Thursday, September 29, 2005

This Little Piggy Went to Oktoberfest

This weekend is our Parish Oktoberfest. It’s a way to earn money for both the school and the parish, but mostly it’s a way to have fun. A chance to kick back, eat, drink, socialize with other members of our parish and our community and a chance for our children to run free and gorge on sno-cones, cotton candy, hallo hallo, and other delicacies. And bring home dozens of black plastic spider rings and other junky toys that disappear into the corners of the rooms and down the heat registers.

Hubs’ job is to run cable for the TVs that will be set up at the beer and wine booth. I’m the Pig Lady.

Each class, school and Faith Formation (CCD), receives a pig. They can dress it up, name it, and enter it in the Beauty Pageant. After the Pageant, the pigs race. Being mechanical, they run on “D” batteries. Being pigs, they wiggle their snouts, move forward a couple of steps, move backward, wiggle their tails, and slowly make their way down four feet of “track” to the finish line.

Prizes are given for the Pageant and for the Race.

We’ve been doing this for about four years. The kids look forward to it and so do their parents. The race was designed to be fun, and that’s the most difficult part—to keep it from becoming another Cub Scout Pinewood Derby (for those who have participated) where the competition becomes deadly serious.

This year we asked for donations to help offset the cost of pigs and trophies. As incentive, the class at the school with the most donations gets coupons for pizza redeemable at Oktoberfest. The Faith Formation kids each get a Win ticket, redeemable at the Central Prize Booth, for bringing in a donation.

Last night I totaled the school’s contributions. It was $553.00. That’s about twice what I expected. Faith Formation brought in $168.00 as of Monday night, with more expected Tuesday and Wednesday.

My Piggies are at $721.00! Not bad at all for a “fun” event!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What Color Should Your Blog Be?

Your Blog Should Be Green

Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.
You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.
However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.

(H/T: Julie D. at Happy Catholic. She searches the 'Net; I search her site! :)

Five Books That Inspired Me

(H/T to The Anchoress and to Julie D. at Happy Catholic)

I started to answer this in Julie's Comments section, then realized how big my comments would be! So here's my answers:

1.) Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass: I read these when I was seven and identified immediately with Alice. I share her curiosity and her tendency to "give herself very good advice, but very seldom follow it." This book also introduced me to the fun of words, even (or especially) the made up ones.

2.) Peter Pan: My mother had a picture book from her childhood. This book, from the 1920's, had beautiful, full page, full color plates that looked like Maxfield Parrish paintings. This book was not only a delight to the ear, but a delight to the eye. Mom read it to us, I read it to myself and my siblings, and we literally wore the book out. Mom is still upset, but I told her what could be a better fate for a book than to be read to death? I need to really do a very serious search to find a copy of this book for my mom's 80th birthday this year.

3.) Cherry Ames: Don't laugh. This is a serial book, much like Nancy Drew, about a nurse, taking her from her student days through adulthood. I wanted to be a nurse, so this series was right up my alley. Cherry Ames also was the first female character I knew who decided that following her dream was more important than being married to a doctor. She was intelligent, independent, open to new experiences and challenges, and dedicated to helping others. What more could a girl want from a heroine?

4.) On Writing, by Stephen King: A friend gave that to me. Mr. King writes about writing and it's one of the best I've read about the process of writing. He doesn't make excuses for himself and his difficulties with drugs and alcohol, either.

5.) Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart: A classic novel, usually classified as science fiction, but oh, so much more than that. A pandemic causes civilization to collapse and Professor Stewart uses this to book to examine what happens to the survivors.

There are many others. The Poetry of Dylan Thomas really got me interested in writing poetry. Same with Leaves of Grass. Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages, both by Shirley Jackson, who wrote of the trials and tribulations of raising four children and made me want to be part of this family that was so much funny. Both Ms. Jackson and Erma Bombeck influenced my writing style, my "voice," and my subject matter--everyday family life. Mr. Blue and The Little Prince kept my mind thinking about God and my relationship to him. I can't remember the exact title, but The Life of St. Therese of the Child Jesus inspired me so much I chose her as my Confirmation saint. Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, especially his chapter about why he needed new tennis shoes for summer, also influenced my writing--he made the ordinary events of one summer in Ohio (or was it Indiana?) magical. I read that book in high school and knew I wanted to write just like that.

I'm sure there are many I haven't thought of. But maybe they're not as important as the ones that spring immediately to mind!

She Liked It! She Liked It!

Mary Katharine Ham, of Townhall and Right Wing News fame, went to the sneak preview of Firefly last night and wrote a review. I was a bit worried--I'm not going to have a chance to see it for a couple of weeks and I don't want any spoilers! But she didn't.

I love her comment about the geek quotient of the audience, too...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My Blogging Personality

This quiz is courtesy of Julie D., over at Happy Catholic (of course):

Your Blogging Type is Confident and Insightful
You've got a ton of brain power, and you leverage it into brilliant blog.Both creative and logical, you come up with amazing ideas and insights.A total perfectionist, you find yourself revising and rewriting posts a lot of the time.You blog for yourself - and you don't care how popular (or unpopular) your blog is!

Interesting that this is one quiz where our results don't match!

This Is Why I Don't Argue With Liberals

WARNING: This is a rather long rant…

Jon Carroll is an op-ed columnist for the SF Chronicle. He has a wry sense of humor and a warped outlook on life that normally I enjoy. Except for yesterday. This column has a promising blurb: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, and here I am, stuck in the middle with, as it turns out, most of America. Solidarity!”

His column starts out:
“Some of us have been in despair…And we have been confirmed in our despair by the electronic media, which effectively parrot Bush administration talking points, no matter how contradictory, and by the other media, which seem to believe it would be unwise to tangle with such a popular leader as Bush.” (emphasis mine)

Then Mr. Carroll repeats this tired canard: “This even though George Bush barely won both presidential elections—and in a more perfect world, he probably would have lost the first one and maybe even the second—and large numbers of people, not just sushi-eating tree kissers, have been dubious about the Iraq war from the start, and many of these expressing doubt were, like, actually in the military.”

The rest of the article continues on in a similar vein.

I was puzzled about Mr. Carroll’s assertion about President Bush barely winning both elections. So I logged into Wikipedia and refreshed my memory. In the final accepted count, Bush received 286 electoral votes, and Kerry received 251. The same article claims that Bush received 50.7% of the popular vote while Kerry received 48.3%. Okay, so that isn’t a tremendous margin.

Out of curiosity, I went back to Wikipedia and looked up Clinton’s percentages of the popular vote.

Verrrrry interesting….

In 1992, Clinton had 42.9% of the popular vote, GHW Bush had 37.4%, and Ross Perot had 18.9%. In 1996, Clinton had 49.2%, Bob Dole had 40.7%, and Perot received 8.4%.

Funny… no one has said that Clinton barely won, although he did not have a majority of the popular vote in either election! But Clinton was popular! He had his finger on the pulse of the populace!

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And, by the way, Mr. Carroll, the MSM is supposed to report on what the current President and/or his spokesmen say. It’s part of their job. The MSM accepted Clinton’s explanation of the Lewinsky affair, even to his definition of is. As for “other media” being afraid to tangle with the popular President Bush, I suggest you read Salon or Daily Kos or even The New York Times. They don’t seem to be afraid of the President and don’t seem to be afraid to challenge everything he—or his administration—say.

It didn’t help that I received this via e-mail from a liberal friend of mine:

“This post is actually by my brother. He's comparing the government reaction this past week to the government reaction the last time an American city was destroyed - San Francisco, April 18, 1906.

The earthquake struck at 5:13 AM.

By 7 AM federal troops had reported to the mayor.

By 8 AM they were patrolling the entire downtown area and searching for survivors.

The second quake struck at 8:14 AM.

