Thursday, June 23, 2005

Disgusting and debilitating

I cannot contain my revulsion at the most recent supreme court ruling. The most magnificent development of the 18th century and America was the concept of property rights. This throws everything in the garbage. I have seen homes and land seized for the tunnel in Atlantic City (so that Philadelphia visitors can get to Brigantine more easily without passing through some of the worst neighborhoods), for road expansion (currently happening in front of my parents house in Cologne, NJ) and new shopping centers. This is a blatant upheaval of the foundations of our country and rule of law. If it were not for the importance of this building brick, this kind of talk might be dismissed. Property ownership cannot be underestimated! I certainly hope that any justice who leaves the Supreme Court is one that was part of the majority in this decision and I hope the Congress does everything in its power to appoint strict originalists.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Book Learning

After college, I occasionally try to learn something new. I do not learn much and am not often successful. These attempts invariably involve trying to read a text book. Do instructors deliberately skip derivation steps and providing answers just to keep class rooms in business? Why does it seem impossible to find a book that actually explains a topic clearly? A lot of times the fault is mine for not understanding what level of book I should use to start. Sometimes the book itself claims to be introductory and then you discover it's an introduction for people who are already in-depth in that field and looking at a very esoteric discipline within that field.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Some Sense

I had a 15 minute slice of clear thinking last week. I left work early enough to listen to Rush Limbaugh's show. I'm not a huge fan of conservative radio--as long as the topic is limited government or fiscal matters, it's OK. But that day was a great day. Rush was on vacation and who should be filling in? Walter Williams! I like his economics and self-sufficiency views very much. Now, Walter Williams fills in for Rush regularly, so why should this be particularly exciting? Of course, because he was interviewing Thomas Sowell! Their opinions are well-reasoned, thorough and they make it so easy to understand.

So Your Kid Said Please for the Millionth Time...

I say get them the litle trinket they've worked for so long and hard.

Miss Manners believes that to raise well-mannered children, every time they ask for anything you reply 'Well, I was going to get it for you as a surprise, but it wouldn't be any fun now that you asked for it.' and then watch their crestfallen faces all the way back to the car. What lessons are our children learning? Yes, they are learning that you are absolutely unwavering in giving them anything for which they ask. Shortly, they stop asking you to buy them anything. They are now at your mercy and have learned that their desires are intolerable.

I once read an article (I don't remember which magazine or when it was) that lamented Americans inability to negotiate. I remember there was some story that went like this:

An American is visiting Egypt. He sees a wonderful horse being held by an Egyption merchant. The American tells the Egyptian that he'd like to buy the horse. The Egyptian relays a marvelous history of the importance of the horse and how special it was to him and his family. The story ends with the Egyptian saying that he couldn't bear to be parted from the horse. The American says 'OK' and walks away. The Egyptian shouts after him, 'Hey, I thought you wanted to buy a horse!'

We should not allow our children to forget that they can be influential and if that means occasionally I give in to the 'gimmes' and get requests when we're at the store, then I'm willing. The lesson I want to teach my children is to ask for what they want, be persistant and they just might get it.

Not Commercial My A$$

PBS has been a bore to watch for decades. The two or three decent shows are drowned out by Charitable trust and cereal commercials. I have two children who are young and even I find the kids shows so insipid and boring that I banned them for trying to make my children cooperative, cookie-cutter little mush-minds.

Public Places, Private Faces

There is a common misconception that facilities that allow public acces are 'public spaces'. This has led to many ill-conceived property right infringements. Smoking bans are the most recent example ( As more and more behavior becomes stigmatized or as other political trends come to light, this fundamental misunderstanding will become yet another tool to regulate and control.

