Monday, March 28, 2005

Borscht: the beet-lovers stew. Gene has a passion for beets, and I have a passion for him, so I made borscht for dinner tonight. I started at 2:00, took a forty-five minute break around 3:00 to feed and nurture the children, and at ten minutes to eight o'clock am just sitting down after cleaning up the purple haze. It's beef stew only instead of gravy, substitute beet juice, and instead of potatoes, substitute beets. Add leeks and carrots, and an entire head of green cabbage--bam! You're there. It just takes forever to make, what with shredding, constant shredding, and if you have trouble dividing by 2 or even three, you're cooking for twelve. We've got borscht for next week and next month! Would that my North Texas friends weren't vegetarians--alas and alack.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I'm dropping the LA Times from this series! I never read it anyway, so it's too much work to actually go there. Here's how WaPo starts the day:

Panel Ignored Evidence on Detainee

U.S. Military Intelligence, German Authorities Found No Ties to Terrorists

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page A01

A military tribunal determined last fall that Murat Kurnaz, a German national seized in Pakistan in 2001, was a member of al Qaeda and an enemy combatant whom the government could detain indefinitely at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The three military officers on the panel, whose identities are kept secret, said in papers filed in federal court that they reached their conclusion based largely on classified evidence that was too sensitive to release to the public.
Story number two:

Business Sees Gain In GOP Takeover

Political Allies Push Corporate Agenda

By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page A01

Fortune 500 companies that invested millions of dollars in electing Republicans are emerging as the earliest beneficiaries of a government controlled by President Bush and the largest GOP House and Senate majority in a half century.

MBNA Corp., the credit card behemoth and fifth-largest contributor to Bush's two presidential campaigns, is among those on the verge of prevailing in an eight-year fight to curtail personal bankruptcies. Exxon Mobil Corp. and others are close to winning the right to drill for oil in Alaska's wildlife refuge, which they have tried to pass for better than a decade. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., another big contributor to Bush and the GOP, and other big companies recently won long-sought protections from class-action lawsuits.
The NYT's leads this way:

U.S. Is Examining a Plan to Bolster the Rights of Detainees


Published: March 27, 2005

The Defense Department is considering substantial changes to the military tribunals that the Bush administration established to prosecute foreign terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, military and administration officials say.

The proposed changes, many of which are detailed in a 232-page draft manual for the tribunals that has been circulating among Pentagon lawyers, come after widespread criticism from the federal courts, foreign governments and human rights groups.

Story number two:

Pope Makes Appearance but Is Unable to Speak


Published: March 27, 2005

VATICAN CITY, March 27 - Pope John Paul II made a relatively long appearance before tens of thousands of worshipers here this Easter Sunday, but when he tried to speak, only an inaudible whisper came out of his mouth.

The struggle for words was short: An aide quickly pulled back the microphone, and the pope instead gave several silent signs of the cross as his blessing this year, the first in his 26-year reign that he did not preside over the Mass on Easter, the day that marks the resurrection of Christ and is thus the most significant day in the Christian faith.

Both papers make Schiavo the third story, WaPo's teaser headline: Bush Avoids Schiavo Fray, and its story headline:

Bush's Back-and-Forth Reflects Rift in Party

The NYT's has the same headline on the teaser and the story:

Even as Doctors Say Enough, Families Fight to Prolong Life

Friday, March 25, 2005

What do you want to write about? Dunno. But I know I want to be a journalist. That's basically the mindset of most entering students, including myself, at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. And it's the mindset, I guess, when they leave. But all that's changing and I think that's a good thing.

When Mr. Bollinger raised the prospect of a revamped journalism program in a speech in 2003, he envisioned a mandatory two-year master's degree program. But some critics worried that students would not be able to afford a second year at an institution where annual tuition and room and board run more than $50,000.

Yes, I've often joked to myself that the government ought to put a label on their student loans: Warning--graduate degree may cause serious disappointment in self, other students and world at large!

There will be two compulsory courses, a history of journalism and another, taught by the dean, on evidence and inference, in which students will learn to find and interpret statistics, archives and legal documents.

The program will also feature four yearlong seminars, based on subjects taught elsewhere in the university but intended for journalists. These include arts and culture, economics and business, politics and science. The program plans to add other courses, including immersion courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

I would have leapt at politics, but probably should have taken economics as well. I think this will appeal to students who already have strong interests, and leanings and not just to a bunch of liberal arts grads looking for something to do.

