Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A friendly blogger battle amongst the military branches (for a good cause)

There's a friendly blogosphere competition going on right now, to raise money for voice-activated laptop computers for wounded servicemen and women. Valour-IT: An Amazing Program! at A Rose By Any Other Name has some info and the links you need to either donate money or join a team. The competition ends Nov. 10.

Teams are divided by military branch. I would have signed up with one already, but we're having a debate around here because this is a family with ties of one sort or another to more than one branch of service. This might come down to a coin toss, folks.

The money from all the teams goes to the same place, for the same cause. Which team can generate the most money in donations is a matter of pride.

Yeah, maybe a coin toss would be safest. ;)

Call rewrite! No, wait... real life doesn't have rewrite.

The message came to me something like this:

Helpful Family Message Relayer (in a shaky, hesitant voice): I just talked to my mom... Your nephew [insert name here] was ziplining... you know what that is? ... where you slide along down a rope, you know?... and the rope broke or something... and he fell thirty feet.....onto some iron bars or something...........

The pause goes on a very long time. I fill in the blanks. One of my nephews, on the brink of manhood, has fallen to his death. About the time I'm ready to prompt the Helpful Family Message Relayer that I'm not only braced now but I'm about ready to scream and/or go nuts if the pause goes on any longer, he says:

....and he's OK, can you believe it?

I break the next long pause with a feeble, and perhaps rather stupid, "I presume he's in the hospital?"

...yeah, but he's alive and the doctor thinks he'll recover just fine.

All right, let's put aside that the story by the time it got to me might possibly not be identical to the story as it first came out of the hospital, much less that it might vary somewhat from actual facts - I mean, people do not fall thirty feet onto hard surfaces and survive, do they? I mean, I don't know but it seems highly unlikely. Let us also put to the side that although I'm delighted that they've found a doctor who has the guts, confidence, and politeness to offer a good prognosis, I am going to be worried for a week or two or three, until I'm more sure this young man is all right. Let's put that all aside and look at the presentation.

I hasten to say that I've forgiven my informant. He was shaken and incredulous and not quite himself at the time. Fine. No worries. Forget about it. He wasn't trying to draw the story out for dramatic effect (I don't think so, anyway). And it's not like I've always said things in the right order myself - but I hope we can agree that it might have been at least a wee bit better if the start of the conversation had gone something like: Nephew So-and-so is probably going to be OK but you are not going to believe what just happened to him...



One of the more frightening moments of my childhood came when somebody from a sheriff's office or something called our house, got Mom on the phone, confirmed her identity, or more specifically confirmed that she was my brother's mother, then without further ado said "Your son crashed his plane into Such-and-so Lake."

Not a good idea. Mom freaked. Silently, but totally. She didn't comprehend - perhaps didn't even hear - the next words out of the man's mouth, which was a doggone shame because the next words out of his mouth were that my brother was essentially unhurt but needed to find some way to get home. We didn't know this, you understand, until someone grabbed the phone and asked what was going on. The man was astonished that my mother hadn't heard his reassurances, but there it was. If he'd started with "Your son is all right, but..." I think there wouldn't have been much fuss at all. OK, there would have been a lot of fuss, but not like what we had. Certainly there wouldn't have been the confusion.

Do kindly try to remember that the next time you have an amazing survival story to pass along to someone who cares about the person who just had the close call. Please. Thank you.

Oh, wait, on second thought let's end this on a somewhat lighter note. Many moons back Amanda Witt posted a classic "how not to call a mother about her child away at camp" story. It's not just the brushes with death that call for some consideration of how to break the news, you know.

P.S. If you are wondering, my brother was trying to make an emergency landing on a frozen lake, but the ice didn't cooperate. Not in the least.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Supporting the guys in the field

Have you see the music video for "Poster Girl"? (More direct link here.)

If you have a loved one in the armed forces, don't miss it. It's made for Aussies by Australian singer Beccy Cole, but I think it's pretty universal, myself.

(Ed. note: This is a repost replacing an earlier post. Long story. Never mind.)

The Saturday Review of Books...

...is up and growing. (It's an add-your-own-review-to-the-list endeavor.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Book note: You Know Me Al by Ring Lardner

If you like 'baseball books' - and even if you don't - you might want to check out this American classic.

You Know Me Al: A Busher's Letters (Library of Essential Reading Series)
You Know Me Al: A Busher's Letters (Library of Essential Reading Series)

Several publishers have it in print, there are lots of used copies floating about for sale, libraries always appreciate your patronage, or you can read it online. Take your pick.

From Barnes & Noble Books:

Ring Lardner's first published fiction created a sensation, catapulting a regional sports journalist into the national literary spotlight. Presented as semi-literate letters written to a friend by a baseball player embarking on a professional career, Lardner's short stories first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1914. Readers couldn't get enough of "busher" Jack Keefe, the unpolished, exasperating, charismatic narrator. Since being published in book form in 1916, You Know Me Al has retained its place on the list of essential readings in baseball literature. In a 2002 ranking of the one hundred greatest sports books ever, the editors of Sports Illustrated placed Lardner's masterpiece at number five.

In the "oops" department

A friend of mine, after reading about Goodwill's good fortune in having been donated a painting worth rather a lot of money, told me about a recent incident in which a guy who had finalized a deal to sell a Picasso painting for $139 million stuck his elbow through the painting. It was just a little hole he punched, about coin-sized according to reports, but so much for that deal. At last word, he's having the painting repaired. (I should hope so.) I don't know what he hopes to do with it after that. According to the BBC article linked above, he bought it for $48.4 million in 1997, if you're wondering.

