Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Next?

It's been a lousy day today, as far as taking care of business goes.

When I left my job in April, I decided to roll over my 401(k) into a rollover IRA, and I set up a plan with my mom's financial planner when I was in Texas at the end of April. He called me last night to ask if I'd heard anything from Fidelity, who manages my former company's 401(k) program, but I hadn't. So we set up a time for this morning for the two of us to get on the phone with Fidelity and see what the hold-up was.

It took a couple tries to get a good connection where the Fidelity people and I could hear each other (we could both hear the planner), and that's when things started to go south. The Fidelity woman said they can't distribute the funds on just a paper request, that they needed for me to request it over the phone. But they hadn't communicated that with either the planner or me, even when they received a paper request from him that was signed by me.

So there I was on the phone, and I told her to send the money to the planner's company. (Keep in mind that if they send your 401(k) money to you, even if you only have possession of it for one split-second, you're liable for taxes and penalties.) But she couldn't send it to some other company. They've been doing it this way as long as she's worked there, and she could only send the check TO ME!!! I asked her, "Are you insane???" I told her she CAN'T send it to me.

But she insisted that she would send a check made out to the planner's company for my benefit, and she'd mail it to my address, and it would take 1 - 2 weeks to get here, and it would be for the full amount, without removing any penalties.

My planner suggested, in her hearing, that we accept her method, and if it goes wrong, we go after Fidelity. Works for me. I was one big bundle of apoplexy from trying to reason with her. The only concession I got from her was that she will charge me $25 to send the check in a hurry, so I should get it Monday, at which time I need to mail it to my planner's company.

After the phone call, I drove an hour to my school, where I had an appointment with a counselor to fill out a student education plan. The plan is a requirement with the Allied Health department, and you can't have a place on the waiting list for your requested program without it. Just a formality, really.

Except they didn't have my transcripts in my folder, and the transcripts should have been there. They looked at the records online, and my fresh-out-of-high-school university transcripts had been received the end of February, and my 2002 bachelor's degree transcripts had been received the first of March. Plenty of time to have reviewed and analyzed them, but that work hadn't been done.

They made a phone call down to the Records department and were told that the Allied Health department head had told them there was no rush analyzing my transcripts, so they had slipped them to the bottom of the pile. And still hadn't touched them.

But I can't get a student education plan without analyzed transcripts. And I need a student education plan to be properly in line for (at this point) the Radiologic Technology program. So I have no idea what the Allied Health guy is thinking in telling the Records department they can wait to analyze transcripts.

I had to reschedule an appointment for Monday, when the Records department promised my transcripts would be analyzed.

The bright spot in my day was stopping in at my old work and having lunch with some of the people there. It was a balm to my frustrated spirit.

On my way home from school & ex-work, I swung by the real estate office through which the house I'm in was listed when I bought it. All the other houses in the neighborhood that are for sale are listed with the same company, and I've seen no sign of real estate activity on their part. Just flyers out front. No open houses, which is how I saw this house (it has a really nice layout).

So I wanted a real estate agent that will hold an open house, but when I got to their office, it was empty and had a FOR LEASE sign across the windows. Back to the drawing board.

But the good news when I got home was that the UPS man had just dropped off the new camera I ordered--my final splurge/investment for the trip. It's a Nikon D80 with a 28 - 200mm zoom lens. I ordered it specifically for the lens, because all the other places (like Costco) that sell the D80 with a lens sell it with an 18 - 135mm lens, which doesn't work for me. An 18mm wide-angle is too wide for my taste. It distorts buildings way too much. And then the 135mm telephoto doesn't get close enough.

With my old film camera, a Canon A-1, I had two lenses I used all the time: A 25 - 50mm zoom for wide-to-normal, and an 80 - 200mm zoom for telephoto. I really liked the idea of having both of these lenses in one, with my new camera, and not having to change lenses.

But when I opened the box, the lens they sent me was the 18 - 135mm lens I could have bought anywhere. So I called them up and explained the problem, letting her know I need to leave town next week, and she said she'd tell them to hurry. Now I just have to wait for their email telling me when they've sent it and when I can expect it to arrive. They'll have UPS come and pick up the wrong one soon.

I'm afraid to do anything else today, for fear it will turn to ashes in my fingers. Maybe I'll wait until tomorrow to take my Chapter 3 Medical Terminology test...

Illegal Alien Chutzpah

WPBF-TV reported yesterday on a lawsuit filed by 14 illegal aliens in Philadelphia.

Illegal immigrants who worked long shifts scrubbing theme restaurants for an indicted Florida-based janitorial firm have signed their names to a lawsuit seeking unpaid wages.

The suit, filed in Philadelphia, charges that some plaintiffs were rounded up in federal workplace raids in February and deported before receiving their final paychecks. Others said they worked 80 or 100 hour weeks without earning overtime pay or even the prevailing minimum wage.

The 14 plaintiffs - most from Mexico - worked for Rosenbaum-Cunningham International, a Palm Beach-based janitorial contractor.

Rosenbaum-Cunningham and three top executives were indicted this year in Michigan on federal charges they failed to check workers' immigration status and failed to pay the federal government employment taxes. The charges are still pending.

So, these people broke the law coming across the border illegally and accepted jobs they weren't entitled to have. Then, when the company that was willing to cheat the government on their behalf turned around and cheated them too, the illegals cry, "That's not right"?

It's too bad the cheaters got cheated, but I feel no pity. They knew the risks when they snuck across the border. God help us if they win their lawsuit.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Microsoft's Cool New Surface

Today reported today on a new product being unveiled by Microsoft. It's called the Surface.

Until this morning, one project — almost five years in the making and code-named 'Milan,’ — was top-secret.

In a TODAY exclusive, I had a chance to talk with Gates at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., campus about a revolutionary new device Microsoft now calls “Surface.” (MSNBC.com is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)

“Pretty exciting, eh?” Gates said with a sly smile, when he put his hand down on what looked initially like a low, black coffee table: At the touch of his hand, the hard, plastic tabletop suddenly dissolved into what looked like tiny ripples of water. The ‘water’ responded to each of his fingers and the ripples rushed quickly away in every direction.

“Go ahead,” he said. “Try it.” When I placed my hand on the table at the same time, there were more ripples.

It took a moment to appreciate what was happening. Every hand motion Gates or I did was met with an immediate response from the table. There was no keyboard. There was no mouse. Just our gestures.

“All you have to do is reach out and touch the Surface,” Gates told me with barely concealed pride. “And it responds to what you do.”

In an industry whose bold pronouncements about the future have taught me the benefits of skepticism, Surface took my breath away. If the Surface project rollout goes as planned in November, it could alter the way everyday Americans control the technology that currently overwhelms many of us.

The pricetag? Well, that must fall under the old saying, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it." While the article describes some of the cool features (you put your digital camera on the Surface, and it shows you all the pictures), it doesn't mention the price at all.

I probably won't be able to afford it for a really long time.

Fred Thompson to Enter Presidential Race

Politico reported today that Fred Thompson will be officially announcing his candidacy over the Fourth of July holiday. (The rumor I've heard around here is that he was waiting until this season of Law and Order finished airing, so there wouldn't be any "equal time" questions related to his being in the show.)

Since Thompson began hinting he might get in, polls have generally showed him tied for third with Romney. In the most recent average of national polls on RealClearPolitics.com, each had 10 percent of the vote, behind Giuliani at 26 percent and McCain at 18 percent. Since those polls were taken, Romney has shown increasing strength in early-voting states.

In the long run, after people get more chances to see all the candidates, I expect these numbers to shift.

Giuliani is a liberal who is tough on the war. He won't get the nonmination unless all the tough-on-war conservatives crash and burn their campaigns somehow.

McCain is a Kennedy-hugging menace who is sort of tough on the war, and Kennedy-hugging always manages to rub off the wrong way. Just ask Governator Schwarzenegger. McCain's candidacy already has downward momentum that's starting to pick up speed. He's toast. In fact, Dean Barnett at Hugh Hewitt's blog is taking dates in the "McCain Campaign Dead Pool." You can select the date you think McCain will throw in the towel, and you'll win a fabulous prize if you're the closest without going over.

Romney's momentum is on the upswing. He's an evolved liberal-to-conservative, and his opponents are trying to paint that as flip-flopping, but that label doesn't seem to be sticking. His evolution is the natural one that thinking people make.

Fred Thompson will have to start scrambling to catch up to Romney. So will the less well-known conservatives who are tough on the war, like Duncan Hunter.

I'm glad Thompson is in. It's going to get fun now.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cheese Rolling In Gloucestershire

Photo credit: REUTERS/Darren Staples


It's that time again. Spring sunshine calls reckless heads to Gloucestershire for the annual Cheese Rolling races.

