Saturday, June 30, 2007

RNC Chairman Slams Immigration Bill Opponents

They just won't shut up. They lost, and they should let it go and get on with what's important. But no.

The AP reported yesterday that RNC Chairman Mel Martinez had some unkind things to say about me and many of you.

The Chairman of the Republican Party on Friday lambasted Democrats and Republicans who helped kill an immigration bill in the Senate and challenged them to come up with a solution beyond "just build a fence along the border."

"The voices of negativity now have a responsibility to come up with an answer," RNC Chairman and U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla. said.

"How will you fix the situation to make peoples' lives better? How will you continue to grow the economy? How will we bring people out of the shadows for our national security and for the sake of being a country that is just?" he demanded.

Well this "voice of negativity" has a few things to say to Senator Martinez. For starters, my solution is three-fold:

1. Build the fence. I don't mean build the fence and that's all we need to do. I don't mean build the fence and nobody will be able to get over or around it. I mean build the fence first. Any administration that won't build the fence is not serious about our borders and the security risk they pose.

2. Secure the border. That's where the high-tech stuff comes in. Do what it takes to get a handle on the people coming across the border. Upgrade the computer systems that are used to check the people coming into the country, or get some if they don't have any. Put in the high-tech super detectors the President wants. Hire (actually do it, don't just talk about it) more Border Patrol agents. Get more Border Patrol agents on horses in the areas that call for it. Just do what it takes to get control of our borders.

3. Implement and enforce employer sanctions. Fine and/or arrest employers who knowingly (or claim not to know, when they should know) hire illegal aliens. The database exists for employers to verify Social Security Numbers. All employers should be given access to this database. If the system needs upgrades or expansion, then spend the money to get the work done. We should never need to hear employers giving the lame excuse of, "How was I supposed to know it wasn't a good SSN? Or that it wasn't his?" Put the employer's butt in a sling if he doesn't verify that his employees are authorized to work in this country.

If the Administration or Congress claims there's not enough money for these solutions, they can take the money out of whichever National Endowment for Liberal Causes they like, because getting our borders under control is more important than Humanities and Arts.

Now for Senator Martinez's questions. How will I fix the situation to make people's lives better? First, I'd like to know which "people's lives" he's talking about. Does he mean the people who have lost jobs to illegals, like the American constructions workers in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina who were let go as soon as the illegals arrived? Is that who he's talking about? Or is his only concern to see that the illegal aliens' lives are made better, even if it's at the expense of American workers?

When the fence is built, the border is secure, and employers are not wantonly employing illegal aliens, many of the illegals will just go home. Most people don't stay long where they're not welcome.

A case in point: I heard a guest on a radio talk show last week. It might have been Sean Hannity's show, but I'm not sure. The guest was the mayor of Farmer's Branch, Texas, where the city council passed an ordinance banning the hiring of illegal aliens and banning landlords from renting to illegals. The law was immediately challenged in court and is not yet in effect. And that means it's not being enforced yet. But the town of Farmer's Branch has seen a reduction in hospital emergency room visits, and at one of the grade schools, they lost enough students that they were able to eliminate one classroom. There may be more effects, but those are the only ones I remember.

The lives of the citizens of Farmer's Branch, Texas, are better for having said to illegal aliens, "You're not welcome here."

How will I grow the economy? That's not really my strong suit, but here are a few ideas: Make the tax cuts permanent. Cut taxes some more. Encourage businesses that rely heavily on labor--agriculture in particular--to automate more processes. There's got to be an Eli Whitney around here somewhere who can figure out how to build a strawberry-picker that can detect the right color of red and then pick those, while leaving the little ones or the green ones behind for later. Or make a machine that cuts and grabs lettuce at ground level. We have hay balers that pick up hay from the ground, so why is it so hard to pick lettuce with a machine? Let the government give incentives to the agriculture industry to mechanize, and the prices of produce will come back down again. Without the high labor cost, our food will be affordable, and the illegal aliens won't have a reason to come here looking for harvest work.

"How will we bring people out of the shadows for our national security and for the sake of being a country that is just?" That question really frosts my chaps.

Let's get this straight. National security risks will NOT be coming out of the shadows, no matter what we do. They like the shadows. They want to hide. If we were to instantly legalize every illegal person who wanted it (which the now-dead bill would have done), we would still have national security problems, because the terrorists would not announce themselves.

In order for the United States of America to be a country that is just, we need justice. And that means the rule of law. Right now we have laws that are not enforced. "You're not supposed to be in the country? Oh, stay. Here, rent an apartment. Let me help you get a bank account. If you get sick, just go to the hospital, and they won't ask any questions. Send your kids to our schools, and I'll get you set up for WIC." That's not justice. That's ignoring the rule of law. Justice says that lawbreakers are punished. Justice says that law-abiders are rewarded. Instead, Martinez and his ilk would reward the lawbreakers with legal status and punish the law-abiding people trying to immigrate legally with delay or a flat-out, "No."

But don't listen to me. I'm just a voice of negativity.


Michelle Malkin is all over this as well. It seems there's a recall effort in Florida now to throw the bum Martinez out.

Noctilucent Clouds from Space

NASA has released the first photos of noctilucent clouds (clouds that give off light at night) taken from space. NASA's Spaceweather website has the news.

For the first time ever, humans know what a noctilucent cloud (NLC) looks like--from above. NASA's AIM spacecraft took this composite UV-wavelength picture [above] on June 11th from a vantage point 600 km over Earth's north pole.

Launched on April 25, 2007, AIM is on a mission to study these mysterious clouds at the edge of space; the image above represents its first good look. For the next two years, AIM will monitor the life cycle of NLCs, assaying their chemistry and particulate content, and checking to see if space dust plays a role in their genesis.

When NLCs were first sighted in the 19th century, they were confined to polar latitudes, but lately they have intensified and spread with sightings in recent years as far south as Colorado and Utah. "It is clear that these clouds are changing, a sign that a part of our atmosphere is changing and we do not understand how or what it means," says AIM principal investigator James Russell III of Hampton University. Are NLCs a sign of global warming? Or something else? Researchers hope AIM will provide some answers. Stay tuned for updates.

Pretty cool!

Check out the gallery of noctilucent photos taken from the ground too.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Trip - Back in Cisco

We got back to Cisco last night around midnight, and these are all the states we've got on our map so far. When we left, we thought we'd get twice as many, but the engine had other ideas.

Roy finished getting the motorhome all put back together and running nicely yesterday afternoon. He was a real sweetheart, sending us a couple times into his backyard, next door to his shop, to pick as many peaches from his tree as we thought we could eat. We ate a lot, they were so good. He said he's going to miss us, and we're going to miss him too. If you ever break down near Monahans, Texas, be sure to take your vehicle to Roy's, because he'll treat you right.

We've seen everything there is to see in Odessa, except the Art Museum, which none of us was in the mood for. And we've seen everything in Monahans twice, except the museum that Roy and his helper said didn't have much and that we wouldn't really enjoy, so we skipped that too. We got to know the main road through town, where the grocery store was, and also McDonald's, Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, Sonic Burger, and all the local food eateries. Plus we were able to find the park again, after having stumbled across it the first time. The locals seem to know the park by the name, "The One Downtown."

My sister's family is happy to have her back. Scooter is happy to be perched on the back of the loveseat, barking at the people who walk down the street. And my mom and I are still unloading and washing up from the West Texas trip, not thinking about the next trip just yet.

