Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Planting a Seed

We'll see if it sprouts...

I'm planning to attend my non-denominational denomination's National Missionary Convention this November in Indianapolis (Nov. 16 - 20).

If any of you fellow bloggers or blog readers are (or can be) within spittin' distance, or a stone's throw, or thereabouts, of the Indianapolis Convention Center probably that Saturday, I'd love to get together with you. We can talk about God, politics, culture, blogging, or (one of my favorites) weird animal news.

If you're interested, please send an email to: skyepuppy-at-cox-dot-net (no hyphens), and let me know whether you'd prefer lunchtime, dinnertime, or afternoon snacktime (pie?). We can firm up the details when November gets closer.

I'd love to be able to put faces and the sound of your laughter to the names and words I see most days.

Tyranny of the Christian Right

The Left is insular. The Left is instructive. The Left is very afraid. Of Christians.

Michelle Goldberg's column in yesterday's AlterNet (a Left-leaning publication) addresses the threat evangelical Christians pose to the fabric of life as we know it in America.

But before I address her concerns about Christians, I have to expose the fallacy of her simile:

Thus for those who value secular society, apprehending the threat of Christian nationalism is tricky. It's like being a lobster in a pot, with the water heating up so slowly that you don't notice the moment at which it starts to kill you.

It's a frog in a pot with the water heating up slowly. You throw a lobster into a pot of boiling water, which kills it immediately. If you can't even get your similes and metaphors right, how are we going to respect the actual points that you make?

The subtitle to Goldberg's column (I used her title as the title to this post) is, "The largest and most powerful mass movement in the nation -- evangelical Christianity -- has set out to destroy secular society." I hadn't realized that's what I had set out to do. Not that I am a "mass movement" all by myself, but I am an evangelical Christian.

This is a really long article, and it's followed by about a million comments, mostly from liberals in complete agreement with her about the dire threat to society, so I won't try to highlight all of her scintillating points--just a few of the shiny ones.

The phrase ["Christian worldview"] is based on the conviction that true Christianity must govern every aspect of public and private life, and that all -- government, science, history and culture -- must be understood according to the dictates of scripture. There are biblically correct positions on every issue, from gay marriage to income tax rates, and only those with the right worldview can discern them. This is Christianity as a total ideology -- I call it Christian nationalism.

She's kinda-sorta right, but still wrong. Christian faith must govern every aspect of an individual Christian's life, public and private, and that includes expressing one's voice as a citizen of the country to try to influence the direction our society takes. And this is nothing less than what secular people do. We just disagree on what that direction should be.

As Christian nationalism becomes more militant, secularists and religious minorities will mobilize in opposition, ratcheting up the hostility. Thus we're likely to see a shrinking middle ground, with both camps increasingly viewing each other across a chasm of mutual incomprehension and contempt.

It's the Christians who are becoming militant. Secularists are only reacting when they get hostile. Uh-huh. She's right about the incomprehension and contempt, though. I think we might be there already. Her column indicates that the Left has reached it.

In the coming years, we will probably see the curtailment of the civil rights that gay people, women and religious minorities have won in the last few decades.

I'm really glad she didn't include racial minorities in the list of who she thinks Christians want to curtail. That would be beyond contempt. But women? What makes her think Christians want to take away women's civil rights? Are we out to stop women from voting? Or is she only thinking of women's "civil right" to have an abortion?

I understand her inclusion of gay people in this list, since the Left seems to believe that civil rights for gays includes the right to be approved of and the right to be hired by churches that hold strong religious beliefs against the practice of homosexuality. But does she think Christians want to stop Muslims or Wiccans or Buddhists from voting or getting jobs? Just what rights have Christians tried to curtail?

Here's how Goldberg concludes:

Writing just after 9/11, Salman Rushdie eviscerated those on the left who rationalized the terrorist attacks as a regrettable explosion of understandable third world rage: "The fundamentalist seeks to bring down a great deal more than buildings," he wrote. "Such people are against, to offer just a brief list, freedom of speech, a multiparty political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women's rights, pluralism, secularism, short skirts, dancing, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex."

Christian nationalists have no problem with beardlessness, but except for that, Rushdie could have been describing them.

It makes no sense to fight religious authoritarianism abroad while letting it take over at home. The grinding, brutal war between modern and medieval values has spread chaos, fear, and misery across our poor planet. Far worse than the conflicts we're experiencing today, however, would be a world torn between competing fundamentalisms. Our side, America's side, must be the side of freedom and Enlightenment, of liberation from stale constricting dogmas. It must be the side that elevates reason above the commands of holy books and human solidarity above religious supremacism. Otherwise, God help us all.

According to Michelle Goldberg, evangelical Christians are against all of the following things: "freedom of speech, a multiparty political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women's rights, pluralism, secularism, short skirts, dancing, evolution theory, sex."

What planet does she live on? What hallucinogens does she consume? What synapses in her brain are misfiring?

Freedom of speech. Christians would like an equal right as everyone else to speak our minds in the public square.

Multiparty political system. Who says we don't want that? We want our side to win. They want their side to win. What's the big deal?

Universal adult suffrage. What??? Christians want some adults not to be able to vote? Does she want felons to vote? Does she want illegal aliens to vote? I don't get this one.

Accountable government. We want it to be accountable. We just don't think that the first response to a disagreement with government policy should be to throw Karl Rove in prison.

Jews. Ask Dennis Prager (a religious Jew). Evangelical Christians in America are the Jews' best friend.

Homosexuals. Christians are not against homosexuals. Homosexuals are people, and Christians actually like people. What the Christians I know object to is having homosexuality shoved in our faces and then being called bigots when we disagree with the practice. Gays say they want to keep us out of their bedrooms. Fine. Let them keep their bedrooms out of our faces.

Women's rights. I assume she means abortion rights. She's right. Evangelical Christians tend to be against that.

Pluralism. I'm not sure what she means by this one. Christians like America and its ideals. We like the melting pot. I am the melting pot (eight nationalities). If she means we want immigrants to assimilate rather than balkanize, that's more of a conservative rather than a Christian viewpoint.

Secularism. She's sorta right on this, too. Christians don't want our country to become a completely secular society, like France is. We want God to still be allowed to live here.

Short skirts. Oh, please.

Dancing. That used to be the Southern Baptists, I think. I don't know if they still frown on dancing or not. But nobody is out to remove dancing from America.

Evolution theory. There is no unified Evangelical Christian view of evolution. Many Christians believe varying combinations of creation/evolution. Some are creation-only. Some are evolution-only. Some are creation-via-evolution. Some don't care a whole lot about beginnings, just about endings (heaven/hell).

Sex. We like sex. We just prefer it to be married sex.

Lefties, get a grip. We're not a threat. We have the right to participate in the political process and to be part of the public arena. If you can't stand that fact, go to France.

Either way, God help us all.

Global Heating in Alaska

There are lots of important things to blog about--even more important than the President's looming divorce--but I couldn't resist the Global Warming story.

Joseph Farah, founder, editor and CEO of WorldNetDaily, has a great column today criticizing USA Today's reporting of the dire effects of global warming on Alaska. The crux of the criticism is that USA Today said, quoting "forest ecologist," Glenn Juday:

"Since the 1970s, climate change has doubled the growing season in some places and raised the state temperatures 6 degrees in the winter and 3.5 on average annually since 1950, says Juday, a professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks." (emphasis added)

Farah's response:

Now, back in the old days of my newspaper career, we had editors who actually looked at incredible claims made in stories, questioned them and struck out some of the more preposterous and bizarre assertions.

I guess this practice has been abandoned by Gannett and USA Today. Either that or the newspaper publisher has begun hiring arithmetically challenged reporters and editors as part of its diversity policies.

Think about this: If it were true that average winter temperatures in Alaska have increased 6 degrees Fahrenheit annually since 1950, it would mean average winter temperatures in Alaska are now 336 degrees higher than they were in 1950. Average summer temperatures, according to this statement would be 196 degrees higher, if we are to believe the nonsensical claim of a 3.5 degrees annual rise.

And if the average increase is 3.5 degrees, then that means the summer temperature only went up by about 1 degree annually, making the summers only 56 degrees warmer than in 1950. And that means Alaska's winters are a lot hotter than the summers. But nobody seems to be migrating to that tropical Alaska paradise.

OK, let's assume the forest ecologist didn't really say (or mean to say "annually"). That's a six degree increase in winter temperatures and a 3.5 degree average increase. Is this a steady trend? Or is it the result of normal weather fluctuation? I decided to go to that exacting research tool: Google, with search criteria of "average temperature alaska 1950." It was enlightening, and I think our forest ecologist ought to limit his comments to forests and leave the climate to others.

