Friday, July 30, 2004

Book Recommendation

King of SCSU Scholars is going on vacation, and he has very kindly allowed me to influence his choice of books to take with. Thanks King!

Elitist Quiz

You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.
What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via SCSU Scholars.

Bake Sales For Bombers

I recall seeing once a left-wing bumper sticker that said something to the effect of, "It'll be a great day when schools are fully funded and the military has to have a bake sale to buy a bomber." So it came as an interesting surprise to me to read this article (link via Q and O), wherein Al Gore is quoted as being outraged that military families had to hold bake sales to buy body armor for their soldiers in the Sandbox. Evidently the bake sale thing was just an unfounded rumor, but I still think it's ironic that if it had been true, there was a peacenik Democrat complaining to a bunch more peacenik Democrats that the anti-military slogan on a left-wing bumper sticker had actually become fact.

More Whiny Terrorists

In an earlier post I said that the only thing worse than a terrorist was a whiny terrorist. I was wrong. Worse than a whiny terrorist is a whiny, stupid terrorist. Turns out the same terrorists who were dumb enough to kidnap people from countries who don't have a military presence in Iraq and then demand those countries remove their troops, are now whining because India called them names. Poor widdle terrorists. I mean, what did they ever do to India to deserve being called "bandits"? That is, other than kidnapping three of their citizens and using them as hostages to demand stuff from India...

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Get a "Load" of This!

Favorite Sister-in-Law sends me this link to a baby product that's... well... you just have to see it for yourself.

My comment: what, is it never too early to introduce your child to dick jokes? And what happens when it falls off? Don't we have a more effective thing for this purpose... called a "diaper"?

Why I Don't Listen To Liberal Arguments

I really admire those bloggers who go every day to websites of every political stripe and gather material to fisk, because I could never bring myself to do it. I have a very sensitive B.S. detector, and I have too many good things to be doing with my life to waste time ignoring its pinging. When I was an undergrad, I could actually sit through an entire class of politically correct nonsense. Today, if I were to attend the same class I'd stand down the prof in front of the whole class on the first day, and if it weren't a required class I wouldn't come back for the second. I just have no tolerance for nonsense any more.

Accepting liberal arguments was a phase I went through when I was young and untrained in logic and my perception of life was grounded in insufficient experience. So I tend to see liberal arguments as immature, ivory-tower, or based on false premises, because they parallel my thinking when I was immature, stuck in an ivory tower, and unable to tell a false premise from a true one. I discovered that when people would make these sorts of arguments, they were usually motivated by some factor other than the logical compellingness of the arguments. People (including myself) find themselves supporting political parties because of what the party will do for them, because of role models in their pasts, because cute persons to whom they are attracted belong to the party, and for a million other sociological and psychological reasons.

At the end of my liberal phase, I tried to take a "moderate" stance and listen to everyone's arguments equally and find the good in all. But the harder I tried to do that, the more I realized that there are just not that many good arguments out there-- and the few I could find were all on the conservative side. There's lots and lots of great-sounding rhetoric that appeals to emotions (who's never felt like there are two Americas and you're in the other one?) but when you compared rhetoric with facts, it often didn't fit. At some point, though, I was able to quit trying to open my mind and just say, "That's a load of crap and you know it-- none of the data bear out your conclusion, and besides your argument falls to reductio ad absurdum." And after a while I realized that I had better things to do than waste my time hearing arguments that had a 90% or greater probability of not making any sense-- in other words, most liberal arguments. And plenty of conservative ones too-- I don't, for example, read Ann Coulter or very much Phyllis Schlafly. I will occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh, but only because he reminds me of my grandfather, who is estranged from the family. I like Sean Hannity, but he can get annoying sometimes.

One thing I've noticed about some liberal arguments is that they try to argue from no premises whatsoever, making no assumptions, etc. Well, you know what they say, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. I can listen to principled liberal arguments, but there are so few of those as to make the expression nearly an oxymoron. Some arguments apply perfect logic to false premises. If I hadn't taken that class in logical proof as part of my math major, I would never have known that a false premise makes an implication technically true, but unusable as proof. It shouldn't surprise me that the vast majority of people have not had the benefit of training in formal logic, since it didn't take me long to notice that most people weren't majoring in math either.

Nowadays when I hear liberal arguments, I just smile and nod. I don't want to be impolite, and I understand that everyone develops differently. Some people just haven't yet had time to think things through or go digging past the liberally-biased media, and I understand that, because life is just so full of busy things to do. We don't all have time to read blogs, develop a coherent political philosophy, study economics, etc. before going to the voting booth. I happened to think that was important, but other people think it's more important to shave your legs before going to the voting booth. I think we can agree to disagree on that. As it turns out, neither education nor freshly shaven legs is a Constitutional requirement for voting rights.

If I end up having to engage in political conversation with someone putting forth liberal arguments, I try to find some common ground and then change the subject. For example, last Sunday at church I was sitting with a lady whose husband was in Iraq (although he's currently deployed stateside), and another lady came by to chat and started going on about how "we went to war under false pretenses" and we should "bring the troops home". I pointed out that we surely all are in agreement that all other things being equal, we would prefer to have the troops home and never go to war. Since she would never have believed me that all other things are not being equal at the moment, I didn't waste my time trying to point it out to her. We were at church after all, not at a meeting of the debating society. She is a wonderful lady, she just for some reason has these head-in-the-sand political views, but she clearly intended to express some sympathy for my friend whose husband was deployed. Oh well, nobody's perfect.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Blind Date

So, Rush Limbaugh is getting a divorce, and Ann Coulter is single...

If they ever had kids, would it create a clan of uber-sarcastic conservatives?