My friend also tells me that there are supposed Frank Weston Benson paintings popping up all over the place for sell right now. (Benson was the artist of the painting donated to Goodwill.) I wouldn't be the least little bit surprised.

The funny-sad thing is that, since there are so many Benson paintings out there but unaccounted for, not all of the offerings will be just from con artists. What a deal. The honest sellers will have to be doubly careful not to get caught up in the eddies left by shysters, I reckon. Welcome to the world of the art market, I guess.

Real beauty

Via this post at Danielle Bean, I know that the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty has been discovered by folks in her blog neighborhood (Catholic, mommy blogs mostly.) Mrs. Bean has asked for some discussion on the matter, if you're interested. If you haven't seen the short video that's prompted the buzz, I suggest you do. It shows a real woman being made up, photographed, and then her image computer-enhanced for a billboard ad. It's a slick way of pointing out that what passes for beauty in marketing is often faked, and not even within reach of real women.

As a good companion piece, may I suggest "Inside Out"? It's a 51-second film from Jewish Impact Films. Go here, and scroll down. (As of post time, it was third down on the left.) What I like about it is that it goes beyond the Dove film's emphasis on looks.

Something else you might put in your arsenal when dealing with girls or women who want to look like models is that fashion shoots have been known to involve the use of lots of pins and clips and tape and other such fun stuff, to make the clothes hang just so. This is not to mention all the lighting expertise and equipment, and so on. In short, even those models don't look like that, not without the sort of help you can't take around with you on an everyday basis.

Several years ago I was on a job that involved being on set for a television commercial shoot. It was a low-budget shoot, but even there they stopped filming frequently so the hairstylist could spritz the actress's hair with a fine mist of water, to give it the proper bounce, and so the make-up people could swarm over both the actor and the actress to repair even the slightest smudge or fading of lipstick or foundation or eye shadow or mascara. It was unreal. (Which, of course, is the point of the Dove film.) If I could have somebody following me around spritzing my hair just so and brushing it with a practiced hand every few minutes I'd have phenomenally bouncy hair, too, I'd bet. ;)

On a different front, although it was marketed to girls, I'd recommend that parents check out the out-of-print book Lisanne, a Young Model (often listed with Betsy Cameron as author, although it's written in the first-person from Lisanne Falk's point of view). (Barnes & Noble Link: Out of Print, Used & Rare) The synopsis reads "Fourteen-year-old Lisanne Falk describes her career as a photographic model." Most of it is innocuous - she comes across as a nice kid - but there are some sections I think show clearly some of what's wrong with the fashion and glamour industry, especially when it tries to make kids come across as sexy. It also helps explain, I think, how so many fashion models managed to be doe-eyed in the days before fauxtography (as I see it's being called these days). Many of them were doe-eyed because they were teens and pre-teens being passed off as women. Many of us knew that then, but I'm not sure people remember.

The lies about 'stem cells'

Mary L. Davenport, MD, writing at The American Thinker, lays out, clearly and succinctly, what 'stem cell' controversies come down to. The folks trying to wheedle lots of tax money for their own ends apparently assume you're both stupid and ignorant. I know you're not stupid. Please don't be ignorant. Read the Davenport piece. It's not long, and it says better than I can something that needs saying.

Hat tip: Bookworm Room

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Heads up, those who love someone with a severe disability

I was searching for something else, and rather serendipitously ran across a newspaper blog called Crocker Stephenson:Meeting Baby Doe at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. (Gotta love the Internet.)

The blog description made me uneasy, but when I got into the posts, I got a different picture.

The blog description:

Join Crocker Stephenson behind the scenes as he pieces together the story of a young man, Tim Krahling, whose birth 19 years ago sparked a headline-grabbing debate over the rights of parents and society to care for a child born with severe abnormalities. Watch, even participate, as Stephenson gathers the facts he will use to tell Tim’s story, and explore with him the ethical, emotional and moral issues that inevitably arise when a reporter journeys deep into the lives of private people to make public their most personal stories. Crocker can be e-mailed at cstephenson@journalsentinel.com

I am not a 'reporter journeying deep into the lives of private people' person. I nearly dove for the exits. But I'm glad I didn't. The blog itself, at least so far, shows a depth and openness (and humanness, for that matter) I have come to not expect from reporters these days.

From Oct. 20, 2006:

I drove to Waukesha, where Kathy lives, expecting to spend, at most, a few hours with her.

On the ride there, I felt a little nervous. My feelings in the presence of severely disabled children are unresolved. I worry that I will insufficiently recognize their humanity. I worry that I will do or say the wrong thing. I have three children of my own, and I wrestle with the idea of fairness in a world where innocents are born to a life of struggle.

And so I knocked on Kathy’s door. A few hours and I’d be gone.

Kathy opened the door and invited me inside, invited me into a world I could never have imagined, one which I expect -- even now, even as I am learning it -- will remain with me for the rest of my life.

In the next post, Oct. 23, he lets Kathy Krahling explain in her own words why she decided to work with him on this.

In the next post, Oct. 24, he lays out more background on how he got to where he's following up on this story, although he hadn't meant to at first. At the end of the post:

Also in my notebook, near the end, after Kathy had described all the children she had given birth to, adopted, or cared for, I wrote, in large letters: “WHY?”

I must have asked her. For in my notebook is this quote:

“When your first child is born with disabilities, you learn two things. One, you learn not to be afraid of people with disabilities. Two, you learn they can be God’s greatest gifts to us as people.