"Average temperature at the earth surface, 1950-99" - a chart showing roughly an average increase of less than one degree Celsius (13.9 in 1950 to about 14.5 in 1999/2000).

An article saying "boy, was it hot in Alaska in 2004," with a chart (yellow background) showing departures from the mean temperature from 1950 - 2004. It shows that the '50s had warm and cold departures, the '60s through the '80s were mostly colder than the mean, and since 1990, the temperatures have been warmer than the mean temperature.

A website apparently supported by extremist environmental groups that gives this statistic about Alaska: "Annual average temperatures have warmed up to 1.8?F (1?C) per decade over the last three decades, and winter warming has been as high as 3?F (2?C) per decade." They also list pick-and-choose statistics that appear to support the warming idea.

The Earth Policy Institute's website gives the Alaska temperature increase as five degrees F.

It's all interesting. Alaska's temperatures have gone up 1 - 5 degrees. But if you look at the yellow chart in the "boy was it hot in 2004" link, you'll notice that Canada has been getting colder since 2000, at the same time Alaska has been getting warmer. But the environmentalists are pretending that Canada doesn't exist and that Alaska is the thermometer/barometer of all global warming.

The environmentalists have put on their own set of blinders, so they can look at isolated cases to support their pet theories. When Alaska's polar bears start sipping piña coladas, maybe I'll finally believe Global Warming is here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Silence in the Blogosphere

This is really important. But I haven't read a word (or even a letter) about it on any of my regular blogs.

The Weekly World News (or was it the Globe?) reported this week as the cover picture (I saw it when my mom, my sister, and I were at Wal-Mart in the checkout line) that President and Mrs. Bush's marriage is ON THE ROCKS!!!

They had proof. There was a picture of President Bush tight-lipped, and there was another, obviously different-occasion, picture of an angry Laura Bush. At least I think she was angry. But it might have been one of those pictures that gets taken at exactly the wrong time when you're saying something like, "puerile," and your face is distorted and it makes you look like a raving loon.

Anyway, nobody's talking about it, except the Weekly World News (or the Globe), and I want to know why. I think it's a cover-up.

Hypocrisy's Poster Child

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a man who is on the record (here on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer) accusing Republicans of a "culture of corruption" has accepted free tickets to boxing matches in Nevada from a government agency seeking Reid's support on legislation in the Senate. The tickets are valued at $1400. The story is reported in today's Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Reid, D-Nev., took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada's agency feared might usurp its authority.

Reid defended the gifts, saying they would never influence his position on the bill and was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry.

Senate ethics rules generally allow lawmakers to accept gifts from federal, state or local governments. But they specifically warn against taking such gifts -- particularly on multiple occasions -- when they might be connected to efforts to influence official actions.

But Reid isn't the only senator to attend Las Vegas boxing matches.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted on paying $1,400 for the tickets he shared with Reid for a 2004 championship fight. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., accepted free tickets to another fight with Reid but already had recused himself from Reid's federal boxing legislation because his father was an executive for a Las Vegas hotel that hosts fights.

McCain and Ensign (both Republicans) gave Reid acceptable examples of how to handle gifts from groups with an interest in legislation, but Reid insists that he did nothing wrong.

Laura Ingraham's opening statement in her book, Shut Up and Sing, about the various elites in America, is: "They think you're stupid." By this definition, Harry Reid proves himself to be an elite. He thinks we're stupid enough to believe that by attending a championship fight, he is "simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry."

In an interview Thursday in his Capitol office, Reid broadly defended his decisions to accept the tickets and to take several actions benefiting disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clients and partners as they donated to him.

"I'm not Goodie two shoes. I just feel these events are nothing I did wrong," Reid said.

Reid had separate meetings in June 2003 in his Senate offices with two Abramoff tribal clients and Edward Ayoob, a former staffer who went to work lobbying with Abramoff.

One of the tribes, the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan, donated $9,000 to Reid at the fundraiser and the next morning met briefly with Reid and Ayoob at Reid's office to discuss federal programs. Reid and the tribal chairman posed for a picture.

A few months after the fundraiser, Reid did sponsor a spending bill that targeted $100,000 to another Abramoff tribe, the Chitimacha of Louisiana, to pay for a soil erosion study Ayoob was lobbying for. Reid said he sponsored the provision because Louisiana lawmakers sent him a letter requesting it.

Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist, has pleaded guilty in a widespread corruption investigation of members of Congress. Reid used that conviction earlier this year to accuse Republicans of fostering a culture of corruption inside Congress.

The Associated Press recently reported that Reid also wrote at least four letters favorable to Abramoff's tribal clients around the time Reid collected donations from those clients and Abramoff's partners. Reid has refused to return the donations, unlike other lawmakers, saying his letters were consistent with his beliefs.

Senate ethics rules require senators to avoid even the appearance that any official meetings or actions they took were in any way connected with political donations.

Reid has a whole lot of nerve accepting gifts from tribal clients of Jack Abramoff and accepting gifts from agencies concerned about legislation, all at the same time he was accusing Republicans of having ties to Abramoff and declaring that Republicans are the ones with a culture of corruption.

I looked up "hypocrite" in the dictionary, and it shows a picture of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.


This is one of the benefits of drinking tea. While I was stirring my afternoon cup of tea, I realized that I had conferred majority status upon Senator Reid. Silly me! My error has been corrected.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day, a day to remember those who sacrificed their lives fighting America's cause for freedom around the world.

Hedgehog Blog has the stories of two more Medal of Honor winners (here and here). The website that lists all the Medal of Honor winners is here.

Breitbart reported today that historians are trying to collect the stories of as many Purple Heart recipients as possible, to include them in the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, expected to be opened in New York this November.

The Hall of Honor is being built at a woodsy historic site north of New York City where George Washington's army camped toward the end of the Revolutionary War. It was here in 1782 that Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, which he decreed would be "the figure of a heart in purple cloth."

The original badge was awarded for exceptional performance, not battle wounds. Surviving records show three sergeants received the medal, though Clark said more soldiers might have been honored.

The badge fell into disuse after the war, but was reintroduced as the Purple Heart in 1932. Thousands of World War I veterans received Purple Hearts retroactively _ as did a few very old Civil War veterans. In 1942, Purple Hearts were restricted to those "wounded in action against any enemy."

My grandfather received a Purple Heart, probably during World War I, but I don't know the details. My dad's sister is the last one who might know the story.

Finally, be sure to check your favorite Milblogs for special Memorial Day posts. If you don't have a favorite, try one of these:

Michael Yon, especially his post called "Gates of Fire" or the one on the return of Deuce Four stateside.

Black Five

Mudville Gazette

Citizen Smash


American Citizen Soldier

And now it's time for me to watch (again) We Were Soldiers.

Happy Memorial Day. May we always remember their sacrifice.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Handicap Abortions

My mom, sister, and I were chatting with a Texas man a few days ago while we waited for the tire shop to fix the tire on my mom's car that had picked up a screw. My mom mentioned how nice people were in town (this man was the one who urged my mom not to wait to get the tire fixed, based on his previous bad result from waiting), and we all agreed that Californians are comparatively unfriendly, and the man even said Californians are selfish. Good thing I'm not really a Californian. I just live here.

But selfish as many Californians might be (not my friends, of course), they don't hold a candle to some of the people in Great Britain.

The Sunday Times reported today that babies with club feet and other easily corrected deformities are being aborted in Britain.

MORE than 20 babies have been aborted in advanced pregnancy because scans showed that they had club feet, a deformity readily corrected by surgery or physiotherapy.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics covering the years from 1996 to 2004, a further four babies were aborted because they had webbed fingers or extra digits, which are also corrected by simple surgery. All the terminations took place late in pregnancy, after 20 weeks.

Some parents, doctors and charities are increasingly worried by what they see as a tendency to widen the definition of “serious handicap”. The handicap provision, which does not exist in most other countries, permits abortions to be carried out until birth. It was intended to save women from the trauma of giving birth to babies likely to die in infancy.

No baby is going to die from a club foot or webbed fingers or a cleft palate. And they won't suffer an impaired life once the condition is corrected.

“It was strongly suggested that we consider abortion after they found our baby had a club foot,” said David Wildgrove, 41, a computer programmer from Sheffield, whose son Alexander was born in 1996. “I was appalled. We resisted, the problem was treated and he now runs around and plays football [soccer] with everyone else.”

