Monday, April 30, 2007

Just for fun: Dancing on treadmills

I wonder what Fred Astaire - who was famous for his love of using props in his dance routines - would have come up with given an electric treadmill to work with? These four fellows certainly use them to good advantage.

A note to parents: Because your child could break his neck imitating this (and also because for the life of me I can't decipher the song lyrics), I suggest you preview the video before turning your kids loose on it.

Having said that... what a hoot!

What route would you choose?

Imagine that you won a sweepstakes for which the prize is to be set down in Florida, where you are provided a car and a credit card to be used for travel expenses, and told you needed to be in San Diego, California, in a month. Where would you go?

Over the weekend, an enthusiastic and charming young Japanese couple who had won just such a sweepstakes prize showed up at our gas station cum bookstore here in the middle of Oregon. They had opted to zig zag across the country. Up to New York. Down to Louisiana. Up to...

Well, you get the picture. Huge zigs and equally huge zags, all the while tending west.

I must be getting old. I think it's a great idea, but I'm not sure I'd be up to that ambitious a travel plan. Certainly I wouldn't try to get so many miles packed into one month (I think they had a month) but that's probably only because I've mellowed into a slow-down-and-smell-the-roses, fewer-stops-but-more-time-in-each-place, people-are-generally-more-interesting-than-scenery kind of person. At their age, I suspect I might have done what they're doing. (Their age being about 20, at a guess, or so I'm told. I wasn't there, worse the luck.)

Here's wishing them a safe and enjoyable journey from here on out.

So, tell me, can you resist playing with what you'd do given a similar opportunity?

Feel free to let the rest of us know about possible itineraries if you come up with any.

Shakespeare Denial

Strangely literature-averse literature departments in college are apparently denying their students Shakespeare, and Ron Rosenbaum, author of The Shakespeare Wars, is fighting back. Pointedly. Rousingly. Perhaps, you might say, sneeringly. (And who can blame him for being angry that Shakespeare is being trashed where not being simply ignored?)

Rosenbaum's article contains some background on how so many literature departments got to their current sorry state, including "two generations of pseudo-scientific sophistry that gave itself the shorthand name Theory in literary studies." (Did I mention he's not happy with these people?)

I would add my usual note to this sort of discussion. Just because something isn't happening in classrooms doesn't mean it's not happening at all. A substantial share of our book sales from the classics shelves, including Shakespeare, is to teenagers and young adults denied the classics in school. In general, a lot of them know they've been cut off from their past, from great writing, from deep ideas, from pointed insights. That they have to do end runs around their teachers to learn about these things saddens me. That they aren't letting their narrower-minded paid instructors have the last word gives me hope.

hat tip: Brandywine Books

Update: Via Lady Jane, see also A day for remembering the Bard (Daniel Hannon, Telegraph, April 22, 2007), which also has a bit on St. George's Day.

Pro-life search engine

Via the sidebar at Rosetta Stone, here's a search engine that provides money to pro-life organizations/charities.

Of gardens and clotheslines

The blogger over at as cozy as spring will be hosting a Living Lives of Loveliness Fair on May 7th, and is inviting entries on gardens. All sorts of gardens. She's even inviting people without blogs to send her emails.

She also has a post on the joys of installing and using a clothesline which I found fun. But then, I also enjoy putting clothes onto a line instead of into a dryer, whenever possible. In its way, it's more restful. (Within limits, of course. I can see where someone with a large family might find using a clothesline too much of a good thing. And I understand that some people with allergies to pollen can have a lot of trouble with outside-dried clothing and bedclothes.)

On this day in history

See The Avalon Project : First Inaugural Address of George Washington, for a bit of history from Thursday, April 30, 1789.

More George Washington papers are available online here. (Via Mount Vernon, via this White House web page .)

Remembering those who die very, very young

Oh, my goodness. What a wonderful, caring and compassionate thing for someone to do...

I didn't know there were professional photographers who donate their time and talent to families facing the death of a baby.

Oh, man, that must be tough to do. (Can you imagine? I think I'd go home afterward and bawl my eyes out. Possibly after collapsing in a puddle at the hospital.) But what a gift they give.

My twin sister died the day we were born. A thank you from the bottom of my surviving-sibling heart to the photographers who offer their art and their consolation in this way.

Check your religious beliefs at the door - or don't (your call)

Doug Payton looks at yet another of the now-frequent attacks on religious belief coming from leftist activists and promoted by numerous members of the press. In this case, a PC group is trying to drop the hammer on pro-life medical professionals and any Catholic hospital that isn't Catholic in name only.

