Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Year Ends

I won't be doing a retrospective of the year. I did that last year, and thankfully 2006 didn't bring any major, life-changing events like 2005 did.

My baby brother (two years younger) and his family came out to Southern California from Massachusetts over Christmas vacation, and they left for home today. He and his wife have two kids, a 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. This was the first time I'd met the kids, and besides last year, when the family descended on my parents' house when my dad passed away, I hadn't seen my brother and his wife since they got married about 15 years ago.

My sister-in-law has family out here, about 5 or 10 minutes from Disneyland--close enough to hear the booming of the fireworks but far enough away that they can't see them. The family stayed at her aunt's house, and my kids and I picked them up so we could go to Disneyland on Christmas, which was all dolled up for the season.

We got there about a half hour after the park opened. My sister-in-law went to rent an electric scooter/wheelchair, because she has arthritis in her ankles and can't walk all over creation the way Disneyland requires. So the rest of us started for the Indiana Jones ride, but partway down Main Street, I realized I had left my camera in the car. I sent my kids with my brother and his kids to Indiana Jones, and I went back on the tram to fetch my camera from the car. All I can say is, thank God for cell phones, because we used them to find each other again.

Once we were all reunited, we headed for Star Tours. My niece and nephew were worried about the ride. Does the seat move? No, the whole room moves. Is it scary? Well, it's like being in the movie, Star Wars. And besides (this to my niece), the pilot is cute (he's a 'droid).

With the scooter, they sent us to the handicapped route up the exit, so we missed the whole experience of waiting in line, which Disney has managed to make into an attraction in itself. So I explained the back story to the kids while we waited for our turn. We're in a galaxy far, far away, and we're going to be riding a shuttle to the moon of Endor, where the Ewoks live. I don't think they've seen Star Wars, so my explanation meant nothing to them.

But one of my favorite things in Disneyland is riding Star Tours next to people who have never been on it before. I sat by my nephew, and he was a delight. He exclaimed and he laughed in surprise at all the right times. And when the ride was over, he said how terrific it was.

On Indiana Jones (the line had been too long when I was fetching my camera, so they rode Pirates of the Caribbean instead), my niece asked to sit between me and her dad. Once our transportation vehicle went through the entrance door, she ducked her head between her arms as she gripped the bar on the back of the seat in front of us, and she didn't look up until the ride was over. She was adorable.

That was Christmas Day. Yesterday, we went to the World Famous San Diego Zoo, just my brother's family and me, because my son isn't into animals, and my daughter was leaving town for a conference in the afternoon.

Before we went to the zoo, we stopped at the beach, so my niece and nephew could get their feet wet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. They said it didn't look much different from the Atlantic.

Then we stopped in the San Diego neighborhood where my brother and I (and our sister) grew up. The kids were impressed with the distance we walked to and from school everyday--uphill both ways. And downhill too. Our neighborhood was built on a hilly canyon. The Speedee Mart (it was a 7/Eleven, but nobody called it that) where we spent our weekly 25¢ allowance had long ago been torn down, and an apartment building stood in its place. Our old house, which had wood siding when we lived there, was stucco, and the yard was different but nice. Some of the other houses on the block were dumps in need of paint and weed removal. I was glad ours wasn't one of them.

At the zoo, my niece held my hand a lot of the time. I had forgotten how good that feels.

There were still a good number of babies at the zoo. It surprised me, because I associate babies with spring. The gorillas had one. One of the wallabies had a joey in the pouch. And the newest panda baby was sleeping in a tree.

It was good to spend time with family again. My niece told me, as we were driving back home from the zoo, that she's glad I'm her dad's sister, because if I weren't, then I wouldn't be her aunt. I told her I was glad about that too.

And we began making plans with my brother and his family. Next year, my mom and I will be driving around the country in a motorhome, and we've loosely scheduled each region of the country for a season when it won't be at its worst. We're planning on seeing the West in the summer, the Northeast in the fall, the Southeast in the winter, and the middle of the country in the spring.

So next year in October, give or take a month, we'll visit my brother, and they can show us some of Massachusetts. I'm hoping my niece isn't too old by then to hold my hand.

James Lileks Looks Back on 2007

No, that's not a typo. James Lileks opened his year-end column in Thursday's Jewish World Review (HT: Hugh Hewitt) this way:

History, a wise man said, is a pack of tricks we play on the dead. Very well: Let's get out the deck and deal. As we stand on the cusp of 2008, let's look back on the follies of 2007.

North Korea returned to the negotiating table and announced it wants a Playstation 3 and a ham sandwich. Also a pony. Talks broke up when the Americans refused to supply a Playstation because they bought North Korea an Xbox last time, and it just sat in the closet.

The new Democratic Congress repealed the Patriot Act, banned racial profiling at airport checkpoints, required the executive branch to inform terrorists by certified mail that their phones were tapped, and began efforts to revive the draft. As Speaker Pelosi put it, "This is not about this war. This is about setting the stage for the racial and class-based rhetoric that will automatically undermine the attempts to fight the next war. Wait a minute, is this mike on? Oh, crap."

Read it all. It's a classic.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam is Dead


Fox News has the story here, complete with a picture of Saddam being dead.

A man whose testimony helped lead to Saddam's conviction and execution before sunrise said he was shown the body because "everybody wanted to make sure that he was really executed."

"Now, he is in the garbage of history," said Jawad Abdul-Aziz, who lost his father, three brothers and 22 cousins in the reprisal killings that followed a botched 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the Shiite town of Dujail.

True to form, the UN issued a statement prior to the execution, reported in yesterday's Ha'aretz, revealing yet again their sympathy for murderous dictators.

The UN human rights chief on Thursday called for restraint by Iraqi authorities over Saddam Hussein's death sentence, saying there were concerns about the fairness of the original trial.

"The appeal judgment is a lengthy and complex decision that requires careful study," Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

Arbour also said that under the terms of international agreements signed by Iraq Saddam had the right to appeal to "appropriate authorities" for possible commutation or a pardon.

He did appeal to the "appropriate authorities," an Iraqi court, but he was denied. Too late for any more appeals now.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Ethiopia Kicks Islamist Butt

Reuters reported yesterday that the Somali government is back in control of Mogadishu.

Triumphant Somali government forces marched into Mogadishu on Thursday after Islamist rivals abandoned the war-scarred city they held for six months before an Ethiopian-backed advance.

The flight of the Islamists was a dramatic turn-around in the volatile Horn of Africa nation after they took Mogadishu in June and spread across the south imposing sharia rule.

What surprises me most about this article is that Reuters, which is usually so reticent to use the words, "Muslim," and "Islamist," lest we think the bad guys are Muslim Islamists, threw around the "I" word so freely this time. Good for them.

I listened to Dennis Prager as I drove to work this morning, and he had a great perspective on this story. His biggest point was that the Leftist MSM has no idea which stories are important and which ones aren't. The New York Times, he said, had Abu Ghraib on the front page for 31 days (I think I remembered that number right). But Abu Ghraib wasn't important--it was an aberration.

Meanwhile, six months ago when the Islamists took Mogadishu from the rightful government and started establishing sharia law, where was the MSM coverage? And now? How long will the reports stay on the front page? Another day or two? And yet the spread (or retreat) of Islamists around the world is an important story.

Brute force put the Islamists on the run. And, as Prager commented, the lack of Leftist reporters nitpicking and second-guessing the military attack kept the assault from getting bogged down in political correctness. Both of these points could find suitable application in Iraq.

We need to start prosecuting the reporters and news organizations that put our troops, our citizens, and the war effort in harm's way. They shouldn't be allowed to leak national secrets with impunity.

As for the other point, President Bush, take the gloves off our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you can't do that, then send in the Ethiopians.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Man of the Year

No, it's not me. Or "You." It's not Time Magazine's Man of the Year at all.

Over at One Angry Christian (HT: Hugh Hewitt), the Man of the Year is this courageous Iranian student.

Here in the US, protesting students feel brave. They yell about the Nazi jackboots about to swoop down on peace-lovers and rip their First Amendment rights to shreds, but nothing happens to them. No Nazis. No boots. No jail time--unless they break the law.

