Friday, December 31, 2004

Gingerbread Carnage

I've been slowly working my way through this large tub of gingerbread men, and I am just appalled at the number of broken gingerbread men I've found. They are just sitting in that bin without arms, legs, or sometimes even heads. Severed limbs are everywhere, white icing oozing out of them onto the whole gingerbread men. I feel so sorry for them that I have to eat several at a time. They just beg me to put them out of their frosted-cookie misery.

Carnival of the Recipes

... is up at Prochein Amy.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Shearing The Lamb

Today I sheared my little merino lamb, Bagel. I've resisted cutting any of the luscious silky hair he was born with, because it's just so soft. Just nuzzling the top of his head puts me in heaven. But we had finally reached the point where it was just absurd to let it grow any longer. It was already into his eyes in the front, and in the back it was starting to felt into little tiny dreadlocks.

I wanted to leave it longer on top and cut mostly the sides and back, but alas, Bagel did not cooperate. He kept trying to look up at the shiny scissors, so I had to cut it to only an inch long. I cut two full inches of silky black hair off the top of that kid. Now he looks like a little shorn sheep.

I still haven't trimmed over the ears-- he was wiggling too much for that, I'll have to do it while he's asleep.

UPDATE: I got the ears trimmed and here is the "after" pic:

Modern Boys' Name Generator

Here's how to find a non-traditional name for your boy that blends creativity with conformity in just the right combination:

(1) Choose your favorite consonant phoneme. (this is the creative part!)
(2) Append the suffix "-ayton". If you don't like "-ayton" you can try "-ayden" instead. (this is the conforming part-- your kid's name will rhyme with half the other boys' names!)

So far I've seen "Payton", "Trayton", and "Clayton", as well as "Jayden". Still unclaimed, I think, are "Mayton", "Hayton," "Shayton" and "Wayton". But it's only a matter of time before people run out of unused phonemes and have to turn to these latter names in order to keep up the creativity level.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Zero is EVEN, People!!

My kids are watching a math show about odd and even numbers. They are showing the numbers 0 through 9 and saying 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 are odd, but only 2, 4, 6, and 8 are even. I don't know why this pisses me off so badly today, but 0 is an even number too, and yet they're not including it. I couldn't begin to tell you how many people there are out there who think 0 is neither odd nor even.

People, zero is even. Even integers are those that can be represented as 2n where n is an integer, and when n=0, you get 0 as an even number. You can make a case that 0 is not even, if you only allow n to be a natural number (1, 2, 3, ...), but since that set is closed under addition and 0 is not in it to begin with, it's sort of a moot question.

Zero is neither positive nor negative, but it is definitely even.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Religion Vs. Culture

It's a common mistake to conflate the beliefs of a religion with the cultural quirks of its practitioners. Example: Islam. Religion: belief in the modesty of women. Culture: wearing the hijab.

Mormonism is not immune to the conflation of religion and culture, particularly in Utah where the culture grew up around the religion. Religion: believing all worthy and capable young men should serve missions. Culture: ostracizing capable young men who don't go on missions. Religion: needing the support of fellow members to help build your understanding of the Gospel. Culture: not socializing with non-members at all. A lot of what non-Mormons and ex-Mormons find objectionable about the Mormon religion is not actually religion, but culture. I think the same goes for people who dislike Muslims etc.

Religion: believing that Jesus is the Christ. Culture: celebrating Christmas by putting up Nativity sets to remind you that Jesus is the Christ.

What in your own religious practice is actually religion, and what is really culture? Comments please.

Monday, December 27, 2004

This is Sick And Wrong

As a Vegetable Rights Activist* I find this (and this) appalling.

* Hey, we have animal rights and mineral rights, why not vegetable rights?

It's All About Me

I'm pleased that vehement opponents of a law that I find unobjectionable have found a civil, non-invective-filled way to express their opinions. In the same spirit, I would like to say that I think they are wrong.

The issue is no-fault divorce. A bill being proposed for this year would remove no-fault divorce for couples who have been married 10 years and have minor children, under certain circumstances. Couples in those circumstances could still divorce for abuse, adultery, etc., and that is as it should be. But being married 10 years and having irreconcilable differences strikes me as being rather like the guy who takes his 5-year-old video camera back to the store saying "it never worked right since the day I bought it," and asking for his money back. If it wasn't working, why'd you wait so long?

I have some good friends who recently divorced in exactly those circumstances. Their divorce did not have to happen. If they had gotten some counseling, they would still be married today. The father didn't want a divorce. But the mother found it easier and more satisfying to tell her flawed but devoted husband to kiss off, instead of starting to unpack the baggage she brought with her into the marriage. Since then it's been a real struggle to remain friends with her. Everything is all about her. She exists in a selfish little universe, while her kids go untended, unbathed, and unfed. The no-fault divorce only fed her selfishness. Once she had gotten a taste of what it was like to serve only herself, she just couldn't stomach serving anyone else. And so she went on to do every kind of disservice to her children-- driving away their father, letting their home get squalid, and absenting herself from them emotionally, even when she is physically present. This has been extremely unhealthy for her, and only time will tell how deeply she has wounded her children.

The author of the op-ed I linked speaks sensitively about the needs of the adults in a bad marriage, but says not a word about the children. That would be a fine argument, if only adults were involved in the divorce-- but under these limited circumstances, it is clear that this is not the case. Adults who raise children have committed themselves to 18 years of subordinating their needs and desires to the needs of the children; that's what being a parent is about. A conscientious parent will cultivate her marriage as well, for the benefit of the children, her husband, and herself. There is no "what about me" in raising children or in marriage. If you are selfish enough to create children in a marriage when you don't intend to do everything it takes to cultivate the marriage, and keep up the charade for over 10 years, then you really do deserve to have to at least explain your actions to a mediator before going to court. It'll be good practice for when you have to explain it to your kids, and later to the Almighty.

The author of the op-ed I linked speaks sensitively about the needs of the adults in a divorce and their desire to lessen the pain inherent in their irresponsible actions, but says not a word about the children. He or she has entirely missed the point of the elimination of no-fault divorce under these circumstances: it's not all about the adults. Adults do not need a cowardly way to avoid facing up to the responsibilities they took on, no matter how badly it hurts.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Recipe: Arroz Doce

This traditional Portuguese rice pudding, delicately flavored with lemon and cinnamon and sprinkled with cinnamon on top, is a treat from my mom's side of the family. It used to be made by slaving over a hot stove, but my grandmother adapted it for the slow cooker, so now we can make it more often. I'm making a double batch right now for our day-after-Christmas Portuguese feast. If you would like to make a double batch, see the directions below the recipe. After you try it for the first time, you will want a double batch.

Arroz Doce can be served hot or cold, and must be stored in the fridge because of the eggs. For the safety-conscious, I should note that the eggs (which are added raw at the end) cook upon contact with the hot pudding, much like they do in egg drop soup, so you needn't worry about eating raw eggs.

This is one of those recipes where you can get away with substituting powdered milk, so I sometimes make it to use up close-dated powdered milk.

