Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The First Annual Hidden Treasure Blog Awards

Via Dewey's Treehouse, here's a blog award project I can link to without reservation (yay!). From everyday mommy:

Your mission is to scour the mommy blogosphere for hidden treasure. Read through archives, visit new blogs and find that well-written gem. This can come from a favorite blog which you already read or a blog you've discovered during the treasure hunt. But, the idea is to find well-written posts which are off the beaten path.

The categories are: Children & Family, Faith, Marriage, Motherhood, Homemaking, Humor, Current Events and Life. No profanity, questionable or offensive material is permitted...

Nominations will be accepted Feb. 1 through 7. Then the voting begins. More info here.

DVD note/Book note: My Man Godfrey

I just got through watching My Man Godfrey (1936) with William Powell and Carole Lombard, for the second time this winter. (It's one of those movies with enough going on that you can miss some rich details the first go-round.) I went looking for information about the movie after I watched it the first time - but found that most of the reviews gave away too much information. So... I'm not going to repeat that transgression here. Suffice it to say that it usually gets listed as a screwball comedy, but it's rather more than that. That isn't to say it doesn't have its screwball moments (lots of them) or that Lombard's character isn't one of the ditziest females ever to grace a screen. It is to say that it's a movie you can laugh at - with your kids, even - but that slides a few ideas about right and wrong into the mix, and takes jabs at the spoiled 'sophisticates' of its day. This is from a Hollywood that still knew how to laugh at itself as well as the world around it.

My copy is on a DVD I don't see listed for sale online (it's one of those clearance-priced four-movie-pack specials, selected out of a larger collection, I think), so I've linked to one that supposedly has both the colorized version and the black and white. (I always choose the original black and white, given a chance on old movies. But to each his own on that.) I understand there was a David Niven 'remake' in the 1950s, with an altered plotline. No thanks. Powell is the perfect Godfrey.

Add the novel the movie was based on to your treasure hunting list. It seems to be scarce enough to have sent some copies into the several hundred dollar range. The author is Eric Hatch. If you find a hardback first edition with a dust jacket, well, now you're talking four figures, probably, depending on condition. At first glance at the markets, I'm guessing at this point that the true first edition was published 1935 by Little, Brown, and Company of Boston (which is funny, given the skewering the Eastern upper crust crowd gets in the movie), with a Grosset & Dunlap edition out later the same year.

Update: The Common Room lists other fun movies.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Prognosis: "at the very, very best she will be a vegetable for the rest of her life"

Oh, yeah?

Three cheers for Batya Feigenbaum and the people who didn't give up on her.

Book market note: Books by Augusta Huiell Seaman

In the stack of used books that I'm getting ready for sale, I came across a book from 1947. It hasn't aged particularly well. The pages are still soft (flexible, not brittle), but they are browning. As far as the boards go, there's wear to the corners and the head and tail of the spine; not real bad, but enough to be unhappy about. If there ever was a dust jacket, it's long gone.

But this turns out to be one of the harder to find books by the prolific author Augusta Huiell Seaman (1879-1950), once quite popular with kids and teens, and now apparently popular with collectors. Even "reading copies" (i.e., ugly but all there) are selling for $25 and up. Hmmm. That's a nice surprise, from a seller's point of view.

I did a quick look around and it looks like several of her titles are scarce, well worth keeping your eye out for when you're at garage sales and thrift stores, etc.

For a lengthy article on the author and her work, plus a bibliography, see Nancy Drew for Smart Kids: Mysteries by Augusta Huiell Seaman by Christine M. Volk.

Eggs not all in one basket

The lead on this morning's local radio news was that a small town north of here suffered a broken water main, and is without water - but, at the same time, isn't without water.

The city water supply is temporarily toast, but (the mayor explained live) there was one citizen inside the city limits with a private well who was providing water to everyone, as were a few citizens outside the city limits with wells.

