Thursday, December 30, 2004

UNmitigated Gall

Thanks for the Memory to Darth Apathy.

While no big fan of the United Nations, I have not been as outspoken a critic as many conservative bloggers. But events of the last few days have me singing another tune. In the recent tragedy of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the devastation it has wreaked,the response of the United Nations as contrasted with the response of nations and individual citizens has highlighted what a partisan, self-interested, corrupt, petty thing the UN has become.

First there was the comment by UN official Jan Egeland, criticizing the West for stinginess. Egeland has retracted his statement, and claims it was never directed at the US. But given how many people, both around the world and in the US, and of different political stripes, have inferred it as being anti-US, I find it hard to believe that it was not also implied, at least to some extend. Furthermore, even before he retracted it, the meme had been debunked, by the overwhelming amount of aid that has poured in, especially from private individuals. As I blogged, the criticism of the US ignores private giving and focuses on governmental.

But criticizing the amount of giving was not enough. Nooooo.... as soon as it became obvious that the amount of giving would be huge, UN officials began complaining because the aide wasn't being channeled through the UN:

Bush 'Undermining UN with Aid Coalition'

By Jamie Lyons, PA Political Correspondent

United States President George Bush was tonight accused of trying to undermine the United Nations by setting up a rival coalition to coordinate relief following the Asian tsunami disaster.

The president has announced that the US, Japan, India and Australia would coordinate the world’s response.

But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN.

“I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said.

“Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme.

“It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”

Ms Short said the coalition countries did not have good records on responding to international disasters.

She said the US was “very bad at coordinating with anyone” and India had its own problems to deal with.

“I don’t know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system,” she added.

First of all, I wasn't sure whether I should laugh or scream when a UN official used the phrase "Moral Authority" with a straight face. Are you kidding me? The Secretary General's own son, a UN official himself, is implicated in one of the biggest scandals in history. How man billions of dollars were misdirected, mishandfled, siphoned, or embezzled in the Oil for Food Scandal? Can you say Darfur? Rwanda? This is the organization that put Libya on the Human Rights Committee? And they speak of Moral Authority? Please.

Second of all, How DARE you complain about the US not backing up the UN, when the UN has done nothing to back up the US?

And you're right, Clare, we AREN'T using the UN system. We can get the aid there faster and more efficiently by doing it ourself. The contrast to the Food for Oil Program makes perfectly my earlier post's point about private reliefe organizations doing a better job of relief than a bureaucracy. And the bigger the bureaucracy, the worse the job.

Finally, an important question: If the relief gets to those who need it, WHY THE HELL DO YOU CARE HOW?????? By stamping your feet and pouting because you're not the center of the universe in this relief effort you just reveal yourself as petty and egocentric. I've got news for Clare Short and the UN:

It's not about you. Really, it's not. It's about the victims. Now get over it and lets get on with helping them.


Thanks for the Memory to Sir George at The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

See what I mean?

"With the death toll rising above 117,000, European governments were taking soundings on holding an international donors conference Jan. 7."

Taking soundings on holding a conference. Oh, that's compassion in action if I ever saw it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I'm in the Wrong Line of Work

Thanks for the Memory to Ricky V at Ya Think So?

A recent study conducted by the Oregon Research Institute, based here in Eugene, in conjunction with the Prevention Research center of Berkeley, California, has reached the following Earth-shattering conclusion, and I quoute from the local ABC affiliate's report:

Alcohol use among minors is highest in communities where it is easy for them to buy it,

.... No, really! The easier it is to GET alchohol, the more often it's used?


That pains my brain so badly, I need a drink, if you'll pardon me for saying so. Really, how much money was spent to reach such a mind-numbingly OBVIOUS conclusion?

If I could just shed this pesky conscience, I'd be changing my line of work to become a researcher.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I Can Do It Myself

Thanks for the Memory to reader David at Ace of Spades HQ.

Ace is, to say the least, miffed at suggestions by a Norwegian UN official that the US is stingy.

This story has been big news on the Blogs today. Most of the conservative blogs have been busy mocking the following quote by Jan Egeland, the Norwegian in question:

"There are several donors who are less generous than before in a growing world economy," he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Europe "believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It's not true. They want to give more."

The tone of much of the derision has been along the lines of "How stupid, no we don't want to give more. We're AGAINST more taxes."

While I agree with those bloggers about being against more taxes, I have to say, egeland is right in one respect: We do want to give more. But what he fails to uderstand is this: What we don't want is our government taking from us and calling it giving. We'd rather be free to give, and to choose how we give and to whom. If we are granted that freedom, we will give.

And thanks to David, I have evidence that bears that out. The US government may not give as much in total foreign aid as some might want, but Americans as private citizens give threefold as much:

There is no comprehensive measure of how much Americans donate overseas, but a conservative estimate, based on surveys and voluntary reporting, puts annual private giving around $35 billion. Even this low-ball figure is more than three and a half times the amount of official development assistance (ODA) given out in a year by the U.S. government. In the third wave of foreign aid, it is private money that is making the difference.

That's been my point all along. And I believe that the same truth applies to domestic welfare as well as to foreign aid. That's why I linked to Samaritan's Purse earlier today. That's why I encourage giving to local and national and international charities, both religious and secular. That's why I'm such a huge fan of Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and why despite some issues with her politics and religious views, I admire Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network: PRIVATE ENDEAVORS ARE A MORE EFFICIENT CONDUIT FOR CHARITABLE WORK THAN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES.

Go and Do the Same

Those are the last five words in the Biblical passage known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. They're also my way of encouraging us all to help the victims of the SE Asia Tsunami. And appropriately, I would suggest that the orgasnization you use as a conduit for that help be Samaritan's Purse. This excellent organization, most famous for its annual Operation Christmas Child, is a Christian aid organization run by Billy Graham's son Franklin. They have a good reputation for honesty, and it is my understanding that they undertake to keep overhead low, meaning as much of the donations they receive as possible go directly to aid and relief. For this reason, I would encourage anyone to give to them. If you have strong objections to the Christian message connected to their efforts, I understand, and encourage you to find a secular aid organization and give. But whatever you do, give.

Between Heaven and Mordor

Thanks for the Memory to A Youth Pastor.

