Friday, March 30, 2012

Google Builds "Self-Driving" Car

I do not want to see this one on the road...

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/no-hands-googles-self-driving-car-brings-blind-into-drivers-seat/

Mary Oberg's Easter Memories

Mary Oberg shares sweet, simple Easter memories in a verse form she's made into a specialty:

http://voices.yahoo.com/childhood-easter-day-11151834.html?cat=42

The Case of Wickard v. Filburn

By Patricia Evans; edited for formatting and clarity by Priscilla King

Repeal ObamaCare & Overturn Wickard v. Filburn!

ObamaCare is a symptom, but the underlying disease is Wickard v. Filburn. Wickard v. Filburn removed all Constitutional limits on Congress. Reversing Wickard will put them back.

What makes that 1942 case -- Wickard v. Filburn -- important today is that it stretched the federal government's power so far that the Obama administration is using it as an argument to claim before today's Supreme Court that it has the legal authority to impose ObamaCare mandates on individuals. - Thomas Sowell
Read more here: http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2012/03/28/back_to_the_future/page/full/
There were several unconstitutional expansions of Congressional limits before 1942, but the Wickard v. Filburn Supreme Court decision was truly the moment that opened the flood gates. See the charts below, "What Wickard Has Wrought." It removed Congressional limits on Congress. The Supreme Court greatly expanded the Constitution’s Commerce Clause creating power for the federal government to regulate all private economic activity, allowing government departments to grow and regulate everything in our lives. Long after the end of the Great Depression and World War II, the treason of the Wickard case over seven decades would metastasize like a cancer in the history of American constitutional jurisprudence, leading inevitably to Obamacare. It has simply taken 70 years for the American people to understand what really happened in 1942. The light bulb went on for many Americans with the passing of Obamacare.
What Wickard Has Wrought
In preparing our Amicus Brief against Obamacare, we wanted to start from the backdrop of what unfettered Congressional authority has done to our country. The results of our research, so far, are even more shocking than I expected. We used government numbers to avoid our sources being dismissed. We checked and rechecked our calculations. We also wanted to show changes from the inception of our country (many economists only go back a few years, maybe a decade, so that the massive increases aren’t noticed). The following charts show some of the impact of the Wickard ruling.

This first chart shows the number of Federal Regulations according to the number of pages needed to print it all. Data is directly from the Federal Register.


Also from data from the Federal Register, the following chart shows the total number of Federal Agencies by year of creation. As several agencies associated with Obamacare are not yet listed on their site, this number will increase greatly if Obamacare is not overturned.



In the chart below you’ll see that in 1940, the Federal government spent $72 per American. Today it spends $11,194 per American. Before 1942, local and state governments controlled most issues. After 1942, the Federal government began to get involved in nearly every issue.


Of course, the more involved the Fed is in regulating activities, the more complicated the tax code becomes. In fact, the tax code is one of the primary methods through which the Fed controls local entities and is a primary source of power for Congress.


With limited income (we can only be taxed so much before the revenue begins to decrease) the Federal government had to turn to debt in order to finance its expanded agenda. Accordingly, the debt limit has increased exponentially over the past 70 years.


It follows naturally that an increase in the credit limit will be met with an increase in total debt. As of 2010, each man, woman and child in the United States carried a debt of $43,819. Today that number is estimated to be $53,723. That is $10,000 in 2 years!


By now you should feel sick. That is how we felt when these numbers came into focus during our research. Reversing Wickard may seem like a drastic step for the Supreme Court to take, but at this point every American must see that how we operate today doesn’t work. It is also not how we were ever intended to work. This is why the Constitution was written to limit the Federal government. Our Founders knew this would happen if the limits didn’t hold.

We must return pre-Wickard limits on Congress. Imagine the instant economic recovery we would enjoy if we did.
Editor's Note: The original e-mail also contained most of Ellis Washington's article, linked below. We recommend reading the whole article:

http://www.wnd.com/2012/03/how-fdrs-supremes-enabled-obamacare/

For more information: The Filburn Foundation has references / links to subsequent cases that cite Wickard v. Filburn as well as information regarding the impact Wickard v. Filburn has our past, present and future.
"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." - Thomas Jefferson Virginia Tea Party Patriots www.virginiateapartypatriots.com Danville Patriots http://danvillepatriots.com/

Bald Barbie for Kids with Cancer

The Mattel company announced that it will be manufacturing a special batch of bald Barbie dolls that won't be sold in stores, but will be offered to children with cancer in hospitals...

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/trending-now/facebook-campaign-inspires-mattel-bald-barbie-kids-cancer-174651179.html

Needless to say, these dolls will come with a line of headwear.

For the children themselves (and for adults with cancer) there's an organization that distributes free patterns, and sometimes teams up with yarn shops to distribute free yarn, to make headwear:

http://www.chemocaps.com/

Patients as well as friends and family have been known to get into making Chemo Caps (and also scarves, shawls, and wigs). The basic Chemo Cap is a snug-fitting, fairly thick, smooth knitted cap, but a full headwear wardrobe can include woven, crocheted, felted, and of course sewn items in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Making caps and head wraps is a great way to learn techniques.

Some of the posher Greensleeves Knits that have and have not been shown here use small amounts of the lovely novelty yarns distributed by one of our favorite city specialty shops...then known as the Needlework Attic, but currently, according to the web page, Knit & Stitch Equals Bliss:

http://knitandstitch.com/

In exchange for one cap made from each skein of these posh and pricey yarns, knitters got to add the rest to our stashes! Not a bad deal. I hope the store's still doing it, at least in autumn...

Whiffy Wheat on Trial in England

By "whiffy" they mean "having an odor," of which a whiff repels aphids. British wheat has been genetically modified to smell unappetizing:

http://junkscience.com/2012/03/30/independent-with-a-positive-pitch-for-biotechnology/

At least three members of this web site are definitely gluten-intolerant, and can't eat even natural wheat. I'm betting that this British "whiffy wheat" will expand the gluten-intolerant community significantly.

It's not fun--I feel sick enough to want to stay home from work every time I eat a bowl of rice into which a trace of wheat flour blew--but at least, if enough people find themselves unable to eat wheat, it'll be easier for us celiacs to get through the ordeal-of-sharing-the-first-meal-with-a-new-acquaintance. I get so tired of telling people what gluten intolerance is and is not, I don't want to meet anybody who didn't learn all this information along with me in the early 1990s.

Should Campus Groups Be Led by Non-Members?

Billy Hallowell reports that, at Vanderbilt University, the demand to let everybody "win" has reached the point where student clubs can be forced to elect leaders who aren't even qualified to be members, or move off campus:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/catholic-group-to-leave-vanderbilt-campus-after-refusing-to-comply-with-non-discrimination-policy/

Was Blake Koch Censored for Political or Religious Expression?

Billy Hallowell's report:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/espn-allegedly-pulls-nascar-ad-over-religious-undertones-on-drivers-web-site/

Blake Koch's web page:

http://www.blakekoch.com/index.php?blog

If he were my son, I'd tell him either to shave his beard or to stay home until it grows in...but since I hate censorship, and especially hate Christian-phobia, I hereby declare this web site a Blake Koch Fan Zone.

Conservation Refugees

Mark Dowie's Conservation Refugees is not a book you can buy from me, or even one I've read. Has anybody out there read it yet? If so, please e-mail salolianigodagewi@yahoo.com. This description sounds interesting...

http://junkscience.com/2012/03/30/william-w-kay-conservation-refugees/

Did Santorum Really Say a Forbidden Word?

Mike Opelka has live video of Rick Santorum sputtering and stuttering. He certainly said something that wasn't what he meant. Was it the forbidden N-word? Was it "nuclear," which fits the context? (The garbled word comes after "anti" in a list.) Was it just a tangled tongue? Listen and vote here:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/internet-goes-nuts-over-santorums-alleged-n-word-slip-but-did-he-really/

Remember, as vice-president, George H.W. Bush once blurted out a remark about his and President Reagan having "had sex...uh, setbacks." Whole (short) books of the malapropisms of Dan Quayle, the mangled sentences of George W. Bush, and the "Hillarious" remarks ascribed to Hillary Rodham Clinton have been published. And if we really paid attention to everything a politician says, is there, or has there ever been, one who hasn't blurted out something that sounded incredibly stupid?