The mayor also assured everyone that there was a back-up plan should the community suffer a fire before the water lines were back in service. He declined to give even an outline of that back-up plan. (Not that I particularly wanted one. I'm a big fan of not letting bad guys know how cities are set up to deal with things like compromised water systems.)

The hope is that city water will be restored sometime today. In the meantime, hooray for the maverick with an in-town well.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Glimpses of the past

All right, so I set out to do a bit of research on author Alice Hegan Rice, and along the way I stumbled on the Kentucky Library and Museum online site. This was not a good site to stumble upon on a busy day. ;)

See, for instance, the vintage postcard collection...

Too fun.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hillary wants a conversation, Jim Geraghty obliges

I don't often link to "fisking" but Hillary Is 'In It.' Last Name to be Determined Later (the hillary spot, National Review Online, Saturday, January 20, 2007, Jim Geraghty reporting) is too spot-on to pass. And, besides, it's not quite "fisking" -- is it? It's more like a conversation... ;)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Let's see, if you count 15-year-olds as women, and exclude husbands in the military, and... (Updated)

*Scroll down for a closer look at the numbers by Michael Novak.*

From Journalistic Malpractice in "Marriage is Dead" Report by Michael Medved:

On Tuesday, January 16th, 2007, the American people awoke to startling and disturbing news: for the first time ever, the majority of women in the country were living without a husband.

All the TV networks, radio news broadcasts, pundits, talk show hosts and leading newspapers reported on the devastating milestone, and saw it as yet another indication of the ongoing collapse of the traditional family. Some commentators hailed this development as an encouraging sign of newfound freedom, while others decried it as a reflection of decadence and dysfunction.

With all the debate and pontification about the new minority status of married women, it’s just too bad that no significant media outlet (beyond this writer, on my nationally syndicated radio show) made the single most important and salient observation about the big news--

That is, it’s not true.

According to Medved, you have to include "some 10,154,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19" in the pool of "women" before you can approach the figure used by reporter Sam Roberts in the article run in the New York Times.

(Personally, I hope most "women" in the middle of adolescence are still single. Silly me.)

It gets worse:

Yet even the ridiculous inclusion of his ten million unmarried teenagers couldn’t give Sam Roberts the story he wanted to report – that most American “women” are now unmarried. As a matter of fact, the Census Bureau shows that among all females above 15 the majority (51%!) are still classified as “married.”

So the New York Times required yet another sneaky distortion to shave off that last 2% from the married majority, though this bit of statistical sleight-of-hand Sam Roberts had the decency to acknowledge. “In a relatively small number of cases, the living arrangement is temporary, because the husbands are working out of town, are in the military, or are institutionalized,” he writes. In other words, in his brave new majority of “women” without spouses, he includes all those thousands upon thousands of wives and mothers who are waiting and praying at home for the return of their husbands from Iraq or Afghanistan. By arbitrarily removing this 2% of all females (2,400,000 individuals) who are classified as “married/spouse absent” from the ranks of the married, and then designating as “unmarried” his millions of middle school and high school girls who are living with their parents, together with some 9 million elderly widows who have devoted much of their lives to marriage and husbands (42% of all women over 65 are widows), Roberts can finally arrive at his desired but meaningless conclusion that “most women” now “are living without a husbands.” Eureka!

Full Medved article

hat tip: The Alliance Alert

Update: Michael Novak also runs the numbers (Married Women and the New York Times, First Things, Feb. 7, 2008):

...An impressive 58 percent of white non-Hispanic women were married with husbands present.

Looking at these numbers another way, add to the 58 percent of white non-Hispanic women with husbands present, the 12 percent that had been divorced as of 2005, and the fewer than 2 percent separated, plus the 1 percent married but with husbands absent. Also add another 11 percent who were, not by choice, living as widows. Therefore, the total of white non-Hispanic women over twenty who were or had been married was 85 percent. It is obvious that, in that year, marriage was the overwhelmingly preferred choice of American white women over the age of twenty. In addition, a significant proportion of the not-yet-married women over twenty will also enter into marriage in the future. The proportion choosing marriage, then, easily exceeds 90 percent.

