Cats are So Weird, Part 2

Our cat's other hangout spot. It turned out the sink was merely a temporary place to sit while she was sick. Maybe she liked laying on the cool surface. This spot, however, is a perennial favorite of hers.


You Don't Have to Put on the Red Light (Camera)

We have an off-year election here in Texas next week, in which we have the opportunity to add to the 456 amendments to the Texas Constitution. Ho hum. But things are a little more exciting here. The city government has installed nine red light cameras around town in recent years. One citizen took it upon himself to start a petition drive to ban these cameras. He was successful in getting a measure on the ballot, so now we get to vote on it.

The city is basing their pro-camera campaign on 1) safety, and a distant 2) revenue. Opponents think the real motivation is the other way around, and are skeptical of the safety benefits of the lights. The city states that red light related crashes have gone down since the cameras were installed. This is true compared to 2006, but not compared to 2007. In reality, we're talking about a range of 0 to 13 crashes at all camera intersections combined, so I don't know if the sample size is large enough to provide statistically significant data.

I plan to vote against the cameras. That means I have to vote "yes," though, because voting for the ordinance = voting against the cameras. I'm not sure if the city had much say in crafting a confusing ballot question, but I wouldn't put it past them.

I don't like the idea of law enforcement by camera. The idea of a red light camera isn't too objectionable to me, but this puts us on the road towards speed cameras, which are starting to catch on. I do fear that the adoption of these cameras is based on monetary considerations. In addition, the placement of these cameras might be based on something other than traffic data, like, say, political considerations. For example, students use these street a lot, let's nail them while we leave this intersection in a senior citizen neighborhood alone. While I'm sympathetic to the "if you don't want a ticket, don't break the law" argument, I still think I will vote against the cameras.

P.S. I like this idea as a form of civil disobedience against these cameras.


"I Love Lucy" Clip Followup

Well, hopefully the last post explained my abysmal posting schedule these last few weeks but I have a feeling you guys want to know a bit more :-)

I'm currently in my 11th week which means the due date is late May. It also means I am sooo close to being done with my third month and hopefully all the yuckiness that comes with it.

And there is lots of yuckiness. I was expecting some fatigue, a little nausea, minor aches and pains - ha! I'm so sick. Sick as a dog, if your dog has thrown up ~1/3 of what she has eaten over the last month. You should all be very grateful that we didn't announce the pregnancy earlier because all most posts would have read "Make the vomiting stop! I hate being pregnant! The End." which is really not what I want to say because if I have learned anything this past year, it is that life is special and I am so grateful to be pregnant and if my body can only deal with the hormones it needs now by being so sick, I'll take it. I'd like to say I'll take it without complaining but Craig knows that would be a lie. But I will try to refrain from complaining on the blog as much as possible.

Poor Craig. He's been such a great husband. I could pretty much write nothing but posts about how great he has been and still not say enough. He's taken over all shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning and cat duties - pretty much everything. At least we are both more fatigued than normal :-)

That's about the extend of the news I have right now but I'm sure more will be coming soon. I don't want to blog to became "all about the baby!" but it is about my life (well my part at least, Craig's part is about inappropriate Halloween costumes and legalizing pot) so it might be slightly baby-centric these next few months years. If it ever gets to be too much for you, feel free to skip those posts. At least I know the grandparents will read them.

But since we will be referring to our little babe so much, we think we need a better way to reference him. So we will be stealing Tina's idea of using a fetus name and have decided to go with Nigel! (For the record, we don't know if it is a boy or a girl and even if it does turn out to be a boy, we won't actual name him Nigel, we just don't want to spend the next 6.5 months talking about/to baby it or he/she).

So look for upcoming news about baby Nigel coming to a blog near you!

I Love Lucy - but you really should read this post even if you don't.

I love the "I Love Lucy" show. I have since I was young. I don't like many modern comedies, they often seem stupid. But "I Love Lucy" was sweet, clever and overall hilarious. No matter how many times I see her stuffing chocolates in her mouth, stomping grapes, or setting her nose on fire, it always makes me laugh.

But this is by far my favorite clip, at least for the time being.

Any guesses as to why?


Out-of-this-World Costume

I'm afraid I fail to see what's offensive here:
The "Illegal Alien Adult Costume," manufactured by Forum novelties, includes an orange jumpsuit, similar to prison garb, with "Illegal Alien" stamped in black across the chest; a space alien mask; and a fake Green Card. The "Illegal Alien Mask with Hat" also includes a space alien mask, this time with a dark handlebar mustache and a baseball cap.


