Saturday, April 30, 2005

If Sunday evening has come too soon, that can only mean one thing--a successful and happy weekend. What I did I can't tell you--something about ballet class, and oh, yes! A birthday party for the baby of my friend Rupa. The whole family drove out 25 miles to see her new house and son. We were the only white people there. Gene even made suspicious inquiries about the name of and the recipe for a certain fried bread we ate. The scarf-covered woman who cooked them alerted the hostess--your white friend asked how to make dosas. It was a charming time for me. Lots of adults to talk to, curtains to fawn over, and unknowable Indian food to eat And on returning home? Church, neighborly conversation. This year they're going to burn the mound instead of mow it.

Hi! says Emma covered in a green towel.

Oh my gosh--it's a ghost!

I'm not a ghost--I'm a green towel!

That's even scarier--a walking, talking green towel!

I'm not a scarier towel. I'm friendly!

Good to know.

For what Gene and Emma worked on this weekend, see the post below.

Today, I celebrated DST, Gene's favorite (God's truth) "holiday" by taking a yoga class, shopping the mall and the grocery store by myself and snapping photos of the neighborhood kids in our yard when I got home.

Could you help put on my pajamas?

Sure. Go get your big-girl underwear.

Actually, I'm Tinker Bell today.

Okay.

The toys we put away last night, the kitchen we straightened and the rooms we neatened are all once again in disarray thanks to destrtucto baby. Everything must come out of its cupboard, box, basket--everything! That'll make a nice photo essay. Maybe next time.

Let me prepare the children for going to bed an hour earlier than usual. Brendan's easy to convince, but Emma? We'll see. We must keep to a schedule you know. But before I go, on an entirely unrelated note: why oh why does The Incredibles' Elastigirl have to have such a freakish figure? Long, skinny legs, short-waist and a big bottom! I mean--who's shaped like that?

Friday, April 29, 2005

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!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

What could be more important than a Republican scandal? Why, nothing, says The Washington Post, so let's lead with it!

DeLay Airfare Was Charged To Lobbyist's Credit Card

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page A01

The airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number.

DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.
I'm a bit dismayed that this is their top story in light of everything that's happened in the five year's since 2000, but they have a lot of detail and research invested in the story. It's an interesting glimpse into the political world, rules broken or not.

Insurgent Violence Escalates In Iraq

Over 100 Killed As Post-Election Calm Dissipates

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page A01

BAGHDAD, April 23 -- Violence is escalating sharply in Iraq after a period of relative calm that followed the January elections. Bombings, ambushes and kidnappings targeting Iraqis and foreigners, both troops and civilians, have surged this month while the new Iraqi government is caught up in power struggles over cabinet positions.

Many attacks have gone unchallenged by Iraqi forces in large areas of the country dominated by insurgents, according to the U.S. military, Iraqi officials and civilians and visits by Washington Post correspondents. Hundreds of Iraqis and foreigners have either been killed or wounded in the last week.

One page in, this looks like a roundup of bad news. But just underneath this front page headline are three links, the first one for better news:


I would have made the 6 arrests the top story of this section, or even the rights groups rejections of the abuse findings--the stories have more meat to them.

Hospital Services Performed Overseas

Training, Licensing Questions Raised

<>
By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page A01

When patients needed urgent CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds late at night at St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury, Conn., emergency room workers used to rouse a bleary-eyed staff radiologist from his bed to read the images. Not anymore.

The work now goes to Arjun Kalyanpur -- 8,000 miles away in Bangalore, India. When it is the middle of the night in Connecticut, Kalyanpur is in the middle of his day, handling calls from St. Mary's and dozens of other American hospitals that transmit pictures to him electronically so he can quickly assess them and advise their doctors.

Huh. Okay. What's happening at the NY Times?

Turbulence on Campus in 60's Hardened Views of Future Pope

It did for you too, you aging hippies! Oops, sorry--

By RICHARD BERNSTEIN, DANIEL J. WAKIN
and MARK LANDLER

Published: April 24, 2005

TÜBINGEN, Germany, April 23 - For all Pope Benedict XVI's decades as a Vatican insider, it may have been the crucible of a university town swept by student radicalism in the late 1960's that definitively shaped the man who now leads the Roman Catholic Church.