Bad News You Need to Know

I've been saying for years: Never "tell" a computer anything you wouldn't tell your worst enemy. Never "tell" a computer anything you wouldn't tell a convicted felon. Never "tell" a computer anything you wouldn't tell Osama Bin Laden, if he were alive. Because chances are that any or all of those people may get access to what you've posted online.

Liz Klimas shares some recent evidence:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/counterterrorism-czar-says-every-u-s-company-has-been-infiltrated-by-china/

Southwestern Virginia Tea Party

Not being in Abingdon, I'm not a member of the SWVA Tea Party. I'm not sure whether I've received a link to this page and been unable to open it, in the past...but this is the first time I've looked at the official southwestern Virginia Tea Party page:

http://swvateapartyab.org/

Very complicated, lots of graphics--the kind of thing some computers I use can't handle--but lots of informative pages. If you're feeling munificent, you might even be inspired to contribute to the support of this Wordpress site.

This page is especially recommended as reflecting concerns felt by the humans at the Cat Sanctuary:

http://swvateapartyab.org/?p=1419

Tea Party Group: Political Action or Nonprofit?

The difference between political action groups and nonprofit community groups is a technicality, but a judge who's definitely not sympathetic to the Tea Party has used that technicality to hurt a Tea Party group:

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/03/29/Engelbrecht-King-Street-True-The-Vote-IRS#disqus_thread

As several commenters have said, where was this judge during all the complaints of election fraud in 2008? What's the status of ACORN, Judge Dietz?

(Read the Breitbart story if you don't know why this is "women's history." It's a male judge using political power to silence a female activist, Gentle Readers. Where's the feminist outrage?)

Web Demands? Where Are the Comments? Don't Trust Computers

Although the formatting has deteriorated since it was an active blog, here's my idea of what a blog should look like: http://ozarque.livejournal.com. What makes this one such a fun (if time-consuming) blog to read is the online conversation among the commenters, some of whom have discovered each other as e-friends through the comments.

It's discouraging not to see that kind of conversation here. As editor I enter this web page through a "dashboard" page that shows which posts are being read, and in which countries. Sometimes I wonder whether anybody actually likes what they've read. Certainly I miss the (informative, not commercial) links, the stories, even the poetry people share as comments on the Ozarque blog.

(Yes, it's fine to post comments that include links to Wikipedia, Amazon, official government or university information pages, etc., here. What I remove are comments containing unpaid ads for commercial sites. If advertisers don't work with us, as directed here, I don't trust them.)

So it was at least enlightening to receive an e-mail reply to a review of The Dog with the Chip in His Neck I posted earlier this week.

I try to contact authors who have web pages about adding their books to the Books You Can Buy From Me list. Sometimes I don't get through. If you're an author whose book has turned up here, and you've not seen an e-mail from me, please notify salolianigodagewi@yahoo.com.

Here's the message I posted at Andrei Codrescu's web page:

"Belated thanks for "The Dog with the Chip in His Neck." In the course of spring-cleaning I've just replaced and discarded a copy and added it to my online bookstore. For years I'd fantasized about an online bookstore that offers royalty payments to the living authors of secondhand books; now I have one, at http://priscillaking.blogspot.com/2012/03/book-review-dog-with-chip-in-his-neck.html. Author comments are always welcome."

Here's the e-mail reply:

"Priscilla, I tried adding the comment below to your fine review, but I couldn't make my way through the thicket of web demands. Thanks anyway. You can add it yourself if you want. Andrei


Well, what do you know? I get a dollar from someone who reviewed my book intelligently, which is more than I made from the original publisher who pretended to read me and forgot to pay me. Like we used to say in the old commie fiefdom: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." This certainly isn't the case here. Thank you, Priscilla. Andrei Codrescu."



Nice. Now will someone please buy the book online so the nice man will get his dollar. But...what thicket of web demands? I tested the comments system before I posted much here. It seemed to be working. But wait a minute...when I log in, the system recognizes me. I asked an e-friend to post a comment. The system didn't recognize her.

How typical of automated "security" measures this is. Several spammers who've created Google accounts, either for the purpose of marketing businesses that may be real but are trying to cut corners, or for the purpose of venting hate and anger, have posted comments here. The system thus "protects" me from receiving comments from friends and subjects me to comments from trolls.

The lesson to be learned here is that we should never trust software to do any of our thinking for us.

If you would like to post a legitimate comment here and encounter a thicket of web demands, please e-mail Saloli. (E-mails containing commercial links or hate spews will be reported as spam.) The Internet is inherently attractive to people with bad intentions, but we try here to make things easier for people with good intentions.

Lee Hansen Thinks Ahead on Elder Care

Lee Hansen has been thinking ahead, applying the Golden Rule to elder care...

http://voices.yahoo.com/caring-elderly-parent-loved-one-11163396.html

Note particularly the emphasis on self-determination. (I hope our elected officials are reading this.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Original Title: Man Som Hatar Kvinnor

Author: Stieg Larsson

Author memorial web site: http://www.stieglarsson.com/

Translator: Reg Keeland

Publisher: Vintage (English), Norstedts (Swedish)

Date: 2005 (Norstedts), 2008 (Vintage)

Length: 644 pages

ISBN: 0307949486

Quote: "Ninety-two percent of women in Sweden who have been subjected to sexual assault have not reported the most recent violent incident to the police."

Stieg Larsson was a journalist whose primary field of research, during his active career, was neo-Nazi organizations. Shortly before he died, however, he wrote three long blockbuster novels about an odd couple of detectives, the successful yuppie Blomkvist and the punker genius Salander, on the trail of a murderer whose Nazi father taught him to hate and kill women. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is volume one. The theme of these novels is violent woman-hating; section headings provide statistics on hatecrimes against women in Sweden.

What's to say about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? It's been a worldwide bestseller. Other translations available on Amazon have titles that literally translate Larsson's original title ("some men who hated women"). And its popularity says something very nasty about the state of our world....this is one ugly, hateful, gross-out-packed novel.

That Glamour described it as a "sexy, addictive thriller" disturbs me. All the characters do seem to have a lot of sex. Most of the consensual sex involves Blomkvist, who has the unexplained peculiarity of apparently inspiring women of many different ages and backgrounds with identical urges to tear off his shirt. Most of the sex is non-consensual, sadistic, and disgusting. The most detailed sex scene involves Salander, who has been misdiagnosed as autistic and assigned to the care of an evil-minded male guardian. Arguably she's justified in finding at least half a dozen different ways to rape this lousy creep, in one day, but did we really need for the narration of this scene to occupy ten pages?

Yes, of course she has the excuse of abuse (four more pages in this volume, and the guarantee, given the behavior that's caused her to be misdiagnosed as autistic, of revelations of more heinous abuse further back in her past). There again, it's possible for novelists to mention that a thing happened without lingering on every detail.

And yes, studies have shown that, although simply reading or watching pornography does not inevitably create an emotional addiction that eventually craves sadistic violence, reading or watching sadistic pornography does tend to feed an addiction that eventually craves more realistic, sometimes real-life, sadistic violence.

So in a way this trilogy is addictive...to people with very sick minds. And it seems to me that there has to have been a way of drawing attention to the problem without feeding it quite so, well, gluttonously. If Larsson was trying to appeal to people who enjoy detailed sex scenes, couldn't he at least have tried to think of different things for all those women to do with Blomkvist after taking off his shirt, instead of all those graphic rape-murder scenes?

If you want information about the incidence and characteristics of violent crimes, here are some sites that offer more updated information and less gore:

United States generally: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr

Virginia: http://www.vsp.state.va.us/Crime_in_Virginia.shtm

Sweden (for Larsson fans): http://www.scb.se/Pages/List____139369.aspx (Warning: it's awkward. What would you expect? English isn't even their language.)

England and Wales: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/crime-research/hosb1011/

Scotland: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice

Ireland: http://www.crimecouncil.gov.ie/statistics_cri_crime.html

Canada: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/85-002-x2007005-eng.pdf (Warning: I think PDF is short for "Page Displays Fail")

Australia: http://www.abs.gov.au/

Trinidad & Tobago: http://cso.gov.tt/home

India: http://indiafacts.in/statistics/crime-statistics-in-india/

During the time I had to finish this post I looked up a few smaller countries but didn't find an Official Government Statistics Page for a couple of them...

Anyway, one more comment on the book before this post goes live. I don't agree that this book is the way Ingmar Bergman would have done Silence of the Lambs. I think both Bergman and Silence of the Lambs were far more tasteful--though if we're considering strictly the fascination with violent gross-outs, the comparison is reasonable.