Advice Request

As you should be able to see from semi-recent posts, I've still been reading a lot. I've come into a bit of a problem though, I keep getting recommendations for books that our libraries don't have. It's a little sad actually because some of them are fairly well known books and between Craig and I, we have access to the local library system as well as the university system so you'd think one of them would have what I want but, no. I can do interlibrary loan but only for a few books at a time and that can take up to 2 months.

I won't buy them outright because most of them are fiction and I hate to spend money and storage space on books I will probably only read once. I've been thinking about joining paperback swap but I'm still torn. Have any of you tried it? What did you think? I'm a little worried I don't have enough books to give out yet; I do a good job of purging so while we have a ton of books, I don't want to get rid of any of them. And what if everyone thinks the books I do have are lame and nobody requests them? Hmm...what to do, what to do?


Obama's Pot Plan

I'm all for Obama's plan to let states have their medical marijuana laws without federal interference. I'm for marijuana legalization, really, but this kind of change would have to happen incrementally, and this is a start (although I don't know that Obama's plans go this far).

The reasons I'm for this are:
  • The drug war is expensive and hasn't worked,
  • Marijuana really is no worse than alcohol or tobacco,
  • Legalization might reduce drug trafficking (and violence) near our southern border,
  • It could be a valuable crop for US farmers to grow, and
  • We could tax the heck out of it.
The Cato Institute has some good info on the war on drugs.

This quote is kind of dumb:
"We cannot hope to eradicate the drug trade if we do not first address the cash cow for most drug trafficking organizations - marijuana," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
In 30 years, we've made little progress in eradicating the drug trade, and we won't, because if we stop drug production in one country or drug trafficking via one route, they'll just find another country and another route. I think if we let marijuana go, we will have more resources (money, time, jail cells) to devote to heroin and cocaine, which are harmful and nobody wants to legalize.

Note: this post has nothing to do with my personal recreational habits.


Mr. Obama Goes to College Station

President Obama was in town yesterday for an event on volunteerism with George H.W Bush. The event itself was by invite only, so the only students that were able to attend were "student leaders." But I was OK, because I didn't want to have to wait in line for 3 hours anyway.

In the afternoon, as I was working in my office, our career services guy came around and said there was going to be an informal leadership event with Bush 41 and Defense Secretary and former Aggie president Bob Gates. Going to events with 41 happens every so often around here. It was at the Corps of Cadets dining hall, which meant a bunch of them would be there, but I decided to attend despite that, with a number of classmates of mine.

We got to the dining hall, where we were feted with cookies and lemonade in faux fancy cups. We could see the Secret Service people making their preparations. But then, a gaggle of media showed up, elbowing and jockeying each other to get into position (they were actually quite aggressive). I thought that was odd, since Bush is always around, meaning it shouldn't be that big of a deal. Then a convoy with flashing lights pulled right up to the door of the dining hall, and Obama himself walked into the room, to the whoops of the assembled crowd.

Here's a story about the event, with video. He gave a short spiel honoring Bush and Gates, talked about public service, then went around the room shaking hands. I missed out on a handshake by about 6 feet or so. If I would have yelled "socialist!" or "you lie!" he totally would have heard me. It was a neat experience.

After this, I walked through the designated protest area. Although most protesters had dispersed, there were some remnants. I saw a lot of senior citizens walking back to their cars, signs in hand. I don't really think of old people as the protesting type, but I guess they are. There were also a lot of non-conservative protesters, like the Lyndon LaRouche people (they were the ones with the Obama/Hitler signs. Don't blame Republicans). There were also some signs about how the Federal Reserve is bad. As far as I can tell, the protesters took heed of the entire morning's worth of obnoxious Facebook admonitions imploring Aggies to not embarrass the University at these protests, so people should be happy about that.


A day of remembrance

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. In the last few years I have gotten to know many women that have experiences with this type of devastation and grief. So many more than I ever thought I would. But I have also seen God touching those families in amazing ways and His ability to use any situation to show his love and compassion. Please take a moment to pray for everyone who has dealt with losing a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of a newborn.

