Friday, February 25, 2005

LAN Password

I know I already whined about my mainframe password and the new rules they implemented. On the LAN, we have different rules and a different way of being notified that the password will expire. This post is not whining. It's the age-old story of frustration and victory.

One Monday morning last month, I got this email several times from over the weekend:

Our records indicate that your LAN password will expire on 1/23/2005. Please change your password before that date or your account will be disabled.

If you need assistance changing your password, please contact the help desk.

Should your account become disabled, you will also need to contact the help desk to initiate the process of reactivating your account.

It was two weeks early, so I deleted the emails. The next morning there were four more, so I replied to one of the emails with this:

Why do you keep sending me so many notifications? I still have a week and a half, and I prefer to wait until next week. Meanwhile, even though my network logon process reminds me (and I say "no"), you are sending me at least 4 email reminders per day. This morning my inbox had an email from 10:13pm, 1:15am, 1:45am, and 5:45am, all with the same message that I'm going to ignore until later next week.

If you must send email, please limit it to only one per day.

Thank you.

The Help Desk replied:

The E-mail messages you are receiving are automatically generated messages. You will continue to receive the messages until you re-set your password. If you have any further questions, please contact HelpDesk Services Monday through Friday for assistance on troubleshooting your problem.

Thank you,

To which I expressed my extreme frustration by venting to co-workers, who agreed with me that the password-expiration-email situation was out of control. Of course I knew the process was automated. That was the whole problem! When I calmed down, I replied to the Help Desk:

HelpDesk Services,

I understand that the messages are automated, but I recommend you change your automated process on the server to only check once during the night. Chances are good that nobody is going to come in to work between 1:15 and 1:45am to change their password. Meanwhile, all these emails are clogging the email system.

I called the Help Desk, and the response was, "This is an automated process" and "The emails will stop when you change your password." Not very helpful, in my opinion, when my issue was primarily about the quantity of emails and secondarily about the long lead time you give for password changes.

If my password changes on the 23rd, why do you expect me to change it on the 10th? If I always change my password the first time you notify me (so I can prevent the overwhelming flood of emails), then you have effectively reduced my password duration to every 45 days instead of every 60 days.

My main request in bringing this up is that you change your automated server process to only send one email per day. This would allow me to choose the best time to change my password without having to deal with an excessive quantity of reminders.

Thank you.

I made sure to include this, "all these emails are clogging the email system," because the Help Desk regularly sends everyone email reminders not to send lots of chain emails or danger-warning emails. Their prime concern is that the email server not get overwhelmed.

I think my magic statement worked, because the following morning, I only received one email from them, which I deleted and eventually changed my password the day before it expired.

I love it when I have success.

Terri Schiavo II

I'm disgusted. But not surprised.

Judge Greer AGAIN ruled in favor of removing Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. The only positive side to this is that he delayed the deed for three weeks, which will give Terri's parents another chance to appeal. But where will they make their appeal? Which court will take the case? The Florida State Supreme Court has already thrown a previous appeal back to Judge Greer. The US Supreme Court has already refused to take the appeal.

Be sure to read the article linked above, because it gives a fairly thorough description of Terri's plight. It describes some of the court cases and includes bullet points of Michael Schiavo's apparent conflicts of interest and how he has acted against Terri's welfare.

Here is a link to the Schindler family website (this is Terri's parents), but when there's something happening in the news, their server gets overloaded, so you might need to check later.

Here is a link to the court briefs that were filed regarding "Terri's Law" on the Florida State Supreme Court public information website.

I'll keep following this case. It's too important on so many levels.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Restroom Curiosities

I work in an office building, and when I was on the ninth floor, there was one woman who I never saw or heard washing her hands after using the restroom. I would see her go in, hear the flush, hear the sound of the stall door unlatching, then I'd hear the exit door make its telltale squeak. No sound of running water at the sink. No sound of the soap dispenser. Eeeeew! Didn't her mama raise her right?

Some mornings, I'd see this same woman reaching with her bare hands into the ice cubes in the break room fridge to fill up her water cup. I'm not an ice cube user in general, but she certainly put me off the idea at work.

Now that I'm on the tenth floor, there's another woman whose restroom habits are odd. Yes, she washes her hands, but under the door I've seen her feet facing the toilet for long periods of time. I suppose it's possible that the zipper or button on her slacks is giving her trouble. But on a couple other occasions, I saw her standing up and pulling toilet paper waaayyy up in the air multiple times as far as her arm could reach. I don't know what that's all about. It makes me wonder what other unusual habits she may have.

