Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Zoo Quest to Guiana

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Zoo Quest to Guiana
Author: David Attenborough
Date: 1957
Publisher: Thomas Y. Crowell
ISBN: none, but here is its Amazon page
Length: 252 pages
Illustrations: photo inserts, a few in color
Quote: “Many of the South American animals inspire the fascination that comes from revulsion.”
Many, but not all. If you’re not sure how you feel about anacondas, anteaters, ants, arapaimas, bats, caymans, cannibal fish, capybaras, coatimundis, cocks-of-the-rocks, crested curassows, eels, egrets, grasshoppers, hoatzins, honey-creepers, hummingbirds, jabiru, jigger fleas, labbas, manatees, mantids, monkeys, opossums, peccaries, piranhas, porcupines, sloths, spiders, spoonbills, tamanduas, and turtles—or not quite sure what some of these creatures are—you’ll want to read Attenborough’s book and learn more about them. Zoo Quest to Guiana contains photos, a map, and several stories about people he met on his trip, as well.
If you’re familiar with Attenborough as the grandfatherly British narrator of PBS nature shows, this glimpse of him as a young man will delight you. He had a penchant for anecdotes, like the one about the missionary who found one of his converts roasting a labba, a rabbit-sized rodent. Knowing that the missionary wouldn’t eat a rodent, the convert said, “This is fish.”
“No fish has two big front teeth like that.”
“No, sir! You know how, when you first came to this village, you say my Indian name is bad name, and you sprinkled water over me and say my name is now John...I see labba and I shoot’im, and before he die, I throw water over him and I say, ‘Labba be bad name, you be fish.’ And so now I eat fish.”
Attenborough’s informant identified the missionary as a Seventh-Day Adventist, but he sounds like a Methodist to me. Adventists did not compulsively rechristen converts, and they always baptize by immersion.
At another stop, Attenborough tried collecting folk songs, but the singers demanded lots of “lubrication” with money and wine, then sang a selection of unprintably bawdy versions of songs whose clean versions were already familiar, and ended with a sort of forerunner of today’s Top 40: “Variants on the last line seemed endless.” Attenborough gave up and went to bed.
Then he acquired two of the pig-sized rodents called capybaras, “essentially amphibious animals.” Thoroughly tamed, the animals couldn’t even be chased into water until their owner called her children and ordered all four to swim. “From the beginning of their lives the four infants had always bathed the capybara would not go into the river without the children.”
None of us will ever see Guyana the way Attenborough saw it...the local people’s first reaction to “western” movies, what it was like for Attenborough to see the first answer to the question of what leaf-cutter ants did with the leaves, why a certain rock attracted elaborate petroglyphs, how to catch and when to release a sloth... but at least he’s documented his memories.

According to Google, Sir David Attenborough is 88 years old, and doesn't sound as if he needs a dollar, but since he's still alive we can offer his books through the Fair Trade Book system. If you don't insist on a collector's edition, a copy of Zoo Quest to Guiana will cost $5 + $5 for shipping, out of which Attenborough or a charity of his choice receives $1.

Link Log

Whew. I don't think I'll even manage to read much today, having spent 46 minutes just contending with the incredibly bad performance of the computer in the Gate City computer center, which should probably just shut down altogether. Nevertheless. Here's a fun read:

I think robots should not be programmed to use emoticons.

Somebody out there might feel moved to help this family keep their home...

Cool Green art work, with a link where you can buy it and an explanation of how you can try it. Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing this:

She also shared this link, which is such a classic photo essay of Christmas in the Eastern States:

I hesitated to share or plus this one yesterday, although I'm sharing it here. Well...I'm sharing the link to Elizabeth Barrette's and my discussion, which illustrates her fall into the statistical fallacy--that just because a large number of American children (a) have no chance to succeed in any alternative to the publicly funded schools and (b) do succeed, to some extent, in the publicly funded schools, that that means that the alternatives somehow work "only for children of wealthy families."

Elizabeth Barrette actually exposed the statistical fallacy in her comment, for pity's sake. "Statistically" our chance of success in life is dictated by our parents' income! Oh, that means I should never have been able to learn to read. Oh, by the way, "statistically" my father was supposed to have died before age ten, my mother was supposed to have been born dead, my mother's father was supposed to have been crippled and died young, and my great-grandfather wasn't supposed to have had children, so how on Earth am I here at all? "Statistics" tell us what happened in the past; they do not tell us what will happen in the future--especially when people don't let themselves be intimidated by statistics.

That said, her post links to a hateful, obnoxious, yet also informative article about why the neo-lefties are flogging same-sex marriage so hard...and why the Republican Party should not move to the center by turning into an update of what used to be the sensible majority in the Democratic Party, but should, if anything, move to the extreme right and force Democrats to come back to their senses. And I mean extreme right. Gold Standard anyone? For strategic purposes, yes!'s the link the computer shows a lot of readers should be reading:

Poem for someone who should be planning to celebrate Anti-Valentines Day instead of feeling sorry for himself. (As some already know, Richard Rowell is the decent-looking partner of the superbly preserved Lyn Lomasi. If it's about either of them, it must've been years ago.)

Anger management on one excellent web page, from Debbie Dunn...

Knitters, check out Marsha Cooper's quilt block. You could knit it as a small jacquard patch. You could knit it as a multidirectional one-color-on-a-row patch, or afghan, depending on the size of squares you choose. Please show us your afghans!