The BBC reported yesterday on this year's races. The rules are simple:

The annual event which can claim a Saxon pedigree, sees competitors hurl themselves down a very steep incline (one in two in places), following a massive Double Gloucester cheese which rolls at an estimated 70 miles per hour!

The prize? You get to keep the cheese that you catch (about 7 lbs).

Winner of the first race, for the third year running, was Jason Crowther from Pembrokeshire. Speaking to BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Camilla Bassett-Smith, he said that his secret to winning is to have the courage to fly for the cheese.

He is reported to have moved ahead of the others in his race by plunging, falling, then rolling, while his competitors took more care with their footing.

For those of you with more brawn than brain, next year's Cheese Rolling is sure to be as big a hit as this year's was. And there's still plenty of time to prepare and plan for participation. That next cheese could be yours.

Photo gallery here.

Bush Criticizes Critics of Immigration Bill

WorldNetDaily reported today about a speech President Bush gave which addressed the Senate Immigration bill.

Opponents of the controversial immigration deal forged by the White House and a bipartisan group of senators in private meetings "don't want to do what's right for America," President Bush said in a speech today.

"The fundamental question is, will elected officials have the courage necessary to put a comprehensive immigration plan in place," Bush told students and instructors at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga.

The president argued the proposal, which offers a path to citizenship for the more than 12 million illegal immigrants, will make "it more likely we can enforce our border—and at the same time uphold the great immigrant tradition of the United States of America."

No doubt the President's approval ratings are dropping again, as they do every time he talks about immigration. Soon, even the First Lady won't approve of his job performance.

Kris W. Kobach, D.Phil., J.D. and Matthew Spalding, Ph.D. had an opinion column in the Timpanagos Tribune May 24, 2007, analyzing the worst of the Senate bill's provisions.

The most controversial component of the Senate's Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 is Title VI, euphemistically entitled "Nonimmigrants in the United States Previously in Unlawful Status." It would create a new "Z" visa exclusively for illegal aliens. This title would change the status of those who are here illegally to legal, essentially granting amnesty to those "previously in unlawful status." This seriously flawed proposal would undermine the rule of law by granting massive benefits to those who have willfully violated U.S. laws, while denying those benefits to those who have played by the rules and sometimes even to U.S. citizens.

Here are a few items from their "ten worst provisions" of Title VI list:

A Massive Amnesty: Title VI of the bill grants amnesty to virtually all of the 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the country today. This amnesty would dwarf the amnesty that the United States granted—with disastrous consequences—in 1986 to 2.7 million illegal aliens. It is also a larger amnesty than that proposed in last year's ill-fated Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. Indeed, the Senate's bill imposes no cap on the total number of individuals who could receive Z-visa status.

To initially qualify for a Z visa, an illegal alien need only have a job (or be the parent, spouse, or child of someone with a job) and provide two documents suggesting that he or she was in the country before January 1, 2007, and has remained in the country since then. A bank statement, pay stub, or similarly forgeable record will do. Also acceptable under the legislation is a sworn affidavit from a non-relative (see Section 601(i)(2)).

So any willing person can prepare a sworn affidavit (who's going to check these anyway?) , saying Illegal Alien #1 has been here a long time, and the person gets the Z visa. Just like that.

The Permanent "Temporary" Visa: Supporters of the bill call the Z visa a "temporary" visa. However, they neglect to mention that it can be renewed every four years until the visa holder dies, according to Section 601(k)(2) of the legislation. This would be the country's first permanent temporary visa. On top of that, it is a "super-visa," allowing the holder to work, attend college, or travel abroad and reenter. These permissible uses are found in Section 602(m).

A law-abiding alien with a normal nonimmigrant visa would surely desire this privileged status. Unfortunately for him, only illegal aliens can qualify, according Section 601(c)(1).

And contrary to popular misconception, illegal aliens need not return to their home countries to apply for the Z visa. That's only necessary if and when an alien decides to adjust from Z visa status to lawful permanent resident ("green card") status under Section 602(a)(1). And even then, it's not really the country of origin; any consulate outside the United States can take applications at its discretion or the direction of the Secretary of State.

And my personal favorite:

Hobbled Background Checks: The bill would make it extremely difficult for the federal government to prevent criminals and terrorists from obtaining legal status. Under Section 601(h)(1), the bill would allow the government only one business day to conduct a background check to determine whether an applicant is a criminal or terrorist. Unless the government can find a reason not to grant it by the end of the next business day after the alien applies, the alien receives a probationary Z visa (good from the time of approval until six months after the date Z visas begin to be approved, however long that may be) that lets him roam throughout the country and seek employment legally.

The problem is that there is no single, readily searchable database of all of the dangerous people in the world. While the federal government does have computer databases of known criminals and terrorists, these databases are far from comprehensive. Much of this kind of information exists in paper records that cannot be searched within 24 hours. Other information is maintained by foreign governments.

Just twenty-four little hours (72, if it's over the weekend) and the criminal trespasser is home free with lily-white status and perks not even US citizens get to have (read the whole column for the fuller, disgusting picture). And legal immigrants get screwed over in the process.

But, of course, to President Bush, it's the people who oppose this bill that "don't want to do what's right for America."

Challenges in French

I took French in junior high, high school, and college, so by the time I was 19, I spoke the language fairly fluently for a school-taught speaker. Except for the subjunctive tense--or was it the plus-ce-que parfait? It's the one with "Il faut que..." I never quite got that one down and used "J'ai besoin de..." instead. The meanings are close enough, and the latter is a regular verb conjugation, not some bizarre conjugation with no relation to the rest of the language.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Charles Bremner's column in the May 23, 2007 Times Online (UK) caught my eye. It looked into the latest cultural difficulties with the French language, now that Sarkozy is President of France.

Here is one of those stories that are difficult to convey to people who speak only English. President Sarkozy's government has annoyed the "progressive" sections of the teaching establishment with an order that school pupils must address their teachers with the formal vous rather than the familiar second person singular tu. Teachers are advised to use the respectful vous to Lycée teenagers in their classes.

The orders are part of Sarko's campaign to reimpose respect and civility across French society. Since the 1960s generation threw off formality, some teachers have let pupils tutoie them and most tutoie their younger pupils. Xavier Darcos, the new Education Minister, said on Tuesday: "It is indispensable that children vouvoient their teachers and preferable that teachers do not use 'tu' with lycée pupils, so that everyone is in their right place."

The fuss illustrates the confusion over the when to tutoie, with its feeling of instant formality, and when to use vous, with its sense of distance and respect. The matter remains a minefield for foreigners and even muddles the French. Asking On se tutoie? (shall we use tu) is often a tricky moment with a new acquaintance.

The closest equivalent we have to this conundrum in America is in the school system, with the question of whether to call the English teacher "Mrs. Johnson," or "Sarah." The same 1960s generation that threw France on the road to the informality of "tu" sent us on the road to informality between children and adults.

There are multiple nuances to the vous / tu question. Vous is for people you don't know well or people who are higher than you on the social or authority ladder. It is formal, distant, polite.

On the other hand, tu is for people you know very well or people who are your equal or lower socially or in business. It is informal, familiar, and when you don't know someone very well, impolite.

I used tu on my kids when they were little and I was too lazy to say excess syllables. Instead of "Be quiet," I said, "Tais-toi," French for "shut up," which was a bad word in our house in English. And I used, "Pousses-toi," to say, "Get out of my way." Both of these French terms are considered impolite, because they're usually used on strangers.

When the man I practiced French with a couple jobs ago asked me to have dinner with him after work (we had been using tu with each other), I knew what I was doing when I shifted over to vous to ask him if he was married (I already knew he was) and then refuse him.

It's a handy thing, this French distinction between known/unknown, formal/informal. It tells us that Patti LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" was a woman of ill repute and not her man's true love when she invited him to bed with her (she used "vous"). And it offers Sarkozy a tool he can use in his (this is the cynic in me) most-likely futile attempt to return civility to French culture.

We could use a tool like that in America. Too bad we don't have one....

Monday, May 28, 2007

Remember...


Photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed


... those who fought and died for our freedom.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cicadas Are Coming

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday on the Midwest's coming crop of cicadas.

Normally, this would be the beginning of the busy season at Jim Nadeau's ice-sculpting company.

But when the phone rings, Nadeau tells confused Chicago-area brides and party planners that they might want to postpone their events. "The cicadas are coming!" he tells them."

You don't know how disgustingly bad they can be," said Nadeau, 53, who has been carving ice figures for 27 years in Forest Park, Ill."

The last time they were here, I watched one of my simple swans at a wedding reception get covered with these black, crawling bugs — and the swan was sitting in the middle of the food table," Nadeau said. " The swan was 4 feet tall and weighed 300 pounds."

In the coming days, the cicadas — with their orange eyes and inch-long bodies — are expected to swarm sections of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin for their breeding season.

After the bugs emerge from the soil and shed their exoskeletons, the males emit a sound to attract females. The tone, a cross between a whirring blender and a motorcycle engine, can reach 90-plus decibels.

