Monday, January 31, 2005

Upcoming Recipes

I haven't done a lot of cooking lately because I've been sick, but hopefully I'll be posting some recipes soon. Right before the crap hit the fan I made a very nice Tomato-Garlic Shrimp dish of which I was very proud, and I wanted to do the second installment in my "Five Dinners" series with Five Dinners Out Of One Ham. (I also plan to do Five Dinners Out Of One Pork Loin, which will be the third; the first is Five Dinners Out Of One Chicken.) I am the Queen Of Food Budget Stretching; I could probably do Five Dinners Out Of A Sack Of Wheat, if I thought anyone was interested, and if I could get my husband to eat something he knew didn't contain any meat.

Showing Solidarity

I have inked my right index finger to show my solidarity with the Iraqis who voted yesterday. I sincerely hope their newly elected government does well by them, and, if not, that they will not lose faith with the process and will elect better officials next time.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

A'ash Al-Iraq!

Long live the free Iraq!

Other bloggers have had much more to say than I could say, and everybody else says it better. But our prayers have been with the Iraqi people, and if we weren't all sick (and weren't afraid of what the neighbors would think) we'd be celebrating with them today. At least we can celebrate with them in our hearts.

The Randomness Of Parenting, Part 2

No, I don't know why there is a spirit level magnetically attached to the underside of the oven door handle.

UPDATE: And then your four-year-old poops on the floor.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Flu Update

Tiny Princess doesn't have a fever any more and will probably go back to school tomorrow if she keeps on not having a fever. Sonshine, Bagel and I are still running fevers. Favorite Husband (I think) is still running a fever, but I didn't locate the thermometer until after he'd left for work. He's still going to work because he doesn't have enough sick days built up.

I'm worried about Bagel. He seems to be getting a little dehydrated. I tried to give him some Pedialyte, but he won't drink from the bottle. He's nursing, but he's not getting the milk to let down at some feedings. His poor little throat is sore, and he's developed this fondness for squeezing and pinching me while he nurses, to the point where he's leaving bruises and breaking my skin.

Sonshine is terribly upset because he has missed his weekly trip to the library. You just can't take a kid's trip to the library away from him, even if he is sick. Sonshine is also starting to complain about the poor service he gets when I'm sick. I mean, he had to wait a whole 15 minutes to be served breakfast, and his favorite shirt was still not in his drawer after he'd put it in the wash!

UPDATE: I took Bagel to the doctor this morning. A friend had to drive me because I was too ill to drive. Bagel's got a little bit of an infection, but I've got pneumonia. So we're both on antibiotics.

Reclaiming Hitler

Right Wing Duck's comedy monologue was funny, and as it percolated up through my brain I had a thought. RWD proposes (jokingly, of course) that we start using "Hitler" as a euphemism for "cool", now that it's been virtually stripped of all its original meaning by frequent overuse to refer to Republicans and other undesirables. Maybe he's onto something, though.

When I was a kid, my parents never used ethnic slurs, EVER. I was taught that those were not acceptable words to say under any circumstances, that they were just unspeakably rude. So when I got to public school and college and heard black people calling each other "n-----" and lesbians calling each other "d---", I was absolutely shocked, and said so. But they told me it was all right-- their communities were "reclaiming" those words that had previously been used as slurs and turning them into positive affirmations of their blackness/gayness/what have you. However, they were still outraged if anyone outside of their community used the words.

So since extreme Leftists have been referring to Republicans as "fascists" and "Hitler" so often that it makes one's head spin, maybe it's time to "reclaim" those slurs. Let's all pretend it's perfectly OK for a Bush supporter to call another Bush supporter a "fascist" or a "Hitler", but be unspeakably insulted if anyone else does. What do you think?

[remove tongue from cheek]

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Stupid, Whiny Terrorists

I try not to make fun of people, but there is one group of people that I will mercilessly ridicule, and that is terrorists. In particular, terrorists who are both stupid and whiny. Terrorists like this guy, who signed on to be a suicide bomber and then changed his mind after the mission was botched and he didn't die. Now he whines that he hates the very same people who only a few months ago he was willing to die for, because they sent him on a deadly mission. Hello!! What's more deadly than suicide bombing???

Whose Kids Are They Anyway?

The Parker Jensen case a couple of years back highlighted a glaring hole in Utah's child protection laws. For those who don't remember Utah prosecutions from a couple years ago, Parker Jensen was a 12-year-old boy with cancer. His parents wanted to get him holistic treatment instead of chemo, and the state decided that constituted child abuse because they felt it endangered Parker's life. The Jensens were charged with child abuse and kidnapping when they took their own child out of the hospital to keep him from being forcibly treated. There were other factors as well, that didn't make it into the news or the hype (I can't find it with my fever-fried brain right now, but I seem to remember that Parker's guardian ad litem said there were a few details that she wished she could tell the press). There have been other cases in Utah of parents exercising dubious judgment in matters of health, such as the poor malnourished one-year-old kid whose parents thought he was some sort of Messiah and fed him only nuts and fruits.

Regardless of the details of the Jensen case, the important question was raised: to whom does the authority to make medical choices for children ultimately belong? If that right inheres in the parents until they are proven to be abusive or neglectful, the state cannot justify taking children away from potentially dangerous situations before they become injurious or lethal. And if that right inheres in the government, then parental rights are a mere illusion. Moreover, if the state can declare parents to be abusive or neglectful by default if they do not choose a state-approved course of treatment, where does it end? What if parents choose a vegetarian diet and the official state nutritionist declares all children must eat meat to be healthy? After all, eating meat is the norm around here. Lest you think that slippery slope is a red herring, I would ask you to examine the power that DCFS has over parents and families once they get their hooks into them. There was one case in particular that I remember, out in the Uintah Basin, of a woman who took her kids to the government nutritionist because they weren't gaining weight and she wanted to know if she was feeding them correctly, and then her kids were taken away from her because the nutritionist found she was not.

Utah Senate Bill 83 has been proposed to clarify that point of law that Parker Jensen's case brought up. It creates a stronger standard for DCFS to take action against parents, particularly in cases involving medical treatments. Under SB 83, the state would have to come up with stronger evidence that a parent's choice is not just out of sync with the majority viewpoint, but so far out of the norm as to be abusive. I think this clarification is necessary to avoid going down the slippery slope of state-approved treatment of children.

Objectors to SB 83 rightly point out that it will hamper the ability of the state to protect children from abusive parents. And if it were the duty of the state to protect all children at all times at all costs, then SB 83 ought not pass. But while it is tragic that abuse can be permitted to happen to children, that is not the state's duty. The state's duty is to prosecute crimes and to prevent crimes from happening to the extent that it doesn't interfere with our sacred liberty. In America, that is and always has been the state's scope and function.

