Thursday, April 26, 2012

Teila Tankersley's Tribute to Charles Colson

Teila Tankersley has written an excellent memorial tribute to Charles Colson:

Blogging About His Diet May Be Dangerous...

Seems this blogger's being censored for writing about the diet that seems to be working for him:

Come to think of it, although the blogger known as Priscilla King had noticed problems with Yahoo before, Yahoo really started acting strange after grudgingly buying a Yahoo News article I wrote, by request as someone who'd researched the story in depth, about the Waco disaster. And later Laura Ingraham mentioned, in The Obama Diaries, that the request for stories about the Waco disaster had bubbled up from...the current administration! (No doubt some obscure office clerk had sent the request to Yahoo, but the idea had been traced back to our President's friend and mentor, Bill Clinton.)

No, you couldn't ever trust the Internet with anything you weren't willing to publish--and defend. But you can be sure that efforts to censor the Internet will be ramped up in the next four or five years, under whichever head of the Obomney winds up in the White House...

CISPA Attacks Freedom of the Electronic "Press"

If you really rely on the freedom of the Internet "press"--or have ever trusted it--you may want to call your Congressional Representative today. CISPA is up for consideration. Basically, it ensures that freedom of the press will never be construed to include the'Net.

The following explication was copied and pasted, by request, from James Wilson's e-mail:

Quote of the Day: "If you believe in privacy and free markets, you should be deeply concerned about the proposed marriage of government intelligence gathering with private, profit-seeking companies. CISPA is Big Brother writ large, putting the resources of private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people." - Rep. Ron Paul

Thanks to you . . .

Rep. Mike Rogers has embraced good changes to his cybersecurity bill (CISPA). You can see the changes here.

You caused this. DC Downsizers were part of an army that "withdrew consent" from CISPA. And Rogers addressed some of your concerns.


But . . .

This means CISPA must be defeated... and the House vote is scheduled for Friday.

Please call your Rep. You'll see the number when you log in at our "Hands Off the Internet" campaign.

You can say this . . .

I'm calling to oppose the CISPA cybersecurity bill. I don't want companies spying on me, and then sharing my private info with the government. I don't see how this protects me from cyber attacks.

It's that simple. And while you're on the page of our "Hands Off the Internet" campaign, please send a letter too.

You can copy or edit this one . . .

Oppose CISPA (HR 3523). I don't want companies spying on me and giving my private info to the Feds. I'm shocked that this bill would allow my Internet activities to flow directly to the NSA. If I want to talk to the NSA I'll call them. Otherwise the Constitution and common sense says they need a warrant to spy on me.

I don't even trust the motives behind this bill. As TechDirt asks ( Why should I be afraid of cyber-attacks if Congressmen don't even secure their own websites? You're a more likely target than I am. I think this bill is a fraud.

I withdraw my consent to be governed in this way. Oppose CISPA!


You can send your letter using's Educate the Powerful System.

We thank you for taking action, and for sharing this with your social networks and friends.

James Wilson
Policy Research Director, Inc.

Meanwhile...for my own personal files, I'm trying to salvage a vanishing blog. I am so respectful of this e-friend's privacy that I'm not even going to mention the person's name; let's just say that many many people, including myself, freely shared lots of intellectual property on this blog, and I don't want to lose the whole site upon the demise of the editor. So I tried just printing the blog, but unfortunately it has one of those horrible cut-and-collapse formats where chunks have to be opened individually in order to get them to print. And I'm afraid to copy anything from the Internet onto a floppy disk. So I've been trying, and this is a project I've been pursuing, as time allowed, over several months now, to paste everything into e-mails to myself and print them as money and logistics allow. And in order to "protect"...whom, exactly? Not my friend, not me, and not the free-blog host...anyway, Yahoo is already testing software that's supposed to sabotage e-mails if anything from a "copyrighted site" has been pasted into them. This is supposed to replace individual vigilance in case some jerk wants to claim he wrote a poem someone posted on a blog? ??? Feh.

Another Hymn by Robert O. Adair

It's singable...

Slideshow: Obamas Visit National Parks

Our First Family celebrate the scenic beauty of the United States...

Silly Scam E-Mail of the Week

You don't need to be told to beware of this one, but if you didn't receive it you may enjoy chortling at it...

My Dear,

I know this proposal letter might be a pleasant surprise to you as we don't know ourselves before. I am a Liberian born 30 years ago, now seeking asylum in Dakar Senegal under (UNHCR). I contacted you as a cause of my serious search for a reliable and trust worthy person that can handle such a confidential transaction of this nature.

My Late father former Deputy Minister of Finance under the executive civilian president of Liberia, but was assassinated by the rebels during the civil war and properties destroyed, but I narrowly escaped with some very important documents of (US$7.5M) Seven Point Five Million U.S Dollars deposited by my late father in a high financial company here in Dakar Senegal under.

However, I seek with the problem of securing a trust worthy foreign personality like you to help me transfer this money pending when I will come over to your country for us to meet for investment of the money. Furthermore, I only want this to be done this way because your country is politically stable for any profitable investment, and I also want to add here that if accepted by you, you will serve as the original beneficiary of the money.

I feel confidence therefore, to introduce this offer to you. For your participation and all your assistance regarding this transfer, I have decided to give you 15% of the total money. Therefore, you are requested to furnish me back immediately you receive this request to transfer this money from Dakar Senegal to your country resident account or any account of your interest.

On commencement of this transaction I want to let you understand that the future of myself depends solely on this money. So please keep this business to yourself only to avoid raise eye brow of any third party.

I am eagerly expecting your urgent response.

Yours Sincerely,

Someone actually thinks this blatant scam will get a nibble, in the year 2012. So help me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

May Day Protest

Yet another reason not to visit New York City:

Much as I hesitate to recommend Kindles, some readers may enjoy Buck Sexton's unsympathetic history of the Occupy Movement, which can be purchased via a link on the page linked above.

Peggy Layton Lists Lighting Options

Because the Cat Sanctuary used to lose electricity any time thunder was heard, I've always been aware of the need to provide myself with alternative lighting options. Urban readers may enjoy Peggy Layton's list of new, high-tech alternatives:

Lots of nifty stuff I've never even seen, in addition to the standard candles, battery-powered flashlights, and oil lamps; some of the newer gadgets may be cheaper, safer, Greener, or otherwise more satisfactory to some readers.

How Did April 22 Get to Be Earth Day?

The first Earth Day celebrations I remember were actually on the first of May...but check out Kevin DeAnna's debunking article here:

Blackberry Winter: Phenology for 4/23/12

Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, summer weather arrives by fits and starts. There are traditional names for the mini-cycles of colder and warmer weather. There's usually a January Thaw, then some more snow in February, then the February Thaw. Sometimes the February Thaw lasts long enough for the first few flowers of spring to appear. After the first flowers appear, the next freeze is Redbud Winter. After that there may be another short thaw, and short freeze, that may be known as Dogwood Winter, although redbuds and dogwoods usually bloom around the same time. Some years also include a Dandelion Winter. Usually it's the first week of May when blackberries blossom, and the last freeze is known as Blackberry Winter.

I mention this because Blackberry Winter is here today. I got up this morning scolding myself for not having got in more exercise yesterday (it was wet) and feeling sluggish and chilly. To my surprise, the outside thermometer was showing 37 degrees Fahrenheit, which really is chilly. I walked out to the computer center, anyway, and saw many flowers: tulip poplars, trumpet flowers, my irises in the yard, red and white clover, dandelions, buttercups, shepherds' purse, celandine, a roadside nuisance that has cute little yellow blooms before growing into a nasty burr-weed, phlox in one neighbor's yard, red-hot pokers in another neighbor's yard...and, on a hillside above a road, feral blackberry blossoms.

Won't some Gentle Reader out there please send me a digital camera. I would love to share these odd bits of weather with you.

The Child Who Wasn't Told "No"

(As promised in a comment on Juniper Russo's article:

Once long ago, when I was a little girl, there was in my home town a legendary character, who was still alive, who was The Old Lady Whose Parents Never Told Her "No."

According to the legend, she had had two older siblings whose parents made them stay at home while they went into town. (In those days most people lived on farms; going into town was a rare treat for children.) Maybe the children played with matches, or maybe soot caught fire in the chimney above the smoldering wood stove in the kitchen. Anyway, the parents came home to the smoldering remains of their little all-wood house. The last sight they had ever had of their children was of the children begging to go into town, while they said "No." So they made a vow that if they were ever allowed to have another child, they would never say "No" to that child. That child would have everything s/he wanted, when and as s/he wanted it.

They had several other children. Only the eldest of these children really grew up without being told "no." Somehow she learned what the word meant, and apparently she had no compunctions about saying it to the younger children. Apparently she often said it with a slap. Two of those younger children were also still alive, by the time I was born. They didn't seem to like their sister much.

