Sunday, July 30, 2006

What to do about "Ann"

"All my life, I've felt that Ann was an absurdly plain name. It's practically like not even having a name. Ann? It's like, the. An article."

Highly amusing, but I don't agree at all. I think it's quite elegant, and in all it's forms too -- Ann, Anna, Annie, AnnaBanana...
Con fight!

I'm reading very thoughtful posts on the nature vs. nurture debate on parenting. If this doesn't convince people that all conservatives are not alike, I don't know what will.

Jonah Goldberg takes on colleagues John Derbyshire and Charles Murray, snaring the latter with his own words.

For my own part, I'm weighing the nature part much more heavily than I used to, having met the children of old friends and finding them mini-me's of their parents. For instance, my college roommate was very shy. Her shyness nearly incapacitated her--I had to arrange her hair appointments for her because she was too shy--but by the age of thirty or so, she seemed to have it conquered. Now, her oldest daughter is saddled with the same shyness. The resemblance is practically mirror-image.

Somewhere in all that reading, I linked to this article in Psychology Today that echoes Dr. Helen's children-are-hothouse-flowers fears:

The childhood we've introduced to our children is very different from that in past eras, Epstein stresses. Children no longer work at young ages. They stay in school for longer periods of time and spend more time exclusively in the company of peers. Children are far less integrated into adult society than they used to be at every step of the way. We've introduced laws that give children many rights and protectionsÂ?although we have allowed media and marketers to have free access.

In changing the nature of childhood, Stearns argues, we've introduced a tendency to assume that children can't handle difficult situations. "Middle-class parents especially assume that if kids start getting into difficulty they need to rush in and do it for them, rather than let them flounder a bit and learn from it. I don't mean we should abandon them," he says, "but give them more credit for figuring things out." And recognize that parents themselves have created many of the stresses and anxieties children are suffering from, without giving them tools to manage them.

Hmm. The childhoods around me today are little like my own, that is, they are very structured. It'splaydatee to soccer practice to swimming lessons all day long. I've held out with my own kids as much as possible because I'm skeptical a rigorously scheduled day is necessary or even healthy. Loosely scheduled is a definite must, but I've resisted the institutionalizing of play that is so pervasive in my neighborhood. In fact, I'm looking forward to the day that I hear "Bye, Mom!" and then the slam of the front door.

That's a freedom you can't buy.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Got nothin'!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The new Hezbollah

Dan Senor in the WSJ ($):

And much like Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah in southern Lebanon, Moqtada al-Sadr has tried to establish a state within a state inside Iraq, albeit far more haphazardly. Mr. Sadr, for example, has set up an extrajudicial Sharia court system to put on trial those Iraqi Shiite "heretics" that do not strictly conform to his interpretation of Sharia law. Some "defendants" found guilty have been punished by death. The Mehdi army has also institutionalized its own checkpoints to fill the security vacuum in certain areas of the country -- supplanting what it regards as Iraq's weak national army. It has also infiltrated municipal police forces, particularly in the south.

Messrs. Nasrallah and Sadr both have dual-tracked political strategies: While they seek to establish their own autonomous governing structures, they also influence the national political process by electing allies to the parliament and bargaining for appointments to ministerial posts. While 12 Hezbollah loyalists now sit in Lebanon's parliament (as well as two ministers), over 30 self-identified Sadrists are members of Iraq's 275-seat National Assembly.

Pretty scary stuff.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Snacks

Dinner, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Oh no he di-in't! (or, did Kofi Anan really say that?).

Children speak the truth: "Mom, this part of your leg is ...wider than the rest of your leg." Get away from me kid. You bother me!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

New respect for Snow

The president's press secretary plays the blues. (Via Bill.) When I first watched Tony Snow on Fox News Sunday, I was no big fan. He has too much of a frat boy look for me to not be repelled somewhat, and I thought his glasses were a bit pretentious looking. One Sunday he took them off and I shouted at the TV screen, No! Put them back on! Apparently his glasses hide a caveman-like forehead. Anyway, it's a tolerant America these days, so I put those ugly feelings aside, and lately, I'm liking him more and more.
Vacation is over...