In Iran, though, the student's life is now in jeopardy. He knew it would be, even before he held up the sign. He knew, even before he made the sign. And still he made the sign, and he held it up in front of President Ahmadinejad.

His courage is the equal of the man in Tiananman Square.

One Angry Christian is right, and Time Magazine is dead wrong. The Iranian student is the right choice for Man of the Year.

James Brown Dead at 73

James Brown died on Christmas.

I liked his music in the 1960s. As a musician, he was one of the early greats.

As a human being, he was a wife-beating, drug-using loser. May he rest in more peace than he brought to the women in his life. And may those women finally find the peace they need.

Israelis Invent A Molecule-Sized Padlock

When the Jews aren't busy running the world, oppressing unfortunate terrorists and terrorist-supporting neighbors, dominating the entertainment industry, and counting all the cash they get from all these endeavors, they find time to invent things.

LiveScience reported yesterday that Israeli scientists have invented a new padlock and key.

Scientists have created a keypad lock a single molecule in size. This lock only activates when exposed to the correct password, a sequence of chemicals and light.

Researchers suggest their device could in the future lead to a new level of safeguards for secret information. This lock might also serve to recognize when certain sequences of chemicals are released in the body--for instance, after exposure to Sarin or another deadly chemical or biological weapon.

Organic chemist Abraham Shanzer and his colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovat, began with a molecule named FLIP. At its core is a component dubbed a "linker" that mimics a bacterial compound that binds to iron. Attached to it are two molecules that respectively can glow either blue or green.

There are essentially three "buttons" that scientists can use with this molecular kedypad lock. These are an acidic molecule, an alkaline compound, and ultraviolet light.

When the lock is exposed to one sequence of chemicals and light--the alkaline molecule, followed by ultraviolet light--it will emit blue light. When the lock is given another "password"--the acid, then the alkaline, and finally ultraviolet light--it will glow green.

These reactions only take place if each input is given within three minutes of each other, or the lock will essentially reset. Any other combination will have relatively little to no effect.

This sounds really great. Top secret documents would stay secret, leading the New York Times to go out of business. The devices could be used for detecting chemical/biological/nuclear weapons or components in airports and shipyards and government buildings and at the border. Since they're only a molecule's size, lots of them could fit in the metal detectors at the airport security check locations, checking for a wide variety of ill-intended substances.

One question, though. Why is it that the Jews, especially in Israel, manage to invent things that help mankind, but the Arab world only manages to invent or improve the weapons they use against Israel and the West? Just curious.

Senators Skip President Ford's Funeral

Hugh Hewitt's post yesterday, entitled "Turn. The. Plane. Around." linked to this AP story, also from yesterday. The AP reports:

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will miss the state funeral for former President Gerald Ford at the Capitol Rotunda on Saturday night, opting instead to lead a delegation to South America with an expected stop at the Machu Picchu Inca ruins.

Reid, D-Nev., left Wednesday afternoon from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland with a bipartisan group of five other senators, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the incoming assistant majority leader, for what has been described as a weeklong visit to Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

Manley said the senators opted to skip Ford-related ceremonies over the next few days because of the long-scheduled meetings with the South American presidents, noting that U.S. relations with some of the countries are in need of improvement.

Since when did it become the Senate's job to improve relations with foreign countries? Foreign policy belongs to the Executive branch. The Senate reacts, as in ratifying treaties.

What arrogance to believe that America's relations with Bolivia are resting on a razor's edge that only these six senators can negotiate and only at this time.

Gerald Ford was a president, and as such he (or his former office) deserves the honor of the Senate leadership's presence.

I can just imagine how the Democrats would howl if the Republican leadership were to blow off Carter's funeral, when it comes, to go do some sightseeing and president-schmoozing in South America. But of course, that would be different somehow.

The senators on this junket are: Reid, Durbin, Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and Ken Salazar, D-Colo. If you're in their states, you might want to let them know how pleased you are with their important trip.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Hundreds of Iraqis Apply to Execute Saddam

ABC News reported today about the flood of interest in the hangman's job for Saddam Hussein.

The impending death of one of the most notorious dictators of the 20th century has caused a morbid contest in Baghdad as Iraqis express an interest in executing Saddam Hussein.

After losing a court appeal, the former Iraqi leader is scheduled for hanging in the next 30 days for the killing of 148 Shiites in the central city of Dujail.

An advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told ABC News that hundreds of Iraqis have inquired about the job as Hussein's hangman, even though officially, no such position exists and the government has not advertised for it.

Bassam al-Husseiny said he receives eight to 10 phone calls a day, and 20 to 30 e-mails by those who want the assignment. The interested Iraqis, he said, come from all three of the country's major religions and ethnicities and from high-level government officials to "the tea boy."

For those who still believe Iraq was better off under Saddam, this should (but probably won't) set them straight.

One of those interested, a Shiite Muslim named Abdul, said there is not a house in Iraq that has not held a funeral because of Hussein. He explained that he is "not the only one" who wants to execute the former dictator. (emphasis added)

It is only fitting that the job should go to someone who has suffered directly because of Saddam.

Winter is Here

If it wasn't here already, winter is here now. A storm hit this morning and brought rain. This isn't the kind of rain that other places would call a heavy drizzle. It's the rain that you hear pounding on the roof and the sidewalk, so you go to the front door to be amazed as you watch it come down. And as you're standing there, you want to turn on the stove under the tea kettle. Or, rather, you would want to get the tea kettle going, if you hadn't forgotten about it last week and let it boil dry until the metal turned colors and it started flaking off inside the kettle, so the flakes come out when you pour the water, so now you're using a saucepan and ladle for making tea water, until you can remember to go buy a new kettle, which will lose the whistle shortly after purchase, just like the burned-up one did.

But it's winter, and the traffic report says there are accidents out there "too numerous to mention them all," because all the months without rain made the oils from all the cars build up. And now that we have rain, all that oil floats on top of the rainwater. It's not that people here don't know how to drive in the rain. It's that people don't know how to drive on an oil slick, and they miscalculate and then get into trouble.

But the rain had stopped before I left for work, so I didn't have an oil slick to drive on, and I got to work without incident.

As soon as the clouds clear away from the mountains in the distance, where people go skiing, the view should be breathtaking. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

May your Christmas be full of reminders of Who we celebrate this day.

And as for me and my house, and my brother and his house, we're going to Disneyland!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

At Barnes & Noble

My friends and I went to the Wild Animal Park today to see the Festival of Lights, and afterward two of us stopped at Barnes & Noble. She wanted to find a book on Adobe Photoshop Elements, and I was hoping to find something for the kids for Christmas. But before I started looking, I gravitated toward the left wall, where the blank books and journals are.

They had this display at the end of one of the rows, and that book in the middle says it all. I love blank journal books. I can't have enough, because if I filled one up, I'd need another one ready to go. But it would have to be the right one for what I was writing, so I'd need several to choose from. I looked at the one on the top right. It has a thick leather cover and costs just shy of $60. The one on the top left isn't leather and goes for $6.95 (much more affordable), but I didn't buy it, because I bought it the last time I was here.

Then I saw this one. It's beautiful. It has a map. And the cover is the softest leather. But it was outside my budget, and besides I was shopping for my kids.

My son has inherited my love of maps. Since he and his sister are trying to plan a two-week trip to Germany, Austria and the Netherlands for next year when my mom and I are driving around the country, I thought a map of the area would be a good idea. Obviously the map-makers didn't agree. They have Austria. They have "German." But they don't have both. Western Europe chops Germany in half. The Alps has even less of Germany, and not the part they're planning to visit. It would have taken two or three maps to show the whole area they're interested in, and that's just not satisfying for overall trip planning. So I didn't get a map.

He wants this. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. It's on his Wish List. It costs a small fortune, and I'm not ready to part with one of those just yet.

So I found my friend looking at Photoshop books and hung out with her until she was ready to go. I left empty-handed, and now I'll have to hit the stores tomorrow after church and hope I can find something besides gift certificates to give the kids.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Jobs Americans Won't Do

The opening paragraph in the Rocky Mountain News report of December 15, 2006, says it all:

GREELEY - The line of applicants hoping to fill jobs vacated by undocumented workers taken away by immigration agents at the Swift & Co. meat-processing plant earlier this week was out the door Thursday.

