Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moving to a new address

Begging your pardon for any inconvenience, but I'm moving over to Please come visit me there.

My thanks to Blogger for giving me a soapbox since early 2005.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Gratitude Community

Over at Holy Experience: The Thousand Gifts, posted back in late 2006, Anne Voskamp tells of deciding to write down not the gifts she wanted, but the gifts she had, aiming for a list a thousand gifts long, and she invited others to start doing the same. She was two years into her project then, and already past a thousand gifts. (Note: Holy Experience is one of those blogs that features music that starts on its own. There is a control panel partway down the righthand sidebar.)

Hat tip: A Circle of Quiet, who just joined The Gratitude Community this fall, and is posting her list online as she compiles it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Report from a small town that's suddenly big

Barbara Curtis at Mommy Life invited a Wasilla, Alaska, resident to report on what it's like to live there these days, and serves up Our Wasilla correspondent on the aftermath of Hurricane Sarah.

The $5 book club

Russell Roberts has an idea for getting his newest book into the hands of people who "are either highly skeptical or influential (teachers)." He wants private donors to subsidize sales to that demographic. You join the book club, somebody you probably don't know gets to buy the book for $5. Such a deal.

We've had problems from teachers who think the rest of us for some vague reason owe them discounts. I've even had teachers threaten to tell their students not to shop at our bookstore if I didn't cut them a special deal. The school administrators, luckily for us, could see why we thought that was dirty pool, and with their help we've pretty much stopped getting extortion demands. So, anyway, I wish Roberts success in influencing teachers, but I hope he doesn't feed their entitlement mentality, if they have one...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Publishers and conservatives

Harry Stein muses on The Future of Conservative Books (City Journal, Summer 2008). That would be nonfiction books.

Side note: what the publishing industry (at the mammoth levels) and I call "conservative" aren't always the same thing. If I were in charge, verbal assaults would have to be called something else.

Stein has a nice overview of how big publishing houses are generally at odds with conservatives, even to the point of failing to promote books they might agree to publish, or somehow not getting around to printing enough books to meet demand should demand pop up despite their neglect. And it's not just the publishers. He also looks at the press, and trade publications, which tend to ignore those non-PC titles they don't savage. Conservatives have to work around these obstacles, which can be substantial.

hat tip: Phil at Brandywine Books

Baby announcement protocol (or a lack thereof)

A friend recently gave birth to her first baby, and we heard about it in a series of phone calls.

The first call came from a mutual friend, who heard from the new mother's sister, who had been present in the birthing room at the hospital, from which, we are told, she had kept a circle of acquaintances acquainted with all sorts of bloody and embarrassing details for a period of hours. The birth of the baby was announced along with a disrespectful report of the mother's response to the pain and some serious complications. (The sister, in case you're wondering, is childless. And she was supposed to be there as coach. I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt and write off her tactlessness and sneering to disguised fear, but I'm not having much luck, since she's known for being snarky and uncharitable, to the point it's pretty much habitual with her...)

The second call came from the husband, announcing the birth of his first child.

The third call came from the husband's mother, who, upon finding that we'd already heard from her son, said something along the lines of 'That darned son of mine. This is the third call I've made where he's beat me to it.'

Uhm. Is it just me or should the father and mother have been given a fair chance to make the first round of calls? I kind of, sort of, feel like the sister and grandmother were trespassing a bit.

(Mother and baby are home now, and doing fine.)

Ladies for Life blog and blogroll

I've just set up a Ladies for Life blog. Right now I'd like to concentrate on compiling a blogroll that lets pro-life ladies of all ages find like-minded ladies easily. So if you are a well-mannered woman or girl who believes in protecting human life from conception to natural death, please pop over and let me know in the comments if you'd like your blog or website listed. And please pass the word. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gov. Palin on "Alaska's Promise for the Nation"

Just so what I wrote in my last post isn't taken out of context, one working woman who decidedly seems able to work and simultaneously honor her marriage is Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. The September 2008 Imprimis, by the way, has an article based on a speech she made on "Alaska's Promise for the Nation" back on August 2, 2008.

From it, there is this little bit of info that I wish more people knew about (emphasis mine):
To repeat, Prudhoe Bay has produced 15 billion barrels of crude oil, and there’s more where that came from in ANWR, which is home to more than ten billion barrels of oil and nine trillion cubic feet of natural gas. I know this is a controversial issue. But most Americans do not realize that of the 20 million acres that make up ANWR, we are asking for the right to access just 2,000 of them—a mere 1/10,000th of the total area. Opening up just that sliver of ANWRwhich would create a footprint smaller than the total area of Los Angeles International Airport—could produce enough oil (an estimated one million barrels per day) to ease America’s fuel crisis and greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
The article is wide ranging, so do go read the whole thing. Alaska will be celebrating 50 years of statehood next year, and she uses that as a jumping off point for a look at how the young state is doing so far.

Reliance versus dependence

We've been having a running discussion around here (offline) about how so many marriages where the woman works outside the home either don't seem very solid, or have ripped apart entirely. Mind you, we know marriages where the wife works that appear solid (I've worked off and on through our marriage, as an example), so we've been comparing. (Discreetly, of course.)

The working hypothesis (such as it is), is that the rocky-marriage women seem to subscribe to a notion that it is, somehow, a good idea to prove that you don't 'need' your husband. We know of at least one instance where the wife actually said to her husband, "I don't need you, so you'd better be nice to me." The sad thing is, we know of several more instances where that sentiment isn't put into words, but comes through loud and clear.

One theory behind that sort of behavior, I guess, is that if you take money out of the equation, you can (supposedly) concentrate on love (or what passes as love when you take trust out of it). Another theory is that if you prove your independence, the other person has added incentive to mind his manners because he's got no other 'hold' on you.

Having been inside the feminist camp in my sometimes-somewhat-misguided youth, I think I know where these ideas have come from, but be that as it may, shall we try putting the shoe on the other foot to see if this sort of thing sounds like a good idea when examined?

Let us say, for instance, that a husband rents and furnishes an apartment, and tells his wife about it, in the form of 'I have another place to stay, so you'd better be nice to me, because I don't need to live here with you.'

Let us say, for instance, that a husband takes a cooking class, not so he can be a better cook or so that he can pitch in more often, but to remove one obstacle to a potential divorce. Let him say to her, 'I know I don't know how to cook, and therefore it would be tough for me if we got a divorce, but this cooking class will take care of that. You can divorce me and it won't hurt me much. So, now that I don't have to worry about that, let's be nicer to each other, shall we?'

Do you think the wife, in either case, would feel that the husband was committed to the marriage? That he was making the team stronger? That he loved her? That he was aiming for a contented old age together, God willing?

Would she not be likely, instead, to see it as some sort of extortion? Or at least emotional distancing?

Would she not be inclined to wonder when he was going to bolt, since he seemed to be laying the groundwork for bolting?

And yet again and again I see women in effect laying the groundwork for an 'easy' divorce (the long term damage of divorce is usually worse than they anticipate, so it's rarely as 'easy' as they hope), and then being dumbfounded and angry when their husband feels threatened, or runs for his life.

Go figure.

Anyway, if you're young and haven't figured this out, it's entirely possible to rely on a husband without being overly dependent. And when a husband and a wife can rely on each other, that's a good thing.

So, to get back to the opening point, the working theory, such as it is, is that it's not the working outside the home per se that damages the marriage. It seems to be the 'lining up circumstances and setting aside provisions to make it easier to run away from home' that's the problem. Yes? No? Maybe?

I mean, living with somebody who insists on keeping her hand on the exit door can't be easy. Or encouraging. Or comforting.

(To be clear here, I think Christians are forbidden from divorcing for any reason except adultery. I believe that marriage is a covenant. I also recognize that the broader culture has a problem seeing the wisdom of that, much less the value of it. But can we agree that a 'marriage' where the wife and/or the husband is perpetually poised for divorce is not a healthy relationship? And can we agree that the brand of feminism brewed in the 1960s and '70s tends to encourage that? And that this is not a good thing? Or very smart, for that matter?)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

'Illegal sermons'

An “illegal sermon” should be an oxymoron in a country that practices freedom of religion... - Tara Ross

Full article

hat tip: Alliance Alert

Friday, October 03, 2008

Input sought on classics for children

Gina Dalfonzo is asking teachers and parents to weigh in on what classic short stories they use for elementary-school-level reading. One of her reasons for asking is that she loathes many of the stories she was subjected to as a child. This is not to mention that several of them gave her nightmares.