Let Rush Buy the Rams

As you might guess, I've been following the "controversy" over Rush Limbaugh trying to buy a piece of the St. Louis Rams. And as you might subsequently guess, I think the opposition to his potential ownership is ridiculous and borderline slanderous. A litany of liberal sports columnists have said the NFL should reject him, which won't be necessary because the team he was going to bid with dropped him from their group. This opposition is based on some very dubious arguments:
  • Rush is racist. This argument is commonly made, despite the fact that there is no legitimate reason to believe it. Fabricated quotes have been an important part of the case these columnists have attempted to make that this is so. It is a demonstration of the state of modern media that these sourceless quotes, which are internet rumors, have received wide media play despite no proof they were ever uttered. These columnists clearly are making this accusation based on third-hand knowledge of Rush, probably from what they heard in the media. This is where the borderline slander is occurring.
  • The NFL doesn't want controversy. This is the league that let Michael Vick back in, and includes a number of players with felony records. If the NFL is an OK place for felons, but not conservatives, we have a problem. The league also has a group of owners that includes Jerry Jones and Al Davis. I'm sure I could dig for a few minutes and find plenty of dirt on some other owners in the league that is worse than some "controversial statements."
  • NFL players won't stand for Rush being an owner. If there is a substantial number of NFL players that are that concerned about and opposed to Rush (and I'm skeptical), I still doubt they would refuse to play in St. Louis for that reason. Professional athletes are whores; they would play for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's team, if he had one (and assuming they know who he is). What else are they going to do, find a different career, that pays far, far less?
I doubt that Rush being an owner would hurt the NFL in any significant way. And if Michael Moore or Keith Olbermann wanted to buy a team (not that I put these guys on Rush's level), I would not be opposed. I might not cheer for their teams, though, unless they bought the Vikings, and then I'd have to suck it up. But to say that Rush should somehow be disqualified from owning a piece of an NFL team is baseless, hypocritical, and just plain wrong.


Happy Birthday Craig!

Dear Craig,

You know that I have a really bad cold right now (and yes, I will continue to call it a bad cold and not the flu because that is the type of eternal optimist I am) so instead of coming home tonight to any fun birthday celebrations, you will come to a house filled with cough drop wrapper, popsicle sticks, and saltine crumbs and a wife that smells a lot like Vicks Vaporub.

But if what you always say is true and "It's the thought that counts" then you should know that I had thought you up a great birthday, with a nice homemade meal complete with a new chocolate cake recipe I was just sure you would love and some great presents. And even though I will not be able to actually put any of that together, you should know that I really wanted to because another year of your life is something to celebrate. And I'm so excited about getting to spend the next year by your side, I know it is going to be filled with lots more good memories. Just maybe not this first day or two, apparently that is going to be filled with lots of phlegm. But once we get past that, it's going to be good. I love you!


Renaissance Festival Observations

This weekend, we headed out to experience that mandatory fall activity, the Renaissance Festival. We went to the Texas version of this great tradition. Here are some photos and thoughts.
  • Renaissance Festival doesn't seem like the right term. Considering that many people come to these events dressed like executioners, knights, or William Wallace, I think Medieval Festival might be a better term. While there are some Renaissance-era themes at the event, like Shakespeare shows and printing press demonstrations, a lot of what happens at the festival comes from an earlier time period, like this skeleton ventriloquist:
  • Anachronisms. While some looseness of historical eras is acceptable, I'm not sure if Native Americans or this guy belong at the Ren Fest:

I suppose that Native Americans were around at the same time as your typical Ren Fest characters, they were on a different continent. I think Ren Fest is exclusively a European event. And while the Nazis were in Europe, the 20th century has no place at Ren Fest (well, except for credit cards and Miller Lite).
  • Why were there so many people wearing tails at this thing?
  • Buxom wenches. I suspect that one did not see so much gratuitous cleavage during the Renaissance era.
  • Jousting. I guess they're not going to have real, full-on jousting at these events, but what we saw was really fake, kind of like minor-league pro wrestling. I was disappointed.
Do you have any Ren Fest observations or experiences you'd like to share?


Another reading list update

Mrs. Fyton's Country Life. Mavis Cheek. Starts off yucky, only gets worse. The story of a lady who find herself 20 years into marriage when her husband up and leaves her for a younger woman. So she leaves her selfish teenagers with him, his new wife and baby and heads to the country to start a new life. It's a bit depressing but at least you think you know where this book is going and how she is going to get her happy ending. Then you think, well maybe the author is going to go in this other direction that is a little on the morally sketchy side but might possible work, but then no, she goes in an even worse direction and you want to chuck the book out the window. Plus, the side characters are a bit confusing and she's a little too subtle in her implications sometimes which meant poor naive me was completely confused and feeling like she didn't get the inside joke at times. Don't read this.

