Friday, September 29, 2006

I Went to Space and All I Got Was this Lousy Worm

Anousheh Ansari, the first female tourist in space, touched down in the Asian hinterlands of Kustanai, Kazakhstan. She got a kiss from her hubby, a dozen roses and a beaurocrat:
The first female paying space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, has landed on the Kazakh steppe after a journey back from the International Space Station (ISS).

The Soyuz capsule also carried fellow US astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov. It landed in the 56-mile (90km) predicted zone.

The craft slowed its descent by firing rockets and opening parachutes until it landed softly on its side in a field.

A dozen helicopter rescue teams rushed over to help the astronauts out.

Ms Ansari was given a bunch of red roses by an official as well as a kiss from her husband, Hamid.

All three astronauts were carried on reclining chairs to waiting helicopters. From Kustanai, Kazakhstan, they were to fly to a training centre outside Moscow.

Ansari paid 20 million dollars to go. Man, if she just waited a few years she could go for 200 grand. It's not like she did know that either:
Ahead of her lift-off, Ms Ansari said she was an ambassador for attracting private investment into space programmes. Her family sponsored the X-Prize, which honoured the first private vehicle to make it into space.
The X-prize went to SpaceShipOne which is in turn connected with Virgin Galactic who are looking at tourist space fleets.

Ansari did bring back a momento:
The space explorers brought back snails, worms and barley grown during experiments aboard the ISS.

And is is just me or does Virgin Galactic sound like a character from Buck Rogers?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Have Spaceship, Will Travel

In Have Spacesuit, Will Travel the hero, Kip Russell, dreams of going to space. PanAm announces tourist trips to the moon and in a desperate bid to go Kip enters a contest, the grand prize of which is a trip to the moon. Fast forward from 1958, the year Spacesuit was published, to 2006 and zillionaire nutjob, Sir Richard Branson:
Sir Richard Branson has unveiled a mock-up of the rocket-powered vehicle that will carry clients into space through his Virgin Galactic business.

The Virgin "spaceships" are designed to carry six passengers and two pilots to an altitude of about 140km on a sub-orbital space flight.

Tickets on a Virgin Galactic flight are expected to cost £100,000 ($190,000).

The mock-up of the spacecraft was unveiled at the Javits exhibition centre in New York on Thursday.

The Virgin craft are based on the design of SpaceShipOne, built by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, which became the first privately built vehicle to reach space in 2004.

If I had a spare 200 grand I know what I'd do. Since I don't I may be looking at other options:
Virgin Group has contracted Rutan's company Scaled Composites to design and build the passenger spaceship and its mothership. Virgin Galactic will own and operate at least five spaceships and two motherships.

The passenger flights, which could begin in 2009, will take off from a $225m (£127m) facility called Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert.

Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, said the firm was in negotiations over a reality TV show.

In the show, contestants would compete to win a place on a space flight, the Press Association reported.

Mr Whitehorn said: "The indications are that we can create a show that would give people the chance to go into space. It would be a cross between Dr Who, Star Trek and the Krypton Factor."

Virgin Galactic is one of several private firms vying to open up public access to space.

Xbox interactive movies

This is a cool story:

King Kong director Peter Jackson has agreed a deal with Microsoft to create what he describes as a "new form of interactive entertainment".

The Oscar-winning film-maker said he would be creating a series based on the Halo video game franchise, created by Bungie Studios.

"I'm getting a little bored with films," he said.

The series will appear on the Xbox 360 games console and Xbox Live, the machine's online service.

First off, I am not a huge gamer, although console games can be quite fun. Second, I do not own an XBox and am unlikely to own an Xbox in the near future. Third, when I think 'Peter Jackson' I do not think of flippin' King Kong.

This article is cool because it shows a Hollywood type moving beyond some of the mindsets that has been dragging the industry around. New technologies will allow broader creative horizons and should be incorporated not ruthlessly squashed.