Out the door.

Greg Bonifacio heard about the job openings on television and brought his passport, his Colorado driver's license, his Social Security card and even a color photograph of himself as a young Naval officer to prove his military service.

"I don't want to hassle with any identification problems because of my last name," said Bonifacio, a 59- year-old Thornton resident of Filipino heritage.

As it turned out, the Colorado Workforce office that was taking applications did not require any identification.

That would come later for those who made it past the interview process.

Americans want these jobs. Americans will do the work, but too often their places are taken by people who don't belong here but are willing to cheat and lie their way into those jobs. Kudos to the Rocky Mountain News for publishing this followup story.

And kudos to Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) who, as reported Tuesday in the Denver Daily News, has requested the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department to expand their raids to other industries.

In a letter to Julie Myers, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement assistant secretary, Tancredo, R-Littleton, commended Myers for her leadership in the Swift & Company raids, and asked her to expand ICE’s operations to other industries.

“I have already publicly commended DHS and ICE for conducting this work site enforcement at Swift,” said Tancredo, Chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus. “This kind of enforcement action by ICE has been sorely missing over the past decade and I urge you to expand such operations to other industries.”

Of course, groups who side with the illegal workers disagree with Tancredo.

Advocacy groups including the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, representing workers at Swift & Company’s meat processing plant in Greeley, have called the raids a “tragedy” and “reckless.”

“We need to stop these ICE raids, stop the systematic terrorizing of our children, and stop the criminalizing of our communities,” said Lisa Durán, director of Rights for All People. “We need to start looking at real solutions that will serve our communities, our economy and our families.”

Immigrant rights advocates across the state gathered last Friday to hold a candle light vigil and join hands to support the families that were separated by the raids.

“This tragedy is not about ‘identity theft’ or ‘criminal activity’ as the U.S. ICE contends,” wrote The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition in a prepared statement to announce the vigil. “It is about women and men working to feed their families and provide for a better life.”

They've got it wrong. Again. It is about American men and women being given the first chance to work to feed their families and provide a better life for them. When all the Americans who want these jobs have had a chance to fill the open positions, if more workers are still needed, then we'll talk.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Darfur Spreads Into Chad

The Independent (UK) reported today that attacks by Arab militiamen have crossed the border from Western Sudan into Chad.

The village is still smouldering. A girl combs through the remains of a burnt-down hut with her bare hands, trying to salvage knife blades and rakes that were not consumed by the fire. Two women, with tears in their eyes, have broken down in front of a pile of ash, wailing violently.

A band of youths is patrolling the ruins near Koukou-Angarana, bows and arrows slung over their shoulders, boomerangs and knives at the ready. But their decision to form a self-defence group has come too late. The Arab horsemen who swept through the village on their bloody rampage have long since vanished.

It is a tragically familiar scene in Darfur, the province of western Sudan where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least two million brutally forced from their homes - a genocide unleashed and sustained by the Islamist government in Khartoum - but this man-made inferno now sweeping across the plains is taking place across the Sudanese border in Chad. The pattern is identical to events in Darfur, where the well-armed Arab raiders allied to the Sudanese government set villages ablaze, rape the women, and leave a trail of dead black Africans in their wake. Just as in Darfur, the Sudanese government is being accused of being behind the violence in Chad, an accusation which is rejected by Khartoum.

The US has called Darfur a genocide. John Bolton, US Ambassador to the UN (why is he leaving?), called Darfur a genocide. But the last I heard, the UN itself--purported defender of human rights around the world--has never called it a genocide, because then they might have to do something about it. And now the genocide spreading.

Outgoing Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan spoke before a group of human rights leaders on December 8, 2006. The text of his speech is here (pdf). In it, he referred to Darfur this way:

"what is happening in Darfur"

"The tragedy of Darfur"

"this horror"

"this burning issue"

Yes, indeed, the tragedy of the horror that's happening in Darfur is such a burning issue that the Secretary-General all but ignored it for three years and is now passing off responsibility to his successor. He ended his statement this way:

So it’s no mere figure of speech, dear friends, when I say that I leave the future of the UN’s human rights work in your hands.

Those hands couldn't do any worse than Kofi's did.

In his farewell address, delivered December 11, 2006, Kofi Annan took the opportunity to criticize... Sudan for continuing the genocide in Darfur? The UN itself for ignoring Darfur with such studied dedication?

Hardly. He criticized the US for "appear[ing] to abandon its own ideals and objectives."

"As President Truman said, 'The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world,'" Annan said.

Somehow, I thought the responsibility of the UN was to serve the people of the world, defending their human rights, and preventing genocide from happening again. And if genocide does happen, the UN is to stop the monsters who commit it.

This village in Chad is one more piece in a long line of evidence proving that the UN has failed in its mission. It's well past time to dismantle the UN--the world would be no worse without it. Maybe then, we could work together with other countries that care, and finally take action that would help the victims of genocide.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Nuclear Iran

YNet News (Israel) reported today on Iran's latest nuclear announcement.

Iran is now a "nuclear power," its President, Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, delcared Wednesday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency .

During a speech delivered in the Western Iranian province of Javanroud, Ahmadinejad said: " The Islamic Republic of Iran is now a nuclear power, thanks to the hard work of the Iranian people and authorities."

Ahmadinejad was also reported to have announced that "Iranian young scientists reached the zenith of science and technology and gained access to the nuclear fuel cycle without the help of big powers."

The Iranian president began the speech by saying that "the powerful Iranian nation resists bullying powers and will defend its rights, including the right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology," the IRNA said.

Of course they'll "pursue peaceful nuclear technology." On their way to pursuing non-peaceful nuclear technology.

But Ahmadinejad was having a busy, talkative day. Agence France Press reported today on another of the Iranian President's speeches.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has predicted that Britian, Israel and the United States would eventually disappear from the world like the Egyptian pharaonic kings.

"The oppressive powers will disappear while the Iranian people will stay. Any power that is close to God will survive while the powers who are far from God will disappear like the pharaohs," he said Wednesday, according to Iranian news agencies.

"Today, it is the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime which are doomed to disappear as they have moved far away from the teachings of God," he said in a speech in the western town of Javanroud.

"It is a divine promise."

No, the divine promise is that when all the world's countries under nutjob leaders like Ahmadinejad, and all the other countries too afraid to oppose them, attack Israel en masse, God (not Allah) will miraculously save Israel.

That day is not yet here, but if Ahmadinejad gets his way, it could be coming soon. Let's hope the world's leaders, starting with our own, have the courage to stop this fanatic while they can.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Secret Shame

I bought a dress for my little dog Abby.

I've never bought clothes for a pet before. I've always thought it was a little silly. One time I had to go to my divorce attorney's office, and she had her chihuahua with her, and he was dressed in a sailor suit. She said that since her kids were grown and hadn't given her any grandchildren yet, she dressed up her dog. Cute, but not for me.

When I was a kid, we got a poodle & yorkie mix, Fifi, while my dad's sub was away on WestPac. He warmed up to her when he got home. Fifi grew up in San Diego and then moved to Montana with us, where she learned about snow for the first time. Little snowballs stuck to the hair on her feet, and she shivered. It was so sad.

So my sister bought Fifi a set of doggie snow boots for Christmas, and my grandmother accidentally shrank her dog's sweater, so she gave it to Fifi. My dad rigged up string to hold the snow boots on like idiot mittens, because Fifi hated the boots and would kick them off. The sweater kept the strings in place, and we'd let her outside all decked out for snow. For fun, one of us would put her at the end of the driveway and the others would be by the door, and we'd call her. She'd run as fast as she could, flicking all four feet to try to get the snow boots off, and we'd just about roll on the ground laughing at how funny she looked.

That's an appropriate use for dog clothes. Snow protection.

But a while ago, I was at Target and I noticed they had started to carry dog clothes. Of course, that sort of thing was for people like my divorce attorney, people with silly dogs and too much time and money on their hands. Certainly not for me. Definitely not for my little Abby.