“This is from my perspective. We can reach out and touch God – ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.’ In everybody’s life, something speaks to them. And that is what speaks to me.”

Months later, Kathy would tell me: “Caring for these children is the closest I can come to touching God himself.”

When it comes to religious matters, I am not so much cynical as I am perennially baffled. I believed her, of course, but I also wondered what it was about Kathy in particular that she found God’s presence, of all places, here among these children.

I have no idea, of course, where this reporter might head with all this. But I think the opening volleys are encouraging. I've read/heard one too many accounts of a mother of a disabled child being asked to justify why she didn't have an abortion. Anything that counters that cruelty is a step forward, I think.

I wonder if a little encouragement from people who have 'been there' when it comes to living with disability wouldn't be in order? Be polite, please. It's not Mr. Stephenson's fault that so many other reporters are jerks and/or euthanasia fans.

Previous related posts:
Children with extra challenges, and the parents who love them
Person First, Disability Later
Team Hoyt
Tom McMahon: What I Have Learned in 15 Years
Book notes: Fragile Innocence by James Reston Jr

Update: Another previous related post is The Disappearance of the Disabled.

For a particularly heart-rending story of a couple being pressed to abort their possibly-retarded baby, see Tragic, over at The Common Room. For the sad follow-up, see the second half of Heartbreak, same place.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dances with waterfall

Yinga. That's some landscape!

That's some donation

Did you hear about this? Somebody anonymously dropped off a 1923 watercolor by the American artist Frank Weston Benson at a Goodwill store. Goodwill auctioned it off on its website last week. The winning bid was $165,002.

The Goodwill press release is here. It has a picture of the painting, and also a link to a website about the artist.

At the website, by the way, is a plea for help finding paintings that are known to have been painted by this artist, but whose location is currently unknown. There are, apparently, hundreds of them. (Benson seems to have been prolific as well as popular.)

A time and a place for everything: what a quaint idea...

Catherine Seipp has a funny-sad column at National Review Online, in which she relays stories of trying to deal with people who "think any social encounter is an invitation to a grad student-style bull session" or who, although old enough you'd think they would know better, subject the rest of us "to teenaged displays of frustration at any perceived unfairness."

Baking to order

Now, then, I'm basking in having the most comfortable kitchen I've ever had - nothing fancy, just old-fashioned, and with room to work - so I wouldn't hire out the fun part of doing any actual baking. I'm having too much fun honing my skills. Experimenting. (OK, playing.)

On the other hand, there are some recipes I don't want to tackle but I would like to serve.

If I lived in the Chicago area (and thought I could afford it - details, details), I'd have somewhere to go for those, according to Janet Rausa Fuller, staff reporter Chicago Sun-Times, Just like grandma used to bake (October 23, 2006):

Home cooks lacking the skills or energy to attempt that treasured family recipe for seven-layer coconut cake need not throw in the towel just yet.

Bring the recipe to Flourish Bakery and Cafe in Edgewater and they'll bake it for you. No questions asked -- or maybe a few, if that recipe is too smudged with fingerprints to make out.

The bakery's "family traditions recipe support" system isn't limited to sweets -- or to strictly family recipes. Bread recipes are welcome, as are savory dishes, owner Dan Fitzgerald says.

Pricing depends on how complicated the recipe is. A 9-inch cake may cost between $30 and $40.


Hand-me-down recipes, if they're written down at all, are often vague on directions -- a pinch of this, a handful of that. The bakers at Flourish will try to fill in the blanks and may even make it better than you remember, Fitzgerald said.

Full article.

Brave people. I salute their spirit. I wish them luck.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dave Barry quote deemed too inciteful to post at university

I couldn't make this up.

From a FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) Press Release (emphasis in original):

MILWAUKEE, Wis., October 18, 2006—Writer and humorist Dave Barry probably never expected that one of his jokes would spark a university free speech dispute. But in early September, a Marquette University administrator removed a Barry quote about the federal government from Ph.D. student Stuart Ditsler’s office door because the quote was “patently offensive.” Facing this arbitrary exercise of political censorship, Ditsler contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

“There have been several high-profile free speech controversies on campuses recently, such as at Columbia this month. But incidents like this one at Marquette and on other campuses illustrate how even innocuous expression is under ongoing assault at our colleges and universities,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said.

In late August, Ditsler posted a quote by Dave Barry on his office door in the philosophy department. The quote read, “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.” On September 5, Philosophy Department Chair James South sent Ditsler an e-mail stating that he had received several complaints and therefore removed the quote. He wrote, “While I am a strong supporter of academic freedom, I’m afraid that hallways and office doors are not ‘free-speech zones.’ If material is patently offensive and has no obvious academic import or university sanction, I have little choice but to take note.”

Full release here.

More background, links here.

Prompting discussion on the roles, limits, and downsides of a big federal government sounds like something of obvious academic import to me. Of course, I don't worship the government, like some folks seem to. And I know how to laugh at an obvious joke (and a clean one, too, waahooo!). And I don't believe in telling somebody that their office door isn't a free-speech zone. (I reserve the right to disagree with what's posted and argue with the poster, but that's different, isn't it?) I'm just saying.

Update: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial on the issue. I'd like to add that they picked up something I hadn't earlier, which was that the quote as posted was apparently unattributed. That's a foul for the guy who posted it. Bad form. But surely if people weren't sure it was over the top (as they might have been, if Dave Barry's name was properly attached), they could have, you know, asked. This is supposed to be a university, full of inquiring minds. Isn't it?

