Thursday, September 28, 2006

Poland's Dark Past

Dave Barry, in his Travel book (Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need), says that if you park your tank at the border of Poland and forget to set your parking brake, you could wake up in the morning to discover you've conquered the country. That about sums up the history of Poland. They've been conquered and pillaged by all sorts of countries through the centuries.

The photo above is the monument to the defense of Warsaw against the Nazis in 1939. It wasn't just soldiers who fought, but farmers and workers as well, and they're represented in the monument. You can feel the weight of the cement on top crushing their resistence.

This war, World War II, is the last time Western Europe faced evil. Even then, France surrendered to the evil--no not every single French person, but the government did. So it shouldn't be a surprise to us that as we face evil in our time, most of Western Europe has forgotten what that means.

This monument in Warsaw is to commemorate all the Poles who were killed at the hands of the Soviets, beginning September 17, 1939 and continuing until the fall of the Soviet Union. The flowers were left on the monument just five days before we went there. Unlike France, Poland still remembers the results of evil. That's why they fight with us. They fight so we won't need another monument marking another victory for evil.

Poland Anniversary Celebration

This is why we came to Poland.

The man between Betty and me is the minister my church supports, Jerzy (pronounced YEH-zhuh (the "zh" is like the way we say the "s" in "Asia", and the "uh" isn't quite the right way to pronounce a Polish "y"--it's like the French "eu" but we don't officially have that sound in English, so "uh" is as close as I can get)). People have told Jerzy that his name is the equivalent to George in English, but they also told that to Grzegorz, whose name looks more like Gregory to me, and Jerzy looks more like Jerry to me, which makes me think they tell everyone they can that their name is George. But Jerzy likes the name George, so Betty and Cathy went with that one. But I digress...

Jerzy's church is 60 years old this month. It was started in Lidzbark-Warminski in 1946 by a German man who lived in Lidzbark before World War II (and whose granddaughter attended the Celebration). When the war ended, the German man began repairing the Christian church, which had been destroyed during the Nazi occupation of the town, and soon the Polish Christians pitched in. It was an example to the community that the bonds of Christian faith are stronger than the animosity caused by war.

Jerzy came to Lidbark in 1979 from the Warsaw area (Milanówek) as the associate minister, and when the senior minister passed away in 1993, Jerzy took over.

The Celebration service had presentations by us (our church gave them a big card with a Polish message inside and signed by many members of our church, and we gave them a communion set), the mayor of Lidzbark, and the mayor of Milanówek. They had a multimedia presentation of the history of the church, some Scripture reading, a message by one of the area ministers, and communion (not with our new set).

After the service, they served lunch, then had cake and coffee outside in a gigantic gazebo, with a demonstration of Brazilian martial arts that some of the church members are involved in. Here's a picture (Don't you hate it when the best action shot you get is also the one that some guy walked in front of?). Ignore the man who messed up my shot. The guy in the suit who is upside-down on one hand is a church member.

My favorite times during our visit were when we sat around a table and had good conversation.

We talked about politics and the war against the jihadists with one of the church families, who served us dinner. They're as disgusted by Western Europe's failure to recognize the threat of evil as we are, and I told them how pleased I am that Poland has been faithful to stand with us in the war. We also talked about the wife's private school, which she started two years ago. It's the first non-state school in the region, so she and her husband have charted new bureaucratic waters, but her school is doing well.

Over coffee and tea at the minister's house, with several different church members there, we talked about some of the activities they're involved in and how those things have become vehicles for bringing people to faith in Christ. And we talked a little about politics and the war and Bush Derangement Syndrome, and really had a great time.

The people we met there from the Christian Church (Poland is 96% Catholic) were thrilled that we had come. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome and to feed us more food than we could eat. The woman with the private school even remembered that, when I had stayed overnight with them in 1997, I had said gałumki was my favorite, and she served that for us for dinner.

Several months ago, when our church learned about the Lidbark church's anniversary, we asked them what gift they would like from us. They said the gift they most wanted was for some of us to come and celebrate with them. How could we give them anything less?

There and Back Again

We're home!

This is the three of us (Betty, SkyePuppy, and Cathy), with our Polish minister's mom in front.

We had a wonderful time, but it was capped off by a grueling trip back.