As they say read the rest.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Strangeness of the World

Sometimes it is entertaining to look at where people who look at your blog are coming from. For example, I get a high percentage of people who read my movie, recipe and kid posts. (yes, yes - I'll post more recipes again.) I had a run of IP address from asian countries hit my site for peach cobbler recipes, the latest is Korea. Is is peach season in Korea right now? Must be.

I had a Dubliner read every review I have done mentioning Charleton Heston.

Why would a person in Chile want to read about The Verbalist's Santa capturing contraptions?

I could flatter myself that I post delicious sounding food, insightful reviews, and cultural crossing humor, but it is just the varagies of the internets tubes. heh.

Breaking News: The Muralist has announced the existence of a penguin in the Verbalist's room.

There Can Be Only One

and unfortunately for Christopher Lambert, that "one" is Johnny Weissmuller. I refer to our movie of the week: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. I race ahead though.

I can not tell you how much I love watching old Tarzan movies when they were played as the afternoon matinee on tv after school. There were evil hunters, rampaging elephants, Jane got herself in proposterous trouble, and topping it all off Tarzan calling his trademark cry and swinging through vines. Walt Whitman's barbaric yawp has nothing on Tarzan. There was Johnny Weissmuller diving into the waterfall in glorious black and white.

When Greystoke was released in 1984 I enjoyed it a great deal. Ah, the misleading memories of youth. I recently rewatched it and was appalled at how bad most of the acting was. Lambert, as Tarzan does well in the jungle scenes, when his speaking is minimal. In fact, Lambert's woodenness could be brushed aside as the akwardness of a man finding himself in unfamiliar surroundings but for the fact that he is surrounded by wooden and two dimentional characters with the exception of the superlative Ian Holm. Holm portrays Phillipe D'Arnot, the Belgian explorer who finds him.

There was one scene that remained as wonderful as my memory had recalled it. During Tarzan's first formal dinner at Greystoke he mimics accents around the table and then the sounds of various jungle creatures for Jane.

Jane, played by Andie McDowell (and voiced by Glenn Close!), is the most unbelievable part of the movie. McDowell's Jane seems neither physically attracted to Tarzan nor mentally intrigued by Tarzan's knowelge base or intellectual capabilities. Minnie Driver, as the cartoon version of Jane, emoted more and had a more believable attraction to Tarzan.

If you are a big Tarzan fan, go ahead and rent Greystoke; otherwise you are not missing much.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Threat Watch: VeggieTales

The most mind warping words uttered to a child on Saturday morning cartoons?

Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much.

From the article:
The wildly popular VeggieTales kids videos about vegetables who talk and sing and act out Bible stories are being edited for their run on NBC's Saturday morning educational program time, and the network says it's because of time limits.

In a statement on the Broadcasting & Cable website, NBC said its edits of the kids' shows were focused on airtime limits only.

"VeggieTales was originally created for home video and, in most cases, each episode is over 30 minutes long. As it appears …. VeggieTales has been edited down for broadcast without losing any of its core messages about positive values," the network said.

Phil Vischer, the co-creator of the characters, said that comment was "interesting."

"As a guy deeply involved with the project, I know that statement is false," Vischer wrote on his own weblog. "We sent them our first episode for TV, which was already edited to EXACTLY the right length, and they rejected it because, at the end, Bob the Tomato said, 'Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much.' They demanded we remove that line. The show wasn't too long, it was too religious."

He said the second also was sent edited for perfect timing. The response from NBC was an e-mail with a list of lines that needed to be removed, "each of them containing either the word 'God' or 'Bible,'" Vischer wrote.

Vischer goes on to note in his blog:
As I mentioned before, for the past 4-5 years Discovery Kids has provided NBC's Saturday morning block. These shows earned a rating of between .5 and .7 on an average Saturday. So how did VeggieTales do on its first Saturday? How 'bout a .95 for you! That's about a million households tuning in! What's even more interesting is the fact that the show after VeggieTales fell to a .65, and then 3-2-1 Penguins came on and the rating popped right back up to .95 again! So Big Idea is "rocking the block!"

Will NBC notice?