An accomplished women. Jude Morgan. I loved the characters in this book. I also loved how I didn't really know how this book was going to end until the last chapter. But, unlike the book above, I was okay with that because I had faith in Morgan. She would not end the story with the heroine main character being the weekend mistress to her ex-husband while his new wife pretends to ignore the situation because she doesn't want to be a single mother. (Oops, I guess I revealed the ending :-) well, if you even felt remotely curious to read it, I hope you don't now.)

And only to deceive. Tasha Alexander. Found through Amazon's "Customer's who bought this also bought..." when looking at the Deanne Raybourn books I mentioned last time. I've had those things recommend some really odd products to me in the past but this time it actually made sense since this is another victorian mystery with a bit of romance. It has all the great characters and mystery elements of the Lady Julia Grey Series without the few things that bothered me about those books so of course, I really enjoyed it. If I had to choose, my first allegiance would still be to Julia over Emily but luckily, I don't have to choose between them and can love them all.

A Poisoned Season. Tasha Alexander. The sequel to the above. I'm still a fan and I'm excited to read more of those but I have to wait as they are all currently check out.

Summertime. Raffaella Barker. A British woman struggles to keep her life and children under control when her live-in boyfriend who has been managing everything moves to the amazon. This was amusing but weird. I enjoyed reading it but I'm not really sure why. I think I might have liked it even more if I had first hand experience with out of control but lovable children and the general struggles of motherhood but maybe not. Do mothers like to escape real life by reading books about other mother's crazy lives? I don't know.

1000 days in Venice. Marlene de Blasi. Autobiography of de Blasi's whirlwind romance and marriage to a Venician she met on her travels. (Is that really not how you spell Venician, Blogger is telling me I'm wrong but it is not offering any good alternatives so I think I'll ignore it.) In theory, I don't believe in love at first site and think moving across the world to marry an almost complete stranger is a bad idea but in practice, I knew I was going to marry Craig the second day I knew him. We still did things the old fashioned way (i.e. dating, engagement and wedding occurring over a span of time) and I'm glad we did but part of me likes reading about someone who took the risk. Perhaps that is because I know it's her real life story so she did get as much of the happily ever after that anyone ever does, but perhaps it is because I know I would have done the same if I had to in order to keep him. Plus, she is a chef so she talks a lot about food. I love books that talk about food.

Murder on Astor place. Victoria Thompson. I'm on a bit of a historical murder mystery kick if you haven't noticed. This one was average. Not the best but I'll probably try the next in the series anyway. The heroine is a intelligent and brazen midwife. I love intelligent and brazen mystery solvers and midwives so how can I not appreciate that combination?

Friendship Cake. Lynn Hinton. A lesbian, an african american women and a female minister walk into a church basement. No, it's not a joke but the actually storyline of a women's church club trying to stay afloat by putting together a cookbook. I could tell it really wanted to be a charming sweet story of friendship in the South filled with loveable characters (i.e. the Mitford Series). Instead it was cliche filled and confusing because she switched from around from 5 different first person viewpoints without really explaining who was talking ( I figured out later is was whoever wrote the recipes preceding the chapter but it was not obvious). Then I got to the second half of the book and she switched to third person and I just gave up which was probable a good thing since when I looked it up on amazon.com to find the author (I had already taken it back to the library) the reviews said it was good to start out with but ended badly. Since I didn't think it started well, I don't even want to imagine the ending.

Inkheart. Cornelius Funke. I saw a preview for this movie and thought it looked interesting and then when perusing Karen's book reviews I remember being intrigued so I actually put effort into getting it. I agree that is interesting. It was almost really good, it just needed something but I'm not sure what. How is that for an insightful review? I actually just now saw that it is part of a trilogy, maybe that makes me feel better about the ending less than perfectly wrapped up which is almost always how I want my books to end. It also made we wish I remembered more of what I was supposed to learn in those years and years of German so I could read it in the original language.

Don't Throw It Out.
Lori Baird. Non-fiction about reusing and repairing things you own. It had a surprising amount of new information but was geared more towards people who own their own home and all the appliances that come with it which alas, is not us. But it did tell me how to unwarp my rotary cutting mat. I'll be trying it out and if it works, I bet you'll be seeing it in an upcoming WFMW.

