Thursday, September 29, 2005

I Knew It

Well, gay marriage proponents said it wouldn't happen, but now we have polygamy in the West. How long before people start marrying their pets? And at what point does the word "marriage" have so many definitions that it essentially loses all meaning?

Just so there is no misunderstanding: I am not opposed to people unifying themselves in any other way they wish. I support, for instance, establishing gay civil unions. What I oppose is redefining an institution to mean something it doesn't.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Oh, Yeah?

Well, my bazooka-squirrel can take Kevin's commando gerbil and Ravenwood's fighting hamster!

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Hillary Opposes IFC

Hillary opposes the International Freedom Center at Ground Zero:

WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday dealt a crushing blow to the International Freedom Center planned for Ground Zero, saying she wants the project canned for failing to listen to the 9/11 families.

"I cannot support the IFC," Clinton declared last night in a strongly worded statement in response to an inquiry from The Post.

I don't see this borne of anything but political expediency -- she's really trying hard to build up some cred with conservatives. I'm grateful if it results in plans for the loathesome IFC being scrapped, but she's still not getting my vote in '08.

Hamas To Convert Synagogue to Weapons Museum

From LGF:
Incredibly vile behavior from the terrorist gang the world is trying desperately to promote to a “political entity:” Hamas To Convert Synagogue to Weapons Museum. (Hat tip: LGF readers.)

WASHINGTON - Emboldened by Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and part of the West Bank, Hamas yesterday announced its plan to turn a synagogue in Netzarim into a museum that would display weapons employed by the terrorist group’s members against Israeli civilians.

UPDATE at 9/22/05 6:54:08 pm:

I’m reading this again, and wondering where the hell is the world’s outrage about this? Newsweek prints a false rumor that a Koran was dunked in a toilet, and the entire planet goes nuts. Hamas announces that they’re going to turn a Jewish house of worship into a memorial to mass murder ... and the silence is absolutely deafening.

Not much more I can add to that except to point out that the Gaza pullout has produced exactly the kind of response that appeasement always produces, but never intends.

More "emboldened" behavior from Hamas via
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israel launched a "crushing" retaliation Saturday against Hamas in the Gaza Strip with deadly airstrikes and troops massed at the border, after militants fired 35 rockets at Israeli towns -- their first major attack since the Gaza pullout.

The escalation threatened to derail a shaky seven-month-old truce and squashed hopes that Israel's ceding the coastal strip to the Palestinians would invigorate peacemaking.
Is anyone honestly surprised by this? Hamas immediately responded to the pullout by celebrating a "victory of the bomb," and promising to continue their bloody campaign until they have "reclaimed all the land of Palestine." The pullout has done nothing but affirm that terror works.

Friday, September 23, 2005

It's Back

I knew it was just a matter of time! Those of us who lamented the departure of the Nation of Riflemen, lament no more.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Music Meme Part II: Return of the Music Meme

Rusticus at Solarvoid has tagged me for a music meme. I did a version of this on my own a few months back, but, heck, I don't mind doing it again, especially since my responses have changed since then.

1) How much music do I have?

About 100 CDs on my CD shelf. I had a ton of mp3s, but they were accidentally deleted when I reformated my hard drive. *sob*

2) What was the last CD I bought?

Glass Hammer's latest, The Inconsolable Secret. Like Rusticus, I don't tend to buy CDs anymore. This was an exception.

3) What am I listening to right now?

As in, right at this moment? The whirr of my laptop. Oh, you mean musically. Glass Hammer's The Inconsolable Secret. Superb prog (my favorite non-orchestral genre) and one of the most successful "concept" albums in prog history. Inconsolable Secret is one of those albums that creeps up on you. All of Glass Hammer's albums are like that -- after the second or third time you listen through you realize how incredible the music is. The Curmudgeon (also a big Glass Hammer fan) reviews the album with enthusiasm. You can listen to clips from the album on the Glass Hammer website.