Some folks are unhappy that Vischer and Big Idea are allowing NBC to edit the show. While it's regrettable, I don't think it's a big deal. Kids who like the cartoon are going to buy or rent the DVDs. They will see the whole show including the Bible verses. Parents are going to enjoy the show on TV because it is funny, filled with sly jokes and references for the adults who watch with their kids.

Update: The Cool kids have picked up the story.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pope Benedict's Triple Play

Michael Novak has a great piece which I will not comment on, just excerpt:

He (the Pope)told Christians and other religious people that reason is indispensable for disciplining religious faith. As he put it in an earlier lecture, it is important for reason to take the toxicity out of religion.

He told secularists, who define reason solely as science and limit it to empirical knowledge, that their grasp of reason does them an injustice by its narrowness. This tunnel vision cuts them off from many forms of human understanding and insight. It also prevents them from having reasoned conversation with that vast majority of the world’s people who are religious.

Finally, practically as an aside — as if he had intended to make a double play, then saw an opportunity to make a third out — he also tried to save the honor of Islam as a religion that once had a high and civilizing tradition of reason (and in many quarters still does). He tried to do this by pointing out that those in Islam’s midst who are seen daily preaching and practicing violence are injuring the faith’s good name.


He wanted to remind Christians that the great civilizing strength of Christianity sprang from its marriage to Greek reason from the very beginning, as in the first words of the gospel of St. John: “In the beginning was the Word.” (In Greek, the term for ‘Word’ is the same as for ‘Reason’).

Top Story

I know you come here to read hard news and insightful opinion. Which brings us to today's top story: McDonald's Considers Round-The-Clock Breakfast. It's a short blurb so here it mostly is:
The fast food giant is testing a new kitchen system that would allow customers to buy breakfast items around the clock.

McDonald’s chief executive said the current kitchens do not offer the flexibility to cook breakfast and luncheons at the same time.

The new kitchens are now being tested in southwest suburban Romeoville, but there is no word on where when or if they would be put in stores.

Good Lord! The flexibility?! How many grease pits do you need to cook fries and hashbrowns? I assume they are both made of potatoes in the McDonald's universe. Ok, it's a big assumption. I thought that they could microwave rubbery egg McMuffins and McGriddles (a peculiarly addictive culinary triumph) in the same micro zapper. Perhaps they are saying that current kitchens lack the capacity for dealing with breakfast demand all day long. This I could well believe as health trends gear fast food joints to appologetically offer salads and bistro sandwiches as if that will hide the fact they are purveyors of fat and grease.

When I was pregnant with the Verbalist I would have done just about anything for a (no longer available) Cajun Chicken sandwich at 9 am. I am sure McDonalds executives are trying to cash in on the pregnant McMuffin-oholics, especially in a town called Romeoville.


Yesterday was a day of running around madly through stores. It rained a good deal yesterday and the children were stomping through puddles in their rain boots and jackets and having a grand time. It looked real fun but I was stuck moving groceries from the cart to the van as quickly as possible.

I did make one huge mistaker yesterday. I got the kids recorders from the dollar store and let them play on them all the way home. A cacophany of shrill squeals and squeaks and toots seranaded me all the way home. The Muralist is attempting to master the music of "Phenomenon."

Tonight is Open House at the Verbalist's school, preceded by the PTA's ice cream social. This means an early dinner so as to not have sugar hyped children approaching bedtime. Ta-ta!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Myrna Blyth has a short article about a book I need to read, if only to innerly commiserate on the potholes of parenting. The book's title is: Momfidence! An Oreo Never Killed Anybody and Other Secrets of Happy Parenting.

From the book:
“Today’s diligent mom can’t just do the weekly marketing and drop food down hungry gullets. She must buy fresh and scan labels for lethal trans fats and the many disguises of 'white poison,' the staple formerly known a sugar, in order to prevent diabetes and heart attacks in her children forty years down the road. She must maintain vigilance against random toxins and schools with lousy test scores. And she can’t swat an errant bottom for fear of bruising a tender psyche (or of being arrested.)”

