Friday, December 29, 2006

Playing card money

I have here on my desk a used book I'm getting cleaned up for the store: 1960 Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins Tokens and Paper Money: Fully Illustrated 1670 to Date, by J.E. Charlton, Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin, c. 1959.

Noted in passing, a caption on page 99:

First brought into use as a result of scarcity of regular currency - and as a temporary expedient. Playing Card Money nevertheless remained in common use for a period of approximately 75 years in French Canada. Full cards, half cards, quarter cards and even portions of clipped cards were used.

The years in question aren't listed, but the examples shown in pictures have dates on them of 1714. 1729, 1749 and what appears to be 1757. The next illustration is of "Canada's First Bank Note" issued in 1792.

That puts a different spin on "dealing" or "closing a deal" or "do you want to deal?"... ;)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Who ya calling a pup?

When it was time to check out at the grocery store today I headed for a line that had an older lady I know, hoping to have a brief chat. Well, to call it a line is stretching things. There was one person ahead of her, and she was end of the line until I joined her. She was unloading her groceries onto the belt as I came up.

The bag boy looked up, saw her, and said, "Hi, Granny."

"Does everyone call you Granny?" I asked her. We do, and I think everyone we have as mutual friends does, but somehow to have a cocky teenybopper do it with a straight face was a surprise.

"Oh, him?" she said, picking up on my surprise about the bag boy. "I've known him since he was a pup."

He wasn't sure how to take that.

The checker grinned. "He's still a pup," she volunteered, teasingly.

To this, the bag boy took offense, and said so. The checker explained to him that since she had children older than him, he was a pup.

He spent his time bagging Granny's groceries and then mine alternating between proclaiming his maturity and trying to get back at the checker for saying he was still a pup. His main tactic was to compare himself favorably with her children. Not, perhaps, a wise course of action...

He insisted on taking my cart out for me. As we went across the parking lot, which slopes down, he apparently forgot he was in the midst of a mission to prove he wasn't a pup. He jumped on the back of the cart and steered it by applying his feet to the wheels, happily zigging his way to my van. All boy. All kid. All pup. Heh.

I kept a straight face and held my tongue. He was being careful and wasn't likely to run into anybody, which I figured was the main thing.

When we got to my van, without missing a beat or batting an eye he hopped to the ground and morphed back into a grown-up, pleasant and well-mannered and helpful.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Life in a small town, holiday post office edition

Our post office is only open Monday through Friday, although between ten and noon on Saturday morning you can knock on a certain Dutch door if you've got a yellow slip in your box announcing that you have a package to pick up, and they'll go find the package for you. (These yellow slips, I might add, never get filled in like at some post offices. Probably the postal worker knows which box is yours anyway, and if he or she doesn't, you just tell them. No sense wasting forms when you can reuse them for the price of a little human to human communication.)

So, when I walked into the post office Sunday morning early to check our P.O. box, I was startled - and a bit concerned - when I saw that the top of the Dutch door was wide open. It's not even wide open on Saturdays, thanks. And this Sunday was Christmas Eve, a holiday, a day you might expect the post office to be full of echoes instead of workers.

I was relieved when the movement I saw in the back room, through the Dutch door, turned out to be the acting postmaster. I wished him a Merry Christmas and he wished me a Merry Christmas right back and we went on about our separate business.

When I got home, the mystery was explained. Several times over, the DJ on our local radio station announced that Chuck down at the post office still had a mountain of Christmas packages, and he'd be there until noon for anyone who wanted to come in to pick theirs up. If you didn't know if you had a package, you were urged to call Chuck.

Since I live quite close I sauntered back minutes before noon to check my box again, just in case something Christmas-y had slipped in at the last moment. There wasn't a yellow slip in it, but there were three pieces of mail that hadn't been there earlier in the day. Behind me, hidden behind the wall of boxes across the room, I could hear Chuck diligently sorting mail into boxes, making good use of his time waiting for latecomers.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Random acts of generosity

If I ever have money to burn, I think I'd like to do something like this. (Wouldn't you?):

A mysterious woman hopped aboard Spokane Transit Authority buses Thursday, greeted passengers with "Merry Christmas" and handed each an envelope before stepping off. The envelopes contained a card and a $50 bill.

The scene was repeated on several other buses.

The secret Santa did it so quickly that descriptions of the woman varied among surprised passengers.

Authorities said she handed out at least a thousand dollars. Spokane is in Washington state.

Full story: Bus Riders Get $50 Gift From Anonymous Woman (AP on, Dec. 22, 2006)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Those shy and sensitive wild beasts

Shortly after we opened our first bookstore, my husband stepped out the back door, only to fly back in and slam the door. It turns out he'd nearly stepped on a mountain lion standing at the bottom of the steps. This was inside a lean-to that ran along the back of the building and opened onto the parking lot, mind you, not out in the open air. The cougar had invited itself inside.

The bookstore was in a building that had been a feed store, and before that a truck repair shop, and I'm not sure what else over the years. Somebody along the way had built a floor over the service bays, leaving the deep pits as they were, and incidentally leaving enough room between the old floor and the new for a cougar to maneuver. This cougar had decided that this set-up made a perfect den. Never mind that the floor above her head housed a bookstore and computer repair shop, and that people came and went, came and went, footfall after footfall after footfall, day after day, hours every day. It was apparently a good enough den to compensate for the neighbors - hey, it even came with heat - and it turned out she accessed it through a hole near the back steps, hence my husband's close encounter of the life-endangering kind.

The Fish and Wildlife people were kind enough to come trap her and relocate her to the deeps of the forest somewhere, just before she had her kittens. (Thanks again, fellas!)

She was just one of three cougars that I remember we had trouble with in that location. One was an old cat, too crippled up and toothbare to hunt anymore. He came for the trash cans behind the building next door. The other was a young male cougar, who'd trot through the parking lot now and then, just passing through. Never mind that we were along a state highway in a town that's been around since the 1860s.

I took to running outside with warnings to anyone who let their children or pets loose to play outside. But a curious thing happened. I'd tell people that they probably shouldn't let their five-year-old run off steam beside or behind the building because we'd been having cougar sightings, and some of them got on their high horse with some variation of "What do you take me for? Cougars are wild animals and they'd give a place like this right on the highway a wide berth. Everybody knows that."

Well, no. A thousand times no. They'd found easy pickings in pet cats and dogs and trash cans, and they'd proved themselves perfectly happy to put up with the hustle and bustle and cars roaring by. (Your children don't want to hear this, but sometimes the first clue you've acquired a cougar as a neighbor is when pet dogs and cats disappear. Although they don't generally provide as much meat, they're ever so much easier to catch and kill than deer and elk, etc.)

More than once, I've seen a cougar chasing deer on the hill above the elementary school here. It's apparently a good hill for ambushing deer...

At any rate, some people do tend to vastly underestimate the ability of animals to adapt to - i.e. ignore - life's little annoyances, human-caused or otherwise. Laer's The Fish Guys And The Bear Guys post provides a pretty good illustration of the point.

hat tip: The Paragraph Farmer (includes book recommendation)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I hope we're not killing the messenger

Late last night we ordered a plant online, to be delivered by a florist a few hundred miles from here to an older relative who suffered a fall. She's OK, but she's hurting - and besides it's Christmas - so we ordered up a small but perky holly plant to be taken to her door.

This morning we see by the news that where she lives is suffering some of the worst winter weather in living memory, with stranded motorists and car wrecks all over the place.

Note to delivery people: I don't want anybody risking his neck to deliver stuff for me. That's one of the reasons I don't like to ship via 'overnight' or other such rush-rush ways, especially in the winter. I worry about delivery people, feeling pressure to get stuff somewhere, even when conditions are bad, and even when the deliveries aren't truly urgent.

I wish sometimes there was a place on order forms where I could mark a priority box, so that in blizzards the deliveryman could set aside my shipment without a qualm, waiting for a sensible time to try to get it to its destination.

If you give a gal a new cleaning agent...

Back in September, I read a Works-For-Me Wednesday post over at Fernnook Farmgirl in which the blogger said her grandmother kept her house spic and span using a bit of dishwashing detergent in water in a spray bottle. I decided I'd try it when I ran out of the spray cleaner I already had. I could see that if her suggestion worked well enough to suit me, I could save a fair amount of money.

