Monday, June 30, 2008

Friday at the Fair II

Oops! I forgot to talk about my second Friday working the Fair. Last week, after work was finished, I looked through the photography and home & garden buildings.

This week, I got to the Del Mar Fairgrounds/Racetrack early and went in search of live animals. I found some in the cattle barn.

At the end of an aisle between two pens of cows was this birthing pen. Someone said the calf was only a couple hours old. He (I didn't get a definitive confirmation of his maleness, but it helps to call him a "he" so I can call the mom a "she" and avoid confusion) was still wet, and his mom repeatedly licked him.

After a short time, he started testing his legs and gave a wobbly scamper, but it must have scared him, because he didn't try to scamper again while I was there. Instead, he began looking for some supper, nosing along his mom's ribcage toward her front legs.

When that didn't prove sucessful, he worked his way back and eventually found what he was looking for, but my picture of that was too blurry to post.

That was all the time I had there, so I washed my hands (they had hand-washing posts by all the exits with signs saying we were required to wash when leaving the barn), and reported for work at the other exit from the one where I worked last time.

For my break I went to the stands nearby and watched some of the motorcycle-jumping exhibition. Unfortunately, I was facing into the sun, but I captured a couple of the jumps.

I made sure to stop at the ladies restroom that has the swallow's nest on the ceiling. The baby faces are toward the left and their tails are to the right.

Their mom flew in one time, and all the beaks popped open in unison, but I wasn't quick enough to get the picture. Here they are, though, waiting for more.

It was a pleasant day, not nearly as hot as last time, and my sole co-worker had the same first name as mine! Very unusual, but it sure made it easy to remember her name.

Next week, I work twice as long on the Fourth of July and finish my shift about an hour before the fireworks should start.

Bill Clinton is a Classless Act

The Telegraph (UK) reported Sunday that former President Bill Clinton has joined his wife in offering support to Barack Obama. It's not the offer of support that makes Clinton classless. It's that he did it with his usual "charm."

The Telegraph has learned that the former president's rage is still so great that even loyal allies are shocked by his patronising attitude to Mr Obama, and believe that he risks damaging his own reputation by his intransigence.

A senior Democrat who worked for Mr Clinton has revealed that he recently told friends Mr Obama could "kiss my ass" in return for his support.

Funny, but it's only for the people on the left that Clinton risks damaging his reputation. For those of us on the right, Clinton's reputation has for years been as soiled as Monica's dress.

It has long been known that Mr Clinton is angry at the way his own reputation was tarnished during the primary battle when several of his comments were interpreted as racist.

But his lingering fury has shocked his friends. The Democrat told the Telegraph: "He's been angry for a while. But everyone thought he would get over it. He hasn't. I've spoken to a couple of people who he's been in contact with and he is mad as hell.

He's never going to get over it, because he believes he deserves to be back in the White House, regardless of what it takes to get there. The man is a petulant, bitter, self-absorbed... three letters with an O in the middle (I'll let you decide which one is more appropriate), and the left is only figuring that out now.

I've noticed that the left likes to think of people on the right as being stupid. Maybe they should look in the mirror the next time they feel like finding someone who's clueless. They've been that way about Clinton for a very long time.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

How to Slice an Avocado

People, even strangers, often come up to me and ask, "How can I get perfect slices from an avocado?

It's not that I'm secretive about it, but it's hard to tell someone without showing how it's done. So here it is, my Public Service Announcement, with pictures (although the copyright says "SkyePuppy," the photos were taken by my daughter under duress).

First, remove the little stem piece. Don't use a major knife, because some delicate work is called for. I like to use a slender steak knife. Start at the top and cut down until the knife stops at the seed, then tilt the knife forward, cutting the skin downward toward the bottom (click to enlarge any of the pictures):

Then tilt the knife back toward you, cutting the skin around the front and the bottom:

Keep going, turning the avocado, until your cut meets up with your first cut:

Give it a little twist:

And voilà:

Take the half without the seed and cut it almost in half, stopping just before breaking the knife through the back part of the skin:

This is the delicate part. Run the knife through the avocado several times, with the knife tip brushing but not cutting the skin:

Your avocado is now sliced:

Bend the skin back to release the slices. Sometimes the skin isn't flexible and breaks apart in little annoying pieces. As an alternative, you can use a spoon to scoop out the slices. This time, the skin cooperated perfectly:

Here are the slices from the first part:

And from the rest of this half:

If you're not going to eat the whole avocado at once (for example, when you're sandwiching alone), then you'll want to keep the second half from turning brown or black until you get back to it. Air will blacken an avocado much too fast. Keep the seed in place and drip some lime or lemon juice on top of the exposed avocado and slip it into a sandwich bag. Remove as much air as possible and store in the refrigerator:

When you're ready for the second half, remove from the bag, poke the tip of the knife into the seed near the avocado flesh, and pry the seed out:

Then slice as above.

Amaze your friends! Impress your enemies! Have perfect avocado slices from now on.

Following Up On Zimbabwe

I started this post several days ago, but I've been pretty busy lately, and each time I came back there was more news from Zimbabwe that changed the direction I was going. So here's a wrap-up:

When last we heard, Robert Mugabe's opponent in the presidential election, Morgan Tsvangirai, had withdrawn from the runoff election scheduled for yesterday.

On June 23, the AP reported that Tsvangirai took refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare after a police raid on his party's headquarters.

Dutch officials said Monday that Tsvangirai sought shelter in their embassy in Harare following his announcement Sunday that he was withdrawing from the runoff, but said he did not ask for political asylum.

Tsvangirai "asked if the Dutch Embassy could provide him with refuge because he was feeling unsafe," Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told the British Broadcasting Corp.