This...can be the sort of thing that turned people off psychotherapy. Do you really need to think about all these emotional feelings about a knee injury? Can't you just feel the knee and tell whether it needs work, stretching, massage, ice, or medical care? Well, I can, but I spent a lot of time and money learning to do it correctly. And some people have the emotional feelings. If you don't, you might still want to print and save this article for someone who does.

Thumbs up the spiral staircase image. I'm not so sure about Zig Ziglar...

Extremely cool things to make with plastic bottles:

For those who missed this article from AC and Bubblews...the updated version is at:

That's all I'll have time to add to the Link Log in time to Twitter and Tsu it. See you next year!

Tim Kaine's Progress Report

From U.S. Senator Tim Kaine:

Dear Friends,
Earlier this month, the 113th U.S. Congress - and my first two years in office - came to a close. As my team and I gear up for the start of the 114th Congress in 2015, I wanted to share some highlights of what we've been able to accomplish for Virginia over the past two years:
Serving Virginians

• Since I took office two years ago, my office has responded to nearly 400,000 pieces of correspondence and helped more than 3,000 Virginians tackle casework issues. This assistance has ranged from help for veterans facing unreasonable wait times at VA facilities, to assisting Virginians who faced forclosure on their homes, to helping Mildred Pretzer, a 100-year-old World War II veteran, receive long overdue recognition for her military service. Find out more about how my team can assist you.
• There is nothing I've enjoyed more than the opportunity to visit every corner of the Commonwealth and learn firsthand how I can help make policy at the federal level work better for Virginians - from understanding ways to better coordinate the federal response to sea level rise in Hampton Roads, to introducing legislation to help spur permit approval for construction of a major business center in Martinsville-Henry County. Over the past two years, I've visited more than 75 Virginia cities and counties. Click here for photos and information about my travels. 

• In order to make our constituent services accessible to folks who may not live close to one of my six regional offices in Danville, Manassas, Norton, Richmond, Roanoke or Virginia Beach, my staff hosted more than 100 "Kaine Connects" remote office hours in other communities across the Commonwealth. Take a look at where we've been so far.
Getting Bills Passed & Signed Into Law

Protecting the USS George Washington & Maintaining our 11 Aircraft Carrier Fleet | As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I worked hard to ensure the USS George Washington (CVN 73) would be refueled and overhauled, preserving the U.S. Navy's 11 aircraft carrier fleet and supporting thousands of jobs across the Hampton Roads region. Legislation I advocated to protect the Norfolk-based carrier was included in the 2015 defense bill and as a result, the USS George Washington was fully funded in the 2015 spending bill signed into law earlier this month.

Preserving Historic Battlefields | My legislation to protect Civil War battlefield land from haphazard development was also just signed into law. The National Park Service program my legislation reauthorizes has already preserved 24,000 acres of at-risk Civil War battlefield land in 16 states, including 11,500 acres in Virginia - more than any other state.
Supporting Pediatric Cancer Research In Honor of Gabriella Miller  | The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, legislation I worked to get passed in the Senate in honor of a Leesburg fifth grader who lost her 11-month battle with brain cancer in October 2013, was signed into law by the President last April and led to the appropriation of $12 million for a pediatric research initiative at the National Institutes of Health in the 2015 spending bill.
Help for Veterans | Key provisions of my first bill, the Troop Talent Act of 2013, were included in the 2014 defense bill, making it the law to provide active duty servicemembers with the tools they need to receive civilian credentials for skills they acquire through military training.
Protection for Military Whistleblowers | Legislation that Senator Mark Warner and I introduced to ensure those who report sexual assault and other misconduct are not further victimized by retaliation was also signed into law as part of the 2014 defense bill.
Promoting Religious Freedom | In July 2014, the Senate unanimously passed a bill I cosponsored to create a special envoy within the State Department to bring attention to religious persecution in the Middle East. I was proud to lead the Senate effort to pass this bill, a companion to a House version sponsored by Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf, a true champion for religious liberty around the world who will be missed in the U.S. Congress.
Boosting Craney Island & Four Mile Run | Senator Warner & I successfully amended the Water Resources Development Act to facilitate additional progress on efforts to develop a marine terminal at Craney Island and promote efforts to restore Four Mile Run in Northern Virginia.
Addressing Issues that Impact the Commonwealth

Getting War Powers Right & Fulfilling Our Duty to Servicemembers | Since taking office, I have made it my mission to dramatically improve the way Congress & the President consult on matters of war - an issue that has come into even sharper focus in recent months with the war against ISIL and the President's decision to take U.S. military action without Congressional authorization. Over the past six months, I took every opportunity I could to make the case for why it's immoral to ask our servicemembers to risk their lives without a meaningful debate & vote on this mission.

After months of pressuring the White House and my colleagues to act on an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIL, the Foreign Relations Committee finally approved one in December that included key provisions I advocated. I deeply regret that the full Senate did not consider the measure before adjourning for the year but remain committed to seeing the process through in early 2015.