Breaking News

News Flash from USS Clueless: you can't always get what you want!
We engineers get told to produce all kinds of things which are viewed as being desirable. But sometimes they are not feasible, and when we try to explain the reasons why, we soon get used to being told, "Don't tell us why you can't do it, tell us how you're going to do it."... We're told to stop thinking about "problems"; we are told that we should refer to them as "opportunities". (One engineering wag responded, "We're surrounded by insurmountable opportunities.")...

That demonstrates another rather bitter engineering aphorism: "Everything is easy for the man who doesn't have to do it himself." He sees something he really wants, and doesn't want to be told that he can't have it, even if it is a fact that he can not have it. He doesn't want to hear "No" even if "No" is the real answer. Engineers are magicians, and we're supposed to make magic happen. We've pulled off so many miracles before, so why not this one?

A lot of people know what they want. This certainly happens in politics: "Win without war." "Get cooperation and support from traditional allies." But they're quite often woefully short on plans. The more idealistic they are, the more likely it is they'll deny that they should even be required to contribute such a plan. Someone else should figure out how to make it happen; the idealist's job is to show us all the real destination.

See? Appeasement Doesn't Help!

Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters points out that Kenya's ongoing appeasement of terrorists has not resulted in their getting any respite from the same terrorism that threatens us all. I wonder how many more Kenyas we'll have to see before we get the message: terrorists don't count appeasers as their allies, so there's no point in appeasing them.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Bagel Rolls!

Bagel has rolled over from his front to his back! Here is a picture of him laying on his back after rolling:

Note the expression of extreme annoyance at having a doting mother take his picture with a flash.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Pointless Question

A pointless question from the Harry-Potterverse: if you can't give a house elf clothes or they'll be freed, who does the laundry in homes wealthy enough to afford house elves?

Pointless corollary: who does the laundry at Hogwarts?

Update: this article (on a site that J.K. Rowling herself sometimes uses for reference) says that house elves do do laundry. Anyone know where we can contact Ms. Rowling and ask her?

Lonely At The Bottom Of The Outhouse

What follows is a self-pity post, full of complaints about all the things I don't dare complain about because it would just sound like I'm asking people to pity me. I'm not; I'm just venting.

I'm going to need some serious "down time" when my life gets back to normal, because the past week has been quite stressful. Favorite Husband was out this week, which wouldn't be too bad on its own. But the World's Cutest Kids were in quarantine with the impetigo, so they all have cabin fever. Add to that the fact that now they are out of quarantine, but none of their infected friends are being quarantined by their parents (thanks a lot, other parents), and I am not allowing them to play with any infected friends lest they get re-infected. So they are effectively still in quarantine and have no friends to play with.

So I was really looking forward to being able to crash this weekend, maybe go out to celebrate our 11th anniversary (which is today). But then Favorite Husband's install job went extra-super-long and he won't be home until Sunday, when he will probably just flop down on the bed and sleep for about 24 hours. He's worked over 100 hours this week. F.H. usually watches the older kids for me on Saturday mornings so that I can go to the Gardeners' Market and they can sleep in, but I ended up having to wake the kids early and shove them out the door into the car. I will also have to herd them all to church tomorrow, where I will be the only adult trying to keep them from yelling in the middle of church, at the same time as I'm tending the baby. I'm seriously thinking about skipping Sacrament meeting, since I'll be spending the entire meeting in the mothers' room yelling at the two older kids while I nurse Bagel.

Add to the mix the fact that every single one of my relatives who live here in town has gone to California to attend the weddings of my cousins (one tomorrow, one next Sunday). So I have no "support network". I used to have friends, but most of them moved away or got absorbed in their own problems. I've been working on making more friends, but it's a long and difficult struggle for me to make friends, and I've really only got two friends right now. And I didn't really feel comfortable asking either of them to watch my kids at 6:45 in the morning on a Saturday.

Today is also Pioneer Day, a state holiday in Utah which involves fireworks. The kids had been promised sparklers for Pioneer Day because we forgot to light the sparklers on 4th of July. Well, you can't have Pioneer Day without fireworks, so we bought some fireworks to go with the sparklers. Now I have to take my kids (who have been up since 6:30 this morning) and keep them up past 9 pm so that they can light fireworks. Oooh, tomorrow's going to be extra-fun now.

Normally I'd be looking forward to Sunday because Sunday is the day I don't have to cook. F.H. cooks brunch for the kids, and we go to dinner at my parents'. But F.H. isn't here, so I'll have to cook brunch, and my parents aren't here, so I'll have to cook dinner too. (F.H. will be asleep.)

I really needed to relax and steel myself for the bathtime-fireworks-bedtime axis, so I sat down to blog and told the kids that it was "mommy time" (code for: "leave me alone"), which of course means that they come in every minute and a half with a complaint that "Sonshine is picking his nose at me" or "Tiny Princess isn't letting me watch Thomas the Tank Engine". If they don't have anything to complain about when it comes time to bother me again, they just give me kisses or try to jump on the bed where the baby is sleeping.

So here I am, cut off from meaningful adult contact, with a whole bunch of crappy little things that wouldn't ordinarily be a big deal all raining down on me at once, as if I were at the bottom of an outhouse. I think I'm going to crack open that bottle of dealcoholized wine tonight and have myself a drink, because I really need to relax and do something for myself. Maybe just for fun I'll watch that scene in "Other Side of Heaven" where the missionary accidentally tells the congregation that he's the Lord's outhouse.

Gardeners' Market Report

Today at the Gardeners' Market we grossed $61.00. Not too shabby. M wasn't there today (she went to the family weddings in California) and she took her merchandise with her to show the family, so all of that's mine.