I have been for all my life a fan of fantasy literature, particularly that of C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Part of this preference for those two authors in particular has to do with the sentimetal memories tied to when I first encountered them.

As a child, my mother would read the Chronicles of Narnia to myself and my sister. This wass usually on the frequent trips we took as a family, when there were long periods of time in the car with nothing to do. She was an expert at reading right up to a moment of crisis in the story, and then putting the book aside to be continued later. I suspect that this was in part a way of making us behave. But what she may not know is that it was also a hallmark of the master storyteller, or that it fired my lifelong passion for reading.

I "met" Tolkien much later in life. I began reading the Lord of the Rings during the Christmas holiday after I dropped out of college, before I'd found a job, and I devoured the entire trilogy in less than a week. For someone whose life was in complete chaos, with no sense of purpose and no plans for the future, who had just lost a fiance and any sense of accomplishment, the theme of perserverence beyond the end of hope embodied in Frodo's quest was a comfort and a challenge.

The other factor weighing in on why I love those two is, of course, the Christian faith in which I share with them. Even as a child, I could plainly see Christ reflected in Aslan. And in the corrupting power of the Ring I saw a clear warning against compromise (which I have sadly failed to heed at times). Good only triumphed by remaining good. "Do not repay evil for evil," as the Bible says.

And yet these two devout authors set me up for a conundrum, guided me on a path that led to moral dilemma. In one fell swoop they both strengthened my faith, and yet instilled in me a love of fantasy literature that eventually presented me with a crisis of faith: What should my attitude be towards magic in Fantasy literature? As a Christian, I believe formly in the Biblical prohibition against practising magic or witchcraft. But for some reason, I just couldn't work up as much of an aversion to it when I read about it in a fantasy story set in an imaginary world. At times I felt guilty about it. I took flak from other Christians because of it. But I never felt convicted.

Today The Youth Pastor's Blog pointed me to an article about this very topic that references the take Tolkien himself had on the issue. It's well written, and confirms much of what I've always thought about the issue, but could never articulate. Thank you, Mike Perschon, and amen.

Monday, December 27, 2004

A New Site to Bookmark

Mmmmm.... Islay....

The Beautiful Letdown

That's the name of a CD by Christian band Switchfoot that we gave our niece for Christmas. I confess to never having heard the CD or the song, and to being clueless as to the theme or meaning of the title, but the title itself seems like a perfect description of the last two months of blogging for me.

In the months, then weeks, and finally days leading up to the presidential elections, the primary focus of this Blog was political. It was very important to me, I believed passionately in my cause, and so I blogged on it. A lot. And it brought me traffic - especially when I was blogging on the Dan Rather Memo scandal, and also when I blogged about what became for me a burning issue -- documented cases of politically motivated violence and vandalism against conservatives. I was posting numerous entries a day, and getting traffic in the hundreds a day -- not Instapundit by any stretch, but it made me feel good.

But once the elections were over, my enthusiasm for mosting waned. I just couldn't come up with as many things to be passionate about. Furthermore, my new job ccurtailed the time I had to post. And my traffic suffered too. I dropped form hundreds of readers a day to less than 50. Ironically, the change occurred at least partially because things went the way I wanted them too in the presidential election -- talk about a beautiful letdown.

Recently, my writing has started to pick back up again, as has my traffic. Blog Explosion helps with the traffic, so I don't put as much stock in it, but the fact that I'm once again getting comments, well, that feels good. And the best part is, it's not all politics. I'm finding other passions, other topics. I'm starting to get to know myself again, something I haven't done in years. And apparently, I'm not the only one who finds myelf at least mildly interesting.

Now that's beautiful, without the letdown.

Some Assembly Required

Thanks for the Memory to Robert at The Llama Butchers, who has a great piece on the Whininess of "Some Assembly Required" angst.

Personally, I laugh at the prospect of assembling presents for the coming Spawn of Brian. I've been assembling stuff my whole life, and am a Kung Glue Master.

But nothing like my Nephew. The Feared Redhead is the youngest of three sisters. The middle one has a 7-year old who has some LD-related issues. He's a sweet kid, I love him dearly (he couldn't pronounce "Uncle Brian" as a toddler, so I was designated "Unkin", a contraction of the two of which I've become fond), but he definitely has issues with listening to adults, calming down, paying attention -- not just standard levels of issues for his age, but serious issues.

However, put a Legos kit in his hands and something wondrous happens. The kid is some sort of freaky genius when it comes to assembling those suckers. hundreds of pieces? He can find the right one in a heartbeat. Twenty pages of instructions? No problem. In less time than it takes Ted Kennedy to polish off a gin and tonic, the kid will have it assembled. With one glance at the instruction sheet per step. Not me. I have to look at the step, find the pieces, then look at them again to make sure how they go together. At the least. But the Neph, he just works his way through a kit like a machine.

It's kinda spooky, but in a proud way.

It's No Surprise

Thanks for the Memory to Naked Villainy.

Apparently, President and Mrs. Bush's gifts to each other were national news, and the Maximum Leader asks a good question: Why?

A very good question indeed. And it brings to my mind a question I've had about celebrity status, a question which, when I ask it, will leave you convinced that I think WAAAAAAAYYYYYY too much:

How in hell do celebrities surprise their loved ones? It's not like you can buy something and not have the intended know at LEAST where you bought it, thanks to the ever-present paparazzi. God forbid you try pulling off something even bigger without them knowing.

I suppose they have agents/personal assistants/professional sycophants hwo handle such details for them, and this allows some stealth. But personally, for me, hald the joy in giving a gift is in looking for, and finding, the perfectly appropriate gift for the person, relying on and showing off how well I know them. The presentation is the other half -- price and reciprocation received are incidental. For someone who gets photographed every time they stop at the supermarket for cheese, this is not an option.

It's this kind of topic that led me long ago to decide that while I wouldn't mind being rich, I'm not so sure I'd like being famous. Not that either is a looming threat.

Banned Camp

Thanks for the Memory to Chad, substitute blogger at The Jawa Report.

A school in Tampa Florida, trying to cut down on pranks in school, has banned rubber bands:

In a December newsletter, the Buffalo Bulletin, administrators warned parents and students.

"There have been recent incidences of students at our school using rubber bands as a method of projecting objects at other people. The students refer to some of the projectile objects as "wasps.' Occasionally, students are using their fingers to project the wasps. These activities have resulted in injured students.