A note to the leftist activists: I might be wrong about this, but as far as I can see people are not vending machines. You can't expect someone to mindlessly dispense whatever you want. Even for money. Or to make you happy. Imagine that. Hit men and other criminal types, maybe. Good folks, no.

Then there's that whole inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of a clear conscience thing. One definition of a free country is one in which a decent human being cannot legally be forced into doing something he or she would be ashamed of doing. That was a founding principle of the United States of America. It's still a good one, I think. One of the best. Think about it, won't you? At least toy with the idea a while and see where it takes you? Thank you.

A note to Christians and Jews and anybody else with a strong and healthy moral compass (one that actually points in a direction worthy of this precious life you've been given): You might want to read Religion and the Common Good, by Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., the archbishop of Denver, printed at First Things, April 24, 2007. An excerpt:

In other words, ideas have consequences—which brings me to today’s topic. When Cardinal Rigali first invited me to come to Philadelphia to talk about religion and the common good, I accepted for two simple reasons. First, I’m tired of the Church and her people being told to be quiet on public issues that urgently concern us. And second, I’m tired of Christians themselves being silent because of some misguided sense of good manners. Self-censorship is an even bigger failure than allowing ourselves to be bullied by outsiders.

Only one question really matters. Does God exist or not? If he does, that has implications for every aspect of our personal and public behavior: all of our actions, all of our choices, all of our decisions. If God exists, denying him in our public life—whether we do it explicitly like Nietzsche or implicitly by our silence—cannot serve the common good, because it amounts to worshiping the unreal in the place of the real.


...As Christians we need to live our convictions in the public square with charity and respect for others, but also firmly, with courage and without apology. Anything less is a form of theft from the moral witness we owe to the public discussion of issues. We can never serve the common good by betraying who we are as believers or compromising away what we hold to be true.

He's also got information on the novels of Georges Bernanos, which I admit I haven't read. Yet.

And he's got some comments on Nietzsche. And on attacks on human memory and history. And the meaning of history. The language of the abortion debate. A Flannery O’Connor short story. More. It's a wide-ranging essay, but interesting, I think. And one that made me stop and think and reconsider.

Update: See also Half-Christians, by Rev. Robert Lynn, associate pastor for mission, adult education and university ministry at Knox Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor. (BreakPoint, 4/30/2007)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Boorish bargain hunters

Would you knock on a door at eleven at night to propose taking tarps off tables so you could go through things left out for a yard sale set to start the next morning?

This is not a question I concocted out of thin air.

I wish it were, but it isn't.

Last night we had someone knock on our front door, and then, not getting a timely answer, he went to a side door and knocked. At eleven at night.

This I could understand if it were the fire department reporting that we needed to evacuate, or police warning us of a dangerous felon on the loose, or a child who is lost and desperate, or something like that.

But no. This was a guy who said he and the other people in his car were passing through town and wanted to browse through the yard sale next door. Browse. Paw through. Just in case there was something one of them wanted.

It wasn't even our yard sale. Since it's set up in the parking lot of a company more or less next door to us (there used to be a house between, but it burned down), I guess I can see that a person - especially the sort of person who would knock on a stranger's door at 11 p.m. to announce that the large signs clearly saying No Sales or Looking Before 8 a.m.!!! do not apply to them - might happily if erroneously jump to the conclusion that the inhabitants of the nearest residence might be able to give them the go-ahead to shop.

Perhaps I should clarify that. The fellow didn't seem to be asking permission so much as demanding service.

Let us say my husband made it clear we weren't interested in obliging him.

At a guess, the stranger mostly didn't want to risk being shot at or arrested; perhaps he thought he was going through the formalities to keep the silly peons from panicking. It's hard to say. He didn't make himself clear on that, but that's the impression he left behind after he took his disgruntled, high-handed self away.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you'd never demand middle of the night special browsing privileges at a yard sale? Am I right?

I hope so, let's put it that way.

A poet confronted with a toddler

Melissa Wiley shares a poem by Thomas Hood, "A Parental Ode to My Son, Aged Three Years and Five Months," in which the poet's boy keeps breaking into the flights of fancy. Too funny.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Saint George" for a "New Era"

The Church of England might try to "rebrand" St. George??? (Rebranding Saint George, by Hal G.P. Colebatch, The American Spectator, 4/24/2007):

Just when it seems the Church of England can go no further in offensive fatuousness, it manages, faithfully, to excel itself yet again, to the continuing despair of those would-be satirists whose most absurd and savage inventions cannot hope to compete with the reality.

