Monday, October 31, 2005

Alito for SCOTUS

Judge Samuel Alito has been named as the next nominee to the Supreme Court. Already there is a hue and a cry over his Casey decision. Bench Memos posts the statute here. It basically reads a woman must inform her husband of her plans for an abortion before she does it. Sounds like common sense right? "But wait!" you say, "what if her husband is abusive?" Well let's look at the exemptions to the notification laws:

(b) EXCEPTIONS. — The statement certifying that the notice required by subsection (a) has been given need not be furnished where the woman provides the physician a signed statement certifying at least one of the following:

(1) Her spouse is not the father of the child.

(2) Her spouse, after diligent effort, could not be located.

(3) The pregnancy is a result of spousal sexual assault as described in section 3128 (relating to spousal sexual assault), which has been reported to a law enforcement agency having the requisite jurisdiction.

(4) The woman has reason to believe that the furnishing of notice to her spouse is likely to result in the infliction of bodily injury upon her by her spouse or by another individual.

Such statements need not be notarized, but shall bear a notice that any false statements made therein are punishable by law.

(c) MEDICAL EMERGENCY. — The requirements of subsection (a) shall not apply in the case of a medical emergency


Notice is not permission and there isn't even a fine line between the two, no matter how NOW and Planned Parenthood howl. Unlike with parental notification laws, there is no suggestion that this inhibits in anyway choice. A woman could declare her intent and thumb her nose at the co-creating partner and still fulfill the law. Availibility is not the issue. What pro-abortion lobbyists don't want anyone to do is have a "cooling off period" or anything that might confront the woman with the moral implications of her actions; like talking over a course of action with the other person intimately involved in the decision.

Jeff Goldstein has a roundup from the left side of the fence.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Who We Are Instead

In thier song, Trouble Is, the group Jars of Clay say:

My wings don't sail me to the sky,
On my own these wings won't fly,
Jesus told me so.
Still I'm not so sure that I know.

Man, the trouble is
We don't know who we are instead.

This thought seems to encapsulate conservatives, the GOP, and the nation at the moment. Peggy Noonan in a recent column said:

I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed, or won't be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with "right track" and "wrong track" but missing the number of people who think the answer to "How are things going in America?" is "Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination."

While a bit over the top in the impending doom department, she's not too far off the mark. Why is it that this feeling pervades us? We have always lived in precarious times, a look at history always has shown trouble a brewin'. The answer lies in a couple of places. Firstly, the illusion of safety has been ripped away. 9-11 and some unprecedented natural disasters have brought down the last shreds of the illusion. Who can defend against madmen and the might of nature? You can not reason with a zealot or an earthquake. Secondly, our societal mechanism for coping with the things you can not defend against has been unmade. Muticulturalism fights nationalism, selfishness against duty, relativism against truth. These fights cut across party lines, across generational lines, across religious lines. There is not all good and all bad in any one group - when Code Pink stands hand in hand with the burka enforcement squad we know it an odd alignment.

In thier book, The Fourth Turning, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe define this erosion of societal mechanism as the Unraveling. They postulate four cycles on the wheel of societal time: a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling, and a Crisis. The High is a time of confident expansion in a new order; the Awakening a time of spiritual explorations and rebellion against the established order. Next, the Unraveling era of building trouble as individualism takes precedence over institutions; finally, the Crisis which ushers in a new society thru a momentous gate in history.

Compare what Peggy Noonan says in her column with what Strauss and Howe say. Peggy says:

The fear of parents that their children will wind up disturbed, and their souls actually imperiled, by the popular culture in which we are raising them. Senators who seem owned by someone, actually owned, by an interest group or a financial entity. Great churches that have lost all sense of mission, and all authority. Do you have confidence in the CIA? The FBI? I didn't think so.

But this recounting doesn't quite get me to what I mean. I mean I believe there's a general and amorphous sense that things are broken and tough history is coming.

Now Strauss and Howe:

During each of these periods, Americans celebrated an ethos of frenetic and laissez-faire individualism... yet also fretted over societal fragmentation, epidemic violence, and economic and technological change that seemed to be accelerating beyond society's ability to absorb it...

During each of these periods, an agressive moralism darkened the debate about the country's future. Culture wars raged, the language of political discourse coarsened, nativist (and sectional) feelings hardened, immigration and substance abuse came under attack, and attitudes toward children grew more protective.

During each of these periods, Americans felt well rooted in thier personal values but newly hostile toward the corruption of civic life. Unifying institutions, which once seemed secure for decades, now felt ephemeral. Those who had once trusted the nation with thier lives were growing old and dying. To the new crop f young adults, the nation hardly mattered. The whole res publica seemed on the verge of disintegrating.

During each of these previous Third Turnings, Americans felt as if they were drifting towards cataclysm. And, as it turned out, they were.

Do you see the parallels? I do. What does this mean? Are we facing an imminent Crisis? Strauss and Howe thought so when they published the book in the late 1990's. They predicted a Crisis period beginning in about 2005. I think they predicted a couple of years too late I think the Crisis began on 9-11-2001. Why then and not the bombing of the USS Cole or the tumultus elections of 2000? Why not the first World Trade Center attack or the SARS panic? Why not the dot com crash? Because 9-11 shook us, defines us, polorizes us and set a chain of events in motion that nothing else has.