If you want to read the book everyone's talking about, you know the drill. Buy it from me online, get a free advertorial here. Buy it from a charity store in my neighborhood, get a bargain and support a good cause.

How and Why Obama Flip-Flopped on Obamacare

Christopher Santarelli gives Hillary Rodham Clinton more of the blame than Mitt Romney for "the individual mandate" (forcing individuals to buy into insurance schemes) in Obamacare:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/revealed-inside-obamas-individual-mandate-memo-and-why-he-changed-his-mind/

Nice try...but the position of this web site is that no person who has supported any "individual mandate" to buy anything should be elected to any public office in the United States, and we're not entirely sure they need to be allowed to vote here.

Book Review: Coping with Difficult People

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Coping with Difficult People

Author: Robert M. Bramson

Off-Amazon page that represents the author: http://www.mindperk.com/Bramson.htm

Publisher: Dell

Date: 1981

Length: 216 pages plus index

ISBN: 0440202019

Quote: "As a management consultant I have found that most of my clients spend more time talking about how to cope with problem employees, bosses, customers, and co-workers than about anything else."

Robert Bramson's strategies for coping with these people are pretty much common sense, and aren't always practicable, but they're useful as far as they go. He describes the strategy of standing up to hostile aggressive people while staying friends, recommends calling people out on sneaky verbal attacks ("That sounded like an attack; did you mean it that way?"), suggests giving "exploders" time to run down, advises trying to move chronic complainers into problem-solving mode, warns readers of the problems they're likely to have with "super-agreeable" people, and so on.

My opinion is that it's more helpful to work with strategies that identify and label behavior rather than people, so better books exist...but this one's okay in its way. If you click here to buy it from me, you pay $5 for the book, $5 for shipping, and out of that I send Bramson $1, and you get the privilege of posting a review here with live links to a book, web site, or business of your choice. If you physically buy it from Mountain Treasures in Gate City, Virginia, you pay much less than you'd pay even if you bought it for a penny plus shipping on Amazon, and you support a respectable charity. If you buy it from Amazon, I have no idea what good things the profits may or may not do, but you may get a fair price without being anywhere near Gate City.

Book Review: Dances with Wolves

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Dances with Wolves

Author: Michael Blake

Publisher: Fawcett

Date: 1998

Length: 312 pages

ISBN: 0972475303

Quote: "The late afternoon breeze was up, but the only thing that moved was the shred of canvas."

That's at Fort Sedgewick, when Lieutenant Dunbar is sent out to hold the abandoned fort, where he bonds with the wolf Two Socks, the horse Cisco, the horse thief Kicking Bird, and the lost White woman Stands With A Fist...you know the story. Kevin Costner's movie version was pretty faithful to the book.

What else is there to say? I found a copy of the book at a benefit sale, read it to see how close the movie version was to the book, am now ready to pass it on. If you click here to buy it from me for $5 plus $5 shipping, Blake (or his favorite charity) gets $1. If you click on the ISBN number above to buy it from Amazon, you might get a lower price, but Blake gets nothing. If you go to the Mountain Treasures store on West Jackson Street in Gate City, you get a lower price, and the nice older ladies at the store make a donation to a legitimate local charity. Which helps Native American women, I might add, along with other people.

Ultrasound: Does Babette Joseph Think I'm a Man?

According to Billy Hallowell, she's just called me that...

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/men-with-breasts-pa-state-rep-slams-female-gop-leaders-supporting-mandatory-ultrasound/

Well, dittos to Rose Marie Swanger...I thought of a raunchier retort to Babette Josephs' slur, but in order to keep this website family-filter-proof I'll just say "Nanny nanny boo boo, so's yer old man, and if I had a name like 'Babette' I wouldn't talk."

But there are more reasonable objections to the idea of requiring an ultrasound scan before an abortion, as discussed here:

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/03/20/guest-post-a-doctor-on-transvaginal-ultrasounds/

The doctor's post sounds reasonable enough. There's just this radical split between the kind of patients the doctor seems to want us to imagine he serves, and the women whose stories are discussed here:

http://priscillaking.blogspot.com/2012/02/ultrasound-before-abortion-update-hb462.html

And why does it happen to be a male doctor who seems to know all these women who feel that an ultrasound scan of what they're aborting would be so intrusive and abusive? Does that tell us more about the women in his neighborhood, or about this doctor's professional bedside manner?

I don't like writing about abortion, since life has denied me any real firsthand involvement with the issue. I feel that those of us who never have been or could become pregnant should leave this issue to be discussed by those who have either had or aborted babies. Well, technically women with PCOS can have babies, with lots of expensive medical help, but I'd rather just adopt a child than go through all that drama about adding more copies of my burdensome gluten-intolerance gene to the world. And I seriously recommend this position on the abortion issue to the entire pregnancy-proof half of humankind.

But, for those like Babette Joseph, and nicer people like Elizabeth Barrette and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who seem to be wondering about this: Running an ultrasound scan before an abortion is nowhere near as intrusive as the abortion itself. In order to remove a fetus from a woman's body, that body has to be not only probed and scanned but physically cut apart. Blood is shed. Permanent injury is commonplace.

Who wants the ultrasound scans? Believe it or not, women do. And this is not entirely because some women are Catholic. There are women--more accurately, in many cases, teenaged girls--who are bullied into having abortions against their will. Parents who don't want it known that their daughter has been pregnant, husbands and boyfriends who don't want to be responsible for their offspring, and even social workers and school staff who fear that a pregnant teenager won't be part of the head count on which school funding is based, have been known to do this horrible thing. Sometimes an ultrasound scan will persuade the bully to back off, and allow the woman to let the fetus become a baby who can then be put up for adoption.

It is conceivable that if, at my age and condition, I managed to start growing a fetus, that fetus might be one of the little freaks that never will become babies with a chance at a human life. My mother willed herself to try to have more babies, at my age, and two of those poor little blobs of glup aborted themselves before anyone had a guess what was so wrong with them. But there are cases, mostly involving middle-aged ladies who have tried too hard to have babies, where a defective fetus has to be removed by a doctor. I try to imagine myself in this situation and, swallowing down the nausea, I can assure you that I would demand the ultrasound. I'd want proof that the fetus was all that defective.

Who does not want ultrasound before the abortion? Hmm...maybe abortion specialists who worry that giving prospective parents time to think, or a chance to see that a fetus might become a healthy baby after all, would cause them to choose not to have the abortion, and then the abortion specialists would have to compete with real doctors to provide services people actually want?

Is it possible that Babette Joseph is a man, or has been intimidated into speaking for a man, who specializes in abortions?

Or is she speaking for women who, like Gloria Steinem, once told themselves "I can always have other babies, but a travel deal like this one comes along only once in a lifetime," and so they had an abortion that was not medically necessary, and now the permanent injuries prevent them from ever having another baby...and they feel, just a bit, guilty about this?

The official position of this web site is "Bah, humbug." (Actually, if Grandma Bonnie Peters ever finds the time to compose an actual post, she can be more intense about this topic than I am.) And if Babette Joseph cares to e-mail me, I'll send her the gross-out joke that was my first reaction to her rude remarks.

Austin Worthen, Third Grade Basketball Star

Two sports-related posts in one day...may be a record this web site will never achieve again! Jonathon Seidl shares the video of little Austin Worthen sinking a half-court shot:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/third-grader-sinks-amazing-half-court-shot/

For those who really never get into sports, a half-court shot is a basketball-throwing feat very rarely achieved by children. If he takes care of himself, Worthen should go far.

Book Review (and Rare Sports Memory): Natural Born Winner

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Natural Born Winner: the Jeff Gordon Story

Author: George Mair

Publisher: Ballantine

Date: 1998

Length: 224 pages

ISBN: 0345424190

Quote: "[A]t my age, you're not expected to do all this. It's amazing to me I've gotten this far."

In this paperback, celebrity biographer George Mair turns his attention to NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon.

Fair disclosure: I've never liked Jeff Gordon. But I think NASCAR fans deserve to know why, and I'm pleased to find Gordon's side of the story in Natural Born Winner.

First, another fair disclosure: I did not inherit the gene that makes it possible to become a Real NASCAR Fan. However, in youth I had a long-term relationship with a fellow whose father worked for a NASCAR sponsor. We watched all the races on TV, except for Bristol, where he went with his father, and Charlotte, where he and I drove down together. We wore NASCAR shirts even at work. We went to some of the publicity events, posed with the cars, met the drivers. And his little sisters were among the 18-to-25-year-old "NASCAR princesses" selected as official hostesses of some of those publicity events. They were chosen because they were sponsors' daughters, not picked at beauty pageants, but they did a lot for a black T-shirt.