News from the blog neighborhood: Expat Yank has moved

Expat Yank has moved from Blogger to Wordpress. I'm sure he'd appreciate some comments at, or links to, the new url. Go on. Make him feel welcome in his new home.

A question about a medical malpractice defense argument

After reading Record $16.5M goes to family in Tripler suit - The Honolulu Advertiser (by Ken Kobayashi, Advertiser Courts Writer, October 20, 2006), Anne at PalmTree Pundit wondered about this paragraph:

During the trial, the government's position was that Izzy is not even aware of his existence, but the Petersons' experts contended he is aware that he is alive and feels pain, Fried said. His parents believe he recognizes them and responds to them, he said.

The newspaper article trips along to the next subject, without specifying where the government was trying to go with this, and Anne finds the implications troubling, as do I. I have my guesses (euthanasia tops the list), but they're only guesses. Does anybody have solid info on the Izzy Peterson case? Was the government arguing to stop care on this kid so he'd die? Or what? Elsewhere in the article it does say:

The federal government earlier admitted liability for Izzy's injuries. That left only the amount of the award to be decided by [U.S. District Judge David] Ezra in the non-jury trial.

The trial hinged on Izzy's life expectancy. Fried said he contended it would be 40 years, and the government set it at 20 years. Ezra's verdict was based on a life expectancy of 27 years.

About $12.2 million of the $16,497,263 verdict is for Izzy's expenses the rest of his life. The rest is for Izzy's loss of future income, his past and future mental anguish, and emotional suffering and pain.

So maybe they were just arguing against paying for his mental anguish and/or emotional suffering? Since they won't recognize he could have any??

The short version is that this baby was born at a military hospital in 2005, and was hooked up to carbon dioxide instead of oxygen after he was born, resulting in severe brain damage. He is expected to need nursing care his entire life.

One more excerpt:

Shalay Peterson [the baby's mother], a former medical assistant to a Kahala pediatrician, indicated she doesn't harbor any bitterness toward Tripler. She said the facility treated her husband well for a broken shoulder he suffered in Afghanistan.

"It would be unfair for me to punish the hospital for one person," she said.

"I try not to focus on what happened," she said. "I try to focus on what we can do to make things better."

The mother said Izzy is doing better than expected, wears glasses and may get off the ventilator in a year or so. He holds his head up by himself and turns to hear voices, she said.

"He's very ticklish," she said.

He's doing now what others said he would never be able to do, she said.

"God is showing us he has the last word."

She said their other two sons, Ian, 16, and Saion, 10, and their daughter, Siani, 13, were very supportive. They cried when told about the verdict, she said.

Islam Yasim Ibn Siddiq "Izzy" Peterson was born Jan. 14, 2005, at Tripler Army Medical Center.

Kids and competition (or lack thereof)

Bookworm's daughter "got a special commendation for the fact that she didn’t care if she won at kickball or not." Bookworm is not amused.

On the other hand, SFO Mom thinks there's too much emphasis on winning at her kids' school.

They can both be right, of course. Finding the right mix of purely-for-fun versus seriousness in kids' sports can be very tricky, yes? And so much depends on the intangibles, like the personalities and goals of the coaches, and little things, like having class or not. (OK, so classiness or lack thereof can be a big thing, if you have a lot if kids placed under your wing. But things like what you notice and what you don't, and what you praise and what you don't, and what you excuse and what you don't, do matter, don't they? And sometimes what matters most in the long run are just those things that can't be quantified easily.)

I was lucky as a kid. For starters, I had the world's greatest coach for grade school baseball. We played to win, but he insisted we win honestly and graciously. He also convinced me I could hit home runs just like he did (his day job was being a major league baseball player), something I never would have even dreamed possible without his encouragement. I am forever in his debt, for lots of reasons, not least for showing me that sometimes "impossible" becomes "possible" if you pour yourself into achieving a goal and don't listen to the people who want you to be content with "who you are" and "go with your strengths" so you don't risk as much disappointment. Bleh. I've never jumped up and down with joy at having learned to stick with what I'm relatively good at, have you?

But, secondly, when I was a kid the time we spent in school activities or other organized sports was nothing compared to the time we spent playing sports on our own. I don't see as much of that anymore, and I think it's a shame. The neighborhood kids would get up their own games of baseball or whatever - tag, fox and geese, hide and seek, stack the bricks, four-square, tetherball, croquet, badminton, tennis, basketball, footraces, more. We didn't need grown-ups to arrange these things for us. Sometimes we played to win, sometimes to see how long we could make the game last. But we did it on our own initiative, without fancy equipment, and it was great.

Sometimes the grown-ups would join in, of course - as fellow players. And that was great, too, if they were good sports.

Sometimes we made up our own rules, even. You know, used our imaginations to try to come up with a game that was even better than those in somebody's old rulebook. (I wish we'd thought of this. It reminds me of fox and geese, but it's different. I like the 'joining forces' part. Heh.)

Tell me there are kids these days who spend hours learning to lasso fenceposts while running, or sitting, or while standing on one foot, or whatever complication gets designated the complication of that round. Now, there's a game, especially if you give extra points for roping left-handed (if you're right-handed)... (Is this where I admit I was more-or-less ambidextrous until trained to be right-handed?)

Of course, it's not just the folks who want to stamp out competition we have to worry about. There are those folks who can't even stand to let kids run around. Or use jungle gyms. Or merry-go-rounds. Or anything where the poor darling might get hurt or feel left out. I think they're denying kids the chance to feel what it's like to overcome fear, or weakness, or ignorance, or somebody else's bad attitude, for that matter. At a more basic level, how can a kid know what it's like to fling himself on the ground, winded from running and laughing, to stare at the sky and feel a part of the whole, big universe - if no one lets him play?

