Friday, April 30, 2004

Memorable Sonshine Quote

Sonshine finished his dinner and came to ask for dessert. "I want a dessert!" he said.

Favorite Husband, fishing for a "may" and a "please", said "You WANT a dessert?"

Sonshine thinks for a second, then says "I NEED a dessert!"

Support Our Troops

I've heard that there are some people out there who are opposed to the war in Iraq who have as a slogan, "Support our troops-- bring them home". I'm the last person to find fault with such a nice sentiment. My friends in Iraq would dearly love to come home. And I can agree to disagree with people who insist on being respectful. I think this is a very respectable anti-war slogan. The anti-war movement serves a purpose in America as a check on pro-war advocates, making them think twice about going to war. And the less obnoxious or sloganeering the protests are, the more likely people are to actually listen to them.

However, I have a counter-slogan to "support our troops-- bring them home."

My counter-slogan is "support our troops-- make this country worth coming home to."

I would certainly hate to see my friends come home, only to be spat on by the kind of people who are spitting now on the memory of the late Army Ranger Pat Tillman. If anti-war people make this country not worth coming home to, it will only result in soldiers' coming home to a country that hates them. Why would anyone want to come home under those circumstances? But if we all work together to preserve the America we know and love, to bring to pass an environment where everyone can express their opinions respectfully; to show that even if we disagree with our leaders we will not endlessly play Monday morning quarterback, but will instead just vote in the next election; then our soldiers will really have something worth fighting for, as well as something worth coming home to.

So put on your yellow ribbons, folks, and let those soldiers know that when they come home, they will not be spat upon even by people who opposed their being overseas.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Passive Activism

What defines an "activist"?

We always hear the word in association with people who attend demonstrations and wave signs ("union activist," "pro-life activist"), or referring to public advocates for a cause. But what exactly makes a person an "activist"? A full-time advocate of a cause is an activist; what about a part-time advocate? What about someone who works on advocating it for an hour a week? Are they activists too? Clearly, someone who sympathizes with a cause but does nothing about it is not an activist, yet someone who attends one protest is; where do we draw the line? How many hours a week do you have to put in before you are an "activist"?

And what about people who work for causes that don't have a ribbon color assigned to them? What about, say, people who are passionate about math education and provide free tutoring? What about people who are passionate about good parenting and spend all their time quietly raising their children? Are they activists too?

Are we all, in some sense, passive activists?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Yeah, I'm "pro-choice"...

... I just happen to believe that in most cases, the moment of choice occurs about four weeks before the pregnancy test turns positive.

Is there anyone in this country old enough to have sex who DOESN'T know it's how babies are made? Or are we not teaching enough math in school, that people think a 90% chance of not getting pregnant somehow doesn't translate into a 10% chance of getting pregnant? If you were to go bungee jumping with a 10% chance of being injured, would it surprise you terribly if you got injured? And whose fault would it be if you did?

OK, THIS Is Some Ridiculous Poop

Eugene Volokh provides this link to a story on the latest ridiculousness to come out of the mouths of so-called environmentalists. At least, I presume it came out of their mouths...

Citing the environmental hazards of both disposable landfill-fillers diapers and the detergents used to wash cloth diapers, some wacky people are now proposing that babies go diaperless. In some parts of the world, babies are allowed to poop and pee wherever they wish. I'm guessing those are some of the more stinky, disease-ridden parts of the world.

Look, if you live out in the open or in a very, very small village, a little poop here and there doesn't make much of a deal. If your baby is running around in a field, his poop might fertilize the crops. And a tiny bit of poop never hurt anyone. But can you imagine cities like that? You want to talk about the environmental hazards of washing diapers? How about all the detergents and other chemicals that would be released into the environment from washing poop off of carpets, couches, stroller liners, etc. or spraying air fresheners? How about all the diseases that would be transmitted through the fecal-oral route (has anyone ever been successful at stopping a baby from eating random things it finds lying around?)

And just one other thing these people overlook. They say you can learn to tell when your infant is pooping; this is true. But babies usually don't signal that they're about to poop more than a few seconds in advance, just long enough to get the baby off your hip, if you're lucky. Not only that, but in order to learn your baby's signals, you have to actually be with the baby for extended periods of time. Aren't these the same people who want mothers to work all the time and put their children in day care?

I like cloth diapers. I like them mostly because they give me a third alternative to bulky stockpiles of diapers or constant trips to the store. If the budget gets tight one month I can just skimp on the disposables, which I use mainly for sending the kids to Grandma's. But no diapers? That's just ridiculous.

These people are nuts. What are they thinking??

Monday, April 26, 2004

At The Bottom Of The Outhouse

... that's where I feel like I am today, the crap just keeps on raining down on me. We had a plumbing leak yesterday, so no blogging today. Also, Favorite Husband is home this week and is planning on Doing Stuff With The Computer, which means we will probably lose internet access (we've already lost the mail server). The computer can work just fine, but he'll be determined to tinker with it anyway, and inside of an hour he can fix it so that nothing works any more. And it seems like he inevitably does this right before I give an exam...

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Final In The Bag, New Career Looms Ahead

The final exam is written, signed, sealed, and delivered. It's all over now but the grading, which will be Tuesday. I have studiously avoided thinking about how this is probably my last calculus final ever. I've tried to leave my options open, but I've made it clear that I do not intend to return to work at the university in the fall. This is really scary for me, but I have to do it. There's no way I can do the three-hour block of a night class plus office hours with a small nursing baby. And a day class is entirely out of the question. I'd have to find (and pay for) child care for said small nursing baby and for Sonshine, not to mention that a day class pays $600 less per semester than a night class.

But here I go, starting a new endeavor. My sister and I are going into business together, making learn-to-knit kits and learn-to-crochet kits and selling our handmade wares at the Gardener's Market. Hopefully this will kick off a new career for me as a work-at-home entrepreneur. I'll still do private tutoring, but tutoring is pretty seasonal (*cough* finals week only) and I need a steadier source of income.

Our kits are going to be cooler than anyone else's learn-to-knit-and/or-crochet kits. First, we will have much nicer yarns in ours. We're finding excellent wool blends and the fluffiest chenilles for our scarves; most scarf kits have cheap acrylic or that scary eyelash yarn (no beginner should want to work with that stuff). Second, we will have kits no one else offers, with our featured kit being a dishcloth kit. Maybe homemade dishcloths aren't big elsewhere, but here they make nice gifts for weddings and other occasions. And third, we are developing an instructional website for our customers, with tutorials on how to knit and crochet. (If you are now all excited and want to buy one, you could always e-mail me privately.)

I'm really excited, but I've gotta tell ya (in the interest of full disclosure) that if these things sell, it'll be the very first time in my adult life that anything I've thought was cool was interesting enough to other people that they would spend good money to buy them. I specify adult life because I used to bring in a bit of dough when I was in high school by making these baby booties that looked like shoes and selling them in a gift box. I'll never know how much of those sales was due to people's sympathy for a high schooler trying to bring in extra bucks. But everything else I've tried to sell since then has flopped miserably, with the most conspicuous failure being the line of toddler coats. Everyone said "Those coats are so adorable, you should sell them!" But when it came down to it, none of the people who clamored for their sale ever bought a single one, and I ended up selling them for the cost of the materials to a local store. And even then I saw them on the clearance rack at that store for a long time.

