Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Raw Milk Is a Crime?

There has to be more to this story...


California has so few problems with illegal drugs and aliens, these days, they can afford to go after this guy for distributing unpasteurized milk?!

If Only Six-Year-Olds Could Vote...

If six-year-old kids were allowed to vote, little Isaac Anthony can tell you how he'd vote.


Yes, for those who can't watch the adorable child video, the transcript is provided.

Becket Adams Remembers Milton Friedman

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand."


People Who Don't Need to Go Gluten-Free

Liz Klimas reports on people who have no actual reactions to wheat gluten, but are buying the pricier, trendier gluten-free alternative foods because they mistakenly think these foods are healthier for everyone:


Are gluten-free foods healthier? Not necessarily. There's plenty of gluten-free junkfood out there. Fritos, Twizzlers, and M&Ms are gluten-free. So are greasy hamburgers and nitrite-sodden luncheon meats. If you are gluten-intolerant, these foods are in fact healthier for you, in a strictly relative way, than organic whole-wheat bread. If you're not gluten-intolerant, you're probably better off eating the bread.

By "healthier in a relative way" I mean: If I make an occasional "road meal" of Fritos and Mountain Dew, I won't immediately get sick, but the next time I'm in a grocery store I will literally feel a craving for spinach. Grandma Bonnie Peters, on the other hand, is older and has less tolerance for saturated fats and simple carbs, and will immediately feel--not really sick, but unsatisfied and less energetic than usual--if she makes a meal of junkfood. And some other gluten-intolerant people we know, who have other food tolerance issues including but not limited to diabetes, might collapse and need medical treatment if they made a meal of Fritos and Mountain Dew.

Understanding gluten intolerance does not mean just switching from the misbelief that wheat is good for everybody to a misbelief that gluten-free is good for everybody. It means understanding that every individual body digests food in a different, complex way.

More Cybersecurity Issues

Liz Klimas lists five more ways your privacy is likely to be compromised online:


Monday, July 30, 2012

Fun Facts About Coffee

I hate to spoil the fun...


...but these fun facts don't tell the whole story about coffee. Those who drink it all day long, "oblivious to the effects of all the caffeine," do need to cut back; caffeine stimulates kidney activity, and too much of a good thing can produce nephritis, which can among other things make bladder control more difficult.

Fortunately, most people who drink one or two cups of coffee, or tea, or an equivalent amount of caffeinated soda pop or chocolate, in the morning, don't get these adverse effects. Doctors now advise those of us who use caffeine to enjoy it...in moderation.

Does Saccharin Promote Weight Gain?

Reading the title of this Yahoo update, "Can Diet Soda Make You Fat?"...


I react from experience: "It can, and for me personally it does." I'm remembering the summer I tried switching to diet soda sweetened with aspartame. My mother was hypothyroid to the point of disability while I was growing up, and still struggles to bring her metabolism up and keep her weight down within the normal range. Ordinarily I'm mildly hyperthyroid; although still capable of looking fat in fashionable clothes I've often been medically underweight. These are the two faces of gluten intolerance. Anyway, after a few weeks of drinking diet soda I started feeling sluggish, lazy, stupid, somewhat depressed, and packing on weight. After a few weeks of drinking about the same amount of sugar-sweetened soda I felt normal again, and the excess weight disappeared. Obviously I'm one of the minority of people whose thyroid glands react badly to aspartame. Quite a few people have one adverse reaction or another to high levels of aspartame, which is why some "diet" soda and snack manufacturers are switching to other lower-calorie sweeteners.

So what about the other "diet" sweeteners out there? Do they also promote weight gain in sneaky unexpected ways? In the article linked above, Peter Flom reports evidence that saccharin may sabotage dieters too.

What definitely won't sabotage anybody's weight-loss efforts? Exercise, that's what. Before reaching for a sweet cold drink, take a brisk walk and cool off with plain cold water. Then if you still feel a need for the sweet drink, your body will be braced to process any calories you ingest as efficiently as possible.

Peter Flom's Haiku Haiku

What better way is there to define a poetic form than to write the definition in the form?


Cops "Mistakenly" Raid Beauty Queen's Bedroom

Oh, of course these reading-challenged police guys weren't motivated by any interest in watching a gorgeous blonde get up out of bed. Oh, right.

Sorry, male readers, but Bob Livingston shares only a head shot of the indignant Miss Nevada 2007:


In Oregon Collecting Rainwater Is a Crime

Bob Livingston shares the facts:


What Drugs Was the Joker On?

The need to know exactly which drugs "Joker" James Holmes had taken, before shooting up the movie theatre, is growing. The soil of the American mind has been well fertilized for the planting of conspiracy theories...


This web site requires more evidence before we discuss these speculations as anything but a conspiracy theory. Nevertheless, Americans need to know what a drug test revealed about shooter Holmes.

Alan Dershowitz on Chick-Fil-A

At least Alan Dershowitz is still a liberal, in the good sense, not merely the "Old Left" sense. The whole Newsmax story is worth reading...


What distinguishes Dershowitz's commentary from all the other statements of support for Chick-Fil-A's and Dan Cathy's freedom of speech is the next to last paragraph.

"Ten or twenty years ago, the same people who are keeping these people out of the city probably would try to keep gay people out of owning restaurants."

What he said.

For the record, Alan Dershowitz doesn't know me, but I've been a fan of his since the early days when he worked with John Holt. (I have generally liked just about any book or person recommended by John Holt.)

P.S.: If you're planning to demonstrate support for freedom of speech at a local Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday, and you don't mind opening your in-box to advertising, you might want to visit www.ShopAtHome.com/Chick-Fil-A and print some coupons.

The Seven Deadly Sins as Cartoons

As you scroll down this web page, each of the traditional Seven Deadly Sins is animated as a self-destructing cartoon character.

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/internet-blogs/the-seven-deadly-sins-in-animated-gif-form.html# more-66992

I think it's worth scrolling all the way down to Envy, which I vote the best of a good collection. Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing the link.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Making Light of Controversial Topics

Whew. The topic that triggered Abi Sutherland's reflections is far too controversial for this web page. Nevertheless, in the interest of light and freedom of speech, I recommend that adults who can stand a distant, detached view of a disgusting web page read this one:


Jesse Jackson Junior Told Us He Was Sick

Somewhere in North America, there's said to be a tombstone on which are engraved the words "I told you I was sick!"

Well, no need to wait for the tombstone; doctors at the Mayo Clinic have confirmed that Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., has a genuine physical illness, not the insanity or drug/alcohol issues his political adversaries might prefer to report. Madeleine Morgenstern reports:


And much as I want my Congressman to oppose him on various key issues, e.g. Obamacare, I hope everyone in Washington joins this web site in wishing Congressman Jackson a prompt and complete recovery. (And, if we want to be adversarial, a happy transition to a less stressful private-sector job.)

Friends of the Library Book Sale Bargains

Calling all local lurkers...today and Monday are your big chance to mop up massive bargains on new, recent, and antique books at the Friends of the Gate City Library book sale in Gate City, Virginia.

That would be on Jackson Street...sorry, I'm typing this directly into the'Net and I forget the street number...in the Cornerstone Books building, soon to be Cornerstone Communications (we hope), between Brenda's and the bank.

I've been waiting to post something about this sale until some photos that focussed on bargain books in the window arrived in the e-mail. The photos didn't arrive. The bargain books were sold. Meanwhile a zealous new Friend of the Library has been stocking local for-profit stores, including the future Cornerstone Communications, with literally truckloads of bargain books...and then...oh, drat and blast, the political is personal, and politics raises its head everywhere.

I don't know how many of the older Friends of the Library who planned the price schedule for this summer's book sale actually vote Old Right. I do know the newer, younger Friend who expressed disillusionment with a system most Friends accepted as fair is a Democrat, has lived in Europe, and votes Old Left.

While small-town types buzz about the personality clash, and whether a Virginia gentleman should ever make that kind of remarks to Virginia ladies and gentlemen of the older generation, I'd like to call attention to the fact that the price scheduling that works for Friends of Libraries across the United States is a free-market, libertarian, Old Right system.

At some Friends book sales, like the famous Arlington (Virginia) biannual sale-and-extreme-sports-event where booksellers race to fill their trunks without actually injuring one another, the price scheduling is fast and brutal. Traditionally the Arlington book sale takes place during two weekends a year. The racing is most furious on Thursday, when people actually pay to enter the shopping competition and buy books for something close to the price for which collectible books will be resold on Amazon and in upscale stores. On Friday books are available to the public at these prices. On Saturday the prices drop, and on Sunday you can fill any bag you can haul out for a fixed price before the culls are recycled.

In small towns, like Gate City, book sales tend to be more leisurely. Books were sold for their market value in May, discounted in June, and sold for five dollars a bag in July.