I have a term paper to finish writing for one of my classes, and it's due tomorrow, so that comes first. Then we start planning again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Trip - Talking Texan

I want to start by saying I'm good with languages. I got fairly fluent with French when I took it in school. And when I learned some beginner Polish for my first trip to Poland in 1997, everyone there said I pronounced it really well.

I think it's at least partly because I'm an auditory and visual learner, and the auditory part makes me speak the way I hear things. And that means I start picking up accents.

My normal accent is West Coast Standard, that non-accent that national news broadcasters cultivate to hide the shame of their roots (although Peter Jennings was never able to completely erase his Canadian "aboot").

But it's happening again, just like it has every other time I've visited my sister in Texas. It's nothing conscious. I'll say something, and when the sound of my words hits my ears, I hear the way I just let that last word sli...iide.

The first casualty, accent-wise, is always the vowels, especially the ones where the difference between mine and theirs is the most subtle.

When I was 19, I had a summer job in Yellowstone National Park for two months, and my roommate in the dorms was someone from Ohio (Janice, that would be Shaker Heights). I picked up her way of saying the short 'o' sound, and it would pop out every once in a while for years. I had a repair guy come to the house one time, and he asked me what part of the East Coast I was from (nowhere), just because I said "shahp" instead of "shop."

In Texas, it usually starts with "Thank yew." And now my long 'i' is starting to droop--not as badly as the natives though. On the weather channel, the guy was talking about the approaching thunderstorms (BTW, did you know there are places that actually get WEATHER in the summer?) that were 50 "mahls" away. I don't think I've said it quite like that, but I think I'm headed there.

What I don't pick up are the other ways of saying things, the "y'alls" and "fixin's." Those are completely different from my native language, so I don't drift into that territory.

A word of note about "y'all" is that different states make it possessive in different ways. I was in Atlanta for a class one time, and I heard a teenager yell to her friends (in a friendly way), "It's yer all's fault!" But at the Dairy Queen yesterday, the waitress added the apostrophe-'s' to the end of y'all, to get "y'all's." Interesting. But I don't expect to be saying either one.

Still, I have no way of knowing how much of which accents I'll have when I get back from this trip next spring. I'll probably sound really confused.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

US Gets New Allies in Iraq

The AP reported yesterday about our newest allies in Iraq.

Two months ago, a dozen Sunni insurgents haggard, hungry and in handcuffs stepped tentatively into a U.S.-Iraqi combat outpost near Baqouba and asked to speak to the commander: "We're out of ammunition, but we want to help you fight al-Qaida."

Now hundreds of fighters from the 1920s Revolution Brigades, an erstwhile Sunni insurgent group, work as scouts and gather intelligence for the 10,000-strong American force in the fifth day of its mission to remove al-Qaida gunmen and bomb makers from the Diyala provincial capital.

Each U.S. Army company in Baqouba, an hour's drive northeast of Baghdad, has a scout from the Brigades, others have become a ragtag intelligence network and still others fight, said Capt. Ricardo Ortega, a 34-year-old Puerto Rico native of the 2nd Infantry Division.

U.S. commanders say help from the Brigades operatives was key to planning and executing the Baqouba operation, one of a quartet of U.S. offensives against al-Qaida on the flanks of the Iraqi capital.

The informants have given the American troops exact coordinates of suspected al-Qaida safe houses, with details down to the color of the gate out front, said Lt. Col. Avanulas Smiley, 40, commander of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment and a Tacoma, Wash., native.

This is good news, because it means the Sunnis, at least in that region, have recognized that al-Qaeda poses more of a threat to them and their way of life than the Americans do. It means that al-Qaeda has become the enemy of not just the West, but also of the Iraqi people. It's one more hopeful sign in the overall picture of the war.

But the AP refuses to see hope. Instead, they injected this negative commentary into their "straight news" piece:

And as it struggles in the raging heat and violence of central Iraq, the U.S. military appears to have bought into the tactic in its struggle to pull what victory it can from the increasingly troubled American mission in Iraq, under congressional pressure for a troop pullout and a presidential election campaign already in the minds of voters.

The US military is struggling in "raging heat and violence." It "bought into the tactic" (Do we detect the AP's hint at desperation?), it's in a "struggle to pull what victory it can" (They forgot to mention that the military is only holding on by its well-chewed fingernails), and its mission in Iraq is "increasingly troubled."

Did the AP ask the US military to confirm this assessment? Or are they relying on only their reporters--each one no doubt an unbiased, military expert--to analyze the situation on the ground? Oh please!

More and more people and groups in Iraq are helping in the war. And that means that more and more people and groups are taking an active part in the fight for control of their own country. And that means that the political will we need to see on the part of the Iraqi population and government is getting closer. And the closer it gets, the sooner our troops will be able to come home.

But don't tell that to the AP. They don't want to know.

US Soldier Saves Base from Bombing

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported June 12, 2007, about an alert soldier in Iraq.

Soldiers of a 10th Mountain Division battalion, deep in the heart of Iraq’s bloodiest region, are alive and well today because one young soldier from Norwood was on lookout Sunday afternoon.

Spc. Brandon Rork, a 24-year-old 2002 graduate of Norwood High School, was on guard atop Patrol Base Warrior Keep on Sunday, manning a 240 Bravo machine gun and keeping a lookout for danger.

What he found could have reduced Patrol Base Warrior Keep to rubble and left dozens, possibly hundreds, of his fellow soldiers in the 2-14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, dead on the ground.

“We have some trucks drive by every day, but this was different,’’ Rork said in a phone interview from Iraq. “I knew right away there was something wrong.”

What he saw, perched in his guard post with Spc. Charles Osgood, a soldier from Virginia, was a heavily-laden dump truck, its load covered with tarpaulins, make a sharp turn toward the perimeter of the base, toward the gate of the base at Sadr Al-Yusifiyah, about 25 miles southwest of Baghdad.

Rork and Osgood opened fire.

“At first I was concentrating fire on the engine block, but once I saw it was inside the gate, I started shooting into the cab,’’ said Rork, who joined the Army about three years ago. “We must have fired about 100 rounds into the cab.”

The truck stopped; and Rork reported to the unit’s command post via radio. Osgood, Rork said, approached the dump truck and yelled out to him that the driver was behind the truck. Both soldiers fired; and the driver went down, wounded in the leg.

When they pulled the driver off the ground, they found that he had a 15-pound bomb strapped to his chest. Osgood, Rork said, got the vest off the man and, soon, a medical evacuation helicopter came to take the Iraqi out of the base for treatment. But what the soldiers found in the truck was more frightening still. It was loaded with 8,000 pounds – four tons – of explosive ordnance.

“It would have leveled this base,’’ Rork said. “There would have been nothing left.”

Kudos to Rork and Osgood.

Boos and hisses to the mainstream media, which ignored this story. A quick Google search revealed the only media that picked up the story when it was released by the military were the local outlets where Rork and Osgood are from, and the New York outlet near Fort Drum, where these soldiers are based. That's it, besides the blogs.

But you can bet that if these two soldiers weren't alert, and the terrorists accomplished their mission, the MSM would have led with the story of the bombing. Because, according to them and their ilk in Congress, we're losing the war. It's disgusting.

Still, I don't want to end on a sour note, so I'll let Rork have the last word (emphasis added):

Since the incident Sunday, Rork said, his fellow soldiers of the 2-14th have been coming up to him “just overwhelmed with thanks. It makes me feel good.”

“After it happened, the only thing that kept running through my mind was that I was just happy no one got hurt,’’ Rork said. “People will call me a hero, I guess, but I was just doing my job. This is what a soldier does.”

