Monday, July 31, 2006

Umbert meets Hawaii Five-O

For reasons that escape me at the moment (this happened long ago), when I was young my girlfriends and I were avid fans of the television show Hawaii Five-O. When the older sister of one of my very best friends got to be an extra on the show, we went nuts. We gathered at my friend's house, and watched even more avidly than usual, just so we could catch the probably less than two seconds her older sister was on television being run into by one of the main characters. Yep. Her job was to be an obstacle - and a source of shopping bags and stuff flying through the air - to make a footchase scene a bit more dramatic. And we were thrilled to death for her. (Did I mention we were young?)

We also, like many other folks in that time period, found just all sorts of excuses to say Book him, Danno! (or some variation thereof). It was fun.

How nice to know I appear to be in good company. Heh.

Hmmm. I haven't seen an episode of Hawaii Five-O in years and years. Should I leave it parked on the happy-but-vague-memories shelf, I wonder, or should I keep my eyes open for a chance to watch it again? Hmmm....

Regarding what happened 9/11 at the Pentagon

Flip has the link to a YouTube video, just over six minutes long, of a documented analysis of the flight path of American Flight 77 just before it hit the Pentagon. It's a just-the-facts-ma'am sort of piece, but made my skin crawl all the same. (I can't help but think of the people who were murdered when this happened.)

Learning about Van Gogh via podcast

See Van Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collectors NGS for a website that ties in to a National Galleries of Scotland art exhibition. The website is something of a short course on the life and works of the artist Vincent Van Gogh. The nicely-done PodCurator feature starts with audio immediately upon opening (fair warning), with TV presenter and actress Hannah Gordon doing the narration. (Possibly needless qualification: I opted to listen online instead of downloading, and I bailed out at just over ten minutes with plans to go back to it when I have more time. The first ten minutes or so, at any rate, are quite well done.)

hat tip: The Scotsman: Scotland Gallery's Pioneering Technology for a Van Gogh Pioneer Collection

Friday, July 28, 2006

Texas missionaries make it home

There was a team of ten volunteers from First Baptist in Forney, Texas, working as missionaries in Beirut when the war broke out. The airport not being an option because of bombing, they moved into the mountains, and then were evacuated by boat to Cyprus. But they're home now. ("Peace of God finally prevails for couple separated by war," by Bill Bangham, Baptist Press, July 28, 2006.)

Raymond Chandler added to Denny's "Mystery Writers Honor Roll"

Denny Hartford thought he'd pretty much completed his personal "Mystery Writers Honor Roll" after reading in the genre as long as he had. But then...

Looking at his original list, I find we have a lot of well-liked authors in common. He does list one author I don't like at all, and a couple I'm not familiar with, but otherwise I find myself very much at home.

If you were making your own list, is there an author you'd have that he doesn't? He does use a very broad definition of "mysteries" - which works for me. I'd possibly add Manning Coles, I think, even though they're mostly espionage books. I'd probably add Margery Allingham. And I'd definitely add Rex Stout.

So, how's your day going?

I spent a quarter of an hour or so this morning peering into my backyard from behind a curtain - watching a doe and her three-quarter-grown offspring eating fallen green apples beneath the apple tree. One of our cats decided she simply must get between the curtain and the screen and see for herself what I was watching. I held the curtain away and helped her get into the window slowly so she wouldn't scare the deer, and we nature-watched together for a while. Deer can look quite comical dealing with apples, if you don't know. So can cats sitting on a windowsill watching them. So that was a nice start to the day.

Yes, I do live in town. Rather in the middle of town. Given half a chance, mule deer don't seem to be put off by minor details like asphalt and sidewalks and cars and fences and people.

So, after this and that and the other, it was after lunch and I was washing dishes and I glanced through the living room and outside just as a truck pulled in front of our house. It looked like a fire truck, the best I could tell through the window from where I was, and through the slatted blinds we use for shade. The men who got out of it looked very much like firefighters, although not in firefighting gear. Then another fire truck rolled by. Definitely a fire truck. I jogged to my husband's office for a better look, and there was yet another fire truck parked on the street, its nose against our driveway. And another fire truck behind that. These trucks were all spewing firemen, in uniform but not turned out for a fire. Curious, that. Then the firemen all walked down the sidewalk, toward downtown. The best we can guess is that we have out-of-town firefighters passing through, and they needed a place to park while they went to lunch. Thanks, fellas. I haven't been this awake in a looong time. Some convoys are definitely more attention-grabbing than others, I have to tell you (especially until it gets through your head that there's not necessarily a fire just because fire trucks are pulling to the curb everywhere you look).

So, how's your day going?

Update: I have talked with some of the neighbors. These neighbors are having a grand time today, holding a "Christmas in July" craft sale cum yard sale. They even have Christmas lights up. They are calling out "Merry Christmas" to all and sundry who walk by. They tell me they are getting varied responses to this (no kidding). But, at any rate, they talked to the firemen, and the firefighters are from several towns a couple/three hours west of here, and are on their way home from helping fight a wildfire a couple/three hours east of here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Test your knowledge: Arab-Americans and faith

First try to guess what percentage of Arab-Americans are Christian.

Next, of those who are Christian, are there more Catholics, Protestants, or Eastern Orthodox?

Check your guesses here.

hat tip: Donald Sensing

Semicolon to launch Saturday Review round-up of book reviews

It's in the air or something. I've been toying with idea of starting some sort of regular or semi-regular round-up of book reviews, set up much like the Works-for-Me Wednesday feature over at Rocks in my Dryer, especially now that Shannon's shown how to set it up so people can see at a glance what the subject is for each link. But I haven't quite felt up to taking on the project, to be honest with you. Not right now.

But I see that Sherry at Semicolon has come up with the same idea - based on the same inspiration, no less. Let's do this over at her place, at least for now, eh? Short version: If you post a book review during the week, you go to her blog on Saturday and provide a link to it at the bottom of that week's Saturday Review post.

