Friday, December 31, 2004

Taiwan's cool fireworks display

I just saw this on Yahoo news and thought it was rather cool: Taiwan Opens World's Tallest Building

They actually launched fireworks from the building itself and MAN it looked cool. Go check it out.

Ain't Misbehavin'

JayTea of WizBang! makes a simple but laser-sharp point in this post. Here's a sample:

I guess I just disagree with the notion that if you limit the ways in which people can misbehave, you limit actual misbehavior. It's been my observation that those who want to do wrong will do so, and no silly laws or barriers aimed at gently dissuading them will do a damned bit of good.


Read the whole thing -- he's right.

Interesting anecdote concerning Michael Moore

I had an appointment yesterday and I got into a conversation with the doctor about Michael Moore. Never would've thought I'd end up talking about him with someone I see only a couple of times a year at the most, but anyway, I thought it was interesting. We started out talking about drug companies, and he brought up the fact that MM is now trolling for scum on the Pfizers and Mercks of the world. Then he mentioned that he and his wife weren't terribly politically inclined by nature, but that after they had seen Fahrenheit 9/11, they were so turned-off and irritated with MM that they became Republicans.

This seems to play right into what Glenn Reynolds was talking about this morning. Obviously this was just one single anecdote, but it restores my faith in the average American person who, when presented with intense propaganda, can recognize it for what it is and judge accordingly rather than be sucked-in or swayed by it.

Carnival of the Recipes!!!

It's time once again for the Carnival of the Recipes, hosted this week by Prochein Amy. She's done some extra work and turned each recipe name into a riddle of sorts... funny stuff! Thanks, Amy!

2005 Predictions from Iowahawk

I tip my hat respectfully to the eminently talented Iowahawk, who records his predictions for 2005. A couple, for your enjoyment:

March 2 - Clarence Thomas nominated as Chief Justice of Supreme Court; axe handle- wielding Patrick Leahy blocks courthouse door, vows "centrism today, centrism tomorrow, centrism forever"

July 20 - Iraq descends into chaos as I-25 construction, HOV lanes snarl Basra morning commute; Rumsfeld blamed for lack of Morning Zoo Crew traffic copters

November 28 - Chicago marks 500th homicide of the year, renewing calls for US withdrawl from Illinois quagmire



There are a ton of funny ones -- go check it out!! And keep reading; his blog is so stinkin' funny it's hard for me to imagine that this guy's actually an IOWAN.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Hoppin' John (a New Year's Day traditional recipe)

It's always been considered good luck in our family to eat blackeyed peas on New Year's Day... and here's a recipe even you blackeyed-pea-haters might actually enjoy. Please please PLEASE promise me you won't buy a can of blackeyed peas and serve them up plain, okay? This is MUCH nicer and MUCH more edible.

Hoppin' John

3 cups dried blackeyed peas
3/4 lb. sliced bacon, diced
1 1/2 large onions, chopped
3 cups raw rice
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 tablespoons dried red pepper, crushed

Bring peas and 4.5 quarts of water to a boil. Boil for two minutes, then turn off the heat. Cover the pan and allow to stand for one hour. In a large skillet, brown the bacon, then add the onion and cook until golden. Pour the bacon mixture into the peas. Cover and simmer until the peas are tender, approximately two to three hours. Stir in the rice and other seasonings, and cook (covered), without stirring, until the rice is tender (about 30 minutes). Remove cover. If the mixture seems too soupy, boil on high for a few minutes to reduce the liquid. Check seasonings and add more to taste if necessary.

It can be served like this, or to really kick it up a notch, stir in a cup of beef gravy before serving. YUM!!! This is especially nice served with marinated beef brisket.

Banann Peze (Fried Plantain)

This is a very common Haitian dish, often seen as a side dish to rice & beans.

Banann Peze

Vegetable oil (1/2 to 1 cup)
2 medium-size green plantains, peeled and sliced at a slight angle
2 cups of salty water

Using a large skillet, preferably a well-seasoned cast-iron one, brown the plantain slices for a couple of minutes on each side. Drain the slices on a paper towel, then use a spatula or a wooden press to flatten the fried pieces to about 1/4 inch thickness. Dip the pieces into salt water and resume frying until they're crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel again, add a bit of salt, and serve immediately.

Narnia movie to come out next December!!

I have loved C.S. Lewis' series The Chronicles of Narnia ever since I was a kid -- my Aunt Donna gave me the series when I was ten, I believe, and I absorbed them again and again and again. I was glad but unimpressed with the BBC's effort to bring it to the small screen a few years back... I was stunned and absolutely LOVED the Radio Theater production of it (done by Focus on the Family), but that's only audio. I'm telling you, though, it's more than just audio books. It's audio dramatization, and it's top-notch. It's great for long car trips. Actually, all of FOTF's Radio Theater productions have been very high-quality.

Anyway, I am pleased to see that they're coming out with a big-screen version of Narnia next year!

However, I do have very high expectations of this... expectations on the same level as those I had of the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies (which did NOT disappoint) and the Anne of Green Gables movies (which were suitably decent but not overwhelmingly so). This had better be good, because the Narnia books deserve only the very best of movies. My childhood favorites -- brought to life on the big screen -- are always in danger of not matching my imagination. I thought that the Black Stallion movie back in the 1979 was totally TOTALLY stinko, and Walter Farley's Black Stallion series of books were some of my most treasured possessions. The movie was interesting and very beautiful, but it bore little to no resemblance to Farley's story. In my opinion, if you're going to base a movie on a book, get as close as you can. If you're making up a story, don't pass it off as a movie based on a book.

Just my two cents on the subject.

Mezanmi!

I'm thinking about my Haitian friends this morning and about the music project I've been involved with down there. If you're interested, here's a link describing the project:

Music Missions in Haiti

There's even a picture of me on that page.

I wish I could be there with them more often than I already am... although with the political unrest there, things haven't been able to progress as well as one would like. Getting from one place to another is a dicey affair these days. Even with that, though, I just ache to be with them sometimes. Haiti isn't a Club-Med spot in the Caribbean, but I love the country and its people very much. I can close my eyes and imagine myself walking across the tarmac at the airport in Port-au-Prince... the intense humidity assaults my senses and the faint odor of burning garbage wafts lazily in the heavy air. The joy of being reunited with my dear, dear friends... "Kouman ou ye, zanmi! M'kontan we ou!"... the taste of papitat (plantain chips), diri e soz pwa (rice with bean sauce), and my favorite -- ji sitwon (fresh limeade).

Can't wait to get back!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

What a vile culture

Via LGF, the following news from Qatar:

Robot Camel Racing in Qatar

Get this -- their custom has been to enslave Asian children and force them to race camels. Now that they've developed robotic jockeys, they'll be able to "outlaw" the practice of indenturing children. Oh puh-leez.

"Plus," added Sheikh al-Thani, "the robots don't need to be fed, and don't cry for their mothers."


GRRRRRRR!!!!!!!! Lemme at him! Lemme at him! He'd better be grateful he's half a world away from me right now, 'cuz if he were anywhere within reach I'd kick his sorry you-know-what.

More Genesis evidence

Archaeologists Find Egyptian Stone Age Stores

CAIRO (Reuters) - Archaeologists in Egypt have found eight Stone Age grain stores at an oasis southwest of Cairo that help show the shift from hunting to agricultural societies, the Ministry of Culture reported.

The ministry said the discovery was made by a team from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in an area north of Fayoum 60 miles southwest of Cairo, where 67 grain stores were found in 1926.

"The well-preserved nature of these stores helped experts to understand the transformation of societies, from depending on hunting to a stable agricultural society," government antiquities chief Zahi Hawas said in the statement.


Okay, class, take out your Bibles and turn to the book of Genesis, chapters forty-one through forty-seven, and read them. Egyptian society was transformed, alright... in very short order, too. Abraham's great-grandson played a pivotal role in that transformation.

I think it's fun to watch the archaeologists uncover more and more evidence that bears out the Biblical accounts of things. It only proves to me that those who object are not doing so because of scientific data but instead because of an adherence to their own kind of religion based on human superiority.

Jerry Orbach, R.I.P.

Jerry Orbach dead at 69

I always liked his character on Law & Order. He did a respectable job on his part as the uninvolved but judgmental father in Dirty Dancing. I will miss him. It seems a shame that prostate cancer would've taken him; I was under the impression that prostate cancer was usually a slow-growing and treatable cancer. Maybe his kind was a more lethal one, though. Anyway, he will be missed.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

ExCUSE me?!?

Yet another reason in the already lengthy list of reasons why I think that the United Nations is a conglomeration of ridiculous windbags:

U.N. official slams U.S. as "stingy" over tsunami aid

Would someone please explain to me why this organization receives ANY of my tax dollars?

Those who can, do. Those who can't, complain.