Strauss and Howe set out a morphology of how the Crisis era unfolds:

* A catalyst - a groundshaking event (or sequence of events) that produces a shift of national mood.

* a regeneracy - reunification of civic life

* a climax - birthing a new societal order and burying the old

* a resolution - the culmination of the climax that resolves big questions and firmly established the new societal order.

Resolution will bring unprecedented freedoms or unprecedented tyranny. Examine a few of the Crisises of the past: the Civil War, WW2. At each we stood at the bring of freedom or tyranny, already many have likened 9-11 to Pearl Harbor. There is a reason the rhetoric of politics keeps turning to the parallels of WW2 and the specter of facism. We stand at the same brink. No, not the brink, we are full force into the flood of history and on some level we are all aware of it. The Crisis will encompass a generation as the Unraveling did before it, and the Awakening did before the Unraveling.

Peggy Noonan expresses a worry that too many of our national leaders are not going to lead us in the reformation of civic life:

Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.

I suspect that history, including great historical novelists of the future, will look back and see that many of our elites simply decided to enjoy their lives while they waited for the next chapter of trouble. And that they consciously, or unconsciously, took grim comfort in this thought: I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, "I got mine, you get yours."

Perhaps that is so, but the story does not end there. There will be leaders with the courage and tenacity to work through it, and in some respects it may be easier to find these leaders to rally to them and to support them. I speak of the internet and blogs, tools just as Franklin and Paine used newspapers and pamphlets. Out there somewhere a blogger will write the Common Sense of our Crisis. Glenn Reynolds tipped me to Justin Katz at Anchor Rising and I think Justin got it just right:

Ms. Noonan is surely in a better position than I to judge whether this attitude drives the Western elite, but I can't help but wonder whether, similarly, she's more susceptible to elites' false conceits. Perhaps it isn't "the whole ball of wax" that's falling apart, but just the artificial system — long sensed to be untenable — by which the elites, the conceit-full Baby Boomer elites, have managed to secure the "grim comfort" that "I got mine."

Or perhaps we are headed toward "the next chapter of trouble," and it may be trouble from more than merely a limited perspective. But blogs are proving that, if the functional elites are too resigned to that trouble to lead our society through it, the underclasses now have the technology — and the faculty — to pick up the slack. Maybe the sky is falling only to reveal the truer sky beyond, and in its light, we will be better able to respond to the troubles with which life — and history — accosts us all equally.

Basil has working trackbacks again!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Pumpkin Cake

A delicious treat for halloween parties, harvest parties or just something to do with all that pumpkin laying around, I give you - Pumpkin Cake!

4 eggs
3/4 cup oil
2 cup sugar
15 oz pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp each nutmeg, ginger, and cloves
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (opt.)

Mix pumpkin, sugar, oil, and spices. Add beaten eggs. Combine flour, soda, and baking powder and add slowly to pumpkin mixture until texture is smooth and uniform. Stir in nuts. Stir into 2 greased and lightly floured cake pans. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until toothpick can be removed cleanly.

What's cake without icing?

Cream Cheese Icing

1/4 lb butter
1 lb cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar

Mix until creamy and smooth. Resist urge to lick paddle of blender.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Drunk Pumpkin

Makin' frat boys proud everywhere, Don's got a drunk pumpkin up on his site. Plus a whole lota cool linkage. Thanks for the link Don.

Halloween Movies

Lori Byrd has a post up about her favorite Halloween movies and Ace follows up with a post considering the "rules" of vampire movies. He's wrong about the "entering rule", some evil you have to invite into your life. Well, in my family ghost movies are the byword. Chief among them strides Lady in White starring Lukas Haas and Alex Rocco.

Lady in White tells of a 10 year old in the 1950's who sees a ghost and has a brush with a serial killer on Halloween.

Haunted starring Aiden Quinn and Kate Beckinsale is a particular favorite of my mother. More recent entrants, What Lies Beneath and Gothika have problems with basic ghost story rules. The're still enjoyable, but don't touch The Gift for good quality creepy.

Good family friendly fare includes: The Ghost and Mrs Muir, Topper, Haunted Mansion, and Blithe Spirit, particularly the one starring Rex Harrison. Rex Harrison loves to portray a man set on his comfortable rut, it is highly entertaining to see it upset.

What are ghost story rules?

* Ghosts haunt for a reason, mostly to resolve the circumstances around thier death - injustice or to bring emotional closure.

* Ghosts are limited to where they can haunt. (Major problem with Haunted)

* Ghostly manifestations like fire or water must have application to how they perished. So a ghost who was drowned could manifest water all around but is unlikely to manifest fire.

* Ghosts stop haunting when thier issues are resolved or after they have completed thier mission.

* Ghosts sometimes haunt to protect a loved one from a threat.

* Ghosts can not possess only express. (Major problem with Gothika)

Good ghost story books: Daniel Hecht's City of Masks and Land of Echoes. Also Lily's Ghosts by Lara Ruby. The latter is a young adult book, excellent though.

Update: How could I forget The Others and The Frighteners?

