lots of action.

The Ordinary Princess, by M. M. Kaye. M.M. Kaye, known for sweeping historical novels like The Far Pavilions and Shadow of the Moon, and for her mystery/romantic suspense books (Death in Zanzibar, Death in Kenya, Death in Cypress, Death in Kashmir, Death in Berlin, etc., etc.), also, once upon a time, sat down under an apple tree in Kent and, fed up with fairy tales that featured only gorgeous princesses, wrote a small gem. Usually marketed to young girls, but witty enough for adults to enjoy.

Penguin English Dictionary, 2nd Edition. This one covers Australian, British, Canadian, North American, Northern English, New Zealand, South African, and Scottish contributions to the language, plus a few key archaic words and phrases, in addition to the worldwide or more standard words and phrases. Bless their hearts; they include phrases. And word histories. I sometimes just browse inside for the fun of it.

Prairie Cooks: Glorified Rice, Three-Day Buns, and Other Recipes and Reminiscences, by Carrie Young and Felicia Young. For those who like their recipes served up with memories (or their memories served up with recipes ;-), Carrie Young writes of her childhood on a farm in western North Dakota "before, during, and after the Dust Bowl."

Prehistoric Mammals Coloring Book by Jan Sovak. It shows over 40 species, from rodent to whale, gopher to woolly mammoth, saber-tooth to Irish elk. Animals are shown in habitats, doing things. Admittedly there are more bared fangs and life-and-death battles than in your general coloring book, but it's not gory.

The Privateer, by Josephine Tey. One of my favorite books by this author, and not at all in her usual line. Historical fiction, about the life and times of Henry Morgan (1635-1688), who helped push Spain out of key portions of its American empire. Like in The Daughter of Time, the author looks at history, and puts her own stamp on it, convincingly. If you avoid historical fiction like the plague because of the strange use of the language, you'll appreciate Tey's approach here. As she said in the Author's Note: "If the characters in the story did not sound quaint to each other, then they have no right to sound quaint to us." Minor warning: there's no gratuitous bad stuff, but this is a violent time period and privateers we're talking about, and the author doesn't make ugly stuff pretty.

Roman Hasford, by Douglas C. Jones. I didn't read this. But a man whose opinion I value said he didn't think I'd like it but it was the best book he'd read in a long time (and he reads a lot). Also published under the title Roman. Winner of the Spur Award for Best Historical Novel in 1987.

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. Lewis does a masterful job of skewering people who build facades of either righteousness or sophistication. On its surface it's a simple story: Screwtape, the experienced devil, has his work cut out for him trying to explain to apprentice devil Wormwood how on Earth to corrupt people. It's what runs under the surface that can get so interesting. Originally published 1941. For a semi-related post, see Meghan Cox Gurdon: Screwtape Revisited.

A Shelter Sketchbook, by John S. Taylor. A fun book, as well as instructive. Taylor studied regional, and sometimes ancient, building features designed to handle local conditions - natural air conditioning systems in the Middle East, passive solar designs of Pueblo Indians, etc., and presents them in sketches.

Study in Sisu: Finland's Fight For Independence, by Austin Goodrich. This 1960 book is out of print, and of course history has veered a little since it was written, but it's a great reminder that more than once in the past when the Finns were up against overwhelming odds, enough of them mustered the deep strength they needed to fight back hard enough and smart enough and long enough to win.

The Third Life of Per Smevik, by Ole Rolvaag. Fiction, but based on Rolvaag's own experiences as a young immigrant to America. Originally written under a pen name because he thought it was too personal. I reread this one every few years, just because.

A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison. This 1972 novel was marketed as science fiction, which it is - which is to say that much of it is based on solid science, with mind-stretching guesses about the possibilities of technology. But it's also an alternate history book and a rip-roaring adventure book, with very funny jabs at popular culture in the 1960s and 1970s, but with sad and solemn places, too. And there's a romance woven in as well, from the guy's point of view. Quirky, unusual, fun, albeit with wild and abrupt changes of pace and style. It's an odd book, but I've put a copy aside to re-read in a year or two, just for the fun of it (and also because it seems like the type of book where you could miss stuff the first go-round). Fair warning: my copy, a Tor paperback, second printing, has too many typos for comfortable reading. (Grrrr.) Also published as Tunnel Through the Deeps.

Turncoats, Traitors and Heroes: Espionage in the American Revolution, by John Bakeless, c. 1959. I haven't read this book, but did read Spies of the Revolution by Katherine and John Bakeless, Scholastic, 1966. It's aimed at school-age kids, and is based on Turncoats, Traitors and Heroes. I read Spies of the Revolution several years ago and haven't seen the early days of our country in the same light since. Interesting stuff. I expect the book for grown-ups would be even more interesting. At a guess.

Washington Goes to War, by David Brinkley. Nonfiction. Funny, sad, eye-opening, well worth a read, especially if you're tired of the historically-challenged utopians who are just sure that government during World War II ran like clockwork compared to today.

Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture, by Mario Salvadori. A good overview for laymen.

The Yellow Coach, by Elisabeth Kyle, 1976. Juvenile historical fiction, set in France during the Revolution. A servant girl at a remote country inn and her friend Jacques try to help King Louis, Marie Antoinette, and their two children sneak out of France. Somewhat poignant book - the servant is the same age as the royal daughter, and is afraid the girl so like herself will be guillotined if caught.

Yorkie Doodle Dandy: A Memoir: Or the Other Woman Was a Real Dog, by William A. Wynne. Self-published, with some of the problems commonly found in homegrown books, but a wonderful story. It's about a Yorkshire Terrier found in New Guinea during World War II who went on to an entertainment career in the United States. During the war, Smoky was put to work - everything from helping set up an air base to entertaining troops - and also flew along on photo recon missions. Nonfiction.

Your Teens and Your Teens and Mine, by Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Ferris. A combination memoir and self-help/advice book for teenage girls which covers such things as being afraid, gaining self-confidence, getting along with people, being one of a family, learning to think, going steady, exploring in books, being a citizen, getting the most out of travel, getting married, and more, with points illustrated by events and lessons from the former first lady's life.