Expanding Access to Career & Technical Education | I started the first Career & Technical Education (CTE) Caucus in the Senate because I believe CTE programs in Virginia and across the country are key to developing the skills today's employers are looking for, as well as the talented workforce America needs to stay competitive in the global economy. I was proud to introduce three related bills this year, the Educating Tomorrow's Workforce Act, the Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act, and the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act.
Responding to Sea Level Rise & Flooding in Hampton Roads | In June 2014, I convened a bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers, regional stakeholders and officials from federal agencies at a conference on rising sea levels in Hampton Roads.  It was the most productive and insightful dialogue on this subject I've ever been a part of and produced a lot of great ideas. Since the conference, I've urged the heads of eleven federal agencies to support a regionally driven pilot program developed by Old Dominion University aimed at better coordinating federal, state and local efforts to combat sea level rise.

A New Future for Fort Pickett | After months of advocating Fort Pickett as the right location for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center to train U.S. diplomatic and government personnel assigned to high-threat posts around the world, the State Department announced in April 2014 that Fort Pickett - a former U.S. Army Base southeast of Richmond - was indeed selected. This is a big win for the region and a testament to the bipartisan work of the Virginia Congressional delegation members involved.
Improving Infrastructure | I'm proud to have helped secure a $15 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) infrastructure grant to the Virginia Port Authority and a $24.9 million grant to the City of Richmond in 2014.
Making Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre a Reality | I was honored to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre in Martinsville-Henry County last April after working with colleagues in the Virginia delegation to expedite approval of the site. 

Protecting Virginia Miners | I introduced legislation to help miners battling black lung disease get the benefits they deserve.

America's Global Role | In the 113th Congress, as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees the Middle East and South and Central Asia, I led congressional delegations to India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain & Egypt, as well as traveled with colleagues to Turkey, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates and joined world leaders at global conferences in Canada and Bahrain. On each occasion, the highlight of my trip has been the chance to meet with servicemembers and foreign service officers from Virginia serving overseas.
Confirming Virginians To Top Judicial Posts | I'm proud to have successfully advocated the confirmation of four outstanding Virginians to federal judgeships. In the past two years, Hannah Lauck was confirmed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Patricia Millett to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Sri Srinivasan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Elizabeth Dillon to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Ms. Dillon is the first woman to sit on the Western District bench.
Other highlights from the 113th Congress include: helping Congress pass a two-year budget agreement that offsets the worst effects of sequestration; advocating 36 historic reforms to tackle sexual assault in the military included in the 2014 defense bill; and pushing for steps in the Foreign Relations Committee that led to the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

...And a few more fun tidbits:

In June 2013, I became the first Senator ever to deliver an entire floor speech in Spanish

I won the National Press Club Centennial Spelling Bee in September 2013, beating out a Politico reporter by correctly spelling the word, "nonpareil." It was a glorious moment!
Thank you for your continued support and please let me know if there are any specific issues you would like to continue receiving updates on this year.

Happy holidays to you and your families and best wishes for the New Year!

" [nice signature graphic] Tim Kaine," he concluded. (Note: I don't have time to check his links. I'm trusting that a U.S. Senator wouldn't send us any bad ones.)

Marsha's Spot: WIP Wednesday--Christmas is Past and the New Year is Upon Us

Marsha's Spot: WIP Wednesday--Christmas is Past and the New Year is Upon Us

Well, I clicked "Create a Link" and this came up. (I was looking for the Google + button.) Anyway, this one is recommended to knitters. Look at that "Red Cross" quilt patch. Knittable, isn't it?

Book Review: the Care and Feeding of Friends

Title: The Care and Feeding of Friends
Author: Marian Tracy
Date: 1946
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: none (but click here to see it on Amazon)
Length: 106 pages, plus index
Illustrations: cartoons “by Lulu”
Quote: “Most of these meals were cooked during various shortages, with one ration book, in a New York kitchen designed, presumably, by a really malevolent person.”
During our last all-out war Americans accepted semi-planned shortages and rationing, even of food, as temporary inconveniences. Marian Tracy here testicfies that for a short time, at least, her generation stayed in that voluntary-simplicity groove, before the “boom years” brought greed and waste back into fashion. Each menu is relatively simple, was cheap at the time, and suggests maximum festivity for minimum expenditure.
The menus recommend one or two alcoholic beverages that “go with” each meal. The meals work just as well without the booze. Directions for each meal are given as a whole, so that different dishes will be ready to serve at the sarme time.
And how bland will the results be? Not nearly as bland as fashionable 1950s meals that relied on prepackaged food products. The success of these menus still depends, as it did in 1946, on the quality of supplies available. If you have good fresh fruits and vegetables, each meal will be a feast. If you have to work with stale, dried-out or waterlogged veg, tough or greasy meat, and prepackaged bread, some meals may camouflage the inadequacies better than others.

This cookbook contains no directions for cooking beans and baking bread. Tracy assumed that if, like her, you enjoyed these long processes, you would have enjoyed them on days when you weren’t entertaining. About this she’s right. She also assumed that if you didn’t enjoy baking bread or simmering beans, you could just buy the prepackaged versions. About the beans she’s right—I can’t tell canned beans from home-cooked beans after other things have been added to them. About the bread she’s wrong; nobody who eats bread would confuse any prepackaged “sandwich bread” with homemade bread, and homemade bread has to be an utter failure for anyone to imagine that the prepackaged kind could be considered better.

The Care and Feeding of Friends is too old to be a Fair Trade Book. To buy it here will cost $5 + $5 shipping; in real life I sold it shortly after writing, but not posting, this post about it.