Cao has open trackbacks today. Thanks Cao.
So does Mudville.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


I am going to insult someone. What kind of idiot puts a "Bad Cop, No Donut" sign on thier flashy red sports car? Do they want a speeding ticket? I mean, it is in the realm of possibility that the person drives within the speed limit all the time, never commits any kind of traffic violation, ect; do you really think so though?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mr. Heston, Mr. Rozsa

In the past when studio execs wanted a big box office smash they remade Ben-Hur. Then in 1959, William Wyler filmed the definitive version starring Charlton "you'll pry this scene from my cold, dead hands" Heston. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards (back when that meant something - ed. cynic), this movie has it all. Easily one of the best movies ever made.

I have had it on in the background while doing chores, and have got to say Miklos Rozsa's masterful score* ennobles** even the most mundane tasks. Just at the desert scene where Judah almost dies of thirst, the Muralist has stopped to watch, wait for it. Yup.

"Mom, I'm thirsty!"

"We keep you alive to serve these children, serve well and live." - Words for all us at home parents.

Ben-Hur trivia:

The design of the stadium was another major bone of contention. MGM asked an archaeologist what the stadium in Jerusalem had looked like. "Roman," came the reply. A second archaeologist was asked. "It was in a Phoenician style," he said. A third archaeologist was consulted, who said: "Stadium? I was not aware that Jerusalem had one!" MGM engineers eventually sat down and carefully studied Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925), and based their design on that.

*Yes, Dad it is the best peice of music ever produced.
**Yes, Dear Husband I almost said inbiggens***
***Yes, everyone else inbiggens is a legit word, I learned it on the Simpsons after all. heh.

I am corrected - "embiggens". Go banana!

A Walk in the Woods

As anyone who has ever read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods knows, bears are dangerous because they like Snickers bars. Wait scratch that, Snickers bars are dangerous because bears like them. Here in the good ol' USA though, we reserve the right to bear arms in case bears (or the king of England) comes sniffing after our candy. That applies to gun savvy 8 year old Mayland girls too. First bear of the season. Second Amendment.

ht: Don Surber

(Yes, I can find a gratitious book reference in just about anything Mom.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On to the Ridiculous

Cindy Sheehan plans to tie herself to the White House fence for a publicity stunt, er um, anti-Iraq protest. I just have got one question: what happens when you tie yourself to something to protest and then you've got to use the bathroom? How does that work? (ht: M.Malkin)

Rosa Parks RIP

Monday, October 24, 2005

Dark Wizard of Fiduciary Concerns

Alan Greenspan has been replaced at long last and we have a new Dark Wizard, er, Fed Chairman- Ben Bernanke. Signs are looking good on this. (ht: Ramesh)

WSJ has an op-ed from earlier in the year by Mr. Bernanke up.

On Mere Christianity

Baldilocks has been reading Mere Christianity and makes an arguement I'd quibble with. She quotes Lewis talking about morality effecting the soul here is the quote she pulls:

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, “If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.” I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage impotence and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or to the other.

That explains what always used to puzzle me about Christian writers; they seem to be so very strict at one moment and so very free and easy at another. They talk about mere sins of thought as if they were immensely important: and then they talk about the most frightful murders and treacheries as if you had only got to repent and all would be forgiven. But I have come to see that they are right. What they are always thinking of is the mark which the action leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life but which each of us will have to endure—or enjoy—for ever.

Then she says:

To me, this seems to be a particularly Catholic way of thinking--Catholics, feel free to argue--and though I have no intention of converting, it makes a lot of sense to me. If you’re going to be stuck with ‘you’ forever, it behooves you to try to become the type of person that you want to be stuck with for that long. After your threescore and ten are done (plus change, if you’re lucky/unlucky), all opportunities for modification will be past. To put it in geek-speak, in the eternal life realm, you'll have all the features and bugs that you’re ever going to have. Apart from radical change, a person is always headed in one direction or the other; therefore the time to make changes is now.

I am not a Catholic, but I am going to challenge that reading of the passage. I don't think Lewis is saying we are going to bear the marks of sin forever. We are going to be perfected in Christ. Rather Lewis is speaking directly of people Now, the eternal beings we meet in the grocery store. For a Christian the passage to becoming more like Jesus is increasingly difficult as you further your walk with Him. The more He sheds his light on your life more more you become aware of where the dross is. Some things are easy to get rid of.

Imagine the sin in your life as a big log. Jesus helps you roll the huge log off your chest, suddenly you're free, you can move, He's bandaging your big scrapes and cuts. You notice you are covered in splinters, some are big - easy to see, most of them are tiny hard - to grasp. All of the splinters are areas that can cause infection. All need to be dealt with. So large unmistakeable sins, like murder to use Lewis' example, can not be ignored, it is easy to let the Physician pull the large shards. Sins of thought, are tiny things requiring us to search carefully, get it all including the sharp spike; to stand under Jesus' strong searching light and not flinch away from His tweezers.


My mom gave the kids a Ukulele a while back ago when the Verbalist expressed an interest in playing the guitar. When he asked to hear some ukulele music I played him some IZ, that is Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Now thanks to Bill at INDC, I can show him this wonderful Beatles rendition.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Punkin' Patch

Little more than a week until Halloween so it is time for the obligatory pumpkin hunt. In places more urban we hunted pumpkins in grocery store lots; last year we went down the road to one of the local farms and poked through the wagons. This year we went whole hog, and the clan caravaned to a pumpkin patch complete with hay rides and a corn maze. Positively Rockwellian in the best of ways.