Arroz Doce (Portuguese Sweet Rice)

3/4 c. long-grain white rice
1 1/4 c. water
4 c. milk
3-4" cinnamon stick
peel of one lemon
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp. butter

In slow cooker, cook rice in water on "high" until rice absorbs all liquid. Scald milk with lemon peel and cinnamon stick in it (5-6 minutes in microwave on "high" will do it) Add milk to rice one cup at a time, waiting many minutes between additions until milk is absorbed by rice. When 2 cups of milk have been added, add sugar and salt. Continue cooking on "high", stirring frequently. When all milk has been absorbed, add egg yolks and butter. Beat egg whites until stiff, then fold in. Serve hot or cold, sprinkled with cinnamon on top.

Double Batch Hints:
When I make a double batch, I scald the milk in two four-cup batches, using a different lemon peel and cinnamon stick in each batch. I add two cups of milk at a time and add the sugar and salt after the first four cups of milk have been added, then scald the second four cups of milk right before adding them.

Merry Christmas

Christmas was just lovely. Everything turned out well at the very last possible minute.

I didn't have any Christmas spirit, though, until the evening of the 24th. Up until then I was working so hard at filling Christmas orders and making presents that I hadn't been able to relax at all. We took the kids to my parents' house for the traditional Christmas Eve spaghetti-and-meatballs dinner. My dad, evidently pleased with the festive visual disaster of mixing red with green, made green spaghetti again. My brother's girlfriend's parents had given my parents a whole bunch of fresh grated parmesan cheese, and it was excellent. Favorite Husband gave me "pretty sparklies"-- a pair of real gemstone earrings-- and a cutting mat and ruler for the rotary cutter. I will have to check his bank account to make sure it's not overdrawn.

As we herded the kids back into our house, excited and hopped up on sugar, I found an anonymous gift by the door. It contained a small wooden nativity puzzle. I have always loved those wooden nativity puzzles, but I never had one. Suddenly, there it was-- the Christmas spirit! Just in time to stuff the stockings.

I was worried that the kids would be spoiled brats, dissatisfied with their Christmas haul. We haven't got much money this Christmas, so we couldn't afford the toys they wanted. Each child got a large yet inexpensive present from Santa and a large yet inexpensive one from us. Tiny Princess got a globe and a lamp, Sonshine got a Lego set and a big-boy car seat, and Bagel (who doesn't use the height of his Santa present as a metric for equal treatment) got a digital ear thermometer and a feeding seat. The stockings themselves were stuffed with nuts and tangerines and a few small books and toys (Bagel got bottles and rattles). We had a little trouble with Sonshine insisting that the globe, too, was rightfully his because he had wished for one. Unfortunately for him, he had not made his wish for a globe known to Santa, so Santa gave it to Princess instead.

I also had underwear for the two older kids, but I couldn't wrap it because the kids had made off with my tape dispenser after I got mad at them for putting pieces of tape all over the carpet. I had wanted to wrap the underwear in boxes with the other clothes, but my sewing machine broke down earlier this week and I couldn't finish Princess' clothes, so I gave them only the underwear lest they cry favoritism. Favorite Husband, dear caring man that he is, ran out on Christmas Eve and got me a roll of tape; but I was too mentally exhausted by the time he got back to use it to wrap the underwear.

Sonshine, in a fit of pique, complained earlier this week that he only ever gets boring presents, like Legos and underwear. I cringed when I heard him say that-- Legos and underwear were exactly what we had gotten him. He had wanted a Hot Wheels set that has "hot lava", but the reviews on Amazon all said that it was a nightmare and continually had to be put back together by grown-ups. Nevertheless, he was mightily pleased with having the big-boy car seat we have been promising him as a reward for learning to control his tantrums. I hope that we are successful in teaching him to master himself; this will be much more important in the long run than whether or not he had a cool hot lava Hot Wheels set for a couple months before it ended up at Goodwill.

Christmas Day was excellent. I was in a very good and stable mood, even through the frenzy of holiday cooking. My parents, however, were a little bit off-balance. My dad got mad at my mom for cooking three packages of brownies when they already had half a chocolate cake, and for using his favorite raspberry ginger ale in the punch instead of regular ginger ale. My mom, who usually responds to my dad's nit-picking by letting it roll right over her, got all flustered and looked near to tears. I was able to smooth it over by persuading my dad that we could always give the extra brownies to the neighbors or, barring that, throw them away; he wouldn't be under any obligation to eat up all the leftovers, and Mom could still have the Portuguese idea that running out of food constitutes the eighth deadly sin. And I told my mom that I thought using the raspberry ginger ale was an excellent idea that would give a new dimension of flavor to the old punch recipe.

My sister J and her husband J (who is in med school) and my niece Strawberry (not her real name) came out from San Francisco, and we had a great time. I'm thinking of asking my sister J to sell my stuff in San Fran in exchange for a commission, because it can sell there at a higher price. I gave Strawberry a poncho for Christmas; it went over very well. My other nieces, Blondie and Curly, loved their gifts of oven mitts (which matched their mom's), muffin trays and mix. They baked their muffins on Christmas morning and ate them gleefully.

Recipe: Crown Roast Of Pork With Apricot-Wheat Bread Stuffing

This is what we served for our holiday feast:

Crown Roast of Pork with Apricot-Wheat Bread Stuffing

A crown roast is basically a string of pork rib chops that haven't been cut apart. The ends of the meat are tied together with a string to make a ring, and the meat is cut away from the ends of the ribs so that they stick up. The space in the center of the ring can be stuffed. The roast is carved by cutting downward in between the rib bones to separate the chops.

Crown roasts are expensive, but the presentation is so impressive that they make excellent holiday dishes. Mine actually wasn't that bad-- I got it at Sam's Club for about $2 per pound, half what the grocery stores wanted for it. You just ask the butcher to prepare it for you, and it comes already tied in the crown formation. Normally you have to bake the roast with the stuffing inside from the get-go until the temperature of the stuffing is high enough to kill bacteria, but because this stuffing is put in hot after the meat is mostly done, you don't have to worry about that.

Despite the length of the directions, this roast has a surprisingly high compliment-to-effort ratio.

For the roast:
1 crown roast of pork, (approximately 9-10 lbs.)
1 can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 cup white zinfandel (I used Sutter "Fre" dealcoholized white zinfandel)
aluminum foil

Place roast in a roasting pan. Cover the rib bone ends with pieces of aluminum foil, and put a ball of aluminum foil in the center cavity of the roast to hold it open while cooking. Place in the oven at 325 degrees. Mix the orange juice concentrate with the wine. Baste with the juice/wine mixture periodically. Roast for about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing:
1 c. dried apricots
hot water
1 large loaf wheat sandwich bread
3/4 lb. butter (you heard me, 3/4 lb! This is a holiday.)
2 large onions, chopped
2 large apples, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 tsp. dried lemon peel (or 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest)
1 tsp. dried sage

Cover the apricots with the hot water and let stand. Break the sandwich bread into pieces. Drain and chop the apricots. Melt the butter in a large pan. Saute the chopped veggies and fruits in the butter until the onions start to get soft; add seasonings. Mix with the bread pieces.