The misconception has a very obvious origin. A place that any person is generally allowed to enter without being screened in some other way is considered 'open to the public'. Most retail stores, doctor's offices, and real estate offices would be examples. Once a location becomes 'open to the public' it is easy to conflate the terms 'open to the public' with 'public space.' A 'public space' has the very specific connotation of belonging, in some way, to the populace. Most parks, government facilities, public schools and roadways are considered public spaces. A public space is usually 'open to the public.' That both types of facilities are 'open to the public' does not make them both 'public spaces.' True 'public spaces' are wholly owned by the government. The other facilities that allow public access are privately owned by individuals, corporations or other cooperative groups. These are private buildings and businesses.

That 'public spaces' belong to th government, it is often assumed they belong to the people since the government is 'of the people.' The logic, it seems, dictates that 'public spaces' are for everyone in the public and because the government belongs to the people, thus every person has a right to use the space. It is this new right that seems to allow the most harm when combined with the wrong understanding of 'public access.' Once an entity allows public access and is misconstrued to be a 'public space' now it is assumed every person has a right to use that facility or space. This is, of course, sloppy thinking at its most dangerous. Treading on property rights of any entity is harmful to property rights in toto.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A foxglove is starting to open up in a nice secluded spot in my yard. I find that I am more likely to spend time in my yard where I can see some results from effort I have expended.

This is the first poppy. I am impressed with the large-sized blooms and the vibrant color contrasted with the delicate appearance of the petals.

A Stella D'Oro daylily. There are a lot of blooms ready and this is not the first one. This performs really well at the front of my garden.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

I have this fountain in my back yard. I have really enjoyed it.

Another local. He's the third one I've seen this weekend.

A lovely double-columbine. This is smaller than the picture posted earlier though from the same seed pack.

A bumblebee enjoying the lupines I started from seed last year. All lot of the flowers I started from seed are blooming at this time. I must have realized how little of my garden blooms in late spring.

Here is a garden friend enjoying dinner. This is way too close for my comfort. Just after taking this picture I killed something similar to this in the kitchen. Then I sprayed insecticide all around the foundation.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Book Club Selections (that I can remember)

I got to pick Anthem by Ayn Rand and 1984 by George Orwell. Both were too high school. Other books we've had include Confederacy of Dunces, The Red and the Black, The Stranger and Plot Against America. I know there are more, but I've forgotten them (that was when I was just not reading the books).

Plot Against America--American Style

This is the most recent in the string of books selected by the liberal intellectuals (well, at least they're trying to be) in my book club. I found this book full of run-on sentences. It may seem bizarre, but right after being hit in the face with the collectivism of the Jewish neighborhoods, the never-thinly-veiled 'this Repub can take away your rights too and just may because he's a repub just like my fictional character who was never actually elected but who might have wanted to do some really bad things' politics, the most annoying thing was the page-long paragraphs made up of only two or three sentences. I joked that in one sentence you're introduced to the character, given their description, their history, how they ended up in that location and then what happens when they're there.

This is our friend Rocky. The garden behind him is where the pictures below were shot. We adopted Rocky from the local pound. He was found tied to the fence of the pound one morning. He was everything I wanted. I desired a full-grown dog that was already house-broken and less likely to nip, large, short-haired and a breed I knew would bond well with families. He has been perfect for us and the kids.

This is a lovely double columbine. I couldn't get a good picture without standing on my head (though I got close to trying). Also started from seed last year. This picture was taken the second week of May as well.

Here is a Columbine that I started from seed last year. It was a lot of work to plant the seed, feed, water and move it in and out of doors, plant it and then have it not bloom until the next year. This was also taken in the second week of May.

Second week of May in the Northeast. This bleeding heart was planted about three years ago.

Analysis of the original Scooby Doo Cartoon

I love Scooby! I almost like it enough to enjoy the Scooby Doo live-action movies--almost.

What is it about Scooby? I enjoy the mix of different types of kids. I appreciate that the ghosts are never real. The kids always stick with the mystery and the danger until the case is solved. Every one of the gang shows bravery (some with more Scooby-snack prodding than others). There is some adventure because they are teenagers off on their own. Overall, the kids are heroes and the themes are reality-based.