The weather was threatening, in fact had it's beginning of the season pour earlier in the week. Friday was warm and sunny and today was the last of the sun forcasted for a while. Prime chance for getting out to pick out gourds for fun and destruction. The Verbalist was full of big plans for a big pumpkin, while the Muralist decided to wait for the spirit to move her. She would keep a weather eye out the perfectus one.

We pulled up and piled out of my Sis' mini van. Next to us, my folks rolled up in thier pick-up. Glancing around the parking lot I was uneasy, if the puddles were bad here, how bad would they be in the field? The tractor pulling the hay ride sat idling by the produce stand ready to load the last few people it's wagon could hold. As the adults stood palavering about the availability of seats the Muralist pipes up.

"I have to use the potty!" she intones, using the premptory note a tot uses when toilet usage is a Big Deal. I handed the Infant off to Sis and hay ride was forgone for Port-a-let. So we trooped out to the patch instead, a good choice considering the wiggles stored up in the car ride out. We pause enroute examining carrots and winter cabbage in situ, discussing the virtues of washing off vegetables before consumption. Across the ditch into the patch we wandered.


"Found mine!" cried the Verbalist.

"Are you sure?" I ask looking down at the small pumpkin he has claimed. "What about the big one you were going to get?"

"I'm sure. This one is the best." Confidence exudes from him. "The best for a boy like me."

"Ok," say I, already scanning for the Muralist and spying her considering a pumpkin the same size as she. "pick it up." The Verbalist was having none of that. "Pacah!" he calls to my father. "Can you carry this for me?"

To and fro we went looking for the Pumpkin perfect for each of us. The Muralist ran all round looking for the sincerest pumpkin I guess finging one with character - tall and oval, perfectly orange with a dimpled face. Pacah and the Verbalist trekked back to the sales area to retrieve a wheel barrow to tote the 11 pumpkins chosen by our entire party. Alas they returned with a barrow with a flat tire. It fell to my brother in the Navy to muscle it back, for which we were all grateful.

From the patch we retired to the "buffalo" (as the Muralist calls the Chinese buffet) where hungry as lions, we ate our fill. Bouyed by our successful hunt, my mother promised small toys to her grandkids. God help us, in a kung pao chicken haze I let the Verbalist have a pump action shot gun that propells suction darts. What hath I wrought?

Thursday, October 20, 2005


I get a little dividend from my love of movies and the Swan of Avon, in the form of recognition. (barely... in the most desperate, pathetic fashion) Just click here and scroll down. Revel in my clear and insightful analysis of Mel Gibson in tights. Then go read Jasper Ffordes funny, funny books.

This Elitism Will Not Stand

No, I am not talking about Miers, but the outrageous slur against science fiction in The Corner in regards to this list of books from TIME. John Podhoretz said:

John J., I'm enough of an elitist to find it a little horrifying that the Time list featured Neal Stephenson and William Gibson -- I've read both books, and they're impressive examples of their genre, but (here comes the stuff that will provoke a million e-mails) science fiction is junk like Judy Blume is junk like comic books are junk.

I will grant you that a great deal of genre fiction is dreck, science and speculative fiction suffer from what novelist Sharyn McCrumb calls the "Bimbos of the Death Sun" curse. That is, no matter how well written and researched, sci-fi inevitably gets slapped with a large chested woman in a tight jumpsuit on the cover art. This leads those who like to act haughty about Lit-rat-chure to dismiss it as "junk". Substitute brass brassieres for fantasy genre fiction, and don't get me started on the largest selling pie in popular fiction, romance novels.

That which the high and mighty lit critics love can also be dreck, but is often presented with the adjective "challenging" or worse, "ground breaking". Sorry, I like a coherent narrative in my fiction and usually a third less (at least) poised angst about the dreariness of life. I am a bibliophile, I love books and can barely part with tattered copies bought for a quarter at the Friends of the Library book sales. Oh how tired I get of people telling me what is worthwhile to read and what is not, what I should read furtively for fear of being labeled a lightweight.

John Miller sensibly defends genre fiction. John Derbyshire tries to but commits his own fallacy (bold mine):

If a great novel is written in the sci-fi idiom, it is at once de-categorized as "sci fi" and re-categorized as "mainstream."

What is "Brave New World," if not sci-fi? You don't see it in sci-fi catalogs, though. Even Vonnegut's sci-fi isn't sci-fi (mostly) -- it's too well thought of (though not by me).

Sci fi is by definition a low category of literature. A really good novel is by definition mainstream... even if it's sci-fi.

And in a way, this is right and just. After all, sci-fi readers aren't looking for high literary merit, and don't want it, or at any rate don't much care whether it's present or not. (Though it is NOT the case that they wouldn't know it if they saw it. Lots of them -- of us -- would. It's just that we don't always want it.) What a sci-fi reader, in sci-fi-reading mode, wants, is, to quote Isaac Asimov, "those crazy ideas." At the heart of every sci-fi story is a really cool idea. "Wow! Just imagine! What if..." If it comes attached to literary excellence, as it occasionally does, that's really neither here not there.

Greatest sci-fi writer of the 20C: Robert A. Heinlein, by a mile.

Recatogorization happens when the haughty lit prognosticators run across a genre book that they can not ignore. It doesn't not magically change the book from whatever genre it is in. Frankenstien, Dracula, and Mask of the Red Death are undeniably horror stories. Your test is to pitch it as a film: picture your book as a movie and chances are it will fall into a genre. If it does not then it is "mainstream" fiction and will rarely be snubbed as "low brow". I agree with Derb about Heinlein, although an admirable case can be made for Bradbury.