As July ends, and now that Cornerstone Communications has officially purchased enough secondhand books for the amount of space we need to fill with'em, I invite book lovers to go in and fill your bags. You will be able to cram a few titles you may have seen discussed here as Books You Can Buy From Me into a traditional paper grocery bag, if you so choose, because I didn't buy duplicates. There are still literally truckloads (4x4s, if not eighteen-wheelers) of good nonfiction books left on the shelves. Lots of Christian books, some science, some history, some good-quality literary fiction, some kiddie books, and some Friends have even brought in last-minute bargains on the romance and western novels some clever junk-book dealers tried to mop up weeks ago.

Is this fair? Have people who bought the books we really wanted to read, for ourselves, been cheated by paying the market price per book, rather than five dollars a bag in July or a penny a pound before the culls go for recycling on Tuesday? I don't feel cheated.

All books are not created equal. The disappointed Democrat knows this; he personally bought textbooks that may still be in use on some campuses, first editions, and hot-selling fiction, and ignored textbooks that now have only souvenir value and titles that appeal only to specialists, while choosing stock for Cornerstone Communications, Ivy Cottage, and various other stores. The books he passed by are not as valuable as the ones he bought. That is why they're now available at a lower price. That's why, because we can store only so many books, some excellent but not particularly rare bargains still need you to rescue them from recycling.

I've happily paid two dollars for a special book, then fifty cents or twenty-five cents each for books that were a little less special. I've deliberately passed over some books that I think were well worth buying on the bag sale in order to let people who've not yet read them discover them for themselves. I think some books, merely because I've already read them and because they're not in mint condition, can wait for someone else to buy them or for me to buy them just before they're trucked off for recycling. And, yes, I will be steering latecomers to those books during what's left of the sale.

Some cult authors I left on the shelves yesterday, for youall to find today and Monday, include Jean Plaidy, Elizabeth Cadell, Frank Peretti, Pat Boone, Jane Aiken Hodges, Marilyn Sachs, Jerry Jenkins (as co-author with people other than Tim LaHaye), Dale Evans Rogers, Hal Borland, and Harry Zim, and those are just some that float into my memory as authors of the duplicates of books I already have. There is also a good selection of classics that will appear on high school and college reading lists--Chaucer, Shakespeare, various translations from Greek and Latin, collections of medieval and early modern English, Burns, Thackeray, Faulkner...

Why should you pay five dollars a bag instead of waiting for the final race with the recyclers? Because this is a Friends of the Library book sale. Proceeds go to subsidize children's programs, and whatever else adults trying to use the library's computer center may think about those programs, they certainly do fill a need. They are wildly popular.

And they're funded by local people who want good-quality, family-friendly, age-appropriate entertainment to be available for children of full-time mothers who need a free weekly shopping-and-errands break. None of the retirees and teenagers who take in the money is being paid for keeping this sale open all summer. Some of them actually bought, read, and donated some of the books in the store.

I don't know to what extent anybody actually cares, but yes, you may have seen me, and you may have seen some of Oliver's human family, sitting side by side and talking to the retiree who was managing the book sale, yesterday afternoon...despite the rift between that family (and their store) and me (and my family and our store). If anybody out there does think of small-town storekeepers as role models for anything, God help them, I hope that's given somebody the idea. Whatever rifts and tiffs and differences may exist between people in Scott County, I hope we can all agree that there needs to be a safe source of free, occasional "respite care" for young children of busy parents.

Grab your bargains, Gentle Readers. All's fair. You're not competing with Cornerstone Communications, with Ivy Cottage, or with whatever other stores may stock books that have previously been purchased from the Friends of the Library. You are helping us. You can buy books from us, or even sell them back to us, later, and still help the younger people of Scott County now.

Do Public Jobs Help Create Private Jobs?

A government employee identified as "Matt" told Rush Limbaugh's audience that he thought public sector jobs help create private sector jobs. His example: a government program used tax money to pay him to baby-sit a disabled man so the parents of the disabled man could work fourteen and sixteen-hour days in their private business.

You can watch what Rush Limbaugh said to him here:


Or read it here:


I think most U.S. readers know how Rush Limbaugh sounds. Foreign readers, I highly recommend listening to this transcript, because the difference between Limbaugh's way of speaking English and, say, Peter Jennings' way of speaking English is subtle but very powerful. It's the intonation Limbaugh puts into his sentences, as much as the rhetorical repetition he uses, that causes much of the emotional reaction American audiences have--whether they love him, hate him, or dismiss him as "someone who's talking to long-distance truck drivers, so he has to yell at them like that just to keep them awake." If your English sounds more like Limbaugh's than like Jennings', then whatever you say will be perceived as more "impassioned," more aggressive, more working-class, more representative of some Americans and less acceptable to other Americans, than the same ideas as they might be uttered by Jennings. And when you challenge someone's assumptions, you're likely to be heard as sounding "too mean."

U.S. readers, I know the Limbaugh Show is daytime talk radio/video; I'm familiar with it only from times when I've been working with disabled patients who appreciate the limited intellectual stimulation daytime talk radio provides. Not a situation into which some of us may want to get, but one we're likely to reach, like it or not. Anyway there are episodes for which I think it is worth the trouble to detach your emotional reactions to his "tone" and read the transcript of what Limbaugh is saying. This is one of them, and, for the record, I think he's right.

It's not that Matt the Public-Sector Employee may not be a fine human being who intended to help his disabled patient, and did help him, and did thereby help his parents.

It's that, on balance, we the people of these United States can't afford much more help from people like Matt anyway. They're costing us more than they're making for us, as a nation.

All those New Deal and Great Society schemes that provided "free" tax-funded goodies to those willing to beg for them, during the twentieth century, were based on the premise that our national economy was growing. Well, throughout most of my lifetime, apart from brief upticks during the Reagan and Clinton administration, it's stopped growing; it's been shrinking. And there's no realistic basis for assuming that, even if young people have more babies who will supposedly pay into the socialized "care" systems, those babies will grow up to earn enough money to keep those systems afloat.

Proof that the welfare state isn't working includes the abomination known as Obamacare. We've known for years that, in order to continue providing "free"/subsidized care to an increasing number of disabled Americans, employable Americans were going to have to pay higher taxes. We didn't like to think about it, but we knew. But, despite President Obama's stated objections to the loathsome idea, our Congress wasn't able to work out a sustainable way to increase the subsidized medical care funding, to anything like the extent the experts think we need, without relying on the billion-dollar gamble known as the insurance industry. We weren't offered the straight tax that many Americans, e.g. the writer of this blog post, were willing to grit our teeth and try to pay. Congress assumed that too many Americans, e.g. the writer of this blog post, just didn't have enough incomes to pay that much in straight taxes. Instead, Congress assumed, we would have to be forced to subsidize the insurance gambling scheme so that more money could be gouged out of the millionnaires.

Congress aren't that stupid, Gentle Readers. Okay, maybe some of them took bribes from the insurance industry. Others, like mine, argued and voted against Obamacare (and then, in the case of Congressman Boucher, lost their positions anyway because the majority party claimed they hadn't argued loudly enough). But the fact that a critical mass of our Senators and Representatives did enact Obamacare shows that they accept the statistical argument that our economic situation is desperate. You don't rely on gambles to fund things that can be funded by anything but gambles.

Matt presents himself as a good man, and I feel for him, but the fact is that, like a lot of good people in the private sector, he's due for downsizing anyway. We like him; we just can't afford him. The Waste Age is over. Like it or not, Matt may have to go back to working in a factory, or farming a small patch of steep, thin, rocky Pennsylvania soil, to pay his bills. And he may have to simplify his lifestyle in order to pay those bills, whatever he does.

Sorry, Matt, but it looks as if my parents and grandparents were right...and because they were right, at least I can tell you that the poverty-in-America that lies ahead of you doesn't have to be as horrible as you think.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Has the Federal Government Hurt Your Business?

After reading Chip Wood's article here...


I'd like to read more comments relevant to what Chip Wood actually had to say. (The comments below the article mostly seem to relate to an inflammatory comment that, perhaps inadvertently, hijacked the page.)

The lie that should sink Obama was his now infamous remark, "If you have a business...you didn't build that." I'm not buying the excuse that the line may have been punctuated by some sort of nonverbal gesture by which the President might have tried to make this "that" refer to some bridge or railroad or other piece of local infrastructure. The President of the United States is supposed to pay speechwriters to make sure that the actual verbal content of a speech makes sense, without relying on gestures or inside jokes. Of course he's human. Of course he can mis-speak, or even be sabotaged. Whole books of the dysphasic mistakes uttered by other Presidents have been collected, and at least one skid-talking President has even won a second term anyway. But the President's job is to take responsibility for his actual words.