Hmmm. I don't know about you, but this might be just what I needed to prompt me to attack my read-but-not-reviewed stack. Not to mention my neither-read-nor-reviewed stack.

Some of my readers might belong...

...on the Gutsy Ladies List.

...or on the Family-Friendly Blogroll.

At a guess :)

hat tip: Found while following links, starting from a comment here on Suitable For Mixed Company. (/Shameless plug for more comments.)

BooMama's "The Day That Summer Prevailed"... another "living with boys" post.

(We like that sort of thing around here, if you hadn't noticed.)

P.S. The first edition of the Cool Boys of Children's Literature List is close to done at Jen Robinson's Book Page.

In case you're heading to Rome (or like to be an armchair tourist)

See It's a country within a city by John Bordsen (Charlotte Observer, July 23, 2006) for a travel article with a twist. Mr. Bordsen interviewed Jeffrey Kirby, a 31-year-old seminarian who has lived in Vatican City for three years while attending the North American College, for tips for tourists heading to Rome or Vatican City.

And, no. I don't want to go see "the Bone Church". Thanks, anyway. I am with Our Correspondent Kirby's mother on this one. There are other ways to teach the intended lesson that don't involve not giving people a proper burial, I think. But thanks for the warning.

hat tip: Mark Mossa

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Works for me Wednesday: Dealing with the heat

We're still getting into the 100s and upper 90s around here, but it's not bothering me as much as it was a few days ago. For one thing, I'm better acclimated (isn't the human body's ability to adapt to changing conditions amazing?), and for another thing I'm getting this house figured out a bit better and am getting smarter about which windows to open when, and where to put fans, etc. - and for another thing I've relearned a few old tricks.

Best old trick: using a squirt bottle with water in it. I sometimes mist my clothes or skin, but the nicest thing I've picked up is keeping a squirt bottle by the bed, to mist the coverings. Love that evaporative cooling. If you don't have a squirt bottle, just sprinkle some water on the bed. (Warning: you can get too chilled if you aren't careful. Take it nice and slow until you figure out how much water you need on the sheets or clothes to get the effect you want.)

Second best old trick: wearing a damp neckerchief. Cowboys and cowgirls, it turns out, know what they're doing, wearing neckerchiefs (aka bandanas).

What you folks in hot but damp climates can do to keep cool I don't know. But around here, a little damp cloth can go a long way.

Don't forget that you can pick up all sorts of household tips over at Rocks In My Dryer's Works-for-Me Wednesday weekly round-up.

Honoring adversity's aftermath in Alabama

Thanks to Michelle, I now know that the town of Enterprise, Alabama, has a monument honoring the boll weevil.

The best write-up on it I've found so far is presented by Shelley Brigman, who worked as a newspaper reporter in that area.

The town erected the monument after the boll weevil forced farmers in the area to plant crops other than cotton. Becoming less reliant on cotton turned out to be a good thing. Hence, the tribute to the pest that started the search for better ways to make a living.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dorothy Sayers on young people and literature

Dorothy Sayers contended:

...There is, in fact, an optimum age for encountering every work of art; did we but know, in each man's case, what it was, we might plan our educational schemes accordingly. Since our way of life makes this impossible, we can only pray to be saved from murdering delight before it is born.

Amanda Witt has more of the passage, plus a bit of discussion.

Online resource for Northwest Gardeners

In addition to its other gardening resources, Oregon State University has a monthly online 'magazine' with news and advice about gardening, called Northwest Gardeners eNews.

Animal crackers

When I was a kid, someone came up with the idea of giving each child his or her own box of animal crackers at the start of a journey, for good luck, they said, making it a special gift and not just a snack. Each little box was designed to look like a circus wagon used to transport animals, and we spent much time alternating between playing circus wagon driver and deciding which animal to eat next, not to mention which parts to devour first: head, tail, leg, whatever. (Children can be such beasts... :)

We might have outgrown this, but ours was a superstitious family as well as a fun-loving one. Somehow or another even after we were full grown when we were about to head out on a long trip someone might hand over a box of animal crackers for good luck.

I know. I know. The originator of this tradition probably merely meant to provide something to keep the wee ones entertained so the older folks in the car had a chance of arriving sane at the destination, but it did morph into a bon voyage tradition.

So. The neighbor's son and his wife and her mother are all going to Texas, where the wife has a nice job waiting for her. They are using my neighbor's home as the staging area, having moved out of their place already. We have been treated to yard sales and much activity of late. So. Today I went to the grocery store, and made a point of adding a trip down the cookie and cracker aisle.

Yes, knowing full well it was perfectly silly to buy grown-ups animal crackers, not to mention doubly silly because I really don't know these people except in passing, I bought three circus-style boxes of animal crackers, one for each person who was moving. I was counting on the travelers' good sense of humor, if nothing else. And, besides, I didn't know what else to get them for a bon voyage gift. (Food is always good, right?)

When I got home, the moving van and pickup truck were still there, but no one was in evidence. Not wanting to break up a last-day-together meal or something, I kept peeking out the window now and then, hoping to catch the son coming or going - and, having second thoughts, half hoping I wouldn't catch a glimpse of them before they left, so I didn't have to run the risk of looking foolish, handing over dumb gifts that somebody might not understand.

Finally, when I went to move the lawn sprinkler I saw that there were people, lots of people, moving at a good clip back and forth, carrying stuff to the moving van and pickup truck. It had a feel of a last push. I saw the son, who I know somewhat better than the others, and know to be good-natured on balance, and good-humored, too. With some trepidation I popped back inside, gathered up my three little circus wagons full of snacks, forced myself out my front gate, and ambled down the sidewalk keying in on the son. He looked up from rolling something into a tidy package on the lawn, and grinned. He looked at the animal crackers and looked surprised. No turning back left to me now, I leaned over their waist-high front fence, held the animal crackers in front of me, and said that in the family I grew up in, it was traditional to send people off on long journeys with animal crackers.