4) Five songs I listen to that mean a lot to me?

The first time I did this I listed songs that had meaning and also songs I just liked listening to at the time, since that's what the question asked. That's not in the spirit of this version of the meme, so now I am only listing songs that have meaning for me. In no particular order...

i. "Junkyard Angel" (Glass Hammer) - When I really like a song, I listen to it over and over for weeks. I was listening to this one repeatedly a few years ago when my then-new husband surprised me with a confession that he had been an international volunteer (derogatively referred to as a mercenary) in the Bosnian war. He related a particularly heart-wrenching story to me that had been tearing at him for years. That story is forever tied to this song, and I find that I can't listen to it anymore.

ii. "Luke and Leia " (John Williams) - John Williams is the indisputible modern king of leitmotif, as anyone who has seen the Star Wars movies can attest to. This particular piece is from the Return of the Jedi soundtrack, and accompanies the scene where Leia discovers that Luke is her brother, and Luke is about to leave to confront Vader. This lovely and touching piece is very much a "Luke and Leia" theme, reflecting the special bond between brother and sister. It always reminds me of the friendship I have with my own brother, Carnaby, who is my Irish twin (we're 11 months apart), though he's never been on a quest to destroy an evil emperor.

iii. "Piano Concerto No. 21" (Mozart) - This was the music for my wedding march. Everybody was using Pachelbel's Canon in D at the time, and I wanted to do something different. This serene piece captured perfectly how I felt about marrying the best man I've ever known.

iv. "Nessun Dorma" [No One Sleeps] (Puccini) - From the opera Turandot. My mother played this for us when we were children, and it haunted me for years. I never knew that something could be so sad and beautiful.

v. "Ilia's Theme" and "The Cloud" (Jerry Goldsmith) - There are two contemporary composers who are capable of genius. The first is, of course, John Williams of Star Wars soundtrack fame. The other is Jerry Goldsmith, who composed the soundtrack for my favorite movie of all time, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Like Williams' scores, the genius of this soundtrack is the way it becomes an absolutely essential component of the story, and yet can stand on its own as a work of great power. "Ilia's Theme" hit me square in the chest the first time I heard it. It's so beautiful that it's almost unbearable. And yet it takes on an extra level of poignancy once you've watched the movie and understand Ilia's fate. "The Cloud" captures perfectly the awe and mystery of the enigmatic entity in the movie, known as V'ger. I've always wanted to create a planetarium show featuring "The Cloud," because, for me, this piece also captures the absolute awe and mystery of our incredible universe.

5) I’m passing this meme on to:

Kevin at The Smallest Minority
The Curmudgeon at Eternity Road
Jeff at Alphecca

Saturday, September 17, 2005

This Really Steams Me Up

Via Libertas, I see that Cindy Sheehan now wants Bush to pull out of New Orleans
One thing that truly troubled me about my visit to Louisiana was the level of the military presence there. I imagined before that if the military had to be used in a CONUS (Continental US) operations that they would be there to help the citizens: Clothe them, feed them, shelter them, and protect them. But what I saw was a city that is occupied. I saw soldiers walking around in patrols of 7 with their weapons slung on their backs. I wanted to ask one of them what it would take for one of them to shoot me. Sand bags were removed from private property to make machine gun nests.