The verbal content of this speech is that, if we have businesses, we did not build our businesses. In many cases that's a lie. In the peculiar case of the legal and political career of Barack Obama, a bright young slacker (or even stoner) who was rescued by adults who have successfully exploited his abundant talent ever since, it's true. But I'd guess that most self-employed people who are currently in their forties and fifties, whether they're described as "business owners" or "professionals" or farmers or writers or artists or whatever else, have experienced government as more of a hindrance than a help to their businesses.

Barack Obama never kept a store. Well, so what--that's not his talent. After certification as a lawyer, he actually succeeded as a writer and a politician. Those are legitimate "businesses," if not the kind that come to mind when we think of someone "having a business." They are among the few businesses government really can help a young man or woman launch. Right. Government has helped other people succeed as writers, speakers, entertainers. Government has been a gold mine for Rush Limbaugh. Government has been very nice to George Stephanopoulos, to Ann Coulter, to the late William F. Buckley, and in that sense we might even say that government has been slightly helpful to this web site--the computer shows that reports on legislation have attracted hundreds of readers.

But...anybody else? If your job involves doing anything for the public but reporting on the activities of government, if you supply any other kind of goods or services, has government helped you more than it's hurt you? I couldn't say that. I don't think very many people could.

Readers are welcome to comment. Foreign readers, too, but please make it clear whether you're talking about U.S. or foreign government.

Once Again, the Cats Aren't Voting

A D.C. nonprofit organization has been caught mailing out applications to encourage registration of Virginia pets to vote in Election 2012...


This post will serve as official notice that, although the Cat Sanctuary cats do express their opinions on many points of Cat Sanctuary operating policy, they do not vote in human elections. The local registrar knows our address. Any applications for voter registration cards in the names of Grayzel, Candice, Iris, Irene, Ivy, Inkblot, Heather, or Little Mo, associated with the family name "King" or with the real legal family name of any human at the same address, may be prosecuted as fraud.

Cat Sanctuary graduates like Dusty, Polly, Mogwai, Steelgray, and Graybelle don't vote, either. Other residents who've been mentioned here, like Bisquit, Mac, and Princess Anne, never voted while living.

Animals do have political interests. They're definitely concerned about their right to live their own lives, with or without human companions, free from physical injury by humans. They're also interested in their right to self-determination; although a majority of bird and mammal species seem to live longer in captivity, many animals violently resist captivity, and even "domestic" animals show a pronounced preference to spend most of their waking hours in a natural (outdoor) environment among their own species.

It's fair to say that, if animals could read newspapers and operate voting machines, they would vote against any politician, any legislation, or any form of "planning" that aggravates human population density. Cats and dogs would agree that everybody needs a yard and a tree of his or her own. Other lovable animals, like deer and loons, would agree that dense clusters of humans make places unfit to live in.

It's also fair to say that animals would vote against various forms of pollution that are not caused by human population per se, but are the result of humans' choices...like spraying poison or dumping toxic waste into air, water, or soil. Animals have no problem with traditional mining, but residents of Lee and Wise County have described to me what sound like protests against strip mining delivered by many kinds of animals. All animals, even very human-friendly animals like Magic who enjoy riding in cars, appreciate car-free or at least low-traffic environments.

How would animals vote on the local "ordinances" some cities have recently accepted, requiring that some kinds of animals be sterilized? Close observation shows that animals do have individual views of birth control that vary as widely as humans' views do. Many humans who have, for some reason or other, found it unusually difficult to bring up children, not only voluntarily choose to be sterilized but pay substantial amounts of money for the procedure. Other humans want to surround themselves with as many children as they can produce and, if at all possible, adopt additional children as well. We've seen unmistakable animal counterparts of both behavior patterns, and several in between, at the Cat Sanctuary. There are also several reports of wild animals, like Bernd Heinrich's Geese of Beaver Bog, who seem to make case-by-case informed decisions about the need for birth control...preferably for the neighbors and not themselves! We will never be able to get all the information we need, nor will animals be able to get all the information we might think they need, about what animals really think of the need to limit their species population growth. The closest we're likely to come to a consensus on this issue will be an agreement that humans need to make informed individual decisions about what's best for the animals they know best.

Humans should vote with due consideration for our animal friends. Specifically, we should consider politicians' demonstrated ability to say no to polluters, animal haters, and the Humane (Domestic Species Genocide) Society.

However, when voting with our animal friends in mind, we should also remember that animals don't tell lies. Few animals are capable of deliberately deceptive behavior, even when it's justified by survival needs. No animal of another species wants to be, or to pretend to be, a human. The only animal anyone's been able to ask outright, "Which are you, a human or another kind of animal," was a gorilla who replied "Fine animal gorilla."

It's likely that, if our animal friends understood the voting process as something only humans are allowed to do, they would consciously refuse to vote. (And, in reality, when was the last time you saw a dog or a parakeet standing in line at the polls?)

Please do not try to register your pet to vote. Please do not allow anyone else, as it might be a fellow human who votes under his or her own name in a different town, to vote in your pet's name.

And please don't fall for the myth that photo identification will prevent people from voting in the names of animals, or of deceased humans. What requiring photo identification does is create a market for bogus photo identification. Anybody who's willing to register to vote in the name of your dog is willing to fake an identification card matching his or her face with the name of your dog. Why create an industry we don't need?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Drug Dealers Buying Votes in Kentucky?

Eric Shawn claims that drug dealers have finessed their way into leadership positions in local Democratic and Republican Party groups in eastern Kentucky:


Some Virginians actively participate in the maintenance of a belief that anything, as long as it's immoral, unethical, deranged, degenerate, or stupid, can happen in Kentucky. This web site takes the first report of any Kentucky-weirdness story with a grain of salt. I'm sharing this as a reminder to politically active readers everywhere. No matter how much you need the money, check the sources...evidence of corruption may be used against you.

Bill Clinton was elected partly by "voters...bussed from precinct to precinct with changes of shirts," as Roger Morris described them in Partners in Power, but also by good-faith Arkansas Democrats who saw Clinton as a homeboy who made good. They didn't attend the pricey parties where one of America's most loathsome druglords offered cocaine and fifteen-year-old girls to wealthy supporters of what the druglord introduced to his associates as "a politician I'm working on." Yet these parties were later used to disparage not only the whole Clinton clan, but also the whole state of Arkansas.

Is there any cure for this kind of filthy politicking? If there is, it has to be clean politicking. When politicians really serve their communities, they don't need to spend millions on campaigns--their constituents will promote them free of charge.

Southwestern Virginia Tea Party Rally

Without promising to be there, I can at least share information about this event. The Southwestern Virginia Tea Party will be gathering at Sugar Hollow Park at 2 p.m. on Saturday, the fourth of August. Sugar Hollow Park is located at #3600 Lee Highway (Route 11/19), Bristol, Virginia. For those who may need it, Catherine Turner even sent a MapQuest link:


Tribute to Sally Ride

Astronaut Sally Ride died from cancer at 61. In this memorial piece, Ben Crystal describes her as an embodiment of "American exceptionalism."


Mike Huckabee Supports Chick-Fil-A

The usual suspects are targeting Chick-Fil-A because Don Cathy expressed his opinion on same-sex marriage. Mike Huckabee invites everyone to support the chain on Wednesday, the first of August:


This has to be the ultimate demonstration for people who, even in the 1960s, tried to avoid large-scale demonstrations. No confrontations, no picket signs...all you have to do is go to the mall and buy and eat some sort of chicken-based lunch.

Will I participate in this? Yes, if my favorite local lurker invites me. Being gluten-intolerant, I can't eat any Chick-Fil-A meal that I remember from the year I worked on a mall, frequently bought Chick-Fil-A meals, and had no idea that those high-calorie meals were contributing to my being skinny and unhealthy. But none of the Cat Sanctuary cats is gluten-intolerant. And they all love fried chicken.

Interestingly, although Chick-Fil-A serves food that's high in saturated fat and far from sugar-free, the former governor's web site reports that since being diagnosed diabetic Mike Huckabee has lost lots of weight, got into exercise, and run a few marathons. More about this news, and many Republican Party line thoughts, at his blog:


Billy Hallowell Presents Kalai

Billy Hallowell's text and video introduce Kalai, the Hawaiian-born singer Glenn Beck seems to be nominating as the next American pop idol:


Walking in Northeastern California

In the scenic San Francisco Bay Area, Tea Partiers are planning a weekend of walking...door to door to encourage people to register and vote.

Would anyone out there like to meet them? Join them? Debate with them? Meet Heather Gass, who has donated more good stuff to this web site than I've had time to read or post? Here's the web page:


Friday, July 20, 2012

More Fun Facts About D.C.: Metro Escalators Bite

It's not as if the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority didn't bombard subway riders with messages about not wearing things that get stuck in between the moving parts of escalators...


