Monday, January 31, 2005

783 Murphy Brown, even better the second time around

Murphy Brown and the cast of FYI are now on Nick-at-Night, and better than ever. We watched the show's first installment in 1988 and enjoyed most of the early seasons, although not happy about the out-of-wedlock baby story line.** The original ensemble included: Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), (now starring in her own sitcom with Kelly Ripa) a former Miss America hired for her looks; Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto), investigative reporter; Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough), the neurotic anchorman; Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud), a new college grad in his first "real" job as a producer; Eldin Bernecky (Robert Pastorelli), a house painter who is always working on Murphy's house and becomes the babysitter when her son, Avery, is born; and Phil (Pat Corley), the owner of Phil's Bar, where the FYI staff hangs out. There was a long parade of real news reporters as guests on the show, but the funniest theme, a long running joke, were the always weird and wonderful secretaries to assist Murphy. Looking at the episode list, there are many I don't recall, but I assume I lost interest after awhile.

I just wish they weren't running it at 3:30 a.m. I get up early, but . . .

Maybe I'll have to buy the DVD: "Murphy Brown: The Complete First Season" kicks off the series with Murphy returning to "F.Y.I." after drying out at the Betty Ford Clinic. In her absence, the show has gone through some changes, including the addition of a beauty queen who thinks she's a journalist and a new young executive producer fresh from Harvard who's never worked in television. During the first season, Murphy went through twenty secretaries, sparred with her house painter Eldin (Robert Pastorelli), and traded barbs with the "F.Y.I." team at their favorite hangout, Phil's, run by the all-knowing owner Phil (Pat Corely). Unique to the series, each episode opened with a different Motown song whose title or lyrics related to the story line to follow. In its nine-year run, this acclaimed sitcom garnered 62 Emmy nominations and 18 wins, 4 of which were for season one.

The 22 episodes run 535 minutes on this 4-disc DVD with extras that include:
-- "Murphy Brown: An F.Y.I. Exclusive" looks back at season one and how it all began with interviews by Creator Diane English, Candice Bergen and other cast members
-- Episode Commentary on "Respect" and "Summer of '77" with Diane English and Candice Bergen"

Photo at Classic

** See: Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, "Dan Quayle was right." Atlantic Monthly, April 1993.

782 Can they ever report good news?

The December economic figures posted in today's Wall Street were good--didn't jot them all down but personal income up +3.1%, productivity +1.9%, unemployment steady at 5.4%. Then while flipping through the USAToday I noticed a photo full page story on "State of the Union," with mostly negative slant from the subtitles, unless you looked closely.

What a surprise to see Ron and Mary of our church featured in a story about a corporate couple who bought a bakery (Great Harvest Bread Company) so they could spend more time with their children as a family. I was in an aerobics class with Mary, and we received some free gifts from their shop when we moved here three years ago. Their baked goods are to die for and the owners are right there.

A black doctor was interviewed for this story--he was worried about red tape and paperwork hurting patients. Hmmm. I wonder who's to blame for that? A Pensacola tax marketer was complaining about not having enough money to eat out more and enjoy more entertainment. An architect worried about the deficit and our international image, but they apparently interviewed him on the job based on his photo. A Puerto Rican who is loving his Chicago job and location and opportunities apparently finds work that some locals don't want, because he was thrilled. At the bottom of the page were tiny charts--eating out, up; federal debt, up; employment, up; satisfaction, up; foreclosures, down; deliquent loans, down.

It sure is hard to report on bad news these days. Need to call in John Kerry and Ted Kennedy who managed to put a negative spin on the first free Iraqi election in history for help in composing those make-believe economy stories. John ("let's not over-hype this") Kerry's stock could have soared if he'd just complimented the Iraqis. But he was his usual pompous, my-way-or-the-highway, doomsayer self.

781 Grocery day soup

Last week it was bread pudding. This week it is broccoli soup. This nutritous meal only needs 4 basic ingredients. When I started to put the fresh vegetables and fruit away today I discovered some tired and old has-beens in the drawer. A huge broccoli bunch was turning yellowish; would go nicely with some taters in the basement growing white beards and getting soft. I always keep chicken broth on hand, so into the pot went the broccoli, potatoes and broth.

It doesn't seem to make much difference how much of what is used. The potatoes are the thickening, so you can use 2 or 6--just depends on what you have on hand. Cook the sliced stems of the broccoli with the potatoes chunks and throw the florets in for the last few minutes. (If you have an onion, that's good too.) Then swirl it all in the blender. If you have half 'n half on hand, that gives it a nice flavor, but canned milk or regular milk will work--just won't be as thick.

This recipe from the Idaho Potato Commission indicates you can also use potato flakes, dry milk and frozen broccoli. I'd rather use up what I have.

Last week, I remembered Mom with the bread pudding. This week with the soup, it is Dad. "Baby, don't you want to put on an apron?" (And he was right, as usual, and my white sweater has a few green spots.)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

780 Google now in Sanskrit

From Adorablog

779 Medved on Theocons

In an interview with The American Enterprise, film critic Michael Medved explains his change from left wing radical to right wing conservative. He says he is not a "neocon," but a "theocon."

TAE: How do you define theocon?

MEDVED: As a conservative whose outlook has largely been shaped by religious commitment. One of the things that most irreligious or nonreligious Americans don't recognize sufficiently is that a huge theme of American religiosity, both Christian and Jewish, is that the individual goes through a rebirth, a recommitment, a return. That kind of transforming religious experience is usually associated with a more conservative political outlook.

The President of the United States would be a prominent example of what we're talking about. I think that the clear basis for President Bush being more conservative than his father, and vastly more conservative than his grandfather Prescott Bush, is his extremely vital personal religious faith, which he says had a transforming impact on his life.

This is one of many things that the secularists don't get--the President's "I once was lost, but now I'm found. I once was blind, but now I see." This is the core story of American Christianity, the story of being born again, of having a new life, of coming home, of the prodigal son.

In other words, one of the things they'd throw at President Bush is that he was a frat boy, he drank too much, he was a playboy. Well, yes--he says so. And he
went through a change. And part of what I'm hoping to do in my book is to talk about the fact that we have a parallel tradition on the Jewish side of things. Resh Lakish was a former thief and a lowlife who became one of the great rabbis of the Talmud. An amazing number of scholars and figures in the Torah are people who are converts to Judaism, who had no religious commitment at all, who turned their lives around."

Medved knew both John Kerry and Hillary Rodham at Yale. He didn't like Kerry then, but did like Mrs. Clinton.

"MEDVED: I thought at the time that Kerry was simply too pompous to go as far as he has. Usually politicians who are successful are people with some kind of spontaneous likeability. I had close contact with John Kerry, and his likeability factor is nonexistent.

I think Hillary will be more of a challenge in 2008 than a lot of conservatives think. She's really worked hard in the Senate. She's definitely moved to the center. And her voting record on military things is now conservative. If she's able to allow her native niceness to come out, she will be a formidable candidate."
In another article with a one page list of Indicators, TAE outlines what it continues to call the Bush mandate:

Bush's share of the vote was larger than the fraction won by any Democrat in 36 years, beginning with Hubert Humphrey in 1968; Bush increased his percentage of the vote in 45 out of 50 states; Bush in 2000 had more votes than Clinton in 1996, and his second term total was 3 times the jump Clinton achieved between 92 and 96; Bush is the first President since 1924 to start a second term with House and Senate majorities; 48 percent of women voted for Bush compared to 43 percent in 2000; and for the first time in modern history, as many voting Americans fundamentally identified themselves as Republicans as Democrats. Check it out here.

778 Canada geese, go home

Blog Driver's Waltz is one of the best looking blogs among my links--well designed and tasteful. And I'm betting it is really interesting too, if only I understood what he's talking about, but most of the time I don't. Today I noticed a tiny book cover over to the right for "Souvenir of Canada 2." Viewed through my trifocals, the book cover looked like a photo of a Canada Goose dropping its load, but upon enlargement, it is actually two fused geese moving in opposite directions, just like some things Canadian. I peeked inside (Amazon lets you do that) and it looks like a really interesting book. This is Douglas Coupland's second book about why Canada is really cool.

It's not about scooping poop, which we have to do around here, every place there is a small pond--like the little park next to our church. I don't know how often the staff has to flush the sidewalks or clean the treads on the shoes of the pre-schoolers, but I'm guessing it is often. As I drove home yesterday, I'd say conservatively, 1,000 geese were nibbling, skating on the frozen pond, chatting up their buddies and wandering into traffic. I sometimes see joggers and walkers in that area, but they'd need to be constantly looking down. I have a sneaky feeling these geese have never even visited Windsor.

This website is devoted to calming fears about tons of poop in our parks.

This one says we don't have enough data.

