Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leap Day

Are you planning anything special for Leap Day? We're hoping to watch a DVD of The Pirates of Penzance in honor of the day (the plot of the play revolves around a young man born on Leap Day), but otherwise I haven't lined up anything special. How about you?

U.S. Department of State career information

Checking my blog stats at SiteMeter, I noticed an ad for upcoming Foreign Service Officer Tests. Clicking through, and then around, I came to U.S. Department of State Careers - Home, where (in a short audio/visual presentation that starts on its own) Secretary of State Rice invites applicants to "Show the world a side of America it has never seen. You."

Well, I'm doing that with my blog. The pay isn't there, but neither are the supervisors and orders, and infighting and ...

OK, seriously, I'm sure this country could always use good men and women to represent us. So if you're an upstanding American citizen and are interested, you might want to explore the options. The ball's in your court...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book note: The Blind Colt, by Glen Rounds

Most of The Blind Colt by Glen Rounds, c. 1941, 1960, is the sort of action dear to a boy's heart: life and death struggles out in the wild, a ten-year-old boy holding his own against opposition and calamity, that sort of thing. But it has its quieter moments and reflective side, too:

The blind colt began learning early the thousands and one things that a colt must know before he can take care of himself. Because he was blind he not only had to learn the things all colts must learn, but many others besides. For a week or so he stuck pretty close to the mare's side, and she saw to it that they stayed out where the ground was level with nothing for the colt to run into.

So it was only natural that he soon came to the conclusion that all the world was flat, and that he could travel safely anywhere.

What he did not know was that this Badlands country was criss-crossed and honeycombed with gulleys and washouts of every size, shape, and description, and that sooner or later he would have to learn about them.

In the copy I have, there's an author's note at the end, where Mr. Rounds explains that back in 1917/18, they had a blind range colt on their ranch in Montana. And, further, his father said that when he was a boy, he had a blind mare for a "Sunday horse."

So, while it's definitely fiction, The Blind Colt has its basis in fact.

More on William F. Buckley

I like this Lars Walker post on his first encounter with a William F. Buckley book. Or the cover copy, at any rate... Heh.

Hillsdale College, which has all of Buckley's writing online, notes his passing.

Author asks mothers for input

At Mommy Life: Book on motherhood: your input needed, Barbara Curtis writes:

My friend Ann Stewart - a writer who lives a few miles from me - is writing a book called Preparing My Heart for Motherhood: A Shower of Wisdom to Treasure - following on the heels of her Preparing My Heart for Advent and Preparing My Heart for Lent.

I kinda like how Motherhood ranks up there with times for spiritual reflection - only it lasts so long!!!!

She is looking for input from you...

Go to Barbara's post for more info, and discussion.

William T. Sali on "Life"

I was following links around (you know how that goes), and wound up on the website for Congressman Bill Sali of Idaho. On the issues page, I clicked on "Life" and found this statement, which I thought was a good one:

President Ronald Reagan said, “Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born.”

Each of us is here today because our mothers chose to let us live. They might not have expected or even wanted us at first, but they protected us when we were most vulnerable. Yet today, like every other day, nearly 3,000 mothers are making the decision to end the lives of the small children they carry.

We each have a responsibility to come next to these women and help them protect their children. We must be there for our sisters, our daughters, and our friends—to remind them that they are bearing a beautiful little human and that crushing that little life will not give them the independence they want. If we can’t protect our most innocent and helpless citizens, how can we pretend to provide justice and protection for anyone else?

I am committed, as your Congressman, to give a voice to those most vulnerable in our society, the unborn infant.

My thanks to Representative Sali.

Because I haven't done it in a while, and because Mr. Sali was talking about the responsibility to come next to women being pushed toward having an abortion, may I point out the links in my sidebar for Feminists for Life and Silent No More? As they note at both sites: Women deserve better than abortion. (Not just women deserve better than abortion, of course, but since the pro-abortion people generally claim they're doing it for women, I think it's fair to emphasize that a goodly number of women think the 'pro-choice' movement does us more harm than good.)

William F. Buckley, Jr. has died

There will be many tributes to William F. Buckley, but especially at National Review, which has quite a few already.

John O'Sullivan: A Great Man -- and a Fun One is a nice one to start with, I think.

Book note: Trimotor and Trail, by Earl Cooley

From the inside jacket copy of Trimotor and Trail, by Earl Cooley, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana, 1984 (ellipsis in original):

In Trimotor and Trail Earl Cooley tells of times, places and events lost to history. Like that of the free trapper, the buffalo hunter, and the plains cowboy before him, the world Earl Cooley knew as a young man was quickly plowed and paved behind him. Future generations will know it only from journals like this one.

-Driven from a homestead in eastern Montana by drought, grasshoppers, and bank failure in the aftermath of World War I. ...

-The backbreaking struggle to survive the Great Depression as a farmhand in the Bitterroot Valley of Western Montana. ...

-Working through forestry school as a lookout, smokechaser, and blasting specialist with the U.S. Forest Service. ...

-Volunteering for the first attempts to parachute firefighters to remote forest fires, including the two near fatalities on the first operational jump. ...

-Sustaining the smokejumper project through World War II by recruiting 4Fs and conscientious objectors, and by using cast-off parachutes. ...

-The War Department's secret battle against 10,000 bomb-carrying balloons launched from Japan. ...

-The Mann Gulch disaster in which 13 smokejumpers died after being trapped by an explosive forest fire. ...

-The life of a forest ranger among Idaho's "Salmon River Savages" and in the Cabinet Wilderness of western Montana. ...

-The evolution of Forest Service firefighting tactics and fire management policy. ...

Trimotor and Trail is more than the adventures of Earl Cooley, pioneer smokejumper and forest ranger. It is a chronicle of an America vibrant with frontier vigor and freedom as well as a testament to what men can do when confronted by an extraordinary challenge.

I haven't read the book. I've just flipped through it before putting it out for sale, but it looks interesting. Of course, I have a known weakness for noncelebrity memoirs, and for backcountry tales, and for history other than the shifting-boundaries-battles-and-rulers variety.

Book note: Torpedo 8, by Ira Wolfert

While glancing through Torpedo 8: The Story of Swede Larsen's Bomber Squadron, by Ira Wolfert, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1943, checking the condition before I put a price on it (we have a bookstore, with mostly used books), this jumped out at me from the Foreword (ed. note: content warning):

The Japs wiped out the United States Navy Torpedo Squadron 8 in a few minutes at the Battle of Midway. The minutes were hot and rough. The squadron was like a raw egg thrown into an electric fan, and only three men came out of the action alive. One of these is no longer fit for combat duty...

Our Navy, too, has wiped out whole Jap squadrons in a few rough, hot minutes, and there has always been great curiosity on our part as to how the Jap airmen left to carry on were taking it... [snip] ...when these hammer blows fell, how did the comrades of the dead feel, the men who had to step into the dead men's shoes and follow down their awful path? What was their reaction when they heard this news and how did they feel when they were ordered into similar planes and locked themselves in to take off on similar missions? Did they have left in them any of the confidence in survival necessary for the efficient operation of complicated machinery and necessary for the pressing home of an attack? Or did they have in them the unnerving efficiency-destroying emotions of men ordered to commit suicide and determined to commit suicide?

We wanted to know. We were most anxious to know, and on November 12, toward the end of a bloody afternoon on Guadacanal, we found out. That was the day two squadrons of Jap torpedo bombers were obliterated. Two young Jap airmen had managed to live unhurt through the destruction of their plane and were taken prisoner. They were both asked how they had felt when twenty-five bombers were sent out and one came back, when twenty Zeros were sent out and none came back, when thirty-three planes were sent out and only one came back, when, day after day, on mission after mission, it was only the odd planes that survived. They answered with enough difference to show that they had not been coached and that they were answering honestly, to the best of their ability. They did not blame their planes, their training, or their officers, or develop any great fear of us. Instead, each said he felt, as all Jap airmen felt, that the dead were responsible for their own deaths, they had not done their work properly.

Americans do not blame the dead for their deaths. Our traditions and teachings are against it. The Fascists - and the Japanese are purer Fascists than the Germans or Italians, each of whom has had something of a democratic tradition - cannot seem to conceive of their state or their superiors being wrong, but automatically think of themselves as being wrong. So they blame their dead for having died. But we, as democrats, have too much respect for the individual man to blame, without overwhelming evidence, our dead for having died. This reaction is as automatic in us as the Fascist reaction is in them. Also, we are too realistic and too sensitive to the worth of each individual man to accept a state or those in authority over us as being infallible. Nor do we have any inclinations for suicide or for suicidal actions in war. Our traditions, our teaching, and the whole American temperament are against all such antics.