I took the all the kids with me to the market and they had a great time. The park where the market is held has a steep embankment between it and the street, so I could let the kids run around with abandon. They picked up loose petals in the rose garden, played tag on the paths, and made some new friends. I gave them each a dollar to spend on whatever they wanted. Tiny Princess bought herself an origami crane glued to a flat rock, which she has been taking everywhere with her against my advice. Sonshine bought a purple flower hair pin which he gave to me. I promised him I'd put it in my hair tomorrow and wear it to church.

First thing after we set up, Tiny Princess had to go to the potty. Unfortunately, the restaurant whose bathrooms we are supposed to use has inexplicably and suddenly gone out of business. The nearest public bathrooms open at that hour are too far to walk. So I took her (and all the kids, and the money bag) to the car, where I had her pee in one of Bagel's diapers. As soon as we got back from the car, Sonshine peed in his pants.

So you can tell that I haven't really had that fun of a day. Despite all of this, my kids tell me that today was the best day ever and they really enjoyed themselves. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

Bagel with Cream Cheese

Bagel went for his checkup earlier this week and weighed in at a whopping 9 lbs. 9.5 oz. That's a gain of over 2 pounds in 3 weeks. I think I'm not giving milk, I'm giving half-and-half!

(Explicit descriptions of breasts and breastfeeding follow)

Bagel is definitely getting plenty of milk. My breasts got quite a bit bigger with this pregnancy, so much so that my largest bra no longer fits me, and the next size up is only available through special order. I've been going around braless rather than risk having to fight mastitis again (from the plugged ducts that don't drain properly with the too-tight bra). When my milk lets down, it comes out so fast that Bagel chokes on it; when he pulls off the breast to catch his breath, milk sprays all over his little face. He has so much milk in him that sometimes he spits up what seems like a quarter cup of milk, and is still full. I've never had this much milk with any of my other kids. And what's most ironic is that if I try to pump, I can only ever get out an ounce or two of milk.

Does anyone have any advice that could help? I do enjoy my little Bagel with Cream Cheese, but I could do with a few less blessings from Boobula the Breast Goddess.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

It's Zucchini Season... get out your hunting rifles, folks!

For all you city folks out there, a few important facts about zucchini that you should know:
  • Even a brown-thumbed idiot like me can grow zucchini.
  • Harvest zucchini while they are small; don't let them grow into two-foot-long monstrosities.
  • One zucchini plant can supply the zucchini needs of an entire residential block.
  • When you grow more zucchini than you can eat, the proper thing to do with it is to tie ribbon bows around the remaining zucchinis and distribute them to your neighbors as gifts of the harvest season.
  • When you get back from taking your wagon full of zucchini around the block, you'll find your doorstep covered with zucchinis tied with ribbon bows. If you look down the street, you'll see your neighbors walking down the street pulling their wagons.
  • After you've eaten all the ratatouille and zucchini sticks you can stand, any remaining zucchini should be thrown away. You can try to donate it to the food bank, but chances are they already have enough zucchini too. Whatever you do, do not attempt to make ersatz pineapple rings or candied apple-flavored chunks out of leftover zucchini.
And finally, a joke that goes around the state of Utah at this time of year (and has done so since I was a girl):

A California woman goes to visit her cousin in Utah. They go to the grocery store, and the California cousin locks the car door as they get out. "You don't have to lock your doors here," says the Utahn, "this is Utah." Then they go to the mall and the Californian again locks the door out of sheer habit. "You don't have to lock the door, this is Utah." says the Utah cousin.

Then they go to church on Sunday. When they get out, the Utah cousin locks the car doors. "Why are you locking the car doors?" asks the Californian. "I thought this was Utah."

"Yeah," says the Utahn, "but it's zucchini season."

A Crisis In Terrorist Education!!

So you want to be a terrorist. You get a group of your friends together and you go to terrorist school in Afghanistan or wherever it is they're having it now, and learn how to kidnap people and make videotapes of them. You make up a cool terrorist name like "The Holders of the Black Banners" for your group. You buy some duct tape and balaclavas and video cameras and other cool terrorist gear. Then you go and capture you some foreigners, videotape them, and threaten to kill them if their countries of origin don't withdraw from Iraq.

Unfortunately, they never mentioned in terrorist school that you should kidnap people from countries that actually have a presence in Iraq.

Dumb terrorists.

(Is this evidence that the curriculum even in terrorist training camps is being dumbed down?? Maybe the terrorist school where they trained should have its accreditation lifted.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Sores Diagnosis

The verdict is in: the World's Cutest Kids have impetigo, not some mutant form of chicken pox. Now not only do I have to listen all day to Tiny Princess complain that Sonshine is re-rewinding Theodore the Friendly Tugboat, I have to keep both of them away from Bagel so that he doesn't contract a deadly strep or staph infection, all the while explaining to them for the millionth time why they are not allowed to play with their friends until their sores get better.

Monday, July 19, 2004


Via Michelle Malkin comes this horrific story of a woman who aborted two of her three babies so that she wouldn't experience a crimp in her lifestyle. It's people like her who give people like me a reason to wish abortion were illegal. I find it particularly appalling that she cut her boyfriend, the babies' father, entirely out of the decision. She talks about getting these babies in the same way one might talk about going to the store and getting a puppy. It was her puppy, and if she wanted the bichon frise, there was nothing he could do about it.

When I got pregnant with Tiny Princess I thought I couldn't get pregnant. I cried when I saw the "+" on the pregnancy test, because we were not financially ready for a baby. I had to quit my job because I couldn't stand the smell of the rubberized fabric I had to work with. We had to go on public assistance because we couldn't afford the pregnancy. But things got better. Favorite Husband got a job. We found a house we could afford. It's not the world's largest house or the world's best house, but it's ours. To hear this woman talk about how she wouldn't want to live in a house in Staten Island galls me. I'd love to have a house like that.