When I was there they used to warn people who thought they had to wear shoes with laces to make sure the laces were neatly tied. And here are a few bonus tips, legitimated by the Washington Post, about basic safety for tourists in Washington:

1. Don't park large, unwieldy objects like shopping carts, suitcases, or big bulky boxes on the steps of an escalator. What usually happens at the end is that these objects slide right off onto the stationary metal floor above the last moving step...but occasionally one gets stuck, with extremely unpleasant results for the humans trapped behind it.

2. When riding up or down one escalator in a parallel set, keep a hand on the rubber railing. Avoid touching the metal in between parallel escalators. It conducts electricity and is likely to give you a shock. I've never heard or read of anyone being hospitalized or disabled from this kind of shock, but I've heard dozens of tourists yelp and complain.

3. Never carry money, credit cards, Metro passes or farecards, keys, or other small valuable objects in a purse, bag, or briefcase. Always wear clothes with roomy pockets. Many people in Washington are very conscientious about returning abandoned property to its owner. Many others regard abandoned property as a gift to anyone who can use it, and will start to open your backpack if you set it down while making a phone call...one of this type of Washingtonian once approached a table in a restaurant and offered to finish a relative's uneaten lunch. (Usually these people aren't dangerous, and can't be described as thieves; they see nothing wrong with scavenging.)

4. Drink lots of water. You will sweat it out. People have died from dehydration in D.C. summer weather. If you use caffeine, drink extra water to compensate.

5. Never drive if you can possibly use Metro. Jostling around in a crowd of sweaty strangers is much less dangerous than sharing the streets with people who may have learned different traffic rules, or no traffic rules at all.

6. Try to avoid being in Washington in July or early August, in any case.

I'm so glad I'm not there now...

Colorado Shooter Wasn't in the Tea Party

Glenn Beck, Arianna Huffington, and Tom Tancredo have already chastised ABC for broadcasting what turned out to be a mistaken suggestion that a mass murder was committed by a Tea Partier:


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/james-holmes-identified-a_n_1688776.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=072012&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureTitle&utm_term=Daily%20Brief (The correction is down in the comments, but the comments are moderated.)

http://congressmantomtancredo.com/good-morning-america-tries-to-tie-colorado-movie-shooter-to-the-tea-party/ (Perhaps inspired by Rush Limbaugh's error-ridden correction routine, the writer consistently misspells the ABC host's name.)

Correspondents say the shooter, who is not a Tea Partier, was known to be a Batman fan--suspicious, I would think, in an adult?--who got into dressing up as "The Joker," the villain character. He was also "in the process of withdrawing" from college. So far nobody's mentioned whether he had received psychiatric treatment for any "depression" that might have been associated with having to leave school.

Fine Animal Gorilla

Liz Klimas shares images of gorillas who have learned to disable traps set by humans:


It's called learning, not evolving...at least when we're talking about the whole gorilla population. (If we're talking about the skills and coordination of an individual gorilla, we might use "evolved" as a synonym for "developed" for what the ape's skills did through the process of trial and error. This is the kind of colloquial, metaphoric usage through which languages evolve. Picky scientists hate the process of linguistic evolution.)

But I have to commend Lembrandt's comment. If gorillas are smart enough to find, avoid, and dismantle traps, gorillas are about as intelligent as rats, and there's hope that humans, too, may learn to avoid traps such as welfare handouts and feel-good pills. Maybe.

Years ago, researchers who had trained a gorilla to say a range of things using a simple computerized sign language asked her whether she considered herself a person or an animal. The gorilla replied, "Fine animal gorilla."

Steny Hoyer Thinks Food Stamps Are a Stimulus?


My late husband practiced economics in Steny Hoyer's congressional district, so it's my duty to call Congressman Hoyer out on this:

"If you talk to economists, they will tell you there are two things that are the most stimulative that you can do — one’s unemployment insurance, the other’s food stamps, okay? Why is that?” he asked. ”Because those folks who receive those resources must spend them."

I beg to assure Congressman Hoyer that my husband never said anything of the kind.

I remember two things he said about stimulating local economies:

1. When Rick Boucher was calling attention to the construction of a bigger, badder state prison in Jonesville as stimulating the economy in southwestern Virginia, my husband said, "Is that the best you can do? What about a college?"

2. When different factions in Prince Georges County, Maryland, were debating whether Bladensburg needed its own Wal-Mart, my husband was in favor of having one. He missed the locally owned Hechinger's store that had shut down, but thought a Wal-Mart outlet would be better for Bladensburg than leaving the store vacant.

The job of explaining the depressant effect of food stamps was left to me, because that's something I've seen firsthand. In food stamp households parents tell their children, "Don't take that after-school job! They'll cut our benefits!" Or one spouse might say to the other in a loving and devoted way, "If you get that job, I'll move out and take the children...so they can still get food stamps." And if they want something that's not supermarket food, whether it's local produce from an independent vendor, or handcrafts, shoes, books, or toilet paper, they might try to buy it illegally with food stamps, or barter for it with surplus food. (I recently had someone try to buy a handmade doll with ten cans of creamstyle corn.) Disgusting, whether you're an economist, teacher, social worker, neighbor, or relative of the family. Very, very depressing if you're a local business owner, and what you need to do with the profits from your goods or services is to pay utility bills, and the utility company will not accept creamstyle corn.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chick-Fil-A Goes Its Own Way

Actually, Chick-Fil-A restaurants lost me as a customer long ago. I don't know what a restaurant chain has to do with laws about marriage. They sell the same food to everybody, don't they? And that's my problem. Last time I checked, all their food contained wheat. All their chicken fillets are "breaded" and then wrapped in bread. Nothing gluten-free on the menu.

This story came in from at least three sources; this link to the first one was arbitrarily chosen for you because I don't have enough online time to compare the other stories and offer you the best one. As noted, I don't currently have enough online time to do this web site justice.


But I do feel a need to comment on three separate points in Madeleine Morgenstern's story:

1. Disagreeing with a political agenda (or being sucked into a meaningless political debate that's being used to distract attention from more important things) is very, very different from hate. People who confuse the two things are showing that they have no experience of being hated.

The only reasonable response, when homosexual lobbyists try to shove themselves into the list of historical victim groups, is to laugh. Slavery, concentration camps, rape, the Trail of Tears, being denied votes or property rights...and not getting your mock weddings taken seriously by people who understand marriage as a way families unite around an intention of producing mutual heirs? Can you guess which thing is not like the others by the time we finish this song?

2. The president of Chick-Fil-A imagines that not opening restaurants on Sunday is a pro-Christian, pro-family statement. I think it's a bit more narrow than that. If all the restaurant employees belong to churches that meet on Sunday, then supporting their right to observe a full day of rest, worship, and family time is a good thing. Jews and Muslims, arguably, "should" not be interested in Chick-Fil-A at all, since the meat doesn't meet kosher or halal standards. But what about Christians who belong to churches that meet on Saturday? (At least five Protestant denominations do.)

3. Ed Helms imagines that the meat industry has some special treatment for "gay chickens." Ed Helms obviously knows nothing about the meat industry. The chickens from whom our fillets are mass-produced are crowded together in single-sex environments, and most of them are males deliberately fed massive doses of female hormones, both of which might produce homosexuality if the birds were allowed to live long enough to have any sexuality of any kind. They're not. If Ed Helms were aware of the practices of commercial chicken "farms," his reactions might become newsworthy.

And if Chick-Fil-A would use its corporate weight for something relevant to its corporate reason for existing--such as serving the public fillets of chickens who hadn't been pumped full of estrogen and antibiotics, who had lives that can be described in terms that don't sound like torture--then, although I personally can't eat their sandwiches, I might be able to post something favorable to Chick-Fil-A.

Stress Busting with Marlo Thomas and Fans

Marlo Thomas's top three stress busters probably won't be a big surprise...


But I have to share my frustration with some of the other suggestions fans added to the list. Keeping the discussions family-friendly means we can't get into a debate about whether "lust" should be "booze-fueled" or "sober." Or can we? Let's just say that when I was younger I heard Jean Kilbourne quote Shakespeare on this subject, and now that I'm middle-aged I know firsthand that Shakespeare was right.

White House Blog: Boosting Automotive Innovation

Here's the official White House blog post:


Here are more details that should interest anyone who's likely to drive an American car in the next few years:


Good news? Bad news? I only report these things...

Phenology: Queen Anne's Lace

The blogger known as Neverspent captured some fresh, pretty images of wild Daucus carota, or Queen Anne's Lace, back in May. Neverspent reports that locally these flowers have dried out in the drought. Where I am, we had a drought--not long enough to make up for the previous wet years--and are now super-soaked again, and Queen Anne's Lace is in full bloom.