It's time we fought to restore good, old playtime as a part of every child's childhood, don't you think?

I'm giving the last word to the editorial staff at The Caledonian-Record of St. Johnsbury, Vermont: Scrooge on the Playground. (hat tip: The Club For Growth)

Thursday, October 19, 2006


The blogger neo-neocon turns out some of the more thoughtful and well-researched posts out there. She's started a series on "Wars, civil and/or religious" which promises to be well worth a read. Part One here. Part Two here. More to come.

If for no other reason, click over to read the list of civil wars in the world just since 1940. Tell me you aren't astonished at the sheer number of them (using a fairly strict definition, I might add).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The First Annual Children's Book Awards, Blog Edition

From Jen Robinson's Book Page:

This month we've seen a spate of book awards, some of which have left us wondering: couldn't we, the intelligent, savvy members of the kidlitosphere do better? Or, at least, differently?

So, we're inaugurating our own book awards, honoring books published in English for children in 2006. The idea is to identify books that are excellent in quality and are also exciting to readers. We want books that you can't put down. Books that you lose yourself in. Books that you love so much that you want to share them with everyone that you know. You, fellow bloggers, can help us to come up with these books, and to come up with winners in each category...

I spent much of the day...

... amongst early rhinos and three-toed horses and oreodonts and other fascinating creatures. (Or at least their bones and artist renditions and life-size models.)

Great place.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I had a busy linking day...

...over at The Suitable For Mixed Company Annex. Here are some highlights:

Did you know that the London Olympics in 2012 overlap Ramadan? Betsy's Page has that story and predictions of riots. Betsy also noted that the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings was a big draw this year.

Did you know that Japanese leaders are cautiously floating the idea of acquiring nuclear weapons? Captain's Quarter's has the story.

I had a couple of links on the population of the United States supposedly hitting 300 million.

As for election season news, some people who want to redefine marriage are fighting dirty, by confusing marriage with benefits, which leads to bogus and misleading arguments against proposed protection-of-marriage amendments, according to the ADF. And Newt Gingrich has some advice for Republicans.

In the great quotes column, there's this from Reagan, and this from William Kilpatrick.

There's more. But it's late - and, besides, all you have to do is go over there and scroll, to get the whole selection.

Girls in the gutter for Halloween?

First I saw SFO Mom: Halloween Frustrations, wherein a mother asks for suggestions for a Halloween costume for her ten year old daughter because what's being marketed is not acceptable. Then I saw that SFO Mom isn't the only one screaming bloody murder over what's being marketed to young girls this year. See here and here and here.

I used to love going around on Halloween, all dressed up. I still sometimes dress up to hand out treats. I dislike the ghoulish sideshow stuff, but the dressing-up and parading in all your silliness or finery is (or can be) one of the highlights of childhood, I think.

So, I vote that we push for cool options to stuff that stinks. Let's leave the toxin merchants in our dust, shall we? Suggestions?

Let's see. I'll kick off the list with a mime (I love good, clean mime), a cowgirl, a jungle explorer (complete with pith helmet, definitely - wearing a hat is always fun), a pioneer lady, a miner (getting to have coal on your face for a whole evening can be a nice break from always being clean, plus it's a good excuse to wear a flashlight on your head), an artist (if you prefer paint smudges on the face to coal, or smocks to jeans). Asking around the house, people suggested a ballerina, an Eskimo, a Narnia character, Raggedy Ann, a nurse or doctor, a mommy pushing a baby carriage, an Indian (Native American), an Indian (from India, saris being both modest and glamorous), a firefighter or policewoman, a roller skater. Snowshoes are cumbersome, but usable in some situations. Mountain climber. Executive. Fisherman (fake hooks, please). A folk dancer. Someone from a Jane Austen novel (or that time period, at least). A chef.

Some of the above suggestions are definitely more practical than others, but we thought we'd toss them out to kickstart the idea engine. Help us out here.

Update: Another couple or so ideas.

Update: At A Hen's Pace has several posts with photos of a recent live youth production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. See, for instance, here, here, here. (Parents, you might want to preview, if you don't want your kids accidentally exposed to evil Narnians along with the good ones.) Some of these costumes, or something like them, might be fun.

Blog neighbor news

While I've been offline enjoying visiting relatives, being semi-oblivious to the outside world, the folks over at The Common Room have been dealing with a bad car wreck and hospitals and other scary stuff. They had kids sent to different hospitals, too, which is always tough.

I'm sorry I'm late to all this. These folks were there for me last year when my husband almost died, asking for prayers for me and mine. I'm returning the favor now. Prayers please.

Common Room Update.

Meanwhile, Anne at PalmTree Pundit was vacationing near the epicenter of Sunday's big quake in Hawaii - up until the day before the quake. Her home is on another island, and they had an interesting time of it, but she and her family are OK. And thankful.

Update: Things are looking up a bit at The Common Room.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday links

I'm still doing the house-full-of-visitors thing (and enjoying myself immensely, by the way). I expect to be mostly offline for several more days, at least. (You should try it sometime. Slow down and smell the roses, and all that jazz. :)

In the meantime, may I suggest:

Via A Circle of Quiet, here's a wonderful write-up on things Shakespeare - especially the art of introducing people to Shakespeare - over at Mental Multivitamin.

Over at Charis Connection, Angela Hunt discusses zipping the lip of your inner critic, and more. (This post has a nice Fred Rogers story. Yes, that Fred Rogers. He had to learn how to be a good neighbor, too, you know.)