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Trip - Random Observations


I noticed something on my drive from California to Cisco. Two out of the three motels I stayed at were owned by people from India. That could be a coincidence, although Arizona and Texas aren't places I usually imagine Indian natives settling in.

But then, when we needed to find a place to stay in Monahans, we checked, and two of the three motels there were run by Indian families. And in Odessa, a couple motels (including the one where we're staying) are Indian-run as well.

It's one of those "Huh" moments. I've heard that a lot of dry cleaners are owned by Koreans, a lot of donut shops are owned by Vietnamese, and a lot of cab drivers are Muslims. But I hadn't heard that a lot of motels are owned by Indians. You learn something new all the time.

Rest Area:

The rest area outside Clyde, Texas, has this dog-friendly area, which Scooter appreciated:


Some life forms don't know how hard they have it:

The Trip - More Time in West Texas

This is Roy, and he's our hero. He doesn't like this picture too well, and I have to agree. He's got the kind of smile that makes you want to give him a hug, but this picture didn't capture it.

Yesterday morning (after we took my Toyota off the tow dolly), the tow truck came--one of those gigantic tow trucks that pulls semis--and towed us to a place that wasn't expecting us. The shop owner couldn't get to our motorhome for several hours, so he called over to Roy, who agreed to look at the problem.

We caught the tow truck driver before he left, and he took us to Roy's shop, but then he took off in a hurry in case we changed our minds again. I can't say I blame him.

Roy got the air conditioning going in his shop office so we'd be comfortable and had us wait there while he looked to see how quickly he'd be able to fix the motorhome. Here's Scooter patiently waiting in my mom's lap.

Finally, Roy told us he'd have to remove the radiator and the air conditioner to get at the water pump, and he couldn't finish the work before today. So we grabbed what we needed for an overnight motel stay and headed off to see the sights of Monahans, Texas.

There aren't many. We had lunch at Dairy Queen, found a nice park in town and sat in the shade, had some ice cream back at Dairy Queen, where the employees got concerned about Scooter being in the car. They remembered seeing him at lunchtime and thought he'd been stuck in the car for several hours without anything to drink, so we eased their minds about him.

Today, when we stopped back at Roy's shop, he showed us the radiator, which had green stains that indicated leakage. My mom agreed to have the radiator replaced, so Roy called over to Odessa to get a new one, but the parts place was just about to close for the day. Roy tried to appeal to them to stay open just long enough for him to get there, for the sake of three women who are stranded while they're traveling, but they wouldn't do it. So we have to wait until Monday.

Roy, by the way is closed on Saturdays, but he opened for us to try to get us back on the road. He expressed his disappointment that we wouldn't be able to go anywhere for a couple days, but we told him the purpose of our trip was to spend time together, not to see any place in particular, and we'll still be able to be together. He seemed relieved.

Having seen all we could in Monahans, we came to Odessa for the weekend, stopping at a couple sights along the way. Outside Monahans is the Monahans Sandhills State Park, where families rent discs to ride down the sand. We didn't do that, but just looked through the museum.

Near Odessa, we stopped at the Odessa Meteor Crater. If the motorhome repairs take too long, we may not get to New Mexico at all this trip, not even Carlsbad Caverns, so the meteor crater may be the only big hole in the ground that we get to see. Here's the crater. It's only about six feet deep now.

In Odessa, we found my store:

Tonight, we'll go to the movies at the mall. It's nice to be in civilization again.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Trip - Adventure in West Texas

We made it as far as Monahans, Texas. That's where we were when the engine started to make a bad noise, so we pulled into a Chevron station, off to the side, and saw steam coming from the engine.

A bunch of very nice people helped us determine that the radiator fan had quit spinning. AAA will send a tow truck for us in the morning, and the Chevron station people said we could stay overnight right where we are. So that's what we're doing. The generator works, so we're mostly in business for the night.

Time for bed...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Trip - Meet Us In New Mexico

I'm continuing in my never-ending quest to meet with my blogger buddies and readers.

If you will be in southern New Mexico in the next week-ish and would like to meet with us for coffee, tea, Coke, frappuccino, whatever, please email me at the email address provided at the bottom of "About Me" in the upper right corner of my blog, so we can plan a day, time, and location.

We plan to visit (in this order):

El Paso, Texas

Silver City, New Mexico

Alamogordo (White Sands), New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

See you soon!

The Trip - Tourist in Cisco

The view of Cisco, from a hill on the Cisco Junior College campus:

There are two main claims to fame that Cisco, Texas, has, and both of them can be found to some extent in the same building: The Mobley Hotel.

Conrad Hilton, originally of New Mexico, came to Cisco during the big oil boom of 1917 with $5,000 in his pocket, intending to buy a bank. But his deal with the banker went south, and the Mobley Hotel was so crowded, one account says the owner told Hilton he could have the owner's personal room if Hilton would buy the hotel. Whatever the truth of the story, Hilton bought it, and from there developed an international hotel empire.

With funds from the Hilton Foundation, the Mobley Hotel has been restored. The main floor houses the Cisco Chamber of Commerce and a dinner theater, and the upstairs has a museum covering the life of Conrad Hilton as well as the history of Cisco.

This is a quote from Hilton, with photos of his parents. For the reading-challenged, the quote reads, "Life's journey, to be fulfilling, represents involvement in meaningful activity, sustained by a deep-rooted faith of being guided on a worthwhile course."

Another quote (not pictured here), taken from Conrad Hilton's last will and testament, says, "There is a natural law, a Divine law, that obliges you and me to relieve the suffering, the distressed, and the destitute. Charity is a supreme virtue, and the great channel through which the mercy of God is passed on to mankind."

How far his descendants have strayed from the faith of Conrad Hilton and his mother.

The Cisco history part of the museum has photos of the aftermath of the cyclone of 1893 (It looks just like a tornado hit the town), artifacts from bygone days, and this display of the uniforms of Cisco residents who served from World War I, through Desert Storm.

The other event that briefly put Cisco on the national map was the Great Santa Claus Bank Robbery of 1927. Four ne'er-do-wells (actually for one it was his first time of ne'er-do-welling) plotted a bank robbery of Cisco's First National Bank near Christmas, and to disguise himself, the leader of the bunch--a Cisco resident--dressed up as Santa so nobody would recognize him.

But the children recognized Santa, which gummed up the plan, and even though three of the robbers got away with some cash (the newbie to crime was shot and later died), they were caught by a posse, and Santa was lynched--the last lynching in Texas history.

These nefarious events have been memorialized in a musical play, which is performed each summer in the dinner theater of the Mobley Hotel. While we were touring the museum, we could hear the rehearsals going on downstairs. The songs sound like a lot of fun, and I'm thinking about attending a performance when we come back from our trip over to New Mexico.


The dinner theater has a different show every summer. This year is the first time they have repeated The Great Santa Claus Bank Robbery, which was first performed a few years ago. I think I have it right now.

The Trip - Almost Ready

We spent all day Monday in Abilene. The generator was fixed, so we picked up the motorhome and drove over to the truck tire place to get the new set of tires balanced. The place here in Cisco where my mom bought the tires didn't have a balancing machine big enough to do the job.

The tire shop said it would take about an hour, so we got lunch and came back an hour later, and they hadn't touched the motorhome. We waited inside the shop, watching a TV set to ESPN, for two and a half hours. I didn't know they'd be talking football this time of year.