Because these numbers do not include black, Hispanic, and Asian women, they do not give an accurate picture of the whole U.S. female population. But they do give a clear picture of the largest culture, as a point of comparison...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n's short story contest

David at faith*in*fiction is co-hosting a short story contest, built on the theme of "daily sacrament":

As always, we're not going to completely pin you down on what this means. It could be the daily made sacred (like Andre Dubus) or the sacred explored in terms of daily life (as Marilynne Robinson does so eloquently in Gilead...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Encyclopedia info sought

One of Danielle Bean's readers is looking for a set of encyclopedias that's not hostile to Catholic values. So far, people are recommending older editions and the internet. Surely there's something contemporary that hasn't been co-opted by social engineers, so to speak? The discussion is going on here.

My understanding is that the encyclopedias don't need to be Catholic, per se. What's wanted is something that presents knowledge without undermining morals.

If at first you don't succeed, rabbit edition


What are libraries for?, revisited

Reader johng, responding at my previous post What are libraries for? (about libraries discarding books based on circulation stats, even if a book might be considered a classic or otherwise an important cultural heritage) wrote:

Kathryn, this article is timely. But such an insane practice has been standard in some libraries for at least the last decade. One librarian and I shared a laugh. She and others would 'check out' books essential to the library just to save them from the clutches of the library director, who was determined to turn the public library into a computer only center. That one check out would preserve the book until the next purge! Believe it.

We commiserated with another librarian. Hers was a newly opened public facility. The only books in the Young Adult section were recent publications, and a large number of them were objectionable to many parents. If there were classics, we didn't see them. Hers was a collection not usable for many families.

The holding of that which is good and beautiful, and necessary for civilisation--certainly a noble goal for our public libraries. And a lost role for many.

I have to admit that I feel rather silly for not having thought to suggest this before, but, really, it wouldn't take very many of us going to libraries and checking out books we don't want lost to the community, to save quite a few books worth saving.

Spread the word, eh?

Thanks, johng, and please thank those librarian friends of yours who battle for a good, healthy selection of books in their libraries.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tsunami warning

There has been a major earthquake (currently listed at 7.9) east of the Kuril Islands off Russia. There are tsunami warnings/watches in effect for various places in and around the Pacific. More information is available at the USGS Earthquake Center.

Update: West Coast & Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (Event maps)
Update: Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

A splendid diversity

Although I don't share the alarmist tendencies of many people in the heirloom seed industry (several of whom aren't slow to tell you that we're doomed if we don't preserve old vegetable varieties), I do share their enthusiasm for preserving a wide and rich vegetable and flower heritage.

I'm also a great fan of commercial seed companies that have managed to develop plants that do well under a variety of conditions and/or that hold up well for shipment to distant markets.

And, no, I don't see a contradiction there. I think we need good commercial varieties, and I think we're far better off in both the long and short terms if we have great regional or niche varieties, too. I think we're better off from a safety standpoint if we don't become overly reliant on too few varieties or depend too much on a just a handful of seed sources. I know we're better off from the standpoints of taste and beauty and experience if we don't let our food and surroundings become too much of a sameness, so to speak.

All of which is prelude to saying that I am having a wonderful time reading the Seed Savers 2007 Catalog which came in the mail. I think my favorite info snippet this year so far is "Found growing in a street crack at 56th and College in Indianapolis, Indiana. First offered by SSE member John Hartman."

Oh, wait... you didn't think you had to be some sort of specialist or have membership in some sort of fraternity to help save and share great and/or interesting flowers and vegetables with the rest of the world, did you? You thought you had to have a horde of seeds from plants originally brought to America by your great-great-great-grandparents and zealously cultivated by your family ever since?

Think again. Those who stumble across plants worth propagating also play their part. The catalog is full of stories like that. Found in a market in Russia (or India, or wherever). Found growing at an abandoned farm. That sort of thing.