Says Blyth:
And she’s right. Moms today are full of worries about the fact that their toddlers can’t read, their eight-year-old won’t get into Harvard, or that their ten-year-olds aren’t on enough sports teams. “All this makes a parent's job so much harder,” says Paula who admits to a whole series of mothering no-no’s — feeding her kids cookies, letting them watch TV, and playing with Barbie dolls and toy guns . She has even stopped sending her kids to summer-enrichment programs. “They didn’t want to be enriched,” she says. “They said there was just no time to play.”

“I think moms should just wing it more and rely on instinct and common sense. Parents get so much advice from experts. But how may of these experts really live with kids who snarf Scooby-Doo Fruit Roll-Rups? What parents hear about in the media are really bad moms with big problems who need help. Or obsessive moms who are super organized and are trying to raise perfect kids. Neither are good examples. We just don’t hear enough about ordinary, mainstream moms who are doing fine.”

Paula lives in Chapel Hill where her two nearest supermarkets, Whole Food and Earth Fare, don’t stock Oreos, and where cars have bumper stickers that read “Proud Parent of a Baby who Can Sign 200 words.” She writes a column for Woman’s Day where editors are pretty vigilant about editing out her belief that there is little danger if kids eat raw cookie dough. No wonder she wrote this book “I want to help moms relax, be more confident and have more fun with their kids,” she writes. And the book really is both helpful and funny. What is the reaction she wants from the readers?

“All I want,” she says “is a sigh of relief.”

I made a friend a little while back. She moved to the island and on our children's first "playdate" we exchanged parenting stories and generally laughed about motherhood's pitfalls. It wasn't until lunchtime, when I hauled out the box of mac n' cheese I brought for my kids that the pleased exclaimation rang out: "Finally, an normal mom!"

It seems my money saving, off brand, box of faux pasta broke the final barrier. She had been languishing in the organic soy ghettos of south island momhood, where preservatives are tantamount to abuse and she wasn't sure if she would ever be accepted into the momfold.

Shiver Me Timbers

It's National "Talk Like A Pirate Day." Here's a link to William Teach over at Pirate's Cove, who seems to think that UN addresses can be improved by women in pirate themed bikinis.

Monday, September 18, 2006


I had a sudden vision of myself retired. I am going to be one of those querulous old ladies who write letters expressing their displeasure about the state of the roads to the local paper. I say that having just sent off my two cents to some local idiot commentators on the radio. I was driving back from my twice monthly mom group and, exhausted of listening to kid songs, turned on the radio. Two career guys were talking about whether or not at-home mothers are still sneered at for not holding "real jobs". My standard reply to such idiocity is that anyone who says full time parenting is not a real job has never done it for any length of time. I digress.

I picked up the Verbalist from school and came home and pounded out a letter while the kid's lunch cooked. I had just hit the "send" button when the Muralist ran out and uttered the words no mother wants to hear:

"Mom! The baby is drinking your coffee!"

Friday, September 15, 2006


It seems my constant readers are vocal. "A poll and a quote?! No kid stories, no politics to snark at would you post already?!" Sorry, the Verbalist is settling into kindergarten and morning life is settling into a new silent routine.

The Muralist has been painting with grand enthusiasm and pining after the floam that sits in the cupboard. Floam is darn near impossible to extract from fabric. When paint is the lesser of two evils, well...

The Verbalist has been very excited to expand his spelled vocabulary. He can identify letters and can spell some, write better and is putting together phonic sounds. He isn't quite there yet, but I predict it will not be long before some parental circumlocutions become stymied by his burgeoning abilities.

He came up and tugged at my shirt the other day as I was working in the kitchen.

"Mom," he said employing that contrived blase tone he uses when something is very important to him. "I think it would be most superb if you were to serve some of that X-Y-Z food for dinner."

I stared blankly. XYZ food? What is he talking about. I queried. He chuckled carelessly.

"You and Dad talk about it and then you always give us something real good. The XYZ food. You know."