"Rubber bands are not permitted at school. If students are in possession of rubber bands for any reason they will be subject to consequences that may include out of school suspension. When rubber bands are required for classroom use, they will be provided and collected."

Now, I understand the need to crack down on an activity that is harming students. But again, the answer is to address the behavior, not to remove anything that might possibly be used inappropriately. Otherwise, we'll be reduced to banning pencils from school, leaving the kids with nothing but crayons, and replacing the hard textbooks with those soft and washable "Bathtime Books" for infants.

I Shot a Man in Reno, Just to Watch Him Die

So other than the dog almost dying, again, Christmas was good. I didn't receive a lot, but I did get to watch my nephews tear in to their chaches, and we did get a few things for the impending Spawn of Brian. But I did receive a couple of things I had really wanted: An Oregon knit cap, some pilsner glasses and a pair of Thistle-style Single Malt Scotch nosing glasses. But from the title, I'm sure you've ascertained that the gift I'll be talking about today is this one:

Now, I'm not the biggest country music fan -- growing up in Southern Idaho and Southern Oregon, most of the country music fans my age were the kids who had no tolerance for anyone not exactly like them, and I got a lot of grief from them. So I had a built-in animosity towards the genre for a long time. That's changed a bit, but I'm still not an enthusiastic listener.

Except when it comes to Johnny Cash. I cannot get enough of the man's music, though up until now I didn't OWN any of it (not that I was buying other music instead -- it's just not high on the budgetary priority list). But this year The Feared Redhead arranged for Santa to leave this CD in my stocking.

So what is it about Johnny Cash that makes me love his music so much? Let's ignore for a moment (as difficult as it may be) the fact that he is the baddest, coolest man ever to sing on a stage. Let's set aside the fact that when he sings of suffering and the Blues, he knows of what he speaks, having grown up the poor son of a sharecropper. Let's even discount, for the sake of discussing deeper things, that gravelly, crack of doom voice, the self-deprecating humor, or the passionate love for June that made all his love songs work so well.

The thing about Johnny Cash that endears him and his music to me is the interplay of sin and grace that was the pattern of his life. This was a man who made some serious mistakes in his life, who struggled mightily with addiction, who was anythng BUT the quintessence of Godly living.

And yet, despite all that, he was, at his core, a man of faith. He believed deeply in God and in the power of His grace to forgive, and I honestly believe that is what kept Johnny going. I don't think he was proud of the things he did wrong, but he knew he was forgiven when he repented for them. And in the end, I honestly believe Johnny Cash went home to be with the Lord.

And that gives me hope. while I've not live a life a quarter as hard as Johnny's, my own Christian walk is less than exemplary. I make mistakes -- no, I sin. Frequently. Sometimes egegiously. But when I do, and am faced with what I've done, I honestly repent and sincerely rely on God's grace to not only forgive, but to help me avoid the same mistakes again. I think Johnny Cash would know what I mean.

And so, this Christmas, the season of Grace, I received a CD of music from a man who truly appreciated the meaning of Grace. Thanks for the Encouragement, Johnny. I walk the line too.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

This Close to the Worst Christmas Ever

Christmas was pretty nice for me, we spent it in Portland with The Feared Redhead's sister and her family, and the in-laws flew in on Christmas Day. Quite a nice time. One event, however, almost runied it.

Christmas evening, we sat down to eat. Everyone was having a fun time with the findue, but the oil got a bit smokey, so we opened windows to let it air out. Well, someone (we're not sure who) opened the front door as well. Neither I nor TFR noticed. Suddenly, someone commented on it. TFR was out the door like a shot, screaming our dog's name. She says she heard a yelp, I didn't. So she ran out front convinced that we'd find our dog (a Lhasa Apso) lying dead in front of a car. I followed, just htinking she'd run outside. When I got out there, and didn't see the dog, I started to panic. Fortunately, I thought clearly for one brief moment when I sent TFR back in the house to check there as I began scouring the intersection to ascertain where she might be. A call from the house reassured me that she was there. She was wet, so she'd obviously been outside, and she was cowering badly, so somehting scared her, but shewas unhurt. I collapsed on the floor next to her and cried. I have no shame for that.

So if I'm this protective of the damned dog, what am I going to be like after the baby's born? By next christmas, I may be blogging from a mental ward.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Stocking Stuffer

Thanks for the Memory to Speed of Thought via Ace of Spades:

A Little Military Humor.

My Christmas Greeting

I know it's only the 23rd, but the rest of the week will be spent with the In-Laws, so I don't know how much blogging time I'll get. Therefore, I decided to share this with you today.

In my family, Christmas was a special time, but a joyous one. My father was a pastor, so we were always involved in the church Christmas program, and of course the Christmas Eve candlelight service. In addition, my father was a volunteer firefighter, so he always helped escort Santa into town a week before Christmas. He'd ride into town on the fire truck, passing out brown paper bags full of hards candy, peanuts, and an apple and an orange to all the kids in town. In the small town of Filer, Idaho, that was the closest we got to a Christmas parade.

On Christmas eve, we'd head home after service (we lived next door to the church), then we'd have hot cocoa or cider, and we'd listen to my dad read the Christmas story to us. then we'd open one present, and then go to bed. The next day we'd get up and go through the typical ritual of opening presents, one at a time, everyone taking turns. To this day that's how I prefer things. In The Feared Redhead's family, they open ALL the FAMILY presents Christmas Eve, then the Santa presents in the morning. We're still developing our own style, mostly because most Christmases are spent with the rest of one family or the other, and, well, when in Rome...

My father's last Christmas was in 2000. That year, he and I shared a special extra treat with each other -- we got to go to the Holiday Bowl and watch our Ducks defeat Texas. It was the last football game he ever attended. He died on July 18, 2001.

I miss him quite often, but especially now, at his favorite time of year. My joy is tinged with a bit of sadness, but I am comforted to know I will see him again. Of all the Christmas traditions over the years, the one I cherish most, and the one I now miss, is hearing my father's voice read these words:

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Merry Christmas to all of you who read my blog, and thank you for your good will. May the Peace of God be with you this precious Advent.