Of course these "dates" between the princesses and the racers are pure social networking. Most of the racers are married, and it's supposed to be obvious that the princesses have lots of admirers. In fact, even if they are single and like each other, they're supposed to wait several months before going out on a Real Date. All they have to do is smile at each other while working the crowd.

So why did Jeff Gordon act as if my friend's sister weren't even pretty? Gordon irked a lot of people on the NASCAR circuit, during his first two tours, by acting unfriendly to princesses. As Mair explains, some people wondered whether he might even be "gay." We had a simpler explanation: Gordon liked his own face better than anybody else did. We certainly didn't think Rainbow Boy was anything much, even to look at. Davey Allison had been much more appealing. (But read on.)

Anyway, I personally resented the suggestion that I would root for a driver based on his sex appeal. Not that Davey Allison, Rusty Wallace, and others, including Jeff Gordon, didn't have reasonably nice faces--but when I was sitting next to my own chosen date, what was I supposed to care about some stranger's face on TV? Besides, my date was an Earnhardt fan; we usually wore matching Earnhardt shirts, and although I respect the instinctive intelligence, the control, and the discipline it takes to be as "crazy" a driver as Dale Earnhardt (senior) used to be, the man was a pretty good example of Not My Type.

Well, so we went to Charlotte in 1995, only this time His Daddy had given the prime tickets to other connections, and we were stuck in what was called the back stand...on the far side of the track from the start-and-finish line, with a good view of the second turn.

Earnhardt moved to the head of the pack as usual. Rusty Wallace was in a position to challenge him, as usual. (We liked Wallace too.) A wreck occurred. Caution laps were run. Tires and bits of expendable car shell were cleared from the track. The drivers started to pick up speed again...and suddenly there was a stray tire on the inside of the second turn. Where had it come from? Nobody near us had seen who'd thrown it there, but we knew somebody had to have thrown it there, because we'd seen the track cleared, and nobody had had a chance to lose another tire yet.

People stood up, waved, and shouted to warn Earnhardt...but at Charlotte lots of people stood up, waved, and shouted every time Earnhardt passed by, anyway, so how could he know that this time it was a warning? He hit the tire, hit the wall, messed up "The Intimidator," finished back in the pack with the nice guys like Bobby Hillin, Jimmy Hensley, and a chap who claimed that "Lake Speed" was his real name.

Gordon went on to win the race, and you'll find his memories of how it went in Natural Born Winner, but he doesn't mention the extraordinary incident that prevented Earnhardt from winning it.

Well, it wasn't necessarily Rainbow Warriors who threw that tire there. Mair discusses Bill France's strategy for turning NASCAR into a big-money TV-show sport, too, in this book. And Earnhardt was not only more intelligent than some race fans wanted to believe, but also more generous with money; it's not inconceivable that he might even have agreed to let the race be set up for Gordon to win.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that watching The Twerp Who Snubbed My Prospective Sister-In-Law win that race turned me off NASCAR...always bearing in mind, of course, that sitting beside The Man I Almost Married was my primary motivation for watching races all along.

Earnhardt had won seven Winston Cups, earned millions of dollars, and reached the point where his career needed either retirement or a serious challenge. Earnhardt's races had been circus acts nobody else, not even his partners Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin, could imitate. I wouldn't have minded watching somebody like Morgan Shepherd take over Richard Petty's gentlemen-make-it-look-easy act, myself. I did mind watching Gordon in that role. That cute little baby face made me want to yell, "If at first you don't succeed, CHEAT! CHEAT! CHEAT!", although I have to be wearing an Earnhardt shirt to do anything as redneckish as that.

I can disclose all this now because, as all race fans know, NASCAR and Jeff Gordon got along just fine without my support. And, as Mair mentions, there was a respectable reason why Gordon snubbed all those princesses: he didn't want anybody to find out that he was engaged to one of them, beauty queen Brooke Sealey, before the official time limit was up. (There are pictures of Brooke Sealey Gordon in the book.)

How much cheating and chicanery goes on in the new made-for-TV NASCAR races? I don't know, and probably most race fans don't care. Whenever big money starts being invested in any sport, whether it's gambling or "cleaner" high-priced sponsorships, you know cheating is going to become part of the game. Sponsors know what they're paying for.

Some of it, like the fact that most NASCAR racers are never going to win a Cup, even has to be called clean. Nobody has to wreck or sabotage drivers like Hillin, Hensley, Speed, and the other dozen or so chaps who consistently start halfway back in the pack; everybody just understands that they're being paid to steer one car around the track, stay out of the pile-ups, and not cost their sponsors more than their sponsors are paying for, and if they do occasionally make it into the top ten, that makes little difference. You can't call that unfair. They do take home decent money, they do get to be on TV, and they do have their admirers.

And if I personally am underwhelmed by the new idea that NASCAR champions need to be young, cute, teen-heartthrob material to attract single female fans...well, it's made guys like Gordon, and Kasey Kahne and all those other kids who are burning up the tracks these days, rich and famous, right? To each his or her own.

Teenagers are probably the ones who buy most sports souvenirs, so why argue with it...except to say that, in my NASCAR shirt-wearing days, I also liked the oldest driver, who at that time was Harry Gant. I would have worn his colors, too, if I'd ever found them on a T-shirt. I liked a lot of older books, older records, older entertainers generally, and gave them extra points if my parents had liked them back when they were "new" and "young." There are some young people who like connecting with their elders. Most sports give a clear advantage to athletes who've barely reached their full height, but when it's possible for young and older people to compete equally, I think it's a big marketing mistake to forget how many young people liked Earnhardt more than Gordon.

So, reading Natural Born Winner twenty years after Mair published this declaration of defiance of the middle-aged audience...I have to wonder how even Jeff Gordon likes this book now that he's no longer marketable as "young."

But lots of people liked Gordon, and still do. Mair thought the reason was that he seemed "humble," uttering words like the quote above. And for all I know he may actually have been humble. He was not in a position to see the cheating that I saw take place on his behalf. He couldn't have done it. Maybe he didn't realize the extent to which his championship was handed to him on a platter. He still had to spend a lot of time in blistering-hot cars and killer traffic.

So here is his side of his story: the little boy whose obsession with racing even toy cars was fed by his parents, who started racing before he was old enough to drive on the road and was winning the most lucrative stock car races on earth before he was twenty-five. Mair shares Gordon's memories of the first few races he won, along with brief introductions to NASCAR, Bill France, the other drivers, the Rainbow Warriors (Gordon's pit crew), the fan clubs...there's a short list of customized license plates Gordon's fans paid to have on their cars.

It's worth reading once, whether you like Jeff Gordon, hate him, or can't even claim to understand what NASCAR's all about or why anybody watches it anyway. And if you click here to buy Natural Born Winner from me online, not only do you get a chance to share an advertorial about your favorite book or business, but out of the $5 for the book and $5 for shipping I'll send George Mair $1.

As with the other books discussed on this site this week, local lurkers can also look for their copies at the Mountain Treasures store in Gate City, where they'll cost less than the cost of shipping them through the mail. (It's a thrift store that gets donations one time only, and I've been warned that at least one of the proprietors' relatives is snapping up bargains for resale in a for-profit store, so run don't walk, local folks...the good news is, if you miss your chance to buy the copy I read for one of these review articles, you will still find lots of bargains for sale in aid of a legitimate charity.)

Ageism Revisited

Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing this article by Michael Kinsley:

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/144230865.html?page=all&prepage=2&c=y#continue

Age discrimination might not be hurting Kinsley's friend, the lawyer who's close to retirement age...but is it ever hurting the empty-nesters who've been working only part-time, or not even working for wages, while raising children, who are now trying to take their last chance to qualify for a Social Security pension. And the fifty-somethings who've built their lives around their "careers," who are still productive, but who are being urged to retire so that the company can hire someone cheaper.

Age discrimination has been around for a long time. My husband was a victim of it when we met. I can't take the credit for converting him from a "victim" to a "beneficiary." I was the one who suggested that, instead of trying to get a hardship assignment and be honorably killed as an overseas volunteer, he might go for a real challenge in the D.C. school system. His latent talent was what made him a perfect match for the job. See! Some people who've been forced out of their original "careers" actually like their "second careers" better!