My personal feeling is that in a choice between protecting children and preserving liberty, I'm gonna have to side with liberty. As much as I love and care about children, freedom is more important. One man can die for his children, but hundreds of thousands of men have died for the liberty of all the children of men. It is the liberty that has been preserved in America that offers the best hope for our children, both the abused and the unabused.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

I've managed to catch the nasty bug that Favorite Husband brought home from work, and I've got a fever and the shakes. I hope I recover quickly, because in this state I can barely type, let alone carry around the other sick kids who are also too shaky to move. Nobody takes care of Mommy or does her work when Mommy is sick; Mommy just has to fend for herself.

I hope that by Saturday morning I am sufficiently recovered to go to the Utah Business Moms Expo in Ogden. I really need some sales right now. Maybe I'll get some sales, or at least get some networking that may result in sales later.

It's Cookie Time

Girl Scout cookie sales are now officially on. It's only pre-order time right now, so you can put dibs on your favorites and drool in anticipation until the cookies arrive at the end of February.

We are doing a new thing this year-- the girls can collect orders for boxes of cookies to be donated to a good cause. Our troop has chosen as our good cause an Air Force Reserve unit that has been active for a year. Most of the unit is home now, but some of it (including a friend of mine) is still active and will be active for another year, so they could really use the morale boost of free Girl Scout cookies.

(I should emphasize that we are not allowed to sell cookies over the internet. If you want to buy cookies for the troops, you must buy them yourself from a local Girl Scout.)

My Beef With SpongeBob

There's been a lot of brouhaha (with exaggeration on both sides) about SpongeBob SquarePants lately. I am not a SpongeBob fan. I have seen several episodes and decided that while he is hilarious for grown-ups, he is not generally suitable for small children.

The episode that bothered me the most, of the ones I saw, was the one where SpongeBob splits his pants. Now don't jump all over me and assume that I object to this because of the showing of spongy buttcrack in the pants rip, because my objection is to something else. I'm not one of those people who have a list of anatomy parts that are deemed shameful to see under any circumstances. Besides, SpongeBob is a sponge; he doesn't have human anatomy parts.

In this episode, SpongeBob accidentally splits his pants and gets some attention. Liking the attention, SpongeBob splits them deliberately and gets some more. After deliberately splitting his pants several times, he realizes that the shock value of mere pants-splitting has diminished, and moves on to more over-the-top stunts. So far, so good. I'm with the episode up until now-- it portrays realistic behaviors that children relate to, which is something I like to see in children's shows. And it would have been a good episode for kids, if it had ended with SpongeBob realizing that his excesses are not a good way to get real and caring attention from his friends. But it didn't. It ended in a pants-splitting music video extravaganza in which SpongeBob realizes his fantasies of endless attention from pants-splitting. It is this ending that I don't want my kids exposed to, particularly Sonshine who already has a natural tendency to take things over the top to get attention. He doesn't need this reinforced; he needs constant reinforcement of the "good attention/bad attention" meme and more encouragement to seek the "good attention".

I don't think this sort of ending makes SpongeBob into the Eeeeevil Spawn of Satan. Some of the episodes were perfectly fine for kids (I particularly liked the one where Squidward moved into a community of people just like him and discovered that he really needed the diversity he'd had in his old neighborhood). And I don't think SpongeBob is gay. I didn't see any sort of sexuality in the cartoon episodes I saw; you'd have to be one of those people who thinks three-way intersections are kinky to see any sexuality in the show. But, as I told my kids, I don't trust SpongeBob. Not all his episodes are good for kids. There are better things out there to watch.

For example, I really like the Thomas The Tank Engine stories. They're accessible to kids on many levels. Unlike the flat characters in Bob The Builder whose interactions are alternately insipid and cloying, the Thomas trains have realistically human personalities-- they quarrel, they cooperate, they play jokes on each other, they can be both petty and noble. They interact with each other and their environment in ways that anyone who works in an office will find quite familiar. And yet, at the end of every episode, good behavior is reinforced, hard work is praised, and any engines who were engaging in unacceptable behavior apologize to each other (although they still retain rivalries). The Thomas universe is a simplified one, but one which retains the basic complexity of real life.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Baby Who Ate Pesto

In yet another example of the weirdness of nearly-seven-month-old Bagel's taste in food, we have now discovered that he likes to eat my homemade pesto.

Here's what we tried to feed him this evening:
  • Honey Nut Cheerios: rejected for being too much work to put in mouth.
  • apple carrot juice in bottle: rejected
  • apple carrot juice in juice bottle with straw: rejected
  • watered-down apple carrot juice in juice bottle with straw: rejected
  • tater tot: smushed, accepted as toy
  • piece of chicken patty: rejected
  • pesto: heartily accepted
  • rice cereal mixed with pesto: tolerated
I wonder if we should try giving him dealcoholized wine; maybe if it's a good vintage and we serve it in the correct glass, he'd prefer that to juice.

Unhappy Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, which if not the stupidest Supreme Court decision, easily ranks in the top 5 stupidest Supreme Court decisions. I will now add my comments to those of the rest of the blogosphere, for whatever they're worth (no refunds!!)

I have polycystic ovaries, and I don't have periods or even cycles. Unlike most women with polycystic ovaries, however, every couple of years I suddenly have three perfectly normal cycles and can get pregnant. During most of those times I have gotten pregnant, and I cannot get pregnant except at those times. So far I've had three children and been pregnant four times (#3 miscarried at six weeks). I know a lot of people think that's TMI, but they can all stuff it because nobody's making them read this blog post, and it's important background to the opinion that follows.

Because of my fertility problems, I'm inclined to think of pregnancy as a gift from God and a blessing. I am one of the lucky ones to have been blessed so much. Many other women out there have to have medical treatments before they get pregnant, and many cannot get pregnant at all.

Pregnancy is traditionally a time for a mother-to-be to engage in reflection on her upcoming role as a mother. By going through the process of bringing another generation into being, she connects with her ancestors and all the women who have gone before her. By being a vessel of life, she touches the ancient feminine mysteries. Or, at least, the thought that pregnancy has a higher meaning makes the stretch marks and varicose veins a little bit more tolerable-- it certainly has worked for me. Pregnancy, like all other life experiences, can be either a royal pain-in-the-rear disruption of what we selfishly want to do, or a divine experience that teaches us something transcendent. It all depends on how we choose to see it.

I have not always "connected" with my babies before birth, but I definitely knew from the moment I was pregnant that something special and unusual was happening to me. I have felt chosen and joyful, even though I have shed many tears over some of the details, like the financial problems Bagel caused, or giving birth to Sonshine during the semester I was supposed to have finished my thesis, or having to go on Medicaid with Tiny Princess' pregnancy because we got pregnant in the two-week window between health coverages. Each time I had a choice, I chose to approach my pregnancy in a mature way and accept the consequences, and I believe these experiences have helped me become a better person. This maturing process has done more to develop my character than finishing my thesis on time or having a larger house or better health insurance could ever have done for me.

