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.