Saturday, March 31, 2007

I don't believe you!

I am not yet halfway through this NYT's magazine article on children's self-esteem and it is killing me!

When students transition into junior high, some who’d done well in elementary school inevitably struggle in the larger and more demanding environment. Those who equated their earlier success with their innate ability surmise they’ve been dumb all along. Their grades never recover because the likely key to their recovery—increasing effort—they view as just further proof of their failure. In interviews many confess they would “seriously consider cheating.”

Students turn to cheating because they haven’t developed a strategy for handling failure. The problem is compounded when a parent ignores a child’s failures and insists he’ll do better next time. Michigan scholar Jennifer Crocker studies this exact scenario and explains that the child may come to believe failure is something so terrible, the family can’t acknowledge its existence. A child deprived of the opportunity to discuss mistakes can’t learn from them.

Reminds me of a certain redheaded blogger I know intimately, though I don't recall my parents doling out excessive praise, so where I picked it up, I've no idea. Egads, I need to protect my kids from nefarious praisers! It may be too late--my oldest already avoids difficult tasks, like addition! Apparently, it's not nearly as easy as writing and recognizing letters.

Via Peter Suderman. at The Corner, who reminisces his childhood experiences:
I sat through hours of an all purpose feel-good/social messages course called “Me-Ology” (no kidding) in 5th grade. It came complete with a color-in workbook that you could personalize and which had no wrong answers, and was exactly as loopy and gravy-brained as you’d expect from a course called “Me-Ology.”
Free to be you and me, baby!

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Gulf of Rosie O'Donnell is my Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly!

If this is true, then it's not exactly the Gulf of Tonkin moment that Rosie O'Donnell (who?) speaks of.
Iran initially gave coordinates (the correct coordinates) that placed the action in Iraqi waters. Iran later provided new coordinates, conveniently inside Iranian territory.
Via Instapundit.

After I started this post, I had to wrestle once again with my distaste for this woman, and I realized I have the same reaction to her that lefties have to the above mentioned pundits. And when they do mention Rush or O'Reilly, I always ask, who cares about them? I'm not in their audience and don't really feel like they're part of the serious conversation.

Oh, well, maybe they are and I'm just cocooned, but in any case, I would do well to swallow a spoonful of my own medicine now and then.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007


It's a cat eat cat world when fashionistas rear their pretty heads at the NYT's. (Via Althouse.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Argyle Acres

My latest piece for the Cross Timbers Gazette is posted here in pdf. It's about Joe and Donna Spears, a couple in Argyle, Tex., who are painting American lawns with every color but red, one iris at a time. Here's a passage:

The hobby that started out with a few plants from his mother’s garden has bloomed into 1700 varieties, “not that many considering there’s 80,000 registered varieties,” said Joe, but it is enough so that today the Spears sell to iris lovers all over the country.

The vibrant colors that attract many a traveler are born of the work that starts in October with the planting of the crop—hearty best sellers and crowd pleasers. By “January we revise the website and we prepare the new catalog, so we can begin to take orders in February,” said Donna, who in her other life is a process and documentation specialist for EDS. All winter long, they catalog and record data, which gives them much to discuss at their Fort Worth Iris Society meetings. “We’re addicts,” said Joe. “We go sit in a circle and we talk about our addiction. It’s group therapy.”

In July, the shipping begins to the northern climates. The Spears have customers as far as the New England states. “Crunch week” comes around Labor Day with further harvest and shipping to the southern states.

I'm absolutely no gardener, but I'm feeling brave lately and I am going to visit them when the irises bloom in April and maybe purchase a few for next spring. I'll try to get some colorful pictures.

Their 2000-square-foot log home was gorgeous and makes me kick myself for choosing a suburban development over undeveloped neighborhoods. I shall soon cease kicking because 1. it's impossible to know what experience requires and 2. I don't want to risk knee injury.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Does this online poll make me look fat?
You could stand to lose a few.
Are you kidding? You're too thin!
Gotta go--I'm late for my car waxing! free polls


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cathy's World comments section and me

I'm quite thrown by Gary M's comment, "Nancy, you were always one of the brainy ones that Cathy's readers most looked forward to seeing in digital 'print'" because I consider myself the opposite of brainy. Discussions not only of important Americans like Thomas Jefferson, but of which biographer of Jefferson is to be trusted are several realms out of my element, and those types of discussions are frequent.

But I love to listen read the discussions, even though I can add little to nothing. Occasionally, I put myself out there to try to get a handle on the subject matter, and that is the great thing about the community--nobody has shot me down (yet), even when I deserved it. (That reminds me to apologize about my cranky remarks about redheaded men and baby boomers (but not redheaded baby boomer men!)

