Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Yesterday the Verbalist, Muralist, the Screecher and I were shopping and picked up MouseTrap, the boardgame where you build a Rube Goldberg machine to trap other people's game pieces. It won the immediate approbation of the Verbalist, whom you might recall drew up plans for trapping Santa Claus last Christmas.

The Muralist was more concerned with collecting pieces of cheese than construction of the trap, but she was suitably wary when it was completed. The Verbalist could hardly keep from running the partially completed contraption as we hopped along the board. His hand kept sneaking out to turn the gear crank.

Game one ended when I captured both Verbalist and Muralist pieces in one go. Game two ended after the Verbalist captured me and the Muralist captured him in turn. He had a brief gloating session before, unwary, his sister turned the crank on him.

He has decided to build a full size sister trap and is drawing up plans.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Suspect Zero

This week's movie is Suspect Zero (2004). A mostly sidelined crime/horror thriller, Suspect Zero stars Ben Kingsley as a serial killer who kills other serial killers and Aaron Eckart as the FBI agent trying to catch him. Watching it I was struck by it's similarity to Se7en (1995). The main killer, O'Ryan (Kingsley), communicates with Mackelway (Eckert) making him integral to the puzzle and solution of how to catch him.

Kingsley gives as creepy and compelling a performance as Kevin Spacey did in Se7en but manages to invest a shade of empathy for him that makes you more uncomfortable than the unvarnished evil of Spacey's John Doe.

In Se7en, Brad Pitt seemed to move in slow motion, pacing himself to Morgan Freeman's measured narration. Eckert exudes tension and fatigue all through Suspect Zero, making his emotional collapses believable. By the time the final scenes roll around you wonder if Mackelway will fall victim to the manipulations of O'Ryan.

Carrie Anne Moss portrays Mackelway's partner, Fran Kulok. I know from Memento (2000) that Carrie-Anne Moss is capable of being something other than wooden on the screen, unfortunately there is only one scene where she emotes at all in Suspect Zero. Mackelway is convinced he knows O'Ryan's motives and goes to Kulok's hotel room looking for a sense of support - an understanding that he is not moving in the direction of insanity. Kulok declines to accompany Mackelway back to the office and urges him to come into her room. Moss manages to convey helplessness and concern over her partner's slide into intuitive leaps and obsessing. Other than those 2 minutes, Kulok is a two dimentional cypher.

Bottom line: Suspect Zero needed Morgan Freeman. Freeman brings depth to whatever project he is working on and Aaron Eckert and Ben Kingsley's performances were better than Pitt and Spacey's. Plus, Suspect Zero didn't have the gratuitous nastiness that was in Se7en.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Summer Reading and the American Novel

Powerline has created a "Greatest American Novel" poll:

We've selected 21 contenders for the title of all-time best American novel. The list will no doubt provoke disagreement; it is, pretty much by definition, arbitrary and capricious. We tried to select candidates based on literary merit. Politics and sociology were ignored. Here is the list:

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Melville, Moby-Dick
Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
James, Portrait of a Lady
Twain, Huckleberry Finn
Cather, My Antonia
Wharton, The Age of Innocence
Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Warren, All the King's Men
Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
Ellison, Invisible Man
Chandler, The Long Goodbye
Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Updike, Rabbit, Run
Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor
Heller, Catch-22
Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
Nabokov, Pale Fire
Roth, The Great American Novel

I don't see any glaring omissions, although a reader of their's chastised them for neglecting Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. I think I would have included some James Fenimore Cooper (despite Twain's distain) likely The Prairie or Last of the Mohicans. Cooper's flowery and rambling prose are no worse than Melville or Dickens and he touches important themes: individaulism, conservation, and competing cultures while celebrating the beauty of the continent.

Still, Cooper can not compete with To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Fahrenheit 451 and The Long Goodbye ultimately are hindered by their genres although they are as finely written as Mockingbird. I enjoy both hard boiled crime noirs and speculative/science fiction but many people don't and would find it as difficult to read past the conventions of either as they would the snowstorm of words in Moby Dick or Age of Innocence.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lost Season Finale

I don't watch 24, Jack Bauer holds no allure. I stopped watching American Idol when allegations of vote counting scandals surfaced in season 2. No thanks, Washington State has it's fill of that in regular politics; besides, Simon Cowell wins every year anyway. Lost is the tv show for me and boy, was it a slam bang season finale last night.