And, of course, the Saturday Review of Books is up at Semicolon.

Friday, October 13, 2006

On Friday the 13th

John J. Miller traces some of the history and folklore of the superstition that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day.

hat tip: Betsy's Page

Today's vocabulary lesson: "microwave mentality"

The term "microwave mentality" is new to me, but it does seem to explain a few things...

Craftsmanship considered

Matthew B. Crawford's essay at The New Atlantis called Shop Class as Soulcraft has some interesting observations, I think.

A taste:

A decline in tool use would seem to betoken a shift in our mode of inhabiting the world: more passive and more dependent. And indeed, there are fewer occasions for the kind of spiritedness that is called forth when we take things in hand for ourselves, whether to fix them or to make them. What ordinary people once made, they buy; and what they once fixed for themselves, they replace entirely or hire an expert to repair, whose expert fix often involves installing a pre-made replacement part.

So perhaps the time is ripe for reconsideration of an ideal that has fallen out of favor: manual competence, and the stance it entails toward the built, material world. Neither as workers nor as consumers are we much called upon to exercise such competence, most of us anyway, and merely to recommend its cultivation is to risk the scorn of those who take themselves to be the most hard-headed: the hard-headed economist will point out the opportunity costs of making what can be bought, and the hard-headed educator will say that it is irresponsible to educate the young for the trades, which are somehow identified as the jobs of the past. But we might pause to consider just how hard-headed these presumptions are, and whether they don’t, on the contrary, issue from a peculiar sort of idealism, one that insistently steers young people toward the most ghostly kinds of work.

hat tip: Mental Multivitamin

Uncivil non-debate

Have you noticed how some people on the left talk about freedom of speech, but don't let anyone but their not-so-humble selves actually say anything? Or how they react with violence when somebody disagrees with them? Peggy Noonan has some thoughts on this.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"Silent Knight" contest

Author Emily Brightwell has a contest going for U.S. readers of "Mrs. Jeffries and the Silent Knight." It's a first-five-readers-with-the-correct-answer contest, so don't dawdle. Details.

I'm a fan of the Mrs. Jeffries mystery series, but this happens to be one that I haven't read. Naturally.

The contest blurb says that 'Silent Knight' will be coming out in paperback next month, but I see that Barnes & Noble has the mass market paperback available already. Click on the book cover for more info.

Mrs. Jeffries and the Silent Knight
Mrs. Jeffries and the Silent Knight

Celebrating Little Golden Books

Meghan Cox Gurdon writes fondly of The Other Golden Years (OpinionJournal, Oct. 6, 2006).

Little Golden Books timeline

"gi" whiz :)

I like this lady's attitude and sense of humor. (Not to mention the shoes.)

Fifty years ago, a remarkable international project finally bore fruit

Before September 25, 1956, if you wanted to place a transatlantic telephone call you often had to wait hours for a connection, and then, once you were on, the radio transmission was prone to interference and fading. But, then...

My, how times have changed.

Liberation tottering

That would be the French leftist newspaper Liberation.

From Red ink threatens voice of French left, Elizabeth Bryant, Washington Times, October 7, 2006:

PARIS -- Spawned during the heady days of the country's 1968 student riots, France's iconic, Maoist-rooted Liberation newspaper faces an ignominious demise at the hands of the corporate bottom line.

The brainchild of philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre, Liberation rose to become the leftist newspaper of record for tens of thousands of students, intellectuals and union firebrands in a country where much of the press has a political slant.

Today, its readership has plummeted, its debts are mounting and its chances of survival are dimming rapidly.

Last week, Liberation's boss, businessman Eduard Rothschild of the famed banking family, gave a special steering committee until Oct. 18 to find ways to reverse the paper's sliding fortunes, which include an estimated $16.5 million loss this year alone.

Liberation's staff members fear a drastic bloodletting as Mr. Rothschild, who bought a commanding 39 percent stake in the newspaper last year, tries to turn the struggling daily into a moneymaking enterprise...

Several top people have already either been shown the door or have found it on their own.

Bryant reports that newspapers in general are having a tough time right now. I knew that, but I found this consequence surprising (although I probably shouldn't have, if I'd stopped to think about it):

In Germany, he [Marc Gruber, co-director of the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists] said, half of the country's reporters are freelancers, an indication of the growing precariousness of the profession...

Full article

The Saturday Review of Books...

...is up at Semicolon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Marin County students meet a military pen pal

Bury your stereotypes about Marin County, California. Kids at Kent Middle School have been pen pals with people serving in Iraq, and this week they got to visit with one of them who's home on leave. Joe Wolfcale has the story (Marin soldier tells stories from Iraq's frontline, Marin Independent Journal, October 2, 2006).

hat tip: Bookworm

Students to protest abortion with a day of silence

Do you know a student who would like to participate in the third annual Students' Day of Silent Solidarity on Tuesday, October 24? Homeschoolers are also going to be participating, according to this article at lifesite.net.

In short, students remain silent for a day in honor of children silenced by abortion. They also wear red armbands or red duct tape on their mouth, and hand out flyers to anyone who asks. Students from Canada, the United States, and a handful other countries are expected to participate.

It's not my style, but hey, maybe it will do some good. And I'm delighted to hear about young folks who aren't falling for the feminist spin I, uhm, ahem, pretty much bit hook, line, and sinker at their age. (I have since discovered that feminists, by and large, are horribly misguided and badly misinformed, but I didn't know that at the time. Honest.)