The vast majority of people who were looting in New Orleans were doing so to feed their families or to get resources to get their families out of there. If I had a store with an inventory of insured belongings, and a tragedy happened, I would fling my doors open and tell everyone to take what they need: it is only stuff. When our fellow citizens are told to "shoot to kill" other fellow citizens because they want to stay alive, that is military and governmental fascism gone out of control.
For the moment, let's nevermind the reports of people trying to stay alive with their stolen big-screen TVs and 30 pairs of jeans -- has Sheehan not read the reports of armed thugs shooting at rescue and repair personnel? What about this man who spent thousands of his own dollars to truck in free food and water to people in New Orleans only to be shot at? There's no rhyme or reason for attempting murder against people who are helping you. The sad fact is that there are barbarians among us -- people who go absolutely wild as soon as law and order break down. Sheehan calls it "fascist" for Bush to reestablish order and protect the vulnerable population of New Orleans against murderous savages. I call Sheehan deranged. It's time for this woman's 15 minutes to be up already.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Hubby and I live in Texas, where the quality of living for the cost is exceptional. On a modest income we are able to afford a great home, nice cars, and all sorts of comforts (like the ever-growing firearms collection). The political and spiritual climate in Texas is to our liking -- good environment for our future children, not to mention that we can afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom for the first few years (extremely important to me). Also, we plan to homeschool, and Texas has virtually no regulation. The bad things about being here: I HATE heat. This is a huge issue for me. I was raised in Northern B.C., and prefer cold weather -- I live in a constant heat-induced state of depression. Even worse, I am thousands of miles away from my family and closest friends. When we have children, they won't get to see their relatives as often as I would like.

So here's the dilemma. Hubby got a lead on a very good job in the Pacific Northwest, which would be a dream come true except for the fact that we would be moving to Hippie Heaven, doubling our cost of living, and putting up with a lot of homeschooling red-tape.

What to choose? Family, friends, comfortable weather, along with liberals and a so-so lifestyle, orrrrr.... isolation, nonstop heat, along with conservatives and a very comfy lifestyle. Non-issues: gun laws are approximately the same in both states; no income tax in either state. I'm leaning towards family/coldness/liberals/squalor, hubby's gunning for isolation/inferno/conservatives/opulence -- this is gonna be one tough decision. Homeschooling might be the tie-breaker.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Gun Safety Education Pays Off

And it was, more or less, reported well. has the scoop. Way to go, boys. I teach my kids to do the exact same thing. And take that, Brady idiots!

Update: King5 covers it too. More or less the same, except Komo4 says the gun was a 9mm and was "missing the safety mechanism," while King5 has that it was a 22 and "did not have a safety lock."

Also, how about this from the King5 piece:
Authorities do not yet know how the gun got there. The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office hopes to find some answers by tracking down the gun's registered owner.
Yeah, um, like, we don't register our guns in Washington State, much as you might like to believe otherwise. Sheesh.

Update 2: The Komo4 TV report explained that the gun was a Kel-tec "like the one shown here," at which point they flashed an image of a Kimber Target Eclipse II in a Kydex holster. Oh brother.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Thought of the Day

One of the mammoth ironies of life is that the only form of communism that really works is the family unit -- and it's the one thing "progressives" seem most intent on destroying.

A Sound of Crappiness

Update: Scroll down to bottom for review (with spoilers).

I really like bad movies. Not the kind that leave you feeling miserable and cheated at the end, but the kind you can laugh and wonder at. In fact, I bought Ebert's I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie! so I could scope out the very best bad movies. The types that appeal to me: Grandly Bad, which are like watching slow-motion train wrecks (e.g. Alexander); Stupid Beyond All Reason Bad, which allow you and your friends to feel superior and have a wonderful time pointing out the stupidities MST3K-style (e.g. any Pamela Anderson or Madonna movie); all-around Cheesy Bad, which are usually the sort of movies that your best friend's kid brother would've written and produced if he'd had a few million dollars (e.g. Kull the Conqueror); and my personal favorite kind of bad, Earnestly Bad, which wants desperately to please you but just doesn't have the smarts to do it. Ebert's review of A Sound of Thunder gives every indication of the movie belonging in the last category. I am, therefore, going to see it tonight. Review to follow.



First, read Ebert's review for the story basics. Done? Okay...

