Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Good adventure book about the Danes in World War II

I'm sorry that To Fight in Silence by Eva-Lis Wuorio (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, c. 1973) is out of print. I haven't read it in years, but I remember it as a pretty good adventure tale, with some important history and a few good life lessons tossed in.

It revolves around a Norwegian boy and his Danish cousins, who get involved in the Danish underground. It's aimed at older kids or young adults, but I found it intriguing enough to read as an adult. Whether that was from the writing or the subject matter I can't remember (this was years ago that I read this book) -- but I did put it into my personal library to reread instead of putting it out on the store shelves, for whatever that's worth.

And, tah dah, since I just today found my copy in a box (we're still in the middle of a move), I can even share the front-flap jacket copy with you:

In April 1940 Germany attacks Norway and Denmark. The Norwegians fight back fiercely; the Danes submit and their country is immediately occupied by the Nazis. In Norway, Thor Ericksen, though too young to fight in the army, is old enough to drive a truck with wounded soldiers while German bombs fall from the sky. In Denmark, Thor's cousins, Karen Jensen and her younger brother Kristian, at first find life under the Germans much as it was before. But a Danish underground is formed, and Karen and Kristian find ways in which they, too, can serve the Resistance.

Thor joins his relatives in Denmark and, together with Karen and Kristian and many, many other Danes, becomes part of one of the proudest episodes in human history - a daring secret plan to prevent the Germans from deporting Danish Jews to concentration camps.

In this authentic story, Eva-Lis Wuorio conveys the atmosphere of life in Norway and Denmark during World War II. These dangerous years had moments of great poignancy, but they also had moments of joy and lively humor. After reading To Fight in Silence, boys and girls will know that this is a time to remember.

The back flap on the dust jacket touts another book by Eva-Lis Wuorio called Code: Polonaise, set in Poland in World War II. It also centers around children, in this case orphans who join up with the Polish Underground. I haven't read that one, but I'd like to.

Wuorio was born in Finland but grew up in Canada. In the Author's Note in To Fight in Silence, she says:

During World War II, I worked as a reporter on the Toronto Evening Telegram and interviewed literally hundreds of Norwegians who had escaped from their occupied homeland and were training as soldiers, sailors and airmen in Canada. I also talked to dozens of Danish officials who had come to North America to explain their country's predicament to the outside world. My mother kept a scrapbook of everything I wrote and I have found those clippings very useful. While traveling in the Scandinavian countries after the war, I learned to know and love them, and heard many stories of the war years.

When I began to write this book, I asked for help from the Press and Information Section of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from the War Museum in Copenhagen. I am grateful for their co-operation... Then my librarian found a book for me, Rescue in Denmark by Harold Flender, published in 1963 by W.H. Allen & Co., London, and Simon and Schuster, New York, and I was able to check my dates and information against this interesting, documented work about the escape of Denmark's Jews from Nazism...

I just checked, and Rescue in Denmark doesn't seem to be in print, either. Of course, you might be able to find a copy at your local library, and you can always search for used copies. To search at Barnes & Noble, go here: Out of Print, Used & Rare.

I haven't found very much on Eva-Lis Wuorio on the Internet, but while looking for more on her I ran across an extensive list of books about the Holocaust, for children through young adult, both fiction and nonfiction. It is provided by Northbrook Public Library, Northbrook, Illinois.

USGS - Earthquake information on the web

The USGS (United States Geological Survey) has all sorts of interesting stuff at its earthquake information pages.

There are, for instance, animations that move through the last week's earthquake maps, showing, in other words, not only where earthquakes hit, but in what order. You can choose among a variety of settings, from a whole world view to, say, the San Francisco Bay area, or the Los Angeles area, or Yellowstone, among others.

There's a map that registers earthquakes over the last 8 to 30 days, sorted by depth, so you can see where the most activity has been.

There's even a page that attempts to forecast California aftershocks.

And much more.

Just in case you're interested in that sort of stuff.

Joust The Facts: A Really Bad Nike Ad

The orthopedic surgeon who writes the Joust the Facts blog is trying to dissuade Nike from sending kids to his ER.

Update: Giacomo posts the email response he got from Nike, plus his reply, at Nike's Initial Response.

Upcoming book watch - The Case of Terri Schiavo: Ethics at the End of Life

I have beside me the Spring/Summer 2006 Trade Catalog from Prometheus Books, which features a fairly eclectic mix of titles, among them a book scheduled for March release: The Case of Terri Schiavo: Ethics at the End of Life, edited by Arthur L. Caplan, James J. McCartney, and Dominic A. Sisti, with a foreword by Jay Wolfson. The authors are listed as being affiliated with University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics. Caplan is also listed as the chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and "the author or editor of numerous books including The Ethics of Organ Transplants and Who Owns Life?" Dr. Wolfson was the court-appointed guardian ad litem for Terri Schiavo.

The write-up in this catalog causes me a bit of concern.

Well, judge for yourself. I'm not comfortable with the way the Catholic Church position is being represented (or misrepresented, in my view), among other things. You tell me. Reprinted from the Barnes & Noble website, an identical write-up to what is in the trade catalog:


After the Nancy Cruzan case was decided by the Supreme Court in 1990, and ultimately resolved by the Courts of the State of Missouri, the decision to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging nutrition and hydration appeared to many to be as noncontroversial as decisions to refuse respirators or dialysis. Even the Catholic Church held that, although there should be a presumption in favor of providing nutrition and hydration, the patient or the patient's surrogate could overrule this presumption, if either believed the treatment was disproportionate or burdensome.

The Schiavo case changed all that. Although the decision to remove Terri Schiavo's nutrition and hydration was made by her husband-her legal surrogate-based on his wife's belief that such treatment was disproportionate, Schiavo's immediate family protested so much that the case took years to resolve. It eventually involved all branches of government at both the state and federal levels.

The ethical dilemmas that such cases pose continue to stir great controversy. This in-depth examination of these dilemmas provides information and documentation from many perspectives. The editors have included a foreword by Dr. Jay Wolfson, Terri Schiavo's court-appointed guardian ad litem, as well as Dr. Wolfson's report to Gov. Jeb Bush on the case and Gov. Bush's reply; public statements by President George Bush and Senators David Weldon, Rick Santorum, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and Barney Frank; statements by the pope and other representatives of the Catholic Church on this issue; plus much medical and legal background material on both precedents to the Schiavo case and its aftermath, including the results of the autopsy report.

For anyone wishing an in-depth understanding of these complex ethical issues, issues many of us will have to confront in our own families, this volume is indispensable.

The publisher has announced, in the catalog I have, that there is a national marketing budget for this book, with national media appearances and a national advertising campaign planned. The book is due to come out in late March, but is already available for pre-order.

Case of Terri Schiavo
Case of Terri Schiavo

And, no, I don't know what to make of the cover. I have my theories, but I think I'll hold off broadcasting them until I find out more about the contents of the book, and see what the media campaign is like.

Monday, January 30, 2006

New book buzz: River Rising

Thanks to Best of the GodBlogs, I know that Lars Walker of Brandywine Books really likes River Rising by Athol Dickson.

Thanks to another post at Brandywine Books, I know that Gina Holmes of Novel Journey did an author interview with Athol Dickson. (Just in case you're a gotta-know-the-author sort of reader.)

Clicking on the book cover will take you to Barnes & Noble for more information and reviews.

River Rising
River Rising

Sebastian Mallaby: Google and My Red Flag

Washington Post op-ed columnist and author Sebastian Mallaby has had a Chinese publisher express interest in a book he wrote on the World Bank, provided that certain passages are deleted. His first reaction was to say "Forget it." And then he started looking at what Google managed to do when China demanded concessions...

I think he makes some good points:

...Google's answer to the China dilemma is better, and more subtle, than that of other Internet firms. It does not simply assert that engagement with China is always good. It recognizes the arms race between China's repressive state power and China's liberating economic growth, and it accepts the conclusion that follows: Some forms of engagement hasten liberal trends; others empower jailers.

This is not a distinction acknowledged by all investors in China, nor indeed in the China debate more generally. Policy types argue the merits of engagement vs. containment as though there were nothing in between; either you're for tough talk and sanctions, or you embrace the dragon unequivocally. Both Bill Clinton and George Bush have favored engagement, and both have waxed especially lyrical about the opening of cyberspace. Clinton once laughed that China's efforts to control the Internet were "like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall." "Freedom's genie will be out of the bottle," Bush said of the Internet's arrival in the Middle Kingdom.