When the roast reaches about 130-140 degrees, remove the foil ball from the center (do not remove the foil covering the bones). Stuff the cavity with the stuffing, and put the remainder of the stuffing in an oven-safe dish. Return roast and dish of stuffing to the oven. Continue baking until the meat reaches 160 to 165 degrees. Let stand about 10 minutes before carving.

I garnished my roast by placing it on a bed of parsley and surrounding it with dried apricots, one at each chop. We took the molho (gravy for the non-Portuguese), thickened it, and served it over the mashed potatoes; it was interesting because the molho was very citrusy.

Saturday, December 25, 2004


I hear that the latest trend in the blogosphere is cabbage-blogging. As everyone who has studied reproduction knows well, children are grown in cabbages. Mine are grown in organic cabbages. Here's a picture:

Graphic courtesy of Mim.

UPDATE: Shortly after posting this, I had a conversation with my kids:
Sonshine: So there's Bagel, and Tiny Princess, and me?
Me: Yup!
Sonshine: Why are we in those flowers?
Me: They're cabbages. Everyone knows kids grow in cabbages!
Sonshine: Nuh uh, they grow in the tummy!
Me: No, really, they grow in cabbages! I should know, we grew each and every one of you in the garden.
Tiny Princess: What about Bagel, huh?
Me: Well, all right, I fess up. I bought Bagel at the Farmer's Market.
Kids: No you didn't!

There's just no fooling those kids.

Friday, December 24, 2004

We Kiss You A Merry Wishmas

... and a Happy You Near!


I cannot for the life of me understand why the TSA would quit touching women between their breasts when patting them down at security checks.

I'm a woman, and I can tell you there is no better place to hide something than between your breasts, especially if they are large, because many large-size bras have "patented uni-boob technology" that squishes your breasts together into one humungus lump. You could hide a small child in mine (OK, I'm exaggerating, but I could hide a box cutter or enough explosives to do some serious damage). Women have been hiding sensitive stuff between their breasts for ages, mostly because they know nobody would dare touch them there. It is the height of stupidity (from a security standpoint) to openly declare that women's cleavage will no longer be searched. It's an engraved invitation to women to hide things in their cleavage.

I know some women don't like having their breasts touched. To them I say, tough cookies. I saw video of the screening procedure and it is totally non-sexual, they put the side of the hand between the breasts, and to top it all off the searches on women are performed by women. If you can't tell the difference between that and sex, you need to get laid more often.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Math Joke

I couldn't resist posting this original math joke:

Q. Where do depraved mathematicians go at night?
A. To the Mobius Strip Club.
Q. How can you tell they've been there?
A. When they come back the're nonorientable and their clothes are reversed.


The Happy Marriage Of Art And Science

Mathematicians have crocheted a Lorenz manifold. I'm in heaven!
Link via Too Much Wool; hat tip Mim.

I must admit I've never crocheted a manifold, although I did sew a hyperbolic skirt once. Here's the pattern, if you want to make another Lorenz manifold and claim your free bottle of champagne. You know, I just might... it takes a B or C hook and about a pound of yarn...

On the other hand, I haven't worked on my quilted wall hanging of the 17 wallpaper symmetry groups in quite a long time... maybe I'd better not.

UPDATE: I also came across this M.C. Escher Lego site. It provides a nice counterpoint to Mim's Lego Bible stories site. Oh, and the knitted Mobius strip-- but unlike the Mobius scarves, this one is knitted seamlessly. Follow the link on that page for Klein bottle hats!

Home Teaching And Community

When I lived in New Hampshire, I got a chance to meet some immigrants from Africa. Like most recent immigrants, they were poor and had social ties to other immigrants from the same country. But what really struck me about them was their deep sense of community. They told me about what life was like in Africa, and I could see how they had brought that value of community-forming with them to the US. They immediately formed a soccer team, regularly socialized at each other's apartments, and welcomed all who wished to participate.

By comparison, our culture here in the US lacks community as a value. Emphasis is placed on someone's racial or socioeconomic status. We value money, not for what it can do for others, but what it can do for us. We don't consider someone successful if they have nothing but a social network. We often feel lonely and isolated-- and often it's not just a feeling. I live in a ward (congregation) whose geographical boundaries are two blocks tall and four blocks wide, and yet there are people who live across the street that I have never met, even though I go to church with them. Social networks are absolutely vital to our existence. And they have an added benefit: people who are made to get to know someone different from them tend to learn a valuable lesson about judgmentalism.

But it doesn't have to be that way. The Lord, who in my experience always seems to know what He is doing, set up a program within the Church to make us develop a social network. In fact, he set up two: one for the men and one for the women (because men and women socialize differently). They are called Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching. I will refer throughout the rest of the post to home teaching (mostly because it's less awkwardly named) but everything I'm saying applies equally well to visiting teaching.

Some people, sadly, think that home teachers are really spies sent out by the Church to make sure all the sheeple get herded neatly into the fold. I think it's sad that some people are so paranoid, and even sadder that many home teachers have abused their opportunity to get to know people. I know that many home teachers "do their duty" and nothing else (and many just do "nothing else"). They never become friends with their charges; they just visit every month like they're supposed to, and report their statistics to the bean-counters. They think that if the statistics are looking good, that everything is fine. It's sad to see them pass up the opportunity to get to know their fellow-travelers in life.

Home teaching, when properly performed, is a calling of the highest order. It is the Lord introducing you to some of His other followers and asking you to make friends, often when you don't want to. When you are called to be a home teacher, you are being asked to build one of the most enduring things on Earth-- a friendship, an attitude of civility, a tolerance for others. Buildings may crumble and wars may come and go, but it is only our relationships with others that can endure through all things, even death. Being a home teacher is a greater calling than being an architect for a temple, because without the interpersonal ties being bound inside it, a temple is merely a pretty building full of empty chairs.

Yet Another Op-Ed About Math Ed

This time it's Suzanne Fields writing about the sorry state of our math education. She specifically mentions Singapore because they regularly kick everyone else's butt in international competitions.

I've seen Singapore's math curriculum; I used it at the charter school last year. I was on the curriculum committee, and I recommended it be adopted for all the students. The school decided to go with Saxon, another curriculum I'd recommended. Saxon is not a bad curriculum-- in fact it's quite good-- but it's not world-class like Singapore Math. Why did they choose Saxon over Singapore? Because Singapore requires teachers to be well-versed in math. Saxon comes with pre-fab lesson plans. I keep offering to do math inservice for the teachers, but so far nobody's taken me up on the offer.

Like I keep telling everyone who will listen while I preach from my soapbox, the problem with our math education has gone way beyond the kind of thing that can be fixed with testing or a new curriculum or more funding, unless these things are used to educate the teachers. The problem is that the teachers don't know math, and they can't teach what they don't know.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Gratuitous Bagel Pic

Here's your gratuitous Bagel pic for the month:

Bagel is sitting up now! But he still doesn't roll over. I think it's because he just doesn't feel he needs to.

UPDATE: I've featured this picture in my blogad on SCSU Scholars, with the caption "Buy Something My Mom Made!". We all know sex sells, let's see if the product of sex sells...

