Saturday, March 31, 2007

Good stuff through a straw

I could use some help here. I'm cooking for someone who currently can't eat except through a straw. I find myself sliding into a rut. Any ideas you have on straw-suitable soups, healthy drinks, and regular foods that can still be somewhat palatable after dilution and pureeing would be appreciated. It's bad enough not being able to eat solid food, without having the liquid stuff get monotonous.

To get the ball rolling, here are a few tips from around here.

= A few years back, we noticed that the nutrition tallies for Carnation Instant Breakfast were almost identical to the nutritional tallies for the expensive and rather chalky nutrition supplement the doctor prescribed. We haven't used the fancy stuff since. We use whole milk to boost the calorie count.

= Split pea soup is easy to make from scratch. There are lots of variations, but here's how we generally do it around here: Wash the dried split peas you're going to use (I put them in a colander, sort out anything that isn't supposed to be there, then rinse under the faucet). Put the peas into a saucepan with three to four cups of water for every cup of peas. (My usual batch uses two cups of peas.) Add a pat of butter or other oil to keep the soup from getting too much froth. Toss in some diced onion and whatever else suits your fancy. Traditional recipes call for diced ham, but one day when I didn't have ham I tried chopped carrots and found that we liked that better. A lot of recipes suggest celery, but I haven't tried that yet. Add some salt and pepper and simmer or cook at a gentle boil until the peas fall apart when you stir. Add milk to bring it to the consistency and taste you want. If the soup's too thin, simmer until it's thick enough for you. (Steam equals water, you know.) Tah dah, cream of split pea soup. A lot of recipes use chicken broth instead of water, and omit the milk, but we like the creamy stuff. I keep chopped onion in the freezer, ready to use at a moment's notice, which makes it even easier. To make 'chopped onion in the freezer,' chop onion like usual and put it in a freezer bag or container and put it in the freezer; I'm sure some folks blanch it, but just plain old onion works for me. You can also buy commercially prepared chopped onion in the freezer section of your grocery store, if you get sick and tired of dealing with raw onion (been there, done that).

=Cream of potato soup is also easy. Cook chopped potatoes with chopped onions until done. Drain excess water, if any. Mash and dilute with milk. If you don't need it straw-suitable, you can skip the mashing part or do a half-hearted job of it. Salt and pepper makes it better. A dab of butter in the cooking water is also good. You can dress it up by adding carrots or ham or whatever else sounds good to you.

=Cream of wheat cereal and some other cooked cereals work great through a straw if you add enough milk.

=Yogurt works if you stir in enough milk. Beef it up by adding a banana or other fruit and putting it in the blender.

(Yes, we use a lot of milk around here. Why do you ask? :)

=If you use a lot of fruit juice, buying frozen juice can save you a lot of money. Mixing fruit juices in unlikely combinations sometimes produces disaster but sometimes turns up something really good. (To my surprise, I find I like cranberry juice mixed with orange juice.) Of course, making juice from scratch, leaving in a lot of pulp, is probably better. But it can get messy. We use 2-quart plastic fruit juice bottles because they're easy to handle and have screw-top lids. (Obviously, at some point we splurged and bought ready-to-drink juice instead of frozen juice.) To save fuss, we thaw the frozen juice in the fridge before opening, so we can just pour it into the bottles. If you like, use a funnel, but pouring without a funnel gets easier with practice. To wash the bottles, put dish soap and water in the bottle, put the lid on, and shake. To rinse, dump the soapy water and put in plain water and shake and dump, repeating as many times as necessary. It doesn't take much dish soap to make a whole lot of suds, by the way.

Your turn. Feel free to provide either a link or a full recipe in the comment box.

Marking an anniversary

Two years ago today, a disabled woman -- who could make responsive sounds but not sentences, who smiled at friends but was wary of strangers, who brightened up at John Denver songs, who laughed to hear a familiar voice on the phone, who had a family who wanted to take her into their embrace and care for her -- died after her adulterous 'husband' got a probate judge to rule in favor of her being starved and dehydrated.

Law enforcement let her down; instead of protecting her life, police helped keep her friends and family and clergy from even giving her ice chips to suck on to ease her suffering, even after the suffering became acute. Government let her down, starting with the judge who made it possible for her to be deprived of the barest necessities of life. The press let her down, portraying her as a vegetable at best. (Now, being a John Denver fan might not be overly sophisticated, but c'mon.) Feminists let her down; if ever there was a time to protest a man's treatment of a woman this was it; he had chosen and publicly announced his next wife but wouldn't cede control of the first. Her bishop let her down, too, not putting his weight behind Catholic teachings to fight for the defenseless and defend the dignity of human life, not to mention the call to love even when that loving calls for self-sacrifice; worse than that, he put out statements contrary to church teaching, giving ammo to the people who wanted to starve her.

What happened to Terri Schiavo was inexcusable.

It was also a wake-up call. I don't know if you had imagined that health care and courts and legislatures had people in them campaigning for the view that a handicapped life wasn't worth living, much less campaigning successfully. I hadn't. I was still walking around assuming that a doctor who thought there wasn't much more he could do would say "I'm sorry, there isn't anything else I can do." The idea of a doctor who decided that since he couldn't make you as well as he'd like you would be better off dead simply didn't occur to me, much less that any doctor would think he had a right or even duty to hurry things along. And even in my nightmares I don't think I could have conjured up judges to provide doctors and nurses with legal cover if they actually caused death. I wouldn't have thought that withholding food and water from a living creature, much less a human, would ever be sanctioned, much less legal in the case of humans, much less the weapon of choice of the death-defeats-difficulties crowd.

I also assumed that the law would never side with a husband who wanted his wife killed and asked someone else to arrange it. That a husband can do this amazes me. That the person to whom he goes to arrange it is a judge worries me. (Not personally. I don't have that sort of husband. But in general, it definitely worries me. Where are you supposed to go for protection after judges get in the habit of signing death decrees for people not on death row? It seems a bit too much like a woman going in for a restraining order and the judge siding with the stalker and having the bailiff do her in. Well, no, maybe not. But you get the picture? You see why I'm concerned?)

We are not talking about not doing some fancy futile thing for a person in the final days of her life here. I can understand not throwing everything imaginable at a person who is terminal and wants to die in peace, naturally and without interference. By all means, more people should be allowed to die in peace, naturally and without intervention. For that matter, I support the rights of anyone to forgo any medical procedure or treatment they want to forgo, minor, major, or in between, for whatever reason or none at all, whether they are dying or not. I support the right of guardians to draw the line on medical care they don't think is appropriate for someone who isn't capable of deciding amongst options for herself. But that's not what happened with Terri Schiavo and that's not what we're talking about here. We are talking about cutting a life short by taking deliberate action to make living impossible. And getting away with it. Openly.

I thought my country was better than this.

I think it can be.

But we have a long way to go.

At least these days, due in large part to the family and friends of Terri Schiavo, there are more places a disabled person can turn if he finds himself fighting for his life, faced off against people who see the downsides of disabilities but look right past the person coping with trouble.

In addition to other efforts, there are coalitions of bloggers dedicated to helping get the word out if anyone finds he needs public support in a right-to-life case. Blogs for Terri, organized to fight for her life, is still in business. is also in the fight.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Bumper stickers

Barbara at Praying for Grace has new wheels and is looking at the pro-life bumper sticker options these days. If you have one you particularly like, you might pop over and drop her a comment.

She says in her post, "My old sticker was very plain Jane. Which, I like. It just states the fact without being cheeky (I'd rather not take pot shots on the freeway!)."

I'll second that sentiment. I don't do bumper stickers, but if I did, those would be my guidelines.

She has one follow-up post so far, with samples of what's been suggested.

hat tip: I found Barbara's blog through this post at Rosetta Stone. Give me a recipe for bread or for meatballs and I'm there (and Michelle has both).

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Book, movie, television note: Nick Carter, House, Sherlock Holmes

By a rather roundabout way (starting with a search engine set for "literary sleuth"...), I've just discovered that I've had the wrong idea about a book series. We've sold a fair number of used books in the Nick Carter: Killmaster series, but not being the sort of person who finds something with "Killmaster" in its identity appealing - and the cover art not changing my mind - I've not paid much attention to them. I guess I assumed they were just one of many men's adventure series cooked up in recent decades, the masculine counterpart to the short romance novels cranked out hand over fist for women.

Wrong. Nick Carter apparently sprang up as a scientific detective in 1886, making him more or less a contemporary of, and fellow spirit of sorts to, Sherlock Holmes. (Some references I've read today say Nick Carter came first, others say he sprang up on the heels of Holmes. Since A Study in Scarlet appears to have come out in 1887, I'd have to, grudgingly, concede an earlier launch date to Carter unless someone comes along with a solid reference saying otherwise. For whatever that's worth...)