Others take a different view and decide not to accept the risk of an imperfect baby. Sue Banton, who founded the group Steps for parents of children with foot disorders, was troubled that a home counties couple last year decided to terminate their baby, despite counselling to reassure them it would have a worthwhile life even with a section of foot missing.

“We gave them other families to talk to, but they just didn’t want to know. The baby was aborted just before the 25th week,” she said.

I read this stuff, and then I look at the pictures of the Uzbek girl who was adopted by the missionary our church helps support in Uzbekistan. The girl was born without the ends of some of her fingers and without one of her legs below the knee, because the umbilical cord wrapped around her wrong during development. Her parents performed the Uzbek equivalent of an abortion: they put her in an orphanage.

But now, with the love of her adoptive mother, and with her prosthesis, this girl has grown into a beautiful nearly teenager, who skis and is on the track team at her school--and wins sometimes. The thought of someone, especially her parents, declaring her life not worth living because a few pieces are missing is apalling.

The selfishness of society, both here and abroad, are growing. And in the abortion world, it looks as though Britain is leading the way.


I just thought of a question. How long will it be before the medical community, especially HMOs or insurance, decides to require abortion in cases like these, in order to save the money it takes to perform the surgery?

I know it won't be right away, but if abortion gets any more acceptable than it already is, I can see the day coming when they say, "We'll cover the abortion, but if you want the baby to have the surgery, you'll have to pay for it out of pocket."

Zimbabwe Seizing Black-Owned Farms

The London Telegraph reported today that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's government has begun seizing farms from blacks in the southern part of that country.

For years, Zimbabwe's white farmers have felt the wrath of Robert Mugabe, as they have been thrown off their land to make way for soldiers and ruling party cronies. Now, black farmers have also become the focus of his unwelcome attentions.

Lot Dube's crops of onions, tomatoes and sweet potatoes were growing nicely when soldiers marched into Insiza district, in the south of the country, set up camp and declared that all crops other than maize [corn] would be destroyed.

"They told us, 'We are taking away your fields from you' ," said Mr Dube, 63, who has farmed 10 acres, 80 miles south of Bulawayo, since 1982. The soldiers ploughed in the market vegetables which he grew to raise cash to pay school fees for his children, and told him to plant maize.

That was in November. Now Mr Dube, and other farmers like him, have been told that they must sell almost their entire harvest to Zimbabwe's Grain Marketing Board, for a price yet to be determined, as part of Mugabe's drive to boost the nation's supply of the staple food.

But Ephraim Masawi, Zimbabwe's deputy secretary for information, said reports of soldiers destroying farmers' vegetables had "never come to my ears". He added: "These people have invited the army to try to help them because some have no collateral to go to the bank for loans."

Riiiight... When I have trouble with my crops and need collateral for a loan, the first thing I do is call in the army to help me. Mm-hmm. Yep. The army.

The article offers a possible explanation for the interference in black-owned farms:

For southern farmers the military presence is reminiscent of the mid-1980s, when a North Korean-trained unit of the Zimbabwean army massacred up to 20,000 Ndebele, the predominant ethnic group in the southern region, crushing support for an alternative to Zanu-PF [Mugabe's ruling party].

With inflation in Zimbabwe now at over 1000% and crops at only half the expected size, the country's only remaining independent (non-Zanu-PF) Member of Parliament is predicting a possible "slide into anarchy." Even though Mugabe's actions make anarchy sound like it could be an improvement, it wouldn't be. Hope is razor-thin in Zimbabwe now.

Safe and Sound

God is good. I'm back home with no speeding tickets. Many thanks to those who prayed for my safe driving.

I saw some interesting billboards and signs on the drive. There were quite a few billboards in West Texas advertising for vasectomy reversal surgery. I'm not sure why they need it more there than in other places...

Another one had a picture of a little boy, about four years old. The text said, "Is he yours? Make sure." Then they gave a web address for a site that apparently helps people do DNA testing at home. I found the billboard revolting. How many men will have doubts planted in their minds about their wives? How many families, even faithful ones, will develop rifts because insecurities are fed by this billboard?

On a lighter note, a very simple billboard said, "Got Bugs? Car Wash Next Exit."

And Texas had a yellow-diamond warning sign before a bridge: "Watch for ice on bridge." The temperature was 103 degrees.

Finally: Janice, this one is for you. A flowering yucca at White Sands National Monument.

Now I need to find out what's been happening in the news while I wasn't looking...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

White Sands National Monument

This is part of the reason I drove to Texas, rather than fly there. White Sands National Monument is near Alamogordo, New Mexico, not too far off the I-10. It's the largest area of gypsum sand dunes in the world (there are larger dunes in other places, but they're not made of gypsum).

I had planned on staying in Alamogordo tonight, so I could get to the dunes when the morning light would cast some good shadows. But I got there early enough tonight that I was able to spend about three hours there, playing on the dunes and then taking the Sunset Nature Walk. The lighting was perfect.

One unusual feature of White Sands is the Park Rangers, who in most places keep you on the trail on pain of death, but here they let you play on the plant-free dunes as much as you want (You have to stay off the dunes with plants, though). One family brought their snow toys. They had the one-man disks and a couple of toboggans that they had waxed up and that slid down the dunes really fast.

My only toys were my feet and my camera, but they worked great (except that I think I lost my camera's spare memory card there when I took my car keys out of my pocket, but it was the empty card). Every step I took up the dunes made the sand cascade downward, so it was a little like trying to go up the down escalator, but the sand was soft and cool around my feet (another feature is that gypsum doesn't absorb heat, so the sand never gets hot enough to burn you). Coming back down, I tried to surf (ski?) down the slope. It didn't quite work, but the sliding sand gave a lot of downward motion for each step.

What a fun place to play!

And then on the nature walk, I learned about the dunes and how they were made and why they aren't going anywhere anytime soon and what plants can survive being covered up by sand and how they manage it. But I won't bore anyone with the details. I was fascinated. You might not be.

If you're in New Mexico, especially if you're on your way from California to Texas (or back the other way), definitely take some time to stop and play at White Sands. Oh, and bring your kids. They might like it too.

Friday, May 26, 2006


In yet another of my technological blunders, the pictures I took with the intention of posting them here are firmly embedded in my digital camera's internal memory, and I can't retrieve them until I get home. So this will be the unillustrated version.

My mom and my sister have been painting my mom's house the past couple weeks, and they've been doing just fine, but they saved the master bedroom with its vaulted ceilings until I got here. My sister is five feet tall, and my mom is five-foot-two. At five-six, that makes me the towering Amazon of the family with a reach like the long arm of the law.

The previous owner liked to stencil. She liked it a lot. The guest bathroom had cowboy motifs stenciled along the top of the wall and around the bath/shower combo. My mom defeated that room first. The kitchen had sunflowers around the top and down the two sides. The dining room had a picket fence around the bottom and ivy around the top. But the master bedroom had latticework, with grapevines, stenciled up both sides of each corner in the room and along the top of the walls and on the ceiling--not just around the edges, but two strips of lattice and grapevine up the middle of the angled part of the ceiling. And my mom isn't the lattice-grapevine-sunflower-fence-ivy-cowboy-stencil kind of mom. Her bedroom was driving her nuts. Good thing I got here when I did.

It took two coats of Kilz to cover up the stencil, and even then, the grapevines showed through a little. I wasn't sure the light green paint would cover it, but it did. My job was to do the blue tape, because I could reach, to wrap a sheet around the ceiling fan when it was time to paint the ceiling, and to do all the high painting. I spent two days climbing up and down the six-foot ladder and moving it in circles around the room. My sister did most of the ceiling with an extension for the roller, while I did the painting around the fan (it's hard to see where to paint when there's a sheet hanging in your face), around the heater vent, and around the edges. My mom tried the other extension roller, but it made her dizzy looking up that way, so she had to stop. For the walls, my mom and my sister got as high as they could, and I took the high parts. It worked out just fine.

We did the Kilz and the darker green wall the first day, and we did the ceiling and the three light green walls the second day and got the room put back together, so my mom could sleep in it the second night. Both mornings since, my mom has said how much she loves the new room now that the grapevines are gone for good.

There's only one more room left to paint, but it has standard ceilings (and no stencils), so they'll be able to handle it without me. I start on my two-day (possibly three-day) drive home tomorrow morning.

It's been wonderful being with family again, not thinking about work or chores around my own house. Or what's going on in the news. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. But it isn't bliss forever, and I'm looking forward to getting back into the fray.