I'm horrified and grieved by the tragedy of the Indonesian earthquake & tsunami. I'm not, as some others may be, choosing to take this opportunity to make yet another political jab. Consider this post, from Alan Brain:

Monday, December 27, 2004
Save 'em all, and let God sort them out
Via Tim Blair, a reader at the SMH writes:

It is a sad and grim reminder of how vulnerable we are to the force of nature. A pity our army is busy fighting America's immoral war when they should be providing assistance to the affected areas.
Shane Arnold


From the abstract of a paper (No 56 - scroll down) I co-authored for SimTect 2004, the Australian Simulations Technology conference :

A 6-week 2-person project is described that developed a detailed simulation of airborne logistics transport for evacuation and disaster recovery in remote areas.

Cargoes to be transported are in general heterogenous, including outsized and oversized loads such as generators, vehicles, and bulk containers of assorted sizes requiring special handling.

Each individual flight is modelled in detail, along with taxiing, loading, refueling and air traffic control delays. Both Fixed- and Rotary-wing aircraft are modelled, as are limitations such as MOG and ACN of airfield nodes.

The xtUML process and Bridgepoint tool were used to develop the simulation, which is quantised to the level of 1 minute increments of time. The resultant executable is generated using a C++ model compiler.

The requirements of the simulation underwent significant refinement during the course of the project, requiring agile techniques. The problems and benefits of agile development are described, along with metrics about the development process.

The possibilities of planned extension of the model to cover road-, rail- and sea-borne transport with modal-split are discussed.

Annette was the xtUML Guru and Expert on Bridgepoint - as well as being a top person to work with. I provided the knowledge about how to simulate stuff and the "domain knowledge' - when the wind is southerly, I know a Hercules from a Hacksaw. Or a Candid from a Caribou for that matter.

Finally, from the ABC :

Prime Minister John Howard has offered his deepest sympathy to Australia's Asian neighbours which have been devastated by tsunamis.
[...]
Australia is to provide an initial $10 million of relief assistance which will go to the Red Cross, other non-government organisations and directly to Indonesia.

This afternoon two C-130 Hercules headed to the region laden with supplies such as water purification units, blankets and bottled water.

Mr Howard says he will speak to leaders from the region over the next day to learn what further help Australia can offer.
"I imagine that it will be some days before the full extent of this tragedy unfolds," Mr Howard said.

"I can only repeat that the Australian people feel great sympathy for our friends in the region.

"We'll do everything we can as a regional neighbour and a regional friend to assist the countries that have been so badly affected."

The Government says it will donate more money as the full scale of the disaster unfolds.

It will take a few days before we have a good idea what we should be sending. It will also take us a few days to gather up spare ROWPUs (Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units) - which weigh quite a few tonnes each - generators and the like. In the meantime, 2 C-130 loads of supplies that were top-ups destined for Iraq and Afghanistan have been diverted to help.

We - and by that I mean those baby-eating bloodthirsty barbarians in the Australian military - have plans for dealing with natural disasters. We - and by that I mean us Evil Warmongering Boffins that support the military - even develop simulations and models to help the guys in uniform plan what to do. Unlike some SHM readers, we don't have a direct line to God, so we don't know when and where such catastrophes will occur. The same resources that could support an armoured infantry company operating round Mosul would also be useful for relieving natural disasters, and more importantly, there are plans so to use them. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, provided we don't over-commit ourselves. That's why we have so few troops in Iraq, and resisted the strong pressure from the USA pre-war to commit more in the post-war phase. The US understood this, and didn't make a fuss about us keeping a Strategic Reserve.

More importantly, we don't just write Idiotarian letters to the SMH decrying terrorism, we do something about it. We also don't just write factually-challenged letters to the SMH about the "force of nature", we do something about that too.

We do what we can, reflexive and limited immediate aid first, but we also figure out what's needed, think and research before acting. You save more lives that way, even if the wilfully ignorant of the chattering classes get into a lather because of it.

Like the War on Terror, we're all in this together. In cases like this, we don't worry about what stupid and insulting things various Malaysian government bigwigs have said about us recently, nor even whether today's victims in Aceh were slaughtering Christians and burning down Churches last week. When Mother Nature throws a tantrum, we save 'em all, and let God sort them out.

If you want to help, try going to The Command Post, which is maintaining a list of relief organisations you can donate to.


I thought that was an interesting and refreshing take on this whole affair from one of our allies in the war on terror.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Hello again, Iowa

We made it back home last night at about 9 PM, got the van unloaded (no small feat, I tell you), and crashed to sleep. Ten hours on the highway is enough! Thankfully the kids were completely glazed over, due to my mom lending us her portable DVD player. Those things are miraculous.

Once again, the worship leader at church took a huge chance on me... he had scheduled me to play this morning, even though I wouldn't be able to make it to practice last week. I was SO happy to be back onstage with all of them, though -- thankfully there was only one song in the set that was new, and I picked it up pretty quickly after they played a recording of it for me. This morning they only had one service instead of their usual three, and all the children stayed in during the sermon instead of leaving for children's church. I didn't mind it at all; my kids know how to behave in church, and it reminded me a LOT of when I was a little girl because I let my son draw and write on a piece of paper just like I used to do. The only difference was that when I was little, I was able to use a hymnal to put behind my piece of paper. No hymnals here! I'll tuck that away for future reference so the next time we have a service that he has to sit through, I'll bring a hardback book for him to use.

Tomorrow morning -- oh joy of joys!! -- Rick gets to drive me to the DMV to get my driver's license. I inadvertently let mine expire on my birthday back in November. Then we get to begin the enormous task of sorting through all of our travel accoutrements and Christmas gifts. What fun, though! The kids are having a total laughing fit in the living room because Isaac is playing with his remote control monster-truck. Our dog Bijou is not pleased with this gift, but the kids love it.

Thanks, MamaSue & Poppi!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas to yas!

Santa's made his rounds at our house (well, we're actually at Grandma's house in Texas, not our own house in Iowa, but Santa knows that kind of stuff), and it's time to head to bed.

The coolest thing that happened today? Meeting my blogmommy in person!

Yes, the inimitable SarahK and I met at Chipotle restaurant in Hurst, Texas this afternoon at 3:00 PM. I can heartily attest to the fact that she's even more adorable in person. I was hoping I'd get the opportunity to meet her face to face before she shipped off to parts unknown back east, but didn't really think it would ever happen. But as it happens, we were both in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex area on the same day and we found out about it a couple of days in advance, so we planned a little meet 'n' greet. "Essay" even joined us, and it was sooooooo cool to meet up with those two gals.

SarahK had some, er, delay issues this morning, and let me just say that I'm glad she actually ARRIVED ALIVE, okay? But we did meet up, and she got to experience the onslaught of my little tribe of savages known as Martha, Alice and Isaac (and daddy Rick, too).

And the guacamole at Chipotle is awesome!!! I may have to work to reproduce that in my own guacamole, which is already renowned among my friends and acquaintances. It's just yummy, hands-down.

I'll probably be away from the 'puter tomorrow because we're traveling back north in the morning (I'm not wi-fi travel-ready laptopped or anything yet... someday...). So in the meantime, if you're reading this, you're obviously bored or needing some sort of distraction from annoying family members you never see any other time of year... so take your time. Leave lots of comments (nice ones, please). And have a delightful, merry CHRISTMAS from your friendly neighborhood IowaSoccerMom.

By the way, Christmas Day is also my very own daddy's birthday, so you guys wish Poppi Mel a Happy Birthday, k?

Carnival of the Recipes!!!

[booming announcer voice]

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time once again for the Carnival of the Recipes! This week it's hosted by Trudy of Food Basics. Enjoy!

[/booming announcer voice]

I've got two recipes this time... the two I posted earlier this week, one for a family tradition of ours: Aunt Bill's Brown Candy (sounds unappetizing but it's incredible and I prefer it to fudge any day) and the other: a Haitian traditional drink called Akasan.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Family Fun

Ever heard of a mental condition called "pickup psychosis"? It occurs when too many closely-related people ride in the cab of a pickup through Texas and Oklahoma back-roads for more than two hours. In our case, it was three and a half hours. Some things just aren't meant to be endured, folks.

It's Thursday night. I'm only here until Saturday morning, at which time we will pile into our beat-up minivan and point ourselves toward Iowa once more. I love coming to visit... honest, I do... but there comes a point when I'm ready to go back home too.

I'm hoping to have some special fun news tomorrow evening.

Help Wanted

Can anyone confirm to me what the Abominable Snowman's name was in the Christmas special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Omigosh, omigosh, omigosh!!!!

Aaaiyeee!!!

This is the best news I could possibly have heard today. Someone find me some oxygen, quick. That man is hot. HOT, I tell you. The thought of him sharing the screen with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom is almost too much to bear.

Akasan

This is a Haitian drink that you'll enjoy hot or cold. It's kinda different; an unusual treat. I love Haiti, its people, culture and food. M'reme Ayiti!

Akasan

2 cinnamon sticks
4 to 6 anise stars
1 cup very fine corn flour
dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 (12 ounce) cans evaporated milk
Sugar to taste

1. Boil 4 cups water with cinnamon and anise stars. Dilute corn flour in 1 cup cold water and dash of salt.
2. Slowly pour liquified corn flour into boiling water, stirring constantly until it thickens but no more than 5 minutes Add vanilla extract and can of evaporated milk and allow to completely cool.
3. Refrigerate if you like it cold. If you like it warm, add evaporated milk and sugar to taste is if making a cup of coffee.
4. Always remove anise star and cinnamon before serving. Serve with evaporated milk.