But then I saw the brocade dress. They had it in red with black accents and black with red accents. I stopped and looked at it, not believing I could be doing such a thing. I decided the black one would look better on Abby, because she has the black hair on her back. And she'd be a size Small, not X-Small. But then I moved on, because I'm more sensible than that.

The next time I went to Target, I saw them again. They have them hanging right by the main aisle, so it's not like I went looking for them. Yes, they had the black one in the Small size. No, I didn't buy it.

At our department Holiday Potluck, I won a $20 gift card to Target, so I had to go back. With a cold coming on, I needed more Sudafed and cough medicine, so I decided to use the gift card to stock up. But you have to pass the pet supplies to get to the medicine. And the dress was still there, and it would look so cute on Abby, and the gift card was in my wallet. I took the dress off the peg and put it in my basket.

Really, it's only for special occasions, like Christmas. And it's only the one dress.


Meat Eaters Are Stoopid

The Independent (UK) reported Friday on a study of 8,000 people born in 1970.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, was based on more than 8,000 people born in 1970 whose IQ was measured at age 10. Now aged 36, the researchers found 366, just under one in 20, said they were vegetarians (a third of these ate chicken or fish but none touched red meat).

As well as being brighter, the vegetarians were better educated and of higher social class but the link with intelligence remained statistically significant even after adjusting for these factors. Despite their intelligence they were not wealthier and more likely to be working for charities or in education. "It may be that ethical considerations determined not just their diet but also their choice of employment," the report said.

Let me state right up front that I eat meat. And I'm smarter than a third of the "vegetarians," who think that chicken and fish are vegetables.

From a statistical standpoint, this sample is large enough to produce fairly reliable results. I don't have quite as much faith in the interpretation, though.

Were the meat-eating "vegetarians" the more intelligent ones, or were the no-meat vegetarians more intelligent? And of the people who said they're not vegetarians, did they check the IQ differences between the red-meat eaters and the non-red-meat eaters? I would expect the non-red-meat-eating non-vegetarians to be more intelligent than the chicken-and-fish-eating vegetarians, because at least these non-vegetarians know they're not vegetarians.

I don't know why, but my grade school tested my IQ when I was in fourth grade, but because I wasn't born in 1970 or in the UK, my results were never included in this study. The results of my test were high enough that they took notice at the time, but not enough that anybody ever worshiped the ground I walked on or treated me any differently after that. Just as well.

The main problem I have with this study is that IQ really doesn't tell you much about how people live their lives. Too many intelligent people have too easy a time in school and never learn how to work hard. So when they're adults, they can tend to take the easy road, not apply themselves, and end up in mediocrity.

I don't see the researchers taking this into account. They seem to view high IQ as the be-all and end-all in life. And that's just stoopid.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Congratulations to Me

Time Magazine has chosen its person of the year, and it's me. That's what they said: "You." And that would be me.

First, I want to thank my mom and my kids and my little dog Abby, and all my readers and all the blogs that inspire me, and Google for making Blogger available at no cost...

Here's some of what Time has to say about their decision:

The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

But look at 2006 through a different lens [than who to blame for the world's problems] and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

So there you have it.

Oh. And congratulations to you, too!


La Shawn Barber has a great post on Time's choice of Person of the Year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cintas is in Trouble

Back when I was married, my husband and a couple of his friends started a company making graphite stuff. They found a shop to rent in a long, narrow, light-manufacturing building with lots of other shops in a nearby town with no discernible zoning plan.

The property was located in a mostly residential neighborhood at about the point where the homes transitioned from older but nicely maintained places to houses with multiple cars in front and dirt yards so compacted, even the weeds wouldn't grow. The neighborhood was at the edge of the lower-income Hispanic area, and sometimes I'd see Mexican Indians walking down the street. They were the poorest of the poor in Mexico and seemed to still be the poorest of the poor even in America, and this was where they could afford to live.

In this setting, the next property beyond my husband's business was a big Cintas ("The Uniform People") place. Their trucks would come and go and were as much a fixture of the area as Eddie The Welder or the magnet school down the street. I didn't think about Cintas much, not needing uniforms.

But they were in the news recently. The Washington Times reported November 28, 2006, that Cintas has been warned against firing illegal immigrants.

A Mississippi Democrat in line to become chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has warned the nation's largest uniform supplier it faces criminal charges if it follows a White House proposal to recheck workers with mismatched Social Security numbers and fire those who cannot resolve the discrepancy in 60 days.

Rep. Bennie Thompson said in a letter to Cintas Corp. it could be charged with "illegal activities in violation of state and federal law" if any of its 32,000 employees are terminated because they gave incorrect Social Security numbers to be hired.

In his letter, Mr. Thompson said his "apprehension" over the proposed policy was echoed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which said the proposal could result in "circumstances in which employers have incentives to take actions that violate ... non-discriminatory provisions."

This reinforces my concern about the havoc that's coming when the Democrats take over Congress next year.

It's not discrimination when a company fires someone who isn't allowed to work in the US. Even if most of the people who get fired come from the same ethnic background, it's still not discrimination. Firing illegal workers is called, "obeying the law."

Congressman Thompson is putting Cintas between a rock and a hard place with his letter. If they hire illegal workers, they run the risk of the kind of raids that hit Swift & Co last week, and they could be fined or shut down. But if they refuse to hire illegal workers, Thompson intends to sic the EEOC on them for discrimination.

Cintas is trying to walk the fine line (yes, apparently there is still a line) between the two options.

Cintas has issued letters to 400 employees in five states telling them they will be indefinitely suspended if they cannot resolve their mismatched Social Security number within 60 days.

"Cintas, like all employers, has a legal obligation to ensure all employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S.," the firm said in a statement. "Cintas has not terminated any employees due to the Social Security mismatches and plans to continue its policy of placing these employees on indefinite leave until they produce the required documentation."

I wish them well in their efforts to deal with our crazy-making government.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I started a post in early October about our last sightseeing stop in Poland and never finished it. Today, when I watched the two videos over at Malott's Blog (here and here), I remembered this post.

The Holocaust deniers met this week, hosted by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. With all the detailed records kept by the Nazis during World War II, and all the documentation produced after the fact by the Allies, the only people who deny the Holocaust these days are the ones who want to finish the job.

Here is my post:

In Poland, we visited a concentration camp. It wasn’t one of the big names most people have heard of. Auschwitz is in the south of Poland, and we were in the north. Treblinka was father east than we were, so we went to Stutthof, which was the first Nazi concentration camp to be established outside of Germany and was the last one to be liberated by the Allies.

Stutthoff is surrounded by dense woods of tall, slender birch and oak trees that were just beginning to turn colors for autumn. If it weren’t for the marker stone at the start of the entrance road, we’d never have known it was there. I think that’s why the Nazis built so many death camps in Poland, because they were easily hidden by the woods. And because it was easier to kill Poles there. Through the trees in this picture are death camp buildings.

The total death count in the Holocaust of World War II was ten million. Six million of them were Jews. Millions more were Poles. The people of Poland are among the forgotten victims of the Holocaust.

From July of 1939 to May of 1945, Stutthof held 110,000 people, and 65,000 of them died, most of them from disease or starvation. In 1943, the exterminations began with the construction of the gas chamber, which used Zyklon gas (as did Auschwitz--Treblinka used diesel exhaust), and the ovens.

We watched an English-language film that showed the results of the investigation conducted by the Allies--most likely the Soviets. The hardest part was when they showed the enormous pile of shoes they found: 450,000 pairs of shoes. Men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes. In one of the buildings that’s still intact, they have part of this pile of shoes, and someone had laid a single red rose on top of it.

There were roses in other places too. Twined through barbed wire, or resting on the floor under the photo of one of the victims, or by the opening of one of the ovens. To me, the exhibits were simply names and faces of people I didn’t know, enlarged documents and photographs serving as examples of the many who had died there. But those names and faces had once been loved--and still were loved and mourned. The roses implored me to mourn too.