Giving Feminism a Bad Name

A Googler known as Ashley Hogins posted something with which I basically agree, in a way Doug Giles found annoying enough to e-mail around. Here it's been edited for formerly-unprintable words, but left annoying so you can see what the hate and anger were all about:

"I am sick and tired of seeing people show sympathy over this!
There is bravery, and then there is REAL bravery a woman who walks the street alone.
There are more women who are traumatized from street harassment than men who go to war.
War is nothing an an exaggerated event, the only reason we see it as a big thing is because of society.
War has been exaggerated so many times feminism even made a quote which is " It doesn't matter if you went to war or suffered for 10 years as a man, that's nothing compared to being a woman #Womenrights"
You think going to war makes you tough? You wouldn't last a second being a woman.
I don't see what's so hard about walking around and shooting a gun, yet we make a big deal about it when we are not focusing on serious problems that traumatize women everyday. What is it? Street harassment, sexual assualt (sic), etc.
How often do we have war?
Now tell me how often do we have street harassment. Thought so, it's because of people like you feminism is still alive."

My comment was:

"A word to conservatives who were steered over here by Doug Giles. First, it does not help any cause to act like trolls. Please tell me the people who've posted really hateful comments were not steered here by Doug Giles.

Second, the trauma of street harassment is real. I rise above it, yes--because I'm a woman you don't meet every day. I live in a town full of blinkered, mindbound females, most of whom are either clinically malnourished or in need of a "Wide Load" sign to hang on their backs, because they're afraid that putting up with street harassment will make them less respectable and/or incite the street terrorists to real violence. (Which, once in a while, it does, and yes I have had to fight back. Yea though I walk through the valley of the terrorist cult of rape I fear no evil'cos I'm the meanest Daughter of Jael in the valley, and all that.)

Third, where women get harassed, men get beaten and maimed and murdered. I think this post needs a sense of proportion about that.

And, fourth, if you don't like harassment, Ashley, why are you inviting and inciting trolls by throwing in gratuitous sneers at veterans? Some people were traumatized by the hate spewed at themselves or their husbands/brothers/fathers/sons forty years ago, and you, unfortunately, have chosen to trigger their emotional problems. What was the point?"

And yes, after all these years...I do still experience walking to work as an act of war. Granted, most of the people who say annoying things to me on the street, or cower inside and then say incredibly stupid and annoying things to me inside buildings, are not armed with anything worse than bad manners; and I have a cell phone and a knife. But then again, most of the time nobody's actually shooting at our troops, either. And they carry on. As do I. Private citizens who walk the streets in much of these United States are defending our American rights and freedom, too.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Link Log

Today's links:

Grace Ellen on video...

Vegan vacation in California, anyone?

The son of a granny basher, or in this case a grandpa basher, argues that the senior man his late father hit on the head with a stick had no right to defend himself. I might have made that up, but I wouldn't have tried to use it as fiction...

In this case we should probably cut the abused senior citizen some slack, because he was speaking right after being attacked, but no, this web site will not allow his calling the attackers "animals" to go uncorrected. They're not animals. They're New Yorkers.

Chanel thinks knitting is cool...and I think Jil Eaton's knitting projects are cool, especially if you like "fashion." (I prefer "classic" in sweaters, but anything goes in hats!)

Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing this post:

Scathing satire, but I chortled. Probably because I agree with much of it. You've been warned:

Especially for Adayahi...

If you're within radio range, you won't want to miss this...Dave Barry, live tomorrow at 3 p.m.

I was beginning to doubt that this site would pay off, but it finally did!

Elizabeth Barrette expressed some concern this evening about the value of school choice for the non-wealthy. Those who share her concern may want to read Lyn Lomasi's firsthand report:

For all writers. (Not web sites, but topic suggestions.)

YouGov Paid Off at Last!

When the promised gift card from YouGov didn't arrive in the mail, I began to wonder whether this site was just another scam...but it's not.

The card arrived on December 23. I wouldn't have believed this was even possible, but yes, I did get to Michaels in time to trade it for yarn, and get that yarn home in time to start knitting the projects I'd promised someone...and, because they were simple projects, I even had'em done on Christmas Day!

(This post will be updated with photos of the projects.)

If you too would like to receive gift cards in exchange for filling out lots of boring, but browser-safe, surveys about shopping, use this link to join YouGov:

Book Review: Merde and Merde Encore

A Fair Trade Book

Book Review: Merde and Merde Encore
Author: Geneviève [Edis]