By 10:05 AM the USS Chicago was on its way from San Diego to San Francisco; by 10:30 the USS Preble had landed a medical team and set up an emergency hospital.

By 11 AM large parts of the city were on fire; troops continued to arrive throughout the day, evacuating people from the areas threatened by fire to emergency shelters and Golden Gate Park.

St. Mary's hospital was destroyed by the fire at 1 PM, with no loss of life, the staff and patients having already been evacuated across the bay to Oakland.

By 3 PM troops had shot several looters, and dynamited buildings to make a firebreak; by five they had buried dozens of corpses, the morgue and the police pistol range being unable to hold any more.

At 8:40 PM General Funston requested emergency housing - tents and shelters - from the War Department in Washington; all of the tents in the U.S. Army were on their way to San Francisco by 4:55 AM the next morning.

Prisoners were evacuated to Alcatraz, and by April 20 (two days after the earthquake) the USS Chicago had reached San Francisco, where it evacuated 20,000 refugees.

Of course, the technology of the day was fairly primitive, and the U.S. was a much poorer country. No doubt we could move more quickly today.”

Ignoring the differences between an earthquake and a hurricane in terms of logistics and the fact that San Diego and San Francisco are on the same coast, this e-mail did not pass the smell test. The 1906 Earthquake and Fire is part of my family history (and is responsible for my being here). So I have read a great deal about it and about turn-of-the-last-century San Francisco. But I was not content to rely on just my memory. Instead, I turned to Wikipedia and found this gem:

“The mayor Eugene Schmitz and General Frederick Funston declared martial law, even though they did not have the authority to do so. They tried to bring the fire under control by detonating blocks of buildings around the fire to create fire breaks, but the black powder they used set the building remains on fire.” (emphasis mine)

To which I added the comment: “Hmmm... I can just imagine what would have happened had Pres. Bush declared martial law in New Orleans and ordered the National Guard to blow up buildings…”

My friend replied with the rather snarky comment: “Not to worry. He can't spell "martial".”

(He did admit it was rather good research on my part, though.)

My point is, however, how do you argue with people like this? I think this is one of the reasons I did not major in English in college, even though reading and writing are major passions and major talents. There is too much “fuzzy thinking” and not enough facts. Just because you feel something is true DOESN’T make it true. The best of scientists know this. They have to prove their hunches in a laboratory and their peers have to be able to duplicate the results. The best of journalists also know this; although they don’t have a laboratory to test their results, they compensate by interviewing a wide range of people and digging for facts that can be substantiated. Poets (except those who by training or inclination are scientists or engineers) are hopeless—they operate solely on feelings. Facts seem to have a very minor place in their consciousness.

Pointing out the objective facts doesn’t seem to be enough to convince them. It’s like arguing with a teenager who knows what he knows and that’s all there is to it.

If I want to argue with teens, I’ll stay home!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Easy Resolutions to Difficult Problems, Hollywood Style

Crossing Jordan is one of my favorite series on television. I have a HUGE soft spot for Jerry O’Connell, the male lead, and have ever since he was the geeky college-student genius of Sliders. He’s since lost his baby fat and has become a well-toned hunk while still retaining his boy-next-door wholesomeness.

His character, Woody Hoyt, has been trying to have a relationship with the female lead, Jordan Cavanaugh, who has Issues. They are both Catholic and sometimes that plays a part in the series, although the stricture about premarital sex is ignored (although they have never had sex with each other).

At the end of last season, Woody was shot. Jordan finally realizes that this man means a lot to her and tells him so. When he comes out of surgery, though, he’s angry and sends her away. Woody has also received the news that he may be permanently paralyzed.

I have spent the summer imagining how this was going to play out. Woody would go through weeks of painful therapy learning to walk again, allowing for many emotionally cathartic scenes between him and Jordan as they hammered out exactly What They Mean to Each Other. Jordan would have to learn patience and would have to prove her sincerity to Woody over time as he learned to deal with the fact that he was not invincible.

Silly me.

Turns out Woody is not paralyzed after all, although he is still mad at Jordan and sends her away. Eight missing weeks later (although the transition is cleverly done using a plant Jordan tried to give to Woody), Woody is back at work, albeit at a desk job, and Jordan is still being Jordan. So it looks like we’re going to have to go through another season of them being deliberately obtuse with each other and hurting each other and doing everything they can to avoid admitting that they are Right For Each Other.

Fortunately, this is not the only story line. There are the forensics and the rest of the Boston Medical Examiners office to make me put up with the Jordan/Woody silliness. The fact that Jerry O’Connell is easy on the eyes helps a lot.


I read that story in Scholastic magazine when I was in 8th Grade. I think I read it in class—Sr. Henry was always giving me extra stuff. And then the movie came out (Charly, starring Cliff Robertson) and my BFF and I saw it at the local theater. I bawled during the happy scenes because I knew what was coming.

I had read it since, including the novelized version and it haunted me. So when I saw it in the library, I suggested to DD#2 that she read it for her next book report, which happens to be science fiction or fantasy--but no series books.

She’s in 7th Grade and is a very good reader, if a bit lazy. So I like to challenge her. I gave her a recap of what I remembered and she thought she might like it. So we brought it home.

This morning I was thumbing through it and there are some sections that I forgot about—those that deal with Charly’s emerging awareness of his sexuality.


We discussed the book, briefly, on the way to school this morning.

“You know,” I began, “there may be sections of this book that are difficult for you to understand.”

“It’s okay,” she replied, rather blithely. “I already know I not going to recommend this book for people who are sensitive or drama queens.” And she rattled off the name of about eight classmates—including a couple of boys—who fit this category.

Those scenes were definitely not in the short story I remember reading. I don’t remember them from the novel. They are alluded to in the movie, which is why I thought to look for them now. By today’s standards, they seem rather mild and the fact that I didn’t remember them until I looked for them kind of tells me that they are not the main thrust of the story. She is bringing the book in and the teacher has to approve it. I have no doubt about DD#2’s ability to read the story, but does she have the emotional maturity to understand it?

When I was growing up, my parents let me read anything I wanted. They figured if the book was too difficult or too “adult,” I’d be bored and stop reading. But it was a different time: books were much less explicit, especially about the darker, rougher sides of life. The part of me that wants to encourage my daughter to read anything and everything is battling with the part of me that wants to preserve as much of her innocence about life as I can. It’s the part of me that limits how much news on television she watches and how much conversation she hears.

I slipped up on Flowers for Algernon. If her teacher approves it, I will let her read it and then keep tabs on what she thinks about it. If she’s uncomfortable, I’ll encourage her to drop the book and read something else.

However, she is her mother’s daughter and stubbornness is a family characteristic…

A Clip from Serenity

A Clip from the Serenity trailer: (for Julie D.)

Mal to Jayne: Do you want to run this ship?

Jayne: Yes.


Mal: Well… you can’t.

The Cowardly Conservative

The poetry group I belong to is unabashedly liberal. And they assume that everyone else is as well.

I usually keep my mouth shut about politics and religion.

I have made small trial balloons of disagreements with their positions and have received exclamations of shock and outrage. They read poetry transmuting the surname of Benedict XVI into an obscenity or combining the name of the President of their country with a notorious dictator without looking over their shoulders, without fear of reprisal. They see nothing at all ironic about their decrying what a fascist, censorious society they are living in from the comfort of the meeting room of a Christian-based community church in an upper-middle class suburb.

I have thought about challenging their worldview more boldly. But I like these people, for the most part. I would miss the monthly lectures, which are generally free of political bias. I would give up hearing their poetry and hearing their opinions of mine, for even though I write alone, I do not write in a vacuum. Were I to speak out, I would give up all that and they probably would not change their minds.