We got up at 6:00am for a noon flight, had breakfast and left for the airport at rush hour, so it took about an hour longer than non-rush hour to get to the airport (but we allowed time for that). We waited in line to be allowed to wait in line to check our luggage, then waited in line for Passport Control, then waited in line for the restrooms then waited in line at security (and I was the lucky one behind the woman who didn't seem able to figure out what to do with her stuff at security and held up the line). We had arrived at the airport at 9:30, and finally got to our gate about ten minutes before they started boarding.

Warsaw airport is being remodeled, so LOT Polish Airlines parks its planes away from the gates and buses the passengers out to the plane. We got on a bus quickly and waited while it filled up, but it didn't move. We waited there a long time. Then they took us to the plane, where we waited for a long time. An hour and 45 minutes after our scheduled departure time, we finally took off. Apparently, someone checked his luggage on the flight but never boarded the plane. They waited for him to show up, then they had to get his bags off the plane.

Then I had the great fortune of sitting in front of a Polish-speaking woman who thought my seat was her personal playground and for nine hours kept bumping it and pushing it and pulling it back whenever she stood up and holding onto it when she put her shoes back on, but all the Polish I knew that might help in the situation was "please" and "no", and that wasn't enough, because dirty looks from me weren't enough to make her stop, and I didn't know how to say, "If you need to hold onto a seat, hold onto your own and leave mine alone!" Plus there was the lady a couple rows ahead of me who kept smacking my shoulder with her butt everytime she went back to the galley to get a drink and she never said "prosze" or anything else in Polish (or English) when she did it. And one of the flight attendants almost hit me in the face with the corner of one of his metal trays of sandwiches, but I got my hands up in time to protect myself. He said, "Sorry."

The delay in Warsaw ate up most of the two-hour layover we were supposed to have in Chicago. Sometimes they'll hold a connecting plane for delayed passengers, so we got off the plane as quickly as we could for being in the third-to-last row, rushed to Customs (or Passport Control, or whatever they call it when they decide if they'll let you back in your own country), rushed to grab our bags (which surprised us by not being the last ones), rushed to United Airlines to check our bags, but they hadn't held our flight. It had taken off 20 minutes earlier.

Back to LOT Polish Airlines to have them make new arrangements, which they did on a flight three hours later. Back to United to check our bags, then take the train from Terminal 5 (International) to Terminal 1, where we ate real salads for dinner (or whatever meal our bodies thought that was).

Then we went to security, where they pulled us out for special screening because we had been international. And the way the detectors you walk through treated the people in front of us, they looked set on super-sensitive, so in addition to taking off my shoes, I took off my belt and emptied the extra złoty coins from my pocket. They had to swab all of our carry-on and pat us down, but the TSA woman who pats down the women inspectees was also the main carry-on swabber, so that slowed everything down some more, and the people in front of us were from India and spoke no English, so their son was with them to translate and had a special security pass to let him go beyond the place where only ticketed passengers can go (he wasn't traveling with them), but the special-screening TSA people didn't know what to do with him, so that slowed things down too, and we had to wait for them to finish with him and his parents before it was our turn.

Finally, after long waits during pat-downs and swabbings, we got ourselves dressed again and got to the gate about a half hour before boarding.

The flight from Chicago to California was uneventful (as far as I could tell, being asleep). When the pilot announced that we were descending to the airport, I woke up with my eyes burning the way they do that makes my eardrums buzz at the same time. We were a half hour late arriving, but the landing was the best one of the trip and one of the smoothest I've ever had.

My daughter (who was circling the airport in the minivan) picked us up, and an hour later, we dropped off Betty and then Cathy. At home, I gave the girls their gifts and we chatted a while, then I unpacked my toothbrush and jammies, but I couldn't get to sleep, so I'm typing this. I'll try to sleep again soon.

I'm supposed to go to work Thursday (it feels wrong to say "today" but it is wrong to say "tomorrow") , but that's looking like a bad idea. I'm going to need a lot more sleep than just a few hours.

I'll post about our trip (not the flight) another time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Leaving in the Morning

My friends and I leave for Poland in the morning. We're meeting at one person's house at 5:00 AM, and another lady from church will drive us to the airport in her big car with a big trunk.

I'm almost packed. Right now it's down to figuring out which gel-like substances I need to pack in my checked luggage and what I think they'll let me carry on.

Tickets. Check.

Passport. Check.

Money and plastic. Check. Check.

Unless an internet cafe jumps out in front of us, I expect to be incommunicado for the next week. We get back a week from tomorrow, likely suffering from jet lag.