Hat tip: RantingProfs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Well, are there enough questions of GREAT MORAL WEIGHT in the news for you lately? Plenty for me and it's pushing me away from my normal reads. As per usual, Tech Support and I have opposing perspectives that bubble up as we hammer out the material in an effort to forge convictions. It's made a lot of people cranky, the Schaivo case. People are quick to comment, judge and name call. I simply can't read posts--no matter how well-intentioned--that belittle their opponents with name calling, in general, but especially in this case. But then not all posts are written to persuade; some are just written to vent.

Here at Bystander Manor, we are going through our third ear infection in three months. Green goop globbing and dripping from the nose and the eyes. A sudden diminishment in appetite, more head-shaking than usual and general unhappiness. I can't let even the most innocuous runny nose go by without calling the pediatric nurse to get her opinion. There's just too much at stake at eleven months--language development chief among them. And as Tech Support had his share of ear infections as a small child, resulting in cholesteatoma, a series of surgeries, some hearing loss, and one ear much closer to the head than the other, we are especially and emotionally vigilant.

Miss E.'s on Spring Break from pre-school this week. I didn't know pre-schoolers required a spring break, but apparently they do. Thus far, with a sick baby in the house, she has enjoyed extra cartoons, but we may be able to scoot up to Super Target on a sock-buying mission for Mom and baby today. Funny thing about socks--the entire collection disintegrates at the exact same time, so you need to replace them at the same time.

Could this post be more mundane? Well, it seemed interesting to me at the time! In any case, I'm sticking to the easy stuff today--maybe this week--ankle or calf length? Cotton or a nylon blend? Should we get a slice while we're out? Why not--the scale was very kind this morning. Let's celebrate with food!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Regarding WaPo's explainer peice on why Negroponte shouldn't be appointed US Director of National Intelligence, please note who makes the connection that Negroponte lied about the existence of death squads in Honduras:

"Allegations to the effect that death squads have made their appearance in Honduras appear to be totally without merit," the embassy cable added, reflecting a position Negroponte has maintained ever since.

In an interview, Binns noted that reporting about killings and disappearances "would have made it much more difficult to sustain our economic and security assistance" to Honduras.

Hint: It's not Negroponte's predecessor Jack R. Binns. If Binns had made that assertion, WaPo reporter Michael Dobbs would have quoted it and made a much stronger argument for the case against Negroponte's appointment as intelligence czar. Instead, Dobbs makes the argument himself taking us from A to C by skipping B entirely.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Via Kausfiles, we learn that the Associated Press is now offering their clients two versions of the same story. Editor and Publisher gives examples:

"The concept is simple: On major spot stories -- especially when events happen early in the day -- we will provide you with two versions to choose between," the AP said in an advisory to members. "One will be the traditional 'straight lead' that leads with the main facts of what took place. The other will be the 'optional,' an alternative approach that attempts to draw in the reader through imagery, narrative devices, perspective or other creative means."



MOSUL, Iraq (AP) A suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners Thursday, splattering blood and body parts over rows of overturned white plastic chairs. The attack, which killed 47 and wounded more than 100, came as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad said they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government.


MOSUL, Iraq (AP) Yet again, almost as if scripted, a day of hope for a new, democratic Iraq turned into a day of tears as a bloody insurgent attack undercut a political step forward.

On Thursday, just as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad were telling reporters that they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government, a suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners in the northern city of Mosul.

Except for weekend news reading, I'm not so sure anyone wants the colorful narrative option. Who has the time for that? People who are being driven, or bussed or taken on to work on trains. In other words, East coasters. Let's keep an eye out to see how this plays out.
This post reminds me of what I was telling Tech Support last night, that I'm sick of reading writers. The writers I'm most sick of reading are usually magazine writers--they inject too much of themselves into their articles. If I'm reading politics, I want more subject matter, less you! Magazine writers can be great at stringing words together in such a way that moves the reader--metaphors, analogies, colorful language. (I am Neo from the Matrix!) Lately, I've been reading a lot of lawyers--crisper, cleaner, well-cited writing. Anyway, here's Andy's take on the Schiavo story:

[insert claim here]

[insert logical reasoning here]