So am I committing a sin of omission by not challenging their worldview? By not letting them see that a person can be a conservative and still write poetry? By not suggesting that perhaps a mayor who worries about the language a poet might use is concerned about the use of profanity in a public situation where children are present? Or worse—at a school event?
And that just because you went to Catholic school doesn’t mean that you know enough about the Catholic faith to compare Benedict XVI to the Spanish Inquisitors? And that I don’t feel like a second-class citizen in my faith just because I cannot become a priest? (After all, I can’t pee standing up either, and while that might be an occasional inconvenience, it isn’t exactly a design flaw.)
Does this fall under the category of being my brother’s keeper? Or do they bear some responsibility for educating themselves, for keeping their minds open and being sensitive to the fact that, while we share the goal of promoting poetry, that doesn’t mean we agree on everything else?

For God's Eye

For God’s Eye by Charles Murray was first published in the October/November 2003 edition of The American Enterprise magazine. In the article, Dr. Murray discusses human achievement, specifically in the arts and sciences, and why that achievement has slowed in the 20th Century (and, by extension, in the 21st).

His thesis is as follows:

“One of my most basic conclusions is that a major stream of human accomplishment is
fostered by a culture in which talented people believe that life has a purpose. Likewise,
human accomplishment is fostered by a culture that encourages people to believe they can act efficaciously as individuals, and enables them to do so.

“On both these fronts, Europe is an oddball.Why? The conclusions
I came to are far from original with me, but they have not been fashionable for some decades, so I should state them explicitly: The Greeks laid the foundation for Western achievement in the arts and sciences. But it was the transmutation of that intellectual
foundation by Christianity that gave modern Europe its impetus and that pushed European accomplishment so far ahead of all other cultures around the world. I will add that I reach this conclusion not out of personal religious conviction but as an
agnostic who became persuaded of Christianity’s transforming role by my reading of the historical record.”

Go and read the rest of the article where Dr. Murray makes the case for Thomas Aquinas and what happens when the intellectual elite lose their appreciation for transcendence. It’s well worth the effort. And you’ll discover the reason behind the title of the article and this post.

(H/T: LaShawn Barber )

Friday, September 23, 2005

Freakonomics and the Vatican

So, first Julie D. at Happy Catholic links to this article on Freakonomics. The author of the article, Orson Scott Card (the Orson Scott Card? Of Ender’s Game? I don’t know…there’s no bio data on the author of the article) writes about this book: “Well, there’s a book – and a mini-movement – that is trying to cut through all the fog and insist that we face facts in all sorts of areas of American life. It’s called “Freakonomics,” and it gets its name from the book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt (economist) and Stephen J. Dubner (science writer).”

Mr. Card also states: “In the process of reading it, you’ll also be given a short but effective course in analyzing causal assertions – or, in other words, you’ll be trained to hear statistical assertions skeptically, because you’ll have a clearer idea of how they can be massaged and manipulated and misunderstood.

“You’ll also be given a wake-up call about how many of the statistics on which we base public opinion and policy are simply made up.

“You know, lies.”

Then The Anchoress writes “Witch Hunt”: Goodstein Drops the Ball.

Per The Anchoress, “There are only a handful of reporters at the NY Times I really respect, and Laurie Goodstein, who covers religion, has been one of them. She is generally very balanced in her reporting, very careful to make sure she is presenting all sides.

“She doesn’t do it in this piece, though. This piece, while taking the time to quote folks in the pew, spends a great deal of time fomenting sympathy for gay priests and seminarians while skipping over the “whys” of the current ‘witch hunt.’”

The Anchoress is referring to the document expected from the Vatican banning gays from the priesthood. As she points out in her article, the document hasn’t even been published yet, but already the following meme is out: “Ms. Goodstein’s story is framed: Mean, homophobic, intolerant Catholic church is bearing down cruelly on gay priests and seminarians, because it (the Church) is hateful.” (parentheses mine for clarification)

Perhaps a bit of Freakonomics is in order here?

Is the causal assertion of Ms. Goodstein’s article valid? Is the Holy Roman Catholic Church merely being hateful? Or, perhaps, does the Holy Roman Catholic Church have a reason for its position? One having to do with the types of sex involved in the scandals?

For it does seem that the majority of the scandals involve priests and boys. The argument that pedophiles are not homosexual because when asked most pedophiles self-identify as “heterosexual” seems a bit disingenuous.

Freakonomics might also be in order to determine why these men were unable to control their sexual impulses. Was it because of “sexual immaturity?” (I find that idea plausible, given that most of the men accused entered the seminary at 14 and spent the next eight years in an all-male environment.) Was it because of the requirement of celibacy?

The most important question I haven’t seen asked: why are some men, gay and straight, able to keep their vow of celibacy? What is different about them?

There’s a great scene in the movie Keeping the Faith. Brian Finn has wanted to be a priest his entire life and becomes one. One of his best friends from childhood returns home and suddenly he realizes he loves her. (There’s much more to this movie, but this will do.) At one point Fr. Finn is in the study of the older pastor of his parish. Their dialogue goes something like this:

“Has this happened to you?” Fr. Finn asks.

“Oh, about once a decade,” the older priest answers.

And, maybe, that is the difference right there: reassurance from someone who has been there, who knows from personal experience that keeping the vow of celibacy is a challenge and a challenge that never goes away. Someone who also believes that the vow of celibacy is worth keeping.

So… now I have another book to add to my list. Two—when the Vatican actually publishes the document.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Prayers of Petition and Thanksgiving

The Anchoress is beginning a three days of prayer and fasting in thanksgiving for the remarkable recovery of her FIL's eyesight after his stroke last month, the remarkable recovery of Kobayashi Maru's brother and many, many more miracles that have happened lately.

Of course, it also includes a meditation on the power of prayer as well as some suggestions of specific prayers.

Me? I have my trusty rosary at the ready!

While We're Waiting...

...for Book VII of the Harry Potter series, we can visit the Hogwarts Professor, John Granger. He has some fascinating articles up discussing the series, both his own and others. I especially enjoyed "Why Half-Blood Prince is the Best Harry Potter Novel" and "The Alchemical Keys to the Last Harry Potter Novel." In his "Keys" article, Mr. Granger makes some very persuasive arguments about what is going to happen, based on the first six novels as well as the classic literature that Ms. Rowling seems to use as a model.

Hmmm... Looks like I have to read Emma. And I've been meaning to re-read Pride & Prejudice anyway.

WARNING... Major spoilers.

ANOTHER WARNING: Don't let the word "alchemical" put you off. The novels are discussed from a Christian perspective.

There's also a link to Barnes & Noble University, which is sponsoring a free online seminar about HP&HBP.

Quiz of the Day

You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by

This just proves that Julie D. (Happy Catholic) and I are twins, separated at birth by a few years and a couple of thousand miles! ;)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Happy Birthday... Gustav Holst, 1874-1934, composer of The Planets, one of my favorite orchestral suites. He’s not well-known, although many folks will recognize some of the movements from planetarium shows (Mars and Jupiter are fairly popular).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

One Nation, Under God

When I first read about Michael Nedow's lawsuit claiming that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the Establishment of Religion Clause in the Bill of Rights, I thought he was another left-wing looney.

He is, but that doesn't make him entirely wrong.

I searched Google for a history of the Pledge of Allegiance. The original Pledge was written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist. According to Dr. John W. Baer, Bellamy's original pledge read as follows: " 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' He considered placing the word, 'equality,' in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans. [ * 'to' added in October, 1892. ]"

The words "under God" were added in 1954 after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization.

The phrase "under God" is younger than I am!

Still, there is going to be a tempest in a teapot over the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling. Some Christians are going to see this as further evidence of the moral decay of America. Some left-wing looneys are going to celebrate it as another slap in the face of "fundys" and President Bush. People who currently don't say The Pledge at all, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, are going to wonder what all the fuss is about.