Carter's been presented over and over and over again in books, on radio, in movies, on television, sometimes being faithful to the original idea, sometimes "updated." Walter Pidgeon, one of my favorite actors, played him in a 1939 movie called, as it happens, "Nick Carter, Master Detective."

There's even a story that "In his dime novel days, the hero was so popular that, as James Thurber relates, an American tourist was able to scatter a group of Paris toughs by exclaiming "Je suis Nick Carter!" ("I am Nick Carter!")."

Oh, wait. I'd heard that story... (BTW: That link has a surprising amount of info in a short space, including a list of authors who wrote under the Nick Carter byline for the Killmaster series. Should I be surprised that Martin Cruz Smith is among them? I've never read any Martin Cruz Smith books either, so don't have any reference point on this.)

I guess I just never tied all the Nick Carter stories together in my mind. I guess at least part of the trouble was that in the early days he appears to have been aimed, at least somewhat, at a Sherlock Holmes audience (albeit at the dime novel level), while in the books that customers traded in at our bookstore he was altered to compete with James Bond. You'll pardon me, I hope, that I didn't recognize him as the same fellow...

A side note: While trying to pin down whether Nick Carter sprang up independently of Holmes or was inspired by him, I came across Sherlockian.Net, which had, to my mild surprise, a link to a website for the television show House M.D., which has a page listing Connections Between House and Holmes, and a page about Differences between Holmes and House, and even a House and Holmes blog.

I prefer a life with little to no television in it (I always seem to have more time in the day when I keep the tube off, and I don't much enjoy being offended on a regular basis, either), but I know some serious House fans in this blog neighborhood, and I don't know if they've made the literary connection yet. So, there it is.

And since I also seem to have more hours in the day when I don't follow links around willy-nilly, ahem, I think I'll get back to work now... :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A boomer remembers

Via Soccer Dad, I Remember JFK takes trips down memory lane.

Remember, for instance, The Floating VW Beetle Ad?

BTW: A floating car has its pros and cons. I know someone who told me about trying to ford a river crossing in a VW bug. Didn't work. You can't drive if the wheels don't stay on the river bottom...

Favorite poetry anthologies

Over at relevantblog: Writerly Musings, Mary E. DeMuth is asking for recommendations for good poetry anthologies.

Skywalkers aren't just in Star Wars

These days, they're at the Grand Canyon, too. (Yikes!) Pay your entrance fee and you can become a Skywalker, too...

I'm not sure quite what I think about the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Perhaps I'll form an opinion when the strangeness wears off?

Perhaps I shouldn't say this, but (according to local legend at least) in early settlement days in the West, people were fond of building grand hotels more or less in the middle of nowhere, confident that people would flock to their hotel, bringing fame and fortune to the owner and providing the foundation on which a town could be built. This happened enough times, and failed enough times, that the public took to calling such would-be tourist attractions follies -- usually with the unfortunate owner's name attached: i.e., if I'd lived back then and done such a thing, my grand attraction, to which I'd clipped a fancy name like The Broadmoorian-Savoy, would be called Judson's Folly by neighbor and passer-by alike. (In general, pretentiousness had a hard time getting much respect - or cooperation - in the young American West.) The term, if I understand correctly, came to be used for any sort of structure that seemed jarringly out of place and/or somehow pie-in-the-sky and/or simply impractical. (Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm not an expert on these things. I'm just going on what I've been told.)

Of course, the Skywalk is in a place that already draws tourists, so the comparison isn't very good, but that's what I thought when I first looked at the pictures of the Skywalk: why, look, someone's gone and built a folly, I said to myself. (That was before I went to the website and found out about the restaurants, bars, museum, theater, gift shop, meeting facilities, etc., that are part and parcel of the project.) I hope they prove me wrong. Any folly that actually turns a profit is, by definition, no longer properly called a folly, as I understand it.

And, hey, I like that it's an attraction that requires courage, or daring at least, on the part of its customers. Heh. :) And I'm in awe of the imagination and engineering. I admire the spirit of the thing.

But... but... what an odd thing to do on the rim of a perfectly good canyon... (Have I mentioned yet that I'm not quite sure what to think about the Skywalk?)

What's your impression?

hat tip: Jane

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Website campaigns for re-release of "Song of the South"

There's a website dedicated to celebrating the Disney classic movie Song of the South.

It also has an online petition for people to sign if they'd like to see the movie re-released. (Disney could use a bit of encouragement about this, apparently.) They've got well over a hundred thousand signatures already.

hat tip: Townhall

Barbara Curtis is compiling a Mother's Day web album...

...of mothers with their children with Down syndrome.

Downi Creations : dolls with a difference

Elizabeth at Daily Inklings introduces a nonprofit organization that promotes acceptance of people with Down Syndrome - in part by producing a line of dolls with features characteristic of the syndrome.

A bit of a backlash against feminism

"Neo-housewives" are making news (and writing books) in Germany. Who knew?

So far I haven't found any indication that Eva Herman's books are available in English. Correct me if I'm wrong.

hat tip: Gudrun Schultz

Teachers banning Legos (just for starters)

Read John J. Miller's Banning Legos: And building a world where “all structures will be standard sizes.” (NRO, March 27, 2007) to learn more reasons why "What did you learn in school today?" can be a very important thing for a parent to ask.

FIRE Readies Launch of Campus Freedom Network

From The Torch (March 26, 2007):

In the upcoming weeks, FIRE will formally announce the launch of the Campus Freedom Network (CFN), a dynamic new initiative aimed at connecting students and faculty across the country in support of individual rights on our nation’s campuses.

Envisioned as a loosely knit coalition of faculty and students, the CFN will allow members across the country to work together in new ways to more effectively defend basic liberties at our universities and colleges. Besides becoming a part of FIRE’s extended team of first responders for constitutional rights on campus, members will enjoy new access to FIRE staff members and resources. Perhaps most exciting will be the launch of our CFN website, which will allow CFN members to communicate with each other about everything from successful strategies to counter speech codes to the best methods of raising student awareness of free speech and academic freedom issues, all while forming a viable online community united in defense of individual rights in higher education...

Read the rest of their post

Living in Community

Catez Stevens of Allthings2all is hosting a Living in Community series that's prompting some thoughtful posts around Bloggityville. The lead-in post is here.

hat tip: Shannon

Monday, March 26, 2007


I've heard them called other things, but aptonyms has a nice ring to it. It also makes sense. Visit the Canadian Aptonym Center for the answer to what they are. (hat tip: Frank Wilson)

Homemade heating pads, then and now

Well, I feel silly. I just got caught again trying to come up with a snazzy solution where a simple trick would do.

One of my favorite gifts of all time is a tubular pillow made especially for my husband and given to him as a parting act of kindness by a family that was moving out of the area. It's filled with flax seed. You put the pillow in the microwave and zap it for a while, and it's a great heating pad. It keeps warm for a surprisingly long time, and you can take it anywhere.

I've thought about making another, but flax seed doesn't seem to be a common - or inexpensive - item around here. Plus, I wasn't sure which fabrics were safe to put in the microwave.

Then I learned that other people use uncooked rice instead of flax seed for the same purpose. But I still didn't know what type of fabric would be all right. And in the meantime my sewing machine has a few issues...

So... I was at the pharmacy and they had a Healthy Home News newsletter full of all kinds of tips, among them the suggestion that to make a homemade heating pad you can put rice in a sock and tie off the end and zap that in the microwave.

Oh. Of course. Duh. A nice thick one hundred percent cotton athletic sock would not only be safe in the microwave, but that thickness would help prevent burns, I bet. And it's a no-sew solution, too. Such a deal.

So, I just happened to have cleaned out the sock drawer and had a stack of socks that were going to the trash or the thrift store or the rag pile. I grabbed one of those, poured in some rice, tied off the end, zapped it. Presto. Heating pad.

Why I didn't think of this on my own, I don't know. It's obvious, now that somebody mentioned it.

So, shortly after that I was talking on the phone with an older relative, and I told her about it, and she perked up. Oh, Grandma J--- used to do that! she said.

Grandma J. was before the time of microwaves, of course, but also before the time sugar came in paper bags. She used sugar sacks to make pillows filled with rice, which she heated in the oven to use as heating pads to ease the pain of her arthritis. When the family ran short of rice, they poured out the rice, washed it, cooked it, and ate it. Why not?

Hey, in the old days, they knew how to make do.

(I can't believe how often I feel outclassed by my ancestors.)

