Friday, July 31, 2015

A Few Links, Some Phenology, Mini-Rant

This post wanted to separate into a full-length Link Log, Phenology Post, and Rant, but didn't have time...


A tempting recipe is in the comment section: vegan, gluten-free, and tweakable to fit other special dietary needs.

Every year or so I feel a need to publish some version of the comment I made at Natalief's Live Journal. Is making it on her LJ (and Tweeting it, too) hijacking her site for my purposes? I don't think so. I think (1) anyone interested in “face blindness” will want to follow the link she provided; and (2) anyone who has an opinion about whether autism and introversion are part of a “spectrum,” or are two unrelated things that may sometimes look similar, will be interested in comparing Natalief's blog with mine; and (3) anyone interested in knitting will want to follow Natalief's blog. Maybe if I'd thought about it longer I would have posted my comment here...or maybe not.

Phenology, or Stupidity, or Stealth Nag

Like,'s too hot to go out and look for flowers and butterflies. I don't really need to read the Blaze article about the idjit who left a child in a minivan outside a store. People do things like that. Most of the victims survive. Surely, nobody who reads this web site needs to be's high summer out there. Some places are setting new heat records. Do not leave any living creature inside a parked car. Not a child, not a dog, not a potted plant. Everybody always worries about children and dogs during the summer heat wave. Reports of actual heat-related deaths that I've seen make me a little more worried about adults who may or may not have already had a stroke or heart attack, who say “I don't want to go into that store with you. I'll just wait in the car.” Probably most of these people do know how to open the car door before the heat gets to them. Sometimes people who are in fact tired, sleepy, sluggish, or rheumatic and slow-moving don't react to the heat in time. My mother lost a yardman that way in 2003 (he thought thirty was “young enough” to do yard work in ninety-degree weather); the crowd celebrating Duffield Daze last year almost lost a vendor that way. So I'll say to the intelligent adults out there: Don't leave yourself inside a parked car. Go into the blasted store already. Demand a seat near the door where you can wait for the person who wanted to shop there.

(Once, when we were very young and ignorant, a friend and I took four cats in for rabies shots in this kind of weather...without a carrier box in the car. The cats were nice, quiet pets until the car got out into the blazing sun, when they started crawling up on us, shoving their heads right in our faces, saying “meow” in a way that clearly meant “Get us out of this deathtrap now.” They were due for rabies shots; rabies had been reported in the vicinity that year. We stopped at a fast food place and bought about a two-liter-size paper cup of ice. My friend drove, and I massaged him and the cats and myself, in turn, with ice cubes. We all survived. We all know better now. If you must take an animal anywhere in a car in this kind of weather, put it in a carrier box, put some ice cubes in the box, and put more ice in a plastic bag on top of the box.)


Frankly, kind of annoys me with the way they handle this tidbit: “Centers for Disease Control held meeting with scientists to destroy evidence linking vaccines to autism.” Well, duh. It's not “vaccines to autism.” What are youall...some kind of panic-mongers or something? It's fevers (which may or may not be caused by vaccines) to brain damage (which may or may not be or resemble autism).

Maybe if I make my argument personal, some people will understand it. My natural sister wasn't vaccinated; she had scarlet fever, she lost the ability to hear most of the notes women usually sing, she developed a peculiar way of walking, she talks with a “deaf accent,” and, possibly because she had had a real talent for music before this time, she's been peevish and depressive ever since. Heather Whitestone wasn't vaccinated; she had scarlet fever about the same time my sister did, she lost the ability to hear anything at all, she still became a beauty queen and a poster girl for A.D.A., she's still completely deaf. The Nephews were vaccinated; one of them had a reaction that included a high fever, had significant hearing loss, started wearing thick glasses in primary school, learned to greet people in a friendly way but still can't participate in a conversation, and, during the painfully shy stage of adolescence, was misdiagnosed as autistic. None of these people is in fact autistic. And although the difference between my relatives and Heather Whitestone, the first deaf “Miss America,” was probably an individual reaction, the fact is that Ms. Whitestone suffered more severe hearing loss from being unvaccinated than my relatives did from being either vaccinated or unvaccinated. Do these people begin to see the point now?

It's not “vaccines cause autism.” It's “vaccines may cause fevers, which may cause brain damage that is more likely to resemble autism than actually be autism, but may also aggravate autism if a patient has that type of brain damage.” Since either having a vaccine or not having the vaccine may cause a fever, how do parents make the decision for young children? Remember Ben Carson's Take the Risk? Do the “Best/Worst Analysis” relative to the actual risk that a child will be exposed to a disease.


I've seen and heard the word “spoons” floating around in contexts that showed that it's a new slang word. Many slang words enter our language without having a clear point of origin. Thanks to Natalief for steering me to the original explanation of phrases like “they didn't have the spoons to...”

+Sandy KS continues the ABC Emotions writing “challenge” for bloggers:

At, Neil Gaiman offers an “animation” of a conversation he claims to have had while he was asleep. I know the Sickly Snail won't play an “animation.” Your computer might play it. I'm sure Neil Gaiman has said and written things that weren't entertaining; I doubt that he's ever published those things.

Jerry B. Jenkins discusses how to edit our writing:

Anconas and Araucanas

Last week's Daily News reported a farmer out west taking emergency measures to protect his rare and endangered breeds of poultry from avian flu. Among the endangered breeds mentioned were Ancona hens.

A lot of breeds of poultry have become endangered because, although excellent for small family farms, they didn't stand up to competition from repulsive bioengineered strains bred on factory farms. I'm not really surprised that Ancona chickens would be among these breeds. Merely disappointed.

So I did a quick search. "Ancona chickens wow" popped up on Google. I thought that might make a good title for this post, then realized that "wow" referred to some sort of computer game. "Ancona chickens lay green eggs" also popped up. Say whaaat? I realized that a lot of people out there might be confusing two distinct breeds of chickens, Anconas and Araucanas. Both are attractive birds and can make excellent pets, but they're very dissimilar. I've lived with both.

"Ancona" refers to a place in Italy. Ancona chickens are related to Leghorn, Minorca, and Andalusian chickens; to my eyes Anconas are the prettiest of these breeds. They were bred as "all-purpose" fowl in Europe, then classified as egg-producers in America. Full-sized Ancona hens lay a lot of big white eggs, but they're also muscular, meaty birds, typically weighing about five pounds, and tough, hardy, easily encouraged to fight. Two hundred years ago semi-civilized Europeans would pay to watch Ancona roosters fight each other, a fact that shows that television may actually have improved  the taste and intelligence of some people.

"Araucana" refers to a place in Chile. Araucana chickens are affected in varying degrees by a lethal mutant gene; like Manx cats, show-quality specimens are tailless, with incomplete spines, and have abnormally dense coats. No living bird has two copies of the Araucana gene, and most living birds that show its effects are crossbreeds.

According to Wikipedia, the name "Araucana" properly describes hens who lay bluish-greenish eggs, but in order to become a viable breed the mutants found in Chile were crossbred with a Spanish breed that lay pinkish-brown eggs, so in the U.S. we find hens with fluffy necks and little or no tail who produce bluish, pinkish, or sometimes plain white eggs. There are also Araucana-mix chickens, "Easter Eggers," with fluffy necks and complete tails who produce bluish or pinkish eggs. Araucana chickens are not commercially bred for meat but the full-sized birds can be quite meaty, often heavier than Anconas. Although chickens fluff out their neck feathers (their hackles rise, in chicken fanciers' jargon) as a threat display, and Araucanas' neck feathers look permanently fluffed, the birds aren't very aggressive. My brother and I even kept two Araucana-mix bantam roosters who behaved like brothers and didn't fight.