You Shall Know Them, by Vercors. Vercors, more famous for publishing things during World War II that made the Nazis unhappy, set his sights in this book on the insanity of the mid-twentieth-century debates about whether black people were as fully human as white people. So he illustrated absurdity with absurdity. Suffice it to say Vercors wrote a murder mystery in which the murderer happily confesses but the mystery that must be solved is whether the victim is human or animal. A good read as well as a dead-on social satire. My copy is a 1953 English translation. Originally published in French as Les animaux denatures. Also published as The Murder of the Missing Link.

The Zimmermann Telegram, by Barbara W. Tuchman. Nonfiction. A wonderfully detailed account of the high-stakes showdown and war of nerves after Britain discovered, during World War I, that Germany was trying to arrange for Mexico and Japan to attack the United States, to keep the U.S. on its side of the Atlantic. From 1958.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Semicolon: Reading Lists

Sherry at Semicolon is compiling reading lists, both what you read in 2005 (good, bad and indifferent), and what you plan to read in 2006.

The Gift of Freedom

A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America
A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America

Mark Lasswell, The Wall Street Journal's deputy books editor, discusses A Gift of Freedom, by John J. Miller (Encounter Books, October 2005), and the legacy of the John M. Olin Foundation, in Investing in Ideas: How John Olin and William Simon helped create the conservative counterintelligentsia (OpinionJournal, December 28, 2005).

An interview with "The Undercover Economist"

Lisa Scherzer of interviews Tim Harford, a Financial Times magazine columnist, former World Bank official, and author of the recently released book The Undercover Economist, in Spilling the Beans on Starbucks.

The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!
The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!

hat tip: "Charbucks" No Threat to Starbucks, Judge Rules by Matt Rosenberg. The Day TV Came to Town

Donald Pittenger is of an age to remember watching television for the first time (he had just turned nine years old). He combines his reminiscences with a bit of overall television history, in The Day TV Came to Town.

These days, (like a surprising number of people I run across) he doesn't even have a television set.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Elephants in Academia: The Homeland Security agent ate my paper!

Academic Elephant has heard some excuses in her day, but the hoax dreamed up by the guy who said Homeland Security paid him a visit because he requested a copy of 'The Little Red Book' from interlibrary loan was a new one.

She has a theory about this case. If I might try to paraphrase it: There are students who are on to those professors who are blinded by Bush paranoia, and are willing to exploit that. Let her explain.

Semicolon: December 28, 1732

Sherry at Semicolon has a post on Benjamin Franklin and Poor Richard's Almanack, which includes a link to a website called The Electric Ben Franklin (which right now is trumpeting that January 17, 2006, is Franklin's 300th birthday).

Sherry shares a few pearls from Poor Richard to get people in the right frame of mind, then invites folks to leave their New Year's resolutions in the comments. That's if, as she says, you "want to hold yourself accountable by leaving your new year's resolution in the comments..."

The ball's in your court... - Some Unhappy With State's New Welcome Signs

Notice to folks in Colorado - those "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" signs along highways at entry points are threatened. A faux-flagstone sign saying "Welcome to Colorado" is proposed to replace them. Go here for more, including pictures and a survey.

There's more than one type of Idaho spud, you know (or maybe you don't...)

The Idaho Spud candy bar is an acquired taste. Around here, I'm about the only one who seems to like them and, I have to admit, I tend to go hot and cold on the strangely textured and uniquely flavored candy. It's fun, though, to watch people's reactions to them on a store shelf. Some people (the uninitiated) look puzzled, others cringe, and others light up. This is not your generic candy, thank you. People form opinions on it.

Luckily for the small independent candy company that makes them, the oddness, or perhaps I should say the uniqueness, appeals to consumers to the tune of about 3 million bars of the chocolate-covered, potato-shaped candy a year, according to Candy bar inspired by Idaho spuds a seller, an article written by Anne Wallace Allen for the Associated Press, and picked up at

For recipes using the Idaho Spud bar, go here.

For Idaho Candy Company history, go here. From that section, here's a nice tribute to an employee:

Idaho Candy Company's most famous employee is most definitely Violet Brewer. Vi began work at Idaho Candy in 1913 when her mother took ill and Vi had to work to help support the family. Vi was only 13 years old at the time and her first job was stoking the furnace. Later on she became the premier hand chocolate dipper for the company. Vi dipped and rolled chocolates for 50 years and later went to the weighing department where she worked for another 30 years. Vi finally retired in 1995, 82 years after she started with the company.

To mail order directly from the company, go here. In addition to the Idaho Spud, there's the Old Faithful Bar, the Cherry Cocktail Bar, and Owyhee Butter Toffee. (Owyhee, by the way, is a variant form of Hawaii, and the pronunciation is similar, sans the starting "h". If you go to the company history page, there's an explanation.)

And, no, I don't have any connection to the company. I just love it that a small, independent candy manufacturer is still making candy more than a hundred years after its founding, using some of the same equipment earlier employees used at the same factory in the early 1900s. Call it a love of tradition, if you like.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Book note: High Towers (and the founding of New Orleans)

Going through a box of used books, I just ran across a copy of High Towers by Thomas B. Costain (Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York, 1949), which says on the inside front jacket flap: "A Magnificent Historical Romance Chronicling the Adventures of the Fabulous Le Moyne Family of Montreal Who Became the Heroes of French Canada and Founded the Storied City of New Orleans".

I thought I'd mention it, just in case you'd like to read something about New Orleans other than what you get in the papers these days.

Costain himself didn't claim that this was exactly a chronicle. In his introduction he notes that there was limited information, and almost no descriptive material, on the ten brothers he'd chosen to rescue from oblivion. But, he said, "...They achieved remarkable things under extraordinary circumstances, the most notable being the conquest of Hudson's Bay and the discovery and settlement of Louisiana. The hint of a great conception can be sensed in the things they did, nothing less than the mastery of a continent..." Finding too many gaps in the record to write a factual treatment, he said, he decided the only way available to tell their story was in "the guise of historical fiction."

Hmmm. My North American history instruction in both public school and college was pretty sketchy, at best, but I've tried to fill in some of the gaps since I got out of school. However, I'm not remembering anything about a great French-Canadian family, period. Hmmmm. Nor does the name Le Moyne ring any bells. Sigh. Another lamentable gap in my knowledge makes itself known...

I have been dipping into the book here and there, and have been treated to some great descriptions, nice vignettes, and one passage that had me laughing out loud. Of course, you understand, I have a weakness for historical fiction and for fiction from the 1940s. And, for a bonus, it was written by an author who was big in his day.