So please pray for me and my endeavors to be a stay-at-home mom and still pay the bills.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Environmental Poseurs

It's for reasons like these that a "greenie" like myself finds myself unaffiliated with so-called environmental groups. (Link via InstaPundit)

Happy Earth Day, by the way. It's the twelfth anniversary of the day I rebelled against my parents and got my ears pierced.

Math Curriculum "Dumbed Down"

OK, this is satire, but good satire always speaks some truth about the object of its fun. The article is about the math curriculum being watered down so that people will be more inclined to buy lottery tickets. (via Joanne Jacobs)

My soapbox needs a good standing-on at least once a day, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to weigh in on the teaching of statistics and probability in elementary schools. As part of my duties on the charter school's curriculum committee, I had a chance to review in depth the state math core curriculum and compare it with others. And the early emphasis on probability and statistics strikes me as terribly inappropriate.

I am all in favor of basic probability and statistics being taught to our math students, even at the expense of some higher level algebra, because in the information age you have to have the tools to wrap your brain around the information and make good decisions based on it. However, I am not of the opinion that children as young as five should be made to do this. I think it takes a certain amount of mental development to understand probability. Children who cannot tell the difference between imaginary monsters and toys under their beds are not in any sort of position to grasp that some events are more probable than others. Children who do not yet grasp the concepts of fraction and proportion are in no condition to understand how one portion of the circle spinner will lead to a more likely outcome, no matter how brightly colored the circle spinner is. And yet there is a probability section in every year of the core curriculum from Kindergarten on up. I do think the idea of having the students create graphs is a good one; however, they are not in much of a position to do any sort of analysis of the data more complicated than "which bar on our graph is the longest?". Other than that, this probability and statistics instruction at early ages is developmentally inappropriate.

UPDATE: Joanne also has this bit on calculator use. I've put away the soapbox for today, so you'll just have to read her take.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

It Worked!!!

I got a load of baby things together, and bought some Dreft, and finally washed the stuff I'd made for my new baby with the Fox Fibre organic cotton. (This is the cotton that changes color when washed, to a natural non-dyed shade.) It was a sort of khaki color when it went in, but when it came out, it was definitely green. So it worked! Awesome!

UPDATE: My mom doesn't get it. She says she just doesn't understand why on Earth anyone would WANT a yarn that changes color when washed.

ADD and medication

It is a subject of contentious debate whether or not Attention Deficit Disorder should be medicated. Some even dispute its reality as a disorder, claiming that it is just a fancy word for the normal behavior of children (particularly boys) or is the result of parents failing to instill discipline in their children.

I seem to have left my crystal ball at my office, so I can't determine for sure which side is right. But I can share my own experiences, anecdotal as they are.

When I was a child, it was difficult for me to focus in school. My parents, it should be said at this point, are some of the best there are. When I was young there weren't any Game Boys, and I was highly restricted in the amount of TV I was allowed to watch. My mom, an elementary school teacher, always provided us with mentally stimulating games and toys. But I was having problems in school. The teacher noticed that I wasn't able to complete my assignments and wouldn't focus on tasks.

Nowadays, I probably would have been sent for testing or sent to a psychologist or something. But my teacher came up with something really clever. Instead, she taught me how to knit, and allowed me to knit in class.

Knitting did amazing things for me. For once, I was able to focus only part of my mind on the school task, leaving the rest of it to be mesmerized by the repetitive motion of the knitting. I started doing better in school and being able to complete my tasks.

I knitted and crocheted my way through high school and college classes. My later teachers were always suspicious of my knitting in class, and would often surprise me with questions to try to catch me not paying attention. But I always was able to answer their questions right away. I never took notes. The items I made were mnemonic devices, like the knitting of Madam deFarge. They enhanced my memory.

I gradually learned to control my attention without the handwork. My graduate classes were very small, so I thought it would be rude to knit in them (no one can see you knit in a 300-person lecture hall). But whenever I found the material difficult and noticed my focus slipping, I would get out two pencils and make knitting motions with my hands in my lap, under the desk.

I've noticed that Sonshine, who is four, behaves in many of the ways that might get him labeled with ADD or ADHD when he gets to school. However, I've also noticed that his behavior is changing over time as he learns discipline and self-rule. I've found that little things are highly effective in encouraging him to control himself. If I spend five minutes each morning just cuddling him and touching him (rubbing his back, etc.), if I make sure to provide him with a time to run and play and a creative time to do whatever he decides to do, if I provide him with swift correction and clearly communicate that this is the opportunity for him to adjust his attitude before he receives a time-out or Manual Attitude Adjustment (a.k.a. spanking), he behaves much better during the day. The preschool he goes to follows the same principles, with the exception that he doesn't get spankings there. If he's allowed to just run wild, as unfortunately he sometimes is during heavy grading times, it only gets worse over the succeeding days. Even under the best conditions he still jumps off the furniture before I can catch him, and he often walks through parking lots waving his head around like he's mentally retarded (he says he likes the way his head feels when he does this). But people are always commenting on what a well-behaved child he is. So I think parenting may be a valid part of the picture when it comes to these kinds of behaviors.

I won't rule out that there are children who are legitimately helped by drugs like Ritalin. I don't know enough about the brain to rule out as a possibility the idea that children might have actual brain dysfunctions. But I do think there are likely lots of children like Sonshine and myself, where all they really need is a little creativity or a little discipline.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Light Bloggage This Week And Next

We are headed into Finals at the university, so bloggage will probably be light this week and next, until I get my exams graded and finally get some rest. I try to post every day, but the posts will probably not be real deep or insightful (as if they usually are!!). After that I will be wrapping things up with my day classes of 6th and 7th graders. The 7th graders want to study algebra into the summer, though, so I don't know when that will end...

Why I Like To Sew

There are several reasons why I like to sew, knit, etc.

(1) Because I enjoy being able to say "screw off" to the clothing designers who think my family and I should be wearing hideous colors and trashy styles this year
(2) Because I relish the challenge of making something out of virtually nothing
(3) Because I love the way my kids feel in cuddly flannel jammies
(4) Because I love thumbing my nose at the government which hasn't officially approved that cuddly flannel for jammies because it is insufficiently fireproof (like fabric is supposed to be fireproof??? Asbestos jammies???)
(5) Because I love how my kids feel like I'm hugging them all over every time they wear something I made
(6) Because I like seeing the looks on people's faces when I tell them "It's my own design." They tend to look at me as if they wish to bow down and worship me now as the Goddess of Creativity. (But then I get sick of that attitude, and I just want friends who will respect my craftsmanship.)