Brian B

No Surprise Here

You Are a Religious Republican

You make up the conservative, Christian, dedicated core of the Republican Party.

You believe it's important for religious people to stand up for their beliefs in politics.

And for you, this means voting your conscience - which almost always means voting Republican.

Your pet causes include the sanctity of life, school vouchers, and prayer in school

Some Through the Fire

Thanks for the Memory to Thinking Right.

Hugh Hewitt made Thinking Right aware of the following article. It's a blog entry written by an Army Chaplain who was present when the rocket attack went off in Mosul. It's a good read, but I must warn you, it is very moving. It will break your heart even as it warms it.

For Those Who Think Rumsfeld Should Go:

Read This.

Thanks for the Memory to King of Fools.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Doctor My Eyes!

Thanks for the Memory to The Unabrewer:

Warning! Blindingly Obvious Observation! May Cause Retinal Damage!

Ambassador to Normal

Thanks for the Memory to The Unabrewer:

You are 31% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at

Don't Try It

Anyone who knows me well, or at the least reads my Blog on even a semi-regular basis, knows that my wife (aka The Feared Redhead) suffers from a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum. Essentially, for a pregnant woman with hyperemesis gravidarum, "Morning Sickness" occurs all the time, throughout most or all of the pregnancy. TFR is 2 1/2 months from her due date, and she's still experiencing Nausea, indigestion, and acid reflux on a daily basis. because of this discomfort, it is difficult for her to do much around the house.

Now, even undfer normal circumstances, we're not exactly the Cleavers whn it comes to the division of household labor. I dso most of the cooking and almostg all of the dishes, help with laundry and general housecleaning, am responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, as well as the extractor of trash. But druing the pregnancy, the domestic workload has been almost entirely mine.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the pregnancy is harder on me than her. She's the one whose body is playing host to a very fast-growing multicelled organism. She can't sleep well at night, she's sick daily, she's uncomfortable, nothing to speak of what labor will be like.

Nor am I complaining about being pregnant in general -- I signed on for this, I accept my responsibility gladly. Besides, the reward will be worth it.

But here's my point: Neither of us, especially not her, have been able to enjoy the "calm before the storm" that the latter stages of pregnancy are supposed to be. I'm exhausred, she's exhausted and miserable. No "Honeymoon Trimester" for us. On the other hand, once the baby is born, while it may be true that the amount of work to be done will increase, so will the number of adults available and able to do the work.

So the next time some well-meaning but smug individual tells me to enjoy the pregnancy, because it's the last rest I'll get, I shall laugh hysterically in their face. Or punch them in it. Or both, depending on my mood.

Greater Love Hath No Man

Thanks for the Memory to a comment by mrs. heather at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

While Western Europe, benificiaries of the liberating efforts of American and British and allied soldiers some 60 years ago, continue to do their damnedest to oppose American interests, leave it to an Eastern European country, who suffered under as many years of Soviet oppression, to understand the cost and value of Freedom.

God Bless you, Poland, and God grant comfort to your grieving widows. You are sharing with us our sacrifice, we owe it to you to share with you our honor.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

For Nerd Eyes Only

Thanks for the Memory to The Jawa Report.

Ladies and gentlegeeks, I give you,


New Blog Plug

Thanks for the Memory to Vultures Row.

My good friend Scott (Vulture 6) tipped me off about Blog Explosion. And while it does artificially inflate your traffic, it can be a good way of getting found, as well as FINDING good blogs. I've found a few that way, and when I get off my lazy butt, I'll post links to all of them.

In the menatime, I'll plug one that Scott found, and then told me about. I have a lot in common, it would seem, with the owner of Spreadin Understanding -- a Christian, a Conservative, a child of the Eighties, and an expectant father. Not to mention, he's an interesting read.

Go give him a look.

For Whom the Christmas Bells Toll

Thanks for the Memory to the New Yorker via Bob Hayes at Let's Try Freedom.

During my Sophomore year in College, I became fascinated by the works of Ernest Hemingway. Over time, he began to lose some of his luster -- he can be a bit predictable -- though I do still enjoy him on occasion (my favorite is the short story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber").

So I almost died laughing when I found this old gem, recycled at Let's Try Freedom. It's a send-up of Hemingway by Thurber, and it nails Hemingway's style dead on. Enjoy:

A Visit From Saint Nicholas
As Retold by Ernest Hemingway

by James Thurber

Originally published in 1927

It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren’t even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.

The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn’t move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.

“Father,” the children said.

There was no answer. He’s there, all right, they thought.

“Father,” they said, and banged on their beds.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“We have visions of sugarplums,” the children said.

“Go to sleep,” said mamma.

“We can’t sleep,” said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds.

“Can you sleep?” asked the children.

“No,” I said.

“You ought to sleep.”

“I know. I ought to sleep.”

“Can we have some sugarplums?”

“You can’t have any sugarplums,” said mamma.

“We just asked you.”

There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again.

“Is Saint Nicholas asleep?” asked the children.

“No,” mamma said. “Be quiet.”

“What the hell would he be asleep tonight for?” I asked.

“He might be,” the children said.

“He isn’t,” I said.

“Let’s try to sleep,” said mamma.

The house became quiet once more. I could hear the rustling noises the children made when they moved in their beds.

Out on the lawn a clatter arose. I got out of bed and went to the window. I opened the shutters; then I threw up the sash. The moon shone on the snow. The moon gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in the snow. There was a miniature sleigh in the snow, and eight tiny reindeer. A little man was driving them. He was lively and quick. He whistled and shouted at the reindeer and called them by their names. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.

He told them to dash away to the top of the porch, and then he told them to dash away to the top of the wall. They did. The sleigh was full of toys.

“Who is it?” mamma asked.

“Some guy,” I said. “A little guy.”

I pulled my head in out of the window and listened. I heard the reindeer on the roof. I could hear their hoofs pawing and prancing on the roof. “Shut the window,” said mamma. I stood still and listened.

“What do you hear?”

“Reindeer,” I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mamma sat up in the bed and looked at me.

“How would they get on the roof?” mamma asked.

“They fly.”

“Get into bed. You’ll catch cold.”

Mamma lay down in bed. I didn’t get into bed. I kept walking around.

“What do you mean, they fly?” asked mamma.

“Just fly is all.”

