Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day Off

It's my birthday tomorrow, and I'm going to Disneyland!

Disneyland has a special offer for this year only: If you register ahead of time, you get free admission on your birthday. I registered a couple weeks ago, printed the right email, and I'm ready.

Tomorrow morning my kids will come over and we'll all head up to Anaheim to the Happiest Place on Earth. My daughter has an annual pass, and my son will have to buy a ticket.

I hope my feet hold up OK.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another Milestone

No, I'm not talking about Obama's 100th day in office.

I've been on my weight-loss program for 2 - 1/2 months, and today I hit the -20 lb. mark! I got to eat the piece of See's chocolate (dark chocolate chip truffle) that I bought a couple weeks ago to be my 20-lb reward. I wasn't sure how long it would take, so I went to See's when I hit -15 and kept the chocolate in the refrigerator to await the Big Day.

My slacks I wear to work are droopy, but I don't care, because they aren't tight anymore. My old jeans (not the new curvy ones) no longer feel like I'm sausage meat poured into a casing.

Life is good.

At least 10 more pounds to go...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good Question

I had to take my car in to get a smog check, so I called the repair shop where my daughter takes her car (mine usually goes to the dealer, but that was too far to drive this morning before work) and got their recommendation for a smog check place.

I went there this morning, and it was a Christian-owned shop. On both sides of the front door, taped to the inside of the windows, were printer papers that said, "No Soliciting. This Means You." It made me wonder just who it was who came selling stuff and what they sold and why they didn't think it should count for them, but I didn't get a chance to ask, because the lady went to the back when she finished doing my paperwork.

I made sure not to solicit while I was there.

They had the Calvary Chapel radio station on the speaker system, with a preacher I didn't recognize. I was reading a book, so I didn't pay a lot of attention to the preacher, and his voice was drowned out when the smog test on the car before mine got loud.

But there was a moment of calm, when the preacher asked a good question for all those people who cling to their sins: "When has your sin ever truly made your life better?" And he invited his listeners to email him if it has.

Naturally, he doesn't expect to receive any replies. I certainly won't be sending one.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mark Steyn on Obama's World

Mark Steyn's column this week deals with a couple depressing topics. The first he addresses is the way the Left has managed to depress small children about the future.

According to an Earth Day survey, one-third of schoolchildren between the ages of 6 and 11 think the Earth will have been destroyed by the time they grow up. That's great news, isn't it? Not for the Earth, I mean, but for "environmental awareness." Congratulations to Al Gore, the Sierra Club and the eco-propagandists of the public education system in doing such a terrific job of traumatizing America's moppets. Traditionally, most of the folks you see wandering the streets proclaiming the end of the world is nigh tend to be getting up there in years. It's quite something to have persuaded millions of first-graders that their best days are behind them.

Call me crazy, but I'll bet that in 15-20 years the planet will still be here, along with most of the "environment" – your flora and fauna, your polar bears and three-toed tree sloths and whatnot.

Of course he's right. The Left loves to scare small children for the sake of "the children." And they're good at preying on innocent, undeveloped minds by planting unrealistic fears in them.

But when it comes to realistic dangers, well, the Left doesn't even want to know about it, let alone teach the children.

Next, Steyn discusses some of the dangers that are looming on the world stage.

For example, Hillary Clinton said the other day that Pakistan posed a "mortal threat" to … Afghanistan? India? No, to the entire world! To listen to her, you'd think Pakistan was as scary as l'il Jimmy in the second grade's mom's SUV. She has a point: Asif Ali Zardari, the guy who's nominally running the country, isn't running anything. He's ceding more and more turf to the local branch office of the Taliban. When the topic turns up in the news, we usually get vague references to the pro-Osama crowd controlling much of the "north-west," which makes it sound as if these guys are the wilds of rural Idaho to Zardari's Beltway. In fact, they're now within some 60 miles of the capital, Islamabad – or, in American terms, a couple of I-95 exits north of Baltimore: In other words, they're within striking distance of the administrative center of a nation of over 165 million people – and its nuclear weapons. That's the "mortal threat."

What's going to stop them? Well, not Zardari. Nor his "summit" in Washington with President Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. The creation of Pakistan was the worst mistake of postwar British imperial policy, and all that's happened in the six decades since is that its pathologies have burst free of its borders and gone regional, global and, soon, perhaps nuclear. Does the Obama administration have even a limited contingency plan for the nukes if – when – the Pakistani state collapses?

It would be reassuring to think so. But I wonder.