Kinda Scary

It's kinda scary that people come to my blog searching for "baby farm". It doesn't surprise me that the string brings people to the Organic Baby Farm. What scares me is that they were searching for a baby farm. I imagine either a person looking to buy a baby straight from the source, or someone whose parents never discussed the "birds and the bees" with them, opting instead to tell them babies grew in cabbages...

My Little Brother

Here's my little brother Big D in the Ukraine, on the coast of the Black Sea.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Caution: Breastfeeding Post

There is nothing quite as exquisite as breastfeeding a baby. It is the sort of experience that would make you do something crazy just to have it... like, you know, suffering from mastitis three or four times in six months.

For those not in the know, mastitis is an extraordinarily painful infection of the lactating breast. It develops all by itself whenever the combination of contributing factors (stress, changes in nursing patterns, plugged milk ducts, stress, tight bras, not drinking enough water, stress) achieves a perfect balance. The early symptoms are a painful lump in the breast, fever, achiness, and weakness. If you let it go past the early symptoms, you will find yourself totally bedridden, on antibiotics, and having to nurse your baby with a pillow in your fist to keep from putting your fingernails through your palm with the pain every time the baby latches on to nurse.

As soon as you feel the early signs of mastitis, you go straight to bed. You let the chicken you defrosted rot, and you order out dinner. You let the kids swing from the ceiling fan if need be, but you must drop everything that you're doing and immediately go to bed and don't come out for at least 24 hours. Some women get prescription antibiotics, but I just take goldenseal. The first time I had mastitis I took prescription antibiotics, but they flavored the milk. Tiny Princess didn't care for antibiotic flavored milk, so she wouldn't nurse, which only made the pain worse. (Keep in mind that the pain from mastitis is already so bad that you almost wish the baby was being born again just so you could get some relief.)

This time I came down with mastitis on a Friday. I felt the hot lump in my breast and knew what it meant, but I had to keep on going until someone who could fill in for me came available. I ended up having to drive the afternoon carpool because my friend had a repairman wander in several hours late, and the kids needed to get their money from the bank and do their Christmas shopping. By the time I was done with that, I had to go to bed. Favorite Husband came home and took over, cooking dinner while I slept.

But he was piling up the trash can again instead of taking it out. Favorite Husband simply doesn't do trash; he will let the trash overflow the can into a three-foot-wide heap and complain about how he has to step in trash, rather than simply taking the damn trash out himself. The last time I let him overflow the can like that, the trash bag broke right in front of the large can outside and I had to pick it all up, so I decided that mastitis or no mastitis, I was taking out the trash.

Three-quarters of the way to the can, I collapsed.

I took Bagel to bed with me and nursed him all night to keep the painful breast from filling up and becoming even more painful. It disrupted his sleep schedule and he was so tired most of the day that I wished I could slip him some phenobarb just to get him to take a nap. I spent most of yesterday in bed. FH ran all the errands and tended the kids, even changing diapers (although he threw them in a different overflowing trash can). We had Bagel in disposables because FH doesn't do cloth diapers either. But I still had to at least wash the laundry, because Princess is out of school pants and FH is complaining about his lack of socks and Sonshine will go ballistic without his boxer briefs (and FH doesn't do laundry either). And I was able to sit for a while in front of the knitting machine, so I knitted two ponchos and finished one of them in bed. I'm almost caught up on my Christmas orders, with one week to go.

Friday, December 17, 2004

TSA: Theft Security Agency

I've not been a big fan of the TSA, ever since its inception. I've always thought it was set up wrong and was run quite ineffectively. And only now, it's news??
The surveillance video is disturbing. A TSA worker at JFK airport in New York, allegedly rifling through a bag planted by police, removing jewels and money.

This suspect was charged with larceny and possession of stolen property.

Theft has been a problem for as long as travelers have been checking their bags, but now, the TSA is keeping track.

Since taking control of baggage screening nearly two years ago, it's received more than 28,000 complaints of damaged, lost or stolen items. The total value: nearly $36 million.

But no one knows how many of those are false claims.

And nobody knows how many claims never got through in the first place. I can't even count the number of times Favorite Husband had stuff "confiscated" from his checked luggage, not to mention stuff that was damaged because of the TSA's incompetence. And when we went to complain about it, we were told there was nobody to complain to. No oversight whatsoever. With no real supervision and no accountability, is it any surprise that TSA workers are stealing?
Air traveler Randy Rutland says, "Everything was in the luggage when we left from here."

Rutland, of Louisiana, claims it happened to him while flying out of New Orleans.

He says his luggage was checked, then secured with blue tags to indicate they'd been hand searched by the TSA, but when he got his bags, a brand new digital camera and his daughter's compact discs were missing.

"I think somebody went through our bags, saw a nice camera and some cd's and they took 'em," Rutland says.

The value: $1600.

Mr. Rutland's experience echoes FH's. FH has had drills, label makers, and tons of tools stolen out of his bags. He has traveled with a meticulously packed toolbox for four years. Every time TSA inspects the toolbox, they try to throw all the tools back into it pell-mell, but then they can't get it to close. Sometimes they shove the lid down and break either the tools or the toolbox; sometimes they try to tape it shut, and sometimes they just leave it open to the world. It comes down the carousel, shedding tools everywhere.

He did this every other week for four years.

What happens to all those tools? Is there a lost and found? Nope.
So far, the TSA has settled some 19,000 claims totaling $2.5 million, including $152,000 worth of claims at LAX,

$111,000 dollars at JFK, followed by Seattle, Las Vegas and Oakland.

The TSA is now adding surveillance cameras in baggage handling and secure areas to watch for theft.

Like that's going to help. Cameras are only effective when somebody's watching the footage. If the TSA has sufficient manpower to watch the cameras, why weren't those same people watching the employees directly?
TSA Administrator, Admiral David Stone, says, "In issues of theft, there's a zero-tolerance and we need to make sure that we route that out of our organization because it gets to the very core of who we are and that trust and confidence bond with the American people."

Only 66 TSA workers have been arrested out of 60,000 present and past TSA screeners, and for every TSA employee who handles a bag, it's touched by four airline employees.

I like that-- they're basing their claim that TSA employees don't steal stuff on the number of TSA employees that have been arrested for stealing stuff. If they don't get caught, it's not really theft, is it? And if there's no oversight, they won't get caught. Therefore, lack of oversight actually results in a decrease in theft. There's a nice bit of logic for you!
Still, the TSA itself warns travelers to pack valuables, like jewelry and money in carry-on bags.

Yeah, they'd really like it if FH had tried to take his toolbox as a carry-on. When you try to take valuables like that on board, they tell you to check them as baggage. When he tried to take tools in his carry-on, they were confiscated. Could he mail the tools to himself? Nope, it's an airport, not a post office. Could he at least get a receipt? Nope, they don't give receipts. They just take your stuff and put it in a big bin, and nobody I've talked or written to, even my Congressman, seems to be able to discover what is done with the stuff in the big bin. They don't even seem to be auctioning it off to raise money for law enforcement. It just disappears. And all you students of human nature know what that means.