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Our Science-Distorted Culture

Kelly Hollowell has an article in which she puts forth her theory of how Darwinism and Einsteinian physics have been misinterpreted by the public and turned into moral relativism. While I think she's exaggerating the importance of these particular theories a bit for the sake of argument, she makes a good point about the influence of science on our culture.

[Aside: I was in 11th grade when I started to notice the heavy influence of science on our culture. Others didn't seem to notice it at all. My parents didn't understand why I knew it would be bad for my soul for me to go to Caltech; that while learning the best science was a good thing, I needed to focus on other, better things for my spiritual health. Later, I took a Sociology of Science course at college. To my great surprise, it basically confirmed what I had concluded about the role of science in our culture, and it also gave me more insights along the same lines.]

I think Hollowell's main point, which is that scientific theories have a tendency to infiltrate their way into our philosophy and culture in ways that have little to do with their actual scientific significance, is valid. However, I would submit that there are some theories that have not done so, but were and are just as earth-shattering as evolution or relativity. In particular I'm thinking of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, which rocked the mathematical world back in the 1930's.

Godel's incompleteness theorem is, when stated in its original form, quite inscrutable to the lay person; but to sum up the idea in plain English, it proves that in a system where you accept certain axioms, there will be statements which can be neither proven to be true nor disproven. This flew in the face of previous mathematical thought, which was that everything true will eventually be proven to be so, and that if we do not yet have a proof of it, it is through our own incompetence and not due to the fact that a proof cannot exist based on what we know and assume to be true. The very idea that there were unprovable statements in a discipline as well-defined as number theory was quite mind-blowing to people who had been trained to believe that Progress Marches On And Never Hits A Brick Wall It Won't Eventually Blast Through.

Personally, I'd like to see this theorem's philosophy brought into our culture. It would bring a dose of much-needed humility to the hubris of believing that science (or its derivative, sufficient thought) will eventually solve all our problems. It is this belief, that scientific progress marches us on toward eliminating all "bad" things, that brings out the worst in our culture; more so than the ideas of social darwinism or moral relativism. For if we believe that science marches us on toward all goals, we also believe that our major problems can all be solved; that we can have war without any civilian casualties; and that the 9-11 Commission can find out the Truth with a capital T. These idealistic beliefs in themselves are harmless and make decent goals to work toward, but when applied too strictly, they can become lethal, both to life and to culture.

Friday, April 16, 2004

One More Argument For Classic Education

I couldn't help but notice this paragraph in this news story:
A French television journalist, freed after four days in captivity in Iraq, said he was repeatedly interrogated by captors who accused him of being an Israeli spy and made him prove his nationality by drawing a map of France. [emphasis added]

Which means that anyone with a good "old-school" education in geography can fool Iraqi captors.

Just one more argument against watering down the curriculum. You never know when you might get captured by Iraqi insurgents...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Great Quote

A great quote from Thomas Sowell:
"If you don't stop and think, then it doesn't matter whether you are a genius or a moron."

UPDATE: Omar from Iraq The Model says: "when someone sh**s in his pants, every move he makes will make his mess worse". Too true.

On Bush's "Non-Apology"

Yesterday I listened to NPR's bitching about how Bush didn't apologize for 9/11. Something struck me as very discordant in that, and after getting some actual sleep, I think I've figured out what it was. The commentators were both men. Let me explain:

Favorite Husband (the father of the World's Cutest Kids) loves me fiercely. But he is never going to write me a love sonnet in iambic pentameter, no matter how much I would like him to. If he ever does write me a love poem, it will probably start with "Roses are red, violets are blue..." If I insist that without a love sonnet, I will never know that he loves me, then I guess I never will know that he loves me, because F. H. is a man of action and of few words.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger assures us that this is the case with most men. Like F. H., they'll do the dishes for their woman when she needs to spend a day resting in bed. They'll distract the kids so that she can clean out the Augean stables children's rooms. They'll "rock your world" every night in bed. But she points out (and rightly so) that they are entitled to choose the manner in which they show you they love you, and if you insist on a specific form of showing it, you will probably never get the message.

So it disconcerts me to hear a couple of men bitching about how Bush didn't use the particular words they wanted to hear. President Bush is, like Favorite Husband, a man of action and few words. So what we should ask ourselves, if we want to know if he's properly contrite about 9/11, is: what does he say with his actions? And I think we all know the answer to that. Or at least, half of us should.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Midterm Madness, Part 3

The third midterm is finally over. And I'm only two weeks away from the end of the term! Then I'll be down to only one part-time teaching job! Relief is in sight! And when the school year is finally over, I'll get around to putting an e-mail address on the blog. (The reason I haven't is that I just don't have time to deal with all the wonderful e-mails I anticipate getting. I'm SO looking forward to hearing from those coeds with the brand new webcam; it'll be the perfect chance to use that Viagra.)

The scores actually were pretty good on this midterm. High pass rate among the test-takers (although I haven't entered the scores yet so I don't know how many didn't take it). I have a good class this semester. And those who failed were by and large those I thought probably would fail. I don't understand how a student who comes to class solely to take (and fail) quizzes, and never stays for the lectures or the Q&A, would honestly think he or she would pass a midterm on the same material. But hey, it's their own money and time they're wasting. I get paid all the same.

Virtually Meaningless Statistics

Here's an article that is full of statistics on heights of populations that are about as meaningful as the old joke that the average adult has one breast and one testicle.

While the historical height averages are interesting, the modern ones (and especially the comparison of historical to modern) are virtually meaningless. For example, the average height of Americans is compared with the average height of the Dutch, and the results are supposed to be caused by prenatal clinics. What a crock! There are so many confounding factors that it would drive you nuts just thinking of them all. One of them is the fact that America, unlike the Netherlands, is a country that welcomes the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free", and to which many previously malnourished people like my mother- and father-in-law emigrate. (My husband's family alone will drive the average height down at least two inches.) The American population is also a hotbed of interracial childbearing, which tends to dilute the effects of any "tall genes" that might be floating around out there.

Because these mixing conditions did not hold historically for many populations (e.g. the 18th century Londoners), the historical height averages are meaningful. But the modern data is simply not comparable to the historical data.

Look, everybody knows that malnutrition and lack of prenatal care (on your mother's part) can make you short. But it's just not true that shortness is always due to malnutrition or lack of prenatal care-- just ask Tiny Princess, who is fed three squares a day and received the world's finest prenatal care, and is still a full foot shorter than her classmates. And trying to pin shortness on unemployment is just ridiculous. This guy is further than out on a limb with his conclusions-- he's out past the last bud on a twig.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

This Makes Me Steamin' Mad

Andy Rooney has just painted himself yellow. And I gotta tell ya, it's not a flattering color on a man of his age and standing.

Rooney writes:
Most of the reporting from Iraq is about death and destruction. We don't learn much about what our soldiers in Iraq are thinking or doing.