It also makes me wonder if other people see some of my habits as odd (Yes, I wash my hands. No, I don't stand in front of the toilet or pull toilet paper up over my head.) and watch me for other curious activity.

Finally, I saw an article several months ago about Japanese public restrooms. I haven't been able to find the article I originally saw, but this item includes information about the Sound Princess device (scroll down to the "Japan-specific accessories" heading). It's a motion-activated mechanism that makes a toilet-flushing sound. These are very popular in the women's restrooms in Japan, so nobody else will hear what the women are doing in their stalls. The office building management companies where the Sound Princess is installed have found that their overall water use has decreased.

It's not a bad idea, even for the US, when you consider how much work time is wasted while women (I can't speak for the men) sit in silence until everyone else leaves the restroom, so nobody knows who it is that might be doing what the rest of us don't want to know.

I'm not even going to start on the European varieties of toilet paper discussion. That's a whole different subject.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

New Rules

My work is really doing me wrong with their new password rules. The old ones were bad enough. You couldn't have the same letter twice in a row, which meant I couldn't use my dog Abby's name because of the double 'B' in the middle.

OK, then. I used my childhood pet Fifi as the basis (it had to be exactly 8 characters and have some numbers or special characters or whatever). Life was good. Until they came up with the latest, which says you can't have repeating 2-character patterns, like abab or 1212. Or fifi.

So now what? My cats were named Quackenbush and Wickersham. Too many letters. I need some kind of easy-to-remember foundation in my password, so I have a chance of getting it right when I first get to work and haven't yet had a jolt of strong caffeinated tea.

So I searched through the old family tree until I found a name that will work (no, I'm not telling). But my fingers still pound out fifi every time I get back to the "you've been gone too long, so enter your password" screen. I'm at risk of violating the "Invalid Password" maximum limit.

I tell you, sometimes life has more challenge than I can handle.

Until I look at Terri Schiavo. Password Schmassword. It's not that important.

Terri Schiavo

I've been waiting today to see what the results are of Terri Schiavo's hearing, which is supposed to happen at 2:45pm Eastern Time. Fox News just reported a "Breaking News" headline stating, "Emergency Stay in Schiavo Case Extended 48 Hours" but without a story to explain. CNN has the story, but it doesn't explain much more than Fox's headline.

Back to Fox, and now they have a story that actually tells what's going on. Circuit Judge George Greer said "he needed time to consider more arguments from her parents that she should undergo new medical tests and that her husband should be dismissed as her guardian."

Let's pray Judge Greer actually gives Terri's parents' arguments true consideration. In her WorldNetDaily commentary today, Lisa Fabrizio stated, "In 2001, Judge George Greer, a man who has reported conflicts of interest in this case, ordered Terri's feeding tube disconnected." She doesn't elaborate on exactly what his conflict of interest is in the case, though. But time after time he has refused to hold Michael Schiavo's feet to the fire regarding Michael's duties as Terri's guardian, and instead has kept Michael as her guardian despite Michael's obvious conflicts of interest (living with a long-term girlfriend with whom he as 2 children, Terri's trust fund which Michael and his attorney say is depleted but won't release any financial evidence to that effect).

If you want more information on Terri and the legal battles her family has gone through, you can get more information here.

Meanwhile, groups that promote rights for the disabled are following this case closely. Joni and Friends is keeping updates on their website. The concern is that if the courts order Terri's feeding tube removed, it opens the door for other disabled people to be killed on the basis of hearsay.

Here's the way I understand the case, after following the articles in the online press for a few years: Terri Schiavo did not leave any written instructions on whether she would want to have her life preserved or ended in a case like this. Michael Schiavo never mentioned Terri's wishes until after the court case Terri won which established the trust fund for her lifetime care. After the trust fund was set up, he suddenly remembered that she said one time that she wouldn't want to live this way. That is the only evidence--his word--that she would want to die, and that is what Judge Greer has been using to allow her feeding tube to be removed twice before.

I'm skeptical that in two days Judge Greer will actually allow Terri to stay alive and allow her parents to take over as her guardian. But still I have a measure of hope.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Disneyland II

Two exhausting days doing Disneyland in the rain, followed by a day sitting like a slug on the couch crocheting and watching the "American Chopper" marathon which my nephew got me hooked on. It's great having a three-day weekend, but I'm still tired.

The weather had predicted thunderstorms for Saturday and showers for Sunday, so I wore my long wool coat for protection and my neoprene sandals to keep from getting some sort of jungle foot rot from wearing soaked shoes for two days. My kids and nephew each eventually sprang for a Mickey poncho when they got tired of getting wet through their sweatshirts. Their shoes all got soaked, but nobody reported foot rot.