The silliness of TIME's list and the Corner discussion stems from that fact that only future generations can determine what becomes classic literature and what get tossed by the wayside. Stephen King will stack besides Shelly, Stoker, and Poe in the annals of classic horror unless I miss my guess, and he is the poster child for pulpy goodness. I am horrified that TIME has snubbed the comedic genius of PG Wodehouse, but I rest easy knowing that his body of work will not wither away for want of a nod by the twiddleheads who have appointed themselves arbitors of literature.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Nick Park, Genius in Details

Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit is not a kid movie, it is a family movie. Kid movies engross the younger set but leave adults yawning, family movies engage all levels. If the the fun in Shrek is noticing the details, you'll love Nick Park's latest creation.

The movie shows us the classic horror concept of science gone amok. In an effort to save the town vegetables from a horde of hungry rabbits, Wallace attempts to reverse the bunnies produce loving ways thru mind control. Disaster, as they say, ensues. Adults, even those who are not horror film enthusiasts, can pleasure in carefully crafted horror film cliches: racing to a safe haven as the sun sets, the old priest (or anglican minister in this case) with musty tomes of lore and a cabinet full of occult knowledge locked away, locking the doors on the vehicle as the monster appears, even the hood of a vehicle smashed as the detrius of the monster's prey is rained down on the street.

Along with the broader scene cliches, come the little comedic gems: the radio presets in the van spell M-U-T-T, the Bishop cheese, the picture of a younger Wallace with hair from a bygone era, and (my personal favorite) the bumper sticker on the van - Eat cheese now, ask me how! There are many more large and small cliches and details all lovingly included. It is a testament to Park that he has crafted the perfect horror story while telling it in so gentle and accessible a manner as to delight my extremely shy and easily frightened niece of three years. This is one to add to the family archives.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Mexican Omlette

This is kind of a cop out post; I mean, who can't make an omlette? But I am crunched for time so this is the best it gets.

5 eggs
1/3 cup mixed, grated, cheddar and jack cheese
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp minced black olives
sour cream
1/4 cup taco meat (optional)

whisk eggs lightly, add 3 tbsp warm water, garlic and spices and combine thoroughly. Water will make the eggs fluffier. Pour out onto medium hot griddle or non stick skillet. When bottom of egg mixture is cooked, add cheese, olives, and meat to half of egg. Fold over the other half and cook for another 3 minutes. Slide onto warm plate and spoon on salsa and sour cream. Yum!

From Imaginings of a Tot

Every day I get new evidence of the Verbalist's rich fantasy life but the other day he shared a gem. Apparently, he and his panda have begun to write a comic book about the Adventures of Captain Froggie Applepants. Now Cap'n F. Applepants is a fearsome pirate with a the face of an ugly frog and apples rolling around in his pants. (A purely sartotial statement as subsequent questioning proves). Action drives a plot, so Cap'n F.A. was made to walk the plank by his former crony, Captian Hook. Now came the difficult part, what would happen to Cap'n F.A.?
Research is called for.

"Grammy," begins my child to my mother, "do alligators and crocodiles live out in the water by the ferry?" My mother explained that no, alligators and crocodiles like warm water. As and Cs eat birds and birds prefer warm water.

"Are you sure?" he asks earnestly. Yes, she assures him. Grammy, an authority on all animal life, is then posed another question. "Are ther sharks in those waters?"

"Oh yes, at least 10 different kinds."

"Noooo," he chuckles nervously, "you're teasing." Grammy began to list the variety of sharks that live in the water around our Pacific abode, and the Verbalist realized that she was not teasing. Explainations on food chains and cold water marine habitats ensued. At last research done, the Verbalist continued the adventures of Captain Froggie Applepants. After Captain Hook made him walk the plank, a shark came and swallowed C. F.A. whole and that was the end of him.

Something tells me these adventures will get played out in the next few weeks with the Muralist cast as Captain Froggie Applepants.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Harriet Miers 3

Beryl says:

Some people (*COUGH*K-Lo*COUGH*) were stunned by the pick. As has been said by many before me, conservatives have aimed to reform the system. They wanted (with "charming naivete") to see a justice who could follow the constitution even if it meant that they would not always agree with that justice's decisions. The wanted someone who would espouse a philosophy of law that would have influence far beyond a vote on a particular case.

For example: I think that honest conservatives want a 'reversal' of Roe, whereby the court devolves the power to the states (where it resided before Roe.) They do not seek a decision that is the 'inversion' of Roe, i.e., a SCOTUS-imposed sanction against abortion.

In the wake of their shock and dissapointment, intemperate words have been spoken. The rift needs to be healed, but don't expect people to kiss and make up. The opportunity to appoint to SCOTUS does not come to every president. Bush had many, many people standing by him, giveing lots of time and treasure, taking lots of hits, so that he could get the opportunity to appoint TWO.

And for the second pick the best that we get is, "Trust me."

I am not saying I disagree with NROers that Meirs should not sit in SCOTUS. I am saying that in the war of damaging rhetorical smears NROers threw the first gout of mud. It's kinda rich that Jonah is now employing the "whoever started it" let's kiss and make up when no one in the Corner called Brookheiser on his Caligulan smear.