Not yet, though. Tonight is the fish fry being put on by my mom's church. No, my mom and my sister (gasp!) don't attend the same church. But before that, we have to drop off the brownies and cookies the two of them baked for my sister's church bake sale. And we'll watch a movie when my niece gets home from her third-to-last day of school as a junior. Yep, it's a full day of activity here in central Texas (population around 3,800), where the nearest Wal-Mart is in the next town over and the nearest Target is about an hour away, so we don't go there (bummer).

Vacation is a beautiful thing. I heartily recommend it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Dream Fulfilled

Photo Credit: SkyePuppy's Mom

This is me with my late grandfather's .45 semiautomatic, fulfilling one of my goals in life.

Back in March, I gave my readers the opportunity to name three things they always wanted to do but hadn't tried yet. My first thing was this:

1. Somebody (who I have reason to believe would know) once told me that if you take a one-gallon paint can, fill it with water, put the lid on nice and snug, and then shoot it with a .45, the force of the bullet will make the water come out the top of the paint can in a plume with the lid dancing on top. I don't just want to see that happen. I want to make that happen myself.

Since I've been in Texas at my mom's house this week, we've been painting her master bedroom (more on that later), which of course results in empty paint cans. So tonight, we took two one-gallon cans and a quart can, and my brother-in-law threw in a can of shaving cream for fun, and we headed out to the shooting range he and his brother have set up on their family property.

My mom used my camera to get pictures of me, and my sister used her camera to get videos of the targets. My brother-in-law got the gun ready, then I took a practice shot at the paper target just to be sure I could hit what I was aiming at. I could.

I fired at the first paint can, aiming at a rectangle on the label. The bullet hit just below the lid, ruptured the can, which leaked milky-white water, but didn't dislodge the lid. My brother-in-law switched the clip to another one with "nastier" bullets (I believe they were hollow points).

I aimed at the center of the second can and fired. This time the lid was blown twenty feet in the air, and it came down over to my right. There was a splashing sound as the water fell to the ground around the paint can. It was beautiful. But the pictures of the can don't do the moment justice, because all they show is a neat, round hole in the front of a white paint can without a lid.

After the two cans, my brother-in-law placed the shaving cream can on the fence (the paint cans were on the ground), and I aimed a little low, since the other two bullets had gone high of my intended spot. This time I hit my spot, and the bullet sent the can spinning end-over-end toward me, spewing shaving cream all over the place, including onto my jeans. It was great!

We saved the quart paint can for my brother-in-law, who used his new rifle (also a .45) with some bullets that were about two inches long, including the casing. The poor can didn't have a chance. It shredded, sending the lid flying, and landed on its side in a small splash of water.

Family. Guns. Fun targets. I'm telling you, life doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Scents of the Southwest

As I got near Arizona's border with New Mexico, I caught the scent of water in the air. I hadn't known you could smell water, but there was less dryness in the air and a hint of garden-hose water. When I looked across the road, I saw, beyond the freight train, a flash of sunlight on irrigation pipes and the patch of green farmland. And my side of the highway had farmland spreading away from the road. Then it was gone, and the low, pale scrub brush took control again, leaving the smell of moisture behind.

Deep into New Mexico, I caught the smell of water again, but this time there was something more with it. Dairy farms lined the highway on both sides for miles. They didn't smell the same as the cattle ranches in Montana, but I'm not sure why. Do dairy cows smell different from beef cattle? Does the dry desert air mingle differently with manure than Montana ranchland's air does?

The dairy farms didn't last long, and New Mexico regained it's neutral desert scent, which lasted into Texas. But West Texas introduced a new smell. As I drove, I'd smell tar, as though road work was being done up ahead. But there wasn't any road work. It was the oil wells out in the fields, the "grasshopper" pumps bobbing slowly up and down. They showed up now and then, and finally stopped appearing as I got into central Texas.

It smells like home now, because my mom and my sister live here.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


I've stopped in Willcox, Arizona, at a motel with wireless internet. It's not as far as I wanted to get, but I had a late start this morning.

When I left home, I wore jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt, because it was heavily overcast with the temperature in the high 60s or low 70s. When I stopped for gas in Gila Bend, Arizona, it was 110, and I was badly overdressed. But the car's air conditioning fixes that problem.

Shortly before I got to Willcox I finished listening to the latest of the books on tape I checked out from the library, Displaced Persons: Growing Up American After the Holocaust, by Joseph Berger. It gave me a view of life in America (which was also a view of life after the Holocaust) that I hadn't seen before. I recommend it.

A couple books ago, I listened to Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand, the book the movie was based on. They changed a lot for the movie. But having just listened to it, having vicariously lived through the setbacks and injuries of Seabiscuit's jockey and trainer and owner, today's news from Preakness, with Barbaro breaking his leg, is even more heartbreaking. They're asking for prayer.

The solitude of my drive has been good for me. I feel at peace with life (though I could use a wee bit more conversation than telling the cashier how much money on which gas pump, or ordering my dinner at Carl's Jr). It's nice not having the relentless pace at work or the too many chores at home demanding time I don't have. Today and tomorrow, the only demands I have are to keep the car at the speed limit (pointing in the right direction) and buy gas before I run out. I think I can handle that.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Off To Texas

I leave for Texas in the morning. I'm not ready yet, but I'm too tired to do much more tonight. Tomorrow has ten hours of driving, so I need to be up early to be sure I can get across California and Arizona and into New Mexico. Sunday morning I want to stop at White Sands National Monument and take some pictures before I finish my second ten hours and get to my mom's new place in central Texas sometime that night.

My kids won't be coming with me. They'll be going with their dad on their almost-annual trip to San Felipe in Baja California over Memorial Day weekend.

I'm looking forward to the time alone in the car and hoping it will clear my head for I'm not sure what. I'm also hoping that this trip, for a change, I won't get a speeding ticket.

And I'm looking forward to helping my mom paint the inside of her house--which will produce empty paint cans that we can shoot with a .45 and try to make the lid dance on the plume of water (see my first thing I want to do).

Posting will be light this week.

Mt. St. Helens Expected to Blow

My husband and I lived in Spokane, WA ("Spoh-KANN") when Mt. St. Helens exploded May 18, 1980. Spokane is 300 miles east of the volcano, so it took several hours for the ash cloud to reach us, and all the heavy particles had fallen to the ground long before it got to Spokane. By the time it reached us, it was like fine talcum powder--finer that a car's air filter could keep out of the engine--and we got about a quarter to half an inch of it. Spokane was shut down for three days, and most of the Highway Patrol's cars were incapacitated by the ash.

As the ash cloud covered the sky in the early afternoon, the day darkened the way it had the year before for the eclipse, and then the ash began to fall. As it powdered the ground and more ash hung in the air, the light that filtered through the clouds reflected off the ash in a way that made it look as though the sun was shining up from below. It was the strangest, most fascinating, natural light effect I've ever seen.

And now the scientists who monitor Mt. St. Helens think it's ready to explode again. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported yesterday that scientists have been watching the pressure--and the lava dome--building since 2004.

Scientists believe Mount St. Helens will erupt today, the 26th anniversary of the explosive eruption that produced the world's largest known landslide, killed 57 people and launched a new era in volcanology.

"It's been erupting almost continuously since late 2004," said Tom Pierson, a U.S. Geological Survey researcher at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver. So it's a good bet it will also erupt today, Pierson said.

But that eruption would be the smaller kind that's been recurring the past couple years.

Unlike the massive, catastrophic blast of 1980, the current eruption on St. Helens is slowly, steadily pushing up a relatively cool and solid column of lava rock, or magma.

Then there are the drumbeats.

"We really wanted to figure out what those were all about," Dzurisin said.

In September 2004, St. Helens announced its reawakening with some seismic rumbling -- a swarm of earthquakes.

The drumbeats began a little later, in October 2004. After the first swarm of episodic quakes, the volcano soon fell into a regular, rhythmic drumbeat of small quakes that mystified scientists and largely continue to this day.

These scientists obviously haven't seen Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, or they'd know what underground drumbeats mean: The goblins are swarming into formation and coming to attack.

The USGS scientists have a different theory of molten rock movement, pressure, and cooling, but what do they know?

They've spread their volcano-watching to include Mt. Ranier, which tends to have volcanic mudslides rather than explosions, but which is still considered dormant.

Regardless of what happens with Washington's volcanos, the scientists are doing their best to watch them, predict eruptions, and keep the public in-the-know when needed. When I know, you'll know.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Movie Premiere

I attended my son's movie premiere yesterday, which was the presentation of the final projects in his Film Studies class. There were five groups that showed their movies. One was a documentary, and the other four were works of fiction.

I have to say that, based on the quality of these films (about 10 minutes each), there is a lot of talent coming to the movie industry (if Hollywood lets them in).