To leave the quote off there is admittedly to take things out of context. According to the Foreword, to the surprise of outsiders, the Navy put together a new Torpedo 8 squadron, which it threw straight into the Battle for the Solomons. The squadron's slogan went from "Attack" to "Attack - and Vengeance!" And get vengeance they did, it sounds like, sometimes by doing what might seem suicidal.

Further reading: According to the Naval Historical Center, Lieutenant George Gay, USNR, was the sole survivor of Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8). (In the Foreword above, it notes three survivors. I don't know which account is right, or if they're talking about different time periods or events.)

More here: Torpedo Squadron 8 Plane Captain Relives ‘Battle of Midway’ by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James E. Foehl, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs, at, 6/4/2007.

Ouch, this puts a human face on it, or, rather, several human faces: a YouTube video, an old Office of Strategic Services film, eight minutes long, in memory of the men of Torpedo Squadron 8. So far, I haven't been able to find a non-YouTube link for this video. (If the Navy or other official agency has it online, I'd be glad to link directly, in other words.)

To get back to the Foreword, there's this, toward the end:

Torpedo 8's revenge is one of the most grimly satisfying events of the American part of the war thus far. It's a legend of the kind that made epic ballads in ancient days. And this is the story of the men who lived that legend, of why they went out for revenge, and how they got it, and how they felt while getting it...
So, that's what the author was aiming at, if you're interested in books about the military, or history in general, or World War II in particular.

But what caught my eye was the comparison between worldviews, the difference between men who serve a government that serves its citizens, versus men who serve a state that places the state first, or an ideology or cause first.

Thumbing through, I find this in Chapter 2, on page 12:

Our men volunteer for suicide missions, not to seem brave, not to win medals or promotion, but only when, independently of their officers, they decide the possible gain is worth the probable loss. They decline to volunteer only when their private arithmetic does not add up that way. They do things that seem crazy, but never for crazy reasons, almost always for reasons that stand the test of sound adult thought.
Several paragraphs later, after elaborating on that theme, on page 13:

Contrast this with the Fascist notions of the Japanese soldiers, who cannot conceive of their superiors ever being wrong and continually try to carry out pipe-dreams and invariably go up in smoke. Their desk dreamers do not trust the judgment of their subordinates and many, many thousands of Japanese lives have been wasted on that account alone. The democratic process with the habits of thought it has produced in our fighting men, has given us a valuable, life-saving system of checks and balances in this war.
That's generally speaking, I'm sure...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Book note: Alexander, by Harold Littledale

I found another children's book I wish wasn't out of print. Alexander, by Harold Littledale, illustrated by Tom Vroman, Parents' Magazine Press, 1964, is an understated gem of a picture book. (spoilers follow) In short, a father is putting his son Chris to bed, and his son decides to tell him how bad "Alexander" was today, Alexander being a "red horse with green stripes." Alexander spilled his milk at breakfast, wouldn't play with others at the park, broke a jar of peaches in the grocery store, etc., etc., etc. It's clear pretty early that Alexander is really Chris in disguise, although his father doesn't let on that he knows this. Chris finally asks, "Daddy, what are we going to do about Alexander? He's awfully bad sometimes." To which his father asks Chris what he thinks should be done. Chris comes up with dire solutions, which his father gently vetoes, before noting that anyone can have a bad day once in a while, and predicting that Alexander will be a good horse tomorrow. The ending:

"And you'll be a wonderful little boy, too."

Chris giggled. "How did you know I wasn't very nice today?" he asked.

His father turned out the light in the hall. "Alexander told me," he said.

It's a humorous, gentle, but spirited look at a little boy's world, and I'll nominate the father for a Great Fictional Father award. For those of you who can't deal with it, I should probably mention that the father in this book puffs on his pipe while they're having this little chat. Otherwise, I can't see anything anyone's likely to find objectionable.

While we're on the subject, if you know of another Great Fictional Father in a book for younger children, please feel free to drop a note in the comments.

Slight polling glitch...

This weekend I set up a poll that I thought was set up so people could mark multiple answers. I've just discovered that feature didn't kick in. Since my intent was to see which writers of nonfiction history are familiar to my readers, I've replaced the malfunctioning poll with four individual polls. There are some more historians I intend asking about later, but I thought I'd start with these four.

My apologies to anyone who tried to mark multiple answers and couldn't.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Book note: The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and The Magic Shark, by Donivee Martin Laird

I just stumbled across a cute retelling of the Three Little Pigs story, Hawaiian style. In this case, the three little pigs build their houses out of pili grass, driftwood, and lava rock, and their hungry foe is a magic shark who can don disguises and show up at doorsteps. (And, like the Big Bad Wolf is prone to huffing and puffing to blow a house down.) In a surprise twist, the huffing and puffing has disastrous consequences for the bad guy as well as the two little pigs who built cheap houses. The book includes a glossary of Hawaiian terms for us non-Hawaiians.

The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and The Magic Shark was written by Donivee Martin Laird, illustrated by Carol Jossem. The publisher is Barnaby Books, Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Saturday Review of Books...

... is up and growing at Semicolon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Book note: Prayers from an Island, by Richard Wong

One of the hazards of selling used books for a living is that previously unknown books have a habit of popping up (via trade-ins, or estate buys, etc.). And some of them just practically demand that you stop and read at least part of them.

In that vein, I've just come across Prayers from an Island by Richard Wong, preface by J. Akuhead Pupule, published by John Knox Press, Richmond, Virginia, 1968. According to the preface, Reverend Wong wrote special prayers - or "words to live by" - for Pupule's radio show, which aired in Hawaii. This book collects Wong's words to live by, month by month. And it kind of brought work around here to a screeching halt...

An example (from page 58):

Save us from comfortable sins, our Father, that grasp us and have us in their power:

the ritual of busy-ness that has no meaning,

the easy desecration of other people's character,

and the endless boredom because we attempt so little.

Help us to find satisfactions won through risks. Amen.

Another (page 10):

When we are strong enough to stop telling the Big Lie, O God, give us even more courage to stop telling the little smooth lies. Amen.
Another (page 67):

God of the storms and of the calms, we praise thee not only for the times of tranquility but also for the times of fury when winds twist trees and life jumbles our plans - for the world without storms and our lives without agony would bring us nothing to grow on. Make us glad for stormy weather. Amen.
P.S. A quick google shows that "J. Akuhead Pupule" was an invented name, belonging to one Hal Lewis. I have some (fading) memories of radio back in the 1960s. In my part of the world, at least, as I recall all the on-air radio personalities operated under names not their own, and usually on the silly side. For a while, the television weather lady did, too. (She went through several names, but I remember one of the long-running ones was Susie Snowflake.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

NFL policies on church Super Bowl parties

Starting next year, the NFL's policy will be to let churches show the Super Bowl on large screens if they like, under certain conditions, without throwing lawyers and threats at them.

I can't quite figure out why the league still thinks it can tell churches where they can hold their Super Bowl parties, but at least the new policy is a step or two in the right direction.

Sen. Orrin Hatch led the charge on this, apparently. A Feb. 20 press release from his office is here. At the bottom of the press release is a link to a pdf file with the letter from Hatch to the NFL, followed by the letter from the NFL in response.

Hmmm. Wait a minute (she says, as she reads the letters). If the info from the NFL is correct, they might have been misrepresented in the press leading up to this. Aw, you mean that at least some of the brouhaha was built on nothing, or next to nothing? (Sigh.)

Anyway, the league is now on record as to what it will allow without squawking. I hope that helps.

Only semi-related: I'm going to show my age here, but I helped put on the Super Bowl XIV halftime show. It was a squeaky clean and wholesome, fun show starring Up with People, and back then the NFL went out of its way to reassure us how family friendly they wanted to be for all time. I guess maybe new guys took over or something, eh? (Up with People kind of changed its standards and focus later, for that matter. Very sad. It went out of business for a while, but has been restarted, at least after a fashion. I have no connection to or experience with the current UWP.)

Back in 1979-1980, I was just a minor, junior member of the production team, but I have to say I was treated like a lady by the NFL people I did meet. And I got to drive an official NFL car, too. That was an adventure. I'm afraid, however, that it was more of an adventure for me than for people on the street. Time and time again I saw someone see the logo on the side of the car, and swing his head for a look at who was inside. For some reason, seeing a short, petite young lady who was definitely not a player, a coach, or a cheerleader seemed to cause acute disappointment. I've never seen so many fallen faces in my life. Sorry, folks. I was working on the halftime show. Really.

For the record, I had nothing to do with the exploding palm trees.