When I was a veterinary librarian at Ohio State, I did get questions about fecal count in bird feces and avian diseases. One time I got a phone call from a chef in New York City who wanted to bake blackbirds in a pie for a contest. This is not a joke. Librarians hear the strangest things.

777 Jumping into the deep end

When I started blogging in October 2003, I waited until the seventh entry before I wrote about quintiles, retirement and baby boomers. BrainDrain has jumped right in, posting about social security and his ideas for rescuing it, immediately after his "testing, testing 1-2-3" post. I think it is the right mix of opinion, fact, chat and hyperbole--so we'll look forward to more good blogging from another Midwesterner.

776 Gallant and Goofus

Remember the cartoon panel in Highlights for Children of the two boys, one well mannered and ethical, and the other clueless about behavior and attitude? Garry C. Myers III, the CEO of Highlights, was the child model for Gallant. His grandparents Garry Cleveland Myers and Caroline Clark Myers founded Highlights in 1946. Garry III's obituary was in the local paper yesterday. He died January 26.

The parents of young "Gallant" were killed in a plane crash and he and his siblings were raised by an aunt and uncle in Texas. The Columbus Dispatch reports "He graduated from U.S. Army Language School in Monterey, California, and served as a Spanish language specialist in Panama. He received a bachelor's degree in International Affairs at George Washington University in 1972 and then earned a M.B.A. in marketing from the University of Michigan. In 1971 at age 24 and while still in the Army, Myers was elected to the board of directors of Highlights for Children, Inc. He joined Highlights in 1975 as a management information analyst. In 1978, he became vice president of mail sales and promotion and in 1980 was named president of the Highlights corporation. Myers had been chief executive officer since 1981." Many service and volunteer organizations are listed.

I Googled "Gallant and Goofus" and discovered they have been used in sermons, TV show scripts and particularly punditry appearing in both red and blue state blogs.

Highlights Foundation has workshops for children's writers.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

775 Big hair and leg warmers

Cattiva over at Does this mean I'm a grown-up enumerates the fashions of the 80s that are making a comeback. Kinda funny--my daughter's era. I think I've just packed away a few of my 80s things recently, so the reruns of the fashions have missed my notice (probably I was still wearing the 70s in the 80s). My very favorite 80s fashion was the huge shoulder pads and the wash and wear perms that needed a scrunch or two when wet (I had several).

I have a favorite blue sweater from 1980 or 1981 that just won't give up. It's a cotton knit, crew collar, long sleeve in sort of a Microsoft blue--that band of color at the bottom of my computer screen in Internet Explorer. Comfortable in summer or winter. This sweater hasn't pilled, shrunk or stretched in 25 years. I throw it in the washer, toss it in the dryer. It refuses to die or even fade. I wore it Tuesday with a white shirt and khaki slacks.

1985 in review.

774 That was close!

It wasn't exactly a New Year's resolution, but I haven't had a Fritos corn chip or a potato chip since January 1. Occasionally, the desire for something crunchy and salty rolls over me, so I pulled into a CVS parking lot on the way home from my women's group at church this morning. It was slushy and slippery and I finally found a spot that was clear, turned off the engine, and put my hand on the door, preparing to run into the store. Then Jane's face came to mind. She's in my Saturday morning group. She's about 28 and gave up a two pack a day cigarette habit on April 4, 2004. She says she loved smoking. She reached for a cig when rolling out of bed in the morning. She quit cold turkey. No nicotine gum. No patch. No substitution with snacks (didn't gain any weight). She looks (and smells) great.

So, I turned the engine back on and drove home. Thanks, Jane.

773 Delicious Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is a comfort food. I think it was developed by our grandmothers (well, not yours since you are younger) to use up stale or spoiling ingredients in the days before refrigeration. And so it came to pass, that on Monday January 24 I had a bag of stale sandwich buns, about 2 cups of milk well past the "do not sell after" date, and 5 eggs that had hung around like late night guests who don't know when to leave. So I decided I had the perfect set up for bread pudding.

In an odd coincidence, Monday was also the 5 year anniversary of my mother's death. During the grieving time I had written a very long story about my search for the perfect bread pudding recipe--something that tasted like hers. I wrote about going through her little wooden recipe box, one of the treasures I was able to take home after the funeral, and my delight at finding all sorts of names and tastes I'd forgotten. I recorded my testing of various recipes and taking them to pot luck dinners, all in the search for taste and texture (and my mom) that I remembered. I'm a little fuzzy on the details since I haven't looked at the essay for some time, but I don't think I found it. She probably made hers just by throwing a few things together and didn't use a recipe.

Five years later, I'm strong enough to accept a substitute, so the one I did make got rave reviews from my husband, and I thought it was delicious too--fine for breakfast, lunch or dinner (the dish was 13 x 9, so we had A LOT for just 2 people).

6 eggs, well beaten (I used 5--doesn't seem to matter)
1 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
2 cups light cream (I used 2% milk)
1 stick of butter (I actually had that on hand because I didn't make the Christmas cookies)
1 Tablespoon of vanilla (I think I reduced that a bit--sounds like a lot)
1 large French or egg bread, broken into pieces (I used 3 very large, stale sandwich buns)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup raisins, soaked and drained
(The recipe called for 1 jar of Bing cherries, drained, as optional. I had none and don't think this extra fruit is needed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan or large ceramic baking dish.

Beat eggs with the sugar, cream, melted butter, and vanilla; pour this mexture over the bread cubes. Stir until bread is moistened. Sprinkle cinnamon over mixture; add pineapple and raisins.

Press mixture into the pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until the pudding is set. Serve hot. Serve additional cream to pour over the pudding.

Serves 12--or 2 if you're lucky.

I almost never mix the way the instructions read. I tore up the bread and put it in the baking dish and then poured the liquid over it, and dabbed on the fruit, sprinkled the cinnamon on top. Really, with these "make do" ingredients, for a dish our mothers and grandmothers threw together from left overs, it doesn't matter much. I served it with Cool Whip Free.

Friday, January 28, 2005

772 Now that's a reader

Because of who I am and the people I hang out with, I know a lot of readers. Steve and his wife have us all beat. When they married back in the 80s they challenged each other to read a book a week. He kept up with her for 7 or 8 years, and then when she turned 52, he suggested she double the number to 104, and she did! I'd be surprised if I've read 52 books since the mid-80s. Probably have, but skimming or browsing is more like it. I've certainly checked out that many a year.

Yesterday I checked out Got Game; How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever by Beck and Wade (Harvard Business School Press, 2004) and Bleachers by John Grisham (Doubleday, 2003). I'm trying to finish up So Many Enemies, So Little Time; an American Woman in All the Wrong Places by Elinor Burkett (HarperCollins, 2004), which I think is overdue (they don't charge old people fines, so I get sloppy). In the morning I've been reading Amazing Grace; 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories Daily Devotions (Kregel, 1990). That would easily get me to 52 books a year if I'd finish them. But if I read Steve's blog correctly, he and his wife actually read the entire book! What a concept.

771 Ted Kennedy is not fat

But he got to his current size because he is full of gas, hot air, and himself. He is pompous beyond belief. His latest remarks as Iraqis bravely go to the polls, are inexcusable, dangerous and life threatening--not to his career, unfortunately, but to their lives.

770 Rebuilding America street by street

For 34 years we lived in a lovely, hip roof, colonial style home on a beautiful, tree lined street in a pleasant, upscale suburb. Ours was the last street developed before World War II put a stop to home building due to shortages of materials. Just one street north of us where home building started in the later 1940s, the homes were a different style and materials. Of course, by the time we purchased 2338, it didn't meet the standards of the times, either ours or the city's, so it seemed that for 34 years we were adding closets, building walls, replacing light fixtures, upgrading plumbing, putting on triple track windows, installing a new water heater and furnace, new wiring, appliances, kitchen cabinets, adding a family room, an art studio and a free standing garage, laying a brick patio, building and replacing a variety of privacy fences and finally wrapping the house in vinyl that looked like board siding. Don't believe the stories you read about this or that improvement adding %% of value to your home. That only applies if you sell within 5 or 6 years. We stayed too long and ended up redoing a number of our 1970s projects in the 1990s. Yes, a home is a good investment, but if we had banked all the remodeling projects and just let the home appreciate with the neighborhood, we would have been way ahead.

But we were pikers compared to many of our neighbors. In the late 90s, our new young neighbors with 3 little children purchased the huge half million dollar home (reduced) next door, and because it looked like such a bargain to them (they moved from California), for the next two years they provided full employment for a variety of carpenters, decorators, landscapers, and painters. The previous owners had also continuously been revising, adding on, covering up, and redecorating. Truly, for five days a week, for over thirty years, the prettiest street in town looked like a used truck and van parking lot.

