Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Vitamin takers beware!

I've never been a pill popper, be it prescriptive, over-the-counter, or otherwise, but especially vitamins. I have a very hard time remembering and even enjoying the daily ritual. Now JAMA's got news that they may be bad for you anyway:

the evidence is that taking vitamins, either singly or as part of a multivitamin pill, actually increases mortality by 5 per cent.
The same article cites a different study that eating low-fat dairy products may make it difficult to conceive:
The researchers found that women eating normal amounts of low-fat dairy products stood a higher risk of failing to conceive. Their diet appears to be implicated in a failure to ovulate, which is responsible for 12 to 15 per cent of cases of infertility. Women who ate whole-fat dairy products suffered fewer cases of this form of infertility.
I have known women who have told me their ob/gyn's have told them to put on weight when they are trying to conceive. Perhaps this is related.

Via Althouse.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Living with snipers

I'd like to know the name of the reporter from The Economist who came to Iraq without equipment, without a sleeping bag, without a pad of paper and pencil to take notes, ingratiated himself to some Marines for two days and then went home to write lies about them, according to the marine in this video.

It's a good video; it brings a human element generally lost in the news.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Another story that makes me glad I didn't rush

The national chapter of one sorority hid all the overweight girls during recruitment.

A few days after the interviews, national representatives took over the house to hold a recruiting event. They asked most members to stay upstairs in their rooms. To welcome freshmen downstairs, they assembled a team that included several of the women eventually asked to stay in the sorority, along with some slender women invited from the sorority’s chapter at Indiana University, Ms. Holloway said.

“They had these unassuming freshman girls downstairs with these plastic women from Indiana University, and 25 of my sisters hiding upstairs,” she said. “It was so fake, so completely dehumanized. I said, ‘This calls for a little joke.’ ”

Ms. Holloway put on a wig and some John Lennon rose-colored glasses, burst through the front door and skipped around singing, “Ooooh! Delta Zeta!” and other chants.

The face of one of the national representatives, she recalled, “was like I’d run over her puppy with my car.”

Good grief.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007



Where history meets the future

Here's my story on the Bartonville Food Store (in PDF). It's a fifty-year-old store in a small country town that was once an agricultural community but has since turned into suburbs. The store borders some unincorporated land that is owned by Republic Properties Group, which has built a residential development, Lantana, from the 150's to the 300's. RPG is now ready to give all those Metroplex commuters a grocery store and other retail outlets, so it dedicated some of its property to Bartonville to widen the road that Bartonville Food Store sits on. The new road will bypass the old one, and also the country store that makes its living on drive-by traffic.

The owner of Lantana Links and the Cross Timbers Gazette, for whom I wrote the story, had to give me a crash course in small town government for me to get a grasp of the situation. A transplant from Virginia, he is heavily involved in the unincorporated community himself and lately indoctrinated in small town government.

But the owner of the Bartonville Food Store has been around for fifty years. The recent development has been good for business. As always, seeing my piece a week later, with a fresh set of eyes, reveals all kinds of places where I'd make changes, but in any case, here's part of my story:

The expanded road is slated to be finished in 2008. Price, a one-time Argyle fire chief and long-time volunteer fireman, is expecting the construction to be good for the Bartonville Food Store. “The people that build the road—they’ve got to eat and drink somewhere.”

Already a hangout for construction crews, Price is seeing an upsurge in homeowner business as well. “You constantly have to adapt to your clientele,” he says. On a good Saturday, he gets about a hundred bicyclists stopping for granola bars and bottles of water, a different kind of customer, to be sure, from the ones who depended on Bartonville Food Store for staples fifty years ago.

But after the curve is complete and the retail outlets developed, if the traffic doesn’t warrant a stoplight, the clients may begin to dwindle. Regular customers of Bartonville Food Store are worried. “I’ve had quite a bit of comments about people wanting us to stay,” says Price. Nearby a group picture of regulars, family and friends of the store hangs on the wall. On the opposite wall a fire roars inside his pellet-burning stove, heating the store. “My plan is to survive.”