For the record, when the announcer with the gorgeous, clear as a bell voice introduced the halftime show, he did say "Up the People" instead of "Up with People." It's awfully hard to put on a show when you've just been misintroduced, and in such a way, but somehow everyone managed. You gotta be able to roll with the punches when you do live shows. :)

Nevada quake

Northeastern Nevada has been struck by a 6.0 earthquake and numerous aftershocks. This map, which shows earthquakes over the past seven days, is updated constantly.

Daunted by Dante (or not)

Several months ago, as part of my ongoing effort to read through the Harvard Classics set sitting on my shelf, I picked up The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, translated by Henry F. Carey. Portions of the Hell (aka Inferno) part were almost too well written, if you ask me. (Nightmares, anyone?) But it certainly earned its reputation as an extraordinary piece of literature. (Although, may I state for the record that I'm glad Dante is long gone, and can't categorize or analyze me? Yinga.) Purgatory was likewise an amazing, and sometimes unsettling, read. But as I got closer to Paradise, I started wondering who the author was and what he'd done with Dante. For weeks and weeks now, my bookmark hasn't moved. The book sits in the dining room, reminding me of my failure (so far) to finish.

I don't blame the translation at all. In most places it's superbly clear, and there are intro notes to each Canto, and footnotes. It's a well-presented book, full of insight and wit. I just thought it rather fell apart when Beatrice entered the picture. Virgil she isn't. And, so far at least, I dislike her. I also felt the writing and insight fell off a bit. To be fair, though, I barely got into the Paradise part. For all I know, it gets better.

Julie D. (aka Happy Catholic) is also reading The Divine Comedy. She went to the bother of comparing translations before she started. See Happy Catholic: Which Version of Dante I am Reading ... and Why for what she found out. I figured there were probably several translations, but I had no idea, really. And I find it surprising that her library apparently didn't have the Carey translation. You'd almost think that the Harvard Classics version would be something of a standard.

I guess I shouldn't feel so bad, being a few months into the book, and not being finished. Julie D. says in her post that she's had the library's copy for about a year now, renewing it online as she goes.

She mentions that she was inspired to read The Divine Comedy by reading Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. That's a science fiction book, if you don't know, but one modeled after Dante's Inferno. She has a link to an earlier post of hers, about that book, and in it is an excerpt from the book:

"Fortune tellers," Benito said before I could ask. "They tried to see the future by magic." ...

Then I recognized one of the damned.

A little elderly lady, very prim and proper. She'd been a teacher in my nephew's school. Now she walked with her head turned backward, and tears ran down her spine and between her buttocks. I screamed. The damned looked up at me.

"Mrs. Herrnstein! Why?" I shouted.

She looked away. Then she stopped and looked up. Face and back turned toward us. She's always been thin, and I'd never thought of her as particularly feminine. Certainly she wasn't feminine now. "I belong here, Mr. Carpentier," she called. "Please leave. I don't want to be watched."

"You belong here?" I could not see Mrs. Herrnstein with a crystal ball.

"Yes. Whenever I had a pupil who had difficulty learning to read, I used -- I was a bad teacher, Mr. Carpentier."

"You were a good teacher! You taught Hal more in a year than he learned in five!"

"I was a good teacher with good pupils. But I could not be bothered with the ones who weren't so bright. If they had trouble learning to read, I said they had dyslexia."

"Are you here because of bad diagnoses?" This was monstrous!

"Dyslexia is not a diagnosis, Mr. Carpentier. It is a prediction. It is a prediction that says that this child can never learn to read. And with that prediction on his record --- why, strangely enough, none of them ever do. Unless they happen on a teacher who doesn't believe in educationese witchcraft."


"It was witchcraft, Mr. Carpentier. Please go now." She walked on, crying uncontrollably, her face toward us as she walked away. I watched until she was out of sight.

Food for thought, anyway...

Update: I've now read Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and am issuing a language and content alert. In all but one place I thought the four-letter words, etc., were more or less 'appropriate' - that they were part of the story, in other words, and what you'd expect from certain types of characters. Overall, it was a powerful, thoughtful, thought-provoking, compelling, albeit sometimes unsettling, book. (Rather like its namesake.) For what it's worth, I'm glad I read Dante first.

You don't have to be 'the father'...

... to be a good dad. Hats off to "Bob," and other men like him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Clock watching for Lent

The churches I attend (I'm currently visiting around) don't, in general, observe Lent. But I do. One thing I cut out for the season is computer games. It was time to admit that once I got going on spider solitaire I was apt to not surface for a while. There are better uses for my time, and if I'm going to damage my wrist, it ought to be while helping keep a roof over our heads or food on the table, or otherwise accomplishing something.

One of the other things I did was to decide to corral my online time. I was letting myself get sucked into surfing. A little surfing isn't a bad thing. But I was doing rather more than a little, and it seemed a good idea to corral it.

Cutting computer games was straightforward enough: if you go cold turkey you go cold turkey. But setting boundaries gets a little trickier than setting prohibitions. I decided to try to limit myself to not before noon and not after five. I wasn't planning on spending noon to five online, mind you. I was just going to concentrate on offline work all morning; if my offline projects went past noon, fine. If I got busy and couldn't get to my computer before five, I was going to skip the online world for the day. If I did get online, I was going to bail off as soon as I was done with what I was doing, or five or thereabouts at the latest.

It seemed a pretty good plan. And it has been a pretty good plan, all in all. The one big downside is that sometimes I'm finding myself repeatedly checking the clock during the pre-noon hours.

This morning, I had to laugh at myself. I got an earlier than usual start on the day, and I was sailing through both work and breaks. I even got a walk in before breakfast. I'm in one of my gimpy phases, and it was only a walk around the block using my cane, but I was pretty proud of myself for getting it done. I cleaned out the fridge. I got my Bible reading done. I read a few more chapters in a history book I'm reading. I laid in plans for stuff I need to do for the bookstore. I worked on book reviews and blog posts in my head. (That's probably cheating, I know, but there it is.) And so there I was, with blog posts in my head, and I looked at the clock and it was only 9:20. Before I caught myself, I exclaimed, right out loud, "It's only 9:20?!"

And then I laughed and laughed at myself. There weren't any other people around, by the way. And I hadn't exactly been asking God to check the time for me. I was just surprised at how long a morning can be when I get up early, and also cut out the worst time wasting activities.

When I got my breath back, I tried to think what I should be working on, other than blogging. And I got to work. And while I was working, it suddenly struck me, right out of the blue, that I had a serious error in a novel I'm writing. If we were being polite, we could call it a continuity error. Let us be frank and admit that I suddenly realized that something I had in the ending made no sense at all if you remembered a couple of things from the middle of the book. Yinga. I only started this book late last September, so I expect to have bugs to work out of it yet. But this was a doozy. It's a fantasy novel, or, at least, one set in an imaginary future. It's not like I can go to a reference and straighten myself out that way. It's a challenge to keep it tied together properly.

The mistake is fixed now, I think. I took those hours that looked terribly long until I could get online, and worked on my fiction, and the time was gone, just like that. In fact, it was after noon before I shook loose to come in here.

I've missed a couple of days of online time (five o'clock can come early, if you aren't careful), so I have some catching up to do, with bookstore-related work on top of the list, and blogging at the bottom. Expect blogging to be light for a while yet.

On the other hand, I've done some serious decluttering in the house, I've discovered a new bread recipe that we like a lot, I'm getting some serious spring cleaning done, the mending pile has been wiped out (how'd we get so many loose buttons?), a quilt that I'm finishing by hand is finally taking shape, and I'm having a blast.

If you're used to coming here for news, I'm sorry. I needed a break from news, I guess. What with better weather, longer hours of daylight, getting the house better organized and cleaned up, and avoiding the squabbles dear to the hearts of advocates and radicals of one stripe and another, I feel like I'm getting recharged. Well, except for some mornings, when I catch myself clock watching, and it feels like the time is dragging...

How does the saying go?: Good plan, needs work.

Author note: D. E. Stevenson

A fan of D.E. Stevenson must have stumbled across this post from June 2006 and sent word around, because off and on for days now I've been getting more entry hits on that page than on any other. Whoever you are, thanks!

(And isn't it nice when a good, clean author has so many fans? Yes! Love it!)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Adapting bikes for the disabled

You might be surprised who can ride a bike, if the bike is adapted to their abilities. See Adapting Bikes for the Disabled, by Karen Karvonen, American Profile, December 23, 2007 for some success stories. See also Project Mobility.

Recipe contests and prize giveaways at Country Woman

Country Woman magazine is looking for great beef recipes, and has some prize money on offer for those they like best.

For that matter, they're hosting a number of drawings and contests. (One of the upcoming drawings is for a fancy slow cooker. I know from your blogs that some of you are quite appreciative of slow cookers. The deadline on that one is Feb. 29.)