This, plainly, is exaggerated....


But the problem with the Clinton-Bush rhetoric is not just that it's blithe. It helps American companies to pretend that all China engagement is positive. Thus the Internet router firm Cisco had no qualms about building a great cyberwall around China, which blocks Chinese surfers from "subversive" foreign Web sites. Thus Yahoo has obliged the Chinese government by tracing pro-democracy e-mails to one of its users. The e-mailer has been jailed, and Yahoo has effectively become a Chinese police auxiliary.

But Google hasn't done that. It is creating a search service in China, http://www.google.cn/ , but it is not erecting cyberwalls or helping to arrest people. The new Google search service will give Chinese users access to better information than they had before -- a clear gain for freedom. And although the search service will be censored, it's hard to see this as a net loss. The censored material would not have reached China without Google's investment.

And that's not the best bit. Google has negotiated the right to disclose, at the bottom of its Chinese search results, whether information has been withheld -- a disclosure that may prompt users to repeat their search using google.com instead of google.cn. Of course, the second search might be frustrated by Cisco's routers. But disclosing censorship is half the battle. If people know they are being brainwashed, then they are not being brainwashed...

Read the whole post.

In a related vein, Michael has One Boycott I Won't Be Joining over at Slobokan's Site O' Schtuff.

The Paragraph Farmer: Pattern recognition

Patrick O'Hannigan's seven-year-old daughter Jane knows how to write a book report. Go, Jane! :-).

Bookworm Room: History sort of repeats itself

Bookworm looks at the world of a century ago, and finds some interesting parallels and important differences. Her post begins:

Almost forty years ago, Barbara Tuchman wrote The Proud Tower, A Portrait of the World before the War : 1890-1914.... It's a compulsively readable book in a couple of ways. First, of course, it's readable because Tuchman is a wonderful writer. Her bouyant prose and her ability to include details that bring the past alive without drowning one in pointless factoids make her history books consistently fresh and wonderful. Second, it's readable because it's like a bizarre fun-house mirror reflection of our own times.

For example, did you know that suicide bombing is nothing new? At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, Europe and America were besieged by suicide bombs and assassinations originating, not with Muslim fundamentalists, but with anarchists...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

So this guy and his son were walking through the woods...

Wayne Rice was just on the Weekend Magazine radio show, talking with Bill Maier, and he said a couple of things that got my attention.

First, Rice said he tells teens that they can be a thermostat, not a thermometer. Thermometers only tell you what the temperature is. Thermostats can help regulate the conditions in the room.


He may have been talking about teen-parent relations, but I have to think that this idea has a lot of potential applications, and not just for teens, eh?

Second, he told a story (which he says is a Native American story) about a man and his son walking in the forest. The father says to the son, "If I step in a pile of manure, that's life. If you see me step in manure, and you step in it too, that's stupid."

As I understood it, Rice uses the second story to drive home to teens that they don't have to do any stupid stuff their parents might do (get drunk, use drugs, not hold down a job, etc.), but, again, I think this has lots of potential applications. Yes?

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

Friday, January 27, 2006

"The danger of Anne Frank Syndrome"

What exactly are we teaching our kids when we have them read the book based on the diary of Anne Frank?

Bookworm, over at the Bookworm Room blog, contends that one lesson that many people glean from the book is just plain wrong, not to mention hazardous. Let her explain.

Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Reading"

Jonah Goldberg over at National Review Online has been reading a lot of books on liberalism, and he shares which ones he's found useful or interesting.

Born on this date...

Today marks the 250th anniversary of Amadeus Mozart's birth. Michelle Malkin has it covered.

And on January 27 back in 1832, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born in Cheshire, England. You probably know him better by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. (hat tip: Semicolon.)

Please help recommend good books on infant/toddler care

The blogosphere is a funny business sometimes. I've never met Mark Correa or his wife Amanda -- and they live clear across the country from me (and this is one wide country) -- but, thanks to Mark's blog, I'm awaiting the birth of their first child like it was a nephew or Mark and Amanda were neighbors or something :-).

Anyway, Mark's latest post is called Shawn's lies. It's about a co-worker who is happily feeding Mark bunk about baby care. This raised the question of where a new dad can find decent information about what to expect the first year.

I'm going to open the discussion by tossing out the following book for consideration. It's by the same folks as What to Expect When You're Expecting.

What to Expect the First Year
What to Expect the First Year

But this is not my area of expertise by a long shot. Ladies? Gentlemen? What have you found to be good resources for new parents? I'd especially like to hear what books/websites/magazines/whatever you Dads out there found useful. Leave a comment here and/or at Mark's blog, please. Thanks.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

That cheering you're hearing is from Cyprus...(and tennis fans in Australia)

From Jesse Hogan, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, under the headline Cyprus flies parents to see magic Marcos:

The Cyprus Government will send the parents of Marcos Baghdatis on a last-minute, all-expenses-paid trip to Australia in an expensive attempt to inspire the 20-year-old in his first Grand Slam final.

Within hours of Baghdatis sealing a place in the final with a five-set victory against David Nalbandian, Cypriot parliament leader Demetris Christofias announced Christos and Andrianni Baghdatis would be flown to Melbourne to join the ever-swelling bandwagon in time for Sunday night's Australian Open final.

President Tassos Papadopoulos said Baghdatis had already earned his place among Cypriot sports legends with his 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

"I warmly congratulate our compatriot for his impressive advance to the Australian Open final," he said a statement.

"His fighting spirit, patience, strength of character with which he competed today provides a shining example for all those young men and women of our country."...

The rest of the article

In the same paper, there's an article by Richard Hinds under the headline Marcos the magician into final, which begins:

Just as the game's new magician Marcos Baghdatis seemed set to disappear in a puff of the smoke that rose from the nearby Australia Day fireworks, he found one more trick up his sleeve.

And so, after yet another incredible, fighting five-set victory, this time over David Nalbandian, the Cypriot will become one of the most unlikely Australian Open finalists in the tournament's long history...

CBC - Canada Votes 2006 - Analysis and Commentary - New Canadians

Thank goodness there are some political commentators with a little wit. A little faux Shakespeare, anyone?

hat tip: Dewey's Treehouse (Via The Common Room)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fun learn-to-count book: Bunny's Numbers, by Dick McCue and Lisa McCue

I ran across a used copy of Bunny's Numbers by Dick McCue, illustrated by Lisa McCue, c. 1984, in a stack of books headed for the store. It's not a title I knew before, but I've just read it and it's a fun little book, and I see it's still in print. If you're looking to buy a book for a youngster just learning to read and/or count, you might want to check it out. My copy is an older one, shaped instead of rectangular, with a different ISBN and copyright date than the one currently for sale new, but I'm assuming (and hoping) it's essentially the same as the following:

Bunny's Numbers
Bunny's Numbers

I'd like to hear about other learn-to-count books that are appealing and/or that have proved helpful, if you know of any. Thanks.

More goodish news on the eminent domain front

Rhode Island's state Economic Development Corporation, led by Governor Don Carcieri, has modified its rules, now saying it won't use eminent domain to take owner-occupied private property for economic development. Unoccupied private land seems to be another matter, but at least this ruling might keep people from having to fight for their homes. More from AP, at boston.com.

hat tip: Castle Coalition

USATODAY.com - BB&T ends loans for eminent domain

According to this article by Paul Nowell of the Associated Press, the nation's ninth largest bank has declared that it will not make loans to developers who plan to build commercial projects on land taken by eminent domain.

Thank you, BB&T Bank! Three cheers, even. May other banks follow your lead, and soon.

I have a personal vow to avoid doing business with any outfit that sets up on seized land following Kelo v. City of New London (on the grounds that people have to now know how many citizens think it's wrong, even if it's legal for now).

But of course what I do as an individual can't possibly make much difference. So, what BB&T is doing -- that they are saying that refusing to participate in such projects is the right thing to do -- makes me very happy, indeed.

hat tip: Castle Coalition

Inquiring bloggers want to know...