Adult cicadas live above ground for two to six weeks.

Articles like this make me SO GLAD my mom and I aren't starting our trip in the Midwest. Bugs are exceedingly creepy. Swarms of shrieking bugs are horrible beyond words.

Those of you in the path of the Marauding Cicadic Hordes have my sympathy, but that sympathy is not vast enough for me to want to come and share it with you personally during your time of need.

Sorry....

Zimbabwe's Army is Broke

The Times Online (UK) reported Friday on the current state of Robert Mugabe's army in Zimbabwe.

The Army and the state youth militia, organisations crucial to President Mugabe’s continued grasp on power in Zimbabwe, are demoralised and fast running out of money.

The Defence Ministry has already exhausted its budget of Zim$32 billion for rations this year, Trust Maphosa, the Secretary for Defence, told a parliamentary committee this week. The sum was worth £10 million when it was allocated at the beginning of the year but its value has been shrunk by hyperinflation and the collapse of the currency to about £400,000.

The word, "hyperinflation," has been taken to new heights in Zimbabwe, where it is now at 3700%.

A private’s monthly pay in February mounted to Zim$300,000, he said, worth nearly £50. The figure was the result of a sharp increase in army salaries after alarming reports of officers resigning and troops going absent without leave. The 35,000-strong Army is now in a significantly worse position. A private’s pay is equal to about £4.

The Army and the youth militia have been widely used in the past three months of violent repression as President Mugabe reacted to a new surge of discontent.

Claudius Makova, the ruling party MP who chairs the parliamentary portfolio committee on defence, said that the financial situation had severe implications for national security.

I never cease to be amazed by the British tendency for understatement. Zimbabwe's national security has "severe implications." There's a "new surge of discontent."

Things are beyond "discontent" over there. Zimbabwe is in an economic and humanitarian freefall brought on by its president, Robert Mugabe. And if life is fair, Mugabe will pay for it with his life at the hands of those very same discontented citizens of his. If life is only somewhat fair, Mugabe will face a firing squad after being duly tried and found guilty of the heinous crimes his administration has committed against the nation entrusted to his care.

Unfortunately, the removal of Mugabe from power, however that might occur, won't fix much. Conditions in Zimbabwe are so bad, that even with benevolent leadership, it could be decades before life there is back to the way it was before 2000, when Mugabe began his "Land Reform" that precipitated the destruction of a once-prosperous nation.

The people of Zimbabwe need our prayers. There's not much else left for the ones who remain there.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kids Turn In Drug Dealer

The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported today about some dutiful grade school kids in Mission, Texas.

Police say elementary school students tipped them off to an ice cream truck driver who was apparently selling $5 and $10 bags of marijuana from the truck. Most customers were in the third, fourth, and fifth grades.

"It's a scary thought, but that's the info we received," Mission police Chief Leo Longoria said.

Raymundo Flores, a 40-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, was arrested Thursday on charges of possession of marijuana. He was transported to the Hidalgo County Jail after a judge set bail at $30,000. His case will likely be turned over to federal immigration officials, Assistant police Chief Robert Dominguez said.

While police didn't witness any sales, a drug-sniffing dog did help them find packets of marijuana alongside the more traditional frozen treats. (emphasis added)

Flores is a real scumbag, targeting such young kids. And I'm shocked--shocked!--to find out he broke the law getting into Texas before he started breaking the law selling drugs.

He needs to serve a good, long prison sentence before he gets turned over to immigration officials. I'd hate to see such a bottom-feeding low-life get deported without facing the justice system first.

And those kids who turned him in deserve to receive an award.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Al Gore Assaults Reason

I went to Costco today to pick up more vitamins, and naturally I cruised the movie and book section because I can't resist.

Al Gore has a new book out, and when I read the title, I snorted. Out loud in Costco. The Assault on Reason.

What nerve! What chutzpah! What unmitigated arrogance for him to believe that he's got the inside scoop on reason! It's absolutely snortworthy.

After searching the internet for someone who had the courage to pick up the thing and read it, I found this review by Robert Tracinski at Real Clear Politics. He must have really enjoyed it, because he had this to say:

Early coverage of Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason, has focused on the fact that the book is largely an assault on the Bush administration. But they have glossed over the most significant and alarming theme that Al Gore has taken up: his alleged defense of "reason" includes a justification for government controls over political speech.

Judging from the excerpts of Gore's book published in TIME, his not-so-subtle theme is that reason is being "assaulted" by a free and unfettered debate in the media--and particularly by the fact that Gore has to contend with opposition from the right-leaning media.

Developing a dangerous theme that the left has been toying with for years, Gore says that reason is being suffocated by "media Machiavellis"--that's a veiled reference to Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and Bush political advisor Karl Rove, the twin hobgoblins of the left. According to Gore, these puppet-masters take advantage of "the clever use of electronic mass media" to "manipulate the outcome of elections."

Now here's the really ominous part. This "manipulation" is rendering our representative government "illegitimate" because it only has the public's "consent"--he repeatedly puts "consent" in scare quotes, just to emphasize the point that this consent is not, in Al Gore's superior judgment, genuine or legitimate.

His basic theme seems to be: if the left isn't winning in the marketplace of ideas, there can't possibly be anything wrong with their ideas. It must be the marketplace itself that is "broken," and the left needs to use the power of government to fix it--in both senses of the word "fix."

It's good to know that the world is the way I left it when I stopped this week to study. Al Gore is still cluelessly cranking out propaganda that he thinks will redeem his standing in the world and regain for him a renewed shot at the White House. He's dreaming, of course.

One can only look back nostalgically at the days when mental hospitals also held delusional people and not just the criminally insane. There would have been a nice place for him there at Happy Acres.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Finals Finished!

Anatomy & Physiology is over. Done. Finished. Completed. All sewn up. Ain't no more.

There was a moment, about halfway through the lab exam, when a line from A League of Their Own ran through my head. It's near the end of the movie, when Geena Davis comes back and Tom Hanks sees her, and he says to himself, "We're gonna WIN!!!"

That's the line.

At every station (look at the model of body parts and answer the 4 or 5 questions about it), I knew all the answers, wrote them down, then spent the remaining time (two minutes total at each station) trying not to look like I was cheating or anything. Every once in a while they asked a question I didn't know.

I am so going to ace this class, I can't quite believe it.

I'll take a break tonight, then tomorrow I have to get scrambling on this week's assignments for the online classes that started already.

But that's tomorrow. Tonight I feel fabulous!

Los Angeles Times Promotes Abortion


The Los Angeles Times published a profile Tuesday of a few medical students whose goal is to become an abortion doctor.

Denver — FOURTH-year medical student Megan Lederer recently helped deliver a premature baby at barely six months gestation. The newborn was tiny, unimaginably fragile, but she survived.

Caught up in the moment, Lederer didn't think about the implication for her chosen career. Later, though, she wondered: Could I have aborted that pregnancy?< She could have, she decided. She would have felt an obligation.

Lederer does not know how she will handle such emotion; the closest she's come to performing an abortion was suctioning the seeds out of a papaya to learn a first-trimester technique. She may, in the end, restrict her practice to early abortions. But that's not an easy solution to accept. She can't see how she could ever justify taking one woman as a patient while turning away another because her pregnancy is a few weeks more advanced.

She also knows that the few doctors who perform late second- and third-trimester abortions are mostly in their 60s or 70s. "Who's going to do this when they leave? Someone has to," Lederer said. "I feel in my heart of hearts that it's the right thing to do."

Buried in the middle of the article is a bit of contrast offered, but it's countered by the inspirational opening and conclusion. Here is the starker side of abortion:

Medical Students for Choice had invited Dr. Warren Hern, a legend in the abortion rights movement, to give them encouragement [last fall]. He offered none.

None of you will be an abortion provider, he told the students. You don't have it in you."

Do something else. Fix broken legs," he often advises. "No reasonable person would do this."

Hern[, 68,] specializes in late second- and third-trimester abortions; his patients come to him from around the world, many with late diagnosis of fetal deformity. Though he feels certain he's doing right by the women, Hern still feels conflicted when he steps into his basement surgery.

He once wrote that "the sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current" — and after three decades, he is not inured to that feeling. "We are hard-wired as a species to protect small, young, helpless creatures," he said. "The fetus is not a baby, but it's close. Some are very close. It's difficult."

I would hope it's at the very least "difficult," because if it's not even that, then it means the doctor has stopped being human.

Each of these medical students, as well as Dr. Hern, believes he or she is doing what's right. For the women. But with a pregnancy, the woman isn't the only person involved.

Killing "small, young, helpless creatures" for a living is bound to take its toll on even the most inspired idealists. It's done just that to Dr. Hern. I pity these medical students who want to believe they can walk down the same road as Hern without suffering the same ill effects.