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Friday, February 23, 2007

On sexualizing girls

I'm against it, of course. I thought toe-nail polish was a sexual thing, but every other woman in my world did not and several painted my daughter's toes before she was four, so I couldn't hold that one back.

I am trying to stave off the Bratz, which have caught her attention. She knows I frown upon them--they're dolls with toddler bodies but teen heads, made up so that their eyelids are heavily painted and lips mimic botox-injected movie stars' lips, lined and darkly painted. They also wear clothes better left to post-pubescence. We can fight over clothes like that in a few more years. Her father has already ruled out gym shorts with a word in all-caps written over both cheeks.

Ooh, here's what the maker of Bratz says,
Isaac Larian, whose company makes the large-eyed, pouty-lipped Bratz dolls, says, "Kids are very smart and know right from wrong." What's more, his testing indicates that girls want Bratz "because they are fun, beautiful and inspirational," he wrote in an e-mail. "Not once have we ever heard one of our consumers call Bratz 'sexy.' " Some adults "have a twisted sense of what they see in the product," Larian says.
Well, parents who criticize your dolls as sexy probably aren't your customers! So, anyway, Bratz are on the low shelf at SuperTarget and it's birthday season, but I try to keep her eyes on other toys for gift purchases, like Doodle Bears. Now that's not controversial at all. Nobody ever called a Doodle Bear sexy.

Except maybe another Doodle Bear.

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Trent Lott beclowns himself

Apparently, he's mad as hell at State Farm, and being in a powerful position, he's not gonna take it anymore!
Mr. Lott's beachfront property in Pascagoula -- one of three homes he owned -- was swept away entirely by Hurricane Katrina's waters. Like many Gulf Coast residents, Mr. Lott was soon reminded by his insurer, State Farm, that his policy only covered wind damage -- not flood damage. The senator surely knew that, which is why he'd also purchased federal flood insurance. According to his flood policy that was in effect when Katrina hit, he was covered up to $350,000 in flood damages, and he presumably collected in full. (Sen. Lott's office didn't return my call.)

State Farm, however, refused to cough up, inspiring Mr. Lott to embark on a campaign ripped straight out of the Democratic playbook. First was to pay a call to the favorite mob squad of the left, the plaintiffs' bar. Quicker than you can say "tort reform," Dickie Scruggs, the legal kingpin who engineered Mississippi's tobacco shakedown, was representing Mr. Lott in a high-profile lawsuit against State Farm.
And there's more to be proud of.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lingo

Is beclown the new kerfuffle?

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Austin marathon in Baghdad!
Almost 300 people ran in the AT&T Austin Marathon and Half-Marathon as well as the Baghdad Bombs and Bullets 5 miler in Baghdad Saturday. The event was open to anyone in the IZ that wanted to participate. People from several countries registered for the marathon.
Baghdad Bombs and Bullets 5 miler? That ought to help your speed!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Jet blues

The whole Jet Blue fiasco reminded me of a similar one I suffered as a flight attendant years ago. I was working for a small airline with about five or ten jets that flew out of JFK to a few Florida destinations.

Same deal--ice storm plus a mechanical. We were scheduled to take off at 7:30 a.m., but we had a mechanical at the gate. The passengers were allowed to wait in the terminal until we were ready to leave around 2:30p.m. That was when our afternoon flight departed too, so we combined the flights. During the wait, however, one or two passengers decided to wait on board, so I had to wait with them. When we pulled away from the gate, we got another mechanical. But we had lost our gate, which we rented from Delta.

The agreement apparently was that we bought thirty minutes at the gate and thirty minutes was all we got. The pilots kept requesting gate space, and Delta (or the control towers) kept telling them to wait. We waited on the tarmac until dark. Around 9:00, the pilots left the plane because they were about to exceed the hours they were allowed to sit in the cockpit and break FAA regulations. But another crew boarded and Delta finally sent a people mover for the rest of us.