A show-quality Ancona chicken has glossy black feathers, one out of three to five of which is tipped with glossy white. (The proportion of white to black can be higher; for show purposes too much white on an Ancona chicken is considered a fault. Crossbreeds may be blue-grey and white, red-brown and white, or plain black.) Show-quality Araucanas can be black, white, or any of several other colors; perhaps the showiest are the "duckwing" types whose feathers are brown or grey with glossy gold or white quills and tips, but this freakish breed looks different from other chickens regardless of its color. Crossbreeds come in all kinds of color combinations.

Breeds of chickens with which I grew up were Plymouth Rocks, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Games, a breed called Inglebright's that's not even discussed on Google, Cornish, Anconas, Easter Eggers, and all kinds of crossbreeds. The ones who became pets were the Games, Anconas, Easter Eggers, and mixed-breed bantams. (Somebody asked...bantams are miniature chickens, selectively bred for small size, usually but not always from within a breed of full-sized chickens.)

All chickens are basically prey animals whose survival depends on a well developed tendency to hide from any potential danger. Game and Ancona roosters, and sometimes hens with babies, often override this instinct and challenge potential attackers. Some individuals are foolhardy little bullies who attack children. Others are loyal and protective, like dogs.

We had one unforgettable Ancona hen who fell into each category. The mean one seemed to have made it a rule to respect men, fawn on women, and attack children. My brother and I were about the same height, his voice was deeper, and his hands were bigger, when we met this hen, so it was a complete surprise to us that she snuggled sweetly on to my shoulder and then tore a strip of skin off my brother's hand. (Ancona and Game chickens often do have the ability to bite or scratch through human skin; many chickens don't. This is something to keep in mind when choosing a pet for a child. However, my very first pet was a rather tough and dominant Game hen; she might have hurt me, when I was five or six years old, but she never did.)

The sweet Ancona hen never pecked another chicken or a child, so far as we could tell, in her life. She did, however, get into a serious fight with a big female red-tailed hawk. The hawk was much bigger than the half-grown hen, and should have been stronger, but red-tails do not normally eat other birds, and the ones who attack chickens usually don't have long to live. (Sharp-shinned hawks, a smaller species, do normally eat other birds and are likely to become "chicken hawks.") The hawk tore out most of the hen's tail feathers, and the Ancona hen tore out the hawk's eye, before my brother separated them.

Show-quality Araucana chickens are apparently quite special and delicate birds. Easter Eggers are healthier and easier to keep as pets. The distinctive quality that stands out about our Easter Eggers was that, after the year they became the majority in our flock, the flock never had a real "pecking order." What these peace-loving birds established was a non-pecking order. Mother hens would peck at anybody who approached their broods, and threaten their adolescent chicks during the weaning process. Roosters would play-fight to impress the hens, not doing each other any real harm, and one or two hens would play-fight right along with them. Occasionally two birds would really quarrel. Usually senior birds seemed dominant over younger birds, but they wielded this dominance mainly with a warning chirp or a hard stare. Chickens who liked each other stuck together and shared food; those who didn't like each other so much stayed apart and didn't call each other to share food. Possibly due to seniority, possibly due to my parents' culling out quarrelsome individuals from the flock, and certainly due in some part to their having much more space than most people give their chickens, the flock preserved a nonviolent culture even after it reverted to containing more of the more aggressive breeds than Easter Eggers.

When the Easter Eggers were imported into our neighborhood, we heard a lot about their blue-green eggs containing more carotene and less cholesterol than eggs from battery hens. Scientific studies show that the color of eggshells does not accurately predict the quality of the edible parts of eggs inside. When you open an egg from the supermarket, the pale yolk may be so watery that it bursts along with the shell and you can't separate whites from yolks. When you open an egg from a free-range hen, the firm, round, orange-colored yolk is easy to separate from the whites and bursts only when you sink a fork (or beater blade) into it. This is true regardless of the size or color of the eggs. Orange-colored egg yolks contain more carotene. Free-range hens are healthier, and their eggs are likely to be fresher, so yes, the eggs will look and taste and actually be better...regardless of breed.

Book Review: Animal Land

Title: Animal Land

Author: Margaret Blount

Illustrations: black-and-white reprints

Publisher: William Morrow

Date: 1975

Length: 336 pages

Quote: “Animal Farm has been called a satire on dictatorship, but it is a chronicle of the sad sameness of human nature and the ultimate absorption of every revolutionary movement.”

Despite the subtitle, “The Creatures of Children's Fiction,” Blount has read a lot of nonfiction and books written for adults, too. Probably more for enjoyment than merely for the purposes of comparing and discussing the children's stories this book is supposed to be about. In addition to Animal Farm (which I read and liked at fourteen) there are discussions of Perelandra and That Hideous Strength (which determined high school students can read, and I did, but I appreciated them better in college) and The Once and Future King and The Canterbury Tales and Archy and Mehitabel and Of Other Worlds and Children's Books of Yesterday and T.H. White's Bestiary and so on.

Animal Land, itself, is aimed at educated adult readers and most likely to be enjoyed by writers, teachers, or librarians...but I can imagine a bright twelve-year-old, who wants to make sure s/he hasn't missed any really good reads, spending a few hours with this book before looking for all the other books discussed in it.

The publisher seems to have encouraged this since, instead of a blurb, the back jacket merely lists some of the Books and some of the Animals discussed in Animal Land: The Wind in the Willows, Dr. Dolittle, Aesop's Fables, Puss in Boots, Just So Stories, Pinocchio, Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland, The Box of Delights, Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little (has anyone besides Blount noticed what a weird, disturbing story that is, by the standards of children's fiction?), The Hobbit, Poo Poo and the Dragons, the apparently exclusively British adventures of Rupert Bear, Black Beauty, The Velveteen Rabbit, the Chronicles of Narnia, Johnny Crow's Garden, The Jungle Book, Babar the Elephant, Uncle Remus, Bambi, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. And more.

The child who hasn't met all of these fictional creatures will want to meet the others, but may benefit from a warning that (a) some of them have never been distributed in the U.S., and (b) the author's reading list includes anything likely to be read by a "child" between the ages of three and thirty.

The adult reader may find Animal Land useful as a reminder that children don't actually live, read, learn, think, or grow up in “age groups.” Blount helps adults remember this by withholding judgment about the age at which any child is likely to enjoy any book. Perhaps, if the adult reader was lucky enough to read most of these books, the adult reader's memories may help. I remember finding Babar babyish at age six, although I knew older people (mercifully not my parents) to whom Babar had great nostalgic appeal, such that they still enjoyed reading his adventures. Perhaps because children who aren't segregated by gender seem to want to define and separate themselves by gender, I didn't properly appreciate Ernest Thompson Seton's animal stories before age thirty. (My brother liked them, even better than Kipling's, in middle school.) I found Chanticleer in a cousin's twelfth grade literature book and wanted to go back to those relatives' house to read all of his adventure when I was six, but I didn't really get into the rest of The Canterbury Tales even in college.

