Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Political Tuesdays: Media and a Crisis of Confidence

As I've been following news coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, it has been dawning on me that I cannot trust the news media to present developing events in an unbiased manner.

This is really nothing new.  I was backstage at the Rally for Life in 1990 when a crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands spontaneously turned to the media enclosure and chanted "tell the truth" for quite some time, in protest of entrenched media bias against the pro-life movement.  It was an iconic moment, and since then I've never quite been able to accept at face value the formula dished out by mainstream media.  I'm still a news junkie, just a somewhat cynical and suspicious news junkie.

The kind of coverage you see greatly depends upon the media outlet you choose as a consumer.  If I only read the Columbian (our local newspaper) I would know little beyond the current status of the legal marijuana shops in town.  I have an app on my Kindle that lets me read the Washington Post, and I'm enjoying having well-written articles on a world and national scale to read.  But the news feeds I choose to "like" on Facebook tend to lead in quite a different direction.  The cognitive dissonance is troubling, and leads me to question the most reputable of sources.

"Mainstream" media would have me believe that peaceful Palestinians live in Gaza under terrible threat from the warlike Israelis, who target mainly U.N.-run hospitals and schools.  Graphic photos show only one side of the story.  But the video by Dennis Prager I shared last week sticks in my mind.  I'm starting to question whether every mainstream outlet has a streak of anti-semitism.  Or is it just that Israel is a stable and relatively safe destination to fly into for journalists, and Hamas has a good public relations system and an abundant supply of gut-wrenching photos?  I don't see nearly the same amount of coverage, particularly photo coverage, from Nigeria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria -- all places where the death toll is vastly more than in Gaza.  But how safe would it be for a reporter to visit these places (assuming there was any desire to cover atrocities committed by Muslims)?  Maybe the very abundance of pictures from Israel tells us something about the stability and security of Israel -- and the laziness and corruption of those who publish only one side of the story.

If it bleeds, it leads.  As long as you have pictures and pre-packaged text that supports your

Monday, July 28, 2014

Design Wall Monday and Kid update

For the first time in a very long time I have something different about my design wall... that's because I stitched this block this weekend:
 It's the sixth one I've finished with that low-volume quilt-along.
 So I put them all up, and there has even been a tiny bit of progress on the string diamond star.  But the sunshine out the window will tell you, I'm not getting a lot of quilting done at the moment.  Summer is just too short!
Up to our eyeballs in plums, but they sure are pretty.
 Quarta has been delivered to camp, where she has many friends.  The house will be a LOT quieter this week!
Pretty cool treehouse.
Peter has been doing things like this,
and this,
 and this (yikes!)
and this for the last 4 weeks at Basic.  He was allowed access to his phone for half an hour yesterday to call us for the first time.  I think he's doing great but he's definitely reached the point of wishing it was done.  And it's a long way from done yet!  He very much appreciates everyone who's been praying for him and writing to him but doesn't have any time to write back.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Randomday, with plums

Try as I may, I am having a hard time keeping up with the blog this summer.  And I'm not really trying very hard!
These are the last two quilts I pinned for Grandma -- This one is sweet with the butterfly embroideries and appliques.
 She also had a small hexagon quilt with some "leftover" blocks.
The plum tree is loaded with big juicy plums.  Followers will know I have collected a lot of plum recipes.  I've tried a few more this year: a version of plum jam that I call "Plum Preserves."  It's no-pectin added, it' cooked 4 different times, and it is like a cross between plum jam and plum butter (Pflaumenmus).
This is the plum preserves together with a batch of plum-orange jam.
For a light refreshing dessert you might try Plum Flummery.  I nestled this serving in the kettle of plums... and there are a lot more on the tree.  I am not sure whether I'll be dehydrating any plums this year, but we recently defrosted the freezer so we'll be able to freeze quite a bit.  I have found a lot of recipes I would like to try on Pinterest.  These plums are wonderful eaten fresh ... I wish we could have them fresh all year long!
Quarta's 12th birthday was observed with appropriate fanfare and a gooey chocolate caramel cake.  And a trip to Joann's to buy a rubber band loom and beads.  And a date with Mom and Dad to see the Parade of Homes.

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


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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Political Tuesdays: Camels, Hobby Lobby, and the Real War on Women

It's been quite awhile since I attempted a Political Tuesdays post, but the political world just keeps rolling along and I still have political opinions that I like to write about.  The usual warning should be restated: if you don't want to read (or are bothered by) my political opinions, feel free to skip today's post and come back when I'm blogging about knitting or quilting.  The following post may contain satire.