As an aside, I find myself in some disagreement with Dalfonzo on a few particulars. I liked "The Gift of the Magi," and I really liked "The Necklace." But I'm not sure I ran into either of these at school. (Which would make them discoveries, not assignments. I had some really nice assignments, mind you, but there is a sweetness to discovery, I think.) I think I ran into them when I was a bit older, too, which would make a difference, I suspect.

I agree with her on "The Lady or the Tiger." I never did 'get' that. Or like it. (The Frank Stockton book Rudder Grange, on the other hand, happened into my life at just the right time for it, and I laughed my head off. It's about a couple of young things with their heads in the clouds who write a manual on setting up housekeeping, before having any experience whatsoever in setting up housekeeping, and then who marry and set out to live by their manual. But the world, alas, isn't much impressed with their theories, and won't cater to their unreasonable ideas.)

Robert Penn Warren on "Relevance"

Back in 1971, the Intercollegiate Review published an essay by Robert Penn Warren, which is republished at First Principles, and (so the lead-in to the article states) in the book Arguing Conservatism: Four Decades of the Intercollegiate Review (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2008).

The essay ties together a range of topics, from literature to language to poetry to comments on the times and philosophy. An excerpt:

The most obvious question concerning literature is: What subject matter is appropriate for our time? Almost a hundred and fifty years ago, the young Nathaniel Hawthorne sat in an upper room, totally withdrawn from the real world, and wrote stories. No doubt writing stories was bad enough, but his stories were about the distant past. Later on, still brooding over the past, Hawthorne moved to Concord. But there he had a neighbor who was really relevant. The neighbor certainly didn’t write stories, he told people how to live, and he took a very dim view of the past. He was a prophet with a crystal ball and his crystal ball did, as a matter of fact, show some important things about the future. It seems only natural that Hawthorne did not think very highly of his prophet neighbor, any more than the neighbor did of him. Hawthorne and Emerson met on the wood paths of Concord, and passed on, Emerson with his head full of bright futurities and relevances, Hawthorne with his head full of the irrelevant past. As Henry James was to say of them: “Emerson, as a sort of spiritual sun-worshipper, could have attached but a moderate value to Hawthorne’s catlike faculty of seeing in the dark.”

We revere Emerson, the prophet whose prophecies came true. But having once come true, those prophecies began to come untrue. More and more Emerson recedes grandly into history, as the future he predicted becomes a past. And what the cat’s eye of Hawthorne saw gave him the future—and relevance. He died more than a century ago, but we find in his work a complex, tangled, and revolutionary vision of the soul, which we recognize as our own. Emerson spoke nobly about relevance but Hawthorne was relevant.

The moral is that it is hard to tell at any given moment what is relevant. The thing so advertised is likely to be as unrelated to reality as the skirt length is to the construction of the female anatomy. To be relevant, to change our metaphor, merely to a symptom and not to the disease. The question is not that of the topicality of a subject. It is that of the writer’s own grounding in his time, the relation of his sensibility to his time, and paradoxically enough, of his resistance to his time. For there must be resistance, and the good work is always the drama of the writer’s identity with, and struggle against, his time. John Milton was in the profoundest way a man of the 17th century, but writing Paradise Lost, under the reign of Charles II, was he in tune with his time?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Character and competence

In Fireproof: A Drop-Everything-and-Go-See-It Film (The Rebelution, September 29, 2008), Alex Harris not only recommends a film he and his friends found powerful and moving, he reminds rebelutionaries (and the rest of us) that there's a difference between striving for excellence and demanding perfection.

"Esolen's Rules"

Via Wittingshire, a half-serious list of what to look for in a husband or wife.

Laugh and learn.

Eduardo Verastegui still saving lives

I still haven't seen Bella, or any other movie with Latin American superstar Eduardo Verastegui in it, but I'm applauding him because of this. How nice to have an actor you can look up to in real life as well as on the screen. (I know there are more of them out there, but face it, they're a bit thin on the ground these days.)

Update: Here's a video of him making his case. The video is in Spanish, with English subtitles. (hat tip: CNA)

Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, 2nd edition

Via Don Boudreaux, an updated edition of the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics is now online.

Sewing chat

Gentlemen, if you would excuse us, I'd like to ask the ladies something.

Ladies, if you sew, do you suffer some sort of strange distortion of your judgment-related faculties when you walk into a fabric store? (Feel free to answer anonymously. I know this can be embarrassing.) The subject comes up because yesterday I got it into my head that I'd like a new skirt, and there is nothing left in the stash of cloth I originally bought to make quilts with, so for the first time in years I went into a fabric store. I almost, just very nearly, got right in and right out. After a quick swoop through the store, a nice print on a black background caught my eye and I picked it up and pondered and thought it would do and even started toward the checkout. But then I wobbled. And then I went around and around the store, half-deciding on this and half-deciding on that, only to choose something else, and then unchoose it. I was having a very good time at this, you understand. I considered color after color, print after print. My imagination had a heyday.

But, finally, I decided I'd spent altogether too much time on this, especially since I'm not all that particular about what I wear (ask anybody who knows me - I don't want to be an eyesore, but fashion-concerned I'm not).

To put it another way, the time and mental effort invested in picking out the raw material for what is to be an everyday, workaday skirt had reached well-nigh ridiculous levels.

So, I decided it was time to choose.

So, I had narrowed it to two fabrics.

So (ahem), finding myself suddenly unable to choose between those two, I (cough) grabbed a bolt of cloth that hadn't even been under consideration, and took it to the checkout and bought two yards of that.

Is to laugh. Is to sigh.

Not that it hurt anything. But...

I am painfully aware that this is not the first time I have spent an insane amount of time in a fabric store, only to buy something not in the top five as chosen during that insane amount of time.

In this case, I got it home and held it in front of me while I looked in the mirror, and wondered why I hadn't noticed what an odd green the background is. And how 1970s-ish it seems. And, in general, I wondered why I bought this instead of something else.

It's not bad, you understand. It'll do. My husband seems to like it, perhaps more than I do, which is just as well because he'll see it more than anybody else, once I get it made, assuming I can manage to get it made. (I'm trying to make this, more or less, but with in-seam pockets, and midi-length. It's about as complicated as I dare tackle when attempting to sew. A talented seamstress I'm not.)

But, honestly, fabric stores seem to do something to my brain. Tell me I'm not alone in this...

Notice to local seamstresses: I found out during checkout that the fabric store is closing in a week or two. There aren't any signs or notices, but the owners are moving across the state to be closer to their kids and they're taking the store's inventory with them. I don't know anywhere else within an hour's drive to buy fabric. Do you? There are lots of online options, of course, but if you delight in browsing and feeling the fabric before you buy, your days are limited around here. Fair warning.

If I might add another sewing story...

Recently I was about to get rid of an old flannel sheet, and it suddenly struck me that there was no reason I couldn't make a winter-weight slip from it. So I folded it double, plunked a full slip on top of it, cut a rough approximation of the slip's shape, making allowance for seams, and making the straps wide and the neckline a bit higher and the slip inches and inches longer, since this is for warmth, and then sewed the two pieces together. Worked like a charm. There's enough fabric left over to make a second one. Such a deal. With a bit more attention to the top, and appropriate fabric, I think I could make a sheath dress this way. The rub there is designing the neckline and straps (or sleeves), but I've got some old regular sheets I can use for trial and error and then for a pattern, if I ever decide to get ambitious in that direction. Anyway, I couldn't find winter-weight slips, and this solved that problem nicely.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another supermom high-level politician

Meet Minnesota's Michele Bachmann: High-minded and high-heeled, by Zoe Sandvig,, Oct. 4, 2008 issue.

Bachmann is in the ranks of those who grew up Democrat, but switched.

Cult building 101

I agree with the people who think that this video is creepy. I agree with Bookworm that it reminds me a bit too much of the methods used by totalitarian leaders (not to mention other personality cults through the ages).

It's a shame, because the kids are really talented, especially the little girl who opens and closes. But what sort of parent plunks a child into this kind of leader-worship and applauds and hugs them for doing so well at it? (And are the grown-ups a bit blissed out for you in this video? Or is it just me?)

And why, pray tell, should I vote one way or another based upon the performance of persons too young to know what they're singing about? Why should anybody?

What is it with the Dems this year, with their repeated shift to the playground for spokesmen?

P.S. I shared this with a man I consider very wise, and one of the things he said is that he thought a bunch of those kids are going to look back on this with a great deal of embarrassment. To say the least.