This is, as I understand it, in keeping with how many of the world's best loved flowers and food crops got established. Someone found them somewhere, and took them somewhere else where they might be appreciated or studied or improved. I have books on my bookshelf featuring stories of men risking their lives to acquire exotic plant specimens to take to collectors in fad-hungry Europe, for instance. More on that someday, when I've got more time.

For now, though, I just wanted to alert you to the catalog before too many of the offerings sell out.

Well, that, and I want to publicly thank those families that have quietly and patiently and doggedly saved the vegetables and flowers grown by their ancestors instead of letting them be lost to us. I haven't learned the art of saving seeds properly. But I admire those who have.

A note: Introducing plants from one part of the world to another has been known to unleash some awful pests in the new place. (Some parts of Oregon, Washington and California are horribly infested with Scotch broom, for instance, to the detriment of practically everything else in the vicinity.) Please, please, exercise some caution and common sense when importing plants, and keep an eye out for anything that unexpectedly looks to be on the verge of rampaging off your place. Thanks. I feel pretty safe promoting the Seed Savers stuff, because most of what they offer requires cultivation to survive, but, still, do keep an eye out, won't you?

P.S. The Seed Savers catalog also features a selection of books that's well worth a look.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Not available in all pet stores

I have before me a flyer for King's Discount Stores, for a sale running January 8 through 14. Among the items on sale:



The accompanying picture shows a puzzle featuring dinosaurs.


I was talking on the phone to an older lady who lives several states away, and she informed me that she'd looked in the mirror and finally seen a wrinkle. And so we both cheered.

She has, you see, been battling heart failure, and it had caused terrific swelling, and she'd been looking in the mirror and seeing what she called a pumpkin instead of her own face.

Being able to see your wrinkles is good.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What are libraries for?

John J. Miller, noting that many libraries are getting in the habit of discarding books that haven't been checked out in two years even if they're classics, wonders if librarians are becoming mere clerks instead of those who "shore up the culture against the eroding force of trends." ("Checked Out," OpinionJournal, Jan. 3, 2007)

It's a fair question, I think, although I'd like to invite Mr. Miller to check out bookstores like ours if he thinks bookstores only cater to the latest fad. For that matter, we generally sell quite a few classics over the course of any given year, often to people who made it through a public school education and/or college without being exposed to much Western Civ and who wonder what they've missed. Heh.

Blogs4Life conference Jan. 22

The Second Annual Conference of Pro-Life Bloggers will be Jan. 22 prior to and after the annual March for Life in Washington DC. More info here.

Author note: A. J. Cronin

I get the's business news daily email, which always includes a Fact of the Day. Today's fact:

A J Cronin, the creator of "Doctor Finlay", was born today in 1896 at Cardross near Dumbarton. After completing his medical studies, Cronin became a Navy surgeon. He then settled in a mining area of South Wales, which was used as the setting for his novel "The Citadel", said to have been one of the inspirations for the setting up of the UK's post-war National Health Service. Other popular works were "Hatter's Castle", "The Stars Look Down" and "Keys to the Kingdom". Cronin died in 1981. To read about other famous Scots, visit

By guess and by gosh pumpkin custard

I love to experiment with recipes. Sometimes it works. Occasionally it doesn't. But it's fun.

I decided that since I'm the only person around here who eats pie crust, and I'm not crazy wild about it myself unless it's really, really good (which it rarely is), I decided to skip the crust and make something akin to a pumpkin custard instead of a pumpkin pie. I bought a can of Libby's Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix. I mixed it with eggs and evaporated milk as called for, but poured it into a casserole dish instead of a pie pan. (What? Custard cups? Who has that many custard cups? Who wants to bother with that many custard cups?) Then I went to bake it just like a pie.

Then I reconsidered. Probably having a starting temp of 425 for 15 minutes was to cook the crust, of which I didn't have any. Probably without a crust the higher temp was a bad idea. As if on cue, I started getting wafts of browning smells from the oven. Oops. I pulled the casserole dish out of the oven until I could get the heat down a bit.