The latest exercise in grotesquerie is a call to "rebrand" Saint George, the Patron Saint of England, in the interests of culture-war, political correctness and leftism. The proposals are contained in a paper, "When the Saints Go Marching Out: Redefining Saint George For A New Era," created by what is described as an "Anglican think-tank" Ekklesia, and published in the Church of England Newspaper.


[Simon Barrow, one of the paper's authors] claims that: "The patron Saint of England should be rebranded, and Saint George's Day should become a national day to celebrate the tradition of dissent." He believes Saint George should be re-branded as a "People's Saint,"...

When the Saints Go Marching Out?

Celebrating the tradition of dissent?

A People's Saint?

Colebatch is right, I think. Satirists face a steep, steep challenge here.

The article has some background on the sometimes very nasty controversy over how St. George's Day should be celebrated, and ongoing efforts by multiculturists to ban the St. George's flag from being displayed.

P.S. Robert at Expat Yank has the St. George's flag/England national flag flying in his sidebar, if you want to know what it looks like.

Or you can visit the Wikipedia article for St. George's Cross (which notes that England's flag is hardly the only flag or official symbol featuring it).

BTW: Wikipedia notes that citations aren't yet up to standards for the St. George's Day article, and is asking for help improving the page.

P.P.S. For getting me to The American Spectator, a tip of the hat to Lars Walker.

Addition: I knew I'd seen a St. George Feast Day post the other day...

Noted later: For reasons that are not clear to me, the Wikipedia links above (to St. George's Day and to St. George's Cross) keep changing into a link to the main St. George article. I've relinked, and relinked, and relinked, and achieved only temporary victory. (For instance, when I went to bed last night both links were good. This morning both have morphed.) I guess you'll have to search the articles out once you get over there, if you want to go to the bother, because I'm giving up on relinking, and moving on. To be honest, I generally feel a bit silly linking to Wikipedia anyway. This only makes me feel sillier.

Not all stories are created equal

Candice Z. Watters discusses using and choosing children's books.

Another encore I could do without

I am beginning to wonder if every single bad idea that was promoted to my generation when we were college students is going to resurface this decade.

Take, for instance, the "equal pay" idea. I know why I fell for this when I was an adolescent and early twenty-something (miseducation matched with inexperience, boosted by the insane, fact-free, unrooted idealism of the '60s and '70s; flavored with a Marxism I didn't realize was there, not to mention just plain ignorance about how the economy functions in general and how businesses survive in particular, not to mention just plain naivete about human nature, etc.). I can see why this sort of thing can be attractive to a well-meaning but misguided kid. But how can any actual adult with real-world experience think this is something the government ought to pursue? It's crazy.

Like the Equal Rights Amendment, which I hear has also been dusted off, I find the 'equal pay/ comparable worth' idea patronizing. I'm one of those women who currently earns less than most men with a comparable education because once I got old enough to take a more mature look at my options, I opted out of the career culture. Plain and simple. I chose a life that gave me more time with my husband, more time for myself, more freedom, more autonomy, more control. Within certain boundaries, money is far easier to give up than time. Loss of income you can offset to a large degree with frugality. Lost time? Lost independence? What can you do to make up for days when you find yourself forced to wave hello-and-goodbye at loved ones as your paths cross, with no time to sit down and chat because the clock is ticking and you've promised to be elsewhere in exchange for a paycheck?

If I decide to go get a job working for someone else, I'll weigh the possibilities based on several factors. And, if you can imagine this, I can probably manage to find out if one job pays less than another, and can actually factor that into my choice of which jobs to go after, which training to pursue. No, really, I can. I'm female but I think I can do that. I am woman, hear me roar watch me make a rational choice.

Monday, April 23, 2007

In business since 578

In The End of a 1,400-Year-Old Business (BusinessWeek, April 16, 2007), James Olan Hutcheson looks at Japanese temple builder Kongo Gumi, a family business that began operations in 578 and folded in 2006.

(And yes, I know, that's not 1,400 years, precisely. It's a 1,428-year run, something Hutcheson notes in his story. The headline writer apparently rounded the figure down, all right? I guess he or she decided that when you're talking about fourteen centuries, what's a matter of 28 years, more or less?)

hat tip: John Moser

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Beating expectations

From Rachel’s Blog » Miracle M-I-R-A-C-L-E Miracle:

A few months ago, Leah told us that she was going to participate in the 4th grade Spelling Bee. This is her third year of being mainstreamed with an ASL interpreter. I was concerned about the 4th grade Bee, because many of the words have no signs and it would be cheating to have her interpreter fingerspell them to her. Leah was confident that she could memorize the words, the definitions and know how they are used in sentences...
Go read the rest. There's a video, too.