Utah takes new tack in eminent domain battles

Utah has become the first state to reduce protection for property owners since Kelo, according to The Castle Coalition (Utah Guts Eminent Domain Reform, March 21, 2007):

Arlington, Va.—Yesterday, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman signed House Bill 365, a bill that rolled back the state’s prior eminent domain reform passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London. The legislation, which passed unanimously in the Senate and overwhelmingly in the House, allows local governments to take private property for another private party’s gain. Worse yet, it allows property owners to vote their neighbor out of their home or business, thereby imposing a tyranny of the majority.

“This bill is bad for Utah property owners, who once had one of the strongest protections against eminent domain abuse in the country,” said Steven Anderson, director of the Castle Coalition, which helps homeowners nationwide fight the use of eminent domain for private development. The Castle Coalition is a grassroots organization coordinated by the Institute for Justice, which litigated the Kelo eminent domain case before the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago. “Local governments will no doubt be emboldened by the legislation to take property from one person and transfer it to someone else. This is a sad day for anyone who owns a piece of property in Utah.”

Utah once had one of the most comprehensive laws in the nation against the abuse of eminent domain. Under Utah’s 2005 Senate Bill 184, local governments were not allowed to acquire property in so-called “blighted” areas for private redevelopment. In most states, the definition of “blight” is so vague that nearly any well-maintained property could be declared “blighted,” thereby clearing the way for the government to take it. House Bill 365 allows property owners who own a large majority of property (in size or value) to vote to force out neighbors who want to keep their homes or small businesses. That means property owners who merely want to be left alone to enjoy what is rightfully theirs are exposed to abuse.

“This new law marks an unfortunate turn in the battle against the abuse of eminent domain,” Anderson continued. “It shows that the beneficiaries of eminent domain abuse—local governments and developers—will not sleep until their power, called ‘despotic’ by the U.S. Supreme Court centuries ago, is restored. Developers, unlike the public in general, hire well-paid lobbyists who patrol state capitals to expand their power to threaten ordinary homeowners and small businesses. Your right to own your home or farm or small business in Utah should not be placed at risk because developers and local governments wield more political power. Tragically, Utah property owners are now at risk.”

Kelo educated the public on the horrors of eminent domain abuse so citizens around the country realize when their rights and their property are threatened,” Anderson said. “We expect this loss of rights in Utah will spark yet another popular backlash against eminent domain abuse.”

Why I want to pair that press release with Robert's Great Moments in British Statesmanship, I'm not quite sure... I guess it's because there have been people who understood that government exists to serve the people, not herd them about to please other people with good connections. There are, in fact, people today who understand that. There just don't seem to be enough of them in the right places...

Well, let's see what the folks involved have to say...

The Utah governor's office notes the signing of House Bill 365 in a list of 28 bills signed by the Governor. So far I haven't found a separate press release touting what a great thing this particular bill is supposed to be, or what it's supposed to accomplish, or what it's supposed to prevent. The sponsor is listed as Rep. Stephen Urquhart. Urquhart has a blog. He doesn't seem to think the governor signing this bill is worth posting about (or at least he hasn't posted as of my post time). His Utah House of Representatives webpage is just a thumbnail sketch - although it notes he's Republican. It does contain a link to bills he's introduced/sponsored. Including HB 365. And HB 365 Substitute. There are audio recordings of debates and bill texts and fiscal notes, or rather links to same, which I haven't followed up yet. (As if I can translate Legislative Lingo with assurance?)

Via Castle Coalition, here's a March 13 AP article by Brock Vergakis that takes a look at what was, at that point, pending legislation. The headline reads "Utah may relax eminent domain laws." A central issue seems to be a proposed Wal-Mart in Ogden, or rather, clearing the way for same.

So, two strangers nearly ran into each other...

I count myself fortunate to live in a part of the world where, in general, people laugh easily, and where perhaps most of us laugh mostly at ourselves. It makes for pleasant outings. If I need buoying up, I go for a walk and make sure to go somewhere I'm likely to encounter people. Even strangers will do, most of the time.

That's not to say we don't have crooks around here, or cranky people, or busybodies, or other less-than-pleasant people. It is to say that the prevalent attitude around here is one of gentle good cheer - which, thankfully, is one of the most contagious attitudes on the planet.

This morning I was trying to get some errands done in a hurry, and I came away from the bank teller's window at a good clip, heading for the front doors, walking straight into the weather lock (or whatever it's called) without really paying attention. (Oops, on my part.) This weather lock (or whatever it's really called) consists of two sets of swinging doors with just barely more than enough space between them for a person going in or out to manage the second set of doors if the set behind them is closed. It's helpful at keeping wind and heat and cold outside where it belongs but it can feel a little tight if there's more than one person in there at at time. And it can get really interesting if you don't pay attention and find yourself trying to go out when someone else is trying to come in. You must, in that case, maneuver around one another.

So, this morning I sailed into the little area in between the doors at the same time an elderly gentleman stepped in from the other direction. There was nothing to be done but rearrange ourselves, stepping sideways and around each other, letting each other pass. I had my momentum higher than it should have been for the setting, and he was old enough to not be nimble anymore, and of course we both dodged the same direction at first, and so, between us, we didn't exactly set the world's record for most graceful near miss. Which struck me as funny. So I laughed, and said - in the proper tempo for the line from The King and I - Shall we dance?

He shot me a wary, questioning glance, but when we made eye contact and he saw that I was laughing - and also that I was embarrassed at having nearly run into him - and that I wasn't actually suggesting a waltz or anything like that - his eyes lit up. And then he laughed. It is rather like that, isn't it? he said. The thought clearly amused him. Pleased him, too.

I left him shaking his head and smiling ear to ear. Heh.

And to think we could have snarled "Watch where you're going, why don't you!" to one another, instead...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Books for Serious Folks (who need to lighten up)

For The Too Serious Amongst Us Debra at As I See It Now recommends the book Mrs. Appleyard's Year. She calls it "a for-goodness-sake-lighten-up! book."

Says Debra:

Mrs. Appleyard, an empty-nester, will tickle even the most serious of you until she makes you smile... or dare I say break out in a rusty laugh? She'll show you that admitting your faults can be fun, even freeing, and she'll help you find the lighter, more balanced side of your daily grind. She'll remind you of what's right about life and you'll find yourself remarking, "Oh! I'd forgotten about those good, simple, happy things, those delights which did not disappear with the 1950's. I'd only thought they had."

And you'll see that, often, it's what we serious folks have forgotten that makes us what we are today--so dreadfully serious that people avoid us, lest they catch our crankiness. Which, incidentally, is the exact opposite of this whole biblical idea of Christiandom.

I know I've read books that made me laugh at myself or that shot my anger at someone or something into tiny, broken pieces or that made me back off of something that, now that I thought about it, wasn't really my business. But just at the moment no title is coming to mind.

If you happen to think of a book that helped you or someone else "lighten up," please share.

Hello, America. You've been mapped.

For better or worse, while we weren't looking the government has been compiling a database of... Oh, let them tell you: USGS Release: Land Cover Database Details State of the Land: Lower 48 described with Census-like accuracy (3/19/2007 3:01:46 PM):

The U.S. Geological Survey and the federal interagency Multi‑Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC) recently announced the completion of a massive database that describes the land surface condition of each 30-meter cell of land in the conterminous United States. Nearly six such cells - each 98 feet long and wide - would fit on a football field. The 2001 National Land Cover Database (NLCD 2001) and its products are available at

Land cover is broadly defined as the biophysical pattern of natural vegetation, agriculture, and urban areas. It is shaped by both natural processes and human influences. NLCD 2001 data portrays 16 classes of land cover in the lower 48 states, the percent of tree canopy, and the degree of surface imperviousness in urban areas.

"Just as the U.S. Census is fundamental in assessing patterns of national population growth, we also require an authoritative, periodic review of land conditions ‑ a Census of the Nation's Land Resources ‑ to understand how people and the land interact," said USGS Director Mark Myers. "The National Land Cover Database gives us that. It's a versatile, balanced look at the state of the land."

Based on satellite imagery taken in 2001, the broad, yet precise database was constructed in a six‑year collaborative effort by the 11 MLRC agencies ( The range and accuracy of information in the database enables managers of public and private lands, urban planners, agricultural experts, and scientists with many different interests (for instance, climate change or invasive species) to identify critical characteristics of the land for a wide variety of investigations.

"With a growing population of more than 300 million people and the challenging prospect of climate change, comprehensive information about the condition of our land resources becomes more and more vital," said Barbara Ryan, USGS Associate Director for Geography. "Land cover information is essential for understanding a wide variety of issues: for example, ecosystem status and health; spatial patterns of biodiversity; land use planning; and land management policy."

NLCD 2001 is a second generation effort to update the Nation's land cover information. The first NLCD was completed in 2000 with imagery acquired around the year 1992. Information from NLCD 1992 has been used in thousands of applications in the private, public, and academic sectors ‑ applications that range from helping to site cell phone towers to tracking how diseases spread.