Darleen, over at Darleen's Place, has an article up about this issue and quite a discussion going on in her comments section. One poster has written that the phrase "under God" refers only to the God of the religions of the Levant, i.e., Judaic, Christian, and Muslim. For this reason alone the phrase can be construed as endorsing a specific religion or, rather a type of God specific to a certain religion.

However, Darleen makes the point, a perfectly legitimate one IMHO, that the foundation of our governmental system is derived from Judeo-Christian values and traditions. The Founding Fathers (and the Founding Mothers) believed their rights came from this God and not "the uncreated uncreating" found in other, mostly Eastern, religions.

My brain is having a difficult time understanding the concept of an "uncreated uncreating," but I'm sure that's just me.

Dennis Prager has written a series of articles for Townhall discussing the importance of Judeo-Christian values in society an in the American form of government that are thorough and thoughtful and make the case rather well that these values are what make America and Americans unique in the world.

Our pluralistic society works because we accept the common values espoused in Judeo-Christian traditions. Our conflict with Islam is based, in large part, on the conflicts between their traditions and ours.

Darleen argues that the phrase "under God" reminds us that our rights derive not merely from the government (other humans), but from a source greater than that--our Creator. This philosophy is what truly distinguishes the U.S. from other countries, where the source citizens' rights is found solely on those in power.

Is it possible to acknowledge what the Founders themselves acknowleged as the source of our rights without offending those who do not believe in the God of the Levant? And how would one do that?

Monday, September 19, 2005

I'm a Centrist (Not Quite Like Hillary...)

You are a

Social Conservative
(36% permissive)

and an...

Economic Moderate
(43% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

(H/T: Julie at Happy Catholic)

Getting to Know Me...

Getting to Know Me ...

5 things I plan to do before I die:
Publish a novel
Travel across the United States
Travel to Ireland and Scotland
Visit Lourdes and the village in France where my great-grandfather is from
Spend my children’s inheritance

5 things I can do:
Organize and run a day camp for 150 kids & adults
Keep track of five conversations at a time
Be heard in the back of the church without a microphone
Teach swimming & canoeing
Let kids solve their own problems

5 things I cannot do:
Read music well
Sing on-key all the time or harmonize
Draw or paint
Be a homemaker in the traditional sense

5 things that attract me to the opposite sex:
Humor and a sense of the absurd

5 things I say most often:
Ladies! Or, Gentlemen! (When I’m trying to get the attention of my Scouts)
Your father and I have to talk about Christmas. (It’s a family code word for “We’re going to our bedroom and don’t interrupt us!”)
Ask lots of good questions! (As they head off to school.)
Now what? (Kind of self-explanatory, I think… J)
The bus is leaving. (Get to the car NOW—I’m leaving!)

5 celebrity crushes:
Richard Chamberlain (Yes, I know he's gay. Like I'd have a chance, anyhow! ;)
Mel Gibson
Russell Crowe
Jim Caviezel (I’m surprised Julie didn’t include him!)
Sean Connery, although Patrick Stewart is really close here…

5 people I want to do this:
1. Karen (A View From My Chair)
2. Ephiphany (Minivan Mom)
3. ukok
4. Manolo (of Manolo’s Shoe Blog)
5. Baldilocks

Saturday, September 17, 2005

California Teens Fixed on Junk Food

I read the above article Tuesday night and was struck by the following:

"Soda and fast food consumption goes up as household income decreases, the study found.

"Such foods are usually quick and cheap, making them especially appealing to families on a tight budget with both parents working long hours."

I understand "long hours" and "tight budgets." I understand it so well that we don't eat out in fast food restaurants very often because we can't afford it! Fast food is not cheap. Feeding a family of six costs about $30.00, especially since the kids no longer want the "kid's meal." $30.00 will feed my family for at least a day, including snacks. Groceries for a week are about $100.00--or four fast food dinners, if we're really conservative about what we order

Hubs and I both work long hours. We each spend two hours a day--minimum--commuting. So when I went back to fulltime work, DD#1 took on the responsibility of starting the entree for dinner. She was 13. I looked up simple meals in my collection of cookbooks, wrote up a menu, and gave her the page number of the meal for the day. Within three months, she decided she would cook it all, although side dishes don't always happen. Last year, DS#2 (14 at the time) and DD#2 (11) alternated making the salad. When I got home, dinner was mostly done.

So why aren't "lower income" families doing the same thing?

Part of the reason is education.

Time was all girls took a class in basic home economics. I learned to use a sewing machine. I learned about the basic food groups and the importance of planning and preparing well-balanced meals. I learned that processed foods are in the center aisles of the supermarket while the cheaper, unprocessed foods (dairy, meat, produce) are around the perimeter. I learned to make Jell-O salad and tuna-potato chip-green pea casserole. These lessons were reinforced by earning the Cooking Badge in Junior Girl Scouts and helping my mother in the kitchen. We all did: every one of my contemporaries in my class, in my neighborhood. My best friend received the Betty Crocker Homemaking Award her senior year in high school.

Does that Award even exist anymore?

If you can read, you can cook. There are some great cookbooks out there, such as Peg Bracken's The I Hate to Cook Book and Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. Klutz Press has an excellent children's cookbook called Kids Cooking. And Betty Crocker still publishes the classic red Betty Crocker Cookbook.

If the parents don't know how to cook, don't know how much cheaper it is to cook at home rather than eating out, how will their children learn?

Instead of lingerie bridal showers and bachelorette shows at Chippendales, maybe we need to have kitchen showers, with cookbooks and pots and pans. Maybe baby showers should include Vicky Lansky's classic Feed Me, I'm Yours. Home Ec should be reintroduced to both girls and boys. Combine it with Shop Class (another lost art) and call it "Life Skills."

After all, the kids have to eat something!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Things To Do"

Besides replacing underwear, this has been one of those weeks. I have (or had) meetings scheduled Monday through Thursday, all of them "mandatory." Two of those meetings I have to lead, which means I have to remember to bring all the materials I need. Plus I'm in charge of the mechanical Pig Race & Beauty Pageant for our parish festival. (I am known by many as "The Pig Lady.")

So I made a list. I have a l ist on my computer at home, on my PDA, and on the computer at work. The problem is that those lists aren't in front of me, staring me in the face, so to speak. I made a list the old-fashioned way: I wrote it down. I've been carrying it with me all week, crossing stuff off as I go. There are some things that got missed, like Breakfast Club at DD#2's school and buying folders for my new Girl Scouts.

Next week should be a bit calmer.

I hope!

On Underwear

In one of life's odder moments, my underwear decided to self-destruct last week. Granted, I was getting to the stage of "I have got to do some laundry" but still. The elastic had some bite left to it; rather, it was the material that decided to fall apart. It was time for a trip to the local warehouse store anyway, so I picked up a new pack.

When I get a new pack of anything, I generally cycle the new stuff in gradually. Not this time. All seven pairs were placed in my underwear drawer. And when I did the laundry (finally), I went through and tossed out all my blessed underwear (because it was holey--old joke, sorry).

Yes, I did wash the underwear I knew I was going toss before I tossed it. I'm not sure why I do that. I'm sure the microbes in the landfill don't care. But I do. Maybe Sigmund, Alfred, and Carl can explain it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Big Worry

Why is it that my kids want to discuss The Meaning of Life and other Important Issues when I’m hiding in my bedroom, relaxing? DS#1 is especially good at this.

By Friday night, my brain is fried. I am ready for some mindless entertainment, which the SciFi Channel supplies to my heart’s content. DS#1 comes in and somehow the subject of gay marriage comes up. It’s a current issue, what with the California State Legislature caving to the Gay/Lesbian Lobby and approving it.

DS#1 knows I’m not in favor of it. He accuses me of hating homosexuals and believing in an outdated and intolerant religion.