The list (so far) of schools with students participating this year is here. Glancing through the list, it seems to be mostly high schoolers who are on board, but it ranges from middle school through university.

P.S. Kids, this should go without mentioning, but you do know to talk things over with your parents before signing up for any kind of protest, right?

Update: A girl in Maryland had to get legal help from the Alliance Defense Fund before she was allowed to promote this event. More.

The lady and the woman ahead of her

Being a lady often has its rewards. Even in big ol' New York City.

hat tip: Krista

A word to the wise

Don't try to cut steel-belted tires with a chain saw.

I can't imagine, really, why anybody would try this, but the other day a guy from out of town decided, for whatever reason, that while he was here he was going to cut up some large tires. He decided to use a chain saw. The tire proved too much for the chain, as you might expect. (It's made for wood, for crying out loud.) The chain broke and whipped and, so I'm told (thank goodness I wasn't around!), took off his arm and shoulder. (Well, I'm told they were still attached by a small flap of skin. Whoopee.) He lived, amazingly enough, and the last I heard he'd recovered enough to be moved by ambulance to his home town near the coast. But, yinga. And yuck.

Chain saws are wonderful tools, but they're only for very specific jobs, and must be used intelligently. Kindly remember that.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Author note: Norman Thelwell

Oh, my. Several of the Norman Thelwell books have been put back in print when I wasn't looking. Thelwell was one of those artists who drew wonderful cartoons but could also do very realistic art. I wore out some of his cartoon books as a kid, and spent hours and hours doing lessons out of one of his "how to draw" books or copying pictures from the cartoon books. It didn't turn me into a world-class cartoonist like himself, but it did keep me out of trouble...

Well, more or less. I had a real-life pony that was somewhat Thelwell-ish, and he and I got into some adventures worthy of a Thelwell cartoon, I thought.

Why in the world his "how to draw" books don't seem to be in print I'm sure I don't know. Hello, publishers? He's funny as well as a great art teacher. Pretty please put his art how-to books back in print. Pretty, pretty please? Actually, I don't know how many he made. I just happen to have at hand "Drawing Ponies" in the Studio Drawing Series, Studio Vista Limited, London, 1966. "Drawing Ponies" I consider a small gem. I thought he had another one or two, but I might be mistaken. (Please drop a note in the comments section here if you know of others. Thanks.)

If you'd like to see samples of his work, or find out more about the artist, there's an official Norman Thelwell website.

Click on any book cover below to go to Barnes & Noble. If you buy on that visit, I get a few pennies in commission.

A Leg at Each Corner
A Leg at Each Corner


Thelwell's Pony Cavalcade: Includes Angels on Horseback, a Leg at Each Corner and Thelwell's Riding Academy
Thelwell's Pony Cavalcade: Includes Angels on Horseback, a Leg at Each Corner and Thelwell's Riding Academy

Thelwell's Compleat Tangler
Thelwell's Compleat Tangler

Angels on Horseback
Angels on Horseback


Riding Academy
Riding Academy

Thelwell's Pony Panorama: Includes Thelwell's Gymkhana, Thelwell Goes West and Thelwell's Penelope
Thelwell's Pony Panorama: Includes Thelwell's Gymkhana, Thelwell Goes West and Thelwell's Penelope

Top Dog
Top Dog

Update: I can't resist adding this excerpt from an obituary in The Sydney Morning Herald, February 26, 2004 (which credits The Telegraph, London):

Norman Thelwell, who has died aged 80, created some of the most recognisable images in equine art with his cartoons of freckled girls being bounced along on their recalcitrant spherical ponies.

His first of more than 25 cartoon books, Angels on Horseback, appeared in 1957 and has never been out of print. Like those of Giles, Thelwell's books had a place in the downstairs lavatory of almost every country house. Ponies of a certain shape and temper became known as "Thelwells".

Thelwell felt more pride at having once been the political cartoonist on the News Chronicle, and he drew many other animal and sporting subjects, but it was chiefly for his pony drawings that he was famous. Fans wrote even from overseas to tell him about things they had seen at horse shows.

Such gleanings were useful since he claimed to have no horse sense and to have ridden only once in his life. Horses, he declared, were "great windy things that'll grab your coat off your back as soon as look at you". As for humans, most "find life a bit of a problem and are pretty jumpy under the skin. It is this insecurity when dealing with other people or animals or inanimate objects that I find both comical and endearing."

Full obit here

Movie from the heart

Somehow I'd missed the story behind the movie Facing the Giants. Amazing.

Did you know it was produced by a Baptist church and that all the actors and most of the crew were volunteers? Now, that's a community theater project!

To whom it may concern

If you are the Hanna and Haley who celebrated your 14th birthdays on Whidbey Island by tossing a bottle with a message in it into the ocean, see Wittingshire: Message in a Bottle. :)

(The rest of you can read it, too, of course. Fun story.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Company's coming...

...in a few days and there's a lot of work to do. We haven't had overnight guests since we moved here last winter, and it's a smallish house, with smallish rooms, comfortable for a couple. And so we've been putting on our thinking caps and rearranging things.

The dining room I think we've got well in hand now. It's a bit disorienting, walking into a room with a table going 90 degrees to its previous position, and with a leaf added and more chairs. But, hey, once we got it set up we asked each other why we didn't set it up like this before now. It's actually easier to walk through, this way. Who would have guessed? So, anyway, that was an experiment that turned out well.

Finding somewhere to put a spare double bed mattress... now, that's proving a bit tougher. I'm sure there's a way to do this. I just don't see it yet...