If you selectively breed these plants for sweeter, yellower roots, you get carrots. If you plant carrots and let them reseed and reappear next year, you get a bed of Queen Anne's Lace.

Do either carrots or Queen Anne's Lace really attract all that many of the nasty little biting mites some people call chiggers--more than any other plant? Hard to say. I've heard this saying explained by people who mistook the black center of the flower for a "chigger." The center of the flower is much bigger than the mite. In some years, some parts of the country are rich in chiggers, but since the mites are selective about whom they bite, travel fast for their size, and are almost never seen until they're picked out of bitten skin, it's hard to pinpoint which plants harbor them.

97-Year-Old Man Faces Life Sentence

As we look at the frail old man, should we see someone who, in the prime of his life, did horrible things to other human beings? Maybe. But since he's been walking around, apparently abiding by the law, for 55 years, does it really make sense to consider sentencing him to life in prison now?


I think the emotional feelings of some Europeans are overriding their common sense. There has to be a better way of apologizing to any remaining Holocaust survivors. Maybe, instead of feeding the old war criminal at the public expense, they could organize something like a Make-a-Wish fund to do nice things for the surviving victims? Just a thought.

New York City Storm Photos & Videos

I chuckled at the comments below Liz Klimas's photo collection. What happened in New York yesterday was just another thunderstorm. Intense, but well within the normal range. What makes it news is that it happened in a place where so many professional-quality photographers and videographers were there to capture the images.


A storm hit Gate City around the same time. It wasn't nearly so intense, nor did it break the heat very effectively. Nor did it wipe out electrical power; during the worst of it I was online.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: Who Wants Music on Monday?

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Who Wants Music on Monday?

Author: Mary Slattery Stolz

Publisher: Harper & Row

Date: 1963

Length: 267 pages

Amazon tracking number: B001280NCO

What a disappointment being a parent must be, Cassie muses, midway through this book. You look forward to your children's being a comfort and a joy, and then you get...a son like Aaron. Or a daughter like Cassie.

Cassie, the skinny introvert artist in the family, is what her older brother calls "absolutely letter-perfect honest about everything in life," and Who Wants Music on Monday is to some extent the story of how she develops enough private feelings to understand the value of tact. Cassie enjoys some immunity to high school crushes because her older brother is the object of her idealistic love--idealistic not in the sense that she thinks he's perfect, but in the sense that she wants to be the perfect, adoring sister. At the beginning of the story boys have yet to notice that Cassie is a girl.

However, in the course of the story, Cassie notices a boy, and he notices her, at about the same time...and then Lotta, the fluffy blonde middle child in the family, develops a crush on this boy too. After all, they have things in common: both of them are employed as entertainers at children's parties.

All late bloomers, younger sisters, and girls who've deliberately chosen to hang out with friends who seem more popular or sophisticated, will love what happens next. (If your friend or sister is nicer than Lotta, the story is still a delicious warning to her.)

Let's just say that at the end of the story Cassie has three solid friends outside the family, one of whom is Aaron, and Lotta has some growing up to do. Lotta thought she was popular. And mature.

What's not to love? Well...at fourteen, I remember being disappointed that there's not much music in the book. In 1963 teen novels were selling like hotcakes and publishers were trying to tag each one with a unique, clever title. "Who wants music on Monday?" is a throwaway line uttered when the mother and aunt are eating lunch in a restaurant that advertises live music, but doesn't have a band on Mondays. This is not a book about musicians. If anything it's a book about differences.

Mary Slattery Stolz was one of the best authors of the late twentieth century. She specialized in stories about sensitive, introspective young people, partly because they allowed her to call readers' attention to the thoughts and feelings of the adult characters too. Cassie tries to understand why her parents seem to prefer Lotta's way of being a teenager to her way, and why her Irish-American father (who's never actually been in Ireland) is prejudiced against both of her brother's very nice roommates (one's an English expatriate and one's African-American).

Writing about sensitive, socially conscious characters also made Stolz's young adult novels real period pieces. Sometimes the factors that date the books aren't the ones that seem meant to place the books in time. Fluffy pale yellow sweaters have come back in and out of fashion since 1963, and had even, as one Amazon reviewer suggests, been a possible time-stamp for a story set in the 1950s. What's definitely 1963 is the sense of the girls needing work, and only being eligible for gender-specific, lower-paid jobs. (Not to mention Dave's willingness to attend an almost all-White college where he's always conspicuous and sometimes a target...readers already knew about that time-stamp.)

Another time-stamp is the important plot element of Lotta's being an entrepreneur. She and one or more buddies collect small amounts of cash for supervising children's parties. Parents are willing to spend that kind of money on small, home-based birthday parties with only three to six guests. Parents are willing to hire teenyboppers to supervise the parties. One "strange," very rich and trendsetting couple even trust their seven-year-old birthday girl to entertain her little friends, and supervise three teenagers the parents haven't actually met, all by herself..."She doesn't have the sort of childhood babies cry for," one of the girls observes about this child, while another one can't get over the child's not clinging to a parent's hand--is she an alien disguised as a child?

If you want to find the political element in everything, you may enjoy remembering the trade-off. Lotta works harder than Aaron, and collects less money, even as an entrepreneur, and Lotta would definitely be stuck in a pink-collar job--perhaps, like her aunt, working her way up from cashier to floor manager or buyer if she made a "career" of doing student labor in one place all her life. On the other hand, it's ever so much easier for Lotta to open a business of her own, which has the potential of becoming the real career of her dreams, than it would be today.

Peer pressure would definitely be applied to any parent who let three teenagers supervise a party for their birthday child these days, especially if one of the teenagers was a boy. However, there are people, about the age Lotta would be if she'd been real, who still make a business of entertaining at children's parties.

I'm looking at a business card that one of those real-life versions of Lotta in Kingsport, Tennessee, handed to me last week. She grew up, of course, and remained tactful and popular, and married a clown, and developed a sense of humor. This couple of clowns work under the names of Beau and Butterfly. They offer storytelling, magic tricks, puppets, face painting, balloons, costumed characters, music, ventriloquism, giant bubbles, temporary tattoos...even in the book, Lotta was too smart a cookie to have stopped learning new tricks, so you know that if she were a middle-aged "Mom" she'd be doing all those things, too, by now.

What I would like to call to your attention, Gentle Readers, is yet another social change. In 1963 the child who didn't fall to pieces, emotionally, when her parents blew off her birthday party, seemed like an alien freak. I read the book, not for the first time, in 1983 and thought, "By now everybody knows a child like that." By 1993 I'd taken a class where the professor argued that children whose parents left them in day-care-type environments, routinely, could be considered to have been blessed with precocious "social skills." By 2012 I'm afraid that the child character Ella may seem normal to young readers. And I'll bet you can't visualize her as a trim, healthy, active child, either.

My nephews' father who thinks they need to be plugged in to all the current electronic fads, at his house. Their mother, grandmother, and aunt agree that they need a place to unplug at Grandma's house...and we've been cooperating with Mother to provide that for years. So far as I can tell, the kids love the real world of real, physical interactions with adults, plants, animals, food, swimming pools, and so on. What makes them wistful and misty-eyed is the thought of sharing comparable unplugged quality time with Daddy.

Do the children you know feel the same way? I recommend finding out before the birthday bash. Hire the clowns, by all means, and learn from the professionals along with the child. Try clowning around the house. Try baking cake from scratch, too, and playing the real-world games with the child in real time. If you have custody of the children during their vacations from school, I'd guess that this will make each vacation the best one they've ever had...

Back to business: At last report, Mary Slattery Stolz was still alive, so she or her favorite charity will qualify for $1 or $1.50 if you buy this book from me. Price differences reflect the fact that Who Wants Music on Monday has reached the collector pricing stage; I may be able to get the book for $5, or may have to charge $10, plus the $5 for shipping. The condition of individual copies seems to be determining the price--the paperback reprint was offered for higher prices than a worn hardcover copy when I checked. If whether you get the hardcover or the paperback matters a great deal to you, please mention that in your e-mail to salolianigodagewi@yahoo.com.

Bus Driver Saves Neighbor's Child

Does it make Erica Ritz's report more special that the hero's family name happens to be "St Bernard"?


Would You Rent Out Your Car...Online?

GM offers to help car owners meet their car payments by offering their cars for rent online. Liz Klimas reports:


Should the kind of information that's exchanged between car rental services and car renters be posted on the Internet?