When I got pregnant with Sonshine it was really bad timing. We were going to try to get pregnant a few months later so that he'd be born in the summer time after I finished my Master's degree, but instead he was born smack in the middle of spring semester. I had to defend my paper during the summer when half the people I'd wanted to be there couldn't attend. I missed the spring graduation ceremony. I had to go back to work teaching two classes one week after I gave birth. It was extraordinarily hard. I nearly buckled under the strain. But things got better. I still got to walk in the next year's ceremony, and it wasn't too difficult to get the tassel with my correct graduation year. To hear this woman talk about how she couldn't possibly be inconvenienced in March and April because she lectures at colleges particularly boils my blood, since Sonshine was born in March.

When I got pregnant with Bagel I was overwhelmed. I was working two jobs to try to make ends meet and pay down the student loans. I was home with my kids during the day and worked evenings or while they were at school. Like this woman, I knew there was no way I could handle three kids and still keep working. But unlike this woman, I have my priorities straight. It makes no difference in the cosmic scheme whether or not I have a wonderful job that I like. It does, however, make a difference how I treat the gift of life in whatever form I find it. It makes a difference to my children and to my husband and, to a lesser extent, to all I interact with. So I quit my jobs. I don't know where we're going to find enough money to pay the bills, but it will work out. Things will get better.

Now I know some of you out there have your mouse on the "Comments" button and are about to say something to the effect of, "That's all well and good for you, but what about for HER? Shouldn't she be entitled to make her own choice?" Of course she makes her own choice. Everyone has free will. But we don't have to respect the choices everyone else would make, just because they are capable of making choices. Believe me, if I could find a way to make this woman's selective abortion illegal without jeopardizing the ability to perform selective abortion to save a mother's life, I would do it in a heartbeat. Choice is all well and good if you're picking out a color of paint for the bathroom, where certain colors would be tasteless but not evil; but some choices are between right and wrong. And the choice to end two beating hearts, over the objections of the babies' father, just because you can and because you imagine your life with them will be unfulfilling, is deeply, heinously wrong.

Pacifism and Anti-War

One of the most dramatic and touching stories in the Book of Mormon is the story of the People of Ammon (also known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies). For those not familiar with the story or who don't have time to read it in Alma chapters 24 through 29, here's the Cliff Notes version:

The People of Ammon were a group of Lamanites who underwent a religious conversion which put them at odds with the other Lamanites, who had formerly been their neighbors and allies. Disgusted with all the blood they'd shed prior to their conversion, the People of Ammon took a vow never to fight again, and buried all their weapons (the really stirring part of the king's speech to this effect is in Chapter 24, verses 12 through 16). The Lamanites were not impressed with this religious conversion, and came to fight the now-defenseless People of Ammon. The People of Ammon said their prayers and laid down to die. Over a thousand of them were killed before the Lamanites sickened of the bloodshed, but they had a profound effect on the attacking Lamanites. These Lamanites went off to make war elsewhere, but later came back and joined in the People of Ammon's vow of pacifism.

The People of Ammon then faced annihilation at the hands of some unconverted former allies of the Lamanites, who for many reasons (including cultural and historical reasons) repudiated the message of the People of Ammon and refused to be swayed by their pacifism. The Nephites, historical enemies of the Lamanites, took in the People of Ammon and agreed to provide for their defense. The Nephites gave the People of Ammon the land of Jershon to live in, and defended them there at great cost in lives (the text describes bodies rotting in heaps and the cries of mourning widows). The People of Ammon expressed great appreciation for this sacrifice, without which they would all have been killed.

The key to understanding the People of Ammon and their relationship to people today who oppose war is to understand that the People of Ammon were pacifists, but were not against war. They realized that war was necessary to defend the lives of people; they just personally preferred death to fighting a war. They were delighted when others joined them in their vow of pacifism, but did not self-righteously try to impose pacifism on others. They realized that as long as people had free will, there would always be people who would attack them, and they accepted the natural consequences of their choice not to defend themselves. But when the Nephites came to their defense and generously gave them part of their land and sacrificed many lives so that they could keep their ideological/religious purity, they were grateful-- so grateful, in fact, that they offered to live as slaves to the Nephites (the offer was refused).

Contrast this with today's anti-war crowd, which seems to believe that war is never necessary, seeks to destroy the free will of anyone who would choose war, and refuses to be grateful for the sacrifices others have made in defense of their personal pacifism.

I can respect anyone who says "I could never fight in the armed services and kill people, even in defense of myself or my family." I have no respect, however, for anyone who believes that no one should ever fight in defense of their family, and wants to castigate me for being willing to sacrifice in defense of my country and theirs. It would be a wonderful world indeed if no one would fight each other. However, I don't believe that we can hope for that sort of perfection, given that we cannot abrogate the free will of others to decide that we are the enemy.

Whiny Terrorists

The only thing worse than a terrorist is a whiny terrorist.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Harry Potter, Capitalist Tool