My husband wandered through and mentioned his grandmother always used water baths for custard. Well, I almost always do too, but in the press of getting several things done at once I'd forgotten. It's not like I cook a lot of custard. (I should change that. We like custard, and it's relatively easy to make. But I digress.)

I did not have a big enough pan to put the casserole dish in a proper water bath, so I used a broiling pan and got water up almost halfway to the top. This is not at all as high as it should be, but did I mention I didn't have a big enough pan to do any better?

So, I put it back in the oven, this time at 350 degrees, in its half-bath, and cooked it until it was done. I can't tell you how long that was, because I just kept checking and adding time, but not keeping track.

But here's the kicker. It came out wonderful (if I do say so myself). It was light and moist and creamy and when you added a bit of Cool Whip it was one of the best desserts we've ever had around here. Forget trying to get pie pieces just the right size, too. With this stuff, in a casserole dish, you just scoop out as much or as little as you want. How easy can it get?

So.... do I have to do all that early-too-hot, water-bath-late-and-low stuff or can I get the same results by sticking it in the oven in a more or less proper water bath at 350 from the get-go? I'm going to try the easy way next time, in part because I'm not at all sure I could replicate the sequence-that-worked if I tried.

If you're wondering about my title: my neighbors in Wisconsin, back when I worked there, called cooking by the seat of your pants "by guess and by gosh" cooking. I hear it's a term commonly used in the Midwest. At any rate, that's definitely what this effort was.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Mary Katharine Ham begs to differ with the Washington Post

Mary Katharine Ham attends The Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia, which recently broke away from the Episcopal Church to join the Anglican province of Nigeria. So when she saw that her church was being profiled in the Washington Post she compared what was said in the newspaper against her first-hand experience. She wonders if the reporters went to the right church.

The original James Bond was an ornithologist?

For what it's worth, in my email update from The Scotsman (aka for 04 Jan 2007, the Fact of the Day is:

The real James Bond was born today in 1900. No, not the super-spy, but the American ornithologist whose name was borrowed by author Ian Fleming for his best-selling novels. Whilst living in Jamaica, Fleming (who was a keen bird-watcher) had a copy of Bond's "Birds of the West Indies" and took his name for the spy since he considered it a "brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name that] was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born." To read more about a real Scottish hero from the world of espionage, visit

That story almost sounds too good to be true... (Pause while your hostess googles...)

Well, my goodness. Over at Barnes and Noble I see that A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies has James Bond as a co-author along with Roger Tory Peterson, and I see Wikipedia has an entry on that book, saying it has become a collector's item among Bond fans. It also has an entry on James Bond the ornithologist. It mentions that the 20th Bond film (do I want to know how many there are?) has the spy James Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan, examining the book in a scene set in Havana.

I haven't found a link for it at Barnes & Noble yet, but elsewhere on the internet I see that there's also a Collins Field Guide/Birds of the West Indies, 5th Revised Edition, 2002, that lists James Bond as author, with no mention of Peterson.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

French judge rules that pork soup isn't racist

Police in Paris had shut down soup kitchens for serving pork soup. From The Guardian (Jan. 2, 2007):

But the judge at the administrative tribunal in Paris decided that as there was no evidence the SDF [Solidarité des Français] had refused to serve Jews and Muslims, who do not eat pork for religious reasons, it could not be accused of discriminating against them. The city's police prefecture was ordered to pay €1,000 (£670) in costs to the group.

In a statement, Roger Bonnivard, the group's president, said: "After weeks of dirty manoeuvres, intimidation, harassment, all kinds of pressure, and despite a new ban, the Paris police authorities now have to adhere to the decision. There are no legal grounds allowing anyone to ban pig soup."

hat tip: It Shines For All

Did I hear that right?