If you'd like a good laugh, you may picture me putting it into the box of books to go to the bookstore for sale, and taking it out again, and putting it back in again, and taking it out again... What can I say? Some books are harder to let go out the door than others. ;-).

This title is out of print, but I just checked and there are a few hundred used copies for sale online right now.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Susette Kelo got to have this Christmas at home, but...

Melanie Kirkpatrick of the Wall Street Journal talked with Susette Kelo in her New London, Conn., home just before Christmas. New London hasn't backed off trying to take Kelo's home away, so where she'll spend next Christmas is anyone's guess at this point. See Home for Christmas for the December 24 article at

The great back yard rabbit hunt

Several days ago, maybe a week ago now, a small herd of children appeared at the front door of the house we’ve just moved into. They were a mumbling lot, and hadn’t quite agreed on the approach to take with me, but the message was finally conveyed that they were here to try to catch their ‘wild rabbits’ and they hoped it was all right with me for them to go into the back yard, where the rabbits are. I gave permission, and have had several days’ free entertainment since.

Sometimes there have been five children running about, other times only two or three. Mostly though, it has been one boy, upper grade school age at a guess, who began his mission by sitting quietly out in the vacant lot behind our back yard and inching his way toward the bunnies.

These bunnies, you understand, are domestic rabbits, one white, one black, rather docile, and perfectly content to scrounge in the vacant lot and my back yard. They look fat and healthy. Before the children came, one of them used to come sit on the back porch to watch the world go by. I haven’t seen the rabbits in a couple/three days. But the children keep coming, sometimes for hours on end.

The solitary boy, the most diligent of the lot, has long since given up on being a rabbit whisperer and spends great gobs of time jumping up and down on the back porch, which is wooden and elevated (I guess you could call it a deck, if you wanted to get fancy). I suppose he thinks he will scare them out of hiding. This suggests to me that he knows very little about rabbits, or else I know very little about rabbits, one or the other. I have considered handing him carrots to try to lure the creatures with, but I haven’t had the heart.

So often, you see, when I look out, I can see that he is not exactly just a boy trying to catch a rabbit. If he’s not all the way up into saving the world single handedly in his mind, sometimes I think he’s edging that way. There are mighty adventures going on in his head, at any rate. I don’t know if he’s stalking dragons or tracking outlaws, or just what exactly, but he’s got his brain going. And he’s getting his exercise, too. When he isn’t making maximum sound by making mighty leaps on my porch, sometimes he is running full tilt (often toward a possible hiding spot, apparently in a wild hope that he's outguessed the rabbits). And then there are the quiet times. I never would have guessed that a boy that age could stand stock still for as long as he does sometimes, staring at the den under the storage shed, waiting for a rabbit, or something, to dare to stick out its head. So far I’ve only seen stray cats come out from there, and go under, but what do I know? Something had to dig that den, and likely it wasn’t cats. Truly.

When I was his age, I lived in a house that bordered on a vacant lot in a small town. That vacant lot was almost always full of kids. We played baseball. We played tag. We played king of the hill. We dug holes to China. We also built traps, variously called elephant traps and Cadillac traps, which were holes which we carefully covered with sticks and grass and then with dirt, in the express hope of making our friends fall into them. No one ever got seriously hurt, and we got to practice our ingenuity and negotiating skills no end (if you build Cadillac traps and catch somebody, you better be ready to convince them they got caught fair and square – or else you’d better be a fast runner and willing to be a hermit, locked inside your house, until they cool off).

I tried to take a walk every day this summer and fall. One of the things that struck me on those walks was that there were empty parks and vacant lots. The parks were well kept, but had more echoes than activity most days. I know this town has children, quite a few of them, really – but they don’t seem to go outside and play by themselves much. I’d see some in organized games – soccer, baseball – but rarely in games they got up themselves. The vacant lots of my day were vacant only of buildings. These days, they are vacant of children, too, for whatever reason or reasons.

I think that’s a loss.

At any rate, I’ve found this week that I have a high tolerance for the noise of a little boy jumping up and down on a wooden porch. It seems a small price to pay to let a little boy be simply a little boy for a while, all noise and whirlwind and schemes.

At some point I might suggest a new approach, in case the point of the exercise really is to catch the rabbits.

For now, though, I think I’ll let the kids do it their way. I’m having too much fun.

bardseyeview: Shakespeare and Judaism

Jeremy Abrams, a Jewish lover of Shakespeare, takes a look at Shakespeare's disdain of Judaism and Jews, and provides a bit of context. (Via Bookworm.)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I'm back (more or less)...

I've been off the Internet for ten days (except for about a half an hour the other day, on someone else's computer). It was very strange, not being able to look things up, check e-mail, or follow the news, etc. But I've put my time to good use, for the most part.

We got most of the household moved the first couple of days, but had to deal with recently repaired plumbing that decided to not stay repaired (no main bathroom, kitchen iffy) and a few other glitches (since fixed). We're still getting all the business stuff rearranged and hauled around. Today we finally strung a phone line to my new office, which has me, my chair, my table, my computer, a light, and that's it so far. We plan to line the walls with shelves, which will let me move my library, which is still at the old apartment. I've been meaning to cull my library for years now, but haven't. So that ought to be quite a job, hauling those books across. But it ought to be fun. I can't remember the last time I could have all my books in one room. Usually I have to fit a few in the living room, some in the bedroom, and the rest wherever we can find room.

We had four hale and hearty young folks (each twenty years old, give or take a few years) help us with the main move. They made it look almost easy. Since this move involves going across the street and down just a couple of doors, we hauled most of it by hand and by handtruck instead of loading and unloading from vehicles. The post office is between the old place and the new place. Some of the folks who work at the post office somehow didn't get the memo that we were moving, and I guess were vastly puzzled and a little concerned at the furniture and boxes walking out of our place. At any rate, when I knocked on the door a week ago Saturday to pick up a package, the woman who gave me my package hesitated, and then asked, "Are you guys moving?" and then looked relieved when I said we were. "We kept seeing furniture," she said. :-)

(Side note: We only have partial post office service Saturdays around here. If you get a slip in your post office box saying you have a package on Saturday, you either knock on the door to the sorting room before noon, or you wait until Monday.)