Author note: Dwight Newton

Eric Golden has written a nice feature article on author Dwight Newton, aka D.B. Newton, aka Dwight Bennett, aka Dwight Bennett Newton, aka Hank Mitchum: "Prolific Bend author's muse is right outside: Dwight Newton, 92, has written TV westerns, 70 novels" (The Bulletin, Feb. 11, 2008)

Even if you don't read Westerns, you might find the man's life interesting. He took the trouble to get a master's degree in history very early in his career, for instance. And then the Army planted him in his beloved West during World War II (that graduate degree helped keep him stateside). And he found Hollywood vain and vicious, so he wrote a book about it. And... well, it's a good article. Read it if you want more. My thanks to Mr. Golden and The Bulletin.

Winter loosened its grip...

... a bit around here this week. It's been a harder than average winter, with more snow than we've seen in a long time, and some nasty cold snaps, so the respite has been pretty nice.

At the bank, my teller mentioned that it was nice to have sunshine and warmer weather, and I agreed. I volunteered that it had set off a round of spring cleaning at our place. She brightened, and said, "Me, too!" A woman after my own heart. We agreed that we both disliked carpets, too. It's too hard to keep them really clean. I assure you that mine are cleaner than a week ago. I own a carpet cleaning machine, so I can work on my floors a little at a time instead of all at once, like I'd have to do if I rented a machine. This week, though, I did a bit more than a little. (The exercise is good for me, right?)

I think I would have been cleaning extra this week even without the taste of spring to spur me on. This time of year the house tends to feel stale and grungy, the air old and used. If a person doesn't go on the attack, the staleness can get discouraging.

And, besides which, a person who shall remain nameless tripped while carrying split pea soup into the dining room. Split pea soup, I found, defies the laws of physics when it flies out of a bowl. Not only does it cover more surface area than should be possible, it finds its way into places it shouldn't be able to reach. Do you have that problem in your dining room and kitchen? That they somehow have the ability to amplify messes? (I'm joking. But just barely. Oh, well. The walls in there hadn't been scrubbed in a while. They're nice and fresh now.)

And, besides which, I've been having computer problems, or, rather, connecting to the internet problems. You have heard the saying: "A clean house is the sign of a broken computer."? It's not strictly true around here, since I do possess a little discipline, thank you. But still, it is rather surprising how much more I can get done in a day when surfing isn't an option. I am forever trying to find a happy medium on time spent online. (Aren't you?)

So, all in all, I've had a good week. I just haven't been on the internet. It was kind of a nice break, actually.

I know it's rather poor form to take a blog break and not announce it, but at first I couldn't seem to get on to announce it. And then I got busy with spring cleaning and with reading like mad through my to-read stack, and with quilting, and with editing some nonblog writing, and... and the next thing I knew the days had flown. My apologies to anyone who had a twinge of worry on my account. I know better than to take off without notice. I'll try to not do it too often.

The Saturday Review of Books...

... is up and growing at Semicolon.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Book note: No Country For Old Men, by Cormac McCarty

From A Worldview Clash in View -- A Gift from Literature at

The clash between fundamental worldviews is often difficult to capture, but sometimes literature does what a news report cannot. Consider this passage from Cormac McCarty's novel, No Country for Old Men. In this passage, one of the main characters reflects on this clash:

Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talking about the right wing this and the right wing that.

I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin something bad about em, but of course that's a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on.

Finally told me, said: I don't like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I don't think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I don't have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.

That exchange also pretty much sums up the clash of worldviews. Sometimes literature captures a universe of meaning in a minimum of words.

Full post here.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bradley Walker, on accepting the hand you're dealt

[ed. note: edited Feb. 10]

Bradley Walker, can't walk (he was born with muscular dystrophy), but he can soar. Amongst other things, he's been making waves and winning awards in bluegrass circles. He's also said to be a very likeable young man. See Singing Without Limits - American Profile (1/20/2008) for the story. Mr. Walker's website is here.

From the American Profile article:

A native of Athens, Ala. (pop. 18,967), Walker, 29, lives in a home he designed in nearby East Limestone, not far from the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, where he works as a materials analyst. He drives himself to work in a customized van and also frequently drives the 100 miles to Nashville by himself. He made the trip frequently while recording his debut album, Highway of Dreams, between the four 10-hour shifts he works each week at the plant.

“The way I was raised, you don’t focus on your limitations,” Walker says. “You focus on finding ways to get things done. Everyone faces challenges in getting where they want to go. I believe you just have to go out there, work hard and prove yourself.”


Those two qualities—his distinctive voice and his friendly personality—come up constantly among Walker’s supporters. “There’s a timbre to his voice that seems so genuine and real, and it captures the emotion of every song he sings,” says Dan Hays, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association. “He’s also just a wonderfully likable guy. I don’t know anybody who’s been around Bradley who hasn’t become an instant friend. That’s just his personality.”

Walker, meanwhile, is just happy to be doing what he loves. “I’ve never questioned the hand I was dealt,” he says. “If I hadn’t been dealt this hand, I might not have been given the gift of music that I love so much, and I wouldn’t be singing bluegrass to people. So I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Read the full article.

Hats off.

Sherwood Forest Plantation

We were discussing Robin Hood yesterday, which brings to mind...

Did you know that United States President John Tyler called his home Sherwood Forest Plantation?

From the Sherwood Forest Plantation - Home of President John Tyler website:

The plantation, first recorded in a 1616 land grant, was originally known as Smith's Hundred. The house, circa 1720, is a classic example of Virginia Tidewater design: big house, little house, colonnade, and kitchen. It had several owners before Tyler purchased the home and its surrounding 1,600 acres in 1842. He bought the plantation from his cousin, Collier Minge, while he was still in the White House and renamed the plantation "Sherwood Forest" referring to his reputation as a political outlaw.


Sherwood Forest Plantation remains the longest frame house in America -- expanded to its present length of over 300 feet in 1845 when Tyler added a 68-foot ballroom catering to the popular dance of his time, the Virginia Reel. The grounds are 25 acres of terraced gardens and lawn based on the landscape designs of Andrew Jackson Downing of New York and include original outbuildings or dependencies. It is considered one of the most complete plantation yards left in America, dating from c. 1680.

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

The lead-in quote this week is from Gilbert Highet. He built a reputation in his own right, notably at Columbia University, and famously for his support of classical learning. But he's also known for being the husband of suspense writer Helen MacInnes. (Wouldn't you have loved to have been able to invite that couple over for dinner and chat?)

Previous related posts:
Book note: Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnes, Feb. 16, 2007
A focus on author Helen MacInnes, March 6, 2006 (links to Helen MacInnes posts at Bookworm Room)

Those of you who have written Helen MacInnes or Gilbert Highet posts, please feel free to drop a note in the comments, steering us that way. It doesn't have to be straight MacInnes. See Cold War Reading Has Contemporary Applications, at The Common Room, March 9, 2006, for an example.

For that matter, if you have any posts about good Cold War novels by any author, let us know. In the good timing department, I picked up No Entry by Manning Coles yesterday to reread, and was just getting into the thick of it last night when I had to call it a night. I sternly told myself I must finish my chores today before I pick it back up, since I expect once I get going again I'm sunk for the next few hours...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Down memory lane... and asking craft advice

Remember the Lennon Sisters? Did you know you can buy a reproduction of the rag dolls that Kathy and Janet used to haul around on tour when they were kids? They're called Best Pals dolls.

I saw part of an interview with one of the sisters rebroadcast on television the other day, as part of a Lawrence Welk broadcast. That's where I heard about the dolls for the first time.

After seeing the interview, I was thinking that it might be fun to stock rag dolls in our bookstore, but I'm thinking I might make my own. It can't be all that hard, right? (She says, with the bravery of ignorance, and knowing full well she's not all that handy with a needle... :)

If anyone has tips or tricks or warnings about making rag dolls or other toys that don't distract the kid with too many overfancy features, please weigh in. These days, there seems to be a general lack of dolls that are nothing but cuddly, for little girls to take to bed and carry everywhere. There's no reason we couldn't change that, is there?

YoungLives program for teen moms

Just in case you're looking for help...

In Young Life, we have the privilege of extending Jesus Christ’s love to kids as they are, where they are. For high school and middle school girls who are expecting or are raising a child on their own, that love takes the form of a program called YoungLives.

Treating each mom and her child or children with unconditional love and respect, YoungLives offers teen moms relief from the isolation and struggle of their daily lives and hope for the future. YoungLives mentors provide friendship, parenting advice and help meeting the practical demands of raising a child. At YoungLives club and camp, moms get to socialize and have fun while their babies get the best possible care.