Mamma turned away toward the wall. She didn’t say anything.

I went out into the room where the chimney was. The little man came down the chimney and stepped into the room. He was dressed all in fur. His clothes were covered with ashes and soot from the chimney. On his back was a pack like a peddler’s pack. There were toys in it. His cheeks and nose were red and he had dimples. His eyes twinkled. His mouth was little, like a bow, and his beard was very white. Between his teeth was a stumpy pipe. The smoke from the pipe encircled his head in a wreath. He laughed and his belly shook. It shook like a bowl of red jelly. I laughed. He winked his eye, then he gave a twist to his head. He didn’t say anything.

He turned to the chimney and filled the stockings and turned away from the chimney. Laying his finger aside his nose, he gave a nod. Then he went up the chimney. I went to the chimney and looked up. I saw him get into his sleigh. He whistled at his team and the team flew away. The team flew as lightly as thistledown. The driver called out, “Merry Christmas and good night.” I went back to bed.

“What was it?” asked mamma. “Saint Nicholas?” She smiled.

“Yeah,” I said.

She sighed and turned in the bed.

“I saw him,” I said.


“I did see him.”

“Sure you saw him.” She turned farther toward the wall.

“Father,” said the children.

“There you go,” mamma said. “You and your flying reindeer.”

“Go to sleep,” I said.

“Can we see Saint Nicholas when he comes?” the children asked.

“You got to be asleep,” I said. “You got to be asleep when he comes. You can’t see him unless you’re unconscious.”

“Father knows,” mamma said.

I pulled the covers over my mouth. It was warm under the covers. As I went to sleep I wondered if mamma was right.

Recycling Good Cheer

Over at Naked Villainy, the Air Marshal raises the question of re-gifting: giving as a gift something that you yourself received as a gift. He's against it, as summed up in his closing statement, "Re-gifting, to me, says 'You aren't worth my time or effort, so here you go.'"

I would argue that the appropriateness depends on the gift, the occasion, the original giver, and the new recipient. If you receive something that you just don’t like, and give it just to get rid of it, yes, that’s thoughtless. But how less thoughtless is the person who just buys gifts because they are obligated to without putting thought into what they purchase? On the other hand, some of the nicest gifts I've ever received were "used", but that word doesn't do them justice. They were items that belonged to friends, things they had received or purchased for themselves, which they enjoyed and valued, but the item reminded them of me and they knew I would value it even more highly. The item was unique or expensive enough that they could not purchase a duplicate, so they sacrificed their own for my happiness (my friends David and Brian are especially notorious for this). This seems more like a statement of "You are worth more to me than this item, so there you go."

I suppose part of my perspective comes from growing up relatively poor. We never had enough money to buy all the nicest things everyone wanted, but we put a lot of thought and effort into choosing just the right gift within our budget. Even as an adult, this rings true. The nicest gift I have received for Christmas from The Feared Redhead was also probably the least expensive, and was not new: She found a copy of BH Liddel Hart's History of the Second World War in a used bookstore for me.

Or take as an example the Air Marshal's own admission of passing on bottles of wine. If he won't drink them, and someone else will like them, why not pass them on? It's a simple gift given when attending dinner, it's not like you're one of the Magi carrying recycled Myrrh to Baby Jesu. Of course you should make sure you don't present a bottle given to you by your host or one of their other guests, but beyond that, I don't see the harm.

Ultimately, if you completely reject re-gifting, you're saying that what matters about a gift is how it was acquired. And that means that what really matters is not the giving of gifts, but the buying of them. And I reject that materialistic standard. I don't care how much of your money you spent on my gift. What I want to know is, how much love did you invest in it? The giver of the first Christmas gift invested His all, but not a single dime of money. Can't we invest a bit of ourselves without breaking the bank?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Paredes O Peralta?

Thanks for the Memory to Citizen Smash and The Jawa Report.

While Blogfather Rusty is on vacation, his guest blogger has posted this excellent bit on Marine hero Sgt. Rafael Peralta:

On the morning of November 15, 2004, the men of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines awoke before sunrise and continued what they had been doing for seven days previously - cleansing the city of Fallujah of terrorists house by house.

At the fourth house they encountered that morning the Marines kicked in the door and "cleared" the front rooms, but then noticed a locked door off to the side that required inspection. Sgt. Rafael Peralta threw open the closed door, but behind it were three terrorists with AK-47s. Peralta was hit in the head and chest with multiple shots at close range.

Peralta's fellow Marines had to step over his body to continue the shootout with the terrorists. As the firefight raged on, a "yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade," as Lance Corporal Travis Kaemmerer described it, rolled into the room where they were all standing and came to a stop near Peralta's body.

But Sgt. Rafael Peralta wasn't dead - yet. This young immigrant of 25 years, who enlisted in the Marines when he received his green card, who volunteered for the front line duty in Fallujah, had one last act of heroism in him.

Sgt. Rafael Peralta was the polar opposite of Pablo Paredes, the Petty Officer who turned his back on his shipmates and mocked his commander in chief. Peralta was proud to serve his adopted country. In his parent's home, on his bedroom walls hung only three items - a copy of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. Before he set out for Fallujah, he wrote to his 14-year old brother, "be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being an American."

Not only can Rafael's family be proud of him, but his fellow Marines are alive because of him. As Sgt. Rafael Peralta lay near death on the floor of a Fallujah terrorist hideout, he spotted the yellow grenade that had rolled next to his near-lifeless body. Once detonated, it would take out the rest of Peralta's squad. To save his fellow Marines, Peralta reached out, grabbed the grenade, and tucked it under his abdomen where it exploded.

"Most of the Marines in the house were in the immediate area of the grenade," Cpl. Kaemmerer said. "We will never forget the second chance at life that Sgt. Peralta gave us."

Unfortunately, unlike Pablo Paredes, Sgt. Rafael Peralta will get little media coverage. He is unlikely to have books written about him or movies made about his extraordinarily selfless sacrifice. But he is likely to receive the Medal of Honor. And that Medal of Honor is likely to be displayed next to the only items that hung on his bedroom wall - the Constitution, Bill of Rights and his Boot Camp graduation certificate.