In "[T]he lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne", the blogger at Either End of the Curve asks why people want to learn stuff in a hurry, if it takes years to hone skills to expert level? An excerpt (ellipsis in original):

One of the less technical things upon which he [the father of one of her friends] liked to expound was ... how long it takes for those starting out in highly technical fields to truly start contributing anything of real significance. I don't remember the exact number of years that he cited, but it was definitely in line with what Norvig [Peter Norvig, director of research at Google] is saying. My rocket scientist friend, with a great deal of affection and tolerance, would recount stories of the way in which "new" employees with advanced degrees and eight years, or whatever, of professional experience under their belts were still "beginners," with a long way to go. Knowledge, to his mind, was something that leaks and creeps and gradually grows, as opposed to being a package that can be ripped open with abandon, as on Christmas morn.

In American exceptionalism, Bookworm of Bookworm Room asks for thoughts on why some groups in America have tended to move up and out of tenements in one generation, while other families in other times and places seem to get stuck in poverty generation after generation:

Have any of you ever been to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York? It is, in my opinion, the best museum New York has to offer. All the other museums -- the Met, the Museum of Natural History, MOMA, etc. -- are sort of generic. That is, they're great museums, but you can find their like in every major world city. The Tenement museum, though, is unique and wonderful. It's a building in the Lower East Side that was built in 1867 and that was continuously inhabited through the early 1930s. It was then sealed up, where it remained as an unlikely time capsule to be explored decades later.


One of the things that the tenement museum did, using census information, was to trace what happened to those immigrants and their descendents. As I understand it, almost without exception, the tenement was a one generation thing, with the families moving further and further into success and the suburbs.

So my question or rather, my series of questions: What was it about America that enabled people to pass through this Hell in a single generation? Was it that time in history? Was it America itself? Was it that particular group of immigrants? As you think about it, think about the current problems in Europe, such as the French riots or the German honor killings, which seem to occur in housing complexes where immigrants have lived in isolation for generations. Also, think about the fact that, despite the Great Society, many African-Americans have remained mired in poverty and have also spent generations living in depressing, violent squalor (New Orleans is a good example). Last, if you have information on the subjects, you might bring to the table thoughts about today's immigrants (Hispanic, East Asian, etc.).

I have my own ideas about the answers to my questions, but I'm much more interested in hearing what others have to say...

The ball's in your court...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Quick takes, Canadian elections

Just for fun, in the order encountered, here are the headlines and opening salvos from several news sources, as of about noon Pacific time today.

ABC News/AP: Conservatives Win in Canadian Election. Subhead: Conservatives Win Canadian Election and Vow to Move Quickly on Tax Cuts, Better Ties With U.S.

OTTAWA Jan 24, 2006 — Conservative Stephen Harper pledged to quickly carry out his campaign promises to cut taxes, get tough on crime and repair strained ties with Washington after his party won national elections and ended 13 years of Liberal Party rule in Canada.

That may be easier said than done.

The Conservatives' winning margin was too narrow to rule with a majority, a situation that will make it hard for them to get legislation through the divided House of Commons.

Monday's vote showed that Canadians are weary of the Liberal Party's broken promises and corruption scandals. They were willing to give Harper a chance to govern despite concerns that some of his social views are extreme.

"Tonight friends, our great country has voted for change, and Canadians have asked our party to take the lead in delivering that change," Harper told 2,000 cheering supporters at his campaign headquarters in Calgary....

International Herald Tribune: Conservative Party ousts Liberals in Canada

TORONTO Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party defeated the long-entrenched Liberal Party in Canadian elections, according to results announced Monday. A Conservative victory is a striking turn in the country's politics and is likely to improve Canada's strained relations with the Bush administration.

Prime Minister Paul Martin had hoped to build on a string of four consecutive Liberal national election victories in the past 13 years, but his campaign was damaged by two years of investigations into party scandals that spurred a backlash and a desire for change.

Martin tried to cut into Harper's lead in the final days with a campaign of rancorous advertising as opinion polls indicated that many urban voters were wary of allowing the country to veer into uncharted ideological waters.

But in the end, Harper seemed to reassure the public that he had evolved into a centrist and that his government would emphasize cutting taxes and cleaning up corruption rather than social issues like abortion and gay rights.

In a concession speech, Martin announced that he would leave the party leadership before the next national election. "I telephoned Stephen Harper and congratulated him on being chosen by the people of Canada," he said. "We differ on many things, but we all share the belief of the potential and the promise of Canada and the desire of our country to succeed."...

Bloomberg: Harper Leads Canada's Conservative Party to Election Victory

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Stephen Harper led Canada's Conservatives to their first national election win in 18 years, seizing on voter anger with the ruling Liberal Party. Paul Martin stepped down as Liberal leader after conceding defeat.

The Conservative Party won 125 seats in the House of Commons, compared with 103 seats for the Liberals, according to preliminary results from Elections Canada today.

Harper fell short of the 155 seats needed for a majority government, forcing him to seek support from opposition parties to deliver on plans to cut taxes, slow government spending and scrap a national day-care program.

``The way the seats are lining up this is the nightmare scenario'' for Harper, said Peter McCormick, a political science professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. ``I don't know how much they can get done.''

The Canadian dollar, trading close to a 14-year high, may decline on concern the new government may need to boost spending to win opposition support, threatening to narrow the country's budget surplus.

The dollar weakened to 86.78 U.S. cents at 12:57 a.m. trading, from 86.99 cents yesterday. The dollar and Canadian stocks rose yesterday on optimism Harper may win a majority government.

``The honeymoon is over before he really starts,'' said Stephen Clarkson, a professor at the University of Toronto. ``He won't have a great glow of triumph, because people were expecting him to get at least 140 seats.''...

Reuters: Canada's new right-wing leader faces uphill fight

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The winner of Canada's election began tackling the challenge on Tuesday of pushing his Conservative Party agenda of tax cuts and more defence spending through a Parliament he does not control.

Stephen Harper, a 46-year-old economist who will be the country's first right-wing prime minister in 12 years, won 124 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons in Monday's election, relegating the scandal-plagued Liberals to opposition benches.

Harper, who also wants to calm fractious ties with Washington, has nowhere near the 155 seats needed to form a majority in Parliament, where his party has no natural allies.

He will grapple with the same problems as the man he ousted, 67-year-old Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, who also led a minority government and was forced from office with 133 seats after 17 months on the job.

The vote was as much a protest against a tired Liberal government as it was a vote for Harper, whose opponents accuse him of wanting to impose a far-right social agenda on Canada.

"Canadians did not endorse neoconservatism when they elected him," the Globe and Mail said. "They voted against a Liberal Party that had become smug and arrogant."

Harper, the first prime minister from the oil-rich western province of Alberta in 25 years, returned to Ottawa on Tuesday. He will meet Martin soon to decide when power should formally change hands -- a date Conservative officials said was likely to be in two or three weeks' time.

Minority governments in Canada rarely last more than 18 months and the gossamer-thin nature of Harper's administration means there is little chance he will bow to demands from some in his party to clamp down on sensitive social issues such as gay marriage and abortion...

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Dad Is Born: Convergence

Mark is a Steelers fan. Mark is an expectant father. Mark is hoping the baby will come in time for them to sit in the living room watching the Super Bowl together. With Mom/Amanda there, too, of course.

C'mon, guys. Admit it. Some of the rest of you have had dreams like that. :-).

Books about the news business

OpinionJournal has a "Five Best" feature, in which different people get a shot at recommending five books in their field or area of interest. This week (on Saturday), Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News Channel, put the spotlight on The Medium Is the Message by Marshall McLuhan (Bantam, 1967), The Kingdom and the Power by Gay Talese (World Publishing, 1969), Breaking the News by James Fallows (Pantheon, 1996), Three Blind Mice by Ken Auletta (Random House, 1991), and Bias by Bernard Goldberg (Regnery, 2001).

(Clicking on either book cover below will take you to Barnes & Noble.)

Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way
Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way

Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News

Friday, January 20, 2006

OpinionJournal - He Didn't Say Uncle

This seems to be the day for family stories built around something that happened in 1942. (See previous post).

In this post, James Taranto, editor of OpinionJournal.com, talks about his Uncle Salvador's flight from Marseilles in southern France after the Germans took control.

Varifrank: A day in the life of...