I am turned cold to thier arguments, no matter how persuasive they might be, by the nasty attack. Does this mean I am going to refuse to support the GOP in 06 and 08? Or conversely quit reading NRO? Of course not. Does this mean I am going reflexively support Miers? No, I am holding to my original decision, to wait until the hearing and use my best judgement then contact my Senators and ask them to support or not support her which is what the President has asked. When he said "Trust me" it was not "trust me and abdicate your judgement completely" as Mark Levin said. Mr. Bush has said: wait until the hearings, you'll be surprised. I sincerely hope so, all though I doubt I will be. I would hope that the many branches of the GOP, from conservatives to libertarians to hard line party men would stop attacking each other, the nominee, and the President and debate like grown ups.

If the debate were about her judicial philosophy and not about her "qualifications", cronyism, gender, religious conviction, or any other peripheral consideration, then I think most would agree that she is not who we would want sitting on the highest bench on the land. I think party men like Hewitt and Ruffini are big enough to say "we were wrong" if at the hearings her judicial philosophy is shown to be wandering and incoherent. By the same token some folks at NRO have all ready indicated they have closed thier minds to the possibility they may be wrong. *cough* Frum, Levin *cough* I am happy to see not all NROers are like that (Goldberg, Lopez and Podhoretz spring to mind)

Like Lileks says Miers is gonna hurt Bush when he seeks his third term. Ha!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I Saw Mommy Duking it out with Santa Claus

The Verbalist is contemplating Santa requests. I know, I know it's not yet Halloween, but the power of earning money for toys pales in comparison to the raw power that comprises Santa. I just don't want him to ever see this. ho, ho, ho Ninjas meet pirates, it's right up little boy fantasy alley.

Serenity Cool

So go here to watch the first 9 minutes of Serenity, that flick I am going to buy as soon as it comes out on DVD if Santa doesn't buy it for me first HINT HINT. ht: Frank J

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Harriet Miers 2

Beryl says:

And now, looking across this panorama of talent, Bush says that the best person for the job is someone who has never, not even as a clerk, written an opinion on constitutional law.

Which is a legitimate complaint, and one that I share, but it still doesn't make her disqualified for the job. I'm not championing the pick by any stretch of the imagination, my gut feeling is that she will be another O'Connor, perhaps a tad more conservative. My post I guess has more to do with the in fighting and backbiting than anything else. Jonah Goldberg said today:
Regardless, whoever started the name-calling, all of it is beneath a movement and a philosophy which is supposed to pride itself on dealing with uncomfortable facts. I don't mind arguments within the conservative camp. I relish them, as should be obvious. They are a sign of intellectual health and integrity

OK, sounds good but I started tuning out NRO's when they started comparing Bush to Caligula and Miers to the Horse. That is not a fact or an arguement it was cheap and beneath them. I know that it was meant as levity, but it still was off putting. This was Monday Oct 3rd. I think we know where the nastiness started.

Harriet Miers

I haven't posted on Harriet Miers yet because I am kind of disgusted with the whole affair. I had hoped for a judge like Justice Thomas. Many conservatives I read and know prefer Scalia to Thomas. Thomas doesn't feel the need to showboat, I like that. Scalia or Thomas though have something in common, they interpret the Constitution on what it says even if it leads them to make rulings that are not one that I'd be happy with otherwise. I expect that both of them will uphold Oregon's assisted suicide law, something I abhor (assisted suicide being nothing short of murder).

Chief Justice Roberts I also expect will rule based on the actuality of what was written rather than legislating from the bench. Will Harriet Miers? This is the question that concerns conservatives far and wide, or should. When people ask would she overturn Roe? Her reasons why or why not matter more than yes or no. Roe should be overturned because it is bad law. That it is morally repugnant makes the law more frustrating, but is not in and of it'self reason to overturn it, that is the job for legislatures. The administration touts Miers as an evangelical Christian as an effort to soothe the base that she will "vote the right way". As an evangelical Christian, let me say that this does not reassure me. Being an evangelical Christian may align her social views closer than mine than say, Glenn Reynolds, but that says nothing to her judicial philosophy.

The good folks at National Review Online have been frustrating with thier Eeyorishness and have sorely tested my patience, as have a number of other people. The argument that she is not the most qualified person to assume the role of justice, an argument that seems preeminent among those crowds, is not one that holds alot of sway with me. She is not, so? John Roberts already has a job. "Qualified" smacks of the elitism that they are so vehemently denying. Outside of the "preeminient legal mind of his generation", there are always going to be disagreements over the who else is qualified. That Miss Miers is not a sitting judge or academic is not a disqualifier. That she lacks a papertrail is also not a disqualifier. She is qualified OK? She's a citizen with a engaged mind. Qualified does not touch whether or not we want her to be the next SCOTUS justice. Ginsberg is qualified, doesn't mean I'm thrilled with her as a justice.

How does Miss Miers view the law and the Constitution? If is it a view which is in harmony with ours (prenumbras and eminations verboten), is she likely to hold firm to that view or not? Those are the two questions and only those two questions, which need to be answered. Then you can rail about Dubya making or breaking promises, delve into cronyism and identity politics and throw rhetorical mud all you want. The President and his team have assured us that we will be happy with the answers to both those questions at her confirmation hearings, we will see.