So, I finally ran out of the other stuff, and instead of buying a refill I filled the spray bottle with water and added a small squirt of my off-brand, very inexpensive dishwashing detergent.

Tell me again, why have I been buying more expensive stuff all these years?

But here's the funny part. I tried it to see if I could save money, but once I tried it I realized that it didn't subject me to the smells I don't like about cleaning.

Once I realized that it didn't subject me to smells I don't like, it occurred to me that since it didn't fill the house up with nasty smells I could use it in the morning when my husband is still asleep. (I'm the early riser around here.) Theoretically, I could have cleaned with the other stuff, but it seems inconsiderate to jar a person out of slumber with assaults to his nose and lungs.

Once I started cleaning in the morning, I found it jumpstarted my day. I know I didn't acquire more time to do housework in, but things done before breakfast seem like bonus work, if you know what I mean? Besides, it got those chores out of the way, uncluttering the rest of the day. (Besides, if I get going before I turn my computer on, I don't get pulled off course so easily or so often. Ahem.)

Once I got cleaning in the morning, and seemed to have more time to do that sort of thing, I found I was getting my cleaning done with time to spare. So I found I was looking around for little jobs I'd been putting off...

Once I started tackling little jobs I'd been putting off, it occurred to me that I wasn't hesitating to clean surfaces with seriously diluted dish detergent that I didn't much like to clean with the other stuff. I'm still careful to rinse and dry surfaces involved in food prep, etc., but I don't have that 'gee, I wonder if I got the cleaner off enough to be safe' feeling I used to have.

Now that I wasn't worried about turning my home into a hazmat site, I got to thinking about the other tasks I put off because of the chemicals...

I hate cleaning my oven with the commercial oven cleaners, and I never do it except in good weather when I can throw open windows and doors. (I have an old kitchen. No exhaust fan.) Why soapy water wouldn't work was beyond me, so I washed the inside of the oven. This didn't get all the caked on stuff, but it got a lot even with my hit the high points and rinse twice for good measure approach - and when I made scalloped potatoes right afterward I didn't wonder what I was baking into the food. Before I baked, I preheated the oven and sniffed for good measure (and out of habit, since I always heat and smell check the oven after I've cleaned it) and for once I didn't have that sharp aftersmell that seems to go along with cleaning an oven.

I figure that I can clean my oven more often, now that it's not a major undertaking with rubber gloves and newspapers on the floor and rinse buckets and fans and open windows and locking the cats in another part of the house for their safety. I figure in the long run I'll have a cleaner oven on average than the old way. Such a deal.

Heh. Watch out. I am armed with a spray bottle, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Thank you, Laurie, for the tip. And thank your Grandma Opal for me, will you?

Update: Fixed editing error second graf.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Author note: Richard Carlson, author of `Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' books, has died

Richard Carlson, who got a lot of people to lighten up by teaching them not to sweat the small stuff, has died of a heart attack. He was only 45. He was in the middle of a book tour for his latest book, Don't Get Scrooged.

According to Jackie Burrell, reporting in the Contra Costa Times, "The family is requesting that memorial donations be made to local food banks, Challenge Day, Girls Inc. or Children Inc."

Don't Get Scrooged: How to Thrive in a World Full of Obnoxious, Incompetent, Arrogant, and Downright Mean-Spirited People
Don't Get Scrooged: How to Thrive in a World Full of Obnoxious, Incompetent, Arrogant, and Downright Mean-Spirited People

Four-legged golf hazard

If you want to play at a certain golf course near Missoula, Montana, expect to lose a golf ball or two to an unusual hazard: a fox that likes to steal balls that hit the green. Luckily, players seem to have a good sense of humor about it. has video.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gadget geekery deluxe

I can't quite comprehend the sport of having a more gadget-laden knife than the next person, but I have known some competitors in my day. For them, the new Giant Swiss Army knife (Call that a knife?, Andrew Martin, Guardian Unlimited, Dec. 6, 2006) ought to send rivals whimpering into a corner, acknowledging defeat. Or down on the floor laughing. I'm not sure which. :)

hat tip: Lars Walker

"Responding to Rangel"

James Taranto, who runs Best of the Web Today at Opinion Journal, has been printing comments from readers who have decided to respond to Rep. Charles Rangel's unflattering statements about U.S. servicemen and -women. The sixth installment ran today. Links to previous installments are at the bottom of the article. He promises more tomorrow.

I'm not sure those serving in the American military ever fit the template assigned to them by the big boys in the media and certain varieties of college professors in the last half of the 1900s. But they sure don't fit that template now. Not from what I can see.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blair's take on PC multiculturalism

If you missed British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech in which he attacked what is wrong with multiculturalism in practice, and laid out what he thought should be done about it, you can read the full text at the Telegraph. An excerpt:

Our tolerance is part of what makes Britain, Britain. So conform to it; or don't come here. We don't want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed. If you come here lawfully, we welcome you. If you are permitted to stay here permanently, you become an equal member of our community and become one of us. Then you, and all of us, who want to, can worship God in our own way, take pride in our different cultures after our own fashion, respect our distinctive histories according to our own traditions; but do so within a shared space of shared values in which we take no less pride and show no less respect.

The right to be different. The duty to integrate. That is what being British means. And neither racists nor extremists should be allowed to destroy it.

hat tip: Rush Limbaugh

Monday, December 11, 2006

Book note: Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansick

Danielle Bean has been testing some of the theories presented in the book Mindless Eating. Her post here.

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think

Clicking on the book cover will take you to Barnes & Noble, where you can read an excerpt.

Smiling at people on treadmills

Brrr. Cough. Sniff. This is cold and flu season around here, and for weeks now my husband and I have been catching one mild to moderate bug after another. Last week, I had a bug that made me feel cold no matter what I did, while simultaneously my hubby had one that made him feel overheated no matter what he did. It gets a little tricky, knowing where to set the thermostat in situations like that...

Today we both woke up fighting something that made us feel chilled, amongst other things (I'll spare you the details). But I was well enough this afternoon to do my usual work.

By late afternoon I was feeling the effects of being cooped up more than usual lately. (This is too early in the year for cabin fever. Way too early.) So I bundled up and went for a walk, just a short one, rounding a couple of blocks. I figured the fresh air and exercise would do me good, despite the rotten weather and harsh wind. (Did I mention I have a mild case of cabin fever? Or that my judgment is sometimes questionable when I'm sick?)

I am lucky in that I have several good options for walks around here. But for the purposes of this post I'll just note that most of my routes go by a certain gym on Main Street sooner or later. This gym has its treadmills facing a front window. The front window is very large. So, passersby and cars provide a show for the folks on the treadmills, and the folks on the treadmills provide a show for the passersby and people in cars.

During the spring, summer, and fall, I suppress a chuckle most days when I go past the gym. Here I am, walking just like the folks on the treadmills, albeit not so earnestly, and I'm getting fresh air and multiple opportunities to chat with neighbors over a fence. I'm getting a bit of sunshine, vital for good heath. And I'm getting all this for free. Plus I'm not making a spectacle of myself, not like the folks in leotards on treadmills, at any rate.

Today the trade-offs weren't quite so obviously in my favor. The wind was howling. It was strong enough I had to lean into it when I was facing it, and had to compensate for it when it was to my side or behind me. There certainly weren't any neighbors working in their yard for me to pass the time of day with. And yet, when I passed the gym and there was an athletic woman walking at a fast clip on one of the treadmills, I found myself suppressing a chuckle anyway. We half-glanced at each other, and my translation of the look that passed between us was that each of us thought the other person was to be pitied, just a wee bit.

For what it's worth, she is in better shape than I am. Also for what it's worth, I was enjoying myself, the wind, wet and cold notwithstanding. (Of course, I was well-bundled and it was a short walk.) She looked like she was fulfilling some grim duty.

To each her own, I guess.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Just for grins

If You Give Your Mom Some Bubble Bath is inspired by real events (as well as "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" books), Mother Auma says.

Girls will be girls... :)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Book market watch: Hanna's Christmas

If you happen to run across a nice used copy of a children's book called Hanna's Christmas by Melissa Peterson, you might want to buy it if it doesn't cost the moon. Here's why.

Of course, if we're lucky, somebody will authorize a new print run. But it doesn't seem likely at this point.