The sister--call her Ermyntrude, because that's a name I've never heard of any living person actually using, and if there is one out there somewhere I apologize--didn't have to do any chores around the house. Going to school was also optional. Ermyntrude was reasonably bright and wanted to learn math and reading, so after other little kids started going to school Ermyntrude decided she'd like to go too. However, early in grade four, she was put in the Corner of Disgrace for slapping another, smaller fourth grade girl. After that she didn't want to go to school. Her parents said she didn't have to go if she didn't want to go. By the time I came along, Old Miss Ermyntrude knew how to read, write letters, count change at the store, and so on, but even little kids could recognize that some things she said were ignorant.

Because she didn't have to work with other people, or work at all, Ermyntrude never learned to do several things other people did. She didn't have friends. Even her own grandchildren thought she was hard to like. Still, early in her teen years, Ermyntrude decided she wanted to be a grown-up, which in those days meant be married. The man she picked was thirty-five. He was no longer alive by the time I knew Miss Ermyntrude, and she never talked about their courtship. The story was that she barged up and demanded that he marry her, and he said yes because he wasn't rude enough to say no.

They had three children. There were stories about how horrible a mother Miss Ermyntrude had been, how brutally she'd beaten the children for being sick, and how any child might have been sick if all it had to eat was her cooking, since she'd never learned how to cook very well. That she'd never learned to cook very well I know was true. Miss Ermyntrude could even ruin biscuits made with Bisquick. The children, by now middle-aged adults, didn't look scarred or stunted. Most people their age would say they had been "beaten," or spanked, as children...

It was said that, when Miss Ermyntrude's husband had dared to disagree with her, saying things like "It's time to go home now," she used to beat him up. People said they'd seen her knock him down and pound on him in public. He couldn't even defend himself, because he was a gentleman, and in those days the rule was that a gentleman never hit a woman. Ladies and gentlemen never got divorced, either. After a few years together, the couple didn't go out much. It was said that, when the weather prevented him from doing anything around the farm, Miss Ermyntrude's husband used to lock himself in the shed to get away from his wife's nagging.

These stories were told by way of explanation of why Miss Ermyntrude had no friends and didn't go to church. The people who told these stories were not always the most reliable sources. Good stories have a way of growing, over the years, and when so-called Christians aren't very nice to someone who has no money, they usually look for some excuse not to like the person. However, I came to believe that there may have been some truth in some of the stories about Miss Ermyntrude's awfulness when I saw her walk into a grocery store and greet another old lady by calling her a name I'm not going to type on this web site. The other old lady replied with another obnoxious word. Miss Ermyntrude went over to the produce rack, picked up a summer squash, and threw it at the other old lady's head.

I was led out of that store in a hurry, so as not to see something adults didn't think children needed to know was even possible, but of course I had seen it and have always remembered it. We didn't have food fights at school; we'd all been taught that wasting food was a fearful sin. And there were these two grandmothers, having a food fight. It was an unforgettable moment.

Miss Ermyntrude, herself, believed she had a brain tumor. My mother had retired from the "beauty" business, but still cut other ladies' hair at our house during the last few years of Miss Ermyntrude's life. Miss Ermyntrude used to point out a little lump on her scalp to Mother and me and say things like "My tumor feels as if it's bleeding." You can't feel a brain tumor on the scalp, of course. The lump felt like an aneurysm. Miss Ermyntrude died of a stroke. It turned out at the funeral that she'd been only about seventy years old, but her grumpiness, loneliness, boredom, and constant complaints about her health had made her seem older than people in their eighties and nineties.

She showed the whole neighborhood why parents should not believe that it produces traumas to say "No" to children. Miss Ermyntrude's life would have been much happier if her parents had said "No."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

River North Prison Brings Jobs to Grayson County

From the office of Virginia State Senator Bill Carrico
Gov. McDonnell: Correctional Facility is a Priority

Richmond – In a letter to Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson) yesterday, Gov. Bob McDonnell affirmed his administration’s support of the River North Correctional Facility in Grayson County, and pledged to continue to pursue options that would allow the prison to become fully operational. The letter, also sent to Del. Israel O’Quinn (R-Washington), comes after the General Assembly passed a budget that did not include language addressing the correctional facility.

“The River North project is critically important to the citizens of Grayson County and the surrounding area,” Carrico said. “While we understand the difficult economic times, it is also imperative that our government take steps to open this facility. Gov. McDonnell has heard our concerns, and has pledged to do everything he can to bring about the successful conclusion of this project. I am confident his administration will be a steady partner in this endeavor.”

The correctional facility, which was authorized and constructed before McDonnell took office, is the newest addition to Virginia’s corrections system. Carrico worked for years in the House of Delegates to ensure the prison’s construction, before being elected to the Senate last year. His successor in the House, Del. O’Quinn, has partnered with Carrico to solidify funding mechanisms in a sparse budget environment.

"I am glad the Governor is willing to work towards the opening of the prison in Grayson County,” O’Quinn said. “This is one of my top priorities and Senator Carrico and I have had numerous meetings with Public Safety officials to address our concerns. This is a big step in the right direction.”

In the letter, Gov. McDonnell twice confirms that the facility is a priority of his administration, and that he will “work to open it as soon as possible, based on the state’s finances and the projected inmate population.” He also details plans for expanding efforts to contract with other states or the Federal government for housing inmates, and outlined efforts within his cabinet to identify all possible funding sources.

“It has been a long road, and more work remains ahead of us,” Carrico said. “But, I am committed to this project for the citizens of my district, and with Gov. McDonnell’s support, I’m confident that Del. O’Quinn and I will make progress toward our ultimate goal: opening this facility and putting hundreds of Southwest Virginians to work.”

Super Bumper Stickers

For those who aren't committed to voting for any presidential candidate, yet, but definitely aren't voting to re-elect President Obama, Grassfire Nation is offering what they claim are "indestructible" bumper stickers. Supposedly you can apply them to one car, peel them off without leaving a sticky mess, and re-apply them to another car, if you like:

I don't even have a car to test them on, but I'd love to hear from readers who've found out whether these things really work!

Has the United Nations Been Marxist Since 1976?

Apparently the United Nations has not, since 1976, disclaimed or renounced this distinctly Marxist-influenced statement about property rights.

Cool Gardening Links and a Snug T-Shirt

After reading these links...

1. “Monsanto Corn May Be Failing to Kill Bugs in 4 States, EPA Says”, Bloomberg Businessweek, December 6, 2011

2. “Study Found Toxin from GM Crops is Showing up in Human Blood”,

3. “Mystery Science” More Details on the Strange Organism That Could Destroy Monsanto”, CBS News, May 5, 2011

4. “Farmers Must Spend More on Herbicides as Effectiveness Fades” USA Today, April 16, 2012

5. “Agent Orange”, Wikipedia

6. “Opposition grows to “Agent Orange” GM corn” The Organic and Non-GMO Report, February 1, 2012

7. “Smarter Living: Chemical Index 2,4-D”, National Resource Defense Council,

8. “Farm group seeks U.S. halt on "dangerous" crop chemicals”, Reuters, April 18, 2012 just might want to buy a fashionably snug-fitting T-shirt:

Attention male readers: the shirt is modelled by a cute blonde. I would guess that she's a good example of what guys describe as a hottie. Feel free to use the comment space to correct me if I'm wrong.

Adding Girls to Legoland Is Sexist?

Harrumph. First Legoland consisted of blocks, which were adequate for my brother and me to stick together to build houses for our dolls--oh, right, his were "figures"--and toy animals. Then they got fancy and added things like cars and trees, and then boxy little men. No women. Now they've added a few feminine figures, identified by hair, miniskirts, and minimally curvey figures...and a feminist group is saying that that's sexist:

Looks like Lego would be blasted if they did and blasted if they didn't add a few girl figures to the traditional group of guys. I'd rather see Lego's "lady figures" in full-length skirts or jeans, myself, but before women start twisting our knickers, can we remember that the male figures have come in various types and colors over the years?

Want to protest something that "sexualizes" eight-year-old girls, sisters? Try protesting the "cultural trend" where society doesn't accept enough responsibility for school-aged girls (or boys) to allow them to go to the store, or even the library, alone after school. In some of these United States, the practice of allowing middle school moppets to meet a parent at the library after school (which was a big treat for my brother and me) has been declared criminal. Abuse and neglect! The kids might not be "safe"! All adults other than parents and teachers, in these states, are apparently kidnappers and molesters, and no child, even an 11-year-old who's the size of a short adult and may be shaving or wearing a bra, has the ability to go to the library desk and report that somebody's bothering him or her!