Way to go, girl!

hat tip: Danielle Bean

Friday, April 20, 2007

More laughs

You know how some women like to play classical music when they're pregnant in the hopes of making their child more intelligent? Here's the kid's view...

That book you've been meaning to ship to a friend?

If you live in the United States, you might want to clear out your to-mail or to-order stacks in short order.

New postal rates go into effect May 14.

I keep looking at the new media mail rates (for books, CDs, DVDs, etc.), and cringing. Under the new rates, postage for the least expensive package -- one that weighs less than a pound total -- is $2.13.

For comparison, the current price (in effect since January 8, 2006) for the same package is $1.59.


Rates go up for other types of mail, too. (But pardon me if I focus on the media mail. My husband and I are booksellers.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Senior citizens have right to sing (imagine that)

It's a sad day in America when people quake in their boots over senior citizens singing a religious song before eating.

My thanks to the Alliance Defense Fund for taking on cases like this, and for its continuing efforts to educate people about what protections the First Amendment provides.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A hero

While of course I wish that Liviu Librescu had by some miracle survived yesterday's massacre at Virginia Tech, I am grateful that he did what he did, putting himself in harm's way so that his students could escape. I want his family to know that I join those in Romania and Israel and Italy and Virginia and elsewhere who want him to be remembered with honor.

In a wider sense, I don't pretend to know what it's like for the people at Virginia Tech or the loved ones of those injured or killed - or for the school administrators and police who are being loudly second-guessed by armchair experts armed with hindsight and the sort of certainty that only comes to certain types of people watching events from a distance - but I want them to know my thoughts and prayers are with them.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Just for laughs

The Book Den: Tech Support in the 15th Century links to a family-friendly comedy sketch, acted in Norwegian, with English and Danish subtitles.

No, really.

"Six Simple Strategies for Achieving Misery"

Sol Herzog offers succinct advice on how to produce misery in your life. If that's what you want, of course. ;)

For instance, did you know that "Too often people cheat themselves out of misery by maintaining perspective..."?


Addressing supposed Republican rifts

At Backbone America » Introducing Jerome Noirot, a Fulbright scholar completing his political science doctorate on modern conservatism in the United States shares some of what he's found in his research. He also draws on voices from the past to explain some of the foundations of conservative thought.

hat tip for leading me to Backbone America via a mention of Backbone Radio: Hugh Hewitt

Don Ho has died

Hawaiian performer Don Ho has died of heart failure. He was 76. Sadly, some reports are omitting something very important in articles about him.

For instance, this article states:
Ho had suffered with heart problems for the past several years, and had a pacemaker installed last fall. In 2005, he underwent an experimental stem cell procedure on his ailing heart in Thailand.
But it never gets around to explaining that Don Ho emphatically had nothing to do with embryonic stem cell treatment, as I noted in December 2005 (Don Ho Recovering From Adult Stem Cell Procedure). From an article by Associated Press writer Jaymes Song (which was well-done as filed, but was stripped of its balance by most editors, as far as I could see), there was this:

The "VesCell" technology Ho underwent was developed by TheraVitae Co., which has offices in Thailand and laboratories in Israel, where Ho's stem cells were sent to be multiplied.

Dr. Robb MacLellan, associate professor of cardiology at UCLA, said a similar stem cell procedure has been used in Europe for a couple years and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved studies are currently being conducted.

"The difficulty with any new therapy, no matter how promising it looks in animal models and even in small controlled human studies, we're never really sure if it's really safe or effective until rigorous controlled studies are done," he said.

Dr. Ralph Shohet, a molecular cardiologist at the University of Hawaii medical school, said there's a lot of excitement in the medical community surrounding stem cell therapy but the risks are not yet known.

"It's entirely an experimental procedure at present," he said.

Brown noted that Ho was not participating in controversial procedures involving embryonic stem cells.

"Don did not take stem cells from a fetus. He doesn't believe in that," he said. "He took blood from his own body and re-injected that into his heart."

From today's article (first link above), there is this:

In the final years of his life, Ho's heart problems couldn't keep him away from the stage. He was back performing at the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel on a limited schedule less than two months after his heart procedure in Thailand. His final performance was Thursday, Jung said.

Ho is survived by his wife, Haumea, and 10 children, including Hoku, who sometimes performed with her father.

Now, that's a trouper.

My condolences to his family and friends.

This, that, and the other thing

At The Paragraph Farmer: Unrecognized beauty and its implications, Patrick O'Hannigan takes on beauty, art, music, film, worldviews, novelist Terry Pratchett's Discworld, and more - and ties it all together wonderfully. (I really enjoy Mr. O'Hannigan's essays when he cuts loose like this. And he has quite a few links for further reading, too. :)

Daniel Henninger, writing at OpinionJournal, notes that more people seem to be latching onto the idea that a rebirth of civility would be a very good thing. (To which I say Hear! Hear!)