Whose fault is that? Our soldiers'? Ours? Gee, who on Earth could be responsible for what the media reports??
It would be interesting to have a reporter ask a group of our soldiers in Iraq to answer five questions and see the results:

1. Do you think your country did the right thing sending you into Iraq?

2. Are you doing what America set out to do to make Iraq a democracy, or have we failed so badly that we should pack up and get out before more of you are killed?

3. Do the orders you get handed down from one headquarters to another, all far removed from the fighting, seem sensible, or do you think our highest command is out of touch with the reality of your situation?

4. If you could have a medal or a trip home, which would you take?

5. Are you encouraged by all the talk back home about how brave you are and how everyone supports you?

Yeah, I'd like to know why no reporter has asked the soldiers these questions. But I'd bet good money it's because not very many people would be discouraged by their answers. It's much more discouraging to keep harping on all the negative news from Iraq.
Treating soldiers fighting their war as brave heroes is an old civilian trick designed to keep the soldiers at it. But you can be sure our soldiers in Iraq are not all brave heroes gladly risking their lives for us sitting comfortably back here at home. [emphasis added]

"Old civilian TRICK"? What, are we trying to trick our soldiers into being there? Are they going to come home and say, "You mean all those yellow ribbons... they were just a TRICK to get us to stay there and fight?? I feel so betrayed!" Honestly, this speaks volumes about how dumb Mr. Rooney thinks soldiers are.

The truth is, we write the stories of our own lives; we paint our own pictures of what they are. Everyone does this. Mr. Rooney likes to paint himself as a truth-teller. Whether it's a realistic portrait of him is up to you to judge. But when we paint our servicemen as heroes, and let them see the portrait, it affects them. It causes them to desire to be heroes. And this is where a lot of journalists go wrong. They see themselves as reporters, but they fail to understand that words have an effect, often a profound effect, on what people think. I understand the desire to paint a realistic picture of the world, but I think journalists have a duty to understand that whatever they paint becomes the world too.

One indication that not all soldiers in Iraq are happy warriors is the report recently released by the Army showing that 23 of them committed suicide there last year. This is a dismaying figure.

Of course, any suicides are dismaying; we really don't like it when people decide to kill themselves. But 23? Out of how many hundreds of thousands? I don't have a calculator handy or hard numbers in front of me, but I'm guessing that's way below the suicide rate for people of comparable demographics (age, gender, etc.) At least, it's way below what I remember reading that the suicide rate is.

It's disingenuous of the rest of us to encourage them to fight this war by idolizing them. We pin medals on their chests to keep them going. We speak of them as if they volunteered to risk their lives to save ours but there isn't much voluntary about what most of them have done. ... We must support our soldiers in Iraq because it's our fault they're risking their lives there. However, we should not bestow the mantle of heroism on all of them for simply being where we sent them. Most are victims, not heroes.

Oh, the hypocrisy! We are victimizing those poor volunteer soldiers (you know, the same ones who are so easily tricked by gimmicky yellow ribbons), who were too damn stupid to understand that they were signing their lives over to the Federal Government, so we should make it all better by telling them that they aren't heroes. That ought to make them feel better about themselves.
America's intentions are honorable. I believe that and we must find a way of making the rest of the world believe it.

Ummm, does (a) telling them our intentions are honorable and then (b) acting honorably on our honorable intentions count?

I'm not even a soldier, and I'm insulted by this article.

UPDATE: Michael Williams agrees with me, and he has the stats to back up my assertion above. And for those looking for a less restrained and more colorful fisking, Misha (as always) dishes it up.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Hardship and the American Character

Steven Den Beste comments on how the definition of "hardship" changes depending on the circumstances. While I think he has a very good point, I don't think the definition changes that radically or that quickly among people who understand what life used to be like, and are grateful for progress. Even just considering gas prices, how quickly we have forgotten the energy crisis of the 70's, so that an increase in gas prices which makes gas still cost less than milk on sale makes us start crying "hardship".

It is part of the American character to gripe about little things like gas prices. Our constant griping is what drives our amazing inventiveness. If we were content to live like we used to 100 years ago, we would not be world leaders in technological advances or in business. I think a wise person can tell the difference between this sort of minor griping and a real driving force in American politics.

I think people who are aware of what life was really like a long time ago are not afraid of little increases in gas prices, because they know that if worse came to worse, there are other ways to transport oneself. Those who know no history are at the mercy of their ignorance ("However will we transport ourselves without a car? However will we cook without a microwave?"). Knowledge is power.

Reading List

On the nightstand this week is Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer. It seems I'm on a military history kick right now; two of the last three books on the nightstand have been military history. I'm enjoying it immensely. I think anyone with an interest in the war in Iraq (pro or con) should read more military history.

This particular book documents the Revolutionary War. It's interesting how you can see the evolution of the American fighting spirit and the ethnic and cultural traditions that fed (and still feed) it.

One thing that strikes me as different between the Revolutionary War and the war on terror is that in the Revolutionary War we were up against an enemy that was largely humane. They had a standard for fighting, parts of which would later be incorporated into the Geneva Convention, which informed their actions. Although there were instances of torture and other "misbehaviors", the British actively tried not to harm civilians and non-combatants. In the war on terror, however, our enemies have no such scruples. And I think this is a key point that many of the anti-war-on-terror appeaser-people ignore. The British could be negotiated with because they had secondary objectives (not harming innocents) that could be common ground for negotiations. The terrorists, on the other hand, do not have any objectives, primary or secondary, that we would accept. The British were bound by their culture to keep their word once given. The terrorists are not; in fact, they are bound by their culture to break their word, since they are not obligated to keep promises made to infidels. The terrorists are not like other enemies that we've fought in the past, so the techniques of negotiation that worked in the past will not work against this enemy.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Y'all Can Quit Yer Yammerin' Now

Now that the August 6th, 2001 PDB has been released, and we can all read what it says and discover for ourselves that no non-psychic person could have predicted 9/11 based on it, maybe Ben-Veniste and Kerrey and all the others can quit their yammerin' now and get to work trying to figure out that all the improvements in communications between the FBI and CIA that have already been made since 9/11 were in fact the appropriate thing to do to try to prevent another 9/11.

Happy Easter!

I'm still exhausted from staying up all night last night sewing an Easter dress for Tiny Princess, and I have an egg hunt and brunch to organize this morning and then church in the afternoon, so bloggage may be light. I did have something I wanted to say about the kerfuffle over Mormons performing baptisms on behalf of deceased Jews, but it may have to wait until tomorrow. Until then, Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Now I Can Yell At My TV, Too

9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste is going to be on Fox News Sunday. I hope I remember to tape it. I'm dying to see if they extend him the same courtesy he extended to Dr. Rice the other day.

UPDATE: Looks like Ben-Veniste got a bit of comeuppance:
WALLACE: I promise, Senator Gorton, I'll get back to you in just a moment.

But, Mr. Ben-Veniste, do you see your role in this commission as a fact-finder?

BEN-VENISTE: Yes, absolutely. Let me tell you something...

WALLACE: No, no. I'm now going to play Richard Ben-Veniste with you.


I want to play a clip...