The New York Times published this translation of an article in the French newspaper Le Monde, which tries desperately to paint a very, well, interesting image of the significance of the Harry Potter books. Its author Mr. Yocaris makes some interesting points, but one has to wonder which glasses the guy was reading the book with. For example:
The apprentice sorcerers are also consumers who dream of acquiring all sorts of high-tech magical objects, like high performance wands or the latest brand-name flying brooms, manufactured by multinational corporations. Hogwarts, then, is not only a school, but also a market: subject to an incessant advertising onslaught, the students are never as happy as when they can spend their money in the boutiques near the school. There is all sorts of bartering between students, and the author heavily emphasizes the possibility of social success for young people who enrich themselves thanks to trade in magical products.
Evidently Mr. Yocaris failed to notice during his extensive reading of the Potter series:
  • that each student gets only one wand, not a series of newer and better wands (and wands are selected for individual fit, not for "high-tech" features). (I will grant him the consumerism over the brooms, though, but because of the small size of the wizarding community, the firms that manufacture them bear little resemblance to the "multinational corporations" of our world.)
  • that students are quite a bit happier with personal growth and achievement than they are on trips to Hogsmead
  • that the few mentions of advertisement in the books hardly amount to an "incessant onslaught" (for the definition of "incessant onslaught", visit any free clip-art website that employs pop-up ads)
  • that Fred and George Weasley, who open their own magical joke shop, are not only not the main characters, but are the only characters that achieve social success by trading in magical products
For example, Bill Weasley, who works for the goblin bank Gringotts, is presented as the opposite of his brother, Percy the bureaucrat. The first is young, dynamic and creative, and wears clothes that "would not have looked out of place at a rock concert"; the second is unintelligent, obtuse, limited and devoted to state regulation, his career's masterpiece being a report on the standards for the thicknesses of cauldrons.
Yocaris must have missed the parts where Percy was Head Boy and got a whole bunch of O.W.L.'s and N.E.W.T.'s (representing high academic achievement). In fact the major irony in the character of Percy is that being so smart, he is so easily duped into denying reality by the promise of success in working for the (decidedly socialist) Ministry of Magic bureaucracy. If Yocaris wants to hold Percy up as the underdog bureaucrat who is (capitalist portrayals aside) actually quite acute and devoted to something meaningful in life, he ought to read Percy's character a little more carefully first.
The apprentice sorcerers are thus alone in their struggle to survive in a hostile milieu, and the weakest, like Harry's schoolmate Cedric Diggory, are inexorably eliminated.
I can't imagine why Yocaris cites Diggory as "the weakest" in the struggle for the Triwizard cup in Goblet of Fire. His selective vision seems to be ignoring the French girl Fleur Delacour, who failed miserably in two out of three tasks. Diggory, by contrast, was winning after the first task, and tied for first place with Harry Potter after the second task. Moreover, Diggory and Potter fight through the third and final task together, ultimately intending to tie for first place. This wonderful cooperative moment is thwarted, however, by the actions of people (notably portrayed as evil) who are more interested in dominating people and don't really seem to care about cooperation, empathy, or other non-capitalist virtues.
The fictional universe of Harry Potter offers a caricature of the excesses of the Anglo-Saxon social model: under a veneer of regimentation and traditional rituals, Hogwarts is a pitiless jungle where competition, violence and the cult of winning run riot.
I'm with him, right up to the colon. Clearly Hogwarts is supposed to run parallel to the schools that epitomize the "Anglo-Saxon social model", and clearly there are caricatures in the book of the excesses of bureaucracy among other things; but Mr. Yocaris evidently thinks he lives in an advertising-free part of France where people give things away instead of selling them, where bureaucratic hierarchies are by nature non-competitive, and where people pet unicorns underneath happy rainbows for a living. I'm really curious to know where there is a place that isn't "a pitiless jungle", so that I can compare it to either the real world or the Potterverse.

The Potterverse is, as Mr. Yocaris asserts, definitely a capitalist universe. However, if it were anything else, it would be as stupefyingly boring as the politically correct novel that some of my friends had to read their freshman year in college, that was deliberately designed to be entirely non-competitive and include the correct balance of characters according to race, gender, ability, and sexual orientation. Nothing of interest ever happened to the wheelchair-bound lesbian Latina main character, or to any of her similarly diverse friends.

If you're going to take on Harry Potter as a champion for your political viewpoint (something that J. K. Rowling herself discourages), you'd do well to get your basic facts straight. It's not that hard to do, especially when there are websites like this one that you can turn to.

Chicken Pox Vaccine: Worth It, Or Not?

My older two kids have broken out in some extremely scary-looking sores that look at first like normal bug bites, but then erupt into what looks like bug bites that have been scratched till they bled, and eventually turn into oblong open sores about one inch long and half an inch tall-- and then they spread. And I suspect they're contagious-- the neighbor kids have them too. They look scary enough that Favorite Husband rushed Sonshine to the doctor on a Saturday to have them looked at. Unfortunately, the doctor didn't know what they were and gave us a 'scrip for some antibiotics. (Thanks a bunch, Doc, that must be why we pay you the big bucks.)

A friend of mine has a daughter who had some similar sores, and their doctor said it was a form of chicken pox. The neighbor concurs. I've gotta say, though, that I've never seen chicken pox like those. Evidently since chicken pox vaccination became widespread, the virus still goes around, except that now it produces these localized cases of mutant chicken pox, which of course are still contagious. The chicken pox vaccine doesn't seem to be stopping the spread of the virus, and it doesn't seem to be reducing the need to keep the kids out of contact with other kids. If this happens during the school year, they'll miss just as much school as they would with a conventional case of chicken pox. Not only that, but those inch-wide sores are deep-looking, and I'd bet dollars to donuts that they'll leave some nasty scars.

So, remind me again, what exactly was supposed to be the benefit in getting my kids immunized against chicken pox?

Gay Marriage Debate

Steven Den Beste winnows out the specious arguments in the gay marriage debate. I disagree with his conclusion (sort of), but when it comes to narrowing down the argument, he's got it nailed.

How "Black" is "Black"?

Roger Clegg publishes his otherwise-unpublished letter to the editor of the New York Times on the subject of racial classification. There have been some new studies out that show that the "wrong" blacks are benefiting from preferential admissions policies, and Roger puts in his two cents on how one should determine "blackness."