...wish it didn't have to end.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

“All I’ll say is, people should make up their minds if I’m anyone’s lackey, or whether the piece should have run or not, based on what I’ve written during my last 11 years at The Wall Street Journal,”

Did you assume WSJ reporter Glenn Simpson was a lackey of the Bush administration based on the WSJ editorial regarding the publication of the SWIFT terrorism finance scandal?

I didn't.
Mr. Simpson, who is based in Brussels, had been working for months on a story about government monitoring of the international banking system operated by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT. On June 22, Mr. Simpson was in Washington when a Treasury source tipped him that The Times would be publishing a piece on the subject, according to Journal sources. Mr. Simpson delayed a flight back to Belgium and raced to put out a piece on deadline, posting one online minutes after the Times story went out. The Journal, The Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post all had SWIFT stories in the next day’s papers.
That's pretty much how I assumed it went, but WSJ political reporter Jackie Calmes sounds like she's falling apart:

“What I said is, ‘How could any reader take away anything but the fact that [the editorial page] had talked to people on the news side?’” Ms. Calmes said. “I’m unhappy. I know a lot of other people are unhappy. The question is: What do we do about it?”
Do nothing, my dear. Bystander already noted that the editorial page didn't talk to the news page. And wondered aloud why. This reminds me of a classic Futurama in which the Harlem Globetrotters come from another planet to challenge earthlings to a game of basketball and the earthlings get stomped. Lela remarks, "Now all the planets will be cracking wise about our mamas!"

Well, now, all the reporters at WaPo and the NYT's will cracking wise about the WSJ's political lackey reporters!
It's a cardio-vascular fraud

Into every well-laid plan, a little grief and pain must fall. I have no idea what time we leave for vacation today, and even when we do, it's now a working vacation for my husband.

Remember, hard-working engineers, when you are hired, your employer may give you the standard or better than standard vacation time, but they don't expect you to take it!

I myself was working until past the 9:00 hour last night readying the house for our western-state odyssey.

In the meantime, I received a letter from Frontier Communications saying that I have sufficiently proved my existence and they suspect someone fraudulently opened up an account using my name and social security number. In their view, I am no longer accountable for the expenses incurred.

Here is part of a letter I sent them:

This has been a most distressing month to say the least. Not only is your approved list of residency proof too difficult for an at-home parent/home owner to complete, particularly when almost all our bills are in my husbandÂ?s name, the work you have tasked me with should be FrontierÂ?s own.

The irony is astonishing. You clearly opened an account based solely on one piece of identification, one that you didnÂ?t verify. You then assigned to the victim of the crime (me) a part-time job in gathering three pieces of evidence to suit your satisfaction, including time I spent explaining my situation to the town secretary, the town municipal court, the county and J.P. courts, the town postmaster and anyone else you arbitrarily had on your list of required proof, most of whom were flummoxed as to your request and were, in the end, unable to help me.

IÂ?m sympathetic that Frontier Communications is a victim here too. My advice to you is to seek out further identification when opening an account.

Last week I had my body age taken at my gym, and the fitness consultant had the audacity to rate my cardio-vascular health as "poor." This, after over a year of hardcore cardio work, with the last few months being particularly intensive. I can look at this two ways: 1. I will never achieve good cardio-vascular health or 2. it's an improvement because if I'd been measured six months ago, I would probably have been rated "very poor."

I mulled that over a chocolate sundae from Sonic yesterday, while I should have been at the gym, and a few tortilla chips last night when I should have been abstaining.

...and that's it. The kids are up and the promised pancakes will need to be produced. They won't be as good as Dad's, but with all that syrup, I don't think they'll notice.