BEN-VENISTE: I appreciate that.

WALLACE: I want to play a clip from your hearing with Dr. Rice. Let's take a look.


BEN-VENISTE: Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6th PDB warned of against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB.

RICE: I believe the title was "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." Now, the PDB...

BEN-VENISTE: Thank you.

RICE: No, Mr. Ben-Veniste, I would like to finish my point here.

BEN-VENISTE: I didn't know there was a point.


WALLACE: As you know, this has gotten a lot of attention. If, in fact, you were interested in fact-finding, why didn't you let Dr. Rice finish her answer?

BEN-VENISTE: Well, I had 10 minutes. And I think she answered the question, which I think was the title of the PDB, which was important....

WALLACE: But you asked her two questions. One was...

BEN-VENISTE: Yes, I did. And I think that's a fair analysis, Chris.

Weekly Gripe

This week's Weekly Gripe is about companies that are so large and so disorganized that their left hand doesn't know what their right hand is doing. In particular, our phone company.

When we first moved here, we got a phone number that had previously belonged to Interwest Computer Consulting. So at first we got a lot of calls for them, which is understandable. Soon most of the calls ceased. But there was one party who would not stop calling us, no matter how vehemently we insisted that we were not Interwest. And that was the billing department of the phone company, trying to collect Interwest's bill.

You'd think that a phone company's billing department would have some sort of marker on the file that would indicate that the phone service had already been cut off to this organization, but no. And you'd think that if the claim was made several times that Interwest did not live at the Organic Baby Farm, that this claim could be easily investigated by the phone company, or at least a notation made on the file that the number was the wrong one, so that they could stop wasting everyone's time. But no.

Yesterday I got a letter in the mail in Spanish from a local medical firm. Over the last couple of months we've had some financial setbacks and long story short, everybody but Sonshine racked up some medical bills. (This is surprising because Sonshine is the only one of us who regularly hurls himself down stairs headfirst.) As near as I can tell (my Spanish is only good enough to read genealogical records) the letter said that we were past due and about to be sent to collections. Up until then, I'd been receiving a whole lot of little bills in varying amounts. I paid the largest-looking one, but they wouldn't stop coming. I called the billing office number on the bills, but the lady wasn't in and wouldn't be in, so I called the number on the Spanish letter, hoping that I'd get through to someone who spoke English. And I did, and she very kindly set me up with some payment arrangements. However, each individual instance of medical care has resulted in a different bill, and for some reason they were not able to combine them like they had after Sonshine was born. So I have to make payments on each one individually. And even though she had a computer and our last name was the same on all the accounts, she wasn't able to look them all up to see if we'd covered them all, which means I am probably still missing some of them.

Who designs these companies???

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Which NYT Op-Ed Columnist Am I?

David Brooks
You are David Brooks! You're exceedingly smart, but
your writing is as compelling as wallpaper. You
are a thoughtful though hard-line conservative,
but lack any of Safire's verbal pyrotechnics.
In addition, you dress like you're colorblind.
Fall down, juvenile.

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

The New York Times has conservative columnists??

My Favorite Rice Moments

Now that the transcript is available, I can post some more specific comments on the Rice testimony.
HAMILTON: Questions do not represent opinions. Our views will follow later after reflection on answers.

Me: Yeah, right. We'll see.

Actually, Vice Chairman Hamilton behaved very well, or at least it seems so from the transcript. I missed this part of the hearings (the World's Cutest Kids were watching a movie).

The following is the moment I yelled the loudest at the radio, particularly because this was Commissioner Ben-Veniste's opening question:
BEN-VENISTE: I want to ask you some questions about the August 6th PDB was prepared and self-generated by a CIA employee. Following Director Tenet's testimony on March 26th before us, the CIA clarified its version of events, saying that questions by the president prompted them to prepare the August 6th PDB.

Now, you have said to us in our meeting together earlier in February, that the president directed the CIA to prepare the August 6th PDB.
The extraordinary high terrorist attack threat level in the summer of 2001 is well-documented. And Richard Clarke's testimony about the possibility of an attack against the United States homeland was repeatedly discussed from May to August within the intelligence community, and that is well-documented.
You acknowledged to us in your interview of February 7, 2004, that Richard Clarke told you that Al Qaeda cells were in the United States.
Did you tell the president, at any time prior to August 6th, of the existence of Al Qaeda cells in the United States?

RICE: First, let me just make certain...

BEN-VENISTE: If you could just answer that question, because I only have a very limited...

RICE: I understand, Commissioner, but it's important...

BEN-VENISTE: Did you tell the president...

RICE: ... that I also address...


It's also important that, Commissioner, that I address the other issues that you have raised. So I will do it quickly, but if you'll just give me a moment.

BEN-VENISTE: Well, my only question to you is whether you...

RICE: I understand, Commissioner, but I will...

BEN-VENISTE: ... told the president.

Me: Dr. Rice, we all know that you have kicked innocent puppies, torn the "Do Not Remove Under Penalty Of Law" tags off your mattresses, and Richard Clarke saw you drinking out of the orange juice carton and putting it back in the fridge. But my only question to you is, why puppies and not kittens?

I think Commissioner Ben-Veniste owes Vice-Chairman Hamilton an apology, because he made a lie out of Hamilton's opening comments about questions not representing opinions. If it had been me, this is the point where I would have walked out, saying: "Well, when you're ready to let me actually answer the questions you've asked me, let me know and I'll come back." It just goes on and on like this. The guy kept pushing her, asking leading questions and not letting her get a word in edgewise, implying that she was hiding stuff from the public that in actuality has not been declassified. I was about ready to march in there myself and do something heinous with my new pair of embroidery scissors. This guy was more infuriating than my relatives.

Senator Kerrey got an "honor point" from me for this exchange, even though it means he owes Vice-Chairman Hamilton an apology too:
KERREY: Secondly, let me say that I don't think we understand how the Muslim world views us, and I'm terribly worried that the military tactics in Iraq are going to do a number of things, and they're all bad. One is...


No, please don't -- please do not do that. Do not applaud.

However, he squandered it on this:
KERREY: You said the president was tired of swatting flies.
Can you tell me one example where the president swatted a fly when it came to Al Qaida prior to 9/11?

RICE: I think what the president was speaking to was...

KERREY: No, no. What fly had he swatted?

RICE: Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on...

KERREY: No, no...

RICE: ... when the CIA would go after Abu Zubaydah...

KERREY: He hadn't swatted...

RICE: ... or go after this guy...

KERREY: Dr. Rice, we didn't...

RICE: That was what was meant.

KERREY: We only swatted a fly once on the 20th of August 1998. We didn't swat any flies afterwards. How the hell could he be tired?

RICE: We swatted at -- I think he felt that what the agency was doing was going after individual terrorists here and there, and that's what he meant by swatting flies. It was simply a figure of speech.

KERREY: Well, I think it's an unfortunate figure of speech because I think, especially after the attack on the Cole on the 12th of October, 2000, it would not have been swatting a fly. It would not have been -- we did not need to wait to get a strategic plan. ...
So I just -- why didn't we respond to the Cole?