After the tires were ready, we went to the RV dealer where my tow-dolly was waiting. The guys there helped me learn how to work the dolly to get the car on there and strapped down properly. But the lights on the dolly didn't work, so they fought with the wiring for a while and finally decided that the plug on the motorhome was bad. Lucky for us, when I had unnecessarily got my car ready to be towed (see the update at the bottom of this post), the muffler shop had given me two extension sets of wires for plugging into the motorhome. We used one set to plug the dolly into the motorhome, and we used the other set to swap the bad plug for a new one.

After 5:00, we hit the road, my car in tow on the dolly, and drove back to Cisco, without any mishaps.

Yesterday, we (mostly my mom) worked on the inside of the motorhome. One of the mechanics came over and helped her find switches and make sure the propane and the water pump and all the rest were working right. I took my car to the tire shop to get my tires balanced, and a butterfly came to visit while I was waiting.

Last night we got a rainstorm at 4 am, but I didn't notice, because I was sleeping. But this morning I could tell, because my mom's front yard is a lake again.

Cisco's ground is mostly clay, so when it rains, the low spots fill up quickly and drain slowly. And the clay makes for lousy foundations, so people here don't have basements, which is a real shame, because over half the houses don't have garages either. I don't know where people keep their boxes of Christmas decorations without a garage or a basement.

But I'm getting off the subject. Today we're going to see Cisco's big attraction (more on that later), and then we'll head over to Eastland to their Wal-Mart to stock up on the food we'll need for the trip. And then we'll load everything in the motorhome and hit the road tomorrow morning. That's the plan for right now, anyway.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Episcopal Muslim Priest

WorldNetDaily reported yesterday about an Episcopal priest in Seattle.

A veteran Episcopal priest says she became a Muslim just over a year ago and now worships at a mosque Fridays – but that hasn't stopped her from donning her white collar Sunday mornings.

"I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I'm both an American of African descent and a woman. I'm 100 percent both," Rev. Ann Holmes Redding told the Seattle Times.

Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., told the Times there are "tenets of the faiths that are very, very different."

"The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?"

Fredrickson explained that while Christians consider Jesus Christ to be God, Muslims regard him as only a prophet.

Redding, 55, doesn't think it's necessary to resolve all of the contradictions, arguing even people within Christianity can't agree on all the details.

"So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?" she asked. "At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need."

Somewhere along the way, this woman turned off her brain, and it appears to have atrophied.

"It wasn't about intellect," Redding said. "All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.

"I could not not be a Muslim."

My concern with her is not that she converted to Islam. People do that, and as a Christian, I respect her free will to believe whatever she chooses.

But Islam says it's not compatible with Christianity. And Christianity says it's not compatible with Islam. So her dual faith is a theological impossibility.

Then why on earth is she still a priest in the Episcopal church?

Redding's embrace of Islam has been affirmed by her bishop, Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, who thinks the interfaith possibilities are exciting.

He's an idiot too.

Perhaps if some lone Muslim fanatic attacks her church instead of a Jewish group, all in the interest of saving the priest's Muslim self from the infidel Christian influence, then the bishop might decide that's a little too much excitement. But I'm not holding my breath.

And how on earth will Redding counsel her flock? Will Episcopalians who come to her with questions be given Islamic answers? How will she be able to keep the lid on her religious blender so her special puree doesn't splatter all over the congregation? It's a recipe for disaster.

Too much of the Episcopal church in America has thrown Christian doctrine out with the trash in favor of feel-good social policy. Without the foundational tenets of the Christian faith, starting with the divinity of Jesus, you're left with nothing more than a social club whose leaders wear frocks and funny little white collars.

I'm skeptical that Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ever accepted the real Jesus as her Savior, or that she ever embraced Christianity. She sounds like someone who does what feels good and goes where she feels she belongs--someone tossed around by the waves of her own emotions.

And how does the imam down at the mosque see her dual faith?

She has been accepted by the mosque she regularly attends, the Al-Islam Center of Seattle. But Hisham Farajallah, president of the Islamic Center of Washington, is among the Muslim leaders who don't understand how she can remain an Episcopalian.

It seems strange to say it, but I'm with the imam on this one.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My Son, The Emmy Winner!

My son just called me to tell me they WON the Emmy award for "Outstanding Student Achievement: Program." There were eleven nominees in their category, and they won!

I blogged about it last month when the nominees were announced.

The list of nominees is here. Their category is way at the bottom.

My son (the screenwriter, by the way) was still at the awards ceremony when he called. He's beside himself, and I'm so thrilled I woke up my mom to tell her, and then we called my sister.

I have no idea what it will mean for him in the future. Time will tell. But for now, MY SON WON AN EMMY!!!

Gaza Better Off Under Israel

Israel News reported today on conditions in the Gaza Strip.

“I’m afraid to say this out loud, they may execute me for it, but there are a lot of people, including myself, who think it would be better if Israel came back here. Things would be much better than they are now,” said Samara (alias), a graduate of the Islamic University living in the Gaza Strip.

According to Samara, who lives nearby one of the Fatah strongholds taken over by Hamas in recent days, fear reigns in Gaza’s streets, and apart from gunmen and military officials, no one leaves their homes.

“The children are afraid all the time,” Samara says. “My nephews ask, ‘Why are the Israelis shooting at us?’, and we tell them it’s Palestinians. Then they ask, ‘Why are Palestinians shooting at us?’, and I have no answer for them.

She blames both sides for the escalating violence. According to her, both Hamas and Fatah need to understand that they are one people. “They promised us a better life, and the situation is only getting worse. I’m afraid that by next week we’ll become a Taliban state.

Israel is not free of blame in Samara’s eyes either. According to her, despite the Israeli government’s desire to wash its hands of Gaza, it should have done so the “right way”, and left it with economic infrastructures.

Samara explained that the economic boycott on the Palestinian Authority punished residents of Gaza, and not Hamas. She called on Israel to open the Rafah crossing and allow those who could to leave Gaza. “The Strip is like a jail, and we could die,” she said.

I'm not sure Samara realizes that Palestinians are forbidden from leaving Gaza. Would knowing this change her view on who's to blame there? Not that it would matter much. The gunfighting continues, Palestinians against Palestinians, with innocent Palestinians forced to suffer. What a waste.

Meanwhile, WorldNetDaily reported yesterday that President Bush is pursuing a policy of insanity in Israel, the definition of insanity being: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

After the Hamas terror group's takeover of U.S.-backed Palestinian security compounds in Gaza and seizure of large quantities of American weapons, the Bush administration is contemplating sending more weapons to the Palestinians and is asking Israel to make security concessions to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli and Palestinian diplomatic sources told WND today.

According to the diplomatic sources, U.S. and European Union officials are making plans to transfer emergency aid to Abbas' Fatah party to secure its grasp on the West Bank after Hamas this week took complete control of the Gaza Strip, including all Fatah security compounds, many of which contained American weapons. The proposed aid to Fatah in the West Bank entails providing both funds and heavy weaponry, the diplomatic sources said.

Diplomatic sources said the U.S. is expected to urge Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians in the West Bank so Abbas can claim achievements at a time his rule is being thrust into question. Israel will be asked, among other things, to dismantle anti-terror West Bank checkpoints and unfreeze tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue the Israeli government has held from the Palestinians for fear the money will be used to fund terrorism, the sources said.

