Science and Politics Don't Mix

I didn't realize that both McCain and Obama have bought in to the autism-thimerosal fallacy. But I guess we can't expect much more from two politicians who want to saddle our economy with expensive, questionable fixes to questionable global warming:
Mr Obama and John McCain blundered into the MMR vaccine row during their presidential campaigns. "We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate," said President-elect Obama. "Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it," he said.

His words were echoed by Mr McCain. "It's indisputable that [autism] is on the rise among children, the question is what's causing it," he said. "There's strong evidence that indicates it's got to do with a preservative in the vaccines."

Exhaustive research has failed to substantiate any link to vaccines or any preservatives. The rise in autism is thought to be due to an increased awareness of the condition.


All Bets are Off

I enjoyed reading this, because I think it's stupid when mayors make "bets" on sporting events involving their cities' teams:

Miami's mayor and San Francisco's mayor have a wager on Saturday's 7th Annual Emerald Bowl between the Hurricanes and the California Golden Bears.

And Miami had better win, because Mayor Manny Diaz has promised to send oranges if they lose.

That would be illegal.

Florida oranges can't be shipped to California because of fears that citrus canker could spread to the California crop.

I wish all these bets were illegal. These mayors are just trying to horn in on their residents' enjoyment of sports to score political points and get cutesy free publicity. If they want to bet, make it real. The loser of the bet should have to resign from office, or donate a large chunk of his campaign account to charity. Then I would enjoy these bets a lot more.


The break begins.

I'm so excited. Yesterday afternoon my boss told me I could take tomorrow morning off...he is going to be away and I had done everything to prepare for the break already. That means right now we are driving to Kentucky to spend the holidays with my family My dad is already home from Iraq and my brother arrives tonight. It will be so nice to have all my family together. I haven't celebrated Christmas with my family in two years, haven't been home in over a year and a half and I haven't seen my family since last march - I'm ready for the break.

So I am pretty much going to be ignoring this little blog until the new year. Craig might post once or twice but I am just going to spend time with my family. Talk to you in 2009.

Excessive Celebration

After finishing the regular season in 5th place, I rode my newly-productive wide receivers to the championship of my fantasy football league. While I am quite pleased, I won't go so far as to buy merchandise to commemorate the occasion. That is crossing the line.



This is one of those subjects that only fellow blog peeps will get. It's about saying goodbye. A site I have read since my freshman year of college is about to be cut out of my life. I have enjoyed it for these past few years and was excited about the blog they added a while back; it offered a place to further delve into the subjects the articles brought up and share opinions.

I support the organization that hosts the site and will continue to do so, they do lots of good work. But that particular project/site has ceased to be beneficial and tonight I was harshly accused of deception/ignorance for the last time. I can't go and read the articles without reading the comments but I can no longer comment and be subject to rudeness nor watch that happen to others.

But I am sad because I will miss what it used to be and the lessons I used to learn there. I think it is harder because it is a Christian organization and yet their work no longer seems to encourage. In the past the harsh responses have been from other commenters and I know that not everyone on the site is a Christian so I have pushed it out of my mind but tonight it was the site's editor, a man who should be setting an example, who is supposed to be showing godly behavior to others, a man I respected. To many it may not seem like a big deal, maybe something that they could let roll of their shoulder but I can not do that. I wouldn't accept that behavior from any other sort of person in my life, especially not when the reason I read his (and the other contributors posts) is to receive insight into God and his word.

I don't think he meant to be mean but that is almost worse. Perhaps spending days reading and responding to comments by so many on such deep and controversial subjects has jaded him to the fact that there is a person behind the comments. I didn't write as an anonymous person, but rather as MacKenzie, and I deserved to be treated as a person, not just a comment to be blasted. I hold no hard feelings toward him, I simply don't find that site edifying anymore and will not spend time there. That saddens me. The subtitle of the blog says "Extremem converstations..." I guess they are too extreme for me.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown

Here's our Christmas tree, along with its inspiration:

Note also the Gorton's fisherman.


Emergency Practice

I participated in this active shooter exercise Thursday. I died. The point of the activity was to train local law enforcement and EMTs on how to react to a situation like that at Virginia Tech. Due to the fact that I was in pretty bad shape, according to the card around my neck, it took a long time for the police, rubber guns in hand, to pick me up off the floor. They took care of all the less-injured people first. I was kind of surprised it took so long. I was also surprised that they felt the need to handcuff and keep an eye on the "shooter" (some mannequin), even though he shot himself in the scenario. But I guess you have to be sure.


7 Quick Takes Friday

1) Since I haven't been able to come up with much lately that has been working for me, on Wednesday or otherwise. I have decided to try a different meme, 7 Quick Takes Friday. Basically, you write 7 mini-posts on Friday. I have high hopes, surely I can think of 7 things to say each Friday. (This is the point of the post where my fellow Jane Austen lovers are thinking...yes, but there may be difficulty in limiting yourself to only 3 7.

2) Product Review: Tylenol Lemon Honey Warming Liquid
I would warn you that this review has not be sponsered, but I think that will be fairly clear. I normally am very particular about what medicines I take but Craig had gotten this for free from CVS and I was desperate. IT IS AWFUL! It doesn't taste like honey, or lemon, or any combination of the two unless perhaps they have been added to tar. And in the commercials, you see them take the medicine and feel the warmth spreading and it looks like it is peace and joy in a bottle when in reality, the only thing I felt spreading over my body was a feeling of nausea followed by hot flashes. But I do applaud the advertising staff for managing to turn that into a marketing campaign strategy. Well, done.

3) I never got to tell y'all that I am learning how to knit. I'm not giving up on crochet but all the patterns I liked were for knitting so I thought I would add to my repertoire. I took a lesson from a local shopkeeper in town to get started but only learn 2 things for my $15 so I will be following that up with book learnin'. I've started an easy project, it is just 10" squares of the garter stich sewn together to make a blanket. It will be small so I guess it is a baby blanket although I'm not very fast yet so it might turn into a wheelchair blanket before I finish.