Coming across simple group photo taken at a Navy shipyard in New Jersey on a winter day in 1942 prompted a wonderful tribute over at the Varifrank blog. Read it here.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Heroics in 1925 Alaska

In late January 1925, Nome, Alaska suffered an outbreak of diphtheria. The medicine needed was about a thousand miles away, in Anchorage. Doctors in Anchorage put the medicine on a train, but deep snows stopped the train well more than 600 miles from Nome. The weather prevented any other form of travel except dog sleds -- well, that, and the fact that the only planes in which volunteer pilots might have risked the flight had been put into winter storage.

Twenty teams were set up in relay. Despite horrific weather and treacherous travel conditions, team after team took its turn on the mission of mercy.

As the legend goes (there seems to be a little dispute about some of the details), when the next-to-last relay team got to the hand-off point, there was no final team in sight, so musher Gunnar Kasson (or Kaasen) -- I've seen various spellings, but mostly these two -- and his lead dog Balto took the exhausted dog team on into Nome. They spent something like twenty hours on the trail.

Balto became the symbol of the perserverance of the dog teams and mushers that battled successfully to get the medicine to Nome in time. He was written up in newspapers around the world.

Today, you can see a statue of Balto in Central Park in New York City. From the write-up at the Central Park website:

Located next to the Willowdell Arch and mounted on top of a small rock outcropping, this harnessed dog with a panting tongue appeals to children who love to climb up and sit on his back while their parents take their photos. Years of stroking and caressing have created a glowing sheen on his ears, nose, body and tail. A bas-relief plaque on the stone below shows the seven sled dogs on their historic run with the inscribed words “Endurance Fidelity Intelligence.”

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is big on Balto. According their website, Balto and the other dogs on the team had been reduced to a sideshow exhibit after their rise to fame, and the folks of Cleveland rallied to their rescue:

A bargain was struck to buy the dogs and bring them to Cleveland. The deal was to raise $2,000 in two weeks. With the help of the local media, Cleveland's response was explosive.

Cleveland public school children collected coins in buckets; factory workers passed the hat; hotels, stores and visitors donated what they could to the Balto fund. The Western Reserve Kennel Club added a needed financial boost and the money was raised in 10 days.

On March 19, 1927, Balto and six companions (Tillie, Fox, Sye, Billy, Old Moctoc and Alaska Slim) were triumphantly brought to Cleveland and given a heroes' welcome in a parade through Public Square to City Hall. The honored dogs were then taken to Brookside Zoo (now the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo) where they lived out their lives in dignity. Approximately 15,000 people visited them the first day. Balto died March 14, 1933, at the age of 11. The body was mounted at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where it has been kept as a reminder of his gallant race against death.

The Wikipedia entry on Nome, Alaska, has more.

Nature, at PBS, also has more on Balto, including the news that some Alaskan schoolchildren have been campaigning to have his body moved from Cleveland to Alaska.

Balto is remembered in books:

Balto and the Great Race
Balto and the Great Race

The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto: (Step into Reading Books Series)
The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto: (Step into Reading Books Series)

And movies: Balto (and two sequels).

And, oh yeah, every year at the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Hmmm. I see the Iditarod website write-up of The 1925 Serum Run to Nome has more details than the other sites to which I've linked so far -- including names of other mushers and dogs, including a dog named Togo, who...

Well, in the spirit of giving every dog his due, here's part of what the Iditarod site says:

Leonhard Seppala left Nome intending to rest at Nulato and return with the serum. But Seppala met Gonangnan at Shaktoolik where he took the serum and turned around, heading back for Nome. He carried the serum back over Norton Sound with the thermometer 30 degrees below zero. Seppala had to face into a merciless gale and in the darkness retraced his route across the uncertain ice. When Seppala turned the serum over to Charlie Olson in Golovin, after carrying it 91 miles, he and his team, including the famous lead dog, Togo, had traveled a total of 260 miles.

Olson turned the serum over to Gunnar Kaasen, who took it the remaining 53 miles to Nome.

Balto, Kaasen's lead dog, owned by Seppala, was memorialized with a statue in Central Park in New York City. Seppala always felt that his lead dog, Togo, didn't get enough recognition for his 260 mile effort. After Togo died, Seppala had him custom mounted and he is now on display at Iditarod® Headquarters in Wasilla. Balto is on display in Cleveland at the Museum of Natural History.

More on Togo here.

Iditarod XXXIV, by the way, starts March 4.

Did I mention earlier that there seemed to be a dispute over some of the details of the 1925 Serum Run? That may have been an understatement. Authors Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury spent four years trying to track down the facts of the case, before writing

The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic
The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic

See Tracking the Ghosts of Alaska (at National Geographic) for the story behind the book.

Addition: Welcome to the folks coming over from Can We Go To Central Park Tomorrow? at Either End of the Curve.

(And if anybody else links, please drop a note in the comments section. That "Links" feature on here has been pretty hit and miss lately.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"How to Raise an American"

Myrna Blyth, writing at Incharacter.org, writes about some of the reactions she and her co-author Chriss Winston have been getting when they tell people that her new book is titled How to Raise an American. Sadly enough, they are getting grief from more than the usual suspects...

I can't find a listing for this book anywhere yet, not even for pre-order, so I guess it's still a work in progress?

I did happen to notice, though, while looking for that title, that Barnes & Noble is having a sale on Blyth's book Spin Sisters. Their "bargain book" offers don't usually last long, and so I expect this link to go dead soon, but since it's a fabulous price I'm linking anyway. Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness -- and Liberalism -- to the Women of America.

Blyth writes the Blyth Spirit column at National Review Online.

Update: The bargain book link above is taking me to the home page, even though the cut-price book is still showing in stock. This appears to be one of those times you'll have to do a search to see if the sale price is still available.

Fun learn-to-read book: Biscuit, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

Biscuit (My First I Can Read Book Series)
Biscuit (My First I Can Read Book Series)

There's a series of books starring Biscuit, a little yellow puppy.

In the book simply titled Biscuit, a little girl is trying to put Biscuit to bed, and he keeps wanting one thing and then another - a snack, a drink, to hear a story, his blanket, his doll, a hug, a kiss, the light on....

You get the picture.

It's a fun read that little kids (not to mention their parents) can identify with, and I've heard from more than one young person that this book was the first one he/she learned to read alone all the way through. I've also had several grandparents swear by it as a great gift to give a beginning reader or aspiring reader. Personally, I rather like it as a read-aloud book, too.

At any rate, if you have preschoolers, you might want to check it out.

Either End of the Curve: "Patience and Tolerance"

Too cute for words :-)

(Especially for those of us who are suckers for kittens and/or dogs...)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Having a Pigfest

Last Friday, some folks in Roanoke, Virigina, had a Pigfest. No, no, it's probably not at all what you're guessing it is. See In The Spirit Of William Wilberforce and Benjamin Franklin at The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to find out what it is.

hat tip: Semicolon

Update: Oops. Nothing like mistyping the name of somebody else's blog. Sorry. It's fixed now.

Remembering Benjamin Franklin

Academic Elephant has a nice post on Benjamin Franklin, illustrated with a bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon. Franklin was born 300 years ago today.

By the way, if you haven't read Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, you've missed a treat.

Also by the way, if you haven't seen Houdon's sculptures of the great men of his day, you've missed another treat.

I wish I knew where I've packed (or lost) a book I have on science and technology in America. (Moving has its moments...) I remember that the author noted that we tend to think of Ben Franklin as a wise, balding, paunchy old man, when in fact he became the darling of society when he was young and athletic. This author (whoever he was), was, as I recall, trying his level best to get folks to appreciate the younger Franklin.

That's a nice thought, and not a bad reminder that much of our early history here in the United States was due to young whippersnappers running around refusing to be denied their rights as Englishmen. But, I have to admit, it's the thought of Franklin soothing his hotter-headed colleagues in latter days that sticks with me, and the paintings of him as an older man that spring first to mind.

Ah, well. Whatever age you care to remember him at, here's a toast to our Mr. Franklin: genius, diplomat, courageous man, possessed of sharp wit and common sense, a man who knew his history as well as changed it, and a character, to boot. What more could you ask of in a Founding Father?

City Journal Winter 2006 | Ronald Reagan's Unlikely Heir by Steven Malanga

Steven Malanga sees a lot of similarity between Ronald Reagan and another convert to the Republican party, this one a fellow campaigning for governor in Ohio.