I try to keep my patience. I really don’t want to discuss this with him. I really want to watch my shows. And I really don’t want to point out that his homophobic, intolerant mother (not to mention his father) is paying his college expenses, as well as providing food and shelter. That would be a cheap shot.

So I point out, again, that I do not hate homosexuals. My objection to homosexual marriage is not merely based on religion—it’s also based on biology. Marriage is not about the adults. If it were, the State would have no reason to care about what adults do in the privacy of their home. Marriage is about the children.

“What about marriages without children?” he asks, sensing a weakness in my argument.

“Maybe we should not consider those marriages, either,” I counter. That throws him for a moment.

“But marriage is about two adults who love each other!” he protests.

“That’s what you think now,” I reply. “Wait until you get married.”

We discuss biology for a bit. I point out that it takes a man and a woman to make a baby (okay, technically, it’s a sperm and an egg). There is also a certain amount of “hardwiring” in humans that have caused us to design the social structure we call “family” and we should be very careful when we propose radical changes to this structure. He makes reference to some study about lesbian monkeys that I had never heard of. I don’t ask him for specifics. I’m too tired mentally. I might Google it later. And he claims that the Supreme Court has ruled that the argument that children need a mother and a father isn’t enough because studies have “shown” that children raised by gay couples turn out normal.

“Get used to it, Mom,” he admonishes just before he leaves. “Gay marriage is a right and it’s coming whether you want it to or not.”

He’s probably correct.

He probably would be surprised that when I was his age, I would have agreed with him.
But as I’ve “grown in grace and wisdom,” I’ve found that we discard 5000 years of Judeo-Christian values at our own peril. These values have endured through the empires of Persia, Greece, and Rome. They have survived Holocaust and Communism. These are values that have stood the test of time—shouldn’t we give them some respect and serious consideration before we toss them out?

In Father Joe, Tony Hendra points out that his generation didn’t merely ignore history and tradition, they thought it was bunk and set out to refute it. Perhaps that’s an effect of being born during a major worldwide war (a subject for another day). But that feeling infected those of us who came later and is now infecting our children. I’m not sure how to inoculate my children against that particular virus. I’m not sure if I can or if each generation has to discover Holy Sophia for themselves.

But will Holy Sophia come in time?

My biggest worry, my core worry if you will, is not a nuclear holocaust or a natural disaster or a pandemic. My core worry is that we will discover that we have broken the social structure of Homo sapiens in some fundamental way—that we have shorted out our hardwiring—and that our children’s children will have to rebuild civilization from scratch.

What Kind of Cross

You are St Brigid's Cross: St. Brigid is an Irish
saint who hand-wove a cross,out of rushes she
found by the river. She made the cross while
explaining the passion of our Lord to a pagan

What Kind of Cross are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I've got to admit, I was a bit surprised at this. But, upon further reflection, I think it fits!

(H/T: The Happy Catholic)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Wojtyla vs. Ratzinger

Wojtyla! You take after the energetic and
enthusiastic John Paul II (the Great). Your
vision is prophetic and BIG - when it comes to
saints, travel, or crowds you can't get enough!

Where do you fall on the Wojtyla-Ratzinger Continuum?
brought to you by Quizilla

Okay, I'm a little surprised. I did check that I prefer German beer to Polish sausage. But, I mean, wouldn't you choose both? :)

(H/T: The Anchoress)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Rosie & Mouse

I took this picture a couple of days after Hubs found Mouse and brought her home. It's now been six weeks and not only is Mouse still alive (her eyes were barely open when we got her), she is thriving. She's still too small to terrorize the house, but she's figured out how to climb up and jump down the stairs and how to clamber into a lap of whomever is sitting in front of the 'puter. Especially if that person is wearing a fleece bathrobe! She is even starting to use the litter boxes. (Hurray!)

The Other Cat is not too happy about this new addition to the family. But her dish is still in its customary place (on the bathroom counter, safe from Rosie and Mouse) and our bed is still her bed (Mouse can't climb or jump that high--yet), so she still graces us with her presence. And her presents: this morning it was a large mouse (about the size of Mouse) in the driveway.

Hubs briefly considered changing Mouse's name to "Gen" because he found her under a generator at work. Popular opinion seems to be sticking with "Mouse."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bay Area Colleges & Universities Take Displaced Students

From The Contra Costa Times:
"Campuses across the Bay Area are opening up enrollment for students forced to evacuate their respective Gulf Coast schools following Katrina's destruction. Calls are already coming in from students looking for a temporary place to study and officials are doing everything they can to comply.

"Because of the unparalleled circumstances, however, school officials are frantically trying to work out the logistics. Tuition and other costs are likely to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

"'We don't even know what the demand is, we just want to join the nationwide effort to get these students in schools,' said Noel Gallagher, senior media relations representative for UC Berkeley.
'We just really want to help.' "

There are links to the admissions departments and other contact information in the article. The schools include UC Berkeley, Holy Names University, St. Mary's College, Cal State East Bay, and the local Community Colleges. Please pass the information along to those students who are trying to continue their education in Katrina's aftermath.

Loosiana Hot Links

Lorie Byrd at Polipundit has some predictions from Oak Leaf, one of her “regulars”: “Having just completed twelve days of active duty in support of “Joint Task Force Katrina”, six days on the ground in NOLA and six days in assisting with pre-positioning of Federal assets, I would like to offer the following predictions…”

Read the whole thing. He sounds much more optimistic than other commentators I’ve been reading in the MSM.

The Anchoress is ranting and is, per usual, eloquent :
“WE are, my dear friends, part of the problem. WE contribute to all of this intertwined, incestuous political backscratching, playacting, cronyism and pork-funding, because we’ve put up with it, thinking it all a basically harmless, unfixable nuisance. “It’s just the way things are done,” we said. You want someone to blame? Have a mirror handy?”
Please read the rest. What she says is important and true.

She also has found an incredible slide show, taken by an ordinary citizen of New Orleans (who happens to have extraordinary presence of mind), over the five days of Katrina. Mr. Alvaro is a native of Nicaragua, living and working in New Orleans. His photos capture the reality of the experience better than anything the MSM has shown and illustrate, quite clearly, why no one was talking “evacuation” early on.

While she was at it, The Anchoress also linked to this blog: Slugger O’Toole. Mr. O’Toole has an article up by Newton Emerson from The Irish Times. I found the discussion in the Comments section interesting. Since many of the commentators were from outside the U.S, their expectations of what should have happened--and who was responsible for what--are different. A good snapshot of what The Rest of the World is Thinking.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Which Saint Are You?

You are Joan of Arc! You don't really want to hurt
anyone, but if they attack your friends or your
country and no-one else will stand up to fight
them, you head into the battle. Beware though,
conviction tends to get you killed.

Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

This is really cool! I've always admired her courage. DD#1 chose St. Joan of Arc as her Confirmation saint. And I love the Rodin statue of Joan on her charger in full battle gear.

(H/T: Happy Catholic)

Searching for Missing Kids in New Orleans

And in other areas hit by Katrina. Check out the link to the above, especially if you live in the area

(H/T Happy Catholic and Minivan Mom)

St. Mary's College Offers Refuge For Displaced Students

This is another "feel good" story about Katrina. St. Mary's College is run by the Christian Brothers and has been in the Bay Area for at least a century. Some of the students in the interview were originally from the Bay Area and still have family here, so it's not too surprising they came to St. Mary's. Some are not. And, as the article notes, not all colleges and universities who have agreed to accept students displaced by Katrina have agreed to waive tuition and fees. St. Mary's has. (And St. Mary's--a small, private, Catholic college--ain't cheap!)

The other thing to note: no government agencies were involved, no rolls of red tape. These folks did it the old-fashioned way, on the phone, person-to-person, and had everything arranged over the holiday weekend.

MORAGA - Donald Mau and Annie Barry were in a daze Tuesday morning as they registered for classes at St. Mary's College.