4) Speaking of crafts, I can't wait till Christmas is over and I can share with you all the stuff I have been working on. I also can't wait to share it with the people I made it for. But the problem with homemade gifts is what do you do if they don't like it. You can't return it and get your hours of hard labor back. I hope that doesn't happen.

5) I just got an email saying I get off work for the holidays next Tuesday at noon instead of at 5. I am super excited about that.

6) At that time I will be taking a bloggy break to enjoy time with the car and scenic views of texas, arkansas, tennesee and kentucky...oh yeah, and my family. I will try and come up with at least one interesting post between now and then though so don't give up on me yet.

7) Craig and I went to a presentation about the Bethlehem star last night.We had gone three years ago and I remember that it was good, but I couldn't remember what I learned so we went again. It was still good. You can learn more here. Oh, and for the record, if you try to go to www.bethlehamstar.net, you don't get to the right site. I guess that site isn't kosher.


In which I say very little

Wow, I think it has been quite a while since I have gone a whole week without posting. But my time off did me good. Last Friday I took a sick day, slept almost the whole day. I slept almost all of Saturday too, except to couch seat drive Craig's making of Christmas cookies for our party that night.

Yes, I was sick. Yes, I still hosted my annual Christmas cookie exchange. Miraculously, it was the only 2 hour period in the whole long weekend where I did not have to lay down every 10 minutes. It was a lot more low key than my previous years of cookie exchanging. I was planning on having it be a little less involved than last year (when I made way too much food) but I was hoping to have some snacks made up. It didn't happen though, I was lucky we made our two types of cookies, and got hot water and cider heated up. (And by we, I mean he did the cookies, I heated the water). Add in some sprite and I was done. We didn't even play games like last time, just sat with the other two couples and talked. They did notice I was sick so hopefully if it was dreadfully boring, they won't consider it a reflection on my hostessing skills. I think it ended up being fun but I hadn't stepped foot outside our home for over 48 hrs at that point so I would have thought almost anything was less boring than another episode of the Cosby show.

Sunday, I slept all day, waking up just enough to complain that I was too hot or too cold, none of which could be remedied by the thermostat but poor Craig did a good job of pretended like he cared and was working on it.

Since then I have been well enough to go to work but I still have a cough, which means I have been sick for exactly two weeks now. We have spent the evenings on the couch, taking it easy. I'm really ready to be done. However, I have a feeling our household will not be back to it's busy self for a little while yet as Craig woke up this morning with a sore throat. But as he normally gets whatever I get at half strength and for only half as long, I think by next week he will be fine again. Which is good, I am ready to go home for Christmas!


Beer We Go Again

I thought that, when I moved from Utah to Texas, that I'd left battles over alcohol behind. But that was not the case. A neighboring county here decided in November to go from dry to wet, and people aren't happy (well, other than the 63% or so who voted for the change):
“I just think this is going to cause a lot of problems here. You know we’ve already lost kids here to drunk driving not long ago. And it’s a big mess right now," Hoskins said.


"There's grandparents around here that send their grandkids in to get a drink or snack, and how are they going to feel if their kid runs into someone stumbling around drunk? And you know, we've already got enough problems with people walking up and down the roads, throwing their beer bottles out," Hoskins said.


“We’re just a very small town. Our kids don't need to be subjected to all this stuff. I think it's just going to lead to more people driving up and down the road drunk," Hoskins said.
Ah, the old arguments I know so well, illogically claiming that prohibition keeps the alcohol out and that most drinkers are out of control. Ms. Hoskins would be right at home in a Logan ward house, even though she's probably Baptist, and they don't usually agree with Mormons on much.

The best part of this is that the town in the byline for this story straddles a county line, and the other county in question is wet, so this change will only bring alcohol (and supposedly all the aforementioned problems) one mile closer to local boozers. Talk about a miracle mile.


Who is Your Daddy, and What Does He Do?

I spent the last two days substituting for a first grade teacher. Here's roughly what it was like (minus the gun and German talk):

I'm pretty sure that when I was in 1st grade, my classmates didn't cry as much as these kids did these last two days. Tomorrow will be different, though. I'll be at a "secondary disciplinary alternative" school. Should be fun.


Unsolicited Advice

In response to Colin Powell's comments about the GOP yesterday, I don't really think a guy that endorsed Obama has any business telling us how to fix the party. I also don't think a guy that says, "I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court" is all that interested in Republican principles actually prevailing. I'll stick with Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, thank you very much.


Presidential Commencement

On Tuesday I secured a ticket to attend today's A&M graduation ceremony, at which President George W. Bush spoke. This morning, I debated for 10 minutes or so whether I wanted to stand in line and wait for 2.5 hours for a 30-minute speech that I could watch on TV. I decided that I would go.

I expected to spend a lot of time waiting outside the arena to get in, but I arrived early and there was no such line. Instead, I waited in my seat for 2 hours for the program to begin. I brought a newspaper with me, so it wasn't too bad.

During the speech, Bush touched on some Aggie traditions:
I'll say this for A&M -- you've got some mighty fine traditions. Back in my day, I think I would have enjoyed dunking my ring. I would have loved to have taken Laura to "midnight yell." I especially like the traditions around Reveille. Anytime she barks during a class lecture, everyone in the room is dismissed. I wish she had been there for some of those press conferences.
He also alluded briefly to his waning presidency:
When you leave this campus, you will be well prepared for any endeavor you choose. To those of you who have jobs lined up, I -- congratulations. To those not exactly sure what comes next -- I know how you feel.
He also spoke of coming back to Texas:
This is also my last commencement address as President. And it is fitting that it takes place here in Texas, where I have been so blessed over the years. I was raised here by wonderful parents, surrounded by brothers and sisters whose love still sustains me. And Texas is where I went to a backyard barbeque and met a beautiful teacher named Laura Welch. Texas is where our girls were born and our lifelong friends live. And next month, when our time in Washington is done, Texas is where we're coming home.
After listing some examples of courage and service that he has witnessed over the last 8 years, he ended with some advice:
  • Listen to your mother.
  • Develop a set of principles to live by.
  • Be on the lookout for role models.
On that last point, Bush gave a touching tribute to his dad. In all, the speech was in many ways your typical graduation talk, with a presidential touch. It was a worthwhile experience.