How River Rising got its name

I would be very surprised to hear that you've lost sleep wondering how Athol Dickson's book River Rising came to be called River Rising. But the acquisitions editor who snagged the book for Bethany House has the behind-the-scenes story. In my humble opinion, it helps prove that humans work in publishing after all. ;)

Athol Dickson blogs at the group blog Charis Connection, by the way.

Related previous post: New book buzz: River Rising

River Rising
River Rising

An interview with Hank the Cowdog creator John Erickson

Susan Olasky of World Magazine got author John Erickson to talk about his books, his views on storytelling and art, and what buzzards do when they're upset. The buzzard bit is gross, but his views on artists are refreshing:

WORLD: You've said that you learned from parents and teachers that your "business is not books. It's nourishment." What do you mean by that?

ERICKSON: People need good stories just as they need home-cooked meals, clean water, spiritual peace, and love. A good story is part of that process. It affirms divine order in the universe and justice in human affairs and makes people better than they were before they read it. If artists are more gifted than ordinary mortals (we keep hearing that they are), they should find order and harmony in human experience. That's what Bach and Handel did. Artists should nourish the spirit, not poison it.


WORLD: You wrote that you once received three letters in a month from mothers of autistic children. You found out later why the books connected with these kids. Would you explain?

ERICKSON: One of the mothers explained that autistic children fight a constant battle against mental chaos. They crave structure and order. My stories are tightly structured. They all have happy endings and in every story, justice is affirmed. The grotesque irony is that, while the mothers of autistic children fight day and night against mental chaos, popular culture scoops it out by the ton: frantic television images that have no coherence, movies that can't distinguish between heroes and villains, art that seems to have lost all vision of form and beauty.

Full article

hat tip: Amanda Witt

The Vocabula Review

Since I know a lot of you care deeply about not letting language slide into the gutter or get too muddy to make things clear, John Epstein's article Language Guardian (Opinion Journal, December 7) led me to The Vocabula Review, which operates under the tagline "A society is generally as lax as its language."

Ooh, that tagline hit home for a reason you might not suspect. It wasn't until I got a job as a newspaper reporter that I learned the word its. My friendly editor went nuts until I learned to not use it's where I should have used its. To this day, whenever I use it's I stop to make sure I can turn it into it is or it has. Just to make sure. Just because I drove a lady bonkers in my former ignorance. Silly, I know. For those of you who are new to the word its, the way I remember to use it is to think of it as being in the same verbal basket as his and hers and ours.

Of course, the tagline hit home for other reasons. Words matter. Misusing words can make communications difficult and reasoning muddled. I'm far from being a good role model on matters of grammar or punctuation, I know, but it's not for lack of caring. I had a few too many teachers who had individualized ideas about such things, shall we say? If you think I'm original now, you should have seen me before I realized I'd been mistaught. Yinga. The relearning never ends. I haven't had a chance to take a good, hard look at The Vocabula Review, but at first glance it looks like it might be able to teach me a thing or two.

hat tip: Between Two Worlds (which I found from a link at Ponderosa Hill, which, appropriately enough, has a post today on a phrase that people seem to use without thinking about what they're saying. I know I've used it without thinking...)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dueling gift traditions

When I was a child, my mother taught me that when handed a present, the proper thing to do was to open it in front of the gift giver, and then politely thank him or her for it whether you thought it was what you wanted or not. If you didn't like it, you weren't supposed to fake enthusiasm for the gift, but you weren't to let on you didn't like it, either. Thank you for thinking of me isn't lying. It's acknowledging that the other person wanted to please you, even if they didn't. This is known as being civilized. You can let them get to know you better later, if it comes to that.

So, fine. I was tested from time to time, when I'd open a gift and wonder how I'd managed to come across as somebody who would like that. But it wasn't any big deal, generally. Thank you makes people feel good. It's a gift you can give anybody. Any time. (People who give home decor and tell you exactly where and how to display it call for a slightly different approach, of course. There's a fine line between presenting a gift and trespassing. Learning how to say thank you while carefully not agreeing to take something with strings attached is a necessary life skill. It is called learning to deal with difficult people.)

I learned that being gracious was basically a good policy. And, besides, gifts can grow on you, if you give them a chance.

But then I went to Japan to visit a friend who was teaching English. While I was there, some Japanese ladies handed me a gift. Dutifully, I started to open it.

There were sharp intakes of breath. I thought my hostesses were going to faint.

They did not know a whole lot of English and I had only a few words of Japanese at my disposal, but I managed to ask if I'd accidentally done something wrong.

Obviously, I had, of course. The ladies looked uncertainly from one to another, with that 'who's going to tell her?' look that seems to exist cross-culturally.

Finally, the explanation got past the language barrier. In Japan, they said, you never open a gift in front of the giver. Shifting your attention to the gift suggests that the thing is more important than the person.

Oh. I can see that. Good point.

On the other hand, not much beats watching kids open Christmas or birthday presents.

What to do? What to do?

Personally, I decided to pick either Japanese rules or ancestral rules depending on the circumstances. I like the Japanese emphasis on people being more important than stuff, but I also don't want to be a spoilsport. Besides, I like to think I can get across that the person is what matters, and the stuff is mostly for message and fun.

Then I got married. And found there are differences between my family's traditions and my husband's family's traditions... some subtle, some not.

I guess that's pretty common. Yes?

Luckily, we're all pretty quick to laugh at ourselves around here. :)

Book note: How to Train Your Pet Like a Television Star, by Ray Berwick

As I understand it, Ray Berwick was one of the top animal trainers in the entertainment industry back when animal actors were big. As much to the point, he had great success without using pain or punishment. How to Train Your Pet Like a Television Star, c. 1977, covers birds and dogs and cats mostly, with a few tips for horses, too. The forward is by Robert Blake. His show "Baretta" featured a cockatoo (Fred) trained by Berwick.

The used copy I have on my desk right now, getting it ready for sale, is a 13th printing from 1983, which suggests that the book had a good run of popularity back in the day. It seems to be out of print these days, but internet prices are surprisingly low for the limited number of used copies for sale. The publisher is Armstrong Publishing Company, Los Angeles.

The back cover copy: "For the first time, a fast and comprehensive method for training animals and birds without pain or punishment. It is the same method used by Ray Berwick and his associates at Universal Studios, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Marriott's Great America and Lion County Safari."

Berwick also wrote a book or books on training your cat, also out of print. I haven't seen it/them, so don't know if it's one book released under two titles, or two somewhat different books. The titles I've seen are Ray Berwick's Complete Guide to Training Your Cat and Train Your Cat. (And, yes, some cats can be trained. We have one that plays fetch handsomely. When she feels like it, that is... :)

For some nice stories in passing about Ray Berwick, see this transcript of a March 2005 television interview with actress and animal lover Tippi Hendren, in which, amongst other things, she talked about the filming of Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds.

Metal thieves endangering themselves and others

Steps are being taken to dry up the market for stolen metal. Why? Well, let's see, public safety, for one. Huge repair costs for some victims for another. See Metal Thieves Risk Life and Limb by Pam Blair, Ruralite, November 27, 2006, for more.

If you don't click through, one of the things you need to know from the article is that metal thieves have taken to taking grounding wires from existing homes as well as those under construction. Their measly haul nets them a few pennies or maybe a dollar or two, but leaves your home without working breakers or fuses. Not a good thing.

The article includes suggestions on what to watch for to help keep the electrical system safe. Many of the tips would apply equally well for tripping up terrorists, I think. There are rather large rewards on offer, too, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of burglars at power facilities, if rewards matter to you.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Three members of Kim family found, father still missing (Updated)

Wednesday update: James Kim has been found dead.

I'm almost afraid to believe this but AP and are reporting that Kati Kim and her two young children have been found and airlifted to a hospital. The father of the family, James Kim, is reported to have left them two days ago on foot, looking for help, and hasn't been found.

The family went missing on November 25 on their way back to California from a trip to Washington state. Previous post: Info sought on missing family.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Peg-Leg Webb's legacy

From the What's a Bog? section of the Ocean Spray company's website (bottom of post):

At Ocean Spray we take a lot of pride in our cranberries. Only the best make it into our products. But how does one judge a cranberry? Well, we start by judging their color, size and freshness. And, surprisingly enough, by their ability to bounce. That's right. Bounce. You see, an early New Jersey grower, John "Peg-Leg" Webb, first noted this special property of the cranberry. Because of his wooden leg, he couldn't carry his berries down from the loft of his barn where he stored them. Instead, he'd pour them down the steps. He soon noticed that only the firmest and freshest berries bounced down to the bottom; the soft and bruised ones didn't make it. This led to the development of the first cranberry bounce board separator, a device we still use today, to remove damaged or sub-standard berries.

