Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Political Randomday

It's summertime.  My day has consisted of Duolingo lessons, making blueberry jam and plum preserves, baking a gooey caramel chocolate cake for Quarta's birthday tomorrow, browsing plum recipes on Pinterest, and picking plums. The political world goes on, and I'd just as soon it went on without me.  But here are a few interesting reads along the way, if you're interested.

Ted Cruz targeted by vampires in HBO's True Blood series: a brilliant response.


What happens in September, when the flood of immigrant children need to go to school?  Is the immigration crisis about to create an education crisis?

A level-headed and simple explanation of the situation in the Middle East, by Dennis Prager.  This is the best presentation I have seen on the subject.  And you should also read Charles Krauthammer's moral clarity.

Christians in Iraq presented with no options by ISIS: a mass exodus from Mosul.

John Kerry, apparently trying to cover for a bit of (?) anti-semitism caught on open mic, acknowledges that war is tough.  You know, I'm glad he has it figured out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Randomday

Today we picked blueberries.  At least, some of us did.  Daniel stayed home with Quarta, who is suffering from the worst blistering sunburn I've ever seen on her shoulders and can't stand to have anything touch her skin.  Which means she has worn a swimsuit top for the last few days.  She was taken out to see "How to Train your Dragon 2," so it was not a total loss.  Steve and I (and Tertia a little bit) picked a lot of blueberries, most of which need to be frozen.  I also need to make a batch of jam.  But not tonight.

Peter has sent us a few letters from boot camp; he says he is "not too miserable" and that most of the sergeants don't know his name, which is a good thing.  His battery has a facebook page, and some pictures of him have been posted so far.

A few cool things are happening on the internet.  Dutch for English speakers is now in Beta on Duolingo!  And Daniel brought this cool site to my attention: akinator.  Pick a character - any character, and play 20 questions with the computerized genie.  It's fun to stump it, but it doesn't happen often. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Yarn-Along and a finish

 It is a modest finish, a case for Daniel's Ipad mini, but this is my very first finished knitted project of 2014.  That's just a little embarassing!  But combined with my finish yesterday of the Celtic Solstice quilt top, I'm having a very productive July.  I hope it continues.
I put a little pocket on the back so it can hold his earbuds.  I want to make a similar one for my Kindle and one for Tertia's Samsung tablet eventually.  I'm also binding off the lower hem of my "Mint Chocolate" sweater, which will leave the sleeves yet to do.  I have pretty much given up on spinning during the Tour de Fleece, but who knows? Anything could happen.

I recently finished reading Mission at Nuremburg, by Tim Townsend.  I highly recommend this book.  It is the story of an American Lutheran pastor, Henry Gerecke, who in 1943 at the age of 50 decided to enlist as a chaplain in the Army, eventually becoming pastor to some of the most vile of the Nazi  war criminals at the Nuremburg trials.  It reads as a combination of military history, biography, and devotional theology.  What level of compassion would it take for any of us to pray with and for men such as these, and come to see them as individuals, even friends?  Material well worth pondering.  It was especially meaningful to read with a young son in Basic Training; I tend to worry about him, and this book is a good reminder of what the American military looked like in the past, and that sometimes the simple things; human contact, love, forgiveness, attention to basic needs -- are the things that make the difference on the spiritual level as well.

Another book I highly recommend is Things that Matter, a collection of essays and lectures by Charles Krauthammer.  He is a true intellectual renaissance man whose rich experience and life challenges have caused him to think deeply on a wide range of topics, and whose writing is a thing of beauty as few Beltway pundits ever achieve.  From the space program to chess to bioethics to foreign policy, I found him inspiring.  I listened to this as an audiobook, much of it read by Krauthammer himself, and I found myself agreeing with the vast majority of his thoughtful positions even if I differed on points of policy.  The only irreconcilable difference between us is apparently the Oxford comma.  And who knows?  He may eventually convince me on that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finished Celtic Solstice Top!