I should also note my fast escape from the area after the speech. Normally, after any big event, traffic is a problem, especially when the police shut down certain routes. Well, I planned ahead. I selected a parking lot diagonally across the street from the arena, thus avoiding having to wait at the main pedestrian-crossing intersection. I parked facing out of my spot, to avoid having to back up. And I parked near the far lot exit, which took me away from campus on a side road. I was quite pleased with myself as I drove away.


Month O' Calm

I am alive, but barely. I feel so yucky. I may have gotten my flu shot earlier but something else has decided to infiltrate my immune system instead. It's especially sad because I have been looking forward to this week for a while. I had even prewriting my blog post in my head about how relaxing and fun it is now that Craig is out of school. But even with the sickness looming over me, I can tell the next 5 weeks are going to be great so I am still going to write it.

Because, unlike most people, this year the Christmas season is our calm time. We attended a Christmas party last week, a Christmas dinner last night and will host our own "Third Annual Cookie Exchange" this Saturday, but after that we will be pretty much done with festivities until we get to my parents house Christmas Eve. Craig is out of school, so he has no evening classes, no language group meetings, no seminars to attend and most of all - no studying! I have no ballet, as my instructor took her last final yesterday and headed home. And since our home group is about 50% students, it's taking a break till January too. Our evenings are just free to be spent however we want, which for me is at home. But I wasn't really planning on spending them sick on the couch, too tired to even read. But I am grateful that we do have a calm week so I have at least be able to rest.

Since I work at the University, I've been appreciating the lack of students there too. The parking lot has been empty so no more long trecks to my car followed by a 15 minutes wait to get out of the parking lot. And since they aren't full of talkative students, I can actually find a couch in the study areas to take a nap on during lunch, which has been especially nice when I forget my cough medicine on the kitchen table.

I even got a extra special surprise yesterday. We got snow! Yesterday, while waiting for Craig to pick me up, I had some fun watching people come enter the lobby. Since most of the labs don't have windows, they too were shocked at the snow. It was like watching little kids open presents on Christmas as they exclaimed with glee "oh, it's snow"..."it looks like it is sticking"..."I'll have to help the kids make a snowman."

So, this week isn't going just as I planned, but overall, it's been pretty good.


More Corrupt Than Most of Them

Like lots of people, I am absolutely outraged by the conduct of the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. His audacity in thinking that he could blatantly use his position to make money, get editorial writers fired, and sell a Senate seat is beyond belief. Even FBI agents, who have seen all kinds of corruption, were shocked. It looks like he'll get impeached, and I assume he'll go to jail (although you never know), so at least he'll get his just desserts. I'm so mad, I'll omit the comment about corrupt Democrats that I might normally make now :) I don't care what party this guy is in (but neither does the media).

As far as the Senate seat is concerned, is anybody surprised that Jesse Jackson, Jr is thought to have submitted a bid to buy the seat? Like scumbag father, like scumbag son.

The Illinois governor was also delusional. Apart from thinking he could get away with all this, he thought about appointing himself to the Senate seat, in order to "try to remake his image for a possible 2016 run for the presidency." That this guy, who everyone except himself knew was already in legal trouble before the latest news, thought he had any chance at the presidency is unbelievable. I realize a lot of politicians get drunk on the idea they might get elected President, even though there's no chance of that happening (see John Edwards or Joe Biden), but was Blagojevich serious?

I had read that this scandal might hurt Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. However, today's stories say that won't happen, according to IOC members. After the Salt Lake City Olympic debacle, Chicago should be eliminated from the running, considering not only Blagojevich's actions, but the fact that Illinois as a whole is corrupt on a level similar to Louisiana. Of course, knowing how corrupt the IOC is, this scandal probably increases Chicago's chances.


Thank you Jim from Jersey!

In case you didn't notice one of our recent comments, I would like to direct you to it. Jim from Jersey commented on our previous post about a certain geico girl's actions and showed us a very nice little link to the wall street journal.

I could go on about how I was right and how Craig was, well, not right.... but I will just let the article speak for itself. And now that we know the truth, I believe the BRC household can finally be full of peace and joy again.

So thank you Jim, whoever you are.

All Dressed Up

"Hey, MacKenzie, what should I wear to this Christmas party? How about this?"

"No, wear something festive!"

"Oh yeah. How about this?"

"That's not very dressy."

"What about this?"

"No, that's not the right red. What about that one sweater?"


"The Christmas colors are red, green, and black."


"Well, then, wear that other shirt."

"I give up."


A good and bad weekend

I thought this was going to be a nice calm weekend. Craig's semester ends today so I knew he would have lots of studying and writing to do so I was just planning on relaxing and doing some crafts. Which was a good plan because I was not feeling good. Not just in the way that means Craig gets his head snapped off when he asks me if he should check down an walgreens aisle for tape, but also a getting a cold and can barely swallow anything and my head feels like it is about to explode kinda way. So overall, not a great weekend for me. Staying home and resting would have been a wise plan.

But Friday night, after being too sick to attend the party we were planning on going to, I find out that my old college friends, Eric and M.B, were both coming in to town to go to neat events and hang out with the rest of the old gang, that does live in town but I still never see :-) So I decided to abandon my old plans in exchange for running around town with them. And I'm glad I did, they are so much fun to be around to catch up with them all and I enjoyed hearing about their adult lives and current goings on.

And it was nice to be around people I have known for years and can just be myself with.
But that was also a problem, because I was myself. But not my nice normal self. My nasty crabby feeling sick self. Probably one twentieth of the things I said, I shouldn't have. They were either not nice, or gossippy, or rehashes of political/religious arguements that I have swore to myself I would never have again. And when you spend over 12 hours with people and talk as much as me, that is a lot of things said. Do you ever have moments were you know you should make yourself stop talking but somehow yourself just doesn't listen. Why doesn't it. I want to know.