The national consistency of NLCD information makes possible the sweeping, contextual analysis of national land perspectives, such as the Heinz Center's State of the Nation's Ecosystems, the Environmental Protection Agency's Draft Report on the Environment, the USGS National Water Quality Assessment, and the Landfire Program (a federal interagency program to predict and mitigate wildfire). Complete, updated coverage of NLCD 2001 data for Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico is expected to be available by December 2007.

NLCD products are web enabled for download from the MRLC website at USGS is currently working with private software developers to create publicly available, user friendly tools that can be used to conduct web-based geospatial analyses of NLCD. Future nationwide updates of NLCD 2001 will continue to monitor land cover change across the Nation.

I'm not sure if this is good news or bad news or something in between. Something about having my yard scrutinized and put into a database without my permission doesn't exactly thrill me. Nor does that "sweeping, contextual analysis of national land perspectives" idea. Or the "enables managers of public and private lands, urban planners, agricultural experts, and scientists with many different interests (for instance, climate change or invasive species) to identify critical characteristics of the land for a wide variety of investigations" business. And should I possibly have any concerns about mention of the Heinz Center? (Board of Trustees here.)

Well, the database is there. If it can be put to good uses, like improving wildfire programs, that's to the good. If it can be used to show how "climate change" tends to be worse in urban areas because of too much asphalt, I won't complain about that. (Side note: I understand that buildings with roof gardens are naturally much cooler in summer than those with a black tar roof. Which stands to reason. Not that I want roof gardens mandated - I don't - but if you've got a roof that lends itself to the addition of a garden, it's a thought. Plants can also help clean up pollution a wee bit and birds and insects find them useful, too. Such a deal. Just be sure to learn the ins and outs: too heavy a garden and you'll endanger the inhabitants, too light of planting containers and you'll be sending flying objects into pedestrians below on windy days, etc.)

But I have a funny feeling that the info will be misused as well, cherry-picked and diced and plugged into beta-version computer models by people with agendas that aren't necessarily friendly to private property rights or personal freedom.

I hope I'm wrong. But.

You might keep your eyes open. It will be interesting to see what various people/groups/agencies/activists/politicians/the press do with all this data. I don't intend to lose any sleep over it, but I am afraid it might get interesting once any well-positioned folks who confuse knowledge with wisdom get their teeth into it.

What was it President Reagan used to say? Trust, but verify? I like that idea in this case. I'm sure everyone involved with this project means well, but that's no guarantee they won't accidentally run people over while they have their eyes on the far horizon, so to speak.

Oh, and if I had a betting window it would be open right now: Will the press think this massive compiling of data about private property as well as public is good, or bad, or not worth mentioning?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Moderate Muslim group offers to raise defense fund for any passengers sued by Flying Imams

See Power Line: A Man Who Deserves to be Heard for a short post mentioning the American Islamic Forum for Democracy's offer to defend any reporting party sued for discrimination by the six imams who were removed from a US Airways flight last November after they were disruptive - and a link to a segment (15:43 run time) from Bill Bennett's radio show where Mr. Bennett speaks with AIFD's spokesman, Zuhdi Jasser.

See also: AIFD's March 13, 2007 Press Release: Not All Muslims Support CAIR Plan to Sue U.S. Airways on Behalf of Six Imams.

Press coverage: at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Washington Times, and UPI.

Lost dog made it home after 11 days on cold Iditarod Trail

There was a happy ending to a dog-lost-during-horrendous-conditions story out of this year's Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska. The dog, a 4-year-old Alaska husky who had become separated from her team and was entirely on her own, was found when she walked onto an open patch that serves as an airstrip -- where two men who had just given up searching for her were waiting for their plane's engine to warm up so they could leave, according to Craig Medred of the Anchorage Daily News.

The dog didn't seem to be much the worse for wear. Her thankful musher has renamed her Rohn, after the village where she was found.

Animal rights activists show where their hearts are (or aren't)

Germany has a beloved celebrity in the form of a polar bear cub, the first polar bear to be born at the Berlin Zoo in more than 30 years. But because his mother rejected him and he's been bottle-fed, some "animal rights" activists have been clamoring loudly for him to be killed. Because he's been tainted by human contact, or something like that. And therefore might not turn out to be a "real" polar bear, or so they say. Which is supposedly a fate worse than death, or so some of them insist. Spiegel Online International (English site) has the story. (And pictures of the cub.)

Why does the phrase "The perfect is the enemy of the good" come to mind?

In case anyone is wondering, I think Knut is adorable, I applaud the people who saved his life when his mother fell down on the job, and I think the radical activists should keep their nose out of the Berlin Zoo's business. And even if Knut were an ugly little bear (which he certainly isn't) or was crippled or something, I don't think we ought to condone the killing of any innocent animal just because some over-righteous busybodies are obsessed with stereotypes and flip out when confronted with something outside their preferred and rigid parameters. (Silly me, right?)

Luckily, the zoo officials and the general public adore the cub and will almost certainly be able to protect him from the crazies.

If you happen to be in Berlin, give a friendly hello to the little fellow for me, will you?

hat tip: Kill Knut? The Twisted Logic of Animal Rights Extremists, Albert Mohler blog, Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Update: The BBC has more on Knut, following his public debut. It's too bad so many people can't say "polar bear" without free associating it with 'global warming,' but if you can ignore the folks who can't enjoy a cub romping about without muddying the experience with wild-eyed predictions of doom, click over and enjoy the bear and his admirers.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A tribute to a brave and caring lady

See A well-deserved honor for a true heroine in the battle against tyranny for an introduction to Polish national heroine Irena Sendler, who helped save 2500 Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Poland's parliament and President Lech Kacyzinski recently honored Sendler and the Polish underground Council for Assisting Jews, comprised mostly of Roman Catholics risking their lives defying the Nazis. Sendler is in her 90s, and lives in Warsaw.

From a March 14, 2007, AP article by Ryan Lucas:

Sendler led about 20 helpers who smuggled Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto to safety between 1940 and 1943, placing them in Polish families, convents or orphanages.

She wrote the children's names on slips of paper and buried them in jars in a neighbor's yard as a record that could help locate their parents after the war. The Nazis arrested her in 1943, but she refused — despite repeated torture — to reveal their names.

Anyone caught helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland risked being summarily shot, along with family members.


In 1965, Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial awarded Sendler one of its first medals given to people who saved Jews, the so-called "Righteous Among the Nations."

She was given the honor in 1983, after Poland's Communist authorities finally agreed to allow her to travel abroad.

So how does the lady herself feel about the honors being given her these days? From the Lucas article:
"Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory," Sendler said in a letter ...
The Lucas article comes with a slide show. Sendler comes across as a beautiful woman from the inside out.

AgrAbility helps disabled farmers keep farming

Claire Martin, writing in the Denver Post, 3/22/07, takes a look at Colorado's AgrAbility program, which provides help to disabled farmers. Several other states have similar programs. (I didn't know that. Did you?)

For more information, including a directory for federal and state projects throughout the United States, visit the National AgrAbility Project website. It also features resources and tips, some of which might be useful for non-farmers. See, for instance, Assistive Technology.

This is not to mention that the website features a few inspirational stories. For instance: An older Mississippi farmer who didn't let either a stroke or Hurricane Katrina stop him. A young woman who went blind but went on to open her own greenhouse, specializing in plants with bright colors and fragrances. A man who broke his back and suffered spinal injury, but is back to farming and ran for and won a seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Sewing Seeds

Where have I been? How did I miss this? Randi's amazing Sewing Seeds project has been barrelling along without me.

In a nutshell, one of Randi's daughters is heading to Africa in June to serve at an orphanage for a couple of weeks, and Randi and another daughter invited readers of I Have to Say... to help make skirts for the 75 girls in two affiliated orphanages. Updates here.

Ooh. Well done.

Alaska Volcano Observatory: KVERT Volcanic Warnings Ceased

To whom it may concern,

I can't find a permalink for this notice currently on the front page at the Alaska Volcano Observatory's website, so I'll just reprint it here. (I hope that's all right. It's a public notice, after all.):

March 1, 2007

Dear colleagues:

It has come to our attention that as of January 1, 2007, the Federal Unitary Enterprise State Air Traffic Management Corporation of Russia halted financial support for the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT). Attempts to negotiate renewal of the annual funding agreement by KVERT leadership have thus far failed. As a result, on March 1, KVERT will cease issuing volcanic warnings to the aviation community.