Lost provides a valuable public service - it keeps alot of people obsessing over conspiracy theories they know are fake. Can you imagine if these folks obsessed over Rove in Democratic Underground or Vince Foster's murder elsewhere? No, it's best that they go off chasing the Hanso Foundation.

What happened to the denizens of Oceanic Flight 815 last night? Well, we found out that the man purporting to be Henry Gale (Fenry) pulled a Verbal Kint. We found out that the numbers do mean something. Michael and Walt were reunited and got away. The Skipper killed Maryanne to persuade the natives to give him a fishing boat and a map to Hawaii so he and Gilligan could get away - holey moley.

Damon Lindeloff has thrown down the alien gauntlet to the obsessive fans in the form of a four toed statue. Two people died and no less than nine main characters lives are now in jeopardy. After all, do you believe Fenry's claim to be the "good guys"? Me neither.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New Blog Look

This will change. I especially hate comments right now.


My one year blogiversary is this month. Hoorah! I have had 13,000 visitors on average of 50 people a day.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Breaking News: French are Rude

So a bunch of Brits say the French are rude and the French say they are just "moody". Poe-tay-toe/Pa-tah-toe - I know what my Dear Husband means when he says "moody" nice person code for "b*tchy".

A decisive 46 percent of the 6,000 people surveyed by travellers' website Where Are You Now (WAYN) said the French were the most unfriendly nation people on the planet, British newspapers reported.

The Germans have no to reason to celebrate the damning verdict. They came second on all three counts.

WAYN's French founder, Jerome Touze, told the papers he had been stunned by the thumping condemnation of his compatriots and sought to blame it on Gallic love-struck sulking.

"I had no idea that the French would emerge as such an unfriendly country," he said.

"I think our romantic 'moodiness' is misunderstood and I will be sure to pass on the message to my family and friends back in France to be a bit more cheerful to tourists in the future."

My favorite bit:
Italy was voted the world's most cultured nation with the best cuisine, while the United States was named the most unstylish with the worst food.

Yeah, Hollywood so unglamorous. Plus, are the Brit's anyone to be criticizing about bad food?? These are the producers of blanc-mange and blood pudding. I will back a greasy burger anytime against blanc-mange.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Chicken n' Dumplings

Let me state a couple of things right off: when I heard the catagory for recipes this week was crockpot comfort food this is the recipe that sprang to mind. Second, as a kid I hated this food and ate it under protest, my mother is now laughing her head off in schadenfruede. This is her recipe from my kidhood. I am aware that it does not actually contain chicken.

Chicken n' Dumplings

In crockpot combine:

2 turkey drums
1 bay leaf
one small onion, chopped coarse
1 stock celery (leaves on) chopped
1 tsp parsley
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sage

Cover with water and cook on medium until meat falls off the bone. Remove meat/bone to cool. Add to crockpot:

3-4 yukon gold or red potatoes diced, skin on
3-4 carrots coined, skin on
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup of milk or cream

When veggies are tender add in the meat, being sure to pick the bones clean. Add 1/2 cup green peas. Then thicken broth with cornstarch or flour, about 2 Tbsp. Turn heat down to low and stir occasionally until thick. Add dumplings to stew in spoonfuls and cook 10 minutes covered and 5 minutes uncovered. Dumplings should be fluffy and have a skin on top.

Dumpling dough:

2 cups biscuit mix (Bisquick in singled out in mom's recipe)
1 tsp parsley
and milk enough to form very soft dough.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Feh! Prepare for pogroms

I know it is considered bad form to invoke Nazi comparisons, but what are you going to do?(ht: NRO)

Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

I am surprised there is no mandate for gays to wear pink - oh that's right, they hang them.
Update: The story is unconfirmed and looks like false. That's good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I am standing folding laundry and watching Last of the Mohicans (1992) the Michael Mann extravagana that manages to be better than the original source material. As Nathanial (Daniel Day Lewis) passionately tells Cora (Madeline Stowe) that he will find her no matter how long or far, I begin to sniffle anticipating the final scenes. For those of you who have never seen the movie or read Cooper's book; I stress Last of the Mohicans, and not last in line for an ice cream cone either.