What's the greater likelihood? That in 10 years' time things in Pakistan will be better? Or much worse? That nuclearization by basket-case dictatorships from Pyongyang to Tehran will have advanced, or been contained? That the bleak demographic arithmetic at the heart of Europe and Japan's economic woes will have accelerated, or been reversed? That a resurgent Islam's assaults on free speech and other rights (symbolized by the recent U.N. support for a global Islamic blasphemy law) will have taken hold in the Western world, or been forced to retreat?

A betting man would check the "worse" box. Because resisting the present careless drift would require global leadership.

And a serious look at Barack Obama's approach to foreign affairs tells us he's abdicating leadership to anyone who's willing to take it. And the most likely to accept that challenge are regional despots with nuclear weapons who, taken together, will destabilize the world because Obama's America isn't going to lift a finger to help.

Steyn concludes:

Since January, President Obama and his team have schmoozed, ineffectively, American enemies over allies in almost every corner of the globe. If you're, say, India, following Obama's apology tour even as you watch the Taliban advancing on those Pakistani nukes, would you want to bet the future on American resolve? In Delhi, in Tokyo, in Prague, in Tel Aviv, in Bogota, they've looked at these first 100 days and drawn their own conclusions.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Getting Watery

My daughter moved out today to rent a room in one of her friends' parents' house, and I only came to tears about 5 or 6 times.

The first was after she and her friends had left to take all the heavy stuff to her new place. The second was when she came back home from that trip and asked me if I'd cried yet.

I was fine again until I got to work and my manager asked how my day was going. My eyes watered up, and I couldn't even talk to let her know why. But I recovered and went out to help customers for five hours.

It happened again when I got off work and came home to a too-quiet house.

It's not like this is a surprise. I had told her she needed to go, because I have to try to sell my house. I can't afford to keep it anymore without a better-paying job than part time at a shoe store.

I'll be moving in with my friend the cardiac nurse, who has an extra bedroom and is excited about getting some company (though we probably won't see each other much during the week because of our schedules). And even though I love her dearly and I'm looking forward to being unburdened by this house, it doesn't take away the tears.

Penny's not the only one with an empty nest.

Penny Has Flown the Coop

We haven't seen Penny in her nest in our awning for a couple weeks. She had been sticking close to home, only leaving the nest when we got too close to her, and even then she flew to the nearest rooftop to watch for us to leave her danger zone.

What I figure is that she suffered from prematurely empty-nest syndrome, because no eggs arrived, because that golden-tongued, red-chested fellow who had been sweet-talking her never really came through with the goods. Poor girl!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

California EPA Gets One Right

Will wonders never cease?!

WorldNetDaily reported Tuesday on a draft report about corn ethanol, scheduled to be released yesterday.

In a decision anticipated as a major setback for proponents of renewable biofuels, California regulators appear ready to conclude that corn ethanol cannot help the state reduce "global warming."

In a hearing scheduled tomorrow in Sacramento, the California Environmental Protection Agency has evidently concluded that corn ethanol will not help the state implement Executive Order S-1-07, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Jan. 18, 2007, mandating a 10 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of the state's fuels by 2020.

"Ethanol is a good fuel, but how it is produced is problematic," Dimitri Stanich, public information oOfficer for the California Environmental Protection Agency, told WND. "The corn ethanol industry has to figure out another way to process corn into ethanol that is not so coal intensive."

Stanich pointed out that the formula the California Environmental Protection Agency utilizes to assess the net greenhouse gas impact of alternative fuels takes into consideration that typically the electricity used to produce corn ethanol involves burning coal, which emits carbon dioxide and defeats states regulatory intent to reduce net greenhouse emissions.

Also problematic, Stanich explained, was that increased demand for ethanol will encourage recognition worldwide that more ethanol can be sold. The result is that more land globally will be converted to producing corn for ethanol.

"Converting land that is now a 'carbon sink' to farmland producing ethanol also defeats the purpose of the regulations, because land now absorbing carbon dioxide would be cleared to produce corn," he said.

Another problem Stanich pointed out was that the waste product from producing corn ethanol also requires the burning of coal to convert it into animal feed.

The California Environmental Protection Agency formula assesses as a loss the conversion of the carbon dioxide-absorbing land now populated with trees into cleared farmland producing corn for ethanol.

Stanich told WND the California Environmental Protection Agency has scheduled six hours for public testimony, expecting to hear strong opposition from the ethanol industry.

Yes, they did. And the environmentalists are none too happy too. Reuters reported yesterday on that front.

California regulators preparing on Thursday to adopt landmark rules curbing carbon emissions from transport fuels made an eleventh-hour bid to woo critics who call the measures unfair to corn-based ethanol.

If adopted by the Air Resources Board as expected, the low-carbon fuel standard would become the first measure in the nation to impose on motor fuels limits on the amount of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.