I have to wonder how many of them, years from now, will look back on this project with at least a touch of resentment. I have a number of things in my youth and young adulthood that I've decided were best recanted, or apologized for, or otherwise filed under 'well-meant but ill-founded' - but they were my mistakes, not something my parents got me into. Whatever shortcomings my all-too-human parents had, using me to promote some agenda wasn't one of them, nor did they make the mistake of promoting me to an equal status with adults, when I was too young and ignorant and inexperienced and impressionable to hold my own with adults.

Added: Ed Morrissey says it better than most. And succinctly, too.

I'm with him. Leave the kids out of it, please.

Book note: Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Uncommon Knowledge on National Review Online has a five segment video interview with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of the Roman Catholic diocese of Denver, discussing "Politics & Catholics," and also his latest book, Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life. The segments were published September 22 through 26, 2008.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

Friday, September 26, 2008

Book note: Do Hard Things

PalmTree Pundit is also recommending the book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. (Some of you know I'm already something of a fan.) In our bookstore, we give this book primo shelf location whenever we can get it in stock (our suppliers are almost always sold out, and it's the sort of book people tend to keep or give away instead of trading in, so we're having trouble getting new or used). See The Rebelution website to follow what teens who adopt this attitude are up to.


Kim Moreland has found an institution dedicated to reviving and supporting the art of making good movies.

Speaking of movies, actor Kirk Cameron is a born again Christian and doesn't think he should kiss any woman other than his wife, even in a screen role - which means the directors of his latest starring role had to get creative during filming. Hey, when you want to do the right thing, there's usually a way to do it...

Have you seen the video from pointing out, succinctly and beautifully, that some issues matter more than others? Don't let the Catholic label frighten you off if you're not Catholic. It's for all people with a moral sense, I think.

The gentlemen over at Cafe Hayek don't seem to like the financial bailout plan. You might start at How they think vs. how I think, or Krugman gets the facts wrong, or Some bubble.

Robert at Expat Yank wishes the BBC (not to mention other news outlets) knew the difference between a bank failure and a merger. This is not to mention that he wishes reporters had a clue why laughing at someone's form of worship is not a good idea, historically speaking if nothing else.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Saturday Review of Books...

... is up and growing at Semicolon.

Short listing

Let us say, for the sake of illustration, that you visited a foreign country, and while you were there you saw a man drive his car into a park and start mowing down children. Let us say, for the sake of illustration, that the people around you told you that there was no reason to get upset about it, as long as he only mowed down people beneath a certain height. Let us say that when the cops and ambulances show up you are relieved, until you see the cops and ambulance drivers pull out tape measures, with which they measure all the people who are down. People beneath a certain height they then had thrown into dump trucks to be hauled away, whether they were dead yet or not.

Would you find this acceptable? Would it make you feel better, or worse, that the law was on the side of the driver?

Some people say that this has been the longest presidential campaign in American history. For me, it has been one of the shortest, because the Democrats these days are, officially, on the side of the driver. And I can't vote for anyone who says that individuals can be thrown away simply because they aren't deemed big enough yet.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Where I've been, where I'll be

I should know by now that when someone hands me a hard copy of a book manuscript to edit, that I should declare a blog break, because once I dive into an edit run, I don't tend to come up for air long enough to follow events, much less ponder them, much less take time to write about them. So, back on August 26, when I was handed the hard copies of three books-in-progress, I should have known I'd be essentially offline for a few weeks.

But no. I always think that somehow I will squeeze in time to blog, too. I am, it seems, endowed with more than my share of optimism, or something.

Or perhaps it's just that I've learned that every time I have declared a blog break, I have been assailed by an overwhelming obsession to blog about something...

At any rate, I am trying to polish the first three books in what should be, God willing, a four or five book fictional universe. I have changes made to the first two, and am going through them again to see how well the changes hold up. Then I have to tackle the third book. Expect blogging to be light for a while yet. You, being more organized, and probably younger, and likely more talented than me, could probably manage to blog and edit books at the same time, but I'm not too good at it.

I have also been flattened by allergies. Or we think it is probably mostly allergies. But we're not sure, so I've been in self-imposed semi-quarantine for several days, on the grounds that triggering an epidemic of respiratory malfunction is not a worthy achievement. Ugh. I feel like I'm starting to come out of it. I hope I'm coming out of it. Four hour naps put a big dent in the day. (And if anybody knows why an allergy medicine that causes me no drowsiness at all most of the time can knock me into zombieland other times, you're ahead of me.)

On the upside, I was told that I sound like Lauren Bacall now. Such a deal. (That is, of course, when I'm talking, and not sniffing, sneezing, coughing, or wheezing.)

Also on the upside, I got my marriage record today. So, once I'm well enough to tackle that chore I can try again to renew my driver's license.

Word note: maelstrom

The other day I was out for a walk just before sunset, and was rewarded with a sky full of swifts, flying as only swifts fly. Around here, I'm more used to seeing flocks of swallows with the occasional swift in it, but this was, as far as I could see, a very large flock composed entirely of swifts.

If you aren't familiar with them, swifts fly with their wings held apparently stationary for a while, and then flap like mad, and when they flap, it looks like they are using one wing and then the other, left and then right, rapidly. It doesn't look like it should work. But, of course, it does.

In with all this, they swirl and swoop and change direction a lot. So, all in all, to see a flock of them feeding is to see a wondrously turbulent sky.

I stood gaping, and tried to think of a word to describe this ballet mixed with tap dancing, done in the extra-dimensional stage of the air, and the word that popped to mind was maelstrom. It didn't seem quite right, though, because it's usually used for bad situations.

I still don't think it's quite the right word, but I looked it up when I got home, and was surprised to find that my guesses about the word origins, and therefore its meaning, were off base. Rather than being a variation on mal- something, i.e. bad something, it is (according to The Penguin English Dictionary, 2nd Edition) derived from the Dutch maalstroom, from malen to grind, and strom stream.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Undocumented citizens

I have not been able to renew my driver's license, which expires soon, because the State of Oregon wants documents from me that I haven't needed before, and I have had to send off for them. Specifically, since I changed my name when I married, I must buy a copy of my marriage record from the state, to show how I got from my birth certificate name to my married name.

"Just be glad you've only been married once," the DMV clerk told me the other day, as we shuffled through the documents I could scurry up, in (vain) hopes they'd fill the bill. "Some folks have to prove how they got from one name to the next to the next to the next."

I did not have to sign the form I sent off, which struck me as odd. Later I found I could have, if I'd wanted, spent more and made my request online. I also see online where the state is no longer issuing driver's licenses over the counter, because it has gone to face recognition technology. Oh joy. In hopes of scaring off a few terrorists and con men, we all get to be treated like criminals, and have our mugs on file with the government, incorporating the latest technological means of identifying and keeping track of people. (The Department of Homeland Security begs to reassure us, however.)

My father-in-law is not well. I might have to travel a few hundred miles to help my mother-in-law. If I don't have my marriage record when it comes my turn to help (the family's working in shifts), I can either surrender my current license and get a temporary one with no photo, or I can take my license with me and let it expire and depend on others to drive me around. Oh joy. I can be without photo ID, which has foreseeable difficulties, or I can be without a driver's license, with has an entirely different set of foreseeable difficulties. I don't even want to know about the unforeseeable difficulties. If there's a way to renew from another state, I haven't found it yet. (There are a loopholes, but none I can jump through, as far as I can see.)

I am, of course, hoping that somehow I will be properly documented in time. I am trying hard to resist popping off Comrade jokes when I make it back to the Department of Motor Vehicles office and try again. I am in my 50s. I remember when government wasn't so all-fire intrusive. Or expensive. Or big. Or bothersome.

For that matter, I like to read old books. It has not escaped my attention that old books describe a world in which governments in the United States operated, for the most part, within fences they have since busted through.

So, I was at the post office late last week, and in front of me, a woman was asking the postal clerk the best way to send a passport to her son. 'Where's he going?' the clerk asked, being a friend. 'He's not traveling anywhere. He got a job, and he's got to prove he's an American citizen. He's already got the job, but...'

Whereupon the clerk said that she'd just had to fork over $50 for a certified birth certificate for her son, who needed it to stay in college.

Whereupon I mentioned my document woes, and how the certificate issued at the wedding wasn't good enough (which is a moot point for me, because for the life of me I haven't been able to find it), and I'd had to send off $20 for the paper demanded of me.

Whereupon, with another person joining in, we jointly wondered whether the new requirements were mostly about finding a new way to rake in money from the citizenry...