Just a week earlier, the couple had been students at Loyola University in New Orleans, ready to start their junior year as Hurricane Katrina bore down on the city. As the storm neared, they joined the exodus of evacuees, putting in thousands of road and air miles in their quest for safety.

Their journey landed them and at least seven others at St. Mary's, which offered a year of free tuition to displaced students. Mau and Barry were exhausted and grateful Tuesday after attending an impromptu orientation session on the Moraga campus and preparing to resume college life.

"We're still in shock, really," said Barry, a Hercules native. "I think we've all had little breakdowns here and there."
The past week has been especially painful for Mau, who grew up in New Orleans. His family's home was destroyed by the hurricane and the resulting floods, forcing his parents to return to their native Honduras.

Mau's apartment first was damaged by the flood, then looted as chaos took over the city. It's unclear what the future holds for the New Orleans colleges, but Mau hasn't given up on returning.

"It's my home, man," he said. "It may not be much of one now, but I'm definitely getting back there."

Students in the hurricane zone were caught in the tough position of trying to escape with their lives while also worrying whether their college plans would be halted. Schools around the country have opened their doors to those students, but few have offered to waive fees.

St. Mary's has asked students to pay what they can, but the college is willing to absorb most or all of the cost if needed, said Michael Beseda, a St. Mary's vice president in charge of enrollment. Tuition, textbooks and room and board will be provided to students who need them, he said.

Several students and relatives at the St. Mary's orientation said officials at the small Catholic school returned their phone calls promptly about the displaced students from Loyola, Tulane, Dillard and Xavier. St. Mary's administrators worked through the Labor Day weekend to make arrangements, students said.

"These kids are going to need nurturing," said Jacqueline Watson of San Leandro, whose daughter, Courtney, came to St. Mary's from Xavier University. "I am appreciative of what they're doing (at St. Mary's)."

St. Mary's officials pointed out the school's counseling director to the somber students Tuesday, saying they knew the evacuees would need someone to speak with.

"We're going to try to keep in very close contact with them," Beseda said.

But Martinez resident Joy Caudel marveled at the calm demeanor of her granddaughter, 17-year-old Loyola freshman Kelci Miller, who started a "Katrina stole my tuition" Web site for displaced students even as she left all her belongings in her dorm room.

"I would think she should have some problems, but she seems to be doing fine," Caudel said.

Watson said she has scheduled a counseling appointment for her daughter, but also said she believes students would be best served by continuing their routines.

"The most important thing for me was to get her back up and running," she said. "She wants to be an (obstetrician-gynecologist) so that's 12 years in school. She doesn't have time to sit out a semester."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Book Review: Father Joe

Benedictines everywhere, nor any drop to drink…

This book is proving difficult to review, probably because it’s both what I expected and hoped and it’s not.

I picked up Father Joe:  The Man Who Saved My Soul by Tony Hendra a couple of months ago to round out my summer reading with something I hoped would be inspirational, something that might provide new insights to my faith.  What I found was more a memoir of one man’s journey to find his ultimate vocation.

Dom Joseph Warrilow is a Benedictine monk at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight in the U.K.  Tony Hendra is brought to the abbey to meet “Father Joe” as a 14-year-old.  His first impression is that “Father Joseph Warrilow was as close to a cartoon as you could get without being in two dimensions.”  And young Tony has an epiphany about his religion.  

Another member of Quarr Abbey is Dom Aelred Sillem.  As Mr. Hendra notes:  “They represented the extremes of the Benedictine spectrum:  at one end the ultraviolet of awe and order, at the other the infrared of love and community. … I never spent an hour with Dom Aelred that didn’t leave me feeling I’d been through an intellectual car wash; it was with Father Joe that I felt safe.”  Dom Aelred sends the then 16-year-old Tony home with “a reading list for Mysticism 101—among others, Thomas à Kempis, Dame Julian of Norwich, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, St. Teresa of Avila and her Franciscan mentor Bernardino de Laredo, who wrote a how-to of mystical advancement called The Ascent of Mount Sion which St. Teresa swore by.  He also suggested that when I had time I should dip into the Desert Fathers, the dour, unyielding pillars of the early Church.”

The memoir follows Mr. Hendra through school and University, to his second epiphany:  “I’m going to save it (the world) through laughter.”  He becomes a satirist, working with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, The National Lampoon, and others.  In that heady environment, nothing is sacred—except Father Joe.  Father Joe remains Tony’s “lighthouse” until the end of his very long life and Tony must deal without Father Joe.

I had a tough time with the middle of the book, where Mr. Hendra is making a good living mocking everything that has made his life possible.  He hates Ronald Reagan, to the point where he credits John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev and “the stubborn populations of Europe—my contemporaries and their parents—who … had remained a generation of peace, refusing to buy Reagan’s famous cartoon of the Russian people or be cowed by his cowardly weapons of mass murder.  After all the terror and threats and nightmare scenarios and brinkmanship, the most pointless and dangerous face-off in the planet’s history was being ended without a single shot.”  

Funny—that’s not quite how I remember it.  I remember Reagan challenging Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”  And many of those “stubborn populations of Europe,” including Britain, depended on the U.S. military presence for their security and to balance their national budgets.  For his part, Tony lived mostly in the U.S., zipping between New York and Los Angeles, with enough money for a “country home” in New Jersey.

Mr. Hendra also notes that he, and his generation, is not without blame:  “In our version, history was far worse than bunk:  it was suspect, the enemy, invariably evil, a repository of constant failure and deadly delusions and appalling role models.  History was when all the mistakes were made, all the atrocities committed, that time before we knew better.”  He continues “To reject any vast group of one’s cultural ancestors in the cause of some current theory is not just arrogance; it’s posthumous mass murder.”

At the end of the book, Mr. Hendra has come to find his true vocation and his soul.  He also discovers some amazing truths about Father Joe.  


I’m not sure.  Mr. Hendra is an excellent writer.  He seems sincere.  However, Reconciliation involves not merely the confessing of our sins, but going to those we have hurt and righting any wrongs we have done to them.  That’s what I sense is missing.  I also find it suspect that this book is a New York Times Notable Book and that Andrew Sullivan writes that this book is “…profound…I beg you to read this book.”  


Mr. Hendra also makes the point that while the mighty empires of the world have all come and gone over the last fifteen hundred years, the Benedictines are still with us, with their traditions and Rule.  Even further back, the religion of Jesus the Nazarene, founded on love, remains.  

So how do I reconcile my religion of meekness and love in the face of the evil I see in the world today?  How does “turn the other cheek” fit with a world where there are people who have no problem flying a commercial airliner into a commercial building or strapping a explosives around a young boy and sending him into a crowded market?  What is the obligation of the strong to protect the weak?  At what point does the strong cease being a protector, becoming, instead a bully?

Difficult questions; more difficult—and more important—than the “Reader’s Guide” questions in the back of my edition.

(For those of you made it this far and are wondering about my opening line, Benedictine monks make a liqueur called, oddly enough, “Benedictine.”   Not all abbeys do; I believe there is just one in France.  This liqueur was my father’s favorite.  It takes some getting used to:  it’s strong and not at all sweet.  “Benedictine” is an acquired taste.)

Just Wondering, P.II...

I have heard a lot of screaming and finger-pointing at the Federal Government by Mayor Nagin of New Orleans and by Governor Blanco of Louisiana.  How about the mayors of Biloxi and Gulfport?  The Governors of Alabama and Mississippi?  How do they feel about the adequacy of support they received from the National Guard and the Federal Government?

If I recall correctly, the delta area of Mississippi is one of the poorest—if not the poorest—in the nation.  How did those folks survive?  Did they also loot, riot, and shoot at those trying to rescue them?  Were they evacuated in a timely manner?  What did these local and state governments do differently than in Louisiana?  What can we learn from them?

Just Wondering...