More information here

Young Life is just one of many places for teens to turn, regardless of what's up (or down) in their lives. I don't know about where you live, but around here there are a number of churches that do a great job of accepting and helping people of all ages regardless of their past, or their present circumstances. Keep looking until you find them. They want to help you.

Update: I should mention that you don't have to be Christian to get help from Young Life, or from most other Christian groups that I know about.

Gearing up for the Oregon Sesquicentennial celebration

Oregon will be celebrating 150 years of statehood in 2009.

If you have an Oregon story to share, stories about "what it means to be an Oregonian" are being collected at Oregon 150: Official Website of the Oregon Sesquicentennial. According to the "open letter to all Oregonians" on the welcome page, you can "write them, sing them, sew them, photograph them, film them, or paint them." (This should be interesting.)

We will pause now to allow persons from the original thirteen colonies and certain foreign countries to catch their breath, after laughing at a big to-do about one whole century and a half of statehood. Hey, for this part of the world it's pretty good.

hat tip: Oregon Department of Fish and Game website

A small technical problem with licenses

From an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, January 11, 2008 press release:

SALEM, Ore.–When you buy your new 2008 fishing or hunting license, don’t put it in a plastic license holder warn Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff. Although new license paper is tear resistant and reasonably waterproof, interaction with plastic causes the ink to fade.

“We are asking people to do something different with their new licenses. Please, don’t put them in plastic license holders or laminate them,” said DeAnna Erickson, ODFW License Services manager. She suggests carrying the license holder in your wallet as you would a receipt or using a paper or Tyvek license holder.

Tyvek license holders will be available at ODFW offices beginning in mid-February.

hat tip: Blue Mountain Eagle, Jan. 16, 2008 dead tree edition

The 'patron saint' of drug pushers, coming to a neighborhood near you

From Mexican Robin Hood figure gains a kind of notoriety abroad by Kate Murphy (International Herald Tribune, February 8, 2008):

HOUSTON: Jesús Malverde has been revered for almost a century in northwestern Mexico. According to folklore, he was a Mexican Robin Hood who took from the rich and gave to the poor until he was killed by the police in 1909.

Now, immigrants have brought his legend to the United States. His image, which is thought to offer protection from the law, can be found on items that include T-shirts and household cleaners.

Malverde is widely considered the patron saint of drug dealers, say law enforcement officials and experts on Mexican culture. A shrine has been erected atop his grave in the remote city of Culiacán in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, which has long been associated with opium and marijuana trafficking.

"The drug guys go to the shrine and ask for assistance and come back in big cars and with stacks of money to give thanks," said James Creechan, a Canadian sociologist and adjunct professor at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa in Culiacán.

But Creechan, who presented a paper on Malverde to the American Society of Criminology in 2005, added that the poor also pray to Malverde for money and safe passage across the border into the United States.

An influx of immigrants from the Sinaloan region in recent years has made Malverde's image increasingly visible on this side of the border, particularly in the Southwest and in California. His legend has spread among Hispanics, Creechan said, inspiring many to build altars to Malverde in their homes, as well as to wear Malverde cologne.

His image, which looks suspiciously like that of Pedro Infante, the Mexican matinee idol of the 1940s, appears on T-shirts and patches sewn on jackets and backpacks. Busts of Malverde can be seen next to cash registers at restaurants, bars and discos.

Read the rest. Please note that in the next to last paragraph it states Malverde is not recognized as a saint by the Catholic church. Please also note that it's a pretty safe bet that the Catholic church frowns on asking saints to protect immoral behavior.

From the same article:

Indeed, drug enforcement authorities in Mexico and the United States said Malverde statues, tattoos and amulets can be tip-offs to illegal activity.

"We send squads out to local hotel and motel parking lots looking for cars with Malverde symbols on the windshield or hanging from the rearview mirror," said Sergeant Rico Garcia with the narcotics division of the Houston Police Department. "It gives us a clue that something is probably going on."

Courts in California, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas have ruled that Malverde trinkets and talismans are admissible evidence in drug and money-laundering cases.

"It's not a direct indication of guilt, but it would definitely be used in combination with other things" like piles of cash, baggies and scales, said José Martinez, a special agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Ah, yes, nothing like having crooks who advertise...

As a side note, I have come to believe that the popular rendition of Robin Hood being someone who took from the rich (simply because they were rich) to give to the poor isn't adhering to the best of the legends. I prefer the 'Robin of Locksley fighting evil Prince John until King Richard can return and save his loyal Saxon subjects from slaughter and starvation at the hands of cruel and heartless Normans' theme. In those versions, he does indeed steal from the rich, but he's generally stealing back what was taken from honest folk. The people he's helping are, on the whole, in danger of starving to death if they don't get help. This isn't a rich man versus poor man battle, in other words. It's refusing to let your neighbors be wiped off the face of the Earth by people who are abusing their positions of power. It's providing for the needy, not simply redistributing goods. It's fighting injustice because it is injustice. It's loyalty and bravery personified. Admittedly, I switched to this view of Robin Hood after watching Richard Greene's portrayal of him... (Richard Greene has my vote for best onscreen Robin Hood. Who has yours?)

And, for the record, I'm pretty sure I have both Norman and Saxon blood in my veins, amongst other ethnic groups. That many of my ancestors were mortal enemies, at least off and on through the ages, doesn't bother me any. This is America, the land of burying the hatchet. (Or, at least, that's the ideal.)

Wikipedia has several articles on Robin Hood, including this one that tracks the legend through the centuries. Robin Hood has been the best of the best of men, and the worst of the worst, as well as all sorts of in between, it looks like. In glancing through that article, I came across a footnote for this short BBC article from October 2006, about a Master's program for students of the legend. The university promoting such a degree? Nottingham University. Are we surprised?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lent links

Former atheist Jennifer F. writes about why she loves Lent. (Via Patrick O'Hannigan.)

See also this about an Anglican family's Lenten practices.

Archbishop Chaput of Denver has some recommended readings for Lent. Elsewhere at the same website, here are some more recommended readings/reflections. Should I be surprised that The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis is on the list? I wasn't dropped-jaw surprised, but I was surprised.

Chivalry revisited

Some thoughts on being ladies and gentlemen, from a mother who is raising gentlemen.

I'll admit I had to learn to accept good manners with good grace. I know that sounds funny, but I hit college in the 1970s, and was encouraged to sneer and snap at men who offered to hold a door, and heaven help a fellow who tried to help you on with your coat. Very sad. (Not to mention stupid. What were we thinking, discouraging kindness and consideration?)

Related, from November 2005: Tell me again why guys shouldn't open doors for us...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Orthodox missions in the United States, and religion in Las Vegas

The Orthodox Church in America has a program to help establish Orthodox missions in the United States and Canada. So far close to thirty missions have been helped. Thumbnail article here. Short podcast here, at Ancient Faith Radio (look for the Feb. 2, 2008 podcast).

The Director of the OCA's Department of Evangelization, Archpriest Eric Tosi, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the podcast linked above he says people are generally surprised to hear that OCA has a church in Las Vegas. In fact, there are six Orthodox churches there, he says.

So... your blog hostess googles... to find our more about population and churches and other related stuff about Las Vegas. From the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce website, under Relocating: Churches/Places of Worship:

Visitors are often surprised to learn Las Vegas has nearly 600 churches, temples and synagogues representing more than 63 faiths.

The city offers a smorgasbord of religious options -- everything from a Buddhist Temple to the Church of Scientology to a non-denominational service in a hotel/casino showroom.

A good place to check for local church services is the Saturday edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Las Vegas Sun and the weekly publication, The View, available every Wednesday. Additional information is available on the Review-Journal’s web site:

That, and a link to churches that are members of the Chamber, is it on the Churches/Places of Worship page. Uhm, I think I'll keep my commentary to myself on this...

Your hostess googles some more...

Ah, here we go, this is more like it: From there, you can find out more about The Life-Giving Spring Retreat Center, or about St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church. At the church site, there's A Brief Biography of Archpriest Eric George Tosi. It seems he had a rather interesting road to the priesthood:

Fr. Eric was born in Passaic, New Jersey, the third of four children of George and Evelyn Tosi. He was baptized in Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church in Clifton, New Jersey where his grandparents were founding members. He grew up in devout Orthodox family in Little Falls, New Jersey. His family moved to Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Wayne, New Jersey when he was a youth. He was involved in many youth programs at the Church including working at St. Andrew’s Camp in Jewell, NY (where he met his future wife).