This unfortunate event comes at a time when three volcanoes in Kamchatka are at Color Code Orange and intermittently producing ash. For 14 years, KVERT staff and affiliated scientists have alerted regional ACCs, MWOs, Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAACs), and numerous air carriers to the onset of volcanic unrest. KVERT's vigilance and volcanologic and technical expertise has resulted in many hundreds of accurate and timely ash cloud warnings. It is a testimony to the success of KVERT and its international collaborations that during this time period of significant volcanic activity in Kamchatka, we are aware of no damaging ash-aircraft encounters among the many hundreds of thousands of flights through the region.

We do not know official reasons for this action, which, unfortunately, has occurred before in KVERT's history. In response, KVERT and AVO have alerted International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) representatives who have contacted the State Air Traffic Management Corporation in Moscow to express concern and urge restoration of funding.

During a period of reduced KVERT operations, the Alaska Volcano Observatory will continue its own routine, daily satellite monitoring of Kamchatka and we will issue hazard warnings to our interagency partners to the best of our ability. However, AVO does not have direct access to seismic or other ground-based monitoring and observational data for Russia, and thus warnings and notifications may not be as timely, accurate, or complete as those routinely provided by KVERT.


Thomas L. Murray

Scientist in Charge, AVO

Duly noted.

In addition to Alaska's, the U.S. also has volcanic observatories for the Cascades, Hawaii, Long Valley, California, and Yellowstone. They all seem to be associated with the USGS's Volcanic Hazards Program, which has a Most Recent Updates for U.S. Volcanoes page.

And, yes, I live downwind from Mount St. Helens and a few other Cascade volcanoes, plus I have a fascination with volcanoes in general. Why do you ask? ;)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You don't want to hear this...

...but U.S. taxpayer-funded Al-Hurra television has apparently become terrorist-friendly. Joel Mowbray explains. (Television Takeover, OpinionJournal, March 18, 2007.)

God bloggers find themselves in bad company

Monday and again Tuesday I got a notice from Barnes & Noble (Tuesday had a correction):

The Barnes & Noble Affiliate Program is terminating its relationship with BeFree and re-launching on the Performics Affiliate Network.

After March 31st, 2007, our BeFree links will be deactivated and all Barnes & Noble placements on your site must use the links, banners, and/or data feed available from Performics in order to track sales and earn commissions. If possible, please change your links prior to March 23rd to expedite our reconciliation process. All outstanding payments for confirmed orders will be mailed following the close of the quarter.

The Barnes & Noble program is now live on Performics and you may start changing links immediately (see below for instructions on how to apply).

So, I've been dealing with some semi-emergencies and serious family illness and heavier-than-average workload around here and didn't get around to following the link to apply to Performics until this afternoon. (General, public link here.) Look what I came across, in the right hand sidebar under "Who's eligible to become a Publisher." Emphasis mine:

Performics individually reviews each application. Your site may be declined for one of the following reasons:

We were unable to access and review your site based on the URL provided

Your site was under construction

The information provided doesn't match registered domain information

Unsolicited commercial email (Spam) or trademark infringement


Libel or defamation

Illegal substances

Violence or hate-oriented speech

Extensive religious commentary or attempts to preach or solicit members for a particular church or faith

Pornography, obscene, or offensive content

It is our policy to fully review each site before approval into our network. If your site has not been approved, please feel free to re-apply after you have made the necessary adjustments to your site.

Nothing like having faith lumped in there with all those other things.

I'm not sure I want to become what this outfit calls a "Publisher" anyway. Some of the fine print worries me. All I want to do is make it easy for people to get more information on books, and maybe buy a book or two through my links now and then. Is that too much to ask? I don't want to run other banners and ads and such.

Augh. I was already upset enough about having to change a few hundred links on short notice.

Now I'm not sure I want to bother. Or even if I ought to.

I defend their right to come up with any qualifications they want. As far as I'm concerned, they could require all their affiliates to be 6 feet 2 inches tall and left handed and able to juggle three bowling pins while standing on one foot.

But I don't mind telling you that I'm seriously disappointed that people who put out the welcome mat for their church are lumped with smut peddlers and spammers and drug dealers.

Maybe I'm reading this wrong? Tell me I'm reading this wrong.

Goodbye to a cat

Those of you who don't get attached to pets are invited to move along now. Nothing to see here.

People with my husband's health problems are advised to not have pets. But we had pets already, when he fell ill. Two cats. Dear to us. So we decided to not add any more pets and see if we could somehow squeak by with extra attention to house cleaning. We gave it a good shot, but we finally decided the cats had to go.

So we've been asking around, sometimes in earnest, and sometimes (to be honest) half-heartedly, hoping to find someone who could take two indoor-only cats at once so the longtime pair could stay together.

But. Our biggest fear has been that we would accidentally put one or both of them into a bad situation. We care what happens to them. So we decided early on that while getting them a home together would be nice, we'd settle for separate homes if the homes seemed safe and caring: Free to a good home, emphasis on good.

We haven't had many nibbles. These are middle-aged cats; not old, but certainly not kittens. People want kittens, for the most part.

And then yesterday, when my husband was down checking a few things at our gas station cum bookstore, a customer mentioned that he was getting ready to go out of town to a humane society to get a cat. Here was a man willing to drive more than a hundred miles and pay an adoption fee, just to get a cat. The attendant, who knew we needed to find homes for George and Gracie, pointed out my husband and announced that there was a man who had cats that needed new homes.

And so, bam, just like that, a man came by and talked with George a while and we put her in a box and he drove away with her.

He seems to be good with cats. He's had cats. My husband and I were both impressed by his manner and his apparent good sense. He also arranged, all on his own, to have the box in the front passenger seat, so he could reassure her more easily as he drove. I think, in other words, that we probably found her a good home. I'm not scared for her, which is the main thing. Which helps.


Excuse me if I fall into puddles now and then.

After George left, Gracie wandered around a bit, searching, calling. We looked at each other and predicted that she'd either need extra reassurance during the night or would give us the royal cold shoulder treatment, one or the other. We were wrong. She was perfectly all right last night. I wasn't, but she was.

This morning, Gracie is doing everything short of basking in the relative peace and quiet of a George-free environment. Not that she didn't launch at least as many surprise attacks on George as the other way around.

I don't know why I'm surprised. Gracie is a "the universe revolves around me" sort of cat. She's happy, especially if she's got an audience.

She needs a home, though. She's a bit plain Jane to look at (OK, she faintly resembles a cross between a cat and a raccoon), but she's superb at sprawling across your lap when you're trying to read. Anybody local who has a lead, please contact my husband. Thanks.

Update later the same day: I spoke too soon. Gracie gets nervous and cries if left alone, or when either my husband or I leave the house.

On the upside, she hasn't deigned to play with us mere humans in a while, but today she was running after tossed toys and playing hide and seek, etc. Vigorously. I guess humans will do if there's not another cat around.

Grassroot efforts to promote a documentary

In an effort to get commercial movie distributors interested, the makers of Indoctrinate U - Our Education. Their Politics. are asking people to sign up on their website, saying they'd watch the film if there's a local screening.

Once enough people make this pledge, we will have a mandate that commercial distributors can't ignore. In the meantime, we'll arrange for local screenings every time 500 people sign up in a particular area.

Well, of course, commercial distributors can ignore any film they want to. That's their right as free human beings. And since this documentary takes aim at PC-drenched people on college campuses, I have to think that anybody who is somewhat dependent on coastal elites would likely be afraid to show the film.

But that's part of the point, really. That it has become hazardous to oppose the political/intellectual mindset demanded at many college campuses is what prompted this film in the first place.

I'd like to see local screenings all over the place, if for no other reason than I think ivory towers need to have their intellectual barricades rattled if they get too much like something out of George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984. Thoughtcrime, anyone?

The Indoctrinate-U website has the trailer, if you'd like to see it.

hat tip: Bookworm Room

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Journalist Holocaust hero honored

From, Journalists Honor Holocaust Hero:

CARPI, Italy, MARCH 20, 2007 ( The Catholic journalist Odoardo Focherini saved more than 100 Jews before he died in a concentration camp during World War II, at the age of 37. The Catholic Union of the Italian Press paid tribute to Focherini on Saturday, marking the 100th anniversary of his birth.

The journalist was the administrative director of L'Avvenire d'Italia and president of the Italian segment of Catholic Action.


Bishop Elio Tinti of Carpi, who opened the celebration, said: "He was a man who knew how to bring joy to the lives of many people, especially the 105 Jews he saved, but also to all those he met, offering a shining example of what it means to be a man of simplicity."

The prelate spoke of the journalist's deep love for his family, "his tender relationship with his beloved wife and his seven dear children -- deep ties that we see revealed in the marvelous letters that he wrote, but ties which did not impede him from living his life for others."