Similar rules are being considered in 11 other states that are waiting for California to act. President Barack Obama has also called for a nationwide low-carbon fuel standard to help meet his goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent by mid-century.

Ethanol industry advocates and scientists are among those who have vehemently opposed rules drafted last month by the state's Air Resources Board, saying they put grain-based biofuels at a competitive disadvantage.

In a move to quiet those concerns, the state's top air quality regulator, Mary Nichols, sent a letter on Wednesday to biofuels industry executives insisting that "corn ethanol will play an important role in helping California achieve the goals" of the proposed regulations.

"What we're trying to convey is that we are open, that we are listening and that we are determined to adapt the rule on a real-time basis as we get new and better science," Nichols said in a telephone interview.

I'm sure what Nichols means by "better science" is the kind they can skew to fit the results they want to achieve. We can't have science telling us what we don't want to hear, now, can we?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Scolded at the Grocery Store (Updated)

I hate Earth Day. That happens to be today, in case you weren't following. They've been shoving Earth Day and my personal responsibility to Save The Planet! down my throat since I was in junior high school, and now I just gag on it.

A couple months ago, I was at the grocery store, and the lady in front of me brought her own canvas grocery bags that the bagger loaded up. When it was my turn, I asked for paper bags. The bagger asked me how come I wasn't using the reusable bags like the other lady.

Well, in contrast to a planet-saving specimen of womanhood, I suppose I compared poorly, despite my reuse of the paper bags as kitchen garbage bags. Annoyed as I was, I wrote off that incident.

Until last night, when I got that same bagger again. I asked for paper, and he said, "Lady, why aren't you using the reusable bags?" He was frowning at me.

I told him that I do reuse the paper bags, but he insisted that I should be using the reusable bags. I told him I wanted the paper bags.

What is it? Do I have a Kick Me sign on my forehead?

Maybe it's my choice of paper over plastic that sets the guy off. I have no idea.

If I have time today (doubtful, between a smog check, paying my car registration, work, and picking up something for the potluck for our last night of Billing class tonight), I might take a minute and tell the grocery store manager that I don't like being scolded for my choices. People might stop shopping at their store if the "service" comes with a tongue-lashing.


I stopped at the store yesterday on my way to work and talked to the assistant manager. I was hoping to talk to the manager, who I've complimented several times about his store and employees, but he was at lunch, and I didn't have time to wait.

I told the assistant manager the story and then said I'm not a professional whiner. I said that suggestive upselling is fine with me--I do it all the time at the shoe store--but the bagger needs to accept the answer without pushing.

He said mine wasn't the first complaint they'd received, and he'd be sure they had a talk with the bagger.

I feel bad for the guy, but at the same time he needs to learn, or he's going to be out of a job.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pear-Shaped Perfection

Those of us with a pear shape (relatively small waist, compared to the hips) have always had trouble finding jeans that fit right. We try on a pair of Levi's 501 (or any other number) jeans, only to have the waistband stick out so far in the back that our cat or small dog could curl up back there and take a nap.

So we resort to buying relaxed fit because the hips are looser, but even so we need a belt to keep the waistband from sticking out. Not to mention that the waistband doesn't quite go high enough in the back to completely cover the top of our underwear (too much info, I know).

A couple weeks ago, when I was wandering around the mall after work at the shoe store, I stopped at Sears to look at jeans. I used to buy all my jeans at Mervyn's, but since they went out of business, I've been at loose ends to know who has a good enough selection of Levi's 550 (relaxed fit, stretch, boot cut). Sears had mostly their own brand, but they had a smattering of Levi's that the employee told me wasn't going to be replenished.

That's when I saw them: Levi's Curvy 529 jeans. I heard the sound of violins and a choir singing praise to God as I looked at the tags.

But they didn't have my size, and the singing faded away.

I found my size online and ordered them, and they arrived last night. The dark wash, like Stacy and Clinton say to buy. The catalog/online picture above doesn't do them justice. They don't look like anything special just hanging there disembodied.

I wore them to church today, and then I took my picture in my daughter's friend's long mirror. Here's what they look like on a real person. See how they fit my curves. And my waist! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

If you're a pear shape and you're still looking for that perfect pair of jeans, look no further. Levi Strauss has finally woken up to the fact that you exist, and he has created perfection.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I blogged about my trip to Poland in September of 2006 (here, here, here, here, here, and here), when two other ladies from my church joined me and we went to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Polish church we support.