Enlightenment dawned. "Are you talking about pizza?" I ask; realizing that my dear husband and I almost always spell P-I-Z-Z-A so as not to send the tots into raptures if we decide against it as our dinner option.

"Yes!" he exclaimed happily. "I know it has lots of Z's in it."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Straw Poll

RWN is running a straw poll of GOP '08 candidates. Since my dream candidate is not running, I had to choose from these guys. Sigh.

George Allen
Sam Brownback
Bill Frist
Newt Gingrich
Rudy Giuliani
Chuck Hagel
Mike Huckabee
John McCain
George Pataki
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo

Political Philosophy

Originality is too much to ask of me now, maybe this afternoon. What I will do is quote you a very good example of political philosphy made easy to understand. It is the classic case of a conservative leaning libertarian:
If I really ran a political site I would end up disappointing everyone, since I am a mess of superficially contradictory opinions (hands off regulating cable because of adult content; stop marking slut dolls to my little girl) and old-style liberal notions, like the primacy of individuality over race. I have zero objections to homosexuality but balk at redefining marriage. I recycle and abjure waste and live light as possible and dislike Hummers but I’m unimpressed by environmental scaremongering. I believe women are the intellectual equal of men but emotionally and psychologically different. (I don’t want to outweigh the firefighter who attempts to carry me down the steps, and I don’t want a 37-year old man leading my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. No Harvard jobs for me!) I would rather hang out with Iggy Pop than Frank Sinatra. I love the 50s but, if I lived there as a 20-something I'd be the sort of person who annoys me now, railing against the very symbols of artifice I prize today. I hate the 60s, but know full well I would have been a pretentious stoner antiestablishment wannabee until the pose cost me money. I think light rail is a money pit sinkhole beloved by New Urbanists, but support public subsidies of large-scale bus systems to move inner-city people to wherever the jobs may be. I dearly love the inner city but don’t care if people move to the burbs for nice houses and good schools. (I support the public schools. I support school choice.) For that matter I support the New Urbanists, except when they get high-mindedly pissy about people’s free choices. I believe in God, but I’m not throwing away my Coop books because he had a hot time at a Black Mass. I can’t stand everything Islamicists stand for, despair of the tide that seems to swamp a religion for which I have, despite my efforts, no empathetic connection whatsoever, but I celebrate the first Muslim in space. I dislike most TV, most modern music, and most movies, but love the big messy hot throbbing blob of Western pop culture, partly because I connect with part of it like a dog biting on a live wire, and partly because the loud rude crass mess spells freedom, and that is the root word at the heart of the American experiment. We can always learn ! from others, but they’ve much to learn from us. Unless they have a 200+ year track record of expanding rights and unimaginable prosperity as well. Did I forget to mention, forget to mention Memphis? Home of Elvis and the ancient Greeks? Look over there! A dry-ice factory! Good - place - to - get some thinking done.

Lileks is a bit more libertarian than I, Iggy Pop fer cryin' outloud!, but he hits the high points well. Yes, the man really should have found a paragraph break in there somewhere.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sept. 11 2006

I am not going to write a whole lot today about the attacks 5 years ago. What I am going to do is link to an article in the WSJ editorial page.
On September 11, 2001, everything changed. Or so our leading opinion-makers--pronouncing an end to the risk-averse and post-heroic America they had observed during the 1990s--assured us.

For many Americans, it was true. New Yorkers still mourn their fallen. In small towns with sons and daughters serving in the war on terror, local newspapers feature daily weather reports from Baghdad. But the unglamorous truth is that, when it comes to public policy priorities and civic habits, most of us have picked up exactly where we left off on September 10. There are today two Americas--a "September 11 America" caught up in a world war, and a "September 10 America" largely oblivious to it.
Long gone are surveys from 2001 in which majorities cite terrorism as the key issue of the day. The latest polls show that, by a two-to-one margin, voters identify the economy as a more important problem for the federal government to address, while the weight they lend to issues like prescription drugs and health care has returned to pre-September 2001 levels as well. Surveys also show that the public's willingness to tolerate inconveniences such as airport security screenings and random I.D. checks has declined consistently since 2001, as has its willingness to compromise on questions of civil liberty.