But not all of them do...and the bigotry that forces people out of the jobs that really are their lives, and forces able-bodied people even to consider welfare-cheating before they've reached age 65, is as ugly as racism ever was. And as anti-American.

Book Review: It Takes a Village Idiot

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: It Takes a Village Idiot (Complicating the Simple Life)

Author: Jim Mullen

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Date: 2001

Length: 219 pages

Illustrations: line drawings by Benoit

ISBN: 0743218795

Quote: "But there is one travel destination that you will never, never, never, ever, ever, ever read about in the Travel section in the New York Times...That place is upstate New York."

So Jim Mullen, the snarky Entertainment Weekly wit who likes things un-touristy, moved to upstate New York and discovered the joys of telecommuting.

Now, should you move to upstate New York, or any other part of the Appalachian Mountain Region, and try to be a telecommuting writer? Should you really? Jim Mullen wants to help you think it through. That is why he is so snarky about his move. I support him in his goal. That is why I highly recommend this book.

"[T]here is no Catskill County in New York State, nor a town called Walleye," Mullen admits, and "Any similarity between real persons and the characters in this book (not related to me by marriage) is wishful thinking." So it's a composite character to whom he first offers an invitation, then realizes that "a weekend in Walleye for Rob would be as horrible as a weekend in the Hamptons used to be for me. I changed my tack. 'What is there to do? Plenty. If you're lucky I might be able to get Al to let you drive his manure spreader. Then we could go into town and watch them put the mail in the boxes.'"

The composite character Rob is dying from AIDS; if he were a hearty outdoor type he might enjoy remodelling the old farmhouse, raising vegetables, going to auctions, trying to make dandelion wine ("All the bottles either had exploded or had blown their corks...In several places it had eaten holes in the concrete floor"), stacking wood, and the other things Mullen actually does. But let's face it: some people are not hearty outdoor types. They need to be in cities and should, by and large, stay there.

How Mullen discovers that he's not the type who needs to be in a city is hilarious. I think a lot of us who've chosen a rural life have been put off by the heavy dose of sarcasm at the beginning, and/or the not too subtle marketing of the Internet, and/or the decision to play up Rob's affiliation with the homosexual lobby--nobody wants to know. Once we get past these things, It Takes a Village Idiot really is a fun read. Though a bit familiar, in my part of the world.

Are the dozen or so people who trudge into the computer center to earn or improve our living expenses, at least once a week, really "village idiots, complicating the simple life"? Maybe...but this lifestyle is a lot simpler than catching the overnight bus into Washington (which doesn't even make an overnight run any more) used to be. And I still get to live in an orchard surrounded by forests and streams. And I still get to communicate with the kind of people with whom I liked to mingle when it was necessary physically to be in Washington. I don't want the Internet in my home, but I love having it in town. My only complaint is that people like us really need floppy disk drives, and the Gates Foundation needs to stop discriminating against us and bring those back.

I bought the first hardcover edition, but I'm glad I bought it secondhand at a charity sale; it's poorly bound and has cracked loudly every time it's been opened. Nevertheless, if you buy a copy from me (click here) for $5 plus $5 shipping, not only do you get the chance to post something here containing a live link to a book or other commercial site of your choice, but also Jim Mullen (or his favorite charity) gets $1 out of that total of $10.

President Obama Goes to Korea

Although this web site does not exactly favor the reelection of President Obama, we do subscribe to the White House Blog in order to be fair and show him at his best. Here's his blog post from Korea:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/03/26/ask-president-obama?utm_source=032712&utm_medium=topper&utm_campaign=daily

Book Review: You and I and Yesterday

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: You and I and Yesterday

Author: Marjorie Holmes

Publisher: William Morrow & Company

Date: 1973

Length: 191 pages

Amazon ASIN tracking number: B002K4YKZK

Illustrations: line drawings, presumably by the author

Quote: "[T]he Good Old Days. Were they all that good? No, frankly not...The pain and humiliation of that desperate time left scars. But the Depression stiffened our backs and toughened our moral muscles. Nobody brainwashed us into thinking that the government owed us a living."

Marjorie Holmes was a gracious, gentle, witty Washington hostess. When she died in 2004, she was 91 years old. Women of her age and type did not beat people over the head with their religious and political views. Holmes was both Christian and conservative--and that's "conservative" in terms of my grandparents' generation--but, although this book describes the background of a Christian conservative growing up in the early twentieth century, it's almost pure reminiscence. Vivid sensory images. Adults' chores, children's games, the food people ate, the cars they drove, the movies they watched. You and I and Yesterday is a work of cultural history that was targeted toward a Christian conservative market...but if you're not Christian or conservative, you can still enjoy reading it.

Holmes' classes and conversation were liberal, in that sense, too. It used to be expected of Washingtonians.

What readers learn about in this book are kites, Maypoles, roller skates, gardening, parades, street games, canning vegetables, making fudge, silent movies, street peddlers, playgrounds, hanging out laundry on the line, haymaking, aprons, mail-order catalogues, singing as evening entertainment, antique cars, circuses, Chautauquas, Christmas trees, and a few brief glances at the personalities of Holmes' parents.

You and I and Yesterday can be shared with children. In fact it begs to be shared with children. The vocabulary should be an enjoyable challenge to middle school readers, and the reminiscences of things children did in the 1920s and 1930s should inspire many hours of frugal fun.

According to Amazon, there are at least three distinct editions of this book with identical text but different covers. My copy is the first edition that was built to last, with the quaint, European-peasant-embroidery painting by Betty Fraser on the dust jacket. After nearly forty years of loving care, it's been exposed to mold but doesn't look or smell as if it's picked up any, and the dust jacket is intact. If you insist on buying this particular edition from me online, collector prices will start at $10; if you'll settle for a more recent edition, the book will cost only $5 plus $5 shipping. But again, the only reason why you should buy it from me is so you can post something here with a live link to a book or other commercial web site. Marjorie Holmes is no longer in need of the $1 or $1.50 our price would include. If you're in southwestern Virginia, look for this book at Mountain Treasures in Gate City (on West Jackson Street, across from Citgo, behind the R.A.D.A. building). If not, you can buy it directly from Amazon.

Book Review: Close Your Eyes When Praying

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Close Your Eyes when Praying

Author: Virginia Cary Hudson

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date: 1968

Length: 127 pages

Illustrations: cartoons by Susan Perl

ISBN: 0060640693

Quote: "'Then you will teach the Deborahites?' he ventured...And here I am, a woman old enough to be the grandmother of your children, cast in the role of a lion thrown into a den of Daniels."

That's how Virginia Cary Hudson introduces herself as the teacher in a young women's Sunday School class during the early twentieth century, and her notes for her actual lectures on women in the Bible are in a similar vein.

Her insights into the Bible stories are more personal, witty, and entertaining than scholarly, with many digressions into memory. This book can't be recommended as a work of Bible scholarship--what it does offer in that direction is pretty common knowledge--but it is an enjoyable read.

It's like listening to a dear little old lady who had some education and some delightful stories to tell, which seems to have been what Mrs. Hudson was. All four of her books were posthumously published. She saved the school essays published as O Ye Jigs and Juleps, the speech notes published as Credos and Quips, and these Sunday school notes, and her daughter saved the letters published as Flapdoodle Trust and Obey, but during her lifetime she merely murmured wistfully that she wished she'd had more education and could have written a book. Once she was safely buried and could no longer be embarrassed, her daughter published these papers as books. I think Mrs. Hudson would have appreciated the fact that, in the 1960s, they were bestsellers.

Close Your Eyes When Praying has now achieved collector prices--it costs much more on Amazon than it cost when new. I have the hardcover edition, exactly like the picture on the Amazon page except that the Amazon photo displays upside down on my browser. My copy has been exposed to mold, and cleaned, so it's available in real life at a much lower price than the $20 plus $5 shipping I would be forced to charge if you actually buy this book from me online. Since Mrs. Hudson is beyond any need for the $2.50 this price would generate for her, the only reason to buy it from me, rather than directly from Amazon, is to earn a free advertorial post (in which you may insert live links to commercial sites). I'm posting this review to steer traffic to the Mountain Treasures store in Gate City, Virginia, where my cleaned copy should soon become available for much less than $25.