The documentary looked at a family in our area where the husband was stricken with frontotemporal dementia. This type of dementia affects the portions of the brain that deal with impulse control, and it has no effect on memory the way Alzheimer's does. The film showed interviews with the family members and caregivers, divided by topics like the discovery of his changes, the diagnosis, changes in the family, and lessons learned. The family was able to find joy in each other even with the dad's child-like state. Overall, the film left the viewer with a sense of life being worth living, no matter what. My only criticism of their film was that I couldn't read the credits, but I think that was from my tears.

The second film was an art movie, with high-contrast images and slow shutter speeds that blurred people in motion. It was a murder mystery with a twist within a twist and a surprise ending. And though the showing suffered from technical difficulties with the sound setup (not the film's fault), the film held my curiosity, satisfying it at the end.

Third was an adult-topic film about a young woman with a day job in an office and a night job working for an escort service. Her childhood had been one of incest at the hands of her father, and it drove her into prostitution later. The film captured her struggle to overcome her past and learn to have healthy relationships. The filmmakers did a masterful job of letting the viewer know what was going on without being graphic, and the acting was strong enough to make the story believable.

Then came the humor. My son's group made a Buck Rogers serial-style movie that was the "final episode" of the series. When the professor asked, "What's the title of this one?" the title credits instantly appeared on the screen in vibrant black-and-white, accompanied by a flourish of period sci-fi music. "Commander Cosmos and the something something Zondor." It was cheesy. It was only a little overacted. And it captured the essence of the genre, right down to the hero and heroine's kiss being faded out into "The End." Lots of special effects and quirky costumes. Lots of fun.

The last movie was a take on all the sports movies, where the old drunken guy tells the young kid that he has talent and then the old guy sobers up enough to coach the young kid to a win. The sport? Foosball. The training? Mostly jogging, with some exacting hamburger-flipping thrown in. Then there's the final tournament where the young kid has to beat the world-famous "Argentinian." With the big game tied, there's a slow-motion shot of the foosball spilling out of the hole and rolling across the table between the two rows of plastic foosball men. And when the kid wins the game, he even gets his old girlfriend back--she had dumped him because he was a loser. Classic.

If you get a chance to attend the final presentations of a filmmaking class, I recommend it. I'm informed (by my son) that the movies aren't always this good, but it's worth an evening spent seeing films that other people won't be able to see.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mammoths Weren't Killed Off By Man

I don't have a lot of time for blogging today. I have to leave work early so I can see my Film-Studies-major son's movie premiere this afternoon. And I already spent part of my workday typing up a diatribe of a comment over at Hedgehog Blog (who I normally like) about his recent immigration posts.

So today it's wooly mammoths.

DigitalJournal published an article May 11, 2006, about new beliefs in the science world on what killed off the mammoth.

For as long as science has studied woolly mammoths, it was believed humansf led the furry giants to extinction. However, new evidence found in the Yukon suggests that is not the case.

In fact, it looks as though moose and weather were to blame. Dale Guthrie, a researcher at the University of Alaska, says he found evidence that the climate in the area was warming up, and grasslands were evolving into forests and tundra.

I hate to be dense, but how does a climate that's warming up change the vegetation from grassland to tundra? Here's how defines tundra (emphasis added):

tun·dra ( P ) Pronunciation Key (tndr)n.
A treeless area between the icecap and the tree line of Arctic regions, having a permanently frozen subsoil and supporting low-growing vegetation such as lichens, mosses, and stunted shrubs.

Are these real scientists?

Guthrie, reporting findings in the journal Nature, says mammoths and even American horses were not able to find adequate food in the forest, driving both species to extinction. Today’s domestic and wild horses are offspring of animals brought over by Europeans in the 16th century.

In addition to mammoths and horses, scientists believe weather changes and new animals also led to the extinctions of sabre-toothed cats, mastodons, giant sloths and a list of other animals.

Apparently, some scientists aren't convinced by Guthrie's findings, and they persist in believing either that mankind was responsible for the extinction of mammoths or that there was a combination of factors which included climate change and mankind's overkilling of animals.

Guthrie’s studies indicate horses died first (about 12,500 years ago) and mammoths remained in North America for another thousand years. Moose, a bark-eating animal, appeared unaffected by climate change, while elk and bison dwindled dramatically, barely surviving.

I'm not familiar with bark-eating moose. All the moose I've seen have been in wet grassland (in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks). But maybe the grassland is where the moose hang out for tourist photo ops, and they do their real eating in the woods after dark.

All I know is that it's good to see that some scientists are losing their knee-jerk "it's mankind's (or America's) fault that animals are dead" response to natural history.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

President Bush On Immigration

I didn't get a chance to hear the President's speech on immigration yesterday, but WorldNetDaily published the text. I'm not impressed.

My first skimming of the speech revealed the same old tired terms he has used repeatedly (and unconvincingly) in the past. People "live in the shadows of our society." We're "a nation of immigrants." There are "jobs Americans are not doing."

Spare me! People are obviously not living in the shadows. They stand on the street corners waiting for a job. They go to our hospitals, send their kids to school, and protest en masse in our streets.

Yes, we're a nation of immigrants, but they were legal immigrants. And they wanted to stay here and become Americans. People who come here illegally, with no intention of becoming American are not immigrants, and we should not encourage them to come.

And the jobs Americans are not doing are the ones for which the employers want to pay sub-standard wages. The market has not been able to adjust itself, because there's been an influx of illegals who are willing to work for pay that Americans are by law not permitted to accept.

We already have guest-worker programs. One of them is called a "green card." Another, in the tech industry, is the H1B visa, which lets IT workers come over to do a job for a certain company, and then they have to go back home. Without being allowed to get in line for citizenship. So why do we need another guest-worker program?

Americans overwhelmingly want the border shut down to illegal crossing, and we want it to remain open for legal crossing. So what's the President's solution to border crossing? More Border Patrol (he's said that before but not come through with the request for enough funding), temporary help from the National Guard (which I understand isn't allowed to do military-like things within the country, so what's the point?), and this:

We will employ motion sensors infrared cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings.

How on earth will motion sensors, infrared cameras, and unmanned aerial vehicles prevent the illegal crossing of our border? When the motion sensors sense motion, and the infrared cameras pick up human shapes, will the unmanned aerial vehicles fly over to them and ram into them until the people go back into Mexico? Will we shoot the people from the unmanned aerial vehicles? How exactly will knowing where the people are prevent their crossing?

Sure, we can send Border Patrol agents out into the field to intercept the people, but wouldn't a big fat double fence, with razor wire on top and with six-foot ditches on each side to prevent cars from ramming the fence, be a better way to "prevent illegal crossings?"

And the President's plan is only as good as the Congress that has to draft and pass legislation. Even a perfect presidential plan can come out of Congress in such a pathetically sorry state that it's unrecognizable from the President's proposal. My prediction of what the Senate will do to his proposal is to drop the funding of new Border Patrol agents, drop the funding of both a fence and the high-tech detection equipment, speed up the conversion of illegal aliens into citizens (and probably drop the English-proficiency requirement), and then take the cut funding and build more bridges and railroads to nowhere instead.

Build the fence first. When the President and Congress have proven they have the cojones to at least do that, then we'll talk about the rest. I won't trust them to get it right until I see them do the hard stuff first.


The Senate has already voted not to ensure border enforcement before allowing citizenship for illegals, as WorldNetDaily reported today.

In a 55-40 vote, the Senate dismissed an amendment by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga, to bar the federal government from altering the status of any illegal immigrant until every border security provision in the immigration bill had been implemented and the Homeland Security secretary certified the border is secure.

A supporter of the proposal, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Congress has "no business passing a comprehensive immigration bill without making sure, first, that the border will be secure."

I agree. But 55 senators don't.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Israeli Man Stalked By Crow

Photo credit:

Now, before you say, "But, SkyePuppy, that's a cormorant, not a crow!" let me state that I'm using the same journalistic integrity as YNetNews, who reported this story May 12, 2006. The picture they used to accompany their article shows three cormorants, not three crows. But that's not really the point.

The point is that there's a man in Israel who is under attack like a character in Hitchcock's The Birds.

Like being in a horror movie: Shimshon Badash, 58, from the town of Ramat Hasharon in the heart of Israel is in despair: For over a week now he has been suffering repeated attacks by a crow that lives near his house and is forced to leave his home wearing a helmet and equipped with a parasol in order to protect himself.

"I need help. I don't have a life anymore. I live like in Hitchcock's movie 'The Birds'," the distressed Badash said Friday.