Now we own a condo in one of the prettiest complexes in our city. There isn't a day that goes by that we aren't happy to be here and enjoy the lovely view from the living room windows. But occasionally, these units too go up for sale--we're the fourth owner of ours since 1990. One on the north side sold last summer and the new owners have been meticulously redecorating for 5 months. The previous owner had redone it about eight years ago, and it was quite lovely when we did a walk through after her death. Every day negotiating that side of our drive was a challenge--trucks and vans were everywhere, day after day.

Now the largest one on the south side has sold. Yesterday morning I counted the trucks and vans parked on the street and around that unit--there were eight. But after 5 p.m. and on week-ends--it is still a pretty place to live.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

769 The oldest ism

The same URL kept appearing on a search of my blog, 4 or 5 times within a few minutes, so finally out of curiosity I clicked on it. It turns out my blog about appeared on a Yahoo finance message board: "Even old people like GRU." (stock symbol for GuruNet which developed Maybe I should change that photo?

768 Looking for answers?

If you use when you need a simple definition and not 50 blog entries or ads about real estate and restaurants, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Based on the comment at my previous entry, I searched "Malaysia."

"Ma·lay·sia (mə-lā'zhə, -shə) [little speaker icon for pronunciation here]
A country of southeast Asia consisting of the southern Malay Peninsula and the northern part of the island of Borneo. Malays probably moved into the penisula c. 2000 B.C., eventually reaching northern Borneo and displacing the indigenous Dayaks. Europeans arrived in the 16th century. By the 20th century Great Britain had established protectorates throughout the lower peninsula, which later formed the Union (1946) and then the Federation (1948) of Malaya. Gaining independence in 1957, it joined with Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak to become the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Singapore gained independence separately in 1965. Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the largest city. Population: 23,000,000."

Instead of getting just a Wikipedia entry, you get a for-real source, like American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed., and a map of the region. But it does use Wikipedia when regular sources don't work--like looking up Robert A. Taft, the Governor of Ohio. Wikipedia found him under Bob Taft; found his grandfather, Robert A. Taft.

There is also a tool you can add to your own site which allows "one-click." Hold down the ALT key and click on any word, and you will immediately have the resources of

I love it. Although I was counting the 4 steps to the bookshelf for the dictionary and thesaurus as exercise.

767 Don't be cruel

This is "No Name Calling Week" in middle schools. Maddie Dog has gotten around this by comparing Barbara Boxer's resume to Dr. Rice's. No contest. Although Boxer didn't call her mammy or Aunt Jemima or the n-word, she implied all those words at the recent hearings for confirmation of Secretary of State.

Today on Glenn Beck (radio show), he was making fun of a survey (by a blue stater) that concluded red states were dumb. (Apparently calling over half the electorate dumb is not name calling.) Ft. Wayne and Corpus Cristi came in as #1 and #2 dumbest cities in the U.S. So, as a put on, he invited callers from those cities to answer questions. It was either radio's biggest put-on, or there really are some dumb people in those cities. A woman from Corpus Cristi, who selected the category of Oscars, answered Hugh Heffner when Glenn asked what movie about a famous eccentric was nominated. She also said, in the category of "secretaries weak," that the Secretary of Defense was Dr. Rice. Glenn was so hysterical, maybe it wasn't a put up job.

766 Medved on Hollywood and The Passion

". . .The sloppy, dishonest, brain-dead habit of equating "The Passion of the Christ" with "f-9-11" reveals more about Hollywood's bias and blindness than any aspect of the major awards the two films won't receive." Michael Medved in WSJ 1-27-05. On his website, The Passion is beating out the other offerings as most "overlooked." Medved suggests a number of points in his WSJ article to consider about Gibson's movie released last Ash Wednesday.

1) Timeless religious message that takes the New Testament literally.
2) Earned $370 Million in domestic box office receipts.
3) Sold equally well in red states and blue states, unifying the mass audience like the movies of the 40s and 50s.
4) No political endorsements or activism.
5) Had no affect on church attendance.
6) United Christians of all faiths and cultures.
7) Will live on as a timeless classic continuing to draw audiences for years.
8) Snubbing it for awards has displeased the movie going public.

At his website where Medved's article in USAToday is posted, he adds to that list

9) Hollywood wasn't afraid of religion (fake) when it awarded Last Temptation of Christ which only grossed $8 million and offended most Christians.
10) Top award nominations this year are going to suicide, abortion and anti-American themes.

He closes the WSJ article with: ""The Passion" clearly dwarfs such skillful but slight works as "Sideways" or "Finding Neverland" (both nominated for Best Picture) in terms of thematic and historical significance. Members of the entertainment elite may confuse faith and politics--viewing religiosity as suspect and subjective, while embracing left-wing ideology as a form of Ultimate Truth--but the mass audience now and in the future will reliably recognize the difference."

In 1993 Medved published a book called Hollywood vs. America which had chapters on "The Attack on Religion," "The Addiction to Violence," "Promoting Promiscuity," "The Infatuation with Foul Language," "Kids Know Best," "Motivations for Madness," among others. Nothing has changed, apparently. Instead of Hollywood being at fault then, it was the ticket buyers voting with their dollars. Now we've changed our vote, but Hollywood has disenfranchised us.

Meanwhile, Christianity Today has found religious themes in unexpected places with its list of Ten Most Redeeming Films of 2004. Hat tip to Sherry.

765 Reading the help wanted ads

Four or five people in my prayer job jar are looking for work. Some want more pay. Some less stress. Some will take anything if it is a "living wage." So I skim the advertised jobs occasionally and read the career column in the Wall Street Journal. Sometimes I think their ads are a test for comprehension and following instructions.

1) Raymond James advertises a drug free workplace. It doesn't mention tobacco, but I know some firms are now turning down smokers because of insurance costs.
2) If you don't include ad number and job title, Johnson Controls won't even look at your application. Their web site says they have worked on the Pentagon, the Eiffel Tower, the Kremlin and the Sydney Opera House, so I suppose following instructions is key.
3) A DOE position at the NBL is a CH-SES-05-01 and must be applied for on-line.
4) Whoever applies for Chancellor at the University of Denver will need to watch out for the following verbs: lead; increase; improve; build; elevate; extend; and cultivate. Sounds like Jesus' job description.
5) Pilgrim's Pride may be the "2nd largest poultry producer in the U.S. and Mexico" and the 1st in Puerto Rico, but you will be working in "beautiful east Texas."
6) Apply to MorningStar on line, but only if you have a "healthy dose of skepticism."
7) There's a golf course for sale in SC--recently renovated. I'll bet there's a bankruptcy story in there somewhere.
8) While looking, you can feed the poor and homeless by donating your yacht.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

764 Hoping the elections will fail

It's bad enough that we have Americans who cast aspersions on our own elections, who register dead people to vote in Chicago and Seattle, and try to disenfranchise minorities by saying they are too dumb to figure out voting machines or ballots and therefore we need recounts. But now they try to mess up the Iraqi elections too! Oh, probably not the same people, but the same attitudes, rumors and lies.

Sunday the world will watch as millions of Arabs go to the polls (I realize that not everyone in Iraq is an Arab or a Muslim, but the majority are). Arabs in non-democratic countries will be watching on their government TV what they don't have--a free election. I get absolutely misty eyed watching the stories of ex-pat Iraqis in the USA driving 8 hours to register, and then repeating the same trip this week to vote. They and the candidates and the poll workers risking their lives have set before us a very high standard (especially those of you who didn't even bother to vote in November--you know who you are).

Belmont Club in a 3-part series on the Iraq election has little good to say about the naysayers, letting one dig his own hole for a foundation for his "shrine of half-forgotten causes":

"Whatever the War on Terror is, it is a duel to the death. A glance at Juan Cole's website -- which is a reliable thermometer of Leftist temper -- is a case in point. It should be the website of a respectable academic but it's a shrine to half-forgotten causes and a casket of exorcisms against half-apprehended devils. To illustrate the right of peaceful assembly he has a photo of flag-draped military caskets being shipped home. To illustrate the the 8th Amendment he has an Abu Ghraib photo. Noonan worries about religion. So do I, coming upon a room of stubbed out and smoked ideas. As for the elections, Cole says they are a joke, and it is doubtful if any poll would persuade him otherwise."

763 Krispy Kreme can't match Spudnut

First it was our waistlines, then their market. It wasn't just the low carb fad (now fading). Krispy Kreme diluted its "specialness" by opening too many stores and selling doughnuts in 20,000 supermarkets. I heard on the radio this morning they've hired a restructuring agent to replace Scott Livengood at $760 an hour and all the doughnuts he can eat!

I rarely eat a donut today--maybe a donut hole or two with coffee between services at church. The church switched from Krispy Kreme to donut holes after the Visual Arts Ministry told them they were easier to eat while browsing our shows.