You might think I'm being hard on myself, and I really hope I am. Because I like these people, and I don't want them to hate me. But realistically, I know these people well and I probably offended every single person there - except maybe M.B. because she never seems to get offended at anything, she is like a duck the way things roll of her back... and the way she waddles because she still has to walk with a boot. See, I can even compare her to a duck and I know she won't get offended. :-)

But the other good thing about old friends, is that they have seen me on good days and on bad and our friendship has always survived, so I'm sure it will continue after this. But next time they visit, I hope I can be a bit nicer. Or they can be crabby and I'll put up with them and we can be even again. That would work too.


Silly Scientists

I don't think I've ever mentioned it, but my new job involves breast cancer research. When people ask me what I do, I avoid saying that because it sounds so snotty but I really do think it is an awesome job. I loved my previous job and when we moved, I didn't think I would be able to find something I liked as much but I love this one even more!

Anyway, since I have very little knowledge about the subject, my boss has been sending me to seminars around campus so I get more familiar with the field. All seminars pretty much start off the same way, they talk about the prevalence of breast cancer and why it is important to study it, and how genetics effect breast cancer so that is why they are studying ___ genetic component, or how environmental factors play a role so that is why they are studying ___ environmental component. Then they go into specifics of their research, followed by questions from the audience.

Most of the talks are interesting but a little over my head so I spend the whole time trying to figure out what is going on (if the speaker is good) or trying not to fall asleep (if the speaker is not so good) but it is really interesting to see how scientists think. They have spent years studying, not just breast cancer, but one specific gene or one specific protein or pathway. The end result of all that focus can sometimes lead them to miss the forest for the trees.

One seminar dealt with the effects of estrogen and progesterone on breast cancer and he started with some facts that really stuck out to me:
  • Women who give birth before the age of 35 reduce their risk of breast cancer by up to 50% with the decrease being greater the younger the mother - insert joke about not letting the government know he is advocating teenage pregnancy or they will take away his grant money :-) I love scientific humor.
  • Women who give birth to their first child after the age of 35 actually increase their risk of breast cancer.
  • Removal of the ovaries of a young woman cuts the risk of breast cancer to less than 1%.
He then went on the finish his talk and asked for questions. The first one was be far the most interesting...

Question: Since we know how effective ovary removal is, how long do you think it will take before this is used as a standard preventative method?

Speaker: Blink. Blink.

Speaker: More awkward silence as he tries not to laugh

Speaker: Well, I don't think, I mean, there are other ramifications, that is... (regains composure) unfortunately we know from research done in the '30s and '40s on institutionalized women that with ovary removal, levels of estrogen and progesterone are reduced to very low levels as are their chances of getting breast cancer, but I don't think we will ever reach the point where ovary removal on young women is a preventative measure in anything but rare circumstances.

I must commend this speaker because I think I would have just laughed in the guy's face. I would be very surprised if doctors abandoned the concept of "first do no harm" so much that they would routinely remove perfectly healthy ovaries from teenage girls. But then again, your not safe from surprises till your dead.

Play Time Over?

Professional sports, and even college sports to a lesser extent, have long been populated with boorish thugs who, despite criminal and idiotic behavior, are kept around because they can play. The NBA, in my opinion, has been especially sociopathic. However, it looks like things might be changing for the better. Cases in point:
  • A Dallas hockey player was suspended for 6 games for a "crude remark." It's a start, but hockey players can still get away with vicious on-ice behavior.
  • A New York football player was suspended for the season after he shot himself in the leg with his own gun at a nightclub. However, they might bring him back next year.
  • A New York basketball player was banished from his team for some manner of obnoxious behavior (I'm not really sure what's going on here.)
  • OJ Simpson is going to jail.
Of course, the NFL keeps letting Pacman Jones back in. So there's still some progress to be made in cleaning up sports.


"An Honorable Place to Work"

I thought this exchange between Ted Turner and Tom Brokaw on "Meet the Press" Sunday was surreal. Turner is either a master of moral equivalence, or Vladimir Putin has something on him:
MR. BROKAW: You met Vladimir Putin when he was just an aide to the mayor of St. Petersburg. He picked up you and Jane Fonda, to whom you were married at the time. But as you have watched him since then, most people see not in his eyes a soulful person, but the eyes--three letters, as someone has put it: KGB. That he is...

MR. TURNER: Well, he had that background. But you know, we have an FBI and, and, and, and, and we're not prejudice against somebody who's worked at the FBI. It's an honorable place to work. And the KGB, I think, was an honorable place to work. And it, it gave people in the former Soviet Union, a communist country, an opportunity to do something important and worthwhile.

MR. BROKAW: But in the meantime, it appears that he's very much more interested in just causing difficulty for the United States, getting in our face in a manner of speaking.

MR. TURNER: Well, wait. We're the ones--in my opinion, we're the ones that started that. We're the ones that started by putting the Star Wars system in Czechoslovakia and Poland when they wanted to be part of it. We've said that that system is only to protect us from Iran or protect Europe from Iranian missiles. So why didn't we cooperate with the Russians? Why have we constantly been pushing--we've been pushing on the Russians all the time.

MR. BROKAW: Your friend, Jimmy Carter, tried to be friendly with Leonid Brezhnev, and for his friendliness what did Brezhnev do?

MR. TURNER: Hell, I don't remember. It was before I...

MR. BROKAW: He invaded Afghan...

MR. TURNER: ...got involved.

MR. BROKAW: He invaded Afghanistan.

MR. TURNER: Well, we invaded Afghanistan, too, and it's a lot further--at least it's on the border of the Soviet Union or the former Soviet Union or Russia. A lot of these countries have changed names several times.

MR. BROKAW: But, Ted, don't try to go there in terms of justifying that. I mean, it is--the fact is that the Russians--it was a naked...