I don't believe that. Not that it's the primary reason, at any rate. But I'd love to see the tallies on revenue generated at the Vital Records departments of this country, listed year by year. I'm almost willing to bet they're becoming cash cows, compared to what they used to be.

Anyway, if you live in Oregon, and are a married lady and not a feminist, you might want to plan ahead. The certificate signed after the ceremony won't help you a bit, apparently. You must buy a copy of whatever got filed with the state where you got married. In Oregon, it costs you $20 for one copy, unless you want rush delivery, which you do online and which costs you $32.50. Such a deal. I don't know how much it costs to get records from other states. I'm hoping they won't take advantage of the new rules and raise the rates. I can see some state officials doing that. "Hey, look! People have to prove how they got from one name to another now. There's no way out of it if they want to drive or have official photo ID. Heh! We got 'em now, boy! Whoo-hoo!"

Yes, I am feeling a bit cynical this afternoon. Why do you ask?

Catholic teachings on abortion

Via the Alliance Alert:

Cardinal Egan of New York issued the following statement in response to Pelosi:



Like many other citizens of this nation, I was shocked to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America would make the kind of statements that were made to Mr. Tom Brokaw of NBC-TV on Sunday, August 24, 2008. What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.

We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

Edward Cardinal Egan

Archbishop of New York

August 26, 2008

From the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

Statement by Bishop David A. Zubik on“Meet the Press” comments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

On Sunday, August 24, on “Meet the Press,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion. She said that Church teaching condemning procured abortion is somehow new and therefore unsettled. She could not have been more wrong.

Jesus proclaimed the sacredness of human life throughout his teaching and ministry. In a Roman world where abortion was commonplace, the Church proclaimed its intrinsic moral evil. The Didache, perhaps the earliest known Christian manual of moral teaching dating from the first century, rejected abortion. Early Church councils considered it one of the most serious crimes.

That teaching has remained constant and unaltered for two millennia.

As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith re-stated in 1974, “The first right of the human person is his life. … It does not belong to society, nor does it belong to public authority in any form to recognize this right for some and not others. … From the time the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being.”

The teaching of the Church on abortion is settled. And as old as the Gospels.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday fun

Not just human youngsters play in sprinklers.

And the largest known...

...carnivorous dinosaur is...?

I got it wrong. So much for my geek status. :)

Sometimes it all works out

Remember four years ago, when track star Tasha Danvers of Great Britain withdrew from Olympic contention because she was pregnant and refused to get an abortion? She's won a bronze in this year's games.

From Olympian shunned abortion; now has son & bronze medal (Baptist Press, August 22, 2008.):

Danvers reportedly was pressured by some in the track and field world to have an abortion. She admitted later that she and her American husband-coach Darrell Smith briefly considered that choice.

"[T]he thought did cross our minds as an option," Danvers told the Telegraph, a London newspaper, in May 2004 before citing Mark 8:36. "But this line from the Scriptures kept coming into my head: 'For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?'

"For me, the whole world was the Olympics. At the same time, I felt I would be losing my soul."

She gave birth to a son, Jaden, in December 2004 and started on the road back to the Olympics. Her surprising bronze medal in Beijing came after a series of health setbacks, including an injured Achilles tendon and torn hamstring muscle, had produced a disappointing pre-Olympics season.

"Don't ever give up," Danvers said after winning the bronze medal, according to The Times of London. "That's what I want the next generation to understand. Everything doesn't come up all roses all the time. That is the nature of this athletics game."

Not to mention the nature of life in general, I might add...

Full Baptist Press story

Surface versus heart

Looks can be deceiving, as Robert J. Avrech rediscovered at a restaurant in Israel (see second half of the post). The comments so far are pretty interesting, too.

Now, ladies, I'm all for dressing modestly (by all means, let us support and promote ladylike dress and manners, especially amongst godly women), but he possibly has a point, don't you think?

OK, so in my life I've misjudged people based on how they dress, so I know he has a point. And for those of you who think that by linking to Mr. Avrech's post I'm campaigning for ritual, I'm not. But, I've learned the hard way that it's as easy to misjudge somebody because he engages in ritual as it is to misjudge him because of how he dresses. Ritual can shove aside honest faith, to be sure - but it doesn't have to, and often doesn't, as far as I've seen.

In the full disclosure department, and while we're kind of on the subject, I spent about half of my childhood believing I was half-Jew, on my mother's side. It turned out that I was the victim of a disinformation campaign run by my then teen aged cousin Harvey. Harvey, it seems, got sick and tired of certain anti-Semitic relatives, and thought he'd hoist them by their own petard, by convincing very young (read: gullible, excitable, ignorant) visiting out-of-state cousins that they were part Jew, and sending them out to babble this extremely cool information far and wide. (Hey, we were all related to Anne Frank! We were descendants of oppressed people! We were survivors! We had reasons for our big noses!) To make it more fun, Harvey insisted that we were Polish Jew. Polack jokes were all the rage then, you see, and so it was doubly cool to be the butt of jokes but keep our heads held high. (Did I mention we fancied we were survivors?)

The grown-ups all feigned surprise at our claims (which irritated us, as I recall - it seemed so dishonest of them), and then denied the Jewish heritage, but Harvey convinced some of us kids that the grown-ups were afraid of being thought Jewish. Us, though, we were too brave and smart to fall for, or go along with, cowardly lies denying our heritage...

(What? None of your cousins or brothers fed you stories that you swallowed, hook, line and sinker when you were a kid? Never? Ah, c'mon...)

Harvey's hope, as I understand it, was that the anti-Semitic friends of the anti-Semitic relatives would hear that they had been lunching with closet Jews, and kick the supposedly tainted people out of their too-cozy little cliques, thereby making the anti-Semitic relatives get what they'd dished out. I never heard if the campaign worked. And I've never quite decided whether to be proud of Harvey's efforts, or mortified, or a combination thereof. Usually, I feel like it's a combination thereof, with a heavy leaning toward mortified whenever I stop to think how he kept me duped and defending him for years and years.

Anyway, for years I thought I was part Jewish, and I've never quite gotten over my fascination with the more charming of the Jewish traditions. I don't subscribe to them, or practice them, but I still like learning about them.

Years after Harvey shamelessly misled us in the name of a good cause, my mother took me to Tennessee to meet the woman for whom I'd been named.

Actually, I was given my mother's name, and she had been named for this woman, but at the time I was adamantly against having been named for my mother (no other woman or girl where I grew up was named for her mother - It Simply Was Not Done - and besides which it was embarrassing to be named for a woman who had a knack, or so I thought, for causing me embarrassment with my friends), so my parents were riding out my rebellion by claiming that I'd really been named for this woman, despite what they'd told me when I was younger.

Anyway, I met this woman, and she was a remarkable sight to see. She was poised and polished, well dressed, every inch the picture of a southern lady, and she had a voice to die for, liquid, mellow, clear, with a gorgeous accent. We went out to eat, my mother, my aunt, this remarkable creature for whom I'd been named (I was honored beyond words to be her namesake now that I'd seen her), and me. When the waitress came, I quite naturally said please and thank you and looked the waitress in the eye and otherwise treated her like a human being. What else are you supposed to do, confronted with another human being, I ask you?

"We do not talk to people like that," the gorgeous creature for whom I'd been named said, dispensing instruction, dripping scorn.

Long story short, the woman for whom my mother was named, and then for whom I was named, was not prepared to regard waitresses as anything other than subhuman, nor were blacks fully human in her book, and therefore our black waitress was doubly beneath notice. My mother and my aunt were loath to ruffle the revered elder Kathryn's feathers, all the more so because she was the guest of honor at this little dinner, and so they sat there cooing at me not to disagree with her, at least in public.

I wished I could become invisible, and afterwards I briefly tried to switch to my middle name.

I'm over it now.

But it took some getting over, I tell you.

A few years after The Dinner of The Incompatible Kathryns, I considered marrying a black man - not because he was black, but because he was himself - and in the back of my mind, while I was mulling the pros and cons of the match, I treasured the idea of inviting Kathryn Mine Elder to such a wedding.

I think Harvey, at least, would have approved of the gesture.

Anyway, looks can be deceiving.

As if you didn't know that already... :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book note: Mere Christianity, The Shack, and more

David Skeel wants to know if anyone knows a book they feel measures up to C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Here's an op-ed he wrote on the subject (also linked above): Après Lewis (Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2008). Here's a follow-up blog post by his colleague William Stuntz: More on Lewis's Uniqueness (Less than the Least, August 16, 2008).