Animal Land is most warmly recommended to adults who can spend a few pleasant afternoons reminiscing along with Blount, then decide which old favorite they want to revisit, first, in the company of which children. Teenagers? No need to wait until you have nieces or nephews to read to; if you're planning to become a teacher, most of the books discussed in Animal Land, if available in your country, will be on your college reading list.

I recommend not passing up any opportunity to visit Johnny Crow's Garden, a babyish place I'll admit, but one every adult should have visited once. If you don't like Babar, Blount tells enough about his adventures that you can probably answer the questions on the test after reading Animal Land. If you didn't have the complete set of Beatrix Potter's little books as a child, I recommend splurging on the complete one-volume edition now.

What's not to love? Readers might want to add a chapter or two to Animal Land, discussing recent and U.S.-specific animal stories: The Incredible Journey, The Plague Dogs and Watership Down, Lad a Dog (and others by Albert Payson Terhune), the Outcasts of Redwall, the Hogwarts owls, The Cricket in Times Square, The Cat Who Went to Heaven, Rascal, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the many adventures of Freddy the Pig, and Freddy's creator's less literary but more TV-friendly “Mr. Ed,” seem worthy of as much attention as several animals and stories mentioned in Animal Land. It's possible that Lassie and Thomasina were deliberately omitted for reasons that seemed good and sufficient to Blount, but readers might disagree. 

Margaret Blount wrote a few other books besides Animal Land, apparently all novels. No contact information, no date of death, and no verification that she's alive, shows up on Google. In the absence of contact information I can't claim to offer Animal Land as a Fair Trade Book, although it deserves to be one. And it's moving quickly into the collector price range: $10 per book + the usual $5 per package is the best price I can offer for a clean non-library copy...and I can't even guarantee that more than one book can be tucked into the same package. To buy it here, send payment to either address at the bottom of the screen.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I Feel Marginalized, What About You?

According to a Blaze article, which there's no way this pathetic excuse for a computer would ever be able to open, words like "American," "mothering," and "healthy" make some people in these United States feel marginalized, and they're claiming that that's a form of violence.

This web site is American. And this web site thinks these would-be censors need some mothering. Specifically, they need some motherly-type people to lock them in their rooms and let them kick and scream and hold their breath until they get tired of it, and not let them out until they've written one thousand lines of "I was wrong to disrespect the freedom of speech of others. I apologize. I must never open my mouth in public." This web site thinks that would be healthy, and also wholesome.

Actually, the mere idea that a university in any of these United States would allow a speaker to claim that using words like "American" is a form of violence...makes me feel...marginalized. Doesn't it you? Where's my fee for telling the students which words offend me, as a non-wealthy, biracial woman? What do you want to bet that this idiot who feels violated by the word "American" draws more money, in return for less honest work, in a month than I do in a year? I feel not only marginalized, but discriminated against.

What are some things people say to you that make you feel marginalized, or even discriminated against, Gentle Readers? Hmm. Start with that "Amazon Contextual Ad" that may be showing up on the sidebar at the right of the screen about now. Amazon has had a real problem getting things that don't seem to marginalize this web site right on to our margins. I feed them context for good, successful, highly marketable books, and of course at the moment they're just frantically flogging garbage that doesn't seem likely to fit into anybody's context at all, but they never pick up on references to authors like Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin. Remember the dreck they've slapped into their ad space whenever this web site has mentioned those authors or their books? If you're not seeing a list of five books by respected fiscally conservative authors on the right side of this page, Amazon is not just failing to do their job. That's an act of violence!

And what are some words you'd like to banish from the language? People have been nominating words for sociolinguistic exile forever, usually on the grounds of being cliches and/or being used in ways that cloud their meaning.

As in the old joke: English teacher tells students, "There are two words I want you never to use in this class. One is 'swell' and the other is 'lousy.'"

Student says blankly, "What are the two words?"

And y'know, even though at my school the words that were overworked to the point of meaninglessness were "neat" (as in "The crucifixion of Christ is just sooo neat") and "grotty," "swell" and "lousy" are still widely understood.

But maybe we just haven't gone far enough in ranting about how certain words don't just annoy us, or turn us off, or identify their users as active members of groups to which we don't want to belong. Maybe the existence of groups to which we don't want to belong is an act of violence. Maybe we like being female (or being male) and never wanted to be Boy Scouts (or Girl Scouts), but maybe even our not wanting to join those groups was an act of violence. Maybe we should all make little lists of words whose use in any context is a subtle form of violence against us. Consider these:

1. "Gay" (except when it's part of some unfortunate person's legal name): This word was obnoxious enough when, as a near-synonym for "cheerful" that rhymed with "play" and "day" and "May," it was dragged into every bad rhymed poem in the English language. Publishing poetry that's worse even than mine is definitely a violent act, but as we all know, recently the situation has become even worse. In phrases like "gay-friendly" I never know any more whether it's identifying the speaker as a male homosexual who thinks everybody would feel good about his sexual behavior (and his indiscretion) if they just called it something different from "homosexual," or as a male homophobic who thinks people won't notice his inadequacy so much if he just taunts other males with their real or alleged...In short, there is no way this word can be used that I don't find annoying. Er, um, violent.

2. "Feel": Any suggestion that women "feel" rather than think is, of course, offensive. Therefore, any mention of "feeling" in any group that includes women is offensive. Any group that does not include women is offensive. Er, um, violent.

3. "Public-private partnership": The proper name for this concept is "fascism." In a democracy organizations can be public or private but not both. Basically, if decisions are made by people who weren't elected by a popular vote, the organization should be 100% private. Weasel organizations that receive public funding, but are not accountable to the public, are offensive. Er, um, violent.

4. "Health care": This one wouldn't be offensive if people used it to refer to their taking care of their own health. If it's used as a nasty Orwellian substitute for "medical treatment," or worse yet "medical insurance," it's very, very offensive. Er, um, violent.

5. "Zoning": "Zone," originally meaning a belt, then a climatological "belt" drawn around the globe, then an area between such "belts," doesn't bother, I mean violate, me. The idea of individual humans drawing "zones" on a city map in order to tell other people they can't do something that is otherwise normal, reasonable, and inoffensive, without paying somebody some sort of fee, is extremely offensive. Er, um, violent.

Over to you, Gentle Readers. What are the words you'd like to ban from the English language? In any context, or only in some?

(Somebody out there is saying, "But it is offensive when citizens of the United States talk as if being 'American' meant not being Mexican, usually, or Canadian or Peruvian or Brazilian." Humbug. It's careless and inaccurate, and citizens of the other nations on the American continents are entitled to correct us. Blogspot automatically counts the number of readers we have in different countries, and we don't have a lot of non-U.S.-American readers, so this web site has never needed to worry about making it clear whether any particular use of "American" does or does not include Brazilians. But seriously, I'm sure regular readers understand, it's the idea of censorship by appealing to absurdly oversensitive emotional reactions that some tiny minority of people might have that this web site really considers violent.)

Windows 10 Security Risk Alert

[Cross-posted from Live Journal]

A reader asked me to write about this topic. It's been written about, rather well:

Book Review: The Shroud of Turin

Title: The Shroud of Turin

Author: John H. Heller

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Date: 1983

Illustrations: photos, some in color

Length: 225 pages

Quote: “This book is a report on the research performed on the Shroud of Turin by a team of forty scientists.”