During his Bavarian childhood under the Nazis, Joseph Ratzinger became convinced that the moral authority based in Catholic teachings was the sole reliable bulwark against human barbarism, according to friends, associates, and his biographer, John L. Allen Jr.

All righty, what else?

Acela, Built to Be Rail's Savior, Bedevils Amtrak at Every Turn

By JAMES DAO

Published: April 24, 2005

This article was reported by James Dao, Matthew L. Wald and Don Phillips and written by Mr. Dao.

WASHINGTON, April 23 - It was called the American Flyer, and its goals were ambitious: to speed train travel between Northeastern cities, steal customers from air shuttles, provide the model for a nationwide fast rail system and help its deficit-prone parent, Amtrak, earn a profit.

"These trains will enable Amtrak to carry its customers into the 21st century aboard 21st-century trains," said Thomas M. Downs, Amtrak's president, at a 1996 ceremony announcing a $611 million contract for the new trains.

Today that train is called the Acela, and instead of being Amtrak's savior, it has become a frustrating burden. On Wednesday, the company announced plans to sideline all 20 Acelas until summer to replace cracked brakes. It was the third major disruption of the high-speed service since it came on line in 2001.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...wait, a little more coffee and ...

Medicare Change Will Limit Access to Claim Hearing

By ROBERT PEAR

Published: April 24, 2005

WASHINGTON, April 23 - A new federal policy will make it significantly more difficult for Medicare beneficiaries to obtain hearings in person before a judge when the government denies their claims for home care, nursing home services, prescription drugs and other treatments.

For years, hearings have been held at more than 140 Social Security offices around the country. In July, the Department of Health and Human Services will take over the responsibility, and department officials said all judges would then be located at just four sites - in Cleveland; Miami; Irvine, Calif.; and Arlington, Va.

Under the new policy, Medicare officials said, most hearings will be held with videoconference equipment or by telephone. A beneficiary who wants to appear in person before a judge must show that "special or extraordinary circumstances exist," the rules say.

...aaaaaand ...no, that doesn't do it for me. Perhaps a yoga class instead? But before I go, I'd like to answer my first question again. What's more important than a five-year-old Republican scandal?

Why, a five-year-old Democratic scandal. The NY Sun is hot on the trail:

A Kennedy Relative Acted as Informant in Democrat Circles

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 22, 2005

A New Orleans political consultant who is Senator Kennedy's brother-in-law, Raymond Reggie, has been operating in Democratic circles for the last three years as an undercover informant for the FBI, sources close to the matter said yesterday.

<>At a federal court hearing yesterday morning, Reggie, 43, who organized fund-raisers for President and Mrs. Clinton, pleaded guilty to two felony charges, bank fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors described check-kiting and loan fraud schemes he operated involving three Louisiana banks, but they did not publicly detail his cooperation with the government.

The New York Sun reported yesterday that an unnamed witness with ties to a prominent political figure has been involved in recent federal investigations of campaign fund-raising violations, including a probe into alleged financial misreporting in Mrs. Clinton's bid for the Senate in 2000. The informant, described in court papers only as a "confidential witness," was part of an FBI plan to secretly audiotape conversations with political operatives, including a well-known person who prosecutors said was seeking to funnel donations from foreigners to federal campaigns.


Huh. Funny that WaPo and The NY Times didn't lead, or even take note of this, as Vodkapundit, who led me to this story, notes:

And what a story! It's got corruption, Kennedys, secret informants, Clintons, even weird sexual allegations. You'd think it would be the lead headline from coast to coast.

Happy Sunday news reading folks!

No way--this is too funny (Via Sploid)!

The leading candidate for mayor of San Antonio admitted on Thursday using his twin brother as a stand-in at a civic event without telling anyone it was not him.