Wonder of wonders the mechanical was finally fixed, but by then it was so cold and snowy we needed to be de-iced. There were about three de-icing trucks in the whole airport (or maybe just our terminal, but it seemed like the whole airport). When one finally started coming our way, it broke down before it got to us. Unbelievably, so did a second. Another was sent, and we finally took off somewhere close to midnight.

It was a miserable day of course. I was the second-most senior flight attendant. The first flight attendant refused to let us feed the passengers because it's against FAA regulations to have food and drink out on the tarmac. The passengers eventually fed themselves.

There were cross words, a claustrophobic attack and a subsequent escort off the plane by police officers; a fight I think at the overwing exits and another escort off the plane by police. There were tears and nervous stomachs, mine included. The worst part was waiting for word from the captain, who had left the plane, and promised to send word; and then waiting for same from the first officer and not getting it, and then seeing that old curmudgeonly engineer abandon us via the aft staircase. I felt very alone.

We flew to Florida with the new flight crew, picked up some passengers who had been waiting all day and returned to New York the next morning around 7:00. Now that was a long day at work.

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Monster post!

This picture comes from Ft. Thomas, Kentucky (a short drive to Cincinnati) taken earlier this week by my friend Becky's husband, Greg. Click on it to see how thick the ice got.

Sorry to be away so long. I added one thing to my to-do list this past week and it threw everything off. When it gets published, I'll link it.

By the way, this brief moment of sanity (or inanity, if you like) is brought to you by my husband who has taken charge of the children this morning and afternoon, dropped one off at a birthday party and taken the other with him to Lowes to buy fertilizer. Ah, yes. If we want a green lawn this spring, we'll have to do it ourselves. No more service for us! And when I say ourselves, I don't mean me.

Two weeks ago I went to a new optometrist to update my prescription and get contact lenses. The new lenses, Bausch and Lomb Clear Vision, are thinner and lighter than my old brand. I was delighted. Unfortunately, they scratched my eyeballs, so last week, I returned to my optometrist and asked for a different brand. He checked my eyes to make sure the B&L were fitting properly and then showed me a spreadsheet showing that 76% of contact wearers who use generic Target brand no-rub solution have discomfort with these lenses. He said that if I bought the brand-name Opti-Free Replenish, it should clear up any problems, and a week later, it seems he was right. Assignment: Bradley J. Fikes--is Opti-Free colluding with Bausch & Lomb to keep budget-minded moms away from generic solutions?

If you haven't checked in on Instapundit today, I recommend this article by a Democratic political consultant. It gave me lots of hope, as did his blog, for the more liberal party.

His article comments on the John Edwards/ campaign blogger scandal, in which John Edwards hired two liberal bloggers for his campaign. They had a lot of anti-Christian rants on old posts which they then deleted, but of course, it was already out. Eventually, they quit.
It also goes to show just how deeply most liberal bloggers believe that Republicans and conservative are morally illegitimate, and as such, any criticism or argument made by the other side is on its face corrupt and dismissible.

(Snnnn-ip!)

In the long run, the only way to prevent embarrassments like this from escalating and causing greater damage – and more importantly, to fulfill the rich potential of the blogosphere as a persuasion and organizing tool – is for the voices of reason within the Netroots to stand up to the smack down artists and prod their peers to trade their juvenile accusations for mature arguments.

This is not to say that liberal bloggers or Democrats in general don’t have good reason to be angry about the war or the Bush Administration, or that we should drain our politics of passion. We can and should be aggressive in our convictions and tough in our defenses. It’s just that all available evidence indicates that labeling people who don’t agree with us “liars” and “morons” and “fascists” is not the best way to get them to vote for us.

An anti-war guy I know recently went to a well-known liberal site and got chased out of it because even though he agreed with them, he wasn't mad enough. He's a pretty reasonable guy, so I hope he's not too bruised by the experience.