A shreak of fear breaks my emotional movie wallow and a tearful Muralist races into the room. Her finger seems to have stuck up her nose. As she babbles somewhat incoherantly, I realize it is not her finger which is stuck up her nose but something else entirely. The finger it seems has pushed the object so far up her nose it can not dig the item out - hence the fear and panic. I dislodge the finger and pull her into a beam of sunshine. Tilting her head back, I look up. Nope, the light is not good enough to see.

The Dear Husband has a Mag-lite that doubles as a club for intruders and it was this gargantuan number which aided in locating and identifying the foriegn object. It was little and yellow. It was organic in nature. It was an old-maid, popcorn kernal and boy howdy it was a big one. I got a tissue, held it and commanded child to blow. It failed. It was lodged too tightly.

"What ever possessed you to stick something up your nose?" I questioned in exasperation as I scrounged for tweezers through the bathroom drawer.

The Muralist considered the question with considerable gravity. "Becaauuussseee," she replied, drawing the syllables as long as possible, "it was stuck in my feet."

For a moment I was utterly floored. I had no words. Putting aside the fact that I have no idea where the popcorn originated, who, who, WHO? puts something stuck in their feet up their nose? My delicate bloom.

"Why?" I asked bemusedly, tweezers cradled, temporarily forgotten, in my hand.

"It made sense when I did it." was her calm reply. The calmness evaporated when she saw the tweezers. After a brief struggle and then promise of an Oreo, we managed to extract the kernal with the Verbalist holding the light and armchair coaching the whole while.

Three year olds, an adventure everyday.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Fridge Magnets for Freedom

I have, for a while, been part of the Iowahawk Legion of Dumb. The Legion has been handed a task that I pass to you my faithful readers:

Now Doc is over in the Big Sandy (Iraq - translation me) making life miserable for Zarkman (Zarqawi - me again), so I'd like to return the favor. Doc writes:
...I need lots of refrigerator magnets to envelop my Humvee with. Naturally you will get the picture of the completed project. I must not let the evil Cavalry types get ahead of me on this one. Perhaps your readers would like to take part with a secret PSYOP decoder ring going to the best magnet.

This is exactly the type of surreal absurdist activity the LOD was founded to support. Thus you are hereby commanded: Send your weirdest refrigerator magnets immediately to

Dr. Lee
TPT 1634 1-33 CAV
3rd BCT 101 ABN DIV
APO AE 09390

And while your at it, you can support our other servicemen and women by supporting Operation Gratitude which is aiming to get 40,000 care packages together by the 4th of July.

Who knows? Perhaps my readers consist of those poor souls whose 'fridges are solely adorned by a magnet for the local pizza takeout, perhaps a monochromatic plastic strawberry; somehow I think better of my readers. So send Dr. Lee a magnet and strike a blow (though glancing to be sure) for freedom.

More on Illegal Immigration

President Bush will be giving a speech in prime-time about illegal immigration, a subject which is bleeding conservative support away from the GOP. The upshot is it's likely to do no good. Why? Baldly put, it's because no one trusts him to secure the border any more than no one expects a Democrat to cut taxes. Putting 10,000 National Guards on the border will not fix the problem. The only way to fix the problem is to enforce the law and to reform and stream line legal immigration.

From what I am seeing and reading it is as bad as I feared. Get this from quintessential party man Hugh Hewitt:
My interview with Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Julie Myers staggered me, undoing in a handful of minutes my confidence in the president's commitment to border security first. Either the president's team had not communicated effectively with sub-cabinet appointees about the fence, or the president doesn't really believe in the fence, because Assistant Secretary Myers is clearly not a proponent of the fence.

John Hawkins:
Amended grade: D-. At least he didn't use the, "jobs Americans won't do," line. So, he did deserve a small boost for that.

End Update

In related illegal immigration news I ran across this story in the Seattle Times:

PENDLETON, Ore. — Out of ideas and low on cash one cold morning, the man with the biggest badge in town put his meaty fingers on a keyboard and tapped out a letter to the leader of Mexico.

"Dear Precidente [sic] Fox," it began.

"My name is John Trumbo. I am Sheriff of Umatilla County in northeastern Oregon, United States of America." Illegal immigrants "from your country" who committed crimes here, the letter said, cost Americans lots of money.