And that too, was a great thing about Cathy. She often relied fearlessly on common sense wisdom and refused to apologize for it. I told her once wistfully that her fearlessness was a quality I much admired, and I'm inspired by it.

People paying attention will also note that I started to emulate Cathy in my writing style. I can't help it! You know how people pick up on each other's accents? Well, I do that in writing. I don't mean to--it just happens. (When I'm reading Jane Austen, I become insufferable.)

Local West Coast commenters talk of meeting at Olivera's and I imagine myself among them. Unfortunately, even in my imagination, I'm serving drinks and clearing ashtrays. That's pretty much the way I see myself.

Anyway, let me click publish before I change my mind, but before I do I want to thank you all for your kind words.


Who? Tell us who!

Here's a post I started last week, but never finished.

Let me get this off my mind. A few days ago, I read this NYT's editorial, which I found via Ann Althouse:

In its fumbling attempts to explain the purge of United States attorneys, the Bush administration has argued that the fired prosecutors were not aggressive enough about addressing voter fraud. It is a phony argument; there is no evidence that any of them ignored real instances of voter fraud. But more than that, it is a window on what may be a major reason for some of the firings.

In partisan Republican circles, the pursuit of voter fraud is code for suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people. By resisting pressure to crack down on “fraud,” the fired United States attorneys actually appear to have been standing up for the integrity of the election system.

Emphasis added. It is certainly true, where Civil Rights are concerned, some conservatives don't have a good record. Nor do some Democrats, but I wish wish wish that instead of spreading the smelly manure of accusatory racism accusations, that the editorialists at the NYT's would just do a little reporting and tell us which Republican circles it is that want to suppress votes of minorities. Where I come from, that's called journalism. What we have here is rumor-mongering.

PS I'm not really sure what 'mongering' means or where it comes from.

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The Plame game

Lockstep Cathyite Jim Treacher had his own take on the the Plame affair back in '06.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Thank you, Cathy Seipp

These are sad, sad times for friends and fans of Cathy Seipp, of whom I am but one. I have many things to say about this generous woman, this exacting writer, but they will have to wait for another day when my heart is less heavy. Posting, I suppose, will resume then.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I weigh in on Plame!

I had no idea how the trial would turn out, though my feeling is Libby wasn't trying to out a covert CIA agent. One thing that always annoys me about the Wilsons is their flashiness. Her hair is too blond to be believed and Wilson's hair is too feathery. Add his hairstyle to his flashy suits and these two aren't trustworthy.

Don't click away. I can make my case! The whole Vanity Fair spread bugged the C*#H%I out of me, so I looked it up.

On October 5 of 2003, Larry Curly Joe Wilson goes on Meet Tim Russert and announces:
And my wife has made it very clear that—she has authorized me to say this—she would rather chop off her right arm than say anything to the press and she will not allow herself to be photographed.
On November 8 2003 (one month later), the Wilsons pose for a Vanity Fair spread for the January 2004 issue. Valerie is wearing a disguise that could fool only viewers of the original TV series Batman.

Turns out Russert's wife is a special correspondent for Vanity Fair. Coincidente? I think not! What does this mean? One thing for sure--it's a small, small, small media world and you and I dear reader? We're merely bystanders.

PS If she's so covert, why hasn't Richard Armitage been arrested? But then, she's not a lawyer and can't be bothered with the legal definition.

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Great moments in parenting, spring broken and other joys of suburban life

A week ago my daughter complained of a sore throat and began moping about as is her wont, and I let her mope about but then warned her sternly the times when one is mopey are good times for alone time. A few hours later, she had a low fever. So the next day, Friday, I kept her home from school and her condition stayed the same.

During all this her father was in Mexico City to fix some problemos telefonos a un banco. But he returned Sunday and I escaped with my sanity barely intact to the book store, a movie--some whatever stuff. When I got home, she'd been outside playing with some neighbor kids and looked like she was about to wilt, so she came in for rest. I took her temperature. Yep--another fever. This is likely strep.

The thing about sore throats and fevers is that if it's strep, the doctor will give you an anti-biotic and it will clear the fever is twenty-four hours, but if it's not, the doctor will thank you for stopping by and send you home on your merry way, prescribing rest and plenty of fluids. I always feel like a failure with the latter prescription--you know, like an over-anxious mother.