MR. TURNER: Why can't I try and justify it?

MR. BROKAW: It was naked aggression on the part of the Russians at the time.

MR. TURNER: Well, going into Iraq was naked aggression on the part of the United States.

MR. BROKAW: Yeah, but big power politics and changing big power politics requires everyone to come to the table, and that includes the Russians, not just the United States.

MR. TURNER: They'll come if we invite them, I'm sure.


Another thought on being intentional

When I mentioned previously that Craig and I are trying to be intentional about how we live our lives, I meant just that - we need to be intentional about our lives, not yours. Now, I'm sure none of you have the problem of being overly concerned with others' behavior but that was is something I have to be really careful about. You see, I am a black-and-white kinda gal with a tendency toward Pharisee-like behavior. And once I have studied a topic enough to learn where God is calling me, I naturally tend to think everyone else who hasn't come to the exact same conclusion is wrong. Isn't that horrid?

I'll admit it, sometimes Craig and I have decided to go in a direction that I would have originally thought was "weird." Yet, when we sit down and look at our options and what the Bible has to say, it becomes obvious what our stance needs to be, even if most of the other people we know, including other Christians, don't "get it." But in the end, as we have formed new habits and gotten confident in our beliefs, I do feel blessed that God has revealed His truth to us. But if I'm not careful that confidence can turn into arrogance - like my way is the only way.

Now in some areas it is easy to see how the same principle can be followed through different behavior. As Christians, our main goal at Christmastime, or anytime for that matter, should be glorifying God. If Craig and I choose to limit our gift giving to only stockings or only stockings and one present as one way of helping God, not stuff, be the center of our celebration, that doesn't mean we think you are evil sinners if you set your present limit at 3 per kid.

In others areas, it isn't so clear. Like birth control. ( I know this is a really personal example but Craig thought I was being too vague). We Christians have to be intentional about not letting the world's view of human life and children (nothing special, expensive, world resource wasters) overshadow God's view of life/children (sacred, blessings). Our actions have to reflect God's view. But while some may choose to show that by allowing children to come as frequently as possible, others may choose nfp and maybe others have examined hormonal birth control and are okay with that. I don't like hormonal birth control for a variety of reasons, but neither do I think that if you have intentionally chosen to go with that, you are necessarily sinning (just as I don't think if you are practicing nfp, you are necessarily reflecting God's values.) But if you are just going along with it as I originally did, because it was what "everyone does", maybe you should think about why and how God wants you to reflect His values. Just be intentional in your actions.

I don't want you to misunderstand what I am saying, I do think God has truths that aren't negotiable. (To complete the example above - if I knew a Christian that was going to get an abortion, I would feel compelled to go to them in love and show them that sin. There is only one instance in which I think someone could be reflecting Christ's principle and get an abortion.)

The idea is that we also need to understand that the way certain truths are played out in different households varies. But just because the way certain people choose to intentionally glorify God varies doesn't mean that you can just go along without being intentional. In Romans 14, Paul is talking about not judging other believers and how some things, what he terms "disputable matters" are left up to your conscience, when he adds

Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5b

So on some things maybe it doesn't matter what opinion you come to, but you had better come up with one (that you believe glorified God). God doesn't seem to like wishy-washiness.

So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to vomit you out of my mouth*
Revelation 3:1.

In short (haha, short, like that ever happens with my posts) -

Do I think God enjoys it when we look to Him for guidance on how we live, even on the small issues? Yes.

Do I think God enjoys it when we argue and fight with other Christians about the small "disputable matters?" No.

So be intentional...with your own life.

* I think verses like these should be used as proof that God is a male.


Three thoughts

My last few posts have seemed really heavy and I actually decided I wasn't done so another will be posted tomorrow, but I thought I would lighten the mood a bit with some thoughts:

1) Cyber monday? Really? That is the best phrase you can think of people? If you can't tell from my excessive use of question marks, I think that is lame.

2) I went to the Universities surplus this morning and they have a lot of odd stuff there. If I think our lab would benefit from having a truck bed or the old tables that used to be in Hullabaloo, I would be in luck. A vacuum pump, not so much.

3) I love Christmas music and I love Pandora. I do not love how Pandora keeps insisting I like instrumental Christmas music when I am obviously only giving thumbs up to songs with vocals.


Although I never did get around to writing a post about all the things I was thankful for, I did enjoy reading everyone else's posts on the subject and they brought up something I have been thinking about a lot lately - being intentional. It's not that people love their family and friends and Diet Dr. Pepper more at this time of the year, it's that they are making a point to remember all that they have and that they should be grateful for. They are being intentionally grateful.

I want to be intentional, not just in my gratitude, but in everything I do from what I watch and read, to what I wear, to what I say and what I do. It isn't always easy but as a Christian, I need to remember that the bible has a lot to say about more areas of our lives than we would care to admit. And in deciding how to live my life, I shouldn't rush off to follow what the latest study says about this, or the most popular expert has written about that. Nor should I necessarily do things the way I was raised, or even the way I see most Christians acting. Instead, I should examine the Bible and apply its principles to that area of my life.

In some ways it has been easy for Craig and I to be intentional about things our first year of marriage because as we were merging our lives, things naturally came up that needed to be decided. But the longer we are married the easier it is to continue on doing the same things we did before just because. I've already noticed it and we haven't even been married very long at all! It's hard, but it is important.

Right now, we are thinking about Christmas. On our little drive over the river and through the woods to Houston Wednesday night, Craig and I were able to talk about what we wanted our future Christmases to be like - how were we going to handle the Santa issue, what traditions do we want to keep (and what do we want to get rid of), things like that. And it needs to start now because our thoughts about Christmas and the traditions we start now are going to be what shapes our behavior later. If when I think "Christmas" my mind is full of stuff and presents and other gilded lilies, then when I try to create a special Christmas for my kids, that is what I will want them to have.