NOTE:
The photo is from Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, one of the missions built in California during the Spanish Colonial period and now an active Catholic parish church. On the grounds is a small garden with this statue, placed by the Knights of Columbus with a heart similar to that of Rachel Ministries. This a group that helps women to heal emotionally from the aftermath of the abortions they've had. The Bible verse from which the group got its name reads:

This is what the LORD says: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more." -- Jeremiah 31:15

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Studying...

Anatomy & Physiology lecture final exam is tonight.

Be back soon...

Update:

The test is over. I think I did pretty well, though there were a few questions that I had no idea which answer to pick.

She had a mistake on the test that made me stare at a question for a while. It was a question about the reproductive system, so pardon me if I don't go into detail. Suffice it to say that in class she said it takes two weeks, but the test had choices of : a. 1 week, b. 3 weeks, c. 2 months, d. 3 years, e. 23 years. I picked "a." Afterward, when I was handing my test in, she said she'd mark either a or b as being correct. Whew!

The extra credit question was a good one for getting points. She asked us what was the most interesting CLASS-RELATED fact we learned this semester. I picked a question I had asked her after class, when we were studying the endocrine system: How do people get goiders? (My great-grandmother had one). So she explained it. The thyroid gland needs iodine to finish making its T3 and T4 hormones, but if there isn't any iodine in the diet, it can't finish, so it keeps what it has produced so far. Then the pituitary gland, not detecting any T3/T4 in the blood, sends out more Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), making the thyroid start making more T3/T4, which it can't finish. And it just builds and builds in the thyroid gland, never getting released, until your great-grandmother's neck gets really fat in the front.

It's not a harmful condition, and if iodine is ever introduced into the diet, then the thyroid will finish making the T3/T4, and eventually all the almost-finished hormones get finished and released, and the thyroid gland gets back to normal size.

Anyway, I think it's cool to know what was happening to my great-grandmother on the inside when I look at her picture. And I get 4 points for that (and 1 more point for saying what my major is). Not too shabby!

Now the hard studying starts, because our Lab final exam is Thursday, and we have to be able to look at the models (or the sheep heart) and identify the part they point to and spell it correctly. Circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, urinary system, and male and female reproductive systems. After that we'll be truly, finally finished with class.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Chocolate Fights Cavities

The Times of India reported Thursday that chocolate is an effective cavity fighter. Sounds great, doesn't it?

But there seems to be a catch. These scientists don't seem to want you to eat the chocolate. They want to take an extract, make it into a white powder, and add it to toothpaste.

What a stupid waste of chocolate!

Moon and Venus

SpaceWeather sent out a notice today that tonight's sky will hold a treat.

DON'T MISS THIS: When the sun sets tonight, go outside and look west. Venus and the crescent Moon will pop out of the twilight barely 1o apart. It's a spectacular and unforgettable pairing of the two brightest objects in the night sky: sky map.

Oh, what the heck. No need to look it up. Here's the sky map (click to enlarge):

Friday, May 18, 2007

Palestinians Forbidden from Leaving Israel


Photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa


Israel National News reported Tuesday on the latest decree to the Muslim population in PA-controlled Israel.

Yet another Islamic religious ruling forbidding Moslems from leaving the Holy Land has been issued, this time from the Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine.

Recently, the Hamas-affiliated Association of Religious Sages of Palestine publicized its ruling forbidding emigration from the lands of the Palestinian Authority. The Mufti of Jerusalem has now joined in, with his own ban, released on Monday, May 14.

The rulings are an indication of the great fear in the Arab world that young people from the Palestinian Authority are increasingly seeking their fortunes abroad.

The latest ruling, entitled, "No permission to emigrate from the land of Palestine," reads as follows:

"There is much talk these days in our land of Palestine about emigration, and especially among the young, and this because of the difficult security and economic situation, and out of a desire to find a living in other lands. Expression of this can be found in the rush to the gates of the embassies and consulates of the Western nations with requests for visas in order to reside permanently in those countries...

"Based on [the ruling of the prophet Muhammed and his friends], emigration from the blessed lands to live permanently in other countries is not permitted in terms of religious law. The people living in these areas must remain in their places of residence, and not leave them to infiltrators and conquerors, and they will thus perform an act of honor, and will be a support for the Al-Aqsa mosque... and will merit the good tiding of the prophet..."

Any Palestinians who still possess the will to live will want to bail out of that place. The young children are being taught to be suicide-homicide terrorists, the old are dying as old people do, and the men are busy killing each other in the Fatah-Hamas battle for supremacy.

The "rush to the gates" of embassies and consulates can't be for the purpose of taking terrorism to the Western infidels, or the mufti wouldn't oppose it. No, this looks more like rats deserting a sinking ship.

But if you ask the left, they'll no doubt tell you the problem is Israeli oppression.

Update:

Photo added after original posting. This is a Reuters photo of a Fatah gunman in a fight with Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip. A thousand words...

National Geographic Takes On Jamestown



I'm trying to figure out National Geographic this month. I snapped this photo at the grocery store in the checkout line. The cover story is, "Jamestown: The Real Story: How settlers destroyed a native empire and changed the landscape from the ground up." Sounds perfect for the blame-America-first crowd.

But on their website, they show a different cover as "This month in National Geographic." This one has a small picture of a pig on it, and it says, "Creating America: 400 years ago, a pig, a worm, and a tobacco leaf changed our landscape from the ground up. It all started in Jamestown."

And when you click on the "Jamestown" link in the Features list, you get, "What would you take to the new world?" It's about some of the artifacts they've found.

The online version is so much more innocuous-sounding than the cover on the stands. I can't say if the contents are the same, because I'm darn-well not going to give them any money for making it appear that the settlers came here to destroy empires.

It reminds me of some of what I learned in San Antonio at the non-Alamo missions. There, the San Antonio area tribes were being marauded by out-of-state Comanches, so they put themselves under the protection of the Spaniards, even though that protection included hard labor.

How many empires had come and gone in Jamestown before the English got there? I can't say, but do the America-blamers know how long Powhatan's tribe had been there or whether that tribe had vanquished any others in the building of their empire? And how long might they have remained before another tribe conquered them? People who think that cultures and civilizations are static, just because we first saw them a certain way in a certain place are self-deluded.

There's a sense among the America-hating groups that primitive cultures are morally pure, while white people are nothing but immoral destroyers of innocence, and I get tired of it. The fact that National Geographic seems to have jumped on this bandwagon--in print, at least--is disappointing, though hardly surprising.

Here are a couple commentaries from WorldNetDaily on the topic of Jamestown's 400th anniversary. This one is on the way the National Park Service is shaming America for having sprung from such a dreadful invasion. And this one has a similar theme, but looks more into the reasons behind the settlers' decision to come here.

I wish saner heads would prevail when it comes to the official version of American history, but I guess that's asking too much.

Mayor Wins Both Primaries

WorldNetDaily reported yesterday on the mayoral race in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

The Hazleton, Pa., mayor who launched a war on the impact of illegal aliens in his city was warned that his future political career would be "haunted" by the decision, but now Louis J. Barletta has won not only the GOP nomination for mayor, which he was seeking, but the Democratic nomination by virtue of 1,200 write-in votes.

According to unofficial returns, Democrats cast more than 1,200 write-in votes for Barletta, while the Democratic contender, Mike Marsicano, captured 739. On the GOP ballot, Barletta got 1,363 votes to 83 for government watchdog Dee Deakos.

Deakos said the popularity Barletta earned while proposing, implementing and defending in court the city's Illegal Immigration Relief Act made a difference. And Marsicano has said he does not plan a write-in campaign in November.

So many politicians have a tin ear when it comes to the immigration issue. American citizens, especially the naturalized citizens who went through years of paperwork hell with the INS, resent the acceptance of illegal aliens in our midst as the norm. When a politician has ears to hear his constituents, the support is overwhelming.

Is Washington listening to what's happening in Hazleton and other parts of the country? Apparently not. Their tin ears are heavily coated with lead.

Let's hope when (if?) the American people box their ears, the resonance will finally get through to them. Until then:

Build the Fence!

Secure the Border!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Having a Good Day

The last couple days have been especially good, and I'm well-contented with life.

First, and most important, my daughter got back from her trip to China (with her dad & stepfamily) safe and sound. She stayed at my house last night, because there was stuff on her bed at her dad's house, where she officially lives, and she was too tired to move it. I don't mind at all.

I took my car to the shop yesterday for them to do the 120,000-mile service, check the wheel bearings, and do the smog check. As I suspected, the bearings on the driver's side were bad, so those were replaced. They said my tire treads are down to 4, with 2 being the legal minimum, and my brakes were each down to 30 (percent? mm? who knows?), and should be replaced when they get down to 20 or 25 (I'm working from memory). The service guy said the front (disc) brakes wear faster than the rear (drum) brakes, so I had them replace the front. I'll save the rear brakes and the tires for later.