Here's the sequel: If you participate in the online rental program, you're also authorizing GM, government, and who knows what other people to track the movements of your car (even if you drop out of the program). And your car can be disabled by a device in the car behind you:


During my aforementioned bachelor years in Arlington I owned vehicles. I didn't drive them. I rented them out to friends. I trusted these friends, although I hadn't known them for long, and they trusted me, and somehow nobody got hurt or sued. But somehow I think I'll pass on the online rental service.

Why I Won't Move Back to Arlington

Probably the best known description of Arlington, Virginia, dates back to the years when "Arlington" was basically a large farm. One of Martha Custis's grandchildren chose for an epitaph that, out of the years he'd been in this world, he had "lived" only during the time he was "a Bachelor in Arlington."

While George H.W. Bush was president, I was a bachelor in Arlington. I doubt that any of Martha Custis's family would have liked the three-story apartment block where I was staying, but this was the twentieth century and people I met seemed to agree that Arlington was a great place to be a bachelor. Most people in Arlington weren't actually from Virginia. Most were overcompensating by trying to show extra courtesy, generosity, and hospitality.

So Jonathon Seidl's videos come as a tremendous disappointment to me. Well, it was a dark, wet night. I've stood at bus stops like that one on many dark, wet nights, and three things used to happen: (1) I'd get tired of standing and walk home--any place in Arlington is within an hour's walk from any other place in Arlington. Or (2) I wouldn't have long to wait, and would catch the bus. Or (3) some nice neighbor would roll down a car window and say, "I see you missed the 9:05 bus. Would you like a ride?" Some neighbors and neighborhoods were nicer than others, but there were no bad neighborhoods in Arlington.

But, around the turn of the century, lots of people decided that the Washington metropolitan area needed more overcrowding and "development," yuppification, higher rents for decent places, more places that fell short of Washington's previous standard of decency...in short, more resemblance to places like New York...and these things have taken their inevitable sociological toll.


I just hate that this happened in Arlington. I would have expected it in any part of Rockville; I wouldn't have been shocked if it had happened in some parts of downtown D.C., although most of downtown D.C. used to be almost as hospitality-conscious and tourist-friendly as Arlington. Lots of people would have expected it in Hyattsville, and I would have said their neighborhood stereotypes were out of date. But never in Arlington.

Well...let's just say I'm glad I left; I'm glad my ancestors chose to be buried closer to home.

State Senator Carrico Visits Taiwan

From his press release:

Carrico Makes Economic Development Trip to Taiwan

Richmond – Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Fries) recently returned from a trip to Taiwan, where he met with several key officials to discuss economic development opportunities between the country and Virginia. Carrico emphasized the opportunity for commerce between Taiwan and Southwest Virginia, holding discussions on regional products such as grass-fed beef, wine, and low-sulfur coal.

“Our region of the state has suffered for years due to the loss of manufacturing and textile jobs to other countries,” Carrico said. “We have to think outside of the box to bring jobs and economic development back to Southwest Virginia. This trip to Taiwan was an effort to do just that. There are real chances for businesses in our region to sell their products to the Taiwanese, and we have to capitalize.”

While on the trip, Carrico highlighted Southwest Virginia products that are in high demand in Taiwan. “There is a lot of interest in the grass-fed beef currently being raised in our area,” he said. “There were also significant discussions around our low-sulfur coal and our wine industry.” Carrico believes the trip will help lay the groundwork for future economic development projects.

Carrico was invited to attend the trip by the Taiwanese Consulate, who invested more than $20,000 in Washington County for tornado relief in 2011. “They stepped up for my district when our own federal government would not,” Carrico said. “I wanted to thank them in person, and this trip was a perfect opportunity to do that and sell our region at the same time.”

Carrico was joined on the trip by three other Virginia legislators: Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Fredericksburg), Del. Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg), and Del. David Ramadan (R-Dulles). The delegation was also made up of legislators from West Virginia and Maryland. No taxpayer funds were spent on the trip.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grandpa Get Your Gun

Pursuant to yesterday's post about geriatric patients' right/need to carry concealed weapons, here's Jonathon Seidl's report (text below the videos) on how glad some people in Florida are today that 71-year-old Samuel Williams was packing a gun...


Grandma Bonnie Peters at Kingsport Fun Fest

Grandma Bonnie Peters re-entered cyberspace yesterday, but didn't stay long enough to e-mail me a recipe. She is feeling fine, and expects to meet fans at Kingsport Fun Fest this evening; specifically, at the "Make'n'Bake Bread" workshop, sponsored by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., 3025 Fort Henry Drive, 423-247-3250, registration required, admission $5. (This is registration in the sense of making sure there's enough space and supplies for everybody.)

The focus of the Make'n'Bake Bread workshop is of course on baking wheat bread with yeast. GBP will be there to discuss alternatives. (She baked excellent whole-wheat bread back when she cooked with wheat, too.)

As a naturalized Kingsporter, GBP supports Fun Fest and may participate in other events, especially if begged to join a car pool.

This web site will not discuss conflicting Fun Fest events, nor will we bother with events that have already happened, but for those who may want to do something "for fun" in Kingsport, Tennessee, during the rest of the week, we will mention the following Fun Fest highlights. This is the way the schedule was reported in the Daily News. All events are scheduled as "rain or shine."

Tonight (Tuesday, 7/17/12), 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.: Somebody might find time for "Square & Round Dance Fun for All," at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium.

Wednesday, 7/18/12: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., "Senior Fest" at the Kingsport Senior Center, free. (If you miss it, this one will be repeated on Thursday and Friday.)

9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m., "Glass Fest," a class in which participants will make stained glass mosaics, at 218 East Market Street. Registration and a $25 fee for materials are required.

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: "Kids Central" (with rock wall climbing and children's activity mini-workshops) at the Andrew Johnson Elementary School. Free; some workshops require on-site registration up to 30 minutes in advance to ensure adequate space and supplies.

4-9 p.m.: "Taste of the Tri-Cities," in which various restaurants tempt you to eat/buy their specialties in the Memorial Park. Rock wall climbing will also be set up in the Memorial Park. (This one will be repeated on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.)

5-9 p.m. "Walk Through History with Your Veterans" at the Veterans Monument on Fort Henry Drive. Free. (This one will also be repeated on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.)

6-8 p.m. "Praise Band Showcase" at the Civic Auditorium. Free.

6-10 p.m. "Dollar Dive-In" at the Legion Pool. $1, payable at the gate.

7-8:30 p.m. "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at the Mafair United Methodist Church. Free.

Thursday, 7/19/12: 8-9 a.m. "Bird Walk" on the Greenbelt. Free. Meet at the East Stone Commons entrance.

9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. "Glass Fest" repeats, but during the morning session they plan to do "Flat Bottle Art" and in the afternoon session they'll be making wind chimes.

6:30 p.m. Jeremy Camp concert at the J. Fred Johnson Stadium. Tickets required. Regular tickets cost $15 with a discount if you're wearing an official Fun Fest T-shirt.

8 p.m. "Moonlight Hike" at Bays Mountain Park. Meet at the amphitheatre...be prompt! Free.

Friday, 7/20/12: 9 a.m. to 12 noon: "Healthy Seniors Fair." Free medical screening for the age-qualified at The Village at Allandale, 100 Strickland Court.

6:30 p.m.: Travis Tritt in concert at the J. Fred Johnson Stadium. Tickets required, $15, slight discount if you've already bought the official Fun Fest T-shirt.

8 p.m. "Hot Air Balloon Glow" on Fort Henry Drive. Preview of the balloons that will be launched on Saturday morning. Free.

Saturday, 7/21/12: 6-9 a.m. Hot-air balloon breakfast and rally on Fort Henry Drive; food in the Memorial Park.

8 a.m. to 12 noon: "White Lightning Ride." This is a fund-raiser. Registration is required and will cost $25 before 7/20, $35 after. See below. The ride starts at the Meadowview Marriott.

9 a.m. to 12 noon: "Trike Trials." Registration is requested for convenience. No fee is mentioned.

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Vintage car show on Main Street. Registration is required for shown cars.

6:30 p.m.: Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert at the J. Fred Johnson Stadium. Tickets required, $15, slight discount if you have the official Fun Fest T-shirt.

10 p.m.: Concert ends, and fireworks display begins.

For more details, rules, sponsor ads, and online registration: http://www.visitkingsport.com/funfest/.

Was Edith Bolling Galt Wilson a Melungeon?

Edith Bolling, a native of Wytheville, Virginia, was the extraordinary wife of two remarkable men. First she survived Norman Galt, a successful jeweler in Washington, D.C., and inherited and ran his business; later she married President Woodrow Wilson and, during his illness, was accused of taking over his job too.