At a news conference in Harare late Monday, Zimbabwe's police commissioner, Augustin Chihuri, said neither Tsvangirai nor his party had reported any threats, and police were not seeking the politician.

"Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai is under no threat at all from Zimbabweans and he should cast away these delusions," Chihuri said.

I'm glad the Dutch embassy was willing to offer Tsvangirai safety, because--Chihuri's statements to the contrary--Tsvangirai is at risk. Naturally, there would be no reason to report any threats to the police, when the police were the ones doing the threatening and the carrying through with some of those threats. The only "delusions" are that people would believe him.

Paul Wolfowitz offered some good analyis of Zimbabwe's situation Wednesday.

Since Mr. Tsvangirai's withdrawal announcement, criticism from African governments has become stronger – even from Angola, one of Mugabe's closest allies. This provides an opening for a more active role by the international community.

Words of condemnation help to deny Mugabe's claims of legitimacy, but words alone are not enough. Specific sanctions against some of the leaders of the violence may also be useful, but their impact will be limited. Broad economic sanctions will only increase the suffering of Zimbabwe's people, whose misery has already been increased by Mugabe's refusal to accept emergency food assistance from the U.N.

The international community should commit – as publicly and urgently as possible – to provide substantial support if Mugabe relinquishes power. Even if Mr. Tsvangirai were to become president tomorrow he would still face a daunting set of problems: restoring an economy in which hyperinflation has effectively destroyed the currency and unemployment is a staggering 70%; getting emergency food aid to millions who are at risk of starvation and disease; promoting reconciliation after the terrible violence; and undoing Mugabe's damaging policies, without engendering a violent backlash.

He has more, but I don't think the international community is able to generate more than a bunch of hot air. I won't be holding my breath.

The Times Online (UK) reported yesterday that Mugabe was running unopposed in the runoff rather than canceling the meaningless election.

Addressing his last rally before polls open for the surreal one-horse race, Mr Mugabe told supporters that he would be magnanimous in victory and willing to talk with the opposition.

“Should we emerge victorious, which I believe we will, sure we won’t be arrogant, we will . . . say ‘Let’s sit down and talk’, and talk we shall,” he told the crowd on the outskirts of Harare. “So there it is, let the MDC reject it or accept it. We will continue to rule this country in the way we believe it should be ruled. This is an African country with responsible leaders.”

Such a reasonable, responsible leader!

Then came the election. The AP reported yesterday that citizens were being harassed and led to the polls to vote.

Paramilitary police in riot gear deployed in a central Harare park Friday, then began patrolling the city. Militant Mugabe supporters roamed the streets, singing revolutionary songs, heckling people and asking why they were not voting.

"I've got no option but to go and vote so that I can be safe," explained a young woman selling tomatoes.

The voters had their say, though. The Telegraph (UK) reported today on the voter protests.

Despite threats from Mr Mugabe's thugs to beat those who refused to vote, many polling stations in the capital Harare had not seen a single ballot cast three hours after opening.

Others remained virtually empty and many of those who did vote simply spoiled their ballot papers.

Mr Mugabe's militiamen warned they would launch "Operation Red Finger", targeting anyone whose left little finger is not stained with the ink used to indicate who has voted.

One man in Harare's suburb of Belvedere spoiled his ballot in protest against the regime. Holding up his coloured finger, he said: "It's just to be safe. I have got to vote, they have been saying 'We will spill your blood if you don't'."

But he marked two crosses on his ballot paper, beside both Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai: "You have to put two crosses, if you leave it blank they will fill it in themselves," he said.

Others did not even bother going to the polling booths. A waiter with a red fingertip admitted: "I did it myself, with a ball-point pen. It's better to be safe."

Throughout the day, state television insisted that a huge turnout was taking place, attributing the absence of queues to a hitherto unknown efficiency among election officials.

There isn't much hope for change in Zimbabwe, except change for the worse. But it's good to see that at least some of the Zimbabweans still have their spirits intact. Maybe in the longterm, after Mugabe leaves the scene, these will be the ones who have the heart to begin the almost-impossible work of rebuilding that once great country.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Supreme Court OKs Gun Ownership

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the total gun ban in D.C. is unconstitutional.

The court's 5-4 ruling struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns and imperiled similar prohibitions in other cities, Chicago and San Francisco among them. Federal gun restrictions, however, were expected to remain largely intact.

The court had not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791. The amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

The basic issue for the justices was whether the amendment protects an individual's right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia, a once-vital, now-archaic grouping of citizens. That's been the heart of the gun control debate for decades.

The answer: Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms exists and is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.

La Shawn Barber is celebrating:

Woo-hoo! Ding, dong, the ban-witch is dead!

I’m happy to announce that today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns is unconstitutional. (Source) Individuals have a right to bear arms, so says the court, and this DC resident is about to start bearing, baby!

You go, La Shawn! And all the other DC residents who can go out and get a gun now.

This is great news, and it highlights how important our choice of president will be. The next president will be nominating Supreme Court Justices. We will either get liberal, activist justices who believe in legislating from the bench and looking at international law for inspiration, or we will get justices who believe in checking the Constitution to see what it actually says before making decisions.

Choose wisely when you vote.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Obama's Lead Over McCain

The Los Angeles Times reported today that Barack Obama is 12 points ahead of John McCain in the presidential race.

Buoyed by enthusiasm among Democrats and public concern over the economy, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has captured a sizable lead over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at the opening of the general election campaign for president, the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll has found.

In a two-man race between the major party candidates, registered voters chose Obama over McCain by 49% to 37% in the national poll conducted last weekend.