Special effects were indeed lame, but, as Ebert says, they take on a sort of eerie quality that is appealing. Edward Burns was likable. Edward Burns with no shirt on was really likable. Ben Kingsley's perfectly timed "HA!" was worth at least half the admission price. Out of the standard grab bag of movie villains (businessmen, scientists, the military, Christians, white men, Republicans, etc) the movie decides that the cause of all ruination on the planet is the eeeevil greeeeediness of the businessman. (Just once I'd like to see a movie where the horrible villain is a poet -- a lesbian, atheist, non-white, socialist, killer poet.)

Okay, now for the stuff that really bugged me (lots o' spoilers)...

The movie makes it clear that it believes in evolution (men evolved from apes, etc), which is fine, but then it decides not to play by its own rules. The "hunting party" goes back in time to kill the allosaurus, but something goes wrong and the future (their present) is altered. Time waves start hitting the city, making all sorts of things happen (more on this later). The scientists decide that they must go back and fix whatever happened so that the proper timeline is restored. Here's the problem. My anthropology professor told me that evolution has no goal, it just does what it does through random mutations. If it's all based on chance, then there's no such thing as a "proper" timeline, and who's to say which is the preferred future? Unconscious nature doesn't care whether advanced beings eventually evolve from apes or from bugs or whatever, so what difference does it make what future the earth ends up with?

As for the bad things that happen, when the time waves hit, the only discernible differences are that (1) the city becomes more and more overgrown with weird tropical vegetation, and (2) some new species have evolved, and roam the city killing and munching on humans. All the infrastructure of the city is still there, it's just covered with killer plants, and everyone still has their memories from the original timeline. But, when one of the characters decides to go back to the prehistoric hunting site to find out what was altered and do something about it, he tells another character that if he fails no one will realize it because the future will have been altered. Huh? Trying to reconcile all of this just made my brain hurt.

So, anyway, wanna know what caused the future to be completely altered? Somebody in the hunting party inadvertently squished a prehistoric butterfly with his boot. I have a couple of problems with this: (1) Nature, in this movie, is not very robust. One stinkin' butterfly in hundreds of millions of years and almost 60 million square miles on the earth was responsible for life on earth turning out the way it did? (2) We know that the volcano in the background is just five minutes away from exploding and decimating everything within sight, so how would squishing the butterfly have made any difference in the first place?

I don't mind a certain degree of implausibility in a movie, but I resented this one's poor logic. It ruined what would otherwise have been a perfectly good bad movie experience.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

An American Werewoman in Paris

I'm leaving Paris tomorrow morning, so here (at last!) is a compilation of my notes from the last week or so...

Aug 30th

Here I am in Paris, City of Lights, finally getting over my jet lag. Arrived on Sunday to do some work as a visiting astronomer at L'Observatoire de Paris. What to say about Paris. Well, it is utterly beautiful and charming. I'm staying at a little hotel in south Paris (Montparnasse), the kind of hotel that is housed in a late 19th/early 20th century building overlooking a street packed with brasseries and cafés. There is a cozy little crêperie five feet away from the front entrance of the hotel, where I enjoyed a buckwheat crêpe stuffed with smoked salmon. Speaking of which, Paris cuisine is out of this world. Well, most of it. My first night here I tried chitterlings (pig intestines, also called "chitlins" in the American South), which is quite possibly the most disgusting food in the world. Other than that, the food is divine. Canard (duck) is very popular fare at the brasseries. Tonight I had a French dinner salad, which is served in an enormous crock and comes with duck livers, gizzards, bacon, goat cheese, and fried potatoes, i.e. a total calorie bomb. Dessert was coupe agenais (prune sorbet with chantilly, another 5000 calories). French meals can last for hours. First you have the before-dinner drink (apéritif), then salad, entrée (trivium: entrée in France means appetizer), main dish, cheese, dessert, café (espresso), and finally the digestif (e.g. brandy). Then you stumble back to your hotel room in a gastronomical stupor and sleep it all off. Lunch is more subdued, but still incroyable by American standards. My first day at work I enjoyed this meal in the cafeteria: artichoke stuffed with tuna salad, fresh tomatoes with goat cheese, baguettes, sautéd veal served with spiced creamed potatoes and glazed carrots, honeydew melon drizzled with caramel, coconut tarte, Perrier (wine and beer are also offered), and then a leisurely-sipped café with petit chocolat. Because this is a government institution, my meal was subsidized by the French taxpayers -- I paid 3 euros. While I enjoyed my lunch, here was my view from the cafeteria window