When I was a little girl, that kind of "protection" would have hurt me so much more than another silly-looking doll.

Buzzards, Australian and American

Wildlife enthusiasts will love these photos from a nature park in Australia:

Their Black-Breasted Buzzard is obviously not a close relative of the birds we call buzzards or vultures, but then the European birds originally called vultures aren't close relatives of these birds either.

By way of thanks to Moonvoice, I'll share a bit about Chia, the friendly Black Vulture at Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport, Tennessee. Though not the prettiest kind of bird, or the most pleasant to be around, Chia is very tame, enjoys watching birdwatchers at the park, and has posed for photos by many bloggers. (She can't fly around and pick up roadkill for herself, and undoubtedly thinks she's trained humans to deliver it to her.)

It must be admitted that this is the clearest photo of Chia Google turned up:

Though this one is apparently supposed to activate, on some browsers, a live video showing how she drinks, with an audio track of Chia "barking like a dog" (her species don't sing):

And this one shows how affectionate she is, as well as showing other popular attractions at Bays Mountain:

In the Caribbean Islands, my late husband said, the Black Vulture is called "Corbo" or "Carrion Crow," although it's obviously not a crow. And when I looked for images of the Turkey Vulture, a site that begins with a lot of blather about evolution but does show lots of pictures of this bird in all life stages, if you scroll down, noted that in Belize it's called "John Crow." This is inexcusable. With its red head and off-white pinions, the Turkey Vulture doesn't look anything like a crow...

Here's its page at Wikipedia:

Vultures are too common a sight along the roads where I live to have been mentioned in a phenology post. I see them often, usually so far away I can't even tell whether the heads are red or black, which is probably the most enjoyable way to see American vultures.

Phenology for 4/21/12: Red-Winged Blackbird

It's spring, which means that some days are just too beautiful to waste at the computer, which means by the same token that days when I'm online are likely to be dismal.

However, Google has added a page view counter to Blogspot, showing that one thing at this site that consistently attracts readers is the phenology. I hate to disappoint those who want to read about wildlife on the Internet. And today, on the way to the computer center, I saw something worth writing about: a red-winged blackbird.

They're not rare. In some parts of the Eastern States they can even become a nuisance. At Maryland's Centennial Lake Park I came to expect that, in spring, visitors would always feel "greeted" with a loud "chirp-chirr-RRREEE!" But this is the first time I remember seeing one in Gate City. We're too high up in the mountains, don't have enough reedy marshes, and in most years we don't have warm enough weather, to attract these swamp-dwelling birds.

Here's a photo of the male that seems to come from a Cornell University-sponsored site:

They can fluff the colorful feathers to show or hide more red and yellow, "depending on how confident they feel" as the Cornell writer puts it. When you hear a loud "RRREEE!" you'll probably see the red wing patches.

The females look like a completely different species. They're much better camouflaged, and don't seem to sing. While these birds are in the United States, the females are usually hiding on their nests, trying to look like shadows in a reedy marsh and doing an excellent job, as shown on Wikipedia:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Was Zimmerman in the Right, After All?

Billy Hallowell shares a photo--apparently ganked from ABC, which may get him in trouble--of what's alleged to be George Zimmerman's head, allegedly pounded on the ground immediately before he shot Trayvon Martin.

I hate to say this to all those who've been imagining "Trayvon" in the image of their favorite student, son, grandson, younger self...either Zimmerman is an awfully confident liar, or he was in the right and shouldn't be charged with any criminal offense whatsoever.

Shooting or threatening to shoot someone because, as he's walking down a street in your neighborhood, he "seems threatening" to you, is homicide due to insanity.

Shooting or threatening to shoot someone because he's pounding your head against pavement is self-defense, abundantly justified...and the rest of the nation should thank the heroes who protect us from vicious, dangerous attackers.

If Zimmerman is telling the truth, then "poor, dear Trayvon" was a vicious, dangerous attacker, and Zimmerman is a hero.

Distracted Drivers, Airborne

What happens when distracted drivers get behind the wheel airplane? Liz Klimas reports:

Mike Opelka's Week in Government Waste

Here's Mike Opelka's roundup of hilarious government waste stories:

I was thinking about this topic yesterday, when I sat down to my cozy frugal meal (beans) with my usual dining companions (the modem-free home computer and a stack of documents). On the stack of documents a year-old op-ed page was on top. The writer who provoked me was comparing those who want to downsize our government with patients who suffer from a rare neurological disorder in which the patient doesn't believe that a numbed-out, paralyzed limb is still part of his or her body.

Well, if the "numbed-out, paralyzed" label fits...he said it; I didn't. I think our federal, state, and local governments still have numerous areas of functionality.

Our government is part of us...and we can depend on the wastrels in our government to use the Washington Monument ploy, discussed here last summer, to remind us of that fact as our economy declines and cuts have to be made.

Like most people who've actually lived in Washington or its suburbs, I'm irked by articles like this one...

To be fair, if you read the article below the headline, Eddie Scarry was claiming that only some D.C. public school students are "dumb." But then he ends up with another unprovoked verbal attack:

"...students, many of whom will have no intentions of pursuing higher education, will still have to pay to take the standardized tests for it.
Councilman Kwame Brown called the proposal “historic.” Then again, he’s a product of D.C.’s public school system."

Let me guess: Eddie Scarry is young, he's Caucasian, he's never lived or worked in Washington, he's never been a teacher, and he wouldn't last one day if he tried to work in the system of which he writes. I agree with him about the need to stop trying to inflict increasingly inflated amounts of education on people who aren't interested in learning, actually. I'm still miffed by his grandiose generalizations. When the sermon is really bad, the choir get up and walk out.

Yes, many people who work for our various forms of government are good, hardworking, even effective in their jobs. Yes, there are public school teachers who enforce discipline, push students to think, and are remembered fondly at the end of the year. Yes, there are street cops who don't have a need to hassle law-abiding people to know that, if they had to, they could shoot a gun out of a bank robber's hand. Yes, there are mail carriers, road resurfacers, garbage collectors, municipal water treatment workers, and all sorts of other honest and dutiful people you seldom actually see, doing their government-salaried jobs, but you'd miss if they ever stopped doing those jobs.

There are also goldbricks who use the security of a government job as an excuse to "look busy" while wasting time and money, even persecute anyone who innocently takes a government job with any expectation of working in the way s/he normally works in the private sector.

While supporting my personal growth as a writer by doing odd jobs, I've worked with different levels of government in different capacities--as a foster parent, as a massage therapist, more--but most of my interaction with our government took place in Washington when I was still earning most of my income as a typist. I am a competent typist, and I can tell you that your tax dollars are keeping people at work in offices where, if a competent typist is inadvertently given a contract, the goldbricks will make it their main project to cause the abortion of that contract. Because the goldbricks are building their career on an expectation that they can continue to get paid for theoretically working for four days on a typing job I could do in four hours.

That Times-News columnist mentions that goldbricks can take over corporate offices, too, and he's absolutely right about that. Being paid with tax dollars does not cause individuals to become goldbricks, nor does it cause clusters of goldbricks to enforce actual office policies of goldbricking or even sabotage of the office's stated goals. Being part of a large group, where an individual's continued employment from week to week does not depend directly on productivity and customer relations, causes these phenomena. Any big corporation, or any large and vocal labor union, is just as liable to infestation with goldbricks as the government is.

If chunks of our government payroll the size of the Postal Service were privatized, sheer size would probably allow waste to continue unchecked.

What could curb government waste? For office workers, the group I know best, a solution that's always appealed to me might be called the "Get to Work and Get It Done" Policy.

Under this policy, government offices (and large corporate offices) would announce that employees do not have to try to look busy, or pace their work to avoid being given more work. Instead, they're now encouraged to finish all the work in their in-boxes as fast as possible. Once their in-boxes are empty, they're free to bring in work for their own profit, or do their own errands, or even go home and spend time with their children. Not only will there be no penalty for an office worker's admitting that s/he is doing this; after a one-year trial, the office workers who've done it most will be the ones still employed at the same office.

Of course, they will now be taking over the responsibilities of the people who really did need four days to type a fifteen-page report. Those people will be recommended to jobs for which they may have some talent--as waiters, security guards, possibly even on-call technical experts--but they will never be recommended, or rehired, for a full-time office job.

It's worth a try. Meanwhile, I'd like to invite Mike Opelka, Steve Milloy, or any reader out there who knows scientists as well as I know office workers, to generate a comparable solution to the problem of waste by scientists who work on useless trendy projects instead of useful but non-trendy projects.

Porn Star or Schoolteacher?

Should this teacher be fired because she appeared in a porn video before being hired as a teacher? Sorry, guys, only the teacher's face appears in Madeleine Morgenstern's story...