People stopped what they were doing and looked at each other in a very funny way. They had that look that people get when they're trying to decide who should be the group spokesman and say something. I was beginning to feel I'd done something incredibly foolish, and in front of a crowd, no less. They looked horribly surprised, which seemed all out of proportion to me. I knew that what I was doing was silly, perhaps odd. I didn't think it was astonishing.

And then the son's wife, who I barely know, started bouncing up and down with delight, and laughing. She said I simply had to come look - and ran to the pickup with me in tow. Looking in, she decided that we couldn't see well enough from the sidewalk side, so she dragged me out in the street (we don't get much traffic, thank goodness), and from the passenger side of her truck she. pulled. the. largest. container. of. animal. crackers. I've. ever. seen.

She also takes animal crackers on trips. She loves animal crackers. She thought someone bringing her animal crackers for her move was too fantastic for words.

So did everyone else.

Sometimes a lady gets lucky.

Have you heard of the Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America?

It seems to be an official effort involving the governments of Canada, the United States of America, and Mexico. The home page of its website is here.

Soap carving, sketching, other fun stuff

See Ivory - The Name You Trust for Good, Clean Family Fun! for soap carving tips. I mean, if you're going to do it, you might as well do it like a pro, right?

What? You've never carved Ivory soap? It's a classic hobby in my part of the world. I hate to think how many bars I whittled on as a kid. Even with all that practice, though, I'm not sure I ever got as good as this. But I had fun. Hmmmm. I haven't done it in a while. Hmmmm.

And, if you wonder why Ivory floats, here's some background on that. And, since it does float, you can use it to make your own play boats.

And, no, I don't have any ties to the company that makes Ivory. None. I just like these kinds of family fun projects, where kids (of all ages, ahem) get to make their own toys and knick-knacks.

On a somewhat related note, one of my favorite things to do is to give a kid a sketchpad. Most kids are artistic, I think, but some of them need an adult to show a little faith in their ability to learn to be good at it.

Suggestions for other easy, inexpensive projects, anyone?

Update: Some soap carving is fancier than others. See here and here for some amazing examples from the Orient. (Thanks, David, for bringing these to my attention.)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Telling tales on toddlers

People are sharing their "our toddler did this" stories over at The Common Room and U Krakovianki. Just in case you think only your family has whirlwinds with wild imaginations and little or no common sense parading as young human beings. (Addition: The Common Room got such a good response to the first post, Headmistress has done another one.)

Do not skip the comments sections on these. These mamas have hit a nerve, I think. ;)

Up in the hills where Don Pelayo and his men...

...held out against the Moorish conquerors in Spain back in the Eighth Century, there is this little chapel built up in the caves, and the locals like to "claim that 'Asturias is the real Spain, all the rest is conquered territory,'" says Karen Hall, of Some Have Hats, who recently flew to Spain on a pilgrimage.

I don't know why, but I have a bit of a fascination with buildings built right into hillsides and cliffs and caves. Like, for instance, Mesa Verde. (Which, I see, is celebrating 100 years as a national park.)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Speedier potato salad

Most cookbooks I've read (and my home ec teacher way back when) have told me to boil white or red potatoes whole, and cut them to size for potato salad after they cool enough to work with. Hello. This is summer. I don't want to boil things for half an hour or so, and then have them sitting around radiating heat into my kitchen, or be chopping anything that's warm if I don't have to. Besides which, boiling whole potatoes takes finesse and luck, otherwise you wind up with potatoes that are mushy on the outside by the time the inside gets cooked. Besides which, I don't know about you but I can't always tell if a potato has bad spots until I peel it and/or slice it.

I've done a bit a research, and as far as I can tell the reason for boiling potatoes whole, in their skins, is to reduce the loss of nutrients, particularly vitamin C. But the same cookbooks that urge you to boil potatoes uncut and in their skins tend to also urge you to save nutrients and reduce vitamin C loss by boiling vegetables in relatively little water and minimizing cooking time. Why that wouldn't work for potatoes beats me.

So, I take russet potatoes (aka baking potatoes), peel them, dice them to the size I want in the potato salad, and boil them in no more water than is needed, preferably with a bit of butter added. Russets are cheap (around here, anyway), cook faster than the other types of potatoes, and work great in potato salad as long as you don't have to chop them after they're cooked. (They tend to crumble if you try to cut them after they're cooked.)

My home-ec teacher is spinning in her grave, but I'm in and out of the kitchen in a small fraction of the time she'd have me use, and we like russet-based potato salad. For that matter, I cook the same sort of potatoes the same way for mashed potatoes.

For either potato salad or mashed, as soon as the potatoes are cooked I drain them in a colander at the sink, and let them air dry a little before going on to the next step.

I'd share my favorite potato salad recipe, but I don't have one. We eat a lot of potato salad and I make a point of making up a new recipe for each batch so we don't get tired of it. Everything is 'by guess and by gosh', and I just keep adding stuff until it looks and tastes good.

The most common mix is chopped potatoes, chopped onion, chopped hard-cooked egg*, chopped pickles, in a sauce made from Miracle Whip salad dressing and one type of mustard or another, with some salt and pepper. But I've used mayonnaise or plain yogurt instead of salad dressing. I'm forever changing which pickles I use (right now I'm using Bread and Butter pickles). Sometimes I add celery. Or green peppers. Or peas. Or cubed cheese. Sometimes I leave the egg out. Sometimes I put herbs in. I like green onions instead of the other kind, sometimes. Whatever is at hand that seems likely might go in. (I was raised in a household that never, ever deviated from a printed recipe if humanly possible, and rarely tried out new recipes. I'm afraid I have the zeal of the convert when it comes to using recipes merely as starting points.)

*Years ago I happily unlearned how I was taught to make what are called hard-boiled eggs. (Never mind what I was taught - it produced eggs with green-edged yolks.) From a Betty Crocker cookbook way back when, I learned to cover eggs with cold water in a saucepan (have them covered well and good, if possible - like by an inch or more), heat to boiling, remove from heat and let stand, covered, for something over twenty minutes (22 to 24 is what the cookbook said, but I generally round it up to 25). Cool the eggs in cold water (it might take several changes of water to get them really cool). Then tap each egg to crack it, roll between your hands to break and loosen the shell, and then peel under running cold water.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Let us be clear from the get-go...