Dogwood and Redbud Blossoms: Phenology for 3/27/12

Yesterday the dogwood blossoms opened in downtown Gate City. (At the Cat Sanctuary, a little further up the mountain, redbuds had opened but dogwoods are yet to come.) And this morning, mutual e-friend Elizabeth Barrette shared this link to Neverspent's dogwood blossom photo:

http://neverspent.dreamwidth.org/114356.html

Note that, despite the folklore about these trees blooming at Easter, they respond to weather and are well ahead of Easter this year...

Book Review: The Dog with the Chip in His Neck

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: The Dog with the Chip in His Neck

Author: Andrei Codrescu

Author's web site: http://www.codrescu.com/livesite/

Publisher: Picador

Date: 1997

Length: 304 pages

ISBN: 0312168195

Quote: "I would like these pieces to serve as a combative form of silence. Some of them are radio essays from NPR, 1994-96, while others address revolution, food, America, sex, Romania, and language."

If you don't already know Andrei Codrescu's distinctive voice, you're in for a treat. Although his English is flawless, it's made unique by his having learned Romanian, and I suspect a few other languages, first. He makes verbal connections that native English speakers would probably never have made. Once made the connections make sense, and shed light on his subjects.

He shares stories from his childhood in "Communist" Romania, and from the history and literature of that country, too. I don't know of anyone else who's tried to translate Romanian poetry into English. Codrescu has; there's a fragment that appears in Romanian on page 147 and in English on page 148.

Codrescu loves the United States in a way few other people could. He's enjoyed being here. He does not think that any movement in the direction of socialism or totalitarianism would be positive "progress." On the other hand he's still European enough to see our cultural shortcomings clearly, and Jewish enough to feel entitled to correct his friends in a witty and affectionate way.

Does that tell you whether you'll agree or disagree with the essays in The Dog with the Chip in His Neck? No; the essays cover so many different topics that you'll probably agree with some and disagree with some. I wish Codrescu hadn't experimented with drugs and then written so frankly about it. I think there's the danger that kids will think recreational drugs help people like them to write like Codrescu, instead of wondering whether, if he hadn't had a few more brain cells to spare than the average "experimenter" in the 1960s, Codrescu might have won a Nobel Prize. I think he's far too laid-back and tolerant in describing a student, whom he calls Adrienne, who's using hard drugs and lesbian affairs as temporary relief for depression. Maybe his brain isn't wired to think of more effective solutions to Adrienne's problems, maybe he's just too nice a teacher to inquire what those problems are, but he ought at least to be aware of the side effects of the drugs discussed on pages 209-210.

Here's another fact about The Dog with the Chip in His Neck that may determine how much you'll enjoy the book: a lot of the points of agreement and disagreement will be artistic. Because Codrescu was a teacher giving mini-lectures on NPR, he often talked about very new, very old, or very obscure books and works of art. Even if you're a writer or artist, you've not read or seen a lot of the works discussed; you won't be able to agree or disagree, intelligently, until you have, and that was the point. If you really enjoy this kind of book, it will lead you to read other books, and even watch movies and visit museums. You can use this book as a substitute for, addition to, or refresher of a college survey course in "The Humanities."

And you will probably laugh out loud, so it's nice that most of the funny essays are one-page pieces (spread out onto two half-pages) that you can easily share with people who may wonder why you're laughing.

This one became a Book You Can Buy From Me because I've replaced and discarded an old, dirty copy. It's recent enough and was popular enough that you can get cheap copies directly from Amazon. If you buy it from this website, the $5 price and $5 shipping includes a $1 payment to Andrei Codrescu (or the charity of his choice).

Monster Sturgeon in South Carolina

Liz Klimas has photos of the dead monster sturgeon and of a normal, live, swimming sturgeon:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/what-is-the-monster-like-creature-that-washed-up-on-this-s-carolina-beach/

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: The O'Reilly Factor for Kids

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: The O'Reilly Factor for Kids

Author: Bill O'Reilly (with Charles Flowers)

Author's web site: http://www.billoreilly.com/

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date: 2004

Length: 189 pages
ISBN: 0060544252

Quote: "I wish I'd had this book when I was a teenager...Unfortunately, no one had written a realistic book for kids. So I made dumb mistakes."

Is there any book, or could there ever possibly be a book, the reading of which would prevent teenagers from making dumb mistakes? Doubtful. However, Bill O'Reilly does level with his teenaged (and pre-teenaged "tween") fans on the issues that were of greatest concern to him when he was a teenager.

The blurb on the jacket mentions "tak[ing] the tests he's provided." If you're looking for short fun quizzes to score yourself and discuss with your friends, don't bother--that's not the kind of tests this book provides. The format consists of medium-length essays on the things adults usually advise teenagers about--sex, drugs, jobs, wasting money, cheating on tests, bullies, TV--interspersed with one-paragraph "Instant Messages" about topics that inspire less reminiscence, like using the seat belt when driving. There are also several messages from O'Reilly's middle through high school fans.

I think the overriding message of this book, as distinct from other books of advice for teenagers, might be something like "Kids: if you've been told it's weird to watch a serious, even conservative, news show, you're not the only ones who do." Which is a great message for kids who watch serious news shows, or listen to serious news shows on the radio, or read books by news commentators.

What else O'Reilly has to tell kids is how to become the most watched news broadcaster on cable TV. Just say no to sex and drugs; O'Reilly admits he kept his virginity up to age twenty. (Some guys are ashamed of that. Don't be. When I was young enough to date twenty-year-old guys, I gave them lots of plus points for any credible claims to virginity.) Stay in school, go to college, earn good grades, and work around the occasional incompetent teacher if you have to--after all, you should be smarter than s/he is. Get a job as soon as you can and rack up good work references. And if you want to be a newsman, check out O'Reilly's own personal schedule on pages 152-153. Okay, so maybe you don't want to be a newsman...the rest of the advice in this book is good advice for most people who want to succeed in most careers.

Despite O'Reilly's Catholic background, this is not a Catholic book, or even a Christian book: "I have no right to tell you what to believe," although the author gets in a few digs at the Christian-phobics who sometimes comment on his show. It is, let us say, a book informed by the author's Christian background.

Is it a right-wing book? Well, in the sense that the hippie lifestyle of sleeping around and taking drugs used to be considered left-wing, maybe. Here's what a confessed Bill Clinton fan says on Amazon: "I vote my conscience and voted for Clinton twice and for the life of me I cannot see where people get that this book is some type of conservative platform - it's a children's book with what I thought were good overall moral values." Dittos. The O'Reilly Factor for Kids does not tell young readers how to vote--they don't have a vote anyway.

The same commenter thought the reading level was more appropriate for middle school readers than for high school readers. Well, no points for guessing why--a lot of the young viewers who've written in to O'Reilly are in middle school. If you're a high school student looking for a more sophisticated read, give this book to a younger reader (advanced readers in grade four and up, average readers in grade six or seven and up) and read The O'Reilly Factor, a completely different book aimed at adults.

The back cover says, "Kids, consider sharing this book with your parents--they'll understand you better. Parents, definitely share this book with your kids--you'll sleep better." So, obviously this is a book meant for kids to share with parents. More than that, I'd suggest that kids consider sharing the book with friends. Why contend with peer pressure to do all the stupid things this book advises you not to do? You already know that drinking, smoking, driving without a seat belt or a license or a working brake system, etc., are stupid choices. Support your friends in generating peer pressure to make the sane choices. Make it cool to take advice from a TV star.

You can buy it from me online for $5 plus $5 shipping. Or buy the copy I read at the Mountain Treasures store in Gate City, Virginia, for much less. You can also buy it directly from Amazon, but if you buy it from me (1) O'Reilly gets a dollar, and (2) you get to post a free review of your favorite book, store, or other product at this site. (This is the way to post any comment that includes any live links.)

Jimmy Collins Avoids Text Message Trap

Jimmy Collins accepts text messages--not recommended by this site--and therefore almost became the victim of a text messaging scam that could have cost him money. Here's what he learned about avoiding these traps:

http://voices.yahoo.com/avoiding-text-message-scam-would-cost-11143396.html?cat=3

Book Review: Untied

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Untied

Author: Meredith Baxter

Publisher: Crown

Date: 2011

Length: 287 pages
ISBN: 0307719316


Quote: "I didn't want to just write about the coming-out experience. I hoped I had more to offer than that."

And so she has.

There are homosexual lobbyists who would like to read Untied as a story of "After three failed marriages, Meredith Baxter found lasting love and inner peace in the arms of a woman."