How the pro-choice movement saved America: freedom politics, and the war on sex. Cristina Page. This book that was "supposed to be" about abortion but was really about birth control got its own post.


Take the Olympics, Please

I love the Olympics as much as anyone, but I'm glad they weren't awarded for several reasons. Like Coyote Blog, I don't want my tax money to go to help Chicago build new facilities. Better to make Brazilian taxpayers foot the bill. Also, Chicago is known for corruption, and you know the city's politicians and their cronies would have been skimming off the top left and right. I'd rather see corrupt Brazilians profit improperly from the Olympics.

On a related note, I ask this question after a number of events, but NBC Chicago wants to know who will take down all those "Chicago 2016" signs.

Power Line, however, says I shouldn't be pleased that Chicago lost.


Where Do They Find These People?

TLC network, the home of such characters as:
  • families with too many kids,
  • dysfunctional parents with too many kids,
  • people who put their kids in beauty pageants,
  • people who didn't know they were pregnant,
  • midgets, and
  • bridezillas,
is now home to people who raise a monkey as if it were a child.

The question in the title of this post is literal, not rhetorical. Where do they find these people?


Foreign Affairs Friday: What to do with Iran

The US and the international community have not had much luck trying to stop Iran's efforts to create nuclear weapons. The major countries can't agree on sanctions, which probably won't lead Iran to give up its uranium, and most don't really like the idea of a military strike, which would be hard-pressed to destroy all components of the program and would have significant after-effects.

I found two articles this week that propose an alternate approach: a concerted attempt to use the issues of human rights and democracy to topple the Iranian regime.
  • Anne Applebaum: "...a sustained and well-funded human rights campaign must be a terrifying prospect. So what if we told the Iranian regime that its insistence on pursuing nuclear weapons leaves us with no choice but to increase funding for dissident exile groups, smuggle money into the country, bombard Iranian airwaves with anti-regime television and, above all, to publicize widely the myriad crimes of the Islamic Republic?
  • Robert Kagan likes the sanctions idea, but with a different goal: "It would be better if the administration focused on the regime's instability and ignored the nukes.

    This ought to be the goal of the "crippling" sanctions the Obama administration has threatened. Sanctions will not persuade the present Iranian government to give up its nuclear weapons program. Ahmadinejad and Khamenei see the nuclear program and their own survival as intimately linked. But the right kinds of sanctions could help the Iranian opposition topple these still-vulnerable rulers.

While some people thought the US couldn't have done anything this summer to help the protesters after Iran's fraudulent election, Kagan states, "The toppling of dictators -- Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, the Polish Communists -- has frequently been aided, sometimes decisively, by foreign involvement, through support to opposition forces or sanctions against the government. One of the main fears of Chinese leaders in 1989 was that students carrying replicas of the Statue of Liberty might gather support from abroad." I agree. No matter what, Iranian leaders will accuse protesters of being Western puppets, so we might as well help out. The people of Iran realize that the post-election protests were legitimate and indigenous.

Considering the apparent hopelessness of the current approach to Iran, even if Russia comes on board, I think the regime-toppling approach is worth a shot.


A Twilight-y post.

In the past week, I've read two different blog posts about Twilight. Neither woman seemed to like it much, and I can't really blame them. I think it might be expectations. Don't think this book is going to change your life, don't think it will be a good source of relationship advice, etc. No matter what the teenage girl who told you to read it said, it's not going to happen. Basically, if you want to enjoy this series, don't think - at all. With that said, you might like it.

But since I've already shared my embarrassing love of the Twilight series, I thought I would also mention one of the best parts of reading Twilight - the mockery of all things Twilight. There is so much good material out there on the world wide web that would not be as funny if you hadn't read the series (although you will probably still get a lot of the jokes). I'd thought I'd share a few of my favorites:

Normal Mormon Husbands has a number of posts written to help out the poor husbands of the world understand what their wife is reading - and address serious issues such as "Can Edward Fart?"

Go Fug Yourself has some excellent reviews of the Twilight cast. But that shouldn't be surprising considering every third post on that site will make me laugh out loud, Kristen Bell can't dress, and Rob Rob Pattinson can't shower.

This alternative Twilight Script (10x shorter, 100x more honest) will make sense (as much sense the possible, that is) to everyone regardless of their familiarity with the real script.

I was going to come up with more, but I really have to no time so your on your own. Go, search, laugh.

*Warning: some of these sites have inappropriate language. Just so you know.