RICE: Well, we...

KERREY: Why didn't we swat that fly?

Don't you just love that imperial "we"? Aren't "we" at all curious about how the Bush administration could have responded to a terrorist attack that took place BEFORE THE ELECTION??

I wasn't too worried, though, because Rice put him in his place:
RICE: I'm aware, Mr. Kerrey, of a speech that you gave at that time that said that perhaps the best thing that we could do to respond to the Cole and to the memories was to do something about the threat of Saddam Hussein.

And then she turned it around into a compliment for him!
KERREY: That had I not given that speech you would have attacked them?

RICE: No, I'm just saying that I think it was a brilliant way to think about it.

Now THAT'S class.

Men's Resource Center

A passing mention was given in our campus newspaper about the Women's Resource Center, and I started wondering. Why isn't there a Men's Resource Center? Of course, we all know the answer to that one. (sarcasm on, with hand gestures parroting speech) Women are oppressed by men, and so they need a center to counteract that disadvantage. (sarcasm off)

Other than pushing a pro-abortion agenda, what do Women's Centers on campuses do for women? They offer breast cancer awareness. Well, men get prostate cancer. They offer contraception. Well, men have sex just as often as women do. They offer child care finding resources. Well, men have children too. They offer scholarships for women returning to academic life after a long hiatus. Guess what? Men do that too. And lastly, (parroting hand gestures again) women are oppressed by our culture and need more support. (end hand gestures). Can you honestly say that men aren't oppressed by a culture that tells them that if they are good at choreography and have good taste, they must be gay?? There's nothing women can do that men can't also do. Well, at least, nothing that a Resource Center could help them with.

If we're going to have a Women's Resource Center, it's only fair that we have a Men's Resource Center too. Anything less would be sexist.

I'm Yelling At My Radio

I'm listening to Dr. Condoleeza Rice testifying before the 9/11 Commission, and I'm finding myself yelling at my radio, mostly at the commissioners who are questioning her (and occasionally at the poor lady who has to interrupt the testimony for the required station identifications).

I gotta tell ya, Dr. Rice is one classy lady. If I were in her shoes today, I'd need a lot of tranquilizers to keep as calm as she is under this sort of questioning. I'd have gotten up and walked out of the damn thing in disgust quite some time ago. And I'd probably need a brain transplant to be as quick thinking on my feet as she is. I've heard what people say about her, and I have to admit that my impression of her is agreeing much, much more with the ones who think she's smart and classy than with the ones who think she's some sort of scheming, conniving witch.

Even as my opinion of her is going up, my opinion of some of the commissioners is going down. One just asked her a leading question, then when she tried to give it as fair a shake as a regular question, he cut her off and argued about how he "only has ten minutes" and would like to use them to address more important questions. Duh, guy, if you only have ten minutes, why start them off asking questions you think are unimportant? Either the guy (I forget his name) who was questioning her is a complete idiot, or he's using the investigation as a front to engage in political hit-and-run tactics. Either way, I wouldn't vote for that guy for dogcatcher.

This reminds me a lot of how I felt when I was listening to the Clinton impeachment hearings. Up until then, I'd kept an open mind, and I wanted to hear the arguments on both sides before making up my mind. Our Congressmen are supposed to be among our country's best orators, but the best argument the Democrats could come up with was "He didn't do it. And if he did do it, it was OK. And if it wasn't OK, it doesn't matter anyway. And if it does matter to you, you should readjust your tinfoil hat." How lame an argument is that?? It sounds like something a teenager would say after he wrecked his parents' car. I'm not a master debater, but even I could have come up with a more persuasive argument! After those hearings, I decided to change parties. I was embarrassed to be a Democrat after that. I did not want to be associated with people who would make arguments that lame in front of the entire nation.

UPDATE: The infuriating guy was Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste. See post above.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Iraq Is Not Vietnam

Arnaud de Borchgrave of UPI gives this analysis of how we lost the Vietnam war-- and why Iraq is not Vietnam.

Just another reason to keep on stoking those homefires.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Happy Passover!

I'm half Jewish (the paternal half, I'm afraid, making me technically not Jewish by birth), and my family celebrates a few Jewish holidays. Passover is one of them. We're not terribly observant of all the customs (my kids will NOT give up their sandwiches!) but we do have a Seder dinner. We also celebrate Hanukkah, and on that occasion I went into my daughter's school to give a presentation about Hanukkah and cook some latkes for the first and second grades.

One of my daughter's friends was there, and like all the kids she enjoyed the presentation. Later, though, she told me that she wished she could celebrate Hanukkah too and have all-you-can-eat latkes, but her father had said that you can't celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Since I knew she was half Mexican, I asked her if her family celebrated Cinco de Mayo, and she said yes. I asked her if they also celebrated Fourth of July, and she said yes. I told her that if you can celebrate both Cinco de Mayo and Fourth of July, you can celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. And, I told her, anyone can cook latkes at any time of year.

So our Passover/Easter season is upon us, and we are very busy cooking both brisket and ham. Some of the people around here frown on such cross-religious practices, but this is my family's tradition, and it means something to me. And I personally don't see any conflict in celebrating Jewish holidays even though I'm a Christian. The Jewish holidays I celebrate commemorate the history of the Jewish people, which is my history too.

Job Count

With the release of the new job-creation estimates, I keep hearing soundbites on the radio news about how Kerry and his people are claiming that not one of those jobs is in manufacturing. I'd really like to understand how they figure that they can know that. Since I'm pretty sure they don't get these statistics from some federal jobs database, where everyone who created a job is required to report it, how can anyone know with any certainty where or in what industry these jobs were created? Surely in this humungous country there was at least ONE manufacturing job, out of some 300-thousand-odd jobs created.

Any readers who can inform me on this one (M?) are welcome to e-mail me privately or post to the comments. Thanks.

UPDATE: I found this thanks to Instapundit, where it says that "Manufacturing payrolls were unchanged". As far as I know "unchanged" means there were as many jobs lost as created, right? And these statistics include only existing payrolls, not newly created payrolls, right? Or am I completely clueless?

Monday, April 05, 2004

Google Censorship

This organization is trying to have the anti-Semitic web site,, removed from the Google search engine.

I can understand how offensive this site is to them. As a Mormon, I find it virtually impossible to find anything Mormon on Google. Not because Google doesn't index Mormon things, but because it lumps them in with all kinds of anti-Mormon vitriol. If I do a search for "Mormon blog", for example, I don't come up with a list of Mormon blogs, I come up with a list of anti-Mormon blogs, as well as sites that show pictures of our most sacred things and mock our doctrine with hateful, ill-reasoned lies. But I gotta tell ya, it's not because Google is anti-Mormon. It's because Google is a computer program. Computer programs have no prejudice. I can do a Google search on, say, "Captain Moroni" and I get nothing but good hits.