Our schedule planning man has adjusted our itinerary, so we'll be able to see the monuments in Warsaw and visit Stutthof Concentration Camp instead of Hitler's Bunkers. Stutthof was the first concentration camp the Nazis built outside of Germany, and it was the last one liberated by the Allies.

And of course, we'll be there for our Polish church's 60th Anniversary Celebration.

So until next week, Do widzenja!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Religion of Death

Muslim and political leaders like to call Islam the "Religion of Peace," and for many Muslims it probably is just that. But for the jihadists, the only kind of peace they have in mind is the one that starts, "Rest In."

They kill the infidels. They kill themselves in the process of killing the infidels. They kill other Muslims when the Muslims are too close to the infidels they're killing. They kill other Muslims when they disagree with the other Muslims.

They kill over cartoons. They kill over movies. They kill over history. They kill over speeches about history.

They kill when their demands are defied. They kill when their demands are appeased. They kill when they're ignored. They kill when they're attacked.

They kill businesspeople in Manhattan. They kill tourists in Bali. They kill commuters in Spain and London. They kill airline passengers wherever they can.

That's some kind of peace!

Now that they've sent a nun in Somalia to meet her Maker, because the Pope gave a speech that briefly referenced Muslim violence, there's more "peace" on the way. WorldNetDaily reported yesterday that a new warning has been issued.

The new al-Qaida field commander in Afghanistan is calling for Muslims to leave the U.S. – particularly Washington and New York – in anticipation of a major terror attack to rival Sept. 11, according to an interview by a Pakistani journalist.

Abu Dawood told Hamid Mir, a reporter who has covered al-Qaida and met with Osama bin Laden, the attack is being coordinated by Adnan el-Shukrijumah and suggests it may involve some form of weapon of mass destruction smuggled across the Mexican border.

"He [Adnan] is an American and a friend of Muhammad Atta, who led 9/11 attacks five years ago," said Dawood. "We call him 'Jaffer al Tayyar' (Jafer the Pilot); he is very brave and intelligent. (President) Bush is aware that brother Adnan has smuggled deadly materials inside America from the Mexican border. Bush is silent about him, because he doesn’t want to panic his people. Sheikh Osama bin Laden has completed his cycle of warnings. You know, he is man of his words, he is not a politician; he always does what he says. If he said it many times that Americans will see new attacks, they will definitely see new attacks. He is a real mujahid. Americans will not win this war, which they have started against Muslims. Americans are the biggest supporters of the biggest terrorist in the world, which is Israel."

You can't reason with people like this. All you can do is give them the peace they want to give us. May we help the jihadists--every single one of them--Rest In Peace.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Global Warming Catastrophe Looms

Photo credit: NASA satellite image

WorldNetDaily reported today that a US climate researcher says we only have a decade left to fix global warming before we face disaster.

"I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade, at the most," said James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Addressing the Climate Change Research Conference this week, Hansen said if "business as usual" continues, world temperatures will rise by 3.6 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit and "we will be producing a different planet."

Ironically, a report issued yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that while the summer of 2006 was the second-warmest on record, the hottest year for the contiguous 48 states since statistics began in 1895 was 1936 – seven decades ago.

I'm skeptical about global warming alarms, especially the variety that says we're all going to die. Soon! I see reports that say we're cooling slightly. Other reports announce heating in Alaska but ignore the cooling in Canada that happened during the same time period. A person might think we can't be warming and cooling at the same time, but think again.

Take a look at the picture at the top of this post. It's from the WorldNetDaily article, and it shows the Arctic ice cap. The caption under it in the article says that the polar ice has been reduced by the equivalent of the state of Texas (which has no ice to speak of and is home to the hated President Bush, so I'm surprised they use that as their example).

But if you look closely, the melted part (white on the left picture and pink on the right) is near Russia. At the same time, Alaska's ice grew since the year before. And so did the ice near Iceland and Scandanavia. But nobody's talking about Alaska and Europe. No, everybody likes to blame the US for not signing the Kyoto Treaty, as though we're to blame for Russia's failure to keep its ice from melting.

There are scientists who dispute the global warming alarmists, and several are listed (along with their arguments) in the WND article. But these are often dismissed by the alarmists as not being "real" scientists.

So how can you tell if people are real scientists? Here's the scientific method the alarmists use:

If they agree that global warming is real and a threat, they're real scientists.

If they dispute the global warming alarm bells, they're quacks.


Poland Is Coming Up

I woke up this morning from a dream about my coming trip to Poland.