From Bertie Wooster to Don Imus by Gina Dalfonzo is related. I don't often see Bertie Wooster held up as a role model of sorts, but she has a point. Or two. The world would be nicer if more men refused to be ungallant, and objected when other men were. (Is ungallant a word? I'm not sure it is, but you know what I mean, I hope.)

A dip in the use of fraud and deceit to gin up support for federal legislation would also be nice. Matt Barber has some background on that. (I'm issuing a parental warning on this one.) Be sure and read the part that comes after "Now, here's where it gets hysterical..." (Ninth paragraph onward.) Admittedly, Mr. Barber isn't as civil as he might be (was a Michael Nifong jab really necessary, I ask you?), but under the circumstances I think he's showing admirable restraint, don't you?

While we're on the subject of despicable behavior, did you know that several popular teen sites have been targeted by people daring kids to make and post blasphemous videos on the Internet? And offering rewards for doing so? Catherine Claire has info on that, and on a response being mounted by some Christians.

Apparently it's Holocaust Remembrance Day. Growing up, I remember being led to think that the Holocaust was a fluke, something that happened because the Germans had something in their make-up and society that made them go bad now and then, or at least more susceptible than the rest of us to really bad, sweeping ideas imposed ruthlessly. Bookworm claims that idea is all wrong - that it's significant the Holocaust was spawned in Germany because, she says, at the time Germans had come to be considered the world's most civilized nation.

And, finally, some original content. This week, at the laundromat, I met an old man who had driven across the country to visit his son. The laundromat I frequent has recently had some sprucing up. The walls have been painted, broken equipment has been removed, a new wheeled cart has made an appearance to make it easier to move wet clothes from washer to dryer, reading material has appeared on a new table, potted plants have made an appearance - and a bit of humor and perspective have entered the picture, in the form of some old photographs of washerwomen dealing with tubs and washboards; some of the pictures have captions added, others just drive home the point that laundry used to be more of a chore than it generally is today.

The old man, not ancient by any means but definitely retirement age, walking with a limp, looked at one of the washerwomen pictures and laughed. 'Oh, I remember those days!' he said, and with a little encouragement from me he was off on tales of growing up in coal country, soot on everything, and wash days in those days. His job was to get the wood for the fires used to heat the water. 'I was pretty little for that job, but that's what I did' he said, trying not to look too pleased with himself for having pulled it off despite having been awfully young for such a responsibility.

He talked about how poor the people were around there, and about cracks in the floors and the walls of most of the houses; how you had to keep fires burning in the winter just to survive. But, he said, beaming, people had come a long way since then. I should just see the town now, nice houses all over the place. Sound houses. People had brought themselves up.

I stuck my oar in with one of my favorite what-I-learned-working-at-a-newspaper stories. Back before Owyhee Dam was built in southeast Oregon, the land around was semi-desert, not farmable. But people, upon hearing that a dam was going in, smelled opportunity down the road and converged on the area, many of them so poor they couldn't afford even a tar shack. So some of them built dugouts in the hills, and lived in those until they got work, perhaps helping to build the dam, or until the irrigation system was operational and they could farm the land they'd staked out.

I forget what the main assignment was, but during the course of researching the article I wound up talking to some folks who had lived in dugouts as kids, and then moved up to tar paper shacks, and now proudly showed me their brick houses in a nice part of town. 'Only two generations, and look!' they said.

What set me back on my heels was that these folks were so proud of their parents. You never saw such open, honest pride in your life. 'They didn't have anything, but they knew opportunity when they saw it. And they worked. Only two generations, and look at our family now!' These people beamed with love and appreciation; they had profound respect for their parents. After having spent part of their childhood living in a hole dug into a hillside, mind you.

Well, that makes sense to me now (having learned more about the relative importance of things), but it was a shocker then, I tell you.

So, I told the old man at the laundry about those people and he knew, really knew, what I was saying. We just looked each other in the eye and he had a look of understanding and joy on his face: hey, someone else who gets it, yay might serve as a translation.

But then he got a troubled look and told me that his son could never seem to understand about stuff like that. That he couldn't seem to get it through his head about people who had to struggle. That he looked down on them. 'We don't see eye to eye on that. No, sir. We don't see eye to eye on that. But...' the old man faltered, 'he's always had somebody looking out for him, you see?'

I didn't know what to say. I'm more or less in his son's generation and I know how perilously close I came to turning out like that myself.