The opinion of this web site is that, since the woman didn't discuss her past history as a porn star with school officials, the school officials who discovered her porn video are definitely not better qualified to educate children than she is. At least the young actors in porn videos are paid, and presumably need the money, for what they've done. The school officials are paid to do other things...

This web site endorses homeschooling, by the way.

Now, About the Federal Reserve...

Some Tea Parties and Tea Partiers focus on corruption in the Federal Reserve. I've not been following that story...not so much because there used to be a rule that any Christian who mentioned the possibility that "the Fed" was, well, overfed, or over-empowered, was considered antisemitic (and I'm so grateful to Robert Reich for having agreed that it was too powerful); just because I'm too dysnumeric to cover stories that are all about numbers.

Bob Livingston isn't put off by numbers. Here's his latest report on this topic:

Virginia HB1160 Enacted Into Law

Lots of Tea Partiers have been e-mailing back and forth about Virginia's House Bill #1160, which officially provides that Virginia law enforcement will not participate in the military detention of U.S. citizens without a trial.

Those of us who followed the General Assembly's proceedings online last winter remember that HB1160 was very popular with voters and legislators, but Governor McDonnell hung back on actually signing it into law, apparently fearing that supporting this bill might make him seem too right-wing to his fellow Republicans (?!?!).

Although the bill's function is symbolic, and the National Defense Authorization Act that provoked it will soon be subject to reenactment--without the objectionable clauses that seemed to provide for possible use of U.S. troops to violate the U.S. Constitution, we can hope--it's a pleasure to report that a critical number of Republicans have reassured Governor McDonnell, and HB1160 is law at last.

This web site officially thanks Jim Babka, who I think is actually based in D.C., but whatever, for being first to report the good news. In fact I'm so grateful I'm going to share his e-mail, which contains live links to a legitimate nonprofit organization I recommend to the attention of anyone who's feeling munificent:

Together, we've struck two big blows against the NDAA legalized kidnapping provisions


Downsize DC Foundation proposed it, you funded it, and we did it. Our attorneys filed the amicus brief in the lawsuit being brought against the Federal State's new legalized kidnapping "law." This can be a powerful case with a great lead plaintiff, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Chris Hedges.

As usual, our brief makes unique arguments. We hope these claims help Mr. Hedges acquire standing, so that his case will go forward and this bad "law" will be overturned.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to make this happen. The deadline was tight, but Bill Olson and his team delivered the goods. I'll be sharing more about this soon. Meanwhile, there's more good news . . .


Delegate Bob Marshall of Virginia called me Wednesday night to once again thank Why? Just yesterday, HB 1160 was signed into law!

Starting July 1, Virginia officials are prohibited from aiding Federal agents in the kidnapping of American citizens.

You played a big part in this. Remember, it looked like we might lose this fight. But you helped bring the victory, and Delegate Marshall asked me to convey his thanks to you.

And I want to return the thanks to him for introducing this legislation.

I also want to applaud our attorney, Bill Olson, who played a big role in this outcome too. Bill Olson is a great partner, and a big part of our success.

NOW . . .

We hope you like how we deliver progress and victories. You make our work possible.

Right now, is $3,500 short of its budget for April, with only 10 days left. Can you contribute to close the gap?

Your support will bring more progress soon.

Jim Babka
President, Inc.
& Downsize DC Foundation

We also thank Delegate Marshall for his work on behalf of HB1160, and Delegates Kilgore, Crockett, and all the others who contributed to its success in the General Assembly.

One minor correction...I didn't fund Mr. Hedges' lawsuit, although if I were wealthy I might have chipped in. This was a group e-mail. If I'd inherited my late husband's money I'd be able to support religious or political causes. I didn't. I'm penniless. That's why I need you to support this web site, as a sponsor, by buying any book or product listed for sale here, or just as a reader showing'd pay five or ten dollars for a printed magazine, and you must admit there's as much good stuff at this site, by now, as there would be in a printed magazine.

Snake Vs. Spider: Dramatic Nature Video

I can't even watch the picture move from this computer, but Liz Klimas promises a long, "epic" video in which a large, venomous Australian spider ultimately defeats a venomous Australian snake:

Book Review: The Peak to Peek Principle

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: The Peak to Peek Principle

Author: Robert H. Schuller

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (hardcover), Bantam (paperback)

Date: 1990 (Bantam)
ISBN: 0553283782

This is another Robert Schuller faith-equals-business-success book. Like the others it was a bestseller in the 1980s and is now easy to find for sale, cheap, often donated to benefit sales by someone disillusioned with Schuller's form of Christian ministry.

As noted, I've never liked Schuller's ministry, and regret that the opportunity to kick it has come only after it's come down. It needed kicking while it was raking in the money.

However, Robert Schuller does know how to turn a modest beginning into a huge, glittering, profitable business. That's the one thing he has unquestionably done well. That he's done it as well, for as long, as anyone could reasonably hope to do, and has had to retire and turn his Crystal Cathedral over to children who didn't inherit his preaching talent, is one of those inevitable facts of life that may be airbrushed, but can't be completely denied, even in books like The Peak to Peek Principle.

What the Peak to Peek Principle is, is a general policy for entrepreneurs. If you set a realistic, achievable goal and reach it, you'll have a minor "peak" experience. After that you could slack off into a decline, or you could immediately "peek" forward to another realistic goal and regard yourself as moving toward your next "peak." In other words, maintain momentum.

Will this work for your business? Ah, well...Schuller was definitely too quick to confuse lucky breaks with signs of God's approval, and overlook the vagaries of the market. Lots of people who listened to Schuller's exposition of the Peak to Peek Principle, and believed it, are now bankrupt. Lots of people who discovered it on their own are now bankrupt. Lots of people who discounted it (I'm not sure what their alternative approach might have been) are bankrupt too.

The key to avoiding bankruptcy is to avoid debt. The Peak to Peek Principle is, however, a cutesy-wutesy name for an approach to any project that can help anybody. Many of us did discover it on our own, as it might have been with the summer projects our parents encouraged us to work on. If you wanted to get a room remodelled, an old car on the road, or a lot of garden produce sold, before school reopened, what did you do? Likely, you made a list--written down or not--of things you needed to do each week, worked toward completing each step, and, after finishing each step, started on the next one. Move the clutter out of the room. Clean the room. Repaint the room. And so on.

If you've never completed a summer project, or if you've been too overwhelmed by the thought of "growing" a business to consider how this approach applies to a task like that, The Peak to Peek Principle may be helpful to you. I'm not going to deny that Schuller's obnoxious extroverted personality oozes through this as it does through all of his books, but in this book he does have something worthwhile to say. Some otherwise sane people can actually profit from this book.

So it's an excellent Book to Buy From Me if you want to support this web site and get the right to post a free advertorial, with live links to your own business site. As usual, the minimum $5 for the book plus $5 for shipping includes a $1 royalty payment to Schuller. Other dealers on Amazon may offer clean copies cheaper, but they aren't making royalty payments to living authors--so far as I know that's this site's unique specialty. Alternatively, if you're in Gate City, Virginia, you can look for my cleaned copy in Oliver's, where it will cost less than $10 since it won't have to be shipped, or in Mountain Treasures, where it may wind up if not sold at Oliver's and will be even cheaper.

Tiny Houses Attract Odd People

Billy Hallowell reports on a movie capturing the trend of people who've reacted to "downsizing" by choosing to live in tiny...well, homes, because some of these places aren't even houses. Storage cubicles. Trailers--not trailer houses, but actual trailers. Caves. Tool sheds.

They're obviously into simplicity, and most of them seem committed to celibacy, but apparently they're harmless eccentrics rather than, well, street people.

Where to Find Books You Can Buy From Me (Update)

A few weeks ago, I posted here that "until further notice" readers could look for Books You Can Buy From Me at the Mountain Treasures store in Gate City, Virginia. Some books may still be there, if they're not sold, and others may appear there. It's still a nice little charity store that employs semi-retired people to resell nice things on behalf of legitimate local charities.

However, some of these books have never hit the shelves at Mountain Treasures. the storekeepers share my taste in books?

Apparently that's not the reason. One of the storekeepers' younger relatives are launching a new downtown store called Oliver's. (It can be dangerous to assume that, when a business has a human-like name, the name belongs to the owner. Sometimes businesses are named in honor of a long-gone partner or an owner's grandchild, but in this case, I was informed, Oliver is the owners' dog.) I'm told that they've become regular lurkers at this site, and have been snapping up "classier," more valuable books reviewed here to display in their for-profit store.

Oliver's sells antiques and collectibles. What makes it different from all the other antique shops in Gate City is the emphasis on furniture and interior decorating, rather than just any old stuff, small old stuff, or handmade stuff. Apparently the owners, or some of them, are seriously into old furniture and have been seeking out valuable antiques and good-quality recent furniture for a long time.