It's sad to have to mention Peralta in the same breath as Paredes, whom Citizen Smash addresses in this excellent post, but their superficial similarities, their cavernous differences, and the fact that both have been adopted as heroes by different sides of the war debate respectively, makes the juxtapositioning sadly fitting as an example of the differences between the kind of character and behavior espoused by those sides.

It Could Have Been Worse

Thanks for the Memory to Robert at the Llama Butchers.

Yeah, Robert, you and me both, right down to our sentiments:

Click here to take the M*A*S*H quiz!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Family Secrets

Last night after I got home from work, I changed clothes quickly, The Feared Redhead and I grabbed a bite to eat, and we headed to a church just outside Eugene, to attend a Christmas cantata. The cantata was performed by a choir and orchestra composed of individuals from three churches, including the church where my aunt and uncle worship. After the cantata, we stayed to visit with my aunt and uncle for a few minutes. The central theme of the ocnversation was the fact that the church where the cantata was performed (not their church) is the church that my parents and I attended when I was but a wee lad of four. During the course of the conversation, some interesting information came to light. Apparently I have two relatives, including a direct ancestor, whom I have never met, because of a family rift. And apparently, they once lived in this very community, even though my father's family is primarily Californian.

My father's maternal grandfather, and my father's maternal uncle are at last report still alive and living in the Pasadena, California area. They have never had contact with us, in part because the grandfather's second wife wanted nothing to do with her husband's son, my paternal grandfather. But my grandfather and his still living brother did live in Eugene for awhile and in fact built three houses that still stand on Willamette street. I'll have to go look at them.

I'm not sure how I feel about this new information. My father never spoke of his great grandfather, and though I remember him mentioning his uncle, I don't recall him ever telling me they were still alive. It may have hurt him too much. My father's mother died when he was only 5, and his devastated father took to the bottle and to the road, dragging his kids up and down the west coast from one temporary job to another. He was a skilled carpenter and had a voice like an angel, from what I have heard, but alcohol destroyed him. He would go into bars on weekend nights and sing for tips, but then he'd spend it all on drinks for himself and the other patrons, and little of it ever went to help the family. It wasn't until my father was an adolescent that a family here in Oregon took him and my uncle in and gave them some semblance of a normal life. Eventually, my father attended Bible College, then served in the Navy, and became the man I still look up to today, 3 years after he left this Earth.

Ever since his death, I have been obsessed with knowing as much about him as possible. But now that I have learned something completely new, I don't know what to do with it. I'm curios to know what his grandfather and uncle are like, but I have nothing in common with them. they may as well be strangers.

Part of me wants to know more, part of me wishes I had never found out.


My mother emailed me in response to this blog entry. She provided me with further insight. Some of what she wrote:

The old biddy (your grandfathers stepmother) never accepted them as part of her family and kicked your grandfather out of the house with his brother when they were 13 and I believe 9 or 10. The younger brother had some type of physical problem. I beleive it was like asthma or epilepsy - I cannot remember exactly. Needless to say, he learned how to travel from one place to another, picking up whatever job he could from an early age. I do know that he took care of his brother until he was grown. You can begin to see why he was so devastated when he lost his wife. Life had dealt him some pretty hard deals from the time he was a child.


The Pasadena people are your grandfathers' stepbrothers family. Your dad visited them a couple of times when he was in the navy - before we met. His only comment to me was that they looked down their nose at him and he did not want to have anything to do with them.
[Works for me too.]

The comments that were made to me were that this woman was from Old Eugene Family and that she ruled the roost. That your dad's grandfather pretty much let her decide what went on and that he did not resist when she decided to put his children out of the house. I believe that she was an Aubrey and that Aubrey Park was named after that family.

As you can see, these people, except for marriage, had no relationship with your dads family. And as far as I am concerned, could not supply you with any information that would not be pretty tainted. However, at the end of your dads life he was doing as much as he could to try to gather family information and I do not blame you for doing whatever you need to do the same.

Interesting stuff. At least, for me. But I think my mom's right, these people have nothing I want nor need, and I really don't see much use for them, knowing what I've learned.

Friday, December 17, 2004

An Open Letter to the Troops

Thanks for the Memory to Lord Spatula at The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

SlagleRock has fired up his second annual Christmas Letters to the Troops campaign over at his Blog, the Slaughterhouse. I think it's a great idea. Here's how it works:

If you're a blogger, write your letter to the troops as a post on your blog, then trackback to Slagle. If you don't have a blog, post your letter as a comment to Slagle's post. Keep it addressed generically to any serviceman. He'll print out all the letters and they will be delivered by a friend of Slagle's who is being deployed.

I am turning off comments for this post only. If you like this idea, then go to Slagle's and post a letter there. If you don't like the idea, well, I don't want to hear from you to begin with. The deadline is December 17, so get cracking. This post will stay at the top of my blog until that day. And now, without further ado, MY letter:

Dear U.S. Soldier, Sailor, Marine, or Airman,

I don't know whether I should begin by thanking you or by wishing you Happy Holidays, because you deserve both. It is the season to celebrate Christ's birth, and that is the reason for this special letter. But without the extreme efforts of men and women like you over the last 230 years, I would not be free to write this letter, and so thanks are equally in order.

I will not speak long of the deprivations you voluntarily suffer for the sake of my freedom, because you know them all too well and I have no way of understanding them. Instead, I will address my hopes, wishes, and above all, prayers for you.

I hope that you know you are not forgotten. I hope you realize that those who truly appreciate freedom hold nothing but honor for you in our hearts.

I wish you didn't have to be over there this season. I wish that everyone would pay you the honor you are due.

I pray for your safe return. I pray that you and yours would be blessed by God for your service.

Keep your heads down while over there, but hold them high when you return. And in the meantime, have a very Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and a Happy Hannukah.

God Bless,

Brian B

I've Got a Job for the Rifleman

Whatever happened to the Rifleman?
I've got a job for the rifleman.
He really knew how to settle the score,
Mercy knocks on the devils door,
when I pray for peace and I revel in war,
but I always wanted a shirt like Mark wore.