In these posts, I mentioned the trip to Poland I had taken with another couple in 1997. What I haven't mentioned, however, is that during the '97 trip I received two cassette tapes with Christian music on them when we were there, and one song, Golgoto, was on both tapes. It was haunting, and when I played it later for the lady I traveled with (she's also the organist and sometimes pianist at church), she said, "That's in a minor key. Oh! That's a really minor key."

The version I played for her opens with the sound of a very large metal hammer striking a very large nail three times. Then it pauses and strikes three more times. Another pause and three more strikes, and then the music and singing begin.

I tried translating it myself with my Polish-English dictionary (which I've since misplaced), but didn't do a good enough job. So the organist wrote to the woman who does most of the translating of news from the Polish churches, and she had already translated Golgoto into English. She sent the organist the English lyrics and the sheet music.

I knew it was coming, but one morning at church, during communion, the song the organist played was Golgoto. That was the way she told me it had arrived, and I cried my way through communion, because she knew I was the only one who would recognize it.

She and I practiced together, and not long after that, I actually sang the song for the church to her accompaniment. I sang the second verse (it's more pronounceable than the first verse) and chorus in Polish and then sang the same ones in English. Here are the (English) lyrics that I sang:

I see You, my Lord, on the cross,
So many bruises and wounds.
Your love was the power that held You there
To free me from guilt and from sin.

It was not the nails that pierced You, but my sin.
It was not people who wronged You, but my sin.
It was not the nails that held You, but my sin.
Though it happened long ago, You did it for me.

I found a performance of Golgoto on YouTube. Beata Bednarz has a choir, and her arrangement of the chorus is more jazzed up than mine, but you get the idea (the verse I sang starts at 0:33 into the video)...

It's the perfect song for Good Friday.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Working at the Shoe Store

We've got two people on vacation this week and next at the shoe store, so I'm working a lot. Not much blogging time.

These are my favorite pair of shoes that we have available. They look like a girl should put on a swirly dress, take Fred Astaire's hand, and hit the dance floor.

I'll be making sure they're properly displayed (and all the other shoes are too). See you back here when I get a chance to come up for air.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Animal Pictures

The Telegraph (UK) posted its animal pictures of the week (there are 31 photos), and this one of the deer at the drive-thru liquor store is the first. These deer must be underage...

This one is my other favorite picture from this week's collection:

It's a landmine-sniffing rat in Mozambique. I blogged about these rats in 2007.

On the home front, we have a nesting birdie (who my daughter named Penny) in our awning.

We got to watch her building her nest. She'd bring stuff to build it with, and then she sort of flattened herself on it and wiggled before she flew off to get some more.

Now she seems to be staying put, so there are probably some eggs. When the nesting started, there was this red-chested guy hanging around the place, but he's made himself scarce since he obviously got the job done already.

I'll keep you posted when there's more Penny news to report...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Muslim-Episcopal Minister Finally Defrocked

A couple years ago, I blogged about the Episcopal priest who became a Muslim and stayed a priest. At long last, the Episcopal church has resolved the issue.

CNN reported Thursday that the Episcopal church removed her from the priesthood.

For nearly 30 years, Redding has been an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church. Her priesthood ended Wednesday when she was defrocked.

The reason? For the past three years Redding has been both a practicing Christian and a Muslim.

Redding said her conversion to Islam was sparked by an interfaith gathering she attended three years ago. During the meeting, an imam demonstrated Muslim chants and meditation to the group. Redding said the beauty of the moment and the imam's humbleness before God stuck with her.

Ten days later Redding was saying the shahada -- the Muslim declaration of belief in the oneness of God and acceptance of Mohammad as his prophet.

But Redding said she felt her new Muslim faith did not pose a contradiction to her staying a Christian and minister.

"Both religions say there's only one God," Redding said, "and that God is the same God. It's very clear we are talking about the same God! So I haven't shifted my allegiance."

Umm... there's that little question of Jesus. Islam teaches that Jesus is just another prophet, and He isn't the greatest prophet, either. Christianity teaches that Jesus is NOT a prophet but the unique Son of God.

Redding said she sees the theological conflicts but that the two religions, at their core, "illuminate" each other.

"When I took my shahada, I said there's no God but God and that Mohammed is God's prophet or messenger. Neither of those statements, neither part of that confession or profession denies anything about Christianity," she said.

The Diocese of Rhode Island, where Redding was ordained, told her to leave either her new Muslim faith or the ministry. A diocese statement said Bishop Geralyn Wolf found Redding to be "a woman of utmost integrity. However, the Bishop believes that a priest of the Church cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim."

It has been said about the mainline denominations that have cut their moorings to Scripture that when they believe in nothing, they'll believe in anything. Redding illustrates this point perfectly.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Latest on the Grumpiness

My sunburn has faded a bit, so it's only pink on my forehead, the tops of my cheekbones, and especially my nose. I've been living with aloe vera (no makeup) on my face for two days, and now it feels like my nose is about to start peeling. Already.