I really recommend thunderstorm days, because everyone stayed away. The lines for Indiana Jones and Star Tours were way shorter than normal (Space Mountain is closed for renovation), and we spent Saturday riding all the great rides in both Disneyland and California Adventure, some more than once.

Sunday, we were still worn out from Saturday, so we spent more time seeing the shows than riding rides. But that turned out for the best, because the driver of the Omnibus (top level closed due to rain) told us that Monday would be the last day of the "Mr. Lincoln" show, so naturally we had to see it. They had upgraded it since the last time I saw it, and the sound was via headphones. They had a mosquito buzzing your ears and they gave you a haircut, both of which were too realistic for comfort. It was pretty cool, and I don't know what they're going to put there instead, but it had better be more cool than this.

They've discontinued the "Who Wants to be a Millionare?" game in California Adventure, which was Really Fun and I had been looking forward to playing again, because the last time I played, I got into the top 10 and I wanted to try for the hot seat. That's the way it goes...

In Disney's California Adventure they have 75 Mickey Mouse statues probably three feet high, all in the same pose. They were given to different celebrities or artists to decorate, and most of them were incredible. They'll be auctioned off later this year and the proceeds will go to charity of the artist's choice. The base of each statue listed the statue's title, artist and charity. Here is a link for more information on the InspEARations program.

One of the Mickeys was wearing a coon-skin cap, and I said it must be Fess Parker. It was. The only one I guessed right, besides Home Depot. My nephew guessed several of them right. Tom Hanks did one with galaxies on it. There was a silver Mickey, a wooden Mickey, a marble Mickey, and a swiss cheese Mickey with a cute little mouse in his ear. He was painted all sorts of colors, one with the paint looking like it was chipping off. He had world maps and stripes and swirls and music notes painted, and old Mickey comic strips papier mache'd on. He held baseballs and bats and a skateboard, and an umbrella while he wore a rain slicker. The Mickeys ranged in quality between great and fabulous, except for one. Rosie O'Donnell painted one by dripping yellow paint all over it, and it looked disappointingly out of place. I feel bad for her charity, because they probably won't get as much as the other charities will. Some pictures here, here, and here, and a map and schedule of the coming locations here.

We all had a good time. My nephew liked Disneyland just fine, though he would have been more excited by bigger thrill rides. My kids and I were in our element, except that I had more thrill than I could handle on the Ferris Wheel (yes, even the wussy non-swinging gondolas were too much for me).

Wonderful weekend, and I'm glad to have gotten to know my nephew better as an adult. He's turning out all right.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Feeding Tubes

I mentioned it in an earlier post, and now the topic is back in the news. There's a group, Not Dead Yet, which is pushing for MRI tests on cognitively disabled people who are being considered for removal of feeding tubes. The group is requesting that feeding tubes not be removed when the MRI results show the patient to have cognitive functioning.

Personally, I don't think feeding tubes should ever be removed, unless the person is (to quote the Munchkins in "The Wizard of Oz") "most sincerely dead." Feeding tubes are a way of getting food and water into people who are incapable of feeding themselves.

We throw people in prison if they deprive their babies (who are incapable of feeding themselves) of food and water. When food is delivered from a baby bottle, it's not considered medical care, and to withhold it is the crime of murder. When food is delivered through a feeding tube, the courts have ruled that it's medical care and can be withheld until the patient dies, and it's not a crime.

I don't have a problem with removing other medical life supports, such as ventilators, heart equipment, or antibiotics, and letting nature take its course. Sometimes the patient surprises the medical staff and survives without the equipment. But to remove feeding and hydration is to sentence the patient to certain death. Starvation of the most helpless among us is cruel, and it is wrong--despite what courts have ruled.

Now that there is a promising method of detecting brain function, it must be allowed to enter into the decision-making process. This new MRI procedure offers reassurance, either way, to the family members who must decide what to do. And if it helps stop living, breathing people from being starved to death, then I'm all for it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Blogs and Mainstream Media

You read it here first. Now, Peggy Noonan says it thoroughly here. Mainstream Media is getting hysterical about the blogs.

Noonan says, "When you hear name-calling like what we've been hearing from the elite media this week, you know someone must be doing something right." Here's a summary of what she says the blogs are doing right:

1. They find and post information that is true.

2. They are free from the controls of an editorial board, so they can decide what is a story and when it stops being a story.

3. They can post immediately and can even make a short post, if that is all that's needed.

4. They each offer their own insights.

5. They offer it for free.

6. They are controlled by other bloggers, who point out error or stupidity.

7. They are strong enough to take the attacks that may come (or they get out of the "business").

It's fun being a small part of a newly developing vehicle for information delivery, analysis, and publication. In some ways it feels like the post-Gutenberg world that Hugh Hewitt discusses in his book, "Blog," as people discovered the printed flyer and brochure as ways to spread information to larger numbers of people than was ever possible before.