Malanga is the author of The New New Left: How American Politics Works Today (Dee, Ivan R. Publisher, 2005). From the Publisher (via Barnes & Noble):

"Politics in America today is more than just a contest between left and right, liberal and conservative, argues Steven Malanga in The New New Left. The old labels no longer accurately describe how politics works today, especially in America's urban areas. Instead there's an emerging new political dynamic: the contest between those who benefit from an ever-expanding public sector and those who pay for this bigger government - in other words, between tax consumers and taxpayers." In sharp vignettes, Mr. Malanga traces the rise of the tax consumers' movement to two sources. One is the growth of public-sector employee unions beginning in the 1950s, which produced an increasingly powerful and influential lineup of organizations that are essentially political. The second is the War on Poverty of the 1960s, whose funding of grassroots social service groups created a new type of neighborhood "political club," sustained by and organized around public funding.

To give the other side its air time, I think I'll mention that the critic writing for Kirkus Reviews, as reprinted at Barnes & Noble, uses this book as an excuse to riff on the evils of Wal-Mart and further says The New New Left is:

The usual tongue-clucking about the egghead conspiracy, on about the same intellectual level as the "annoy a liberal" bumper stickers that have been popping up lately. Caveat emptor.

I find I rarely agree with modern Kirkus Reviews, but don't say you haven't been warned...

I haven't seen the book. If any of you have read it, please let me know what you think of it. Thanks.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Presidential Inaugurations: Ronald Reagan, First Inauguration, January 20, 1981

Friday marks the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's first inauguration? How did a quarter century go by so quickly?

Among other places, the text of the First Inaugural Address is available here, at The Avalon Project at Yale Law School.

hat tip: Anna at A Rose By Any Other Name

Books of the year 2005 | Peerless pages | Economist.com

Back in December, the folks at The Economist did a round-up of what they considered the year's best books, in the following categories: Biography, History, Politics and current affairs, Ecomonics and business, Science and technology, Fiction and memoirs, Culture and digressions.

And, yes, you read that right. Fiction and memoirs are together in one category.

But not let's get into that today, shall we?

There are quite a few books there I haven't seen on other lists. Interesting stuff...

hat tip: A Circle of Quiet

American Kennel Club - ACE Awards

Every year, the American Kennel Club honors outstanding dogs with Awards for Canine Excellence, better known as ACE Awards. Dogs are honored in five categories: Exemplary Companion, Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Service, and Therapy. Find out about the honorees for 2005 here.

I saw a short piece on the service dog honoree, Faith, last night on television. This dog's owner, Leana Beasley, collapsed and started having grand mal seizures. Faith went and got the phone for Leana, but when Leana didn't respond, Faith, entirely on her own, ran to the phone's base, hit speed-dial 911, and barked for help. And then, trained to recognize uniforms, Faith watched at a window until she saw officers, and then ran and opened the door for them, using a pull attached to the door.

In the write-up at the AKC website, it says that after placing the call, Faith went to Leana, and rolled her over into a recovery position. This was part of her training by the Assistance Dog Club of Puget Sound, which included "seizure, respiratory, and cardiac alert and response, mobility assistance, emergency water rescue, and cart pulling."


If you'd like to nominate a dog for 2006 in any of the five ACE Award categories, the cut-off date is June 15. You may nominate your own dog, if you'd like. The dog must be AKC registered or registrable to be eligible.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Russian space city builds new route to heavens - Space News - MSNBC.com

James Oberg, NBC News space analyst, reported Jan. 6, 2006, that the Russian space program has experienced a religious revival since 1991. The Baikonur Cosmodrome has a Russian Orthodox church, and priests routinely bless both rockets and crews. Cosmonauts carry Russian icons into orbit. This year, Orthodox Christmas was held in a new church. And... well, let him tell you more.

hat tip: Mere Comments

Joe McKeever: Men Are The Way They Are And That's Not All Bad

Joe McKeever, discussing manhood, includes information on a couple of books: West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns by Jane Tompkins, and

Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul
Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul

Starting at the part of the post which introduces Wild at Heart:

A friend e-mailed the other day asking me to recommend a book on what it means to be a man. He needed some help with a talk he had been assigned. I suggested one he will not be able to put down, a book which can change forever how he looks at himself. "Wild at Heart," by John Eldredge, ought to be read by every man who is in danger of forgetting what he was created to be, by every woman who needs help in understanding the person she married, and by every parent of a son.

"When all is said and done," Eldredge writes, "I thnk most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy." So, we strive not to drink and smoke and swear, to help with the dishes and be a good provider, and think we've done it.

Eldredge asks his men readers, "In all your boyhood dreams growing up, did you ever dream of becoming a Nice Guy?"

Being made in the image of God, Eldredge writes, must mean something special. God has put three desires so deeply inside my heart that to disregard them is to risk losing one's soul: man needs a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.

Here are a few quotes which Eldredge sprinkles throughout his book.

Philip Yancey: "How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified? What government would execute Mister Rogers or Captain Kangaroo?"

Howard Macey: "The spiritual life cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier, and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed."

Proverbs 20:5: "The heart of a man is like deep water...."

I've seen Paul Harvey in person once in my life, in 1963 at a large auditorium in Birmingham. One of the greatest public speakers of our generation, Mr. Harvey began by describing an island in the Pacific, a veritable paradise where the natives provide food and drink and clothing and safety to everyone at no cost whatsoever, an eden where you would never have to work another day in your life. No passport needed, money unnecessary, available to everyone. "Want to move there?" he asked. After a long pause, he said, "Alcatraz."

Paul Harvey's message that day ploughed a furrow down the center of my life. "Man's search in this world is not for security," he said, "but for insecurity." Man is driven to explore, to climb, to take risks, to battle enemies, to achieve at great cost. To be and to do, not to watch others and cheer. Man was made for bigger things than La-Z-boy recliners and overstuffed couches in front of high definition televisions. He was blueprinted as an achiever, not a spectator. A player, not a fan. A worker if you will, rather than a retiree...

Read the full August 29, 2005, McKeever post here. It's also got some tips on how to build a men's ministry, and it definitely doesn't include just getting together for breakfast...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

OpinionJournal - Five Best: Books about the U.S. Constitution

Writing for the regular "Five Best" OpinionJournal feature (in which someone recommends books on a selected topic), Robert H. Bork has a few things to say about these five books on the U.S. Constitution: The Federalist by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States by Joseph Story (Hillard, Gray & Co., 1833), The Least Dangerous Branch by Alexander M. Bickel (Bobbs-Merrill, 1962), The Rise of Modern Judicial Review by Christopher Wolfe (Basic Books, 1986), and Separation of Church and State by Philip Hamburger (Harvard University, 2002).

Federalist Papers
Federalist Papers

Commentaries on the Constitution
Commentaries on the Constitution

Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics

Rise of Modern Judicial Review: From Judicial Interpretation to Judge-Made Law

Separation of Church and State
Separation of Church and State

Mr. Bork is, among other things, the editor of A Country I Do Not Recognize: The Legal Assault on American Values (Hoover, 2005).

"A Country I Do Not Recognize": The Legal Assault on American Values

Book note: The Circular Staircase, by Mary Roberts Rinehart

I just finished reading The Circular Staircase, c. 1908, by Mary Roberts Rinehart this evening. And while some of the plot is a bit farfetched, it's still a quite entertaining read. (Translation: My husband had to put up with me laughing out loud at the narrator's antics and descriptions of people and situations.)

But then, I'm the sort of reader who will put up with even outrageous storylines any day if the characters are wonderful and the dialog has wit. And Rinehart, in this book, let loose with some great observations. She also did very well with the red herring business, as far as I'm concerned. It was great fun, with lots of twists and turns, and a few delightful detours.

It's told as a narrative, from the point of view of one Rachel Innes, and right off the bat we know she's no shrinking violet:

This is the story of how a middle-aged spinster lost her mind, deserted her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house for the summer out of town, and found herself involved in one of those mysterious crimes that keep our newspapers and detective agencies happy and prosperous. For twenty years I had been perfectly comfortable; for twenty years I had had the window-boxes filled in the spring, the carpets lifted, the awnings put up and the furniture covered with brown linen; for as many summers I had said good-by to my friends, and, after watching their perspiring hegira, had settled down to a delicious quiet in town, where the mail comes three times a day, and the water supply does not depend on a tank on the roof.