When I was in Poland in 1997, our group was there for nearly three weeks, and we traveled all over the country. We visited Auschwitz in a dreary rain, entering through the gates that declared, “Arbeit Macht Frei.” It’s a well-preserved museum to the cruelty that people are capable of--any of us, given the right conditions. It has glass cases of luggage, of kitchen ware, of eyeglasses, of human hair, and of crutches and braces and prostheses, all of these things taken from the victims and sorted for shipping by train to Germany. And you see, in those cases, something that hits home. That braid of hair looks like your sister’s. Those eyeglasses are just like your grandfather’s. That suitcase… The leg brace…

While Auschwitz shows the details of what the Nazis did, Treblinka, both a work camp and an extermination camp, is more of an artist’s rendering. After an escape by some of the prisoners in 1943, the Nazis destroyed the evidence of their presence and abandoned the place. Notes and maps smuggled out during its time of operation helped after the war to find the graves and the places where the killings were done. It’s been reconstructed in a stylized way.

Stutthof’s level of preservation falls somewhere between these two. Many of the buildings are still intact, but even more buildings are revealed only by the foundation or a marker stone. The beauty of the surrounding woods and green grass offers too much contrast to the stories that lie inside the buildings--stories of lives lived and destroyed there.

The sights at Stutthof were more than some of our group could bear. For the two of us who continued, there were some things we saw that would have been wrong to photograph. This monument sits at the far end of the camp from the entrance. Behind it to the right, the brick smokestack rests atop the crematorium close to the building where the people were gassed.

The back side of the monument's horizontal wall is built like an aquarium, with thick glass set in the structure. Behind the glass is ash and bone. The monument itself is made to look like the ash, compressed and built up, and the faces carved into the top of the pillar call out for people to remember.

And we do. Most of us.

Nigdy Więcej.
Nie Wieder.
Jamais Plus.
Never Again.

I Am Not Happy

Last month, the day before I left for the National Missionary Convention in Indianapolis, my nose started getting stuffy at lunchtime. I took a Sudafed, and all was well.

Until the next morning, when I got up to go to the airport. My cold had decided to become a chest cold and was affecting my voice. I didn't feel bad. I just didn't sound right. When I tried to talk to the missionaries in my normal voice, nothing happened. I had to talk and sing bass. It even carried over to my visit with the Indiana bloggers at the Cracker Barrel. One of the staff members at Malott's Blog even asked if that was my normal voice, because it must have sounded pretty awful (or like I'd had a sex-change operation in the past).

It wasn't until yesterday, an entire month since it began, that I was able to sing in the car and have the higher notes (never a problem with the lower notes) remain where they started. Imagine my joy: I could sing Silent Night or practice my one good Karaoke song, in case I was faced with an emergency Karaoke situation.

But today my nose is getting stuffy, and I'm out of Sudafeds in my Bag of Tricks that I bring to work, and I'm feeling the cold start to head for my throat. It's just not fair!

It's Christmastime, and I want to sing the Christmas carols. I am not happy.

Tall Man Saves Dolphins

AP Photo/Xinhua Photo, Ren Yong

The AP reported yesterday that the world's tallest man, Bao Xishun, 54, at 7 ft 9 in., saved two dolphins in China.

The dolphins got sick after nibbling on plastic from the edge of their pool at an aquarium in Liaoning province. Attempts to use surgical instruments to remove the plastic failed because the dolphins' stomachs contracted in response to the instruments, the China Daily newspaper reported.

Veterinarians then decided to ask for help from Bao Xishun, a 7-foot-9 herdsman from Inner Mongolia with 41.7-inch arms, state media said.

Chen Lujun, the manager of the Royal Jidi Ocean World aquarium, told The Associated Press that the shape of the dolphins' stomachs made it difficult to push an instrument very far in without hurting the animals. People with shorter arms could not reach the plastic, he said.

"When we failed to get the objects out we sought the help of Bao Xishun from Inner Mongolia and he did it successfully yesterday," Chen said. "The two dolphins are in very good condition now."

Great news for the dolphins, and especially good news for Bao, who was able to take what makes him unique and use it to save two lives.

Silly String for the Troops

The AP reported December 6, 2006, about a military mom who is sending Silly String to the troops in Iraq.

STRATFORD, N.J. – In an age of multimillion-dollar high-tech weapons systems, sometimes it's the simplest ideas that can save lives. Which is why a New Jersey mother is organizing a drive to send cans of Silly String to Iraq.

American troops use the stuff to detect trip wires around bombs, as Marcelle Shriver learned from her son, a soldier in Iraq.

Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible.

Now, 1,000 cans of the neon-colored plastic goop are packed into Shriver's one-car garage in this town outside Philadelphia, ready to be shipped to the Middle East thanks to two churches and a pilot who heard about the drive.

The US Postal Service won't ship the cans, because they have aerosol, so a private pilot plans to fly Shriver's supply to Kuwait in January.

The military is reluctant to talk about the use of Silly String, saying that discussing specific tactics will tip off insurgents.

But Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said Army soldiers and Marines are not forbidden to come up with new ways to do their jobs, especially in Iraq's ever-evolving battlefield. And he said commanders are given money to buy nonstandard supplies as needed.

Yes indeed, these are nonstandard supplies. And it takes a mom whose son's life is on the line to get this kind of ball rolling--anything she can do to keep her son safe.

St. Luke's Catholic Church in Stratford, New Jersey (55 Warwick Rd, (856) 783-5555), has collection baskets for Silly String donations, if you're so inclined.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Embryo Proposals in UK

LifeSiteNews reported Tuesday (HT: WorldNetDaily) on some new proposals in the UK regarding human embryos.

British researchers would be permitted to create human/animal embryo hybrids using test tube technology, under sweeping new proposals to be introduced by government health officials this week, the Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday.

Known as "chimeras", the embryos would be produced by combining human and animal genetic material within a laboratory setting--the North East England Stem Cell Institute has already requested permission to create an embryo that is part human and part cow."

I'm having trouble understanding what good they're going to get from a human-cow hybrid. Are they trying to avoid the problem of exploiting young women by harvesting their eggs to produce embryos for stem cells? Would it be a cow egg with human sperm? I don't see how that would help solve human medical problems. I must lack the kind of imagination that goes beyond Frankenstein and into a whole new realm of horror.

The other proposals aren't as deeply planted in fantasy, but they're still problematic.

The overarching aim is to pursue the common good through a system broadly acceptable to society," British Health Minister Caroline Flint said in a report on the policy changes obtained by the Sunday Telegraph.

Other changes include removing the current requirement that a child's need for a father must be considered when a woman seeks fertility treatment. Single women and lesbian couples would have the same access to fertility treatments as heterosexual couples.

Screening embryos for genetic conditions which have the potential to lead to "serious medical conditions, disabilities or miscarriage" would be allowed, as would screening embryos in order to select a child that would be a tissue match for a sibling suffering from a "life-threatening illness."

However, screening for sex selection would not be permitted under any circumstances.

The new proposals would also forbid the creation of a human embryo by using the genetic material from two women, bypassing the need for a male.

So it would be OK to ignore the need for a father in the child's life, but it wouldn't be OK to ignore the need for a male to produce the child. It sounds so arbitrary.

As does the genetic screening policy. We've already seen the way "serious medical conditions, disabilities or miscarriage" have been interpreted to include such easily corrected conditions as a cleft palate or a club foot. This new policy falls right in line with the selfishness of people who require physical perfection in their children.

The other disturbing policy is the one allowing selection of embryos for tissue matches to siblings. This fosters more of the attitude that people are to be used as tools and spare parts for other people, and we'll just toss out the people who serve no purpose. It cheapens human life and makes people disposable.

Oh, but of course they would never allow sex selection. Well, why the heck not? They're allowing embryo selection for stupider reasons.

It's hard to believe the people making these policy decisions haven't looked down the road to see where their policies will lead. God help them if they ever cease to be useful to society. They may not like being disposed of when they come to the other end of life.

Alligator Bag

The Yuma Sun reported Sunday that the Border Patrol discovered a cayman in a suitcase at their Interstate 8 Foothills checkpoint.

Rebecca Wright, the law enforcement program manager for Game and Fish in Yuma, said she took custody of the roughly 4-year-old reptile after the Border Patrol’s discovery, and that it was quite wily when she got it back to her office to await shipment to a Phoenix animal refuge."

When I took him to my office, he was pretty saucy," Wright said. "He was interested in not being in the pet porter any more, and I was very interested in keeping him in there."