The car passed the smog check, the total bill was much less than I was afraid it would be, and now my car is in good working order for the trip. And today I ordered the towbar stuff, which will be installed Wednesday, when I don't have class.

Tonight at class (last night of lecture before the final exam Tuesday, and last night of lab before the final lab exam Thursday--woo hoo!), the lady who is probably flunking and who I've been helping during lab nights gave me a present for being so nice to her. She's so sweet! She said it's just a little thing, a bracelet from Iran, where she's originally from, but it's beautiful.


And during tonight's lecture, the instructor announced that for about a dozen or so of the top students (so far), she had an invitation to be a TA for her Anatomy & Physiology labs in the future. I got one. I'm really excited, because I love to teach, even on an informal basis.

But the instructor issued a caveat: We could be uninvited if we tank on the final lab exam. So all the calculations I did, showing how badly I can do and still get an 'A' in the class were for nothing. I'll have to study after all (which I would have done anyway, but now I have to).

After class, I told the instructor that I was going to be gone on the road for a year, and before I even asked her a question, she said, "As soon as you get back, let me know." This is so cool!

And my daughter is still here. She's been playing the piano that I'm trying to sell, and I could listen to her play forever.

I'm telling you, life is good.

Duka Brothers' Asylum Application Backlogged

Newsweek reported yesterday on the Fort Dix terrorist wannabes.

The arrest last week of three New Jersey terror suspects who entered the United States illegally more than two decades ago is raising new questions about weaknesses in American immigration controls before and after 9/11. NEWSWEEK has learned that an application for asylum filed in 1989 by the family of three suspects in the New Jersey plot stalled inside the federal bureaucracy for 16 years due to a paperwork “backlog.”

The story of how immigration officials apparently fumbled or lost track of the immigration file on the Duka family of Cherry Hill, N.J., three of whose members are charged in the alleged Fort Dix plot, is certain to provide new fodder for critics of the U.S. immigration system.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a private group that lobbies for tougher U.S. immigration controls, complained that government oversights like the ones that evidently plagued the Duka case are “par for the course” in what he calls “our don’t ask, don’t tell immigration system. We make it as easy as possible for illegal aliens to live here. 'No' never means 'no'.” Krikorian said that immigration bureaucrats were less at fault for these kinds of delays than policy makers who fail to make sure that laws on the books are vigorously enforced.

This is exactly why I vigorously oppose the newest "compromise" immigration bill to pop out of the Senate the way the Alien popped out of the guy's chest and then devoured everyone it could find.

The bureaucracy that couldn't keep up with asylum applications to the point that it had a 16-year backlog is the very same bureaucracy that will deal with all the new applications from all the millions of illegals trying to get in line for legal status. Is there funding in the new bill to hire a few more paper pushers?

How about we hold off on the legalization process for now, take the money earmarked for that, and just build the fence? We can combine that with genuine employer enforcement and then wait a while to see how many of the illegals go back home. Once the border is secure and employers have good reasons to avoid hiring illegal workers, then the potential surge of legal immigration applications should be smaller than it would be now. That's when we can talk about what to do with the people who still want to become Americans.

The law they're getting ready to shove down our throats is a bad one. Those of us near the borders, especially the southern one, need to brace ourselves for the influx of illegals who will be crossing into the country now that this crummy piece of legislation has been announced.

Let the backlog begin!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Craig's List

I've posted a few of the things I need to sell on Craig's List. The piano, the writing desk, the exercise bike. And then I got some responses in my email, but there's something not quite right about them.

Are there people out there (Jacob, maybe you know--not that you DO it, but you might know about it) who send responses to people's ads as a joke? Do they do it to make the sellers excited and think it's going to sell, when they had no intention of buying it, and they're laughing their heads off over their beer/tequila/pot?

Last night I posted the piano and got this email:

Hi
I saw your instrument and i will love to buy at your price.
Is it still available?
Reply asap
Tim


I replied that it's still available and when would he like to look at it and gave him my phone number. No response. Not by email or by phone.

Tonight I posted the writing desk and got an almost immediate response:

Hi;

I really like your desk, I like Bombay furniture. I am willing to give you your asking price if you still have it.

Thank you;

Jeb


I did the same kind of reply right away. Nothing in response.

Is this some new joke that nobody told me about? Is this the modern equivalent of stupid kids calling random phone numbers and asking for Prince Albert in a can?

I may be clueless a lot of the time, but I don't enjoy being that way. Somebody help me out here...

Senate GOP Skewering Its Base

I would have used stronger language in the title, but this is a family blog.

Hugh Hewitt is up in arms (and so am I now) over the latest to come out of the Senate. The members of the GOP leadership look like they're about to cave in to the Democrats over immigration.

Word is leaking that the GOP in the Senate are on the verge of agreeing to an immigration bill that has --as a concession to the GOP-- less than half of the fencing promised by law last year.

White flag time on the border, and a national security and thus a political disaster.


The GOP are sending around talking points attempting to make this "compromise" defensible, but it won't and shouldn't fly. Agreeing to it takes the party down the tubes on the issue of border security --because it doesn't provide what the public understands to be border security, a very long, very high fence with a very wide gate. (emphasis in the original)

I really like how Hugh introduces the talking points from the GOP leaders over this proposal (posted in its entirety in his post, with his point-by-point comments): "Four pages of crap."

Here's how the talking points open:

Republicans Standing Together to Fight for Tougher Enforcement and an Immigration System That Better Serves American Interests

As negotiations continue, Republicans are demanding the following from the Democrat majority:


v Beefed-up border security. Republicans are insisting on dramatic and immediate improvements to border security, including 18,000 Border Patrol agents and 370 miles of fencing, as part of a continuous effort to protect the borders.


Last year they promised us--and even passed a bill with it in there--that we'd get over 700 miles of fence. Now the Republicans are "demanding" concessions from the Democrats (as if the Dems would listen to anything that doesn't go their way), including a whopping 370 miles of fence. But what are the chances those 370 miles will ever get funded and built? About the same as the original 700 miles: Zip.

And in exchange for such fierce concessions, what do the Democrats get for their trouble? Amnesty. Oh, it has other names, and the draft memo gives lip-service to making the illegals wait in line after the legal immigrants, but I have trouble believing there will be any teeth in that provision. I especially like this talking point:

Illegal workers not only will be subject to removal from the country but will be permanently barred from any U.S. immigration program.

Ooh. The illegal aliens must be quaking in their boots over being told for the hundred millionth unenforced time that they might be deported and banned from coming back.

If the Duka brothers hadn't been arrested for plotting to blow up soldiers at Fort Dix, they would have been on track for citizenship according to this plan.

But the GOP leadership is telling us we should be pleased with their cave-in, because it could have been worse. Here's the last line of their draft talking points:

If Republicans had not fought for these limits, Democrats would have passed an automatic amnesty bill without any of the restrictions that Republicans have now guaranteed.

It's so good to know the Republicans are such tough fighters. I'd hate to see them lose their cojones along the way to border security.

Since this is election season already, it's a good time to be reminded of Hugh's Five Points for the GOP:

Win the War.

Confirm the Judges.

Cut the Taxes.

Control the Spending.

Secure the Border.

Our Senators need to fight for these things. For real. If they do, they can't lose. If they can't do that, they don't deserve to win.

Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Contact:
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader
Sen. Trent Lott, Senate Minority Whip
Sen. John Kyl, GOP Conference Chairman

They're the guys responsible for these "demands."

Sarkozy Takes Office in France

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

The AP reported today that France has a new president.

Nicolas Sarkozy took office Wednesday as the new president of France, waving farewell to the outgoing Jacques Chirac and promising a new era of government that will unite political rivals and give a strong role to women.

Sarkozy said his priorities would include restoring "order and authority" to a nation where riots by largely black and Arab youths erupted in rundown housing projects in 2005, and where tensions and frustration still simmer over discrimination and alienation. He is expected to quickly form a government and has pledged that half the ministers will be women.

Chirac, ending 12 years in power, entrusted the country's nuclear codes to his successor in a private meeting that was a high point of the transition between the two conservatives.

A 21-gun salute from the cannons of the gold-domed Invalides, where Napoleon is buried, heralded the Sarkozy presidency.

The blunt Sarkozy, 52, is the son of a Hungarian immigrant and the first president of France born after World War II.

Let's hope that 21-gun salute is a signal of changes Sarkozy will bring to the more typical French response to the challenges he will face.

Vive le Président!

National Park Service Killjoys

Did they wait until my mom and I decided to go on the road and see a bunch of the National Parks? Am I the only one who sees the timing for this as suspicious?

The AP reported May 6, 2007, that the National Park Service is planning to raise their fees at a lot of the parks. Starting soon.

Entrance fees are due to rise at national parks over the next three summers, though a public outcry over specific increases could cause the government to reconsider.