Merchandise is displayed in groupings, as in a furniture store, with a bed or table as the focus of each grouping and chairs, side tables, shelves, quilts, lamps, books, and so on arranged as they would be in an actual room. Somebody in this store has a real gift for selecting items that would look good together in your house--not matchy-matchy "suites," but pieces that seem harmonious in size, color, vintage, and general mood. If you want your home, or part of your home, to look "decorated" with things of a respectable age and quality, this is where to start shopping.

There are several bookshelves in Oliver's and it's quite an honor to find one of them half-filled with Books You Can Buy From Me. Christian books, cookbooks, and rare-and-valuable books, I'm told, are likely to land here before they get to Mountain Treasures. (Hmm...if you bought the shelf without the books, would that get lots of books back into Mountain Treasures, where you or a friend could snap'em up at charity-store prices? Why not try it and find out?)

So far the store doesn't have a web site or phone number, and doesn't take credit cards, although those things are coming--expected to be operational by May or June. However, it's easy to find (on the prime retail block, between the courthouse and the traffic light) and wheelchair-accessible. The owners plan to be open during daytime business hours, but may be open on Saturdays and closed on Mondays.

If you're in Gate City during the daytime, you'll want to check out this store.

Book Review: In the Shadow of His Wings

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: In the Shadow of His Wings

Author: Carol Schuller

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (1986), Jove (1988)

Date: 1986 (hardcover), 1988 (paperback)

ISBN: 0515098027

Length: 216 pages

Illustrations: black-and-white photo insert

Quote: "[T]he treacherous downhill course...was one event in the 1984 Handicapped Nationals that I had a chance at winning....My red Atomic ski ran fast and smooth."

Right. Ski, not skis. For those who've forgotten, the daughter of millionnaire TV preacher Robert Schuller became a skier after losing one leg. She carried a torch in the Olympics. She really was--I am not being snarky as I type this, although the Schuller clan bring out my snarky side--an inspiration to us all.

This does not prevent her book from including occasional bits of stomach-turning Positive Thinking quotes from her father: "I know you'll have to walk down the aisle on crutches; no one can get a leg made for you by then. But you know what? That's okay." Oh, sure it is. If you were a teenager about to be a bridesmaid for the very first time--or for that matter if you just had a sprained ankle!--all you'd need would be for some smirky preacher to tell you that your pain, not to mention your conspicuousness and the risk of aggravating your injury, was okay, and everything would be just fine and dandy! Oh, right!

It is, however, reassuring to know that the Schuller children, including Carol, grew up reasonably "normal," apart from having adapted to that horrible, smarmy communication pattern. My opinion that any utterance that follows the pattern, "I know [some undesirable thing has happened to you, not me], but you know what? That's okay," is grounds for divorce, desertion, abandonment, hasn't changed, but the Schuller family do constitute evidence that people survive and adapt to this kind of verbal atrocities.

Another thing that hasn't changed: There are a lot of people with physical disabilities who do things they've supposedly lost the ability to do, better than the average person who doesn't have the same disability. Most of us have the opportunity to meet a few of them if we live long enough. This web site has often referred to people who've become good at a job that was in some way a kind of defiance of a physical injury--a blind editor, a two-finger typist who was actually born with only two fingers, a one-handed builder, a writer with hydrocephaly, and others. I enjoy watching these people do their thing, but it's not because they represent "a triumph of the human spirit," exactly, because my cat Mogwai became a bolder climber and hunter than her sisters in defiance of an injury, too. But such people (and animals) definitely have a kind of fortitude that many people like to observe. Books about them are a recognized literary genre; athletic performances by them are a major sports event. Does In the Shadow of His Wings have more literary merit than any other memoir by any other competitor in these events? How much of this book's success is due to the fact that Carol Schuller had a rich and famous father, and most of the other competitors didn't?

Probably a lot. It's not that Carol Schuller wasn't an inspiring and lovable teenager, or that her book isn't well enough written to entertain readers during commutes or hospital visits, or wouldn't have been a good read if her name had been Carol Smith. It's that her book sold more copies than My Left Foot did...because she was Robert Schuller's kid. And now libraries are discarding copies of her book, and selling them for nickels and dimes...because she's Robert Schuller's daughter.

Well, enough about the woman, what about the book? I think a lot of people who wouldn't read Robert Schuller's books might enjoy Carol's, because she's not a preacher and she doesn't preach in this book; she's an athlete, and she reminisces about training and competitions.

One observation Schuller makes that's likely to help some readers is that just having lots of surgeries, anesthetics, antibiotics, etc., can cause overwhelming depression as a physical symptom. Philosophy or psychology can help people cope with this condition; they don't make it go away, any more than they fix a broken or amputated leg. Drugs that produce a "high" mood may help some patients survive, or may push patients into suicide, depending on how the individual body reacts to the drug. Schuller bonded with other injured teenagers in the hospital and lost a few friends to this physical disease process. Awareness that it can happen won't prevent it from happening to a prospective Special Olympian you might know, but awareness can help patients and families cope. Knowing that the emotion of depression is a physical reaction to what's happened to the body, that it will come and go, can help people choose not to commit suicide, vent despondent thoughts that hurt others, or even reach for "medications" that may do more harm than good.

That said, to what extent does this book cheerfully deny the discouraging reality of pain in its focus on sports and Schuller's being a normal, not even academic, teenager? Recent psychology suggests that the level of denial may be much lower than you'd expect. Teenagers have a lot of energy, and heal fast. Vigorous exercise is a powerful natural painkiller.

Every teenager who loses a leg, or the use of a leg, can't be given a horse (Schuller was). Every injured teenager who can keep a horse, and appreciate having one, won't even choose horseback riding as a primary method of pain control and recovery (Schuller obviously chose skiing). However, as long as this book can motivate more injured teenagers to choose physical activity over drugs as a painkiller, it will be accomplishing good things. Warmly recommended.

When I started typing in this review, I wasn't sure exactly where to tell local lurkers to look for it in real, that's a separate post. To buy it from this web site, e-mail for either a Paypal or a real mail address. Minimum price: $5 for a clean copy of the book, $5 for shipping; if you buy several books at one time we'll consolidate the shipping fee; we will send Carol Schuller or her favorite charity $1, and you will get to post a free advertorial, which may contain live links to for-profit sites if they test as safe. Amazon prices may be even lower but do not include royalty payments to living authors, as ours do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: Journey Into Fear

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Journey Into Fear

Author: Eric Ambler

Publisher: Knopf (1943), Carroll & Graf (1990)

Date: 1943 (hardcover), 1990 (paperback)

ISBN: 0375726721

Length: 243 pages

Quote: "He put the key in the lock, turned it, pushed the door open and, with his right hand, felt along for the wall for the light switch. The next moment there was a splinter of flame in the darkness and an ear-splitting detonation."

Frankly, Gentle Readers, I'm over my head trying to review this book. I've read it; I can tell you that it's a spy novel about an Englishman who survives a dangerous journey across Europe in 1939, and that there are sexy women and violent deaths but no obscene details in it.

What I can't tell you is what makes one novel in this genre better than others. It's not a mystery: we know that Graham, the good guy, will survive, and we know who's trying to kill him and why. It's an adventure, but it's strictly a fictional adventure, so the author's portrayal of Graham's fear and courage doesn't really teach us anything.

The mystery surrounding this book, for me, is why my husband owned it. A gift? Bought to make up a dozen on a dollar-a-dozen book sale? A souvenir of childhood escape reading? He liked mysteries, but since Journey into Fear contains no puzzle to solve I wouldn't have thought he would have liked it. He owned some books that were gifts, that he'd never read...

Anyway, it was read and enjoyed all over the English-speaking world during the war years, and liked well enough to be reprinted fifty years later. And if you click on the ISBN link above, you'll open an Amazon page where reviewers who are apparently qualified to judge spy stories say this is one of the best. So I can say that, for people who like this kind of book, it's the kind of book they like.

Popularity lowers the price of a book that's been around for just ten or twenty years...this is another one you can buy from me, online, for $5 per clean copy and $5 shipping. Since Eric Ambler no longer needs the $1, those who may want to support the Books You Can Buy From Me system in order to support living authors should choose another book. You are, however, welcome to buy this book from me in order to support this web site: e-mail: Or, as usual, if you're in Gate City, you can buy the cleaned copy I'm willing to sell, probably for less than $1.

Book Review: Cooking with Julia & Friends

A Book You Can Buy From real life. I can't guarantee that it'll be available online.