So we're asking Israel to loosen their security and risk more terrorism, while we send more weapons for Fatah to lose to Hamas, so Hamas can attack Israel more effectively. I hope Israel tells President Bush where to stick this latest idea.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Trip - Waiting for the Generator

My mom told me that yesterday, when she and my sister were in Abilene and I was home studying, my sister said she probably wouldn't go with us to the Four Corners area, since it's looking like there won't be enough time for us to get there and back before she has to go back to work. Silly sister!

Today I let her know that she's more important than seeing the Four Corners. She's coming along, and we'll get her back in time. It doesn't matter where we go, as long as she comes with us.

So, we may only go to New Mexico. She really wants to go to Carlsbad Caverns, and I really want them to see White Sands, both of which are in the southern part of New Mexico near Texas.

The Four Corners has managed to survive without my seeing it this long. It can wait a while longer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Trip - Life in Cisco

Living in Cisco, Texas, is very different from living in Southern California. For starters, there's no movie theater here. The nearest one is ten miles away, in Eastland, and it only shows one movie at a time. The local paper announced that Spider-Man 3 is being held over for a third week.

My mom had taken her motorhome to a mechanic here in Cisco to see about the generator, but he's not familiar with motorhome parts. He thought it might be the generator's fuel pump that was causing the problem, but he told my mom she'd have to take it to an RV place, so that's what we did today.

The nearest RV dealer/service shop is in Clyde. We stopped for gas here in town, with my sister and me in my car following my mom. After my mom put in as much gas as she could stand to pay for all at one time, we prepared to head over to Clyde, but the motorhome wouldn't start. The battery has been giving her trouble, even though it's a new one, which suggests the alternator as the culprit, but the gas station isn't the place we wanted to find that out.

Another customer at the gas station had jumper cables, so I pulled around to face the motorhome, the man hooked up the cables, and we got the motorhome started. It's nice to know my car is up to that job. And helpful strangers is another benefit to small-town life.

In Clyde, the RV guy let us know we weren't even close to first in line for service. This is the busy season. But he promised to at least look at the generator today to determine whether or not they could fix the problem. If they could, we'd wait our place in line. If they couldn't, he'd let us know so we could get in line where they can fix it. But he couldn't look at the alternator. He doesn't work on the engine, just the motorhome stuff.

My mom joined us in my car, and we headed back toward Cisco, to the trailer dealer in Baird to see if they had any tow-dollies for sale. They didn't. He said we should head over to Abilene, the big city 50 miles from Cisco, where one of the RV places should have them.

The first one didn't, but he called over to his competitor (he didn't like doing that), who did, so we went there, and I bought one. But we have to wait until the motorhome is fixed before we can bring the dolly home. The man said he'd save the best one for me (they're all identical, except for one with a paint scratch).

It was hot today, the temperature bobbing around 100--sometimes a couple degrees over, sometimes a couple degrees under--with some humidity, but the humidity wasn't excessive because I didn't quite break into a sweat, and none of the locals said anything about it.

At the mall (blessed coolness!) we had lunch, did a little shopping (I picked up A Short History of Nearly Everything, which Hugh Hewitt has been raving about lately, sometimes to the point of alarmism), and finally found what we needed at Ross. At Wal-Mart (not Target--I haven't seen Target yet), we found a camera bag that will work for my new camera, picked up some groceries, and when we came outside, there was a thunderstorm in the direction of Cisco.

The RV place called my mom and said the generator problem looked more like an electrical problem, and he wouldn't be able to fix it. He suggested the RV place in Abilene where the guy didn't have the tow-dollies for sale, so my mom called him and described the problem. He said it sounds like a problem with the control panel, which translates to, "I can fix it." We like that.

So tomorrow, before my mom's eye doctor appointment, my mom and my sister will pick up the motorhome in Clyde, drive it to Abilene and drop it off at the RV place, take my mom to her appointment, also in Abilene, and I'll stay home and work on more Medical Terminology.

It takes some getting used to, this whole idea of going to different towns for the things you need. It reminds me of when I was in Europe one time, and one of the Europeans said that, if you're looking for the best of a particular thing, you go to the right country to get it. You go to Switzerland for good watches, to Germany for camping equipment, and (this is my suggestion) to Belgium for chocolate.

In California, from Oceanside, we go to the mall in Carlsbad and to the movies in Vista, but those three towns all run together in one indistinguishable city. It may take fifteen minutes to get to the movie theater, but it doesn't feel the same as leaving town, driving past empty-looking farmland, and coming to another town in fifteen minutes. It's an adjustment my mind is still trying to make.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Trip - I'm Here!

I got into Cisco mid-afternoon today, and it's great to be here. We unloaded the car and started looking at the atlas my son gave me for my birthday so we can plan our first loop to the Four Corners area. Our itinerary will need to be prioritized, so if the trip takes longer than we expect, we'll be able to see the most desirable places and skip the rest.

The generator on my mom's motorhome is on the fritz, though, so tomorrow she'll be taking it to the nearest RV dealer for repair, and we'll stop at a trailer dealer on the way back and see what we can find in the way of something to tow my car with.

But the good news is that my new camera arrived safe and sound at my mom's house! Here it is:

The battery is still charging. I'll have to wait to start playing with it.

The Trip - Day 3 Update

There was an odd little incident yesterday that I didn't mention before, and I bring it up here as a curiosity piece, not as any kind of warning.

I was driving along, minding my own business, when I hit a swarm of bees, and they made splattering noises all over the windshield like the sound of huge raindrops (thankfully, not too many bee guts left behind).

The next time I stopped for gas, of course I cleaned the windshield. There was one bee stuck in the wiper, and I didn't mess with that one, because the gas station didn't have paper towels, and it wasn't in the way.

After I got in my car, a live bee came to the windshield and flew along the wipers, as though it was checking things out.

Now I've read about Africanized bees before, and they have the ability to seek revenge for the death of one of their own. The researchers have learned that if you step on an Africanized bee, the bee, in its dying moment, appears to send out a distress signal that all its swarm-mates detect, and they come after you.

This inspector-bee by my windshield wipers didn't go on the attack, and it wasn't joined by any buddies, but its actions made me pause and be thankful I was safely inside my car.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dennis Miller Takes On Harry Reid

AllahPundit, at Michelle Malkin's Hot Air site posted this clip yesterday of Dennis Miller on Fox News's The Half Hour News Hour. Miller doesn't hold back his complete lack of respect for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose approval ratings are now about half of even those of President Bush or Vice President Cheney.

For more from Dennis Miller, see Malott's Blog.

The Trip - Day 3

No, I'm not in Cisco yet. How on earth did I make the trip last year in only two days??? Oh yeah, I didn't have to stop a little early each night to be sure I had time for homework.

I could have made it tonight, probably after 11:00, but when I talked to my mom and mentioned the possibility of stopping early and spending one more night on the road, she preferred that idea over my driving all the way today. So I'm in Monahans, Texas. I almost pushed on to Odessa, because as I got close to Monahans, the smell of all the refineries got pretty strong, and I didn't want to breathe that all night. But then it faded again before I reached town.

Here's the view from the road near Pecos, which isn't too far west of Monahans:

Here's this morning's view across the street from last night's motel office in Lordsburg, New Mexico. The gas station--and its "clean restrooms"--have been abandoned for a long time, and I'm sure the promise of cleanliness, though still made, is no longer kept.

I had lunch in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I saw the signs for Cracker Barrel, and the thought of comfort food called to me. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes. But when I was driving toward it, I passed Applebee's on the other side, Applebee's with their Weight Watcher's menu so much better for all the exercise I'm not getting. I made a U-turn, which made Gina happy, though she was disgusted with me when I turned right, before she wanted me to.