I have not been sewing much lately, and it's been wearing on me.  I haven't been knitting much either, but I've been working my way through it, better than the lack of sewing.  So today I had some previously taped Tour de France going in the background and I finally wrestled the rest of the borders onto Celtic Solstice, which has been languishing in my extremely untidy sewing room since February or so.  That was when I attached the yellow inner border and the flying geese pieced border.
The biggest challenge was deciding what to use for the outer borders.  I rejected a second yellow border as being a little too assertive -- it needed some calming influence after all that sparkle and busy-ness.  I had some 4-5" wide strips of fabric from the epic estate sale of last year, but no yardage of either the light blue or the blue-green print.  I had to get a little creative to make it work, and the end result is a quilt top that is approximately 80.5" x 82.5" and used up - a lot of fabric.  I'm not really counting at the moment.
This is the FIRST finished sewing project I have turned out in 2014!  It has been a real wilderness for quite a while!  And yes, I know it's not technically finished until it's quilted.  But I will take it, especially as it looks so pretty blowing in the summer breeze over the limb of the sycamore tree.  Many thanks to Bonnie K. Hunter of Quiltville for the mystery quilt pattern and the fun of piecing.  The colors just sparkle together.  Cause for celebration!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Political Tuesdays - The Huddled Masses

Maybe I first began to think of myself as a Compassionate Conservative in 8th grade or thereabouts, when I had to memorize The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus.  It's a beautiful poem, a bit old-fashioned in its sensibility now.  We wouldn't think of referring to immigrants or would-be immigrants as "the wretched refuse of your teeming shore" nowadays... or would we?  We wouldn't want to imply that America is in any way exceptional, these days, and that the countries immigrants came from are somehow inferior.  It's kind of a delicate subject, along with other old-fashioned terms no longer used in public schools, like "the great American melting pot."  But still, I love our immigrant heritage, the diversity it brings to America, the richness of experience.

The immigration crisis snuck up on most of us, and it is a true, shocking, humanitarian crisis, and it is happening on American soil, and it is at least in part the fault of incompetent leadership at the highest levels of the American government.  It seems like an imperialistic power grab, and you look at the rights we are supposed to have as Americans for protection and self-expression, and they're being ignored.  Freedom of speech and the press?  Not so much.  How much worse must it be for those whose immigration status is in limbo, who are being used as political pawns in a game they have no way of understanding?

Think about it with me: I have several dear, long-term friends (more than 20 years) who have adopted children internationally.  I've met several newer friends in recent years who have this beautiful story as well.  I rejoice with them when they welcome a new child from Africa, or Asia, Central America, or Eastern Europe with Facebook photos captioned with "America's newest citizen."  It is hard to adopt internationally, and rightfully so.  Families have to undergo a years-long process of home studies, lawyers' visits, sometimes multiple visits to the child's country, a crushing load of paperwork, invasive medical and psychological questioning, financial hurdles that would make most of us balk ($20,000 seems to be a minimum to complete an international adoption), and even after all that, many adoptions do not go through, leaving parents with a very real empty-nest heartbreak.  On top of the sheer difficulty of adoption, there are the additional challenges of special-needs parenting (let's not kid ourselves, all children have special needs, but internationally adopted children are undeniably in that category even if they don't have a medical diagnosis), cultural differences, and terrible, insensitive comments by other Americans.  Oh - and you have to be careful not to denigrate your child's birth country.  You don't want to be seen as this arrogant Ugly American trying to "rescue" and "save" children from an evil empire.  You want to celebrate what is good about your child's cultural heritage, even if there is precious little good there - you still have to find it, because your child is going to need it some day.  I admit, this would probably be the hardest thing for me.  When you know about the horrific conditions of orphanages and mental asylums in Eastern Europe, the corruption and cruelty in China, the disease and poverty in so many countries, it would be hard to put a sunny face on it for the sake of the children, but that's what people have to do to make a good life for them.  Sometimes, people come to the conclusion that even though they love a child and want to adopt, that child is better off staying in the language and culture that he or she is familiar with, even without an adoptive family.  It is a hard, complicated issue and I don't think there is one right answer.  Parents of all kinds love their children and try to provide for them in the best way they can: that is the one constant.