Things You Don't Want to Hear 2

Mom! I peed on my face and can't see a towel.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Disaster heaped on disaster lately

Couple of good links on the earthquake in Pakistan at Gateway Pundit and Jawa Report. Amidst reports of death and devistation, my first hope was that if Bin Laden was sitting in a stinking hole in Pakistan, that the earthquake finished him off. God forgive me for not first praying for those that died and those that have lost loved ones.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Pumpkin Seed Popcorn Balls

I'm feeling all harvest-y. Weather here is seesawing between misty/rainy and sunny/cool. The tomatoes have given up the ghost and as we were going to story time, the kids and I saw two big trucks full of pumpkins headed up island. So exploring treats for Halloween I've decided to bodge together a couple of recipes: popcorn balls and candied pumpkin seeds.

2 cups of raw pumpkin seeds
1 large egg white
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

Lightly beat egg white and vanilla together. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper, Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl add egg white to seeds until just coated. Add sugar and toss. Spread seeds on sheet toast for 10 minutes. Stir and separate then continue toasting until light golden brown. Let cool.

9 cups popped popcorn
1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Remove all unpopped kernels from popped popcorn. Put popcorn in a greased baking pan. Keep popcorn warm in a 300 oven while making syrup.For syrup mixture, butter the sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. In saucepan combine sugar, water, corn syrup, vinegar, and salt. Cook and stir over medium-high heat till mixture boils, stirring to dissolve the sugar (about 6 minutes). Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring occasionally, till thermometer reaches 250 (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour syrup mixture over hot popcorn and stir gently to coat. Cool till the popcorn mixture can be handled easily. Mix in pumpkin seeds. Buttered hands and shape the mixture into 3-inch diameter balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap. Yield about 10 popcorn balls.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Avian Flu

I have kept an eye on Avian Flu news and so read with interest an article in today's Wall Street Journal. The online link is for subscribers only so I will excerpt the article I read in the dead tree version. There was some good and some bad news in the article, so good news first:

1. The Administration appears to be serious and realistic about the threat and where current response readiness is at in the states.

In an interview, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt said an administration plan to be put forth in coming weeks is designed to ensure a far more robust domestic vaccine industry, with expanded US manufacturing capacity.

2. The US now has capacity to manufacture Tamiflu start to finish on US soil.

Roche doubled manufacturing capacity of Tamiflu in 2004 and again in 2005 and said it will further increase manufacturing capacity in 2006. "We're bringing manufacturing capacity to the US for the first time at a number of facilities," said spokesman Terence Hurley. "we'll now have the capacity to produce Tamiflu from start to finish for the on US soil this quarter. That's important if borders are closed; HHS asked us to do this."

3. Planning includes more than just federal response but state response as well. Given what we saw in Hurricane's Katrina and Rita, state planning is essential. It is at the state level that citizens are most protected. Feds can help with money and inter-state coordination but if state governments fall down on the job, the results are poor indeed.
An important part of the goverment's plan, Mr Leavitt said yesterday, is to clearly delineate the roles of federal, state and local officials in the event of a pandemic crisis- a souce of much contention in the response to Hurricane Katrina.

4. Research seems to show that the 1918 flu pandemic was a type of avian flu.
...a group of scientists yesterday said they had shown that the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic blamed for 50 million deaths had started among birds and then mutated and spread to humans.
Researchers said the discovery...could help researchers track and perhaps contain a major outbreak. "We have been able to unmask the 1918 virus and it is revealing to us some secrets that will help us prepare for a pandemic," said Julie Gerberding, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ok bad news.

1. Tamiflu is in high demand and short supply. Plus, there have been concerns about it's efficacy in connection to avian flu.

There has been some controversy around Tamiflu, and Mr Leavitt, a former three term governor of Utah and ex-head of the EPA, said he considered purchasing the drug to be akin to an automotive seat belt.
"It doesn't eliminate wrecks but helps you survive when they occur," Mr Leavitt said. He said he was aware about recent scientific reports suggesting that Tamiflu might be only modestly effective agaist the H5N1 virus.

2. State response while vital is not up to par. The article quotes Trust for America's Health concluding only 6 states are adequately prepared to distribute vaccines in an emergency, 2/3 of states can't electronicly track diseases and 60% of states don't have scientists needed to test for plague or anthrax. A document by the GAO says:
Federal and state influenza pandemic plans are in various stages of completionsand do not completely or consistently address key issues surrounding the purchase, distributionand administration of vaccines and antiviral drugs. HHS is working on a national plan, 10 states either have developed or are developing plans using general guidance from the CDC, and 19 more states have plans under developement
29 states out of 50 is not a good number to me. Here in Washington the plan is to isolate and "ring" geographically any identified cases with antivirals and vaccines, to stop spread as effectively as they can. They have also been working with British Columbia health officals in resolving any border issues that may arise. While I have concern for US citizens I think that if a pandemic occurs it will be much harsher in Canada, if thier SARS experience was any indicator.

Update: More thoughts at TCS. Offered at Basil's.