Author's Facebook page:
Date: 1984, 1986, 1987
Publisher: Atheneum / Macmillan
ISBN: 0-689-11649-7 (first volume, first edition; click here for the omnibus edition)
Length: 102 pages (Merde), 104 pages (Merde Encore)
Illustrations: cartoons
Quote: “French argot (slang) is not just the dirty words (though, have no fear, you will  find them here); it is an immensely rich language with its own words.”
The trouble with slang is that it constantly changes. The colorful words and inventive extended meanings that were in use in 1984 are not necessarily in use now. This should not be too much of a problem if you use a slang dictionary for its intended purpose—to figure out why someone else has said something that makes no literal sense, and figure out what it meant, before you try using the word. This is a good rule even for new slang invented in your native language.
With this in mind, I offer the world Geneviève Edis's guide to French slang, as she learned it at the British Embassy in Algeria.
Rudeness ratings are offered. So are cartoons showing situations in which the slang phrases discussed in these books might be used. However, just as a bit of English slang like “honey” may mean something like “dear, sweet grandchild” in some situations and mean “body effluvia” in other contexts, the meanings and rudeness ratings of slang words is subject to change without notice.
Special note to teenagers: I don’t know whether either French or English has a word for the peculiar naïveté of adults who believe that teenagers are going to use books like these just to look up words they hear on the streets while visiting French-speaking countries, rather than to call the home of a French exchange student and giggle, “Please can you translate this [extremely rude word or phrase].” I’m not all that naïve. Just remember that I’m not recommending rudeness. You want to be rude, that’s your problem. You get into trouble that way, je m’en fiche.
You can, of course, ignore the really disgusting words and stick to using the ones that belong to the same register of French as things like “The guys blew off gym class and hit the flicks” in English. (After getting your attention with a rude title, this is what Merde actually recommends.) Most of the slang words Geneviève explains are merely slang, not terribly offensive, and can safely be used in conversation with people who use the same slang words...just beware of using the current French equivalent of “the guys blew off class and hit the flicks” to refer to a mixed group of teenagers who would have downloaded movies onto their cell phones to view during class.

Special note to French-speaking readers: Je vous prie pardon mais avec les barbarismes les élèves aprendront aussi les mots propres, n’est-ce pas?

Genevieve Edis is still alive, according to Google, so I can offer her books online through our Fair Trade Books system. Each book ordered will cost $5, plus $5 for shipping as many books as we can ship in one package, and for each book the author or a charity of her choice will receive $1. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's Resolution: I Will Track...

In 2015, I resolve to track my short posts at Google +, Tsu, and/or Twitter on my web site. This will allow people with limited time to see whether they want to look for my "shares" on whichever of those sites they use, and (hat tip to Michelle Malkin for this idea) prevent confusion between what I'm sharing and what the dozens of people who entered cyberspace later claiming that "Priscilla King" is their real legal name may be sharing. Thus:

From Google +:
Yes, you will need an account to read this post. Yes, you need to be an American to have an account.
A Blaze report that raised my eyebrows:

"Obama beat Billy Graham *and* Ben Carson? Hillary beat Malala Yousafzai? ??? Methinks people were afraid our federal government was listening in on those poll calls. This is ridiculous. "

Plussed by Theresa Wiza: "
Plussed by Marsha Cooper: "
Re-shared by Lyn Lomasi, and recommended to those who may have forgotten:
""You Are My Darling"..."I Just Called to Say I Love You"..."

Senator Mark Warner's New Year Message

From U.S. Senator Mark Warner:

"Dear Priscilla,

As 2014 comes to an end, we finally saw some signs of bipartisanship in Congress: majorities in both the House and the Senate approved an 11th hour spending agreement and a number of bipartisan bills were approved. While the House and Senate budget agreement was far from perfect, it did honor last year’s bipartisan agreement to limit federal spending and we have reduced our federal deficit. It also removed the danger of another disruptive government shutdown, which would have hit Virginia harder than any other state.

Additionally, the Virginia delegation worked together to make sure the spending agreement protected many of our shared priorities:

We supported our nation’s security and protected thousands of Virginia shipyard jobs by getting funds for the overhaul of the Navy aircraft carrier George Washington.

We protected funding for capital improvements to the aging METRO transit system.

And we strengthened the federal partnership to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. I also was proud to partner on successful legislation to increase transparency and accountability to help us defend what we’re already spending to clean-up the Bay.

During the 113th Congress, I also successfully enacted into law some commonsense legislation to make government work better for you.

Our DATA Act will make it possible for you to track every dollar of federal spending on a single website.

We also got a law passed to begin eliminating dozens of outdated and redundant federal reports – reports that employees and agencies produce every year, but which nobody ever reads.

I’m also proud we approved reforms at the Veterans Administration, including my proposal to have leading Virginia technology companies provide a blueprint to improve customer and patient service at the V-A. I’ll stay on top of this to see that our veterans receive the services and respect they deserve.

When the Senate reconvenes in the new year under new management, I remain hopeful we will focus on ways we can work together to strengthen the economic recovery and create jobs.

We should take advantage of low interest rates to jumpstart infrastructure investments, creating jobs by partnering with the private sector to repair our crumbling roads, bridges, and airports.

I have a series of ideas and several bipartisan partners lined-up to push to make college more affordable, and make student debts more manageable, because no one should go broke going to college.

We also need to look for ways to cut the red tape and lower the barriers for folks to launch their own businesses. Most of our country’s new jobs come from start-up ventures, and we should do all we can to promote innovators and entrepreneurs.

It is the honor of my life to represent Virginia, first as your Governor and now in the Senate, and if I can ever be of help to you and your family, please contact me.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful, safe, and happy holiday season.


[nice signature graphic]
Mark R. Warner

Robert Hurt's New Year Message

From U.S. Representative Robert Hurt:

Dear Friend,

As we gather with our families and friends during this holiday season, I hope you will join me in pausing to take account of our many blessings – the blessings of American freedom, American peace, and American prosperity.
And while it is often easy to take these blessings for granted, we must always remember that our freedom, our peace, and our prosperity have been won generation after generation by the tremendous sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform.
Recently, we recognized the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, one of the greatest victories in American history. On December 16, 1944, German forces launched a surprise attack on Allied forces. More than 600,000 American soldiers were involved in this intense engagement and suffered tens of thousands of casualties. But after six weeks of fighting in harsh conditions, the Allied forces pushed the Germans back. Allied forces then simultaneously attacked Germany, which ultimately led to the Nazi surrender. This important history reminds us of the courage, the strength, and the sacrifice that our brave men and women in uniform have displayed over many generations, preserving our American way of life.
So during this season of peace and good will, let us remember the sacrifices of all of service members, who are indeed our peacemakers. Let us also remember that many of these men and women will be away from their families this year. Please join me in keeping our soldiers and their families, wherever they may be, in our thoughts and prayers.