Obama's advantage, bigger in this poll than in most other national surveys, appears to stem in large part from his positions on domestic issues. Both Democrats and independent voters say Obama would do a better job than McCain at handling the nation's economic problems, the public's top concern.

Anybody who thinks Obama can handle our economic problems has already checked his or her brain at the door. I'm sure they'll get their brains back when they realize that Obama's decision to ban oil development (can you say $10 gas?) at the same time he pours billions into developing an engine powered by dilithium crystals, on top of raising taxes of all kinds, has sent our country into an economic tailspin. The difference between Bush's economic problems and Obama's disastrous economy should be obvious to all but those whose heads are firmly buried in the sand.

One commenter, PHP87, had this to say about the accuracy of the polling:

According to Gallup, the makeup of Registered Voters looks like this: 37% Dems 34% Indys 28% GOP So Dems have a 9% advantage over Republicans. But the LA Times and Newsweek, which both have Obama ahead by 12-15%, are over sampling Dems and under sampling Republicans. LA TImes: 39% Dems 27% Indys 22% GOP Newsweek: 38% Dems 35% Indys 23% GOP Any wonder they're coming up with double-digit leads of Obama? Because their polls have a built-in, near double-digit bias for Obama. Take out the bias, and Obama has a 3-4 pt. lead, which is in line with legit polls like Gallup and Rasmussen.


Of course, none of this really matters, since the Electoral College is what determines the winner. You have to go state-by-state and add up the electoral votes.

Here's a state map with the "safe" states already filled in (My vote in California won't count). You can play with possible results and see who wins. I tried it by setting the swing states to the party that won in 2004, with Wisconsin (an apparent tie) thrown to the Democrats, and McCain pulls off a big win.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sports Bra Saves Stranded Hiker

The AP (Shhh! Don't tell!) reported today that a stranded hiker used her sports bra to call for help. Not a direct quote, because I can't afford to pay for excerpts:

Jessica Bruinsma, 24, used her sports bra to signal for help after she got lost in the Swiss Alps and fell 15 feet to a rocky ledge. She dislocated her shoulder and couldn't climb her way out, so she stayed on the ledge and drank water from a supply box that was either already on the ledge waiting for her or that fell with her (the AP story is unclear, so I don't know why anybody would quote directly from it anyway).

Jessica, from Colorado, was able to reach a loose timber-transport cable, so she removed her sports bra and attached it to the cable, retaining her shirt and coat for warmth. Later, when a repairman fixed the cable and got it moving again, they were surprised to see the bra. Having heard that people were searching for a woman, the workers notified the proper authorities, who found Jessica and airlifted her in a helicopter. Her ordeal lasted 70 hours, and because she was in good shape (training for a marathon), she is on the road to recovery.

Ladies, let this be a lesson. If you need to get a man's attention, there's no better way than removing your bra and using it as a signal. A signal for what, I'll let you decide...

Mugabe Wins in Zimbabwe

No, he didn't win the runoff election. He won through intimidation.

MSNBC reported yesterday that Robert Mugabe's opposition pulled out of the election.

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Sunday he is pulling out of this week's presidential runoff because of mounting violence and intimidation against his supporters.

Tsvangirai announced his decision during a news conference in Zimbabwe's capital after thousands of ruling party militants blockaded the site of the opposition's main campaign rally.

"Conditions as of today do not permit the holding of a credible poll," Tsvangirai said. "Given the totality of these circumstances, we believe a credible election is impossible. We can't ask the people to cast their vote on June 27 when that vote will cost their lives. We will no longer participate in this violent sham of an election."

The runoff election will come Friday, but the results this time are a foregone conclusion. More woe is ahead for the people who remain in Zimbabwe.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Empowering Iraqi Women

Photo credit: Lance Cpl. Albert F. Hunt

See-dubya at Michelle Malkin's blog posted Friday about new training in Iraq, referencing a press release from the Marine Corps, dated June 5, 2008. Hmmm. I wonder if the mainstream media will pick up the story.

From the press release:

The training program designed to strengthen Iraqi Security Forces and employ women in the fight against terrorist activity has expanded in Al Anbar province as several new recruits graduated and became the Sisters of Ameriyah-Ferris here on June 5.

The Sisters participated in classes held near the towns of Ameriyah and Ferris. 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines was augmented by the female search teams of Combat Logistics Battalion 1 who came out and taught the five-day training.

To thoroughly train the new Sisters to assist Iraqi Police, the Sisters studied topics such as police ethics, human rights, women’s issues, working in a terrorist environment, female searches and first aid. The Sisters also performed live-fire training with AK-47 rifles and 9mm pistols as a confidence booster. The final stage before graduation involved putting their newly learned skills to the test with on-the-job training at entry control points to Ferris Town.

One of the new graduates said the Iraqi Police of Ferris Town told her about this job opportunity. She said this is her first job and it is a new challenge that she is happy and brave enough to take on.

“I joined to help the Iraqi Police and to help my family,” she said. “I’m proud to get this job. I’m proud to help the Iraqi Police. I’m going to make the city safer. I can prevent illegal passengers in the city. I’m so proud, I’m so happy.”

And the best part is that she can shoot a gun. That's real Girl Power. The feminists in America must be so pleased.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Congress Wants to Spy on Your Finances

WorldNetDaily reported yesterday on a provision the Democrats slipped into their housing bill.

A freedom-focused grassroots organization has issued a nationwide alert about a plan in Congress that would require credit card companies, eBay, Amazon, Google and other companies to report what you buy to the federal government.

FreedomWorks chairman Dick [Armey] said the privacy implications are "breathtaking."