Bystander is on holiday for the next few weeks. By all means, keep checking in on me to keep my stats good--just don't expect to stay long. Hopefully, I'll have some good pictures when I return.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Press criticism

Goldberg on point:
It is telling that the only leak that troubles the press and its cheerleaders is the Valerie Plame leak. When Dana Priest revealed the location of secret “CIA prisons,” she was rewarded with a Pulitzer. When Lichtblau and James Risen disclosed the NSA surveillance program, they got Pulitzers, too. These revelations caused serious damage to America’s ability to work with allies to fight terrorism and arguably put lives in danger. And yet the only leak to scandalize the media establishment was Plame’s identity as a CIA employee. Why? Because it (allegedly) exposed the only serious enemy America faces: Karl Rove.

Look, I’m all in favor of a free press, and I oppose prior constraint. And of course, there’s partisan cynicism and hypocrisy at play. (The White House loves to leak beneficial information to the press.) But there are merits to press criticism as well. What infuriates me is how anybody who raises these criticisms is caught in a Catch-22.

It works like this: The media gets to reveal anything it wants for any reason it sees fit in the name of “the people’s right to know.” But when the people, in their common sense, object to the disclosure of secret programs they expected their government to be conducting all along, the cognoscenti immediately ridicule the people for their ignorance. And when politicians or pundits echo the same concerns, the press immediately circles the wagons, declaring in its coverage and commentary that any such criticism is out of bounds, even un-American. It seems that for many of these people, free speech is a lot like government secrecy. Both are only legitimate when the New York Times says so.
NoKo is loco

Strategy Page via Instapundit:
[F]ood and fuel supplies sent to North Korea have been halted, not to force North Korea to stop missile tests or participate in peace talks, but to return the Chinese trains the aid was carried in on. In the last few weeks, the North Koreans have just kept the trains, sending the Chinese crews back across the border. North Korea just ignores Chinese demands that the trains be returned, and insists that the trains are part of the aid program. It's no secret that North Korean railroad stock is falling apart, after decades of poor maintenance and not much new equipment. Stealing Chinese trains is a typical loony-tune North Korean solution to the problem. If the North Koreans appear to make no sense, that's because they don't. Put simply, when their unworkable economic policies don't work, the North Koreans just conjure up new, and equally unworkable, plans. The Chinese have tried to talk the North Koreans out of these pointless fantasies, and for their trouble they have their trains stolen. How do you negotiate under these conditions? No one knows.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The end is near...

I found a business card on our lawn for Church & Office Carpets. In small print below the name of the company is written,

The End Is Near...
To Your Carpet Search

Now that's an ad campaign!
Crisis averted

Cox Mechanical came by Monday afternoon to meet with my husband about the noise of our new air conditioning unit. We'd paid extra to have them move the air handler from inside the house to the attic, but there was still more noise than our previous unit. Gene was convinced they had undersized the intake duct. Turns out the grill was cheap and not working properly. The new grill brought the noise level down to practically non-existent. Phew.

That made us feel better but I'm still in sticker shock and feeling that urge to find paying work, along with the usual urge to stay home with the children. What kind of conflicting urges to fathers have? The urge perhaps to buy a sports car versus the urge to by a safe, family car? Perhaps.

In any case, Christmas this year, said the Bystander-family father, will be a "Ho-Ho-No." I'll make sure to prepare the children, Santa Claus. With that news festering in my gut for a few days, and the fact that two hours after my treadmill class I still can't seem to catch my breath I'm in a sour mood.

And while I'm in a sour mood, is it a good idea to tell my children that they are too fat or too skinny? I guess one should avoid such conversations during a low mood swing. I do occasionally tell my daughter to put on some weight because she occasionally looks like I've been neglecting my duties regarding nutrition and calories, which is not true. Her typical response is "No!"