When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I cried because it was not happening the way I had wanted it to. But then I realized that having a baby is not like having a wedding. You don't get to select whatever details you want as long as they fit in your budget. You don't choose the way your pregnancy will be; rather, the pregnancy chooses you. Having babies, even planned babies, is never easy or convenient, but it is very special and worth it.

So when I see women who want to see a pregnancy as just a piece of flesh, I am terribly offended. The whole idea of pregnancy is to transcend your role as a mere person and act as a vessel of life. Having an abortion is like deliberately drilling a hole in the bottom of the vessel of life and drowning all aboard. What kind of sick person would do that? Who would want to put her name on the list of volunteer vessels by having consensual sex, then reject the opportunity when she discovers she's been chosen? Who would want to be unchosen and go back to being a mere selfish person, just because she can't be chosen at the exact time and in the exact manner that she had imagined? Who would think she was proving herself to be an adult by rejecting adult responsibility in favor of a childish attachment to a particular lifestyle?

It is really difficult to shock or offend me; I've seen just about every kind of thing there is to see, I've heard it all, I've lived a bunch of it. But abortion both shocks and offends me. I can watch Law & Order: SVU and go to bed and sleep at night knowing there are sickos out there who would actually do that sort of thing to children; but I cannot read articles like this one all the way through, because after a while I just get nauseated.

Can't Think Much

I can't think of much to say; I've been rather taciturn lately, sometimes going days without posting. So I'll post a story from my high school days.

I hung out with a group of friends next to the building with the science classrooms. One day, my friend Eric, always the provocateur, wore a T-shirt that said "F#%^ Iraq" in prominent black letters, more for the shock value of the F-word than for a political statement. He knew, of course, that as soon as he got to school he would be asked to cover it up, so he had brought a button-front shirt as well. Eric spent the day "flashing" his message at passersby.

As Mr. Fife (our mild-mannered, avuncular chemistry teacher) walked by, Eric flashed him. Mr. Fife paused, blinked, and after thinking for a moment about how to react said, "I don't know what that word means."

My friend Irad, the class clown, piped up helpfully, "It's a country in the Middle East!"

Lookit Me, Ma!

They published my letter to the editor of the Herald-Journal about taking the bus last week, although they did it on Saturday. I was rather hoping they'd publish it earlier in the week, because I thought maybe it would inspire other people to take the bus. However, it looks like they didn't need much additional inspiration.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

My Position On Education

Just in case anyone was interested, here are my views on education:

I believe that general education and literacy is a public resource, like parks, that everyone benefits from even if they don't personally use it. Therefore, I am in favor of public funding to ensure that every child gets a certain minimal education. I scoff at the people who think that parents of many children should "pay their fair share", i.e. bear the full cost of the education of their children. Such people are usually childless and bitter and don't realize that these children will be ringing up their purchases at Wal-Mart in 20 years; if they did, they'd see their own vested interest in public education.

Education is the sort of thing that, at its best, is highly personalized in its method of delivery. The content of education, however, can and should be standardized. I am in favor of both nationwide testing and accountability (although not a fan of the way NCLB implemented it) and increased local control-- like letting curriculum choices take place at the school or classroom level rather than the district level. I like the idea of a sort of national syllabus that lists the concepts to be taught (e.g. addition of three numbers, similes and metaphors, major battles of the Civil War) without specifying the methods or materials to be used.

My position on school choice is that I'm in favor of charter schools and tuition tax credits, but against vouchers. Education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor and schools should be able to specialize. My local school principal thinks it's "cherry-picking," but that would involve thinking that students with different needs are somehow better or worse than other students-- a very illiberal attitude indeed.

Most anti-voucher folks, when asked why they are against vouchers, will immediately cite the financial losses to the schools, without any reference whatsoever to the fact that those schools will also be educating fewer students. That just shows where their priorities are. My problem with vouchers is that I think they will corrupt the private school system, raise tuition prices, and impede the availability of religious educations for people who want them. I think they would work in the short term but not in the long term.

Charter schools are a good idea-- by design they deliver education for less money, involve parents (the one variable that has been proven beyond doubt to make a difference in education) and have a "self-cleaning" mechanism that ensures that bad charter schools are rapidly weeded out. Charter schools can provide the specialization needed to help children of every sort, and tailor themselves to the needs of their community. Our local school district was all against charter schools ("they take money away" yada yada yada) until they discovered that they could put their underperforming students into a charter high school, at which point charter schools became the best thing since sliced bread. For some reason, their charter school wouldn't take money away from the regular high school, while a charter school not under their control would.

My daugher (and next year, my son) goes to a charter school, and I love it. If there's anything I think is being poorly done at the school, I just volunteer for the appropriate committee and fix it. I got on the curriculum committee last year and recommended some math curricula, and now they are using the math curricula I recommended. We have had some dissatisfied parents who took their kids back to the regular public schools. I asked one of them why she did, and she said she didn't like that everything at the charter school was run by committee instead of by an autocratic principal or a benevolent bureaucracy. She wanted a school that, like Mussolini's trains, ran on time. To each his own, I guess. But that's the beauty of school choice. Everyone gets what suits them best. The opponents of school choice are, in my opinion, more concerned with keeping their own power rather than with the goal of doing what's best for a child's education in conjunction with the child's parents. In my experience, people who want to protect their views from competition are really afraid they can't compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Randomness Of Parenting

You work hard all day. You get caught up on the laundry and dishes. You work on a bunch of projects and meet your quilting quota for the day. And just when you think you have it well in hand, you find hot sauce splattered six feet up the wall. In the living room.

And Now For A Tiny Bit Of Immaturity...

For those who said it would be a cold day in hell when Bush was sworn in for a second term, the overnight low in Washington DC last night was 17 degrees.

Begging For Ideas

I'm swallowing my pride and jumping on the bandwagon of bloggers in need of cash. However, since I don't have Blogads, I am begging for ideas of stuff to sell or ways to market it. Here's what I've got so far:
  • Buy microfiber towels from Sam's Club; use to make diaper doublers and sell on eBay
  • Make diaper soakers from wool yarn which I've already got, and sell on eBay
  • More aggressive marketing of ponchos (so long as it doesn't involve spending money), although I have no idea what form that would take
I don't want to try selling the ponchos on eBay; the handmade ponchos that sell on eBay have insanely low price points like $10 or $15. My ponchos are cheap, but not that cheap. Diaper soakers, however, do sell. A nice 100% wool one might go for $5-10, and I have enough yarn to make about 5 on the knitting machine in natural and a few more in gray. I could Kool-Aid dye the natural ones into baby colors, and possibly overdye the gray ones. I saw some microfiber diaper doublers selling on eBay for approximately $1 each. A package of 12 towels costs about $8 and would make at least 24 doublers, so that might get me some quick bucks.

What do you think? Any ideas? Any of the above sound good to you?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

See My New Picture!