Children, I forbid you to test cranberries for freshness without your parents' permission.

The Nativity Story and the Real Mary

I don't live anywhere near a movie theater, so I'm out of the loop on this, but Mark D. Roberts - who saw an advanced screening of the film - is not only recommending people go see The Nativity Story, he's asking for people to turn out for this opening weekend if possible. He wants to send Hollywood a message, you see.

He's written a series of articles prompted by the movie: The Nativity Story and the Real Mary.

Breakfast Cookies? Hmmm.

I'm just about out of cookies from my last batch (I freeze them and thaw as needed wanted), and was casting about for a new recipe to try. Randi at I Have to Say... shares what looks like a good one. Although I'm not sure I'd try the cheese. I'm having trouble getting my head around the idea of cheesy cookies.

Randi omits the cheese, and says she gets good results. I'm game. Where's my shopping list? All I lack is the raisins. I wonder if chopped prunes would work? I have prunes...

Info sought on missing family

James and Kati Kim of San Francisco and their two children, Penelope, age 4, and Sabine, 7 months, have gone missing while traveling through Oregon. The public is being asked to keep a lookout for them, and their car, which has a custom license tag.

From the police page set up for them:

The San Francisco Police Department is seeking information regarding a missing San Francisco family of four. On Friday, November 17, 2006, James Kim, his wife, Kati Kim, and their children, Penelope Kim and Sabine Kim left on a road trip to Seattle, Washington. The family was expected to return to San Francisco on Monday, November 27th, 2006. When both James Kim and Kati Kim did not show up for their appointments on Tuesday, November 28th, it caused their co-workers to be worried for their safety. The Kim’s are known to always keep in touch daily either by phone or e-mail with their friends and co-workers. The last known whereabouts of the Kim family was in Portland, Oregon on Saturday morning, November 25, 2006. They were driving a 2005 silver Saab station wagon with California personalized plates of “DOESF”

There are photos and descriptions and more information at that link, as well as contact information.

Their co-workers have also set up a website with info and pictures and links.

Associated Press/Northwest Cable News (NWCN) reports that police have determined that the family's cell phone and credit cards haven't been used since Nov. 25.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Jockey Russell Baze breaks most-wins record

Jockey Russell Baze of California has become thoroughbred racing's winningest jockey.

Baze becomes thoroughbred racing's winningest jockey with victory No. 9,531, by Beth Harris, Associated Press (USA Today, Dec. 1, 2006)

Baze's record more Ripken than Rose, by Jeremy Plonk (Special to, December 1, 2006)

Folk music, circa 2006

Danielle Bean has had good luck using a folk/bluegrass CD by Justin and Hope Schneir to put her kids into better moods. She has a link to a site where you can listen to some clips.

It looks like the Prime Minister will have a special needs son

India Knight notes that both of the men in line to become Prime Minister in the UK have a child with a disability. David Cameron's son, Ivan, has cerebral palsy. Gordon Brown's infant son Fraser has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Please note: The Gordon Brown post to which I linked is family friendly, but a quick browse through India Knight's blog turned up language that isn't allowed under my roof, and a few entries that I found unsettling. On the other hand, Isn't She Talking Yet? is specifically set up as a supportive blog for parents of special needs children and it has its good posts, too. (Not to mention cute kid pictures.) The blog is hosted at Times Online.

Update: One of my readers bets that neither David Cameron nor Gordon Brown will become Prime Minister. I don't know from UK politics right now, so I'm not going to bet against her (besides, at a guess Maxine's more savvy on this than India Knight). See comments.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Being Eddie's father

The Times chief sports writer Simon Barnes writes a knock-out article about fatherhood.

He explains that life with a son who has Down Syndrome isn't as bad as he imagined it would be. He also notes that the hospital "very kindly offered to kill him for us," which notion was not acceptable to his formidable wife. Not. In. The. Least. (Yay, Cindy!)

The downside, such as it is, is that Mr. Barnes writes that if he'd had a wife who wanted an abortion, he's sure he would have gone along with it. To put it another way, he's definitely in the pro-choice camp, but luckily he's in the ranks of those who can get their head around the idea of 'choosing life' even when things look daunting. He also makes a point of saying Thank God he married the woman he did, for he's glad to be Eddie's father.

I would ask the more fervent of my fellow pro-lifers to cut the man some slack. For myself, I suspect that folks like Mr. Barnes, who see abortion as a valid option but celebrate "choosing life" even under difficult circumstances - I suspect their example is going to lend courage to frightened parents when they need it most, thus sparing the world of needless grief and bloodshed. I'd rather the whole world was populated by people like Mr. Barne's wife, but I don't see that happening. Mr. Barnes has my hearty thanks for this article. I think it delivers a well-said message about a hard-won understanding of what love really is and what it means on a day-to-day basis instead of in broad and sometimes-clueless imaginings.

A nice touch: "Eddie" is Edmund, named for a character in the Narnia books, thanks to his older brother Joe who had become keen on the name after having the stories read to him.

A name changes everything, and even when he was in the womb we were not wondering about how we would cope with A Child With Down's syndrome. We were wondering about living with Eddie.

Perhaps that's something to keep in mind. (Maybe it's something akin to hostage situations, where police negotiators usually try their darndest to get the kidnapper to see his hostage as an individual human being, in part by emphasizing the hostage's name?)

hat tip: Wesley J. Smith, who was following up a post by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, which was prompted by this post by Amy Welborn. Amy, as usual, has drawn some uplifting comments.

Related previous post: Children with extra challenges, and the parents who love them

The Nanny State strikes again

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters has a nice response to the US District Court Judge who has ruled that American paper money discriminates against blind people. An excerpt from Captain Ed's post:

For my report, I decided to interview a blind person to discover her reaction to the news that Judge Robertson had freed her from the bonds of discrimination. The First Mate's initial response is hard to quote, because I don't know how to properly transcribe a snort and a peal of laughter.

There are two major problems with this ruling. First, all due respect to the American Council for the Blind, we don't really see that a problem with the currency exists. My wife has been blind for almost three decades, a good portion of that time as a single woman or a divorced mother, and for the majority of those periods used currency almost exclusively. The Braille Institute taught her some simple techniques in handling paper currency that allows her to this day to organize it properly. It's a point that the National Federation for the Blind, a much more representative group for the visually impaired, makes in response to the ruling:

"We believe in solving real problems of discrimination - not in doing gimmicks that look like they solve a problem and could make things actually worse," James Gashel, executive director for strategic initiatives at the National Federation of the Blind, said Wednesday. "For a federal court to say that we are being discriminated against is simply wrong."

Even worse, the ruling simply abuses the position of the federal courts. It's ludicrous on its face to believe that US currency represents a deliberate attempt to discriminate against blind people, who make up one percent of the population, according to the LA Times story. Even if one can argue that changing the bills in the manner Robertson demands would help blind people cope better with cash, that's a policy question and not a Constitutional issue. That argument belongs in front of Congress, especially since the solution will cost hundreds of millions of dollars at the outset and cause confusion for years to come.

Ed mentions in passing that refitting vending machines could be a big issue if money were made different sizes. I'm sure it would be, but since we rely on a cash register for our business transactions, may I suggest that it might be pretty pricey to reconfigure cash drawers of one kind and another, too. Perhaps Judge Robertson would like to buy us a new drawer (if the new bills can be made to fit in it) or a new register (if they can't)? Preferably out of his pocket, not the taxpayers'? No? I thought not. Judges can be as free and easy about spending other people's money as politicians, if you hadn't noticed.

I have to think refiguring bills could cause some expense, by requiring changes to money-manufacturing machinery. And shipping containers, perhaps. And...

Oh, it's just nuts.

Some blind people simply have someone at the bank - or someone else they trust - fold their money for them, a different way of folding for each denomination. Done deal. I'm sure there are other tricks I don't know about.