Could it have been his eeevil twin?
Freeze this moment in time. Daughter signing thank-you cards, son feeding himself. House neat, husband wood-shopping to build a fence.

Update: Well, the last part of that idyllic moment lasted a bit too long, as Gene got stuck in an endless loop at Lowe's negotiating the logistics of getting 4 million fence slats home. After several hours, it was agreed upon by all involved, that they'd be delivered tomorrow morning. (I guess that would be today for those of you who don't check Bystander before midnight.)

The dinner I invested so much hope in was disappointingly bland. Apparently, the flavor comes in the garnish, and since I skimped on garnish, the chickpea soup with toasted pita bread--my heroic effort at bringing more legumes into our diet--was dull because I had no parsely to mix with the lemon juice and red onion, so the soup tasted about what you'd think pureed chickpeas with water and chicken stock might taste like. Plus, my trademark lack of salt and pepper added to the blandness. It's only that I forget--I don't have anything againt salt and pepper per se--it's just that I want so much out of my other ingredients, more than they can give really. I always hope for the best in their flavor and wind up kicking myself for investing so much in a vegetable.

Anyway, two guilty pleasures tonight--a glass of white wine, and Desperate Housewives. I started my day off like a shot--you shoulda seem me boy I was busting on the treadmill at 5.5 mph! I was like the wind I tell ya at 5.5 mph. Thirty minutes straight with three or four twenty second rests. Nobody could catch me, nobody.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I think this is a terrible idea and I'm very disappointed:

The measure requires CPS [Children's Protective Services] to ask potential foster care parents if they are homosexual. If an applicant answers "yes," then he or she is to be immediately disqualified from consideration. Foster children currently in homes with homosexuals also would be removed. Currently, CPS does not ask about a foster care parent's sexual orientation.

Seriously, the article says that about 2500 children would be displaced if the Talton amendment passes. Will the legislators who voted for it take those children in?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

They haven't quite ironed the wrinkles out of the new pyramid website. For instance, I entered my sex and age into the My Pyramid Plan and it timed out, so I clicked the link to do it again and the website told me I'd already entered my information and that I was a 60-year-old man who exercises less than thirty minutes a day. No--that's who my inner self is, but my outer self goes by middle-age woman who exercises 30- to- 60 minutes a day, on average.

Ah, wait--it's come up! Here's my plan. I can't wait to study it. I doubt they'll urge me to eat a bag of these on any given day, but they're not a middle-aged woman with a sixty-year-old man for a soul, are they?

And they didn't get a 10:00 PM call from their husband's boss alerting him to be on time tomorrow because the president has just called a company-wide meeting, and they didn't wait anxiously for two-and-a-half hours this morning to hear what the president was so eager to share with their husband's employees.

So far, it's not bad. There's a merger with this company. Gene says it's not a competitor; that the two will complement one another. No changes will occur at least until the next quarter.

The children sleep now, both of them. I can't figure out Brendan's schedule--it mystifies me, but he can have a nap now if he needs one, as long as he is in bed by 8:30 and doesn't get up before 7:00, I can handle. Emma does this once in a while: every day she works hard to stay up and alert, about every six weeks, the lack of sleep creeps up behind her and "rest time" becomes "nap time."

We had a meeting with her pre-school teacher Monday--she's at the top of her class for letter knowledge, upper-case as expected, lower-case, a perk. She has problems with lower-case 'f' and 'g', but as they are next to each other on the keyboard, I take it as prescience on her part. She's also not the most active child on the playground. That's my girl.

Brendan has been ear-infection free for a week and a half now. Hurrah! To celebrate, he began crawling and cruising. He's refusing jarred baby food and grunting a lot whenever he sees food. Sheesh. Not the neatest or most polite baby you've ever taken to a restaurant, but happy nontheless. I'm rocking his world by introducing whole milk and sippy cups in the same week. I may have to re-strategize and skip the sippy cups this week or he's sure to be the only baby in the record books with osteoperosis. It just seems like his sister was preparing her own meals by one-year-old; she at least knew how to order off a menu by then. Jeez.