"This is a provision with astonishing reach, and it was slipped into the bill just this week," he said. "Not only does it affect nearly every credit card transaction in America, such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, but the bill specifically targets payment systems like eBay's PayPal, Amazon and Google Checkout," he said.

FreedomWorks said the provision is "hidden deep in Sen. Christopher Dodd's 630-page Senate housing legislation." It was added by the bill's managers without debate and calls for a tracking and reporting system "on nearly every electronic transaction."

"At a time when concerns about both identity theft and government spying are paramount, Congress wants to create a new honey pot of private data that includes Social Security numbers. This bill reduces privacy across America's payment processing systems and treats every American small business or eBay power seller like a criminal on parole by requiring an unprecedented level of reporting to the federal government. This outrageous idea is another reason to delay the housing bailout legislation so that Senators and the public at large have time to examine its full implications," FreedomWorks said.

The Democrats in Congress delayed renewal of FISA legislation for months because they didn't want the government spying on terrorists. It finally passed the House yesterday. But those same Democrats think it's a good idea to collect all of your eBay transactions (I don't shop there, so eBay won't be reporting about me) and all of my American Express transactions. And they think it's such a good idea for the American people that they did a stealth maneuver to bury it in over 600 pages of unrelated legislation.

No wonder the Congressional approval numbers are lower than the President's.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday at the Fair

I had a job interview yesterday at a really good company in San Diego. They said they still have more people to interview, and then late next week they'll narrow it down and bring in the top two for a second interview. It seemed to go well well, but there's no way to know right now.

So I took a small temp job working at the Del Mar Fair today. My job was standing in the sun by one of the entrances, handing out coupon books for three and a half hours, like these people in the matching turquoise T-shirts.

I'll be doing it again the next two Fridays, so I picked up some SPF 70 and applied it before I left home. It seems to have worked beautifully.

After my shift, I went through the photography exhibit (no cameras allowed). The winning photos were so incredibly good, I was intimidated. Still, by the time I finished looking at everything, I gathered up the nerve to ask about how to enter something for next year. The lady said that in March, the website should have the rules for entering. I'll try to remember.

The Home & Garden building had a bunch of cool stuff for sale (most of the cheesy stuff was sold in booths outside), and I chatted with lots of the salespeople, even though I can't spend money on anything. A nice lady wanted me to refinish my kitchen cabinets, but I like the ones I have. A friendly man tried to sell me some shutters. None of the spa salesmen talked to me, though. Just as well.

There were some surprises, for me anyway. A guy selling purple cleaner cleaned my sunglasses, which needed it, because I got sunscreen on them, and then he shined up my Isaiah 54 ring with the purple and a toothbrush. He said he's been selling the product for ten years and travels all around the country, living in Alaska, the Seattle area, Southern California, and Florida. I can't imagine that kind of a vagabond life. I like having a place where I belong.

I learned about a square composting setup with worms (although the guy didn't have any worms on hand that I could see), some easy-fold-up lounge chairs (it felt so good to sit down!), and some frangipani plants that the lady assured me even I could grow. Another man was demonstrating some really expensive cookware to an audience of over a dozen. Hard to believe that many people would watch cookware, but maybe they were just grateful for the chance to get off their feet for a while.

Then I saw an enormous collection of models made of hardwood and polished to perfection. Helicopters, planes, cars, vases, trains, and talking frogs. I took some pictures, but they turned out blurry, because I turned the flash off when I took pictures of my fabrics and never turned it back on. Here's his website, so you can see what he had, but the website doesn't look nearly as impressive as seeing dozens of vehicles and aircraft lined up in neat, polished rows.

Foreigners were present as well. A New Zealander was selling a great invention to use on a weed-eater instead of string spools. Invented by another Kiwi, the gizmo is called a Littl' Juey. I could have used that the last time I tried to mow the weeds--before I broke the shaft of my weed-eater.

And a man from Manchester, England--who thinks soccer is the game that rightfully should be called "football," since you use your feet to play it, as opposed to American football which you play with your hands--was selling some nice outdoor furniture and yard decorations made of bamboo. He stopped in the middle of our conversation to stand on top of a bamboo table for another lady who expressed surprise that the table was only $20. Even with his impressive demonstration and the low price, she still didn't buy it. But it was good to talk to him. His accent lingers after 20 years here in the States and is a welcome change from the ordinary sound of our language.

When I come back next Friday, maybe I'll look at the animals. I might even turn on the flash.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Emotional Stages of Aging

Bekah, at Bekah's Bits, has turned thirty. I'm not giving away any secrets, because she told us herself when it happened.

Then today she revealed that the physical effects of no longer being in her twenties have begun. She's had to switch to decaf in the evening.

That got me thinking. There are the very famous Kübler-Ross stages of grief, which are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Dr. Kübler-Ross described these stages primarily as they relate to people who are facing their own terminal illness. People who are grieving the loss of a loved one may skip a stage or two.

Bekah's recent Caffeine Crisis has brought up an entire realm of untapped psychological analysis, which I will attempt without any scientific study whatsoever, I'm that good. So here they are, the SkyePuppy Stages of Aging Milestones:

Confusion: Something's different, but you're not sure what. And even when you think you've identified the problem, you know that's not something you struggle with, so you try to force things back to normal.

Mortification: Extreme embarrassment at having an Old People's Problem (OPP). This reveals itself in public places, particularly in stores when you're forced to look at shelves that have OPP remedies. The most common symptom of this stage, after reddening of the cheeks, is the wearing of disguises when shopping.

Depression: The sense that any meaningful life is over. You are OLD now and wear the proof every day in the form of reading glasses or the ache of bursitis or the ordering of decaf with your dinner. This stage is optional.