He graduated from Passaic Valley High School in 1982 and received an ROTC scholarship to Fordham University in The Bronx, New York. He was involved in many activities while in college, and was appointed commander of the Corps of Cadets in his senior year being the Distinguished Military Graduate. He received a dual BA in Economics and History upon graduation in 1986. He received a Regular Army commission as Second Lieutenant in Armor. Upon completion of various schools, he was assigned to the 1st Squadron, Second Armored Cavalry Regiment in Bindlach, Germany. His primary job was to patrol the West German border with East Germany and Czechoslovakia. While in Germany, he received Three Army Commendation Medals and One Army Achievement Medal as well as other numerous awards and citations while commanding a tank and scout platoon and as an Executive Officer for a tank company. He also held other staff positions and achieved the rank of Captain. He was present at the fall of the border. He was married in 1988 to the former Christina Lickwar who joined him in Germany.

Upon completion of his military duty in 1990, he returned to the United States and found a position with Strategic Intelligence Systems in New York City. He was the program director for consultants in 42 counties as well as working on high level business briefs. He then went to work for The Economist Intelligence Unit, part of The Economist magazine, where he was a consultant on international business briefs. He completed a MA in European History from Fordham University in 1993.

He entered St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in 1993...

Read the rest

Now, if that doesn't fly counter to a few stereotypes, I'm not sure what would.

I might have mentioned this before, but until I got access to the Internet I thought Orthodox churches had essentially died out in America, if not the world. Silly me. Yay, Internet.

Toddler behavior explained, and an Oregon croc

Gee, do you think that toddlers haven't developed grown-up thinking skills yet? That they have to be taught to behave? That you can't reason with a toddler as if he's an adult?

To some people this is news. From Tara Parker-Pope's article, "Coping With the Caveman in the Crib" (New York Times, February 5, 2008):

Now Dr. [Harvey] Karp, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, has turned his attention to the toddler years, that explosive period of development when children learn language, motor skills and problem solving, among other things. The rapid pace at which all these changes occur is nothing short of astonishing, but it can also be overwhelming to little brains. A wailing baby is nothing compared with the defiant behavior and tantrums common among toddlers.

In his latest book, “The Happiest Toddler on the Block,” Dr. Karp tries to teach parents the skills to communicate with and soothe tantrum-prone children. In doing so, however, he redefines what being a toddler means. In his view, toddlers are not just small people. In fact, for all practical purposes, they’re not even small Homo sapiens.

Dr. Karp notes that in terms of brain development, a toddler is primitive, an emotion-driven, instinctive creature that has yet to develop the thinking skills that define modern humans. Logic and persuasion, common tools of modern parenting, “are meaningless to a Neanderthal,” Dr. Karp says.

The challenge for parents is learning how to communicate with the caveman in the crib. “All of us get more primitive when we get upset, that’s why they call it ‘going ape,’ ” Dr. Karp says. “But toddlers start out primitive, so when they get upset, they go Jurassic on you.”

Full article here.

So, those of you who have actually raised toddlers to the next stage of human development -- have brought them forward into the Cenozoic, so to speak -- feel free to weigh in.

As for the 'Neanderthals in the Jurassic' business, let's try to remember these people are speaking figuratively here. OK? (And I hope they're joking where they say, "In fact, for all practical purposes, they’re not even small Homo sapiens." Of course they're small Homo sapiens. Exhaustingly immature Homo sapiens, perhaps, but definitely full-fledged members of the species. And sometimes they're even cute. Such a deal.)

Side note: Isn't there some debate on whether Neanderthals were as primitive as depicted in popular culture and some science texts? Isn't it rather more common these days to put them forward as rather more sophisticated than your average toddler? I know, I know, we're speaking figuratively here, and you and I are perfectly capable of enjoying caveman jokes without worrying if they're justified. But still, I would like to note that I don't know if they are justified.

Found while searching for something else about the Jurassic: Photo in the News: Jurassic "Crocodile" Found in Oregon (National Geographic News: March 22, 2007.) That's interesting. I live in eastern Oregon. We have lots of fossils around here, many of them looking rather tropical. (Talk about climate change!) But in this case, the scientists were speculating that this 'croc' started out in Asia and its fossilized remains were propelled by plate tectonics across to our decidedly inland mountains? Hmmm. I guess anything's possible, but... isn't it a bit more likely that it was just a local croc? I guess I'd like to know what sort of rock the fossil was in, and whether it matches Asian rocks with similar fossils.

P.S. I was telling a friend about the supposedly Asian fossil being shoved into our mountains theory, and he said he'd heard that a pterodactyl (aka pterosaur) had carried the croc over and dropped it here. I'm pretty sure he was joking. But, hey, it's a theory... :)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ladies, you can't have him, he's mine

When my husband wishes me Happy Anniversary in early February every year, he's not marking our wedding day. He is celebrating the day we met.

Honesty (and the love of a good laugh, even at myself) compels me to tell you that the first year after we were married -- the first time he did this, in other words -- I stared at him, dumbfounded. I'd never heard of such a thing. And, ahem, cough, I had to take his word for it. (Blush.) He'd found our meeting so momentous and full of prospects that he'd written it down. I'd, uh, found him intriguing and wonderful and smart and hoped to see him again, preferably just the two of us instead of at another dinner meeting where there were a lot of other people milling about. But I didn't have the wit or foresight (or enough of a romantic bent, apparently) to write it down for future reference. Oops on my part. Hooray for him.

He's never failed to celebrate it since, and I'm charmed and flattered more than I can say.

For you husbands out there who haven't any idea when you met your wife, I guess you're out of luck. (But I'm sure you can figure some way to make up for it...) For you single guys looking forward to matrimony, you might want to plan ahead so you have this option. I won't pretend to speak for all womanhood, but for myself I find the establishment of this tradition one of the nicest things anybody's ever done for me. No question.

Weekly sketching assignments

I was the sort of kid who sketched, and sketched, and sketched. So I'm glad to see that The Heart of Harmony hosts Sketch Tuesdays. Each week there's a different assignment (such as: a mug, butterflies, something made of wood, a computer part...). It's long on children's art, but in the posts it says the project is open to young and old.

hat tip: the sidebar at Dewey's Treehouse

An anthropologist looks at American values

The Aristocratic Reign Of Group Preferences by Peter Wood (Minding the Campus, January 25, 2008) takes a look at why some people support policies that favor one group over another, and why some of them have such trouble seeing the consequences of what they do. He notes that there are different sorts of advocates, pushing preferences for different reasons. He also addresses how America is different from most of the rest of the world, and why it runs counter to core American values - and liberal ones - to support group preferences.

Tales from hospitals with problems

Russell Roberts looks at what happens when everyone's a specialist and no one's in charge.

Melanie Phillips takes on a system that doesn't take elementary dignity into account.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Fizz instead of steam

Did you know that there are cold water geysers? Unity of Truth has a video. Follow the link beneath the video to see what powers this type of geyser. (I've given you a hint in my post title.)

Politics, faith, and how we make decisions

I have no doubt, none, that media old and new will happily spotlight and feed hysterical, uninformed, ultrapartisans during the rest of this presidential campaign. I have no doubt that said crazies will be held up as somehow representative of the "religious right" or "Christian conservatives" or whatever 'group' the pundit or reporter would like to make look silly, hysterical, uninformed, unintelligent and not safe to trust with the power of government.

So, in some sense, there isn't a lot I can see us quieter conservatives being able to do on a big scale. Crazies who love the spotlight will always be available. The media types will undoubtedly be all too happy to help them be counterproductive.

Having said that, I think it might help if those of you who are leaning toward feeling frantic yourself would think about the points The Anchoress makes in "Faith-based and hand-wringing,":

Today I’m wondering how it can be that the “faith-based” party — full of people who presumably have prayer lives - is in such a sorry frenzy. “Frenzy” should not be a word that applies to believers. Nor should “fear.”


There’s no crying in baseball and there’s no hyperventilating fear in Christianity.


Let me be very clear, so I don’t get 1000 emails again: This is not about McCain. This is not about Romney. It’s about how we come to our decisions. It goes hand-in-hand with my post from yesterday, where I asked if our political parties had become our idols. And it’s about our souls.

Full post here.

Now, The Anchoress hangs out with political junkies, and I've sort of dropped off that bandwagon. I'm spending more time socializing with people who are too busy taking care of their families and neighbors to obsess over matters of government, so from where I sit the world isn't crawling with despairing, screaming, weeping voters like it is in Newsland and Opinionstan. But I think she's got some good points, especially for those of you getting the vapors about the Republican race. Take a deep breath people.

Book business notes

The traditional book is facing competition. With that in mind, JollyBlogger asks Is Print Dead?. In that post, he links to Why Traditional Books Will Eventually Die (From Where I Sit, November 20, 2007), by Michael S. Hyatt, President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing. (ed. note: corrected date)

Elsewhere, novelist Rebeca Seitz, who is also president of Glass Road Public Relations, is interviewed at Novel Journey about the world of book publicity. (Previous related post: Creating demand in the book market, Suitable For Mixed Company, Feb. 1, 2008)

Update: Add this to the mix: Online Book Sales Booming (People of the Book, January 29, 2008). That's around the globe, especially in 'developing nations.'