Sooner or later, the blogs will get themselves sorted out, MSM will learn to adjust to a blog-inhabited world, and the readers will choose their favored MSM/blog blend. It's going to be a great ride getting there.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


My nephew, who is 24, is in San Diego with the Navy for a few weeks. He's coming up this weekend to go to Disneyland with my daughter, my son and me. He said he's never been there, and he's never been to Walt Disney World in Florida either.

I can't imagine.

I grew up as a Navy brat, with my dad being stationed in San Diego for ten years, alternating shore duty and sea duty at the different bases there. So our family went to Disneyland nearly every year on Navy Night, plus once when my grandparents came for a visit. I learned at an early age that if you want to ride the good rides, you have to get there early and wait by the ropes, and when the ropes were dropped at the official opening time, you run for the ride that will later have the longest lines. If you're lucky, you can ride it and go back in and ride it again. Life doesn't get any better than that.

Disneyland is part of normal life here in Southern California, like the beach and the mountains. I once carpooled to the corporate world with four other people, and all four of them had worked at Disneyland when they were younger--one who swept up the trash, one who cleaned out the Small World waterways at night, one who was a bartender at Club 33, and I don't remember what the fourth one did. Working at Disneyland was (and may still be) an Orange County teenager's rite of passage.

One of my favorite parts of Disneyland, since I've been there so many times, is to sit on the good rides by people who have never been on that ride before. Being next to someone on Star Tours as we crash through the comet is priceless. I think I'm going to have a great time with my nephew.

Unless he's been jaded by the monster roller coasters at other theme parks and is underwhelmed by Disneyland's charm. It's possible, and I have to be prepared. But even if he is, the thrill of Disney magic is enough to keep me filled to the brim. I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Eason Jordan

I'm a little late getting in on the Eason Jordan discussion, mainly because this story took off in the blogosphere at warp speed and left me watching from my horse and buggy. Michelle Malkin covers the story and its backlash, including a list of the bloggers who drove the story.

Mainstream media is undergoing a tsunami--not just about Eason Jordan--and they're trying to come to terms with the aftermath.

What strikes me about the story of Jordan's resignation is the way the mainstream media is analyzing this. A good example is an interview of Hugh Hewitt by Judy Swallow of the BBC. Hugh posted a transcript of the interview on his blog. Swallow's first question reveals the focus of her interest: "JS: Now, journalists, or so I was told when I was a local cub reporter, are the people's watchdogs, but who keeps a check on the journalists? In this newish age of the internet, the bloggers say, they do.... First bloggers contributed to the end of CBS anchor Dan Rather. Now, a top executive with CNN, Eason Jordan, has resigned.... How did they do it?"

A top executive with CNN has resigned, and Judy Swallow wants to know how the bloggers did it. She doesn't ask what Jordan said that upset people (He said he believed the US military was intentionally targeting journalists and killing them.), or whether there was a pattern (There was. He made similar statements in November, 2004, about the US military torturing journalists.) or whether the things he said deserve to have him resign or be fired. She only wants to know about the power of the blogs.

Her second question: "JS: So it is just power of the people because they brought down Dan Rather, didn't they, because they found out or it was reported that his report was based on false evidence. Was it just word of mouth, word of mouth, word of mouth and finally strength of public feeling?"

Her third and final question: "JS: You see this as power of the people not vigilantes, if you like?" The questions are all about the blogs.

Picture the mainstream media pre-blogosphere/tsunami. The lay of the land is of their own making. For forty years or more, they have controlled what information is disseminated to the masses and how that information is presented. Their choice of stories has driven public opinion, ruining some careers and elevating others. When they were inaccurate or misleading in their reporting, they printed a nearly invisible retraction (or not) and nobody was the wiser, except the few people who knew the truth. But the truth-knowers had no way of getting that truth out.

A minor case in point: Probably ten years ago, when I belonged to a Jeep Club, one of the news magazines (most likely "60 Minutes," because I didn't watch any of the other ones) had an expose on Jeeps and their purported propensity to roll over. One woman blamed Jeep for the death of her husband (with 60 Minutes' implied confirmation) when they were off-roading and the driver's front tire went off the dirt over about a 3-foot drop. Her husband leaned over to look, and the Jeep fell on top of him, killing him. As an off-roading Jeeper, I (and the other club members) could tell from the pictures that the man had taken off his seat belt before leaning over and tipping the balance of the Jeep. If he had kept his seat belt on, he wouldn't have died. It wasn't the Jeep's fault.