Aunt Bill's Brown Candy

This is time-consuming and requires two people, but it is DELICIOUS candy and our family has had it every year for probably 50 years. I have no idea who Aunt Bill was; my great-grandmother clipped this recipe out of the Daily Oklahoman and it was called "Aunt Bill's Brown Candy" even then. We all just call it "Aunt Bill's".

Aunt Bill's Brown Candy

6 cups white sugar, divided
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pounds pecan halves or pieces

1. Butter a 9x13 Pyrex dish and a medium heavy saucepan or cast-iron skillet.
2. In the buttered saucepan, combine 4 cups of sugar and the cream. Put this on very low heat; you want it to be simmering by the time the other pan is ready.
3. In the skillet, over medium heat, pour the remaining 2 cups of sugar. Cook, stirring constantly (and I do mean constantly -- do not let this scorch), until sugar begins to melt. Turn the heat down to low. Cook and stir until it is completely melted and is light golden brown.
4. Hopefully your cream/sugar mixture is now simmering. Pour the melted sugar slowly, in a thin stream, into the lightly simmering cream, stirring constantly. This should take time and you'll need to have someone with strong arms who can pour the melted sugar very-very-very slowly.
5. Cook the entire mixture now, without stirring, to a temperature of about 245 degrees (118 C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a firm but pliable ball. Remove from heat, stir in baking soda. This will cause the mixture to foam up. Drop the butter in, stir, and then let the mixture rest without stirring for 30 minutes.
6. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon, and keep stirring for 10-15 minutes until the mixture loses its glossy sheen. Fold in the pecans, then turn the candy into the buttered 9x13 dish. Let cool until just barely warm, and cut into 1" or smaller pieces. This candy is very, very rich, so the pieces should be small.

Give it a try! It's a fun "togetherness" activity, and the results are de-lish.

I'm a translator!!

You are 31% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.


You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!


Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!


You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com

Rumsfeld Must Go!

Sean Gleeson has Ten More Reasons to Hate Rumsfeld, in case you needed any.

This morning, ten more outrages were added to the big outrageous pile of outrages over outrageous revelations that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had used a so-called "autopen" to sign condolence letters. Even though he has not denied these ten additional outrages, Rumsfeld still refuses to resign.

1. Instead of dialing his telephone by pressing all the digits, he makes use of a "speed dial" device for frequently called numbers.

2. Instead of dicing, boiling, and mashing potatoes, he sometimes mixes freeze-dried mashed potato flakes with hot water.

3. When he needs donuts, he buys them from retail outlets, instead of frying his own donuts from scratch ingredients.

4. Instead of lacing and tying his shoes, he sometimes makes use of so-called "loafers," which have no laces.

5. Instead of typing into input fields on website forms, he has his name and other information saved as "cookies" which fill in many forms automatically.

6. Once he bought new spark plugs, when cleaning his old spark plugs with a toothbrush might have extended their useful lives by up to six more months.

7. He has had most of his clothing outfitted with "buttons" and "zippers" to make dressing and undressing almost effortless.

8. When driving, he almost never tunes in his favorite radio stations with the "tune" dial, preferring to make use of special "preset" and "seek" buttons.

9. If he were Buddhist, he would probably use a "prayer wheel," which offers up prayers to the Deity on the behalf of the person who spins it.

10. Instead of resigning in disgrace, he tends to win wars.

No pun in ten did

Sorry in advance for the groans.

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The flight attendant looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, "Dam!"

3. Two guys sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly the vessel caught fire and sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, "I've lost my electron." The other says, "Are you sure?" The first replies, "Yes, I'm positive."

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal. His goal was: transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."

7. A woman has identical twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

8. Some friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store. He said he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail. And with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. And finally, there was the guy who sent ten different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Kevin got my painting!!

Because he has been (and continues to be) so incredibly nice to me by designing my blog's new look, SirKisser received my thank-you gift in the mail -- and he likes it! He has posted a photo of it on his web site.

Thanks, and for the record -- the Photoshopping that you do IS art, in its most hilarious form. You are a true genius. I will never EVER forget the lower GI tract work you did on FrankJ.

They still don't get it

Not sure they ever WILL get it. The mainstream liberal press, that is.

Ann McFeatters of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opines:

WASHINGTON -- George and Laura Bush's 2004 Christmas card, which hit mailboxes this past week (paid for by the Republican National Committee), is a copy of a painting by Texas artist Cindi Holt that depicts a stylized Red Room and bears a phrase from the Bible.

It's Psalm 95:2 and reads: "Let us come before Him with Thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song." Presumably, this refers to the deity and not the president hosting his many holiday parties.


Cheap shot... sounds like she didn't get a personal invite to one of his holiday parties. Insinuating that W has a God-complex (oh, excuse me -- a "deity" complex)... that's not really that funny, Ann. It just sounds bitter. Why don't you get over your post-election blues and move on? But I digress...

In the past, Christmas cards from the White House did not generally proselytize along religious lines. But this White House intends to make us better people, and Bush's re-election victory seems to indicate that's fine with a majority of Americans.


This reveals two misconceptions on Ms. McFeatters' part.

The first misconception is the obvious one: she's afraid that the White House is actually trying to re-make her and other blue-staters. It's the "Jesusland" cut, re-stated. However, that's too easy. I'm disappointed that they can't seem to come up with anything more sophisticated than that argument, because it reveals to the rest of us just how UNwilling they are to spend time THINKING to see the real issue. Much easier just to scream "religious persecution" and give the impression that the Puritans Are Back In Town, and hope that the rest of the liberal sheep swallow that lame assumption just as they've swallowed every other ridiculous pile of pigpoop they've served up.

The second misconception is one that really does underlie the central failure of liberalism: that the White House can actually dictate to the rest of us what we believe, think, or ARE. That an over-arching government has the responsibility -- or even more basic, the POWER -- to dictate to the entire nation what is appropriate and acceptable to think. And that the simple expression of his personal faith means that W intends for the entire country to convert to Christianity and eschew their wicked ways.

The rest of her op-ed is pretty much more of the same whining, blatantly indicating her lack of understanding. Well, it isn't my responsibility to help her -- the truth is out there, as the X-Files so eloquently stated, and it's available for anyone who wants to find it. Ann McFeatters simply doesn't WANT to find it. She wants to continue living in her imaginary world, throwing a temper-tantrum whenever things happen that she doesn't understand. And I, for one, am going to let her -- because it means that she and her ilk have lost their significance and their relevance.

Monday, December 20, 2004

All I want for Christmas?

The WWF has come out with its Ten Things Not to Buy For Christmas list. I'm going to have to synchronize this with my own list, as I do not want to offend any little creatures. Let's see... hmmm...

GENEVA (Reuters) - Christmas gift buyers should avoid coral jewelry, crocodile skin and Beluga caviar if they want to enjoy a guilt-free holiday season, the nature protection group WWF said on Tuesday.

Ummm, so far, so good.

The Swiss-based body, the World Wide Fund for Nature, included the three on a list of 10 items whose commercial exploitation was endangering animal and plant species already threatened with extinction.

Well-wishers imbued with the Santa Claus spirit should also avoid buying tiger products or tigers for pets, it said.

"All international trade of tiger products, whether used in traditional Asian medicine, as souvenirs or for good luck charms, is illegal," the WWF declared in a statement.

Okay. I think I'm safe here so far.

Ivory in any form should also be avoided, it admonished, because the ivory trade was threatening the survival of elephants whose tusks are its primary source.

They don't use ivory on piano keyboards any more, so I'm still doing fine.

Caspian Sea sturgeon, the source of Beluga caviar, face extinction due to illegal plunder and should only be bought in jars certified by CITES, the United Nation's agency fighting trade in endangered species, the WWF warned.

Caviar is a nasty substance. The widdle sturgeons have nothing to fear from ME.

High fashion shahtoosh scarves woven from the hair of Tibetan antelopes should be avoided altogether. "To obtain the wool, the antelope has to be killed," the WWF said.

Umm, I suppose it must be quite a nice substance, but I'm not THAT impressed by what I'm seeing here... and no, I'm not hankering for one of them. Besides, they're highly illegal. I'm not into illegal stuff.

Many cactus species are banned from international trade. "There is a flourishing illegal trade which is wiping out native populations, particularly from Mexico," WWF warned.

Cacti don't thrive in Iowa anyway; why would I want to own one?

Finally, the WWF advised shoppers to avoid buying appliances like televisions and stereos that consume large amounts of electricity while on standby, arguing that the drain on energy they present was another threat to the environment.

Whoa... wait a minute here. Weren't we talking about endangered species and stuff? Suddenly we take a poke at TELEVISIONS and STEREOS? Sounds to me like the typical enviro-Nazi sweeping generalization thing going on here. We have all these specific no-no items, which seem to have specific reasons for them to be OFF one's Christmas list. But TELEVISIONS and STEREOS? And for the vague reason that the drain on energy from when they're on STANDBY mode is somehow a threat to the environment... we don't give any specifics, of course, and nevermind that an appliance or electronic device uses only tiny amounts of energy to keep itself on "standby" (I'm assuming this means "off", when the only energy it consumes is that which it requires to keep its digital clocks on time). Somehow it's a threat.