I was at the airport, when I noticed that my ticket showed an earlier departure time than I remembered, and I had missed my flight. I talked to the ticket agent, and she told me that if I drove overnight to Cleveland (I was no longer in California but in Chicago missing my connecting flight to Warsaw), I could catch a plane that would get me there in time.

But then I realized I didn't have my luggage. It was still sitting on my bedroom floor, empty.

I know where this dream came from. Last night I got an email with our detailed itinerary for our trip to Poland. The son of the minister my church supports, put the itinerary together. It has some of our must-see places on it, but not a couple others, so I'm a little concerned.

When I was in Poland in 1997, we saw a couple monuments in Warsaw that I need to see again, because we saw them at night, and the pictures didn't turn out well. One of them was a monument like railroad tracks with a flatbed rail car filled with crosses and Stars of David. On each railroad tie is the name and date of a Soviet atrocity committed against Poles. The other is the monument to the resistance against the Nazi invasion of Warsaw in 1939. It has statues of soldiers, farmers, workers, and other ordinary people armed with whatever weapons they could fashion, and over them is a giant concrete slab at an angle that looks like it's about to crush the defenders. My co-travelers from that trip want better pictures as much as I do.

The other thing missing from the itinerary is a visit to a concentration camp. It's not the kind of place you actually want to see, but it's the kind of place you must see if you're near one.

So I'll reply to the email and see if those three places will be possible for us.

This weekend will be a whirlwind of Poland preparation activity. I need to buy ChapStick® for starters, because they don't allow gel-style lip stuff on planes, the last I heard. If I do happen to miss my plane, I plan on doing it with all my luggage packed and with me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

On Intelligence

Today is one of those grueling days at work without even a break for lunch. It's finally slowed down just a bit, so I can take a few minutes to eat something and call it dinner (and slip in a short blog post), before I have to get back to it. No telling what time I'll be leaving for home.

I'm not stupid. Really, I'm not, even though the latest study out of Canada says men are more intelligent than women. The Daily Mail (UK) reported the story today.

It is research that is guaranteed to delight men - and infuriate the women in their lives. A controversial new study has claimed that men really are more intelligent than women.

The study - carried out by a man - concluded that men's IQs are almost four points higher than women's.

A focus on a factors such as the ability to quickly grasp a complex concept, verbal reasoning skills and creativity - some of they key ingredients of intelligence - revealed the male teenagers had IQs that were an average of 3.63 points higher. The average person has an IQ of around 100.

I'm curious about the test. Did they place more emphasis on spatial skills, where men tend to excel, than on verbal skills, where women tend to excel? Or was it evenly balanced between men's and women's strengths?

The good professor, John Philippe Rushton, has this to offer as an explanation of the results:

'We know that men have larger brains, even when you take into account larger body size,' said the researcher. 'That means there are more neurons. The question is what these neurons are doing in a man - and they probably have an advantage in processing information.'

It is thought the difference may date back to the Stone Age, with women seeking out men who are more intelligent than them in a bid to pass on the best genes to their children.

Of course! Stone Age women were looking for good genes in men. I'm sure that's what they called it, too. And all this time, I thought they were on the prowl for a rich guy--somebody with lots of stones for throwing at prey, or with a beefy club arm. Silly me. I must not be very intelligent.

Critics claim Prof Rushton's results could have been skewed by the inclusion of more test results from females than form (sic) males.

Did Rushton choose all the top males and pick a broad sample of females? I'm not sure what the critics are trying to say with their criticism. It seems to me that if you oversample females and that skews the results of females lower, then you're just confirming that girls test lower on intelligence tests.

'These are unpopular conclusions,' [Rushton] said. 'People should not be made to feel afraid to study controversial issues.

An earlier British study had similar results:

The analyses of more than 20,000 verbal reasoning tests taken by university students from around the world revealed that women's IQs are up to five points lower than men's .

So there you have it. Men are more intelligent than women, in general. That says nothing about individuals, though, whose intelligence can vary widely.

But I have a different theory to explain the difference: Most of the winners of the Darwin Awards are men. This proves that the stupid men are eliminating themselves from the gene pool at a higher rate than stupid women are.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Stem Cells Again

The Herald Sun reported today about the company that previously developed a method of taking one cell from a pre-embryonic blastocyst (at the eight-celled stage of development) and replicating it to produce lots of embryonic stem cells "safely." This new procedure was touted as a way to get embryonic stem cells without the teeny-tiny ethical problem of destroying the embryo.