No modern donut can match up to those of the "Spudnut" shop in Urbana at the University of Illinois when I was in college. I believe they were made with potato flour. You could sit at the counter and watch the crew dump the dough into the hot oil and dip them into the icing. In those days I could eat six or seven at a sitting and hardly burp. My initiation into this delicacy was on my first visit to the campus when I rode the bus from northern Indiana to attend an ROTC ball there. I think I took back a sackful for my floormates of Oakwood Hall at Manchester, but ate all the goodies along the way (it was a long bus ride).

When I Googled "Spud Nut" I discovered many other folks lost in memories of their delicious taste and texture, usually reminiscing about a college town, Urbana IL, Lawrence KS, Richmond IN, Madison WI. I also found a doughnut discussion board, where the hopeful restauranteur was looking for Spud Nuts: ". . . are there any SPUDNUT franchises? I haven't had a Spudnut doughnut for nerly 50 yra. I remember making a special trip after church on sundays to the Spudnut shop in Lawrence, Ks. It folded and I haven't seen any since. K-K's aren't anything special."

And there is a Spudnut Shop in Washington that also serves sandwiches, but I don't know if the name comes from the stores of the 1950s and 1960s. An obituary of a former owner of a Spud Nut Shop also turned up. Spud Nuts. R.I.P.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

762 Batteries aren't cheap

And cheap ones are really expensive. I read an article in the WSJ that reported on the battery wars. According to this writer, Duracell alkaline will last 4 times longer than any brand labelled, "super heavy duty." "Heavy duty" technology was state of the art 50 years ago, but Duracell's cooper top is 27% more powerful than it was in 2000. It's a real pain to change batteries--I've obviously been going for cheap rather than thrifty.

761 Don't blame June Cleaver

“If modern mothers ever had an enemy, it is June Cleaver. Perhaps more than anyone else in history, June created in us the idea that the good mother spends her day happily meeting the needs of her family. She cooks a hearty breakfast, keeps a tidy house, and welcomes her weary charges home each afternoon with a plate of warm cookies and a tender smile. We never see June complain or wish for a more fulfilling role. We never see her sigh when she finally gets a minute to sit down only to be interrupted by yet another request from the Beav. She certainly never asks Ward to watch the boys for a night because she wants to go out for some "mommy time." June is the superhuman mother who sets us all up for disappointment.” Carla Barnhill, on the “real desperate housewives.”

June Cleaver? Oh please! I’m probably old enough to be Barnhill’s mother. I never watched Leave it to Beaver until this year when I came across it on a channel that reruns old TV shows, and in the episodes I‘ve watched, June hardly appears at all. But I did all the above--until you get to the sentence about not complaining or not going out. I went to a lot of evening meetings and even did my grocery shopping at night because I didn’t like hauling the kids around on errands and I rarely hired babysitters. It was my mother (1912-2000), 10 years older than Barbara Billingsley the actrees who played June, who fits that paragraph.

June Cleaver is being set up a “straw woman.“ I’m not exactly a “modern” mother by this author‘s definition. (I should be a grandmother by age, training and talent.) Many of my peer mothers had gone back to work, at least part time, by the mid-1970s, so many of today’s mothers actually did have employed mothers, or mothers who were returning to graduate school, as models.

A little over 30 years ago I was in a women’s Bible study at First Community Church called “Harried Housewives,” whose members ranged in age from about 30-50. But by the time we gathered for a third anniversary, most of us were in the workplace. One of the women in Barnhill’s story sounds just like the reason we housewives had gathered back in the 70s: "I got blindsided by the responsibility, the emotional ties, the worry, the exhaustion, the discipline issues, and the day-to-day care of children. The reality for me is that motherhood is very draining and tiring and humbling. On a regular basis I feel like a failure as a mom. My walk with the Lord has suffered since I became a mom. Spending time with God feels like another obligation—just one more person wanting something from me."

If Carla Barnhill is correct, the modern women’s movement (then in its infancy), has done absolutely nothing for mothers. Increasingly more casual and relaxed lifestyles have done little for women. Technology certainly hasn’t saved them any time, just made them slaves to beeps and downloading. More how-to-books, exercise classes, and workshops on feelings and empowerment really don’t do much in the long run to rescue women. Much of the article is anecdotal whining, and she’s incredulous that gardening or sewing could be substitutes for board meetings and coffee breaks. But she eventually gets to the conclusion that happy stay-at-homes are there because no one forced them to be and their church encourages them to use their talents, which is the theme of her book, The Myth of the Perfect Mother: Rethinking the Spirituality of Women (Baker, 2004).

Monday, January 24, 2005

760 Women writers for the Wall Street Journal

As usual, I was skimming the stories in the Wall Street today for interesting idiomatic expressions, checking the articles written by men, who use lots of gambling, sports and agricultural idioms, against those written by women, who use almost no idioms. This results in the male written articles being much more lively and readable, less dense, and more padded.

But then I noticed an unusual number of articles by women. I'll have to go the to library to check (can't browse a newspaper on-line because you need to have an idea what you are looking for), but I'm wondering if Monday is "Ladies Day" at the Wall Street Journal. Maybe the guys take long week-ends and don't want to meet the deadlines for the Monday edition?

You rarely see a woman's name in section A, but today Section B and C had: Brooks Barnes, Ellen Byron, Lynn Cowan, Agnes Crane (2), Ann Davis, Alessandra Gallone, Leah McGrath Goodman, Laura Johannes, Miriam Jordan (2), Kathryn Kranhold, Melissa Marr, Katie Martin, Sarah McBride, Ann Marie Squeo, Shayne Stoyko, Suzanne Vronica, and Ann Zimmerman. [It is possible that Lynn and Shayne are men, and I skipped the non-euro names since I can't identify gender].

Section R, however, was the motherlode (pardon the pun). The entire supplement on how businesses benefit from benefits was written and edited by women. The lead article was by Ellen Schultz who summarizes 10 ways companies benefit from benefits plans. The rest of the articles in the supplement were written by Vanessa Fuhrman, Joann Lublin, Kris Maher, Sara Munoz, Karen Richarson, Sarah Rubenstein and Jennifer Saranov. The illustrator was male.

I checked Ellen Schultz in Google and she has won awards for her reporting on this topic: joined the Wall Street Journal in 1990; covered personal finance, mutual funds, medical insurance and benefits; named a special writer in April 1995 and a news editor in June 2001. Worked for Fortune magazine from 1987 to 1990.

Miriam Jordan who had 2 articles in today's edition frequently writes on gender and minority issues for WSJ, according to a Google search--female infanticide in India, agricultural workers in California, career women following globe trotting husbands, and Nestle marketing infant formula to American Hispanics are examples of her topics.

Agnes Crane, who also had 2 articles, writes often for the investment and marketing section and also writes for the Dow Jones Newswires, and thus her name pops up regularly in other investment newsletters.

I'll update this when I look at a few more Mondays.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

759 Really, really poor taste

Some bloggers are crying "political correctness" run amuck, but I think this teddy bear is simply poor taste. What makes it worse, some Christian blogs are being even more insensitive for criticizing the critics. Mental illness for the family is no laughing matter. It causes grief, sleepless nights, and years of roller coaster emotions. Not funny, folks.

758 No blue blood required for these legacies

The Washington Post has an interesting round up of the congressional and administrative positions obtained either through the death of a relative or appointment upon the retirement of a relative, or appointment because of a family connection here. The recently widowed Mrs. Matsui of California will join 18 Senators and many Representatives who obtained their seats this way.

Names and family ties matter in administrative appointments. "President Bush, who rose to power with a famous political surname, has rewarded several children of his ideological allies. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's son became chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's daughter was made inspector general at the Health and Human Services Department, Justice Antonin Scalia's son was appointed to a top job in the Labor Department, and Vice President Cheney's daughter and son-in-law scored prestigious positions in the State and Justice departments."

"Bush also chose the wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) to be his labor secretary, and the sons of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn as his press secretary and Medicare director. And in 2001, he chose former House member Asa Hutchinson, brother of then-Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), to lead the Drug Enforcement Administration."

"According to the Center for American Women and Politics, 45 women have been elected to Congress to fill vacancies created by their husbands' death. There are least three widows of former congressmen now in the House: Reps. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.). In the Senate, there are three wives of prominent politicians: Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), [Hillary] Clinton and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), wife of former Maine governor John R. McKernan Jr."

This web site lists even more.

More than once I was asked if I was Earle Bruce's wife (football coach at Ohio State University in the 1980s). But that's as close as I can get to trading on a family name.

757 Patty Davis has returned

to being a snot nose, little whiner. Her attempt at political humor is here.

If her name doesn't ring a bell, she changed it. She used to be Patty Reagan. She disliked her Dad so much in her younger years that she took her mother's maiden name, which Nancy had taken from her step-father. When her Dad no longer knew her, Patty did a stint as dutiful daughter and got a lot of sympathy and some good writing contracts.