And, if you read my last post, you'll know that "stuff" isn't what I want my (future) childrens' Christmases to be about. I want them to be more than that. And that doesn't just happen, we will need to be intentional about it. I don't think any of the parents in my last post sat down and thought, I want Christmas to be a purely superficial experience for my children. Heck, even non-Christian Christmas celebrators want it to at least be about love and family. And it doesn't mean that it is easy to live that out. I will be the first to admit that it is really hard. I totally failed last year. Not because I went crazy with spending and gifts, but because I went crazy with crafts and decorating and wanting everything to be perfect. Ironically, the whole reason we have Christmas is that the Earth isn't perfect. If it was, we wouldn't have needed that little baby in the manger. At least God's design for Christmas was intentional. In fact, He had it planned since before the world began.



Every once in a while I venture outside the comics and actually read the new parts of the newspaper but then I read something that sets me off and poor Craig has to listen to my rants. I really should know better by now.

Today, it was this article, which explains how poor parents are suffering because their children are demanding toys they can't afford. And who is to blame - why the evil companies that are marketing their products to those brats children who would want them. Puh-leez! Take some responsibility people! They are your kids. If you don't have the money to buy those toys, don't buy them. If you don't want your kids to be exposed to those commercials, don't let them watch tv. If refusing to let them watch tv is also cruel, at least switch them over to non-commercial laden tv. It's called PBS and I've heard they have programs that cater specifically to children.

While searching for the article to link to, I stumbled across this post where one line caught my eye
"My parents had no choice but to buy her"
Yes, they did, just like you now do. One of those choices may not give you the same warm fuzzy feeling on Christmas morning that another might, but that doesn't mean it it isn't a good choice. In fact, it is probably a better choice. Another mom in the first article laments
"My son doesn't understand. Everything he sees, he wants."
Yes, he is 4. That is what 4 years old are like, it is your job to teach him he can't get everything he wants and the sooner that happens, the better off both of you will be. Maybe I was being too optimistic when I though that there could be an upside to this economic downturn in how it would enable parents to teach their children about the true meaning of Christmas. No, it just sent them off looking for someone else to blame.


Another Government Rip-off

I was at the Post Office yesterday, waiting for the clerk, so I leaned over the counter to read this sign I saw posted. What it said, basically, was that clerks should try to sell customers the most expensive shipping service possible. First, they will ask you if you want Express Mail, and if you decline (which you should) they'll offer you Priority Mail. The sign also said not to offer Parcel Post, which is the cheapest option. If the customer asks for it, the sign said, try to convince him/her of the benefits of Priority Mail before granting that rate. Outrageous! Here's more, and apparently the USPS won't offer you First Class, either. (In addition, and partially unrelated to this, if you ship books or CDs, you can send them "media mail," which is pretty inexpensive. The USPS doesn't publicize that too much, either).

I read the sign, but I didn't catch its full implications. I shipped an international package, and when my shipping options came up on the little screen, there were only two options, Express and Priority. I guess I figured that Parcel Post didn't apply internationally, so I went Priority. I also didn't think that "not offering cheaper services" included not listing them on the little screen. Upon coming home and checking rates online, I found that I could have saved $9 by going First Class. Of course, the package would have taken much longer to get there, but that's a price I'm willing to pay.

Businesses also try to upsell you, but that's not objectionable. First, they don't hide items behind the counter and not tell you about them. Second, businesses don't consistently make you stand in line for 15-20 minutes to use their services. If the USPS wants to act like a business and raise revenue, they should act like a business throughout the organization, by cutting costs and improving customer service, not just by trying to increase revenue.

If you are going to send something this Christmas season, or anytime, be sure to ask if there are cheaper options available than Priority. If they resist, you should insist. And tell them Craig warned you about theirlittle scheme.


I'm ready Christmas, just bring it on.

We are home again! We headed down south to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins on Wednesday evening, just as soon as the pies were cool enough to travel. My brother had also come in from Austin so we had a fun food and family filled time. We drove home this morning and after spending some time setting up Christmas decorations, I have decided to make cookies. Since after a day of cooking and baking, nothing sounds as good as more cooking and baking. Okay, so I'm not really in the mood for more baking but we really have absolutely no food in the house and I need something to tide me over. I expanded my stomach yesterday with all that turkey and a pb&j alone is not going to cut it.

I could go shopping but I refuse to do any shopping today, even grocery shopping. One of the reasons we headed back this morning was that my brother and aunt were just going to spend the day running after bargains (and I do mean all day, they got to Kohls at 4am). Yes, they saved a bunch of money. But I saved even more by sleeping in to 8, in fact I saved 100%!

And right now I am feeling so grateful for our pre-planning. In fact, I only have to finish making one more present and we will be done with Christmas presents. And since we put up all our decorations this morning, and we finished the Christmas letter last week, my holiday stress level is non-existant and I am ready to start celebrating!


Poor Choice for GOP

In these lazy post-election days, a lot of people are speculating about the future of the GOP. Along with names like Romney, Huckabee, and Palin, another name has been mentioned a few places that I find disturbing. It is that of Utah Governor John Huntsman, Jr. Here's one such mention, from a Washington Post blog:
As The Fix was waiting to meet with Huntsman on Thursday, CNN's Wolf Blitzer was touting him as a rising star in Republican politics. Nice convergence. Huntsman won re-election earlier this month with 78 percent (granted it was in ruby red Utah and has the looks and resume; -- fluent in Chinese, progressive on the environment -- that could make him appealing for a party looking desperately for a different profile.
Here's another mention of him. The appeal of Huntsman seems to come down to his looks, his easy reelection victory, and the fact that he cares about climate change. Maybe looks matter in this day and age, but the fact that he won an election in Utah means nothing from a nationwide political standpoint, and nobody really looks at climate change as a major issue when they hit the voting booth. (Also, who cares who Wolf Blitzer likes in the GOP?)

Furthermore, Huntsman has few principles; he merely does what is politically expedient. Most notably, he campaigned on school vouchers in 2004, but then hung a voucher ballot measure out to dry last year when he saw it was likely to fail. While he wouldn't do commercials for the measure, he had no problem doing climate commercials with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In addition, Huntsman suffers from Utah GOP disease, in which "conservatism" is only necessary on social issues. Where economics and spending are concerned, Utahns are much more flexible.