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Lincoln's Cottage

See Lincoln Slept Here by Andrew Ferguson (Weekly Standard, Feb. 4, 2008) for a look inside Abraham Lincoln's home away from home during Washington's hot and smelly summers. Mr. Ferguson reports that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has been restoring the cottage. It will be open to visitors starting February 19.

March for Life 2008 slide show

Barbara Curtis has a dynamite slide show of this year's March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Just look at all those wonderful teens and twenty-somethings! Does the pro-life movement draw the cream of the crop, or what? Look at their faces. Do these kids have their act together or what?

A very frank Frankenstein character study

Did you like Frankenstein? Julie D. has a few problems with the character. (Spoiler alert.) I'm with Julie on this one. Except for the proposed violence, of course.

FYI: I suspect what she's referring to at the end of her post is related to the "Creationism Bragging Rights" and "Giant step toward artificial life" links in this post.

Here's a nonpartisan political joke...

... that might be a teeny bit funnier if there wasn't so much truth in it.

Laugh and learn.

Nanny economies: two takes

neo-neocon » French sales: la difference explains why French retail stores have sales only twice a year.

Mark Steyn addresses the question: Is Canada's Economy a Model for America? (Imprimis, January 2008, abridged from a lecture delivered on the Hillsdale College campus on September 29, 2007, at the second annual Free Market Forum, sponsored by the College’s Center for the Study of Monetary Systems and Free Enterprise.) Fair warning: includes content not appropriate for children.

From the suitable for mixed company parts, reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College, some excerpts:

...a once manly nation has undergone a remarkable psychological makeover. If you go back to 1945, the Royal Canadian Navy had the world’s third largest surface fleet, the Royal Canadian Air Force was one of the world’s most effective air forces, and Canadian troops got the toughest beach on D-Day. But in the space of two generations, a bunch of tough hombres were transformed into a thoroughly feminized culture that prioritizes all the secondary impulses of society—welfare entitlements from cradle to grave—over all the primary ones. And in that, Canada is obviously not alone. If the O’Sullivan thesis is flawed, it’s only because the lumberjack song could stand as the post-war history of almost the entire developed world.

Today, the political platforms of at least one party in the United States and pretty much every party in the rest of the Western world are nearly exclusively about those secondary impulses—government health care, government day care, government this, government that. And if you have government health care, you not only annex a huge chunk of the economy, you also destroy a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher, and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans don’t always appreciate how far gone down this path the rest of the developed world is. In Canadian and Continental cabinets, the defense ministry is now a place where an ambitious politician passes through on his way up to important jobs like running the health department. And if you listen to recent Democratic presidential debates, it is clear that American attitudes toward economic liberty are being Canadianized.

To some extent, these differences between the two countries were present at their creations. America’s Founders wrote of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The equivalent phrase at Canada’s founding was “peace, order and good government” —which words are not only drier and desiccated and stir the blood less, but they also presume a degree of statist torpor. Ronald Reagan famously said, “We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around.” In Canada it too often seems the other way around.


In the province of Quebec, it’s taken more or less for granted by all political parties that collective rights outweigh individual rights. For example, if you own a store in Montreal, the French language signs inside the store are required by law to be at least twice the size of the English signs. And the government has a fairly large bureaucratic agency whose job it is to go around measuring signs and prosecuting offenders. There was even a famous case a few years ago of a pet store owner who was targeted by the Office De La Langue Française for selling English-speaking parrots. The language commissar had gone into the store and heard a bird saying, “Who’s a pretty boy, then?” and decided to take action. I keep trying to find out what happened to the parrot. Presumably it was sent to a re-education camp and emerged years later with a glassy stare saying in a monotone voice, “Qui est un joli garcon, hein?”

The point to remember about this is that it is consonant with the broader Canadian disposition. A couple of years ago it emerged that a few Quebec hospitals in the eastern townships along the Vermont border were, as a courtesy to their English-speaking patients, putting up handwritten pieces of paper in the corridor saying “Emergency Room This Way” or “Obstetrics Department Second on the Left.” But in Quebec, you’re only permitted to offer health care services in English if the English population in your town reaches a certain percentage. So these signs were deemed illegal and had to be taken down. I got a lot of mail from Canadians who were upset about this, and I responded that if you accept that the government has a right to make itself the monopoly provider of health care, it surely has the right to decide the language in which it’s prepared to provide that care. So my point isn’t just about Quebec separatism. It’s about a fundamentally different way of looking at the role of the state.


I drive a lot between Quebec and New Hampshire, and you don’t really need a border post to tell you when you’ve crossed from one country into another. On one side the hourly update on the radio news lets you know that Canada’s postal workers are thinking about their traditional pre-Christmas strike—the Canadians have gotten used to getting their Christmas cards around Good Friday, and it’s part of the holiday tradition now—or that employees of the government liquor store are on strike, nurses are on strike, police are on strike, etc. Whereas you could listen for years to a New Hampshire radio station and never hear the word “strike” except for baseball play-by-play.

In a news item from last year, an Ottawa panhandler said that he may have to abandon his prime panhandling real estate on a downtown street corner because he is being shaken down by officials from the panhandlers union. Think about that. There’s a panhandlers union which exists to protect workers’ rights or—in this case—non-workers’ rights. If the union-negotiated non-work contracts aren’t honored, the unionized panhandlers will presumably walk off the job and stand around on the sidewalk. No, wait...they’ll walk off the sidewalk! Anyway, that’s Canada: Without a Thatcher or a Reagan, it remains over-unionized and with a bloated public sector.


The third difference is that Canada’s economy is more subsidized. Almost every activity amounts to taking government money in some form or other. I was at the Summit of the Americas held in Canada in the summer of 2001, with President Bush and the presidents and prime ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean. And, naturally, it attracted the usual anti-globalization anarchists who wandered through town lobbing bricks at any McDonald’s or Nike outlet that hadn’t taken the precaution of boarding up its windows. At one point I was standing inside the perimeter fence sniffing tear gas and enjoying the mob chanting against the government from the other side of the wire, when a riot cop suddenly grabbed me and yanked me backwards, and a nanosecond later a chunk of concrete landed precisely where I had been standing. I bleated the usual “Oh my God, I could have been killed” for a few minutes and then I went to have a café au lait. And while reading the paper over my coffee, I learned that not only had Canadian colleges given their students time off to come to the Summit to riot, but that the Canadian government had given them $300,000 to pay for their travel and expenses. It was a government-funded anti-government riot! At that point I started bleating “Oh my God, I could have been killed at taxpayer expense.” Say what you like about the American trust-fund babies who had swarmed in to demonstrate from Boston and New York, but at least they were there on their own dime. Canada will and does subsidize anything.


Yet, having criticized Canada’s economy in various features, let me say something good about it: It doesn’t have the insanely wasteful federal agricultural subsidies that America has. In fact, if a Canadian wants to get big-time agriculture subsidies, he’s more likely to get them from the U.S. government. I’m sure most people here know that very few actual farmers—that’s to say, guys in denim overalls and plaid shirts and John Deere caps with straws in the stumps of their teeth—get any benefit from U.S. agricultural subsidies. Almost three-quarters of these subsidies go to 20,000 multi-millionaire play farmers and blue chip corporations. Farm subsidies are supposed to help the farm belt. But there’s a map of where the farm subsidies go that you can find on the Internet. And judging from the beneficiaries, the farm belt runs from Park Avenue down Wall Street, out to the Hamptons, and then by yacht over to Martha’s Vineyard, which they really ought to rename Martha’s Barnyard. Among the farmers piling up the dollar bills under the mattress are Ted Turner, Sam Donaldson, the oil company Chevron, and that dirt-poor, hardscrabble sharecropper David Rockefeller. But what you may not know is that also among their number is Edgar Bronfman, Sr., who isn’t just any old billionaire, he’s the patriarch of Montreal’s wealthiest family, owner of Seagram’s Whiskey, which subsequently bought Universal Pictures. So the U.S. taxpayer, in his boundless generosity, is subsidizing the small family farms of Canadian billionaires. As a Canadian and a broken-down New Hampshire tree farmer myself, I wondered whether I could get in on the U.S. farm program, but as I understand it, it would only pay me for a helicopter pad on top of my barn and a marble bathroom in my grain silo.