I know there are news stories about the bodies floating around New Orleans.  But, because New Orleans is below sea level, most bodies are not buried underground but in tombs.  How many tombs were destroyed by the flooding?  How many of the bodies are not actually victims of Katrina?  Because water and heat do a lot of damage to bodies, destroying fingerprints and distorting features, how can anyone determine when the body died?  

I have read that some are concerned the bodies will be next-to-impossible to identify, especially since dental records and personnel records, including fingerprints and photos, have been wiped out by the floods.  But how would you identify a person already dead?  If they were embalmed would that make a difference?  Could/should bodies be tested for that?

Just wondering… I haven’t read anything about the conditions of the cemeteries in New Orleans or, indeed, in any of the flood-ravaged areas.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Movie Review: Sky High

A break from Katrina news…

This weekend Hubs and I were looking for a movie the whole family could enjoy. We didn’t find it, since I didn’t think The 40-Year-Old Virgin or The Wedding Crashers were appropriate for DD#2 (12) or DS#2 (15). I’m sure they would have enjoyed either of them. Or pretended to, in order to seem “sophisticated.” Unfortunately for them, I’d rather they not be too “sophisticated” too soon.

We ended up at our local multiplex to see Sky High, which actually got a B+ in the local paper. Reviews at our house, however, were decidedly mixed.

Sky High is about Will, a high school freshman, whose parents are the two greatest superheroes in the area. Will’s dad is an alum of Sky High, a floating high school whose location changes so super-villains won’t harm the students. The students all have super-powers. Except Will, who can’t bear to tell his parents and disappoint them.

Students are divided into two groups, based on their powers: heroes or sidekicks. Will ends up a sidekick, a group that is regularly bullied by the heroes. As if that isn’t enough, the father of one of the students was a super-villain who was caught by Will’s dad. And this student happens to be a hero.

Does Will ever find his superpowers? Does he remain true to his sidekick friends? Does he figure out that Layla, the girl-next-door who can make plants grow, has a crush on him? Is this a Disney movie? It is—so the answers should be obvious.

But this movie has a sly sense of humor. Lynda Carter—yes, that Lynda Carter—is the principal of Sky High. Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston play the superhero parents who also are dynamite real estate agents. The actors who play the students seem like typical students.

DD#2 laughed out loud through the whole movie. Her comment: “It’s better than I thought it would be from the previews.” Hubs and I smiled a lot. DS#2 thought it was “okay, but not that great.” (He’s a high school freshman himself, so some of the situations may have been a little too close to reality for him.)

On the March Hare Movie Review Rating System: 3 tickets and go to the bargain matinee.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Why the Navy Isn't There... Yet

From NewsMax:

Miles O’Brien interviewing Alabama Governor, Hadley Barbour:

"O'Brien: But I'm talking about assets, like, you know, amphibious vehicles that the Navy has. It has helicopter support, hospital support, the ability to generate power, that sort of thing. We haven't seen that kind of thing, the kind of thing we saw, incidentally, in the wake of the tsunami."

Uhm, Mr. O’Brien—I’d like to point out that the Navy steamed in after the tsunami hit. Just as the Navy is sending ships like the hospital ship, USNS Comfort, after Katrina had passed and died down. A competent captain does not knowingly send his ship into a storm. Especially a ship that is not built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. What good would a Navy ship do stranded upon the shoreline? Remember, Katrina began in Florida, before gathering force and hitting the Gulf Coast. That’s most of the distance the ships would have had to travel to get there.

As has been pointed out in Michelle Malkin’s blog and at The Anchoress, the U.S. Military does not rush in to a domestic situation until it has been requested. They can be prepared and ready to go, but they cannot come until asked. Should they have been asked earlier? When devastation is this total, should the Federal Government, i.e., the President, be able to send troops in without the approval of the state and local government? Or would that consolidate too much power into the hands of the Federal Government, leading us into a Centralized Authority that the Liberals have been worried about for so long?

Remember, too, New Orleans—which seems to be operating on the squeaky wheel theory—was considered “spared.” Efforts originally were concentrated in Mississipi and Alabama. It was when the levees broke and New Orleans became inundated with water that the situation in that city went from bad to catastrophic.

Every family, every community, every school, every church, every hospital, every workplace should have a disaster plan, along with food, water, and blankets. I hadn’t considered sanitation until Katrina. I have to consider more than toilet paper and the fact we won’t be able to flush after use.

What’s your plan?

(H/T: Neal Boortz's Reading Assignments)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Three Ways to Help Victims of Hurricane Katrina:

Catholic Charities USA Collecting Donations for Recovery Efforts

Catholic Charities USA is collecting financial donations to help communities recover from the damage brought on by Hurricane Katrina. Donations will be used to fund local Catholic Charities agencies’ emergency and long-term disaster recovery efforts in areas hit by the hurricane.
Catholic Charities USA, which has been commissioned by the U.S. Catholic Bishops to represent the Catholic community in times of domestic disaster, responds with emergency and long-term assistance as needed. Its Disaster Response Office connects the Church’s social service agencies and disaster planning offices across the nation.

To contribute to the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund:
Call (800) 919-9338
Visit online
Send checks toCatholic Charities USA2005 Hurricane Relief FundPO Box 25168Alexandria, VA 22313-9788
Catholic Charities USA is unable to accept contributions of food, clothing, blankets and other relief supplies. Its federal ID number is 53-0196620.

From the website of the American Red Cross:

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 — When a disaster of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina strikes and the news broadcasts images of broken, battered and destroyed homes, it is natural for the public to be eager to help their neighbors – whether they’re across town or across the country. Often, seeing that they have lost everything, people are eager to donate food, clothing or other goods to meet the needs of storm victims and help the affected families begin to replace what they have lost.

"While that generous spirit is truly appreciated, the American Red Cross cannot accept this type of donation for the victims it is serving," said Amanda Lepof, an American Red Cross In-Kind Officer.

Today, the Red Cross is operating more than 250 shelters across seven states, providing a safe haven for nearly 42,000 evacuees – many who have been left homeless by Katrina. The first priority is meeting the urgent, critical needs of those people, which include providing emergency shelter, food and water.

"In-kind donations are best when they come from companies that can provide new items in a quantity that meets the mass care needs of victims – for example, Anheuser-Busch is again donating canned water for hurricane victims and response workers," said Lepof. "Unsolicited, spontaneous donations of goods and services from individuals and community groups, although well intentioned, have hidden costs and pose a number of complications for initial relief efforts."

For these reasons, the Red Cross is unable to accept any large collections of items, such as used clothing, hygiene items, furniture, toys, blankets, and canned goods. Nor is it able to accept small, individual donations of these items.

Why does the Red Cross discourage donations of collected goods and individual items for disaster relief?

Collections of items require valuable and scarce resources such as time, money, and personnel to sort, clean, and distribute them, which come at the expense of the emergency activities relief workers are attempting to perform. The Red Cross has neither the resources, nor the logistical set-up, to properly handle these types of donations, and therefore cannot accept them.
In addition, because the organization has no way of knowing what spontaneous individual donations or unsolicited collections of items will consist of, and therefore cannot ensure there will be enough of a particular item to distribute it equitably, or if the donated products will even be appropriate for the relief effort.

Shipping donated goods is also costly and particularly difficult in the aftermath of a disaster, as roads are often damaged or impassable, and easily clogged with shipments of non-priority items. The Red Cross makes every attempt to procure items locally to save money by minimizing transportation and storage costs.

“We don’t want to discourage people who want to help,” said Lepof. “But, making a financial gift to support the relief operations really is the best way for people to help after a disaster like this.”
Monetary financial contributions enable the Red Cross to support the greatest needs in the most efficient manner. Cash can be used to purchase items in adjacent, staging areas and eliminate the added costs involved in transporting goods.