756 Remember how deep snow was when you were a kid?

Up to your knees, maybe your waist? Ha--gotcha! Last night on ABC News they told us the snow really was deeper in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and then the weather pattern changed. We got some big storms in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but not often. My own children remember primarily the winters of 1977 and 1978 when schools were closed here in Columbus. I have photos of my dad in Illinois shoveling snow off their roof. John Stolzenbach, one of our pastors, was a Columbus school teacher back then, and I remember they did a special program on TV for the school children stuck at home, and he was one of the hosts.

So what’s up with the weather? Apparently, not global warming. Experts were interviewed for the weather story last night--and whooda thunk it--they disagreed on what was causing it!

"We believe the weather pattern we are currently in is very similar to what we saw in the 1940's, fifties and sixties; that is, a log of extremes," says [Bernie] Rayno [].

He looks not just at today's snowstorm, but at the entire weather picture for the past year — hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides in California, and bitter cold in the Midwest.

"The overall weather pattern we see over a given amount of time, a given amount of years also fluctuates," says Rayno. "And right now we do believe we are in a cycle that will lend itself to a lot of extremes over the next five to ten years." It is reminiscent, he says, of what happened in those earlier decades. In 1947, for example, New York City suffered one of its worst blizzards ever, 25 inches of snow that paralyzed the city for days.”

In the Chicago Tribune they reported what dumped on the city and then moved on east: “The storm raged on as it moved quickly through Ohio and Pennsylvania, continuing to dump up to a foot of snow far north of its path. The storm was expected to further intensify off the New Jersey coast, and blizzard warnings were issued for a good portion of New England, including New York and Boston, where snowfalls up to 20 inches were forecast.”

Our daughter called last night from Cleveland where they were visiting her in-laws. “Mom! They know how to handle snow in Cleveland,” she told me breathlessly. “We’ve had a foot of snow in the last 24 hours, the streets are clear and we’re going over to [cousins] for pizza. ‘Sposed to get more tonight. How much have you had?” “About 1.5 inches,” I sighed. “The town’s a mess and all sorts of things were cancelled.”

Some things about winter in central Ohio never change.

755 More on Barbara Boxer's racism

Colbert I. King ponders after comparing Barbara Boxer's comments to Oliphant's racist cartooning of Rice:
Bush listens to Condoleezza Rice because he believes that she knows what she is talking about. Which makes the attacks on Rice even more curious. What prompts Rice's critics to portray her -- a former Stanford University provost who managed a $1.5 billion budget, 1,400 faculty members and 14,000 students -- as a flunky who, when ordered, simply salutes and runs out to play huckster?
Washington Post article here.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

754 Spinsanity is pulling the plug

Spinsanity is a website that analyzed political articles for spin. "Countering rhetoric with reason" was its slogan. January 19 was its swan song; it has folded its tent, got on the bus, Gus, rode off into the sunset, and said, "Good-bye, farewell and Amen."

The three writers wrote an anti-Bush book while blogging for four years. I questioned their own spin when they tried to deny the last recession started in 2000, six months before Bush took office. I have some account sheets for my 403b I'd like them to look at. Either that, or TIAA-CREF hired some really, really poor fund managers.

753 More about egg safety

The January cover of Emerging Infectious Diseases has a 17th century genre painting by Diego Velázquez of a woman cooking eggs. The description is lengthy, but I noticed this passage, because I mentioned Salmonella Enteriditis in blog 741.

“The 17th-century Spanish diet was known for its parsimony. A main concern in the common kitchen was the long-term availability of food. The safety of food, a more modern concern, was probably not on the mind of Velásquez' food preparers. Unlike our contemporary equivalents, they would have known little about the dangers surrounding food. Nor would they have understood Savarin, whose sensitive 18th-century palate might have recoiled at the sight of eggs poaching slowly in oil on a clay stove.

An ancient staple, eggs have run the gamut from plentiful protein to gourmet delicacy. Yet, basic food and epicurean aspirations converge at one point: safety. With high levels of Salmonella Enteriditis in shell eggs, adequate cooking and proper temperature of the eggs overrule tradition, challenging the consistency of the sauce and the moment of delivery to the table. In our times, safety issues concerning not only eggs but all foods beg a different interpretation of another well-known Savarin aphorism, "The destiny of a nation depends on the manner in which it feeds itself." "

The article in this issue suggests between 180,000 and 200,000 illness a year in the US from Salmonella Enteriditis. The figures are not firm because only about 2,000 hospitalizations and 70 deaths occur. But still, make sure those eggs are thoroughly cooked before you eat them.

Blog 741 began with spelling problems, particularly the phth combination, diphtheria being one of four common English words that have such a combination. In the same issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases there is an article about diphtheria causing the death of the painter Georges Pierre Seurat at age 31.

752 More ice and snow hit Ohio

Here in Ohio we're getting what those of you just west of us received earlier. I'm setting out for the coffee shop but may have to turn around and come back if it is too bad. Some people here were without power for over a week over Christmas, then it flooded when it thawed. In a few weeks we'll head for Florida to spend some days and grab some rays with the greatest hostess in the world, my sister-in-law. Life is one big party with lots of laughs, and I love key-lime pie. The down side is listening to them in the car. They truly are the world's worst back seat drivers--they deserve each other.

751 Americans begin earlier

As reported in WSJ this week, AXA Financial has produced a report that says Americans begin retirement planning at an earlier age and save larger sums on average than other people.

According to the press release, "Nearly 80 percent of Americans surveyed have a plan for where they want to live, what they want to do, and how much money they’ll need in retirement. Most people started planning for retirement early, in their 30’s.

Americans are taking responsibility and making themselves more knowledgeable about retirement issues, with 90 percent of respondents saying funding retirement is primarily their individual responsibility – not the government’s or their employer’s."

"Working Americans are saving, on average, $687 per month toward retirement. (Based on other responses, this figure reflects their investment in such savings vehicles as conventional savings plans, life insurance policies and pension plans.)Retirees save $535 per month, on average.

Retirees, on average, say they are retiring at 58 years old. American workers, however, say they would like to retire at 55, but, in reality, don’t expect to retire until they are 63."

Although we know many people who have retired in their 50s (including my father), they all started other companies, jobs or went into consulting. So I think many "retirees" are actually workers. I retired at 60, and my husband began turning down clients a year ago, and is just finishing up contracts now at 67, but still has a few dawdlers on the books.

This looks like an interesting report in light of the President's proposals to let Americans have Private Retirement Accounts to ease the SS squeeze. However, it is 97 pages--not sure it is THAT interesting, but take a look and see. Also, AXA is in the investment business, so I'm sure their surveys differ from a survey with a political agenda.

A total of 9,200 people were interviewed in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States. 813 Americans between 25 and 75 were surveyed, of whom 403 were working and 410 were retired.

Friday, January 21, 2005

750 Sometimes Blogs become Usenet

Usenet is sort of a big messy bulletin board with some nice people (see my links to Writers and Wannabes, most of whom I met at a Usenet forum) and a whole lot of crazies who have PHDs in four letter words, viciousness and sarcasm ad nauseum. Blogs usually don't become that discussion oriented because the writer/owner of the blog can delete comments. But discussions can get intense and sort of "real time-ish." Witness this one, mostly between Michael and Jo. Belmont Club and Captain's Quarters also have lively discussions among the readers.

749 Verbs on the Financial Page

The markets are quite verbal, aren’t they? Prices, markets and stocks don’t just “go up” or “go down,“ or simply “move,” which must make it difficult for learners of the English language. Today I read that they hold, tumble and plunge. Then they rally, rollick and pick up speed. Sometimes they rise, shift, climb and fly. Occasionally they stall and need a push. Some are assertive--they dictate, decide, post and report. Some suffer, then shrug it off. And how about those that ignore, droop, lag behind and drag? Oft times they strengthen, support, gauge and ratchet up. They fall hard when they drop.

If you think reading about financial verbs is too dull, stop over at Ariel's site and look at basketball in metaphysical terms. Now there is a vocabulary (in English) that's pretty dense for me.

748 Boxer continues to hit below the belt

Two cranky Democrats voted against Dr Rice‘s confirmation to be the first African American woman to attain such a high office in government--the failed contender John Kerry and California Democrat Barbara Boxer. She’ll be confirmed, but this kept her from being Secretary of State in time for the 2005 inaugural and the most important woman in the government. So we can have blacks providing the prayer and singing anthems at the inauguration for the last 50 years, but we dare not let them be seen in positions of power? Unless a Democrat appoints them, that is. Rice, who says her parents raised her to believe she could accomplish anything, even during the darkest days of segregation, is up against Democrats who think blacks should stay on the plantation if they work for Republicans.

What a team. They grandstanded their dislike for Bush and grilled her for 11 hours. Everyone knows she will be confirmed. What a bunch of sore losers. Correction. What a bunch of losers.

747 This world is not heaven

So wrote Peggy Noonan in her very critical review of the President's inaugural address. Yesterday she was the "color commentator" on the FoxNews coverage of the event, and when her co-host Shepard Smith asked her opinion of the speech she just stammered and sputtered and said she'd have to have some time to think about it.