I just love understatement, and Wright does it beautifully.

A Yuma sector Border Patrol spokesman said the discovery was made about 11:30 p.m. during a routine stop through the checkpoint.

A narcotics-detecting dog alerted on the man’s vehicle, and the man, who was not named, consented to a search, said spokesman Lloyd Easterling.

However, it wasn’t the alligator’s scent that alerted the dog, but 13 grams of marijuana that the man was also accused of carrying, Easterling said.

When asked if there was anything else in the car, the man told the inspecting agent about the animal.

"The guy says, ’There’s an alligator in there,’ ” Easterling said. "He says, ‘He’s in the suitcase there.’ And when (the agent) opened the suitcase, sure enough, there was a cayman in there."

The man said he was transporting the cayman from California to a man in Phoenix, which is illegal to do in Arizona without a permit. He was given a citation for having the reptile. Later, he was taken into custody for having the marijuana.

Some days you just can't win.

Blogging Delays

Blogging is a challenge at Christmastime. Especially for people who blog during the lunch hour. I have all kinds of stories that catch my eye, but there are lunch plans.

Yesterday was a get-together at a restaurant with former co-workers to catch up on how everyone's doing and get the pulse of the IT job market out here. It still stinks, but not as much as it did when I was looking for a job and finally got this one. I got lost on the way to the restaurant (I'm thinking a GPS system would be a good idea for my mom and me on our RV trip around the country), but I got there, and we had a good time. One of the guys got a good lead for the kind of job he's looking for.

Today is our department potluck. I remembered to bring my whole wheat rolls and some butter (yes, the real stuff). So I may not have any time today, either, for a real post.

And I've got ideas burning a hole in my pocket...


The potluck is over now.

They had raffle prizes. Last year, the budget the admins had to work with was minimal, so we only had a few prizes to raffle off. So early this year, one of the admins started buying goodies at Costco: Cup-A-Soup, candy bars, Nutri-Grain bars, and whatever else looked like people might want to buy it. She marked it up enough to make a profit for the raffle prize fund, but not so much that nobody wanted to buy anything, and by December the fund was nice and big.

They had so many prizes that people in the department are now joking about being the only loser: "I was the special one whose number was not called." Really, though, there were about half a dozen people (OK, maybe 15) who didn't win. Out of almost 100.

So if you're the one who plans the department potluck--or if you know the person who does it--you might want to suggest the Costco goodies as a way of getting lots of good prizes for next year...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Reuters Top Photos of the Year

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg (GERMANY)

Reuters has a slideshow of their editors' favorite photos of the year, along with some audio slideshows. This one is my favorite.

They've got sports shots, political shots, war shots, and much, much more.

Enjoy the show.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jury Duty

It's not over yet.

I got called for jury duty, and it started today. The way it works here (for now, anyway. The state is trying to make all the counties do it the same way, and they may decide against our way, which I happen to like), is that you report for one day. If you aren't picked for jury selection, they send you home, and they don't call you back for a year.

If you're picked for a jury and sworn in, then you won't get called back for three years. Even if your case never finishes (mis-trial, settling out of court, whatever).

They were busy doing judge-and-lawyer stuff until almost noon, when they decided they needed 40 people for a jury pool. Random selection of course pulled my name (just like last year). All the other 100+ people got to go home.

After lunch, the forty of us were sent to the courtroom, where we had to wait outside until it was safe for us to come in. While we were waiting, some guy in a nice gray pinstripe suit walked by. He looked at us waiting and said, "Jury, huh?" The snot. After he passed us, I said, "Lawyer, huh?" but only loud enough for the lady next to me to hear. (Yes, I'm a coward.)

They let us into the courtroom, and this time I got a high draft number: 26. Jury selection began with the first 18 people, and it was sheer boredom punctuated by utter tedium. Not at all like last year, when they asked us what kind of dog we had and whether we ever let them out without a leash. This year it's a DUI case. No dogs. No cats. Nothing cute to talk about.

By 4:30, the lawyers had dismissed six of the potential jurors and had started questioning the next set of six people. The judge took pity on us and sent us home with instructions to return to the courtroom tomorrow morning at 9am. I'm not happy. If they dismiss six more jurors, I could be on the jury as an alternate, listening to testimony about breathalyzers and cop procedures for the next three days.

I know it's my civic duty, but I'd rather be able to go to work and meet all my deadlines and talk to people who aren't slow-speaking, question-repeating lawyers and who don't get arrested for DUI. That's what I'd rather do.

But I'll go to the court at 9am, and if they dismiss all those new people and stick me on the jury, I'll pay attention and try not to doze off, and then I'll do my best to follow the judge's instructions and make sure justice is served. And then I won't have to worry about being called for jury duty for three more years. Unless the Governator changes the rules.


We had to wait in the hallway outside the courtroom while the lawyers talked, left the room, came back in, and talked some more. You can tell they're professionals, because they talked a long time.

Finally, the bailiff came out and called us into the courtroom. All the jurors took their seats from yesterday, and then the judge apologized that we had to wait so long. He told us the case was settled, and our services would not be needed after all. We were free to check out with the jury people and go home.

That means they could call me back for more jury duty next year, when I'm on vacation with my mom. Oh well, I'll deal with that when it happens.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bovine Emissions Big Contributor to Global Warming

The UN has determined it (and the Independent (UK) has reported it today). Bovine emissions (cow flatulence, in polite layman's terms) is a big contributor of greenhouse gases.

Meet the world's top destroyer of the environment. It is not the car, or the plane,or even George Bush: it is the cow.

A United Nations report has identified the world's rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests and wildlife. And they are blamed for a host of other environmental crimes, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs.

The 400-page report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, entitled Livestock's Long Shadow, also surveys the damage done by sheep, chickens, pigs and goats. But in almost every case, the world's 1.5 billion cattle are most to blame. Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.

For a slow-moving, cud-chewing critter, that's quite the accomplishment.

Burning fuel to produce fertiliser to grow feed, to produce meat and to transport it - and clearing vegetation for grazing - produces 9 per cent of all emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. And their wind and manure emit more than one third of emissions of another, methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide.

The methane comment is what catches my eye. When I was in high school, someone wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper pleading for people to become vegetarians, so we could eliminate the damage caused by all the cows' methane emissions. Looks like she was right about the cows. Way back in the mid-1970s.

But my reply to her would have been (if I had bothered to write it) that it's the eating of vegetable matter that causes the methane. If people switched to being vegetarians, the methane emissions of people would increase and might offset the methane output of the cows.

An old friend of the family told us one time of the fun he and some co-workers had at work with a methane detector. They took the hand-held device to the cafeteria after beans were on the menu, and they pointed it at various people to see who made the detector set off the tell-tale whine. A great time was had by all who were in the know.

But sense and methane detectors aren't enough to keep Britain from responding to the UN report with beef-eating determination. The Scotsman (UK) reported today that researchers are working on the problem, although not with the vegetarian letter-writing girl's solution.

Scientists have already conducted experiments on different cattle feed to determine which one best cuts down gaseous after-effects, and ministers have not ruled out action to force farmers to change their cows' diet.

Britain's attempts to get to grips with the issue are in line with a growing trend in research into cows' digestive systems around the world.

Of all the jobs I've imagined people might have, researching cows' digestive systems never crossed my mind.

Scientists at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen have recorded impressive reductions by introducing a mixture of organic sugars and a special bacterium into the animals' diet.

Belgian researchers have found that adding fish oil to fodder reduced methane emissions in cattle by up to 80%, while the Australians are even experimenting with a flatulence-reducing vaccine.

And the UK, too, is finally falling into line. In a parliamentary answer politely entitled "Bovine Emissions" last week, farming minister Ian Pearson said "recent research suggests that substantial methane reductions could be achieved by changes to feed regimes".

This is all fantastic news. With my mom and me still planning to embark on our motorhome tour of the US next summer (with under 10 mpg, I'm sure), I'd hate to be traveling under a cloud of guilt for warming the globe. Now we can drive guilt-free. It's all the cows' fault.

Make your manhood massive

That's the subject line of an email sitting in my inbox, unread, and it's a massive promise, considering my "manhood" has been non-existent since the day I was born.