Puh-leeeze.

But Officer...

My name is Kris, and I am a habitual speeder.

There. I've said it.

I love to drive fast. It feels GOOD.

But I can't do that anymore. I got two tickets this year, after having managed to avoid getting caught for several years. Thanks to the addition of a couple of boneheaded fender-benders, our insurance rates are perilously high, and Rick has threatened to ground me if I don't start behaving myself.

That, and the fact that I inadvertently let my driver's license expire last month, is causing me to rethink my bad habits. In fact, since I'm visiting family in Texas right now, I'm really behaving myself -- I'm letting others do the driving until I can get back to Iowa and get my license renewed. Let's not take any more chances, hmm?

However, I really do sympathize with the gentleman in this article. My favorite quote from the article:

Rusko expressed remorse over the incident, adding that his car "has great acceleration."


I'm with you, Rusko.

Educational Time Waster

The first few can be a little tricky, especially if it's a landlocked state. But give this a try and see how good you are at U.S. geography...

Place The State

Have fun!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Happy Birthday to my daughter Alice

I didn't get to blog yesterday because I was traveling between Des Moines, Iowa and Paris, Texas... but I did want to announce that my beautiful daughter Alice turned nine years old yesterday. She is my middle child (Martha is 10, Isaac is 5) and is a literal angel. She joined our family when she was 20 months old; she was born in Seoul, South Korea. She suffered some kind of traumatic brain injury when she was about 11 months old and has some significant physical, developmental and learning issues as a result... but I cannot possibly imagine life without her.

Back in the mid-90s, when my husband and I moved to Iowa from Texas, we had a two-year-old daughter who we had adopted at birth. We wanted to do it again, so we began the application process to adopt internationally through Holt International Children's Services. We were dirt-poor, but we really did believe that God wanted us to go ahead with this. We were able to come up with the initial application fee, and began filling out the forms. One of the forms was distressing to me, however -- it was a checklist of disabilities and/or birth defects that we would be willing to accept in a child. Now, this is standard for adoption agencies, I'm sure, but what bothered me was that I couldn't bring myself to say "no" to any of these. Some of them were particularly frightening to me, but I knew that if God had given us a child by birth with any of these issues, I wouldn't turn Him down. I sat on the application for several days, praying and stewing. Finally I talked to Rick about it and shared my dilemma with him. He completely agreed with me. So we sent the application in as it was, indicating that we'd accept anything on the list... and then we took a deep breath.

I found out later that the agency had called one of our reference families (a family who was already in the adoption process themselves and who knew us very well) to ask if we were "for real" concerning this. My friend assured them that we were.

The one hold-up? We didn't have the $900 it would cost to process our home study. Rick and I don't really "do" debt, per se, and believed that if God wanted us to have a child, the money would arrive. It always did, for things like that, and so we told the agency to hang onto our application indefinitely until God provided the next sum of money.

A few months later, the agency called us. Apparently they had a little girl, about a year and a half old, from Korea. She was already in the U.S. and her placement hadn't worked out, so she was in a foster home here and awaiting a new placement. Her health was unclear, but her MRI scans looked daunting and there would be no guarantees that she would ever be able to walk, talk, learn, etc. If we'd please take her medical records with us to a pediatrician and discuss her future and our ability to care for her, would we consider adopting her?

Rick and I told them that of course we would, but that we still didn't have the fee they required.

They waived everything. This little girl needed a home, and soon.

Within a month, after we had visited her a few times in her foster home nearby, we brought her home for good.

She was three before she walked, but she DID walk. Now she can even RUN. Okay, it's a little lopsided, but by golly, she can do it.

She was also three before she could talk, but with the help of the most diligent speech pathologist I've ever known, she can now speak with complete clarity.

She's learned to read... slowly... and she's working hard to learn to write.

The most amazing thing about Alice is her nature, her temperament. She is sunshine personified... no-one who meets her is ever the same. At church, she specifically seeks out people who are visiting or are new, and she speaks to them and offers to show them a place to sit. She seems to sense when someone needs encouragement, and she pats their hand or smiles and talks to them.

My little girl is a very gentle soul. She's nine, and she may never be older than that inside, but if I had to have a child who lived with me for her entire life, I would want it to be her.

Thanks, God. You knew what you were doing... as usual. : )

Free Cell Addicts, Anonymous

I finally pried my dad from the chair so I could blog. Can anyone advise me as to doing some kind of intervention for Free Cell addiction? He's hardcore.

Teaching Creationism

Dean Esmay has a very interesting line of discussion going on re: teaching the "intelligent design" theory alongside the "evolution" one. My husband Rick has done quite a bit of reading on this subject and we discuss it from time to time. Anyway, I thought that Esmay (who happens to be an atheist but doesn't let that get in the way of actually discussing ideas) had some very good points. One quote I particularly liked, regarding the way that the "evolutionists" seem to be afraid to face the music and actually listen to other options:

Here's Esmay's Maxim, which I've just made up on the spot: any scientific theory, no matter how well-founded or widely accepted, which cannot stand up on its own two legs and face questioning from a young mind without running like a scared puppy to the courts for protection deserves all the kicking around it can get.


Ouch! said the evolutionists.

Please go read this -- it's a valid argument.

Happy Sunday Morning!!

Yes, I'm skipping church today. Actually, I'm about six hundred miles away from my church. I spent yesterday with my mom and my aunt, who drove up from Texas to bring me and my kids back with them for Christmas. Rick will come later in the week, after he's off work.

Today I am in Paris, Texas... home of that cool Eiffel Tower With Cowboy Hat thing that you see on the "I've Been Everywhere" Johnny Cash hotel commercial. Yes, it's a leetle embarrassing to say I went to high school in Paris because it sounds like I'm French. Eww!

I always lose my brain when I get back to my mom & dad's house. I try hard not to, but almost the instant I walk through the door, I'm transported back in time and I become incapable of stringing together coherent thoughts. Okay, I'm weird. I freely admit this.

I went for a whole day without FOX News as well, and I'm feeling a bit out of the loop. Now that my dad's got a nice new Dell, I think I'll go see what Drudge is saying today. Be back shortly.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson

VDH has a new essay out today: Cracked Icons: Why the Left Has Lost Credibility

If the moralizing Left wants to be taken seriously, it is going have to become serious about its own moral issues, since that is the professed currency of contemporary liberalism. Otherwise, the spiritual leaders who lecture us all on social justice, poverty, and truth will remain the money-speculator George Soros, the Reverend Jesse Jackson of dubious personal and professional ethics, and the mythographer Michael Moore. And we all know where that leads...


I have often marveled at the utter hypocrisy of the Left. VDH skewers it yet again, in his inimitable style. Plus, I always appreciate the irony of the use "Saddamite" to refer to Hussein's toadies.

The Heart of America

Blackfive got a letter from a gunnery sergeant in Iraq, and it is too good not to pass along:

Just wanted to write to you and tell you another story about an experience we had over here.

As you know, I asked for toys for the Iraqi children over here and several people (Americans that support us) sent them over by the box. On each patrol we take through the city, we take as many toys as will fit in our pockets and hand them out as we can. The kids take the toys and run to show them off as if they were worth a million bucks. We are as friendly as we can be to everyone we see, but especially so with the kids. Most of them don't have any idea what is going on and are completely innocent in all of this.

On one such patrol, our lead security vehicle stopped in the middle of the street. This is not normal and is very unsafe, so the following vehicles began to inquire over the radio. The lead vehicle reported a little girl sitting in the road and said she just would not budge. The command vehicle told the lead to simply go around her and to be kind as they did. The street was wide enough to allow this maneuver and so they waved to her as they drove around.

As the vehicles went around her, I soon saw her sitting there and in her arms she was clutching a little bear that we had handed her a few patrols back. Feeling an immediate connection to the girl, I radioed that we were going to stop. The rest of the convoy paused and I got out the make sure she was OK. The little girl looked scared and concerned, but there was a warmth in her eyes toward me. As I knelt down to talk to her, she moved over and pointed to a mine in the road.

Immediately a cordon was set as the Marine convoy assumed a defensive posture around the site. The mine was destroyed in place.

It was the heart of an American that sent that toy. It was the heart of an American that gave that toy to that little girl. It was the heart of an American that protected that convoy from that mine. Sure, she was a little Iraqi girl and she had no knowledge of purple mountain's majesty or fruited plains. It was a heart of acceptance, of tolerance, of peace and grace, even through the inconveniences of conflict that saved that convoy from hitting that mine. Those attributes are what keep Americans hearts beating. She may have no affiliation at all with the United States, but she knows what it is to be brave and if we can continue to support her and her new government, she will know what it is to be free. Isn't that what Americans are, the free and the brave?

If you sent over a toy or a Marine (US Service member) you took part in this. You are a reason that Iraq has to believe in a better future. Thank you so much for supporting us and for supporting our cause over here.

Semper Fi,
Mark
GySgt / USMC

Carnival of the Recipes!!!