[insert anticipation of counter-arguments]

[insert refutations to counter-arguments]

I trust this has settled things once and for all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The children bookended me right out of my weight class this morning. Miss E. slept so heavily when I crept into her room at 8:30, I didn't wake her. She'd been so excited about Tech Support and me coming home from our trip that she hadn't slept well the past few nights. Then Snort got cranky even after sleeping in, being fed, changed twice and dressed, so I put him down for a nap, just before she woke up. Good thing I had a jog last night. That's the one thing working with weights has done for me--changed me from a power-walker to a jogger. I no longer have the flexibility to power walk at 4.8 miles per hour and I now have the quad strength to jog a couple miles at a stretch. I'm not Flo-Jo, but at 38 years old, this is a personal best and it feels good too.

I'm dying to share with you harrowing tales from the slopes in Banff. Unfortunately I can't do it without including the story of what looked to be a four-year-old child attached to a harnass in front of his dad being beckoned down the hill by a backward-skiing instructor who kept saying, "You're going to catch me--oh, no! You're going to catch me!"

My terrifying story just loses its edge with those details. Well, the child finally broke down in the middle of the second hill--the one that led to the open fairway of the slope--in a fear-induced tantrum. And buddy, could I relate! But being a grown-up I had to stay upright and snow-plough horizontally across the hill. This is an exhausting way to get from top to bottom, and I stopped at each side of the hill, which made it worse. Not only did I then have the opportunity to contemplate the 170 degree drop in front of me, I lost momentum, had to turn my skis 180 degrees around--without a downhill free fall--so that I could cross the hill again. Repeat until standing upright on a flat plain. My guess is the fun part comes when you navigate hills with both skis parallel.

Why I have more confidence with an instructor leading the way, I don't know, but up there, on the top of Mt. Higher-than-Hell, with the wind howling, the snow blowing, young people whizzing by on snowboards, empty oxygen bottles strewn about for crying out loud!--I felt a little more like the right side of this picture, than the left, so I took it home, in postcard size, and framed it.
Lisa De Moraes is pushing a meme I'm quite tired of--pushing the notion that Viagra or Cialis commercials are parallel with much sexier television content.

Yes, ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Co., broadcast a woman's naked back. At 9 p.m. Eastern Time, 8 p.m. Central Time. When millions of parents have plunked their kids down in front of the set thinking their babes are only going to see men pounding each other, beer commercials and Viagra ads.

I guess she's also making the argument that beer commercials and violent sport with rules and referees are also just as bad, or not just as bad, as sexual innuendo. Well, she's entitled to her opinion. I'm not advocating tighter FCC rules here. I'm just saying that two post-menopausal adults gazing lovingly into each other's eyes is not the same as dropping a towel off a woman's body and having her jump into a man's arms, (I did not see the commercial) nor is it the same as ripping the shirt from a woman's breast.

Think of it this way--would it upset you if your son reached across his crayons to touch a little girl's hand and smile at her? Probably not. Would it upset you if he reached across his crayons to pull off her shirt? Yes! I'm not advocating fines here. But I think parents have a right to expect what's going to be on network television when they turn it on. What kind of right? Consitutional? No, she said deflatedly. Legal? I don't know, for heaven's sake. Hey, why not put that Nicollete Sheridan commercial on during the holiday prime time cartoon viewing--it's a nostalgia thing as well as a children's special. Parents watch The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas too! Shut up--that's not going to happen. No, you shut up!

[The above is brought to you by two of the many voices in Bystander's mind.]

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Many interesting ideas in Jonah Goldberg's essay entitled, "What is a Conservative?" including,

The belief that all good things move together and there need be no conflicts between them is, ultimately, a religious one.
More on the Texas gay foster parent debate, again from the WSJ's numbers guy:

Opponents of the ban would do better to employ civil-rights arguments than to parrot estimates about the number of children who would be affected immediately -- those estimates are essentially guesses.

Friday, March 11, 2005

You gotta pick and choose your battles in the blogosphere. JustOneMinute picks 'em with Paul Krugman, Mickey Kaus (albeit gently) picks them with Andrew Sullivan, Sullivan lashes out at Instapundit, who quite rightly asks--hey! How'd I get pulled into this?