In other news, last weekend my neighborhood Girl Scout came by to drop off two boxes of cookies. I took the opportunity to congratulate myself for not keeping cookies and other junk food around the house on a regular basis. I mean--considering all the seasons that are occasion for baked goodies and packaged treats, there's barely a reason to do so. Let's see--Halloween candy gets thrown out Dec. 1; Thanksgiving pies in November; baked streudel and whatnot on Christmas (not to mention eggnog, etc.); January's long, but Girl Scout cookie season starts in early February; Valentine's Day, which my daughter would like to treat on a Christmas-sized scale; chocolate Easter bunnies could come as early as late March in some years; we have April birthdays, which bring chocolate cake; May and June are slow, but I'm sure there are end of the year class parties, which again come with treats; July's got us wrapped up on the Fourth with all kinds of outdoor cooking and sodas to go with; August and September might be a bit slow, but other kids have birthdays in those months, so I'm sure mine won't be deprived of something sweet.

After the Girl Scout left, I then devoured nearly eight Roundabouts, and wasn't particularly hungry for my husband's fried chicken. And now you know why I don't stock cookies in the house on a regular basis.

This morning I got up at my usual Monday-Friday time to register my son for preschool next year. He looooves it! Alas, I can only do three mornings a week, plus one afternoon of stay-and-play. In line next to me was a woman with four kids, the older ones she home-schools. So I chatted her up about that because it's such a fast-growing phenomenon in my area and she listed Christian values and lessons as part of her reasons for liking it so much. She actually home-schools three times a week; and her kids attend classes twice a week at an academy.

What I wanted to know was didn't she ever feel like she needed a break from the kids? Wasn't that a challenge for her personally? I think know it would be for me. Oh, sure, she said, but she goes to Women's Bible Study Tuesdays and Thursdays mornings to get some adult time.

I would not have thought of Bible Study as a place to blow off steam. I blew off steam today at Tony Cao, and actually had the proprietor cut my hair, but that's another post.

I looked familiar to her and she asked what church I go to; I think I'm the only woman in town who doesn't belong to one. Well, perhaps she's met me at a Bible Study? No, I said. Well, I was registering my son at a Lutheran preschool, so that might add to the confusion. It's strange having so much in common with church-goers, except the all-important part of actually going to church.

Our talk later turned to houses and the cost of heating and cooling them. Hers is newer than mine, but I quipped, someday our 1986 house will be retro-chic. Well, maybe in about 20 years, which makes me go back and forth on my dream of a new kitchen. If I got one today, twenty years from now, I'd be bored with it and complain that it's so early 21st century. Sigh.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Holocaust survivor attacked by Holocaust denier

It breaks my heart.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

"Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers"

I was just going to say--what the -- when I noticed someone else said it for me:
No, Ellen. Let's not just say that. Denying that the industrialized mass-murder of millions actually happened isn't really quite the same thing as refusing to believe global warming is real.
Thank God, though, for brave Prius-driving, fluorescent-light-bulb buying Boston Globe columnists! Bahahahahaha! Thanks, Mike.

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HPV vaccine

Yes, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a law making it mandatory for all school girls, unless, apparently if their parents object on religious or moral grounds, or something else.

I dunno. Pharmaceutical companies are in business to get rich as are all other businesses. The link between Perry and the lobbyist is not bothering me so far either. That's the way it works, doesn't it? You either are or work for an elected official until you quit or get tossed out of office and then you lobby. Nobody goes back to teaching, do they? Maybe some do. I actually have no idea.

Anyway, there's a round up of links here in the comments section. Scroll down--apparently my state senator is crying foul, as this order seems to have skipped the legislative process, which seen seems odd.

More here via Instapundit.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Given pause

...over this little tidbit:
I think fining and criminally prosecuting parents who don't show up for parent-teacher conferences is absurd, though it would offend me less at the very local level. But I do think this is a good example of how the state expands when the civil society contracts. When individuals stop acting responsibly, government feels the need to step in and pick up the slack. It's a small example of a very large point: the greatest invitation to statism is a society that won't take care of itself. Or as I put it here, pick up your own d*mn cr*p.
Emphasis added.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Target Sunday and getting Peg'd

I recently wrote a piece on education for a local magazine, but it didn't get published for all kinds of non-journalistic reasons, but Pegasus News is always looking for local writers in the Metroplex, and I'm looking to charm them because one day I hope they'll offer me a big salary to work from 9:00 to 2:45 Monday through Friday. You know--Moms's hours, in the salary I'd like to become accustomed to.