...that I don't quite trust the downtown bank clock's thermometer, which broadcasts in big numbers visible up and down Main Street for quite some distance in both directions. It tends to run a couple/three degrees higher than other people tend to get on their thermometers, I think. It usually is higher than the radio station's reports. Never mind how much it's off from the official reports (but then, I think the official reports come from the airport, which is almost silly, since the airport sits quite a bit higher than town, up on top of a hill surrounded by fields and trees).

But, having said that, I don't doubt that it's close to right.

Beyond that, because it's the most noticeable temperature display in town, it's pretty much the de facto official reading, whether it's right or not. It does set the standard for conversations, at any rate.

Today, walking to the drug store to pick up a prescription plus some things for the kitchen, the bank thermometer said 105. On the way back, it said 107. When I went back to the drug store to return the kitchen shears I just bought (note to self: people with small hands should not buy shears packaged so that a person can't try them out to see if they'll work for people with small hands without causing sprains), the reading was 109. On the way home from returning the shears, the reading was 112.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't 112. The roads weren't going to liquid yet. I didn't even pick up any asphalt goo on my sandals.

But it's hot.

One of the things I like about where we live now compared to where I grew up is that the weather is, overall, more moderate than my childhood hometown. But, every few years or so we do get these hot spells.

I think it's funny how different people react to the situation.

At the bank this morning (my bank doesn't have a thermometer display, but I'm guessing it was 90 already) my teller asked me if it was getting hot yet. I told her it was definitely warmish. We both smiled. I thought I was playing the game quite well, thanks.

But then I stopped by the post office on my way home, and an old guy, very spry but obviously well into retirement years, bounced in. The cleaning lady, also white haired but lively, looked up and saw him and called out, "Cool enough for you?" The old gentleman replied, "Just right!" They both smiled and laughed.

I know when I've been outclassed. They win.

All the same, I'm taking precautions.

I've been experimenting with how to set the fans in the house, to best use the one room-sized air conditioner we have, which, unfortunately, isn't mounted in a room we need cooled. (No, there's no other place it would fit, in the rooms we do use.)

I have a long muslin 'curtain' mounted outside my back door - a door, mind you, that is painted dark and gets full sun (not a clever plan in the summer). I know it looks funky to have a jerry-rigged curtain outside a door, but it's amazing how hot the inside of the door gets without it, and how much cooler it is with some proper shade. (If you do this, it seems to help to have the curtain away from the door, and mounted so there can be air flow.) It's just a big sheet of muslin I bought for a quilt back long ago, that wound up in my too-large fabric stash. It's nice to have a good use for it, finally.

I'm getting quite fond of my lawn sprinklers. It's amazing how nice it is to sit on the back deck downwind from a sprinkler hose, and just watch the world go by.

I don't use appliances I don't have to. I don't turn on lights I don't need. Anything that creates heat or uses electricity gets a second look before being used. My computer time is way down, and will stay down until this is over. I like to tell myself that by not using things I am helping to prevent a brownout or blackout. It sounds good, anyway. It also helps me not feel frustrated at being knocked out of my usual routine.

I do most of my cooking late at night or early in the morning - whenever I can throw the windows open and let somewhat-cooler air flush the heat out. I cook in big batches to last several meals.

I take my daily walks early in the day. Most days. Yesterday I did yard work early and didn't get my walk in until evening. At 8:30 p.m., that bank thermometer I mentioned earlier was parked at 88 degrees. Oops. Until the heat wave's over, it's early morning walks or none at all, I think.

You have my permission to laugh at me on this next bit. Heaven knows I'm laughing at myself. All this careful attention to getting up earlier than usual so I can get stuff done without risking heat stroke has had an interesting shortcoming.

The heat isn't hard enough to deal with on its own? I have to give myself jet lag?

OK, I'm half joking. But I have been getting up and going to bed at wildly unusual hours, and I definitely feel like I have jet lag. It's possible, right?

Saturday update: It turned out I couldn't publish this post yesterday - because the Internet connection went down. Long-distance phone service went down, too. So far, knock wood, we've snuck through without power outages, or, knock wood again, local wildfires. The cable TV public service channel, which runs ads and a few announcements, and occasionally posts weather conditions, listed yesterday's high at 111. The radio local news report, using the airport readings, said 103. I'm guessing we were somewhere between that right here. Today, at least we have clouds, and so not nearly the direct sun beating down on the house. That should help a lot. I have decided to attack my books-to-read stack. Somewhere in the shade. Or go out of town to spend time in the forest, by a stream, in the shade. The operative word here is shade.

On the plus side, flowers in my yard that haven't deigned to bloom all year are suddenly popping open. That's nice.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Some kind of "thank you"!

See The Southern Illinoisan : Soldier fulfilling promise to deliver Afghani rug to president by Becky Malkovich (July 17, 2006), for a wonderful story. As in wonder full.

Hat's off to everyone involved. There's a lot of heart shown here.

Short version: an old man, grateful that his people were being rescued from the Taliban, spent a year hand-knotting a rug of his own design to give to President Bush and the American people. He did this even though at the time he could have been killed if caught doing it. And then an American soldier was asked to deliver it for him...

Hat tip: Betsy's Page and The Anchoress.

P.S. If crafters' blogs don't pick this story up, I'm going to be somewhat disappointed. This is heroic crafting, if ever there was such.

P.P.S. Although the rugmaker is Muslim, he made the rug with Christian symbols. (Mighty decent of him, don't you think?) I'd just as soon not hear any quibbling over the fact that he used Catholic imagery for a Protestant president, thanks. It's close enough, don't you think?

There are romance novels and then there are romance novels

Romance novels, like all types of fiction, tend to have noticeable trends. I sometimes wonder whether they influence the culture or reflect it - I suppose it's a bit of both. At any rate, Bookworm has found a number of current romance authors who promote admirable qualities and are pro-life. (She has also found some that definitely don't fall into those categories.) See The morals of romance novels.