I took in the book I've been reading when I dine alone. It's Too Far From Home, the story of the three astronauts left behind on the International Space Station after Columbia disintegrated on re-entry and the shuttle program was put on hold. I'm enjoying it. The writing is good, full of the kind of details civilians like to see, and the technical things are light and readable. (But at dinner tonight, I got to the part where Columbia's families waiting in Florida had to be ushered away from the grandstands, and I felt myself starting to cry, so I had to shut the book and finish that chapter back in my room.)

On the road this afternoon, in the middle of New Mexico, where the landscape has finally turned a recognizable shade of green, the center divide between the two directions of I-10 traffic was clogged with 4 or 5 police vehicles in one spot. To one side of all the cop cars, was a yellow single-engine plane facing west. And all the cops were standing around looking baffled. I tried taking a picture but only got the frame of my car door. I have no idea what happened there.

Shortly after I crossed into Texas, I stopped at a rest area and got a chuckle at the forthrightness of the Texans about where they'd like you to put out your cigarettes:

Not two minutes later, as I tried to leave that restroom, this is the sight that greeted me (click to enlarge):

I'm sure not in California anymore!

One more picture, of a butterfly in a flowering tree at a different rest area.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Trip - Day 2

I've named my GPS system. I've given it some thought since I bought it, and it was a tough decision.

The proper name needed to start with a "G" because it's a GPS system, of course. Which gives us Gretchen, Gertrude, Gina, Ginny (or Ginnie), since it's a girl voice. Gretchen is out, since the voice has an American accent, not German. Gertrude, well, it's not the right fit. So I've been going back and forth between Gina and Ginny.

Ginny is a little girl's name, and Gina sounds like a professional. Except when the name brings to mind one of the episodes of Hill Street Blues--the one where the extremely obese mobster has a heart attack and dies at the station, and his young wife, Gina, is with him. She has the little-girl voice of all little-girl voices. And as a couple of the cops are carrying the mobster's body down the stairs (Renko: "I think I done herniated myself!"), and we see the pretty young widow talking to one of the cops who didn't have to carry her husband, we hear this loud bellow, "Giii-naaa....!" And she says, "Oh, my God! The fat pig is alive!" But he died again and stayed dead the second time.

Anyway, that's what I think about sometimes with the name Gina. Still, my GPS is definitely not a Ginny, because she's kind of a control freak. I told her I'm going to my mom's house, and she just doesn't understand the need to stop once in a while for lunch or gas or whatever. So whenever I pull off the interstate and start heading for Jack in the Box or McDonalds, she starts telling me in no uncertain terms, "In point-one miles, turn left." And when I disobey, she says, "Recalculating. In 400 feet, turn right, then turn right." Like I'm going to obey any better this time than when I didn't turn left.

So it's Gina, the adult. And I'll just have to ignore the Hill Street Blues reruns that jump into my head.

One of the things I like about Gina is that she tells me how far it is until my next turn (or "Keep left"). It was disconcerting yesterday, after I got on I-8 and past a couple spots where the road split into two separate highways, because Gina said, "Continue for 371 miles," and then she shut up, until I pulled off the road (see above). The 371 miles ended just west of the I-10 junction.

Now that I'm on I-10 and in New Mexico (some town that starts with an "L", I think), I have about 120 miles until Gina gives me more orders. That's after she helps me get back to the interstate.

Here are some pictures of where Gina and I have been today. These are all in Arizona.

There's a stretch of Arizona, about 20 to 30 miles west of the place where I-8 meets I-10, where saguaros show up and surround the road on both sides, like really tall people with their hands in the air, begging, "Help me." This is near the eastern edge of that stretch. (The bush on the left is a palo verde, not a saguaro.) But after you stop seeing the saguaros, you see a sign for the next exit, which can take you to Saguaro National Park. I've never taken that exit. Yet.

Well, it turns out that if every boulder-strewn hillside deserved the name, the Rocky Mountains, half of the southwest would have that name. I guess it's best we leave things the way they are. This is in Arizona along the I-10. Note the similarity to east San Diego County.

Finally, for a little pink. These flowers were blooming at a rest area.

Now to see if I can get some more Medical Terminology to stick in my brain...

The Trip - Day 1

I didn't get on the road until 2:30, after filling my car with my stuff, filling the tank with gas, and filling the cooler with ice. My kids kept me company from late morning until I left.

Five hours on the road (with stops for a snack, a rest area, and dinner) only got me to Yuma, still with half a tank of gas left. It may only be by two miles, but I'm out of California.

Here are a couple pictures I took from the road while driving. I love little bitty cameras with big viewing screens!

Yorkie with his head out the window:

This is along the I-8 east of Alpine, which is east of San Diego. When I was a kid and we drove to see our cousins in Houston, we took the same route. I wondered then why the people who name mountain ranges wasted the name "Rocky Mountains" on some other range, when this place was the more deserving recipient of that name. Or maybe the Boulder Mountains would do. No such luck. These hills are in the Cuyamaca Mountains. But maybe Cuyamaca is the Kumeyaay name for "overflowing with big rocks."

I don't expect to make it all the way to my mom's house today. Hopefully across Arizona and most of New Mexico, though.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Today's The Day

I'm leaving today. I'm not packed yet, but that will change.

My car (once I get to Texas) will have to be dolly-towed. Sigh! The owner of the muffler shop said the company Back East with the transmission pump wouldn't give him a definite yes, that using the pump will resolve the issue. So, in good conscience the owner wouldn't recommend that I use it. And that means that we find a dolly in Texas.

OK. I can go with the flow, and so can my mom. Her little dog Scooter doesn't care.

I got several things resolved yesterday--shipped a 35-pound box of my winter clothes to my mom's house, told the camera store that it's OK to ship the camera to a Texas address when the billing address is in California, returned the valances that turned out not to match the curtains in the master bedroom AT ALL (it would have helped if I had brought one of the curtains with me the first time), went to the computer shop and picked up the hard drive backups from our broken computers (Windows 95, 98, Millenium), and my astrophysics-major friend picked up my telescope to take it to the guy I bought it from (her friend) so he can readjust the lens/mirror. We'll pick it up in a few weeks when I'm back in the area, and then we'll be seeing stars.

And most important, I studied for and took my midterm test in Intro to Diagnostic Imaging. The deadline was 7:00pm today, so I stayed up last night so I wouldn't have to worry about it today. Next deadline: Wellness Lesson 4 (Fitness), quiz due by tomorrow. I'll tackle that tonight when I get to a motel, hopefully somewhere around the Arizona-New Mexico border.

Now it's time to finish breakfast, gather everything I think I will need (and have room for) for the next few weeks and try to get it all in my car. I hope I don't forget anything important!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Teen Finds Diamond

The AP reported yesterday on a 13-year-old girl who found a diamond sticking up from the path where she was walking.

Walking along a path taken by thousands of others at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, Nicole Ruhter noticed something everyone else had missed -- a tea-colored, 2.93-carat diamond.

Ruhter, 13, of Butler, Mo., said she would name her find the "Pathfinder Diamond" after pulling what she described as a broken pyramid from the ground. Her parents, grandparents, brother and two sisters had already spent the day digging in two other fields before heading down the path just after 7 p.m. Tuesday.

"We were walking through the path and I just walked and saw this little shine," said Ruhter, who has just finished the seventh-grade. "We wrapped it up in a little dollar bill and took it back and showed them."