(And let's not forget that there are degrees of blindness. Many 'visually-impared' people see well enough to read the big numbers on bills, etc.)

Really, this judge needs to meet more people who manage to live life instead of wasting time whining.

Of course, people like that are too busy living life to show up in anybody's court in cahoots with lawyers out for a buck and/or some notoriety and/or who imagine they can create utopia if they just file enough lawsuits. (Some 'utopia' that would produce. A problem with using judges as sledgehammers is that once you get them in the habit, they don't seem to know when or where to stop. Once you get them in the habit of seeing rulings as statements instead of each ruling being a closing of a specific case, same problem. Correct me if I'm wrong on that.)

Maybe we need to start an Adopt-A-Judge program to make sure more of them get to meet non-activists? Hanging around with radicals doesn't seem to be doing them - or us - a whole lot of good.

OK, OK, to be fair, both Captain Ed and I are looking at the more drastic option of changing the size of bills, or otherwise doing something that would muck up current money handling systems. According to the LA Times story:

In his opinion, Robertson ordered the Treasury Department to consider such options as changing the size and color of banknotes for each denomination and adding tactile differences, such as foil, raised numbers or perforations, to the bills.

Other currencies, such as those of the European Union, Japan, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia, include such differences, he said, adding that the United States could have incorporated similar changes during recent redesigns that added anti-counterfeiting features.

So, fine. If the Treasury Department wants to "improve" our money in a way that makes it easier for blind people, that's wonderful, if it can be done without undue problems or cost. But it's not a judge's job to make design changes. Or run a government department at a distance by his lonesome, with all of the fun and none of the responsibility for the day-in, day-out stuff. We expect our Treasury heads to exercise common sense. If the judge doesn't like what a government department is doing, let him complain properly like an honest citizen instead of taking it upon himself to exercise several offices at once in the manner of the Pooh-Bah character in The Mikado.

One of my fondest dreams is that a new crop of judges will show up, full of men and women who know a frivolous lawsuit when they see it, and who enjoy throwing such a litigant out on his or her ear. I know it can happen. I know somebody who was in a courtroom when a case got thrown out and the lawyer who brought it got a proper scolding. It can happen. I do wish the judge in this case had been that sort of fellow. (I know. I know. Activists pick their judges carefully, as a rule. But, still... A gal can dream, can't she?)

Where's Will Rogers when you need him? He was good at skewering the nascent nanny state stuff that was popping up at his time. I heard a recording once where he made a joke about the government planning to put up crossing gates at railroad crossings. He asked something along these lines (I'm paraphrasing, from memory): 'What? The government thinks people can't look down a railroad track to see if a train's coming?'

On the recording, the audience roared with laughter. I mean, he cracked them up. Just think, Mildred. Those crazy folks in Washington think we can't deal with everyday hazards like a train? What do they take us for? Babies? What fops!

Those were the days.

St. Andrew's Day

This year St. Andrew's Day got a major push for recognition as a national holiday in Scotland.

More St. Andrew's Day articles from

Works-For-Me Wednesday (One day late): Saving on heating bills

I hope Shannon will let me visit the Works-For-Me Wednesday blogosphere party one day late this time around, because yesterday I was having internet problems. (It's funny how much you can miss your blog, your standard news sites, your favorite blogs to read, etc., when you can't get to them...)

I hate to heat any more of the house than I have to in the winter, but I live in an old house with small rooms. Several of the interior doors have been removed over the years to make life a little easier. The doors, you see, made it hard to actually have furniture in some of the rooms. Not without banging of doors on furniture, or amazing squeezing-through-openings dancing.

So, I wanted to shut off rooms but I didn't want the standard doors back in. After toying with all sorts of Great Ideas - all of which cost money or required tools, materials and/or skills I didn't have - I decided to go with what I had on hand and see if it did any good at all.

For each door I draped fabric over a tension curtain rod (around here, this size tension rod costs less than three dollars). I fastened the cloth with clothespins (aka clothes pegs, for my non-American readers) then slid the curtain rod to the top of the door opening. I adjusted the length so the fabric filled the doorway top to bottom. I didn't hope for much because what I had on hand was pretty standard, thinnish cotton fabric I'd bought for quilting and it didn't seal against the door. It hung close to the edges, but there is a bit of daylight shows on the sides.

I intended this as an experiment, or at best a temporary measure until I could work up something better - but doggone if it doesn't do the trick. I had assumed I'd need thick fabric, perhaps with added insulation. I'd assumed I'd need to have a tight fit against the door. And while thicker material and/or a good seal would probably do a better job by some standards, this trick does exactly what I was aiming for. It keeps by far and away most of the heat in the dining room, kitchen, bedroom and bath. It lets me adjust how much heat gets into the living room, etc. When I want to use the living room, I just take another clothespin and pin the curtain open and let heat swirl in.

If I wanted to get fancy, I could sew the curtains instead of fastening them with clothespins - but this is fabric that is intended for shirts or quilts next year after the weather warms up. Using clothespins means I can use it this winter without damaging any of it. Adjusting the length by changing how much drapes over the rod means I don't have to cut it to fit. Heh. As it happens, cotton fabric is just the right width, selvage to selvage, to fit in my doors. So I didn't even need to sew the edges. Double heh. I love it when a project turns out to be this easy.

A bonus: since I'm using a tension rod, I didn't have to add hardware to the doorframe. There will be no marks and no muss when I open up the rooms again in spring.

Another bonus: our cats entertain us with games of hide and seek using the curtains. They also battle each other through the curtains, which is also pretty funny. They've only pulled one curtain down so far, but the experience seems to have taught them to adjust their technique. :)

A side note: I didn't have enough fabric on hand for all the doorways, so for the door to the mud room I used a cheap painter's drop cloth that had been sitting in a drawer, doing nothing. I don't think I'd do this if there were children in the house, but this very thin plastic also works surprisingly well for herding heat where it's wanted and away from where it's not needed.

For more ideas from other household managers, visit this week's edition of Works-For-Me Wednesday over at Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Toddler logic

A friend of ours was cooking dinner with her just-turned-two granddaughter in the kitchen with her. She suddenly realized that the child had managed to move a chair over and was on the chair, at the stove. Grandmama rushed over and told the little girl that the burner was hot and would burn her hand if she got it too close. She carefully held the little girl's hand somewhat near the burner, to give her the idea. She told the little girl she must not put her hand on the burner because it would burn her hand.

So, what did the little girl do when Grandmama let go of her hand?

She put her elbow on the burner.

Of course she did. Grandmama had explained about what would happen to that hand. Not that elbow. Silly Grandmama.

The girl will be fine, but she did get a lovely small burn, I'm told.

This is the same child that a few days ago was on a drive in the country with Mama and Papa, out exploring the forest. The parents stopped near a firetower to take in the view. They warned the little girl not to get out of the car, because they were near a steep slope and if she got near the steep slope she and the snow would go sliding way down the hill very fast and get hurt and maybe they couldn't get to her if she went down there. (You know where I'm going with this, don't you?) A couple minutes later, at most, there was knocking above the parents' heads. Daughter was not in the car. Daughter, carefully avoiding the steep slope as instructed, had climbed the icy steps of the firetower, all the way to the top, and was knocking on the door for the lookout guard's quarters. This time of year there is no lookout person on duty. Papa was volunteered to go and get Daughter down, Mama being afraid of heights. I don't think Papa likes heights either, but he managed somehow, for his family's sake.

Daughter didn't understand the fuss, I'm told. Daughter had been told to not go down over there. So what could be wrong about going up over here?

Most families I've known have a ready supply of stories like this, if they've had toddlers in the fold. The most common one I've heard is that when you teach the child to not put his hand in the cookie jar, you must expect to have to repeat the lesson for the other hand. Getting in trouble for using the right hand for something, after all, doesn't necessarily mean that you will get in trouble for using the left hand doing exactly the same thing. Not if you really want to do whatever it is, at any rate. At least in toddler-think.

One of my favorite stories on these lines involves an older brother of mine. My parents were going to repaint part of the house and he was eager to help. They told him he could help paint in the morning, but he had to go to bed now. (You know where I'm going with this, too, don't you?) In the morning, my parents were awakened by an eager, helpful tot who said he needed help getting the other paint can open.

The other can?