There are evangelical Christians who would like to read Untied as a story of "Although Meredith Baxter groped her way up from alcoholism, without salvation-as-preached-by-Our-Church she was doomed to remain in a condition of sin and misery, so now this poor lost soul is temporarily in the delusively happy phase of a lesbian romance, which is sure to disappoint her."

Whew. I read it as a more straightforward story: As the child of a divorced stage mother, with an agent-stepfather who didn't actually molest her but did once try to rent her to a friend as a weekend companion, Meredith Baxter had an unhappy early life. She coped by becoming an alcoholic.

Having inherited a high tolerance for alcohol, Baxter was able to remain competent as an actress even while she was drinking heavily on the set. Connections in Hollywood helped. She wasn't great; the sitcom where she was the star bombed, and the sitcom where she became famous kept her in the background, and most of her other acting jobs were in made-for-TV movies--but she was adequate for the parts she got, and didn't look hung-over or sound drunk, although she was. Still, she has few memories of the years of her greatest success, on "Family Ties." If you're looking for the kind of behind-the-scenes-at-your-favorite-TV-show stories found in Prairie Tales (previously discussed here), Untied will disappoint you. (I was. It did.)

One thing Baxter shares that may be news to some of her fans is that, although "Bridget Loves Bernie" was about an Irish-American woman married to a Jewish man, and although Baxter married her co-star David Birney, in real life Baxter isn't Irish-American...Birney is.

Another thing she shares is that, although she's still naturally top-heavy, she had one of those rare non-fatal forms of breast cancer. Even moderate use of alcohol (e.g. one glass of red wine at dinner every day) is now known to promote the development of breast cancer. Baxter's third husband expressed more concern about the chances of her remaining top-heavy than about the chances of her surviving surgery, which adequately explains why they divorced.

With her career and health in decline, Baxter finally "hit bottom" when others started to notice that she was an alcoholic. She joined Alcoholics Anonymous and entered therapy, and began to turn her life around. And she didn't meet another man to marry--although by that time she admits to having become commitment-phobic. She met a woman instead.

Purely for demographic reasons, my bet on this fourth relationship would be: Baxter and the woman she introduces as Nancy will stay together, not necessarily "in love" but accepting each other as roommates and care givers, at least until one of them becomes disabled. That's primarily because, after age sixty, a woman's chance of finding a man to marry is microscopic, and most women know it and appreciate any prospective care givers they have.

And although I don't think either the church or the state needs to recognize such relationships as marriage, I think both the church and the state should recognize any care-giving relationship, whether it's ever been sexual or parent-like or business-related or whatever, as having some legal status and meaning. I think the homosexual lobby made a huge mistake by demanding that this kind of relationship be identified as marriage, which generates lots of opposition, rather than making common cause with all the other people who actually care about elders--whether the elders are widowed, divorced, or still married to equally disabled partners. If the homosexual lobby would only get behind the issue of care givers' rights, they would (finally) be doing something worthwhile for humankind.

So, blame attention-craving Perez Hilton for "outing" and exploiting a relationship Baxter would have preferred (and should have been allowed) to keep private. Meanwhile, although Baxter writes as someone who's still in therapy and who has yet to complete all Twelve Steps, I vote we thank her for sharing her struggles with alcoholism and dysfunctional relationships on all levels, and wish her well in the rest of her life.

E-mail salolianigodagewi@yahoo.com to buy it online for $5 plus $5 shipping, or, if you're in the area, visit Mountain Treasures for a better price on a mold-exposed but still clean-looking copy.

Romney and Kennedy: Partners in Romneycare

This link has been forwarded to me by so many people that, if it's still news to you, you probably don't get e-mail from any Republicans. However, here's the documentation that Romneycare, the godfather of Obamacare, was a fully bipartisan unconstitutional move to force people to buy into gambling schemes...

http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/romney-kennedy-healthcare-law/2012/03/25/id/433818?s=al&promo_code=E83E-1

How to Listen to Obamacare On Trial

Congressman Morgan Griffith is aware of his mandate to oppose Obamacare, and has been doing so. Part of his work has been to send constituents who have e-mail the following update on the Supreme Court hearings about Obamacare.

The schedule for the Supreme Court’s arguments on the President’s Health Care Law:


Monday, March 26, 10-11:30 a.m.: Anti-Injunction Act. Audio will be available by Monday at 2 p.m.

Tuesday, March 27, 10 a.m.-noon: Individual mandate. Audio will be available by Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Wednesday, March 28, 10-11:30 a.m.: Severability. 1-2 p.m.: Medicaid. Audio will be available by Wednesday at 4 p.m.

To listen to the audio online, click here: http://bit.ly/btYEmC

This web site officially thanks Congressman Morgan Griffith for sharing these links.

Obamacare On Trial

By Patricia Evans, with links from the Heritage Foundation; edited for format by Priscilla King

Obamacare comes before the U.S.Supreme Court today, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Cases: http://www.supremecourt.gov/docket/PPAACA.aspx

Twenty-eight states say Obamacare is unconstitutional and have filed suits against the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. http://www.heritage.org/multimedia/infographic/2012/03/states-obamacare-is-unconstitutional

Obamacare goes against the will of the people - Seventy-two percent of American adults and 56 percent of Democrats say that the provision in the health-care law signed by President Barack Obama that requires individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine is unconstitutional. Gallup Poll

The case of Obamacare cuts to the core of the Constitution and the outcome of this case will fundamentally alter the role of the federal government and its power over the people. No matter the outcome of the Supreme Court's ruling in June, Congress can and should act now to repeal Obamacare and rid the land of this intolerable act. More from The Heritage Foundation below...
Obamacare expands dependence on government health care
Obamacare expands dependence on government health care
Obamacare dumps millions into Medicaid and creates new federal subsidies for government-approved coverage. As a result, by the end of the decade most Americans will receive health coverage through government programs.
Millions remain uninsured under Obamacare
Millions remain uninsured under Obamacare
President Obama promised universal coverage under his health care overhaul. However, even with Obamacare, millions of Americans will remain uninsured. Those who do gain coverage will do so primarily through government exchanges or Medicaid.
If you like your health care, can you really keep it?
If you like your health care, can you really keep it?
President Obama promised reform would not affect existing coverage. While it remains uncertain exactly how many Americans will lose employer-sponsored plans under Obamacare, studies show it will be millions.
Obamacare adds to premium increases
Obamacare adds to premium increases
Americans are paying more for health insurance every year, a concerning trend that is already getting worse under Obamacare—even though the most costly provisions don’t kick in until 2014.
States: Obamacare is unconstitutional
States: Obamacare is unconstitutional
Twenty-eight states have filed suits against the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. The issue will be settled by the Supreme Court in 2012.
A Medicaid monster
A Medicaid monster
Obamacare increases coverage by adding millions of Americans to the low-quality, low-access Medicaid program, requiring billions of dollars from state budgets.
Medicaid expansion burdens state budgets
Medicaid expansion burdens state budgets
The cost of Obamacare’s huge Medicaid expansion will burden both federal and state governments, and states are already struggling to afford the program.
Did Obamacare slow private-sector recovery?
Did Obamacare slow private-sector recovery?
Between the recession’s low point in January 2009 and April 2010, net private-sector job growth improved at a rate of 67,000 jobs per month. After Obama signed his health care legislation into law at the end of March 2010, the improvement stalled. Over the next two years private-sector job growth improved at a rate of just 4,600 jobs per month.
Taxed Enough Already? Just wait until Obamacare kicks in
Taxed Enough Already? Just wait until Obamacare kicks in
To pay for generous subsidies to purchase health insurance, a huge expansion of Medicaid, and other new spending, Obamacare raises taxes and adds 17 new taxes or penalties that will affect all Americans.
Obamacare’s bundle of budget gimmicks
Passing Obamacare to find out what’s in it
When Obamacare was enacted, its proponents said it would reduce the deficit by $143 billion in its first decade, but after accounting for these budget gimmicks, the health law actually adds $698 billion to the deficit.

Obamacare Comes before the Supreme Court


Rare is the occasion when the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court gather to hear three days of arguments, and rarer still is when it is for a case like Obamacare -- one that cuts to the core of the Constitution and whose outcome could fundamentally alter the role of the federal government and its power over the people. But today the Court will do just that when it open its doors and begins weighing the arguments on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's seminal health care law.