Acceptance: Most often accompanied by a sense of humor. Recognition that limitations do not prevent joyous living. Acceptance brings a return to normal, with a couple extra quirks along for the ride. This stage is optional.

So when you find yourself facing another Aging Milestone, know that you'll be going through most of these stages. The last two, though, are up to you. You can choose to go through both Depression then Acceptance. Or you choose one and stay there. I recommend you don't choose to stay in Depression. It's too depressing, and life is too short for that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Associated Press Charges Bloggers for Excerpts

Michelle Malkin reported yesterday that the AP has billed big-name bloggers for excerpting from AP stories.

The Internet firestorm over the Associated Press’s heavy-handed attempt to bully bloggers over fair use article excerpts has been absolutely schadenfreude-licious. Now, it’s time to turn the tables. If your blog or blog commenters have ever been quoted by the AP, listen up: It’s time to prepare a bill and demand payment.

First, a quick recap: AP showered a left-wing site with
cease-and-desist letters, prompting many political and tech sites to boycott AP content. The latest uproar involves the AP’s pricing scheme charging bloggers $2.50/word and then scaling for excerpt usage. Here’s a screenshot of the media giant’s web usage agreement:

They want to charge people to quote five words??? Come on!

Michelle Malkin has come up with a formula for calculating the bill to charge the AP when they quote from her blog. So far, she figures they owe her $132,135. Not too shabby.

I'm going to have to be more careful, though, since I've quoted from the AP before. The next time I see a good AP story, I'll have to summarize instead of quoting, along the lines of: "The AP reported today that something happened. It was fascinating, and hearts were broken. Write your Congressman!"

Yes, that'll work...

Hen Lays World Map Egg

Weird Asia News reported Monday on an unusual egg.

One very interesting and amazing egg has been laid recently by a hen in Zaozhuang City, China.

The egg looks very similar to a world globe. The patterns on the egg show the seven seas and all four oceans, as well as Greenland and Hainan Islands in China.

I can understand how a Chinese chicken would know about the Hainan Islands, but how would she know about Greenland? Amazing!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Delusional Moments and Other Adventures

The other day I succumbed to a moment of delusion and visited the fabric section of Wal-Mart. I had dropped off my thyroid prescription for a refill and was told it would be 30 minutes, so I started wandering the store.

The carousel of cheap patterns called my name, and I kept going back to this one:

I like the one the girl is wearing, but not in those fabrics. With 15 more minutes to kill, I started looking through the cottons and found this:

The problem was, we (the lady working in the fabric section and I) couldn't find a matching trim color. All they had was black, but the dark color I needed (the fabric is darker in real life than the picture) was midnight blue.

So I bought the fabric and the pattern (and my prescription), and I went to the fabric store, which I haven't set foot in in I don't know how long, to get some midnight blue for the trim. They had it (no need for pictures), and I bought it, content in the knowledge that I was ready to make something when I don't really have the time.

Yes, I know I'm unemployed, but unemployment is a grueling time of hunting down jobs and on rare occasions going on an interview for a job that somebody else is just a little better qualified for, and then back to the computer to fill in online applications that want you to upload your resume and then re-type in all the information you just gave them on your resume. Once in a while, you get to go to the grocery store and buy some more bananas and creamer.

Besides, my sewing table (AKA, the kitchen table) is covered by boxes and bins of my daughter's stuff that hasn't quite made it into her room yet. So I don't know what possessed me to think I should start sewing again.

Anyway, as I was leaving the fabric store with my trim, I spotted some absolutely gorgeous brocades near the door. On sale! I talked to the guy at the checkout stand and asked if chinese jackets are back in style (I had seen a few on the pattern carousel at Wal-Mart), and he said he thought they always stayed in style (silly man!). I didn't buy any of the brocade, but I asked when the sale would be over (the 16th).

I went back the next day (Delusional Moment Number 2) to examine the brocades more closely. One of them demanded to be a jacket:

I realize that would make a second blue garment, but the red brocades were too orangey. There was one red that was closer to the burgundy side of the world, except it had stupid-looking pastel flowers on it that gave it a tacky feel. So I grabbed the bolt of blue-dragon fabric and carried it around while I looked for a good pattern. I finally came down to two choices and decided on this one because of the raglan sleeves:

I picked the shorter length, with black trim and black frog closures so I can wear the jacket with black slacks, and made the purchase. I have no idea how to sew with brocade. Maybe the pattern instructions will help.

Last night I started looking at the cotton top pattern, which I'm probably going to have to alter to be sure it goes over my hips. Tracing paper would be a good thing to have so I don't cut up the pattern, and I can erase and re-draw with a pencil until it looks like it's ready for use. I called Office Depot, but they only sell tracing paper in 8-1/2 x 11" sheets. The fabric store only sells the sheets too (don't they understand?). Aaron Brothers said they have rolls of tracing paper, so I drove down there, only to learn that they close at 8:00pm, and I got there at 8:10.

Back at home, the assistant manager of the association knocked on my door to inform me I'd have no water all night. A neighbor's water meter broke, so they had to shut off the water for the nearby houses until the plumber could come in the morning. Apparently plumbers don't have enough lights to see what they're doing at night and have to work during daylight hours.

I checked and found a large cup with water left in it from my workout, and my daughter had a couple bottles of water that were still half-full, so we had what we needed for brushing our teeth.

The lack of water without time to prepare reminded me of the water shortage days of the 1970s, when people had to conserve water. There were sayings from that era that I was happier having forgotten, but they came back to me unbidden.

"If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."