As Jeep club members, we all knew the 60 Minutes story was a hit piece against Jeep, but there was no forum for us to have reached the public with the truth. Jeep caved and soon came out with their wider YJ (Wrangler) model.

Now, with blogs, there is a forum for the truth. It's proven itself to be a powerful force--a tidal wave--and the MSM is reeling. The solid ground of information control they stood on for so long has been deluged by the waters of the blogs, and for MSM, that is the only story they see.

"How could this happen?" they ask. "How could these pajama-wearing, knuckle-dragging basement dwellers force our hand with news selection, and even destroy some of the highest and mightiest journalists? And how do I know I'm safe from them?"

Just as the real tsunami in the Indian Ocean has carved new coastlines and changed some people's way of life for a long time to come, so the blogosphere tsunami is carving out a new landscape for journalism. Bloggers are not here to destroy (in spite of what MSM may believe). They're here to help find and bring out the truth. And MSM's journalists will do well to adapt to the new lay of the land.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day

Sometimes I listen to talk radio on the internet at work. I usually do that when I have something mindless to do. If I have to think, I can't do it with the radio on, so I have background music going instead--something quiet and without lyrics. Today has been one of those music days.

So when a co-worker alerted me to the Dennis Prager show, I really couldn't listen and had to go by what my colleague told me. He said Dennis's guest was a woman who wanted Valentine's Day banned, because not only is it a disaster for single women, it's also tough on attached people because men don't have a clue what women want.

My first response was that this was some whining left-winger who is out to ban anything that makes her feel bad. But my friend assured me that her concern was not for herself but for others. A noble gesture.

Then I thought about it some more. What an incredibly paternalistic, condescending attitude this woman has!

We have to ban Valentine's Day, because some people can't handle their emotions. Somebody might feel bad about being without a True Love today, so we have to protect them from any reminders of their pain, lest that pain turn into shame and then descend into total Loserhood and possible suicide.

Oh, please! Where would we stop? Should we ban Mother's Day, so that all the people whose mothers have passed away don't have to feel bad? Should we ban Father's Day too? Should we ban Christmas because some people are alone that day (oh, I forgot we're already on the way to banning Christmas, but for other reasons)? The same goes for Thanksgiving. Maybe we should think about the feelings of people who don't feel thankful and just drop that holiday too.

And while we're at it, we had better ban St. Patrick's Day, because there must be people who are upset that they have no Irish ancestry and can't join in the whole green-beer festivities.

Really, it's time to stop protecting people from themselves. If your heart aches for the pain of other people, the solution is not to stop everyone else from celebrating. You can reach out to the hurting people and invite them to join you, the way many people invite far-from-home individuals to join them for Thanksgiving dinner.

Part of growing up is learning how to allow other people to be happy even when you're not. It's learning how to be happy for them in spite of your own sorrow. It's learning to see their success as a sign of hope for you someday, rather than seeing their success as somehow taking away from yours.

I don't have a True Love in my life right now, but that doesn't make me want to ban Valentine's Day. People bring chocolate to work--how can that be bad?

We need to start expecting people to deal with life as it is, with all its pain and difficulty, and if they can't, there's professional help available. Our holidays are days for celebrating our blessings, and if we don't have the particular blessing being celebrated right now, then all we have to do is wait. There should be another chance coming along in a little while.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Shoe Tying

I got a teeny-weeny stone in my shoe in the restroom at work. Odd place for that to happen, though. It must have jumped on my shoe at lunchtime when I went outside, and then it worked its way down to where I could finally feel it.

So, when I got back to my desk, I had to take off my shoe and shake the little thing out. And that reminded me of something Barbara Johnson said one time at a Women of Faith conference:

"You know you're getting old when you bend down to tie your shoe, and you ask yourself, 'What else can I do while I'm down here?'"

I didn't ask that question, so I guess I'm doing all right.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Woman Wakes From Coma

This is my vindication. Twenty years ago, Sara was hit by a drunk driver and has been in a coma ever since. She was officially declared to be in a vegetative state. Friday night, Sara started talking again, surprising her neurosurgeon.

I have a living trust, and I made sure that my wishes are included. I want the same chance Sara had. I want to be able to be one of the people who comes out of a coma someday. It's like winning the lottery, I know, but still... I want to be kept alive, because I want to be able to wake up.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that studies have shown that brain-injured people who are labeled "unresponsive" do show signs of awarenes of their surroundings. These aren't just subjective signs, but the results of MRI brain-imaging scans.