Yay, it's Friday, and time once again for the Carnival of the Recipes! This week it's hosted by my dear little blogmommy, SarahK. I made it in again, with the two recipes I posted earlier this week.

SarahK's Shrimp Jambalaya recipe sounds reeeeeally good, as do lots of the others listed. Plus, she's done it in a Harry Potter Sorting-Hat poem style. Show-off. heh

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Memo to prospective college freshmen...

Considering the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point? Might want to consider your other options if you're a conservative thinker. John Hawkins at RightWingNews has uncovered a faculty member there who's perfectly comfortable advocating mass slaughter of Republicans.

What Could Be More Funny Than Going On A Republican Killing Spree?

You ready for a little humor folks? Well, prepare yourself for the comedy stylings of Pat Rothfuss, a teacher at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Make sure you're not sitting down so you can keel over with laughter as you read this...

"Pat Rothfuss, a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point faculty member, has been writing his sarcastic, satirical column in UWSP's student newspaper for years.

He started "Your College Survival Guide" while still a UWSP student, continued writing while away at graduate school and has kept up the column since becoming an associate lecturer of English.

The column, which Rothfuss pens under his own name and describes as "about 80 percent stupid humor," is an outlet for an almost fictionalized, crazed version of himself as the perpetual student, he said. Irreverent advice from past columns, which are published in The Pointer, UWSP's student newspaper, has included everything from corporate America to voodoo and prostitution.

But a group of students from the UWSP College Republicans organization wasn't laughing Nov. 4 when a post-election Rothfuss column included phrases like "punching smug-looking Republicans in the mouth" and "key every car you see with a Bush bumper sticker." The column's premise was that Rothfuss was drunk while writing to himself, and it suggested, "why don't you go on a killing spree? I pet you can take out fixteen for sisteen republicans beofre they gun you down. Duke, youd' be like a heroe."


Ha, ha, ha, going on a "a killing spree," "punching smug-looking Republicans," and keying cars with "Bush bumper sticker(s)," oh the HILARITY! If you look at his actual column, you'll see that he not only calls the people who voted for Bush "retarded," he also refers to America as a "pitiufl deluded sh*thol of a country". Is this guy funnier than Carrot Top or what (wait, don't answer that). Someone call Showtime at the Apollo, I think they have a headliner for next week.

Of course, the mirthless College Republicans at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point didn't understand the comedic genius of Pat Rothfuss and complained, but they got nowhere....

"The issue isn't Rothfuss' right to free speech, some College Republicans have said, but rather the appropriateness of a faculty member making such statements. Conservative or Republican students might feel uncomfortable or intimidated expressing their opinions in Rothfuss' classes, said College Republican Josh Schroeder.

"I understood that he wasn't being serious," Schroeder said. "But I also feel that if someone with a conservative point of view would have said anything half as incredulous in a satire article, ... we would have had the book thrown at us."

But Rothfuss maintains that his teaching persona and column-writing persona should be kept separate. He refused to apologize for the incident, a request made but then retracted by organization vice president Aaron Michels. Michels wrote a response to Rothfuss' column - minus the original apology request - in a letter to the editor published in The Pointer. Rothfuss also attended a College Republicans meeting to discuss the issue."

Come on you College Republicans, you're being too sensitive. Why, if you'd written a "comedy piece" that suggested keying the cars of faculty members, punching them in the mouth, and shooting 15 or 16 of them, why I'm sure they wouldn't have immediately expelled you, they would have just laughed and laughed and laughed!

But, you know what's going to be really funny? Right Wing News is a pretty good sized website and I'm sure there will be more than a few links to this post. Fast forward a month or two and when people do a search for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, you know like Republican Alumni who are thinking about donating or Republican parents who are wondering where to send their kids, this post should be fairly close to the top.

That means those Republicans will learn that members of the faculty publicly joke about murdering people like them and that's apparently A-OK at UWSP! Personally, I expect that some of those folks may consider another school or place to send their money, perhaps one where the teachers don't consider America to be a "pitiufl deluded sh*thol of a country". Now that's my idea of funny...


Mine too, John.

Two more days left...

Christmas vacation is looming large! One part of me is hugely excited about being out for two weeks -- I need the sleep, for one thing. But I'm not quite ready, and I wish I could just freeze Time for about a week so I could catch up.

Today there were a collection of nice scented candles in my Inbox from my secret Santa person. For my recipient, I bought a small container of a substance called "Martian Mud"... looks like psychedelic slime, to be truthful, but it's very cool. Tomorrow is the "reveal" day, when I find out who my person is. I think I already know, but we shall see tomorrow. I hope that my recipient doesn't think I'm a total weirdo! heh I suppose it's okay if she does, because I sort-of AM a weirdo.

This week my students have been nearly intractable. Many of them are actually TRYING to get suspended so they can have a longer break. There are no consequences at home for a good number of them... it doesn't matter and they don't care. How do you teach someone to care? One bright spot in the day -- there was a planned tornado drill, and that's been postponed. I hate drills. I know they're helpful, but they are such a disruption.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Today's Secret Santa Gift

Today I gave my recipient one of those Yankee Candle CarJar scent thingys that you hang from your rear-view mirror. The scent is "Clean Cotton."

I received: a giant solid Hershey kiss. : )

Ocean's Twelve

Fun movie! There were several laugh-out-loud moments. A slick and surprising heist movie, as usual. The twist at the end is priceless.

My one complaint: Camera angle issues. Several of them were disorienting and even nausea-inducing. Of course, I'm a little more sensitive than the average schmo, I suppose -- I can't bear to go to an IMAX theater because I get motion sickness. Anytime a movie has one of those shots from the front of a flying airplane, I have to close my eyes or look away. Anyway... one of the shots in Ocean's Twelve was literally sideways. The camera watches a plane coming in for a landing, but it does it completely on its side. I felt ill, and it looked as though the plane was coming in for a crash rather than a landing.

Another time, the camera does one of those fast zoom-ins on each of the eleven, individually. Again, I had to look away.

All in all, though, a delightfully twisty and entertaining flick. If you liked the first one, you'll like the second one, too.

Time Waster

Shake up this snow globe for a few laughs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Late night plans

Tonight, Rick is home. He had some vacation time that would disappear if he didn't take it now, so he's taking it. I'm taking advantage of his being home, and I'm going out to see Ocean's Twelve. I took an afternoon nap so I wouldn't be too sleepy. I'll give you a review when I get back home (if I'm not already asleep).

Still working on my racehorse painting. I'm not happy with the grade of paper I chose, but a full sheet of watercolor paper is rather expensive, especially if you choose the good stuff. I think I'll bite the bullet next time and go ahead and invest in decent paper. This is 90-lb paper, and it's so thin that it buckles up. I don't like that! The 300-lb stuff is the best, but a full sheet can be $30-40. Ouch! But it doesn't buckle up, and it takes paint perfectly. The best brand is Arches, but I think it's made in France, and I have a personal aversion to French-made products. So it's Canson for me.

Mulled Apple Cider

'Tis the season for mulled apple cider... here's a great recipe for it:

2 qt. bottle of apple cider (not the unfiltered stuff for this, please)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
8 allspice berries
4 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
12 whole cloves
1 large orange
1 8-in square of double-thick cheesecloth, rinsed in water and squeezed out

Combine apple cider and brown sugar in slow cooker. Wrap allspice berries and cinnamon stick halves in cheesecloth; tie securely with cotton string. Stick cloves randomly into the orange and cut the orange into quarters. Place spice bag and orange quarters into the juice mixture. Cover and cook on high 2.5 to 3 hours. Once cooked, cider may be turned to low and kept warm up to three additional hours. Discard spice bag and orange quarters. Ladle cider into mugs and garnish with additional cinnamon sticks, if desired.

Poor Man's BBQ

This recipe will sound a leetle strange, but trust me -- it's VERY good.

Get a cheap roast, about 3 - 5 lbs. Put it in the crock pot and add:

1 can of Coca-Cola
1 16-oz bottle of ketchup

Cook for 6-8 hours on low. The house will smell amazing, and it makes really good BBQ sandwiches.

Currently on the drawing board...

I'm working on the largest watercolor I've ever attempted; it's using a full sheet of watercolor paper, and it's of a racehorse. No horse in particular, just a generic horse with a jockey. It's a commissioned work for my dad; he wants to give it to his best friend who loves horse racing. I'm pretty close to done with it, and I hope to get quite a bit further with it tonight. I'm a little picky and perfectionistic about my work, so it's a little slow going.

I had to put it on hold while I was working on all those Christmas cards, but now that they're done, I could get back to it. I also just finished a smaller one for Kevin (SirKisser of the wickedly funny parody of SarahK's site, mountaineer musing) and mailed it off yesterday. He's at the North Pole right now, attempting to strike a deal with Santa regarding the high volume of coal headed for his house this Christmas Eve. I owe him a lot of thanks for the time he's put into making this blog look so nice.