TSA: Theft Security Agency.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Quality Of Discourse

The quality of our discourse is not improved by name-calling, even witty, snarky name-calling.

This morning I was reading an interview with Ann Coulter (who I don't like to read), and the topic was her new book "How To Talk To A Liberal (If You Must)". The very title of that book dismays me. Liberals are our neighbors and friends. We don't have to take that kind of patronizing tone with them. I realize a lot of self-identified liberals take that kind of patronizing tone with conservatives. It's no excuse. Or at least, it was no excuse to my parents, who didn't take kindly to the "he called me a poopyhead so he's a poopyhead too" argument. The insults may be fun to read and include all kinds of clever alliteration and stuff. We may have graduated from "poopyhead" to "Rethuglican" and "Dimocrat" or "Bushitler" and "Klintoon", but name-calling is name-calling, and your mother would not approve no matter how clever the name is.

When my brother was younger, I used to listen to him rant and curse out Mom and Dad, but finally one day he was saying things so foul that I just turned and said, "That's my mother you're talking about." He immediately apologized and went quiet. I think Heavenly Father can't be too excited about us calling His children names like that. I think our discourse would be better if we thought to ourselves, "That's somebody's mother/father/sister/brother/etc." The more we distance ourselves from others, the easier it is first to "dis" them, then to oppress them.

We really should be concerned with improving the quality of our discourse, especially after this election.

UPDATE: Mim sends this related article.

'Tis The Season...

... for a bunch of sappy articles decrying how saying "Happy Holidays" takes the spirit out of Christmas and complaining that "Xmas" is some sort of eeeeevil Communist plot to do away with Christ.

Well, you may feel that way, but I don't. I say "Happy Holidays" because there are so many holidays this time of year that it would take you at least a minute to greet everyone with a list of them. Christians who object to greeting people of other religions with recognition of their non-Christian holidays should view the "Happy Holidays" greeting as covering both Christmas and New Year's. You need one quick catch-all greeting, and "Happy Holidays" works just fine.

As for the "Xmas" issue, that just goes to show the historical ignorance of many. The X in "Xmas" is not, as some claim, a modern attempt to take the word "Christ" out of "Christmas". It's not really even an X-- it's a Chi, the first letter in the Greek version of the word "Christ". My mom was brought up Catholic and educated in Catholic schools, and she always used a symbol that looked like a P growing out of an X to represent the word "Christmas". She explained to me that it was the Greek letters Chi and Rho, the first two letters in the name "Christ" in Greek, and it was an abbreviation for "Christmas". We use abbreviations all the time, especially for long words. Nobody claims that saying "FBI" takes the "Federal" out of "Federal Bureau of Investigation". As long as everybody knows what it stands for, an abbreviation helps streamline real conversation.

Democrats Urged To "Buy Blue"

In what is possibly the most ridiculous economic/political idea yet to come down the pike, Democratic voters are being urged to buy only from companies in which a majority of campaign donations went to Democratic candidates.

Yeah, I'd like to see them try. They'll really enjoy that sandwich whose bread is made from wheat grown in Rhode Island and those cotton pants made from cotton grown in Washington State.

My message to these people: We all depend on each other economically, regardless of ideology. Grow up and quit being so petty. And for cryin' out loud, take an economics course!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Case For Decorations

Dennis Prager makes a great case in favor of decorating for holidays patriotic and religious. I agree with many of his points, but I think it's healthy for a society to have people who don't decorate. Such people provide a needed counterpoint in the dialogue over social values.

Ideally, people who decorate for holidays and participate in holiday traditions do so out of a heartfelt desire to celebrate. It never takes long, though, for sincere expressions of holiday spirit to degenerate into trends and competitiveness that have nothing to do with the holiday. For every person who decorates his house with Christmas lights in honor of the Star of Bethlehem, there are three or four at least who decorate their houses with lights because they don't want to be the only one on their block who doesn't. The societal impulse toward homogeneity takes over, and once again the meaning of the holiday is lost in the rush to display its symbols.

People who refuse to get caught up in the mad rush to conform, who take the air out of self-inflated conspicuous celebrators, are a needed counterweight to this bug feature of human nature.

Monday, December 13, 2004

This Is Why I Love Living In Logan

This story made the front page of our local newspaper:
A group project at Utah State University went awry this week when pornographic video footage accidentally was shown to a class of 120 students.

The incident occurred when one of the group's in the class tried to play a DVD on a classroom computer as part of its presentation. When the group activated the computer's video software, a pornographic video began playing.

"It was not soft porn; it was quite graphic," said David Herrmann, instructor of the managing organizations and people class. "I don't know where it came from."

Herrmann said the students scrambled to shut off the video. The students in the group said the video was not part of their presentation, which was verified by campus officials after inspecting the group's DVD.

Herrmann said he thought the video was left on the computer by a previous user. He said it could have been a student in his 7:30 a.m. class.

I've lived before in cities where even grisly murders didn't make the front page. I love Logan.

For an extra laugh, I like to read the police blotter in the USU Statesman:
* Shortly after midnight USU Police responded to a report of noisy students keeping others awake in Wasatch Hall. Police made contact with the group and requested that they abide by Housing rules and respect quiet hours. The students agreed to do so.

* Police responded within three minutes to a wallet that was stolen out of a room in Richards Hall. Police made contact the complainant and a report was filed.

* USU Police responded to the Sci-Tech LIbrary on a report of a stuck door on the second floor with an individual stuck inside. Police were able to gain entry through a secondary door and release the individual.
There was a rash of robberies a couple years back where scriptures were being stolen out of unlocked parked cars. Once I read in the blotter that someone called to complain that a cat was eating birds in their yard, and the next day someone else called to complain that there was a bird trying to fly through her window. I thought those two people should get together, maybe they could find a solution to both their problems.

The Absence Of Discrimination

It always bothers me when I hear someone say "Clarence Thomas, the black Supreme Court Justice" or "that black lady" or otherwise refer to somebody by their skin color when they could easily have referred to that person by her other characteristics. It seems to me that if race really didn't matter, then Shaquille O'Neal would be "that tall basketball player" and Condoleeza Rice "Bush's National Security adviser, soon to be Secretary of State". Instead, we constantly hear it mentioned that these people are black, as if this was some truly significant feature.

On a related note, how many times have you heard "the Mormon Senator Reid" or "the Mormon singer Gladys Knight?" That's because nobody thinks being a Mormon makes all that much difference to Senatorial or singing careers. Mormons are, thankfully, not discriminated against much any more.

We'll know we've finally arrived at the day when people are no longer discriminated against, not when we hear the words "black" or "Hispanic" in every venue, but when we don't.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

What Do You Want In A Poncho?

(If your answer to that question is "a supermodel", please skip to the next post.)

I'd like to ask my readers what they are looking for in a poncho or wrap.

Of course price is a consideration, but I'm talking design here. If you could have any wrap you wanted, what factors would be most important to you? Warmth? Trendy design? Fringe? Do you want a poncho that covers a lot of you, or just your shoulders? Do you want a poncho that's opaque, or one with a meshy texture through which the underlying clothes can be seen? Do you want a poncho that hangs drapily or stiffly? Do you want a sparkly poncho? It's things like that I want to know.