Were the American people to vote on the issue, they would fall decidedly against Obamacare, as recent polls have shown. But for the Court, the decision is not as cut and dried as an up or down vote, but one that involves the interplay of a series of issues raised by those who are challenging Obamacare -- more than half the States of the Union and a collection of interested organizations and private parties -- and those brought by the Obama Administration, which is defending the law. And they come to the Supreme Court after conflicting appellate court rulings which have left undecided the question of whether Obamacare is permissible under the Constitution.

The central issue before the Court is whether Congress has the power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause to impose the individual mandate on the American people, forcing them to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. If the Court holds that Congress was outside the bounds of its authority, it can strike down the individual mandate, leaving the justices to then decide whether all or part of Obamacare should fall along with it.

If the Court upholds the mandate, America will be in the same position it finds itself today -- facing a law that vests untold power and resources in the hands of the federal government, that transfers health care decision making from individuals to unelected bureaucrats, and that increases costs while decreasing access. In short, America's health care crisis will get worse, not better, and future generations will be left paying the tab. What's more, if the Court allows the individual mandate to stand, it will unhook Congress from its Constitutional leash, empowering it to regulate commerce and individual behavior in new ways never before imaginable.

There are other issues, too, besides the individual mandate. Even before the Court reaches that subject, it must broach the issue of the Anti-Injunction Act, a 145-year-old federal tax law which could bar the Court from even hearing a challenge to the individual mandate. Under that law, one cannot sue over a tax until they have paid it. If the penalty for violating Obamacare's individual mandate is considered a tax under that law, then the challenge could be brought at this time since the penalty has not yet taken effect. Obamacare's challengers and even the Obama Administration agree that the Anti-Injunction Act shouldn't prevent the Court from hearing the case, but the issue will still be heard, and some think that the Court could rely on the Act as a way of avoiding having to answer the question of whether the mandate is constitutional.

If the Court finds the Anti-Injunction Act doesn't apply, it will move on to the individual mandate. Its decision on that issue brings with it a whole other set of problems -- namely, if the Court finds that the mandate is unconstitutional, it must next decide the issue of severability -- whether Obamacare will operate as Congress intended if it is stripped of the mandate, or whether all or parts of the law must be struck down with the mandate. If the Court finds that the mandate is severable, the Court can strike it down and leave it up to Congress to clean up what's left, or, as the Obama administration has recommended, it can strike down the mandate and related provisions of the law that depend on it. Finally, if the justices find that the mandate is not severable, then it will throw out all of Obamacare, and it will again be up to Congress to enact real market-based health care reforms that bring down costs while increasing access to care.

There is another issue, too, tied to Obamacare, and that has to do with Congress's decision to impose new requirements on states forcing them to expand the Medicaid program and abide by the federal government's conditions, leaving them to shoulder much of the costs while operating Medicaid according to Washington's whims. If the states don't comply, they could lose all Medicaid funding, putting them in an untenable position in which both their autonomy and their sovereignty collapse under Obamacare's weight. It is up to the Court to decide whether Congress overstepped its bounds.

America waits for the Supreme Court to weigh the facts and the law, to consider the precedents and the policy, and to issue a decision that will have implications far into the future. Will Congress be limited by the Constitution, or will its authority expand beyond the limits that the Founders intended? Will Americans' liberties stand? Will Obamacare fall? No matter the outcome of the Court's ruling in June, Congress can and should act now to repeal Obamacare and rid the land of this intolerable act.

Do you stand against Obamacare? Join us as we voice our defense of liberty by signing our Repeal Obamacare petition on Facebook today.

--
"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." - Thomas Jefferson Virginia Tea Party Patriots http://www.virginiateapartypatriots.com/ Danville Patriots http://danvillepatriots.com/

Book Review: High School Confidential

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: High School Confidential

Author: Jeremy Iversen

Author's web page: http://www.jeremyiversen.com/

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Date: 2006

Length: 447 pages

ISBN: 074328366X

Quote: "I had to find out if I could still pass for seventeen."

Jeremy Iversen went to prep school. Then he went to college. Then he decided that, before doing a job, he wanted to go to public high school, just for one year, just for the experience. Also, since he was from the East Coast, he wanted his second year of grade twelve to be in California.

He passed. So, of course, he was drawn into a high school social drama that starts off slowly, with gossip ganked from his friends' blogs. (Thanks to the invention of blogs, high school boys can now "write" credible first-person narratives about high school girls, and vice versa.) The plot thickens, though. By the time Iversen is emotionally committed to one side of one conflict between students and school administration, readers feel involved too.

If you're a high school or college teacher or student and you've not already read this book, you need it. A high school teacher reported to Amazon: "I have never received more polished or more passionate essays than the ones my students compose in response to this book."

The school fictionalized as "Mirador High" isn't necessarily the most typical high school in North America--I would guess much wealthier students, much less supervision, much more efforts in the direction of political and religious conservatism even at the same time that kids carry on the sex and drugs experiments their conservative parents dread, and much more access to sex and drugs for all the teenagers, than you'd find if you went undercover at your local high school. It's real, though. The lifestyle of Jeremy Iversen's friends in the popular twelfth grade crowd at his Orange County, California, school may be beyond the reach of even the preppiest, richest, and most popular students at some schools, but it's what some kids are reaching for.

The book is well written, despite its sprawling length and sizable cast of characters. Lots of laugh-out-loud moments. Some tear-jerking moments, too--little did Jeremy know that, as he joined a high school social clique, he was replacing a boy who'd died a few months earlier, whose friends would remember him all year. Teen alcoholism. Sneaky sex. Incompetent teachers. The recent phenomenon of "teaching to the test." Kids covertly videotaping other kids in bed. Bullying. Kids goofing off on their jobs. Mean girls, who demand a "powder puff football" match because the organizer "just wants to beat the [rude word] out of" another girl; when parents and police show up to watch the game, the organizer whines, "This is so unfaaair...I don't want to play reeeal football," but her buddies force her onto the field saying "This was your idea," and the principal "defensive play" consists of one girl growling, "I'm a lesbian, and I...want...your...body." A boy who's gained such a reputation for troublemaking that even when he's behaving well he's punished on suspicion.

Race hate? Iversen seems particularly interested in exploring this aspect of social life in California, and finds an interesting state of confusion among his friends. The popular clique is integrated. Younger and poorer kids, so far as Iversen can tell, don't belong to multiracial social groups, but then many of them have only one school friend or none--that's not changed. Some of the White students sport "White Power" souvenirs. The general level of confusion about race relations in California has always been pretty interesting, with Valspeakers going, like, "There've never been enough Black people in California for real race problems to develop," while Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Ishmael Reed, Rodney King, and anyone who remembers the Watts riot of 1965, definitely disagree. I'm not sure to what extent Iversen succeeds in clarifying matters for the rest of us, or for himself.

Violence? Not much, but some. Teen pregnancies? Not many, but some. Use of "hard" drugs? Not a great deal, but some. Filthy language? Lots of it. Evidence that teenagers understand how much hate, violence, and obscenity their favorite words communicate to adults? Not so much of that.

If you've ever been a teenager, High School Confidential is a fun read, and warmly recommended. And if you're currently the parent of a teenager, I suggest buying one copy for yourself and one for the teenager.

One reason why teenagers seldom report this kind of stories to their parents is that they don't have the information, the verbal skills, or both. I can testify that even as a teenager who wanted to become a writer, whether I was talking to my mother (very frankly), my brother (almost as frankly), my father (guardedly), my best school friend (almost as guardedly), or my private diary, I was constantly aware of not having the ability to narrate everything I remembered in a way that would communicate what I remembered. I would sit in the classroom taking notes, on student behavior more than on the teachers' lectures, and still feel that I hadn't written down what had been going on. Parents who want to know what teenagers are up to need to understand that they're likely to be up against this lack of fluency more than they're up against secretiveness with or without reasons. My adolescent efforts to write about ninth grade life as I was living it didn't involve any big secrets--I wasn't the first to know that Jane was pregnant or John had been expelled--and mostly involved the kind of harmless, mildly entertaining school scenes you find in Paula Danziger's Pistachio Prescription, nothing like High School Confidential. But I wasn't Paula Danziger; I was fourteen, so I couldn't (yet) make them read like The Pistachio Prescription. I mention this by way of warning to parents. Reading High School Confidential may prompt your teenagers to express themselves more clearly than they've done before, but it will not give them the descriptive powers of grown-up writers.

The odds are against your teenager ever being able to write like Iversen. Few people are. But, in any case, at least you and your teenager will be able to bond by sharing laughter.