In a Wall Street Journal editorial today she called it: a foreign policy speech; romantic longing to carry democracy to foreign lands; God-drenched; on a mission; over the top; suffering from "mission inebriation." She also said it made her yearn for nuance, that it "put the world on notice," and told it to "shape up." She then closed with a suggestion that "they" [the administration?] ease up, calm down, breathe deep, and get more securely grounded.

Noonan is a strong Bush supporter--gave up her job to work on the campaign. If his supporters say this, imagine what his detractors must be saying.

James Taranto writes at Best of the Web today (Jan. 21) directing comments to Noonan's concern: "The lesson Bush drew from Sept. 11 is that "realism" is unrealistic--that the "stability" that results from an accommodation with tyranny is illusory. To Bush, there is no fundamental conflict between American ideals and American interests; by promoting the former, we secure the latter. Maybe he'll turn out to be wrong, but for now the burden ought to be on those who, in the wake of Sept. 11, hold to a pre-9/11 view of what is "realistic."

Noonan is right that "ending tyranny in the world" is a fantastically ambitious aspiration, one that isn't going to be realized anytime soon. But Bush didn't promise to do it in the next four years or even in our lifetimes. He said it was "the ultimate goal" and "the concentrated work of generations." "

Thursday, January 20, 2005

746 Happy Anniversary

Three years ago today we moved into the condo. The complex was built in the late 70s, one of the earlier ones in a city not accustomed to this type of housing. We were definite in our ideas; one floor, new, 3 bedrooms, and not a destination location. Oh well. We love it anyway. Three floors, not new, 2 bedrooms, a destination location, and a fabulous view. Haven't missed our house even one day. He's a better artist than this, but it's the thought that counts.

Condo 3rd anniversary card

745 The Inauguration Costs

While watching someone sing about eagles soaring (written by John Ashcroft), I'm calculating the inauguration costs. Such complaints from both liberals and conservatives! So since WaPo says Clinton spent $33,000,000 in 1993, I ran that figure through one of those "What is it worth now" calculators. Using the CPI it would be $42,030,000 in 2005; using the share of GDP figure it would be $54,450,000--there were several other indicators, but all were more than $40,000,000. No matter how it is sliced, it is a lot of money for a party. And even if he gave it all away, liberals would say he was grandstanding. (Pause) [Wow. In that white outfit Laura Bush is one dynamite librarian and First Lady!] Hail Columbia, here comes the Veep.

We've been invited to a fund raiser/dinner/silent auction for a good cause, and they want $25.00 a ticket per person. I don't know what the total party will cost--but in Ohio retiree dollars, probably about the same as the inauguration with a lot less glamor and not so good food.

Gotta run. Here comes the President.

Later: The speech in a nutshell. “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

Still later: I've been listening to and watching the past inaugurals on c-span for a couple of hours. I think those accusing G.W. Bush of being too religious or too Christian need to sit down and listen to Kennedy and Johnson, or some of the prayers said in the past at these events. Makes Bush sound like he could give lessons in political correctness. Also, much invoking of God in our destiny and blessings and claims for liberty for all men everywhere.

Kansas City Star

744 Dear Adelle

Every time I try to call you, Adelle, to talk about my bill [press one, listen; press two, listen; press one, listen--I get this message, "The mailbox is full; please call later." So I can't even leave you a message to say, I really doubt that Medicare is going to respond to your claim in less than 30 days. I mean, lady, get real! It is the government. So here's what I've done. I pressed the number for "appointments" (press three) and I got a real live person immediately. She was very helpful and told me not to worry until I get something labelled, "Final Notice." She has also put it in my file that I talked to her, not you. I told her to add that I tried several times last week too. You have a good day, Adelle, where ever you are, and you might expand that mailbox just a bit.

743 Stirring The Social Security Pot

There is a group who already has its collective mind made up and set in concrete--the Bush-haters are not going to like or support any plan for revamping the failing Social Security system that comes during a Bush administration. Another group won't pay attention or care. Then there's the lump in the middle--the rest of us who are looking at and sifting the information and weighing the options. I see a lot of discussion among Conservatives, who are known for not blindly following their President or party. The Wall Street Journal columnists, for instance, have been very cautious and have suggested the down side of personal accounts.

Two problems appear that worry everyone: what happens to those programs that now dip into the pot of money we regularly give the government which have nothing to do with retirement; what happens if you retire with a combination account and that part of your life span is in a stock market down swing?

We already have President Bush's retirement plan at our house (at least as I understand it): we have a mix of Social Security, private 401k, SEP IRA, a teacher's annuity (403b)*, a teacher's pension and miscellaneous IRA accounts and savings our executor will have to figure out someday. Because a teacher's pension is considered a government plan, I am not eligible for Social Security--not mine and not the wife's portion of my husband's. This is called a government offset, and as I have poked around in the articles about Social Security, anything you might receive from SS in the new plan will be "offset" by your private defined contribution. There is little advantage here for the retiree, unless you are allowed to pass it along to your heirs, or the offset stops at a point and you can enjoy the nest egg you kept warm. As it is, many retiree households are already dependent on defined contribution plans for pension coverage--maybe half, according to a December WSJ article.

There are way too many details not worked out (that would be done by Congress and the people who cut down trees) to make firm opinions about this plan. But I do worry about the half a sentence that slips through unnoticed in the law which will be used to launch ships or save owls or infringe on freedoms by bevies of lawyers and future legislators. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the demons you don't know.

Die young and get nothing under current plan

What would a “small” increase (to save the system) in current payroll taxes cost the average worker?

How would PRAs really work?

*401(k) plans are retirement plans that some private corporations offer their employees. A 403(b) plan is similar to a 401(k) but it is offered to employees of some non profit organizations. In both of these plans the individual chooses to deduct part of their paycheck and place it into an investment portfolio they formulate. These plans allow individuals to select among different types of investments, depending on how much risk they are willing to assume. The contribution into the account reduces the individual's taxable income. Employers may choose to match a portion of the employee's contribution up to 50 percent. These investments grow tax free until the money is withdrawn during retirement.

If you are employed or self-employed you may open an individual retirement account (IRA) and contribute up to $3,000 a year (or your earned income, if less). Married couples can contribute up to a total of $4,000, even if one spouse is not employed outside the home. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be able to deduct part or all of your IRA contributions on your federal income-tax return. All investment earnings in your IRA compound on a tax-deferred basis. You pay tax on your earnings and contributions that were deductible when you actually withdraw the money from your account. If you withdrawal money from your traditional IRA before age 59 1/2 it may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty and income tax. FinanceListings definitions

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

742 Happy New Year!

I found a Russian blog today. I’m so excited. I could actually read it.

Дорогие друзья, с новым годом!
Желаю вам здоровья, успехов, любви и счастья!

It’s such a beautiful language.

I'm not endorsing the site--my Russian is too rusty. He appears to be in London and is a doctoral student working as an editor. Great photographs.

741 Spelling lesson

Putting on my coat 45 minutes before my doctor's appointment, I said to another regular at the coffee shop, "Do you know how to spell "ophthalmology?" He hesitated a moment, then said, "Well, I'm not a very good speller, but I do know that one. O-p-t-h-a-l-m," and then he hesitated, "then it's either an "a" or an "o". "You were in trouble on the first syllable," I said. And I spelled it. "Think of 'my eyes are off, so I'm going to the ophthalmologist.'" This phth is actually more often pronounced as p-th, and is called a medial cluster. It doesn't appear in many English words, which is probably why it is so often misspelled. Diphtheria isn't very common anymore, thank goodness; Ben Franklin tried to rid our language of diphthongs, and who uses naphtha soap anymore? So other than having an appointment with an ophthalmologist, you have little use for the medial cluster.

Next to ophthalmology, the most frequently misspelled word I came across when helping people find information in the veterinary medicine library, was Salmonella enteritidis . It is the reason you don't want to eat raw cookie dough. Years ago, you only got it from cracked eggs; now the chicken has it and transmits it directly to the egg. Don't order your eggs, "over easy."

(See how much fun it is to read a librarian's blog?)

When I got outside, rain and sleet had fallen on the two inches of snow, so I had to scrape the car windows. As I was doing that, I heard a siren in the distance, coming from the direction of the main artery I was planning for the 1.5 mile drive to the ophthalmologist's office in a large medical complex. (I was planning on 15 minutes just to get into the parking garage.) When I got to that road, I could see a huge back up, so I turned around and took another route, which happened to go past my house. By that time, I was white knuckled, so I pulled into my own drive-way and called the office to cancel. My eyes may be off, but my brain knows when not to be on the streets.