Ruhter said both park rangers and her vacationing family got excited about the diamond, found along a service road. So far this year, visitors to the park have found 332 diamonds, three of them Tuesday alone, said Bill Henderson, assistant park superintendent.

"I was kind of praying to God. I was saying, 'I don't care if it's worth whatever it's worth, I don't care if it's a tiny little sliver of something, I just want something,'" Ruhter said. "Ten minutes later, I just found it."

Crater of Diamonds State Park is the world's only diamond-producing site open to the public and visitors are allowed to keep the gems they find. On average, two diamonds are found each day at the park.

I think maybe my mom and I should visit Crater of Diamonds State Park when we're in Arkansas. You never know. Scooter might find something good.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Trying to Get Ready

I need to leave for Texas VERY SOON, but I'm not ready yet. The house isn't ready to sell, I haven't shipped (or boxed up) everything I need to ship to my mom's house, and I'm just keeping up with my online class deadlines.

I should leave for Texas tomorrow. Saturday is a really bad day to head east, because everyone from all over Southern California needs to take the same two freeways (I-5 and I-15) to get to Mexico or the Colorado River, and they do that Friday after work or first thing Saturday morning. I don't want to be on the road with them.

Yesterday and today I had lunch with friends I hadn't seen in a long time, and we caught up with each other. I could have used that time for getting ready or learning medical terminology related to ear-nose-throat parts. But really, being with friends was the best use of my time.

After lunch I picked up a couple pairs of jeans in my new, smaller size (I only had one pair), and now I'm home having a cup of tea and taking a break in between all the phone calls I need to make: Arrange for proctoring my Medical Terminology final exam at a community college in Kalispell (she hasn't called me back, so I left a second message), call the realtor that someone in the know recommended (and avoid the one that everyone else is using, because this person says that realtor is a major pain), call a computer guy to help me with the old computers, call the Toyota service department and make sure they tell me everything I really need to know about towing my Corolla behind the motorhome.

I talked to my mom this morning and went over some of this with her. What I may end up doing, because my sister's schedule is so tight, is pretend I'm taking a 2 or 3 week vacation, and leave the house for when I get back. I'll just go out to Texas and we'll do our Four Corners trip with my sister. Then, when we head back to California to start our West Coast leg of the journey, I can finish taking care of the house.

Sometimes the optimist in me comes face-to-face with the reality of challenges and setbacks, and it isn't always a pretty picture. I may be stubborn, but I try not to be stupid enough to fight for a long time with the way things are. Here's hoping this isn't one of my stupid times...

Update (Friday morning):

I talked to a service advisor yesterday at the Toyota dealer, and he said I absolutely cannot tow an automatic "on all fours" and need to dolly-tow it. He doesn't know why one of the other service advisors would have told me I could tow it, because "everyone knows" the answer is no. Period. The transmission fluid needs to circulate when the drive wheels are turning, and if the engine is off (as it would be when being towed), the transmission fluid doesn't circulate, and you destroy the transmission.

So I went back to the muffler/hitch shop where they custom-fitted my car for towing, told him what the dealer said, and asked, "What are my options?" He mentioned that a company Back East sells an after-market pump that will circulate the transmission fluid while the car is being towed. He said out loud what my gut was saying: "You don't want to dolly-tow it. It's too much of a hassle."

But by this time it was after the East Coast work day, so I'm waiting to hear from the muffler shop today about the pump and how long it will take to get here. I may go ahead and drive to Texas and have the pump sent there and have one of the Texas mechanics install it when I get there.

I've already complained to the Service Manager at the Toyota dealer for the way his advisors were so flippant and/or uninformed with me about the towing questions I had. Granted, towing packages aren't what dealers' service departments do for a living, but they should at least have respect for the kind of money their customers will be spending elsewhere based on the advice the Toyota's supposed-experts give them. The Service Manager said he'll discuss it with his people at their next acronym for a staff meeting, which is the most I can hope for.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Target Trouble

As I discussed (whined is probably the better word, but I'm not going there) last week, my beautiful camera arrived with the wrong lens. They promised to get me the right one as soon as they could, and the delivery was made today. Again with the wrong lens.

After calling Target again, they sent me an email asking for me to please let them know if they resolved my inquiry. They had two links: one for Yes, and one for No. I clicked No, and it took me to a web page asking me what they could have done better. Here's what I told them (order numbers removed for your safety):

This order was a followup to my original order (first order number).

I ordered a Nikon D80 camera with lens. Here's the page on your website that describes the product details: Notice that the features tab lists '28-200mm (35mm Equivalent), 7.5x Optical Zoom' as the lens that comes with the camera body. That is the lens I want.

Other websites, like Costco, are offering the 18mm - 135mm lens with their camera body, but that's too much wide-angle and not enough telephoto. Your 28mm - 200mm is perfect, which is why I ordered it. But the camera arrived with the 18mm - 135mm lens. So I called customer service, and they reshipped, but the reshipment also came today with the 18mm - 135mm lens.

So I called customer service again, and they said they can't ship a third time, because there may be a problem either with the way the product is stocked in the warehouse, or with the way the website is describing the product. Either way, I'm really frustrated, because I leave on my trip THIS WEEK, WITHOUT my ideal camera. So to answer your question about what you could have done better: You could have got your act together after my first call and fixed whatever needed fixing, rather than redoing the thing that didn't work for a second time!

Ugh! The seeking after perfection can be such an ordeal. And I'm running out of time.

Purple Frog Discovered in Suriname

Photo credit: REUTERS/Paul Ouboter/Handout

Reuters reported yesterday on the discovery of 24 new species, including this purple-splotched frog.

A purple fluorescent frog is one of 24 new species found in the South American highlands of Suriname, conservationists reported on Monday, warning that these creatures are threatened by illegal gold mining.

The discovery of so many species outside the insect realm is extraordinary and points up the need to survey distant regions, said Leeanne Alonso of Conservation International, which led the expedition that found the new species.

"When you go to these places that are so unexplored and so remote, we do tend to find new species ... but most of them are insects," Alonso said by telephone from Suriname's capital, Paramaribo. "What's really exciting here is we found a lot of new species of frogs and fish as well."

The two-tone frog -- whose skin is covered with irregular fluorescent lavender loops on a background of aubergine -- was discovered in 2006 as part of a survey of Suriname's Nassau plateau, the conservation group said.

Apparently, the frog hasn't told them its name yet.

And we'll skip the part about the new species of dung beetles they found...


Now, for a special bonus feature, here's a little item from the Daily Mail (UK) Sunday, with lots of pictures of animals who got their heads stuck in things. Pretty funny, though the comments reveal the high number of people who got their sense of humor stuck in something a long time ago and just left it there. (See one of my earliest posts for my opinion of dogs and humor.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Star Trek Gets Closer

The Independent (UK) reported today that the teleportation of data has occurred.

A team of physicists has teleported data over a distance of 89 miles from the Canary Island of La Palma to the neighbouring island of Tenerife, which is 10 times further than the previous attempt at teleportation through free space.

The scientists did it by exploiting the "spooky" and virtually unfathomable field of quantum entanglement - when the state of matter rather than matter itself is sent from one place to another. Tiny packets or particles of light, photons, were used to teleport information between telescopes on the two islands. The photons did it by quantum entanglement and scientists hope it will form the basis of a way of sending encrypted data.

Albert Einstein described quantum entanglement as "spooky action at a distance" and it relies on the fact that two photons can be created in such a way that they behave as a single object, even if they are separated by large distances. In behaving in this way they are acting as a teleportation machine because any changes to one causes similar changes to the other. The way this is done is via a third photon, which is teleported from the photon in the transmitting station to the photon in the receiver.