Search engines cannot be trusted to make moral judgments. Even a search I did once for "Radon-Nikodym Theorem" turned up half a dozen porn sites among the results. Who would have thought that a theorem about absolutely continuous measures would be associated with porn? Everyone with a little common sense realizes this. So those looking for pro-Jewish sites on Google should be neither surprised or offended that it also turns up anti-Jewish sites. That's just the nature of the beast.

So while I feel for this organization and understand why they would wish they could search Google for "Jews" and not come up with anything anti-Semitic, I have to say that what they're doing is morally wrong. Yes, prejudice is ugly, but it's also legal in the United States, and while it might be nice for one group to have another group's views silenced (or the volume at least turned down), that's not how it works in America. If we would condemn Daily Kos for committing Google self-censorship, how much worse would it be for one group to be permitted to Google-censor another?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

No, I Will Not Apologize

Not that anybody's asked, but...

I just want to make it crystal clear that I will never apologize for posting about Mormon scriptures on my blog. I am aware that the vast majority of bloggers do not post scriptures of any kind on their blogs. I understand when some people want to keep the sacred separate from the profane. I am not one of those people. The sacred is a part of my life. This blog is a part of my life. They could only be arbitrarily separated. When I think about issues, my thoughts turn to scripture. And since when have I ever been part of the "vast majority" of people?

I am aware what others, particularly others on the internet, think of the Mormon church. To those who do not think highly of it, who think it is some kind of brainwash cult with wacky behavior, I can only say that they probably don't know anything about it but rumors, and should step off unless they're willing to learn. When they're all done deciding what I do and don't believe, they're welcome to find out for themselves. Mormons are NOT brainwashed. At some point in their lives, every Mormon (including those "born in the church") goes through a time when they have to choose whether or not they want to really be a Mormon, and I'm not talking about some intimidating moment in the Bishop's office when you're eight years old. For me that time was my first two years in college, before I got married.

I want to make it clear that the beliefs that I have are all beliefs that I have consciously chosen, mostly because I've seen the alternatives and I don't like them better. I've tried being a liberal. I've tried being a Democrat. I've tried not being a Mormon. None of it works for me. I am aware of the process of choosing your beliefs, and how my psychological and emotional state affects my choice. And I understand that your results may vary. All I ask is that if you expect me to respect your choices of beliefs, that you respect mine as well.

In that vein, and because it is General Conference time again, I am posting a link to FAIR's photo essays on the "street preachers" that station themselves outside General Conference every year for the express purpose of harassing Mormons just because they're Mormon. These are from last year's conference; this year, the street preachers and protestors were restricted by the city to a protest zone that is within sight of the Conference Center, but will not allow them to harass people directly as they're coming out of the building.

You must understand, these people go way beyond free expression of their religion. Imagine how a devout Catholic would feel about having "Piss Christ" displayed right outside the cathedral door, with protestors blowing their noses in the altar cloths, spitting in the chalices, rubbing statues of saints on their behinds, and yelling in the faces of the Catholics coming out of an Easter service that they are all deluded and going to hell. It may be legal, but it is coarse, offensive, and deliberately provocative. This is exactly what they do with our sacred symbols. These guys are so obnoxious that there's a group of ordinary and good evangelical Christians who have come to counter-protest them and to show us that not all Christians believe in desecrating other people's sacred symbols.

UPDATE: The FAIR site doesn't show some of the most offensive behavior of the street preachers. For that you'll have to go to the news. Unfortunately I couldn't find video clips from this year that showed their most offensive behavior, but I bet there will be some tomorrow, after the Sunday sessions are over. They blow their noses in, and wipe their rears with, sacred garments. Because the FAIR pictures are focused on their signs, they only show them waving garments around or with garments draped around their necks in between desecrations.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

More on Fallujah

I found a blog that had a post answering some of my most pressing questions about the background of the slain in Fallujah.

A "mercenary" contractor speaks up here.

And I should add, for those who like Tacitus don't seem to read the dictionary, the difference between a "mercenary" and a "contractor" appears to be that (a) a mercenary is motivated solely or primarily by money, which was not the case here; and (b) a mercenary has no particular loyalty to the country for which he was fighting, which also was not the case here. It is not, as he claimed, merely a distinction without a difference, or a difference only in connotation, such as the difference between "handicapped" and "differently abled".

Mormon Women And Depression

A new study has come out showing that Mormon women are less depressed than women in the country at large. This is in contradiction of the conventional wisdom on the subject, which is that because antidepressant use is higher, they must be more depressed. And of course, no article on the subject of depression in Mormon women can fail to throw in the old canard that they're "oppressed" so they can't be happy, even if (as this article does) they present it in a more or less neutral manner.

I like to see the media reporting good things about my religion as well as anyone else does, but I have to question the conclusion of the study. The study reports that more of the Mormon women were married than were in the population at large. Marriage is known to be associated with lower incidence of depression. So some of the effects the study reports may have more to do with the fact that the women were married than that they were specifically Mormon.

To its credit, the article mentions the association between religiosity and depression. However, it fails to note the association between marriage and depresson.

American Spirit of Charity

Politicians, particularly liberal politicians, often talk about how paying higher taxes to support government programs is our duty to society. Sometimes the assertion is made that the rich, particularly the liberal rich, have a duty to pay more taxes than the "little guy".

Well, evidently, the "rich" don't agree.

Reality Smack!

You know, back before there even was an income tax, poor people did get taken care of, and foreign aid got distributed. Who did it, if not the government? Why, the American people did it all by themselves. They raised the money from charitable donations.

Americans are some of the most charitable people in the world. We give to all sorts of causes, foreign and domestic. When Americans give out of their own pockets, they identify with the people they are giving to, and promote solidarity with them. This is a good thing. It brings insulated people into the world of AIDS sufferers, teenage mothers, etc. The causes are usually un-politicized and tend to draw bipartisan support. The giving of charity used to be a part of the American culture, and one of its backbone values.

But when the government gives aid to individuals, groups, and countries, however, the aid becomes a political football. People who may not have donated to the cause will now be made to donate to it. This is contrary to the spirit of charity, and it makes our payments not charity, but a purchase of loyalty or dependency.

Friday, April 02, 2004

The Sons of Martha

A great poem by Rudyard Kipling, linked to by Volokh Conspiracy.

OK, Now It's Sinking In

I found pictures of three of the four men killed in Fallujah with a tiny bit of biographical information on each.

Now it's starting to spark.

And I'm starting to be outraged at what some "Americans" are saying about these guys-- that they were mercenaries instead of contractors (does no one read the dictionary these days???), that they deserved to die because they were earning money, etc. Whatever happened to the guideline "never speak ill of the dead"? While I'll never stand up for total whitewashing, I still think we owe these people and their families some respect. After 9/11 I didn't go around saying things like "some of the people who died were liberals or illegal immigrants, so screw them." I sold patriotic ribbon pins on eBay to benefit their families. ALL of their families. At times like that, as we should be at all times, we are Americans first. If we're not big enough to put our politics aside and act like men and women, then they should send us back to Kindergarten so that we can learn those much-vaunted "social skills".