As 2014 comes to a close, so too does the 113th Congress. So as we begin a new year and commence a new 114th Congress, let us recommit ourselves to the promises we have made to work every day to make our nation better than we found it. Let us recommit ourselves to the founding constitutional principles that have made this country great – principles of freedom, limited government, and unlimited opportunity. Let us recommit ourselves to working every day to promote policies that will make it easier for our farmers, our Main Street businesses, and our working families to succeed. I believe that if we keep our promises we will indeed build a stronger America for our children and grandchildren.

It is a great honor to serve the people of Virginia's 5th District, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you in the United States Congress. I look forward to serving you for the next two years as we work toward our shared goal of a brighter and stronger future for our great nation.

I hope you and your family will enjoy this season of peace and good will, and I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year.
If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.
Robert met with Michael Duncan, Laurie Moran, and Pat Daniels at “Decorating the Trees for a Cause” at the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research in Danville.
Robert spoke with Albemarle County Police Chief Steve Sellers at an appreciation luncheon for the Albemarle County Police Department.
[nice signature graphic] Robert Hurt "

How Many Afghan Interpreters?

Although I initially endorsed this petition when it appeared on

I'm now beginning to wonder just how many Afghan interpreters we're going to need to save, and whether we may not need, for reasons of national security, to encourage some of these people to stay in Afghanistan. Will saving the interpreters turn into a disastrous effort to evacuate every pro-U.S. Afghani family into the United States, leaving a completely hostile country behind?

I don't know. This kind of thing is why I try to stay out of foreign policy.

Book Review: Roses for Bonny Belle

Book Review: Roses for Bonny Belle
Author: Martha Gwinn Kiser
Date: 1950
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: none
Length: 137 pages
Illustrations: drawings “by Becky”
Quote: “‘September 15th, 1903,’ he read. ‘That’s five years ago.’”
Bonny Belle is an orphan. Her foster parents want to adopt her, but in order for that to happen, in 1908, they need more money. Her foster mother tries working in a store, but that’s not enough for “the ladies from the county.” In order to preserve what suspense this story has, this review will not discuss what Bonny Belle’s foster father finally does.

Children need to know about the bad old days, when mothers who worked outside the home were presumed unfit, and little girls weren’t encouraged to imagine that, if their father (or foster father) didn’t get a job, they might be able to make some money of their own. Roses for Bonny Belle might be a simple way to lead a third or fourth grade class into this discussion.

Although Martha Gwinn Kiser no longer needs $2.50, this book has become a collector's item. To buy it here will cost $20 + $5 for shipping.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review: The Foot Book

Book Review: The Foot Book
Author: Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)
Date: 1968
Publisher: Grolier / Random House
ISBN: none, but click here to see it on Amazon
Length: pages not numbered
Illustrations: colorful cartoons by the author
Quote: “Left foot. Right foot. Feet. Feet. Feet. How many, many feet you meet.”
The Foot Book is one of Dr. Seuss’s “Bright and Early Books for Beginning Beginners.” You know what that means: just a few different words, arranged in silly, funny rhymes, on pages with ridiculous cartoons. Five-year-olds love it.
The strange and wonderful part is that grown-ups love it too. We buy these books for children, but we all know who’s going to start quoting, “Wet foot. Dry foot. Low foot. High foot,” just as often as the children do, or more often.

What’s not to like about Dr. Seuss books? Theodor Geisel is gone; there won’t be any more of them. Some of these books are easier to find than others. If you do not currently live with primary school children, but in the future you might, I recommend completing your collection now.

To buy it here will cost $5 + $5 shipping.

Stripey Bag or Cushion Cover

This bag or cushion cover is the sort of thing anybody can make as a first project by sewing two big Brownie Squares together. Gena Greene made it to use up some scraps of chunky wool. The colors are a little brighter than they appear in this photo, but not much; the green has a bronze tone, the blue is a dark navy, the lighter color is straw-yellow.

Size: 15" square

Material: wool

Care: Hand wash gently, dry flat--and stretch it to shape if you want it to cover the same cushion!

Price: $25 for the bag, $5 for shipping

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Little Boy Brown Snowsuit

Merry Christmas! (No, I'm not blogging on Christmas Day. I'm using the "schedule" feature...the photo was taken last summer, and this post was finished and "scheduled" during the week before Christmas.)

This three-piece suit shows up in colors fairly close to the real colors--a light brown, and a brown-tan-and-white mix. Gena Greene knitted it after a shopper asked for "something for a boy, in brown." The pattern is a variation on one of Jil Eaton's Minnow Knits.

Size: 18-24 months old; trousers have room for diapers

Material: acrylic

Care: machine wash and dry

Price: $25 for the suit, $5 for shipping

Book Review: Mandie and the Trunk's Secret

Merry Christmas, Gentle Readers. (I'm not actually online on Christmas Day! I actually posted this during the week before Christmas, using the "schedule" feature to offer something for everyone to read while the computer centers are closed...)