Through 2009, the National Park Service plans to phase in higher rates for annual park passes and fees paid per vehicle or person at about 130 of the 390 parks, monuments and other areas the agency manages.

The government does not collect any fees at the other two-thirds of sites in the park system.

And which ones are scheduled to go up first? The ones we want to see, of course.

This summer, higher entrance fees are due to be collected at 11 parks:
_Muir Woods in California.
_Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde, both in Colorado.
_Fort McHenry in Maryland.
_Martin Van Buren in New York.
_Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains, both in Texas.
_Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks and Zion, all in Utah.
_Colonial in Virginia.


You turn into a tourist, and they start gouging you . Hmmph!

Bald Eagles Making Comeback

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files


Reuters reported Monday on the status of Bald Eagles in America.

With the number of Bald Eagles in the United States hitting the highest level since World War II, the Fish and Wildlife Service said on Monday it will decide on removing them from the list of threatened and endangered species by June 29.

The Bald Eagle is the country's national bird and its image bedecks the presidential seal.

There are now 9,789 breeding pairs of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states, the agency said.

Minnesota tops the list with 1,312 pairs of the white-headed birds. Vermont saw its first baby eagles hatch in 2006.


In 1995, the service downgraded the bird to threatened status from endangered.

The eagles would continue to be managed under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

This is very good news, especially to folks in Minnesota.

I once visited Glacier National Park when the Bald Eagles were there (the eagles don't go there anymore), with 42 of them visible at one time. It was so impressive!

The fact that they're coming back in such good numbers gives so many other people the chance to be just as impressed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Most Recent

Time to play a new game, called Most Recent. I'll go first!

What is the most recent:

Book you finished?
America Alone, by Mark Steyn (That was over a month ago. I haven't finished anything since then???)

Book you started?
Medical Terminology: A Programmed Systems Approach

Movie you saw at the theater?
Spiderman 3

Movie you watched at home?
Fantastic 4

Chore you did around the house?
Scrub the kitchen baseboards with 409, a toothbrush, and a toothpick

Music CD you listened to?
Adie: Don't Wait

Song that got stuck in your head?
Chris Tomlin's How Great Is Our God

Radio show you listened to?
Hugh Hewitt

TV show you watched?
Some house-flipping show on TLC that isn't "Flip That House"

Computer game you played?
Zuma

Non-computer game you played?
Uno, with my son :o)

Restaurant you ate at?
California Pizza Kitchen

Gift you gave?
A leather passport holder with ancient maps on it (similar to the second picture down in this post), to my son for no reason other than it was perfect for him.

Gift you received?
Birthday presents from my kids.

Hug you got?
From my son on Mother's Day :o)

It's your turn now. Have fun!

Congress Approval Below Bush

The Gallup News Service reported today on their latest poll, showing Congress's approval rating has dropped below that of President Bush. Here's the summary:

A new Gallup Poll finds continued low levels of public support for both Congress and President George W. Bush. Twenty-nine percent of Americans approve of Congress, down slightly from last month's reading (33%) and this year's high point of 37%, while Bush's approval rating is holding steady at 33%. Both the ratings of Congress and the president are slightly lower than their respective 2007 averages. Approval ratings of Congress are higher among Democrats than Republicans, while Bush's ratings are much higher among Republicans.

When the Democrats took power this year, their leadership announced that they were given a mandate by the American people to govern. Judging by the Gallup results, the American people don't think Congress is governing very well.

It's a tough time for the average conservative Joe right now, with the President at odds with us over illegal aliens and the Congress at odds with us over everything. The times we're in are serving to forge in us the virtues of patience and endurance, neither which is pleasant, but both of which are necessary for what's still to come.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tales from the Tempest

My online classes at the Michigan college started today. There's a 1-unit class, Wellness, that I need to take if I do the Michigan Ultrasound program, because I've never taken a PE class at the college level, and they require it for an Associate's degree.

We have to do a Personal Challenge project in some area of wellness (exercise, weight control, nutrition, stress management, addiction to dangerous behaviors, relationships, sense of purpose). My weight is under control, I'm eating right, I've already quit my stressful job (though getting ready for the trip has its own stress), my only addiction is tea, I have wonderful friends (more on that in a bit) and will be renewing my relationship with my mom and sister, and I have a sense of purpose (that would be Jesus and living for Him).

So that leaves exercise, and scrubbing walls won't last long enough get me through the three weeks of the project. I think I'll get a pedometer and see if I can get the numbers high enough on that thing, once I figure out how to work it.

Then there's Medical Terminology. I looked at the syllabus this morning, and the kicker is that the final exam for that class has to be proctored by a college employee or librarian or similar person. I'll have to make arrangements for proctoring by the sixth or seventh week of class and get the instructor's approval. It looks like I'll have to take the test in early August, so I think my mom and I will just have to be sure to arrive in Kalispell a little early for her high school reunion, I'll take my test, maybe at the community college, and then we can go extra times to Glacier National Park and visit with friends until reunion time.

The third class is Introduction to Diagnostic Imaging, which gives a broad theoretical view of the radiological disciplines as well as sonography. I'll have to write a term paper about some new advance in imaging technology.

Meanwhile, my finals for Anatomy & Physiology are next week. I have two more lectures, one more lab, and then the lecture exam is next Tuesday and the lab exam is next Thursday. I started writing up my lecture flashcards on Saturday, when I was waiting for the Toyota's oil change. I have to take the car back for the 120,000-mile service Wednesday, plus have them check the wheel bearings, because something related to wheel speed is making noise. I should get LOTS of flashcards made. And reviewed.

I set up a spreadsheet with my grades on it and then calculated my final grade based on various final test scores. Because of all the extra credit they allow, if I get a 'C' on each of the last two tests, I'd still have a solid 'A' in the class. If I get 50% on each test, I'd still squeak out an 'A' in the class. So I don't have to sweat it to the point of actual sweat.

Then on the house front, I finally broke down in Sunday School a week ago and expressed a need for help (very hard for me to do). One of the ladies in class said she'd love to come and help me scrub walls, and then during the week another one said she was eager to join the party. The walls needed more than the usual handprints at corners and door frames. Abby had left a grayish stripe around the bottom of all the accessible walls, where she'd rub her sides when her skin allergies bothered her.

My friends came over this past Friday and then again this morning. With their help, we scrubbed all the living room and family room walls, and most of the dining room (there are a few things in the way there), and also all the kitchen cabinets and the miniblinds that don't need to be replaced. The house looks so bright! Plus today, one of them brought her husband, who weed-eatered my yard for me (which gets me out of trouble with the association, which had left another "Mow your weeds, or else..." notice for me a week ago).

One of my friends recommended a handyman, and I called him, but he was driving, so I'm waiting for him to call back when he gets home. He wants to come tomorrow bright and early, and I like that idea just fine. I have a list of some little (fix a few screens, rebalance the ceiling fans, re-caulk the tub) and some bigger (replace the shower door) items for him to take care of. It will be a relief to have all that done.

That still leaves touch-up painting, and when the painting is done, replacing the kitchen faucet. And going through my books to decide which ones to part with, which ones to store, and which ones to bring along on the trip. Really, the same goes for all my stuff: Keep or Toss/Give to Charity.

I'm using the Tornado method of deciding, inspired by Bekah's sister, who lost nearly everything in the Greensburg tornado. It goes this way: If I lost this in a tornado, would my heart be broken? If not, it's outta here. Of course, I'll try not to take it too far by tossing handy stuff like paper supplies and useful kitchen gadgets.

But that means all the furniture except my bedroom set needs to be sold or donated. Within three weeks. While I'm studying for Anatomy exams and starting new classes and trying to get the house prettied up enough ("smoke and mirrors") to sell.

As far as getting all my stuff for the trip out to Texas with me, I looked into a one-way U-Haul truck rental that could tow my car (which still needs to get the towbar attached), and they want over $2,000! No, thanks. But my friend pointed out that I can box up the softer things, like my winter clothes, and mail the boxes to Texas, and even with the increase in postal rates, it would cost way less than $2,000. Then I can just drive the car with the things that will fit in it. Good plan!

So little time. So much still to do.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Here's the link to my post earlier this week on the orphaned owls.

I really love the picture. The babies look so wide-eyed and clueless. The mom is 100% focused on being there for the babies. There's something about it that keeps me going back to look at the four little ones huddling up to their "mom."

Today is the day for huddling up to your mom, if you still have her with you here on earth, and if you're a mom yourself, for huddling up to your (not so) little ones.

Have a wonderful Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hollywood vs. Smoking

The Los Angeles Times reported today that Hollywood is considering adjusting their movie ratings.

Movies and cigarettes used to go together like Bogie and Bacall, with Hollywood and its stars glamorizing the habit on screen and off.

Now films could earn a tougher rating if their characters light up.Under a policy announced Thursday, the Motion Picture Assn. of America said its movie raters would take into account "depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of a historic or other mitigating context."