Badash's nightmare began after a crow's chick fell out of its nest into his backyard last week. The young bird's loud cries forced Badash to pick it up and carry it outside his garden, a move that proved to be a big mistake.

"This is a large and scary bird. Even when I'm running it flies faster and catches up with me. Fortunately it does not move against my wife and children and only attacks me," he added.

What's hard to believe in this story is that the crow is a protected species in Israel, so Badash can't just shoot the thing. The crow is a nuiscance, a menace, a pest. Plus, they just sound bad. Why would Israel want to protect them? Especially when they do strafing runs on Israel's law-abiding citizens. But there's no mercy from the authorities.

[T]he town's Mayor Itzik Ruchberger eventually consented to visit Badash's house and look into the situation himself.

The mayor, who confirmed he had witnessed the crow attacking Badash, said that according to the city's veterinarians "this is a common phenomenon that lasts for a week or two and then disappears. As the crow is a protected animal the veterinarians cannot hurt it, and so the only solution is to wait for the problem to resolve itself."

That's easy for the mayor to say...

Al Aqsa Praises Death of American Teen

This is why we fight. Not because we want to kill people, but because there are evil people who want to kill us.

WorldNetDaily reported today that the death of 16-year-old Daniel Wultz of Florida, after he was injured in the April 17 suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv restaurant, has terror leaders in raptures.

In a WND exclusive interview yesterday, Abu Nasser, a senior leader of the Al Aqsa Brigades in the West Bank, rejoiced in Wultz's death. Abu Nasser is part of the Brigades leadership in the Balata refugee camp suspected of plotting the attack.

"This is a gift from Allah. We wish this young dog will go directly with no transit to hell," Abu Nasser said.

"[Wultz] was part of the American support machine that helps our enemy. All these young American Jews come here to support the occupation, they build and live in the settlements ... . I imagine him as one of these Nazis who live here [in the settlements.] There is no difference between him and them."

Regarding U.S. policy in the Middle East, Abu Nasser commented, "I say to the Americans if you will not change than we wish you more Daniel Wultzes and more pain and sorrow because it seems that this is the only thing you deserve."

The US has given aid to the Palestinian Authority. We (policy leaders) have supported giving them statehood. The American Left has consistently taken the Palestinians' side over Israel's, despite the PA's continued promotion of terror attacks against civilians.

None of it matters. They hate us because we exist. They rejoice in seeing us die. And they will not stop hating or rejoicing in our deaths until every last one of them who hates is dead--no matter if they're Hamas or Fatah or al-Qaeda or Islamic Jihad or any of their ilk.

I caught a little bit of Dennis Prager's radio show this morning, and he played clips from his appearance, along with AirAmerica host Randi Rhodes, on the Larry King show (with a guest host, not King). In the clip, Prager asked Rhodes a key question he asks people on the Left, in order to learn where the other person stands: "Are the people we are fighting evil?"

Rhodes said, "No. They're Iraqis." She went on to say that our occupation turned the Iraqis into insurgents because we bombed their children. As Dennis said, there's no holding a conversation with with someone who can't recognize evil.

Our war is on two fronts. First, we must fight evil to the death, because it will fight us to the death whether we do anything or not. Second, we must fight a battle of wills here at home. When it comes to understanding evil, the Left has no will to even try to understand. And without understanding, the Left has no will to fight.

We must win both wars.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Disease in South Texas

It's not a new disease. It's an old disease newly discovered. And it's gruesome.

WorldNetDaily reported today that there's a mystery disease in South Texas.

To the concern of medical professionals already preparing for a potential bird flu pandemic, a mysterious disease first documented 300 years ago is spreading throughout South Texas.

Morgellons disease has not been known to kill and it doesn't appear to be contagious – it's the disease's horrible symptoms that worry doctors.

"These people will have like beads of sweat but it's black, black and tarry," Ginger Savely, a nurse practioner in Austin who has treated a majority of Morgellons patients, told the San Antonio Express-News.

Patients infected with the disease get lesions that never heal.

But that's not all. Specks and fibers come out of the lesions.

Travis Wilson, a Morgellons sufferer for over a year, once called his mother in to see a fiber coming out of a lesion in his chest.

"It looked like a piece of spaghetti was sticking out about a quarter to an eighth of an inch long and it was sticking out of his chest," Lisa Wilson said. "I tried to pull it as hard as I could out and I could not pull it out.

"He'd have attacks and fibers would come out of his hands and fingers, white, black and sometimes red. Very, very painful," said Wilson.

More than 100 cases of the disease have been reported in South Texas.

Currently the only treatment that has shown success is an antibiotic. More than half of Morgellons patients have also been diagnosed with Lymes disease, but no other connections have been found.

"It sounds a little like a parasite, like a fungal infection, like a bacterial infection, but it never quite fits all the criteria of any known pathogen," said Savely, who continues to treat the disease others say isn't real.

It looks like the disease is staying around Austin and San Antonio, but since they don't know where the disease comes from, there's no knowing how to prevent it or how far away it might spread.

And that has me concerned, because I'm headed for central Texas next Saturday, and my mom and my sister and her family live there all the time. This disease sounds too horrible for words. Let's hope they find the source and especially the cure.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Iran's Nuke Progress

MyWay News reported today that Iran appears to be a whole lot closer to nukes than was previously thought. Here's the entire article (emphasis added):

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - The U.N. atomic agency has found traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian site linked to the country's defense ministry, diplomats said Friday. The finding added to concerns that Tehran was hiding activities that could be used to make nuclear arms.

The diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for revealing the confidential information, said the findings were preliminary and still had to be confirmed through other lab tests. But they said the density of enrichment appeared close to or beyond weapons grade - the level used to make nuclear warheads.

Couple this bit of information (granted, it's not corroborated) with Ahmadinejad's 18-page omen to President Bush and the implications his missive raises, and things look positively bleak.

Iran's president is heading into battle, sword held high, and he won't allow himself to stop until the world is under the domination of Islam. He's said so multiple times. Why doesn't anyone in leadership believe him?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Saved by a Text Message

The Times Online reported today that three men lost at sea for 22 days off northern Australia were rescued when they were able to send text messages.

In a story of survival that rivals that of two Tasmanian gold miners rescued on Monday after two weeks trapped underground, John Tabo, 38, his son, John Jr, 20, and nephew, Tom, 16, were found late on Tuesday, two weeks after they had been given up for dead when an air and sea search for them was called off.

The three Torres Strait islanders, missing since April 17, survived by eating raw squid and shellfish and drinking rainwater. They moulded metal tins aboard their disabled 16ft (4.9m) open boat into makeshift hats to protect themselves from the sun, and fashioned paddles out of jerry cans.

At noon on Tuesday relatives of the men on Murray Island, in the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea, received a burst of seven text messages. “They said, ‘Need help, fuel, food’ and they indicated to their relations on Murray Island that they were in the Dwyer Reef area, and so that’s where we focused an immediate search with a helicopter,” Inspector Russell Rhodes, of the Queensland police, said.

“They were spotted and winched into the chopper at 4.10pm on Tuesday afternoon, after 22 days at sea.”

Apparently, cell phone reception is available for a distance around each of Australia's islands in that area, so when the men spotted an island, they paddled toward it until their phones showed a signal. They had conserved their phone batteries by turning the phones off when they weren't near land.

It's nice to see some good news every now and then.

How different things would have turned out if it weren't for cell phones. As annoying as they can be (church, movie theater), they have the potential to save lives.

Iran's Warning Letter

Much fun has been had at the expense of that lovable loon running the peace-loving country of Iran, over the 18-page letter he sent to President Bush. Lileks, Scrappleface, Scrappleface with Bush's reply, and Smash with the condensed version of the original.

But, as Laura Mansfield pointed out in her WorldNetDaily column yesterday, this 18-page letter from Iran doesn't bode well. For anyone.

The letter was openly hostile and derisive of the United States, claiming that the entire world has turned against America. Only minimal reference was made to the nuclear standoff, and no solutions were proposed[.]

If the letter is anywhere near what is being described by the U.S. administration, then analysts must question: "What's the point?"

Why create and deliver such a missive in the public eye when there is little chance that the document is going to make any changes in the policies of either country?

Islamic theology documents that no attack can be carried out in jihad without first offering the "unbelievers" the opportunity to "repent" and accept Islam. Only when that overture is rejected can an attack occur. (emphasis added)

This is exactly what Ahmadinejad has done.

The question must be asked: Is this letter to the Bush administration from Iran a "final warning" to the United States?