On reading the mini-biography of her encapsulated in this piece of legislation, I wrote the following blog post, which I'm leaving as it is for historical reasons:


In the post I described Mrs. Wilson as one of our Melungeon community. This may be debatable, depending on who's defining our Melungeon community. While all of Virginia's Bolling family are multiracial (proud descendants of Pocahontas and cousins many times removed of Anne Boleyn), not all of them actually intermarried with Tennessee's Collins/Gibson clan. Some say that only descendants of Vardy Collins and/or Shepherd Gibson can be identified as Melungeons.

I did not bother to look up Edith Bolling's whole family tree, and it's possible that somebody out there may be saying, "Really, if our patrilineal system weren't so unfair, it would make as much sense to call Priscilla King a Melungeon as it does to call Mrs. Wilson one." I have cousins whose legal family name is Gibson, who are direct descendants of Shepherd; none of my own personal ancestors was a Gibson. So these people, if they exist, just might be right. However, whether qualified for membership in the Melungeon nation/tribe/clan or not, I write about them with cousinly respect.

According to this Wikipedia page, Edith Bolling was a racist who "believed her family's former slaves did not want their freedom." (This was a real cliche after the Civil War, and to some extent it was even true--during the postwar chaos, some ex-slaves had nowhere to go.) She also disliked Northerners. She was also a "Progressive"; in her historical period, strange as it may seem, these things were not mutually exclusive.

But was she triracial, or only biracial? Although the Collins/Gibson clan accepted interracial marriage, not all of them practiced it. My cousins' father had to endure the farce of being ruled legally White; now that those interested can get DNA tests for specific hereditary traits, it's been confirmed that some Melungeons are genetically as White as anyone else is. And it's not always possible to tell by looking: Anne Boleyn was said to have a "dark, swarthy, sallow" complexion and to be "strangely" (exotically) beautiful, long before Pocahontas's time.

More Bolling family history is available from Lisa Alther, especially in the book Kinfolks.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Curve Grading...in the Office?

Teresa Nielsen Hayden reports on a nasty resurgence of an educational policy that's harmful to all students...in the office, yet:


Competing to achieve the best results, according to an objective standard, can be helpful; people stop bickering with each other and focus on what they want to accomplish. Competing to achieve a place on a bell curve is disastrous; people are motivated to put less effort into positive achievement whenever it seems easier to sabotage someone else.

What were these managers drinking?

Should You Tell a Doctor You Own a Gun?

My recommendations: (1) Don't rely on federal funds for your personal medical care, if you need any. (2) Don't talk to a doctor who stores patients' identity information on a computer. (3) If a doctor asks you whether you own a gun, and is not treating you for a gunshot wound or a psychotic disorder, say, "Bad question."

Then, if the doctor doesn't back down immediately, show him/her a printout of this article:


Tell the doctor that s/he is overstepping his/her boundaries and in violation of your constitutional rights. Do not employ that doctor again.

Even if you don't own a gun. Even if you don't, personally, happen to like guns.

I reserve the right to date and/or marry men who carry guns everywhere. I even reserve the right to fire a gun if I think it's necessary. I also reserve the right to arm myself with primary weapons that work better for me and my astigmatic eyes. But that's none of the business of anyone whom I might hire, in real life, to test my blood for an infection or set a broken bone.

The price of liberty is vigilance. And personal responsibility. If you want to be a free citizen in a constitutional democracy, your responsibilities include saying no to handouts that are now being used to encroach upon your rights.

Ferti-Lome Lawn Kill Photos

He wanted a prettier lawn. So, instead of weeding out the non-grass plants that nature intended to take over grassy areas after a few years, he drenched his lawn with "Ferti-Lome" shortly before hosting a fundraiser, in aid of a disease from which his children suffer. This is what happened to his lawn:


And if he cancelled the party, his guests should thank him. Here's my report on what happened after the shoulders of a local road were sprayed, earlier this summer:


Memo to Rob Olson: If you want an Astroturf look, why not just buy Astroturf? If you want a nice, manageable, healthy green space where party guests can enjoy picnicking, please learn to love native plants. Think of them as free, low-maintenance flowers. You can still prune or remove them as needed, using your hands. It's like a free gym membership with an incentive to work out. Plus nobody can sue you for spraying your yard with something that's made them ill.

Liz Klimas Picks Northern Lights Pics & Videos

For those who want to watch beautiful, soothing nature videos, suitable for use as screen savers, Liz Klimas has picked half a dozen time-lapse videos of aurora borealis (Northern Lights) effects captured last weekend. And one of the winners comes from as far south as Iowa...


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mysterious Text Message

Billy Hallowell's informants seem to be taking the disappearance of the phone owner seriously...


But when I read the headline I thought it was going to be one of those jokes at the expense of phone technology. "This phone is dead" somehow got entered and then copied into a message like "The girl with the hamster cage is meeting me at..." People have compiled all kinds of lists of disturbing e-mails and texts produced by clumsy typing and electronic spell-checking.

For her family's sake, I hope that's all it turns out to be!

Oliver's Was Hijacked

Gentle Readers, I am deeply distressed. I am in a state of emotional shock. I have never in my life offered to help friends, as a friend, free of charge, and had my help rejected in such a hateful way as happened recently at that new store I've been promoting here, Oliver's.

The outburst of hate that I personally saw was not directed primarily at me; it contained some obvious guilt and some sheer insanity. However, subsequent conversation with the family who opened this store does reflect hate directed at me--as a Christian? as a woman? as a conscientious person who observed some unethical behavior?--from a near-total stranger.

This individual answers to the name of Thomas. He does not belong to any family in Gate City. He comes from Dungannon, one of the quaint little settlements that explain how it's possible for a town whose population has never exceeded 2500 to be called "Gate City." I was always taught that Dun Gannon means "Gannon's Fort" in Irish, but some people pronounce the name of this town as if it had something to do with dung. Probably they met Thomas before I did.

Apart from him, the other people operating Oliver's are an extended family group. Oliver is the dog; one of his humans approached me last winter, with many flattering words and non-cash gifts, about bartering for my help in launching their business. For six months this person has been requesting my help to get pictures and stories from the store online. Well, there are more effective ways to set up a store-specific web site than advertising on a friend's blog, but I've been willing to do what I could. I can't say a great deal for the loyalty or gratitude of this family.

I will say that, from what I've seen, they are the kind of sane, sober, harmless eccentrics that attract shoppers to small towns. You may or may not enjoy talking to them, and they may do weird stuff like putting their prized personal possessions in a display just for the look of it and then refusing to sell their possessions to you, but they're not likely to go completely crazy on you.

However, yesterday I had some time to kill in town, and the family member who has a working digital camera was supposed to be in the store, so I went into Oliver's to post some pictures. The door was open. The cash register was wide open. Presumably there was at least a hidden camera somewhere. I looked around in the back corners of the store, but couldn't find the person I was looking for, or anybody else.

After five or ten minutes a senior citizen walked in. He noted the vulnerability of the cash register, but didn't touch it. He and I stood just inside the door and chatted, waiting for this person to return to the store.

She didn't. Instead, Thomas walked in, and proceeded to throw a fit, accusing the senior citizen of crimes and ordering him to remove his merchandise from the store. In view of the things Thomas said about me, I'm inclined to suspect that all these accusations were outright lies too; I certainly have no right to discuss the accusations here.

What Thomas said to me, directly, was a random personal insult (that would have got him physically thrown off a Greyhound bus if he'd been riding on one) and the claim, "I pay the bills! They have no control in this store!"

What he said about me, apparently, in phone conversations with two members of the family, were two outright lies.

(1) He told Oliver's human's mother that I had been giving him a hard time about a book he was supposed to have sold on consignment. This may reflect guilt, since he has moved in the kind of big fat cushiony fabric-covered sofa that no sensible person would buy secondhand, anyway, in front of the shelf on which the books are displayed, and most of the books on that shelf had been bought from me, outright. I don't do consignments. And in fact I'd noticed the sofa in front of the books and thought that moving merchandise around never hurts a store, and if some browsers missed a book, that might motivate them to buy it later. On the other hand, Thomas's story may reflect some muddled memory of the senior citizen's having asked what price Thomas was asking for a book the senior citizen had placed in the store on consignment.

(2) He then told Oliver's human's sister that I had said to him, "I hate you." This is probably evidence of schizophrenia. Of course, when people have lived in small towns for forty or fifty years, who knows what they may remember. "I hate you" is not a thing I've said to people as an adult. I didn't know any little boys called Thomas as a child. There aren't a lot of people from Dungannon, period; I wouldn't have been likely to have seen any of them in Gate City. Then again, there are people all over southwestern Virginia who look a bit like me, who may be anything from second to seventh cousins, and who knows whether any of those people have found some reason to tell Thomas they hated him. He certainly seems easy to hate.