The dust jacket flap really says it all: the scientists concluded that the material is ancient, stained with human blood, in a pattern that “conforms to that of a man who had been crucified in the Roman manner.”

What's inside this book are the details. Historians and archaeologists will be interested in this book. Some people will find it disgusting, although no attempt is made to sensationalize the details. Devout Catholics have taken it as evidence that the Shroud of Turin is the shroud in which Jesus was wrapped—which, of course, science could not prove.

From time to time church artists take potshots at each other's conception of what Jesus might have looked like. He must have been handsome, some say. Not if Isaiah's prophecy that “there is no beauty that we should desire him” was true of Jesus, others say, while the first group contend that a man who was handsome while living would still have looked horrific when crucified...Jesus was Semitic, therefore short, with dark shaggy hair, some say. Actually most men in the Roman Empire seem to have had reasonably short haircuts, others say, and if a prophecy that mentions hair like lamb's wool refers to Jesus, He might have had curly hair and an African-type face. Others chime in that in the whole Mediterranean region red or blond hair is unusual but not unknown; artists who want to portray a tall, blond, “Nordic” model can argue that Jesus might have looked like that. For what it's worth, the image so faintly perceptible on the Shroud of Turin suggests a craggy Nordic face and a tall, thin, even gaunt body.

But, even if the image is the genuine result of the Shroud having been used to wrap the body of a man who died at some time during the reign of Augustus Caesar, was that man Jesus? Well, of course, he could have been Jesus, or he might have been Judas; we'll ever really know. The market for relics, in the early Christian church and among other groups, was enormous. Skeptics will always remind people that although “the finger bone of St. John” and “a splinter of the Cross” and similar icky-sounding relics are undoubtedly a finger bone and a splinter, whose bone, or what splinter, or who was wrapped in the Shroud of Turin, will never be scientifically known. These relics could be what they're said to be. Maybe.

For those who want more than this summary of The Shroud of Turin, it's not a Fair Trade Book, but we still have to charge our regular online price of $5 per book + $5 per package, payable to either address at the very bottom of the screen. At least one other book, probably three and possibly more depending on size, could fit into the package beside this one for one $5 shipping charge. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Morgan Griffith on Sanctuary Cities

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9); editorial comment below:

"Sanctuary Cities: Fugitive Harbors

Like many Americans, I am heartbroken by the tragic death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who was murdered earlier this month while on a walk with her father, Jim, in San Francisco.  Accused of committing this crime is Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant who had previously been deported five times and convicted of seven felonies.

San Francisco is what some refer to as a “sanctuary city,” and does not require that local officials, law enforcement, etc. abide by federal immigration laws.  Put simply, these cities essentially refuse to comply with immigration laws on the books and even, as described by the National Journal, “…shelter undocumented immigrations from federal immigration-law enforcement.”

Accordingly, when Lopez-Sanchez was released from jail in March of this year yet again, he found sanctuary in San Francisco.

What transpired as a result is devastating, infuriating, outrageous, etc.  We should not tolerate the President’s refusal to enforce our immigration law, including his Administration’s unwillingness to aggressively intervene when these laws go unenforced.

The Administration is failing here, and in doing so is needlessly endangering American lives.  It is up to Congress to act.

The Senate and House Judiciary Committees, the latter of which is led by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), have been examining these policies.  Jim Steinle, Kate’s father, has testified at hearings on these issues, advocating for policies which will get “…undocumented immigrant felons off our streets for good.”

I strongly approve of this objective.  With my support, the House of Representatives passed the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act (H.R. 3009) on July 23, the same day Mr. Steinle testified before the House Judiciary Committee.  This bill would remove State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) funding for states or localities with policies that do not enforce federal immigration laws (entities that refuse to communicate an individual’s citizenship or immigration status with Immigration and Naturalization Services, those that prevent their law enforcement from gathering information regarding citizenship or immigration status, etc).  This bill now awaits a vote in the Senate.

Another bill, the Michael David, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act(H.R. 1148), would prevent sanctuary cities from receiving certain federal grants, expedite the removal of criminal aliens, etc.  David and Oliver were killed by a twice-deported alien.  This bill has passed the House Judiciary Committee, and awaits a vote by the full House of Representatives.

The tragic death of Kate Steinle is a stark reminder that one of our top priorities should be defending America’s borders and enforcing our laws, not accommodating those who break them.  The House is taking action, and members of the Senate are also looking to crack down on sanctuary cities.  The Administration ought to follow suit, enforce our nation’s immigration laws, and seek to protect the American people as well as the rule of law.

This web site is aware that some of our readers and correspondents will think that, if anything, the bills discussed here don't go far enough. Because some people who cross national borders illegally are evildoers wherever they are, some people think all "illegal aliens" are evildoers, and the only solution to this horrible problem of "illegal immigration" is to be able to track everybody's identity all the time. This web site suspects that most of the people who feel that way (1) have blue eyes, and also (2) can't remember when the U.S. was at war with any part of Europe.

Personally, and I'm sure my being a tenth-generation American with a complexion that could be seen as either Arab-type or Mexican-type in summer has everything to do with this...I'd rather just chill. I think people who receive substantial tax-funded benefits (I mean full college tuition grants and tax-funded medical care, not just the use of public streets and libraries) should have to prove that they or their parents are U.S. taxpayers. And people who've been deported because they committed violent crimes here, and their home countries have allowed them to come back here, should lose the privilege of being deported; no need to bother with the lethal injection, just lock'em up, and who said anything about feeding them. And people who are here because they'd rather be underpaid laborers here than be even more underpaid laborers back home should just be paid for what they do. 

Obviously people can't keep immigrating into the United States forever. The parts of this country where the jobs are are getting crowded. We need to admit that. A large part of our existing population are becoming less able to work and more likely to need medical care, so we can't really afford even to maintain existing levels of funding for handouts. We need to admit that too. We need to warn the rest of the world that, if you can survive at all in the country where you were born, you're more likely to thrive there than you are here. 

But I used to live in one of those "sanctuary" neighborhoods (Takoma Park, Maryland, pre-yuppification) and it was safe and clean and friendly and fun and, by and large, the way I wish more of the world would be. The average "illegal" dishwasher, janitor, or babysitter may be annoying to any legal immigrants or natural-born citizens with whom s/he may be competing for jobs, but otherwise doesn't want trouble, wants to be a good neighbor, would have been "legal" if s/he had had more money or had to deal with less hostile officials or had better communication skills, and, if able to vote, would probably vote Republican. (We disapprove of foreign dictators; people whose fathers were shot by foreign dictators' armed forces loathe foreign dictators. And Muslims and Catholics tend to agree with the Moral Majority about a lot of things.) 

I see a pattern forming here. It's not a very pretty pattern. In the cities where young unskilled laborers live, competition for jobs and cheap rooms is getting more intense. Hostility toward illegal aliens, ditto. Conservatives generally think laws should be enforced. The Illiberal Left will be delighted to blame Republicans for cracking down on the "sanctuary cities" when they roll out their next proposal for demanding that everybody's identity information be made available to everybody else, all the time, the better to increase discontent and foment revolution. Too many people want these bills to pass for anybody to be interested in an old lady's memories. The bills will pass. Microchip implants in humans may become mandatory in the next ten years or so.