Book Title: Cooking with Julia & Friends

Author: Julia North

Author's recent YouTube video:

Publisher: Looks like another Cookbook Publishers special, but the only contact information given is for The Redeemed Quartet (Rt. 4, Box 1435, Rogersville, Tennessee, 37857).

Date: Not shown, but the band members look considerably younger on the back cover than they do on YouTube. (They've been performing for thirty years.)

ISBN: none

Illustrations: photos of band members and food

Quote: "Many...friends in gospel music...were willing to reveal some of their cooking 'secrets.' Others I received members and friends at home."

By "friends in gospel music" Julia North means "people you've seen if you watch the Southern Gospel music video channel on TV." The Bentons, the Spencers, the Primitive Quartet, The McGlothlins, The Singing Cookes, The McGees, Gospel Sounds, and the Chuck Wagon Gang are well represented in this book. It's practically a Who's Who of Southern Gospel bands; so if your church is able to get a big-name band to perform on a special occasion, you'll know what to feed them.

But only on special occasions, I have to warn you. People do not keep the ability to sing in public, and look and sound like the people on that YouTube video, after thirty years if they eat very much of these dishes. These recipes are for the kind of high-calorie food you let children whip up and take to a large gathering where a "serving" is the amount that can be scooped up on a toothpick and held on a paper napkin.

There are more desserts than main courses in Cooking with Julia & Friends. Looking at the dessert recipes, I think this is because the people who cook this kind of desserts are likely to think the main courses they serve are "just plain cooking." One ingredient per dish, either baked or fried or boiled, with a bit of seasoning. (Strawberries, cucumbers, and watermelon might be served raw with a bit of seasoning.) Bread would typically be either cornbread or biscuits, which every self-respecting Southern girl learned to bake before age ten, or "store-bought" sandwich bread. Desserts are the only thing on the table that seem to need a written-down recipe.

Several of the dessert recipes are the kind of "jokes" in which a gross-out name is applied to something yummy. Here are Baptist Pie (made with canned fruit and Cool Whip, as allegedly served by some Baptists), Turtle Cake (chocolate, nuts, and caramel, like once-popular "Turtles" candies), Dirt Cake (chocolate cookie crumb topping), Dump Cake (ingredients just dumped into the pan and baked without mixing), Hillbilly Cake (egg-free), Wasp Nest Cake (baked with butterscotch chips on top), Spiders (chow mein noodles stuck together with candy and baked), Sand Tarts (rich shortbread-like dough given a "sandy" texture with nut meal), and also Monkey Bread (bread dough rolled into small balls and stuck together with butter before baking, so that it can be pulled apart and held in both hands, monkey-style, while eating).

I miss Methodist Pie (for which I've never found a recipe), Possum Pie (an especially gooey, messy chocolate cream pie--possums are messy animals), and Dirty Rice (white rice "dirtied up" with lots of spices). If it included recipes for these treats, I think this book might be a complete collection of food treats with gross-out names.

Even recipes with straightforward names, in this collection, tend to be on the cheap-and-junky side. Lots of Jello salads, lots of canned condensed soup used as sauce, lots of desserts made by adding even more butter, sugar, and cream to a flavor base of candy bars or soda pop.

However, good news for those who really can't eat a certain food, even as a treat: quite a few of these recipes are dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, or "free" from other things someone you know may need to avoid. Lots of them do call for pre-processed foods that contain undesirable additives, but others are real oldfashioned recipes dating back further than the additives, and can be made with all-natural ingredients.

Although the selection is regional--most of these bands are based in the Blue Ridge or Smoky Mountains--this cookbook is just what thoughtful, frugal gourmets everywhere need if they want to serve something "different," "sinful," and popular at a large party. It's not--how many times should I repeat?--not a basic family-meal-planner collection, but it's great for annual reunions, camp meetings, the final day of an evangelistic crusade when new members are welcomed into a church, and generally the kind of special occasions for which a well-known band is likely to be hired.

Nobody else seems to be offering this souvenir book for sale I can't promise to mail out any clean copies either. I doubt that even the Rogersville post office still uses rural route addresses, but imagine that the Rogersville post office would know the band's current address, and the best way to obtain a copy of this book would be to send them a postcard.

Book Review: Autobiography of a Face

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Autobiography of a Face

Author: Lucy Grealy

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Date: 1994

ISBN: 0060569662

Length: 236 pages including the posthumous afterword by Ann Patchett

Quote: "My pleasure at the sight of the children didn't last long, however. I knew what was coming. As soon as they got over the thrill of being near the ponies, they'd notice me.Half my jaw was missing."

Lucy Grealy survived a rare form of cancer, in childhood...but only barely. Somehow, between pain, heavy pain medication, and living with a disfigured face, she managed to write two books. We know how she managed the writing part--writing is a great distraction--but I remain awestruck by the fact that both books were not only acclaimed by critics, but also popular with the reading public.

In Autobiography of a Face, she turned her own personal pain into a reflection on how every little girl in the English-speaking world finds herself defined by her placement in life-as-a-beauty-contest. Very few faces have ever looked like Grealy's, but almost all teenaged girls, including supermodels, have been made to want to put on a burqa just to force people to notice other things about them. So, although it's unlikely that we understand half of what Grealy was describing (even if you've had chemotherapy, you probably didn't have it during puberty), we can relate to her main point.

One of Grealy's numerous siblings has objected to Ann Patchett's writing a memoir about having been Grealy's friend, complaining on Wikipedia that publishers have denied the family their natural right to grieve privately. This woman may not like my even writing about Grealy's own book; some people want to suppress the continued publication of their relatives' successful books, because their departed relatives' fame reminds them.

If so, I'm sorry, because I recommend Autobiography of a Face to anyone who is, was, or may at some time live with, a girl. Maybe, just maybe, this extreme example of how people limit their perceptions of girls to what girls, themselves, normally experience as the least interesting thing about them, will continue to accomplish something ordinary memoirs of the great involuntary beauty contest never did, or could. Maybe it will impress us with the need to look at teenaged girls less, and listen to them more.

While living, Lucy Grealy joked about the inevitable descriptions of this book as "heroic" and "triumphant." Pain does not, in fact, make people "strong." Grealy knew pain, throughout her life, even after the cancer was theoretically gone; she died from an overdose of painkillers. She did, nevertheless, overcome the emotional pain of being ugly...

"Ugly? What are you talking about?" someone ought to be saying, looking at the photo on the back cover of the book, which is also on the Wikipedia page about Grealy. This is not an ugly face; it's a scarred face. The hair, eyes, and basic bone structure are quite nice. Yes, but this is the face of the mature cancer survivor. Scars were what lasted after the ravages of chemotherapy were over. The effects of chemotherapy are profoundly ugly, while they last, and much of this book is about the years when Grealy was going through chemotherapy.

The "Irish" temperament (not, of course, limited to Irish people, or given to all Irish people, but embodied in Irish art and culture), which remains cheerful while fully acknowledging all the dismal things in life, is a lucky accident.

Then there's classic repression: "I did [cry], ashamed of myself, unable to meet my mother's eyes as she began telling me not to, to hold it back. The tourniquet went on, and it began all over again, just like the week before, except that this time when I got home I went straight to bed...I felt that my mother was disappointed with me. I hadn't gone straight to bed last time...'You...can't get depressed by it. Don't give in to it. You were not so bad last time, so make sure that what you're feeling isn't just in your head.'"

Then there's the virtue of fortitude...which is what allows people, whether naturally cheerful or not, to survive emotionally even when members of their families fail to recognize that successive rounds of chemotherapy are supposed to feel increasingly horrible.

All memoirs about painful illness provide illustrations of one, and sometimes contrasts among all three, of these distinct things that are sometimes casually lumped together as "toughness" or "courage." I find clearer contrasts in Autobiography of a Face than I've found in any other disease story I've read. Whether this is because Grealy describes each of the three kinds of "courage" more clearly, and less self-consciously, than anyone else does, or because I'm older and more callous and can bear to read this kind of book more attentively than before, I don't know. Readers are invited to share their opinions.

Popular books tend to become very affordable. If you buy this book from me online, I'll have to charge the minimum $5 for the book and $5 for shipping. That would be a nice way to support this web site. However, since Grealy has no use for $1, and other online prices start at $0.01 for the book (plus shipping), you might prefer to buy an old book by a living author from me, and buy this one from the supplier nearest you. If you're in Gate City, Virginia, you can buy the cleaned copy I have for sale for less than $1.

A Cartoon Grandma Bonnie Peters Would Love

Grandma Bonnie Peters is still too busy to contribute an article to this blog, but I know she'd love this cartoon:

Hiking in the D.C. Suburbs

This one's just a bit biased toward Montgomery County, Maryland, but how bad is that? Montgomery County has hiking trails, and other attractions, that even my Creative Tightwad husband used to agree were worth driving for.