Fox & Friends

Okay, who is the guy who subbed for Brian Kilmeade today? His first name is Mike, and let me just say that I am not impressed with this guy. Every time he is on, he's like a lewd loose cannon. He was incredibly rude to Kiran Chetry a couple of weeks ago (told her ON THE AIR that her shirt looked like lingerie) and this morning, when I was e-mailing back and forth with SarahK of mountaineer musings and she said he talked about a woman who's leaving the TV show Law & Order and actually said "I'd do it with her." That is just disgusting. And he borders on that kind of talk every time I've ever seen him on there.

I don't normally find the need to write to TV networks, but this guy is beyond the pale. FOXNews is king of the cable news realm; they certainly don't need to put up with lousy talent like him.

Today's Secret Santa Gift

Today, my Secret Santa recipient got a little rings puzzle that you can make different shapes with. It seemed out of the ordinary, and it wasn't expensive, so I thought what the heck -- be different.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Today's Secret Santa Gift

This week at school is our Secret Santa week... each of us teachers who wanted to participate put our names in a hat and drew out the name of another teacher who will receive anonymous gifts from us. Today's Secret Santa gift for my co-worker:

Stam Chocolate

There are three Chocolaterie Stam stores here in the Des Moines area... the rest of their stores are in Holland. This chocolate is like the Platonic Ideal of chocolate... I can be placated by lesser forms of chocolate-ish candy from time to time, but there is no comparison to Stam.

The girl on the Stam homepage is an eighth-grader who will be going to my high-school next year, believe it or not.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Survivor: Vanuatu

Watching the finals right now... I would've laid odds a while back that Scout would walk away with it, just because she stayed under the radar pretty much the entire time. However, Chris won immunity and I knew that it was over for Scout at that point. He wasn't going to vote Twila off because there was no WAY the rest of the tribe would vote for him over Scout. Now it's interesting to me the verbal gymnastics that both Chris and Twila are doing to get people to vote their direction for the final.

I think I'd do pretty well at Survivor, actually... but I won't be signing up for it! I wouldn't want a TV camera following me around that much. Plus, I don't like being around calculating people, and that is a LONG time to live with a whole passel of calculating people.

Sunday stuff

Worship this morning went well. I arrived in the building quite early, mainly because I was ready and didn't want to sit around the house when I could possibly be rehearsing a little bit. The stage area was set up for the children's choir musical, unfortunately, and the person who played the piano accompaniment for them was one of the sit-down kind of keyboard players. I'm a stand-up person, myself... so I was feeling a little extra-short. I'm only five feet tall as it is, so any height I can gain is nice. It's no fun when you have to sit down. Plus I don't get as much forearm impulsion when I'm sitting. AND... the best reason of all for those of us who can't be still... when you stand up, you have a built-in excuse to move around a bit.

Okay, I'm headed off to visit my friend who's locked up in a drug treatment program; he has visiting hours this afternoon. It makes me ill to think of the wasted lives of these young people who get hooked on methamphetamines. It's a vile substance and it does vile things to the body. And people can't seem to quit doing the crap.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Does this mean I get to kiss Orlando Bloom?

I took one of those goofy online quizzes, this one to find out which literature classic I am. The results?

Lord of the rings
J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. You are
entertaining and imaginative, creating whole
new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you
have a whole league of imitators, none of which
is quite as profound as you are. Stories and
songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your
eternal battle with the forces of evil.


Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Now playing...

Kreyol Chante Kreyol Konprann Bib La

No, you can't buy a copy anywhere, but I'd be glad to burn you one. It's the collection of Haitian story songs that have emerged from the project I've been involved with in rural Haiti. Very cool stuff.

The Agony of DeFeet

I've been shopping all afternoon and BOY are my legs KILLIN' me... too much mall walkin'. And I didn't even get myself an Orange Julius as a reward...

Friday, December 10, 2004

Yummmmm...

I just brought home some takeout from the India Star cafe. Super-spicy vindaloo, sag paneer, and nan bread... now I think I'm just about as happy as I could be. : )

My first foray into Indian food came as a result of watching Red Dwarf re-runs on the Dallas PBS station late at night. I've always loved the Britcoms, and I've also been a sci-fi fan for as long as I can remember. So Red Dwarf was the perfect combination of both. One of the main characters, Dave Lister, is a loveable slob who fantasizes about curry dishes. He once laments that he'd never had a prawn vindaloo... well, when I heard that, my interest was piqued. I had no idea what that was, but I took a chance and guessed that it was Indian. I hunted around (pre-internet) and found a recipe for the vindaloo paste, but it was a little too labor-intensive. Then once I went into an Indian grocery store in north Dallas and -- lo and behold -- a jar of Vindaloo Paste sat on the shelf. I was ecstatic and bought it immediately. We tried it with chicken and thought it was divine, and we've been hooked ever since.

And, of course, we own Red Dwarf episodes on DVD now, so we can enjoy them whenever we like. If you ever need some seriously lowbrow sci-fi comedy, check it out.

Nice way to end the week...

There's major gang violence among some rival Mexican factions going on right now; a major fight is about to break out, and all the teachers have been notified to monitor the halls immediately following the last bell. The basketball game tonight has been cancelled.

I love teaching in the 'hood.

Actually, I really do. I actually have a chance to make a difference with a few. Pray that I can.

UPDATE: Everything went calmly after school. I noticed a plain-clothes officer on patrol in the lobby, and lots of teachers and staff out walking around. I hope they can all keep themselves under control tonight and this weekend, but I fear there will be reprisals for the murder earlier this week of a gang leader. [sigh]

Consummatum est

It is FRIDAY and the last bell is about to ring. Can I be any happier? Well, let me see... okay, the only thing that would make me happier is a plate of prawn vindaloo with a side of sag paneer and some basmati rice.

I think I'm gonna hafta call the Indian restaurant for takeout tonight. I just flung a cravin' on myself.

Carnival of the Recipes!!!

The Seventeenth Carnival of the Recipes is up at Marybeth's place. Check it out!!!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

All done!!!

Phew... all my Christmas cards are sealed and addressed. I'm going to let Rick stamp them and put them in the mail tomorrow. I did decide to put together a small update insert with color photos of the kids. I already had one of Martha that I wanted to use, but decided to get ones of Alice & Isaac tonight. Alice smiled primly, as per usual. Then Isaac hopped onto the couch and grinned, and just as I began to snap the picture, he shot me the "rock-n-roll" hand symbol. Little stinker. This is the same young man who was winking in the all-family photo at my cousin's wedding this past summer, when he was one of the ringbearers. Reminds me of that old Calvin & Hobbes cartoon; there were always issues any time his mom took him to get a studio picture, and he would always end up making some contorted facial expression. Anyway, I could've taken another photo of him, but something about it just seemed to capture his personality, so I kept it.

Did you know...

Did you know that you are not an accident? Not only are you not an accident, you were created because God wanted to create you. His motive for creating you was LOVE.

Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love. Ephesians 1:4


I just wanted you to know.

AWANAs are cool!!

I am thrilled -- THRILLED -- with the AWANA program so far. All three of the kids are involved in it, and it's our first time to participate. The church I'm attending provides this for children on Wednesday evenings, and it's one of the first reasons I chose to attend this church in the first place. Now Martha, my ten year old who is a reluctant learner, has really taken to the program and is constantly reading and memorizing the verses and concepts. It's fun to watch, because I have learned that with Martha, there is absolutely no way I would be able to force her to learn it. If she's ever going to learn something, it'll be because she wants to, and that's the simple truth. I am thankful that she seems to want to learn this.

I've also been extremely impressed with the youth group program at this church. The youth are very active and seem to be on the right track spiritually. I know that Martha isn't going to be in the "children's" section much longer, and I want her to be surrounded by a youth group that's on fire spiritually, not lukewarm or boring because neither of those is an accurate description of an active Christian life.

Besides AWANA, last night was also the second meeting for my adult small group. I am feeling better and better about things; I was able to point-blank ask some questions of the leader about the group dynamics among the church leadership and I got a decent, honest answer that I'm satisfied with. No political doublespeak, no hemhawing or deferring... completely refreshing and not at all what I've been accustomed to. I guess I'm just shell-shocked, so to speak, and God brought me to this church to relax and begin letting down the walls I've built around myself for so long. I *so* want that to be true.

Good Report

I spoke to my son's kindergarten teacher this afternoon, and she spoke in glowing terms about his progress in the past few weeks. He's a young kindergartener, having just turned five in August, but he's zipping ahead with his reading and math. He had trouble staying focused early on in the year, but apparently he's right on target now. She also said that he is a favorite among the entire school staff... this morning, he brought a Lunchables instead of eating the school lunch, and apparently one of the cafeteria ladies saw him bring it in and made a special point of going to get it and put it in the refrigerator until lunchtime. Oy!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Dude!

The linguistic origins and uses of the word "dude"... this article caught my eye today and I thought you might enjoy it. I use this word all the time with my son, but maybe I should stop because, according to the article, it connotes a friendly but not intimate relationship.

Peppy Patooti, y'all!!

RightWingDuck takes a humorous jab at the anti-Christmas PC crowd.

I can just see the next parade now.

Two spectators talking:

"Wow, what a parade. This is the best Kwanzaa ever! What do YOU celebrate?"

"I celebrate Patooti."

"I'm sorry, what's that?"

"It's a new Holy Holiday. I just made it up yesterday."