I respect people's right to worry about illegal immigration, to want more than just the scholarship grants and subsidized surgical operations to be withheld from those who are here "illegally." I've posted things that document their concerns here before. I will again.

I just feel obliged to mention that I don't like it.

Morgan Griffith: Happy Birthday to NASA

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9):

"On July 29, 1958, Congress passed legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which coordinates our nation’s space activities.  Since that time, NASA has been involved in expeditions to learn more about the universe, launched satellites which assist with weather forecasting, global communications, etc., and more.

Space – the final frontier… NASA continues making news and achieving remarkable things to this day.  Its New Horizons spacecraft recently sent to Earth new images of Pluto in the first ever flyby of the dwarf planet.  The space probe was about 3 billion miles from Earth, and came within approximately 7,800 miles of Pluto’s surface.

Further, NASA’s Kepler exoplanet explorer recently discovered a planet in a “habitable zone” (meaning that liquid water could pool on the planet’s surface) around a star, a grouping that resembles Earth’s relationship with the Sun.  NASA scientists are describing this planet, Kepler-452b, as an older, bigger cousin to Earth.

Happy birthday, NASA.  I anticipate many more years of exploration."

Book Review: The World So Fair

Title: The World So Fair

Author: Karen Peyton

Publisher: E.M. Hale

Date: 1967

Length: 232 pages

Quote: “Home was where you came back to from where you had been. From home you could start over—or go ahead.”

Immigrants In America seems not to be a major genre of American novels-for-children any more. It used to be, and The World So Fair is a classic example of the genre: the story of Val, Norwegian-American teen orphan, and her Aunt Siri, in old Minnesota. Long trips are taken on trains. People raise wheat. Hard work and untimely deaths happen. We know that Val will survive everything, have a good life, and probably marry well, because she is a valiant pioneer girl who doesn't demand that things go her way in order for her to be happy. The rest of the story will be, basically, atmosphere, teaching us what songs Val sang, what foods she cooked, what her first few jobs were like, what school and dating were like, even how holidays were celebrated.

Lots of families had ancestors like Val, who came to the U.S. “through Ellis Island” around the turn of the twentieth century. In 1967 the success of novels like The World So Fair depended on the number of those ancestors who were still alive and could say “Ja, this is the way things were.” A tiny bit of sentimentality was allowed—on the front cover of The World So Fair we see that Val's face was pretty in a way that was not fashionable in 1907, but was fashionable in 1967.

Novels as didactic as this one often contained plenty of foreign words, as The World So Fair does; usually they also contained glossaries, as The World So Fair should, but does not. Children thus learn when Norwegian immigrants used Norwegian expressions, but not how the expressions were pronounced or what literal meaning they had (if any). Aside from that, this is a nice, wholesome, family-friendly story about a nice, wholesome family, working through grief, holding on.

Several people in cyberspace are currently using the name "Karen Peyton." None of them seems to be the author of this novel. In the absence of evidence that the author of The World So Fair is alive we can't offer this title as a Fair Trade Book. And it's become a collector's item, with library copies selling for $10 and up, so the $15 per book ($50 if you want a hardcover copy without library-damage) does not directly benefit a living writer. However, it's a slim book and would fit into the same package with one or more Fair Trade Books for one $5 shipping charge. To buy it online, send payment to either of the addresses at the very bottom of this page.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: Ah-One Ah-Two

Title: Ah-One Ah-Two

Authors: Lawrence Welk and Bernice McGeehan

Illustrations: 40 pages of black-and-white photos

Publisher: Prentice-Hall

Date: 1974

Length: 215 pages

Quote: “This book is about my Musical Family...the people who make up the 'family' which has become such a big part of my life.”

Ah-One Ah-Two was a nostalgia trip when it was written. Lawrence Welk was enjoying “wunnerful” success within a small but secure niche, performing the early twentieth century pop music against which rock music was supposed to represent a rebellion. The history of 1960s and 1970s music is incomplete without mentioning Welk, so this book is an historical document now.

According to the commercial media, people my age hated Lawrence Welk, his show, and his band. Some people I knew did laugh at them. I rarely watched television, but when we were in places that picked up television my parents and I watched Lawrence Welk. I liked the show. I was bewildered by the differences among church rules that the show highlighted, too, but apparently my parents managed to communicate that Christian adults could honestly disagree about the fine points of their discipline and still respect one another.

The Lawrence Welk Show featured dancing and had a theme song about champagne. Churchgoing people I knew didn't dance or drink alcohol, and many wouldn't watch the Lawrence Welk Show. Nevertheless...he was a modest and tasteful old gentleman, and you have to read all the way to page 213 before he spells it out, but Welk was a Christian who urged his audience to “give our young people the greatest gift of in God.”

The “family” included an instrumental ensemble as well as seven young men and seven young women singers. We learn most of these people's given names, while reading Ah-One Ah-Two, and we read a few perfectly publishable anecdotes about their performances...the time Welk invited a stage-struck older woman to come up on stage where one of the guys could sing a lovesong “to” her, the lively dance that almost wore the performers out, the time Welk inadvertently caught one of the musicians venting road stress with a lot of “blankety-blank” language.

And, of course, we read more about that lovable little old ham who always managed to stay on center stage. We “see” Welk as Grand Marshal of the Rose Bowl Parade of 1972: his wife and a friend “picked out a suit for me in dark lavender and pinkish tones, to contrast with Fern's purple outfit, complete with a purple hat.” We see an actual photo, as well as the story, of a semi-planned flop in which Welk appeared to surrender to pressure from the young people to do more rock songs and appeal to hippies; Welk put on a faddy outfit and a wig of long dark hair, and commented on the picture, “I could understand why some of our fans didn't like me dressed as a hippie. I didn't like myself!”We even see the vanity plate the State of California awarded Welk, “in appreciation for my taxes,” before vanity plates were available to the general public: A1 AN A2.

He gets serious only in the epilogue, explaining the “Family Plan” on which the band worked as operating “on three distinct levels. First, is our vocational Training...Second, is our Personality and Character the good humor and professionalism of our group...We complete our Sharing by sharing profits, and awarding extra bonuses for outstanding performance.” The baby-boomer generation were young, at the time, and although it now seems hard to confuse harmless teen fads and slang with drugs, vice, and crime, older people used to confuse these things and talk as if we were one great big social problem. Welk was on to a solution: “Whenever you share something—it increases... [A] few basic changes—on a nation-wide level—would allow it [the Family Plan] to work even better.

1. Establish a more realistic wage scale. This would permit employers to train and develop millions more youngsters...

2. Remove some of the government and union controls. This would cut the paralyzing red tape that now prevents thousands of talented youngsters from getting an early start on a lifetime career.

3. Put God back in our schools.”

Well, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose...there was more than bubbles in Lawrence Welk's head, after all.

Who needs this book? If your elders were serious fans, they probably already own it. Ask. I'm more inclined to recommend it to people under age fifty who are into melody, harmony, even counterpoint, in music. Ah-One Ah-Two is nothing like a technical guide for musicians and does not include any song lyrics, but it does provide historical background to go with the early twentieth century songs some of us want to revive.