We talked of other things. I told him of an older lady who grew up in the Midwest and talked about how they didn't have roads that were passable in the winter until they got RFD (rural free delivery mail service). He laughed, and said when they got RFD it didn't change the road situation any because their mail came on horseback. He shook his head, and marveled about the postman and his wife, who more or less dedicated their lives to getting the mail delivered. 'But of course we didn't have all those ads and other junk then, you know,' he added.

He talked about surviving the Depression, of the family killing a hog every year and canning sausages, and how good the sausages were, and how fantastic meals cooked in pork fat were. Of tossing every bit of unused flour back into the bin, which was all right except for the lumps that got into it that way. Of how it was much better to live in the country in the Depression, because then you could grow food. How hard it was on city folks.

When he ventured into stories about neighbors and relatives who made moonshine and I didn't cut him off I was treated to some wild tales. Family feuds. Gunfire in churches. I mean really wild tales, told with chuckles and tears in the eyes, probably the sort of tales he gets shushed at if he tries to tell them back home. At a guess. ;)

But a couple/three more times he came back to his son, and how he couldn't or wouldn't understand people who had less than he did. Each time the old man faltered. Each time he explained, 'But he's always had someone look out for him, you see.' The son never, in other words, had to really struggle himself. I don't think this man was trying to excuse his son. I think he was embarrassed. I think he was trying to understand him. And couldn't. Not on this one thing. It was unfathomable to him, I think, how a man could grow up in a family that had overcome steep odds, and end up looking down on people facing steep odds.

I never did figure out what to say in reply.

Addition: In case you were wondering, the Owyhee name (which shows up here and there in the Oregon-Idaho border region: a county, a river, towns...) sprung up in pioneer days in memory of some men native to Hawaii, and is pronounced like Hawaii without the 'h'.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I'm back, sort of...

Well, just my luck. I'm finally well enough to attempt a bit of blogging, and it's Friday the 13th. In my culture, a Friday falling on the 13th of the month is supposed to mean bad luck. In reality what it means is that you get conditioned to place inordinate weight on anything that goes wrong on a Friday the 13th, so that you can join in the fun of jumping up and down and saying see, see, see, it is bad luck after all. Besides, knocking wood (aka touching wood) several times a day is also fun, if you're doing it in the spirit of play and don't really take it seriously. If you do take Friday the 13th seriously, my condolences. There's nothing like being sure your day is going to be miserable to take the zest out of living.

Changing subjects, I'm feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle here. Not only was I not well enough to work, but I wasn't up to following the news, either. And since I have more than a week's worth of work (real work -- the sort that either keeps the house livable or helps put food on the table) to catch up on, it might be a while before I'm up to speed around here. My thanks for your patience.

In the meantime, let's clear up some unfinished business. Laurie nominated me for a Thinking Blogger Award, which means I'm supposed to turn around and hand the award to five more blogs, the hosts of which are then supposed to hand out the award to five more blogs, etc., etc., etc. It's something of a glorified meme or linkfest, really, but since it concentrates on content and provides a wonderful excuse to plug some blogs that have made me reconsider what I thought I knew, I'm game. On the other hand, I tend to take these things too seriously, and being confined to five nominees made me feel rather like I was back in grade school and only allowed to invite a handful of kids to a birthday party (but Mom, that means I can't invite everyone I like, and the kids who don't get invited will be hurt and maybe they'll hate me...), so...

So, this list has been different every time I've tried drawing it up, but in its current state it features a good variety of blogs, each of which has introduced me to new ideas, information, and perspectives, and has persuaded me to change my mind about something. That, to me, makes it a reasonably good list, considering that it leaves off a dozen or so blogs I'd like to include.

So, if your blog is on this list, you are now the proud recipient of a Thinking Blogger Award. Rules and buttons here.

Brandywine Books
Cafe Hayek
Joust the Facts
Mere Comments

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Noted in passing

It snowed today. Of course it did. I listened to my impatience instead of my experience and just got rid of pretty much all the winterizing we still had around here.

That is, between naps I did that. I came down with a bug last week. That's on top of seasonal allergies. And since my old allergy medications were discontinued, I'm trying a new one... which...zzzz....has....zzzzz....some side effects, I'm finding. (She types as she tries to not nod off...)

I'm doing much better than a couple/three days ago, so with any luck I should be back to full blogging sometime this week.

How math is taught (more or less)

Via an email from Terri Leo here's a video on how math is being presented to many school students these days. You might be surprised at the contortions and extra steps kids are being asked to go through to multiply and divide. (When, of course, they aren't just told to go ahead and use a calculator...)