Advanced Cell researchers previously said they had found a way to take a single cell from very young embryos and grow that into a batch of stem cells, leaving the embryo intact. They offer it as a way around an impasse surrounding stem cell research.

But what the Herald Sun didn't mention was this item from Catholic News on September 6, 2006.

Last month, biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) stunned the worldwide scientific community and the public when it announced it developed a method to make embryonic stem cells using a technique that did not harm embryos from which the cells were derived.

But within days, Nature sent out two revised press releases apologizing to journalists that its original statement was partially in error and that the embryos used to produce the stem cells did not survive the process. "We feel it necessary to explain that this paper demonstrates that human embryonic stem cells can be grown from single cells, but that the embryos that were used for these experiments did not remain intact," Nature said. (emphasis added)

The embryos died. All of them. In experiments that are still being touted as having spared the embryos in question.

This is from the Herald Sun:

The WiCell Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin and California- and Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology said they would work together to give batches of the cells to researchers, provided the federal government agrees to fund them.

Does anybody making federal stem cell policy decisions read the Catholic News? Do any of them know the embryos died? Will they be told before they make a decision?

What a scam! Announce an ethical breakthrough that doesn't exist and splash it all over the news. Release a correction and bury it. Then ask the federal government--not private investment companies--to fund this ethically phony process to produce unproven stem cells.

I'm appalled. I'm aghast. I'm astounded that this company may get away with it.

Stuffers and Sorters

When I was at the Women of Faith conference last weekend, one of the speakers (I can't remember which one) said that when it comes to purses, there are two kinds of women: Stuffers and Sorters. And you know which one you are.

My friend that I go to the movies with the most is a Stuffer. Stuffers have purses that are like black holes. Everything goes anywhere, and you can never find what you need without pulling all the contents out and realizing that you didn't have that item in the first place.

I am a Sorter. Sorters know where everything belongs, and they put it back there, so when they need to find something, they go to the right spot.

It can be either amusing or frustrating to watch the other half deal with her purse. My friend takes her debit card receipts and stuffs them somewhere in her wallet. She also stuffs crumpled dollar bills somewhere in her wallet, so the receipts and cash are comingled and, at the same time, irretrievable. Stuffing makes it quick for her to get away when she's finished paying for something--stuff and go. But the paying takes extra time, while she hunts down her debit card.

On the other hand, for me the Sorter, paying is quick. Pull out the wallet, open the section that has the debit card, hand it over, and put it back. But when the cashier hands me the receipt, I need some time to put my purse back together. The receipt goes in the receipt spot in my wallet, and the wallet needs to go back in the front compartment in my purse, which has three main compartments and a couple smaller zipper-pockets.

My wallet is all alone in its compartment. The back compartment has my 6 x 3" Bible, checkbook, Franklin planner (pocket size), and reading glasses. The middle compartment has a zipper spot for my badge, rearview-mirror-dangling parking permit, and keys. It also has an open pocket I use for my pens and USB 256MB storage stick. The rest of the compartment holds bigger miscellaneous items like lip stuff and travel Kleenex. My cell phone goes in a pocket on the outside, and the other outside pocket holds the little miscellaneous stuff, like gum.

It would be easy to cast aspersions on the other half for being way too unorganized or way too fussy, but that wouldn't be kind. At some point, the way we operate our purses works for us, or we'd do things differently. Besides, I love my friend dearly, and her scattered-purse ways are part of her charm. I only hope the way I operate my purse is just as charming to the other half.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sheep Poo Paper

The BBC reported September 7, 2006 (HT: WorldNetDaily), that a Welsh company has won a £20,000 Millennium Award for "social entrepreneurship". Creative Paper Wales has a line of Sheep Poo Paper products made from recycled sheep manure.

After the sheep droppings are collected, they are sterilised, washed and mixed with other recycled paper.

This is then turned into the finished paper and cardboard while the washing water is distributed to local growers as concentrated fertiliser.

Founders Lawrence Toms, 38, from Rhondda and Lez Paylor, 38, from Caerphilly, said they had been keen to develop an idea which would create a manufacturing company which would be uniquely Welsh and could produce a product that foreign imports could not compete with.

They also wanted to set up a low-tech company with minimal capital which was also environmentally friendly.

Who thinks of this stuff?

I've had a theory about the bizarre use of animal items for making other products--particularly the Scottish bagpipes. I believe the Scots invented whiskey before they invented bagpipes.