Book Review: Mandie and the Trunk’s Secret
Author: Lois Gladys Leppard
Date: 1985
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 0-87123-839-X
Length: 116 pages
Quote: “‘You may open anything in the attic,’ Miss Hope said.”
During the 1980s and 1990s, Lois Gladys Leppard wrote more than two dozen “Mandie Books.” The plots of these books were loosely based on Leppard’s mother’s memories of her own early life.
Although Mandie is realistically characterized as a little girl whose spiritual life is mostly confined to reminding herself of a Bible verse in scary situations, her Christian identity caused some bookstores to want to confine her adventures to the Christian publishing ghetto. However, due to the books’ regional appeal, Mandie broke out of the ghetto. Mandie Books are distributed by the Smoky Mountain tourism industry, and they’ve sold well.
Mandie is the daughter of a rich Anglo-American who shocked her family by marrying a biracial husband. (At this time the Cherokee were still perceived as an enemy nation, defeated but still distrusted by other Americans.) Mandie’s father chose to “pass for White” and marry another Anglo-American; Mandie accepted her stepmother as her real mother, and was quite surprised, when her father and stepmother also died, to meet her living relatives. She had not expected that she would have either a filthy-rich grandmother, or a lot of Cherokee relatives, not all of whom even speak English.
Throughout the series, Mandie will show herself to be more brave and less bigoted than many of her generation, always willing to tell people that despite her blonde hair she is “one-fourth Cherokee.” Historically, the majority of people like her, including the author known as Forrest Carter, enjoyed the privileges of being “legally White” and said nothing about their other ancestors. Mandie’s attitude is definitely unusual, but nice; I’ll let it pass.
In the earlier volumes of the series, Mandie goes to school near Asheville. In this volume, when Mandie and her friend Celia are given permission to explore the attic of the old house their teachers are converting into a school building, their interest in the old letters they find leads them to explore the nearby hill country. The children learn a lesson about respecting other people’s boundaries...but my feeling is that, if a non-Christian publisher had bought the series, Mandie’s religious identity could have been edited out without affecting the story.
I’m glad that Bethany House didn’t force Leppard to cave in to Christian-phobics. In none of the books that I’ve read does Mandie have what adults would call a religious experience; she has ordinary adventures—like talking to people, some of whom are friendly, and some of whom tell her she asks too many questions. Still, my impression is that her religious identity is as important to her as her ethnic and regional identities. If Mandie had been a child of the 1990s rather than the 1890s, she might have been encouraged not to try to think about religious matters yet; since she is a child of the 1890s, and of the Southern Appalachian mountains, she would have been very unusual if she had not been encouraged to try to define herself as a Christian, attend church, read the Bible, say prayers, and recite Bible verses. Those were things Southern mountain girls did. Mandie’s Bible verses are as integral to her historical context as her buttoned shoes, or the tour of Europe she’ll take before anyone thinks about sending her to college.

So, if depriving Mandie of her favorite Bible verse would have made her less credible, where does that leave the improbability of one child solving 28 mysteries? (Even if most of them are the “mystery of who wrote these old letters” variety, rather than the police-detective mysteries solved by Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden.) This is a fair question. Taken individually, however, the Mandie stories are plausible, suspenseful without being melodramatic or requiring Mandie to be much braver or smarter than all the adults, and, if not really “Sunday School books,” never opposed to good moral values.

Lois Gladys Leppard no longer needs a dollar, but I can still sell this book for $5 + $5 shipping. If you can get a better deal elsewhere, please do; scroll down to look for Fair Trade Books, for which one-tenth of the price you pay goes to living authors.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: Skin Tight

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Skin Tight
Author: Carl Hiaasen

Author's web page:
Date: 1989
Publisher: Fawcett Crest / Ballantine
ISBN: 0-449-21941-0
Length: 373 pages
Quote: “Stranahan lunged out of the shadows and stabbed him straight through with a stuffed marlin head he had gotten off the wall.”
In self-defense, of course. Stranahan is the protagonist of a Hiaasen novel for adults, a sub-genre of action-adventure-comedy stories that take place in Florida and usually involve conflict between good and evil, more specifically defined as Greenies and Greedheads. Carl Hiaasen became famous by reporting on real Florida news stories, then shifted into writing these novels that are wacky, gory, preposterous...but not much more so than the news stories.
Anyway, Stranahan helped to put a lot of violent criminals in prison. Several of them are out by now. The question that lingers in his mind, after stabbing the hitman with the marlin head, is which of these baddies sent the thug and where the next thug is likely to be lurking. All of his enemies, including the tacky TV “personality,” the sleazy lawyer, and the despicable plastic surgeon,” are convincingly loathsome and also convincingly ridiculous.
This being a Hiaasen novel, there are also several comic but admirable characters, including a requisite number of attractive women, the focal points of whose costumes are often bare, tanned, otherwise flawless skin. They get into absurd situations (which would,in real life, ruin that flawless skin) but they tend to be able to laugh at themselves.
Skin Tight is not actually my favorite Hiaasen novel (others feature more wildlife and fewer murders) but it’s as funny as the rest of the collection. If you don’t mind laughing at the idea of the plastic surgeon getting the nose job to end all nose jobs, you’ll enjoy this book.