We waited to bring the cats across until the bulk of stuff was over. They have become new cats. They did not necessarily like being hauled into new surroundings, but once the shock was over, they have been having a heyday. George found her way to the top of the bedroom door this morning, from which perch she made me rather nervous when I got within pouncing range. She has never done a door perch before this, that I know about. Gracie has decided that her current calling is to hunt spiders, real and imaginary. My husband, poor fellow, has a very large scratch across his forehead, from when he accidentally got between her and a spot on the wall, which I assume she mistook for a spider. (This cat, you understand, is usually lethargic. The new surroundings have done her good, I guess. Something got unleashed, at any rate.)

Speaking of my husband, ahem, I should probably tell you that I have discovered that there are two rules for moving a man on oxygen therapy. One, after moving an oxygen concentrator, always check to make sure that all the settings and connections are in proper order. Two, always have a tank of oxygen on hand, in case anything goes wrong with the recently jostled oxygen concentrator. He's fine, but not because we were smart. Somehow in all the activity, everybody thought that somebody else had taken care of doublechecking the connections, etc. Five thirty in the morning our first night here, he wakes me up because he realizes that he's not getting enough oxygen and probably hasn't been for hours. The middle of the night after a long, hard, physically exhausting day I'm not too quick on the uptake, but I hauled out of bed and started checking like crazy. It turned out that the hose wasn't on tight, for one, and the hose had gotten so twisted that the air flow was compromised, for another. Luckily, he's no longer what they call "brittle" and we got away with it. Yikes, though. (Overall, though, knock wood, he's doing well.)

I used to think that talking about sick people in terms of "he likely won't make it to Thanksgiving, and certainly will be gone by Christmas" was a rather odd way of looking at things. No more. Not after this year. Not after feeling the relief and gratitude and joy of having him here for the holidays. Not that we did anything special this year. Yesterday we went to the hardware store and bought a few things for the new house, including new drinking glasses. We've been married long enough now that the drinking glasses are in odd ones and twos and threes, survivors of different sets. So now we have a full, matched set, shaped in a way that's easier for my husband to hold when the MS gets nasty. This was a Christmas of little things like that. Mostly we just rejoiced in being together. A big gift, that.

I didn't decorate. I haven't a clue where the Christmas decorations are right now, to be honest with you. Somewhere in storage, I assume. Even if I'd found them, I'm too busy getting the basics set up. The bathroom has no drawers in the cabinet, for instance, and I've never had to organize a bathroom without drawers. (Book lover hint: To keep books from getting wavy pages from being left in the bathroom, try putting them in a drawer, if you have a drawer that shuts tightly, in a cabinet with no dampness problems.) I'm still making the kitchen workable. The dining room needs lighting. Then there's that library to move. There are no real closets here, either. There are shelves to install, and curtains to fix. Decorations would have been in the way.

I still haven't checked even half of my accumulated e-mail yet. Nor have I made the rounds of my usual sites yet. I expect I'll be a bit out of touch for a while yet. We only got television service a couple/three days ago, so I've been without both Internet and television.

Dare I say it? It was a nice break, not being bombarded with bad news, foul language, and lousy attitudes for a change.

On the other hand, I've missed my contacts in the blogosphere.

We've got the easy part of the move behind us, but there's still lots to do. I've got to finish getting us out of the apartment. Beyond that, we have the inventory for the online bookstore moved - but not the shipping room. At present, we verify orders in one place, pull the books from another, and then have to haul the books across the street to the shipping room. (Luckily we're good at laughing at ourselves.) For a while, things will get more complicated, but in the end it should be simpler to run the bookstore than before. That's the plan, anyway.

So, 'til later.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

There will be a short pause while we move...

Tonight is the last night living in this place. Tomorrow friends will converge from several quarters and chaos will reign for a few days (at least) as we move home and hearth. Blogging must go on the back burner for a while, I'm afraid.

In the meantime, may I suggest you browse through my links?

For starters, you might want to check out some of these:

American Future
A Rose By Any Other Name
Betsy's Page
Bookworm Room
Brothers Judd
Cafe Hayek
Daddy's Roses
Dewey's Treehouse
Elephants in Academia
Expat Yank
Liberty and Lily
Mommy Life
No Left Turns
Notes in the Key of Life
Our Blue Castle
Seraphic Secret
Slobokan's Site O' Schtuff
Suitably Flip
The Common Room
The Paragraph Farmer
Transatlantic Intelligencer

"This Land Is Not Your Land: Judges go wild"

Kimberley A. Strassel, a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, takes a look at the ongoing fight by Oregon citizens to regain property rights taken away by the state, in This Land Is Not Your Land.

IRAQ THE MODEL: We got our purple fingers! (updated)

Iraq the Model has extensive coverage of the Iraqi elections.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Is this cricket?

Not that I understand the actual game of cricket (I don't), but I did grow up knowing -- and using -- the phrase "that's not cricket" to say that somebody was breaking a code of honor or otherwise not living up to the ideals of fair play. Or we'd ask "Is that cricket?" as a way of suggesting that maybe someone was treading in ethically treacherous territory, and might be well advised to back up and reconsider.

At any rate, I think of cricket as having high standards of sportsmanship, decency, and a reverence for letting the best man win. After all, it's used as the example of that linguistically.

Now I find that there's cricket and then there's cricket.

From a photo caption in The Great Courses Magazine published by The Teaching Company, in an article about the course Peoples and Cultures of the World, taught by Professor Edward Fischer, Vanderbilt University, I find (underneath a photo of dark-skinned, bushy-haired guys in loincloth and ankle bracelets and upper armbands and not much else, moving around on what looks to be a cricket field):

The British introduced the game of cricket to the Trobriand Islanders, who subsequently modified it to fit their cultural model. In the Trobriand version, the winner is picked before the match starts based on which team's chief has more prestige.

Hmmm. Sounds more like a certain variety of political convention than a cricket match...

At any rate, ahem, it definitely strikes me as "not cricket" to pick a winner instead of playing the game and seeing who comes out on top fair and square. Don't you think so?

...Pause while blogger googles a bit... OK, so we're talking about the New Guinea region. I should have guessed...

Oops. We're in trouble -- or at least I'm getting conflicting information right off the bat. Searching for "Trobriand", "Island" and "cricket" I'm getting a lot of hits, and with the first one I pull up, a lecture by Murray G. Phillips, Centre for Sport Studies, University of Canberra on "Cultural Variations on Sport," I get (emphasis mine):

...How has the tradition Western version of cricket been modified to suit the Trobriand Islanders?