Last night when I got home, there was a message on my answering machine from the school. They said there was an opening in the online coding class I wanted, and I should give them a call if I'm still interested. I called right away (after school hours) and left a message that emphatically said that, yes, I was interested and I'd sign up this morning when I came in for my Friday morning class.

I got to class this morning, only to realize that I'd left my permission slip at home on my dresser. And my schedule didn't allow me enough time to go home after class, come back and register, have lunch, and get to work at the shoe store on time.

Our instructor (who will be teaching the coding class) told us we'd have about an hour to an hour and a half to work on our final project, so I told her that I needed to go home and get my slip, and I'd be back within an hour. She told me not to. Then she proceeded to pull out a pad of permission slips and wrote one for me on the spot. So I went to the office and registered for my class. Thankfully, I did not see the woman I had the altercation with Wednesday night.

So now all is well with school, and I'll be typing up my recommendations for changing the registration process soon-ish (my boss at the shoe store told me she scheduled me to work over 30 hours next week, which will be good for my income, but it cuts into my productive time away from work).

Thank you, Tsofah, for your prayers!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Grumpy (Updated)

Today was registration for next semester's medical classes, and I had requested Medical Coding, which would be offered online only. I love online classes, because I can do the work when I want to and don't have to miss things like my Wednesday night Bible study.

The process is that you get approval ahead of time from the teachers and administrators, in the form of a purple slip that you take to registration with you. This does not guarantee you a spot in the class. Placement in each class is first-come first-served.

In our Medical Billing class, they emphasized that we were the only competition for Coding, since Billing is a prerequisite, so I didn't get in line as early as I had before.

I should have. The class filled up just ahead of me, so I'm second on the wait list, and I'm pretty ticked that they told us not to worry about our class. And that I believed them.

But what makes it worse is that their ability to process people through registration took a severe nosedive over last time. In January, I got in line at around 6:00 am, they opened the office at 8:00, and I was finished before 9:00 am.

This time I got in line at 7:00 am (not much farther back than in January), they opened the office at 8:00, and they didn't let me in until 2:00 pm. Only to be told that my class was full. Seven hours of waiting for no results.

I am not happy.

Update (after Wednesday night class):

My face is very red from standing in the sun for 5 or 6 hours (it was heavily overcast when I got there then cleared up). I put my stuff down in class tonight and went to the office to register my complaint over the incredibly long time it took to register everyone.

After waiting my turn, I told the lady at the desk (normally a very perky woman) that I wanted to complain. She told me I couldn't complain, and they couldn't do anything for me. I told her I didn't want her to do anything for me (the situation with being on the waiting list is what it is, and I have to live with it), but I just wanted to be heard.

She shut up and listened. I asked her what caused the delay in helping everyone, and she said she couldn't tell me (not sure if she meant they didn't know or just weren't telling). She then went on to tell me what a hard day they had and I had no right to complain.

I tried a compliment, saying that they did a beautiful job with registration last time, and she shot back that they did a beautiful job this time, because they got everyone taken care of.

At that point, I said, "Oh, never mind," and I left the office about ready to burst into tears of frustration.

I vented to the people around me in class (we were working on our PowerPoint assignments, so this wasn't a disruption of class), and then I was fine again. Except for the sunburn that kept people commenting and recommending aloe vera.

After class, I talked with someone about another topic, and then the conversation turned to registration. She and I decided that things could be seriously improved (people had fought in line over cuts or saving spots for friends) if they established some criteria and assigned registration dates by priority.

Perhaps they value attendance and would assign the people with perfect attendance to Day 1 registration, people who missed a class to Day 2, and people who missed more than one class to Day 3.

Or maybe they value grades and can assign the people with the best grades to Day 1, etc. Or they could do some combination of the two, or whatever other criteria make sense and seem fair. Then we wouldn't have the camping-out-all-night (some people started waiting at 6pm the night before) free-for-all disaster that we had today. And they'd be able to spread the students over the three official registration days, rather than having everyone try to register on the first day.

With the economy what it is, more and more people are coming to the school hoping for retraining in the medical field. It's only going to get worse if they don't make some drastic changes.

April Calendar Pictures

Another month is upon us, and that means another month's calendar pictures.

First, the family's travel photos are not the same ones you saw in Photography 101 Lesson 5 or Lesson 8, although you may have seen the one on the right as my mom and I traveled through St. Louis.

For my Patterns calendar, these daisies were in a big planter-box somewhere in New York.