The NYT article states, "Dr. Bernat said findings from studies like these would be relevant to cases like that of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman with brain damage who has been kept alive for years against her husband's wishes. In that case, which drew the attention of Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature, relatives of Ms. Schiavo disagreed about her condition, and a brain-imaging test - once it has been standardized - could help determine whether brain damage has extinguished awareness."

Unfortunately for Terri, this study may come too late. Time after time, her parents have appealed to the courts and to the governor to have Terri kept alive, but Terri's husband is her legal guardian, and he wants her dead. As her parents try different legal methods to save Terri, their cases keep being sent back to the same Florida Circuit Court Judge, George W. Greer, who has decided repeatedly in favor of her husband, Michael Schiavo. But Michael has two children with his girlfriend, and Terri has quite a bit of money in a trust fund that was established as a result of a lawsuit. The purpose of the trust fund was to pay for Terri's care and to try to rehabilitate her, but Michael has not permitted rehabilitative care for her. Instead, when Terri dies, Michael will inherit her trust fund and will be free to marry his girlfriend. If he divorces Terri, he would not have access to the trust fund. In spite of this obvious conflict of interest on Michael's part, Judge Greer has ruled again and again in favor of Michael's request to remove Terri's feeding tube. It gets discouraging.

I can't imagine how Terri's family feels right now, and I pray they will get a call from Terri soon, the way Sara's parents did this past Friday.

Too Funny

I love this post, by Craig Westover, quoting the Borowitz Report.

There's something about humor that's funny all by itself, without needing to have a cutting edge to it or descending into the bedroom or the bathroom.

Clean humor with a foundation of truth is the highest form of humor. Kudos to Andy Borowitz.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Sky High

I took my little dog, Abby, outside the other night, and while she was taking care of business, I looked up at the stars I could see between my house and the house next door. Orion was overhead. Belt, sword, hands high, feet spread. And at his heels was his big dog, Canis Major, who looks more like a headless dog to me, but the star charts show he actually has a head. I just can't see it. Then again, I'm not sure if Orion has a head either. He and his dog may be a good match that way.

When Abby was finished, she didn't look up at the sky. She didn't admire the stars. She just looked around and sniffed the air to see if there was a cat nearby. There wasn't, so she headed for the door.

There are people who say that humans are just like any other animal. In fact, Dennis Prager discusses that question today in his WorldNetDaily column. But animals don't admire things or appreciate beauty or look in wonder. Humans do. I do.

One night last week, as I was looking up at the sky, Sirius (the star at Canis Major's shoulder) was changing colors as it twinkled. It was white most of the time, but sometimes it was blue, sometimes red, sometimes yellow. I stood watching it for a long time, just to make sure I wasn't imagining it, but also for the thrill of watching something that surprising. Later I called my astrophysics-major friend and asked her if Sirius changes colors, and she said no, it was probably some sort of atmospheric condition giving that impression. And I think she's right, because Sirius has stayed white since then.

Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." And I can't help but agree. It's both humbling and thrilling to think that God set the stars spinning in the sky for our benefit. He gave us the gift of wonder, the gift of feeling like a small piece of such a vast universe, the gift of his glory.

He certainly didn't do it for the dogs.

Monday, February 07, 2005

So Much

So much to blog about, so little time!

How do they do it? How do those bloggers with full-time jobs find time to post intelligent analysis about so many different issues? The Powerline guys are all attorneys. The Fraters Libertas guys all have day-jobs. And they're still all over everything.

I'm impressed.

Still, I do what I can...

What's Next for Iraq?

I didn't watch much TV over the weekend, and when I did it was FoxNews. I saw the Beltway Boys, Media Watch, and then the Heartland. But when they started talking about Michael Jackson, I turned it off. So it was probably on one of those shows (or whatever was on after Heartland, before they mentioned Jacko) that I heard someone bring up the comparison between the Iraqi election and the Vietnam election of 1967. I was so busy being appalled, that I forgot to pay attention to who said it. After all, I already addressed that issue (isn't Big Media listening to me?).

It seems as though the left-leaning media delights in saying, "Yes, the elections went well, but of course the results aren't in yet." or "Yes, but of course the real test is what they do next." It's a cynical "yes, but" filled with the desire for something to happen that will discredit President Bush.

Then today I read an article that impressed me so much. It had a "yes, but" in it that struck me as completely without cynicism and instead full of a cautious hope. It's written by Kanan Makiya, a Shiite Iraqi, who is an author and founder of the Iraq Memory Foundation. He states, "The Iraqi elections are the second great Iraqi revolt against barbarism because the first took place during the uprising of 1991, when millions of Iraqis subjected to weeks of aerial bombardment took to the streets and begged the very allies who had been bombing them to help liberate them from Saddam's rule."