Although Ah-One Ah-Two is not a Fair Trade Book we still have to charge $5 per copy + $5 per package online. Shipping rates "per package" mean that you could order this one along with a few Fair Trade Books and consider the shipping free, though, so scroll down. To buy it here, send payment to either of the addresses at the very bottom of the screen.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Phenology with Stealth Nag: Ivy Wants My Water

Well, this is the South, and it's July, so what did you expect? Even in the hills above Gate City, Virginia, without the local warming effect, temperatures have peaked around 90 degrees. People in Kingsport, Tennessee, haven't complained of local warming sending their temperatures over 100 yet, but they've certainly gone further past the 90-degree mark, and stayed there much longer, every day. At least overnight lows have been dropping back to around 70 degrees, which would be comfortable if the humidity weren't so heavy. The air feels thick. Everything smells musty, and feels damp to the touch.

As regular readers know, I always reuse soda bottles and bottled-water bottles at least twice. First I refill them with drinking water, then I refill them with cleaning water. One day this weekend I had brought in some bottles filled with drinking water. I sat down on the front porch. My cat Ivy sat down on my knee. I petted her and told her what a precious pretty kitty she is, and she purred, and I still felt tired. It occurred to me that drinking one of those bottles of water might help me recover the energy to stand up and take the bottles into the kitchen.

Ivy sniffed at the bottle when I opened it, and then began to meow. "May I have some?"

"It's only plain old water, Ivy." The cats usually go down to the spring branch for water, and ignore water I've put out in dishes in the mud room when we've had little kittens in there.

"Meow? Meow?" Ivy knew it was only plain old water, and she wanted some.

"Is it too hot to walk fifteen yards?" Some empty tins the cats had licked clean were in a bag for recycling in the yard. I poured one or two ounces of water into an empty tin.

"Purr. Purr!" Ivy started lapping up the water. I sat down again and took another sip from the bottle.

Irene and the kittens came out from the cellar. The cellar stays close to earth temperature and is where the cats usually go in extreme weather. "What are you purring about, Ivy? Share it! Share it!"

To my surprise, Ivy growled and glared at them. "This is my special treat the human gave to me." Ivy is the smallest adult cat; once in a while she feels a need to assert herself.

"Oh for pity's sake." I poured a couple more ounces of water into another tin. Irene and the kittens tasted it but didn't seem especially thirsty. Ivy didn't drink all the water I'd poured out for her, either. I expected the cats would leave it to evaporate; they usually like fresh running water.

Later in the evening, though, Heather came in from hunting with nothing to share. She seemed tired and thirsty, and approached the tins of water. Ivy growled at her, too. I went out and found Ivy defending the tin that was her special treat...I think she even drank all of that portion of water herself.

Sharing food is the main way all animals show friendship. Most of the time, in my cats' minds the category of food hasn't seemed to include water. In extreme weather, apparently, it does.

That was the nag for all pet owners. Now the rest of the phenology report:

Flowers: Lots of clover, Queen Anne's Lace, chicory. A few daisies are still blooming. Mimosa and crepe myrtle, mostly cultivated in people's yards. The "Rose of Sharon" hibiscus, H. syriacus, is blooming well wherever it's been planted and in at least one place where it's not.

Butterflies: Apparently thriving on this weather; I'm seeing lots of all the usual kinds: Spring Azures, which are actually more of a periwinkle blue than azure, and fly from spring through fall; Wood Nymphs (little brown ones); Sulphurs; Cabbage Whites; fritillaries; Silver-Spotted Skippers; lots of Tiger Swallowtails, a few Zebra Swallowtails, and occasionally the species most of the world calls a Black Swallowtail; and a Red Admiral. I have yet to see a Monarch or Mourning Cloak this year.

Moths: All our local species of Tiger Moths seem to have been decimated this year. I've seen only one Tiger Moth--dead--in Duffield. The Geometrid species that live in the black walnut tree and have been using my computer screen as a nightclub continue to be a nuisance. A Peach Borer moth, the kind that hold their very narrow wings in a way that suggests giant mosquitoes more than ordinary moths, but have mothlike heads, got into the Cat Sanctuary one night; this was a surprise since I didn't think there was a peach tree left in the neighborhood. (We used to have peach trees in the orchard, but they never bore fruit and didn't live long.) I've seen relatively few of the dapper little Desmia moths that live on wild or domestic grape leaves, but think I've seen one or two of each of our three species this year.

Birds: Even the crows haven't been flying or singing (well, in the case of crows, squawking) this weekend. It's just too hot! In Gate City, however, one species remains active...those blasted pigeons that roost on the courthouse dome. I saw a flock of them flying above town this morning.

Fungi: Apart from the nuisance molds that thrive in this kind of weather, Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, Mucor, Penicillium, Cladosporium, and "I don't care what it is--just kill it!"...I've seen one mushroom that was new to me. Everybody has seen the big, tan or orange, saucer-shaped kind of mushroom that occasionally pop up in the woods in late summer...Wikipedia says they're species in the genus Lactarius, one of the most common mushrooms in North America. Most of them aren't fit to eat (they don't look very appetizing) and may stain your clothes. This weekend, though, I saw a blue one. Same size and shape as an orange specimen growing about twenty yards away (maybe six inches high, saucerlike tops about the size of the palm of my hand), but the color shaded from pearly white to baby-blue. It almost glowed in the woods. Wikipedia says there's a species of Lactarius that are normally pale grey. I'd never seen one before.

Are We Positive?

Are we positive? No! Thank Heaven, the last time any member of this web site tested "positive" was Grandma Bonnie Peters' last pregnancy test (the baby is now 42 years old). On lab tests for diseases, we're all splendidly, even miraculously, negative.

As regular readers remember (I discussed this in an AC article, years ago), the position of this web site is that the words "positive" and "negative" should not be used as if they were the grown-up equivalents of "nice" and "nasty." "Positive" and "negative" are useful as scientific, mathematical terms. "Positive" measures the amount of something that is there (occupying a position); "negative" measures the amount of something that is not there. "Negative emotions" would be the emotions someone doesn't have.

An example of a negative emotion would be the interest I feel in the strange idea of categorizing everything in the world by how I think I'm likely to feel about it before I've even thought about it, and thus allowing myself to think about only the things that I think are likely to feel nice. I feel no attraction to this idea whatsoever. I can't imagine how anybody would be able to think that way. Most of us get up in the morning and use the bathroom, and many of us also drink coffee, before any emotions kick in. I wonder whether Positive Thinkers really have to go through their little mental gymnastics, "Ooohhh, I have to want to climb out of bed--I mean my lovely, warm bed, or actually my, er um, fantastically sweaty, smelly bed, I have to love the odor of a bed that's been sweated in for six hours--where were we?--I have to feel enthusiastic about leaping out of bed and charging into my awesome bathroom..."

When I think about it, and I'm glad I seldom do, I'm glad I'm able to decide when to change the sheet without wasting a lot of emotional energy on it. I don't load a lot of emotion on the bathroom, either.