The email was sent to me by some spam-bot using a woman's name as the sender. I suppose she's so much woman, she could even make a man out of me, but I'm not going to bite. I'll be deleting that email as soon as I get another non-spam email to delete.

My internet provider (and email service) has some sort of spam filter, so there are times they catch up with the spammers' tactics and I don't get the spams for a few days. But then the spammers adapt and the emails start showing up again. And so it goes, ad infinitum.

It's kind of fun to see what the spammers are selling. They seem to have only a few products that they plug over and over. Mortgages, gambling, and helpful men's items. I haven't seen the spams for "Hot Girls!!!" since I left AOL, though, so maybe girls aren't for sale anymore.

I heard a long time ago that when you read the spams (even if it comes up in preview mode), it sends some sort of signal back to the spammer that says, "We've got a live one here!" So I click on another email, usually from a company I've bought something from in the past and who is sure they know exactly how I want to spend much more of my money, and then I do the Ctrl-click on the spam and delete them both. I don't know if this is still necessary (or even effective) with the way technology keeps changing, but I do it just in case.

All my other email looks legitimate. Emails from friends, or church, or my family, or the County Tax Collector telling me they got my online property tax payment on time.

I've got to go now. I just got an email from a very nice man in Nigeria, who has some money for me...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Whole Wheat Rolls

I baked whole wheat rolls today. From scratch. Without a machine. It's been months since I baked them, and now I'm not sure why I waited so long.

Well, I guess I am sure why. They take time. And time is what I have in shortest supply.

I brought my work laptop home this weekend, because we're swamped, and I don't want to get in trouble for missing deadlines. And that made it a perfect day for baking, since I was going to be home anyway. The first rise is two hours, and the second and final rise are each an hour, so that gave me lots of time to get some work done.

My favorite part of baking bread is the kneading. The recipe is from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking, and they say to knead for 600 strokes, or about 20 minutes. I count to 600, making tally marks (and getting dough all over the pencil) every 100. I get a rhythm going of pulling the far right corner into the center and then pushing with the heel of both hands. Pull. Push... Pull. Push... Pull. Push... Counting as I go. It's a rhythm that's as natural to me anymore as riding a bike. It's soothing, relaxing. Except when I bump my head on the cabinet. That's not part of the rhythm.

The aroma of yeast and wheat and a touch of honey fills the kitchen.

I don't go for beauty when I form the rolls. I flatten the dough and make it as square as I can, and then I cut it with a knife. When they rise, the rolls round themselves a little into misshapen rectangles, with the line from the cut edges still clear around the top. And after they're baked, the flavor is full and rich and brown.

We make sandwiches out of them, and the meat and cheese stick out from under the bread. It doesn't matter, though, because the rolls are so much better than the store-bought sponges sold as bread. But most of this batch will be going with me to work Thursday for the "Holiday Potluck." Unless I get picked for a trial when I'm at jury duty Monday. If I'm still at court on Thursday, well, then my daughter and I will have to eat the rolls ourselves.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Alfenposten (Norway) reported Wednesday about a new source of bio-diesel fuel.

Lauri Venøy wants to use the product created from liposuction to develop bio-diesel.

Bio-diesel can be produced from plant oils and/or animal fat, and the Norwegian sees the scheme as a renewable energy source, newspaper Dagens Nærinsgliv reports.

More than sixty percent of Americans are overweight and the Norwegian's firm in Miami, Florida is in the process of signing an agreement with US hospital giant Jackson Memorial. This deal would give Venøy & Co. around 11,500 liters of human fat a week from liposuction operations, which is enough to produce about 10,000 liters of bio-diesel.

As an aside, I love the way the British use the word, "scheme," the same way Americans use the word, "plan." In America, a scheme is some nefarious plot, so when I read articles written in British-English, their schemes give me a smile. It's cute.

Back to the story. The rest of the world loves to describe Americans as uncouth, uncultured, unrefined, and just plain barbaric. But just where does the inventive genius for this plan originate? Norway. Land of Scandanavian culture and refinement. The place where rogues don't exist and everyone is peaceful and well-mannered.

But underneath, there's apparently a bit of a ghoulish streak. In the interest of the environment, of course.

It's a little odd, though, that businessman Venøy sees liposuctioned fat as a "renewable" source of fuel. There may be a continual supply of it from the Miami hospital, but I would hope that the same individual doesn't have to keep coming back to donate to the national fuel supply. But Venøy has this comment about the renewability of the fat:

"Maybe we should urge people to eat more so we can create more raw material for fuel," Venøy said.

Maybe. And maybe this really is just a scheme. In the American sense of the word. Ugh!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Last One

There's a woman at work who brings in bagels or pastries sometimes. Not on a regular basis, so people don't start expecting her to do it, just whenever the mood strikes her. We like it when the mood strikes.

But I've noticed that "last bagel" (or donut or pastry) phenomenon over the years. It happens at other places too. There are some people who can't bring themselves to take the last one.

So they cut it in half and leave half for someone else. And there are enough of these people that the remaining half gets cut in half or has a small slice taken off, so the last piece keeps getting incrementally smaller until someone finally nabs the pitiful remains and finishes the job.

I'm not sure what it is about these last-cutting people. They think nothing of taking a whole bagel when they're the first to get to the surprise stash. They find a knife and slice the bagel and drop it in the toaster while they decide whether they should use the regular cream cheese or try one of the flavored spreads on both sides of that bagel. But when it's the last one, they're different people entirely.

Are there mothers who drum into their children that it's not polite to take the last one? Are there greedy fathers who get their hearts set on the last slice of pumpkin pie, and then make the child who nabbed it first feel guilty for being so greedy? What kind of complex are parents passing on to their children that makes them live their adult lives afraid to take the last donut?

I don't get it. My parents weren't that unkind to me. If the last one is sitting there--provided it's calling my name--I take it. The whole thing. And I don't feel guilty.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Tree Danger

Fox 11 News reported yesterday about a woman who was bitten by a bat hiding in her Christmas tree. Here is the entire article:

A Nipomo [California] woman got bitten by a bat hiding in a Christmas tree delivered to her home.

Sheila Kearns received the tree Sunday from Holloway's Christmas Trees in Nipomo.

While decorating the tree that night, Kearns got two puncture wounds in her right wrist when she reached inside.

She thought she had been pricked by pine needles.

But Monday morning, Kearns noticed the bat hanging in her home and called the tree farm.

Animal control officers came to Kearns' house and picked up the bat.

Officers told Kearns to check herself for possible bites. When they saw the puncture wounds, they confirmed the woman had been bitten.

The San Luis Obispo County Health Department examined the bat Monday and confirmed it tested negative for rabies.

Kearns says doctors gave her a Tetanus shot and some antibiotics.

She seems to be taking the incident in stride.

Kearns says she's not upset and plans to continue buying trees from Holloway's for years to come.

There's a link to the news report, "Watch This Video," but the video sucks your internet session in and makes it hard to get back out. I think they want you to watch the rest of their broadcast, so view the video at your own peril.

As Christmas approaches and I start to think about a tree, stories like this one make me think twice. Maybe one of those fake, bendy-wire-branched, smell-free trees would be a good idea this year...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Muslim Woman Complains About Gym

The Detroit News reported today about a Muslim woman who complained after her prayers were interrupted at the gym.

Fitness USA, a gym chain, is investigating an alleged civil rights violation involving a local Muslim woman who says her afternoon prayer was interrupted by a fellow patron, and that her complaint to management about the situation was rejected.

"The manager told me, 'You have to respect her (the patron), but she does not have to respect your God,' " said Wardeh Sultan of Dearborn. "I've had my membership for seven or eight years, and I've never had a problem with praying there."

Let me ask a very simple question: What was she doing praying at a gym?

A gym is where you go to exercise and sweat and shower, and then you go home. Prayer doesn't fit in at a gym. Prayer is what you do at home.

I understand that Muslims have specific times of the day for prayer. But they know what those times are before they go somewhere. Why can't she go to the gym before prayer. Or wait to go to the gym until after prayer? It's not like the prayer time came upon her like some emergency.