At some houses I visited at the time--either friends or my grandparents--there were cute little signs in the guest bathrooms that said, "Pee Don't. Poo Do." We knew what it meant.

When my daughter got home from hanging out with friends, I had to break the bad news to her and advise her not flush until morning. As it was, the water didn't come back on until 11:00am, when I left for Aaron Brothers to get the tracing paper.

My day is filled with great joy now as I drink all the water I want and flush the toilet whenever I feel like it, and as I contemplate the idea of two new outfits during that magical time before the frustration of sewing and fitting begins.

Sometimes delusion is a good thing...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Iraqi Upturn II

Last week had good news from Iraq being described in a Washington Post editorial. This week there's more good news.

Kimberly and Frederick W. Kagan's column in the Wall Street Journal today looks at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's progress in securing Iraq.

America is very close to succeeding in Iraq. The "near-strategic defeat" of al Qaeda in Iraq described by CIA Director Michael Hayden last month in the Washington Post [article here] has been followed by the victory of the Iraqi government's security forces over illegal Shiite militias, including Iranian-backed Special Groups. The enemies of Iraq and America now cling desperately to their last bastions, while the political process builds momentum.

These tremendous gains remain fragile and could be lost to skillful enemy action, or errors in Baghdad or Washington. But where the U.S. was unequivocally losing in Iraq at the end of 2006, we are just as unequivocally winning today.

Read the whole article. It describes multiple successful efforts by Maliki to turn the tide toward stability.

What we need here in America is a president who will keep us moving in the direction of winning the war. For now, we have one of those.

ACLU Aiming at Heartland

The AP reported yesterday that the ACLU plans to expand into the American Heartland.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced by far the largest fundraising campaign in its 88-year history Monday, eying a dramatic expansion of its work on social justice issues in relatively conservative states such as Texas and Florida.

"The purpose is to build a civil liberties infrastructure in the middle of the country — where battleground states are often under-resourced and our efforts are most needed," Romero said.

He cited issues such as immigrants' rights, gay rights, police brutality and opposition to the death penalty as causes that would be pursued vigorously as the ACLU expanded in heartland states. At present, the ACLU's biggest offices are in the Northeast, the Pacific states and Illinois; targets for expansion include Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico and Tennessee, with even the smallest ACLU affiliates in line to get extra funding to hire new attorneys and launch new advocacy programs.

"We're going to build these offices into vibrant, muscular civil liberties machines, in places where our issues matter most," he said. "We've done great work in those states, but we've always been the David to the government's Goliath."

Well, that's not exactly the Heartland. It's more a matter of moving into the "M" states (though I'm not sure how Tennessee fits in with the rest of the "M's").

To this I say, "Leave Montana alone! We like it the way it is--or was." My mom's Uncle Andy used to drive around Montana in his pickup truck with a deer-leg gun rack, similar to this one, mounted on the back wall of the cab.

Sometimes those deer feet held guns. That's the way it should be, but I get the feeling that the ACLU would fight against his right to keep and bear those guns (if he were still alive), as they fight against other rights we have.

For those who are naive enough to still believe that the ACLU is an objective defender of everyone's civil rights and not just a tool of the left, I offer this quote:

"It's patently evident that the best fundraiser for the ACLU has been George Bush and his cadre of cronies," Romero said. "If the Republicans loses (sic) control of Congress and the White House, we can be sure (sic) religious right will be much more active on the state level — our work will be critical there."

They oppose the religious right, and they're starting to move into the right's territory. We'd better get busy.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Organ Donation Doubts

In California, if you want to be an organ donor, you get a little sticker to put somewhere on your driver's license. I don't have one of those stickers, so I don't know what it looks like. Maybe it's just me, but I get the feeling that people who don't get the sticker are looked down on somehow. Like they hate people or something.

I don't hate people, but I've had this nagging doubt that if I put the sticker on my drivers license, the medical profession might not try quite as hard to revive me as they would if they knew they weren't getting any of my body parts. I want to be resuscitated and kept on life support and all the things they can do to prolong my life. And that usually means keeping all my parts to myself.

Now it seems I have validation of my concern (call it paranoia, if you prefer). Paul A. Byrne, M.D., wrote an article for Renew America Friday describing the perils of organ donation (emphasis in the original).

Recent news reports of responses in persons declared "brain dead" should have alerted everyone that "brain death" is not true death. In at least two cases, the observed response prevented the organ transplantation protocols from going further. Zack Dunlap later reported how he could hear discussions of his death, but he could not respond at that time. Val Thomas had flat brain waves for 17 hours before her response was observed.

We are continually bombarded with ads to be an organ donor. We are told that we are giving the "gift of life" in organ donation. We are led to believe that organs are taken for transplantation after true death — i.e., after the heart and circulation stops and there is no known way to restore them. We are seldom, if ever, made aware that after true death, the heart, liver, and other vital organs are not suitable for transplantation.

If the [Organ Procurement Organization (OPO)] determines that your organs are suitable, a "designated requestor" is sent to the hospital to seek permission from relatives, close friends, or a government official. This is done under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) that was passed in all 50 States in 1968. The Revised Act 2006 has already been revised in 30 states. The Revised Act has been introduced in 10 more states this year. This Revised Act (2006) makes everyone a "prospective donor." This means that it is presumed that you intend to be an organ donor unless you have signed a refusal.

The Revised Act has language that does not protect the life of the prospective donor and does not benefit ordinary citizens. It appears to discriminate by looking so hard at facilitating the obtaining of organs for transplantation that it overrides the fully and explicitly informed consent of the donor?