I'm also on the hunt for books along this line, to stock in our bookstore. The bestselling book at our store right now, hands down, is The Shack, by William P. Young. People are buying it in stacks off the shelf, and special ordering it in even larger stacks. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a novel in which a man thinks he might have encountered the triune God in highly unusual forms, as he struggles to deal with the murder of his young daughter. It's a controversial book, but having read it, and after comparing notes, the team decided that Mr. Young was extremely and properly careful in how he presented the unorthodox aspects of his book, and he almost invariably maneuvered from there to doses of orthodoxy. And, although we disagree with him on a few disputable points, it's a fantastic book for trimming away nearly all the most favorite arguments against belief in God and/or God's goodness.

I can't recommend it entirely without reservations, because I'm not comfortable with God being used fictionally, much less how He is used in The Shack, and there are a few places it promotes ideas I'm not too sure are true or helpful. On the other hand, I can't tell you how much really good discussion it has generated in this community, and amongst a remarkable variety of people at that, and how many Christians who had become lukewarm are re-energized by it. And it's generating a hunger for more Christian books, even among people who wouldn't have been caught dead with an overtly Christian book before this. And then there's that whole undercutting atheist arguments thing that I mentioned above. I'm a convert. Mr. Young seems to understand where I came from, and what mental and cultural thickets I had to hack through to get where I am.

So I'm applying the 'good fruit' rule to it, even though some of it bothers me. But, I'm trying to make sure that right along it are copies of books like Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, both by C.S. Lewis, and Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris (when we can get our hands on a copy of Do Hard Things, that is - it's also a bestseller around here, but our suppliers can't seem to keep up with orders, and so our orders get pared or back ordered). We also have Bibles in stock pretty much as a matter of course. What else would you suggest we stock, for us to recommend to readers of The Shack?

All on its own it's revved up demand for Pilgrim's Progress (which is mentioned in a cover blurb). I think this is wonderful, because The Shack and Pilgrim's Progress are radically different books, with Pilgrim's Progress providing the "narrow path" emphasis that The Shack lacks, and The Shack emphasizing a personal relationship with God, something that isn't altogether evident in the 'going to heaven' story in Pilgrim's Progress (as far as I remember).

What else? This book has opened the door wide for some good Christian apologetics. Name some. I prefer the mere Christianity types, that emphasize the body of Christ and the universal church, but I'm amiable to stocking denominational books from across the spectrum if they don't trash other believers or obsess over doctrinal distinctives.

P.S. Open note to whoever is in charge of the Blogger spell checker. Triune and distinctives are words. Really. I don't mind the second one being flagged, because it's not used much, so it's probably more likely that someone would mean distinctive, and therefore should be notified that a double-check was in order. But triune?

(Maybe they need to read The Shack? It's heavy on triune-ness. Which I doubt is a word, but you get the drift, I hope.)

Things are a bit crazy around here

I am laughing as I type this. Life has been so swirly and busy and crazy and grief-struck that I haven't even tried to get online for a week. So, this morning I thought I'd better at least check email, and then I thought I'd get online and say howdy. After getting kicked off once (the tech guys promise they're working on the connection problems - I hear talk of overloads which must be addressed...) I finally made it to Blogger. Blogger has been doing all sorts of tweaking since I was last on. There is, for instance, a new dashboard. Fine. I can handle a new dashboard. For that matter, it looks pretty straightforward. But my mouse pointer disappears every time it passes over a button on the dashboard. To make a new post, I couldn't click the new post button (aka 'Create') but had to go to 'Edit Posts' and work my way around to here from there.

Why this struck me as funny, I don't know. But it did.

It's certainly more humorous than much of what's been going on around here. This weekend, a man was shot to death a couple blocks from here, as the crow flies (taking roads, you have to round a few corners). The last time homicide detectives had anything to investigate in this town, it was 16 years ago, if the news reports are right. We don't even have homicide detectives. Some had to be imported for the occasion.

As strange as it sounds, I'm not sure yet if I know either the dead man or the man in jail on murder charges. They both have common first names, and this is a part of the world that doesn't use full names much. In fact, we don't even use first names much, in the general course of things. I'm guessing it's a holdover from Wild West days, when it was considered risky as well as rude to insist upon knowing somebody's name. Or perhaps we've just reinstituted the old, old ways. In a sense, we're a Giles the Butcher society, you might say. In our case, it's more like Jim At The Hardware Store, to take an example. Except, in that case, you have to go a step further, because at the hardware store, there are multiple Jims. In informal usage, they are Old Jim, Young Jim, Big Jim. This gets a bit ridiculous when it comes to the matter of obits, which are generally put out under legal names. I can't tell you how often we listen to an obit on the radio and then turn to each other and ask 'Is that somebody we know?'

We do use full names in some situations and with some people, you understand. It's just that we're perfectly content to let most folks operate without them, if they like. It's just the style of the place.

While we're on the subject, I don't know why that "everybody knows everybody in a small town" myth gets so much mileage. We have our circles and cliques and workplace acquaintances like everybody else. Plus, we have a lot of people who like to keep to themselves. Plus, we have a lot of turnover. It's hard to make a living in a small town, and people bail out all the time, especially starry-eyed newcomers who had blithely assumed they'd be able to find a job once they moved to a place because it was quiet and appealing. There are reasons we have lots of telecommuters and online sellers in our midst, believe me.

I am acquainted with the man interviewed on television and identified as the dead man's best friend. I haven't seen him or his wife yet, though. I'm not quite sure what to say to them when I see them, except 'I'm sorry to hear about your friend.' They're Catholics, which helps some. I'm not Catholic, but as fellow Christians we can look at each other and say 'it will all come out all right, in the only ways that really matter' and know at the deepest levels it's true. That doesn't eliminate the grief, by any stretch, but having God to turn to and to lean on is a good thing in a mad world.

This is, as it happens, the third killing I've been at the far edges of in about as many years. One of the soldiers kidnapped, tortured, and killed in Iraq was the grandson of a former neighbor of ours, who had his store across from our bookstore when we had it downtown in a mall. When I ran into the grandfather a few weeks afterward, I said I was sorry to hear what had happened, and then just stood there while he poured out his anger and his grief. It was mostly anger at that point, and most of it aimed at heartless and/or sloppy journalists. Then, this past winter, I sat and listened as relatives of a young mother murdered a few hundred miles from here told me what they knew about it: how she'd gone to use a neighbor's phone, and happened to be there when a gang decided to wipe out some supposed doublecrossers, and burst in, firing. This young woman wasn't in on whatever disputes were going on, they said. She just caught bullets meant for somebody else. At any rate, in both those cases I didn't need to say much. What they wanted was somebody to listen, and I can do that, I guess. It hurts. But obviously not as much as losing a loved one.

As for this weekend's shooting, somehow I missed the furor while it was going on, and it went on quite a while. The man was shot before noon on Saturday, in the front yard of his home. The cops arrived a few minutes later. The body wasn't removed until something like 4 or 5 Sunday morning, or so I understand.

You would think, this being the first killing in nearly a generation, that this would be the talk of the town. But I haven't heard even a snippet of conversation about it while out and around on my normal errands, or even at church. I expect that to change today, when the weekly paper gets solidly into circulation, and people who don't know the people involved and who don't listen to the radio get in on things. (Pause while I look up the story online to see how the newspaper handled it... Hey, now I know where both men worked, which helps some, but I still can't picture them. The story is handled professionally. Yay. The radio reports have been trying to outguess the jury, and have been calling it a homicide. The newspaper reporters have better lawyers, or better training, or more sense, or actually believe in 'innocent until proven guilty', or something. They're doing it right, at least in this article. I worked as a newspaper reporter for a number of years and although there were times I could have strangled the legal eagles or the publisher or the managing editor or the folks who wrote the style book, and although there were times I felt a perfect fool using what struck me as 'weasel words,' since then I've sat on a jury that brought in a verdict of not guilty by reason of self defense in a case where attempted murder was charged, and I know now, without question, why those rules are in place. Before it was a laudable standard, but mostly theoretical. But when you're one of the very few people who has to sift through sworn testimony and physical evidence, and then bring in a verdict not expected by people who have been primed for a guilty verdict by the press, it's no joke. And I can't even imagine what it was like for the defendant and his family.)

Anyway, on top of this, my father-in-law fell and broke a hip and we've been sweating that out. We were told, as he was taken into surgery, that at his age it was about a 50-50 chance that the surgery would kill him.

He's been up and walking already, and he's now in a nice rehab center that specializes in that sort of thing. Things are still a bit dicey, mostly because he's in his 80s, but all in all he seems to be doing amazingly well, so now we've switched to joking about how we hope he's not talking his roommate's ear off...