Nor has America's return to normalcy been confined to the realm of public policy. It can be measured in slumping rates of church attendance, diminished faith in public institutions, and numerous barometers of civic disengagement. A series of Gallup polls even charts how, as September 11 slipped into memory, so too did people's inclination to pray or to display an American flag. (The flag industry expects this year's sales figures to amount to a fraction of what was sold the year before). Market saturation? Perhaps. But, by mid-2002, the number of Americans telling Fox News pollsters they would be willing to fight and die to defend the United States had settled down to September 10 levels too.
Does this mean that all Americans have reverted to pre-September 11 type?

Not exactly. Fear of terrorism cuts across all demographic sub-groups. Yet a willingness to do something about it, to adjust our priorities, does not. The latest Pew survey, which asked respondents whether the president should focus on the war on terror or on the economy, reveals a puzzling trend.

Evangelical Christians, whites, residents of rural areas, southerners, and self-described conservatives evince more concern about the response to September 11 than do secular Americans, African Americans, residents of cities, non-southerners, or self-described liberals. In fact, the very city dwellers most at risk tend to attach the least importance to the war on terror. If these results seem more suited to a gun-control survey, consider another way of reading the same data. A Newsweek poll in November 2002 found that respondents who cited terrorism as the nation's foremost priority voted Republican by a margin of three-to-one. In a similar vein, the Pew survey finds that Republicans split evenly on the question of the war on terror versus the economy, while only 18% of Democrats profess more concern with terrorism.

It hardly comes as a surprise, but the emergence of a partisan gap on a matter that supposedly transcends politics has come awfully quickly. All the more so, because one of the most popular analogies generated by the September 11 industry likened the new unity of purpose to that which prevailed after Pearl Harbor.

If you really wish to know what someone thinks about the war on terror, however, that person's opinions about Monica Lewinsky and the Florida recount offer a more reliable guide. Were the cause something other than self-preservation, these cleavages might not mean so much. But when a global war becomes the exclusive property of one political party--and is treated, increasingly, as a touch-me-not by the other party--the whole enterprise risks forfeiting its legitimacy.

That was written 3 years ago.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Day One

The Verbalist began kindergarten today. He woke me up at 6:45 bursting with excitement.

"Mom! I start school today!!!!!!!!!!!" I cracked my eyes, not being a natural morning person. He smiled beatifically, cowlicks crazy all over his head.

"OK," I sleepily replied. "Go play quietly." I was too late though, I was awake. I dragged out into the kitchen and made myself some tea and began fixing breakfast for the Verbalist. My children are all hearty breakfast eaters and the Verbalist really wanted to fuel up for the big day: eggs (2), toast (2), apple slices, cheese slices and milk.

After breakfast he cleaned up and got dressed wriggling around madly. By this time his sisters were waking up. I got them up and dressed them. The Muralist, after making an exhibition of herself the last two days we left for various orientations, lounged watching cartoons nonchalantly. "See-ya." she tosses off, reveling in the knowlege that she will get to paint after he leaves.

At school, The Verbalist, my mother in law, and I get out and wend our way through the teeming mass of children pouring from the busses. The kindergarten class is right up at the front of the building so the small frye don't swim with the bigger fishes long. The kindergarten room is filled with students and parents, the Verbalist's teacher expertly navigating and directing and managing to talk to each kid without rushing. She has been teaching 5 year olds for 25 years, nothing much alarms her I imagine.

At last we snap our last pictures and I bend down to say goodbye to the Verbalist. He has been playing with playdough and chatting at the boy on his right non-stop.

"I'm going." I said. "I'll meet you outside the big main doors after class."

"Okay mom, take your time." With a dismissive wave of his hand, I was sent from the classroom. The first stop on his academic career outlined in neon pink playdough.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

World Fattening: Women Hardest Hit

The headline borrows from James Taranto's headline schtick at Best of the Web. From the AFP:
The global obesity pandemic combined with society's anti-fat bias is more damaging to women than to men, an expert has warned at an international conference.