His comments are spot-on, IMO, and I would also add these examples to the pot. I have a good friend who considers herself "black." She has one "black" natural parent and one "white"natural parent, and was also adopted by "white" people. She comes from a northern Midwestern state and is culturally indistinguishable from people who live there, including valuing the pursuit of education. She's certainly proven that she's smart enough and dedicated enough to make it on her own. Her kids are blonde and blue-eyed; nothing about their appearance would lead you to suspect that in a former era they'd be considered "black". I also know a family who have adopted three children: one "white", one "black", and one half-and-half. The father is Irish and the mother is Hispanic. They are not raising their kids anywhere near the ghettoes of Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York City, and since they are both college educated, odds are their kids will be too. Their darker-skinned kids are just as likely as their lighter-skinned one.

So are these "black" people that I've described above really in need of affirmative action to get into college? They certainly aren't in the "target" group of "black" people that affirmative action is supposed to be helping. This classification-by-skin-color thing isn't really as straightforward as it would seem, is it?

UPDATE: Michael Williams has an excellent post on minorities in education.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Must Read

Secretary of Education Rod Paige delivered this well-written and courteous slap upside the head to the NAACP. Must read. Link via Rottweiler.

Gardener's Market Report

Today at the Gardeners' Market we grossed $99.00, of which a whopping $42 was M's. She sold several of her books and attributes the increased sales to the easels I bought, which allow her to better display her books.

I did not go to the market myself today, since I'm trying to take it easy as I recover from mastitis. But I did have to transport M and the goods to and from the market, since I'm the one with the mini-van. And Tiny Princess and Favorite Husband went to the opera today to see "The Secret Garden", so I have to go pick them up when they're done. This was TP's payoff for allowing Sonshine to go with FH to see Thomas The Tank Engine at the Heber Valley Railroad without her.

Planned Emergencies?

Idaho's law requiring parental consent for a minor's abortion has been turned down by a federal court, on the grounds that the provision for emergency abortions only allows them to be performed without consent in "sudden and unexpected" situations. Funny, I thought "sudden and unexpected" was pretty much the definition of an "emergency". What sort of "emergencies" are not sudden and/or unexpected?

They Bravely Ran Away!

I was waiting to post on the Philippine withdrawal, until I got confirmation that the Filipinos did really intend to pull a Sir Robin and bravely run away. I was hoping that they were just talking up the terrorists, since they had already scheduled their withdrawal in August before the kidnapping.

Now we see, however, that they are serious about withdrawing. This troubles me because of the horrible illogic their position entails. There are Filipino expats all over the world, working all sorts of jobs. The government of the Philippines can't possibly extend any protection whatsoever to all of them. But they've made their case for withdrawal on the premise that they will make foreign policy decisions based on threats to the safety of even one of the expats. If they're going to use that kind of logic, maybe the U.S. should find the nearest Filipino cook, take him hostage, and demand that the Philippines maintain a presence in Iraq. Any country that wants the Philippines to swing their way in a vote in the U.N. need only imprison a single Filipino maid, nurse, etc. to get their desired result. Need a nice fat trade agreement? Why, simply capture the nearest Filipino.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Get Me Out Of Here!!

I'm sitting at home with mastitis, trying to keep Bagel nursing all day and keep Tiny Princess and Sonshine from killing each other, all without getting out of bed. Mostly that consists of letting them watch unlimited movies, because if I try to get them to play in their rooms, they fight, and if I try to get them to play with their friends, they keep on coming home every five minutes and making me let them back in. I swear, though, if we have to watch Theodore The Friendly Tugboat one more time, somebody's going to die...

Now With Blogroll?

I just added a blogroll to the right hand side... or at least I think I did...

If there isn't actually a blogroll down under the archives, can somebody leave a comment to let me know? I republished the blog a couple of times but I'm still not seeing it, and it's not showing up in Preview.

UPDATE: After fooling around with it (and creating a template that inexplicably produced nine blogrolls!), I think I've got it. It doesn't quite look the way I wanted, but it's there.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Dinner Time!

Tonight's dinner is Seashell Casserole, Sonshine's all-time favorite. This recipe is a three-generation family tradition. My grandmother used to serve it on Saturdays because it can be made ahead and frozen. It is also great to have a few of these on hand for emergencies, like when the Relief Society president calls you up and asks you to bring dinner in to Sister So-And-So whose husband is in the hospital after a tragic lawnmower accident.

1 lb. ground beef
1 small package seashell pasta
1 large can/jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated

Brown ground beef. Cook pasta. Mix beef, pasta, sauce, and 1/2 of the cheese in an oven-safe bowl or casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. (Freeze at this point if desired. Thaw before baking, or just bake longer if still frozen.) Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Serves 6 (4 if one of them is Sonshine).


Wacky Hermit's Rule #26: If something exists, there exists someone on the Internet who gets his/her jollies off of it.

Hence, Lawnmower P0rn. (not a link to the actual stuff, just a google search, but the Lawnmower Fet1shist site looks promising for those who are just dying to see ways to abuse their lawnmowers.)

I can't wait to see the new warning labels they're going to have to put on the mowers now!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Being a Baby

We asked Bagel, "What's it like to be a baby?"

His response: "I'm constantly getting picked up by chicks who just want to kiss me. Every few hours they take my pants off. What's not to like??"


While at the post office I took the liberty of putting Bagel on the scale. With clothes and a (dry) diaper he weighed 8 lbs. 14 oz., which is 1 lb. 10 oz. more than his birth weight two weeks ago. He is starting to plump up and get some folds. This is very heartening, since he's nursed rather erratically. One day he'll eat like there's no tomorrow, and the next he'll nurse 5 minutes on only one side (owwww.... engorgement...) I haven't been too worried, though; he's been "outputting" a sufficient amount, so I know he has to be "inputting" a sufficient amount as well.

Hotter Than Hell

It's really, really hot today and I just can't think.