"There is broad awareness of smoking as a unique public health concern due to nicotine's highly addictive nature, and no parent wants their child to take up the habit," MPAA Chief Executive Dan Glickman said. "The appropriate response of the rating system is to give more information to parents on this issue."

I hate it when Hollywood, the Dysfunctional World, gets on its holier-than-thou soapbox and starts shoving their choice of better health down our throats. It's for our own good, after all.

There's broad awareness of alcohol as a unique public health concern too, but I haven't heard Hollywood going after movies that glamorize drinking. And I don't expect that they will. That would hit too close to home.

No, cigarettes are an easier target. Pay no attention to the drunk guy behind the curtain!

And what will they target next, after they've started rating movies for cigarette use? Will they give a PG-13 to a Disney movie with a character who eats a cheeseburger? Will an otherwise 'R' rated movie get bumped down to PG-13, if the main character eats his vegetables instead of a big, fat, juicy steak?

There's a point where the rating system goes so far it becomes meaningless. I think they're crossing that line with their cigarette ratings. Let Hollywood's movie makers and movie stars get their own lives in shape before they start trying to manage ours.

North Korean Farewell

Photo credit: REUTERS/Newsis



Another photo from today's Reuters top photos of the past 24 hours. The caption reads:

North Koreans bid farewell to their South Korean family members after their three day temporary family reunion at the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea May 11, 2007. About 100 South Koreans are at a mountain resort in North Korea until Friday to reunite with their children, siblings and other relatives left behind in the 1950-1953 fratricidal conflict. (NORTH KOREA)

This breaks my heart.

I don't know how often the North Koreans have allowed families to reunite for a few days, but judging by the pain on these people's faces, it's not nearly often enough.

It's easy to think of North and South Korea in political or economic terms: Communism vs. Liberty, starvation vs. prosperity. But it's still a penninsula populated by too many families torn apart.

Governments, like that of Kim Jong-Il, that must use force to keep their people in do not deserve to stand.

Dog With Cat


Photo credit: REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin

This is one of the photos in today's Reuters top photos of the past 24 hours. The caption reads:

A police dog carefully lifts up a cat when ordered to, in a display of skill, during a show at the Russian OMON riot special police training base outside Moscow, May 10, 2007. (RUSSIA)

What an obedient dog!

And what an obedient cat to not run away when approached by a big dog with big teeth. That's amazing for a smushy-faced cat. Cats whose noses stick out farther than their eyes are well-known to be smarter than cats who can't figure out how to get their noses out where they can do some good.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Aaaarrrgggghhhh!!!!

I am so frustrated I can't even see straight (OK, with my reading glasses on, I can see the computer straight. But that's it). Trying to figure out what medical discipline to learn is going to be the death of me.

Last we heard, I was leaning toward switching from Ultrasound to Radiology. On Tuesday, I officially switched to Radiologic Technology at the school where I'm taking Anatomy & Physiology. That program has a three-year (or more) waiting list, and they take you first-come first-served, provided all your prerequisites are satisfied. Mine will be, once I take Medical Terminology, and I'm due to start that on Monday, through the online Michigan school. But some of the people in my A & P class have said that the college we're at is really picky about which other Terminology classes they'll accept as equivalent, so there's a chance they won't accept my online class.

But if I end up attending another school, like the online one, what does it matter? The online school will get me finished sooner (albeit more expensively).

So then I thought of another plan (they suggested this during our Intro to Health Occupations class, but I ignored them at the time): Become a Medical Assistant while I wait, get a job, and when it's my turn, start the Radiology program. I could even become a Medical Assistant, move to another state with a shorter waiting list, work in the new state for a year to establish residency, and then start the Radiology program. Think of the money I'd save, not having to pay Michigan all that out-of-state tuition.

Or maybe I should just pay it and be done ASAP, which would still be 3 years away. Oy!

So I went back to the internet and started searching some what-if scenarios. What Radiology programs are accredited in some of the states that might be affordable? Tons of them! But funny thing, the Radiology program at the Michigan school is NOT ACCREDITED by the gold-standard accreditation board. Their Ultrasound program is accredited (different accreditation board), but not Radiology.

This is not good.

One of the guys in Anatomy said he just switched to Respiratory Care, because he'd be able to start in the fall (no waiting list for that program, and it seems to pay about as well as Rad Techs with almost as much demand).

When we had our presentation on Respiratory Care in the Intro to Health Occupations class, I wasn't very interested for three reasons: (1) People with respiratory problems tend to retch up bodily fluids that are better left inside (Eeewww!); (2) It involves quite a bit of chemistry (you need to analyze blood gases), which has intimidated me for much of my life, though I couldn't say why; and (3) I really find the guy who runs the program annoying.

He's the guy who ran the Intro class, and throughout the entire class he had that obnoxious smile people get when they know something that you don't know and they darn well aren't about to tell you. To spend two years learning at the feet of a man who just won't stop with the aligator-smile, well, I'm not sure I'm up to it.

But I could start soon, and people say Respiratory Care is more rewarding because you keep the same patients for a long time, rather than having one broken leg after another coming in on an assembly-line basis. I don't know. I don't know anything anymore.

I sure miss my dad. If he were still alive, I'd have called him by now. He'd know what to say and how to ask me questions that would help me figure out a good course of action. Instead, I'm up way past my bedtime, spilling my guts all over a laptop and hoping that the spilling will miraculously put it all in the best order.

But it's not working yet. I'm still making endless circles.

I'm going to bed.

Roadkill Dress-Up

The Hartford Courant reported Monday on the roadkill situation in Edwardsville, Illinois.

For the past several weeks, drivers near Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville have been noticing odd things about some of the roadkill on the sides of the area's highways.

Some of the dead possums and raccoons have been dressed in pet or human baby clothes and have had their claws painted with nail polish. The carcass of a deer has been adorned with gold paint.

The culprit is SIU-Edwardsville graduate art student Jessica May, 24, of West Lafayette, Ind.

In an interview with the Belleville News-Democrat, May said she is not an animal rights activist; she is just interested in seeing if people would give more thought to the animals if they were somehow given human attributes.

May, a 2006 graduate of Purdue University, said she takes precautions in dealing with the carcasses.

"I wear gloves," she said. "I don't know that I could touch it with my bare hands, because by the time I find them, they're pretty far gone."

The only downside to this article is that they don't have any pictures. I can't imagine...

Memory Help

A couple memory-related items are in the news.

Memory-freezing tool helps fight crime:

The Scotsman (UK) reported today on a new tool developed to help crime witnesses remember more details.

SCIENTISTS at a Scottish university have developed a powerful new crimefighting tool that "freezes" the memory of crime scenes in the minds of potential witnesses, it was revealed yesterday.

The system uses a self-administered interview (SAI) form which allows witnesses to capture images and details of crime scenes and perpetrators in their minds - particularly small and seemingly insignificant details that could turn out to be crucial in solving cases.

Tests have shown that witnesses using the form were 42 per cent more accurate than other witnesses who were simply asked to report as much as they could remember.

I hope these scientists share their new form with our law enforcement agencies.

Cramming works if you sleep before the test:

The Hartford Courant reported Tuesday on a new study on memorization.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston asked 48 subjects to learn a list of 20 pairs of words and then tested them 12 hours later on their recall of the pairs. Some subjects were taught the words at 9 a.m. while others learned the words at 9 p.m. and then went to sleep.

The results were a wake-up call for all-night exam crammers: Subjects in the sleep group remembered 12 percent more words from the list than subjects who learned the words at 9 a.m.

Half of both groups also were asked to learn a second list of words just before testing, to study the effect of distracting information on recall. Yet again, subjects in the sleep group did better, recalling 44 percent more words than subjects in the nonsleep group.

OK. This is not new. When I was getting my Psychology degree (2001 - 2002), my professor for Adulthood and Aging and also for Psychological Testing told us all kinds of good research on memory and studying. In addition to getting sleep, other research has shown that you'll remember better if you quit studying for a short time immediately before bed. For some reason, the break helps with retention.

The other thing she told us was that people learn better when the air they breathe is cold. So she'd come into the classroom about half an hour before class and crank down the air conditioning. We learned after the first week to wear a coat or heavy sweatshirt to class when Shirley was our professor. A light jacket or sweater wouldn't do.

So there you have it. Now get some sleep before you forget...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tornado Aftermath

An F5 tornado hit Greensburg, Kansas, last Friday, and it was all over the news. For most of us, Greensburg is a town we've never heard of in a state we never think about until disaster hits. And now we think of it as a town that, for all intents and purposes, rises no higher than the piles of rubble we see on the 6 o'clock news.

But for blogger Bekah, over at Bekah's Bits, Greensburg is where her sister, brother-in-law, and niece call home, and where her brother-in-law is (was?) pastor of a church. It's a town that her heart constantly returns to in love and prayer.