As a point of editorial policy, if we're talking about our emotional feelings at this web site, we use "like" and "dislike," "want" and "don't want," "nice" and "nasty," or whatever else may be appropriate. Often we don't talk about our emotional feelings, however, because we're neither manic-depressive patients nor teenagers, and therefore we don't have a noticeable emotional reaction to everything in life. I, personally, need to have an experience before I can pin that little emotional label on it. I've known people who claimed to believe that asking somebody "Is that a good book?" when they can see that the reader is less than halfway through it, or "How do you like this place?" when the person has been there only a few hours, was a serious question to which they expected an answer (other than "Just be quiet until you have something worthwhile to say!"). I don't know exactly what goes wrong to make people like that, but obviously something is wrong with their brains.

I'm glad I was given the sort of brain that processes facts, first, and then deals with any emotions that may linger, afterward. (The case could be made that this is positive thinking as distinct from positive emoting.)

As an editorial policy, this web site likes feel-good fluff. I seriously believe that somebody's teaching a dog a trick is "news," somebody's stringing beads into a necklace or knitting a pair of socks is "news," and if they've written well about how and why they did it, that "news" may be more valuable a year from now than the "news" that yet another candidate wants to run for President. We don't set out to look for feel-good stories; we just share fresh ones when we find them. We have separate categories for "good news" and "fun stuff" that don't fit into categories like Animals, Books, Crafts, and so on.

This web site does not avoid bad news. Not because we "like" reading about bad things happening to other people, or expect readers do; actually, we don't like endlessly rehashing a piece of bad news the way the commercial media do, so when the media sharks go into a feeding frenzy about a murder or an earthquake or some fading celebrity's latest bid for attention through displays of stupidity, this web site is likely to leave that story alone. But we've lived long enough to see that reporting disaster stories tends to generate support for relief efforts. Today's fire or hurricane may be bad news, but tomorrow, when the recovery begins, that will be good news.

We never want, the way the commercial media seemed to want on September 11, 2001, to cause people to huddle in their basements feeling bad about something that didn't even actually affect them. We may want to cause people to feel bad enough about something that needs to be fixed, or prevented, to do something about it. Don't sit around feeling bad. Do something that helps you feel better. Send money to the people in need. Write letters or sign petitions about the disastrous policy. Show support for the person who's being unfairly attacked or censored. Vote. Sing. Join a demonstration. Take a class. Say a prayer. Doing what you can to fix the facts will probably cause you to feel good.

Although generally immune to baseball fever, this web site finds baseball helpful in explaining how it's possible to feel good about the bad news. Baseball is played by teams. Nobody is throwing, catching, or running with the ball all the time; most of the players spend most of the time standing about, and the ones in the outfield may not actually touch the ball at any time during the game. When a baseball player does catch the ball, most of the time he doesn't run; he stays in his designated position and throws the ball to the player who can use it from his designated position. Calls to action can be like the ball in a baseball game. You or I may be in positions from which all we can do is pass the call, or the ball, to someone else. That may be enough to help our team, or our cause.

A compulsive urge to maintain, or fake, a constant manic mood can be harmful. People who tend to perceive and think before we emote sometimes feel an urge to puncture the emotional balloons of Positive Thinkers. I'm not immune to that impulse myself. Even in cancer support groups, where emotional moods can in fact reflect the progress of the disease, so there's a valid reason to fear unpleasant emotions...don't take it from me, take it from Barbara Ehrenreich. Facing up to the not-so-pleasant stuff, doing your bit to improve it, feels ever so much better than cowering in denial of "all that negativity."

If it works to rally support for whatever improvement needs to be made, I say, go ahead and wallow in the "negativity" of whatever needs improvement. I think it's possible to feel a difference between bogging down in unpleasant emotions, "Ooohhh, me-me-me doesn't like this, poor little me," and rallying our own minds, even before we evaluate the audience reaction. Recounting all the details of how much new school supplies will cost and how much this student's parents earned last year and so on may merely make you feel worse, or it may raise more money for the flooded-out school.

I'm glad I have the ability, and I hope you readers find that you also have the ability, to process the facts first and let the feelings follow. Because maintaining a focus on the facts feels good; it's empowering.

It doesn't mean that everything else in my life feels good, or that everything else in your life would feel good if you focussed on the facts. Some things feel flat-out vile. Ten years ago, my husband died. For the rest of the year 2005, everything reminded me of him and anything was likely to bring tears to my eyes. The difference my focus on facts made was that I accepted that part of being alive is that we love people, we outlive some of those people, and then we mourn. I didn't feel a need to deny grief or blame other people for it. Grief came; I worked through and around it as best I could; eventually it faded. I didn't demand that people tiptoe around "trigger" subjects like love, loss, teaching (he was a teacher), etc. I rejoiced with friends who were going through happier life experiences that year. Still, a sane, healthy experience of bereavement is bad enough. I don't like to imagine the strain trying to survive bereavement by Positive Thinking must put on the brain.

By and large, if I really think about it, I suppose I feel good about not having to attach emotions to everything, even to every physical sensation I feel. Last week I walked through a yard where a dog hangs out and was bitten by a flea. Humans have enough resistance to most of the infectious diseases that make our pets ill that we only barely notice feeling "under the weather," or tired, or at worst having "mild flu-type symptoms" if fleas transmit these infections to us. I've done less, and felt much more tired after doing it, during the past week than I've done and felt since...well, actually, the last time I was bitten by a flea. Walking ten miles in four hours left me feeling stiffer and wearier longer than walking twenty miles in six hours did last winter. If I expected myself to be perky all the time I would probably feel quite unhappy, dissatisfied with myself and irritated by other people. Since I don't expect myself to feel or project any kind of mood, just to get a reasonable amount of work done, and I've not been too sluggish to get the work done, I don't feel bad about feeling tired, at all. Feeling tired is not as good as feeling energetic, but feeling tired is better than feeling bad about being tired.

Although it's primarily about writing, and by no means exclusively about Christian writing, this is a Christian web site. I don't expect myself to feel, or seem, "spiritual"--whatever that means to whoever is using the word--all the time, either. (I have agnostic moods, and am most likely to express them when annoyed by "oh-so-spiritual" blather from people whose Christian practice is in fact obviously much less radical than mine.) Christian writers have let themselves be so viciously discriminated against that when someone does manage to write both inside and outside the denominational market, people seem surprised.

One book I reviewed a few years ago asserted that Christian ministers should not insert jokes into sermons. I don't know how the author of that book would feel about writers like James L. Snyder, whose "Out to Pastor" articles are syndicated in the Kingsport Daily News, inserting a spiritual thought into a humor column. Personally, I enjoy Snyder's column.

Recently Snyder asked whether there were any web sites or news feeds dedicated to "good news" out there. I don't know...I know that managing this web site generally tends to have a cheering effect on me, and I intend it to have both a cheering and a motivating effect on readers.

Book Review: Locking Arms

A Fair Trade Book, However Inadequately Reviewed

Title: Locking Arms

Author: Stu Weber

Author's web page:

Publisher: Multnomah

Date: 1995

Length: 288 pages

Quote: “A man can and must carry the weights of marriage and family responsibility. But he's a lot more effective at it when he walks beside at least one man friend.”

This book needs to be reviewed by a man. I'm not one. When we discovered Locking Arms during our Big Haul of randomly assorted books, my eighty-something friend Oogesti was recovering from eye surgery. He never recovered completely enough to give me a reaction to this book. I had read bits of it aloud to him, and he'd planned to read it. That did not happen. Adayahi also has aging eyes and has not volunteered to read this book either. Any local male lurker who's bought this book is welcome to contribute an intelligent discussion to this review.