740 How it used to be--1992

Billy Frolick writes an interesting bit of whimsy in the January 17 New Yorker about an 8th grader (written in first person) who has to choose a year from U.S. history and live for a week as if it were that year. He chose 1992. It is quite amusing, and informative, but probably not if you reached adulthood after 1995 (and I don't get many readers under 30). As a librarian, I smiled when he said he needed to go to the library to do some of his research instead of using the internet.

There's a good overview of what is happening to scholarly publishing and how it has changed since 1992 at the Social Science Research Network beginning with the procedure for writing and submitting to a refereed journal (which is still done), and the possibilities of putting it all out there today, where the authors primarily are making those decisions. Or as the author says, "You only need to know what you're looking for." The author, David Warsh, is a good example: the full version of what I read at another site, is located here.

As I noted in 736 free isn't always cheap, and I might add quantity is no guarantee of quality. Although "working papers" and departmental "pre-prints" have been around many years, the internet access has only added to the confusion. I think librarians will still be needed for many years--maybe now more than ever.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

739 After dinner games and old TV shows

A few months ago we went out for dinner with Ned and Rosalee and then went to their house to play Boggle. It is a word game with a 3 minute timer. The words need to be at least 3 letters. Three minutes, three letters--sounds about like my attention span, so I went out an bought one for our house. My husband mentors a 4th grader in an urban school and has taken the game with him a few times.

So tonight we played Boggle after supper. We played 5 or 6 sets and I won. We had to get out the dictionary and even though we made up some words, when we checked, they really were words, like "thew." (He made that one up--I didn't think it was a word, but it was.) When I came up with "nosh" he thought I made it up. I told him it was like being at a party and hanging around the snacks eating all night, but having always been thin, he didn't believe me. So we had to look that one up too.

If the players pick out the same words, those are dropped from the score. But I won 68 to 18. I don't think you have to be particularly good with words since most of these are 3, 4 or 5 letter words, but you do have to think upside down, backwards and at an angle.

Also, for the exciting life of a retiree, this week I bought a Dick Van Dyke DVD from 1962--6 episodes for $2.00. I didn't remember any of these, and thoroughly enjoyed it. That was really a well written, beautifully acted show. Since I never watched TV much until I was married (my parents didn't own one), this series is one of the earliest I remember. My father-in-law worked for RCA, so my husband grew up with TV and remembers even the test patterns.

738 FOBT vs. colonoscopy

One of my Canadian readers (you know who you are) got here because I'd left a comment at his blog when he wrote about the FOBT. Now we regularly visit each other's blogs for topics other than fecal occult blood testing. However, today in the WSJ it was reported that those quicky smear tests done in a doctor's office failed to detect advanced precancerous lesions 95% of the time. That's code for, "they are worthless." Now, the home tests score a little higher. They get it right about 23% of the time. I haven't looked up the article in the Annals of Internal Medicine (one of my favorite journals, btw) to see if that was early or advanced. However, the colonoscopy can actually prevent cancer by finding polyps in the early stage so they can be removed. The sigmoidoscopy is in the middle manager range, but why would you even bother when you can go right to the top--or the bottom, as the case may be.

Monday, January 17, 2005

737 Bad hair day

I saw a woman at Meijer's today with my hair style--the one I had in 1966! I was so shocked, I braked the grocery cart and stared. It was one of those beehive thingies with the French twist in the back. I didn't know there were hair stylists alive who still knew how to do that. I rarely keep a hair style longer than a year. The one I have right now (different than the photo which was 2003) is about a year old, and I'm really bored with it.

When I was growing up, after I gave up French braids, my mother always cut my hair--she also permed it. Whew! Did those things smell. Then when I was in 8th grade we went to Rockford and I got a professional hairstyle, a snazzy two piece, lime-green and white, sleeveless dress with a straight skirt (my first), and white linen high heels, and poof, I had grown up overnight. In my memory, I was always letting my hair "grow out." However, I remember a haircut before the Christmas dance when I was a junior in high school, a hair set the morning of my wedding day, and a haircut and set to have my senior photo in college taken. I'm sure there were more trips to the "beauty parlor" than that, but it must have been "growing out" most of the time, because my old photos show a lot of pony tails and shoulder length hair.

8th grade Chicago trip

My husband had beautiful red curly hair when we met. However, very short hair was popular for men, so I had to take his word for it that he had curls. He said it was so wild and unruly when he was a child, he'd be sent out of class to comb his hair. Living through our children's teen years took care of most of his hair, and then about 10 years ago it lost most of its color.

On the beach

This painting of us on a beach of Lake Erie 30 years ago is by Ned Moore, one of the best watercolorists in Ohio. My husband still had his red hair, and my hair, as usual, was growing out, in braids almost to my waist. It is one of my favorites.

736 When free isn't cheap

No matter what your profession, you probably are inundated by information--most likely from some type of aggregator or news service which was supposed to make that sort of thing easier by sending only the abstracts and links you care about to your mailbox. It doesn’t, really--make it easier, that is. It’s too tempting to subscribe to several, and end up with 57 unread messages everyday, so I still rely on my links and my list of bookmarks (I’m power hungry, I suppose).

William Watson describes what he does with one of his services--I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not the only one looking for the free information and skipping it when asked to pay. I’ll register for a paper (NYT, WaPo, LA Times, Chicago Trib) if it is free, and I’ll pass up the current issue of a journal if the archives are free. Library journals (of the profession pushing “information should be free” mantra) are almost never free. Even liberals want to be paid.

Anyway, Watson writes in this article:
“The way the SSRN works is if you like the abstract they've sent you, you can follow a handy link and download the full study. Most of the time the download is free but some of the institutes want money, usually $5 U.S. per study.I sometimes pay the five bucks but I must confess - truth in column writing requires it - that what I usually do instead is google the author's personal Web site to see if the paper is posted there. It usually is and - bingo! - the download is free. Think of it as Napster for nerds.”

And so he goes on to say open access is fine if you believe that journals with operating costs (like editors) provide no useful function, and that cheap drugs (he’s Canadian) are nice if you believe pharmaceutical research costs nothing. Free rides are not always free, is what I think he’s saying.

735 Washington Post gets it wrong he says

Kenneth Anderson comments, "The Washington Post, in its Sunday, January 16, 2005 editorial opposing the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, gets it wrong on the Geneva Conventions. My guess is that the editorial writers have never actually read the relevant article of the conventions, but instead have simply relied on press releases from various rights groups that tell the WaPo what it wants to hear. . ." After quoting the incorrect editorial, he continues:

"The Bush Administration was - and is - NOT in violation of Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention. Read it. It does NOT say that a "competent tribunal" shall determine whether any doubt has arisen with respect to the POW status of a detainee. It says, rather, that "should any doubt arise" as to whether a detainee is entitled to POW status, then the person shall be treated as a POW until a competent tribunal shall determine his or her status. The question of who is entitled to determine whether any doubt has arisen is left open - it does not say that this matter must be determined by a competent tribunal. It leaves open the possibility that the President or the Secretary of Defense may determine, even for an entire group of detainees, that no doubt arises and hence no tribunal is required."

The content of Anderson's blog is Law of War and Just War Theory.

On January 7 Anderson noted: "I particularly reject Mark Danner's quite slippery op-ed piece in the NYT of yesterday, Thursday, January 6, titled "We are all torturers now." Cute, but sorry: we're not. What Danner does, quite inexcusably, is mingle the undeniable abuses of Abu Ghraib with the fact that the White House counsel sought, in the context of the interrogation of a known senior Al Qaeda chief, the outer limits of what could permissibly done in the way of questioning. I don't know, quite frankly, why one has a lawyer if not to ask what the outer limits of legal behavior are."

Noted at Pejmanesque.

Are all Bush's Hispanic nominees having a problem with confirmation or just the top rung? Apparently, Dr. Rice is a foot shuffling mammy to Bush haters and Hispanics are just illegal wetbacks not smart enough to check with lawyers.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

734 Miss Universe of 1957

A newsletter about collectibles and antiques comes to my e-mailbox. I read it mainly for the old recipes, but also I enjoy the little stories people tell about finding things, or trying to find the rightful owners of photographs and Bibles they've purchased at a sale. Jan, a reader, writes about finding some old Miss Universe brochures when cleaning out her aunt's house.

"My husband's aunt died and we were in charge of having an estate sale of all her belongings. I found so many wonderful things to keep that I pulled out of the house before the sale. One of these was a stack of Miss Universe program brochures from 1953 to 1959. This lady and her sisters were hostesses at the Miss Universe pageant in Long Beach, CA, and my husband remembers, as a young boy, these beautiful girls from all over the world staying at their house for a week during the pageant. Anyway, my hobby is selling on E-bay, and just for the heck of it one day I offered one of these brochures for sale. I was amazed that it went for over $100 - people were bidding like crazy for this program brochure that originally cost 25 cents at the pageant.