So, has President Obama at long last rediscovered American Exceptionalism?  I'm assuming it is because he knows that America is far superior to backwards Central Amerian countries like Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador that he has permitted this wave of migrant children to swarm over the borders.  But has he done his home study?  Does he have the funding to support all these children?  What about provisions for the well-being of the children he is already responsible for?  And what message does it send to these tiny, poor countries, that our President wants to depopulate them and resettle their younger generations in our own borders?  How cruel, to dangle the hope of a better life before vulnerable and impoverished young people, and then bus them into internment camps and subject them to dehumanizing treatment and long bureaucratic waits.  It reminds me of the way we treated the African slaves, the Native Americans, the Japanese Americans during WWII.  But wait, aren't Democrats utterly opposed to such terrible behavior, or is it only Republicans who object to human trafficking and warehousing?  I honestly don't get it.  Who could possibly have thought this was a good idea?

I don't know.  But I bet me and some of my Facebook buddies could rustle up some real homes for some of these kids that would be better than what they're experiencing now.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Random Monday and Summer Stuff

I missed Randomday on Saturday.  Friday, as the 4th of July, was very, very noisy.  "the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night" that Vancouver USA was still there.  I had to shower off from all the gunpowder smoke and the last explosions were somewhere around 1:00 a.m.

Here's a little photo essay from last week, before the noise of the 4th.
 This is not our cat.  It comes to hang out with Smudge and scrounge what food it can.  We started calling it Madeye Moody because its right eye and ear look like it's been in a nasty fight with Dark wizards.  I snapped this picture through the back door window as Madeye waited for Smudge to finish eating his food.  Madeye does not let us approach yet.
 This is Smudge.  He is an outside-only cat after repeated breaches of litterbox protocol, but he seems sleek and well-fed, with little desire for adventure.  He has been sharing his hidey-holes with Madeye lately.
Muffball is an inside-only cat, having been rescued from the life of a stray when she was a tiny kitten.  She now gazes on the drama unfolding between the outside cats.  She knows Smudge and accepts that he is allowed on the premises (because he has shared housing with the inside cats on occasion in the basement) but she most decidedly does not recognize Madeye's right to coexist in the catosphere.

Bilbo, being the cat's cat that he is, was roaming the neighborhood and not available for pictures when I took these.

On a slightly related note, the Tour de France/Fleece has begun.  I am not doing anything official on Ravelry at this point, but... I am spinning Muffball's fur again.  It is going better than the last time I tried, two years ago.  I am using the Kuchulu Turkish spindle.  Pictures when I actually get around to it.  It's summer -- the time to do crazy stuff on the blog, and to be as lazy as I can get away with.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Yarn-Along and Bloom

So, knitting.  The Yarn-Along.  I am approaching the bottom edge of the interminable cardigan.  It seems like I've been approaching the right length for a month but it's been shrinking as I knit.  But, I knit another inch on Monday and it's about time to start the border pattern.  And I started a sleeve for Daniel's I-pad.  This is the third time I've started it, and I think I might keep going now.  Sometimes you just want to knit garter stitch, and I'm having one of those summers.  Maybe next week I'll be knitting dishcloths.

I recently finished reading Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, by Kelle Hampton.  It's a sweet and very real book about the unexpected birth of a baby with Down syndrome.  I've been a follower of Kelle's blog for some time now, so I was glad to be able to read this book.  It's funny, the things we DS moms have in common, and the things we do not.  If I wrote my memoirs of giving birth to Tertia, it would be much more Erma Bombeck, and with not very good photography, and not nearly enough of the chatty girlfriends camping in my hospital room.  What a great idea, a pajama party at the hospital!  But most of the book is not so frivolous and is really a nice, personal memoir that could be appreciated by many families who receive an unexpected diagnosis.  The author is an accomplished photographer so the pictures are lovely, too.

Daniel and Quarta have been reading a lot this summer; here they are teasing Tertia by taking over her bed.  Daniel is somewhere deep in the Wheel of Time saga; Quarta is tearing through Muddle Earth, Edge Chronicles, the Oracles of Delphi Keep, and a bunch of Warriors books.  Tertia is comfortably re-re-reading the Harry Potter books.

No Disney Princess posters were harmed in writing this blog.