I just posted a new picture of myself in my Blogger profile. I thought it was about time to update it, seeing as how the yellow ribbon I was wearing in the previous picture was from the FIRST Gulf War and the sweater belonged to Favorite Fiance. Anyway, I'm a wee bit wider than I used to be back in '91... but this is how I look now, fat face and all.

Red Burn Week; Environmental Trade-Offs

It looks like Cache Valley will be in Red Burn status for the rest of the week. We've been asked to cut our driving in half, so here's what I did:

On Tuesdays, we usually make two trips up to the school-- one to drive the morning carpool, and one for music lessons. I took the morning carpool on the bus. I did drive out to pick up Sonshine at preschool, though, but I did not go to the store. Today, Wednesday, I am taking the carpool on the bus again, because I need to make a trip up to North Logan for the Girl Scout meeting (cookie sales start on Saturday and I'm the troop cookie manager). I will do some shopping on the way home, and I'll take Sonshine downtown on the bus this morning before our weekly trip to the library (God help you if you miss Library Day in this household...) Thursday morning I will drive up to the school because Princess has music lessons before school and we'd have to get up insanely early to ride the bus there, but I've arranged for the carpool kids to come home on the bus that day. I didn't want Princess coming home by herself on the bus, but if she's with the older kids who can help her cross the busy street safely, I think she can handle it. Friday we will probably take the bus morning and afternoon. With all the exercise I'll be getting this week, and being away from the fridge at snack time, maybe I'll lose some weight!

The kids are excited about all this travel on the bus. For kids, taking the bus is a step up in the world from having to ride in your mother's minivan. Favorite Husband was a little apprehensive about letting Princess ride the bus with the older kids, noting that he was not allowed to ride the bus by himself until he was in Junior High. I reminded Favorite Husband that he grew up in Los Angeles. I used to ride the bus (in a rural town like Logan) by myself with my little sister when I was Princess' age. The bus drivers here know Princess and know where she gets off.

Helping preserve the air quality, though, does have its trade-offs. For one thing, the long stretches away from the dirty diaper pail mean that Bagel has to be put in disposables instead of cloth diapers. With all the stuff I have to carry, I don't want to also carry around a dirty diaper. Also a diaper change could well be needed when we are more than an hour away from being home. If we're driving home I will change him out of his cloth diaper when we get home because it's only a matter of minutes, but I won't let him sit in a dirty diaper for a whole extra hour while we ride the bus all over town. Anyway, that's a few more diapers for the landfill.

The diaper/bus trade-off got me thinking about other environmental trade-offs. Paperless communications like e-mail mean more electricity needs to be generated, and this means pollution of one sort or another. Even if we get our power from solar or wind, there still remains the by-products of manufacturing the solar panels or wind turbines. Etc. etc., I'm sure all my readers have thought about this at one point or another, so I don't feel the need to elaborate.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Venturing Into Deepest Darkest Africa The Midwest

I read this article in the Washington Post and I don't know what to make of it. It's about one man's journey into the Red States to find out what kind of people would vote for George Bush. The author made it very clear that he didn't want this to be about him venturing into "enemy territory" but more about getting to know people who disagreed with him. I'm all for getting to know people who disagree with you, and I'm inclined to take this effort as sincere.

I have to say, though, that I would be one of the people he mentions who were hesitant to even talk to him. Part of me finds it offensive that he ever conceptualized this part of the country as "the Red Sea" and spoke of it as a National Geographic reporter might speak of a different country with an alien culture. It strikes me as being just as patronizing as the white colonialists who ventured into Deepest Darkest Africa to bring religion to the Poor Benighted Darkies. Iowahawk plays on this aspect of it in his satire of the article.

Red Burn Day

Cache Valley residents-- please be advised today is a Red Burn Day. If you don't want the EPA breathing down our necks, then please cut down your driving today and on all other Red Burn Days.

For those who don't live in Cache Valley and don't know what I'm talking about, we are having a weather inversion where the cold air gets trapped under a layer of warm air, and cannot leave the valley. Because the air can't circulate, it gets really polluted really quickly, and the EPA has threatened to crack down on our air quality if we don't get cracking on it ourselves. We'll find ourselves under strict emissions controls, even though we have the best air in Utah for 355 days a year and we can't help the weather.

As for me and my house, we are taking the bus today.

UPDATE: if you'd like to know more about weather inversions, here's the Wikipedia article, and here's a nice short one in English with a picture.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Can't Type. Quilting.

Two of my sisters, my mom, and I are working on a quilt for my cousin's wedding present. I will be quilting all day in hopes that I can make a huge dent in my share of the work today. Something has to be traded off, and today it's blogging.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Holy Spirit Crowns

I got a special order for beaded crown ornaments and a centerpiece. The crown with the dove on top is a symbol of the Holy Spirit that is used in the Portuguese Festa do Espirito Santo which is held on Pentecost Sunday.

This is the centerpiece.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

What A Strange Baby!

I think we're on to something-- we've finally discovered how Bagel wants to eat. He doesn't want to be spoon-fed at all; he wants to stick a large chunk of something in his mouth and suck on it until it dissolves.

This is a piece of roast chicken.

Help Wanted: Babies

We are now accepting applications for the entry-level position of Baby. The ideal candidate will be:
  • very small (under 2 feet in height)
  • extremely cute
  • have large cheeks
  • able to suckle
  • willing to undergo a physically demanding "birth" process
  • happy disposition or ticklishness a plus
This position is open until filled. No experience is necessary for this position. Experienced babies may wish to apply for the position of Toddler.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Baby Food Baby's Food

Bagel appears to be continuing a trend among my children, which is that they refuse to eat baby food.

To be fair, I would probably refuse to eat baby food too. Have you ever tasted the stuff? There's a Dutch Apple Dessert that's decent, but the rest of it is insipid. It's bland, and the texture-- well, I realize it's made for people without teeth to eat, but you can still make soft food without giving it the texture of juice.

Tiny Princess didn't care much for the stuff. She wanted to eat what we were eating; but then again she always wanted to do everything we were doing. At three months of age, she eyed our pizza hungrily, but would eat what she was given. By nine months, she refused all baby food and we scrambled to find her things soft enough to eat (tip: canned vegetables are nice). Sonshine refused to eat baby food unless it was seasoned. We put curry powder in his rice cereal and pumpkin pie spice in his squash.

Bagel, however, won't even fall for that trick. Every time we try to feed him baby food, he gags. He'll eat ground-up table food-- bananas, potatoes-- but he flat-out refuses even spiced baby food. His favorite foods so far seem to be dried apricots, gingerbread men (prefers them to teething biscuits) and the wedge-shaped slices I cut from my round loaves of homemade bread. The wedge shape enables him to lean over his tray and suck on the thick end of the wedge. Bagel seems to have a very low tolerance for anything canned when it comes to food. He's got to have fresh made food from scratch, or else it just isn't worth eating solids. I knew Bagel was my "gourmet" nurser, but I thought that was just a metaphor for babies who conduct a milk-tasting ritual ("sip, swish, and spit") at the breast before settling down to nurse.