In the process, the third photon becomes entangled with the transmitting photon and so carries its quantum information to the receiving photon, which interacts with the third photon in such a way that it becomes identical to it - hence the information is successfully transmitted.

A lot of this is over my head, and if even Einstein called it "spooky," I don't feel so bad. That said, this is really cool. Quantum physics is a mind-boggler, but if they can make this thing work, there's no telling how sweeping the changes will be on life as we know it.

Congressman "Cold Cash" Jefferson Indicted


Reuters reported today on the indictments.

U.S. Democratic Rep. William Jefferson was indicted on Monday on 16 criminal counts including soliciting bribes and paying off a Nigerian official, a U.S. Justice Department official said.

The lengthy 94-page indictment also charges Jefferson with racketeering, soliciting bribes for his family, fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the official said.

Jefferson, who has denied any wrongdoing, faces a maximum of 235 years in prison if convicted.

Just to refresh your memory, now that it's been so long since this story was in the news, here's a recap of the facts:

The FBI said it caught Jefferson on videotape accepting $100,000 cash intended as a bribe for a Nigerian official, and that $90,000 of that money was found hidden in a freezer in Jefferson's house.

It's about time the Justice Department did its job with Jefferson.

Israel Attacks Militants in Gaza

Photo credit: REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen

Another of Reuters' top photos, the caption reads:

An Israeli soldier directs a tank near Kibbutz Mefalsim, just outside the northern Gaza Strip, June 3, 2007. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday that Israel's attacks against militants in the Gaza Strip had led to a drop in rocket strikes from the territory and they would continue. (ISRAEL)

It's about time Olmert figured out that going after your attackers helps keep them from attacking you more. Whether it's by destroying your enemy's weaponry or killing the individuals using that weaponry, taking the battle to the enemy works.

And rolling over and playing dead, hoping that will convince your enemy you're not worth the effort, doesn't work. For too long since he fought Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, Olmert has been passive. It's nice to see that changing.

First Day of School

Photo credit: REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

This is from today's Reuters' best pictures from the last 24 hours. The caption reads:

A first grader cries while sitting inside her classroom on the first day of school in Manila June 4, 2007. An estimated 20 million children across the Philippines headed back to school on Monday for another year. (PHILIPPINES)

It's a little early here to be thinking about the first day of school, but this brings back some memories.

When each of my kids started kindergarten, I took the morning off work to see them off to school and mark the change in their status from preschooler to schoolkid. I took them to the daycare lady's house, watched them get on their school bus, and then I ran the back way to the school to wait for the bus to arrive.

For my son, I shed tears as he and his lost-looking classmates lined up behind their teacher and then followed her into the depths of the school

For my daughter, I didn't cry, because I was so taken by the open wailing of so many of the other five-year-olds, for whom this was their first time away from their mothers. It was very sweet in a sad sort of way.

The little girl in the picture reminds me of those crying kids on their first day at school.

I bet homeschooled kids don't have days like this one.

Friday, June 01, 2007

President Bush Says More on Immigration Bill

According to President Bush, I'm sucking the soul out of America.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported Wednesday on Bush's comments.

In an exclusive interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Bush expressed his determination to fight for changes that would let millions of illegal immigrants gain legal status. He cast the debate as a struggle over America’s soul and its reputation as a welcoming nation.

"I’m deeply concerned about America losing its soul. Immigration has been the lifeblood of a lot of our country’s history," the president said during an interview on Air Force One. "I am worried that a backlash to newcomers would cause our country to lose its great capacity to assimilate newcomers."

America's soul is being violated not by me, but by the elites in Washington who want to pass this disastrous piece of "immigration" legislation. I'm so ticked off, I'm tempted to use strong language.

America is a welcoming nation, and we do have a great capacity to assimilate newcomers. We (I'm speaking loosely, because I wasn't around for a lot of this) treated the Irish badly when they first came here, but now St. Patrick's Day (and his green beer) is one of the holidays we celebrate without taking the day off.

We treated the Italians badly when they first came here, but now Italian food, and especially pizza, are as American as apple pie. We think nothing of going out for Chinese food or sushi or especially Mexican food. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more north of the border than it is south of the border.

The problem isn't Americans' willingness to allow assimilation of new cultures. It's the lack of willingness on the part of the newcomers to assimilate into American culture.

And the coming catastrophe of this Congressional crapola of "comprehensive immigration reform" is just the beginning. It's an incredibly huge disincentive for any of the now-illegal-yet-soon-to-be-documented aliens to assimilate at all. They get all the benefits without any responsibilities to speak of.

Sure, they'll pay $1000 to start, but how many of them have employers who will pay that fee as a cost of doing business? And once the fee is paid and they pass the nominal background "check" (Immigration clerk looks around, "Do you see any problems? I don't see any problems. Approved!"), they get to stay until the day they die. Unassimilated. Twelve million of them or more.

And the rest of us have to learn to speak Spanish if we want to get a job anywhere that deals with the public. (How come we don't have French illegals? I'd get that job in a heartbeat.)

I love our legal immigrants, and I'm in favor of loosening the restrictions that exist on the normal kind of legal immigration through the existing channels we already have. And we should pay the money we need to in order to hire enough people to process the legal immigration applicants that are already in line.

But what I really don't want to do is grant de facto legal status to all the cheats and criminals and, yes, terrorists who are in this country.

What really torques my jaws is the pro-illegal-alien movement that's been in our faces for over a year with their "Up Yours!" attitude, screaming that America belongs to them and not us and refusing to become part of American culture. Ever since the mass protests in the first half of 2006, the immigration issue has felt more like an invasion than anything else.

La Shawn Barber has a great couple of posts on illegal immigration, with some good links. Take a look at Culture of Illegal Aliens (don't miss the comments) and It's Official.

President Bush doesn't have a clue how angry people are. And he doesn't want one, either.


David Limbaugh's column.

Peggy Noonan's column.

Starbucks Switcheroo

The AP reported yesterday that Starbucks is switching to 2% milk in its drinks.

Drinks in North America will soon be made by default with the lower-fat milk, but customers can still request their cappuccino with whole milk, the company said.

Starbucks said it made the switch based on increased requests from consumers for low-fat milk in stores, as well as increasing purchases of lower fat milk in U.S. consumers' homes.

The coffeeshop company tested the 2 percent espresso drinks in Jacksonville, Fla.; Orange County, Calif.; the state of Oregon; and London, Ontario, in Canada and said the results were "overwhelmingly positive."

A 16-ounce "grande" latte made with reduced fat milk has 190 calories, compared with 260 calories in one made with whole milk.

That's good news! In the future, people who drink a lot of Starbucks will only get chubby instead of obese.

Of course, since I'm not a coffee drinker, this only applies to me a little. I really like the Strawberries & Cream frappuccino, but that has about a billion calories. The switch should get it down to only a million, which is still too many, since I'm trying to stay in my smaller jeans size.

Either way, I'm having real trouble using up the Starbucks gift cards I have. I got one over a year ago from the Sales Rep from Hell, when she switched to a different department and gave a few of us the cards for having put up with her. I think it was for $20, and most of that is still available. I won the other Starbucks card in a raffle at Christmas. It still has money on it too. Having only a cup of hot tea there now and then makes the Starbucks bucks last a long time.

But if you're a die-hard, must-have Starbucks fan, this should be good news. Now you won't have to waste your time begging them to use the 2% milk anymore.