Stu Weber's book celebrates platonic male-bonding friendship. Idealistically, perhaps. He visualizes groups of male friends, not covering for each other's adulteries, but helping each other avoid adultery; not getting drunk together, but staying sober together; not taking advantage of each other's failures or weaknesses, but helping each other through hard times. One reason why adults (of both sexes) tend to abandon the goal of having a solid group of real friends and just try to stay married to one person is that marriage is more attainable than real friendship is. Lifelong friends, as distinct from old acquaintances, are few for the best and luckiest of us. Weber urges men to hold onto the ideal.

Locking Arms is a readable book, with enough firsthand anecdotes, quotes, citations, and Bible texts to be useful to those preparing sermons, and enough discussion questions to be useful to those organizing fellowship groups. And the stories Weber tells are fresh and lively. How useful will men find this book? How can a woman say?

It's a Fair Trade Book. If you buy it here, by sending $5 per copy + $5 per package to either of the addresses at the very bottom of the screen, we'll send Weber or the charity of his choice $1. (If you buy two copies, you send $15 and we send Weber or his charity $2.) 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Link Log for July 26

Link Log day! Categories: Animals, Children's Rights, Fun Stuff, Phenology, Philosophy, Politics, Race Matters, Safety, Winter in July, Writing.


Dyeing rhinos to prevent the rhinos dying?

Children's Rights

I'm getting lots of e-mail from Republicans who oppose the administration's current demand that slum buildings be shoved into middle-class neighborhoods, but not in the same way I do. This petition is typical. I signed it, but now I'm feeling the urge to repeat: I don't give a flip about some Republican's "property values." I'm into the "community values" of staying, nesting, building, bonding, sharing, and actually living in a home, which means that if you think about "property values" you want'em to stay nice and low so more seniors and working parents can stay in your community. But I still think that children, even low-income children who may be new to middle-class neighborhoods, deserve a tree to sit under and a place to keep a dog and, y'know, all the standard compensations our culture traditionally offers children for the frustrations of being children. I don't want to see children living in slums, regardless of the children's color or accent. I want to see children living in decent houses on decent-sized lots.

Fun Stuff

Strandbeests. (What's a Strandbeest? Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing this link. It explains everything.)


Jack Welch discusses how muggy the weather's been this weekend, even in Big Stone Gap:

On Friday morning, when I met Grandma Bonnie Peters in Kingsport but did not spend the day trying to work on the Sickly Snail, thermometers were showing 90, 91, 92 degrees (Fahrenheit, obviously) by 11 a.m. I went back to the Cat Sanctuary, where it was far too humid for air-breathing creatures to enjoy being outdoors, but only 72 degrees. This is a more conspicuous than usual example of the phenomenon of Local Warming. Global warming may be proved or disproved, disastrous or benign, in another fifty years. Local warming is absolutely real...and yes, you can do something about it. One thing I do about it is not drive a car.


Interesting link, and discussion:


Ted Cruz has a serious message for Republicans.

Race Matters, or the Bell Curve Revisited

Elizabeth Barrette shared this link to Nalo Hopkinson's blog:

Since I don't know NH, and think I probably should at least know her writing before commenting, my general comment went here:

Safety (No More Charleston Murders)

No more Charlestons. No more Sandy Hooks. No more Columbines. Worthy causes, yes? Here, for the duration, is documentation of what so many of these "random" or "hate" murders have had in common. It's organized by categories...female murderers, school murderers, "target" murderers...with as much information as is available about which drugs they were on at the time. That, I believe, is the information we really need to keep abominations like the Charleston and Chattanooga murders from happening again...and again, and again, and again. (Thanks to for the link.)

Duh...oh, people! People!

Winter in July

(Well, the concept usually makes me smile.) Jack Frost meets the Bogeyman:


Not that it's an especially informative post...well I don't quite understand Tumblr...but anyway, yes, I've composed lots of back-story, forward-story, and sidewise-stories about characters who might or might not ever meet the world in just one published story. (If anybody wants to crowdfund those stories, some of them have been written down in blogform.)

Ursula K. LeGuin has written...a finite, but impressive, number of stories. Many of which are memorable.

If you have time to spend at Persona Paper, and I totally understand if you don't...anyway, +Coral Levang has thought of a cool way to publicize lots of living, struggling writers at that site. (Theoretically they may receive actual money when we read their work, too.)

Robert Hurt on the Dodd-Frank Act

From U.S. Representative Robert Hurt (R-VA-5):

Five years ago, the President signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, touting that it would stabilize our economy and hold accountable those responsible for the financial crisis of 2008. This law was sold to the American people as an end to “Too Big to Fail” and taxpayer-funded bailouts. Indeed, Dodd-Frank made noble promises.
But in practice, this 2319-page law has not fulfilled these worthy ambitions. In fact, it has done quite the opposite - it has inflicted harm on the American people. Throughout the month of the July, the House Financial Services Committee, on which I serve, has conducted a series of hearings to examine the wide-ranging impacts of this massive law.
Among our many findings, we have seen how Dodd-Frank has been detrimental to our community banks, which in turn has serious, crippling effects on our small businesses and rural communities. Dodd-Frank has forced one-size-fits-all regulations, intended to rein in bad actors on Wall Street, on our smaller financial institutions. Community banks should not be regulated in the same fashion as large institutions since they are not deeply involved in the capital markets or the securitization marketplace. Their competitive advantage lies in their intimate knowledge of their customers and their ability to be more flexible given their understanding of their community. Dodd-Frank ignores this concept and instead transforms our regulatory system to reflect big bank system and processes rather than empowering community banks to engage in the relationship-banking that helps smaller communities thrive.
Dodd-Frank also expanded the Federal Reserve’s authority to intervene in our financial sector. Last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen testified before the Financial Services Committee to discuss the state of the economy and the ways in which these policies changes are impacting our productivity and the soundness of our economy. I have serious concerns about the numerous Fed policies that make life more difficult for hardworking Americans and have an inherent lack of transparency. The Fed would be well served to adopt a more rules-based approach, as opposed to the discretionary approach it currently employs. Doing so would make the Fed more transparent and help our economy return to a more normalized state-of-affairs. Historically, when the Fed has followed a rules-based approach, these periods have experienced strong economic performance and strong employment.
These regulatory impacts and lack of transparency from the Fed represent real costs and eliminate choices and services for consumers – both families and small businesses – on Main Streets from Chatham to Warrenton. Dodd-Frank and the government-knows-best mentality the Fed employs have stifled our anemic economic recovery and is inflicting extensive damage on our local economies that will likely take years to restore.
Next week, the Financial Services Committee will continue our series of Dodd-Frank oversight hearings with the goal of developing policies that reinvigorate our economy, make the Federal Reserve more transparent and accountable, and prevent a the possibility of another government-induced bailout so that taxpayers are not on the hook during the next crisis.
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.

I met with Meredith Coors, and her son Peter, of Charlottesville to discuss diabetes research.
I visited with Susan Daly of Palmyra.

On Sunday, The Richmond Times-Dispatch ran my Op-Ed entitled, "A Failing Law: Dodd-Frank Leaves Taxpayers, Consumers in the Cold" - you can read it here.
Robert Hurt "