And then we got word that a nice young man we know was in a motorcycle accident and at last report is in a coma in a hospital out of the area...

There's more, but I'm going to go to work now.

...I am now laughing again. I went to hit the 'Publish Post' button, and my pointer disappeared. But, it stays on at the very border of the button. Maybe that will work? Testing. Testing...

Update: It occurs to me, rereading the above, that I might leave the impression that the killing in the neighborhood hasn't affected me. It has. I've had my weeping over it. I am heartsick when I think what the friends and families of everyone involved are going through. But since it seems to have been a personal argument gone bad, and since there is no indication that any sort of culture of violence seems to be brewing in the vicinity, I don't see any need to go out and buy extra bolts for the door, or stop taking walks, or otherwise feel that the town itself has become less safe. Plus, I'm dealing with my own family emergencies at the moment, which kind of sort of pushes this to the side a bit, whether it should or not.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Technical difficulties

Getting on the Internet, and staying on, has been a hit and miss proposition around here this month. I've only been kicked off a couple of times today, which is really good by recent standards, so if posts suddenly appear on dates before now, it's because I've finally managed to finish a post and get it up.

Also, I'm back to having extra lines appear in drafts. For no apparent reason, I'll have two or three lines between paragraphs. I've figured out how to take them out, but I'd rather they never imposed themselves in the first place. Is this a Blogger quirk? Does anybody know a solution? A possible solution? It's not a big problem, but it is time consuming and annoying.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Old potatoes

I went to make potato salad this morning, but found that some of the potatoes had gone moldy, and others had dark spots that went deep into the potato. So I said phooey on that batch of potatoes and threw them away. Not wanting mold in the house, I tied up the trash bag and hauled it to the dumpster at the end of the block.

En route, I met a retired gentleman, who called out "Here comes trouble!" when he saw me. As far as I know, that's how he greets everybody he considers a friend. (This is the American West. We have our characters.) I told him, just to pass the time of day, that I'd gone to make potato salad but the potatoes had gone bad, to which he replied that I sounded like his wife.

How so? I asked, when the spoiled veggies were properly dumped.

'She's such a tightwad,' he said. 'She always buys big bags of potatoes, but we don't use many. I'd like potatoes every day, but she doesn't like to fuss with them. They're the easiest thing to make, really, but... well... whatever. The thing is, she never waits until we're out before she buys more, but she always cooks the oldest ones first, and so we never eat anything but old potatoes.'

At this point he faltered, suddenly realizing, I think, that he was telling tales on his wife, and possibly sounding like he was accusing me of always feeding my husband old potatoes (which I don't). He shifted his eyes away from mine and muttered, apologetically, 'Anyway, that's where she is this morning. Making potato salad, to use up some of them old potatoes.'

Uhm. I hope I don't have to say this, but frugality ill applied is not a blessing, ladies. And, gentlemen, neither is being distressed by something in one's household but not addressing it. Privately. Politely.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pale face

Last week I had a bit of dental surgery. I got one broken tooth fixed, and another broken tooth taken out. There wasn't enough of the latter tooth to fix, nor was there enough to get hold of to pull out all in one piece. (Not that the dentist didn't give it a go. I had no idea how much twist-factor the human head has built into it. I think I was happier not knowing...) Finally he drilled the tooth into pieces, and took it out slick as anything.

I declined an offer of prescription painkiller. The dentist told me that alternating Tylenol and Advil at three hour intervals was just as good. I got home to discover that in all my pre-op preparations - laying in of homemade soups, etc. - I had utterly forgotten to lay in pain pills. I had on hand enteric coated aspirin (not a good choice for anything involving active bleeding, I thought), and some generic Tylenol-type pills, which had expired in March. Not feeling up to a trip to the drugstore, and my husband being sick in bed (but valiantly offering to drag himself to the drugstore if I needed anything), about four and a half hours after the surgery I took a couple of the outdated generic Tylenol-type pills. Four and a half hours later, I took another couple. That was it. That was all I needed, and I wasn't sure I needed that. Amazing. I expected to be flattened with pain. Didn't happen. (I am now stocked with fresh pills, btw, and the outdated ones are in the trash. I don't like pushing my luck with old pills.)

I did have some face swelling, but not enough to stop people in their tracks when they saw me out and about on my usual errands. Instead I got puzzled looks, as if they could tell something was different about me, but they didn't know what.

I also, late in the game, developed a bruise on my face. But it looked less like a bruise than a smudge.

So, the other night my husband was heading for our gas station cum bookstore, which shares a parking lot with the grocery store. We'd arranged that I'd ride along and go get groceries while he got his chores done at the gas station. A few minutes before heading out, I looked in the mirror, decided I didn't like looking like a middle-aged woman who doesn't know how to wash her strangely asymmetrical face, and went digging for some face powder I thought I remembered buying a couple years ago when I got a rash or something. (I wear make-up less often than I take pain pills. These are just not things I have on hand except for special occasions.) I found the face powder, and remembered another reason I don't use it besides not liking to mess around with make-up. Being quite fair, I had bought the palest face powder. This was a mistake. It is paler than I am. By quite a bit.

I looked in the mirror again, and wished that the bruise had the decency to look like a bruise instead of a dirty face. Wishing didn't help anything. So I reasoned that if I put on the powder lightly, it might sort of kind of even out my face color a bit and thereby, logically, make the bruise less noticeable.


I looked in the mirror after I'd done the deed, and saw a sickly pale middle aged woman who didn't know how to wash her strangely asymmetrical face. Worse yet, something about taking away some of the pink tones made the bruise look more like dirt than ever.

But my husband was calling that it was time to go and so I laughed at myself and went. Nobody commented on my face, one way or another, so I guess it wasn't too bad overall. But when I got home I took another gander in the mirror, and laughed out loud. My 'fix' had definitely made things worse. I went to the kitchen still chuckling at my misstep, and told my husband that I'd tried to hide my bruise with face powder, but thought I'd only made things worse by making myself look paler.

My husband about melted in relief. "I hadn't wanted to say anything," he said. "But when I dropped you off at the store I thought you looked really pale and it concerned me. I didn't notice the make-up..." Of course he didn't notice the make-up. There was no reason for him to think about make-up. I almost never wear make-up. And I'd put this on lightly, and adeptly for me.

Oh great. I made myself look worse and I scared my hubby. A twofer mistake.

(In case you are wasting brainpower wondering how I could break two teeth, I was eating a salad. The salad was composed mostly of iceberg lettuce. There was nothing hard in it. But I managed to bite down just wrong. It was one of those things where you know just before it happens that something bad is going to happen, but somehow you can't stop it. For an instant, there was terrific strain, and then two molars, one above the other, exploded into pieces. This was back in November. I could have been regaling you since then with stories of trying to get a dentist appointment in this town. I'm sure that if I had lied and claimed to be in agony, this could have been fixed before now, but I wasn't in agony, so I kept getting bumped. Finally a new dentist moved to town, and I managed to be one of his first patients here. I was pleased to see that he was a white-haired gentleman instead of a kid just out of school, but I didn't know that until after I'd arrived for my first appointment. I was braced for being the patient of a rookie, if it came to that.)

Friday, August 08, 2008

This year's kitten

The kitten noise underneath the front porch has turned out to be an only kitten. It's a bit on the wild side yet, and quite stand-offish as far as dealing with people, but we're working on that. It thinks it owns the back yard, and its poor mother keeps having to call it off from trying to take on the mule deer. I am presuming that, given enough time, it will figure out that deer are dangerous, and we're not. But for now I usually see it in flashes, running for its life when it sees me. (And never mind that the grown cats it hangs out with are affectionate to the point of being pests. While it trusts them on other matters of judgment, I guess it's decided they're deluded when it comes to humans.)

Seen out the window this morning...

Usually we only get two mule deer fawns at a time (and sometimes only one), but sometimes we have three, as you can see. They're getting pretty big (that's a full size doe they're with), but they still have spots.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Christian filmgoers ask to consider what (and why) they applaud

Gina Dalfonzo thinks too many evangelicals are a bit too free with their praise for movies like Facing the Giants. I didn't see the movie. If you did, you might want to weigh in on the discussion.

For that matter, the general discussion she's trying to have (if I understand her correctly), is that by not paying enough attention to the sort of quality that can be recognized by the wider culture, some Christians are in danger of feeding the idea that Christians lack taste or smarts. So you might want to weigh in whether you saw the movie or not.