Imad Hamad, regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which lodged a formal complaint with Fitness USA on behalf of Sultan, said the recent spate of conflicts results from a growing intolerance of Islam and a growing restiveness among Muslims that their rights to speak freely and worship are increasingly at risk.

"They (Muslims) are resenting that they are to be suppressed from expressing themselves freely, like others," Hamad said.

"It's OK for a Christian fellow or a Jewish fellow to pray, and it would be regarded highly and respected. When it comes to a person of Muslim faith, especially if a woman is wearing the head cover or a man with a typical clergy outfit, yeah, it is becoming like something that is offensive to people and making them nervous."

Nobody's trying to stop Muslims from expressing themselves. And for a Christian fellow or a Jewish fellow to start praying in a gym, that would not be "regarded highly and respected." That would be looked upon like they'd lost their senses--at least the sense of propriety.

I'm not quite sure which ethnic or cultural group is currently the High Achievement prize-winner in the Professionally Offended Category, but Muslims like Ms. Sultan and the Flying Imams are starting to give them a run for their money.

Reuters Photos

Photo credit: 04 Dec 2006 REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

For photography buffs, Reuters has a daily treat. In any of their news stories, they have a link over on the right that says, "Reuters Pictures." It's their editors' top choice of best pictures for the day, and I'm becoming hooked. Some of them have been stunning.

I don't know how to get directly to the slideshow, only to go to an article first. But the photos are well worth the trouble.

Monday, December 04, 2006

NASA's Lunar Plans

The AP reported today that NASA has plans. Big plans. They're going back to the moon. Of course, it isn't completely NASA's doing.

In the wake of the space shuttle Columbia accident, President Bush announced in 2004 a plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. His plan would take 16 years, twice as long as NASA's first trip to the moon took in planning.

As the Washington Post reported today, it's the law.

It's an ambitious, almost Star Trek-like vision, one that has ardent supporters and vocal detractors. But to a degree generally unappreciated by the public, it is the law of the land, since Congress adopted the president's moon-Mars proposal last year. And it is moving forward: NASA will publicly outline today its exploration strategy for the planned lunar missions.

That strategy will be different from the Apollo missions.

NASA announced Monday it will establish an international base camp on one of the moon's poles, permanently staffing it by 2024, four years after astronauts return to the moon.

NASA chose a "lunar outpost" over the short expeditions of the '60s. Apollo flights were all around the center of the moon, but NASA decided to go to the moon's poles because they are best for longer- term settlements. And this time NASA is welcoming other nations on its journey.

The more likely of the two lunar destinations is the moon's south pole because it's sunlit for three-quarters of the time, making solar power easier, and has possible resources to mine in dark areas nearby, said associate deputy administrator Doug Cooke.

The polar choice is interesting, in light of the NASA Science News email I got over the weekend. They've been tracking the locations of meteor strikes on the moon's surface. These hit during the past year:

"The flashes we saw [November 17] were caused by Leonid meteoroids 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) in diameter," says Cooke. "They hit with energies between 0.3 and 0.6 Giga-Joules." In plain language, that's 150 to 300 pounds of TNT.

How do you get so much energy out of a 3-inch meteoroid? "Leonids travel fast—about 144,000 mph," he explains. "At that speed, even a 3-inch rock packs tremendous energy."

And that's a concern for NASA as they plan for a moon base. Not only will their camp have to be able to sustain life, it will also have to be able to withstand the impact of meteors that don't have an atmosphere to burn them up before the strike.

They've got until 2020 to figure it all out.

The Skinny on Obesity

The Independent (UK) reported today that British government officials are ready to fight the "obesity epidemic" there.

Dance classes are to be provided by the National Health Service in a drive to tackle plummeting fitness levels and a national obesity crisis.

In a campaign to be launched by ministers this week, GPs will hand out questionnaires to determine how much daily exercise their patients take. People who reveal a sedentary lifestyle could be prescribed a range of activities funded by NHS trusts, including street-dancing, tango classes and trampolining.

Ooh! Tango. I love to dance.

But this goes against the hate-America folks, who I've heard (read, actually) blaming the US for being the only place with such wide-spread obesity. Not at all like Europe. Nope. No sir, Europe is svelte, because they're not pigs like American boors are. And we should be more like Europe. Because Europe is thin and beautiful and peaceful and ever so much more concerned with Important Things than we are.

Not so, it seems:

Figures show that more than 14 million people in the UK will be dangerously overweight by 2010, many of whom have an aversion to organised sport. The cost of inactivity is reckoned to be £8bn a year, including bills for tackling illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, depression and lost working days. The Government wants children - already among the most obese in the world - to take part in an at least an hour of moderate activity each day, while adults should aim to do half an hour of light exercise, such as brisk walking, five days a week.

But there's a downside to all this exercise and obesity-fighting. The Independent also reported today that thin women have a greater risk of miscarriage than plumper women do.

Skinny women who get pregnant are at a far greater risk of miscarriage than those of normal weight, a study has found. But they may be able to reduce the risk significantly by eating the right food or taking vitamins, say researchers.

Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine questioned 603 British women aged 18 to 55 who had miscarried within three months of getting pregnant.

Pregnant at fifty-five???

[U]nderweight women had a 72 per cent higher risk of miscarrying in the first trimester. On the other hand, women who took vitamin supplements during early pregnancy reduced the risk by around 50 per cent.

So should women try to get thin, or should they stay fat? The British National Health Service may be encouraging miscarriages with their dance scheme. Such a shame.

Bolton Resigns

The news is discouraging.

John Bolton resigned as US Ambasador to the UN, reported today by WorldNetDaily. Far from being the proverbial bull in the china shop that the Democrats hyperventilated about--breaking the fragile glassware of world diplomacy and goring the sensitive and underprivileged souls with his slashing horns--he has shown himself to be an effective leader who is capable of brokering deals while holding the UN's feet to the fire over events like Darfur.

Deroy Murdock wrote a column for the Washington times yesterday, before the announcement was made, applauding Bolton for his accomplishments during his time at the UN. He says Bolton's critics "consider him as diplomatic as a catapult."

But even if he is a human Vesuvius on duty, he performs vital work and has earned praise from colleagues and admirers overseas. Thus, the Senate should reconfirm him for service beyond his soon-expiring recess appointment.

Rather than merely erupt at everyone around him, as his adversaries claim, Mr. Bolton brokers peace agreements, frustrates despots, fights genocide and steers nuclear weapons from the twitchy fingers of tyrants.

Murdock gets into the specifics of those accomplishments, which include working with France to get an end to the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel. Bolton assembled a coalition to block Venezuela from getting on the Security Council and was the first to raise the human-rights violations in Burma before the UN.

Mr. Bolton properly belittled the new Human Rights Council, a forum where Cuba and Zimbabwe lecture civilized nations on how to treat their citizens. He compared this unit's creation to "putting lipstick on a caterpillar and calling it a butterfly."

Mr. Bolton invited actor George Clooney and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel to brief the Security Council last September on Arab mass-murder of non-Arabs in Darfur, Sudan. "Every day we delay only adds to the suffering of the Sudanese people and extends the genocide," Mr. Bolton said. He engineered the Security Council's approval of 22,500 U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur. Mr. Bolton continues to pressure Sudan's government to accept these personnel atop the 7,000 African Union soldiers already on site.

He worked to get pressure applied to Iran and North Korea over their respective nuclear programs. And other UN Ambassadors like him. Murdock quotes the Chinese, Romanian, and Algerian Ambassadors saying really nice things about Bolton. And Sweden's former deputy prime minister, Per Ahlmark, nominated Bolton (and journalist Kenneth Timmerman) for a Nobel Peace Prize for "challenging Iran's hunger for nukes."

Democratic senators and Republican turncoat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island continue to block Mr. Bolton's reconfirmation. President Bush should engage this issue fully by flying to the U.N., standing by his ambassador, and declaring:

"John Bolton has stymied despots, comforted potential genocide victims and hindered Kim Jong-il's and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's atomic ambitions. He toils from dawn to dusk to promote international peace and protect America's national security. The Senate should send this man back to work."

Yes, he should. But he probably won't, and that's what so discouraging.