This is related to what is covered in this article from last December: Leo: Connected Math an Example of Why SBOE Needs More Authority (Lone Star Report, Texas Insider).

In today's email, Leo states:

Why do students learn Math more slowly in Texas today? Because the Texas Education Code (TEC) ties the hands of the State Board of Education (SBOE) from rejecting textbooks and math programs that use poor teaching methods. Poor teaching methods = slower learning. The legislature by law prohibits the SBOE from designating methodologies in Math instruction. It would be counter productive for the SBOE to try to accelerate learning in Math standards (TEKS) before the legislature removes this prohibition in the TEC. The faster you try to teach with poor teaching methods, the less students learn. Below is a link to a brief but superb video on K-12 math education that every parent and policy maker needs to see.

State Representative Bill Zedler's HB 3557 would fix this problem. Please thank Representative Zedler for carrying this bill in the House, and ask your own state representative to sign on to it as a co-author. I am still needing a Senate sponsor.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Laurie's nominated me for a Thinking Blogger Award.

My thanks to Laurie for the honor. I don't feel like I've lived up to it lately, but I'll do my best not to embarrass her in future. How's that?

I'll be back with my nominees, today if I can swing it, but more likely next week sometime.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Favorite children’s picture books

In A Gracious Home » Favorite children’s picture books, Sallie lists some of the books that have been hits around her place.

“Little Emilio” in trouble in Texas

From an April 5, 2007, press release from The Alliance Defense Fund:

Federal judge refuses to grant temporary restraining order to save life of “Little Emilio” in Texas

Hospital plans to cease boy’s treatments on April 10; federal judge to take matter under advisement, state court judge to hear case Tuesday

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge decided Wednesday not to grant a temporary restraining order filed by an Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney which would have allowed a toddler to continue to receive medical treatment while his case moves forward in court. The judge did, however, say he will take the matter under advisement pending the outcome of the state court hearing set for Tuesday. In March, an “ethics” committee at the Children’s Hospital of Austin deemed the child’s life “futile” and voted to end his treatments. Without the treatments, the boy, named Emilio, will likely die in a matter of hours.

“The Children’s Hospital of Austin should do the right thing, and that is to make sure little Emilio gets the treatment he needs to live,” said Joshua Carden, the ADF-allied attorney working on the case, Gonzales v. Children’s Hospital of Austin, along with lead counsel Jerri Ward. “Instead, the hospital has betrayed this little boy by subjecting him to ‘death by vote.’ We are very disappointed that the court today refused to stop this insanity.”

Though doctors are not certain in their diagnosis, they believe Emilio has Leigh’s Disease, a condition that is treated primarily through vitamin therapy. But on March 12, a hospital ethics committee voted behind closed doors to end Emilio’s treatment, deeming his life “futile.”

Under Texas law, a hospital is required to wait only 10 days before discontinuing treatment, to allow for a transfer to another hospital willing to admit the patient. Due to litigation, the 10-day window in Emilio’s case was extended until April 10; however, because of hospital bureaucracy and extensive paperwork, a successful transfer to another hospital is unlikely to occur in time to save Emilio’s life. A state probate hearing on this case is scheduled to take place at the Travis County Courthouse on Tuesday--the same day the hospital plans to cease giving Emilio his treatments.

An outside nurse reviewing Emilio’s records noticed that the hospital had removed the boy’s vitamin treatments during the initial 10-day period, bringing up concerns among some that the hospital could be rushing to end the toddler’s life to avoid discovery of malpractice in the boy’s treatment.

“People who could profit from an innocent person’s death should not get to decide when it occurs. Whatever the hospital’s motives are for pushing to end Emilio’s treatment, a child’s life outweighs all other concerns--whether it’s to cut costs, or for convenience, or something else,” said Carden. “And furthermore, the twisted state law that allows hospitals to exterminate disabled children over their parents’ wishes needs to be changed.”

A story of two wolves

Received, unattributed, in an e-mail titled Cherokee Wisdom:

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:"Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Author note: Jeanne Marie Laskas

The blogger at At A Hen's Pace recommends books by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

The Network of enlightened Women (aka NeW)

This is interesting, and encouraging. Conservative women on college campuses are organizing NeW Chapters, which sound much more civilized than NOW Chapters. Much. The movement (there are enough chapters already for me to feel justified in calling it a movement, albeit a small one yet), started as a book club at at the University of Virginia in 2004. Book discussions are still part of the program.

hat tip: Is Feminism Finished?, by Jennifer Roback Morse,, April 2, 2007 (via Lightweight Feminists Never More Apparent, by Julie Ponzi, No Left Turns, April 2, 2007).