The radio was on in the next room, and I wasn't listening, but I thought I heard a newscaster say that some city was having trouble keeping its public transit running on time because of people collapsing and needing attention - and that most of the fainters were women on crash diets?

Nah. I couldn't have heard that right. And if I did, it sounds like urban folklore to me.

Still... I'm not a crash dieter, but I've known a few... it seems possible... especially since New Year's resolutions have just kicked in and some people are not known for being intelligent about New Year's resolutions....

New York Times Magazine article found wanting

In Truth, Justice, Abortion and the Times Magazine - New York Times, readers' representative Byron Calame finds that the April 9, 2006, cover story in The New York Times Magazine did not meet the standards that readers of The New York Times should expect. The article claimed that a woman named Carmen Climaco was sentenced to a 30-year jail term in El Salvador for having had an abortion, when court records show that she was found guilty not of an abortion, but of having a full-term live baby and then strangling it. Calame also doesn't think the reaction to early complaints about the article were handled well.

Hats off to The New York Times for publishing Calame's column on this.

hat tip: (of which I'm a member)

On plagiarism, internet and otherwise

A blogger got caught passing off the work of other writers as his own, which prompted professional writer/screenwriter Robert J. Avrech to say a few things about people who plagiarize, and the people who shrug it off or even defend it.

Book note: In Search of Lost Time

Robert J. Avrech is almost embarrassed to admit it (he says), but he has read the seven-volume French novel In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, and loved it. But, he says:

The difficulty in the book is the oceanic prose; sometimes, quite frankly, it's hard to follow the plot through the scrim of Proust's often labyrinthine sentences. But for me it was worth it. After making my way through the seven volumes I felt as if I had glimpsed an entire age, seen into a specific man's soul. It took me over a year of disciplined reading, and I actually plan on doing it again.

The very best book to help you get through the seven volumes is: Roger Shattuck's Proust's Way: A Field Guide to In Search of Lost Time. It is essential, and without it I might have given up any number of times.

Here's one of my favorite quotes from Proust: "We believe we can change things according to our wishes because that's the only happy solution we can see. We don't think of what usually happens and what is also a happy solution; things don't change, but by and by our wishes change."

Full post

I haven't read the book and don't know anything about it except what Mr. Avrech tells us in his post, but I couldn't resist noting a post about a book that took more a year to read with the help of a field guide, and was still deemed worth the effort. Besides, I love the Proust quote.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Something else I thought I'd never hear myself say

Let's be up front here. You can't pay me to listen to the Coast to Coast radio show. I grew up around people who believe space aliens are the determining factor in mankind's future, and if I never hear another word about UFOs, etc., it will be too soon.

And so, if you had asked me up until this afternoon what the chances were that I'd write a post thanking Art Bell (a major UFO cheerleader) for anything I'd have said none. No chance whatsoever. End of story.

Allow me to eat a very small crow, here. A friend of mine who does listen to the show, I hope for entertainment purposes, told me that Art Bell waxed eloquently pro-life on his show last night, at some length. It seems Mr. Bell and his wife recently discovered that she was pregnant, and before taking an airplane trip they went in for a medical check-up. Mr. Bell was, I'm told, astonished by what he saw on the ultrasound. He had no idea you could see a heartbeat so early...

I guess he stated emphatically that no one was ever going to be able to convince him now that life doesn't begin at conception.

Gotta love those ultrasounds.

My friend says that some of Mr. Bell's callers were urging him to pick up the banner and lead the pro-life movement. Heaven spare us. (Not that any one person or group can "lead" a movement as big and broad as the pro-life movement.) On the other hand, he's definitely in a position to reach a few thousand people who otherwise might never hear a word in favor of treating unborn babies as fully human and worthy of protection.

The universe moves in strange ways.

Thank you, Mr. Bell, for standing up for the most defenseless among us. I'll bet you saved a young life or two last night, just by making some people stop and take a fresh look at what pregnancy means. Here's hoping that particular seed you planted grows in a few hearts over the years to come.