But in any case I hadn't said that I hated him. I hadn't thought or felt that I hated him. As an introvert I don't have many emotional reactions to people I've just met, and as an older woman I'd thought that he was an unattractive, awkward, pitiful-looking young man, and as a friend of the business owners I'd thought that he was likely to be a liability...but those things tended to make me feel sorry for Thomas, to the extent that I felt anything for him at all. I had had no intention of making his life harder than he's already made it for himself.

So, who knows what else Thomas has told other people I've said or done to hurt him. Who knows what the voices in his head have been saying. His outburst in the store sounded like Prozac Dementia, or Tourette's Syndrome, or paranoid-schizophrenia, but his two different rationalizations show that he is consciously aware of what he's doing and feels some sort of need to justify it, which I believe would be taken as proof that he was sane enough to stand trial. The bottom line is that he verbally attacked a friend of his partners who hadn't even spoken to him, and he'll tell people anything he imagines they might believe by way of an excuse.

I told the owners that I was going to have to warn readers that Thomas is insane and, if only because he's big and clumsy enough to injure people by falling on them, he may be dangerous.

"Oh, don't do that. That might hurt the store."

Well, I said, I could warn readers about Thomas the Liability and recommend that they call the other people at Oliver's to make sure that they did business with someone mentally competent to run a store. Now there are some merchants in Gate City, as in many small towns, who make "being a character" into a selling point. People have taken me into stores, and even bought me prezzies for my time, just to listen to a storekeeper's endorsement of the Arab point of view (during the war), or another storekeeper's argument in favor of reviving the military draft. I would not have posted either of those speeches on this site. I have posted other things favorable to both of those stores. And if Oliver's human godparents want to make pitying poor Thomas their selling point, I could picture that working, with some people, for some time.

Pity poor Thomas? "He had such a stressful flight with Delta during the storms. Oh, and he's just beginning to recover since his boyfriend died." This person did not actually say "And he's losing his youthful sex appeal." That is the most noticeable thing about Thomas, and doesn't need to be said.

This needs to be stated for the record: I have claimed lesbians as friends. I've never claimed a male homosexual as a friend. Some people say "Oh, everybody knows one," but I've never had the opportunity to know one well. Like really unattractive women, male homosexuals seem to look at me and instinctively go into avoidance mode. But you need to understand that introverts aren't "hurt" when uncongenial people avoid us. If anything we're relieved. Life is too short to spend time in relationships with uncongenial people.

I have no more problem with good Baptists hiring a burnt-out homosexual male than I have with good Pentecostals hiring an alcoholic...back in the 1990s I worked with a Pentecostal family in Kingsport who had hired an alcoholic, and although they left Kingsport the alcoholic and I are still friends. This particular homosexual male happens to be either a lying jerk or a sociopath at risk for violence.

This also needs to be stated for the record: In addition to slandering me, during the one conversation I've ever had with him Thomas expressed disrespect for Oliver's human's mother and described Oliver's human's sister as a "young girl." (Oliver's human's sisters range in age from 47 to 28.) Most active homosexuals have serious, complicated emotional problems with the opposite sex. Thomas has not demonstrated any effort to learn a healthy respect for women.

In order to keep me as a friend, Oliver's humans would have had to dissolve their partnership with Thomas, citing moral turpitude as a reason if their contract required any, and take out a restraining order to keep him out of the store.

"But we nee-ee-eed the money."

Different Christians understand the Christian virtues in different ways. My belief is that we should never accept money from people who, given an opportunity, will compromise our standards of loyalty or honesty.

Plenty of people in Gate City still think they have some sort of moral duty to hate Thomas, merely because they have heard, not necessarily even from him, that he used to have a boyfriend. Others who may not have hated him for that reason can certainly laugh at him, now, for being a fool, because I'm one of the minority who have always said that his personal private sins are no worse than the rest of ours. Well, that applies to his moral sins against God--I didn't know, until this week, that he was also a dangerous mental case.

And I think one of Oliver's humans does understand just how bad a mistake becoming involved with Thomas was, because this person went into a guilt spin when I showed her a rough draft of this article. I was willing to add her phone number as a number people could call if they wanted to support her business without dealing with a lunatic. This was the one who had previously asked me to be a partner in the store, before realizing that I didn't have money to sink in it and Thomas did.

She started screaming about certain people who, not that this is any surprise to anybody, don't like me much. Not that I've actively done anything like insulting them when they walked into a store I was keeping, but in a small town people who are not learning anything have a need to attach emotions to the people with whom they do their routine business, and that kind of people usually don't like me--because I don't like them, or dislike them, or talk to them, or look at them long enough to know one of them from another. Whether these people shop in Gate City I don't know; I happen to know that two of them don't. One of them has been heard to express ill will toward my whole "mean, snobby" town. So I doubt very much that their dislike of me could harm Oliver's as much as Thomas will--although I don't have a lot of money, and if I did I wouldn't invest it in secondhand furniture.

Being an introvert, I don't have emotional feelings about people until they have given me some real reason to. The only way I can understand the concept of liking or not liking a stranger, or the kind of casual acquaintance who browses in a store, is in the sense of being sexually attracted to the person--and I tend to like one man at a time. I don't offer emotional warm fuzzies to those who feel a need for them. I don't have warm fuzzy emotional reactions to people who try to press warm fuzzies upon me. If you want to be my friend, you need to spend some time working with me, whether on a paid job or a hobby or some sort of charitable effort, and demonstrating that you can make a positive contribution to something I want to do. That's where the bonding process starts.

Like many people in Gate City, I have a very negative reaction to anything like "salesmanship" when I'm shopping. Gender and background tend to dictate how this reaction sounds. Ladies usually try to make it as warmhearted and cheerful as possible. "Do you mind not interrupting while I shop?" I have heard men whom I would have described as gentlemen, based on their background, go into Total Redneck Mode when someone is trying to sell them something. Women whose background really qualifies them for redneck-ness usually don't think there's anything chic about it, and react to a sales pitch with a grunt or a scowl. I was brought up as a lady, but due to my astigmatism I can't guarantee that I won't seem to be scowling, or even glaring, while discouraging the sales pitch.

I do appreciate, and thank, customers who pay for what they buy. I do expect people to whom I hand money, while buying something, to thank me. And if cashiers don't go into the sort of gabble routine that has, unfortunately, become familiar to those who used to shop at a certain store in Kingsport as a cover-up for a sequence of "mistakes" always in the store's favor, but just ring up my purchases without saying anything other than "Thank you, Ma'am," I even thank them for that. I prefer to hand money to a cashier rather than feeding it into a machine; I don't need the cashier to say anything the machine wouldn't say. Having a human brain on call is sufficient.

What am I like as a storekeeper? I feel a need to go into this, because I've been warned that Thomas is going to be spewing out hate-based fabrications. (So far as I know, I've spent a total of six minutes around this creep, on two separate days.) People who shop in Gate City and Weber City know what I'm like as a storekeeper. Apart from a few ill-advised experiments with sales pitches, recommended by consignors who weren't from here, I'm quiet, unobtrusive, reliable, dysnumeric, honest, and most likely to be seen either moving merchandise around or knitting.

But I'm one of those who think it's not really ethical to try to "sell oneself," in a store. ("Selling oneself" in an alley is illegal and dangerous, but manipulating people into thinking they ought to buy an overpriced object because they like you, personally, is dishonest.) I'm not saying that every time a customer has ever said something like "I don't need another lamp, but I'll buy this one because I like you," I've refused to sell the person a lamp. I am saying that depending on some sort of personal attraction to sell merchandise is an indication of something wrong with your business, and with you. If your reason for selling lamps is not that some people in your community do need lamps, or want lamps, you should at least be selling something else.

That's why I wouldn't have tried to make things more difficult for an unattractive outsider in a town full of people who disapprove of his personal life...if only being unattractive, an outsider, and known to have a personal life of which people disapprove, had been the worst of Thomas's problems.

So what can I say to readers who may have wanted to see all those charming, decorator-like arrangements of secondhand furniture in Oliver's? Well, you won't see them here. Probably you won't be seeing them on the site Thomas promised to set up, and hasn't set up, either. I can practically hear him now--"The web hosting service didn't work for me-e-e because they ha-a-ate me!" (And never mind that I have yet to see a free web hosting service that has worked smoothly for anybody.)

If you are brave, you might want to surround yourself with a posse of friends, equipped with cameras and sound recording devices, and go into Oliver's just to see the lunatic in action. If enough people go in there just to laugh at Thomas's antics and not actually buy anything, and if the business is basically honest, that might be enough to motivate Thomas to leave Gate City. Knoxville's or Atlanta's loss would then be our gain.

However, there is an illegal drug trade in town, and in the past, when storekeepers have seemed unaccountably hostile to me, that has turned out to be what was going on.