With the internationally accepted belief that the Islamist rulers of Iran and their al-Qaida partners in terror either already have or are on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, it is imperative that we answer that question.

The gist is this: Iran's president has just officially invited the United States to embrace Islam.

This is not good. (emphasis in the original)

Lest you think Laura Mansfield is alone in her views, WorldNetDaily reports today that she's not.

I don't know who is advising the President about Iran, but it had better be someone who knows this much about Islam and jihad. The decisions President Bush makes will be decisive. They need to be based on the actual mindset of a jihadist who is prepared to destroy whole populations, and not on the hope that decency lies in the heart of all men. There is no decency in Ahmadinejad's heart.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

President Bush and Immigration

I saw two excellent commentaries today addressing President Bush's immigration policies. The first, in today's WorldNetDaily is by Ron Maxwell, the director of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. He write an open letter to the President (emphasis in the original).

What is happening on the southern border is unprecedented. Not only in our own history, but in the history of the world. No country at any time anywhere has sustained the influx of tens of millions of foreigners across its borders. A wave of anti-American leftism is sweeping Latin America. A socialist radical may soon be elected as the president of Mexico, a country which officially encourages its emigrants to vote in Mexican elections, urging them to think of themselves as Mexican first and perhaps only.

The eventual outcome is plain for anyone with eyes to see. This is invasion masquerading as immigration.

Mr. President, this is a time for candor. Your immigration policy is viewed as captive to the cheap-labor, big-business lobby and inimical to the survival of our country. It is splitting the party and draining away support for your presidency. We who understand the vital stakes will not be placated by rhetoric or slogans. The failure to recognize this growing and deep disaffection among Republicans, conservatives, independents and indeed many Reagan Democrats, is, in the short run, going to lead to a monumental defeat for your party at the polls in November.

Dear Mr. President, you must disenthrall yourself from the failed policies of the present. I implore you to re-think this issue and to change course. Millions of Americans, a great majority of your fellow citizens will be with you. Start speaking and doing the sensible, courageous and right thing. You will see your poll numbers turn dramatically around. You will save your country.

There's much more, and it expresses the heart of the American people about this issue. It's well worth the read.

The second is La Shawn Barber's post on why President Bush should be impeached. If you're not familiar with La Shawn, she's a conservative. Here is her proposed article of impeachment:

RESOLVED that George Walker Bush, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate:

Article I: Abuse of Power: Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, George Walker Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, failing to impart the due and proper administration of justice by protecting citizens against foreign invasions, contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch (Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service, for example) and the purposes of these agencies. This conduct has included one or more of the following:

(1) Complicit with foreign governments in breaching U.S. sovereignty. America’s founders codified the notion that “We the People” would govern the country by a representative democracy. The government remains legitimate only through consent of the governed, and “We the People” retain the inalienable right to alter the government, abolish it, or amend the Constitution.

There's plenty of argument--by conservatives--on both sides of this question. Some say that since President Bush hasn't had an active part in encouraging the illegal invasion, he's not impeachable. Others say that he has conspired with a foreign government against his own citizens and should be impeached.

I'm not arguing either way, just applauding La Shawn for her ability to stir the pot so vigorously.

My favorite comment ends this way:

Obviously Bush is not doing his job. He should be impeached. Then convicted. Then we would have a real man for President. Some one who shoots lawyers even if they claim to be friends.

Da Vinci Debacle


It was there at lunchtime! Now it's gone! It belonged to yesterday's posts!




Don't go see the Da Vinci Code. It's all a lie. Even the stuff Dan Brown says it true is a lie.

Here are the Art World lies: From Fred Sanders at Middlebrow.

Here are the Theological lies: From D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., and Jerry Newcombe in WorldNetDaily.

Travel Plans

The church I belong to is one of those non-denominational denominations that formed out of the Restoration Movement of the early- to mid-nineteenth century. The most common name of one of our churches is "First Christian Church" of wherever. You've seen them and probably not paid much attention, but that's where I go.

I'm on the Missions Committee at my church, and one of the missions we support is a Restoration Movement church in northeast Poland. We're their sole support from the US and have been for umpteen years.

Back in 1997, another couple from my church and I joined a small group of people from around the country, and we toured Poland, visiting a lot of our churches there and fitting a bit of sight-seeing in on the side. The three of us from my church made a special side-trip to visit the church and the minister we supported, and we had a great time.

At the end of September this year, it will be our Polish church's 60th anniversary, and they have asked (multiple times) if someone from our church would come to their town to celebrate with them. The Missions Committee looked to me, because I had been there before and had learned some Polish.

I resisted, mostly because I've been unsure about whether to stay in California or to leave, and if I left how soon that would be. But this past Sunday I agreed to go, and the Missions Committee will reimburse me for my airfare.

This morning I bought my airline ticket. California to Warsaw. Sixteen hours (including a layover in Chicago). So far I don't have a traveling companion, and the thought of being in Poland on my own is...daunting.

Sure, I know enough of the language for erudite conversation. I can say Yes, No, Please, Thank you, You're welcome, I'm hot, I'm cold, I need some air, I am hungry, and Where is the toilet? Fortunately, "toilet" is fairly easy to spot in Poland, because they spell it, "toalety."

And I learned some Polish Christian words from all the praise songs we sang at all the churches we visited (they usually projected the lyrics on the wall or a screen). Plus, nearly every church had a Bible verse painted or mounted on the front wall. My favorite front-wall verse (because I could both pronounce it and figure out what it meant) was this one:

Lecz moim, śćeśćem być blisko Boga. (I probably didn't spell that "s" word right because there are multiple ways to spell the same sounds, and I'm working from memory.) It means, "But for me, it is good to be near God."

In September when I go to Poland, it will also be good to be near the people of God.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New UN Human Rights Council

The UN has, once again, proven itself a useless waste of space and money.

Reuters reported today on the first round of voting for the new UN Human Rights Council.

The United Nations elected 44 of the initial 47 members of its new Human Rights Council in a first round of voting on Tuesday, including five nations named by rights groups as among the world's worst abusers.

Russia, China, Cuba, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, identified by New York-based Human Rights Watch as unworthy of membership on the new U.N. body, were among those winning seats.

But two others on the group's list, Iran and Azerbaijan failed to win membership in the initial round of voting.

Oh, Iran didn't make it on the first try. What a shame! But that's OK. They still have a chance, because there are still three seats to be filled.

The new Human Rights Council is the replacement for the Human Rights Commission, which was shut down in March after having behaved too badly even for UN standards.

And where is the USA in all this voting?

The United States, an outspoken critic of the old human rights commission, voted against creating the council, arguing barriers were still too low to keep rights abusers from winning a seat. It then decided against seeking a seat this year.

I'm not sure what it will mean for us by not being on the Council. We may just become an easy target for them--business as usual for the UN.

Iraq The Model's Vision of Beauty

Omar at Iraq The Model had a fabulous post Sunday on how to bring security to Iraq. It's long, but it's well worth reading, and it's worth our military brass in Iraq reading it as well.

The future of Iraq depends largely on the ability of the government to provide security for the citizens and no political progress no matter how significant will have value on the ground if citizens do not sense real improvement in security and this improvement needs to be reached as soon as possible and since time is crucial here, the government and the coalition need to think of starting with relatively smaller regions (in size) yet of high security value for the country, more specifically Baghdad.

Why is Baghdad so important?

Iraq like many other countries is a country that exists as long as the center (the capital) exists and there are many examples in history that prove that who controls Baghdad controls the rest of the country.

We saw that when terrorists got kicked out of Fallujah how many of them moved to Amiriyah in western Baghdad, and when operations intensified in the "triangle of death" many others moved to Doura towards the center and so on. So let's try to reverse this situation and let's start with Karrada district for example, it is adjacent to the green zone and is relatively calmer than other parts of Baghdad, do intense cordon and search operations, put the district under strict supervision for some time then finally add to the green zone after it's safe.

Repeat this with more districts one at a time and add more districts to this bigger safe zone until eventually all of Baghdad becomes secure and it won't be a bad idea to make the procedures of entering the new safe Baghdad similar to the procedures currently employed in controlling traffic into the green zone.

There's more. It's practical, and it's possible. Here's Omar's conclusion:

Can you imagine what things will be like when Baghdad becomes a safe place where diplomats are not afraid to come, businessmen are not afraid to invest their money, people are not afraid to go to work, passenger flights are not afraid to land like they do in other airports in this world?

I can, and it's a vision of beauty that can become a reality.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Hamas and Fatah Are Killing Each Other

This is good news, reported in today's WorldNetDaily. Instead of attacking Israelis, the Palestinians' two terror groups are targeting each other.