Oh, did I tell you about her birthday party last week? I don't think so. Not much to tell. I was nervous without Gene, who was in N.J. on business. I don't know why I was nervous hosting six four-year-olds at Chuck E. Cheese. I guess it was because they had to bring parents and I feel bad for parents who get invited to Chuck E. Cheese. I mean, you want your child to be invited because they want it; you just don't actually want to have to accompany them to the three-ringed circus, center ring.

This year's party lacked the magical quality of last year's, though I think she still had a good time. Next year, we'll do somthing big, I hope, at a different place. Some year soon, it'll be a slumber party I suppose. And that's reason enough to buy a spare television set for the master bedroom, something I never thought I'd do. But I realized recently, I'm probably not going to want to watch what my children watch. They do change us, don't they?

More uninteresting comments about domestic life to come when the next fleck of dust falls.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Milbank, you are so transparent:

Most Republicans skipped the hearing, leaving Democrats largely unchallenged as they assailed Bolton's knack for making enemies and disparaging the very organization he would serve.
UPDATE: Oops! I neglected to paste this part of the post:

As James Taranto wrote:

That would be the U.N.--but of course the American ambassador to the U.N. is supposed to serve America, not the U.N.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I wrote some very entertaining comments on several stories yesterday only to be blocked from posting because my Internet connection was down. Of course I didn't save and my computer crashed this morning. So here are the links with less entertaining comments, if any:

"The Atlantic Monthly is cutting fiction in regular issues in favor of a newsstand-only annual issue:" I started reading The Atlantic Monthly years ago (and stopped years ago too) after my sister gave it to me as a Christmas gift, and the short stories were the best part!

Another conservative opinion pundit on a Republican adminstration's payroll without disclosure to the public!

Noooooooooo! Trading Spaces is on the skids! I admit that I haven't been watching regularly because a) my Saturdays nights are getting busier and b) some of their new designers are not only tasteless, they seem to be just plain mean. It's no fun to watch a tacky, wannabe, modern designer utterly destroy a middle-class, middle American's family's home. (Bring back Vern!) Also, they're fools to take Paige Davis off the show. Granted, she's perky. Yes, I'll grant you that. BUT! She's sincere, and sincerity is everything, everything!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Get to know my husband. Here's a google search he left up on the computer before he left town "on business." Think he's working for the government on a secret scientific project that will save the world?
Anne Applebaum gives specifics on Pope John Paull II's battle with communism. (Hat tip: Virginia Postrel)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Top Stories

From WaPo:

Most Area Terrorism Funding Not Spent

Washington Last in U.S.; $120 Million Still Unused

By Spencer S. Hsu and Sarah Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, April 10, 2005; Page A01

The Washington area has not spent the majority of $145 million in anti-terrorism grants awarded by the federal government over the past three years, including funds earmarked for such critical items as hospital beds and protective gear for rescue workers.

Long after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, homeland security spending across the country remains bogged down by administrative problems, back orders for equipment and long timelines to implement new technology, such as communications systems.

Although the Washington area is designated as high-risk, it has not spent $120 million of the federal aid it received between 2002 and 2004, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Local authorities said that spending fell behind in 2003 and that more time was needed to coordinate plans with Maryland, Virginia and 16 suburban jurisdictions.

Hmmm...vaguely local, but because it's the nation's capital capitol, they can do that. What's next?

Catholics Divided On Role Of Laity

U.S. Church Faces Shortage of Priests

By David Von Drehle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 10, 2005; Page A01

The election of a new pope is high drama, full of history and mystery. But to understand what's ahead for the Catholic Church in the United States, you also need to look at a far less momentous transition here in Washington not long ago.

Georgetown University, run for more than two centuries by Jesuit priests, chose a layman as its president in 2001, the first in its history. John J. DeGioia joined thousands of lay Catholics around the country who occupy top positions at church-sponsored colleges, hospitals, clinics, newspapers, orphanages and schools.
A certain universality there.