"Being obese and female is as bad as it gets," Berit Heitmann, a nutritional and medical research advisor to the Danish government, told a meeting of world obesity experts gathered in Sydney Wednesday.

Not only were obese women socially stigmatised more than their male counterparts, but their health suffered to a greater degree, delegates at the 10th International Congress on Obesity heard.

This falls into the "well, duh catagory". Coming as I do from a family of women whose body shapes run from "generously curvy" to "round" even on strict rations and exercize; the slings and arrows lobbed at a fat girl are no news. Yeah, about Jr. High this ceased to be a surprise.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to School

It's the Verbalist's inaugeral academic year. The kindergarteners don't actually start class until Friday but the week is full of orientations. Classroom, teacher, schoolbus half hour segments of introduction spread over three days all designed to ease seperation of mothers from their little darlings. The Verbalist is happy to attend these functions though a tinge of impatience crept into his voice at the conclusion of this last trip: "Is that all?"

We had shown up 2 minutes early to the bus orientation and there was precisely two other parents looking around with the same look of confused expectation. I am not sure what I expected but with about 80 kindergarteners beginning school Friday, I thought there would be more parents wanting to know when and where and how they were going to chuck 'em on the bus.

We wait. The Verbalist is bouncing around and literally kicking up his heels in excitement. One little boy is boasting to his two-ish sister about his grand school bus (but declining to stand on the steps I noted) and one toeheaded kid has a death grip on his mom's hand but is looking all around. I take pictures and decide I am tired of waiting so I wrangle the Verbalist and we get up into the bus. That got someone out there.

"Did someone," her emphasis suggesting that someone would catch h-e-double toothpicks, "tell you that you could get on the bus?" inquired the school bus lady, looking exactly like my stereotype of a kindergarten school bus lady down to the big hair and carrying voice with the hint of a rasp.

"No," say I, raising my own eyebrows, not to be intimidated. "I took initiative." (At this point in my first retelling my father in law laughs and adds, "No taking initiative in this school!")

"Well," she humfphs lightly," no one, not even parents, are allowed on the bus unless someone is sitting in the driver's seat. Now you know." She added the last in the let's-have-no-more-of-that tone that all people who spend copious amounts of time with small children develop.

The other parents climbed on board and the bus lady began laying out all the rules and regulations of the bus. At last we got around to question and answer and i asked the most pressing question. "What is the bus route and how do we find the approximate time that they will load and unload my child?"

She told me and pausing she remarked, "Where are all the rest of the parents? I expected 40." she directed this comment at me. Apparently, I have the look of someone who might keep track of other kid's parents' thought patterns. Either that or she thought I hid them somewhere.

"I don't know. I was informed that I could come today or tomorrow and this orientation was optional. Perhaps everyone will come tomorrow," I offered in as innocent voice as I could muster.

"Tomorrow's orientation is supposed to be for afternoon kindergarteners. You are," she shot me an appraising look," a morning kindergartener?"

"My son is," I returned aimiably.

Approval crossed her face for the first time.

"So's mine," said the dad with the brother and sister in tow.

"I'm afternoon," said toehead's mother meekly, "do I have to leave?"

"Don't bother," said bus lady, "this isn't the way we used to do it though." the questions petered out and we stood. "One more thing. No," here she pinned a hard stare on the Verbalist sizing him up accurately, "animals on the bus. No dogs, bunnies, rodents or even crickets." The Verbalist nodded solemnly.

Monday, September 04, 2006

American Jihadi

I don't know if you ever visit MEMRI, The Middle East Media Research Institute. It is a treasure trove of information on media and culture in that part of the world including jihadi videos. However, we can now watch our very own American jihadi film without all of that pesky translation.