In a semi-related note, in our early days as booksellers, my husband and I cringed at most of the offerings from publishers of Christian fiction.

My, how things have changed. These days, Christian fiction has branched out, deepened, grown up, and a surprising percentage of it has terrific shelf appeal - and impressive sales figures. Over the past few years a lot of people have raised the bar, and it shows. See, for instance, the latest offerings from Bethany House. Or even from Barbour, known in years past for 'bargain books'.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Nancy Ann at Femina looks at the difference between contentment and discontent.

Somewhere along the way I came to pretty much the same conclusions. Thank goodness. I see people who haven't figured it out, and they're not as happy as they might be.

hat tip: PalmTree Pundit

Monday, July 28, 2008

Book note: William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner, by William Hague

Michael Gerson recommends a new biography of William Wilberforce, and he recommends it rather strongly:

Hague's life of Wilberforce should be read by every student of politics, to understand why mere prosperity and mere security will never be sufficient goals of evangelical political involvement. And this book should be read by every politician, to see what feats of honor are possible even in a very political life.
I haven't seen the book yet, but I applaud Gerson's sentiment.

hat tip: Gina Dalfonzo

The makers of 'Facing the Giants' tackle marriage in 'Fireproof'

The maverick moviemakers who made Facing the Giants are coming out with a new movie this fall, which has been getting enthusiastic response in early screenings, according to Michael Foust of Baptist Press. Like Facing the Giants, the movie features a volunteer cast and crew, many of them members of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. The movie stars Kirk Cameron and Erin Bethea. The official movie site is here. There is a companion website: Opening date for the movie is Sept. 26.

Parents, please note that although the movie addresses adult issues - it's about a marriage that seems to be heading for divorce - the producers have reportedly taken pains to make sure the most sensitive issues go over the heads of most kids. See the Foust article linked above for more information.

Iran buying U.S. wheat

Iran and other parts of the Middle East are having a drought, which is one reason Iran is importing wheat from the United States for the first time since 1981, according to today's Northwest Farm and Ranch Report.

While looking for the USDA original report cited in the report linked above, I stumbled across this: USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Commodity Intelligence Report (May 9, 2008): IRAN: 2008/09 Wheat Production Declines Due to Drought, which has just all sorts of maps and graphs and other details.

It amazes me what you can find on the internet these days.

Here's a Wheat Letter for July 24, 2008, in which Joe Sowers of the U.S. Wheat Associates, quoted in the Northwest Farm and Ranch Report above, expands on the Iranian wheat situation. (And, yes, I did notice that the wheat expert's last name is Sowers. Some people do have names that fit especially well with their professions...) I guess the Wheat Letter will do as well as the USDA report, at least for me, for now.

Trick training horses

When I had horses, I taught them a few tricks - is there any girl with a horse who doesn't teach it a trick or two or three? :) - but nothing like those shown at

Via Jeff Keane and Susan Allen's July 28, 2008, American Rancher radio report. They also recommend a visit to, (which seems to be still under construction).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday fun

My husband and I have been under the weather this week, and I'm still feverish and aching, so I won't be blogging much more than this today, if at all. But I can't resist sharing these videos featured at Kim Komando's website, that my husband brought to my attention to cheer me up.

I don't think I could stand to watch an acrobatic performance like this in person - I'd spend too much time cringing behind my hands, too afraid to look, too worried I might see somebody slip and kill himself. But, wow. I can't believe people can actually do these things. Never mind the athletic difficulties (as daunting as those are) - how in the world do they find the nerve to try???!!!

Then there's the video of a crow that adopted a kitten, with very happy results. No, really.

And, then, how can you get a whole litter of puppies to fall asleep at once?


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Margaret Thatcher's legacy (and, an art question)

The June 2008 Imprimis features a look at Margaret Thatcher's achievements and legacy, presented by John O'Sullivan, the author of The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World.

An excerpt (reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College):

When Lady Thatcher revived the British economy, she was reviving profound social virtues that the British had once exemplified to the world—the Thatcherite “vigorous virtues” described above. In 1979, they seemed utterly destroyed by 50 years of statism and socialism. In fact, they had merely been driven underground by government over-regulation and intervention.

As James C. Bennett has observed, it took only a few years of Lady Thatcher’s application of free market solutions for these virtues to become vigorous again. Once that happened, it took only a few more years for those revived virtues to transform Britain from the sick man of Europe into the world’s fourth largest economy.

Deep social patterns can rarely be extirpated altogether. Cultural transformations of nations and societies imposed by governments nearly always fail in the long run. The old ways only look dead; in reality, they are merely dormant. They are the resources of our civilization and they can be revived to meet new challenges.

If Lady Thatcher demonstrated that truth in matters economic, she believes today that the resources of the Anglo-American political tradition of ordered liberty are not exhausted either. She believes that the virtues of that tradition—dispersed authority, open debate, popular sovereignty, spontaneous social evolution—are not dead, merely dormant. Indeed, they are flourishing in those new democracies, such as Estonia and Poland, where they have been introduced since 1989 (and where economic success is far more obvious than in countries that have clung to more centralized models). They are flourishing too in the English-speaking world outside Britain—notably in the U.S., Australia, and a reforming India. And they offer the best hope for Third World countries emerging from poverty and backwardness into a world of globalized opportunities.

Ironically, however, these virtues are threatened in Britain by growing statist regulation under New Labour; by the nation’s absorption into a European political structure built upon a very different tradition of constructivist rationalism; and by the failure of many conservatives to see the dangers in a European and global governance that lacks democratic accountability and threatens liberal freedoms.

A side note: the speech from which the article is adapted was given at the dedication of the first statue of Margaret Thatcher to be erected in the United States. It's not the sort of statue I'm used to, for major world leaders. But perhaps the informality will grow on me? Perhaps there will be a trend in seated statues, and it won't seem so strange? It's not that I dislike it, you understand, but I'm not sure that I much like it, either. Give me a while to get used to it, and then I'll decide what I think.

I do like the quote on the plaque with it, as recounted in the article linked just above:

Sculpted by Bruce Wolfe, the statue is over six feet in height and depicts Thatcher sitting in a pensive posture. A plaque on its base includes a quote from a 1990 Thatcher speech:

"The new world of freedom into which the dazzled Socialists have stumbled is not new to us. What to them is uncharted territory is to us familiar and well loved ground. For Britain has returned to those basic truths and principles which made her great—personal liberty, private property and the rule of law, on which democratic freedoms everywhere are based. Ours is a creed which travels and endures. Its truths are written in the human heart."

If anyone can find links to pictures of the other statues made for Hillsdale's Liberty Walk I'd appreciate it. It's nothing more than idle curiosity on my part, but I want to see how George Washington and Winston Churchill are depicted, compared to Thatcher. And I guess there's a Thomas Jefferson statue coming later this year? How's he posed, I wonder?

(Pause while I try googling a few more search phrases...) Semi-success! Here's a picture of the model of the Churchill statue, but I don't know if they really went with this idea. It's not your typical heroic stance, either, but I kind of like it. Sort of. (Again, I think I need some time to adjust to it, or something.)

I don't want to spend any more time on this just now, but if you stumble across links for photos of the other statues, please drop a note in the comments. For that matter, I'd be interested in evidence that this somewhat informal style is (or isn't) a wider trend in public sculptures of famous people. (Certainly the recently unveiled statue of Adam Smith in Edinburgh isn't along those lines.) Thanks.

Good-natured President and press

Someday I'll figure out how to embed videos here (maybe), but for now please hop over to this video of President Kennedy fielding questions from the press. I'll bet you laugh out loud at least once.

hat tip: neo-neocon

Stratospheric proposal

James Pethokoukis, writing at the Capital Commerce column at U.S. News & World Report, has a July 18, 2008, column under the headline, Dissecting Al Gore's $5 Trillion Energy Plan, which begins:
In a speech yesterday here in Washington, Al Gore challenged the United States to "produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun, and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years. This goal is achievable, affordable, and transformative." (Well, the goal is at least one of those things.) Gore compared the zero-carbon effort to the Apollo program. And the comparison would be economically apt if, rather than putting a man on the moon—which costs about $100 billion in today's dollars—President Kennedy's goal had been to build a massive lunar colony, complete with a casino where the Rat Pack could perform.
Read the rest.

hat tip: Russell Roberts, who notes: "...Pethokoukis gives Al Gore the benefit of the doubt and assumes that the costs are linear. I don't think they would be..."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Congratulations to Jonathan Witt...

... upon having his book translated into Japanese.

That would be a bit mind-bending, I think, to see your book in print, but not in a print anything like that used for your native tongue.