I know what I like in a wrap-- I want one that will stay on and keep me warm and won't tickle my arms-- but if I only make wraps I'd like, then only I would buy them. And if I make wraps that are just like what I've seen in stores, then they're not going to be distinctive. I want to know what real people want in a wrap.

Domestic Partnership Law

I had a radical idea this morning. To strengthen marriage, maybe we should add rights and responsibilities to domestic partnerships.

It used to be that people could get married by simply having sex and moving in together. That's why we have these archaic laws about common-law marriage-- because people used to actually get married that way, instead of registering their marriage first with the state. So, what would happen if we gave all domestic partnerships (throw the homosexual ones in too, just for fun) the full rights of marriage that they clamor for so vociferously-- but with them, the full responsibilities of marriage, such as the merger of financial responsibility? Suddenly it would be a huge commitment to move in with someone. It would not be something people do casually any more. As in the old days, you would have responsibilities toward anyone you slept with. It would give people pause to think before engaging in premarital sex. It would certainly put a damper on some of the attitudes about sex that are degrading marriage nowadays, and eliminate this bogus idea that having some of the trappings of marriage without the responsibility is somehow an increase in commitment. It'd be like the genie in Disney's Aladdin: you want the phenomenal cosmic powers? You get them, and everything that comes with them. They come with an itty bitty living space.

Just an idea I thought I might throw out there in the marketplace of ideas, just to see if it sells.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Latest Excommunication

A Mormon named Grant Palmer is facing excommunication subsequent to publishing a book which basically denies the divine inspiration of the founding of the church.

Before everyone gets their panties in a wad over "censorship" and starts crying, "why, they're just excommunicating him for disagreeing with them," let me give you some background as to how the Church handles things like this.

First, it is very difficult to get yourself excommunicated. I knew one person who claimed that he was excommunicated because he threw up on a bishop's shoes at camp, but that would be impossible, because excommunication involves being brought up in front of the high council of your stake, and this person had not experienced that. More likely he had been so embarrassed that he never went back. Excommunication is a process, and it is the decision of a group rather than an individual.

Second, there are not a lot of excommunicable offenses, and some offenses are excommunicable only in certain subjectively-evaluated circumstances. For example, a man who commits adultery, even in violation of his temple covenants, may merely be disfellowshipped for a while, but a man who does the same act may be excommunicated instead if he is unrepentant and openly declares his intention to continue committing adultery. The Church takes intent for future acts into account. The Church doesn't generally excommunicate people for holding private beliefs, only for taking public action on those beliefs, and only if the actions are done with a certain intent.

It is this subjectivity that makes it difficult for the media to accurately report excommunications or potential excommunications. The proceedings are private, so the only statements you hear are from the excommunicatee (who usually sees himself as being persecuted because he can't have his cake and eat it too) and the official statement from the Church, which likely excludes details.

Third, excommunications are not always lifelong bans. A person who is excommunicated may be re-baptized and resume full membership in the Church, so long as they are repentant of whatever sin they committed to get themselves excommunicated in the first place. This was the case with some of the Church's original leaders and continues to happen today.

With all that as background, let's talk about Grant Palmer's case. I have not read his book, but I've watched events like this unfold time and again, and so my opinion is based on my experience.

Palmer's book is about the early history of the Church, and his basic premise (according to his own words) is that Joseph Smith lied about translating the Book of Mormon. He says that he still believes the Church is true and wants others to believe the same, and he says he wants Church members to have all the facts. But it would take an even greater leap of faith to presume that the Church is true anyway even if Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon, than it would to believe that Smith was divinely inspired.

Palmer puts a new face on the old anti-Mormon canard that Joseph Smith, a barely literate farm boy in upstate New York in the early 1800's, could somehow have written the Book of Mormon entirely from scratch based solely on his reading of [insert short finite list of period literature here] and/or the influence of [insert influential person(s) here]. Occam's razor would suggest that the simpler explanation, that Smith was divinely inspired, is the more likely scenario. There are other evidences as well-- study of the original manuscripts indicates they were dictated, and if you write a book you don't just dictate it from beginning to end without revision-- but if you want to read more about that line of argument, go to FAIR. This post is already going to be long enough. If Palmer wants what he says he wants, which is for you to consider all the evidence, then surely he wants you to consider this evidence too.

Palmer would like to be painted as merely a dissenting voice who's being silenced, but let's analyze his situation. First, he has not just come to this opinion for himself. He published a book. Now why one would one publish a book instead of just, say, writing in one's private journal? Publishing a book is not something you might trip into doing while walking down the street. You don't accidentally let slip a book when talking to your peers. People publish books because they want to convince others of what's in the book.

Second, the Church is not silencing him. They are not filing injunctions in court to prevent the publication of the book. They aren't suppressing media coverage of it. They are bringing him up before a Church tribunal for a hearing. They haven't even decided whether to excommunicate him yet. It may happen that they decide not to excommunicate him, based on his intentions. But the action of publishing a book which denies one of the basic tenets of our faith, coupled with the intention to continue affirming publicly that this tenet is false, is certainly an excommunicable offense. The Church is not a public institution. We are not required to offer membership to everyone and accept dissent like the public forum does. And lack of Church membership is not the social barrier many would have you believe. For instance, there is no rule prohibiting social interaction between excommunicatees and members. Palmer could keep his friends and his standing in the community if excommunicated, although whether his friends and community would want him to keep his standing is a totally different question, outside the purview of the Church.

Palmer's current position is a tenuous one. He wants to believe that the Church is true, but he doesn't want to accept the premises on which its truth is based. Sooner or later, logic will lead him to the conclusion from the premises he does accept, which is that the Church is not true. By excommunicating him now, the Church would be doing him a favor. Who wants to be a member of a church they believe is false, unless they think it gives them some political or social advantage? The Church does not want members who are only members for personal advantage, including the personal advantage of selling one's books. Palmer needs his Church membership to bolster his credibility as an author of this book and to persuade other Church members to read it. If he doesn't really believe the Church is true, then that becomes the only reason he needs his membership.

In addition, some of Palmer's critics believe that his argument that he should remain a member of the church despite his unbelief goes beyond illogical to disingenuous. Personally, I'm willing to give Palmer the benefit of the doubt. I don't think he realizes where his argument is headed, and I hope he gives it some serious thought before his hearing. It appears that Palmer has missed the entire point of the Joseph Smith story, which is that divine inspiration transcends logic and reason and produces life-affirming faith. If he insists on using only logic and reason as a basis for his religious beliefs, he will ultimately have to abandon them altogether, because it is the nature of religious beliefs to be grounded in faith. Beliefs grounded only in facts are scientific, not religious, and science tells us nothing about our purpose here on Earth. True religious beliefs can be supported by physical evidence, but non-contradiction by evidence is not proof of truth, nor is contradiction by flawed or inconclusive evidence proof of falsehood.

This case, like all excommunication cases, is much richer and, if you will, more "nuanced" than the media reports can ever transmit. I would urge my readers to get all the available information, and not to decide their religious beliefs solely based on what they think they know of this case.