Focherini organized a network to move Jews out of Italy to safety in Switzerland. He was arrested for this on March 11, 1944. After stops in several prisons, he died from an infected leg wound on Dec. 27, 1944, in the Hersbruck concentration camp in Germany.


Itchy Coo and "Braw Books for Bairns o Aw Ages"

So, I was trying to find the market price for an oldish used book, and to my surprise found that the title had been reprinted -- by Black & White Publishing, which was a publisher I didn't recognize. So, being the curious type, I googled. And found that it was Scottish. And there, on their website, I found a link for an imprint for children's books in the Scots language. Including some familiar authors in translation. For instance, Roald Dahl.

And then there's Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted into a graphic novel in Scots:

'Tak tent o whit I say, mannie – keep awa fae the Hoose o Shaws!'

Wi his mither an faither deid, an wioot a bawbee tae his name, David Balfour sets oot for Embra an the hame o his sleekit auld Uncle Ebenezer. But Ebenezer is no pleased when his young nevoy chaps his door.

Efter narrowly joukin death at the Hoose o Shaws, David is swicked intae gaun aboard the brig Covenant whaur he finds himsel KIDNAPPIT an aboot tae be sellt intae slavery. When the ship gangs doun in gurlie seas, David, alang wi gallus Jacobite rebel Alan Breck, begins the lang an dangerous stravaig back tae Embra through the Hielans o Scotland tae claim his richtfu inheritance.

Published in collaboration with Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature's One Book – One Edinburgh reading campaign, KIDNAPPIT is the first ever graphic novel in Scots. Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy, renowned for their work writing and illustrating such weel-kent graphic fiction as Batman, Strontium Dog, Judge Dredd and Star Wars, have reworked Stevenson's classic tale of adventure in 18th-century Scotland to produce this brilliant new version. Itchy Coo are proud to be publishing this exciting Scots edition, our 25th title.

Oh, wait. I've heard about the Alan Grant/Cam Kennedy version of Kidnapped - it's also available in modern English, in the UK at least.

Tennessee allows some commercial sales from home kitchens

Via Like Merchant Ships, earlier this year Tennessee changed its rules on commercial preparation of food in home kitchens. The idea is to support a growing cottage industry while protecting the public. There are hoops to jump through and a fee to pay and a certificate to earn, and some food products are still restricted to commercial kitchens, but, on the whole, it sounds like this opens up new options for competent, home based cooks. Actual rules here (pdf).

Harry Potter translation notes

A blogger going by the name of The Teaching Assistant has read the Harry Potter books in both English and Spanish, and is now working through the books in French translation:

A random observation about literature in translation: the Spanish versions of Harry Potter usually go for the letter of the law, leaving most names of characters, places, spells, and magical artifacts intact, unless it is important to change a word or phrase because it was an anagram or something in English and that anagram or something is of immense importance. To give two examples, "the mirror of Erised" becomes "El espejo de Oesed" in Spanish instead of "El espejo de Erised" and the name Tom Marvolo Riddle becomes Tom Sorvolo Ryddle. Soy Lord Voldemort!

The French versions, on the other hand, go for the spirit of the law. To excess. They change nearly everything. That was okay for a while, but now my patience has been exhausted. (That is to say, it wasn't irritating when I knew less French than I do now.) About two of every three character names are changed for no discernible reason (and believe me, I've tried discerning). The above plus the rest of the changes leaves me wanting to hex the translator until he resembles a gelatinous slug. The French translator takes such an intemperate amount of creative license that the only possible explanation is that he has absconded with Rita Skeeter's Quick Quotes Quill. Seriously.

One amusing thing I should mention about the French translation is that Tom Marvolo Riddle becomes Tom Elvis Jedusor. Je suis Voldemort! That's right, the Dark Lord's middle name is Elvis.

Full post here.

Review books for a chance to win free books

Alibris (one of several websites through which my husband and I sell used books) is promoting reader reviews by giving away $100 coupons to ten randomly chosen book reviewers a month. More info here.

Play nice, please. Leading by example is a good thing, yes?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Terminology noted in passing

From the book Healthy at 100 by John Robbins, as a lead-in to a discussion on heart disease:

The human heart doesn't actually look very much like a valentine, but it is nevertheless a wondrous and beautiful muscle. About the size of a large pear, it begins to beat only a few weeks after conception, and then proceeds to pump forth the rhythm of our lives through every moment of our uterine and earthly existence....

OK, I don't talk that way, but referring to someone's uterine existence might have its uses in certain circles, I suspect. Hmmm. I'll have to think about this one...

The passage is on page 71 of the hardback.

Neil Cavuto: making the best of a tough situation

From Neil Cavuto Deals With MS (WebMD the Magazine, March 1, 2007):

When news anchor Neil Cavuto was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a decade ago -- after surviving stage IV Hodgkin's lymphoma in the late '80s -- he sought second opinions in New York, Atlanta, Minnesota, and London, in his attempt to refute the undeniable.

Ten years later, Cavuto both accepts his MS and defies it. Doctors marvel at his MRI scans because they indicate a man unable to walk or talk. Yet while he sometimes has difficulty doing both, the Fox News anchor is remarkably fit, exercising on a stationary bike and treadmill to stave off muscle atrophy of the legs, a common problem in MS patients. Cavuto, 48, has the secondary progressive form of the disease, meaning it steadily worsens over time.

He has fatigue, headaches, trouble walking, some vision loss, and -- occasionally -- hoarseness. "Having difficulty talking isn't good in my profession, but my wife welcomes it," jokes the anchor, who memorizes scripts for his program, Your World With Neil Cavuto, in case he can't read the teleprompter during taping.


He volunteers for the National MS Society. And children's issues, such as scholarships for kids whose parents have been immobilized by MS, are close to his heart, since he and his wife, Mary, recently adopted two boys, now ages 4 and 5...

Full article

hat tip: media blog at National Review Online

The first wave of spring

The first wave of solid spring hit about last Thursday, I think it was, and lasted through yesterday. Today doesn't seem to be quite sure which season to join. I'm sitting here wondering how long I can hold out in my cotton skirt with sandals. A more-sensible person would have opted for warmer clothes by now, but... but... I don't want to go back to warmer clothes. I. am. so. ready. for. spring.

It amazes me how quickly life springs in spring. The first day of really spring-like weather we had butterflies. I never saw a caterpillar. Just, boom, here were butterflies. Yesterday I saw a ladybug (aka ladybird beetle), full-grown and bright. We've had swarms of small bugs, names unknown to me, that seem to have come out of nowhere. Violets bloomed all over the yard, all of a morning. I can look out in the morning and again in the evening and see a difference in plants all over the yard. Sometimes, in spring, the saying "just watching the grass grow" isn't altogether a joke. Especially if you watch the shrubs and trees and bulbs and perennials letting loose, sometimes by inches a day.

So, of course, I'm outside as much as possible, "just watching the grass grow" and playing with - changing - garden plans I made in the winter. Gardening in my mind.

I. am. so. ready. for. spring.

Tuesday update: A bit windy, cold and stormy today, off and on. Rain. Then snow. Then...

Did I mention that our seasons around here tend to come in waves, advancing and receding, advancing and receding?

Or that I'm ready for spring? Spring that stays a while? Not that winter doesn't have its charms, but...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Heppner does St. Paddy's

Hmmm. It's been a few years since I've made it to Heppner, Oregon. But I see that they're now billing the town as The Irish Capital of Oregon. Which means, of course, that they're going all out for St. Patrick's Day. Events kick off tonight with "Emigration to Happiness - 7:30PM, St. Patrick’s Catholic Parish Hall, 560 NW Jones. Get in the Irish Mood with this original play written by Father Condon with original music by Joe Lindsay."

Well, I'll be. Father Thomas Condon's a major historical figure in this part of the world, but I didn't know that play writing was amongst his many accomplishments. (Or at least I assume that the Father Condon to which they refer is the famous minister/scientist for whom the Paleontology Center at the John Day Fossil Beds is named.) More on Condon here, from the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission.

For that matter, since this is the 25th annual A Wee Bit O’Ireland festival in Heppner, perhaps it has long been The Irish Capital of Oregon, and that fact just hadn't sunk in with me. It's amazing what a person can fail to know about their own general region of the world...

The four day festival features Friends of the Library book sales (to put my own weakness first), music, arts and crafts, lots of events involving eating, motorcross, sheep dog trials, a bowling tournament, something called road bowling, a teen dance, a Saturday into Sunday "WEE HOURS O’THE MORNIN’ BREAKFAST – 10 PM-3 AM" hosted by the Heppner Volunteer Fire Department (not all small towns roll up the sidewalks early, apparently), a Cruz-In (old cars), more. Lots more. It sounds like fun. (She says, tentatively pencilling in next year's event...)