Where can donations of collected goods and individual items be most effective?

Individual donations of goods and collections of items are put to their best possible use, and have the greatest impact economically, when they are donated to local charitable organizations within the local community. Donating locally eliminates transportation costs and ensures disaster workers are not overwhelmed with sorting unsolicited donations and are free to perform priority relief activities. Because these local agencies are not operating in the crisis environment that characterizes disaster relief, the charity will have the time sort, clean, and repair goods and identify how and where they can be most beneficial.

Guidelines for Effective Giving in Support of Disaster Relief

Before beginning any sort of collection drive, it is important to first call a charitable agency and confirm that there is a need for the donation and that they are able to accept it. Several organizations active in disaster relief have published guidelines that offer practical advice on steps that should be taken prior to starting a collection drive or purchasing items to donate to disaster relief.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of this disaster and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish).

Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting

And finally...

Currently, The Salvation Army is providing relief to residents and first responders in Hattiesburg, Miss., Mobile, Ala., and New Orleans, La. Additional Salvation Army emergency disaster services vehicles (canteens) are staged in surrounding areas and are prepared to be deployed to other affected areas once emergency management officials determine it safe. The Salvation Army is prepared to serve 500,000 meals a day as well as provide emotional and spiritual support to those trying to recover from Katrina’s wrath.

Salvation Army centers in Mobile, Ala., and New Orleans, La., have become safe havens to 500 people who were evacuated due to the storms. The Salvation Army is providing shelter and food to evacuees, many of whom have no where else to go since the storm annihilated countless homes in its destructive path. Salvation Army canteens are serving hot meals to residents and first responders throughout Mobile and in Hattiesburg, Miss.

More than 250 Salvation Army volunteers, employees and officers (ministers) will be providing aid from at least 100 canteens that will each be able to provide up to 5,000 meals a day. The Salvation Army has staged its two 54-foot mobile kitchens in Baton Rouge, La., and Mobile, Ala. They will be moved to other affected areas once emergency responders determine safe locations.

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) has been tirelessly working to provide information concerning the health and welfare of affected residents to anxious family members and loved ones. In one day SATERN received more than 600 health and welfare requests. Health and welfare inquiry forms may be found at

At this time The Salvation Army is only asking for monetary donations. A $100 donation will feed a family of four for two days, provide two cases of drinking water and one household clean-up kit.

Monetary donations may be sent your local Salvation Army earmarked “Disaster Relief,” made online at or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

'Nuff said. Now go do it.

Before and After

Just in case you need a reason to donate. Check out this site for pictures of New Orleans before and after:

Bush's Fault State & Local Governments Were Not Prepared?

WASHINGTON - The federal government so far has bungled the job of quickly helping the multitudes of hungry, thirsty and desperate victims of Hurricane Katrina, former top federal, state and local disaster chiefs said Wednesday.

The experts, including a former Bush administration disaster response manager, told Knight Ridder that the government wasn't prepared, scrimped on storm spending and shifted its attention from dealing with natural disasters to fighting the global war on terrorism.

The disaster preparedness agency at the center of the relief effort is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which was enveloped by the new Department of Homeland Security with a new mission aimed at responding to the attacks of al Qaida.

"What you're seeing is revealing weaknesses in the state, local and federal levels," said Eric Tolbert, who until February was FEMA's disaster response chief. "All three levels have been weakened. They've been weakened by diversion into terrorism."

Well, of course, it's Bush's fault that the states of Lousiana and Mississippi were ill-prepared! And it's Bush's fault that the cities of New Orleans, Gulfport, and Biloxi were not prepared for a Category 5 Hurricane. I mean, it's perfectly obvious that the Federal Government has taken over the position formerly held by God Almighty: omniscent and omnipotent.

What happened to the spirit of the pioneers? The spirit that caused many of our ancestors to give up hearth and home and head out to a new, foreign world? Leaving civilization behind and relying on one's self and one's immediate neighbors?

I know, I know. That was then. And nobody in New Orleans expected the levees to break, which has caused more problems than Katrina did. (Are the levees under federal control? Or state? In California, the levees in the Delta are under the jurisdiction of the state.)

And which is more important: delivering water and ice to those in shelters or rescuing those who are stranded on roofs and in attics? How do you decide?

There will be plenty of time to point fingers later. And I'm sure there will be more than enough blame to hand around to all parties involved, including private citizens. Let's get folks to safety, bring in clean water and food, and provide medical attention NOW.

For the rest of us: every area has its own particular natural disaster. Here in earthquake country, we've been warned, time and again, to be prepared for three days without food, water, or power. No, I'm not completely prepared (despite being in Scouts). Are you?

A Quiet Act of Heroism

Not all the stories are about looting or about how the Federal Government "botched" its handling of the aftermath of Katrina. To wit:

BILOXI, Miss. - In the long, harrowing moments before Katrina crashed into the east side of this coastal city, a dozen family members, friends and neighbors piled into the only bedroom of a wooden house.

Then they waited, and some drifted asleep. Suddenly, the water rushed in. It came fast, penetrating every wall and window. They retreated to a living room that yielded no protection from the five-foot tide inside the house.

The babies began screaming, the adults panicked and, in that moment, 13-year-old Phillip Bullard began saving lives. Four adults and nine children, including himself.

Phillip swam and cradled the youngest. He floated the oldest -- all through the house, out a broken front window and into a boat floating down what was once Holley Street. He coaxed his twin sister to turn loose the side of the house, which she clung to in terror. And he took the hands of his mother and grandmother and guided them through the house, on a path made from sodden furniture. They were willing to die, unable to swim and too frightened to leave their home.

"I just didn't want to see my family drown," said Phillip, a seventh-grader who spent Wednesday in a shelter at the junior high school he normally attends. "I was scared if I didn't keep helping, somebody would die."

Phillip's story hopscotched across town. Folks quickly learned about the boy who rescued his family, a bright spot in an otherwise dreary day two in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"That little boy is a hero," said Kenneth Brinson, who helped set up an outdoor community center near Main Street Baptist Church in the neighborhood where Phillip lives. Most of the day, Brinson cooked red beans and rice and smoked sausage for the hungry.

Phillip, a typical teenager who runs and jumps and dances and dreams, lives with his mother and grandmother on the east side of town, in a collection of older A-frame homes in a mostly poor, mostly withered neighborhood. Almost from the very beginning, they knew the little house would fall to a storm with this kind of roar.

"I saw all the water and it was coming from everywhere. I swear it came through the floor," said Vanessa Posey, 44, Phillip's mother. "I started screaming and trying to get everybody up. I broke the window and tried to put the babies on top of the bar. My son did most everything else."

Phillip, a soft-spoken boy who said he knew he wanted to be a police officer or doctor before the storm, says he went under water to clear a path to the window and then got his older sister, Yoshico Posey, out. He picked her first because she was the only other person who could swim and help guide the rest out of the house. They formed a rescue team. He carried or floated each person out the window; she passed them to a neighbor who was helping, or put them in a boat they found drifting by.

Later, they used broomsticks to paddle down the street and took haven in the upstairs loft of a neighbor's home.

"It felt like Phillip was in there getting people for hours," said Vanessa Posey, sitting outside the shelter. "I just kept thanking the Lord for every person he got out."
By the time Phillip finally swam out the house, he found his twin sister clinging to the exterior wall of the house.

"She was scared. It took me awhile to convince her to let go and take my hand," he said softly. "But I had to keep trying because she would not have made it."

After every person was rescued, Phillip took the boat to Division Street, a main thoroughfare, to find help. It never came.

And so the story that began at noon Monday in the earliest moments of Katrina's brief stay ended with Phillip in a shelter, nursing a foot cut by tin that his mother fears will become infected. This time, help is on the way.

"I just thank God for Phillip," the mother said. "We would not be here but for the grace of God and the courage of my son."