I have a funny feeling that my kids, in the pre-existence considering the family assignment they would have, said to God "I don't care if she's not the best mommy, the real question is, can she cook? I've really got to have a mommy that cooks yummy food. From scratch."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Now With XML RSS Feed

Organic Baby Farm is now available via this feed thingywhatsit, that I think is called XML or RSS or something like that. I still can't figure out all the technical details. Anyway if you want to get it, you have to click on the little orange XML logo on the sidebar. Then you put the address into your feed program. Then you get to see when new things are posted, through your feed program. That's how this feed thingy works.

I got a feed program thingy called Abilon and I'm trying it out, and it's nice.

I Can't Believe He Actually Did It!!!

I'm glad I didn't learn my lesson about buying blogads out of pity for my blogfriends in need of advertising revenue. Last month I bought one on SCSU Scholars, which produced no sales. But then Michael Williams came out with his plea for payola, and I took pity on him. I gave up two weeks of ad on The American Street so that I could afford an ad on his blog, hoping that maybe some youngish ladies with chilly shoulders might wander past his site. But since he said he was looking for payola, and payola involves an endorsement from the person being paid, I got him to (virtually) try on one of my ponchos and plug them on his site! And already I'm getting a clickthru rate five times what I've gotten previously. This payola thing might just work out!

This guy must be really desperate if he's willing to publish a picture of himself wearing a women's poncho for a few lousy bucks. If anybody's got a job for him, please stop by his blog and let him know.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Here's your latest Bagel pic:

Bagel is helping me deal with the horrible tragedy of the gingerbread men.

An Excellent Teething Toy

Bagel is noshing on a large dried apricot. I got sick of him chomping down hard on my finger, and he didn't like chomping on his teething toys. The apricot, however, seems to be doing the trick nicely: chewy enough to massage his gums, sweet enough to hold his interest.

On Measuring Tolerance

By all means, let's be tolerant of others. But let's tread carefully when we try to measure the tolerance of others.

One commonly used metric of tolerance is the number of minority friends one has: people who wish to prove their status as "tolerant" often trot out as credentials a list of minority friends. The idea behind this is that an "intolerant" person would not have minority friends. I have to say I find this notion amusing. A good friend of ours hates Mexicans with a passion, despite the fact that he is of Mexican heritage himself. (And no, he doesn't hate himself or have serious psychological problems.) Favorite Husband, his best friend, is Filipino. If Filipino isn't a minority, I don't know what is. So we have here a person who is intolerant, and a minority himself, and yet has minority friends.

Leaving aside the thorny problem of how one defines "friends" for this purpose, let's consider how a "tolerant" person might prove their continuing tolerance in the event that he should fall out of friendship with, say, his lesbian friend. Does he seek out another lesbian friend so that he can fill his quota of lesbian friends? How would you feel if somebody wanted you for a friend primarily because you were of a minority? Worse yet, how would you feel if someone told you that he wasn't interested in your friendship right now because he already had a lesbian friend and had filled his quota?

Moreover, what do you do if you're not a social enough person to maintain such a large number of friendships at the same time? Does that make you intolerant because at the moment you don't happen to have a lesbian friend? Perhaps you could "double up" by making friends with multiple characteristics. So, are you going to go looking specifically for a disabled Latina lesbian Republican to complete your collection?

And to top all that off, what about demographics? A study recently done in Britain (sorry, can't remember where I found the link) showed that Britons, living in an overwhelmingly "white" country, have few non-white friends-- in fact, about the number you'd expect if people chose their friends randomly-- and yet this was touted as proof of racial intolerance. If everyone were "tolerant enough" to have a gay friend, and only 1% of the population is gay, then there would have to be some quite popular gay people out there. If you are Chinese and you go to an all-Chinese church and your friends are thus predominantly Chinese, does that make you a racist? Would it make you a racist if you were a white person going to an all-white church and your friends were predominantly white?

Now, I'm not saying this is what "tolerant" people are actually thinking. But it's what the attitude of trotting out your list of minority friends implies. If you really were tolerant, these issues of race etc. wouldn't matter to you when you were making friends; and if they didn't matter, you wouldn't think to bring them up. It's the same thing that bothered me about now-Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. and his adopted daughter.

Thus we see that using the number and kind of one's friends as a proxy for tolerance is not at all a good idea. People make real friends with others because something "resonates" between them-- usually they have a common interest or history, or their personalities complement each other. People do not (in general) make friends based on filling a tolerance quota, so it is absurd to measure tolerance based on the ethnic makeup of their set of friends.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Snowed In

It snowed all night last night, and we ended up with a foot and a half of snow. Instead of going to church this morning, we are all digging out from under it. I'd post a pic, but it'd be pretty boring-- you can't make out anything, even the lumps that are really cars. We are completely snowed in. We got the driveway shoveled, but it's no use since the roads haven't been plowed.

The older kids are outside in their snowsuits, brushing snow off cars and having a good time.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Making Lemonade

I got a huge (11 lb.) cone of this really nice white rayon chenille. There's just one problem with it: it's heavily twisted, so when I knit things out of it, they bias something awful. (For the uninitiated, biasing is when you attempt to knit a rectangle and get a parallelogram instead.) Now I know why it was so cheap...

Fortunately, I'm good at making lemonade out of the lemons life throws at me. It is now my challenge to design a poncho made entirely of parallelograms. I can do this!

I also found a tip from Maggie's Rags to strand the chenille with a thin thread; this is also supposed to prevent worming, the other nasty problem with chenille. I can do this too!

Lastly, I read that tuck stitch (and other, more time-consuming stitches like seed stitch) will counteract the biasing. Since tuck stitch is the easiest of these to do on the knitting machine, I think I will try that too. I got a wacky idea to try a tuck stitch with dropped stitches on either side of the tuck; it should make a rather lacy effect.

Who's Your Patron Saint?

Even though I'm not Catholic, the idea of patron saints has always fascinated me. There's evidently some sort of heavenly bureaucracy, and you get best results if you take your prayers to the right department.

My grandmother's favorite saint (and she, by the way, is Catholic) is St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. My mother-in-law (also Catholic) is a big fan of the Santo Nino, which is a very elaborately dressed baby Jesus holding a ball with a pointy cross on it that I would never dream of giving to a child that young for fear he'd poke his eye out with it. Although the Santo Nino is technically not a saint, she nevertheless asked me to wear a Santo Nino charm (which had a very itchy chain) while I was pregnant. The Portuguese turn to Queen St. Isabel, who happens to be an ancestor of mine. It is her devotion to the Holy Spirit that is celebrated in the annual Festa, held on Pentecost.