(And, no. We're not talking the Christian publishing houses here. We're talking general market.)

If you know of any authors who write "romance" that doesn't undercut traditional values, please share. I'd love to see that share of the market get boosted. Wouldn't you?

It's been my experience that many authors change their stripes during their career, so please feel free to recommend specific books, if you'd rather. That way we can avoid serious misunderstandings, I think.

Bookworm confines herself to current authors, but I'm throwing the field wide open: old, new, historical, religious, non-religious, time travel, you name it. If it's romance, have at.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"American Liberalism, the Cold War, and the Lessons of History"

Alonzo Hamby, Distinguished Professor of History, Ohio University, takes a glance at the world of Harry Truman versus today, with a focus on liberal factions. (George Mason University's History News Network, POTUS blog, July 10, 2006)

Books mentioned in the post include:

The First Cold Warrior: Harry Truman, Containment, and the Remaking of Liberal Internationalism
The First Cold Warrior: Harry Truman, Containment, and the Remaking of Liberal Internationalism

The Good Fight: Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again
The Good Fight: Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again

A Progressive Strategy to Defeat Jihadism and Defend Liberty
A Progressive Strategy to Defeat Jihadism and Defend Liberty

Mr. Hamby is the author of

For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s
For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s

Look, Ma. I got to be on camera signing a petition. (Or, the new suffragettes)

I will grant you that "suffrage" is a horrid word in that it sounds like something it isn't, but still...

See either Palm Tree Pundit or Bookworm Room for a look at an experiment in civic responsibility that would be really funny if it weren't so alarming.

Girls and clothes

:) Girls will be girls will be girls...

"Everything you need to know about temper tantrums"

Bookworm Room has a look at a classic tantrum.

(And it's pretty funny.)

(Well, as long as the kid grows out of it, it's pretty funny.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jen Robinson's Book Page compiling a "Cool Boys from Kid Lit" list

Jen Robinson - the lady behind the 200 Cool Girls from Children's Literature list - is asking for nominees for a Cool Boys from Kid Lit list.

Book note: Titanic (Magic Tree House Research Guide) by Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne

I've just finished reading this book, and I think it's one of the best history books for kids I've read - very well done overall, and packed with information without being the least bit dry. I, ahem, even learned a thing or two...

Titanic: A Nonfiction Guide to Tonight on the Titanic (Magic Tree House Research Guide Series)
Titanic: A Nonfiction Guide to Tonight on the Titanic (Magic Tree House Research Guide Series)

It's marketed as a companion to the fiction book Tonight on the Titanic, but I think it works well as a stand-alone book. Some of the information is 'presented' by Jack and Annie, the adventurous youngsters from the Magic Tree House series, but not in such a way that you'd have to know anything about the series in general or Tonight on the Titanic in particular.

As a bonus, the black and white illustrations by Sal Murdocca are pretty amazing, if you take the time to really look at them. There are also photographs as illustrations.

I like this anecdote from the page that provides some information on the authors. The husband and wife team say that until they were researching the book, "...we didn't realize that the ship that rescued the Titanic survivors had docked just a short distance from our home in New York City..." They use it as an illustration that "Research can sometimes lead you to make amazing discoveries in your very own neighborhood..."

I can vouch for that. Or, at least, I can say that I've been surprised a time or two in a similar way.

Tonight on the Titanic (Magic Tree House Series #17)
Tonight on the Titanic (Magic Tree House Series #17)

Murder charges in Katrina hospital deaths

From AP, as printed at MSNBC: Doctor, 2 nurses held in Katrina deaths: Arrest order says morphine used, second-degree murder charges filed:

NEW ORLEANS - A doctor and two nurses who worked through the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina were arrested overnight, accused of giving four patients stranded at their hospital lethal doses of morphine and a sedative, authorities said Tuesday.

“We’re not calling this euthanasia. We’re not calling this mercy killings. This is second-degree murder,” said Kris Wartelle, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Charles C. Foti.


Harry Anderson, a spokesman for Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., said the allegations against the doctor and nurses, if proven true, were disturbing.

“Euthanasia is repugnant to everything we believe as ethical health care providers, and it violates every precept of ethical behavior and the law. It is never permissible under any circumstances,” Anderson said.


Full article

Walter Scott Digital Archive

Oh, this could be wonderful - Edinburgh University Library has The Walter Scott Digital Archive, about which: "We hope that in time this website will become the main source of information on the life and work of Sir Walter Scott on the web."

That, in my opinion, is a worthy goal. Forward!

hat tip: a Walter Scott post at Dewey's Treehouse, with several other links that you might find of interest.

This sounds good...

The Common Room: Blueberry Soup sounds like a good recipe for summer. Easy, too. Put sour cream, some sugar, orange juice and frozen or fresh blackberries or blueberries into the blender, blend away, serve, eat. (Follow the link to get the suggested amounts for the ingredients.)

And, since I like 'pickled' fresh veggies, here's a recipe to start out with (as Randi says, just add anything you like, and delete what you don't like): California Mix. Around here, we like cucumber, radish, and onion slices (separately or together) in vinegar brine or pickle juice. It reminds me of Japanese food...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Children can't learn everything by osmosis

Sometimes you have to tell them what you want.

Or teach them what "duck!" means, for that matter.

File this under Humorous Moms Who Share Nifty Secrets About Stuff They Learned The Hard Way.

And more movie news...

For a lady who rarely watches movies, I sure seem to be into them today... E-Commerce News: Film: Movielink Adds DVD-Burning Capability.

More books and movies

Speaking of books and movies, Karen Edmisten has info on a family movie called Dreamer, "...a sweet movie about a little girl, her father, her horse and big dreams...," plus posts on some of her young daughter's favorite books. (According to the sidebar, "Ramona" is three.)