About Fallujah

I will eventually get around to posting about Fallujah. I'm one of those kind of people who has a delayed grief reaction. I usually have to get past a funeral, sometimes way past, before I'll start grieving the dead. So my blog entries on tragedies like this one are usually way out of style by the time I get to writing about them.

Suffice it to say, for the moment, that I am thinking about it, that I have seen the pictures, and that I think there are better strategists than I at work on the situation. I'm not so proud as to think that some analysis of mine on a blog that only my sister and Unkle Remis read will be nearly as insightful as the analysis of the leaders on the ground in Iraq. And I thought it was important for me to see the pictures. I was late getting the kids to school this morning because of it. I wanted to look at them in the morning, not in the evening, so that I wouldn't get nightmares; and so when the kids finished their morning chores early, I sent them outside to play so that they would see neither the pictures nor my immediate reaction to them.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one delaying my post, Technicalities did too. Plus he has a nice Potshot quote from my distant cousin Ashleigh Brilliant in the header of his blog.

Weekly Gripe

Everyone should gripe about something at least once a week. Putting on my best Yiddish accent, I opine: "A day without complaining is like a day without sunshine!"

This week's Weekly Gripe is about maternity clothes. Who designs these things???

First, maternity clothes have no pockets. I guess whoever makes these things figures that if you're already carrying a baby around, you probably won't want to also carry around keys, Kleenex, or change for the vending machine. No, if you need to carry any of those things, you'll want to put them in your voluminous purse along with everything else, and tote that monstrosity everywhere you go. Or you could wear a fanny pack. If you wear it in back, you'll cut an odd silhouette; and if you wear it in front, you won't be able to see inside it.

Second, the tops and bottoms look like they've been designed by two different teams that never communicate with each other. This year the tops are all cut shorter, so that they fall about to mid-belly on a third trimester multip like myself. The bottoms are all cut "under the belly" which means they lack full coverage of the belly. So if I bought a new maternity outfit today and put it on, you'd all be treated to the sight of my stretch marks from all my previous pregnancies. Funny, the models who wear these things in the catalogs don't seem to have reached the third trimester, nor do they have any stretch marks.

You'll also notice that the models are never shown bending over. This is because, in line with the terrible trend to lower the waistline of pants past the point of practicality, these frontless wonder pants also barely cover the crack in the back. One wonders how these pants can stay up at all, considering that they are clinging to the very bottom of a balloon-shaped person. When I tried on a pair, it felt like it was about to fall off every time I bent over. Clue for designers: pants that fall off when you bend over are NOT an asset for women with small children.

Third, even if you can find maternity clothes in colors and styles that match, you still can't wear them together. If I wear "under the belly" pants with full-coverage shirts from previous years, the spring breeze will catch the shirt and whip it up, exposing my belly to the world. And if I wear older pants with the newer shorter shirts, the belly panels (almost always done in contrasting colors and materials) will peek out from underneath. So I can't have any new, stylish outfits. All I can do is wear the older, longer shirts with the older, full-coverage pants. To complicate things further, you can't wear white shirts with pants or skirts that have contrasting belly panels, because the panels show through the white shirt.

I don't know who thought up those "under the belly" pants, but it was obviously someone who'd never been pregnant past about 20 weeks.

A Mother of Sons

Ever since we found out Bagel was going to be a boy, a change has come over me. I'm going to be the mother of sons, plural. You wouldn't think, in our gender-neutral culture, that it would make a difference whether I were the mother of sons, daughters, or some combination. But it really does.

As a mother of sons, I have to face the possibility that my sons will eventually serve their country in the military. I don't want to be like my parents were, mildly disdainful of the proposition that their sons would stoop so low instead of going to college like everyone knows a good boy should. (I wish they'd let my brother enlist in the Marines; the Marines would've given him the reality smack he so desperately needed.) I want my sons to know that if they choose to serve, they will be honored for their choice, for there is no higher calling than to give one's life for liberty. To act on a willingness to give one's life for liberty has got to be the next highest calling.

As a mother of sons, I must teach my boys to honor women and to treat them with respect. This is so difficult in an environment where women parade themselves around, advertising publicly what no decent man would ever dream of buying, and giving out so many free samples that there isn't any merchandise left to profit from. I have to admit I'd given much more thought to teaching my daughter to respect herself than I had about teaching my sons to respect women.

And as a mother of sons, I must teach my sons about duty. There are things that only a man can do. Only a man can be a father. My husband will be the primary teacher here, but I must be careful not to send a mixed message to my boys. I must always do my duty too, so that they don't look down on me as someone who doesn't have to go the extra mile when they do.

Duty. Honor. Country. It may sound trite or be easily dismissed as a slogan, but as a concept it has worked for thousands of years to raise generations of boys into men.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The World's Most Amazing Banana

As I take a bite of this banana, I realize what an amazing thing that is. I live in a place where bananas won't grow, and yet I'm having one for breakfast. Someone grew this banana, and got paid. Someone picked this banana, and got paid. Someone put this banana carefully on a truck, and got paid. Someone transferred this banana to a boat or airplane, and got paid. The boat or airplane's crew brought it to America, and they got paid. Someone put it on a truck, and got paid. The driver of the truck paid for gasoline, and he also got paid. Someone unloaded the banana from the truck, and got paid. Someone put the banana out on the display, and got paid. And I paid for gasoline to get to the store and buy the banana, 3 pounds for a dollar. If the average banana weighs about half a pound, I paid about seventeen cents for all those people to bring me my banana from exotic climes.

And what's most amazing is that it survived the trip. Bananas are notoriously vulnerable. If you touch them wrong, they mush and spoil. This banana, while a little spotted on the outside, is not bruised at all.

Somehow I feel privileged to be able to eat this incredible banana for such a low, low price.

Reality Smack

Eject!Eject!Eject! has this essay on getting a dose of reality instead of arguing over intellectual things. (Thanks Rottweiler for the link.)

Having been the recipient of more than a few reality smacks myself, I heartily concur. I've changed my mind about a lot of things I was convinced of in high school and college, mostly because I tried them and discovered that they weren't true. In fact, more often than not my common sense, my parents' advice and the counsel of my religion turned out to be much better predictors of how reality worked than the theories and philosophies of the university or the popular culture. That's why I stick so firmly to these things. Some may believe I am brainwashed or just blindly parroting what others have said, but they don't know where I've been and what has smacked me over the head. And I never do anything blindly. If anything I suffer from overstimulation in that regard; my "eyes" are always propped so far open that I long to be able to shut them.

I think everyone has a paradigm of how reality works (what Mr. Whittle calls a "map" in the article), and it is useful to them only insofar as it reflects reality. Reality, however, stubbornly refuses to correspond to changes we make in our paradigms. The laws of physics didn't change when we switched over from the Newtonian paradigm to the Einsteinian paradigm. Reality is what it is. It doesn't follow our rules just because we think it should.

Nevertheless, some "maps" are better than others.