Parental Responsibilities Outweigh Parental Rights

Just so we're clear:
If your child commits a crime, you (the parent) can be sued for damages.
If your child wants to take an aspirin at school, you must give permission.
But if your child says anything on the phone, which you pay for, you can't listen in, because your child has "privacy rights".

With rights should come responsibilities. If a child has privacy rights then a child should have the corresponding responsibilities. But no, the parent has all the responsibilities that go with this child's right to privacy.

If this is the law in your state (as it evidently is in Washington state), please contact your elected representatives immediately and ask them to change this law right away.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Company Party

Last night Favorite Husband and I went to his new company's Christmas party. Actually, it was more like a dinner, because after dinner they gave out the awards, and then everybody went home. Now that's my kind of party! I don't like parties. I like meeting other people, but I don't like talking to them in groups. I'm not sure what I'm afraid of-- I'm so over all my junior high rejection issues now-- but it just makes me uncomfortable. I think maybe it's the lack of authority structure; I don't know where I stand. I can get up in front of a class of 40 students and lecture just fine, because everyone knows and respects the fact that I'm the teacher and they're the students; but put me in a room with 10 of my peers and I'm totally out of my element. I have to work really hard at being gregarious, and I think it shows. Even if it doesn't, it still wears me out.

I wore one of the ponchos I have up for sale on my website, to show it off. I showed my friend (the one whose husband recommended F.H. for the job) and I met another lady who was also wearing a wrap, who wanted to check out my website because she is a great fan of fashionable wraps.

I did not, however, mention exactly what it is I do for a living. One of the reasons I quit going to parties is because that was always a conversation-stopper. Someone polite inevitably asks you what you do for a living. As soon as you mention you teach math or have a degree in math (let alone a Master's degree) the conversation always takes one of two turns. Either the person you're talking to goes off on how she has always hated math, had bad math teachers, etc., or else she says "Gee, that's really nice, you must be smart, excuse me," and heads over to the punch bowl. This time, when asked the inevitable question, for the first time in my life I didn't have to mention math. I merely said I run a home-based microbusiness, and nobody pushed it. F.H., however, did mention that I'd been a substitute teacher, but I think he caught onto the fact that I didn't want to mention math at the dinner table, and thankfully the conversation got steered away from the topic.

Carnival of the Recipes

... is up.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Women, Damn Women, and Statistics

The Scotsman reports that 96% of women are liars. Just a few passages that struck me:

NINETEEN out of 20 women admit lying to their partners or husbands, a survey on attitudes to truth and relationships has found.

Eighty-three per cent owned up to telling "big, life-changing lies", with 13 per cent saying they did so frequently...

And an alarming 31 per cent said they would not tell a future partner if they had a sexual disease: this rises to 65 per cent among single women.

And there's probably a good reason why those women are single...

The National Scruples and Lies Survey 2004 found plenty of untruths were told over the Christmas period. A total of 78 per cent said they would pass off a second-hand gift as a brand new present, while half have lied about a Christmas card being "lost in the post".

Women will also lie to save people’s feelings, with only 27 per cent saying they would tell a man if he was hopeless in bed (although a third would tell their friends all about it).

If a man were hopeless in bed, such severe criticism would probably only make him, ahem, more hopeless. One wonders why the ladies would flatter the guy instead of teaching him a thing or two. Wouldn't they rather have better sex?

Just over half would flatter a man if he asked them about his looks and only 46 per cent would give the "brutal truth". However, 61 per cent of women would want their partners to be "brutally honest" if they asked them "do I look fat?" or "do you think my best friend’s attractive?"

Note to men: since we've already established that 96% of women are liars, we can rule out the majority of them actually wanting men to be "brutally honest" when asked if they look fat. You should still weasel out of answering this question.

Nearly half said they had faked orgasms and 55 per cent admitted claiming they were tired, had a headache, or felt ill to "get out of lovemaking".

Honey, if you have to fake orgasms or want to get out of lovemaking, you need to get your partner a manual.

In related news, "You’re wonderful in bed" made #9 on their top ten list of lies. Maybe if they'd quit lying to their man about how good he is in bed, and actually talk to him, he might improve.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Chappy Chanukah!

I know it's a little late, but I fell asleep right after I got home from Tiny Princess' concert, and I didn't have a chance to light my candles until I woke up in the middle of the night. But happy Hanukkah, however you spell it when you transcribe it!

(Yes, I'm a Mormon and I celebrate Hanukkah. My dad was Jewish before he converted.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Cache Valley's Air Quality

Cache Valley (where I live) has an air quality problem. Under normal circumstances our air is sweet and fresh. But in the winter, we get a weather phenomenon called "inversion" which traps a layer of cold air under a layer of warm air, basically sealing off the valley's atmosphere from circulation. Temperatures drop dramatically on the valley floor, and air quality does too. It normally takes a few days for the inversion to break, and during that time the pollution only gets worse. There is a system in place to warn people which days are high-pollution days, or "red burn days" (referring to whether or not we can operate wood burning stoves). But when it's so cold, we are more likely to start up the vehicle earlier to warm it up, and drive instead of walk in the bitter cold.

Now the EPA is threatening to bring its regulatory fist down on Cache Valley because our peak pollution levels are unacceptably high, so residents are being urged to cut back their polluting activities during inversion times. In a way this is unfair-- it's not like Los Angeles where we keep these high levels up all the time-- but (as they say) if you want life to be fair, you have to live at the fairgrounds. So leaders of every political stripe have been urging people to reduce the amount of pollution they put in the air. The next regulatory step would be to require emissions testing, which (it has been argued, and correctly IMO) would effectively be a regressive tax on those who can only afford "beater cars", which in this town means college students. And the college students are a huge part of the economy of the city of Logan. We've worked hard to make this town appealing to college students, and this would be a step backward.

A long while back (I think it was a year or two ago) I wrote a letter to the editor of our paper asking people to get involved in reducing air pollution in Cache Valley by carpooling, taking the bus, etc. We have an excellent, free bus system (no fares, funded by sales tax) in Cache Valley. I know most of my readers aren't in the Valley, but for those who are, I'd repeat my message. Carpool! Take the bus!

Unfortunately, it's an uphill struggle to get people around here to carpool. When horses were replaced by cars, the horse culture of the West was merely converted to a car culture. I didn't realize how deeply ingrained it is until I tried to set up a carpool last year for Tiny Princess to go to school. I called several parents who lived just blocks from my house, and when I mentioned I wanted to set up a carpool, their attitude was basically "Why would I want that?" Like it would be some major hardship on them to get their kid dressed and out the door without having to bundle all the rest of the kids into the car too...

If You Give A Cat A Diploma...

... you're likely to be sued for fraud.


I just haven't had any ideas for a post lately. I'm way behind on my chores because of this foot. It was feeling better so I started doing some chores, but then it got over-used and not only did my foot start to hurt again, my back started to hurt from prolonged use of two uneven feet. I don't have any shoes that are the exact same height as the special shoe, and when I take off the special shoe my foot inevitably gets re-twisted and starts to hurt again. Even just turning my foot the wrong way can make it hurt. I have to wear the shoe when I lay in bed, although I take it off right before I go to sleep.