There are enormous fish in the lake, which many of the astronomers feed with the leftover baguettes from lunch before the stroll back to the offices. Here is the walk back to my office

The entrance to the observatory

My office at L'Observatoire de Paris is located in the village of Meudon. To get there, one drives through Clamart, which is where Arafat kicked the bucket. (Incidentally, I was told that the Palestinian Authority were all holed up at the fabulous InterContinental Paris Hotel during that time, where they were no doubt received with open hairy French arms. Good to know the PA is so in touch with the common people.) We typically arrive for work at 11h00 and go to lunch by 12h00 or 12h30. Lunch takes about an hour. Then we go home at 16h00 or 17h00, freshen up a bit and wander the streets in search of a brasserie for dinner. I'm beginning to understand what Mick Jagger meant when he spoke of "relentless luxury."

Paris is relentless luxury. The city itself is beautiful in the extreme. The food is decadent. Everyone is attractive and chic. Men and women alike look as though they just stepped out of a fashion shoot. No one wears shorts or sweat pants in public unless they are jogging. Even the bums are fashionable. It's weird to see these drunk and dirty beggars with sweaters tied around their shoulders, greeting each other with kisses in the French manner. And the French language, itself, is sensual and gorgeous and decadent. All of this is quite admirable until you realize that a lot of effort must go into creating and maintaining the beauty and decadence and chicness. Human beings only have finite energy, so you wonder what is being traded-off for the beauty and decadence and chicness. I think what's being traded off is soul. The city lacks spirit. Paris is like a stunning supermodel: you gawk because it is so unbelievably beautiful, but you feel no spirit, no hint of any depth or concern for anything but its own wonderfulness. I started feeling profoundly depressed after a couple of days of living in Paris -- the wonderfulness starts wearing you down. Relentless luxury.

Sept 1st

Visited the cemetery at Montparnasse this afternoon, not two blocks from my hotel. Among its more notable residents

Henri Poincaré, the mathematician/physicist who first conceived of relativity.

Jean-Paul Sartre, existentialist philosopher. A couple of dorks left notes for him: "You mean so much to me. Now you're free." Blerk. Buried with his philosopher/feminist companion, Simone de Beauvoir.

Theirs was the only grave surrounded by discarded Métro tickets. No idea why.

Visited Notre Dame this afternoon. Breathtaking. Enormous. I could have stayed there for hours.

Didn't take many photos. Just wanted to enjoy the immensity and solemn loveliness of the place.

Wandered through St Michel and stopped at a café where I enjoyed a $6 iced tea. Note: try to find restaurants that are at least one to two blocks away from big tourist attractions -- the prices are ridiculous otherwise. Found the Latin Quarter and wondered why I didn't wait to have lunch there. Regardless of where you go, waiters in Paris are incredibly professional -- and almost always male. People working in shops generally aren't thrilled to help you unless they are non-French and thus possess the non-French desire to express appreciation to the person handing them money. Encountered several police officers on my outings. They are not friendly, and seem to overreact to minor disturbances. My companion recalled an incident the last time he was in Paris, in which a mime who had dared to perform on the street without a permit was being hassled by the police. The crowd that had gathered to watch the mime was a little displeased with this, so the police let them have it with tear gas. Seems like a lot of fuss over an unlicensed pantomime. But the police get a pass if only because -- God forgive me -- the thought of a mime and a bunch of tourists getting tear-gassed is rather funny.