But what if you're not much of a fighter? Then you might have little newsworthy items to blog about. You could put something out there, something seemingly innocuous--nice weather we're having, isn't it--only to find you've messed with someone's truth. You call eighty degrees and humid nice?

I checked out a heretofore unknown-to-me-liberal blogger via Kaus today--Ezra Klein, who seemed pretty reasonable until I got to the bad words, Mr. Potty Mouth! Anyway, I notice he reads a lot of idealogically opposing viewpoints to post this really hot stuff, which makes me wonder should I also do that?

I try to, but generally end up quitting because I don't want to fight, not even if it's not for posting, but for just in my mind. Also, I don't need to keep reading people I generally disagree with just to get riled up about them. Occasionally a writer will put something out there contrary to a strong opinion of mine and then I'll feel strong enough to voice opposition, but I don't have it in me to do it on a daily basis.

Vodkapundit is really bummed out. He's leading the charge and none of his former political colleagues are following. I feel his pain, but I don't want to light torches or even hand out flyers.

Aside: a couple of grungie college kids came by trying to get me to sign a petition to get Dell and Apple to recycle their computers. I can't remember the name of their group, but they claimed to be the ones who got the city of Flower Mound curbside recycling. I told them I'd look at the flyer, but refused to sign or promise to send a letter, which they had quite handily written for me already. Exactly how are you going to "get" Dell and Apple to recycle? They were non-specific. Perhaps if they were ten or fifteen years older--long past their dreadlock years--with a baby on the way and two lay-offs under their belts (or four if they're like me), they'd have better understood my question. But my reluctance to help sound the alarm for landfills cluttered with old computers must have looked like exactly what it is--a sellout.

I've got an appointment with a pediatric ear specialist at 1:00 today, I've got Rice Krispie treats to make for a pizza pool party after school on Friday, I've got the logistics of taking a splash-happy baby to a pre-school pool party to consider. Floaties or the new swimsuit with built-in life jacket? (She'll never wear it!) Or how 'bout just the old-fashioned iron-clad grip of mom--that oughta work.

Listen up, Leroy! I sat on an eight-inch-wide first-story window ledge of the Art History building at the University of Texas for two-and-a half hours--long past the scheduled appearance time--waiting for Jesse Jackson to show up for a campaign rally in 1980-whatever, and my kiester has never been the same! You want activism? Try safe-guarding your child's pre-school teacher from the unwarranted assault of another child's mom who's sure little Johnny learned that word in class. You want donations? There are plenty of $5 contributions to help out your kids' school on a weekly basis.

And remember this, bucko--you're handing out flyers about Apple and Dell in telecommunications computer land, where unemployment still lags behind other industries. Exactly what kind of heat you plan on putting to those companies? Honey, college don't last forever, but jobs at McDonald's do.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to wake the baby and dress him, pick up my daughter from pre-school, meet my husband for lunch, go to the ear specialist, bring the kids home and put them down for a nap and when that's over take them to the gym so I can take a spinning class! [Insert obvious political joke here.]

Good grief. I have sold out.
After a misunderstanding with Byron York (all in my mind, mind you), mostly due to his hairstyle, which makes him look like-- probably what he is--a conservative prep-school graduate, I'm falling hard for him again.

PS He's on the Huffingtonpost! Must be the hair!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I'm posting quickly b/c I'm about out of time. My first day on the slope was with a lesson. Our 25-year-old instructor took us up on top of a mountain by the end of the day. Well, one of the other gals backed out at the bottom of the lift; another at the top of the lift. Grace and I were left to stand at the top of a mountain at the end of the day, with wind whipping and snow beginning to fall as instructor Chrissy negotiated with the lift operator to get Mandy down. We were isolated, cold and nervous. I started looking for some sherpas to bring us an oxygen bottle and and point the way. But then, I'm a bit dramatic. Everything here is dramatic. I made it down without a fall, but I still have the adrenalin in my throat--the fear. Tomorrow-town, art galleries, gift shopping, a tour of the historic hotel we're staying in. I told Tech Support I didn't know if I could ever live this vacation down. Then I saw the $53 bill for breakfast. Well, maybe we can do better than this, at least more economical. It's good to be away from the every day, the ordinary of my ordinary life. Tons of English, Australian and German accents. That's a long way to fly for a good run downhill. More when I get home. See ya!
Great Guinea Pig of Winnipeg! While Tech Support navigates a triple diamond skull-and-cross bones slope,I've got time to sip some cocoa and tap a few words.