Upon arising, which I understand was done in some haste, they found that he had used up an entire can of paint and was, indeed (thank goodness) having no luck at all in opening the second can.

His idea of painting, by the way, involved painting all the canned goods in the pantry and putting a racing stripe down the stairwell... Since he'd painted over the labels on the cans, fixing dinner was an adventure for a while, since there was no way to know ahead of time what you were opening for dinner. Or so I'm told. This was before my time.

Book note: Invisible Engines, by David S. Evans, Andrei Hagiu and Richard Schmalensee

My understanding of computer technology, electronic gadgets, and related consumer markets is happily camped somewhere back in the intellectual equivalent of the Oligocene, but for those of you who are more up to speed and interested in that sort of stuff, Om Malik recommends the following book. See How Profits Launch From Platforms: The right software and strategy can create their own thriving economic ecosystem (OpinionJournal, November 28, 2008) :

Invisible Engines: How Software Platforms Drive Innovation and Transform Industries
Invisible Engines: How Software Platforms Drive Innovation and Transform Industries

Clicking on the book cover link takes you to Barnes & Noble.

Monday, November 27, 2006

So, there were about ten volcanic eruptions... Iceland from June 1783 through February 1784. The Nile River had record low water levels in 1783-84, after the Laki eruptions. There was also low Nile River flow in 939 A.D., following the Eldgjá eruption in Iceland. In 1912, the Niger River had a record low level after the Mount Katmai, Alaska, eruption. Volcanic eruptions in high latitudes have happened right before weakened African and Indian monsoons and slow tree growth in Alaska and Siberia. Etc., etc., etc. See Historic Volcanic Eruption Shrunk the Mighty Nile River, November 21, 2006, at NASA's website for the story.

See also CALIPSO's First Images Offer New Dimension to Air Quality and Climate Research, July 24, 2006, for info on one of NASA's newest satellite missions, which amongst other things can detect and track volcanic plumes in the atmosphere. CALIPSO, if you were wondering, is the easy way of saying Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations.

I didn't know what lidar meant, but the article explains:

CALIPSO's innovative lidar system is an active remote sensing technique, similar to radar in operation. The lidar emits short pulses of green and infrared light -- rather than the microwaves used by radar -- which are reflected from cloud and aerosol particles in the atmosphere. Each lidar sample produces a 300-feet wide snapshot or profile of the atmosphere. Profiles collected along an orbit are streamed together to paint a picture of what a vertical slice of our atmosphere looks like.

No, I don't know how to pronounce lidar. I'm still looking for that bit of info. (Or, more precisely, I will look when I have more time.)

"CALIPSO is a joint U.S. (NASA) and French (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales/CNES) satellite mission with an expected 3 year lifetime," according to this NASA website.

Encore: books on liberalism

I linked to Jonah Goldberg's list of useful books on liberalism back in January, with every intention of reading several of them before the end of the year (ahem). I somehow lost track of that project but thought I ought to make another run at it, so here's the article again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Are bad listeners bad readers?

From The Plymouth Adventure by Ernest Gebler (Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York, 1950):

Sometimes at night he tried to read; but did not often succeed in doing so for very long. Reading was too like listening to someone else talk; and he had never learnt how to listen. His attempts at reading usually ended in his holding imagined polemical dialogues between himself and an adversary - who was always roundly outtalked, if not outwitted.

Hmmm. Food for thought.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Preborn stars

On Sunday, December 10, the National Geographic Channel will debut a documentary showing the journey from conception to birth of an elephant, a dog, and a dolphin. You can find out more, and see clips here. Amazing stuff.

Hat tip: The first remarkable close-up pictures of animals in the womb (The Daily Mail, November 22, 2006) via Best of the Web Today (OpinionJournal, November 22, 2006)

Life in a small town, holiday road condition edition

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The DJ on our local radio station (we have only one regular radio station, plus a couple of religious ones), got to the part of his broadcast where he usually shares the weather information given to him from the folks who run the airport. He noted in passing that the airport hadn't sent him the weather information, but because it was Thanksgiving and people might be traveling he was going to read the road conditions from around the state. He proceeded to read a whole lot of road condition reports.

And then he said, I kid you not, that if anyone hadn't heard a road condition report for where they wanted to know about, to call him there at the radio station and he'd look it up for them. He also provided the phone number, on air.

Now, that's service. Or one lonely holiday-staff DJ...

By the way, you can also get Oregon road conditions online at TripCheck.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

At the store

If I were half as sane as I like to think I am, I probably wouldn't go to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. Right before Thanksgiving, grocery stores are madhouses around here.

But I like going to the store the day before Thanksgiving. I like the bustle and the crowds. I like that so many people are shopping in gaggles, excitedly catching up on what's happened since the last time the family gathered, and conspiring on what to buy. I like the grandparents who have valiantly offered to run to the store to complete the planned feast, who are gamely trying to find their way about, especially the old guys who probably haven't been in a grocery store in months, if not years. I don't mind waiting for people to decide what they want, not when they've got that 'this is just what Cousin Joe would like, I'd bet' look in their eye. I like the yuppie on his cell phone half-blocking an aisle while he tries, redfaced, to explain to a distant friend why he's deigned to spend the holiday in the boondocks so the kids could have "quality time" with Grandpa.

No, wait. That last fellow bugged me a little, earlier today when I was at the store. I wish he hadn't acted embarrassed to be in the town where I live, and I cringe every time somebody says they're arranging "quality time." (Can't you just say that you wanted to visit?) I was tempted to say something to him, but I kept my holiday demeanor and grabbed butter and kept going. (Besides, he had on what I call the anthropologist look. You know, he's the scientist and the rest of us are natives. Sigh. I just wasn't up to dealing with that today.)

Anyway, most people seemed to be in the spirit of the holiday, and were exuding good cheer. I enjoy that. Immensely.

Friday, November 17, 2006


...those of you coming over from Dewey's Treehouse.

Please, make yourself at home.

Election result maps

If you hand people the technology to morph maps to try to better represent the results of elections, you can wind up with maps like these.

I have a cold and I haven't had my morning cup of tea yet. Tell me, should I be laughing, crying, or studying these things for my edification? I'm not quite sure...

One thing they don't do, of course, is take into account that a whole lot of people don't vote for a party, but for one actual, real person candidate versus another. (Imagine that. People might vote mixed ticket if given a reason? What a shock! They care who runs? Stop the presses!)


Anyway, I thought some of you might find the maps interesting. I did, for all my joking.

hat tip: Betsy's Page

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More discussion on coddled kids

A teacher weighs in on coddled kids.

He thinks some of his colleagues aren't exactly helping matters.

RIP Milton Friedman

The blogger neo-neocon has an interesting post on economist Milton Friedman, who died today.

More from Greg Burns writing at The Chicago Tribune.

Milton Friedman wrote several books, many of them with his wife, the economist Rose D. Friedman. Most were about economics, as you might expect, but the pair of them also wrote a memoir which was published in 1998.

Two Lucky People: Memoirs
Two Lucky People: Memoirs

Book notes: Moving to the country memoirs

Some people we know decided to raise chickens and have their own supply of fresh eggs. After some early disappointments, they have had more success than they anticipated.

Therefore, I have in my refrigerator, as a gift, more eggs than I need -- and they are not like the store bought eggs I'm used to. These are a bit smaller, but that's not a problem, not really, not for most things. What has me feeling like a novice cook is that these eggs have deeply orange, high yolks, quite different from the flat pale ones I've grown up with. The whites seem different, too. These eggs whip up into something not at all what I've come to expect. It's almost like moving to a foreign country or something when the commonplace task of scrambling eggs presents itself as something new. And let's not talk about me standing poised above cake mix, wondering if there was some adjustment I should make to offset the use of exotic eggs. It is odd, all these years after becoming a cook, to find myself stopping to wonder about such things.

One of the things that strikes me funny about all this is that for as long as I can remember, I have run into people who think they want to raise chickens. If they want to go back to the land and be a child of nature, they dream of raising chickens. If they want to go into business for themselves, they often dream of raising chickens. If they've lived in the city and want to retire to a pastoral life, the picture they paint tends to include feeding chickens. And yet I know precious few people who have the first idea about actually raising chickens. They do like the sound of it, however.