What has been done with Scooby since Cartoon Network bought it is unfortunate in some ways. I think parents and kids who watch the recent movies (like 'Zombie Island') will see shows that promote other-worldliness and a lot of attempted one-up-manship within the team. The new Cartoon Network realization is unworthy of the orginal Scooby.

P.S. I am NOT counting Scrappy.

Felt little

It's over! It's been over for 30 years. It was analyzed til the cows came home over and over. Books, movie, article after article. Just because Felt exposed himself (or his family exposed him) does not mean we need to step back in time. Enough.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newsweek has a scapegoat

Notice how every Newsweek statement states that they gave the article to the Pentagon to review? The inevitable final declaration is that the Pentagon did not correct the item.

What is the Newsweek staff getting paid to do?

Excuses, excuses! The saddest part is that this smoke-screen will work.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ticket Crazy

Occasionally I read the local-local news (that would be the free newspaper covering the towns immediately around my area). This newspaper is always full of interesting tidbits. When is the next town meeting? How much land is going to be taken off the market so the town can pay year after year to have it converted into parks to preserve ‘open space’. It also includes the police blotter.

I first started reading the police blotter because there was a rash of purse-snatchings, of which I was one of the targets. What I have noticed, over and over again, is the number of tickets given for motor vehicle incidents. Along with the usual drunk driving (a lot of those!), there are also tickets given to people who drove into someone’s bushes or ended up in a ditch and had to get towed out. At first I thought the tickets might be used to assign ‘official’ blame so someone whose property was damaged could sue for compensation. But I’ve seen more and more of the second case. Someone did something that caused them to damage only themselves or their own car and they’re written up.

In the case of a person ending up in the ditch, the officer wrote the ticket for not staying in the designated lane. As far as I’m concerned, everyone has swerved outside of their lane for one reason or another with varying degrees of consequences. Of course one should make a concerted effort to stay on the road to avoid other people and to keep oneself safe. If there is no one else on the road, I wouldn’t have a problem with someone weaving across four lanes. I also think there is a matter of payment. When your car goes into a ditch, you have to pay to get it extracted. It will likely need some repair and at the very least you’ll worry about it constantly for a week or head to the mechanic to have it checked out. Isn’t that enough for something that didn’t actually hurt any one or damage anyone’s property? Do you have to throw some ticket on top of it?

Friday, April 22, 2005


 Lobbers are really lobsters.  Whenever I take my daughters to the grocery store, we crowd around the lobster tank.  Partially because it is the closest we get to a zoo on any given day and partially because they are horrendously ugly and move around.  ‘Lobbers’ is the toddler appellation for such hideous beasts.

I like the taste of lobsters.  I had never tried them until I was out of college (for the last reason listed about why they are mesmerizing).  Once I did try them, I was too timid to attempt anything other than lobster bisque and lobster tails at restaurants.  For some Mother’s day while my daughter was young and we didn’t have a baby sitter, my husband and I decided on lobster and filet mignon.  He was in charge of the lobsters.  He cooked them and cleaned them and delivered me a plate with nothing but clean, white, succulent meat.

A few months later, I decided to surprise him with lobster for dinner.  The girls and I went to the store on a whim and there was a sale.  Who can resist a sale?  I got two scrawny specimens and tried to avoid touching the moving part of the bag when I put it in the cart.  The bag became a source of fear and fascination for my two little ones (and myself).  Happily, the undulating sack was placed in a thoroughly more welcome outer enclosure with, Lord love them, handles. 

While the honoree of this feast was running late, I decided to heat the water.  Still running late, I began to wonder if I should refrigerate and risk shocking the little water-roaches into a premature death.  Realizing that I would not know if they were dead or not (certainly can’t check if they’re cold), I decided that if I gently tipped the (ugh) bag over the pot, I could at least start the eventually delectable meal.  The goal was to maneuver the squirming, claw-waving denizens of the not-so-deep into an over-filled pot of roiling, scorching water without having the shiny, pock-marked shell, swiveling antennae, and feathery protrusions of the tail brand my brain forever with the intimate knowledge of their feel.  