- The Rifleman, a song by The Choir

Thanks for the Memory to B.C. over at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

The song I quoted above was one of my favorite Contemporary Christian Music songs back in my college days. It explored the dichotomy between the Biblical admonition to forgive our enemies and what the songwriter viewed as a cultural obsession with personal vengeance. At the time, I was contemplating becoming a Christian Pacifist, much in the same vein as most Quakers (my mother was first introduced to the Faith at a Friends Meeting House). eventually I resolved these issues by coming to an understanding that vengeance and justice were separate things, and that my response as a Christian towards those who persecute nme for my faith, and the response of the state towards that same individual did not have to be the same.

Now comes a story that really stretches my ability to delineate between personal vengeance and public justice:

Amber Alert issued after fetus removed from mother's body

(CNN) -- Missouri authorities issued an Amber Alert for an infant who may have survived after a woman was slain and a fetus removed from her body.

Bobbi Jo Stinnett, who was eight months' pregnant, was killed Thursday afternoon in her home in Skidmore in northwestern Missouri, the Nodaway County Sheriff's Department said.

The initial Amber Alert said that "the fetus was extracted from the victim."

A statement from the sheriff's department said the fetus was removed by the same "person or persons" who killed Stinnett.

Authorities said Stinnett was killed at around 3 p.m. (4 p.m. ET).

The alert said that the suspect "has blond hair and [is] possibly driving a red vehicle."

It advised people to look for bloody clothing or towels and said the infant could have health issues and would have a freshly cut umbilical cord if alive.

Authorities said that Stinnett was a white woman and the offspring also was believed to be a white female.

My heart is breaking. I mourn for the woman killed, and I pray, with what little hope is left, for the safety of the baby (that's right, I call it a baby, not just a Fetus). I also extend my condolences for the family of the victims.

But beyond that, I'm feeling emotions I don't like at all. As the husband of a pregnant woman, this his close to hime. This has me in a dark, deadly mood. Of course in theory I should say that I hope the person who did this is caught and brought to justice. But my gut-level reaction is to hope all sorts of cruel and violent retributions upon him, things I can't begin to fathom, let alone elucidate. I have a hard time even viewing such a villain as human, I question whether such an individual could possible have anything left for a soul except for some fetid, shrivelled offal. I desire retrubition, punishment and eternal damnation for such a wretch.

Yet I know that my Saviour teaches me that even such a soul is not beyond his power to redeem. I am just as separated from God without Christ, and this criminal is just as reconcilable to God with Christ.

But I can't help hating this person. I'm not that good a Christian yet. and the fact that this event makes me see that, just makes me resent the scum all the more.

Now I know what Paul meant when he called himself a wretch.


The baby's been found alive(Thank God for that!), and they have suspects in custody. (Thanks for the Memory to Darth Apathy)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

One Tree Too Many

Thanks for the Memory to Vonski at Ya Think So?

Remember when I complained about the naming of the Tree at Pioneer COurthouse Square? My main complaint was that by removing even a reference to "The Holidays" from the name of the tree, just for the sake of inclusiveness, it had been rendered meaningless.

Well apparently, not everyone disagrees with me. At least not in the case of Bellevue, Washington's "Giving Tree". Apparently, even THAT is too "Christian" for some:

Sidney and Jennifer Stock are atheists.

They asked the city council to remove the tree because it represents Christmas which is a Christian holiday.

Stock says city hall should "Act as a place where everybody feels welcome. It is impossible for everybody's religious belief to be displayed and non-religious belief to be displayed, so therefore, no religious beliefs be displayed."

By that reasoning, NO holiday decorations of ANY kind should be displayed, and no holiday vacations granted for public empoyees whatsoever. After all, whether it's Hannukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Solstice, they are all related to a specific religious belief. Without them, there's nothing special about the season, and no valid reason to decorate, celebrate, or vacate. It's just another month, right?

It still floors me that people think the only way to not exclude anybody is to exclude everybody.

Vonski raises an amusing point: "He has a problem with trees. Which, doesn’t make sense, since he lives in the PNW."

Furthermore, for once, someone in the media here in the Northwest makes some sense:

Ken Schram Commentary: The Grinch Has His Head Where?

Where Credit's Due

Lately I've become a lot less concerned about my status in the TTLB Ecosystem than I used to be. I'm aware that I've slipped from what were for me once lofty heights. But frankly, when it comes to recognition, I find myself more concerned with whether or not anyone is bothering to leave comments.

But a post today by Blogfather Rusty regarding his own status piqued my curiosity, so I went over and peeked at my status. And I learned something interesting and shameful. The blog Baldilocks, a blog of which I've been aware but not read much, is responsible for the third largest number of links TO this blog. That means she is a significant factor in what little respect I do get from the ecosystem.

And yet I've never linked her, let alone blogrolled her.

That's just not right.

And so I am doing the right thing, and doing both today. She does write well, and I should have done this for less reciprocal reasons, but for now, at least I'm making amends.

So the maybe one or two people who might have actually read this blog without ever reading her, please, help me do right by her. Go take a peek.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Letter to Michael Moore

Thanks for the Memory to Sheep in Wolf's Clothing.

He got it from Michael Graham at radio station 630 WMAL:

Mr. Michael Moore
New York, NY 10XXX

Dear Mr. Moore,

No doubt about it: The American soldier has done a lot for Michael Moore.

Hundreds of thousands of them are serving right now in Afghanistan and Iraq- two wars you opposed-defending you from a terrorist threat you claim does not exist. As you frequently point out, more than 1,000 of these soldiers and Marines have died, and thousands more of them have been injured.

These soldiers have also made you quite a bit of money. The most powerful scenes in your film Fahrenheit 9/11 feature soldiers and their families, specifically those servicemen who were wounded or killed in battle. Your new book, Will They Ever Trust Us Again–a collection of letters you’ve received from members of the military who served in Iraq-will likely gross hundreds of thousands of dollars for you and your publisher.

As I said, America’s soldiers have been very good to you. Most of them don’t like you, but they’re prepared to die attempting to protect you from terrorism so that you can continue to crank out your profitable propaganda.

They’ve done all this for you. I’m writing to give you the opportunity to do something for them.

My radio station, 630 WMAL, is leading a fundraising effort o­n behalf of the Fisher Houses here in the Washington, DC area and the Fisher House Foundation. Given your obsession with the costs of the War o­n Terror, you are no doubt familiar with the magnificent work done by the Fisher House o­n behalf of wounded soldiers and their families.