And then - the madness seized me. When I look back over the months I spent at Sunnyside, I wonder that I survived at all. As it is, I show the wear and tear of my harrowing experiences. I have turned very gray - Liddy reminded me of it, only yesterday, by saying that a little bluing in the rinse-water would make my hair silvery, instead of a yellowish white. I hate to be reminded of unpleasant things and I snapped her off.

"No," I said sharply, "I'm not going to use bluing at my time of life, or starch, either."

Liddy's nerves are gone, she says, since that awful summer, but she has enough left, goodness knows! And when she begins to go around with a lump in her throat, all I have to do is to threaten to return to Sunnyside, and she is frightened into a semblance of cheerfulness, from which you may judge that the summer there was anything but a success.

The newspaper accounts have been so garbled and incomplete - one of them mentioned me but once, and then only as the tenant at the time the thing happened - that I feel it my due to tell what I know. Mr. Jamieson, the detective, said himself he could never have done without me, although he gave me little enough credit, in print.

I shall have to go back several years - thirteen, to be exact - to start my story. At that time my brother died, leaving me his two children...

This title is still in print, from several publishers in several formats, actually. There are also lots and lots of used copies floating around for sale. You can also read it online, but if you're like me, a spirited "cozy" murder mystery is most properly read in a comfy armchair, preferably a rocker or recliner, with a nice lap robe and a cat or two on hand to improve the atmosphere :-).

As far as new copies go, in addition to paperback and hardcover, it is available as audio:

The Circular Staircase
The Circular Staircase

And in collections, like this one:

Best Mysteries of Mary Roberts Rinehart: Four Complete Novels by America's First Lady of Mystery
Best Mysteries of Mary Roberts Rinehart: Four Complete Novels by America's First Lady of Mystery

Mary Roberts Rinehart died in 1958 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which has a short write-up and photo of her on its website.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Freakonomics authors think they were hoodwinked

In the book Freakonomics, civil rights agitator Stetson Kennedy is used for an illustration of "information asymmetry." After the book was published, the authors started getting clues that Kennedy's story wasn't quite kosher, as they put it. So they started digging...

hat tip: Brothers Judd

"New Blog" Watch -- Writers Read

I just stumbled across a new group blog, Writers Read, billed as:

A collaboration of writers who are also readers. What we're reading, what we think of it, and what we recommend to others.

It's still wet behind the ears (less than two weeks old, actually), and they're in the process of introducing themselves over there, in addition to tossing up book lists and starting in on reviews. In glancing through the bio posts, I see that the group seems to be mostly (if not entirely) composed of people active in the Presbyterian Church (PCA) at this point.

If you're a writer, they're taking applications to join in (see right hand sidebar).

Feminism isn't dead, but a new book wounds it badly -- Mona Charen

Here's another thumbs-up review for Kate O'Beirne's new book, Women Who Make the World Worse.

Related post: OpinionJournal: The Sisterhood, Defrocked.

Happy birthday, Mr. Bond

Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear, is 80 today. The Common Room has a post, with links.

Do me a favor, please...

...and go around your house and make sure there aren't any electrical appliances, like radios, for instance, anywhere near a bathtub or sink. Please.

Last week a young man of our acquaintance died when a radio fell into his tub.

He was in the Air Force. He had volunteered to risk his neck for total strangers. And he died in a silly household mishap.

That hurts.

Losing him would have been hard enough on those who loved him, however he died. But like this? There's definitely an added pain, an extra dose of confusion to it.

It seems such a waste.

It has resulted in some painfully awkward moments amongst people standing around talking about him. It's sometimes horribly difficult to discuss a death that seems to have been both pointless and avoidable.

Don't do that to the people who love you.

Do me (and your family) a favor, and go around your house and make sure there aren't any electrical appliances anywhere near a bathtub, hot tub, shower or sink. Please.

Thank you.

Vatican seeks to join Schengen borderless zone, also notes zero crime rate during Pope's funeral

From reporter Teresa Kuchler, in EUobserver.com: Vatican seeks to join Schengen borderless zone :

A top official from the Vatican announced on Friday (13 January) that it wants to join the European border-free Schengen zone, in a bid to prevent international terrorism crossing its borders.

The Vatican's signing up to the Schengen agreement, which replaces internal border checkpoints between member states by reinforced external borders, is meant to boost cooperation with EU authorities.

Nicola Picardi, the Vatican's "procurer of justice", said that the Schengen agreement was about more than allowing people to travel without passports, according to media reports.

"This agreement allows for us to intensify exchange of information, joint operations, repressive and preventive measures, to ensure the security of all people," Picardi said during a ceremony marking the opening of the Vatican's judicial year.

"International terrorism obliges new forms of communication, with the aim of uniting free movement of persons with perfect measures of fomenting security," the Vatican's top official said.

At the moment, the Schengen border free area includes 15 states: 13 EU members (all old member states except for the UK and Ireland) plus Iceland and Norway.

Later in the article, talking about crime rates at the Vatican, there's this:

He [Mr. Picardi] said however that during the funeral of the late Pope John Paul II in last spring, when 6 million grieving Catholics from the whole world camped in the city for a few intense and crowded days; not a single crime had been reported.

Not a single purse or wallet robbery had occurred, he noted.

I find that hard to believe, but that's apparently what they're saying.

Full article

Thursday, January 12, 2006

OpinionJournal: The Sisterhood, Defrocked

Melanie Kirkpatrick, associate editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, begins her review of Kate O'Beirne's new book:

Kate O'Beirne is ill-served by the lurid cover of her new book, which features unflattering caricatures of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hillary Clinton, Jane Fonda and Sarah Jessica Parker (a k a Carrie Bradshaw of "Sex and the City"). The Ann Coulter-ish title--"Women Who Make the World Worse"--is almost as off-putting. Uh-oh, is this going to be another one of those right-wing rants?

Happily, it is anything but. Mrs. O'Beirne's book is a serious examination of 30-plus years of feminist folly and the conservative counter-approach. And while the National Review columnist and TV commentator is not shy about saying what she thinks, the only rants that appear in her pages here are those she quotes from some well-known feminist icons...

Full review (OpinionJournal.com, Jan. 12, 2006)

I have to agree on the cover. What in the Sam Hill was Penguin thinking? Ick.

Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Workplaces
Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Workplaces

Shameless self-promotion...

The Suitable For Mixed Company Annex has lots of short takes and links. There are a few posts and/or links that are duplicates of, or variations on, what you'll find here, but mostly it has taken on a life of its own.

Joe McKeever: Assessing the situation in the Crescent City

Joe McKeever, the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, provides a brief, general overview of how things stand in New Orleans. Some of it sounds better than I thought, some of it worse than I imagined. He covers everything from car insurance rates skyrocketing, to the silly effort by the New Orleans City Council to pick a new coach for the Saints football team, to a group of people helping people move quickly toward rebuilding their homes in the hopes that obvious restoration achievement will keep the city from pulling an eminent domain end run, forcing people out of their neighborhoods.

I think it's interesting that, when he gets to talking about Baptist churches in particular, he says:

Our North American Mission Board is asking our pastors to decide which churches in which neighborhoods will be brought back first. The idea is that since the population is going to be a fraction of what it used to be for several years, we need to focus on one church in each large area, putting our resources there, trying to build it up, get all our people in that area worshiping there, having an "anchor" church there. Then, as the residential areas are rebuilt, some of the other churches can be reopened and their ministries resumed.

So, here's your prayer request for today. It goes directly against the nature of most pastors and churches to volunteer for their buildings to stay unused for several years, to go a mile down the street and join with other partial congregations in forming another church. But that is precisely what we are going to be asking some of them to do. Pray for these churches and their leaders, please.

The last thing we need these days is a vast number of tiny, struggling congregations scattered across this devastated city, each one needing the charity and assistance of Baptists across America just to keep their doors open and their bills paid. To tell the truth, we had too much of that before the storm.

Our Baptist polity--a chief element of which is the independence and autonomy of each church--is often our strength, and sometimes a great burden.

More about this later, but one of the more fascinating plans being made for next summer is to pull together volunteers from around the country and build forty or more homes in connection with Habitat for Humanity. In fact, before Katrina, we were working on this very scenario. Under the leadership of David Crosby (pastor FBC New Orleans), the "Baptist Crossroads Project" was scheduled to become the largest Habitat project to date sponsored by a single denominational group. When Katrina hit, followed by the flood, and we learned of the extent of the devastation, I had a phone call from David. "Joe, let's build FOUR HUNDRED homes next summer!" I said, half joking, "Man, you have lost your ever loving mind!" Later, I repented of my unbelief. Last week, we had a meeting to resume the planning. This incredible project has a website all its own through which you may keep up with the ideas, plans, and progress: www.baptistcrossroads.org.