There is a patron saint for each of many, many categories of people, so if you're looking for a patron saint, you're bound to find one that fits your needs. There are patron saints of journalists, mothers in need of help raising children, even racial harmony. The mentally ill can turn to St. Dymphna for help, the frenzied to St. Peter, and lumbago sufferers to St. Lawrence. Leather workers' prayers are heard by St. Catherine of Siena, and all you countesses out there can pray to St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Even enemies of religion have a patron saint.

I think the patron saint of bloggers might be St. Paul, although I don't know for sure. But St. Paul is the patron saint of writers and publishers, so I imagine that he would be the patron saint of bloggers too. But if you could suggest a better patron saint, please do so in the comments.

If you're Catholic, who's your patron saint? If not, who would be your patron saint?

Friday, January 07, 2005

A Series Of Unfortunate Books?

I just got through listening to the audio version of Book 1 of Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events. Now, mind you, this is the audio version and it was done with multiple actors' voices, but I think it was more or less a reading of the book version. (I'm still waiting in line for the book version at the library.)

I have to say I am not at all impressed with the book. I can see why teachers like it-- it's got a vocabulary lesson built into every chapter-- but it's not something I'd like to read for fun. It's got an interesting plot, but I just don't think it's well-written. The characters are described instead of developed, and come across as two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. I wonder if the movie will be better, since no one really expects character development from a movie. It stands in sharp contrast with the Harry Potter series, which has characters that appeal to archetypes without being caricatures, and appeal to children and adults alike.

I also got incredibly fed-up with the didactic tone and the constant explanatory asides. They were fine at the beginning, but they started occurring with more frequency closer to the climax,
which was terribly annoying. There's a reason why people don't choose the dictionary when they want to read action; it's because constant definitions get in the way of the plot.

There are plenty of books out there for kids to read, but while a lot of them are "tasty," not all of them are "nutritious". If good children's literature is nutritious food, this book is cookies. A few of them wouldn't hurt, but they shouldn't be the main course, and a steady diet of nothing else would malnourish the mind.

UPDATE: OK, I've decided it's supposed to be melodrama, which excuses the flat characters. But melodrama still isn't literature.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

On Torture And Torture Guidelines

I don't support torture, but I do think that it's the height of stupidity to make public guidelines against torture. Here's why, reasoning from my own experience. (Who else's experience could I reason from??)

Sonshine is a great kid, and he's very smart. He is also a boundary-pusher. It never takes him long to figure out the weak spot in any discipline scheme and exploit it. Once I told him he could do what I asked him, or get a spanking; he promptly bent over, happy to accept the spanking in lieu of having to do what I asked. This was back when he was 2 or 3. He's way smarter now.

Sonshine only cooperates with people he respects. You can punish him until the cows come home, but if he knows there are limits to what you will do, he will push you right up to them, because he knows then you'll have to back off. The only reason he obeys me at all is because he wants me to respect him. If I ever slip up and start spanking him for his misbehavior instead of expressing my disapproval, he just slips right back into that attitude of "So what else are you going to do to me? Oh, right, nothing else! Hahahaha! Watch me defy you some more!"

However, Sonshine's Auntie M can also get him to obey, without having to invest large chunks of time in establishing mutual respect. She has the reputation of being "Crazy Auntie M"; unlike Mom, you never know what she'll do if you disobey her. She's managed to get this reputation without actually punishing him very much for anything, and never being abusive at all. He looks at her funny, but he obeys her, even though he doesn't seek her respect.

If Sonshine were a terrorist suspect captured by the U.S., and he were aware of the guidelines of what constitutes acceptable torture, he would have a field day with his interrogators. He would just laugh at them because he'd know there was only so much they could do to him. He would never crack; he'd just laugh at them as he checked off each thing on the list of acceptable methods. When they ran out of acceptable methods, he'd just laugh harder. To be sure, there are ways of making him talk. But if you were trying to retrieve time-sensitive information from him and didn't have a couple spare years to let him get to know you, you'd have to go with the Auntie M approach. It would be absolutely critical that he not know about the boundaries.

And that is why I think all this public debate about torture is going to hurt our ability to extract information from terrorist suspects. I would be fine with guidelines against torture methods like waterboarding, but I think that many of the things people are saying are "torture" aren't any worse than the punishments in a good parent's arsenal (for example, I put my kids outside on the porch to cool off when they've been fighting; they make peace in less than thirty seconds in the wintertime). But for crying out loud, don't let the terrorists know we're not capable of everything. Letting them think we might just waterboard them if they don't start talking can be a valuable technique.

On Being Assertive

Anyone who knows me personally would probably describe me as an "assertive" person. I must admit that I don't believe that people are assertive by nature. People are considered assertive by others because they act assertive, not because of some assertive aspect of their nature that others mystically sense whenever they're near.

The same goes for other qualities besides assertiveness. To the extent that we can't read minds, we are stuck having to judge what qualities others have by what they do. So I am an assertive person, not because I was born that way, but because I act assertively. If I acted shyly I would be adjudged a shy person. If I acted stupidly I would be considered a stupid person. As it happens, I've done all three of the above, as have most people. It doesn't make me assertive, shy, or stupid by nature. It just makes me more experienced at being assertive, shy, or stupid.

Anyone can act assertively, although it may feel funny to them or require a large portion of personal effort to do so. But the more you do it, the more comfortable you are with being assertive. It's developed expertise. I tell my math students this, because it's true of math too: no one is born with innate mathematical knowledge. I will grant that people are born with certain aptitudes and predilections; but we are under no obligation to develop those aptitudes and predilections into an identity, nor to restrict our skill development to only those aptitudes or our choices to those predilections.

So if you've ever wanted to "be a ______ person" where ______ is some positive personal quality like assertiveness, my advice is to just swallow your pride and your fear and just do ______ things. It may be scary or feel funny, but if you just do it, you'll eventually get over whatever emotional baggage is getting in your way, and then you'll become a ______ person.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Historical Parallels

Being a fair-minded individual, I decided not to reject out of hand the left's comparisons of Bush to Hitler. None of my high school history classes ever made it very far into the 20th century; we always ran out of year before we ran out of material. So I figured, maybe I'm just too ignorant about Hitler to see the comparison between him and Bush. So I put a book about the rise of Hitler on my reading list, and I've been reading it off and on for the past six weeks. For anyone who's interested, the book is The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans.

I've only gotten about 40% through the book, and I'm out of time to study Hitler right now because I have to review the Lemony Snicket books to see if they could belong on Tiny Princess' reading list. But I thought I'd share my conclusions so far with the class:

Bush is not Hitler.

(side note: one of the quibbles I have with the Left in general is the lack of distinction between metaphor and actual equation, a la calling someone a name is not just like violence or even tantamount to violence, but actually the same as or equivalent to violence. However, most people aren't paranoid enough to claim Bush is actually Hitler reincarnated, so I say "Bush is not Hitler" in the metaphor sense.)