The game was transformed in many ways. Perhaps the biggest change was that the home team was always the winner - this according to our definition does not constitute a sport. In addition, the visiting teams batted first. Each out was followed by a celebration. The bowling action was not traditional. Runners as well as batsmen. Bat and ball were not regular. They bowled alternately from each end. There was no limit to the number of players. Scoring varied considerably with 6 runs being scored by a lost ball, or hitting the ball over the coconut tree. Umpire was from the batting side, and when sides changed so did the umpire. There were ritual entrance dances. There was the mascot dressed as a tourist. Instead of trophies, there was an exchange of food with the home team putting on the feast.

But more than changing the rules and format of the game, it also meant totally different things for the Trobriands. It was introduced as a substitute for intertribal warfare...

I have to agree that this does not constitute a sport. If you pick the winner ahead of time, it can be a game, perhaps, but it can't be a sport.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for letting the toddler beat you in a foot race now and then, or discreetly fumbling a baseball so that a third grader gets the thrill of just beating the ball to home plate, but, for pity's sake, for grown men to adjust their play to make sure that other grown men win, well... shucks... how disappointing.

I know. I know. Some guys let their bosses win as a matter of course, and tradition holds that you don't necessarily want to beat a Senator on a golf course, especially while the press is watching, but...

I'm probably not as disappointed as bookies might be, the outcome of the game not being in doubt, but still...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Touchstone Magazine - Mere Comments: How To Rescue a Hamster

David Mills now has experience in retrieving a hamster from a heating duct, and shares what worked. :-)

Dartmouth, the Supreme Court, property rights, and state authority (in 1819)

Dartmouth College was chartered December 13, 1769. More on its history here. (Via Today in History, at American Memory, The Library of Congress.)

Both links have information on the Dartmouth College Case (1819), in which Daniel Webster argued before the United States Supreme Court that the college was a private entity, protected from state regulation by the contract clause of the United States Constitution.

"IRAQ THE MODEL: Iraqis abroad cast their votes!"

More Iraqi election coverage, from Mohammed at the Iraq the Model blog.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Betsy's Page -- Perspective

Apparently when some college students were asked which historical period in American history was the most trying, many thought that today's period was. As Betsy Newmark notes, these kids "don't know from trying." She shares a ranking made by historians.

Wittingshire: Music on the Corner

Food for thought.

From the essay Music on the Corner by Amanda Witt:

...Live music played by amateurs is an offering. They aren't expecting to make a fortune off it; they aren't marketing it. They love something, and they offer it to us in hopes that we will love it, too.

They can only offer us this thing they love by investing themselves in it, so musicians--and especially amateur musicians--make themselves vulnerable in a way that we seldom see these days, in an age when children isolate themselves behind headphones and video games, adults hide behind computer screens and cell phones, and even lovers, under the tutelage of Hollywood, forego the vulnerability of romance...

A blast from the past -- James Thurber does Hemingway for Christmas

Sherry at the Semicolon blog took the occasion of the anniversary of James Thurber's birthdate (December 8, 1894) to link to "A Visit from Saint Nicholas (In the Ernest Hemingway Manner)" by James Thurber, from the December 24, 1927, issue of the New Yorker. Her post here.

She also has a post on Poinsettias, with some history attached.

IRAQ THE MODEL: The voting has begun!

Omar at the Iraq the Model blog reports on early voting in Iraq's second parliamentary elections.

Burt Prelutsky

Burt Prelutsky is a columnist who is new to me, but anybody who was a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine and is openly rightwing (these days, at least), and who writes a book with a title like this --

Conservatives Are from Mars, Liberals are From San Francisco: A Hollywood Conservative Comes out of the Closet
Conservatives Are from Mars (Liberals are From San Francisco): A Hollywood Conservative Comes out of the Closet

-- has to be put into the 'interesting persons' category, yes? Maybe?

Just so you can decide for yourself, his articles/columns so far at include:

Going to the Movies

The Jewish Grinch who stole Christmas

The unliberal left

Prelutsky also wrote for several television shows, including some of my favorites. From his bio at (ellipsis in original):

For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either.

He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Duke.

OK, so he likes to be cute. Nobody's perfect.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Seraphic Secret: What is Love?

Ooh. Children explain what love is. Good stuff.

Robert and Robert look at the carnage left in the wake of "peace movements"

Robert Tumminello of the Expat Yank blog recently suffered through a Sunday sermon in which the priest implied that if you took away guns, we could have worldwide nirvana. That was a bit too much for the historically-informed Robert, who couldn't resist asking (not during the sermon, thanks, but afterward, on his blog...) "I gather that no one ever was killed in conflict prior to the invention of gunpowder?" Seriously, though, he outlines some history to take into consideration, if you'd like some better background on the subject. See his post: If Only There Were No Guns.

As a companion piece (or by itself, for that matter), I would highly recommend reading Robert J. Avrech's post Murderous Peaceniks over at the Seraphic Secret blog. As a side benefit, you'll learn about some books and films, but the main thing is a sharp, open-eyed look at history and at the incredible cost innocent people have paid because of "peace movements". (Can you say genocide?)

The books Mr. Avrech mentions include:

Guns of August
Guns of August

A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II
A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II

Films include King Vidor's The Big Parade, 1925, which he says is one of the best films about World War I, and Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick.

YOU DUPED ME LORD: Shameless Self-Promotion: Just War, Lasting Peace

Mark Mossa (of the You Duped Me Lord blog) is co-author of a book due for release next spring, called Just War, Lasting Peace. Mark and I tend to see the world differently, especially concerning the war in Iraq, but he treats me with respect when we face off in one comment section or another, and I'm happy to return the favor.

I'm hoping this book will help clear up some of the fuzziness and confusion about "just war" theories. For that matter, that it is up front about "just war" meaning different things to different people is a big step toward getting more reasonable, intelligent, and useful discussions going, as far as I'm concerned.

From a promo piece Mark quotes in his post:

While there is extensive debate over “the” just-war tradition, the forthcoming book examines three traditions or schools: that of strict non-violence or pacifism, the contemporary just-war perspective (which closely reflects developments in official Catholic teaching), and the classical just-war school. Noted proponents of the latter school have recently endorsed the idea of preventive warfare.