As far as I can see, this has been a national weakness for generations in America. Certainly, there have been some funny accounts in literature and in movies, wherein it is acknowledged that people do tend to expect more from chicken farming than it is likely to provide. I've also heard some awfully funny family stories told at the expense of people who caught egg fever, so to speak. (In reading English literature, I've noticed that fictional characters often dream of beekeeping or raising turnips or beets. Why is that? Is that equivalent to our personal chicken flocks, do you think? I haven't noticed the parallel disasters-brought-on-our-own-head comic stories about the inevitable failures, though. Hmmm. Do Europeans take such things more seriously, or sweep them under the rug, or what? Have I just read too narrow a range of books?)

Anyway, just in case the present generation doesn't know what is probably the most famous we-decided-to-be-chicken-farmers account out there, this is it.

Egg and I
Egg and I

I haven't read it in years, and I made the mistake of reading it in a flurry of we-chose-to-become-self-sufficient books (like We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich, which is another American classic) so my memories of it are a bit muddled (along with all the other books I read in that binge). But I remember it was funny. It also spawned a host of films. (See Adventures of Ma & Pa Kettle, Vol. 1)

I'm pretty sure I liked We Took to the Woods better than The Egg and I, but to each his own.

We Took to the Woods
We Took to the Woods

While I'm on the subject of self-sufficiency, I'd be a bit remiss if I didn't mention a modern-day homesteading-experiment-that-didn't-go-as-planned here in eastern Oregon. The author, Jane Kirkpatrick, has gone on to become a popular Christian fiction author, but the nonfiction Homestead is the book that put her on the map around here, back in the early/mid-1990s. You gotta love a couple of city folk who move to a place called Starvation Point with high hopes... Especially, perhaps, when one of them is a mental health professional...

Homestead: Modern Pioneers Pursuing the Edge of Possibility
Homestead: Modern Pioneers Pursuing the Edge of Possibility

So, what other books in this vein do you know about? If there are any you'd recommend, please leave info in the combox. If you've done a review on one, feel free to leave the link info. Thanks.

Related post: Good Book: Dear Mad'm, by Stella Walthal Patterson

Crescent City tsunami damage

Yesterday evening as I walked into my husband's office, he waved me into silence and pointed wordlessly at the radio, upon which someone was announcing that five to six foot tsunami waves had hit Crescent City, California, and caused extensive damage. Now, I'd be shocked to hear that about any city, but Crescent City is dear to our hearts and we were devastated. I ran to the computer and surfed the internet and found just all sorts of reports, most of them headlining five to six foot waves, but relaying that damage seemed to be confined to the harbor and no one had been killed or injured so far as anyone knew. The lead-ins were of waves, the later text leaned toward people talking about rivers forming in the ocean. There seemed to be all sorts of disconnects, even contradictions, and I didn't know what to believe.

I finally found my way to the Crescent City paper, The Daily Triplicate, which had a notice to the effect that everything was under control, everyone was OK, and there would be a full story today. Somewhat relieved, I went to bed.

With permission, here's an article written by Karen Wilkinson, Triplicate staff writer and published online earlier today:


A series of small tidal surges slammed into the Crescent City Harbor Wednesday afternoon, destroying two docks, taking chunks out of another and damaging at least 10 boats.

"It was like a river going through here a little while ago," said fisherman Jeff Ruth of the Orca. "I've never seen the tide surge like that ever."

A magnitude 8.1 undersea earthquake that struck Japan's coastline at 3:14 a.m. Pacific time created tidal surges that starting hitting the Crescent City Harbor just before noon.

Fisherman Victor Reneau said the first surge measured about 8 inches, an estimation he recorded because "we were all standing around curious."

Harbormaster Richard Young said he thought the harbor was in the clear after the initial surge, which he'd been warned of earlier in the day.

But some time after 1 p.m. he noticed the water quickly running in and out of the harbor from his harbor office.

"We thought, ‘Gee, look at that, it's the tidal wave,'" Young said jokingly.

Shortly thereafter, he saw that H dock had broken in half, so he jumped up and helped secure a floating boat.

Young said H and G docks were completely destroyed and F dock was "severely damaged."

Though it's still too early to give an exact figure, Young said replacement costs of the docks could range from $400,000 to $600,000 range.

Other reports estimated the damage as high as $700,000.

"We're going to have a lot of work to do," he said. "So it's going to be very expensive."

On top of the damaged docks, between 10 and 15 boats were damaged and 10 had to be resecured.

The rate and speed that the waters rushed did more damage than the size of the surges, Young said.

"It didn't even look like a wave — the water was just raising and falling rapidly," he said. "It was the rate of change rather than the magnitude of change."

Fisherman John Hale said the surge came in quietly, without warning. "It was just a little wave, then all of a sudden (stuff) started falling apart," he said.

Lori Dengler, chairwoman of the Humboldt State University geology department, said the largest surge measured five feet. "And it occurred at low tide, which was nice — very polite of it so far," she said. "The Crescent City Harbor is just the right size and shape to get excited when tsunamis come."

More than just the harbor got excited by the damage the surges inflicted.

Local residents flocked to the harbor just after the dock damage occurred, flying through the parking lot in cars while onlookers snapped photos and took video recordings. Others stood around relaying messages to friends and family via cell phone.

Lester Cramer, who owns a boat but parks it out of the water, agreed that the surge was eerie. "I've lived here for 39 years, and this is the first time I've seen anything like that," he said.

The Triplicate has more articles and photos.

The main reason Crescent City is dear to my heart is that every time I've visited there, total strangers have made me feel right at home. I haven't been able to visit for several years (as friends and regular readers know, we've had our own troubles which have made travel impossible), but there was a genuineness about that town that impressed me.

The folks there struck me as the sort who know how to bounce back from setbacks like this, but if there's some way you can toss a little help or business their way I'd appreciate it.

hat tip: The Curry Coastal Pilot

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Top flight tapping

Bookworm found some tap dancing clips, showcasing a couple of the masters. That would be Mr. Fred Astaire and Mister Bojangles (aka Bill Robinson).

Update: Bookworm has found another one, Fred Astaire and George Murphy this time. In top hat and tails and with, uhm, attitude I guess you could say.

Baby Contest

Lands' End has launched a baby photo contest. Once a month they'll give a $250 Gift Card to a winner. That being a lot of money, and many of the photos so far being adorable, and everyone being invited to submit and rank photos...well, I thought some of you might want to check it out.

Yes, I know it's a marketing ploy. But it's a delightful marketing ploy, no?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Book note: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel

From Shielding Our Children (, October 29, 2006), by Emuna Braverman:

Leaving aside the generally accepted physical dangers -- no dark alleys, candy from strangers or cell phones while driving -- what exactly is our responsibility?

Many educators and psychologists -- Wendy Mogel, author of "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee," being among the most prominent -- are encouraging parents to step back. Their over involvement is counterproductive, she claims. The Wall Street Journal abounds with stories of parents filling out college applications, going along on interviews and even post-college calling their children's bosses about raises and promotions. And then they wonder why their children move back home.

Starting with the Talmudic dictum to teach our children to swim, the Torah supports independence and greater degrees of mature and "adult" behavior.

And this training needs to start young. From very small infants, our children pick up their clues from our behavior. If they fall and scrape themselves and we react like it's a major trauma, so will they. If we treat it matter-of-factly, so will they. They will learn that falls and scratches and cuts and bruises are a part of life, to be accepted with minimal complaint. And even more importantly, they will learn that these 'injuries' are a small price to pay to learn a new skill or participate in a group game.

Full article

I went to Barnes & Noble to read reviews and a sample chapter of the Mogel book, and it looks to me like it might be a good resource for non-Jewish parents as well as Jewish. Click on the book cover to go to Barnes & Noble to read for yourself.

Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self Reliant Children
Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self Reliant Children

On living with quirks

Rabbi Yaakov Salomon has some observations on quirks and marriage. :)

What to watch out for, from a New Yorker

Ned Crabb, The Wall Street Journal's letters editor, writes:

As New Yorkers enjoy the coming run of holidays, bustling about the streets in their customary jolly way, they are ripe targets for scam artistes. Ergo, I am issuing a fraud alert for some new scams recently added to the grifter mélange. Take heed...