Wednesday morning update: The dining room experiment turned out more beneficial than I anticipated. We had heavy rains last night. The most recent roof patch seems to have solved the leaks in the kitchen - but we had a bit of a flood in the bathroom (right next to the tub, of course - we couldn't be lucky and have the water go into the tub, now could we?) - and we had leaks in the dining room, which was unexpected. Leaks, I will add, that would have landed on the table under the old arrangement. Well, some of them would. There are several leaks, all of them (knock wood) missing furniture at this point.

I talked to the landlord this morning. He says he'll go up himself after the rain stops. He's been paying other guys to do the patch work. This obviously hasn't been working too well. It's not for lack of caring, I might add. A few days ago I met the guy who'd gone up on the roof and taken down the crumbling chimney and done the roof patch. I didn't know who he was until he introduced himself. (And, not that it matters, he's not as young as I'd thought, back when I'd only had a glimpse in passing.) He asked how things were going now. When I told him about some leaks in the bathroom during a storm shortly after he'd been up there he was deflated. I really think he really thought he'd banished our leaks for good.

Here's hoping the landlord has better luck. Or that we don't have storms when our elderly relatives are here, needing to shuffle through the bathroom.

Lest you get the wrong idea, on the whole I love this house. It's old, but mostly in delightful ways - skeleton keyholes in the doors and built-in kitchen cabinet from floor to ceiling, that sort of thing. And it's cozy. Well-proportioned. Comfortable. It does need a few repairs. And if it were my house - if I owned it, I mean - and if I had money to spare, there are a few things I'd change about it. I'd lose the carpet in the kitchen and the spare bathroom, for instance. I don't understand putting carpet in bathrooms and kitchens, to be honest with you. But mostly I'd just add fresh paint and let it go at that. It's a homey place.

But company's coming in a few days, and I still haven't figured where we're going to fit in another bed. And, of course, I've been cleaning and trying to lose some of the clutter, and...

One really nice thing, actually, about these visitors is that I know they wouldn't care in the least if I didn't clean or tidy up any. They care about the people in a house, not the house. But that only makes it all the more fun to try to get things in better order. It can be a gift when it's not an obligation, I guess.

Refusing to be stifled, Thomas Quasthoff version

See Closed door; open window « Bookworm Room for an excerpt from A Transcendent Voice, by Arthur Lubow (The New York Times Magazine, October 1, 2006).

Here's another:

[Thomas] Quasthoff’s early years demand a Dickens to do them justice. After an initial nine months at home, he spent a year and a half behind a glass wall of a hospital ward at the Annastift clinic in the West German city Hanover, where the doctors, baffled by this new species of birth defect [his mother had taken thalidomide], confined him for fear that his immune system could not fight off infection. His parents and his brother, Michael, who is two years older, would visit every Saturday and Sunday, but they were kept on the other side of the barrier. “We could give signs and laugh, but there was no possibility to speak to him,” says Michael, who is now a journalist. When Thomas was released to the family home in Hildesheim, a city near Hanover, he was accompanied by a large body cast in which he slept every night to correct the direction of his backward-facing feet. There was no expectation that he would ever be able to walk, but his parents refused to accept such a grim prognosis. Using pieces of milk chocolate as a lure, his mother enticed him to take a few steps, then a few more steps, until he was walking on his own. After a year, the plaster cast was no longer needed.

His parents were less successful in persuading one of the local schools to accept him. At 6, Thomas had to return to boarding school at the Annastift facility, where the mentally and physically handicapped were grouped together. His respites came on weekends, when his parents would faithfully bring him home. His other solace was in song. “In Annastift, the doctors said he was always singing,” Michael recalls. “And when he came home, he lay on the sofa or a chair and was singing at every time of day. When the radio played, he could sing all the songs from the beginning.” His parents sought a voice teacher as a way to boost his spirits. Singing was an activity in which he surpassed other children...

He has gone on to become an internationally acclaimed singer.

For an alternate link (single page), see here. I don't know what the current policy is at the New York Times, but in the past I've had trouble with their links either going bad or requiring a fee to see after a while. Fair warning.

Promoting manhood

From a CatholicMom.com interview with Tarek Saab, Lionheart Apparel (emphasis mine):

Q: Please tell our readers about Lionheart Apparel. How did the company get its start and what is your mission for Lionheart?

A: I have a close group of friends from college who are all athletic, intelligent, Catholic men, and one of the topics we inevitably discuss when we get together is the lack of strong masculine presence in the Church today. If you walk into most parishes, it's rare that you'll find a very large number of men. That hasn't always been the case. It's as though Catholic men have lost their identity, and for the men who are still vocal about their faith, they feel like they're one in a million...


Q: I see that a portion of your proceeds go to charities. Could you tell us more about why you're doing this and about the charities you are supporting through Lionheart?

A: We donate ten percent of our profits to two Pro-life Charities - Human Life International and the Catholic Pro-life Committee. As I said earlier, the company is about more than just selling t-shirts and hats. We want to help create a picture of what manhood is all about. As the saying goes, "clothes don't make the man." We believe that's true. It's all about our actions, and we think we are setting a great example by taking a strong stand against abortion. Hopefully, if guys see that Lionheart Apparel will defend innocent life in lieu of sales and in spite of criticism, maybe they will be more courageous individually. As men, we are hardwired to defend innocent life at all costs, even at the risk of our own lives. It's what makes us men. Sadly, many have lost touch with reality.

Full article here: Catholic Reality Television Star Seeks to Help Men Build a Strong Identity through New Apparel Line