Bekah has been posting what she can about what her family is going through, from the perspective of a loved-one hundreds of miles away. If you'd like a glimpse into the story of a family that the news isn't telling you about, check out Bekah's Bits. The links to her posts so far, in chronological order are here:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

If you're so inclined, please pray.

The New Me

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may have noticed that my "About Me" box at the top right corner almost never changes.

I don't remember what it said when I first started blogging and my only readers were my mom, my sister, and a couple people at work. But then there was that scandal a long time ago (long enough that I can't remember the details) when some blogger was accepting payment from some company to influence what he said on his blog.

So I changed my statement on "About Me" to say that I never accepted any money to influence what I wrote (as if anybody would offer...). That way, you could be comforted by the notion that no outside individual or organization was pushing me to write about Lizard Spit or Exploding Toads or How to Escape from Quicksand. No, I decide what to blog about all by myself, sometimes to my own chagrin.

Well, the time has come to change "About Me" again, to reflect the coming changes in my life and my blog. I'll have to change it again when I leave, to be in the present tense rather than the future tense.

I've remained mostly anonymous all this time (though if you tried really, really hard and with the right combination of search keywords, you'd be able to find out my real name anyway), because I wanted to protect myself and my pretty young women (my daughter and her friend who lived with us) from angry, blog-reading marauders.

Well, the girls have moved out, most of my angry blog-readers live in Australia (not you, Jacob--you're not that angry), and I'm about to hit the road. So anonymity is less important now.

I've had to get a new email address to take with me on the road, since my current (unpublished) email is tied to the cable company from whom I will soon part ways. So, I've added my email address (in secret code) to "About Me" as well, and when I reply to you, my real name (gasp!) will show up on the email. But I'm still going to keep my real name hush-hush on my blog, because I've grown fond of being SkyePuppy.

Lizard Spit

The Telegraph (UK) reported today on new medication developed from the saliva of the Gila Monster.

Diabetes sufferers could avoid complications including heart disease, kidney failure and blindness thanks to a new drug based on the spit of a giant poisonous lizard.

Scientists have developed a new treatment for the disease following the discovery that a chemical in the saliva of the pink and black Gila monster contains a chemical in its saliva, which is similar to a human hormone that helps regulate blood sugar.

Exenatide, which works by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin in response to raised blood sugar, was launched in the UK last week under the brand name Byetta. A chemical in the lizard’s saliva called exendin-4 was shown to act in a similar way to the human hormone glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1).

In healthy humans, GLP-1 triggers the production of insulin in the pancreas when blood sugar levels get too high. In those with Type 2 diabetes the signal to make more insulin is weak or missing.

“The Gila monster only eats three or four times a year, and a compound produced in its salivary glands called exendin-4 may help them digest these meals very slowly over time. That is an advantageous quality when translated into controlling diabetes.”

This is great news for diabetics, and taking lizard spit as a medicine is way better than taking some derivative of bugs or spiders.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Logic of Heaven and Hell

On Dennis Prager's radio show today, he invited comment on his axiom: "If there is a God, and if He is just, then of course there is both heaven and hell (or if you prefer, ultimate reward and ultimate punishment)."

One caller said his position is that even the "bad" stuff that happens is, in fact, good. So Dennis offered him a hypothetical. "Let's say a family is burned to death in their home by some monster of a human being, that would be good?"

The guy said, "Yes, because they pay in this life for their sins of their previous life." He believes in reincarnation.

Dennis suggested that this perspective would prevent people from being sympathetic to human suffering, and then it was time for the commercials.

He's right, and then some. If you take the view that the burned-up people deserved what they got, then why would we bother to have firefighters? Shouldn't we let the people burn? Wouldn't the firefighters just get in the way of these people getting what they should? If the people are saved from the fire, calamity would just have to come their way on another day.

And shouldn't we get rid of the police and the military too, and let chaos run rampant, because wouldn't that be the best way to make sure everyone pays for their sins?

Let's pretend this caller decides one day to beat up his wife. Did she deserve it because of her past life? If she did, how did he know? How is he able to decide what punishment other people should get? But if she didn't deserve it, then he's going to be punished in his next life for having beat her up. But how is it "good" for her in this life?

This guy's point of view is, as Prager said, an excuse for a lack of compassion. We can look the other way when people suffer, because it's forging better things for their future, and the more they suffer now, the better off they'll be in the long run.

It's disgusting. I'm so glad I believe in the simplicity and logic of heaven and hell.

Environmental News

Time for another round-up of environmental and global warming news, because there's just too much for separate posts.

Sheryl Crow on Reality:

Sheryl "One Square of Toilet Paper" Crow wrote a column for the Huffington Post Friday, and in it she said:

However, what terrifies me is not what we are ignoring about the state of our planet but the fact that we seem to have lost touch with our connection to the earth. We have risen to great heights of arrogance in our refusal to acknowledge that the earth is changing. We hold steadfast to our belief that nothing can happen to us as a people. We get into our oversized, war-machine-like vehicles, get on our cell phones and blackberries, and avoid having human contact all day long.

I have not lost my connection to earth. I walk on it every day. I fall down on it. I drive on it (is a Corolla a "war-machine-like vehicle"?). Yes, I keep my gravity bill paid.

Oh, she says the toilet paper thing was pulled out of context from a comedy routine.

Children are a scourge on the earth:

The Australian reported yesterday that, far from being a blessing from God, children are a bad thing.

HAVING large families should be frowned upon as an environmental misdemeanour in the same way as frequent long-haul flights, driving a big car and failing to reuse plastic bags, says a report to be published today by a green think tank.

John Guillebaud, co-chairman of OPT and emeritus professor of family planning at University College London, said: "The effect on the planet of having one child less is an order of magnitude greater than all these other things we might do, such as switching off lights.

"The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child."

They're already doing that, except for their immigrants, who will eventually have Britain to themselves.

Mankind as Virus:

This is related to the previous one. Dan Gainor's column Sunday for the Business & Media Institute criticized an environmentalist's views.

Apparently, saving the whales is more important than saving 5.5 billion people. Paul Watson, founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and famous for militant intervention to stop whalers, now warns mankind is “acting like a virus” and is harming Mother Earth.

Watson’s
May 4 editorial asked the question “The Beginning of the End for Life as We Know it on Planet Earth?” Then he left no doubt about the answer. “We are killing our host the planet Earth,” he claimed and called for a population drop to less than 1 billion.

I'm surprised at the 1 billion figure. The earth's carrying capacity used to be proclaimed as 2.2 billion. Still, these guys always want you to be the one who is eliminated, not them. Never them. They're too important to be sacrificed for that cause.

Global Warming Is Confusing Migratory Birds:

Reuters reported yesterday that migratory birds are having troubles.

Birds, whales and other migratory creatures are suffering from global warming that puts them in the wrong place at the wrong time, a U.N. official told 166-nation climate talks on Monday.

A warmer climate disrupts the biological clocks of migratory species including bats, dolphins, antelopes or turtles, said Lahcen el Kabiri, deputy head of the U.N.'s Bonn-based Convention on Migratory Species.

Birds are sometimes hatching early in a warmer climate, but sometimes insect food can flourish even earlier. Pied flycatcher birds in Europe, for instance, have suffered from a lack of caterpillars for their chicks.

Why aren't the scientists glad for the caterpillars who don't get eaten by the flycatchers?

El Kabiri said governments should cooperate more to create and protect international migration corridors.

I'm not sure how protecting a migration corridor will help the migratory species to use them, when they think it's plenty warm where they happen to be at the time.

Expert Climatologist Calls Global Warming Fears Absurd:

Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News reported yesterday on climatologist Reid Bryson, age 86.

Bryson is a believer in climate change, in that he’s as quick as anyone to acknowledge that Earth’s climate has done nothing but change throughout the planet’s existence. In fact, he took that knowledge a big step further, earlier than probably anyone else. Almost 40 years ago, Bryson stood before the American Association for the Advancement of Science and presented a paper saying human activity could alter climate.

“I was laughed off the platform for saying that,” he told Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News.

In the 1960s, Bryson’s idea was widely considered a radical proposition. But nowadays things have turned almost in the opposite direction: Hardly a day passes without some authority figure claiming that whatever the climate happens to be doing, human activity must be part of the explanation. And once again, Bryson is challenging the conventional wisdom.

“Climate’s always been changing and it’s been changing rapidly at various times, and so something was making it change in the past,” he told us in an interview this past winter. “Before there were enough people to make any difference at all, two million years ago, nobody was changing the climate, yet the climate was changing, okay?”

“All this argument is the temperature going up or not, it’s absurd,” Bryson continues. “Of course it’s going up. It has gone up since the early 1800s, before the Industrial Revolution, because we’re coming out of the Little Ice Age, not because we’re putting more carbon dioxide into the air.”

Indeed.