A "prospective donor," according to this bill, may be someone who is "near death" and yet the organ procurement medical team can initiate measures that may actually do harm to the still-living potential donor — such as increasing fluids to a head-injured patient, administering heparin and Regitine, etc., in order to "ensure the medical suitability of an organ." It is absolutely appalling to think that once a person is identified as a potential donor, organs for transplant become more important than the person to whom they belong!

Yes, much is being done to get your organs. For an organ to be suitable for transplantation, it must be a healthy organ and must come from a living person. Please wake up! Organ excision does not benefit the person from whom the organs are taken.

There's a lot of detail in the article, most of it depressing. If, like me, you want to keep your vital organs as long as possible, you'll have to to make your wishes very clear.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Giraffe Meat is Kosher

The Telegraph (UK) reported Friday that giraffe meat is kosher.

According to a report in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, vets were asked to treat an adult, female giraffe at Israel's largest zoo, the Safari Park in Ramat Gan.

The team, led by Professor Zohar Amar, took a routine sample of milk and found that it clotted in the way required by Jewish law for kosher certification.

They submitted more milk for verification by the rabbinical authorities and the paper reported that a ruling was made that giraffe meat and milk are acceptable for observant Jews.

The giraffe belongs to the family of grazing animals that have cloven hooves and chew the cud, thereby making them consistent with kosher rules, but the milk test was the final confirmation.

"Indeed, the giraffe is kosher for eating," Rabbi Shlomo Mahfoud, who accompanied the researchers in their work, said.

Of course, this comes with the understanding that people aren't going to jump on a giraffe-eating bandwagon. Giraffes are endangered.

But if you keep kosher and you're attacked someday by an angry giraffe and have to kill it to save your own life, then it would be acceptable for you to eat some of the meat. It's good to know for sure.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gas Prices

I. Cannot. Believe. How. Fast. The. Gas. Prices. Are. Rising.

There are two gas stations at the main intersection just west of my house. One is a Shell station and the other is an Arco station, which doesn't take credit cards, so its prices are always 4 - 10 cents cheaper than the Shell station's prices.

Last night, when I drove past the Arco station, the cheapest gas was up to $4.31 a gallon. Today, at 3:15 pm, it was at $4.34 a gallon.

Exactly one hour later, the price at the same gas station was $4.38. It's making last year's shock at a gas station in the middle of nowhere charging a dollar per gallon more than everywhere else seem like a happy dream.

When will it end?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

PETA Fights for Lobsters

WorldNetDaily reported yesterday about a PETA project in Maine.

While the myth that lobsters scream when they're placed in boiling water has been debunked numerous times, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has taken on the burden of providing voices to the voiceless lobsters with the creation of the Lobster Empathy Center in the former Somerset County jailhouse [in Skowhegan], according to a report in the Bangor Daily News.

PETA sent a proposal to county commissioners to lease the jail building to be used for the tribute to lobster suffering. The proposed lease was assumed to be a publicity stunt by the realtor handling the sale of the property.

Commission Chairman Phil Roy found humor in PETA's choice of location for the center.

"I’m shocked and I don't know what to say. I didn't realize Skowhegan was the coastal community PETA was looking for," Roy said, jokingly.

Skowhegan is an inland town more than 50 miles from Rockland, home of the Maine Lobster Festival. The nearest body of water is the Kennebec River.

"The lobster capital of the state of Maine certainly isn't here," Roy said.

But PETA representatives chose the location not because of its proximity to anything related to lobsters but because it's a former jail.

"A prison is the perfect setting to demonstrate how lobsters suffer when they are caught in traps or confined to cramped, filthy supermarket tanks," PETA wrote in a June 2 letter to the commissioners. "The center will teach visitors to have compassion for these interesting, sensitive animals while also commemorating the millions of lobsters who are ripped from their homes in the ocean off the coast of Maine each year before being boiled alive."

The proposal also included a concession stand that would include faux lobster treats, and children would be given free stuffed toy lobsters with the words, "Lobster Are Friends, Not Food" written on them.

Gee, I wonder where they got that slogan...

The article describes PETA's plans for their Lobster Empathy Center in more detail, but the project is still in questionable status. The county wants to sell the prison, not lease it out, but PETA's proposal involves leasing the property. If they can't come to terms, lobsters might remain food for much longer.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Voting Day

I went to the post office this afternoon, and as I was leaving, the news said we had four more hours until the polls closed for the election.

Election? Wasn't the primary election in February, when I was driving through Florida after our Caribbean cruise? I didn't even get the voter's sample ballot in the mail to warn me this one was coming up. Then the news said something about Propositions 98 & 99, which reminded me that see-dubya posted something about it last night (can't find it now) on Michelle Malkin's blog.

Prop 98 will outlaw eminent domain for private use, and Prop 99 is a stealth attempt to nullify Prop 98. Yes on 98. No on 99.

I drove to the Lutheran church where I always vote, but nobody was in the parking lot, and all the doors were closed. Oh, great.

On my way home from the church, I saw "Polling Place" signs pointing down another street, so I went there. It was on a cul-de-sac in somebody's garage. I asked when they moved to that spot, and they said it was their first time there. Last time, they were in the library. But they couldn't find my name on their list. And my address wasn't in their book. Apparently my side of the main road is in a different precinct from their side of the road.

They looked up the help number and called, and I could hear the digitized voice asking the man to punch one number after another to weave his way through their system. While he was waiting for an answer, he took me over to a map, which showed that my side of the road voted at an elementary school a mile away.

So I went there. Inside the door, the lady asked for my name, and she couldn't find me in her book. One of the other workers said I might be voting on the other side of the room. Two different precincts vote in the same room. It's very confusing.

Over on the other side, they looked me up, but I wasn't in that book either. I was starting to wonder if I had disappeared from the voting registry altogether.