And so I attest that Huntsman is not the guy to help Republicans reassert conservative principles. While it is way too early to think about 2012, it is not too early to remove him from your presidential radar.

Craig Quote

Lonely people don't get receive wedgies.


Giving and Receiving

We had a busy weekend but I think it succeeded in finally getting me into a holiday mood.

We had actually gone last weekend to the mall to get some things and the whole thing left me feeling very bah-humbug. We have stolen one of my families traditions of getting a dated ornament each year and we also needed to pick up our next installment of the willow tree creche set which is a bit pricey (hence the buying it in pieces each year) but we had two Hallmark coupons that were about to expire. I'm not sure the $7 we saved was worth the awfulness of the mall on a Saturday anytime between October and January, so next year we are going to have to either find a Hallmark store not connected to a mall or order online.

But sadly, this weekend did not involve as many crowds. Saturday was a day of service for Craig's college and our assignment was to help with a canned food drive. Despite the amazing prizes they were offering for the family that brought in the most goods (1st prize - tickets to the A&M/tu football game!) and the obvious hard work put in by the sponsors, the showing was awful. In all 4 families brought donations. It was just a case of bad location. But it was still nice to see the effort that these families had gone to for their communities and I'm glad we went.

Then we ran home and rested for a bit before making stuffing for an international church group dinner. We weren't a part of it so we left our delightful smelling thanksgiving food with them and headed home - it was sad.

But on Sunday we were the ones given turkey and stuffing and all that good stuff when we went to our church's Thanksgiving banquet. It was a little weird at first because they had rolled away all the pews and set up tables. I think there were ~350 people there, all eating and talking and fellowshipping together in the sanctuary. We ended up sitting with three sets of friends, who we knew from three completely different circumstances and I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself. After eating and listening to a speaker talk about one of the missions programs the church sponsors, we celebrated the Lord's supper together. Much to Craig's delight, it wasn't just a tic-tac sized wafer but actual bread although I must say that my Episcopalian origins emerged when it become obvious that they were just going to throw away the extra. Luckily Craig understood my look of horror and as we were cleaning up the tables, he grabbed our tables leftovers and we ate them although we were already beyond stuffed. I never quite went over to the Lutheran's belief that it is the actual body of Christ, but even I wasn't willing to just toss it in the garbage with all the leftover pie crusts and jellied cranberries.

We also managed to start a fruitcake over the weekend but we have to wait 2 weeks to taste it. I think that is cruel. Also cruel, Craig looking at the cake I slaved over and announcing that he doesn't like food with raisins in it, so he doesn't think he will like it. This despite the fact that he was the one to suggest the whole fruitcake-making adventure before he got too busy to actually participate in the process. I still hold out hope though because 1) I think I will like it, so if he doesn't that is just more for me and 2) he likes rum and this particular cake is getting doused in rum every 2-3 days. The question is, will his love of rum overcome his dislike of raisin-embedded food? Time will tell.


Another Reason I Hate Congress

What a spectacle in the Senate yesterday. We have an 85 year old senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens, who's been there for 40 years (it is indicative of how hard the work in the Senate is that all these octogenarians can do it). He spent most of his career raiding the Treasury to secure pork projects for his home state. Not only that, but he's now a convicted felon. But instead of sitting in jail, he gets to give a farewell address in Washington. To makes things more ridiculous, all these good old boy senators are there blubbering and giving him a standing ovation. Unbelievable.

Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell, said that no senator "in the history of the US Senate did more for his state than Senator Ted Stevens."

As he spoke, 91-year-old Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, shouted from his wheelchair "That's right, that's right."

There are so many things about that excerpt that make me just shake my head in incredulity.

You know you're in Texas...

Looking at my blog and my lack of postings lately, I was trying to think up something to write about. Sometimes I just have so much to say I have to space it, and sometimes I ...don't. But then I remember an event from two weeks ago that I had meant to write about but didn't get a chance to so this is technically old news, but too bad.

Anyway, our church* had a college/young adult hoe down. A old friend from my "living in the dorm days" invited me and so we found ourselves out in a field, eating chili with names like "My momma's crockpot is bigger than your momma's crockpot" and "Spread the wealthy around chili" and one with Bevo in the name but as other member of my family are t-sips, I'll leave it at that.

Then we settled around the fire for some smores, followed by some dancing. Although Craig and I haven't gotten a chance to really go out dancing since we moved back, it really was one of the things I missed while in Utah. So we filled our quota for the night with some two-stepping with a little polka throw in for fun. Now polka conjures up some crazy images in people's mind thanks to Weird Al but it is really similar to two-stepping. I just don't want to paint an misleading picture.

Then it was time for "games." Most people were not too sure about the first game, which involved "milking" a udder shapped bag of water tied to someone's stomach. They practically had to drag students out to participate, kicking and screaming. Actually, one guy did kick away from the game, refusing to participate. The sack races were more popular but nothing compared to the enthusiasm for the last game - cow chip throwing. They had plastic gloves for those not inclined to pick up poop with their bare hands, but not a single person used them. I was one of the few who did not participate in this activity, but Craig did. He was pretty good at the distance contest, coming in a close second but I must say his showing in the accuracy contest was abysmmal. But he wouldn't have wanted the prize anyway - a pair of palpatation gloves. Who wouldn't want that! Ah, just another fun friday night in Texas.

*Yes, you read that correctly, we finally found one, aren't you happy you don't have to listen to my church shopping rants anymore?


"TGIF" Moments

1) I went to a craft fair at our student center last week. It wasn't as good as previous years but that might have been because I was by myself. Craig had planned to go but had to cancel so he could meet the president, which I do not think is really a valid excuse. I mean, is he married to the president? Anyway, as I was walking around, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I had arrived in a cab. When I said "no," she replied with, "Oh, I saw someone dressed just like you arrive downstairs in a cab." Okay, so what if I had said yes? What would she have said? Is cab usage so amazing that you are willing to stop random strangers to quiz them about it? I don't get it.