Whereupon he writes an entertaining article about experiences that have happened to him. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. Read the article. Even if you don't live in New York. Grifters have been known to look for easy marks even in small towns. Trust me on this.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Book Note: Lake Martin: Alabama's Crown Jewel, by Elizabeth D. Schafer

I think it's funny that the same week I post a review at the Saturday Review of Books for a book about the building of the Panama Canal, someone else posted a review that mentioned the building of the Panama Canal. What are the odds on that, I wonder?

Laura's review is about Lake Martin: Alabama's Crown Jewel, by Elizabeth D. Schafer. In the review, Laura says the book covers the local history from "...1540, when Hernando de Soto and his men marched across Alabama, to the present day BASSMASTERs and water wars with Georgia...".

(Side note: I hate to admit this, but way out West here we sometimes tend to think of water wars as a way out West thing. I had no idea Alabama and Georgia had that sort of fuss and bother. Live and learn.)

Anyway, I have a weakness for local history books, and for books about large and complicated undertakings. Please drop a note in the comments if there's a particularly good or interesting book about something in your part of the world. Thanks.

I see from the Barnes & Noble write-up that Lake Martin is one of the books in a "Making of America" series.

Lake Martin: Alabama's Crown Jewel (Making of America Series)
Lake Martin: Alabama's Crown Jewel (Making of America Series)

I'm not familiar with the series, but it appears to be pretty extensive and wide-ranging. Here are a few more:

Lockport: Historic Jewel of the Erie Canal (Making of America Series)
Lockport: Historic Jewel of the Erie Canal (Making of America Series)

Edgecombe County: Along the Tar River (Making of America Series)
Edgecombe County: Along the Tar River (Making of America Series)

New Haven, Connecticut: From Puritanism to the Age of Terrorism (Making of America Series)
New Haven, Connecticut: From Puritanism to the Age of Terrorism (Making of America Series)

Canton, Ohio: A Journey Through Time (Making of America Series)
Canton, Ohio: A Journey Through Time (Making of America Series)

Matawan and Aberdeen: Of Town and Field (Making of America Series)
Matawan and Aberdeen: Of Town and Field (Making of America Series)

Hawaii: A History of the Big Island  (Making of America Series)
Hawaii: A History of the Big Island (Making of America Series)

Santa Monica: A History on the Edge (Making of America Series)
Santa Monica: A History on the Edge (Making of America Series)

Clicking on any book cover above will take you to Barnes & Noble. Buying anything on that visit will put a few pennies in my pocket. For which I thank you.

Toy book

When I was little, I had my own toy phone, on which I made calls. This was probably a good thing, because it kept me off the real phone.

But when a little kid settles in to read stories from something that's not a real book...

Let's just say I have mixed feelings about it. Give the kid kudos for imagination. Give somebody kudos for teaching him enough about storybooks so that he knows enough to invent the game, and knows to pick something booklike for his toy book. But... if he's doing it because of a dearth of appropriate books in the house...

Hats off to the folks at The Common Room. You can't always tell what a neighbor needs unless you ask.

And, uhm, folks, most librarians I've met love helping little kids find lively and wonderful books to borrow. And besides, going to a library is an adventure for kids. Let's not forget that option, shall we? (I'm assuming the child is a normal child with some training in how to handle a book, and not a wildish one who likes nothing better than to shred paper, of course. If you've got a child in a wild phase, borrowing books might not be such a great idea. Toddlers are dangerous enough to property even in their sweet phases, yes?)

Noticing the good stuff, staying positive, singing, etc.

Three Beautiful Things is a blog with a tagline that says, "Every day I want to record three things that have given me pleasure." It has a links list of other bloggers who "3BT" as they call it.

I found it via Just Muttering By Myself's post on speeding, i.e. Saying something Positive Each and Every Day.

What is that old song about accentuating the positive? Don't let the tune get stuck in your head, now... ;)

While looking for background on that song, by the way, I came across The Johnny Mercer Foundation, which has a clips of "Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive" and other songs and which has, the website says, been working to introduce schoolkids to the songs of Mercer and Berlin and Gershwin and Ellington and other great American songwriters.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pelosi favors adding two seats in Congress

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the incoming speaker of the House of Representatives, is supporting a move to give full voting rights to a representative from D.C., which trends left.

On the plus side, she is also supporting adding one more congressional seat for Utah, which trends conservative.

It's a nice bipartisan move, if you're sure you want D.C. to have a seat. Congress goes from 435 to 437 (just what we need, more politicians), but neither party gets more than the other.


In the inexplicable column, the deal as it stands wouldn't have Utah drawn into new districts, but would just add a statewide seat.

An at-large seat in Congress? Since when? On what authority?

I'm with Betsy Newmark, who says, "I don't understand how the Utah part of this bill would pass constitutional scrutiny. I'm not a lawyer or constitutional scholar, but this seems mighty fishy to me."

Chinese honor German businessman's memory

Now, if somebody told you that the Chinese revere a German Nazi who died in 1950 you might get one idea. But if they told you that the reason the Chinese still honor John Rabe is because he is credited with using his Nazi credentials to save thousands of Chinese lives during the Japanese invasion of Nanking in 1937, you might modify your opinion, yes?

See Memorial Dedicated to the "Oskar Schindler of China" (Deutsche Welle, Nov. 8, 2006) for the story.

If you'd like to follow up, I see there is a book based on John Rabe's journals in English translation.

Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe
Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe

Noted in passing: The German editor, Erwin Wickert, claims in this interview [parental discretion advised] that a chapter that appears in German editions was left out of the American edition.

The Saturday Review of Books... up at Semicolon.

If you're not familiar with it, it's where bloggers can provide a link to a book-related post written in the last week. I've found it a good way to discover blogs as well as books.

Book note: The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough

Reading Theodore Roosevelt Departs for Panama - Nov 9, 1906 at made me think of The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough.

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914
The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914

I don't know about you, but for most of my life I had no idea of how incredibly big and dangerous and expensive and controversial and exciting the Panama Canal project was, or about the spectacular failures and side issues associated with it. I'd even visited the Panama Canal, but it just didn't register with me, from where I was at, that this was really much more than the result of tedious ditch digging for maybe a few years and then the building of fairly standard structures. I waved at people on the ships in the canal and they waved back at me on shore, and I had great fun watching the locks open and close, but until I stumbled across McCullough's book several years ago I never really thought about what it took to build the locks or the waterway. Shame on me.

I was in need of an education and this book gave me one, not just on the canal itself but on the swirling activities of people and governments jockeying for influence or trying to shift blame or find a way out of disaster, or taking credit whether it was due or not. (People are interesting, aren't they?)

It was also a good read, as I recall. (David McCullough's books generally are, if you don't know.) What more could you ask of a nonfiction book for laymen?

As it happened, the Panama Canal opened just as World War I broke out. The news of the great triumph in the Americas got buried underneath news of despair and horror in Europe; another reminder, I guess, that our ancestors didn't have a calm, rational world to work in any more than we do, and that their best plans and hopes got dashed now and then, too.

This is one of the author's early works, c. 1977, but it's still in print. In fact, it's in print in paperback, hardback, and several varieties of audiobook. And yes, a David McCullough book read by Edward Herrmann is my idea of good casting, if you're wondering. (I haven't heard this particular audio book, but I have enjoyed Herrmann's narration of other projects.)

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914
The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914

As of post time, Barnes & Noble also had a bargain book version of the audiobook available. Precise format isn't listed but I'm guessing it's audiotape: The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stamp causes stir in Florida elections office

According to Robert Nolin, reporting for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, an absentee ballot came into the Broward County elections office with what looks like an Inverted Jenny on it.

It hasn't been authenticated yet. And there are forged Inverted Jenny's out there, of course. This might be much ado about nothing. Time will tell on that.

Since the ballot was not in a certification envelope, it has been disqualified. There's no clue to who sent it, either.

So somebody sent in an uncountable vote (ouch) using what might be a several thousand dollar stamp (double ouch).

If it's a real rare stamp, there seems to be a bit of disagreement on what the county should do with it. I'd like to see it go to auction. That could be fun, seeing how much somebody would pay for a canceled stamp (on the downside) with a ripping good story (on the plus side).

hat tip: Best of the Web Today (OpinionJournal)

Addition: Here's some information on "Inverts" - Inverted Jenny and otherwise - from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum.

Update: Stamp thought to be rare Inverted Jenny is probably a fake, expert says (AP, Nov. 14, 2006)