A few years back we made a day trip just to visit the town of Heppner and see what it was like. We enjoyed our visit very much. The people were friendly, and our inexpensive lunch at an unpretentious little eatery was quite good and the locals adopted us for the duration, including us in conversation. It's one of those towns we have on our would-like-to-revisit-someday list, and I could see it going onto a maybe-it-wouldn't-be-a-bad-place-to-live-or-retire-to list. It is off the beaten path, but it's close to larger towns - for that matter, it's not too far from actual cities. Like I said, I haven't been there in a while, but if it's anything like it was back then in spirit, I don't mind giving it a plug as a place to visit or relocate.

hat tip: U.S. Congressman Greg Walden's online newsletter

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Retro cooking

Via Like Merchant Ships, if you like cookery a la 1940s-60s, you might like to check out

Katrina rebuilding continues

One thing some people don't quite seem to understand about America is that, by and large, when Americans see a need, volunteers from around the country quietly pitch in. Even after the news cameras go home. (Sometimes especially after the news cameras go home.) And without going through the government. Just because.

Rebuild Lakeshore is a website of the Lakeshore Baptist Church of Lakeshore, Mississippi, a community hit with the full force of Hurricane Katrina. The site is full of story after story of not only community members helping one another out, but of total strangers showing up to do hard and often-dirty work of rebuilding. Just check out the teams that showed up just in February.

Is this a great country, or what?

They still need a lot of help down there, in-person and otherwise. Check out the website for more info.

Oh, and don't miss the post on 50 Lessons From Mississippi, written by a young woman named Sarah Ascol after she did a stint of volunteer work in a kitchen set up to feed volunteers. Some of it's insightful. Some of it's laugh out loud funny, too. How can you not love a post that includes such gems as "45) Singing together gets the job done faster - unless you stop to dance" and "30) Soap bubbles in your hair works almost like hairspray" and "22) Nine young adults are really no match for 51 kids full of candy-corn" and "14) Even teenage boys get blue when they miss their Moms"?

hat tip: Cindy Swanson

French Word-A-Day: ketchup, etc.

I've just stumbled onto a blog called French Word-A-Day. The most recent post is on, of all things, ketchup, both as a word and as a food, as it is used in France, including an account of ketchup used as a condiment for fried rice. No, really.

I've just glanced at a few entries, but the blog looks delightful from what I've seen so far. It's far more than just language lessons.

The blog hostess, American expat Kristin Espinasse, is also a book author:

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France

Book note: February House, by Sherill Tippins

February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof In Wartime America
February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof In Wartime America

I haven't had a copy of this book in my hands; I stumbled across it while looking online for something else at Barnes & Noble today. Given some of the artists involved in the experiment, I wouldn't want to guess how family friendly the book is or isn't, but... well, I think it falls under the 'sometimes truth is stranger than fiction' category. And besides, as I understand it, some of these people were influential. Besides, the preface and reviews are promising.

From Barnes & Noble (click on book cover above for link), the preface begins:

New York is full of old people, struggling to occupy their allotted space despite the pressures of the younger generations pushing in. Elbowed by joggers, hedged in by cyclists, they make their daily odysseys to the supermarket and then retreat to the safety of their homes. As one of tens of thousands of college graduates moving to New York City in the 1970s, I was as oblivious as the next twenty-two-year-old to this segment of the population. A decade later, as a new mother in Brooklyn Heights, a neighborhood of brownstones facing Wall Street across the East River, I merely noted the number of people with aluminum walkers on the sidewalks as I maneuvered my child's stroller around them. A few years on, however, when I began volunteering to deliver meals to the housebound and got to know many of these people as individuals, I began to regret my past indifference.

Many liked to talk, and I found that I liked to listen. The octogenarian who had covered her walls with her own arresting paintings told me about the silent-film actress who had once lived at the nearby Bossert Hotel and ordered up a milk bath every day. The retired city councilman with the fierce gray eyebrows described the spectacular sunsets, enhanced by post-Depression factory fumes, that he had so enjoyed on his homeward walks over the Brooklyn Bridge. The chain-smoking former navy officer recalled the rich scent of chocolate that used to waft through the streets from a Fulton Street candy factory before World War II. I learned, too, how the Brooklyn Dodgers got their name (Brooklyn residents were once called"trolley-dodgers" because of the many speeding trolley cars on the borough's streets); how a working-class girl could enjoy a free daily swim at the St. George Hotel's swank saltwater pool (all it took was a doctor's note); and what Irish-American children were told when they found an orange in their Christmas stocking ("Thank Mr. Tammany, not Santy Claus").

Most intriguing to me, however, were the references to a house that once stood at 7 Middagh Street (pronounced mid-daw), a short, narrow lane at the neighborhood's northeastern tip overlooking the former dockyards and, beyond, New York Harbor. The house had been rented, one neighbor told me, by a group of well-known young poets, novelists, composers, and artists the year before America entered World War II. Aware that enormous devastation lay ahead and determined to continue contributing to the culture as long as possible, they had created an environment for themselves to support and stimulate, inspire and protect —just a few blocks from where I lived.

When I learned that these residents included the poet W. H. Auden, the novelist Carson McCullers, the composer Benjamin Britten, Paul and Jane Bowles, and, of all people, the burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee—all under thirty-five but already near the apex of their careers—my interest was piqued even further. In a pictorial survey of Brooklyn's history, I found a photograph of the house—a small, shabby brick and brownstone structure with elaborate Tudor trim. The man who had signed the lease and organized this experiment in communal living turned out to have been George Davis, a fiction editor at Harper's Bazaar who had single-handedly revolutionized the role played by popular magazines in bringing serious literature and avant-garde ideas to the American masses. Davis was known for his attraction to the eccentric in culture, in entertainment, and in his choice of friends. With his encouragement, nights at the Middagh Street house became a fevered year-long party in which New York's artistic elite (Aaron Copland, George Balanchine, Louis Untermeyer, Janet Flanner, and Louise Dahl-Wolfe, among others) mingled with a flood of émigrés fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe, including the composer Kurt Weill and the singer Lotte Lenya, the artist Salvador Dalí and his wife, Gala, and the entire brilliant family of the Nobel Prize–winning novelist Thomas Mann. Days, however, were dedicated to their work —writing, composing, painting, and otherwise seeking new answers, new approaches to life in a collapsing world.

By the winter of 1940–41, 7 Middagh—called "February House" by the diarist Anaïs Nin because so many of its residents had been born in that month—had developed a reputation as the greatest artistic salon of the decade...

There's quite a bit more to the preface, much of it quite interesting, I thought.

Also from Barnes & Noble is this from The New Yorker:

In 1940, George Davis, an editor recently fired from Harper’s Bazaar, rented a dilapidated house in Brooklyn Heights in which he installed brilliant, volatile artists, who spent the next year working, fighting, and drinking. Carson McCullers sipped sherry while, down the hall, the burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee typed her mystery novel with three-inch fingernails, and, downstairs, Benjamin Britten and Paul Bowles fought over practice space. W. H. Auden was housemother, collecting rent, assigning chores, and declaring no politics at dinner. Tippins’s book is a cozy, gossipy read, punctuated by solid, if perfunctory, literary criticism. Like all bohemian utopias, February House (so named because of the residents’ February birthdays) was unable to withstand the centrifugal force of its constituent egos. The artists dispersed—to return home, serve in the military, or follow wayward lovers—and the house was demolished to make way for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Book note: WWII picture books for kids

See Karen Edmisten: More WWII Picture Books for some recommendations for history-related books for children.

Kindness Happens blog

Here you go. A Kindness Happens blog. :)

Fires, wars, murders, drugs. Too often, we read in newspapers and see all over the TV and Internet the bad things going on in the world.

But what really makes the world go round is kindness, those little acts that often go unnoticed by all but those involved. Because these small acts don't get published and publicized, people often don't believe they actually happen. So it's time to share! This blog is for posting those small acts of kindness that you do for others, or that others do for you. Hopefully, in having this group effort, people will be able to read about a number of kind acts happening daily and will feel better about life, and then hopefully, in turn, go on to carry out kind acts of their own...

Hear! Hear!

Monday, March 12, 2007

One Mommy, or two...

Before you hire someone to take care of your child day after day after day, perhaps you'd like to read West Bank Mama's post My Children Have Only One Mommy.

hat tip: I found the West Bank Mama blog through the sidebar at Seraphic Secret.

Public Radio is advertising for new talent

Doug Payton notes that Public Radio has a talent competition coming up: the tagline is "Wanna be a radio star?" Considering that he's got something of a background for it and plans to take a shot, it's decent of him, I think, to invite the rest of us to compete with him.