I broke down and gave Bagel a bottle of cool, sugary water, that's how hot it was. (After his nursing, of course.) Wish I could spend the day sleeping in my crib in front of the window fan. Not that it's much cooler outside...

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Gratuitous Bagel Pic

If other bloggers can get away with blogging about their cats, certainly I can get away with baby-blogging.

This is Bagel with his paternal grandmother.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

I wonder...

I wonder if Edwards' "Two Americas" speech will end up rather like William Jennings Bryan's "Cross Of Gold" speech-- a famous speech by a failed candidate for public office that encapsulates the opposition's philosophy at the time.

"My Fetus" and the Sin of Pride

I read an article this morning by Julia Black, the maker of the British abortion documentary "My Fetus", on why she made the film. She hopes the film will persuade women to be "pro-choice" like her; "pro-life" activists believe the same film will persuade women to oppose abortion.

Black says she made the film to help clarify and justify her beliefs, and I think she's succeeded in that. She speaks of "tak[ing] control of [her] fertility" as if pregnancy were something that just happened to her, some lightning bolt from above that randomly struck her in the uterus, when she'd done nothing to deserve the punishment of an unwanted pregnancy. This shows a remarkable (or willful) ignorance as to how babies are made, a strangely artificial disconnect between sex and baby-making. She also speaks of her desires for a career and shows how she sacrificed what she admits was a human life so that it wouldn't interfere with her career. This shows a nauseating degree of self-centeredness-- in short, the sin of pride.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think this way-- I used to think this way too, for one (thankfully brief) period of my life. It's so easy to fall for the idea that you matter so much to the universe that you deserve to do whatever you want with only the consequences you desire. What finally scared me off of this position, though, was seeing it through to its logical consequences. You could just crush (sometimes literally) anyone who gets in your way, and I knew that was wrong. Thankfully I'd already encountered the concept of reductio ad absurdum so I was able to trace that monstrosity back to its false premise, and reject it.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Happy Blogiversary IMAO!

Frank J. of IMAO has declared today, his 2nd blogiversary, to be International Link to IMAO Day. I'm still a little cheesed at Frank for not letting women help judge the IMAO T-shirt Babe Contest, but he did answer my questions in his Frank Answers feature, so I'll forgive him this time and link to him.

My favorite feature of his blog is the In My World series, which I think he should publish in a book. It's absolutely hilarious to anyone from either side of the aisle, as he pokes equal-opportunity fun at all politicians and Washington players. My favorite episode is the two-parter "The Demoncrat", wherein an evil demon tries to get the Democratic nomination for President.

BoM To Be Published

Doubleday is going to publish the Book of Mormon (and try to sell for $24.95 what anyone can get free for the asking... Good luck...) Evidently they're going to make an edition that's more like the first edition, which is actually a more readable format-- without cross-references, and with paragraphs rather than verses. I wonder if Doubleday is going to keep the verse numbers in there, too (they were not in the first edition).

Just FYI, there exist other editions of the Book of Mormon not published by the church. One that comes to mind right away is the large illustrated version that's been in all our local religious bookstores. There are others that are intended to be used as study editions.

It's always nice to read an unbiased news article about Mormon topics, as this one is. Too often articles about Mormons are full of scare quotes and disparaging tones, like "Joseph Smith claims to have 'translated' some wacky gold plates he says he found in the ground... what a maroon..." I can't imagine the media taking the same sort of tone with more "mainstream" religions, such as "Those crazy Episcopalians, who incredibly think that gay marriage should be solemnized by their church even though it's not supported by any Biblical scripture,..." It would just be rude to take that sort of tone about people's deeply held beliefs in a news article, but that doesn't seem to stop them.

Happy Birthday To Me

It's my birthday today, and I'm, uh, 21. Yeah. 21.

I should note that the picture of me that I've provided on my blog is rather out-of-date. How out-of-date? The yellow ribbon I'm wearing was from the FIRST Gulf War. But it was the best picture I could find of me. Because the vast majority of our pictures are of the World's Cutest Kids, the only other pictures I could find of me on the computer either showed me giving birth to babies, or showed me during the, ahem, subsequent period of weight loss.

And now, a great song lyric by the masters of song, They Might Be Giants:

"You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older
And now you're even older
And now you're even older
You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older
And now you're older still."

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Racial Issues

Tiny Princess just discovered the other day that her neighbors and playmates are Native Americans. (Their mom is Navajo, if I remember correctly, and their dad is "white".) She told me this morning that her friends and their mom were "Indians" and their dad was "white". But then she came out with a whopper: she said that because of these racial identifications, her friends had to serve their dad. And she said she'd gotten this information from one of the Indian girls herself.

Well, I couldn't let that one slide, and I think I ripped into it a little too hard and fast for her liking, because she hid under the covers and wouldn't talk to me about it any more or tell me where she'd heard that notion. I told her that if they wanted to serve their dad because he was a loved member of their family, that was fine; but they didn't have to serve him because they were Indians and he was "white". Maybe people used to do it that way, but it was wrong and we don't do that any more.

I think I'm going to have to talk to the parents and get some clarification on this. Maybe the girls weren't understanding correctly what their parents were telling them.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

"Food Deserts"

SCSU Scholars has a post on "food deserts"-- areas (gasp) without supermarkets! I just couldn't resist poking the following fun at people who would breathlessly narrate the terrible plight of those who are forced to drive into town to shop:

People used to live (gasp) without being able to buy cheesy crackers at any time they wished. They used to drive their covered wagons into town and buy a month's supply (or more) of flour, sugar, and other staples. And get this-- they used to make their own food! Out of flour!

Geez, didn't any of these people read "Little House On The Prairie?"