Breakpoint book and film recommendations

Breakpoint has several book lists, including Light but Meaningful Summer Reading. Hey, any list that includes the Mitford series and The World of Jeeves is all right by me.

Breakpoint also has film lists, by categories. It's quite a mix! (That might qualify as an understatement.)

Different voices on the Israel-versus-Islamists war

There's lots of coverage about the current conflict between Israel and those intent upon its destruction. You hardly need me to steer you toward the usual, popular sources of information. But, for what it's worth, here are a few interesting takes from websites you might not visit on a regular basis:

Eric Lee: The Left should be supporting Israel in this war (hat tip: American Future, which has a lot of posts on various aspects and background related to the present conflict.) Mr. Lee is writing from a Socialist viewpoint, and he looks ahead to what the effects would likely be, depending on who wins the current conflict.

Melanie Phillips has been following events (and sometimes putting media feet to the fire). See, for instance here and here.

Reuters AlertNet prints Human Rights Watch's explanation of the legal rules Israel and its attackers are (by HRW's lights) expected to operate under, with a look at what had happened by the time the post was written. Since this is meant as a briefing for news editors and humanitarian aid providers, I have to wonder if it helps explain the tone in some more recent news reports. It makes quite plain right up front that Hezbollah launched attacks inside Israeli territory, and has been raining hundreds of rockets inside Israel. Furthermore (emphasis mine):

While Human Rights Watch has not yet conducted a field examination to determine whether any of these attacks aimed to target a military object, preliminary information suggests that rockets fired by Hezbollah may be so inaccurate as to be incapable of being targeted, but are rather used to target a generalized area. As Human Rights Watch said in a 1997 report on Lebanon and Israel, "Katyushas are inaccurate weapons with an indiscriminate effect when fired into areas where civilians are concentrated. The use of such weapons in this manner is a blatant violation of international humanitarian law." That is, their use in civilian areas violates the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks and would be a war crime. Customary international law prohibits such bombardment near or in any area containing a concentration of civilians, even if there are believed to be military objectives in the area.

I don't mean to imply that this is a pro-Israeli piece. It isn't. But it's nice that it's not knee-jerk "Israel-bad, Islamists-good" like some people would have you think is the stock-in-trade of nearly everyone not from the Center-Right (not to mention Reuters).

This next bit is veering toward the usual sources, I guess, (USA Today being a big player) but Laer at Cheat Seeking Missiles has noticed that USA Today ran an editorial that noted that this is not just another flare-up of the usual troubles and therefore the old ways of addressing Middle East conflict aren't good fallbacks, especially in the short term. The editorial also says that the stakes are rising rapidly, what with actual and nearing nuclear capacity amongst opposing forces.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Can those of you who watch TV help me out?

Our cable company is in the process of changing its offerings and is asking for suggestions. I haven't traveled out of the area anytime recently so I haven't any idea, really, what options are available, besides what we have already. TV Land has been mentioned by a few bloggers in past posts (Bonanza fans, in particular), but past that I'm not sure what family friendly options I might suggest.

I don't watch much television (that's an understatement), but it would be nice to have some old movies or other good, clean fun to turn to now and then, or educational offerings without propaganda content.

Of course, the cable company is announcing there will be a "price adjustment" to go with the new line-up, which I presume means a price hike, so this might all be a moot point, if they raise the price very much. But, still, if there are any worthwhile channels available I'd like to push for them.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fellow blogger has prayer request

Laer at Cheat-Seeking Missiles knows some people last known to be in areas now being rocked by violence in the Middle East. He's asking for prayers.

Learning the hard way what it means to be an American

Born American, but in the Wrong Place by Peter W. Schramm is somewhat longer than most things I link to, but well worth the time to read. Parental guidance is suggested, since part of it has descriptions of life and death in a war zone.

Dr. Schramm was born in Hungary, and now is Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center and Professor of Political Science at Ashland University. As a young man, he kept going back and forth between focusing on Europe and focusing on America, until he got it through his head what his father had tried to teach him about why the family immigrated to America after risking their necks sneaking out of Hungary. By turns funny, shocking, philosophical, earnest, the piece is something of an education in itself.

It also has one of those "if not for a kind deed long ago" twists that is much beloved by us incurable romantics. :) Not that it wouldn't have been a stirring, rousing tale without it, but, well, I come from a heritage that adores stories of near disasters that somehow, preferably almost miraculously, come out all right, especially if it's because a selfless deed bears unexpected fruit. Call it icing on the cake, but enjoy it all the same.

He also tries to convey some of what Europeans don't tend to understand about Americans, and vice versa, which I think is useful.

Schramm posts regularly at No Left Turns. He's long struck me as one of the better anchored commentators out there. Now I think I have a better idea why. Yinga. What a life so far.

hat tip: Winds of Change

Barbaro not doing well

Frank D. Roylance of the Baltimore Sun is among those reporting that Thoroughbred race horse Barbaro faces 'tough times'. Barbaro shattered a leg running in this year's Preakness, after having won the Kentucky Derby. He's been getting top-level care but he's developed complications.

hat tip: Miss O'Hara is a go-to site on things Thoroughbred, including Barbaro.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"...artifacts at the turn of a civilization..."

Anthony Esolen acquired an older set of The Book of Knowledge, printed 1949, at a flea market. When he got it home he compared it against a set he already had of The New Book of Knowledge, circa 1968. Priceless.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Smiles, courtesy the guys at Brandywine Books

For your reading enjoyment, Phil Wade provides a snippet of James Thurber's Guide to English Usage, and Lars "Rhymes with Farce, Not with Cars" Walker provides A swordsman's tale.

Speaking of movies...

I think it's fair to say that Lady Jane is a fan of the new Pirates of the Caribbean film:

I don't care what the critics say. They didn't like POTC [Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl] either. POTC: DMC [Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest] is great for a hot summer afternoon. Viewing it doesn't require a Ph.d in Hollywood thinking. It's just pure fun.

I don't live anywhere near a movie theater, so I'm a bit out of the loop on stuff like this, but I'm glad if someone's making a film or two, now and then, purely for fun.