Then I feel like a failure if I miss the former because it means, in this case, my daughter's been sick three days longer than she would have if I'd gone to her pediatrician on Friday. I guess for me, motherhood is a mousetrap ready to snap on me if I take the cheese or not.

So, by Wednesday she was back at school, and good thing too, because I can't write when the kids are home bothering me, and I had a freelance piece due that day.

Next month is her birthday and she requested to have her party at Libby Lu's, something I did not automatically say no to. The first time I saw Libby Lu's at the mall, I was a bit sickened to see little girls all dolled up in make up and wearing black sequined tube tops. It was the black sequins that got me. Not age appropriate I think. Not that make up is, but the make up is pure child's play and the dress up should be too, and black sequins don't fit that bill.

But last month she attended a party there and came back the happiest I'd seen her come back from a birthday party, so I called Libby Lu's to ask about pricing, and their rack room rate is $22.50 a child.


I tortured myself over this for about a week and finally brought it up to my husband, who sensibly told me to check out the competitor, but they were no better. Here's the thing: at this age, I live by the principle that you invite all the kids or none of the kids, and you can break that up by gender, according to Nancy's Principles for Children's Birthday Parties. She's got ten girls in her class, plus one other tight friend, so we were looking at $250 just for the makeovers. Cake not included. Gee whiz! At Chuck E. Cheese you get pizza, cake, games and you get to meet Chuck, all for around a hundred bucks.

So, I made up my mind that I would let Emma choose to compromise the principles, but also give her the choice of having a party at home to invite all of her friends. You can invite three friends to Libby Lu's, I said, or all of your friends for a party at home. Three or four friends, Mom? Yes, three or four. Four or five? Uuuh...Five or six, Mom?

"No," I said firmly. "Three or four." What about Pump it Up, she asked? Pump it Up is another party venue with four our five bounce houses in a big room. It's a lot of fun, but I already checked into them and they ain't cheap either. "Next year, we'll combine your party with your brother's and have it at Pump it Up," I said.

It took her two more seconds to decide.

Okay, let's have the party at home!

Hooray! I should have just decided this one for her, but I'm glad we're on the same side. Still, looking at what I wrote after last year's birthday party, I'm getting that old gnawing anxiety again because even though we'd planned, we still ended up with 35 extra minutes.
Messes were made, feelings were hurt, battles were fought and won and otherwise tons of pandemonium, but I think all in all most of the girls had a good time.
  • Children will not mind you.
  • When told a certain game is about to begin, some children will say, "I don't want to play." And they won't.
  • Children will not mind you.
  • Do not offer children choices in beverages or foods.
  • Two hours is too long for a 5-year birthday party.
  • Children will not mind you.
They also started diving into present opening while I was in the other room looking for a piece of paper to write down what came from who. I'll have to ask the moms at pre-school what their daughters brought, making me 15% less perfect in their eyes.
This year, I'm adding pizza and a mini-makeover. Maybe I can lasso a friend into helping me with that part. My husband is brave and smart, but the subtleties of hair and glitter gloss might elude even him.

Speaking of my husband, he was approached by the president of his company early in January. It was one of those moments when he knew someone was behind him but he was right in the middle of something, so he held up a hand without looking to tell whoever it was to wait. Oops. Anyway, His Royal Excellency, the president, was there to inform my husband that he had carried over 79 hours of vacation time and that he was only allowed to carry over 40, but that he was going to allow him to keep 58.

Fair enough. And good, I thought. Let's use those hours. This week is Spring Break for the kids and we're bookended with various in law visits. Plus, we're going to convert Brendan's room into a big boy room. Of course, on the eve of our vacation, as is usual, Gene's boss gives him the "you're not really going on vacation now?" routine that we suffer at every vacation, and many a curse goes through my head as I'm sure goes through Gene's when this occurs, every time. Yes, as a matter of fact I am, was Gene's reply, though I'm sure it was more politic than that. So, of course he had to stay past midnight last night to fix whatever it is software engineers fix before a BIG BUILD. I actually don't know what time he got in last night. I had long been asleep and slept in until 8:00 because the children are at Grandma's.

I have bagels and sliced fruit waiting for when he wakes up, and then taxes and gardening after that. Ah, the pleasures of a child-free weekend!


Friday, March 16, 2007

It's the little things...

...that tell you a lot about a person:
Schumer was a senior at Harvard in 1971 when he wrote the paper about building a more effective Congress -- and furious when he received a B. His instructor? Conservative commentator Bill Bennett, a Harvard law student who was teaching the undergraduate social studies course. "He went nuts," said Bennett, who was unmoved when Schumer lobbied for a higher grade.