That's got to be more than a dream, doesn't it? I mean, I have friends set up in pretty good gigs. My college roommate is with the oil company that hired her right out of college and when she became a mom, she negotiated three days a week.

Of course, my best friend from tenth grade is also working for an oil company, but does not get those mom-friendly hours. I believe she told me she has two nannies, or at least one, two sounds like a Hollywood movie.

Lesson here: get a job with an oil company right out of college.

Things have happened in the time I've been apart from those friends. Twins, job loss, separation. It's time to catch up, so I've arranged to meet up next month. Maybe they'll give some advice about being a working mom. It has to happen some day. A lot is riding on our future income. Both my husband and I spent a lot of time flitting away our twenties and not saving money, nor investing or even starting a mortgage. No, for those things plus childbirth, we waited until our mid-thirties. My baby is recently out of diapers; it's time to get him in the work force.

Or maybe just me. Oh, not tomorrow, maybe not even next year, but likely the year after that. Sure that sounds like at least 365 days to you, but to me it's just a couple of semesters and one or two Christmases. It'll be gone like that.

It's been five year since I've worked a professional job and five years since we moved into this house and today, I'm happy to announce, we've finally come to a sense of completion on the furnishings in the den. With a little Christmas cash we replaced a mauve-colored leather couch that we inherited from my husband's mom. It worked beautifully in our little rented house in Austin, but we just couldn't make it fit up here. The new love seat and chair that we bought required a new rug to match, so I hauled my husband up to Super Target to check out their quality merchandise at low, low prices.

He got quite an eyeful and also chose a coffee table and lamp. We are done, for the most part, in this room. It's an important room because it's mine. Its where I spend most of my time. It's where I read and write and where the children play at my feet. So with the guilt at spending the money, I'm also feeling warm and cozy and complete, but that could be the Ray Charles coming from the speakers. This is the way weekends should be. Everyone should have enough money to buy a rug and coffee table and lamp from Super Target.

Here's part of what I wrote on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills:

Standards testing in Texas is not new. Back in the late 70’s, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) was tasked by the legislature to begin testing minimum skills of reading, writing and mathematics. The test was called Texas Assessment of Basic Skills (TABS).

By the mid 1980’s, the culture of education had changed and the TEA set out to ensure that Texas students were not just meeting basic skills requirements, but that their curriculum was paralleling the standards set by the State Board of Education (SBOE), called The Essential Elements, and to do so they changed the assessment to the Texas Educational Assessment of Minimum Skills (TEAMS). This meant that all students statewide would be taught the same curriculum and assessed with the same test.

But critics decried the new version as forcing teachers to teach to the test, which essentially diminished the curriculum. That’s why in 1990, the TEA launched a new version, Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), which, according to the Texas Education Agency, “assessed higher-order thinking skills.”

Had enough? We’re not done yet. In the late 1990’s, the SBOE traded in The Essential Skills, which were based on knowledge and comprehension levels, for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which are based on higher-order thinking. This meant that Texas needed a new—you guessed it—test!

I scrubbed the piece down to its general information, which makes it less compelling, and if I pitch it to another magazine, maybe that's how I'll introduce it--Dear Sir or Madame, submitted for your consideration is this smoothly written, but not very compelling article about the TAKS test. Please email me if you are interested in publishing it. Sincerely, etc.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Cite-free blogging!

I was going to work up a link-rich post on this subject, but then I thought, screw it, here goes: If Rudy Giuliani wants to win the presidency, he needs to run as a Democrat. C'mon! Pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, wore a dress, lipstick and wig on Saturday Night Live, and as I recall, had a very ugly divorce with his second wife. That's not going to clear the religious right of the Republican party.

Update: Related stuff here.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Sold!

Our local papers are sold once again.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Desperately clinging to my happy place...

...and therefore am definitely staying away from the Arkin article, which James Taranto dubs "Thank me for not spitting."

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