Marking the worst internal Palestinian fighting since Hamas won January's Palestinian elections, gunmen from Hamas and the long-ruling Fatah organization duked it out in the streets of Gaza today, shooting and firing missiles at each other and kidnapping members of rival groups.

Three gunmen were killed and at least 10 people were injured.

Hamas sources told WND the fighting erupted this morning over control of large fields in Kfar Dorom, a Jewish community until Israel's evacuation of the Gaza Strip last summer. Both Fatah and Hamas claimed the fields as their own. Hamas announced plans to turn the area into a "military training zone." Gun battles were reported near the fields.

The two groups then traded accusations of kidnapping each other's members. Both denied the allegations. However, immediately after the denials, a wave of kidnappings reportedly took place with Hamas kidnapping three Fatah members and Fatah briefly capturing four Hamas gunmen.

Senior officials from both organizations brokered an exchange of captives, but gunfights reportedly broke out at the exchanges. After a Hamas man was wounded mortally, apparently by Fatah gunmen, Hamas shot two Fatah members in the street.

Hamas members today also fired a shoulder-held missile into a jeep with Palestinian Authority government license plates, killing two Fatah gunmen who also reportedly were members of the PA security forces.

Gun battles continued in several Gaza towns.

According to reports, large numbers of Palestinian children stayed home from school because parents were afraid to allow their kids to venture into the streets.

Let's hope that Fatah and Hamas will destroy each other, and then these parents--who actually want to keep their kids alive instead of wanting their kids to blow themselves up--can take over the PA territory and make it a decent place.

I can dream, can't I?

Iraq The Model Goes to the Barber

Mohammed at Iraq The Model has a post on his trip to the barber shop. It reveals a fascinating contrast between Mohammed and Omar's thoughful insights and the self-blinded beliefs of other Iraqis. First, some statements of "other Iraqis." These came when the TV showed video of Zarqawi.

"Look at him, he was so thin when he first came into Iraq and now he looks like a bull! He must be feeding on a sheep everyday. Do you really believe this man lives in the desert??" one remark was "no, he's under American protection, they brought him in a helicopter to the desert to shoot this video then he was flown back to a palace. No idiot can believe that America with all the technology and power cannot spot him" another guy added.

"You see that, all his weapons are US made, isn't this enough proof that he's backed by the Americans? Er, by the way they say he's in Yusifiya now, right?"

[A]nd the other guy just said "yes! This is how the Americans do it, every time they want to destroy an area they send in Zarqawi so they can justify their operations."

Mohammed tried arguing with these guys, but they just kept going in circles believing what they wanted to believe. Here's how Mohammed ended his post:

I chose not to waste my breath on more of this conversation as long as the guys were convinced that everybody wants to kill them supporting this belief with rumors and conspiracy theories that simple minded people love; they relieve the mind off the duty of making any effort to find answers and it allows them to not have to blame themselves for anything that goes wrong.

An Iraqi finds it so hard to admit his mistakes, not only that, he doesn't even want to review his history to avoid facing the reality that it was our mistakes over time that made us what we are now, so let's just blame the others for our failures and let’s believe that our enemies (who are virtually every nation other than us) have been putting one obstacle after the other in front of us to stop us from becoming an advanced and wealthy nation and let's just spare us the effort of finding out the real reasons behind our misery.

Ignorance is a plague nurtured by turbans that lack logic and knowledge and by media and political analysts who are keen to keep the people misinformed and to which truth is an enemy; a heavy legacy that will not be easy to escape.

May the people of Iraq escape their legacy. May there be more and more of them who see things as clearly as Mohammed and Omar and fewer and fewer who are like the the other men in the barber shop. The peace and stability of Iraq, and ultimately the Middle East depend on it.

Mexico's Economy

This morning I went to one of those department-wide meetings at work that everybody hates to go to but everybody has to go to. It was all it promised to be, which meant I got in a little nap time (no, I don't snore).

But when I was awake, one of the speakers said that Mexico has the world's tenth largest economy.

Excuse me? If their economy is that great, why on earth do so many of their people come streaming across the border into our country? If their economy is that great, why on earth does the Mexican government itself encourage its citizens to come here?

Is their economy that great because it includes all the money that their citizens send back home from the US?

Or, does their economy's greatness fail to reflect the fact that about 80% of the wealth is in the hands of about a dozen families?

Economic numbers don't give the total picture, and the total picture is one that includes corruption and the exploitation or abandonment of the country's citizens. It's going to take a lot to get Mexico to change, because the people with the power to change things have no incentive at all to do so.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

1962 Fruitcake

This is old news already, but hey, the fruitcake is way older. Reported April 18 by Breitbart.

Lance Nesta did what many people do when receiving a fruitcake _ he set it aside, only to rediscover it more than 40 years later in his mother's attic. Nesta couldn't resist taking a peek at the cake, still in its original tin and wrapped in paper.

"I was amazed that it hadn't changed at all," he said.

Nesta's two aunts sent him the fruitcake in November 1962 while he was stationed in Alaska with the Army.

"I opened it up and didn't know what to do with it," Nesta said. "I sure wasn't going to eat it, and I liked my fellow soldiers too much to share it with them."

His mom had given him advance warning of the fruitcake back in 1962.

"She knew I hated the damn things, but she said she didn't have the heart to tell my aunts, who had already mailed it," he said.

"If I had known back then that it had rum and brandy in it, I would have eaten it," he said.


New Invention for Riots

French police could probably use this.

New Scientist has an invention blog, and the invention featured this past Tuesday was the Riot Slimer. It looks a bit like Ghostbusters with a paint sprayer.

Rioters could soon be in for a slippery surprise. Researchers at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, US, are working on a new non-lethal weapon that could quite literally bring them to their knees – by sliming them.

The institute has developed a super-slimy substance. When fired at an unruly mob it causes rioters to simply slip over.

Even vehicles should be unable to get a grip on the goo, the patent says. And because the gel is non-toxic, it should cause no permanent harm, besides a few bruised bottoms, that is.

Sounds perfect for when those angry protests turn ugly.

14-Year-Old Girl Kicks Butt

KUSA-TV News in Denver reported on April 28 about a 14-year-old girl who whupped the man who attacked her.

A 14-year-old is being credited with fighting off her attacker. Brittney Richardson says she was grabbed by a man last Friday night on 93rd Avenue in Westminster, after walking home from the grocery store.

But her attacker quickly learned that Brittney isn't your typical teenager. She has a brown belt in Karate, and she used the skills she's learned during two years of classes.

"I turned and I hit him," she says. "I just knocked this guy out."

She immediately ran away, and called police.

Brittney's karate instructor couldn't be prouder. What a girl!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mexico Is Making Changes

MSNBC News reported yesterday that Mexico is trying to create as many as a million jobs this year--right there in Mexico.

Mexico is working hard to create jobs so that its people do not have to emigrate to find work and expects to add up to 1 million new jobs this year, Mexican Economy Minister Sergio Garcia said Thursday.

He said employment growth and ebbing population growth in Mexico should ease immigration into the United States, where hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated on May Day in response to moves to crack down on illegal immigrants.

“The most important solution is the generation of employment in our country,” Garcia told a news conference during the World Congress on Information Technology.

Well, it's about stinkin' time! Did they just now figure this out? OK, I'll take a deep breath and go on.

There's more cheery news out of Mexico, this reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer yesterday. President Vicente Fox will be leaving office this fall. Mexican presidents only serve one six-year term and can't run for re-election.

He wasn't expected to win his party's primary, let alone surge ahead in the latest poll for the presidency. But soft-spoken, conservative Felipe Calderon has managed to overtake his charismatic left-wing opponent, and suddenly the campaign is looking like a roller coaster.

Harvard-educated Calderon, 43, touts free-market reforms, conservative fiscal policies and job creation so that Mexicans won't have to cross illegally into the United States to look for work. He is the candidate for outgoing President Vicente Fox's National Action Party, but is more socially conservative than Fox. He strongly supports his party's anti-abortion policy and cites Scripture during stump speeches.

Calderon wasn't Fox's first choice as successor. The two butted heads in 2004 when Calderon began openly campaigning to replace Fox while serving as his energy secretary. The spat led to Calderon's resignation.

Last fall, many expected Interior Secretary Santiago Creel to win the nomination, but Calderon quietly united the party behind him.

If Felipe Calderon wins on his pro-life, free-market platform, it could bode well for the job situation both here and in Mexico. Which could bode well for our illegal alien problems. I'll have to start keeping an eye on the campaign and counting down to the day Vicente Fox leaves office.