A Fabulous Rant

A fabulous rant for those who, like the author, are sick of seeing movies with bony chicks in leather bras opening up a can of whoop-@$$ on men twice their size who, for no apparent reason, get all beat up.

Near Miss

Sonshine put some spare change in his little wallet and took it with him to the store, just in case they had something that cost less than 20 cents at Sam's Club. He kept dropping his change all through the store, but that was merely annoying.

Then he dropped his change in the middle of the parking lot aisle as we were approaching the car. He rushed out to retrieve it, and almost got hit by an oncoming mini-van. I kept yelling at him to leave the change and come to me, but he wouldn't listen. Providentially the van wasn't going so fast and the driver saw him even though he was on the van's blind side, but this could easily have been the worst day of my life. Needless to say, Sonshine got a whack upside the head and a good yelling-at for nearly taking my little boy away from me over a few pennies.

The only thing that sustains me during times like these is the thought that a boy with these same qualities will make a good Marine, who will risk unknown dangers to complete his mission and never leave a man behind. If he lives to the age of eighteen, five bucks says he joins the Marines. Semper Fi.

Dirty Trial Lawyer

Kerry has picked the dirty trial lawyer for his running mate. I usually don't call people names like that, but scum like him are the reason why my dad is no longer practicing medicine and my mom, with her heart trouble, has to work to afford a home, and neither of them has any money left to retire on. Somehow I don't think Edwards gives a crap about them and all the people out there like them who had everything they'd worked so hard for taken away from them by malpractice attorneys looking to wring a quick buck out of an innocent OBGYN, just because they can. He has the nerve to complain about the high cost of health care, when it's people like him who are making the costs go up.

My grandfather told my dad there are three kinds of people in the world: builders, users, and destroyers. Scum like Edwards are destroyers.

You can like or dislike Edwards if you wish, but for me, it's personal. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

UPDATE: Scott Ott finds a practical use for Edwards' skills.

Bring Back Corporal Punishment...

... because these people need a good spanking.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

What's Wrong With These People?

I gave out free patriotic ribbon pins at my booth at the Gardeners' Market today. I did the same thing on Memorial Day and was heartened by how many people took the ribbons-- in fact, no one refused one. Today, however, was a different story. A lot of people refused the ribbons, some without even looking at them, and some of those without even being polite and saying "no, thanks".

I certainly hope they weren't declining the ribbons because they didn't think the holiday was worth celebrating or they didn't want to wear their country's colors. I know I shouldn't paint them all with that brush-- one lady turned us down because she still had the one from Memorial Day at home. Perhaps there were some vain people who just didn't like the shade of blue I'd selected. But I just have to wonder what the reasons were behind turning down a free pin, and if there were people there who are such sons-of-bitches that they wouldn't wear their own country's colors on the day we celebrate our country's birth.

Gardeners' Market Report

Well, it was no Memorial Day, but we did just fine. We grossed $73.50. M sold two of her little books, and traded a book and bookmark for a "magic" wand that a guy in a costume wizard hat was selling. The wands were interesting and the guy was very nice, but I don't know why anyone would want one. After all, they don't do real magic.

I arranged a trade with the barrel-shaped chef from the breakfast burrito stand. He wears this chef uniform that's black with flames, and he has extra-large hands. So I offered to trade with him for a custom set of hot mitts that matched his chef uniform. Today we struck the deal: two pairs of the hot mitts for two cheesecakes. (Side note: I found out last weekend that this chef is the same one who is catering the school lunches at the charter school. Tiny Princess recognized him and identified him.)

I also had a bit of a marketing success. I wanted to sell more of the colored cotton items at the market (I'd previously been selling the vast majority of them to my mom, and few to none at the market). The colored cotton is nearly half the cost of the organic cotton, but the items can command the same price at the market, so naturally I'd like to be selling more of these. I hit upon the idea of pre-packaging these as gift sets, all tied with a ribbon and ready to throw in a gift bag with some tissue. I made sets of different sizes with prices from $5 to $17, but I think the best sales will be of sets in the $7-10 range, since our average purchase is a little over $7. And I sold three sets today, so it worked. I think that if I have some better colors I'll sell more. I was out of good colors this week, and what little I had in good colors was what sold. But I did some research and found out what colors are "in" for kitchens, so I will order those colors and hopefully I can start doing a brisker business in colored gift sets.

Fireworks Display

My town is home to Fireworks West, a company that manufactures (guess what) fireworks. This is no local-yokel firm; they did the fireworks for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. So every year, we are all treated to a twenty-to-thirty-minute fireworks show put on by Fireworks West. It usually takes place a day or two before the actual 4th of July; this year because the 4th is on a Sunday, the show was last night (Friday).

This show goes above and beyond the usual boom-boom fireworks one typically sees over a town on 4th of July. It is a full-fledged spectacle that you can buy tickets to see. They basically light the university stadium on fire and people all over the valley watch it explode into showers of multicolored sparks for half an hour. (Then everybody leaves and spends an hour and a half trying to travel a mile across town.) Those who don't have tickets to see the stadium show congregate on every verge and grassy knoll with a clear view of the skies above the stadium. They creep up the side of the mountain for a free view of part of the inside show. Prime seats and positions near the hospital and the Applied Technology Center are staked out all day long by chair-watching volunteers.

This year, Fireworks West outdid themselves. They had fireworks of a type I've never seen before. These fireworks exploded as usual into a ball of sparks, but then just when the ball got almost too large, each spark divided into four and replenished the ball. There were fireworks that looked like flowers and ringed planets, and fireworks that descended into a scintillating weeping-willow tree shape. There were fireworks that exploded with the voice of a cannon (these accompanied the broadcast of the 1812 overture) and fireworks that "sizzled". It was just incredible. I wonder if we get to try out all the newest fireworks before everyone else gets to see them.