Sept 2

Rodin museum in Meudon. Filled with studies of his most famous sculptures. Would have liked to have seen the actual sculptures in Paris, but no time. Later in the evening, a boat tour of the city along the Seine. Indescribably beautiful and romantic. Wished desperately that my husband had been with me. The Louvre is gigantic. Saw the prison where Marie Antoinette and many others had been held for two years and then guillotined. The Eiffel Tower. Enormous and sparkling in the evening. Stunning. Absolutely must be seen in person to be appreciated. Dinner in the Latin Quarter. French wine is good and cheap in France (who'da thunk it?) Staggered back home on the RER. Wanna get up early (ugh) to hit the open air market in Montparnasse tomorrow morning.

Sept 3

Got some fab shoes at the market along with a delicious meal from an African booth. Then ate waaaaay too much chocolate and passed out for an hour in my hotel room. Had several hours to myself, so decided to nip down to the Eiffel Tower again, this time for a trip to the very top. Crowded. Heard voices from England, Germany, Spain, and America. It was nice to hear some english being spoken. The trip to the top was hot and crowded. Note: save yourself a few euros and at least 30 minutes by only going to the 2nd level. The view of Paris is still magnificent from there, and there's ample room to move around. Going up to the very top takes forever, and it's darned crowded. The view is underwhelming after having looked around from the 2nd tier. Didn't bother to snap any pics, because there is just no way to capture the view or the enormity of the tower in a photo. Saw the first and only manly-looking men in Paris, which were the dozen or so armed guards patrolling the place (and, ironically, where the only Frenchies I saw wearing beréts!) Wonder how long that's been going on (the patrolling, not the beréts). Looked like they were carrying FAMAS rifles. Was sorta tempted to ask for a closer look, but thought better of it. :-)

General notes about the trip

Only encountered one or two rude people in Paris (I'd term it more as "abrupt" than "rude"), and this was only in shops. Everyone else has been very friendly and welcoming. I think a lot of that is owed to my attempting to speak French as much as I possibly could. My French sucks, but I have found that approaching someone even with just "bonjour!" gets you a friendly response. I have met a handful of wonderful people while I have been here, people I hope very much to see again. Much to my surprise, I realized by the end of the trip that I had gotten over the extravagance-induced depression and would be happy to visit Paris again. Would never want to live here for any appreciable amount of time, but if one wants to depart from the world of ordinariness for a short time, I recommend Paris as a destination. Only, don't come alone. Visiting one of the most romantic cities in the world is an experience that needs to be shared with someone you love.

I'm on my way back to Texas tomorrow morning. Can't wait to see hubby (and the cat) again. Been away too long, but I'm sure Mr. Stapers has enjoyed his two weeks of bachelorness. Gotta lot of catching up to do when I get back, so posting may not resume for a little while, but who knows. Anyway, until next week, au revoir!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Quote of the Day

Lileks on who is helping Katrina victims and who isn't
FEMA’s list of charities is here. Note anything about what sort of organizations are doing the hard work? I keep looking for the Objectivist Mutual Aid Society, but it never pops up. Last time I checked the French weren’t helping much, either – odd. The one place in the country where their guys could read the signs, and they don’t bother to pitch in.
Reminds me of an Objectivist superhero I saw somewhere -- this guy in tights flies around the city approaching people in distress only to tell them to help their own damn selves. Howard Roark may be one of the all-time great fictional characters, but for all its pontificating, has Objectivism actually done anything to advance humanity? Not that I can tell. One of the reasons I turned in my Objectivist card and became a Christian.

Randians and Frenchies notwithstanding, there appear to be several worthy charities out there doing their darndest to help Katrina's victims. I recommend the Salvation Army. As their website says, a $100 donation will feed a family of four for two days, provide two cases of drinking water and one household clean-up kit, containing brooms, mops, buckets, and cleaning supplies. If you can, please give.