When those people started looking for my address in their other book, the man from the first precinct came over to get me. They had found my name in the pink pages. I told them it's because I'm a girl.

They gave me a paper ballot (yay, paper!) and a black pen and sent me off to vote. There were a few choices to make, like my unopposed Congressman and some local positions I had no idea about. Then there were the two propositions. I voted for my Congressman (he's good) and the Yes and No on 98 and 99, and then I was done.

So much driving and rejection for three little votes, but those votes could be crucial. I wear my "I Voted" sticker proudly.

Eating Bugs to Save the Earth

This is just gross.

The Daily Mail (UK)--one of the tabloid-style news sites (Did you know Sarah Jessica Parker wore a designer dress that's been worn before???)--reported today that eating insects can help the environment and supply our bodies with nutrients. I'm not going to post a picture.

Crunching into crickets or snacking on grilled caterpillar is apparently a means to a nutrient-rich diet that also helps reduce pests and puts less strain on the planet than eating conventional meat.

Some insects in their dried form are said to have twice the protein of raw meat and fish, while others are rich in unsaturated fat and contain important vitamins and minerals.

Experts believe they could one day be marketed as a healthy alternative to fatty snacks.

The article mentions that bugs are eaten in many other countries, and I know that even John the Baptist ate locusts and honey. However, the Bible--properly--mentions it like its a strange thing to do. The experts seem to believe that bug eating is fine.

But Patrick Durst, of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, said that if consumers were to be tempted to broaden their culinary horizons the trick might be to make the bugs look more palatable.

'You need to get the food into a form where someone doesn't have to look the bug in the eye when they eat it,' he said.

Finally, someone's making a little sense. But not enough. To make complete sense, they'd need to scrap the whole idea of converting Europeans and Americans to entomophagy and concentrate on encouraging the people who do eat bugs to eat more.

Iraqi Upturn

Following on the heels of good reports about Afghanistan, comes a good report about Iraq. The Washington Post published an editorial Sunday describing the latest on the Iraq War.

THERE'S BEEN a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks -- which is odd, because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war. While Washington's attention has been fixed elsewhere, military analysts have watched with astonishment as the Iraqi government and army have gained control for the first time of the port city of Basra and the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, routing the Shiite militias that have ruled them for years and sending key militants scurrying to Iran. At the same time, Iraqi and U.S. forces have pushed forward with a long-promised offensive in Mosul, the last urban refuge of al-Qaeda. So many of its leaders have now been captured or killed that U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, renowned for his cautious assessments, said that the terrorists have "never been closer to defeat than they are now."

Considering that this is coming from the Washington Post, which leans left, and not the Washington Times, which leans right, the news from Iraq must really be good. The editorial ends with some advice for Senator Obama:

If the positive trends continue, proponents of withdrawing most U.S. troops, such as Mr. Obama, might be able to responsibly carry out further pullouts next year. Still, the likely Democratic nominee needs a plan for Iraq based on sustaining an improving situation, rather than abandoning a failed enterprise. That will mean tying withdrawals to the evolution of the Iraqi army and government, rather than an arbitrary timetable; Iraq's 2009 elections will be crucial. It also should mean providing enough troops and air power to continue backing up Iraqi army operations such as those in Basra and Sadr City. When Mr. Obama floated his strategy for Iraq last year, the United States appeared doomed to defeat. Now he needs a plan for success.

Exactly. But I don't know if he's capable of doing that.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Afghanistan on the Brink

In a good way.

The Telegraph (UK) reported yesterday about the progress in Afghanistan.

Missions by special forces and air strikes by unmanned drones have "decapitated" the Taliban and brought the war in Afghanistan to a "tipping point", the commander of British forces has said.

The new "precise, surgical" tactics have killed scores of insurgent leaders and made it extremely difficult for Pakistan-based Taliban leaders to prosecute the campaign, according to Brig Mark Carleton-Smith.

In the past two years an estimated 7,000 Taliban have been killed, the majority in southern and eastern Afghanistan. But it is the "very effective targeted decapitation operations" that have removed "several echelons of commanders".

This in turn has left the insurgents on the brink of defeat, the head of Task Force Helmand said.

This is good news, but I have to wonder about Spin. Is this really an accurate assessment of the conditions on the ground, since other media outlets haven't reported it?Is the Telegraph only reporting this because it reflects well on the British troops? Maybe the US media could take some lessons.

The other stories I saw about Afghanistan were about individual incidents of exploding IEDs and a report by NPR about Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's surprise visit to Afghanistan in January.

It's hard to know the overall perspective on Afghanistan when the media is focused on the details. I'm hoping the Telegraph is right.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Nanny State, French Style

The Times Online (UK) reported yesterday on new regulations in France.

They are drawn by a love of American culture - although definitely not American politics - and a passion for line dancing, which enables them to swing but avoid all human contact.

Now country and western has become so big in France that the country's bureaucrats have decided to bring the craze under state control.

In a peculiarly Gallic approach to the phenomenon, French civil servants say line dancing should be submitted to the same rules as sports such as football and rugby. This means imposing training courses for line dancing teachers and a state-approved diploma for anyone who wants to give lessons or run clubs.

Amateur instructors will have to take 200 hours of training under the new rules. Professionals will get 600 hours, including such subjects as line dancing techniques, “the mechanics of the human body” and the English (or at least Texan) language. They will also learn how to teach line dancing to the elderly.

Wow. I've done some line dancing before, and a person could get hurt. Seriously. Good thing the French have seen the importance of state control over such a dangerous pasttime.

Now, if only we can get control of it here. Think of the lives that could be saved...