Bennett said the senator still reminds him of the beef every time they meet. "He says, 'I don't know if you remember this . . .' and I say, 'Stop with the grade-grubbing.' "

We wanted to hear why Schumer thought he deserved an A, but he didn't get back to us yesterday. Bennett has finally relented -- a little: "At this point, I'd be happy to review the paper."

I find Senator Schumer to be kind of an annoying guy--I think that's because he's so all-the-time-everywhere. In fact, I remember Mort Kondracke saying that the joke around the press corps was that the most dangerous place to be in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and a television camera. But the Bennett story is really kind of funny.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Playing right now
Daughter has fever and sore throat, husband was unexpectedly called away on business for the weekend and I'm beginning to feel the cabin fever.

*I came in third.

Update: I should have a glass of chardonnay. (See two posts below; I'd link to it, but that would just annoy regular visitors.)


Spring forward?

Is it time to change the clocks for Daylight Savings Time tonight? If so, here's my post on the history of it last year.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Cocktail playdates!

I have no objection, though I really don't like to drink during the day. Puts me to sleepiness, but of course a segment on Today about a woman who wrote a book called Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay: And Other Things I Had to Learn as a New Mom got a lot of heated emails from people on both sides of the debate. I didn't find the Columbia professor who commented on the segment to be as judgmental as Dr. Helen did. I think she was just trying to stay on point that Mom needs to be able to react to her child in case of an injury or emergency. And unlike one emailer, I think that's usually possible after one or two glasses of wine. The emailer noted that children can fall off of monkey bars or swings. My two-year-old did that three weeks ago and I was cold sober.

The author of Sippy Cups kept stressing over and over to stop pressuring moms--about her behavior, about breast feeding, about working or not--which is a good point, but in the end isn't it up to the mom whether she's going to allow herself to feel pressured?

Dr. Helen warns of the nanny-state culture and urges us to go back to the "martinis and grown-up rituals of yesteryear."


Office phile, I

Here's something new NBC is trying (WSJ $):
In an unusual experiment aimed at improving ratings for reruns, NBC next week plans to air two previously seen half-hour episodes of "The Office" that have been re-edited into a new hour-long show. Some scenes will be cut so producers can weave in unaired footage that introduces a new storyline into the older episodes.
It's going to be called a "newpeat." Networks are struggling with the ratings of repeats. Last night NBC aired two repeats of The Office, which I watched and enjoyed again, but I skipped the repeat of My Name is Earl because with that show, once is enough.

The article specifically cites ABC's Desperate Housewives as fairing poorly on repeat nights. I skip that show in repeats too because it's plot-driven, and fast-paced at that. Once I know the story line, I don't need to go back to enjoy the acting.

However I will watch repeats of Miami CSI or CSI New York because the plots are complex enough (and the sound engineering is annoying enough) that I miss plenty of dialog and story curves so that I can watch it a second time and feel pulled along enough to enjoy the acting.

My only concern about the newpeat for The Office is the new story line they create with cutting room floor footage. It needs to be good enough to keep viewers wanting more. Here's my favorite quote about The Office fans from the article:
"Their loyalty must be rewarded somehow, and we don't have the budget to send out 10 million muffin baskets," says Executive Producer Greg Daniels.
I don't know ...muffins or new episodes ...I could go either way on this.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I demand a recount!

You Are 40% Texas

You're as welcome in Texas as a skunk at a lawn party.

Well, I always knew that I was a little bit different.

Added: Hat tip: South Texian. Thanks Mike!


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Which will arrive as the people's candidate?

We need an Orwell to offer some psychological explanation for why an Al Gore, who gobbles up carbon-based power in his mansion and private jet, continues to harangue the less well off about their energy profligacy and threats to the planet, or why a John Edwards, who just finished a towered 28,000 sq. foot palace, claims Jesus would find us unforgiving to the poor, and serially speaks in terms of two nations, rich and poor.
C'mon! They're funny!


Monday, March 05, 2007

Yor hona, I'm just uh po' cuntreh chicken

Drudge headline screams "Kentucky Fried Hillary: NY Senator Adopts Southern Drawl in Church Service," and links to these audio clips. It's funny because I heard a clip of Obama's Selma speech on the radio yesterday and heard the same southern accent, which he doesn't seem to usually have.

It's hard for me not to adopt accents of people I'm speaking to--they just envelope me, but I think speech givers would be very careful of that. I wonder if there will be any blowback?

Funny Futurama tie-in here. Scroll down to the Hyper-Chicken.

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