The young American jihadi piles on the rhetoric of institutional guilt mentioning America's slave-holding, Jim Crow past as if our past national crimes somehow obligates us to surrender without a whimper to their 7th century mores. Even anti-Semitism is frowned on here! His chiding list of American sins somehow reminds me of a self defensive meth addict sounding off to an AA mentor. "Yeah, don't tell me how to live my life - you are drunk yourself!" Nevermind, the former alcoholic has been sober for 40 years and is no longer self destructive - if you once boozed it up with the boys you have no room to be lecturing on the greatness of clean living, hypocrite.

Remember, says the young jihadi, "God sees no seperation of church and state" rendering unto Caesar does not mean what you think it means, heretics. Abraham? - not a Jew. This flabberghasting historical revision of the man who founded Judaism, the inaugeral participant as it was, between 2000 BC/BCE and 1500 BC/BCE somehow becomes a Muslim circa 570–632 as codified by Mohammed. The disregard of facts is astounding. Look, as a Christian I have appropriated Jewish belief, believe that Jesus is the culmination of that belief; but I don't say that Abraham wasn't a Jew just because I am a gentile.

Islam is fair, oh so fair, continues the young jihadi as to give the option of converting to forstall your imminent destruction by sword or suicide bomb. American forces should desert their posts because their "crusader in chief" doesn't care about them, apparently too distracted by his air conditioning. I do seriously wonder if these fanatics care about those that strap on the explosive belts though, and I got the distinct impression of air condition envy. Nor do I think convert or die will have any real effect on those strapping on the bombs. Somewhere in the 2,819 in the Twin Towers were devout Muslims and they died anyway just as any number of Muslims are killed in the pizza parlors and groceries of Israel by brainwashed jihadi sheep.

So convert or die they say to Americans - do not stop at go, do not collect $200. To this adds the BBC:

So is it time to talk to al-Qaeda?

According to General Ali Shukri, former counter-terrorist adviser to King Hussein of Jordan, it is not something that should be ruled out.

"There is no harm in talking," he told me.

"Engagement is not endorsement. Are the Americans prepared to wage war for the next 25 years?"

Few in America would agree.

"We don't talk to terrorists, we put them out of business," is the White House position.

One person who does agree with General Ali Shukri is the Harvard academic, Professor Mohamed Mohamedou.

"At some point we should create a space for a cogent, rational discourse that thinks outside of this box. Responsible leadership calls for a more nuanced understanding," he told me.

But there are very few takers.

Few takers because Al-Qaeda is not rational nor are those who would negotiate with them. Rational people do not expect sense from madmen.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Forbear that Wicked Cant

In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge comments that those who will not go to Government proscribed charities should "die then, and decrease the surplus population." His famous line indicates to the reader (or watcher, George C. Scott tosses off this line with remarkable, gruff callousness) that Scrooge has lost all sense of common decency. It illustrated that Scrooge no longer saw people only obstacles. The Ghost of Christmas Present later rebukes Scrooge:
``If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,'' returned the Ghost, ``will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.''

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

``Man,'' said the Ghost, ``if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!''

Imagine my surprise when Scrooge's wicked cant is used approvingly by Garrison Keillor as a means to increase largesse of charity. Of course he was not talking about the poor but another group of folks he doesn't consider people but obstacles: Christian Republicans.
Hard choices need to be made, and given the situation we're in, I think we must bite the bullet and say no more healthcare for card-carrying Republicans. It just doesn't make sense to invest in longevity for people who don't believe in the future. Let them try faith-based medicine, let them pray for their arteries to be reamed and their hips to be restored, and leave science to the rest of us.

Cutting out healthcare for one-third of the population -- the folks with Bush-Cheney bumper stickers, who still believe the man is doing a heckuva job -- will save enough money to pay off the national debt, not a bad legacy for Republicans. As Scrooge said, let them die and reduce the surplus population.
Read the full article to get the context of the quote. He rips on the administration and conservatives in general for failing schools and large class numbers. I believe schools fail because most of the money given goes to grease the wheels of beauracracy rather than actual education. Blame whomever you wish, Mr. Keillor but forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered what the surplus is.