To buy it here, you pay $5 for the book and $5 for shipping. Although other items that will fit into the same package can be shipped for the same $5, we will send Carl Hiaasen or a charity of his choice $1. That's the only reason why it's better to buy this book from this web site than from any of the other places where it can be bought.

Merry Christmas, Gentle Readers! 

Pine Trees Pullover

In Maine Woods Woolies, Helene Rush included a pattern for a sweater with a different kind of pine tree motifs. Here's Gena Greene's version of the child's size, made by unravelling a damaged adult sweater (not one of ours) and re-knitting the good yarn.

Size: average 8-10-year-old child

Materials: 20% cotton, 80% recycled cotton-ramie

Care: machine wash and dry

Price: $20 + $5 for shipping

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Book Review: Our Bird Friends and Foes

Book Title: Our Bird Friends and Foes
Author: William Atherton DuPuy
Date: 1925, 1948
Publisher: John C. Winston Company
ISBN: none, but click here to find the collector copies on Amazon
Length: 319 pages plus index
Illustrations: drawings by George Miksch Sutton
Quote: “My purpose here is to take the reader into birdland, to acquaint him with much that goes on there, to show him the routine of bird life, its hardships, its joys, its romance, all sketched into just enough of scientific background relieved of its technical terms, to give him a basis of real understanding.”
Yes, DuPuy will continue to insult half of his audience by calling the reader “he” throughout the book. The effect is less rude than quaint; it was, after all, 1925.
Fittingly, it’s in his discussion of “The Sea Gull” that DuPuy first gullibly swallows a piece of evolutionary theory and regurgitates it, probably in a mangled form, as if it were a fact. That today’s living creatures have evolved within the genetic potential of their species is an indisputable fact: for example today’s Anglo-American men, whose average height is 5’11” or more, evolved from fifteenth-century Englishmen whose average height was apparently about 5'0". Birds have also evolved, and if DuPuy had written fifty years later, he could credibly have discussed the natural selection that shifted the Herring Gull species from being merely “the best known” to being by far “the most numerous,” “the dominant,” if not in some places “the only” species of gull.
It’s also an indisputable fact that birds’ feathers, reptiles’ scales, and mammals’ hair are all made of “cuticle proteins.” It is not, however, a verifiable fact that anything but reptiles ever evolved from reptiles. It’s a fact that reptiles have solid bones that decay much more slowly than birds’ hollow bones, so reptile remains date back further than bird remains. It’s a fact that, even though the fossil Archaeopteryx looks a bit like a bird, even though birds’ round eyes and scaly feet look a bit like reptiles’ eyes and skins, and even though the claws of young hoatzins give this peculiar species a temporary resemblance to lizards, the DNA studies that are currently rearranging the taxonomy of bird species are showing that such superficial resemblances can be misleading.
Certainly DuPuy’s description of how “birds first developed this ambition to fly” although “their feathers were limber, fluffy, and quite ineffective,” and so “the bird leaped from perch to perch...flapping its wings and trying to make them help” until “the bird’s feathers began to respond to the demand,” is more Lamarckian than Darwinian. Evolutionary theory itself has evolved considerably since 1925, and today’s evolutionists are likely to chuckle at DuPuy’s form of evolutionism.
Then there is the touching innocence of DuPuy’s assertion that “house cats...are the worst enemies of the singing birds.” In 1925 this was almost true. All North American songbirds evolved side by side with many flightless predators, including wild cats, foxes, wolves, coyotes, skunks, weasels, otters, raccoons, and snakes. Each of these wild predators is generally much more efficient than a typical house cat, whose own evolution from a relatively large, strong, fierce, wild animal into a small, soft, lazy pet was assisted by humans about two thousand years ago. The bird species survived attacks by these species as well as hawks, owls, gulls, crows, jays, herons, shrikes, and cowbirds. But by 1925 North American humans had hunted the wild predators almost to extinction, placing domestic cats and dogs at the top of the food chain in populated areas. Individual birds were thus more likely to survive through the summer, but also more likely to be ripped apart on humans’ doorsteps, than they had been before. Bird species could have adapted to this...and DuPuy could not have anticipated how chemical pollution and habitat destruction would become the real enemies of whole species of singing birds.
Such quaint features may detract from the usefulness of Our Bird Friends and Foes as the elementary school textbook it was written to be (each chapter contains questions and suggestions for classroom use), but they add to its usefulness as an historical document. DuPuy informs us that “the mocking bird...a generation ago...was not to be heard in Washington, but was abundant fifty miles below that city,” and the same was true of the “Richmond” cardinal (Richmondena was actually proposed as its genus name). While living in Maryland and watching “our” resident mockingbirds and “the neighbors’” resident cardinals bicker about their territorial boundaries, I used to enjoy reflecting on the factors that have contributed to shifts in the habitats of bird species.
DuPuy further documents how our language has evolved even within the past century. We have developed a taboo against previous centuries’ classification of land not suitable for human habitation as “waste.” It may be shocking to read, on page 2 of Our Bird Friends and Foes, that a hundred years ago the Pacific Ocean was routinely described as “the greatest waste of water in all the world.”

A book containing so much quaintness can no longer be recommended as a first book for children, but it should still amuse adult birdwatchers. It was written to be read for pleasure as well as for school credit; it sold well, and reprints are still widely enough available that I can offer it here for $5 + $5 shipping.