Some history of Zorro

Lars Walker just obtained a DVD of the 1920 silent movie, The Mark of Zorro, starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., which gives him an excuse to expound on silent movies, and on the history of the Zorro character.

For history of the 1950s Zorro television show starring Guy Williams, visit Bill Cotter's website.

Trying to sweep religion under the rug...

... can make you look silly in the long run, if you're a journalist covering a sincere Catholic like Ingrid Betancourt, one of the hostages recently rescued in South America after years in captivity.

Slam repairs

When I was in high school, I was chosen to attend a special summer school for chemistry students, held at The College of Idaho. I was absolutely in awe of the professors and the science labs. At first.

Then one day, after explaining to us how expensive and sensitive the equipment was that he was entrusting to our use, a professor left a gaggle of us with it and went off to another room to work with other students. Soon after that, the machine jammed or otherwise malfunctioned. I can't remember for sure if it was a piece of equipment that used lasers, or what, but I remember we were terrified twice over: first because we weren't sure if we were in mortal danger (it seemed likely), and second because we had just been told what an incredibly sophisticated and expensive machine this was. That we had no idea how we'd broken it didn't help; there is no clueless like the cluelessness of wondering how you messed up a scary bit of technology while being extremely careful and cautious.

Being teens, and terrified, we kicked up a bit of a fuss, as I recall. There were screams, and people running for the professor.

The professor came in, took stock, told us to calm down, and then picked the equipment off the table and slammed it on the floor a couple of times. He set it back on the table, ran a couple of tests on it, declared that it did this all the time and it should be all right now, and then left us, our mouths hanging open in disbelief.

It worked fine after that.

I have since found that a lot of guys 'fix' things this way, sometimes successfully. Or they happily employ "a judicious use of his most basic hardware tool for such things, his fists", as James M. Kushiner puts it.

In the linked post, Kushiner laments that fewer things built these days can be fixed that way. I'm inclined to think he has a point. (Although, to be sure, I've been surprised again and again what can be fixed that way. Not that I recommend it, necessarily, you understand. :)

"Nobody is a nobody"

Via Fr. Neuhaus on When Life Matters by James M. Kushiner at Mere Comments, here's the text of Richard John Neuhaus's closing address at the annual convention of the National Right to Life Committee held recently in Arlington, Virginia.

I'd file it under "Rousing Calls to Fight the Good Fight."

A snippet:

The contention between the culture of life and the culture of death is not a battle of our own choosing. We are not the ones who imposed upon the nation the lethal logic that human beings have no rights we are bound to respect if they are too small, too weak, too dependent, too burdensome. That lethal logic, backed by the force of law, was imposed by an arrogant elite that for almost forty years has been telling us to get over it, to get used to it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Christians taking a stand

Meet Jeff Carr, who is leading anti-gang efforts in LA. When you're over there, I suggest you follow the link to the Steve Lopez column in the July 9, 2008, Los Angeles Times.

Meet Megan and Mandy Chapman, who were targeted by the ACLU, but didn't back down.

An 'average' wildfire year, so far, sort of

Having been a bit too close to a few, I know there is nothing "average" or otherwise all that statistically interesting about a wildfire if you're close to it. But...

Having said that, what with the rash of fires in California this year, I was surprised to see at the National Interagency Fire Center website that as of July 12 (the page updates daily), this year is actually just slightly below the five-year average in acres burned in the United States. This year: 3,024,762 acres. Five-year average for this date: 3,164,599 acres.

When you look at the ten-year average for acres to date on July 12, though, it's another story: 2,564,126 acres. (There were some really good early fire seasons in there, which skewed the average down quite a bit, like 1,031,086 acres through July 12 in 2003, and 1,254,208 acres through July 12 in 2001.)

Another website with official wildfire news and information is InciWeb.

(P.S. The National Interagency Fire Center is commonly called Nif-see, from its initials: NIFC.)

Tony Snow, dead at 53

Tony Snow, a class act in the worlds of journalism and public service, has died. My condolences to his family and friends.

There are tributes all over today, and rightfully so. To get you started: A Good and Impressive Man by Fred Barnes.

The power of a personal letter

Sometimes it's really nice to get a letter that's written especially for you.

Exhibit A: f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Amy Krouse Rosenthal Is Wonderful (make sure you check out the photo).

Related: Here's my thank you note to another writer, for what a letter from her did for some kids in my hometown.

The Saturday Review of Books...

... is up and growing at Semicolon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book note: Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris

I finished reading Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations today.

Is it too early to start nominating books for Best Book of 2008 honors?

The book was written by Christian teens primarily for Christian teens, but I think it has broader appeal, and application, than that. The Rebelution is a culture changing movement that appears to be catching on around the world, inspiring young people to crawl out of the cultural swamps of today and to live better, fuller, healthier, more meaningful lives than society in general expects them to. This book is about The Rebelution, and its principles, and about some of the kids who have launched themselves into life as Rebelutionaries. It's a well-written, entertaining book that's full of food for thought and great true stories.

See also: The Rebelution blog.

Book note: Death of an Ambassador, by Manning Coles

Manning Coles wrote some of my favorite spy novels (along with a few less worthy ones, such as Without Lawful Authority, which I wouldn't recommend even though it has its moments).

Recently, somebody traded in one I hadn't seen before: Death of an Ambassador, copyright 1957. So of course I read it before setting it out for sale. I rank it toward the top of the Tommy Hambledon novels. My husband, who read it after I did, ranks it near the middle, but on the bottom end. But we both enjoyed it overall.

Much of the action takes place in Paris, with Hambledon trying to keep up with the energetic Letord of the Sûreté, and vice versa (the two of them make quite a team). There is action aplenty, and the inventive plot twists for which Coles is famous, but what I really enjoyed were the sly observations of life in the thinly veneered world of diplomacy, and commentary on international relations and on society and human beings in general. Like many of the early books - particularly the World War II books - in the Hambledon series, I thought this one hoped to leave the reader perhaps slightly less gullible, as well as entertained. But mostly it's a rollicking adventure story.

Manning Coles is a pseudonym for the team of Adelaide Frances Oke Manning (1891-1959) and Cyril Henry Coles (1899-1965). Death of an Ambassador came out about the same time they were turning out ghost story novels under the Francis Gaite pseudonym which are also long on observations about life and society. The ghost novels have also been published under the Manning Coles byline.

Previous related post: Good Book: No Entry, by Manning Coles

Rumor control


Our bricks and mortar bookstore is inside a gas station, which we lease. Until a few days ago, the gas station had a very tall sign upon which the prices were displayed. It was an old sign. It didn't look good. And it was horribly difficult to keep up to date. To change the prices, someone had to use an insanely long rod with a suction cup at one end, and, one by one by one etc., remove and replace numbers. It took rather a lot of strength and coordination to get the job done. I couldn't do it. My husband couldn't do it. Most of our employees couldn't do it, either. The ones that could do it sometimes hated to do it, and I can't blame them. In good weather it was hard. In bad weather, particularly very cold weather, it was the sort of job that could reduce a grown man to tears and/or animosity toward the universe. In all weather conditions, it was hard to not lose grip on the numbers at the wrong time - i.e. before they got delicately maneuvered into place. The numbers were prone to breaking even without falling horrendous distances to the ground. It was not a happiness-promoting system.

So, the other day, the parent company had the sign taken down. I don't have proof to show you that some of us danced jigs of joy to have it gone, but I assure you, we were happy. Very happy. We don't know what they're going to do eventually about replacing it, but we have petitioned, wholeheartedly, for them to save their money and let us just use the reader boards or put up a short sign, or something like that. Anything, you understand, that doesn't require us to go back to the insanely long rods with suction cups, which only a few people can master, and nobody likes.

So, today my husband told me that of the responses he's gotten so far to the sign being gone, about half are people saying how much better it looks around there now, and the other half are asking if we're going out of business.

No, folks. We got rid of an eyesore that cost us grief and money to keep up. That's it.

If you hear any rumor to the contrary, will you please squash it? Thank you.

In the meantime, I think I'll go and polish the windows and otherwise do whatever I can think of to make it clear that we're a going concern. We are even considering getting fresh, colorful banners. We've never had banners, but the sort that you see at car lots are pretty cheap. And they'd look new. Which might take people's minds off the old sign. Maybe.

If you can successfully anticipate the wild leaps of logic to which people are prone, you are way ahead of me. It never occurred to me, not once, that people might think we were going out of business because we're taking steps to improve and update the appearance of the place.

Silly me.