And, to be sure, Lady Jane has lots of company in her enthusiasm. Dead Man's Chest has broken several box office records.

Truth, Justice, and all that stuff

Jeremy Lott wades in where others might fear to tread, putting the latest Superman movie's "truth, justice, all that stuff" quote into context.

If he's right, some commentators on the right might need to rethink their commentary, I think. For that matter, I might have to, at least just a bit. (Rats. It was such a fun thing to be mad about...)

Mr. Lott seems to be making wading into controversial waters his career of the moment, having just released a book attacking the currently too-common practice of accusing people of hypocrisy. The book is published by Thomas Nelson, which provides some info here.

To go to Barnes & Noble, click the bookcover below.

In Defense of Hypocrisy: Picking Sides in the War on Virtue
In Defense of Hypocrisy: Picking Sides in the War on Virtue

I haven't seen the Superman movie, so I'm operating on secondhand information here. While I have no doubt that some of the criticism of the movie is valid (based in part on what I've read from the people who made the movie), on the other hand Superman movies are supposed to be overdrawn and sometimes over-the-top, and sometimes that type of humor doesn't translate well in transcription... so I'm wondering if Mr. Lott has a valid point in his commentary, at least about the use of the altered motto, as it was used in the movie? (Don't yell. I'm just asking. Bear with me. Qualifiers to follow.)

Now, me, I'd have been happier (substantially) if the movie-makers had managed to use "truth, justice, and the American way" without alteration and with a straight face, somewhere in the movie. I can't help but think they copped out, let the side down, however you want to put it. I'm disappointed in them. But I'm not so sure that spitting nails about their shortcomings and lack of proper moxie and focus is the way to go.

(On the other hand, has anybody checked to see if maybe they violated some licensing agreement? Surely the Superman character is still under license??? Ehem.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that various people have taken it upon themselves to educate the public about how Superman has, in the past, been proudly used to promote the best America has to offer in the way of ideals, honor, and virtue. Youngsters need to know that America does stand for good things, and that the popular culture used to bolster those good things - and could again, only for the deciding to. Yes?

I think where Mr. Lott falls short is in perhaps failing to realize that we've had so many treasured American icons trashed or corrupted in our lifetimes that we're somewhat duty-bound to fight the corrosion or co-opting of what is left, even if it's just a comic book hero. Mr. Lott has a point about the sense of proportion (or lack of it) in some quarters, but to conclude his commentary by saying "Let me restate that so the movie's critics can't miss the point. In Superman Returns, Superman saves America from certain destruction, thus ensuring that "the American way" can keep on trucking." as if that makes this a pro-America film doesn't satisfy me. The Superman I grew up with would save people anywhere, if they were in danger of being wiped out, having been taught by his wonderful adoptive apple-pie American parents that that was the right thing to do. If he saved Brazil from destruction, it would not make it a pro-Brazilian film, now would it?

And, besides, to save "America" -- meaning the land mass and the people on it -- is by no means a guarantee of ensuring the continuation of the "American Way." Not by a long shot. Now is it?

So, in short, I think Mr. Lott makes a few points worth listening to, but misses a point or two himself.

Friday, July 07, 2006

And now for something totally different

jquinby at Me Autum Minui found a Russian tourist's travelogue of a May 2004 trip to North Korea. It's written in English, and has lots of pictures.

Remembering 7/7

In London a year ago, these folks lost their lives when maniacs with bombs struck in multiple locations. Many more people who were just minding their own business were hurt, and of course many more than that were grief-stricken. I'm sure today's anniversary is tough for some survivors to deal with, and I just want them to know that they and their murdered loved ones are not forgotten.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Laughing along with moms, two takes

1. Mental multivitamin recently found out what her son found especially inspiring in his youth, and it's not what she expected. In fact, she's more than a bit embarrassed by it. (Via Sparrow.)

2. And I think Sallie's right when she says if this doesn't make you laugh, nothing will.

Literature, take three

Why Do We Read Literature? Phil Wade, Brandywine Books, July 1, 2006.
Who's in control here? Lars Walker, Brandywine Books, July 3, 2006.
Fiction and Reality Amanda Witt, Wittingshire, July 6, 2006.

Alberta boom

Thomas Lifson reports that so many people are heading to work in the oil and gas industry in Alberta that there are labor shortages being reported in Calgary and Edmonton.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Massachusetts lawmakers look for ways to boost population figures

Just so you know, some legislators in Massachusetts are determined to have a high population count in the 2010 Census, and are lining up ways to get there. Right now there's apparently a focus on making sure college students, low-income people, and immigrants ("documented and undocumented", according to a quote attributed to Marc Draisen, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council's executive director) are tracked down and counted. See Bay State wants everyone to count:Lawmakers earmark funds for US Census (Andrea Estes, Boston Globe, July 4, 2006).

(Via Ed Lasky at The American Thinker, who points out that Massachusetts could be addressing the reasons it tends to have population stagnation, instead of proposing to fund research into ways to generate a bigger count.)

And yes, I realize that this article on a plan to, amongst other things, include as many noncitizens as possible in a national census for the stated purposes of ending up with more congressional seats and getting more federal funds was published on July 4 just begs for some sort of commentary, but well... 'Nuf said.

The article stated that Governor Mitt Romney has not said whether he will approve the measure. A spokesman said that the governor is not going to comment on any specific aspect of the budget until the budget review is complete.

New Orleans update

Joe McKeever is continuing to report from New Orleans.

George Washington, some background

Robert Tumminello, a New Yorker living in London and Dorset, England, provides a look at George Washington's English family roots. (Nice job combining your two countries, Robert.) He also provides the news (to me) that George Washington is "big business" in the UK. As an example, he quotes from the Sulgrave Manor website's current "What's New" item:

If you are not familiar with British road or rail systems, reaching us here in the heart of England can look a bit difficult from London. Now there is an alternative to doing it yourself!