And so we finally did, but it was a long time--and a lot of dying--before it came.

Now that the second great Iraqi revolt against barbarism has occurred, we look forward. Mr. Makiya says, "The elections are ultimately about what it means to be an Iraqi in the post-Saddam era....

"Therefore I am both a happy man today, and a worried one.

"I am happy because the people of Iraq are once again taking responsibility for their own fate. But I am worried because it is not yet clear if any of the 7,636 candidates who had their names up for election are fully aware of the dangers that lie in store for their people."

And what are the dangers? Makiya speaks with more insight than any dozen media analysts I've seen, "Every Iraqi -- Kurd or Arab, Muslim or Christian, Shiite or Sunni -- became both complicit in the Baathist enterprise and its victim at the same time.

"When the Shiites become the majority in a duly elected Iraqi National Assembly, they will inherit the great burden of a fractured and deeply atomized country filled with minorities, all of whom have known suffering of one sort or another. How will they shoulder that responsibility?"

The most natural impulse will be for the Shiites to take control, with an underlying desire to either punish or subjugate other groups. But that impulse must be resisted. Makiya concludes, "We Iraqis tried dictatorship; in fact we took it further than almost anyone else in the world. Still it did not work. The country all but fell apart. But for a new inclusive idea of Iraq to take hold, the Shiites in particular have to make a very real sacrifice; they have to think beyond what is in their own self-interest, narrowly conceived. In so doing they might just become the agents for a genuine democratic transformation of the whole Middle East."

I pray that Kanan Makiya will be involved or consulted as Iraq's newly elected National Assembly begins to wrestle over just such issues.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Iraq Elections Revisited

I happened across a couple stories out of the UK about studies that have been performed on young adults and on the elderly. The first begins, "The belief that older people are outperformed by the young has been proven wrong when it comes to being able to appreciate the big picture." Apparently, as we get older, we're more able to process differing pieces of information and have it coalesce into a unified whole. This would probably be the factor involved in developing wisdom.

The second story begins, "Young people are risk-takers because their brains do not fully develop until much later than had been thought, a new study has found." This allows young people to make quick decisions, such as moving out of the family home "without wasting energy worrying about it." Slow, thoughtful decision-making or analysis is not the forte of the young.

And this brings me to the Iraq elections. Sami Ramadani, a political refugee from Saddam Hussein's regime and a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University, wrote a column for The Guardian, a very Left-leaning newspaper in London(hat tip: WorldNetDaily). In it he compared the Iraq elections of this past Sunday to the elections held in Vietnam in 1967. Here is his opening paragraph:

On September 4 1967 the New York Times published an upbeat story on residential
elections held by the South Vietnamese puppet regime at the height of the Vietnam war. Under the heading "US encouraged by Vietnam vote: Officials cite 83% turnout despite Vietcong terror", the paper reported that the Americans had been "surprised and heartened" by the size of the turnout "despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting". A successful election, it went on, "has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam". The echoes of this weekend's propaganda about Iraq's elections are so close as to be uncanny.

The Guardian doesn't say how old Ramadani is, but based on the tunnel-vision of his analysis, I would suspect he's a lot closer to 25 than to being elderly. He implies that, because Vietnam in 1967 had great voter turnout in spite of threats by the Vietcong, and because Iraq had great voter turnout Sunday in spite of threats by the terrorists, that the end result in Iraq will be the same dismal result as in Vietnam. And the reason for his prediction is that the U.S. is the occupying force in both situations. He states, "The facts on the ground, including the construction of massive military bases in Iraq, indicate that the US is digging in to install and back a long-term puppet regime."

A long-term puppet regime? We're trying to ensure that Iraq doesn't get puppetized. While the potential certainly exists for a Vietnam-style outcome in Iraq, that outcome will only materialize if America loses her will to see this war in Iraq through to stable peace. That's what happened in Vietnam. When Walter Cronkite declared our victory in the Tet Offensive to have been a defeat for the U.S., the rest of the media and the Left joined in to hammer the Johnson and Nixon administrations, until the general public believed that victory in Vietnam was both pointless and unattainable. The icing on the poisoned cake was when the Democrat-controlled Congress refused to fund the promised defense of South Vietnam. These are the factors that led to the fall of Vietnam, but the Left refuses to acknowledge them.