I e-mailed my assistant department head and told him I would not be back this semester. I prayed about it, and I knew that I couldn't go back no matter how much I needed the money. Sonshine's been making such strides in his discipline, but he's not out of the woods yet. I still have to see what I can do to help alleviate the fighting between Tiny Princess and Sonshine. They fight literally all the time. The conflict is one of personalities, so I'm not sure what I can do to persuade them stop.

Tiny Princess is all about rules and order. She knows she's not allowed to hit her brother, so she prods him and provokes him until he snaps and hits her. She sees this as a violation of rules, and she immediately tells on him, painting herself as the innocent victim. Sonshine values rules and order too, but only for their ability to be stretched. He loves to push the boundaries, just to see where they are. This is what infuriates Tiny Princess so much that she will provoke him. A typical interaction of theirs is: she and he both have toy horses, and she wants to play Horse Wedding. Horse Wedding is, according to her rules, what you play when you have a male and female horse. There is no other play option under those circumstances. Sonshine decides that the wedding would be much improved if the groom blasted off during the ceremony. When the groom goes rocketing around the room, Tiny Princess is deeply offended and tries to manipulate Sonshine into bringing the groom back. Sonshine hates being manipulated, and when she tries to grab back the horse that rightfully belongs to him, he hits her. Or, they interact this way: Tiny Princess is trying to do something important (like homework or violin practice). Sonshine wants to play with her and she doesn't want to play that way, so she does what I taught her to do and disengages from him. He doesn't like this, and he ups the ante by threatening her, doing something disruptive to her activity, or outright hitting her. They really do love each other, though. She reads to him, and even though they have separate beds we can always find them in the same bed every night.

Sonshine is just like his dad and Tiny Princess just like her mom. Favorite Husband and I get along just fine, but only because we were adults going into the situation, and we learned how to deal with it. Even so, it took many years of marriage for me to get past telling on F.H. to my mom, and it took him many years to quit provoking me by making me step out of my box. My days are just chock-full to the brim of Princess' whiny voice saying, "Mom, Sonshine sat on my homework! Mom, Sonshine bonked my violin! Mom, Sonshine says he's going to step on my toys!" The best I could think of was to teach her to disengage from him when she doesn't want to play, or to teach him to play on his own (violating all of Princess' rules in a place where she can see him do it), but as you can see that usually ends up backfiring too.

How do you stop a conflict that's at the basic level of personality? I know how adults do it, but I don't think I can ask children ages 7 and 4 to exercise the level of self-control that adults do when their personalities conflict.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Organic Lamb and Lentil Stew

I traded for a lot of things this summer at the Gardeners' Market, but one of the most interesting things I traded for was a pound of organic lamb stew meat. I could only afford a pound of stew meat, because the stuff is fabulously expensive. It was already frozen, so I saved it carefully, waiting for just the right recipe inspiration.

Earlier this week I finally cooked it up into a stew, and it was simply amazing. The stew was so flavorful that it didn't even need salt to taste good. A pound turned out to be sufficient to make enough stew to feed my family (2 adults and 2 kids) with seconds for the adults. Unfortunately, the kids decided they didn't want to eat the stew. More for me!

You must use organic lamb for this recipe because of the flavor difference. If you use conventionally grown lamb, you may not like the flavor. If you don't have a source for organic lamb, you could always contact my friends at Lau Family Farm, from whom I got my lamb meat.

Organic Lamb and Lentil Stew

1 lb. organic lamb stew meat, cut up
1 c. lentils
1 1/2 c. water
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1/2 of a 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In casserole dish, mix lamb, lentils, water, and onion. Bake for 45 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and tomatoes. Bake an additional 30 to 60 minutes until lamb is tender. Serve with bread.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Gallery Of Regrettable Names

Seen in my mom's classroom: someone actually has saddled their child (girl?) with this monstrosity of a name:


(the "e" at the end is supposed to be accented)

Can anyone give me any insight as to how one might attempt to pronounce this?

It's one thing to name your girl "Siobhan" or "Xochitl" because those names are actually pronouncable, albeit in other languages. If this name wacky adventure in non-phonetic spelling made your short list of baby girl names, do us all a favor and name your girl "Vlgrexfs" instead, and pronounce it like "Jane".

Foot Update

I finally broke down and went to the doctor about my foot. It felt much better after a night's sleep elevated on a pillow, but as soon as I started using it again it was right back to the same level of pain I was in last night.

The doctor X-rayed my foot and couldn't find any obvious broken bones, which didn't surprise me as I could tell it wasn't broken. Broken bones swell up and get nasty-looking inside of 24 hours, and this had never swollen at all. He said it might be a stress fracture, because they don't show up sometimes on X-rays, or it might just be a ligament that got stretched all out of whack when I twisted my foot last Monday. But the only way to find out would be to inject a dye and do a bone scan, and we're kinda between health insurance plans right now. So he gave me a special shoe to wear, told me to take some ibuprofen, and sent me home.

The shoe seems to be working. Of course the foot still hurts, but I can stand on it now without appreciably increasing the amount of pain it's in. I'm not going to be taking any recreational walks anytime soon, but at least now I can go drag in the garbage cans that have been sitting out there since Monday. I asked F.H. to bring them in for me, but even severe pain in my foot couldn't drag him away from the phone, which he talked on all evening bragging about his new job to every friend he's got.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Dread Pirate Roberts Of The Blogosphere?

Instapundit links to this article which speculates about the future of the blogosphere and media. It reminds me a lot of the part in "The Princess Bride" where Westley explains how the Dread Pirate Roberts brand name has been perpetuated long past the retirement of the original Dread Pirate Roberts.

Interesting Day

Today is proving to be an interesting day. Favorite Husband started his new job today. He asked me if I'd go start his car for him as I was leaving to take the kids to school. I went to start it and it-- wouldn't-- start. For about half a second when I turned it on, the car did the usual car things-- the automatic seatbelts moved, etc.-- and then just nothing. No starter cranking over, nothing. I quickly rushed to get the kids to school; I had just enough time to get them there, come back home, and pick him up in time to start his new job. But when I got home he and his car were gone, so he must have figured out a way to get it started.

I did a private show today at my mom's elementary school. I did it mostly because my mom was nice enough to set up the appointment and make all the arrangements, and I didn't have very high expectations. The show went very well, though, and was well worth my trip. I sold nearly a hundred dollars' worth of merchandise. Many thanks to my mom for arranging this!

I've done all this running around today with an aching foot. Last Monday I fell and twisted my foot running after a recalcitrant Sonshine. I felt something go "snap"-- not like it was breaking, more like something "clicked"-- and it's been hurting ever since. It had gotten a bit better, but today it really hurt, and then I had to run around on it, taking loads of merchandise from car to school and back again, opening car doors, wandering about the library, etc. etc. If I know what's good for me, I'll stay off of it. We are supposed to get our Christmas tree today, so I may have to send F.H. with the older kids to buy it and bring it home while I rest my poor foot.