Thousands of years ago, nomadic camel herders discovered that if you insert a pebble into the uterus of a female camel before setting off on a long trek across the desert, she won't get or stay pregnant.  Pregnant camels are, apparently, a big drag on a long caravan route.  (Who knew?)  So, naturally, in the progress of history, men decided to try this technique on women, and the IUD (intra-uterine device) was invented (I almost said born, but that would be ironic, wouldn't it?)

Ironically again, the IUD is not among the top results to come up when you Google "women are like camels."  I got things like this story of real women being herded like camels as part of a protest in Egypt.  And this quote from some influential Koranic commentary, comparing women to cows, horses and camels.  And this bit of strange fashion advice on how correct Muslim women can avoid bouffant hairstyles under their hijab that make them look like camels and thus make them haram, or sinful.  But perhaps I digress from the topic of this post.

The original IUD worked in an abortifacient manner; not preventing ovulation, not preventing fertilization of the egg, but preventing implantation of the embryo in the uterus.  Newer formulations (I almost said generations -- again the irony!) of the IUD supposedly add an element of hormonal contraception, but whether that methodology or the anti-implantation methodology is the primary one is exceedingly controversial, at least among those who have researched it enough to have an opinion on the matter.  Most people who believe that human life begins at the moment of fertilization have an ethical problem with a form of birth control that potentially "flushes away" that human life.  This includes the IUD and the "morning after pill," which have prevention of implantation of a fertilized egg as a primary methodology of their operation.

We aren't talking about the traditional Roman Catholic view, which forbids any non-natural form of contraception.  Protestants, like ethical human beings who have any other or no religious persuasion, tend not to condemn all birth control categorically, but prefer to avoid abortifacient birth control.  However, it's a poorly understood area and many doctors are little more than overworked middlemen for pharmaceutical companies.  It's often left up to the individual to research the subject.  It's definitely a grown-up decision, with a lot of gray areas on which people of conscience can disagree, and even in the internet age it can be difficult to get authoritative and accurate information.  And I don't think Obamacare has made it any better.  I mean, who really wants both the government and their employer involved in their birth control decision?  Apparently, the entire left wing.

Which brings us to Hobby Lobby and the recent Supreme Court ruling.  By all accounts, Hobby Lobby is a pretty good company to work for.  Of the 20 types of birth control that Obamacare mandates, they freely cover 16.  The company's owners simply object on principle to paying for abortifacient birth control.  I can see their point - it would feel like having to drive the delivery truck to the Nazi death camps.  Honestly, you would think, judging by the shrill reactions of the left's propaganda machine, that they were even more evil and oppressive than those monstrous charities like Little Sisters of the Poor who won't cover the regular birth control pill -- but they do, at no charge to their employees.  And condoms (I wonder, under Obamacare, are employees supposed to file insurance claims for condoms, and if so, how many will bother?  Who's going to check the expense accounts to make sure they have all been used?  How would you verify that?  Or do we assume that, since everybody lies about sex, those claims are always going to be inflated, so to speak?  And if so, how is it fair to make employers pay for fraudulent charges?  But I'm digressing again).  The actual Supreme Court Ruling was pretty narrow in its focus, and while it was a victory for pro-life forces, it still leaves many problematic issues in Obamacare unresolved.

If Hobby Lobby employees want abortifacient birth control, they can still pay for it out-of-pocket.  Now, it may seem strange that some people actually pay for medical expenses themselves, and it may seem expensive, especially to someone like Hillary Clinton, who has been dead broke before.  But I can assure you from personal experience that the average working family can afford the occasional out-of-pocket medical expense that is not covered by even a good health care policy.  We have paid our own money for such things as specially compounded medication (to keep me alive and out of the hospital during hyperemesis), the occasional diagnostic test or specialist visit that wasn't within the plan or wasn't billed exactly right; orthotic inserts for Tertia's shoes, one dental crown (after that, we purchased supplemental dental insurance, which was a very good idea), chiropractic adjustments beyond a fixed limit, massage therapy, and specialized eyeglass frames.  The costs may have been high, but we were happy to pay them because the treatment offered a vastly improved quality of life compared to no treatment.  Is it weird that some medications or treatments were provided at no or very low cost, while others were quite costly?  Yes, but health insurance is weird.  I don't pretend to understand it, before or after Obamacare.  In the long run, it's just money, and money is supposed to be used to help the family, and if the family thinks it's a worthwhile expense, then the family is willing to pay for it.

But if Obama and his party really think that American women are such frail flowers that they desperately need a federal mandate for employer-funded birth control at the expense of conscientious objections, then they really don't know American women very well, do they?  I'll leave off with one last irony to contemplate: a form of birth control originally designed by misogynistic camel-herders is now cherished by self-proclaimed feminists as a sacred right.