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.


An apple a day...

keeps the craft bug away.

I have rediscovered crochet and I love it! My mom, grandmother and great grandmother taught me the basics along time ago (I wasn't even in the double digits age-wise). A few years ago I tried to pick it up again but picked an afghan as my first project, got burnt out and gave up with nothing to show for it. But the last time I was at the library, I spotted a book on crochet and thought I would give it a try. It had great short projects so within a day or two, I had made something actually usable (and if I say so myself - adorable!) and I think I am hooked - get it, hooked? Oh I crack myself up.

I can't show that project, for Christmas secrecy reasons, but overall crochet has been great. I was looking for something to keep my occupied when Craig is studying and doesn't want any noise producing machines on. I love to quilt but it cost quite a bit of money and either takes over our kitchen table or requires me to lug my machine out every time I want to work. I think crochet will be a good fit. Another reason I was hesitant to start up crochet again was that I hadn't seen much modern work done with crochet and honestly, one doesn't need many scarves or afghans when living in Texas. But with a little searching, you can find lots of cute patterns on the internet, mostly for free. Yes, there are lots of ugly sweaters out there but there are cool things too - like amigurumi.

I stumbled upon them when trying to find a project to use up my leftover yarn. The apple is just the first in a cornucopia set I am making - one fruit down, three veggies and a basket to go. But I have a feeling once I get the basics down, I won't be able to stop myself from trying a more complicated one like this. Combined with the book, wouldn't that make the cutest gift? If only I knew some little kids.


Oh blog, sorry I abandoned you.

I didn't mean to. I haven't been feeling very well lately (and no, it's not because of the election). I actually skipped both days of Ballet this week so now I feel sick and lazy but I did get some good crafting time ('cuz crocheting on the couch is restful, really, even if I start yelling at the yarn because the it is all knotted and Craig is worried I am about to implode). Of course, as Christmas is coming up, all my craft projects are also gifts so I can neither show you pictures of the ones I have completed or talk about the ones I haven't.

But here are some links that you might like, or not, but I did, so there. Go visit these posts by:

My mom - and she didn't mention it but yesterday was her birthday so go over and wish her a happy yesterday, sorry Mom, I had to :-)

Heather - I live in her town but don't know her, yet secretly hope to run into her at HEB someday because she seems super nice and full of wise biblical advice, both things I like. Heather - I don't think you read my blog, but if you do, I swear I am not creepy.

Any of the people on the current Compassion trip
. Because I read most of these bloggers regularly and when the write about random stuff, it entertains me, but when they write about their trip, it moves me. And it will make you want to run out and adopt a baby from the Dominican Republic, or at least sponsor one - and that is a good thing too. Plus Melanie is an Aggie and while she doesn't live in town, I know she takes her daughter to Aggie baseball games so I might someday meet her too! (Again, she doesn't read this blog, but just in case - I REALLY AM NOT CREEPY! (did the all caps just make it worse?)

Hot of the Presses

This must be why the media wanted Obama to win (well, other than its liberalism, of course)
The scenario was repeated from coast to coast as newspapers found themselves scrambling to meet unparalleled demand. Some newsstands were cleaned out before dawn.

Papers sold out in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Detroit, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, among other cities. Some newspapers sold extra editions on the streets or special commemorative copies online. Others began offering front pages laminated or mounted on marble or wood.
I will admit that I also went out and bought a paper yesterday, but that's what I normally do. I have a quite a collection of historical newspapers going all the way back to 1991.


Small Solace

At least Al Franken (apparently) didn't win.

UPDATE: In addition, as Power Line points out:
Barack Obama's victory almost certainly means that neither Hillary Clinton nor Al Gore will ever be president of the United States.


Egg on Whose Face?

You may or may not have heard about the egg-throwing political event that the Young Conservatives of Texas held here last week. Basically, the students threw "nest eggs" at a big photo of Obama to protest his policies. This continued for awhile until protesters apparently forced the event to shut down. This event created national news.

There was a flood of indignation after the event. Here's a sample of letters in the student paper. A lot of people whined that the event was "immature" or that it hurt the school's reputation. A lot of the letters included the phrase, "I support free speech, but..."

These people desperately need to relax. Yeah, this event was dumb. But if you just walk away instead of standing there and getting angry, this whole thing is a lot less newsworthy. And if you think that your reputation will be tarred forever because you went to the school at which this occurred, then you need to figure out how to carve out your own identity in life.

The administration of Texas A&M does deserve a little credit here. Usually, universities are quick to shut down offensive speech, and for most universities, conservative = offensive. A&M, however, did not shut this down. Plus, the president sent out an e-mail that merely asked for "respect," rather than condemning the students. YCT subsequently had a make-up rally where they threw eggs at a list of Obama policies, rather than the candidate himself. People were still indignant, however.

I would like to give special lily-liver recognition to the A&M College Republicans for this letter to the student newspaper:
While the College Republicans acknowledge the freedom of speech for all students, our organization has played no role in the YCT demonstrations in Rudder Plaza throughout the past week, nor do we endorse these events. Our organization remains dedicated to elevating political dialogue on campus, increasing civic participation and promoting Republican values in a constructive and respectful manner.
I went to an A&M CR meeting once, and it was incredibly boring. It featured an endless parade of candidates for dogcatcher, county judge, and other local offices. The job of a campus political group is to advocate an ideology and bring like-minded people together, not to advocate for local offices that nobody cares about, and that most A&M students can't vote for, since they are registered back home. For CR to completely throw YCT under the bus wins them nothing. At least YCT was trying to promote dialogue and draw attention to their views. While the event might have been juvenile, at least it wasn't staid and boring. I don't think CR likes the competition.