Edgar Bronfman’s dependence on U.S. taxpayers is symbolic of more than just the stupidity of federal agriculture subsidies. In the end, there’s no such thing as an independent Canadian economy. It remains a branch plant for the U.S. Over 80 percent of Canadian exports come to America. From time to time, nationalist politicians pledge to change that and start shipping goods elsewhere. But they never do because they don’t have to—they’ve got the world’s greatest market right next door. So when people talk about the Canadian model as something that should be emulated, they forget that it only works because it’s next to the American model. The guy who invented the Blackberry email device is Canadian, but it’s not been a gold mine for him because he’s selling a lot of them in Labrador or Prince Edward Island. It’s been a gold mine because he’s selling a lot of them in New York and California and in between.

Canadian dependence on the United States is particularly true in health care, the most eminent Canadian idea looming in the American context. That is, public health care in Canada depends on private health care in the U.S. ...

Read the whole thing (if a new front page has appeared, search the archives for January 2008).

Also available as a printable PDF file.

How to handle disappointment

BooMama gets bad news but...

The world's longest ships

A friend was telling us about the Emma Mærsk (aka Emma Maersk, aka SS Santa, aka USS Wal-Mart, the last being the name she was using for it, quite erroneously, but all in fun). This ship is so big it boggles the mind. At least it boggles my mind. And the normal crew is only 13?

For comparison, I pulled up a List of world's longest ships at Wikipedia. Yinga. Have I done my math right? Emma Mærsk is 210 feet longer than a Nimitz class aircraft carrier?

Groundhog Day, the shrinklet

I am beginning to feel like the last person on Earth who hasn't seen the movie Groundhog Day. I've seen snippets of it now and then on television, but I haven't watched the whole movie.

Karen Edmisten has, and summarizes it in rhyme.

She makes it sound like a movie I'd like to see.


Oh, oh. I haven't had a terrarium in a long time. After reading simplesparrow: gardens in a glass, I feel an itch to make one. I haven't a clue where I'd put it, but I want one anyway.

I know. I know. I'm supposedly getting rid of clutter and other stuff right now. Terrariums, I submit, are not stuff. :)

OK, they are stuff. But they're neat stuff.

hat tip: found after freewheeling linkhopping that started at Charming the Birds from the Trees.

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

Mormons mourn, remember, church leader

Mormons are dealing with the death of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who died last Sunday at the age of 97. He was buried today.

Bob Mims of the Salt Lake Tribune gives us Farewell to LDS prophet: Hinckley eulogized as humble, compassionate 'giant among men'. There are links and links in the sidebar, covering a wide range of related topics, some particular to Hinckley, and others more general, like What happens when an LDS president dies? (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 28, 2008.)

So, the AP 'rises to the occasion' with this from Eric Gorsky: Retention Key For Mormon Church (Feb. 2, 2008). Is it just me, or does Mr. Gorsky seem to have a problem with his subject matter? And does he despise people he sees as too square or healthy? (Side note: Is the AP somewhat short on religion reporters who think religion is a good thing? Sometimes I wonder.)

I'm not Mormon, but I am Mormon friendly. You'll need to remember that if you want to leave a comment here.

FYI: Orson Scott Card, who posts thoughtful essays here (World Watch archives here), sometimes takes on the role of apologist for the Mormon faith, as he does here.

Amazon buying Audible

Amazon is paying $300 million to buy Audible, the largest online seller of audiobooks. Brad Stone reports on the deal and what changes it might bring to the audiobook market, at Amazon agrees to buy online audiobook seller (International Herald Tribune, Feb. 1, 2008).

hat tip: wikio

Friday, February 01, 2008

Creating demand in the book market

From Why Does It Still Take So Long to Publish a Book? - New York Times, by Rachel Donadio:

Technology may be speeding up the news cycle, but in publishing, things actually seem to be slowing down. Although publishers can turn an electronic file into a printed book in a matter of weeks — as they often do for hot political titles, name-brand authors or embargoed celebrity biographies likely to be leaked to the press — they usually take a year before releasing a book. Why so long? In a word, marketing.


As soon as a literary agent has sold a publisher a book, and even before it’s edited, copy-edited, proofread and indexed, the publicity wheels start turning. While writers bite their nails, the book editor tries to persuade the in-house sales representatives to get excited about the book, the sales representatives try to persuade retail buyers to get excited, and the retail buyers decide how many copies to buy and whether to feature the book in a prominent front-of-the-store display, for which publishers pay dearly. In the meantime, the publisher’s publicity department tries to persuade magazine editors and television producers to feature the book or its author around the publication date, often giving elaborate lunches and parties months in advance to drum up interest.

Read the whole article

Now, as far as I can see, that article applies primarily to certain big name publishers and big name retailers, playing their long-established games. Bully for them, especially if they're publishing something I can sell in my little bookstore. (We have standards they sometimes don't meet, even though we're not as picky as perhaps we ought to be.)

But they're only a segment of the publishing world. They're a significant factor, sure. But if selling books has taught us anything, it's that the big publishers' obsession with creating fads, and replacing them quickly with new fads, isn't what a lot of consumers want.

Good backlist books, midlist books, small press books, niche books, regional-interest books, even self-published books, can do surprisingly well if they're kept in print, and are easily obtained. Novelty sells. But so does something that somebody stumbles across. Or backlist of an author a customer has recently discovered, perhaps years after the publisher has whipped up buzz and then abandoned the titles and the author. I won't be surprised if more big book houses learn to keep more books in their catalogs, long after the talk shows no longer care. We'll see.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but when I read the New York Times piece linked above, the thought that popped to mind was "Me thinks they do protest too much." (However that's supposed to go. Thinks? Thinketh? Protest? Protesteth? I never can remember...) If they want to keep giving elaborate parties, that's their business, of course. But I have to wonder if they're trying just a bit too hard to convince the rest of us that a high-flying style of promotion is necessary, in a day and age in which authors can self-publish, and self-promote, without ever even leaving their home, not to mention that this is a day and age when talk shows and magazines have more competition than ever, and perhaps can't quite drive the popular culture as much as they used to? It's not like the old days, when there were three networks, and no podcasts or bloggers, etc. Is it?

Am I calling big publishers and their marketing departments dinosaurs? Oh, my, no. Think Harry Potter. Think how people lined up to get into stores at midnight. Think how crazy some folks got waiting for the release date, book after book. Think how much people enjoyed the countdown.

Marketing can be powerful. No question. But word of mouth can spread a lot of different ways, and it can and does sell a lot of books ignored by the talk shows and magazines and newspapers. If I were one of those hotshots who is used to being wined and dined, I think I'd be keeping one eye out for signs that the gig was wearing thin. I wouldn't necessarily be sweating, because people who like to live high aren't likely go frugal without a fight. But I would be keeping one eye out.

Longer words for better communication

Lars Walker proposes that we improve the language by making up useful compounds. As an example:

Instead of “progressive,” we could say, “happytospendotherpeople’smoney.”
That, of course, leaves out their drivingdesiretolegislateusintoparalysisanddependency. But I quibble.

I can see where this could get out of hand.

New rules at the borders

Rules changed this week for people crossing the United States borders with Canada and Mexico. Next year, even more stringent rules go into effect. NPR has a look at the changes. It also recently ran a story about a Vermont town where the border goes through town.

See also Important Change in International Land and Sea Travel Document Procedures, Press Release, January 31, 2008, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Beyond recipes

Do you buy ingredients to match recipes, or do you cook more like this: Treasures Up My Sleeve -- Potatoes?

hat tip: The Common Room

Woman gives mouth to mouth resuscitation to tiger cub

A visitor to a German zoo is credited with saving a tiger cub by giving it heart massage and mouth to mouth resuscitation. No, really. The grateful zoo decided to name the cub after good samaritan Janine Bauer's son Johann.

Bauer, a medical student, noticed the cub choking, and then collapsing. She ran to a zookeeper and offered to help. The keeper locked up the mother tiger, and Bauer set to work doing first aid on the 4-month-old cub. Unluckily for Bauer, the cub wouldn't revive without mouth-to-jaw resuscitation. Luckily for the cub, she didn't flinch.

Men's brains compared to women's brains

I'm not entirely sure it ought to be funny, and I'm not even sure all of it is entirely true, but all the same this reduced me to helpless laughter: Mommy Life: Men's brains, women's brains - very funny.

I would like you to notice that the audience in the video is composed primarily of couples, and that they seem to be happily married couples. You will notice how comfortable most of them are with each other, and how they share their laughter, won't you? Thank you. I wouldn't want this to be a source of animosity between the sexes. After all, our ability to take different approaches to any given situation is one of those things that makes a devoted husband-wife team such a force to be reckoned with. And the ability to laugh at our differences is one of those things that makes a good marriage so fun.

The video is just over five minutes long.