On a bender, one particularly inebriated lad, sitting around a peat fire eating mutton with his friends, happened to notice the sheep's stomach lying unattended and decided to have a bit of sport. He picked it up, blew into it, and squished it against his ribs with his upper arm, making that flatulent noise that young boys and drunks delight in.

One of his friends, not to be outdone, takes out a pipe and attaches it to one end of the stomach with some gut-twine and proceeds to blow out a tune.

They enhance it, perfect it, make up melodies. But when all is said and done, it started with vast quantities of Scotch Whiskey.

Sheep Poo Paper is like that.

Sheep Poo Paper comes from the stupor that comes after the whiskey has had most of its fun. It comes when the paper-maker is left staring at the ground, and he sees the sheep poo platelets replete with grass fibers, and after he stares at them for a long time he thinks, "Huh. You could make paper out of that."

And when the whiskey has worn off and the hangover is reduced to memory, he tells his co-workers at the paper-making company about the hysterical thought he had when he was looking at the sheep droppings. And somebody says they should try it. And somebody else nominates them for an award.

It all starts with whiskey. That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.

La Shawn Barber on Ghana's Apology for Slavery

La Shawn Barber has a great post today on Ghana's apology for the slave trade in centuries past.

The point that many people in America don't know is that the slave trade wouldn't have been feasible if it weren't for the Africans who captured and sold other Africans to the traders. If you've seen Roots or Amistad, you have an idea about this part of slavery's history. If you haven't seen those shows, nobody else has been rushing to be sure you're informed. Here's some of La Shawn's take on this:

Ho-hum. That black Africans and Arabs were and are still involved in the human chattel trade (and other vile things) is uninteresting to the world. (Also see Sudan’s Slaves.) The white man is the blue-eyed devil, conquering, oppressing, chaining, and killing. He is the one people envy and hate, the one for whom they blame their misery. As brutal and corrupt as African rulers are, I’ll bet somehow the people they brutalize still blame “colonialism.”

Read her whole post. And the comments. As always, she stirs the pot pretty well.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Never Forget

We're at war. We just didn't realize it until September 11, 2001.

For the sake of the dead, we must never forget.

For the sake of their loved ones, we must never forget.

For the sake of each American who felt the horror of watching the destruction, we must never forget.

We must fight the terrorists wherever they are until we make them regret September 11, 2001.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Back from the Mountaintop

It turns out I overestimated the number of my close Christian friends by a whole lot. The Arrowhead Pond (home of the Mighty Ducks) held about 18,000 women, not 40,000. We had a group of eight from our church.

As we walked from our car to the door of the arena, we passed a man who had hand-printed signs saying that Women of Faith is the road to Hell. I didn't get any more details than that, so I'm not sure exactly what part of Women of Faith makes it that road. He didn't deter us from attending.

I won't go into the details of who the speakers were or what they said. I'm still pondering all those things in my heart. But there was somebody new this year who captured the audience.

Her name is Lisa Smith, she has Down's Syndrome, and she uses American Sign Language to sign some of the songs from the two days' program. She poured her heart into it, making beautiful, sweeping signs as Sandi Patty sang the crescendo of "How Great Thou Art" or as Avalon sang a couple of their songs.

It got me to thinking, as I watched her sweet, sweet smile when the audience cheered her, that if many policy-makers had their way, people like Lisa wouldn't be here. Having Down's Syndrome has become an abortable offense. LifeSite reported in April, 2005, on a study showing doctors had a bias toward abortion when informing parents of a potentially positive test for the condition.

Such testing, however, does not give a certain diagnosis of Down's Syndrome, but only a percentage possibility. Nevertheless, the abortion rate with even an uncertain pre-natal Down's Syndrome diagnosis is extremely high, with some studies showing as many as 90% of children aborted.

This year's theme for the Women of Faith conferences is, "Contagious Joy," and Lisa Smith epitomized that theme for me. Without her, this year's event would have lost some of its lustre. It's hard to imagine just how much joy has been lost to the world because we've aborted too many Lisa Smiths.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Women of Faith

I'll be joining a group of women from my church (and about 40,000 of our closest Christian girlfriends) today and tomorrow for the Women of Faith conference in Anaheim. We've been going to these conferences for many years, and I've loved them all.

I can't--and shouldn't--wait. I still haven't packed, and we meet at one friend's house at 6 AM.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wrinkled Bible

I had to take my work laptop home last night, because my workload and the train schedule didn't coordinate well yesterday. On the train this morning, I snagged a table and started writing a Bread, because my turn is coming again soon.