"Hey, man. I respect your tradition! Happy Patooti."

"Actually, you say Peppy Patooti."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you."

"No problem, it's not like you said Merry Christmas."


Read it all... Ducky's got a snarky sense of humor, which is probably why I like his work so much.

Thought for the day

From Rainer Maria Rilke:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.

Bundle of nerves...

I went to music practice last night at church and realized that I was the *only* instrumentalist this week. Apparently the children's choir is singing their Christmas program on Sunday, but it isn't quite long enough to fill up an entire service, so we're having some congregational music beforehand. I was a little bit flustered at being the only one -- don't get me wrong, I've been the only instrumentalist a gazillion times, so it isn't that that freaked me out -- but that I didn't realize I was going to be *it*. Jeff (the worship leader) didn't even bring his guitar along. At least there were two other vocalists to round out the spectrum, so maybe it won't sound too "nekkid". I think I let my discombobulation get the better of me, though. I was really serious and focused, and wasn't able to just let go and have fun. I am totally NOT nervous about doing the music right, though... that's usually something I can quickly and easily give over to God. It's just adjusting my expectations.

Plus, I was still just a wee bit amazed that Jeff would so quickly turn over an entire song set (albeit, a short one) to ME. It shows an amazing amount of trust. I'd like to be able to live up to that! I hope his trust isn't unfounded.

I think, too, that my entry into this church's sphere has been so sudden that I still haven't gotten a good handle on people's personalities. They are all so NICE... I keep waiting for that other shoe to drop. Surely there's something, somewhere, unpleasant about this place! There always has been, everywhere I've ever been. The pastor turns out to be a nincompoop, the worship leader turns out to be a perfectionistic egotist, *something*. It's almost always something that can be lived with, but it's always been there. I'm just so accustomed to being on the "inside" of all the inner workings that it's difficult to be on the outside fringes and just guessing as to all the permutations of staff relationships.

Okay, I'm done over-analyzing, at least for the next few hours while I've got students. I'm sure I'll be back to it before long.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Pearl Harbor Day

Today marks sixty-three years since our naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was attacked by Japanese planes. I was not alive then. My parents weren't even alive then. My grandparents were just fresh-faced Oklahoma teenagers emerging from the Depression, doing chores on their respective family farmsteads.

But I will not forget what happened that day, even though I was not alive to remember it first-hand. You shouldn't forget it, either.

Here are a few links to mark this day:

A Pearl Harbor Timeline

63-Year-Old Echo of Pearl Harbor

His Job Was to Identify Pearl Harbor Dead

None of us should forget the attack on our country back then... it should serve as a continual reminder that there are truly malevolent forces in our world, whose aim is only to destroy us -- not to peacefully co-exist with us, not even to subdue us -- to DESTROY us. They must not prevail.

They must not.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Passionate People

I'm still reading my book, Thriving As An Artist In The Church by Rory Noland. So you guys are going to get quotes from it; if you're not into artistic stuff, please move along -- nothing to see here! hehe

Many of us in the church have been bogged down by pressures or perfectionism for so long we don't even realize that the passion and joy of our ministry and our art have left us. If you're digging down deep these days for motivation, meaning, or joy and yet feeling like nothing is there, it's time for you to get your passion back.

Artists are, by nature, passionate people. Our feelings run deep and we tend to wear them on our sleeves. Living a life of passion, however, is more than just feeling deeply. Romans 12:11 commands us to "never be lackign in zeal." God wouldn't expect us to never be lacking in something that fully depended on whether or not we felt like it. Passion is not an emotion we should have to work up. It stems from a dedication to live the adventure God has for us and te experience the deep riches of the inner life.

Live the Adventure God Has Planned for You to Live

If you're just going through the motions as a Christian or as an artist, you're missing out on the adventure God means for you to live. Everyone needs adventure. That's why we're all fascinated by heroes and celebrities. They're doing something dramatic and thrilling with their lives...

Don't believe for a second that Christians are not allowed or are above needing adventure. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says that "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." God never intended for our lives to be drab and boring. People who try to suppress their desire for adventure easily become restless...

Sadly, people who deny their need for adventure are more likely to turn to artificial stimulants or carnality to satisfy their longings. Addictions to alcohol or pornography typically start off as attempts to dispel boredom. A college student told me the other day that he and his friends are thinking of "chucking the whole Christianity thing because it doesn't work." They had given up sex, smoking, drinking, and swearing and now felt like they were missing out on all the fun that's supposedly associated with doing those types of things. They were missing out, all right. This group of young people had never replaced the misadventures of their old lives with the scintillating adventures of their new lives in Christ. They talked about their Christianity with so little passion because for them, it lacked excitement, meaning and adventure.

The Christian life should never be reduced to a stodgy set of rules and regulations. Rather, it is a stimulating adventure that the Lord invites us into. Whether you're young or old, male or female, rich or poor, God has adventures tailor-made to suit your personality and temperament.

Rory Noland, Thriving As An Artist In The Church


I was feeling horribly bogged down just a few months ago, and I know now it was because there was an eternal sameness about my ministry -- a "settling" of things into a "this is how it's going to be FOREVER" sort of feeling. I had visions and passions, and they were squashed and inhibited by many things... one of the main things being leaders I didn't trust or respect as people. I don't think that in this case it was a matter of not wanting to afford them authority... I will gladly and even doggedly support a leader I believe is honest, authentic, and has integrity. Anyway, it was clearly time to go.

There's nothing like stepping out of the wagon ruts and striking off into uncharted territory (at God's behest) to renew one's passion and delight.

Yesterday, I wasn't on the schedule to play or sing, so I sat in the congregation for worship. I enjoyed it so much, even though I wasn't part of the production-end... it was --yes-- passionate, and excellent, and a pure delight.

I don't know the other members of the worship team well enough yet, but I yearn to be an integral part in this ministry. I'd like to come alongside them... I have no desire to be a "centerpiece", but rather an under-girding helper to encourage these people and unite my passion with theirs.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Done!!!

I finished the last of my watercolor Christmas cards today... I hope. I think I made forty of them. I know there are a few more than that on our Christmas list, but I think I may pare that list down significantly this year. I have some new ones to add (SarahK gets one this year!), and quite a few to drop for one reason or another. If I absolutely have to, I can make more cards.

Now to get down to addressing them... I think this may be the first year I don't make an elaborate "family newsletter" thingy. Maybe I should make a very short one to stick inside the card. I'll ponder that one.

Right now I've got to get some sleep. The rat-race routine starts all over again tomorrow morning, bright and early.

To all you artists out there...

A word from Rory Noland:

My fellow artists, whether you realize it or not, you need your art. Your skill level is not important. For most of us, playing our instruments, singing, writing, painting or creating is like therapy. When David wrote, "My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." (Psalm 84:2), he was using music to express the depths of his soul. As it was with David, our art can be cathartic. It can help us sort out our deepest thoughts and feelings, and it is critical for our spiritual health and well-being. It can sustain us through struggles and hardship...

I recently toured Buchenwald, the former Nazi concentration camp outside Weimar, Germany. It was a sobering experience. Take all the atrocities you've ever heard about what went on in those concentration camps, and multiply it by a thousand to get a sense of the depth of evil that pervaded these camps.

Before the tours, everyone watches a video that features WWII survivors talking about their experience while interned at Buchenwald. One of them mentioned that on Sunday afternoons the prisoners would gather together, recite poetry to one another, share their drawings, and sing. I quickly pictured them reading their poems or singing in hushed tones so as not to be overheard by the guards. I imagined them sharing their crude pictures made with makeshift pencils and paper. With their lives hanging in the balance, these desperate people turned to their arts as a source of strength and comfort. The quality of the art didn't matter, but the pursuit of art preserved their sanity and gave them hope in a disparagingly insane world. Hearing how the inmates at Buchenwald drew courage from their arts made me extremely proud to be an artist.

If you've put your talent on hold for one reason or another, I invite you to take it up again, if for no other reason than the fact that you need your art.

--Rory Noland, Thriving As An Artist In The Church


I've been reading this book, published in October of this year. It's a great follow-up to his Heart of the Artist, written back in 1999. That book was one of the pieces of my personal puzzle that helped the rest of my fragments begin to fit together.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Now playing...

A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. There's something deeply satisfying about Guaraldi's piano jazz... partially because it's interwoven into my childhood memories through the Peanuts specials... and partially because I'm a pianist myself and I recognize the intricacies and humor and delight that exude from each number on this CD. Beautiful, significant work. If you don't own this CD, you should.

An observation

One of my main life philosophies: keep your mouth closed, and everyone thinks you're brilliant.