Hostage drill prepares school for attacks (from rabid Christians)

I wonder who thought this was a brilliant idea?

In the March 23, 2007, David Levinsky article Hostage drill prepares school for crisis ( Burlington County Times, we find that Burlington Township High School recently had a disaster drill in which a scenario of gunmen taking hostages was played out. OK, so in this day and age to have the cops come in for practice runs under controlled circumstances probably isn't such a bad idea. People without a properly-maintained inner compass will sometimes target schools, unfortunately.

What strikes me as odd, and not too bright, not to mention rather unhelpful, is that the fictional maniacs in this set-up were cast as:

...members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the “New Crusaders” who don't believe in separation of church and state. The mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class...
Words fail me. (But please keep reading, because I'm going to give it a shot anyway, at least from a tangent or two.)

It could be worse, I suppose. The school might have been one of those where history teachers have given up teaching about the Holocaust and/or where talking about Crusaders is, in effect, taboo. Not that Crusaders was used appropriately above, but at least it hasn't been erased from their vocabulary yet. Maybe kids at this school district will now be curious about what a Crusader is, and get their hands on non-PC sources, and not be too poisoned to give those non-PC sources a fair read? (Yes, I know, that's really, really stretching for a silver lining. But I'm a silver lining type of person. Live with it.)

I had a relative who, when I went to visit her, spent her days being afraid someone might use a garage door opener while she was around and thus expose her to what she thought would be unhealthy radio waves -- but who had a fridge crawling with mold, contaminating what she ate. What can I say? Some people are like that, ignoring real threats because they don't have time left over from worrying about stuff that's never likely to hurt them. But at least she doesn't work in law enforcement or school administration.

Now, I'm still holding out hope that I've totally misread what happened at Burlington Township High School. I come from a part of the world with a strange, lively, and imaginative sense of humor that often displays itself when people are talking about disasters (it's a variety of gallows humor, I expect). It's barely conceivable to me that they might have thought this was soooo outrageous that it was funny, providing a much-needed aspect of comic relief to an otherwise dreadful duty. (Face it, sometimes really, really outrageous things are funny, simply because they are so absurd.) If anyone finds any evidence for that sort of thing in this case, I'm all ears.


Oh, wait, a brilliant thought has struck me. Let's see if the district has anything to say that might clear this up (...pause while your hostess googles...). Ah, yes. Here's the district's statement in its entirety (no direct page link available):


Burlington Township, NJ - Concerns have been shared regarding the emergency management exercise conducted at Burlington Township High School on March 22, 2007, in conjunction with the Burlington Township Police and Fire departments. The main goal of the exercise was to practice our lockdown and evacuation procedures, and test our abilities to respond to an emergency situation.

Any perceived insensitivities to our religious community as a result of the emergency exercise are regrettable. It was certainly not the intent to portray any group in a negative manner. We cherish, respect, and celebrate the diversity of cultures and faith that exist within our community.

Our schools have respected and supported staff members’ and students’ right to pray. Students and staff have held morning prayer vigils. There are various prayer groups within the High School as well as an established Bible club.

Oh, good. They don't hate Christians after all, or consider them alien beings, or try to make them leave their faith at home. I feel better.

It was still a very odd choice of bad guys, though. Wasn't it? And straight out of a secular-leftist playbook of the most irrational sort, too.

Notice to my local school district: Let's not try this here, shall we? And (looking at another aspect of all this) really, it's OK by me if you portray groups that have declared war on humanity in a negative manner. Sanity trumps mindless suicidal niceness any day, in my book.

hat tip: for the Burlington County Times article, I started at the second-to-last link at Bookworm Room: The Islamist War on children continues, and kept following links back to the source.

"We are what we read..."

There's a discussion on "We are what we read more than we know" over at the Albert Mohler blog, starting with quotes from a 2003 David McCullough speech and building on them.

As if my to-read list isn't long enough, McCullough's mention of books read when he was younger has me reaching for the list to add a few.

Mohler suggests that parents of boys might want to take a look at what type of reading lit a fire under McCullough when he was young.

I think there is a lot to what both men say.

"Tradition" in Newspeak

The New York Times and Mark Mossa have different ideas about the proper use of the word tradition. I'm with Mark.

Another large tsunami

The Solomon Islands, near Australia, suffered an 8-magnitude undersea earthquake followed by a tsunami. Details are still confused and sketchy, but there's no question that huge waves hit some inhabited areas. BBC coverage here.

The USGS earthquake animation map shows that the area has been hit by many very large aftershocks. (This map is updated constantly, showing activity over the last seven days.)