That deer and herons have moved into the Sligo Creek Park is definitely good news.

Another Hilarious E-Plea for Money

Somebody noticed that I get both White House updates and Bristol/NASCAR updates by e-mail...What follows is by Jim Messina, copied directly from the e-mail. Attention people who ask me for money, your pleas may be shared with the world on this chuckles...

Growing up, I'd get pretty excited about NASCAR races. And I still love them. That's why I want to be the one to tell you that the folks planning the 2012 Democratic National Convention have figured out a way for you to show your support -- on a NASCAR stock car.

The convention's host committee is going to debut an official "Powered by the American People" car. And they want to put your name on it.

When you become a sponsor by donating just $5 or more, your name will appear on the car.

For me, this is a no-brainer. All you have to do is tell them how to spell your name, and you're off.

Grassroots support is the only way this convention is going to be a success. The 2012 convention will be funded by supporters like you, not special interests, lobbyists or political action committees -- and that's why we're not putting any corporate logos on the car. Just the names of folks like you who step up to make this happen.

The convention is going to kick off with a free Labor Day celebration at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, where everyone who comes out will see the official stock car.

Is your name going to be on it?

Let us know soon.


Jim MessinaCampaign ManagerObama for America

Todd Stiefel Funds Atheist Movement

Had you ever heard Todd Stiefel's name before? I hadn't, before I read Billy Hallowell's interview:

Here's another man who needs our prayers.

Book Review: Let's Dish Up a Dinner Party

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Let's Dish Up a Dinner Party

Author: Nelson Aspen

Author's web site:

Publisher: Kensington Books

Date: 2004

ISBN: 0758206976

Length: 176 pages

Illustrations: lots of small black-and-white drawings, most from Havana Street

Quote: "I think at-home entertainment should be gay all the way!"

That's pretty much what you'll like--or dislike--about this book. That's probably not sufficient reason to buy a book, so why would you buy it?

One reason: celebrity gossip. "Mindy Sterling is one of those delicate dieters who told me, 'I hqave to find out what they are having ahead of time or eat before I go.'" "Norma Vally [and Aspen]...have...the same passion for fried artichokes." "Cindy Margolis, 'the most downloaded woman on the Internet,' is known best for her sexy swimsuit spreads...Her husband, Guy Starkman, owns Jerry's Famous Deli."

Another reason: quips and quotes...ideal for times when, "Like Dolly Parton says, 'It's better to choose what you say, than say what you choose!'" On tedious in-laws: "'His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.'--Mae West." On the importance of food at a party: "'A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything thanhe does of his own dinner.'--Samuel Johnson." These tidbits are scattered randomly throughout the book. Some pages contain two, some none; sometimes they seem immediately relevant, sometimes thrown in just for fun.

And, of course: recipes--all with goofy names, many expensive and faddy, some delicious.

No particular effort has been made to select recipes that are "free" from anything, and editing the recipes to suit dietary needs may or may not have satisfactory results. You could, for example, make "Louan's Cheesy Spinach Balls" gluten- and dairy-free, by baking two cups of cornmeal with only leavening, salt, water, enough oil to lubricate the pan, and a little sage and thyme if you like, in place of the stuffing mix, and omitting the butter and cheese, and baking them as muffins rather than "balls." I've tried this. It's frugal, healthy, vegetarian, and delicious; and if you don't want to heat up the oven, you could even fry it, in small amounts, like pancakes or waffles. But it won't have enough gluten and saturated fat to form cutesy-wutesy little "balls" you can serve on toothpicks. It will need to be eaten from a plate, with a fork.

Some other recipes just felicitously happen to be "free" from whatever you might want to avoid; lots of Aspen's trendy friends are avoiding something or other. "Luscious Lentil Soup" is definitely a main course; gluten-free, dairy-free, and easily made vegan and yeast-and-alcohol free. "Unbeatable Black Bean Salad" is pure veg and seasonings, rich in protein. "Perfect Paella" is gluten-free, dairy-free, and introduced as "easy to adjust for vegetarians." And so on.

For all but the trendiest parties, this book offers a nice mix of plain and posh, health-conscious and death-defying, simple and elaborate, frugal and pricey, and sweet and savory recipes. "Let's Dish" isn't my dish, even as TV goes (I'm so clueless about current TV that I bought this book to find out what "Let's Dish" was all about), but Let's Dish Up a Dinner Party is adequate for a mini-cookbook.

Price: $5 for a clean copy, $5 for shipping, and out of this we'll send Aspen $1, if you click on Less than $1 for my copy (although, so far as I can tell, it's still clean) if you buy it locally.

Mathew Staver in Defense of the Constitution

The following e-mail from Mathew Staver has been slightly edited for clarity by Priscilla King:


According to a recent article on, Representative Barney Frank, the retiring ultra-liberal Congressman from Massachusetts, now says…

“President Obama made a ‘mistake’ in pushing for his signature health law. ‘I think we paid a terrible price for health care,’ he told Jason Zengerle of New York magazine. ‘I would not have pushed it as hard.’”

Frank is half right about both things... No time was a good time to push for Obama’s signature legislation… and we are still paying a terrible price for the President’s healthcare “reform” law.

I know you are aware there could be very few political issues upon which I would agree with Congressman Barney Frank. In fact, Mr. Frank’s views and actions landed him a spot in Liberty Counsel’s “Adopt a Liberal” prayer campaign and we have been faithfully praying for him for nearly three years now.

When informed of our having included him in our prayer program, Congressman Frank made a derisive public statement about how many of his cards should be traded for a Barack Obama Card or a Hillary Clinton card! We appreciated the humor with which he took his inclusion in our Adopt a Liberal program, but we take his standing with the Lord very seriously indeed.

So when he made his recent statement about ObamaCare, it seemed unusual that I would quickly agree with his opinion, even though we use entirely different reasoning processes to reach such conclusions.

Here is the essence of Barney Frank’s view on the subject:

He believes that the Democratic party paid a terrible price for the passage of ObamaCare – losing the Massachusetts Senate seat to a Republican – and suffering a “shellacking” (Barack Obama’s word) in the 2010 midterm elections.

Frank now feels that after ObamaCare was thrust into law through backroom deals, bribery, manipulation, and a mangling of the legislative process by the most ultra-liberal Congress in the history of our nation – in which he played a key role, by the way – the “prize” has proven to be an enormous political liability.

But Liberty Counsel’s view is that NO immoral political act can produce good fruit. The fact is that AMERICANS continue PAYING a terrible price – and if the law is not struck down or otherwise derailed, we will ultimately pay an insurmountable cost for the passage of ObamaCare.

Even before being fully implemented, ObamaCare is wreaking havoc on every citizen, our judicial system, our economy, our world-class healthcare system, and our First Amendment rights.

It’s a deception-filled, socialist monstrosity that is patently unconstitutional and immoral at its core – while also shamelessly advancing the abortion industry.

And as you know, a myriad of other destructive policies have been set in place by the Obama administration, its extremist, agenda-driven “czars,” and other unelected, unvetted officials.

Further, this administration is routinely and blatantly manipulating federal agencies to sidestep the constitutionally prescribed checks and balances of our federal government.

In fact, many observers have criticized this president for creating a vast, unaccountable “shadow government” – an opportunistic ruling class bent on circumventing the Constitution.

This is the Obama administration’s “War on the Constitution”!

++I need your signature for an important petition delivery in just 48 Hours.

On Friday, Liberty Counsel will be delivering our petition, “Stop the War on the Constitution,” to the leadership of Congress and other targeted officials. Right now, there are over 74,000 names on the petition. Since your signature is not one of them, I could use your help to surpass our goal of 75,000 signatures and well beyond, which will make this petition one of our most impactful efforts to date.

Please click here to immediately sign the petition and be included in this important delivery:

I believe that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America lay down the master plan for our exceptional form of government and are unique treasures entrusted to the American people.

Never before in history has a government been formed with so many checks and balances to ensure that its citizens would be free from the tyranny, autocracy, and oppression that inevitably arise when elitists demand to rule over those they consider inferior.

The Founders knew first-hand that tyranny arises when “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” depriving citizens of essential liberties.

President Barack Obama apparently believes that he knows better that our nation’s Founders – that the Constitution is outdated and/or irrelevant. His agenda to “fundamentally transform” America proves that belief, as it renders the constitutional principles of individual freedom and conscience protection as unworthy of being given precedence over the needs of the State.

The gift of Liberty is too precious to squander! It is our God-ordained duty to fight for what is right and good and which was obtained and preserved at a great price. Please take a moment to sign this important petition today to help protect the system of government that has made our nation great! Time is running out to be included in this important delivery:

We must not allow ANYONE to subvert the Constitution in order to form a more “socialized” union! Please, click here to sign Liberty Counsel’s “Stop the War on the Constitution” petition:

May God richly bless you – as together we stand and fight in our God-ordained battle for Life, Liberty, and Family!

Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman
Liberty Counsel

P.S. We will deliver the “Stop the War on the Constitution” petitions on Friday! We cannot allow socialist czars and cohorts in federal agencies to tread upon our liberties. We MUST demand that those who swore to uphold the Constitution be held accountable to do exactly that!

When you sign the petition, you will receive a complimentary copy of our “Patriots’ Handbook of American Liberty” and a “Lord, Deliver us from ObamaCare” bumper sticker.

Book Review: The Cloister Walk

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: The Cloister Walk

Author: Kathleen Norris

Publisher: Riverhead (Berkley)

Date: 1996

ISBN: 1573225843

Quote: "A married woman such as myself...who makes frequent visits to a monastery, will follow the Rule in a far different way than the men and women who commit their lives entirely to a monastic community."

By now the story of Kathleen Norris's life has developed far enough for more of it to be told: Ex-Protestant poet, married to ex-Catholic poet, go into blocked states when he becomes badly depressed. Not just "Highly Sensitive" to a low-energy mood, which is the kind of "depression" all creative types share (and needs no cure but time), but dangerously depressed, as a symptom of a disease. In David Dwyer's case, the disease was cancer. Several medical interventions were needed to prolong his life, and during these interventions Kathleen Norris stayed at a convent near the hospital, bonded with nuns, reaffirmed her own (Presbyterian) faith...wrote five very successful, and excellent, books of Christian nonfiction...was asked to preach regularly in her church...took a vow of "oblation," or committed association, with her friends the nuns...and, in order to write this book, spent a year taking coeducational classes at a monastery, where she and other women were long-term guests or part-time residents, eating and praying with the monks. Only after Dwyer died, when writing about how ill he'd been wouldn't discourage him and aggravate his illness, could Norris explain exactly why she kept hanging around these monasteries.

This was possible since, as Norris had explained, Benedictine monks and nuns are neither silent nor cloistered; their vows involve active ministry to people of both sexes and all conditions...and they don't even have to be Catholic. The Cloister Walk is the one of her pentalogy that reports most about the monks and nuns.

It sold well because there was a wave of interest in monastic people in the 1990s. An album of traditional chants (in Latin) outsold several pop albums for several weeks. Ironically, while Norris's nun friends didn't wear traditional robes and sandals, or even the closed-toed T-strapped shoes called "monk shoes," fashion designers even identified monks' traditional gear as a source of inspiration for women's clothes...they couldn't go on hailing Barbara Bush's and Sarah Ferguson's look as "new," or futilely trying to market D.C. streetcorner women's working uniform as the "new" alternative, any longer I suppose. Pundits debated what this interest in the monastic life was all about. Norris has some valid insights into it, when it was serious. For most people it wasn't serious, and my insight is that, as the largest age group in America entered middle age and started considering the prospect of losing our money and family lives, we did feel some--passing--interest in reading about people who'd chosen not to have money or family lives in the first place.

Do nuns feel exploited, having taken vows of poverty in the service of what's actually a super-rich global corporation? Apparently not; Benedictine vows require a comfortable degree of poverty, more simplicity than real poverty, which nuns from really poor backgrounds experience as luxury. Nuns and monks take vows not to accumulate big bank accounts and to direct the profits of their work back into the church and its charities, but its charities allow for the nuns and monks to be well fed and comfortably housed, and to buy whatever they need for their work.

Do they feel "weird" or uncomfortable in those habits? No; the robes are quite comfortable, and since the 1960s they've been free to wear anything they find useful over, under, or instead of robes.

Are they all repressed homosexuals? Definitely not. Some are asexual or postsexual. Some take vows of abstinence from homosexual activity, and some from heterosexual activity...but none of them seems to be repressing any awareness of what they're abstaining from. Several tell Norris that they've "fallen in love," and suspect that most of their "brothers and sisters" have too. Like other Christians whose vows are to practice fidelity within marriage or abstinence before (or after) marriage, they have a choice about continuing to see the people they can't sleep with, strictly as friends, or avoiding them. At least the monasteries offer plenty of help and guidance for those who need such.

Does "sup-pressing, then, if they're not re-pressing" sexual feelings make them emotionally uptight, vulnerable to expressing their sexuality in the form of sadistic cruelty to each other or to their students? Some monks and nuns admit they've known people like that, but there's room for suspicion these individuals would have been abusive partners if they'd been married too; anyone who's worked with children knows that cruelty, as a reaction to frustration, appears at least ten years before sexuality. Obviously Norris's friends wouldn't be mean, grumpy, unlikable people. In fact the monks and nuns she knows seem the sort of nice, quiet, creative, ethical, and compassionate people any poet would choose as friends...but there are other people, reported in every monastic community, whom one describes as "just supremely strange." (A few monks and nuns even receive psychiatric treatment, just like other medical treatment.) They describe a positive effort to express their suppressed sexuality in the form of compassionate love.

When The Cloister Walk was still a bestseller, my husband and I read it together as a curiosity about the strange ways people meet and bond, out in rural South Dakota where the population is too sparse for people who wouldn't normally see each other to avoid doing so. I had no idea that, ten years later, I'd be rereading it in a mood of solidarity with another cancer widow. Nor did I anticipate that, as a cancer widow, I'd meet people who would exclaim in exasperation with my lifestyle that "You are a nun." And in fact the biggest difference between my life and the lives of the employed, mostly academic, rural-living, simplicity-loving, continent heterosexual middle-aged nuns Norris knew best does seem to be that my home isn't being maintained by a big, rich church.

Other nuns? That irksome "get me out of this hen coop" feeling that sets in when women spend too much time too close together, however much we love one another, however closely we're related? I now cherish a copy of The Cloister Walk as a reminder that other women, even women who are (if it's possible) more thoroughly introverted than I am, manage to work through that feeling...because I have this widowed mother, who's still able to work and even in demand, right now, but the day is sure to come...

In addition to satisfying most readers' curiosity and providing other readers inspiration, Norris also indulges in some poetic prose--a few, not enough to suit me, of the landscapes she word-painted so well in Dakota. And she works through some feelings about some of the "Catholic Things" that are most problematic for Protestants, like St. Jerome, who actually liked women but wrote some wonderfully obnoxious things about women by way of encouragement to young monks (the heterosexual ones):

"Jerome's own character was notoriously difficult...a man 'of pronounced ascetical views'...on the virtues...of sleeping on cold floors, full of groans and tears. Who wouldn't cry? The hymn we sing in Jerome's honor is a pleasant, generic hymn in praise of the saints, entitled 'Who Are These Like Stars Appearing,' and it amuses me greatly to envision Jerome...shining like a star, and hating every minute of it."

And like how religious people can stand all that worship...she finds that "going to church" has been made more problematic for some secular people than it is for religious people:

"I learned that when you go to church, several times a day, every day, there is no way you can 'do it right.' You are not always going to sit up wear your best clothes...You...find that the psalms do not deny your true feelings but allow you to reflect on them."

Even the reactions to tribal wars that appear in some of the Psalms:

"Anger is one honest reaction to the cost of pain, and the psalms are full of anger...In recent years, some Benedictine...communities have begun censoring the harshest...'cursing psalms' from their public worship. But one sister...said...'[S]omething is not right. The human experience is of violence, and the psalms reflect our experience of the world.'..But all-American optimism, largely a middle-class and Protestant phenomenon, doesn't want to know this world. We want to conquer evil by being nice, and nice people don't want to soil their white gloves...[O]ne grandmother explained [to a grandchild] that she had to study a poem about being angry, and it might help to read it aloud. But soon after she'd entered the catalogue of curses--'Let their children be wanderers and beggars / driven from the ruins of their home. / Let creditors seize all their goods...' [Ps. 109:10-11]--the child cried out, 'Oh, stop! Stop! He's just a college kid!' The daily praying of the psalms helps monastic people to live with them in a balanced and realistic way, appreciating their hyperbole without taking it as prescriptive."

Not your ordinary book of pious thoughts, The Cloister Walk was written for people who want to learn something new every day, by one of us, and it may continue to illuminate our intellectual, spiritual, and domestic "walk" through life for a good long time. It's recommended to anyone who doesn't already have it.

Popularity has kept the price nice and low: $5 for a clean copy, $5 for shipping, and you can probably haggle down to fifty or even forty cents for the cleaned copy I'm putting up for sale here in Gate City. E-mail to buy it from me, and Norris, or her convent or other designated charity, gets $1. (Yes, you can click on the ISBN link above to buy it cheaper on Amazon, but Norris won't get a payment that way.)