2 ) I spent Sunday crafting and watching the plethora of movies on that afternoon. Apparently abc family was pulling out the good ones because it was day -15 in their "Countdown to the 25 days of Christmas." But I must ask you, abc family, since the 25 days of Christmas is in itself a countdown, don't you think it is a tad excessive to have a countdown to the countdown? I do, but who am I to complain about good movies. Actually, I'm not even done complaining. Your channel's name implies that it shows family programing. I would agree with you that "You've Got Mail" is a family movie, and I'll concede "The Notebook" but only because I like it, however I refuse to accept "The Bodyguard" as a family movie. You really shouldn't show it in the middle of the afternoon. If you noticed the drop in the ratings, it was me, refusing to watch it. Now you know why.

3) I don't want to get in the habit of talking about work on this blog, but overall I like it, especially now that we have started on some cool experiments. However there is one particular part I do not like. Occassionally I have to make a dilution of bleach to use to disinfect our bscs. I have done so twice and guess how many times I have spilled bleach on myself, ruining a perfectly good piece of clothing - two! The first time it was a pair of brand new tights that I had only bought the night before! Today it was a pair of leather shoes. I saw the drop fall but couldn't stop it and despite the fact that I immedietly wiped it off, there is now a big light smudge on my dark shoes. They were my favorite shoes. I hate bleach.

*in honor of Eric, whose accidental acronym switch had provide years of amusement. (he meant to use a three letter acronym, which is too nice to be used on our fairly family friendly blog)


Now I'm just being corny.

I feel like I haven't really written anything here in a long time. The last two weeks I have been dealing with the two biggest (and opposite) problems for me as a blogger. The first week, I didn't do anything interesting so I had nothing to write about, then last week I did too much and not having any time to write about what it was that I did.This week is really busy too but it is the last full week of Craig's class this semester so things should start dying down (for me) soon although Craig will be scarce until the 8th.

But I did get my crochet project done. So for the two of you who aren't sick of pictures of veggies, here's the corn on the cob.
And all of it together in the cornucopia. It ended up being a good thing I didn't do the pumpkin because those veggies were really stuffed in there as it was.
I actually finished then Saturday afternoon, just in time for it to be used as a centerpiece for our dinner with guests. I think I have discovered my favorite part of entertaining...when they all go home. It isn't that I didn't enjoy having them over, it was a lot of fun, despite the fact that I didn't really know them beforehand. It's just that when they left it was so quiet and calm and well, clean. The only time the whole place is normally clean at one time is when we have people over. It's so nice to be able to sit and read or watch tv and know that there isn't anything you should be doing. And since it is Sunday night and technically there are a few more hours in my weekend, that is what I am going to go do right now.


Throw a Wrench in Detroit's Plans

I'm not always a fan of David Brooks and his East Coast conservatism at the New York Times, but today he clearly lays out the case why the Big 3 automakers should not be bailed out. Read it:
If ever the market has rendered a just verdict, it is the one rendered on G.M. and Chrysler. These companies are not innocent victims of this crisis. To read the expert literature on these companies is to read a long litany of miscalculation. Some experts mention the management blunders, some the union contracts and the legacy costs, some the years of poor car design and some the entrenched corporate cultures.


Presidential Briefing

In one of my classes, we just completed a policymaking simulation. The subject of this annual exercise for first years was Pakistan, a timely, multifaceted, and difficult issue. Our class was divided into teams and assigned to play different departments of government (State, Treasury, Defense, etc.) My team, the National Security Council, coordinated the effort. The Senate grilling I received Monday was part of this.

Today, our exercise culminated with a briefing of the President on our proposal. The President was played by a guy who knows that role well: George H.W. Bush, namesake of my school here at A&M. One of my NSC teammates briefed him on our final proposal. From time to time Bush interjected with questions for her or the agencies in the audience. It was a low-key, collegial affair with none of the belligerency of Monday night.

After the presentation, Bush talked a little about the operation of the NSC during his term, with Brent Scowcroft (who speaks here Monday night) as the National Security Adviser. Scowcroft's strong point, according to Bush, was his role as an honest broker who presented the opinions of each agency without inserting his own views, unless he was asked to do so. Bush also discussed the importance of the chief of staff in being a gatekeeper and scheduler.

Bush also went into the importance of politics, calling it a "noble calling." He said we shouldn't be turned off by the process, but rather get involved instead of "sitting around with a few cold ones complaining about how nothing gets done." He said that loyal friends are necessary to get elected, and he had many of them from his Yale days who supported him without even knowing his specific political views, because they trusted him as a person. He talked a little about the 1980 campaign, in which he started out as an asterisk in the polls before going on to win the Iowa caucuses. Bush mentioned that he called GOP rival John Connally a "bad name" during the campaign, which he said was a mistake. I can find no record of what that was.

One other interesting statement from the former President was that "Jeb may still have that political zest." Hhhmmm......

With that, Bush departed, shaking hands (including mine) and greeting students on the way out. It was a memorable experience for the Class of 2010.

Here's a photo, in case you don't believe me.


Firing Line

As part of a class exercise, we had a mock Senate hearing the other night. As my team's designated Senate person, I was one of 9 people to speak to the committee, which was made up of professors. It became clear right from the beginning of the 4-hour hearing that the "senators" came for blood. They were obviously directed by our professor to be belligerent, which they did by asking us about books they knew we hadn't read and looking for any opportunity to exploit our opening statements for any flaws. In a sense, it was like a real Senate hearing, complete with interruptions and 8-minute long "questions," although the questions were probably more intellectual than anything a real senator would ask. After I finally got home, I experienced a bad stomachache that I can only assume was stress induced.

I'm sure glad that ordeal is over, and I can only hope that George H.W. Bush isn't as hard on us when my team presents to him tomorrow.