I keep a small Bible in my purse (about 6 x 3 inches), and when I pulled it out to check some details in Genesis, the first several pages were wrinkled and lightly stuck together from having been wet at one point.

Washington DC. The White House.

In 2004, when my friends and I were in DC for vacation, we went to the White House Visitor Center and then walked across the street to look through the wrought-iron fence and get pictures of the White House. And it started to rain. And the rain became a torrent in a heartbeat. It soaked through my purse, and my checkbook, and part of my Bible.

Those pages in Genesis hold fond memories for me of that afternoon. My friends' granddaughter, in a yellow rain-slicker, twirling with her arms outstretched in the downpour. My friend's husband, just a day or two before he died, sitting on a low retaining wall and holding two umbrellas over our bags that he was guarding. The neoprene sandals I happened to wear that day that kept me as the only one in our group without squishy shoes for the rest of the day.

I read a book one time, Leonard Sweet's Soul Salsa, in which the author recommended eliminating needless items from our lives. The only things we should keep, he says, are those that tell a story.

I guess I'll be keeping this copy of the Bible.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Shacking Up Is Overrated

The Daily Mail (UK) reported today on the "curse" of the 9/11 widows.

They talked about the disparity in payoffs to the different widows, the way some got $7 million and others got only $250,000 and a lot of people are unhappy about the difference. The way Congress wrote the law, though, required that the age and earning potential of the deceased be taken into account.

Some of the widows went on spending sprees, trying to medicate their grief and fill the emptiness with things that left them just as empty afterward.

But the story that got to me was the one about the non-widows:

The most bitter family disputes have involved the relatives of unmarried victims who had not prepared for their mortality as they were only in their prime.

Lisa Goldberg's partner, Martin McWilliams, would surely be appalled at the tangled legacy he left his tiny daughter, Sara, and the corrosive financial struggle which has faced her mother, a paramedic. The couple were not married, and McWilliams, a fireman, left no will.

McWilliams's estate was entitled to $2 million, but as a domestic partner, Goldberg didn't have the automatic rights of the widows of other firemen.

Her baby, Sara, would get everything as McWilliams's next of kin, but his family wanted to control the money.

Each month, Lisa must apply to court to access her daughter's funds for treats such as trips. She has to collect receipts to support her claims.

'I've lost five years to this injustice,' says Lisa. 'It's not about the money. My existence with this man has been deleted. That's the hardest thing that I have to live with, besides him really being gone.'

I used to work with a man who has a little girl with his live-in girlfriend. When I asked him one time why he didn't get married, he said they didn't need some piece of paper to keep them together.

That's true. But if anything happens to him, that "piece of paper" would protect his girlfriend--the mother of his daughter--from what happened to Lisa after 9/11.

Lisa's existence with Martin has not been deleted. She still has the little girl the two of them made and were raising together. And what she's going through is hard and even demeaning, but it's not an injustice. Marriage was available to her, just as it was to the other widows who chose to take advantage of it. But Lisa and/or Martin didn't see the need for that piece of paper. Now she knows how important paper can be.

Marriage is not to be taken lightly. It's not to be entered into on a whim. But when there are children involved, marriage offers protection in a way that shacking up doesn't. Just ask the 9/11 non-widows.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mark Steyn on Islamists and Journalists

Mark Steyn is brilliant. Not just in his column in yesterday's Washington Times, but all the time. How one man can see so much so clearly is beyond me.

Did you see that video of the two Fox journalists announcing they had converted to Islam? The larger problem, it seems to me, is that much of the rest of the Western media have also converted to Islam and there seems to be no way to get them to convert back to journalism.

He discusses the contortions the media puts themselves through, trying to avoid labeling Muslim or Middle Eastern men as Muslim or Middle Eastern men. They hide the identity of criminals when those criminals (or terrorists) might be Muslim. It's a detail that could help the public be on the lookout for dangerous people, but journalists allegedly don't want to offend.

It makes me wonder, though if it's really a matter of not wanting to offend. I suspect there might be a measure of not wanting to be killed. Better safe than sorry, and all that.

Journalists can finger Christians or redheads or sometimes even blacks when describing perpetrators. But they shy away from naming Muslims. If it's not fear, then why?

Is it "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" syndrome? Certainly, President Bush is considered the enemy by much of the left-leaning media, so since the Jihadis are Bush's enemies, that makes the Jihadis the media's friend. And it's best not to draw a target on your friends.