Hitler came to power through violence directed at his opponents. His own party claimed him as their dictatorial leader. The Republicans sanctioned no violence against the Democrats in coming to power, and they do not declare Bush the dictator of their party. (Of course, the violence distinction disappears if you are one of the above-mentioned people who does not distinguish between violence and non-violent methods that accomplish the same aims. But in that case you'd have to condemn Gandhi and King as violent too.)

The environment in which Hitler came to power, too, is different from today's America in many important respects. The Weimar Republic was a fledgling democracy imposed on Germany after World War I. Germany was being forced to pay reparations for World War I, and the people were more receptive to a government like Hitler's. While it could be argued that the American people are receptive to a government like Bush's, that doesn't make Bush's government tantamout to Hitler's. In the Great Depression, the public was receptive to FDR's New Deal, too.

In fact, as I read about Hitler's rise to power, there is one thing I find analogous to it in current events, and that is Iraq. A democracy imposed from outside, receptive to strong leadership, subject to ethnic tensions and wide-ranging political differences... and that would make Moqtada al-Sadr a better Hitler-analogue than Bush.

To be fair, there are some things in common between Bush and Hitler. Both are male political leaders of parties that, on the broad political spectrum, lie on the right side. Both are ideologically driven individuals. But that's about as far as the comparison goes. Hitler's Nazi party was far-right, Bush's Republican party is center-right (and some would say maybe center-left). Bush's ideology has a lot to do with religion, and Hitler's with hate; and no, religion is not hate (although you might argue that in certain cases it is like hate). Bush does not have militias of men in any color shirts ready to fight (with actual violence, not something like violence) for him to stay in power.

My brother belongs to the Bush=Hitler crowd, and before we called a moratorium on political discussion, he drew the analogy on the basis that Bush is going after Muslims the way Hitler went after the Jews. Personally I don't see any of that. Hitler used unabashed anti-Jewish rhetoric in his rise to power and actually believed it; Bush publicly affirms that he thinks Islam is a peaceful religion, whether he actually believes it or not. Hitler started a gradual campaign to round up and eventually exterminate Jews; Bush is creating no Muslim ghettoes, no Muslim quotas, no Muslim curfews, and no Muslim concentration camps. If you think Guantanamo Bay is a concentration camp, you probably need to read more about concentration camps.

My conclusion, therefore, is that people who have examined all the historical evidence and still think Bush is quite a bit like Hitler are likely conflating metaphor with actuality. But if you do that, then you could easily argue that Gandhi, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and the Soup Nazi are Hitler, too. Or perhaps their main point of comparison is that they dislike Bush just as they dislike Hitler, which means they believe their feelings about someone make for more important parallels than actual historical facts.

If you are from the Bush=Hitler crowd, would you please fill me in on how you draw the analogy?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Cache Valley Residents

... please go to Wendy's tomorrow (5 Jan) and support their fundraiser for the tsunami victims. They are donating all their profits from that day's sales, and another company is matching them.

On The Nature Of Sin And The Proper Use Of Scripture

An excellent post by Nathan of Brain Fertilizer. Do check it out!

The Lord has the power to turn any action of ours that hurts others into something positive for those others, but because He gives us our free agency, He cannot protect us from our own actions, and that is why only our own sins have the ability to drag us down.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Headline: Women Talk, Think They're Solving Problems

I read this interesting article about some women who believe talking a lot will resolve some religious conflicts. They have organized a group where, evidently, they all get to insult each others' religious choices. This is supposed to make all of them feel better and ease religious tensions.
Two years ago when the Alliance for Unity ponied up $4.5 million to end the fight over the Main Street Plaza, Elise Lazar wondered if there wasn't a better solution.
She felt the mostly male group of community leaders had papered over - rather than healed - the religious wound that festered between Mormons and people of other faiths during the plaza debate. The money was pledged toward a new community center and, in exchange, the LDS Church retained control over its plaza. Debate over.
Lazar wondered if she, if women, could do better at tackling the rift. And she decided they could. Thus was born Woman to Woman.
Starting last January, nine women from a variety of religious backgrounds - about half Mormon and half of other faiths - met each month. Over the year the group, whose 30-ish to 60-ish members are mostly from Holladay, would end up touching on the state's most touchy topics, start to understand each other despite their differences and learn about themselves.
"Nothing is ever finished," says Lazar. "I feel better just being able to say things out loud. It's like opening an infected wound and getting rid of all of that."

Well, if this works for them, more power to them. I know for a fact, though, that getting together to b***h about your grievances (which is such a woman thing!) should never be mistaken for actually resolving them.
In the past year, the women have been protective of their time, barring outsiders for fear the group's dynamic would shift.

Yeah, that's the way to promote tolerance-- don't let anyone else in.
But this week, four members - Lazar, Linda Dunn, Rosemary A. Holt and Beth Whitsett - gathered at the Salt Lake Roasting Co. & Cafe to offer a glimpse of how they did it, hoping others might follow.
By sharing, the women broke one of the group guidelines: Keep the conversations confidential. Other rules barred proselytizing, and required candor and a willingness to learn how to accept - and maybe even honor - each other.
The year-long journey started with baby steps.
Last January, the women discussed their religious upbringings and the role religion plays in their lives. The next meeting they spent an hour or so on what they had in common - how they struggle to balance motherhood with work, how they deal with aging.

This is all stuff that people would normally do if they were making friends. You don't need a special, closed group to make friends. It's particularly ironic that they chose a special closed group in lieu of making friends, since this group is supposed to break open special closed religious groups.
In March, they leaped. A role-playing exercise had Mormon women imagining what would bother them living in Utah as a nonMormon. The women of other faiths envisioned the frustrations of being in the majority.

This, for the rest of us, is called LIFE. We don't have to roleplay walking a mile in somebody else's moccasins if we actually do it from time to time.
"What would trouble me was sort of the 'top-downness' that I perceive as being typical of the LDS faith, that I like to be challenged and make my own decisions," recalls Whitsett, a Protestant.
"The LDS woman in my group said what would bother her if she were non-LDS was sort of having to figure it all out. She treasured having a lot of the tough questions, maybe not answered for her, but [being shown] a clear path. That gave her comfort, that gave her direction. I thought, 'Wow. It's so interesting because we're really talking about the same thing and yet perceiving it, one as an inhibition and the other [as] it's freeing.'
"It really put my views in perspective."

It had never occurred to any of these women, in all of their thirty to sixty year lives, that somebody else might have a different perspective?? Maybe the reason they chose to stay in a small closed group is that they've never known anything else in their lives!
Holt says the group's goal has been to be honest, even if it is uncomfortable.
The Mormon women talked about being stereotyped and feeling left out because they are not invited into the homes of nonMormons. The women of other faiths said they feel guarded around Mormons because they fear those church members are only interested in converting them. They feel left out when conversations revolve around ward activities and missionaries.
The group said they had to learn to focus on social and cultural issues instead of church doctrine - something they can't change.