Things You don't Want To Hear 1

The Jurassic Park theme music coming from your children's Barney tape. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Pernicious Christian Writers

It begins. Or rather it continues. Those dangerous and wacky Christians might influence your children through gasp! horror! books. Even though the word Christian, Christ, or Jesus is never used. I am talking about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. Lewis was a Christian, in fact an incredibly influential Christian apologist, and so there is an explicit Christian cast to the books. Therefore we must protect our little darlings from its pernicious subtext. That it also references Norse gods, Greek gods, and Jewish belief that is non-Canonical for Christians is besides the point. That it is a classic, a rousing good adventure, and soon to be made into a movie (which might motivate media saturated youths to pick up and finish the book) is beside the point. The point being that Jeb Bush recommended it in the Florida wide reading campaign.

"Separation of church and state!" scream the usual suspects. The Palm Beach Post has all the scary connections laid out. GOP, Big Business, Catholic, Donor. I'm surprised they didn't dig up some evangelical Christian gushing about how much better than the "godless Harry Potter" books they are.

The Big Business in question is Walden media, a production studio engaged in making movies that will enable educators to get kids to read. They are geared toward family friendly and high quality. With titles like: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, Holes by Louis Sachar, Charlotte's Web by EB White, and The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, Walden is making movies with titles that are loved by kids not those that necessarily beat the drums for Christians.

Still I am waiting for the usual suspects to object to Dante, Madeline L'Engle, Milton, John Donne, GK Chesterton, JRR Tolkien, and George MacDonald from being suggested as reading material to school children.

(ht: the Corner) Offered at Basil's


The Verbalist has spent the morning constructing something, what I am not quite sure. I think he is constructing a cityscape to demolish with his new Batmobile. He has tied a blanket around his neck for a "cape" and is mostly just jumping around spouting laser gun sound effects and booming sounds. This is a welcome change from the primary imaginary game he was playing yesterday which was pirate. Not that pirate is bad, but if his sister is not wanting to play poking her endlessly with a plastic sword is not going to get the response he wants.

I was folding laundry and he grabbed a hanger and now was a hook handed pirate. The Muralist was standing at the kitchen counter coloring in her color book and the Verbalist decided that she looked too peaceful.

"Avast Pirate Girl!" shouted the Verbalist and brandished both "hook" and sword. "Walk the Plank!"

"No!" responds the Muralist emphatically.

"Plank!" Poke poke. "Plank!" Poke poke.

"No!" says the Muralist a little more forcefully. With the air of a gambler playing a trump card she adds, "Go to your room!"

Unfazed by the order, which did not carry parental authority behind it, he resumed poking. I admonish them both to not fight and tell the Verbalist he is about to get into trouble. "Stop poking her, she doesn't want to play." For a few minutes he contents himself with feints and thrusts in the air, but the air doesn't exactly give him the response he is looking for.

"Arrrggggggghhhhhh!" cries the Verbalist in his best Pirate Voice and twirling, pokes his sister in the ribs once more. Quick as a flash his sister turns and beans him with a make shift weapon.

"Owwwwwww." wails the Verbalist. After a quick check for injury, a chastened Verbalist is sent to his room. "Pirates are not sent to thier rooms," he legalizes.

"No," reply I, "They are marooooooooooooned."

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Infant

...loves Neil Diamond. iTunes kicked up "Cracklin' Rosie" on the shuffle. The infant started laughing and bouncing. Lest you think this was a side effect of an up tempo song, she showed unabashed enthusism for "Play Me."

I Can't Believe I'm Fisking Power Line

I am a self admitted Browncoat, that is a HUGE fan of Joss Whedon's Firefly series, so I was disappointed in the factual errors of Power Line's review of Serenity.

John Hinderaker says:

Everything considered, I think Serenity is likely to be a sleeper hit, and may become a cult classic. The film is well suited to the internet marketing scheme that Universal has apparently decided on. What have they got to lose? The industry is in the dumpster, the movie is based on a TV series, Firefly, that lasted a mere seven episodes, and no one has ever heard of anyone in the cast. So where do you go to generate buzz? The web.

Whedon filmed 14 episodes and 11 were aired before FOX pulled the plug. Then Sci-Fi played all the episodes in order running up to the release of the film. Since the boxed DVDs have been released they have consistently been in the Amazon top 50. True most of the cast would get a huh? who?, but I think this media nation would recognise Ron Glass at least.

I know you aren't a big movie guy or a sci-fi guy, but please get the numbers right, it niggles at me. (yes I know I'm being retentive) As far as generating buzz on the web, keep in mind that is where the fans gave the series a new lease on life. The sudio would be blind to ignore fans who make "conversions" to the series that generate DVD sales and generally drive message with the same muscle that resurrected Star Trek. Only now the fans have the might of the internet, the ultimate "word of mouth" powerhouse, the sudio would be mad indeed to ignore blogs, podcasts and forums which will drive sales. Like Peter Jackson who harnessed the fan base for Lord of the Rings, to drive the Extended Edition of DVD sales, Joss Whedon can use fans like myself to creat buzz to get folks into the theater.

Offered over at Basil's Blog.
(ht: Literalbarrage and thanks for the link.)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Pound Cake

Mmmmm. Pound cake. I made a new pound cake the other day and it filled the air was filled by the heavenly scent. Puts pounds on you just smelling it.

Pound Cake

1 cup butter softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp lemon zest
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking pwder
1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter an sugar until light and fluffy then add zest, vanilla and almond extract. One at a time add eggs until thoroughly combined. Sift together flour, baking pwder and salt, then add 1/2 cup at a time to rest of ingredients.

Bake in greased loaf pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.