“We are aiming toward a broad audience, from college students and parishes to Sunday schools and justice-and-peace groups,” said senior fellow Dolores R. Leckey, the volume’s general editor. She collaborated with three coauthors: the Jesuit Conference’s John Kleiderer, Mark Mossa, S.J., and writer Paula Minaert.

Mark's post here.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sir George Young - On a Lighter Note

Those pesky Conservatives. You never know when they'll get defiant on you. ;-)

Tribune Blogs -- Dispatches: Matthew D LaPlante and books on Iraq

Matthew D LaPlante, a military and homeland security reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) recommends some books on Iraq, in response to a question prompted by this post, which mentions several ways the coverage of this war is different (including the new factor of blogs).

The November 28 post (the second link above), notes that:

Fellow Utahn Paul Holton was awarded earlier this month with Military Writers Society's Humanitarian Award for his book Saving Babylon about his work in obtaining toys and clothing for children in Iraq.

There's more on Saving Babylon: The Heart of an Army Interrogator in Iraq from Joe Katzman at Winds of Change and at Donald Sensing's One Hand Clapping. Or visit a website dedicated to the book, at Saving Babylon. Author Holton is also known as "Chief Wiggles", just in case you're trying to figure out why the name maybe sounds kind of familiar...

I'd give you a link to the book at Barnes & Noble, but I can't find it at Barnes & Noble right now. (Rats! And such a nice cover, too.) You can buy a copy directly from the Saving Babylon website. Sales of the book help fund Operation Give.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Exultate Justi: Christianity in The Swamp

Jared Keller talks about Christianity in Japan -- from 1549 (when the Jesuit Francis Xavier established a mission) -- and goes on to discuss his work with a ministry that seeks, among other things, to follow writer Shusaku Endo's advice to change strategy when it comes to dealing with Japan:

It is Endo who - in Silence - describes Christianity's initial failure in the "swamp" of Japan - a nation that, in Endo's conception, takes in everything, and inevitably changes it to suit itself. Nothing that enters Japanese culture can be completely successful in altering it. Instead, that which would create change is nearly always, itself, changed. Thus, a Western Christianity was ill-equipped to survive in this "swamp", and was quickly choked out.

Endo constantly called for a change in strategy for Christianity in Japan. He never once called for a watering down, or a change in theology, soteriology, or eschatology, despite what some would seek to believe. Instead, he was an early proponent of a Christianity that effectively handled the Apostle Paul's admonition that believers should become "all things to all people" in order to reach the lost in every culture. So long as the church insists on communicating the message of the Gospel with methods and emphases that fit the Western mindset to the exclusion of that found in places like Japan, Jesus will alway be seen as somehow foreign, and distant.

The skeleton crew at JCFN [Japanese Christian Fellowship Network] knows this, and is becoming amazingly adept at presenting a Gospel that is wholly within the pale of orthodoxy, and yet ultimately relevant to modern-day Japan...

Full Keller post

Mark Mossa wrote about Endo's Silence in October, specifically about the possibility that it might be made into a movie. I linked to his post here. (Or go directly to his post here.)

Note: Endo's first name is spelled varying ways: Shusaku, Shasaku being the most common, as far as I've noticed. This is fairly common with Japanese names, which don't always slide easily across into English.

For that matter, you should have heard my name as put into Japanese when I was over there. My two-syllable maiden name became about three-and-a-half syllables, and ended in a "u" instead of a consonant. My first name, for that matter, required a huddle of my hostesses before they agreed on what to do with it...

GM's Corner : Little Boxes On the Hillside And They're All Made Out Of Ticky Tacky...

GM Roper starts out noting a blog post on urban sprawl, jumps back to a Pete Seeger song, edges into commentary on protest songs of the 1960s, and winds up noticing that the contemporary hard Left no longer has anything to do with classical Liberalism... And somehow ties it all together...

Of course, I'm a baby boomer and remember a lot of what he's talking about... ;-)

Semicolon: What I've Been Reading

Sherry at the Semicolon blog discusses After the Ball by Patricia Beard, Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult, Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks, and The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood. The last is a young adult novel with lots of Shakespearean details, she says.

(BTW: Is there some sort of Shakespeare revival going on, or am I just stumbling across a lot of references to him lately? It seems like I hadn't heard much about him for a while, and now it feels like just about every time I turn around there's another mention or use of Shakespeare.)

Independent Online Edition : Channel-hopping shoppers make the tills ring in France

Terry Kirby of The Independent Online Edition reports that businesses in northeast France and southern Belgium do quite well catering to British Christmas buyers. Towns compete for business by putting on special events, such as fairs and Christmas Markets.

And how's this for breaking from stereotypes - the Brits who talked to the reporter stressed how pleasant and welcoming the French were for the Christmas shoppers.

Joyeux Noel!

"Germany's new gas pipeline to Russia angers neighbours"

A project to build a 774-mile pipeline under the Baltic Sea has upset countries left out of the deal, especially those where officials had hoped to be able to collect transit fees for gas shipped through overland tunnels through territory they controlled, according to Tony Paterson, writing in The Independent Online. He reports that the plan is to have the Wyborg, Russia, to Greifswald, Germany, pipeline up and running by 2010, to meet what is expected to be a doubling of demand for gas in Europe over the next decade.

Construction on the tunnel began today, with a ceremonial welding together of the first two sections of pipeline.

Ecoterrorists arrested

The federal government has arrested six people in connection with several ecoterrorist attacks in the United States, including several here in Oregon. AP story (as run on Fox News) here. - Movie Reviews: Good triumphs over evil in mythical 'Narnia'

The Boston Herald review of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by James Verniere begins:

If you go to “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” hoping to see “The Passion of the Lion King,” you are going to be disappointed. But if you go hoping for a spellbinding tale of magic and adventure that will enthrall children and even grip adults, you’re in luck...

Full review

A Rose By Any Other Name: Hope For The Future

Anna at A Rose By Any Other Name helps shine the spotlight on some kids who turned ideas into action.

The Moral of the Story: An Interview with Ralph Winter

Acton Institute's publication Religion & Liberty has an interesting interview with the producer of Fantastic Four, several Star Trek movies, several X-Men movies, Planet of the Apes, and more. See The Moral of the Story: An Interview with Ralph Winter.

hat tip: David Michael Phelps

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Don Ho Recovering From Adult Stem Cell Procedure

Jaymes Song, Associated Press writer, filed a balanced and clear report on singer Don Ho undergoing an experimental stem cell procedure using cells taken from his own blood.