Or is it more a case, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld quoted Churchill last week (and I'm paraphrasing here), of hoping the Jihadist crocodile will eat the journalists last?

It's hard to say. I don't know any journalists. But from what I read in the media, journalists as a group don't seem to believe in much of anything beyond the stupidity/evil of Bush/Rove and the journalists' own importance. And that's what brings Mark Steyn to his closing point:

[F]or the Fox journalists and the Western media who reported their release, what's the big deal? Wear robes, change your name to Khaled, go on camera and drop Allah's name hither and yon: if that's your ticket out; seize it. Everyone'll know it's just a sham.

But that's not how the al-Jazeera audience sees it. If you're a Muslim, the video is anything but meaningless. Not even the dumbest jihadist believes these infidels are suddenly true believers. Rather, it confirms the central truth Osama and the mullahs have been peddling -- that the West is weak, that there's no core, no bedrock, nothing it's not willing to trade.

It doesn't matter how "understandable" Mr. Centanni and Mr. Wiig's actions are to us, what the target audience understands is quite different: There is nothing we're willing to die for. And, to the Islamist mind, a society with nothing to die for is already dead. (emphasis added)

That's the key. We are not the kidnappers' target audience. The Muslim world is.

Israel Teaches the Wrong Lessons

I said a bad word in the car this morning when the local radio announcer gave the headlines. He said that Israel had apparently agreed to a prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in June.

The announcement may be a bit premature, if this article in today's London Times has the facts straight, but not by much. The article is about Israel's Prime Minister Olmert possibly sitting down to talk with the Palestinian Authority's Prime Minister Abbas. But in the middle is this:

But Mr Abbas today played down reports in the local press that a prisoner exchange deal was imminent, stressing that negotiations had not yet been concluded.

“What I said was that there were agreements sponsored by our Egyptian brothers but they have not yet materialised,” he said.

Under the proposed deal, Egypt would play the role of mediator, taking charge of the captured soldier after which there would be an exchange of prisoners.

Olmert has learned nothing from his fight this summer with Hezbollah and Hamas. Nothing.

For a long time Israel's policy was to never negotiate with terrrorists. During the 1972 Munich Olympics, Israel didn't negotiate. Then, later, they did it "just this once." And they're still doing it.

The fights against Hamas in Gaza over Corporal Shalit and against Hezbollah in Lebanon over two other kidnapped soldiers indicated that Israel's approach had changed. But the change didn't last long, and now Israel's enemies have learned anew the lesson they learned the first time Israel negotiated: Kidnapping works.

WorldNetDaily reported today that the Palestinians will begin new training operations.

Palestinian terror organizations are currently training in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to carry out operations aimed at kidnapping Israeli soldiers, said a terror leader whose group in June abducted Israeli Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

The leader thanked the international community for what he said was its recognition that kidnappings of Israeli soldiers are not considered terrorism but "military operations that bring very big results."

He told WorldNetDaily the "best way" to gain the freedom of thousands of Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, including convicted terrorists, is by more kidnappings of Israeli soldiers.

Olmert has only himself to blame, but the ones who will pay the price for his weakness will be Israel's soldiers.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Deep Pockets

I have new sheets.

My bed has a pillow-top mattress, and it's a pain for fitted sheets. The flannel sheets do fine, but summer is hardly flannel-sheet season. So I've been struggling with the summer sheets, every year, because the corners creep up during the night. If I don't pull them back down every morning or two, they pop off while I'm sleeping and I wake up to a wrinkled mess in the morning. I really hate that.

The last time I was at Target, I saw that they had some sheets on sale, probably closing out last year's fashionable colors. But I noticed that the packaging for these blue stripe sheets said, "Deep Pockets."

My imagination ran away with me. I had visions of fitted sheets with the elastic going all the way down below the bottom of the mattress. I pictured how good it would feel to wake up in the morning with the corners of my sheets exactly where they were when I fell asleep. I dared to hope for a better life (albeit with last year's colors) all because of one small purchase.

The sheets leaped off the shelf and into my cart. And now they're on my bed.

It's been two nights, and as you can see, the corners are exactly where they're supposed to be. Not halfway up the side. Not popped up on top and partway toward the middle of the bed.

This is just one more piece of proof that one of my main philosophies of life is true:

When your pleasures are simple, then life is full of pleasure.

Let me tell you, with deep pockets, life is good!