See my earlier post.
Obviously, some of the meetings were tense. There was one of those moments at the coffee shop this week. Holt said she takes offense when the LDS Church promotes that it is the "true" church.
"It's so divisive in this community to people who are religious and for 19-year-old young men to knock on the door of fellow Christians, under-educated 19-year-olds, and to send that message out," Holt says. "Proselytizing and saying they are the one true church is the big divider."

Yeah, right, and the big uniter is going to be a church that says "Join Us-- We're Not The Best Church On The Block!!" Who would want to choose the most mediocre religion for their religion? It is in the nature of religions to believe that they have some kind of understanding that the rest of the world does not.
Dunn, who is LDS, responded: "I enjoy hearing how it's perceived because it helps me understand better my own behaviors. It has also strengthened my own commitment [to the church] because it makes you question: 'Why do I believe this is truth and why does this truth speak to me?' It has not shaken my faith, but it's made me be more sensitive.
"I have one of these so-called uneducated young men out in the world who I feel differently about what he's doing in the Czech Republic, spreading the gospel," Dunn continues. I don't see it as Rosemary [Holt] would see it. But that's OK."

Maybe if Rosemary actually got to know those "under-educated 19-year-olds", she might have a better opinion of them, just as she hopes that Mormons who get to know her will have a better opinion of her. But God (or whoever) forbid that she might be more tolerant of others; it's the obligation of others to be tolerant of her desire to stick her head in the sand and pretend that people who believe others might like to hear about their religion don't exist. And how old do you have to be before Rosemary thinks you're qualified to speak to other people about religion? 27? 35? 70? The square root of 1729?
The women say they aren't even sure what "fixing" the religious divide would mean. They are just glad to talk about it and change themselves and others, one woman at a time.

You can't "fix" a religious divide. It isn't broken.

People by their very nature will disagree on whether or not there is a divine being and if so, whether and how to worship Him/Her/Whatever. The only way to get people to agree on this is (a) to persuade them with your words, or (b) to kill the infidels. The fact that we have religious differences is a direct consequence of free will. The existence of those dumb 19-year-old missionaries is proof that the Mormon church is firmly committed to alleviating religious tensions via option (a), the only option that honors free will. But even the Church recognizes that part of celebrating free will is accepting that not everyone will agree with you.

There are a lot of tensions in Utah between Mormons and non-Mormons. The way to resolve them is for people on both sides to make friends with people outside of your little clique, basing them on real interests that you share so that they become real solid friendships instead of fake plastic friendships. Get to know your neighbors, all of them, not just the ones in your ward. Join community organizations. Get involved in the kind of things that bring us together. If your idea of a community organization is a b***h session with a bunch of other ladies, I feel really sorry for you, because there are so many more productive things you could be doing with your time, shoulder to shoulder with your neighbors of all religions.

Toilet: The Final Frontier

Today I venture into the terra incognita of Toilet Repair.

One of my toilets has been leaking out from under the base. I told my sister about it and she said it was probably the wax ring at the base of the toilet that needed replacing. Favorite Husband said that was probably true because it's been leaking since we had a flood in that bathroom, in which the hot water pipe to the sink came loose while we were at church. By the time we returned from church, the water coming out was cold, meaning that the entire tank of hot water had been emptied into our tiny bathroom. He thinks the hot water might have compromised the wax ring as it got under the toilet, which (as I discovered just now) was never sealed off properly with plumber's putty.

I know absolutely nothing about toilets. I barely know more about them than my four-year-old, who can use the toilet and make it flush. I really wanted Favorite Husband to fix the toilet, but F.H. doesn't do plumbing and doesn't do anything stinky, so a toilet, especially one leaking raw sewage, is entirely out of the question. I wanted to get my friend over here to help me change out the wax ring so that I'd have someone here who knew more about toilets than I do, but there have been schedule complications. And if we had more money I would have hired a plumber (and gotten him to look at the leaky tub faucet to boot), but I am saving every dime of spare change for a new mattress, since our current mattress has a foot-deep trench on either side.

Nevertheless, the smell coming from the bathroom has started to get to the point where even I can't stand it. So today I rolled up my sleeves and pant cuffs, collected tools, towels, and a plastic bin, and took the damn toilet apart. I figured, I wipe raw sewage straight from the source ten times a day. Every two days I touch those same diapers again to wash them. Certainly I have no reason to be afraid of a silly little toilet.

I got the plumbing unhooked, removed the tank, unbolted the bowl from the floor, and faced

the Stinky Wax Ring of Doom!!!!

It actually wasn't that bad. I scraped off the wax with the disposable putty knife I'd bought for the purpose. I cleaned the very dirty patch of linoleum under the toilet. Now I'm just waiting for the wax ring to get up to room temperature (it was out in the snowy van) and I'm letting the floor dry out underneath the toilet because it was all swollen. After that, I'll put the thing back together again, mop the bathroom floor, and light a nice-smelling candle in there.

The only thing I'm worried about is that when I hook the plumbing back up, it might leak. The plumbing in this #$%& manufactured home is all crappy pressure fittings, and half the time when you hook something up with those pressure fittings, the pressure of the water blows them apart again. If you're lucky, they blow apart right away. If you're not, they blow apart a week later while you're at church.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

I Had No Idea...

...that UCSD, my alma mater, had tunnels underneath it. I'm pretty sure Utah State has some, I think I read an article about them in the paper saying they were now obsolete because we are no longer in the era of steam heat, etc.

Hat tip: Michael Williams.

Lorenz Manifold: In Progress

I started the crocheted Lorenz manifold yesterday and am now on Round 18 of 47. I decided on the #10 cotton with a size 7 steel hook, in a rainbow striped color scheme.

I found a way to count the stitches and keep track of the increases at the same time. Before beginning a row, I count the stitches in the previous one, and at the same time mark the stitches in which to increase by slipping a paper clip into them. (Mim, this is where a bunch of stitch markers would come in handy for a crocheter!) Then I work the row, not counting stitches, putting two stitches into each stitch with a paper clip. I don't have to count as I work, which in my present state of childfullness and sleeplessness would take more brainpower than I've got available.

I don't know what I should do with the manifold once it's finished. Sure, I'll send pictures of it to the authors of the paper, and if I've crocheted fast enough I might even win the prize of champagne they're offering. It would be nice to win something, even though I don't particularly care for champagne, Utah state law probably wouldn't allow them to ship it to me, and I can't drink it anyway even if they could ship it. After that, though, what to do with it? I really don't have space for it and I've only got the foggiest understanding of what a Lorenz manifold is to begin with (differential equations were never my strong suit). I could sell it on eBay or something, though I'd have to make sure I got a link to the auction making the e-mail rounds in a few math departments in order to get a bidder, and I'd have to get the permission of the pattern's authors. I could donate it to the math department, I suppose.

I really don't know why I'm making this, except that I can't get it out of my head in much the same way I couldn't get that hyperbolecule I made as a senior project out of my head. Eventually it drove me to go to grad school. Maybe if I make this I won't end up in grad school again.