Full Joe McKeever post here.

Dueling testimony in Wisconsin Election Day 2004 tire slashing case

From Jan. 11, on courttv.com: Activists: We were framed by Democrat operatives in tire-slashing case.

From Jan. 12, on courttv.com: Campaign strategist: Five activists celebrated after tires were slashed.

The "campaign strategist" would be a political consultant from the John Kerry campaign. The "activists" would be local campaign workers, including the son of a local politician, who claim that the Democratic Party sent in "professional political operatives" to slash tires on vans rented by the Republican Party and then pointed the police in their direction.

hat tip: RushLimbaugh.com

Chron.com | Measures to Prevent Hajj Stampedes

According to this AP article printed by the Houston Chronicle, there have been measures taken since 1994 by Saudi officials to try to control the flow of pilgrims intent upon the ritual stoning of the devil, and more improvements are planned, in an effort to prevent trampling deaths. But many pilgrims ignore the directions, or accidents happen, with sometimes horrifying results, as today's death toll testifies. (As of now, the death toll for the most recent stampede is at 345).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Book notes: Twink, by John Neufeld (also published as Touching)

The junior high that I attended took in students from various grade schools scattered around town and out in the country. Junior high in that respect was quite an experience, because suddenly you had to deal with a whole lot of people you didn't already know. By sixth grade, of course, you could begin to feel that you knew what was what. Junior high is where you found out that your circle didn't constitute an accurate reflection of the whole, wide world, like you thought it did.

Junior high was where I first ran into Robin, a girl whose mother had taken that fertility drug that became infamous for causing birth defects. Robin had the trademark problem. Instead of two arms, she had an arm on one side, and two odd fingers attached to her shoulder on the other.

I probably shouldn't have freaked out. I have some birth defects of my own, notably some partially fused toes which I'd used at various times in my childhood to gross out other children and the occasional adult. (Ordinarily I was a very polite and considerate child, but I, ahem, had my lesser moments...) I went to grade school with a boy who had had polio and was a bit twisted and couldn't walk without crutches. It's not like I didn't know that people were subject to physical distortions. All I had to do was look at my own two feet, for pity's sake.

But no one had told me about the sort of drastic deformity that Robin had, and I wasn't prepared for it, and I didn't handle it very well at first. (More frank version: I felt physically sick.)

I went through various stages with Robin. I avoided her at first. (I was a kid, OK?) Then we became friends. I was embarrassed that I'd been sick when I first saw her. She told me everybody got sick when they first saw her, and I shouldn't feel bad about it. Then I felt sorry for her. And she told me to cut it out, that she didn't feel sorry for herself. And she sure didn't seem to. Robin had her act together better than just about anybody else I knew. She was still a kid, and I'm not claiming she was perfect, but as I remember it her resolve and cheerfulness and her ability to take people how they were and to forgive them their shortcomings and move on were head and shoulders above what I could do. She came across as surprisingly comfortable inside her own skin. I came to admire not only her courage but her compassion, too.

It seemed a supremely upside down way for the world to be. She was the one with the huge, obvious problems, right? So why was it that more often than not she was the one comforting me?

I haven't seen or heard from Robin in years and years. For that matter, it's probably been years since I thought about her. Shame on me, but I've left school days long behind me now, for the most part.

But yesterday I stumbled across a paperback book called Twink, by John Neufeld, c. 1970. The cover and inside copy say it was formerly released as Touching. The back cover copy starts:

A tender, haunting novel about a brave and wonderful girl who taught others the meaning of being human and the joy of being alive.

Even with that, I didn't think of Robin until I got to the second page, where a sixteen year old boy home from boarding school meets his new, severely handicapped stepsister for the first time, and his first reaction is to feel sick.

Oh, oh. Been there. Done that. I'm not proud of it, but it definitely happened like that... That's when I remembered Robin, who forgave me for it and insisted I move past all that. Robin, who was joyful about being alive, and didn't feel sorry for herself.

I sat down and read the book. It's a short book. I read it in one evening, easy.

I'm not familiar with the author, John Neufeld, but throughout this book I couldn't shake the feeling that this wasn't a novel, but an account of real people, with the names changed. Something more like Death Be Not Proud than the normal run of fiction. It felt autobiographical, whether it is or not.

This book is one I'm going to recommend, but conditionally.

The first part is written from the stepbrother Harry's viewpoint, in the first person, about his first visit to the institution where "Twink" lives along with other people with cerebral palsy. The second part is where he (and readers) get filled in on Twink's life, the ups and downs, the difficulties for her family, the differences between the institutions where she's lived, the treatments, the hopes, the naysayers versus the folks who won't give up. The filling in is done by another new stepsister, aged 22, who stays up past bedtime showing Harry pictures and pages from diaries, and chatting. Along the way, we meet people around Twink, particularly others with CP. The name Twink, by the way, is a nickname, a shortened form of Twinkle. That's the good stuff.

But it is a very 1960s/70s book, in the bad sense. Harry, age 16, smokes when gets nervous, hoping to look cool, and the adults around him either make token protests or ask him for a light. At home, after his father drifts off, Harry pours himself a drink, and the stepsister just asks for one for herself. There is talk between the stepsister and Harry about dropping acid and smoking grass -- neither one admitting to actually doing it, but the stepsister is coy and seems to want to make her stepbrother wonder if she might be doing it, along with other things. The parents just mosey off to bed and leave the 16-year-old boy and his flashy, flirty older stepsister to stay up and get to know each other, in the room stocked with drinks on the sideboard (to which, as I've already said, the kids nonchalantly help themselves). So, OK, I'm trying to say this is not exactly a parenting manual for people who want to keep their kids out of trouble ;-).

There is a lot about courage, and hope, and seeing the human beings who are inside disabled bodies; good stuff for starting nice discussions about the value of human beings regardless of what they look like and/or can't do, not to mention the virtue of not letting circumstances defeat you. But it does have that baggage from the era in which it was published, which might call for a different brand of discussion.

It's your call, of course, but I wouldn't want kids taking the wrong messages away from this book, when there are so many nice ones to glean from it, in addition to the adventure of just going along for the ride on a 16-year-old's very long, rather rattling, life-changing day. And the ending's one of the better ones I've come across in a while, at least the last few lines. That last paragraph is a haunter as well as a gotcha, I think... (Don't peek. It's a short book. You'll get there fast enough.)

The reading level code for this book, for those of you who can decipher such things (I'm not sure I can), is RL 5/IL 6+.

Bolivian leader labels China 'ideological ally' - The Washington Times

Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales is on a world tour right now. He made a point of being chummy with the Chinese this week, as Joe McDonald of the Associated Press reports (Washington Times, January 10, 2006).

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Slobokan's Site O' Schtuff SloboPoll

The Slobokan poll question this week is "Do you want to see more or less government regulation of your daily life?"

Gee, I think it took me about three nanoseconds to vote Less. The other options are More and Don't Care.

The poll is in his left sidebar. Go here for comments.

His poll questions are usually tied to a recent post of his. I'm pretty sure this question was prompted by this post.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Record number of commercial aircraft orders at Boeing for 2005

Orders for aircraft were up, way up, for Boeing in 2005.

I notice, however, that how the company fared in comparison to Airbus has spawned a couple of different headlines.

The International Herald Tribune has a Bloomberg News article, dateline Seattle, headlined Boeing logs more orders than Airbus.

The Scotsman has a Reuters article, dateline Paris, headlined Airbus 2005 orders similar to those of Boeing.

At any rate, it looks to have been a gangbuster year in aviation orders. From the International Herald Tribune article:

...Boeing said Thursday that its commercial-aircraft orders more than tripled to a record 1,002 planes last year on demand from Asian and Middle Eastern carriers, as it overtook Airbus in customer requests for the first time in five years.

The orders surpassed its previous record for 606 planes set in 1998, according to Boeing's Web site. Airbus, which is the world's largest commercial aircraft maker based on deliveries, had orders for 687 planes at the end of November and expects to release its year-end total Jan. 17.