One day I offered the 1957 program brochure on E-bay as an auction. I got an email from a woman in South Dakota, and she asked me: "My mother was in the Miss Universe pageant that year. But she would never talk about that time in her life - it is like a closed chapter - and we would love to know about it. I don't suppose her picture would be in that book." She gave me her mother's maiden name, and I told her, "Sure, her picture is here, on page such and such." She was so excited to hear this and she won the auction and I sent her the program. I received an email from her telling me how delighted her sisters and she were to finally have this artifact from their mother's past!... Jan" The Collectors Newsletter #287 December 2004

Just out of curiosity I went online and looked at the Miss USA for 1957 and according to the website the Miss USA for 1957 was disqualified because she was underage, married for the second time and had two children! She was replaced by the first runner-up. No wonder she didn't talk about it!

Miss USA 1957 (for a day) of Miss Universe Pagent

Now it is possible that all the candidates of Miss USA are folded into that brochure, but apparently the 1957 event was quite a scandal. But I don't know why any candidate other than Leona Gage (Mrs. Ennis), the disqualified Miss USA, would not tell her daughters about it. There are several horror movies of the early 1960s with an actress named Leona Gage, and a book for sale at a used book site called My Name is Leona Gage, Will Somebody Please Help Me? It was published in 1965, and if the blurb on this paperback is true, life didn't go well for Mrs. Gage Ennis. "Her beauty attracted brutality; her love, rejection; her tenderness, contempt. Suicide, birth, stardom, drugs, beauty, madness- here is the fantastic true story of Leona gage." For someone who only had 48 hours of notariety, she was still apparently well known enough in 1965 to warrant a book. In 1999 someone was looking for her on a genealogy site--wanted to write a story about the 1957 pageant.

So it is possible that because the 1957 pageant was so famous, the bidders on E-bay weren't even who they said they were, but were doing a bit of a scam on Jan--maybe hoping she'd just give them the brochure. The names of all the contestants who placed are on the web, so it wouldn't have been difficult to provide a name for "good old Mom."

Update: Leona Gage died October 9, 2010. She was 71. Link.

733 Saying Good-bye

Vinni, one of my "faithful bloggers" linked over at the left of the page, has had to say good-bye to an old friend. He's sad, but it was time. She had a few years on him and some risky behavior. But check out that photo.

732 Read the labels for an education

Do you suppose the nerdy/artsy/fartsy types who design and edit webpages really do have a sense of humor? This little blurb just delighted me:

Prunes, or "dried plums" as growers now prefer to call them, have long been the butt of jokes.

About dried plums
When I stopped laughing I got down to the serious content of this blog--information contained in labeling.

This week I bought a package of Sunsweet "gold label" Lemon Essence Dried Plums in a foil, resealable bag. They are truly delicious.

However, the nutrition information of the label is really interesting. A serving size is 1.5 oz (7 dried plums), so I'm guessing 5 would be about an ounce. According to the package, an ounce of dried plums (5) has 16 times the antioxidants of an ounce of banana; 8 times the potassium of an ounce of apple; 6 times the B vitamins in an ounce of orange; 83 times the vitamin K in an ounce of banana (obviously not a good source of vit. K) and 5 times of fiber of an ounce of apple. I don't know about you, but 5 dried plums is plenty, but I've never eaten just an ounce of apple--I want the whole thing--same with a banana or an orange. I mean, did God outdo himself with the lowly little plum, or what?

Not only that, but the label says the dried plums will fit my active life style! They will go in my briefcase or purse and never bruise like an apple, they are always in season since they are dried, and always ready to eat. WOW! Plus, you can go to and read, well, amazing testimonials about prunes--I mean dried plums.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

731 Real estate values

I love to read real estate ads. The hyperbole, the squish words--vintage, curb appeal, redefines elegance. Today I saw a photo of a vintage house in a university town (Ann Arbor) that looked like a clone of our first home in Champaign, Illinois not far from the university. It even had a bump out dining room window. It was selling for about $450,000, and the ad said it had been magnificently updated.

With David's family Christmas letter, he included a photo of our old house--the one that looks like the Ann Arbor house. He was in Champaign last year to give a lecture, and had stopped at the house for a photo op. He and wife Gina had been our upstairs tenants and neighbors and friends. The house was probably 50 years old when we bought it, and time has not been kind. We added a second front door so the upstairs tenants had a private entrance, and we painted it charcoal gray with white trim (a popular color scheme in 1964). It had lovely wood work the color of my grandmother's home of the same era, with glass door book shelves, huge windows in the kitchen, a dining room with a built in china cabinet which was the largest room in the house, a basement with a dirt floor, and a gravel driveway with no garage.

The photo showed a home that looked like it hadn't been painted since we did it in 1964; the formerly gracious front porch had lost its columns and railing; ugly oversized windows had been put in the front, second floor room; the bushes were overgrown; and a mattress was leaning against the side of the house.

It was a plain, utilitarian house with painful, unhappy memories, but because it was an income property (I was 22 when we bought it), it put us on a solid financial footing that carried us through the ups and downs of the next forty years.

I salute you, little duplex on White Street. You deserved better.

White St. House in 2003

White St. House in 1964

Friday, January 14, 2005

730 Movie review of "Coach Carter"

Glenn Beck the past few days has been predicting the outcome of professional sports games by using the arrest records of the players. He thinks that if you want to get the job done in a contact sport, hire a crook (obviously, he is joking, but he's always a little over the top). For the Jets and the Steelers, he thought the Jets had a stronger criminal element because they had more assaults against women; the Steelers sort of wimped out with some marijuana and drug charges. Tough choice between guys who beat up women and guys who fry their brains.

A new movie, "Coach Carter," reviewed in today's WSJ is about a coach who is preachy and tough. He demands shirts and ties, push-ups and "Yes Sir." It's not an award winner, but the reviewer hopes student athletes and their parents will absorb the positive message. Boston Globe review here. Trailer here.

Maybe an OSU Alumnus will buy tickets (or rent the whole theater) for Maurice Clarett and his mother.

729 More wine words

Some weeks ago I wrote about the lovely descriptive vocabulary of wine connoisseurs. Last night, in keeping with my New Year's resolution to try to eat better using the government's new guidelines, I served grilled salmon, braised cabbage lightly buttered and salted, 1/6 of a cantaloupe with white grapes, sugar-free lemon pie with a cranberry/orange sauce, and a Pink Catawba wine (ca. $4.00 a bottle). I thought it was the best wine I'd ever had, and you can't beat the price. The pie was great, too.

In today's WSJ, the wine reviewer really outdid himself with a vocabulary to describe the $60/bottle wine (forgotten the name since as you can see, I don't buy expensive wine).

touches our soul
big, muscular
lemony acidity
rich earthiness
tastes brick red
tightly wound
complex and explosive
lovely and complete
rose petals and finesse
hard as a rock
dry finish
massive, tough
intense and haunting

Sounds like it could be the manuscript for Paula's romance novel, instead of a bottle of wine, doesn't it?

728 Biased book reviews

I used to write book reviews for Choice magazine, and other less well-known publications, usually in the areas of animal health, and I used my name and position to establish my authority for recommending (or not) the title or software. In today's Wall Street Journal, James Bowman takes on two of the biggest, most influential (in library circles) review vehicles in the publishing world which is disgorging 500 books a day. Both shield the names of the reviewers. I write about this at my group blog journal of nbruce. As I've noted here before, research has shown that librarians are liberal, 223:1. I'm guessing a lot of the anonymous reviewers for Kirkus and Publishers Weekly are librarians or are writing for librarians.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

727 Secrets, Steps, Strategies, and Myths

With one of these four words in the title, you can boost your sales. I'm thinking of adding one or all four to my blog subtitle, or slipping them into a meta tag. All these books were big sellers in 2004. So now you know the secret.

Thin commandments; the 10 no-fail strategies for permanent weight loss

Dr. Ro's 10 secrets to livin' healthy

French women don't get fat; the secret of eating for pleasure

Weight watchers weight loss that lasts; breakthrough the 10 big diet myths

Your best life now; 7 steps to living your full potential

Perricone promise; look younger in 3 easy steps

The secret life of bees

726 Comfortable in the 21st century

It has finally happened. Writing 19-- seems odd. It's taken five years, but finally I'm comfortable in the 21st century.

There are still a number of Americans who are children of Civil War veterans--not grandchildren, but children. Just recently I've come across some articles about them. One is a black woman in Tennessee whose father was in the Confederate Army as the cook for his uncle. Lillie Harding Vertrees Odom's father was the son of a white woman and a black man, and was raised by his paternal grandfather who was also white. According to her, there was no favortism in the family, and when the war started he went too as his uncle's servant. Peter Vertrees, her father, died in 1926. I noticed her story at Another story is about the 98 year old son of a Confederate veteran. In Wisconsin, Bill Upham was only 8 years old when his Civil War veteran father died--he was born in 1841. Story here. There was a 45 year age difference between his parents.