This morning was the Ladies' Christmas Tea luncheon-thingy, which I was to provide light Christmas music for (as well as accompaniment for a few singalong Christmas carols). There were probably about a hundred women there. Each table of 8 was decorated by a separate person, so they were rather festive and nicely done. I sat at one where there was one woman I'd met before, just to be sure I wasn't totally in the dark here. A conversation was struck up by a woman who was commenting that her son had enlisted in the military and was going to Iraq soon. She revealed her ambivalence about it because she'd always been an anti-war, 60s peace-child liberal, and she didn't know where she'd gone wrong. (!!) I kept my mouth shut and just listened intently; several at the table were of the same ilk -- quotes like "The Vietnam war was wrong and I knew it then, and every war since then has been wrong too" or other sorts of statements. The woman I already knew was sitting beside me, and I murmured to her that if I were 18 right now, I'd probably join up, too. She nodded her head quietly and said that she would, too. I am just the kind of person who likes to live things out to the Nth degree rather than talk about them or hold back fearfully. Stuff needs doin', and if I can do it, I'd like to try. I'm too old, too fat, and I'm a mom ... all three of which put me into a stage of life which prohibits that sort of commitment. But I wholeheartedly believe in our cause over there and in the necessity of a global war on Islamic fundamentalist suicidalist nincompoops... and whatever I could possibly do, I would.

Anyway, I never really got a chance to speak up, but that's okay. Sometimes it pays to observe quietly.

An opinion for every post-it note

Found on a Post-It Note in the kitchen just now:

"I like pnut butr and bunanu for luch."

Friday, December 03, 2004

My son, the novelist

Now my five year old son Isaac has begun his first novel. Untitled as of yet, it's an illustrated tale of sharks. Back that up -- he has announced that the title is Fish and Sharks.

Speeding Excuses

Tee hee... just read this on SkyNews:

Top Ten Speeding Excuses

The 10 most elaborate excuses given by drivers [in the UK] caught by speed cameras were:

:: I had passed out after seeing flashing lights in the distance, which I believed to be UFOs. The flash of the camera brought me round from my trance.

:: I was in the airport's flight path, and I believe the camera was triggered by a jet overhead, not my car.

:: I had a severe bout of diarrhoea and had to speed to a public toilet.

:: There was a strong wind behind my car which pushed me over the limit.

:: My friend had just chopped his own fingers off, and I was rushing the digits to hospital.

:: The vibrations from the surfboard I had on the roof rack set off the camera.

:: I had to rush my dying hamster to the vets.

:: A violent sneeze caused a chain reaction where my foot pushed down harder on the accelerator.

:: There was a suspected case of foot and mouth and I had to rush to see the cow concerned.

:: The only way I could demonstrate that my clutch was faulty was to accelerate madly.


I've got to keep this list in my car for the next time I get pulled over... heh

Non Sum Pisces

Okay, so TTLB says I'm a fish. A "flippery fish", no less! It's nice to evolve up the blogging ecosystem, although I'm not sure how much of a leap it was to move from a Slimy Mollusc to a Flippery Fish. I have you all to thank for it, however... you delightful people who stop by to read my blather. I don't know if I'll stay there; that depends on whether you who stop in decide to keep visiting and bring your friends along.

Actually, I have SarahK to thank for it, since she linked to my anniversary post yesterday. She's such a nice blogmom... sending me all kinds of lovely traffic.

Tomorrow morning I do not get to sleep in... waaah! That Christmas Ladies' Tea is tomorrow. I'm sure it will be lovely. I'm well-versed on "cleaning up and behaving myself", since I've been a ministry wife for 14 years now. heh Actually, it's great being the musician, because I get stuck at the keyboard or piano and don't *have* to talk to anyone unless I choose to. It's a convenient position for me, being something of an introvert. I get to observe people's interactions rather than actually participate actively in them. Watching and listening to other people gives me vital clues to understand my surroundings and best acclimate to them.

Today in class we're going to work on some reading comprehension activities, specifically Latin roots. Anything I can do to help these kids catch up, even a little bit. Understanding the roots of words is something I've noticed they don't do well; we have lots of newspaper article reading activities and they don't often grasp the vocabulary words coming out of the articles -- but they'd have an advantage if they knew how to pick up clues based on the Latin roots of words.

Happy news: my little mommy, who had a heart transplant in Dallas in early September, is recovering really nicely. She has a biopsy every couple of weeks to check for tissue rejection, and she has been clean & clear every time so far. They've been able to decrease her dose of prednisone, which I know makes her happy because that stuff makes your face all puffy and weird. My mom is only in her fifties and has always been a very active and busy person... the last seven years have been wrenching for all of us to have to watch a freak disease (sarcoidosis) take her away from us, inch by inch. I will be forever grateful to God for giving her back to me, for however long he chooses to do so.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today my husband Rick and I have been married for fourteen years. And we still like each other. : ) Don't SEE one another much these days -- perhaps that's WHY we still like each other. heh He works from 4 to midnight, while I teach during the day. Lately he has had to work overtime at the plant on weekends as well, so we really don't see one another much. He takes care of getting the kids ready in the mornings and getting them on the school bus, as well as several neighbor children whose parents have to leave early and need a place to hang until the bus comes. He stays home during the day and cleans house (yay!) and organizes things and takes kids to doctor appointments, etc... and when I get home, he leaves for work and I do all the afternoon/evening things like Awanas, music lessons, homework, baths and bed-time stories. Lately my son reads a bed-time story to ME, which delights my soul. Anyway, back to the topic.

Rick and I keep up with one another via our cell phones (unlimited minutes between our phones), and he reads this blog as well. We even call each other whenever Charles Johnson of LGF posts something new and interesting.

I'm hoping someday that we'll see one another again, but for now it's okay. Our relationship is stable, and when this stage of life is past, we'll resume where we left off.

I love you, Rick. Thanks for the past fourteen years, and I look forward to what God has in store for us in the years to come. Always an adventure, hmm?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Who are you?

The Myers-Briggs personality inventory has been around a while, but it is still a valuable tool to acquire self-knowledge. You can function more effectively in the world if you understand your own personal limitations, strengths, propensities and perceptions. I would recommend that everyone take this online version of the Myers-Briggs instrument. I'd be interested to know what you tested out as, and whether you think it's an accurate picture of who you are...

Temperament Sorter

It does require registration, but it's worth the hassle. When I took the test myself, several years ago, it really opened my eyes to who I was, how I was made, and why I did some of the things I did. It "freed" me up, so to speak, to be who God created me to be -- no more and no less -- without feeling like I was somehow inadequate because I didn't do things exactly like someone else told me I should.

I'm an "ISTP", by the way. Keirsey describes that as an Artisan Crafter, meaning that there are four categories (Rationalists, Idealists, Artisans, Guardians) and four separate permutations under each heading to delineate which type you are in that category. Go check it out sometime.

Happiness is...

...explaining square roots and algebraic equations in a way that a kid finally "gets" it.

I like being a teacher.

Must-Read

Hating America by Bruce Bawer. Here's a snippet:

Living in Europe, I gradually came to appreciate American virtues I'd always taken for granted, or even disdained -- among them a lack of self-seriousness, a grasp of irony and self-deprecating humor, a friendly informality with strangers, an unashamed curiosity, an openness to new experience, an innate optimism, a willingness to think for oneself and speak one's mind and question the accepted way of doing things. (One reason why Europeans view Americans as ignorant is that when we don't know something, we're more likely to admit it freely and ask questions.) While Americans, I saw, cherished liberty, Europeans tended to take it for granted or dismiss it as a naive or cynical, and somehow vaguely embarrassing, American fiction. I found myself toting up words that begin with i: individuality, imagination, initiative, inventiveness, independence of mind. Americans, it seemed to me, were more likely to think for themselves and trust their own judgments, and less easily cowed by authorities or bossed around by "experts"; they believed in their own ability to make things better. No wonder so many smart, ambitious young Europeans look for inspiration to the United States, which has a dynamism their own countries lack, and which communicates the idea that life can be an adventure and that there's important, exciting work to be done. Reagan-style "morning in America" cliches may make some of us wince, but they reflect something genuine and valuable in the American air. Europeans may or may not have more of a "sense of history" than Americans do (in fact, in a recent study comparing students' historical knowledge, the results were pretty much a draw), but America has something else that matters -- a belief in the future.

Now Playing...

Peace by Jim Brickman.

Welcome to December!

Happy December!!

I flipped open my cell phone just now, to turn off the ringer for the school day, and the screen had changed -- there were these little Santas up at the top. Cute! I thought it was an awfully nice touch.

I didn't get to practice with the band last night because there was already someone else on the schedule to play this week. I don't want to shove anyone else out of the picture, but I really missed the time nonetheless. I did get the chocolate cake made, and the house smelled incredible. I felt a little bad for Rick, because he has one of those fasting blood tests this morning and he had to come home last night to a house that smelled of chocolate cake. I was pleased that Wal-Mart had avocados that were ripe AND relatively inexpensive... I took it as a clear sign that I was supposed to make guacamole for tonight's group.

Cold and snow for Des Moines this week, according to the forecast. I don't like the cold one bit, but I'm resigned to the inescapability of it, so I just try to ignore it as much as possible. Mom did give me a good suggestion for my cold-feet problem: see, I'm pretty sure the temperature of my feet is directly linked to the outdoor temperature, regardless of the temperature indoors. Even if I wear warm fuzzy house slippers, they're still freezing. But Mom said that sometimes when her feet are just intractably cold, she runs a hot bath and puts her feet into the water for a while. After they've warmed up, she puts on socks AND slippers to insulate them further. I can recommend this method. I only wish I could use it at school.