Boeing's orders included requests for 569 of the company's 737s, 235 of its 787s and 154 of its 777s - all records for those models...

Townhall.com :: Columns :: Game Theory and Media Bias by Todd Manzi

There seems to be an ongoing debate on some blogs about whether the press by and large controls the Democrats, or the Democrats by and large control the press. Maybe we need to look at this angle too? (Via Betsy's Page)

Intent - Journal - "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."

Looking at Mitford series author Jan Karon today, you probably wouldn't guess what she survived to get to where she is. Follow the link provided by Sparrow at the Intent blog to a newspaper article about Karon's life. (The Charlotte Observer, August 14, 2005, by Sam Hodges.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

HistoryLink: Boeing 307 Stratoliner Pressurized Airliner -- A Snapshot History

Here's a trivia question for you.

These days, speaking of an airliner, we call it cabin pressurization. In 1940, when it was first in use on commercial airlines, what was it called? Cabin what?

The answer to that question, plus more on the first high-altitude passenger jet airliner and on 1930s aviation research, can be found here. (HistoryLink, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, File #3598.)

The prototype Boeing 307 Stratoliner first flew on December 31, 1938.

According to the linked article, in addition to cabin pressurization, the Boeing 307 Stratoliner also had "power boosted control surfaces and geared two-speed engine superchargers," making it very advanced for its day.

Blogs4Life bloggers' conference is January 23

The first annual Blog4Life conference for pro-life bloggers will be Monday, January 23, 2006, in Washington, D.C., prior to the 33rd annual March for Life.

I can't be there, except in spirit, but I am happy to help spread the word. Go here for more information.

hat tip: Tim at ProLifeBlogs (via e-mail), who notes in passing that at least one blogger will be traveling from Italy to attend. So, hey, don't feel this is just a United States thing :-).

Trying to learn from Sago

Rodger Morrow has a follow-up on the West Virginia coal mine disaster and the horrible miscommunications about how many miners were alive when search and rescue crews found them. For his original post, see How the press got the "Miracle at Sago" wrong.

For a related, very short post I found through trackbacks on his site, see Sago Mine Disaster.

For Editor & Publisher articles, see Media Report Miracle Mine Rescue -- Then Carry the Tragic Truth and Local W.Va. Paper Says Skepticism Helped it Avoid Mining Story Goof.

My previous posts here and here.

I regret having put out the false information on this blog -- but I have to admit I felt pretty comfortable with the news once I had more than one source, i.e., news coming from not only more than one website, but from more than one reporter. (Quite a few sites were just relaying what the AP reporter said, but others had their own reporter on it.)

The original hubbub happened late in the day around here. I headed to bed worried about how many miners might die in hospital, but pleased that the first thing people would see on my blog the next morning was good news. My husband was listening to the BBC, however, and he heard the story coming apart. For that matter, he said the poor reporter sounded like she was fighting back sobs, and kept saying things along the lines of 'I don't know if what I'm telling you now is right, I just don't know anymore.' And so I nixed sleep and tried to follow the story for a while, before finally putting up my own version of 'I don't know what to tell you right now' in an update, and giving up for the night.

Since then I've been trying to figure out if there was anything I should have seen that I didn't see at the time.

I'm still working on it, as you can see.

I hate it when I fall for stuff that turns out not to be true.

I know it's bound to happen from time to time, but I still hate it.

Another thought comes to mind, by the way. People in general, and perhaps folks in the blogosphere in particular, are fond of talking of "The Press" as if it's an entity. There are references to Old Media and New Media and Mainstream Media (MSM), and underneath all this is a tendency to lump most reporters into one large clump. There's some validity to that, up to a certain point, in certain areas, I think. Certainly, some of the 'reporters' who are in the business to try to influence politics or policy, or punish people who don't agree with them, deserve some of the heat they get, since what they're doing isn't reporting, as much as they'd like people to think so, and since there is a horrible conformity in some quarters.

But then there are the other folks in the news business, particularly away from political beats -- the ones who might, for instance, sob into a microphone upon realizing they may have falsely raised hopes and accidentally spread news that wasn't true. The ones who were happy for the miners' families, and who had to have been delighted to have the chance to report a miracle outcome to what had been shaping up as a pessimistic story. The reporters who aren't just "blankety-blank extensions of their blankety-blank microphones" as a friend of mine who worked in television news called some of his colleagues. (And, yes, he actually said "blankety-blank". He generally cleaned things up when talking around ladies.)

Let me give you a little context here. I got scammed as a reporter, bigtime, once, by a hustler who'd also scammed folks at the national network level. It wasn't any consolation to me that the big boys got burned, too. I'm grateful to this day to the police chief who sat me down and politely, patiently, and discreetly explained to me why I shouldn't have believed the guy from the get-go.

At least, in that case, I had somebody to be mad at. I got hustled. And in my case, no one got hurt, not really. It was a feel-good, feature story kind of thing, with no victims. The police checked things out, and the last I heard the best that anybody could determine was that this guy just wanted his name in the paper and his mug on television, probably just because otherwise in his life he had nothing that he considered an achievement, and he was the sort of guy who didn't feel good about himself without folks applauding. Some folks in the news business in my day used to call folks like that 'dancing bear' men. As in people who show up at your desk with some sideshow sort of thing, hoping it's good enough to get their picture taken, usually so their momma will clip it out of the paper and say she's proud of her little boy, what with him getting his picture in the paper and all.

I can't imagine what it's like right now for the reporters (and their editors) who got caught up in the good news announcements in West Virginia and then had to retract. It's obvious that running with the false story caused a lot of hurt. And there aren't any hustlers to point fingers at, no dancing bears to blame, not much to blame, really, except man's incredible capacity for optimism, and who wants to kick that? I don't.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

BBC NEWS | Americas | US mine 'rescue' turns to tragedy (updated)

***scroll down for updates****

It's looking like people who picked up parts of cell phone conversations spread the bad information about there being twelve survivors. BBC has a timeline:

Monday 0640 (1140 GMT) - Explosion causes collapse
1800 (approx) - Rescuers sent in
Tuesday 0730 - Air quality tests said to be 'discouraging'
2100 - Families say one body found
2350 - Families say 12 miners found alive
Wednesday 0250 - Reports emerge that just one miner alive
0310 - Mine officials confirm only one survivor

Update: The above post was put up somewhat before 2 a.m. It is now about 10 a.m. The link goes to an entirely different story now, one titled "Fury over US mine 'rescue' fiasco." I can understand why people, especially family members, would be furious -- but I hope that the press, and bloggers, will try hard not to emphasize that. It sounds like it was a case of honest mistakes snowballing. There's no getting around how hurtful the misinformation wound up being, but I'm willing to bet that the folks involved in the miscommunication are never going to make a similar mistake again. I'm willing to bet that others in search and rescue are going to use this fiasco as a cautionary tale. I'm willing to bet that people are very, very sorry already and don't need people screaming at them or waving proposed punishments around to make things better. Sometimes mistakes are just that, mis-takes. Somebody heard something through a veil of hope, and heard wrong, and the rest is history. I'm of the opinion that the best thing to do now is offer condolences all around and then take a good, hard look at how things went wrong, and try to learn from it. But, in my opinion, I can't see any reason to ask for heads to roll. Let's not make a bad situation even worse. If we were dealing with hard-hearted people with withered ethical sense or cracked moral compasses it would be different. But we're not, as far as I can see. We have a bunch of people who got caught by a rumor that got too much traction. Or that's what it looks like at this point.

On a slightly different note, I notice that the BBC is now being very careful. At the bottom of one graph, it has this: Information as known at 1215 GMT Wednesday 4 January. Good for them. Some stories call for that sort of caution, and this one, tragically, has become that sort of story.

Update: Rodger Morrow nails it, I suspect, with How the press got the "Miracle at Sago" wrong.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's right about the misinformation coming from people listening to police scanners. Even in the newsroom where I worked, which was full of people who had been around the block a few times and/or who had worked the police beat, there were massive wild goose chases prompted by snatches of communication heard on police scanners -- and I wouldn't even know where to begin to tell you about the rumors that whip through my current hometown based upon what somebody's heard, or thought they heard, on police scanners. Our local police, I might add, are going more and more to cell phone communication. Cuts down on eavesdroppers, substantially, that does. (Via Michelle Malkin.)