I've conquered the green slope but not the fear, or lack of confidence. I definitely should have taken a second day of classes to build the confidence. However, I haven't done too badly--seven or eight runs,two falls.
br> I liked watchig the skiers come down the slopes from the deli. You could catch the unmistakable rigid stance of the beginners--all muscles on red alert. They don't sway fluidly like the experts, whose hips lead them down the mountain. No, beginners like me, stand perfectly still and lead with the shoulders. I think we fatigue ourselves more quickly because of the tension we hold in our bodies.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day

I Stop Writing the Poem
by Tess Gallagher

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I'm still a woman.
I'll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I'll get back
to the poem. I'll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there's a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it's done.
Where has Bystander been? Home holding a sick baby mostly. The injection he got for the ear infection last week could not hold back whatever virus brought him the fever this week. The fever has been gone since yesterday, but left behind a clingier one-year-old. He's so different from his sister--lots of cuddle out of this one and strong emotions. I believe we had his first tantrum the other day. Yesterday was his second, but he can cry all he wants to--I'm not letting him play in the bathroom!

Saw an orthopedist after telling my primary physician about the unusual sensation of my tendon rolling over my ankle and snapping back every now and then. The orthopedist seemed unimpressed, but gave me a brace that looks like a granny boot without the heel or toe and has several color-coded velcro straps to make me feel more secure when I jog. Problem is I get this sensation sitting down sometimes. A shift of weight with my foot in just the right position and I have to explain to onlookers in a restaurant that the yelp was not a mouse-sighting, but an ankle sprain.

It's a nice thought, though--a brace that will make me feel more secure. Put it on and job loss fears, concerns about saving for the kids' college, our retirement and the health of the family magically evaporate! That's how good this brace is.

I have no new personal bests to report in my jogging. In fact, I have regressed this week to my pre-April times, which is disappointing, but no de-moralizing as fitness is a long-term goal for me. What I measure in inches and in timing week to week is not as important as year to year. So I plod on.

The rest of what I have to say will have to wait. Until then--don't lose any sleep waiting!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

I sure am enjoying parenting these last couple of days--not that I don't usually--but Snort is back to his normal self after a mystifying month of coughs, wheezes that were only audible with a stethoscope, and a stomach bug that threw me off the trail of his ear infections. He's laughing and chuckling in his jolly, unhurt way and we are giggling right along with him. It's a good, good day.

My fingers are crossed for the same good vibes next week as I live out a vacation fantasty with Tech Support. Not bad, eh? I've always wanted to do a ski vacation ever since I did a ski vacation in New York on Hunter Mountain at the Eggery Inn. I let a male colleague coax me into a weekend on the mountain by promising it was a "just friends" date. He showed up with a yellow rose to my chagrin. However, his clumsy, unwanted advances didn't ruin the weekend. There is nothing like finishing a classic novel in front of a roaring fire--favorite hot beverage in hand--after a day of my own clumsy advances down the bunny slope.

It's true: I don't ski, but why shouldn't I enjoy the cocoa anyway? And more than that I'm looking for a little spirtitual cleansing, if you will; and I think the Canadian Rockies might be just the church for such a blessing. If I can achieve relaxation, if the anxiety that is now beginning to lift from my chest stays lifted--well, that would be something, wouldn't it?

Grandfather and Granny B. Tech Support are caring for the children while we're gone. We are indeed lucky. Grandparents, aunts, uncles--they broaden and deepen the lives of children and I can't get enough of them for mine.

They have asked for a few written instructions on the children's schedule. That's not too hard, I thought. Well, on day 2 of Volume I, I'm trying to edit out unnecessary details like, "and if she doesn't finish her milk, it's okay." Duh! You think the grandparents will know it's okay if Miss E. leaves two ounces of milk in her Disney princess cup? Instructions like that lead me to question whether I shouldn't give them a blank page and ask them to fill it out for me while I'm gone.

(Eight hours later.) As you can tell from the above, life's good. I celebrated a lost two pounds by wearing pants that still don't fit me. Let 'em talk, I say! More later? Perhaps, perhaps not. Thanks for checking in.
Posted MAR 5 2005, 7:45 AM CDT (link here)