If the far-Left has its way, its mouthpieces in the mainstream media will relentlessly attack President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, the military's method of conducting the war in Iraq, and anything else they can find to attack in order to bring down the Bush administration and the Republican party. It looks to me as though the far-Left is populated by people whose brains never fully developed properly, because the Left wants Iraq to turn into Vietnam, so they can claim a rhetorical or political victory.

But we must not falter. We must let the grown-ups, not the short-sighted, direct the war in Iraq as well as the greater War on Terror. We must win, not only the war, but also the peace and stability of Iraq. And the best course to that win is by keeping our resolve and standing with our Commander-In-Chief.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Latest Hostage

This is hysterical. According to WorldNetDaily's article, a picture of a hostage US soldier was posted on a website frequently used by a radical Islamic group. The accompanying statement, by the "Mujahedeen Brigades," threatened to behead the soldier if the Brigades' men and women weren't released within 72 hours.

The only problem for the Mujahedeen Brigades is that their "soldier" is a GI Joe-like action figure. In fact, I think the Brigades have visited my house, because over the weekend I found the head of my old Barbie at the bottom of a box.

Laura Ingraham used part of her show this morning to report the other hostages being held. It seems the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were captured near the Green Zone, Gumby and Pokey have been taken, and Mr. Potato Head parts were found scattered in Mosul.

Powerline has also poked fun at the people who posted the photo. In fact, it's one of the popular pasttimes of the day for the blogosphere. See Radioblogger, Fraters Libertas, The American Kestrel, and others.

The question is, who posted the photo? If it was radical Islamists, then it suggests that they're becoming more and more ineffective. And this would be good news for our side. RogerLSimon speculates about the origins of this photo, none of which speak well of the Associated Press, who first broke the story as a straight news item.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I either heard or thought the word "cubicle" with exactly the same pacing of the word "vestibule" as it's sung in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol by the bad criminal people. So now that song is running through my head and making me want to sing, "La! La! La-la-la-la-la! We're just blankety-blank-blank, No Good!" Not exactly the sort of thing the upper management folks want to hear from their employees. Not exactly the right time of the year, either, with Groundhog Day coming tomorrow.

Then the guy in the next row said something with a bit of a gravelly voice and reminded me of Talk Like A Pirate Day, which Hugh Hewitt celebrates on his show every year. Only, it's the wrong time of the year for that too. Talk Like A Pirate Day isn't until September 19th.

It's been a screwy kind of day. I think I'll prepare for tomorrow by watching "Groundhog Day" tonight.

Stability in Iraq

Mark Steyn is my favorite columnist and my favorite guest on Hugh Hewitt's show. There was a time last year, when I was listening to him on Hugh's show, and he said something that really got to me, and I said out loud (I was alone in my car), "I want to marry that man." Unfortunately, the following week, Hugh mentioned that Mark is married with kid(s). Bummer!

But he's still my favorite columnist and Hugh guest. His most recent column for the Chicago Sun-Times, has a statement that I haven't heard reported by the mainstream media: "The IMF noted in November that the Iraqi economy is already outperforming all its Arab neighbors."

Why isn't this being reported? Why does the mainstream media continue to promote the impression that all is lost there, that somehow things were better for the Iraqi people before we got there, that somehow it's President Bush's fault for upsetting the stability that existed in the Middle East before he came along?

Steyn has the perfect comment for those who revere stability:

The ''realpolitik'' types spent so long worshipping at the altar of stability they were unable to see it was a cult for psychos. The geopolitical scene is never stable, it's always dynamic. If the Western world decides in 2005 that it can ''contain'' President Sy Kottik of Wackistan indefinitely, that doesn't mean the relationship between the two parties is set in aspic. Wackistan has a higher birth rate than the West, so after 40 years of ''stability'' there are a lot more Wackistanis and a lot fewer Frenchmen. And Wackistan has immense oil reserves, and President Kottik has used the wealth of those oil reserves to fund radical schools and mosques in hitherto moderate parts of the Muslim world. And cheap air travel and the Internet and ATM machines that take every bank card on the planet and the freelancing of nuclear technology mean that Wackistan's problems are no longer confined to Wackistan. For a few hundred bucks, they can be outside the Empire State Building within seven hours. Nothing stands still. "Stability'' is a fancy term to dignify laziness and complacency as

Our efforts in Iraq have destabilized the status quo in the entire region. Iraqis have voted, and according to CBS News Middle East expert, Prof. Fouad Ajami, "the Arab states around Iraq are nervous." This is a good development because, as Ajami says, these countries "are not liberty's friends."

May those countries who value freedom, like Iraq, find freedom for themselves and find economic prosperity as well. And may those countries whose leaders are no friend of liberty find the pressure to loosen the iron grip on their people, so that their countries too may know the blessings of freedom.