Sadly, though, everywhere so far that I've seen the article - except at - has deleted much of the story, most noticably this (emphasis mine):

There were no other medical options for Ho and he did it as a "last resort," [agent Ed] Brown said.

He called the singer's heart condition, "extremely serious."

"It wouldn't hurt if the millions of his fans would start to pray for him," Brown said. "Don, as do I ... believe in the power of prayer."

The "VesCell" technology Ho underwent was developed by TheraVitae Co., which has offices in Thailand and laboratories in Israel, where Ho's stem cells were sent to be multiplied.

Dr. Robb MacLellan, associate professor of cardiology at UCLA, said a similar stem cell procedure has been used in Europe for a couple years and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved studies are currently being conducted.

"The difficulty with any new therapy, no matter how promising it looks in animal models and even in small controlled human studies, we're never really sure if it's really safe or effective until rigorous controlled studies are done," he said.

Dr. Ralph Shohet, a molecular cardiologist at the University of Hawaii medical school, said there's a lot of excitement in the medical community surrounding stem cell therapy but the risks are not yet known.

"It's entirely an experimental procedure at present," he said.

Brown noted that Ho was not participating in controversial procedures involving embryonic stem cells.

"Don did not take stem cells from a fetus. He doesn't believe in that," he said. "He took blood from his own body and re-injected that into his heart."

Full article

hat tip: GrannyGrump at RealChoice blog

UK Students for Life : Abortion poster

I hadn't seen this anti-abortion poster before today. Dynamite poster. Great idea.

Update: The blogger at the post to which I linked was kind enough to write and let me know that the graphic is from Feminists for Life. See the whole ad series here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005 - The Christmas classic that almost wasn't

Bill Nichols, writing in USA Today, looks at the perennial television special A Charlie Brown Christmas forty years after its debut. He also explains how it almost didn't get off the ground, in part because network officials were worried about Linus reading the Christmas story out of the Gospel of Luke. (They also weren't sure about the voice casting, the lack of a laugh track, and that funky piano score...)

hat tip: Brothers Judd

Update: Donna-Jean at Liberty and Lily has more, including a link to a different article.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Scotsman - Business - Inspiring new class of entrepreneurs

Scotland is actively encouraging university and college students to be entrepreneurs - and is providing training and other tangible support to back up the moral support. From Sharon Bamford, chief executive of the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) as quoted in The Scotsman:

"We are getting it right in schools now, with money from successful entrepreneurs pouring in. Until quite recently, school careers offices couldn't deal with entrepreneurs. In higher education, there has been a sea change and entrepreneurship is now seen as a skillset for graduates. It's now OK to start a business when you are at university. For many people, having the confidence just to get on with it is the key."

Before joining SIE, Bamford lectured in entrepreneurship at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, managed an incubator facility nurturing 14 young high-tech start-up and spin-out companies, and was director of the University of Edinburgh's flagship £100m science park development.

She says: "What my career has allowed me to do is to be able to identify with the often conflicting agendas of government, universities, SMEs and investors in the economic development arena...

Full article

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Austerlitz re-enacted

A few thousand people, from 23 countries, went to the Czech Republic to re-enact the Battle of Austerlitz. Even more thousands watched.

The BBC has pictures.

Robert at Expat Yank has a question...

Sophie Pons of Agence France-Presse, writing in The Washington Times Nov. 30, had a preview, in Re-enactors gather for battle of Austerlitz, complete with a bit of background on the American actor who played Napoleon for this event - and a note that the original battle was on Dec. 2, but the re-enactment was moved to December 3 since December 2 fell on a Friday and not as many people would have been able to attend.

While we're on the subject of Napoleon bicentennial observances, here's an article from February 2004, which noted that France was approaching the bicentennial of Napoleon Bonaparte's coronation "...with both embarrassment and fascination for a legend that weighs heavy, especially with its European partners...." | The heart of Narnia

Margo Hammond and Ellen Heltzel write about C.S. Lewis and Narnia and the culture wars - and about how the movie ``The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,'' which opens this week, is stirring things up. The article has some good background and interesting opinion.

Hammond and Heltzel are otherwise known as The Book Babes.

Book note: Read This Book or You're Grounded, by Wayne Rice

I just heard a radio interview with Wayne Rice, about Read This Book or You're Grounded, a book he wrote to help teenagers better understand their parents. In the interview, the author came across as someone with humor and common sense. From the same source, I understand that some youth pastors, as well as teens, are finding the book helpful. So I thought I'd give it a plug -- and then I saw the book cover. Hmmm. The cover took some of the wind out of my sails, to be honest with you.

Have you, by any chance, read or used this book? Your assessment?

Read This Book or You're Grounded
Read This Book or You're Grounded

Friday, December 02, 2005

How common is your surname?

Judson ranks 6,908th among surnames in the United States, at least in terms of how common it is, at least according to this. My maiden name, however, is right up there in the top 200, which surprises me some. I knew we were common, but I didn't think we were that common ;-).

My mother-in-law's maiden name doesn't have a ranking, only a notice that it's not among the top 55,000 most common names in the US. This does not surprise me any, since I'd never heard it before I met my husband, and since google searches using that name turn up surprisingly few hits.

Hmmm. I just checked my mother's maiden name. It's within 20 of her married name (my maiden name). That's weird. It's totally trivial and can't possibly mean anything, but what would be the chances that two people with almost equally common surnames would marry each other? (Especially with names not in the top 150?)

How about your surname?

Hat tip: Amanda Witt.

P.S. I hate to admit this, but I've just spent several minutes thinking of names, trying to guess how popular they are, and then checking my guesses against the rankings. I'm, uhm, not exactly stellar at this...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Burr in the Burgh: Flannery O'Connor Shouts to the Morally Hard of Hearing

Scott Stiegemeyer uses the author Flannery O'Connor as the centerpiece of a discussion on why "Christian writing" shouldn't always be uplifting and cheerful. He has a great O'Connor quote to go with his post:

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.

So much to do, so little time...

We currently live and work in the same building, which has suited us just fine. People who design retail stores with apartments above for the shopkeepers have our number.

But we moved our bricks-and-mortar bookstore from here to downtown a few years ago, and switched to using downstairs for our Internet bookstore, warehouse, and office space, not to mention the accumulation of random clutter, etc. It's a bit too expensive for those uses. For that matter, it's become too expensive, period, especially since my husband got seriously ill.