Medical Boards Let Physicians Practice Despite Drug Abuse

By Cheryl W. Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 10, 2005; Page A01

First of three articles

Over the past 20 years, John F. Pholeric Jr. struggled on and off with cocaine addiction, cycled in and out of rehab and was convicted of a felony. During that time, he also practiced medicine.

Pholeric, 55, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, admitted snorting cocaine "three to four times per week" in his office in 1999. He stole drugs from hospitals where he worked and wrote more than 40 fraudulent prescriptions for his own use, according to Virginia and District medical board records.
Eek! Well, anyway, must be no bad news coming out of Iraq to skip the war entirely. Let's check out the NYT's:

U.S. Seeks Access to Bank Records to Deter Terror

By ERIC LICHTBLAU

Published: April 10, 2005

WASHINGTON, April 9 - The Bush administration is developing a plan to give the government access to possibly hundreds of millions of international banking records in an effort to trace and deter terrorist financing, even as many bankers say they already feel besieged by government antiterrorism rules that they consider overly burdensome.

The initiative, as conceived by a working group within the Treasury Department, would vastly expand the government's database of financial transactions by gaining access to logs of international wire transfers into and out of American banks. Such overseas transactions were used by the Sept. 11 hijackers to wire more than $130,000, officials said, and are still believed to be vulnerable to terrorist financiers.

I already feel victimized and I haven't finished the story! What's next?

Two Women Bound by Sports, War and Injuries

By JULIET MACUR

Published: April 10, 2005

WASHINGTON - For 25 days at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Specialist Danielle Green wondered if anyone could ever understand. But on the 26th day, a nurse told her: "A new female patient came in today. You have a lot in common."

"Really?" Specialist Green said, and the nurse nodded.

A five-page feature of a couple of women soldiers who came home missing a limb.

Cardinals Hint at Profile of New Pope: Presence Preferred

Too many absences and he gets detention?

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN and DANIEL J. WAKIN

Published: April 10, 2005

ROME, April 9 - The Roman Catholic Cardinals will take an oath of secrecy when they enter the conclave to elect the next pope, but in the week since John Paul II's death many have been publicly dropping hints about what kind of man the church now needs.

The enormous outpouring of affection for John Paul has clearly had an impact on their thinking. Many of the prelates said in noticeably similar language that while the next pope may have a very different style than John Paul, he must above all be an effective communicator of the faith who can sustain the grass-roots enthusiasm, especially among youth, that John Paul generated.

Anyway, those are the headlines and ledes this morning. Like I said, not enough bad news coming out of Iraq for it to dominate.
A Washington-based educational consultant is troubled about his thriving business:

Yes, I do get some students who expressly wish to apply to either a liberal or a conservative college. But the vast majority are simply eager to find a school that will help them advance in their intellectual and professional lives. They're flabbergasted by courses with titles like "Pornography and Evolution," "The Beatles Era," or "Introduction to Material Culture," as well as educational values that appear only tangentially related to the reality of their lives.

As a consultant, I feel the need to advise my clients to cover all their political bases. Recently, I was advising an Eagle Scout who was justifiably proud of his accomplishment and wanted to highlight it on his college applications. But I worried that the national Boy Scouts' stand against homosexuals as scout leaders might somehow count against him in the admissions process at some schools. So I suggested that he get involved in an AIDS hotline to show his sensitivity to an issue often linked to the gay community.

The need for this kind of double-thinking is good for my consulting practice, but I find it troubling. Yet trying to anticipate potential concerns about my students' backgrounds or qualifications is something I increasingly feel I have to do.

When I started counseling in the 1980s, many of my students told me that nothing but an Ivy League school would do for them. Now, many aren't sure that the Ivies -- where the political battles on campus are fiercest -- are worth the money. Last year, one of my students chose Lehigh over Columbia. It wasn't just that Lehigh offered him a full scholarship; he also thought the craziness of campus politics and the divisiveness at Columbia would distract the faculty and administration and hinder him in his goal of getting a solid education.
It was hard to choose which passage to link. Read it all.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Canadian government has a bizarre publication ban on what looks to be a scandal within the Labor party. Just plain strange.