From the Public Radio Talent Quest website (emphasis in original):

Do you have what it takes to be public radio's next great host? Do you have that most elusive of qualities - hostiness? Now is your chance. We're casting a wide net to find new talent for public radio, and giving away over $70,000 along the way.
I'm out for lots of reasons (lack of appropriate skills being a big one), but I'd love to see the gene pool expanded in radio, so if you've got talent (and can forgive the awww-cuteness of an appeal for 'hostiness')...

A side note: It's funny that the website mentioned "casting a wide net." Just this weekend I learned about a story supposedly told by astrophysicist Arthur Eddington about a researcher who was studying deep sea life, using a net with a three-inch mesh. After collecting numerous samples, the fictional researcher concluded that there were no fish less than three inches long in that part of the sea. In other words, how you fish can determine what you can catch.

Make of that what you will.

If you'd like the actual Eddington quote (as opposed to the one I was handed this weekend, which bears only a faint resemblance to the original), scroll down at Quotations by Arthur Eddington (which I found via the Wikipedia entry on Arthur Stanley Eddington).

A Gathering of Eagles

There will be a gathering of people in Washington D.C. on March 17 to stand silent guard at war memorials threatened by anti-war protesters. This is to be a non-confrontational, nonviolent, nonpartisan effort done out of respect for the memorials and for the people honored by them, with the goal being to defend, not attack. Apparently anybody who agrees with the mission and is willing to play by the rules is invited to participate in person, or in spirit (by signing a petition). Anna has more info and links.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

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

Literary sleuths wanted: "It's not fair" edition

At the end of The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis - spoiler alert - when the schoolyard bullies are getting what they so richly deserve, they run away yelling "Murder! Fascists! Lions! It isn't fair." (emphasis in original). end spoiler alert

This is in a book originally published in 1953.

This got me thinking. Schoolyard bullies go way back. Schoolyard bullies that run screaming to Mommy or Daddy or teacher if someone stands up to them go just as far back, as far as I know. But off the top of my head it seems that this reference is as far back as I can recall for thwarted thugs using the tactic of yelling, "It isn't fair."

Before that, wasn't it always something like "You'll be sorry!" or "My dad's bigger than your dad!" or "Your mother's cheap/ugly/wears army boots" or "I hate you" or "You just wait 'til you're not looking" or just plain blubbering because he or she felt sorry for his poor little cruel and cossetted self? Or something like that?

This is somewhat an idle question, but not entirely. Considering how the "It isn't fair" people have created whole industries and government departments and cooperative judges to whom they can run when they feel that someone isn't kowtowing to them properly, I admit to wondering when this attitude crept into the open air in Western culture. And why. But of course why is likely to be harder to answer than when.

So... I have a reference from 1953, one that suggests that elitist secularists, at least, were already prone to that sort of thing, enough so that Lewis apparently thought it deserved a poke in the eye in passing. Or, at minimum, that if he did poke them in the eye most people would get the joke or at least recognize the type.

So where did the real-life folks getting jabbed in that sentence get the idea that they're supposed to always have their own way - and if they don't it's because someone else isn't being fair?

When did they, on top of that, get the idea that appealing to someone in authority might find them a sympathetic ear? Not to mention action?

(In the old days, from what I've read, bullies who whimpered were more generally told that it was time they grew up. Or that they'd have to fight their own fights. Certainly they didn't get much encouragement from most people in positions of authority. Did they?)

I have my hunches, but I'm operating on too few facts here even for an honest hunch.

I'd appreciate your help gathering references. More recent ones are fine (they might help establish a pattern), but bragging rights go to the earliest book reference in which either a bad guy earnestly - or a good guy facetiously or satirically - says a variation on "It isn't fair." I'd prefer examples with the emphasis. We're looking for the birth of the whiny worldview here.

Nonfiction references also accepted.

Side note: I read The Silver Chair in:

The Chronicles of Narnia One Volume
The Chronicles of Narnia One Volume

The Silver Chair is also available in stand-alone; in paperback, hardback and audio. For instance:

The Silver Chair
The Silver Chair

Update: I've found a 1952 example. In the murder mystery Rose's Last Summer by Canadian author Margaret Millar, a self-centered, browbeaten, wimpy, worried and worrisome mother's boy of a man who had a body found in his garden (and has been acting suspiciously ever since) is conversing with a police officer heading the investigation (emphasis in original):

"The poor woman who died - my wife and I were discussing it last night - I hope she'll have a proper burial with flowers and all that?"

"I don't guarantee the flowers, but she'll be buried according to regulation. The county will foot the bill if no one else does."

"It seems so cold-blooded, having no flowers."

"Rose won't know the difference."

Willett turned quite pale. "I wonder - my wife and I were wondering - we feel a certain sense of responsibility in this affair. We're not wealthy by any means, but we're comfortably well off and I thought - Ethel thought - perhaps a check for a hundred dollars--?"

"You're offering to bury Rose?"

"I - yes, you might put it like that. Ethel's very soft-hearted, you know."

Greer didn't know. "You'll have to take the matter up with the County Administrator."

Willett had no idea what or who the County Administrator was, but he nodded wisely. "I see. There's red tape involved. You think it might be better to forget the whole thing? I mean, I certainly wouldn't want my generous impulses to get me into trouble. It wouldn't be fair."

"There are lots of worthy causes to give money to," Greer said shortly. "Flowers are fine, but Rose can't smell them."

Willett took out a handkerchief and wiped his forehead. He hated this callous policeman with such intensity that he felt nauseated. "I - if you'll excuse me - I'm not well."

"Sorry to hear it."

"We - we're not a strong family. Things upset us."

Greer believed it. "I just want to talk to your mother for a few minutes. I'll try not to disturb her."

Willett felt too weak and sick to argue. "Murphy will take you upstairs," he said and headed for the door, pressing the handkerchief against his mouth.

In local lingo, I'd say Millar had Willett's number (and by extension the number for everyone like him).

Rose's Last Summer
Rose's Last Summer

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Author note: Charles Todd

I haven't read any books by Charles Todd. But after reading Wittingshire: WWI and Charles Todd, I've put them on my find-a-copy list.

Oh, you're paying for it? In that case... : Revisited

I invited the blogger at Joust the Facts to weigh in on this post since I remembered him posting on similar topics, and since he's someone who has to deal with this firsthand. He was kind enough to reply. His reply is in the comments box at the original post, but I think it warrants a post of its own, especially since some of it was surprising, at least to me:

Thanks for the invite, Kathryn.

I do have something worth adding to this discussion, possibly. I'm an orthopaedic surgeon, and I'll be the first to admit that my prices are artificially high. But they're not high in order to milk the system; they're not high so I can "get rich quick and retire early"; they're not high because I have an inflated sense of what I do.

I'd be more than willing, happy even, to cut my "usual and customary fees" by 40-50% if someone would simply guarantee me that I'll be paid - by all insurers - what I bill. I'm not. That fact makes my practice's gross income extremely unpredictable, as it's dependent each month on what the insurance mix was for the cases we did.

For some of the complex reconstructive procedures that I do on shoulders government payors and the HMO's pay me, on average, about 24-25 cents on the dollar. You read that right.

As a result I need to keep my fees artificially high because I need the occasional "good insurer" or workman's comp carrier (the private ones pay fairly well) or wealthy self-payor to make up what I lose on the government contracts. I've often said that if everyone paid like Medicare my four physician Ivy League trained group would be out of business. And we would, unless we started practicing impersonal high-volume medicine, which we don't.

So keep pushing for Medicaid, Medicare and HMO's to hold down physician payments and you'll continue to see a warped and unaffordable system for those not so privileged.

You may be interested to know that at high profile medical centers, like the Mayo Clinic, and for in-demand large city physicians most insurances aren't accepted. You pay cash, and if you want some of it back you submit your bill to insurance for re-imbursement. I have a friend from medical school who practices internal medicine in Washington DC who takes no insurance. As a result, he gets what he bills.

This may or may not be related, but it should tell you a little bit about where I'm coming from in this discussion. It took me a long time to realize that our bookstore was never going to survive if we didn't take into account people who wrote bad checks or otherwise managed to take stuff off the shelf without paying for it, or otherwise cost us money through no fault of our own (placing a special order and then not buying the book can hit a small bookstore very hard; more on that someday). It was a hard lesson to learn. It goes against my idealistic streak and a sense of justice to ask honest people to help pay for what dishonest people do, but for the life of me I can't see any other way to do it since we must pay for inventory regardless of what happens to it. We are always working on ways to minimize what dishonest or heedless people can do to us (and by extension our honest and more considerate customers), but the fact remains that every now and then we cross paths with someone who manages to make us bleed financially, and that has to be written into the business plan.