(For newcomers to this blog, my husband has been ill for months, and nearly died of heart failure in September. We've got some serious medical bills hanging over our heads. David's doing much better -- you may envision your middle-aged blog hostess dancing here! -- but the bottom line is that our expenses have been skyrocketing as our income goes the other way.)

So we've been looking. And looking. And have had horrible luck. Either the space we could find was inadequate or by the time we added up the rents and electric bills of separate places for offices, warehouse, and living, we weren't saving any money. If we couldn't save money, there wasn't any point in uprooting.

Last Friday, I noticed that a "For Rent" sign had popped up on the front of the house across the street and two doors down. The phone number on the sign was that of a landlord we'd rented from before, and left on good terms. He'd given us a year's warning that he wanted to build apartments where our home was, and we left the place in better shape than we'd found it. Yes, I know, leaving a place slated for probable demolition in better shape than you found it is a bit silly, but I have my pride.

My husband called on the house, the landlord gave us first dibs. My husband asked whether a small warehouse that this landlord also owns might, by any chance, be coming open any time soon. Well, yes. The lady in there has been talking about leaving the first of the year, he said. We have dibs on that, too. And this all comes just days after another landlord called to say that a storage unit had come open, did we still want one?

And, miracle on top of miracle, even adding together all the rents and utilities, etc., the total, even if we get all three places, is less than we're paying here, all told. Enough less that it makes all the sense in the world to move.

The tenant at the house finally got moved out, and we got our first look today. There are repairs that need doing: broken windows to replace, plumbing to fix, a couple roof leaks to banish, door locks to switch out. I spent a few hours cleaning today, and I've just scratched the surface. But the landlord is doing the heavy lifting: windows, leaks, plumbing, rewiring one room. And he's giving us the first month free in exchange for our cleaning the place. And he's providing paint and brushes, etc., if we want to paint.

Of all the landlords we've had, this guy was perhaps the best at showing up quickly to make repairs, if you just told him something was broken. If the departing tenant had worked with him instead of against him, I suspect the place would be in pretty good shape, more or less ready to move right into. But, then, of course, we wouldn't be getting a free month's rent. I guess it all works out.

One more blessing. The landlord didn't bat an eye when we said we had two cats. 'Sure,' he said, 'I don't mind.'

I don't mind telling you that I had given up hope of finding a place where we could keep our cats. Since Friday, knowing we had reached the point financially where we needed to move and not knowing if we could have pets in the new location, I have been holding them more often, and playing with them more. Being cats, they eyed me suspiciously when I changed the routine, but I did it anyway.

People have been coming out of the woodwork offering to help, both with clean-up and with moving. The man who oversees teenagers sentenced to community service has also offered a crew -- not that we're gung-ho on that option, but at least it's there if we need more sturdy bones and strong muscles than show up in the form of volunteers.

Our current landlord more or less expects us out by the end of the year, besides which we can't afford to pay rent here and elsewhere at the same time. So the race is on...

Two Talent Living: 2005 Blogs of Beauty Awards - And the finalists are...

I've already got a link to this over at the annex, but for those of you who missed that (easy enough to do in the annex, which is mostly links saved willy-nilly), it's a list of blogs that have been nominated for a contest which seeks to honor women who bring the beauty of Christ to the blogosphere.

The finalists have been chosen, but the nominee lists remain, so there are lots and lots of links to check out. Too fun.

Voting closes December 6. There are several categories, from Best Homemaking to Best Frugality to religion categories to humor to... well, there are several categories. Go over and have some fun. I intend to savor this list, by the way. Expect some additions to my links list.

Update: Blush. This is my week to find out by chance that I got nominated for something. No, I'm not kidding. I didn't know until just now, as I was scanning the list for unfamiliar names to check out, that I'd been nominated for a Blogs of Beauty Award. In fact, before this week I didn't know there was a Blogs of Beauty Award. Shame on me.

I'm not a finalist, but I did get nominated for Best Variety. Hah! Such a nice way of saying I have no theme around here.... ;-).

My thanks to whoever put my name into contention. I appear to be in good company over there. I'm honored. And flattered.

My thanks to Two Talent Living for hosting the contest.

For all who have never climbed a tree |

Gotta love the Internet. Back in May, Marilyn Gardner at the Christian Science Monitor looked at the diminished world of modern children who don't go outside to play, and reviewed Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. And, for those of us who missed her article before now, here it is, still providing good food for thought.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Hat tip: Live and let them live.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dueling movie reviews

Michael Phillips, a Tribune arts writer, says, in `Zorro' slashes logic of movie ratings system, that The Legend of Zorro is basically a bad movie with way too much violence for its rating. Phillips, in fact, uses it as Exhibit A for why the current movie rating system should be reworked.

But in this review by Christopher Lyon at pluggedinonline (spoiler alert!), which is aimed at nice, Christian families interested in maintaining traditional values, Lyon finds things to like about it. He has some qualms, which he spells out. But overall, he seems to think it's OK.

This is another reason I like DVDs. You can preview a movie before sharing it with someone, and you can fast forward with your eyes closed if you have to ;-).

Fingerprints may illuminate life in the womb

From New Scientist Breaking News - Fingerprints may illuminate life in the womb, by Alison Motluk, news service (November 30, 2005):

Fingerprints may provide important clues about life in the womb, and may even become useful as predictors of disease risk. US researchers, in Atlanta and New York, have now shown that differences in fingerprints between the thumb and little finger are associated with likelihood of developing diabetes later in life.

A person’s fingerprints are set for life by around the 19th week of gestation, roughly halfway through a normal pregnancy. Most organs, including the pancreas, are also formed by that time. Henry Kahn at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and colleagues decided to look at quantitative differences in ridges between the first and last fingertips – the thumb and pinkie.

The team speculated that any disturbances during their formation might also say something about the state of the pancreas, and possibly the likelihood of a person developing diabetes as they age. Diabetes results from the failure of the pancreas to produce insulin, or enough insulin, which the body needs to help it take up glucose.

The researchers studied 569 Dutch people, some of whom were in the womb during the Dutch famine of 1944 and 1945, dubbed the “hunger winter”. Kahn and his team tested the volunteers’ glucose tolerance – a measure which is abnormally high in people with diabetes – and also counted the number of ridges on their thumbs and little fingers by rolling the inked digits onto paper...

Full article