Evan Evans, London's premier coach tour company, have added Sulgrave Manor to their list of regular destinations. The day trip, including a look at Banbury Cross and a visit to Blenheim Palace, is called 'The Great Statesmen's Tour', linking Winston Churchill and George Washington into one historic journey...

How about that? Churchill and Washington in the same breath. In England. Not too shabby. And very decent of the Brits, I'd say.

Back a few months ago, I was reading in a book in Newsweek's Founding Father's series, George Washington: A Biography in His Own Words, c. 1972. In it, his earliest known writings and drawings are acknowledged, but the book notes that the "earliest existing spontaneous writing from his own hand" is from when he was sixteen, and had been asked along on a surveying trip. The journal begins with a fairly standard "A Journal of my Journey over the Mountains began Fryday the 11th. of March 1747/8" but quickly becomes, uhm, well, it's a good reminder that George Washington was a teenager once and had to grow into his legendary self. The following passage -- which I later found at American Memory at the Library of Congress -- got my attention. (For whatever reason, I can't seem to get a link directly to the page from which I get the following excerpt. It's from "The Diaries of George Washington. Vol. 1. Donald Jackson, ed.; Dorothy Twohig, assoc. ed. The Papers of George Washington. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976." which I found by searching for 1747, and then going down the list of matches. I've omitted the explanatory notes):

Tuesday 15th. We set out early with Intent to Run round the sd. Land but being taken in a Rain & it Increasing very fast obliged us to return. It clearing about one oClock & our time being too Precious to Loose we a second time ventured out & Worked hard till Night & then returnd to Penningtons we got our Suppers & was Lighted in to a Room & I not being so good a Woodsman as the rest of my Company striped my self very orderly & went in to the Bed as they call'd it when to my Surprize I found it to be nothing but a Little Straw--Matted together without Sheets or any thing else but only one Thread Bear blanket with double its Weight of Vermin such as Lice Fleas &c. I was glad to get up (as soon as the Light was carried from us) & put on my Cloths & Lay as my Companions. Had we not have been very tired, I am sure we should not have slep'd much that night. I made a Promise not to Sleep so from that time forward chusing rather to sleep in the open Air before a fire as will Appear hereafter.

Wednesday 16th. We set out early & finish'd about one oClock & then Travell'd up to Frederick Town where our Baggage came to us. We cleaned ourselves (to get Rid of the Game we had catched the Night before) & took a Review of the Town & then return'd to our Lodgings where we had a good Dinner prepar'd for us Wine & Rum Punch in Plenty & a good Feather Bed with clean Sheets which was a very agreeable regale.

Thursday 17th. Rain'd till Ten oClock & then clearing we reached as far as Major Campbells one of there Burgesses about 25 Miles from Town. Nothing Remarkable this day nor Night but that we had a Tolerable good Bed [to] lay on...

I don't know about you, but I suspect I'll never respond to "Washington slept here" in quite the same way again ;).

For the George Washington's Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799 collection, go here.

For a teacher's resource page related to the collection, go here. It provides hints on how to search the collection. It also has links to things like Essay:"Yr. Most Humble Obt. Servt.", which " highly recommended for those seeking insights into the nature of correspondence in the eighteenth century, as well as the logistical aspects of drafting, delivering, and preserving written communications during that period..."

Texas eyes change in how English is taught

From Janet Elliott, Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau, in today's Houston Chronicle:

...At its meeting Thursday, the 15-member board [State Board of Education] is expected to scrap a curriculum revision process dominated by teachers and the Texas Education Agency and discuss a new timetable for revising the English reading and writing standards.

Many on the board want to replace a student-centered curriculum that calls on students to use their own attitudes and ethics to interpret texts with teacher-centered instruction that emphasizes the basics of spelling, grammar and punctuation.

It was a fight social conservatives on the board lost in 1997, when moderates and liberals adopted the curriculum for all subjects. Now, with social conservatives expected to have a majority on the board for the first time after the November elections, the plan to rewrite the English standards is viewed by some as the opening shot in an effort to put a conservative imprint on the state's curriculum...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ronald Reagan's Message on the Observance of Independence Day, 1986

From twenty years ago, stirring words from a man who believed in the importance of the message and the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Major wildfire season so far

The National Fire News shows that 3,821,505 acres have burned in the United States between January 1 and July 3, 2006. For comparison, the ten-year average for January 1 to July 3 is 1,661,564.


There are state-by-state listings of current fires at the above link.

For National Fire Maps, go here.

Booklovers, update your blogrolls...

Both Brandywine Books and Semicolon have new urls.

BBC NEWS | Business | Brussels in tangle over nappies

Just so you know, the European Commission is finding ways to address the European baby shortage. Or at least squabble about it.

Liberty and Lily: Wedding Thoughts

This is one of the best wedding write-ups I've read. Thanks, Donna-Jean.

Pfc. Thomas Tucker honored, laid to rest

Gateway Pundit has story, links.

You may file this next bit in the "It's a Small World" Department. When our bookstore was in a small mall downtown, the folks who had the second hand store across the hall from us were Tom and Vivian Tucker. We were introduced in passing to various of their out-of-town relatives, including the young man buried Saturday, who was the grandson and namesake of our neighbor. We moved our bookstore out of the mall to another location here in town and the Tuckers moved their store to a small town about eight miles away, so we aren't neighbors anymore, but we still bump into each other now and then, generally every couple or three months or so, generally when we happen to show up at the same small restaurant at the same time. In case you've been wondering where I've been lately, amongst other things I've been dealing with things I haven't been obliged to address before this, like pondering what in the Sam Hill a person should or shouldn't say to someone who has lost a grandchild to monsters posing as humans.

I would like to say that I'm very proud of the good folks of Private Tucker's hometown of Madras, Oregon, and the surrounding communities, for the way they've handled this. The consensus seemed to build early on to focus on Tucker's life, his service and his sacrifice instead of the way he died. Support came in all shapes and forms, but at the same time family members and friends were allowed to be alone when they wanted to be left alone. Grief was openly expressed, but people stood tall as they cried. Good on them.