I don't know what the Centers for Disease Control would say about the word skinny, but according the article above,
As far as the CDC is concerned children are never called ‘obese' - regardless of how heavy they are.
Dr. Helen asks,
Are our kids such hot house flowers that the truth about their condition is enough to send them over the edge? If so, their obesity, at risk of being overweight, fat or lard etc. is the least of our problems.
Here I think we have the classic language problem of denotation versus connotation. The words fat and obese have come to mean bad, and not just bad in the health sense, but if you are fat or obese you are bad through and through, morally, intellectually, etc. You have very little value, thus we mustn't tell children that they are fat or obese because that would be the same as telling them they are worthless.

This smacks somewhat of projection. Adult fears of being thought of as bad are precluding adults from telling children the truth about their weight. He's just husky. She's a chubbette! I'm hesitant to say with a resounding YES--tell kids they're fat or obese because I don't know what child psychologists have to say about children's tender egos being bogged down with such heavily-loaded labels, but I think at the very least, parents should be made to face the reality of their children's weight problem with the correct descriptions be it within earshot of the kids or not.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The devil wears Louis Feraud

Or did when I worked there. Here's Myrna Blyth's comment on fashion culture:
Personally, I would bet that there are some assistants somewhere in the bowels of Conde Nast who have maxed out their credit cards, dressing in Chanels. And some probably have parents who have been buying them couture since they were tall enough to fit into a size two. There are still some magazines, like the priciest of colleges, that young women can only work at if their parents can afford to send them.
That seems very true to me. The fashion industry attacted a lot of wealthy gals back when I was on Seventh Ave. at Louis Feraud. You could tell by the shoes. Mine were 9 West, though many of the other women wore Prada.
Keeping cool

It's a cool 72 degrees in the house. Don't tell my husband, but I really didn't mind the heat. I lived without a/c in New York and for a while in Austin. Oh, we had window units, but I rarely bothered to turn them on as it seemed like too much trouble and a lot of noise. It used to drive my roommate crazy, which was fun. But then, the heat the last two days was dry and probably only as high as the mid-90's, which kept it 85 in the house. We have a window unit in our glass-encased backporch, where the toys are, so the kids didn't seem to mind.

I now have a HUGE whole in my wallet, burned right through. So please send work, of the paying variety.

We're off to small-town Oklahoma for the Fourth celebration. This town was recently made famous because ex-FEMA director Michael Brown listed on his resume that he was assistant city manager there. It has also been rated "best-small town in America," though as this site points out, with 80,000 people, it hardly qualifies as small.

Update: Husband is dissatisfied with the new unit. It's making too much noise in his estimation and he's not going to take it lying down, not after what we just spent!
Keeping the story alive

Spinning wheels? Spinning furiously? I don't know if I have the heart this morning to read Bill Keller's and Dean Baquet's latest plea for understanding in their case for publishing secret, legal, successful anti-terrorist measures. It must not be very good because it's not behind the Times Select wall!

Among other things, Ann Althouse has this to say:
Here, Baquet and Keller have written a lengthy defense of their behavior, behavior that they know has been severely criticized, even called "treason." Despite the length, the piece seems padded. Look at that last paragraph in the blockquote above. We judge, we weigh, we make judgments. Essentially, trust us. Trust us, because you shouldn't just trust the government. Agreed, but why should we trust you? We look at what you just did and feel mistrustful. What in these generic remarks cures that mistrust? You tell us you really did think about it. Those who abhor what you did will not feel inspired to trust you when you say this is where we ended up when we really thought deeply about it.
Here's a man, who doesn't trust the NYT's and he lays out a pretty good case.
When I was in Iraq, the NY Times printed stories that explained where the weaknesses were in our body armor. Since my return to CONUS, I've seen them print stories that have reduced our ability to track terrorists by monitoring their communications, spot patterns in their phone calling and monitor their financial transactions. These aren't illegal or even questionable programs that the Times is exposing. They're as legal as investigations of mob bosses and they're done with subpeonas and through international treaties, and they've gotten proven results.