Last year, more than 360 of "your citizens" spent time in jail "at a cost of $63 a day which equates to a request for payment of $318,843," the letter concluded. "At this time, you will not be billed for medical, dental and transportation costs. Your prompt attention to this request will be very much appreciated."

Trumbo goes on to explain about the very real cost to citizens in monetary and non-monetary fashions:

To anyone who asked, Trumbo explained:

The county has a daily jail capacity of 252 inmates but can afford staff and services for only 135 inmates. The sheriff's office should have a minimum of 27 patrol officers but can fund only nine. Between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. each day, no patrol officer is on duty.

"When people call the police, they expect to see the police," Trumbo says. "They see it on TV all the time. But there are times when I can't send anybody, because I don't have anybody, because I don't have the money."

One reason, he says: The department spends much of its $6.5 million annual budget on apprehending and jailing illegal immigrants.


In the past 16 years, the Hispanic population in 20 of Oregon's 36 counties has as much as tripled. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the number of illegal immigrants in the state has jumped to as many as 175,000, compared with 25,000 in 1990.

The population increase has led to a corresponding rise in the number of undocumented immigrants who commit crimes. Trumbo says between nine and 15 of his jail beds are occupied each day by illegal immigrants from Mexico.

The Mexican Consul eneral for Oregon says Trumbo is racist. From the article:

The Mexican consul general for Oregon, Fernando Sanchez Ugarte, who received a copy of the letter, says he doesn't know whether Fox will respond. Ugarte says he personally dismissed the letter as political posturing, not to mention racist. The sheriff, he says, "is pinpointing one ethnic group," and he's not sending letters to the presidents of all the other countries in the world.

"If a visitor from Switzerland does something wrong while visiting Umatilla County," Ugarte says, "will Mr. Trumbo send a bill to the leader of Switzerland? I don't think so."

This is what we call in my house, bargin price baloney. If 9 to 15 beds a day of Trumbo's jail were filled by crime committing Swiss, and regular governmental channels were not doing anything about it, I imagine he would be writing to the Swiss government. The Swiss are not and the Mexicans are, race discrimination has nothing to do with it - or at the most very little.

Playing the race card, when hard facts do not support you, will lose you support you might otherwise enjoy. Case in point from Don Surber:

Mexican President Vicente Fox is allowed to sound worried about militarizing the border without being held accountable for his own actions. The Mexican government has sent instructions, given fake IDs to use in the US and otherwise encouraged citizens to break American law.

Baker wrote, "The president's plan could increase the strain with Fox, who has grown disenchanted with Bush's failure to ease immigration rules as promised. Fox for years has pressured Bush to help the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the United States, many of them from Mexico, with little to show for it."

Little to show for it? How many billions do these illegal aliens send back to prop up the economy of Foix's racketeer-influence, corrupt nation?

Senor Fox has been especially incompetent in running his country. Mexico cannot make a go of it even with NAFTA? That is Jimmy Carter-level incompetence.

A few weeks ago, I was Mr. Open Borders. But after that May Day fiasco, I see this is just another socialist plan to undermine America in the name of Illegal Alien Rights.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

And now...

I have the flu...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

You Don't Say....

I sat poking food into the gaping maw of the Infant and chatting with Sis-I-L. The two elder children were (supposedly) eating dinner and enjoying the edifying music of Schoolhouse Rock in the other room. Our chat was interrupted with a shriek of rage and a crash. Before an adult could leap to investigate, the Verbalist ran into the room.

"Mom! She threw the toaster at me!" Blissfully this is a toy toaster, but still throwing things is Not Acceptable Behavior. The Verbalist leans close and whispers in my ear stotto voce: "That's not a good idea!"

Ears and Viruses

The Dear Husband went to the hospital 3 times this last week due to a nasty virus. Then the Infant and the Verbalist developed ear infections - a first for both. So it has been a bit, hmm, crazy around here. In a fit of end of rope-dness, I called in reinforcements my Sister-in-law. The amazing helpfulness of an extra pair of hands and a sympathetic ear can not be overrated.

Monday, May 01, 2006


I am on a short hiatus until May 7th unless I manage to carve out more time than I think I'll have. See you then.