Arms fully extended and tongs and a knife as tools (no flesh of mine was going to be within brushing distance of any lobster protuberance), I awkwardly released the bag closure.  I pinched the side of the top of the opening and lifted the sogging bottom and brought the edge of the insect’s current abode to the level of the scalding water.  The spray from the bursting bubbles stung my hands.  I tipped the bottom of the bag up and watched one lobster’s tail emerge.  The tail curled as the lobster fell faster out of the bag.  As the lobster plunged into the water, I was splashed!  I was in pain and panicked.  I moved my hands away from the pot with the bag still tilted.  Instead of the second lobster joining its brethren in the watery grave, it had a free ticket for the top of the stove.  I screamed.  My daughters ran into the kitchen to find out what happened.  

At exactly their eye level was a creature that one could have nightmares contemplating.  Its feelers wiggled and claws rotated and its legs skittered on the smooth enamel coating of the stove top.  They screamed and took shelter behind the kitchen table.  The girls displayed a mix of loathing and enthrallment as they watched the struggling creature, unable to approach and unable to stop looking.  I stood, I think, in shock.  As I watched this menace, all of the possible scenarios played out in my mental vision.  The most frightening was this lobster, like the agile Alien newborn, would suddenly find some traction and scurry off the edge of the sink and disappear under the furniture to attack again.  Even with such consequences foremost in my consideration, instead of using my hands to hurry the creature into its proper location (the boiling death), I searched around for an alternative solution.  I eventually used the pot lid like a dust pan and a wooden spoon as a prod and corralled the monstrosity onto the lid.  I felt a wave of relief wash over me as I slid the beast into the water.  

The girls went back to playing while their father arrived in time to deal with preparing the lobster meat.  We finally sat down with a properly set table and some wine.  The girls were watching TV in the living room.  As usual, only being 5 and 2, they came to visit us often during the meal.  I offered them a taste of the delectable fair.  My eldest was willing to try the food we were enjoying.  I cut a small piece of the lobster meat off and she place it in her mouth.  She seemed to enjoy it for a couple of chews and then the sides of her mouth turned down.  She got a napkin and removed the partially masticated lump.  I asked her if she didn’t like it.  Her response was ‘I’m afraid it’s going to move in my mouth’.





Wednesday, April 20, 2005

iTunes Experience

I started shopping at the iTunes store just before Easter.  I found some great songs for the kids Easter Egg Hunt party.  I also decided to pick a few songs for myself.  When I looked up one of my favorites, there were a lot of different versions.  I only wanted the radio-play version.  I listened to the samples.  Without fail, the samples from obscure songs or sources are completely inadequate.  Most of them were only the first 30 seconds of the song and end even before they get to the singing.  I bit the bullet and purchased THE WRONG VERSION.  Of course it was only a dollar (advertised at $0.99 but they charge a $0.01 tax—of course no idea where that money goes), but if I went back and tried to download each song until I got to the right one it could cost $10.  I searched the Apple website for ½ an hour before I discovered that there is a) no phone number and b) you have to sign up for Mac account to even send them e-mail.  Of course, I wrote something and there has been NO response.  None, zero, zip, zilch, nada.  Non-responsive customer service in this case means NO CUSTOMER!  Good-bye, iTunes!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Taking over the bills

I have been the woman of the bills for over a month now.  What was the highest on my agenda?  A budget.  The second highest?  Disallowing all direct deductions from the checking accounts and all automatic bills going to the credit cards.  ‘Why get rid of such a convenience?’ you ask.  Because while my head was turned away, my car insurance went up 3 times and an additional charge for ‘roadside assistance’ appeared on my husband’s cell phone account.  It is impossible to financially aware when things can slide under your nose so easily.  Whatever is costs to receive paper bills will be worth it when I can be assured I know where the charges are coming from and how much I am paying.