These families are struggling with the emotional consequences of a battlefield injury and its treatment. Fisher House helps solve some of the short-term financial and logistical challenges for the wives, children and parents who have wounded loved o­nes receiving treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Hospital or Malcolm Grow Medical at Andrews Air Force base.

The message of your books and films is that the American soldier is a victim. The soldiers I’ve spoken with at Fisher House vehemently disagree with you, as do the majority of my active-duty military listeners. However, we all agree that the soldiers who have been the victims of Iraqi terrorist violence (I think you call them “the true patriots, the Minute Men") deserve our support.

Therefore, I am writing to challenge you to give back just a small portion of the money you have earned as a critic of their mission. Your film Fahrenheit 9/11 has grossed around $150 million. Our entire goal for the Fisher House this holiday season is a tiny percentage of that amount.

Though I am a confirmed right-winger, I believe there should be no partisan divide when it comes to standing by our troops. My fellow WMAL employees and I are dedicating our time, efforts and money to that proposition. The question, Mr. Moore, is whether or not you will do the same.

Many Americans feel that you have exploited the injuries of our soldiers for partisan purposes but have no real concern for them or their families. o­n behalf of the Fisher House, I would be thrilled to receive your generous donation as evidence that we are wrong.

If you feel, however, that the money can be better spent o­n yet another trip to France, nobody will be surprised.

You can send your check made out to the Fisher House Foundation, care of 630 WMAL, 4400 Jenifer Street NW, Washington, DC 20015.

Thank you for your time.

Michael Graham
630 WMAL
Washington, DC

Don't hold your breath waiting for a reply.

Uff Da!

Thanks for the Memory to The King of Fools.

Apparently, thanks to Minnesota's Democratic Electoral College Representatives, John Kerry will lose by a slightly bigger electoral margin than was anticipated:

Vote for Edwards instead of Kerry shocks Minnesota electors

Dane Smith, Star Tribune
December 14, 2004

Voting irregularities were few in Minnesota this year -- until it really counted.

Defeated Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry likely is going to get one less electoral vote nationally than he should have -- 251 instead of 252 -- because of an apparent mistake Monday by one of Minnesota's 10 DFL electors.

One of the 10 handwritten ballots cast for president carried the name of vice presidential candidate John Edwards (actually spelled "Ewards" on the ballot) rather than Kerry.

"I was shocked ... this will go in the history books," said Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who presided over a ceremony that normally is uneventful.

Kiffmeyer said she was unaware of any other such apparent mistake in Minnesota, although there have been cases in other states of "faithless electors" casting ballots for candidates other than those to which they were committed.

There was stunned silence after the announcement that Edwards had gotten a vote for president, but none of the 10 electors volunteered that they voted for Edwards as a protest, nor did anyone step forward to admit an error[Let's be frank -- would you admit it if you had made that mistake?].

"It was perhaps a senior moment," said elector Michael Meuers, 60, a Bemidji marketing consultant for a health care firm, the second-youngest member of the Minnesota delegation to the Electoral College.

Meuers said he was certain that the Edwards ballot wasn't his, but he noted that "both the candidates were named John, and the ballots looked pretty much alike."

This year's DFL Party electors were typical -- senior party activists typically chosen for their long years of service. They ranged in age from 52 to 83.

"These are not paid political professionals," said Bill Amberg, the DFL Party's communications director. "It was clear that everybody thought they had voted for Kerry, and all 10 of these folks were for Kerry during the pre-nomination period. There is no sign of protest."

Kiffmeyer, a Republican and the state's chief election official, said that there apparently is nothing that can be done once the secret ballots are cast.

"It's not that important, since we're not at a 269-to-269 tie in the electoral vote,"[Thank God. Imagine the uproar if that had happened. Not to speak of every lawsuit in every red state in the country, this would be one more think for the left to grab onto for dear life.] said DFL Party Chair Mike Erlandson. "This isn't the biggest story in America today. It's the recount in Ohio [the crucial battleground state that helped carry the nation for President Bush] and the questions that so many people have over voting machines."[The voting machines that have been proven mathematically inconsequential even if they WERE truly suspect instead of just a ruse? Nice try.]

Minnesota's electors typically cast their votes in the Governor's Reception Room at the State Capitol, and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Kiffmeyer appeared with them in the morning to thank them for their services.

Several of them acknowledged that their duty was perhaps an archaic formality but that it was nevertheless a significant and solemn step in the process.

"It's the symbolism of it, the fact that I am now representing the entire 4th Congressional District and the will of its majority," said elector Matthew Little of Maplewood, an 83-year-old activist and a longtime Minnesota civil rights leader.

Little, born and reared in North Carolina, came to Minnesota in 1948, the year Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey, then running for the U.S. Senate, delivered a historic civil rights speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Little later became the top official of the Minnesota NAACP.

Although the electors expressed regret that Kerry did not win nationally, most of them also said they took pleasure in casting the votes that keep Minnesota in the Democratic column for the eighth straight presidential election, the longest Democratic streak of any state.

The Feared Redhead is a Minnesotan. You can bet she won't hear the end of this. :-)

Blog Problems

I've had some feedback that my blog isn't showing right, but it looks fine when I view it. Can anyone describe the issues they're encountering or email me a screen shot of the problem? Thanks!

That's Not Very Knife!

Thanks for the Memory to Darth Apathy.

Vic refers us to his friend Nicki over at Armed Females of America, who writes an excellent and scathing critique of British attempts to reduce violent crime by banning knives.

That's right, knives.

First, guns.

Then, knives.

Has it ever occurred to them that the problem is not the availability of weapons, but the predisposition of certain individuals to commit violent acts with whatever's at hand? Anything hard or sharp can be a weapon in the hands of the wrong person.

Oops, I'd better keep quiet, or soon they'll be banning anything harder than a habit or sharper than cheddar cheese.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I'm currently sporting a Butt-kicker of a headache. It's exacerbated by two things: I'm trying to cut back on caffeine, and I'm jonesing a bit, and I currently have a missing filling that hurts like a %&%^*^%#. I wonder if these might also explain my inability to post much worth reading lately. But The Feared Redhead has finally managed to badger me into printing out Dentists' phone numbers. The only thing I fear more than that Dentists drill (to me it combines the soothing sounds of nails on a chalkboard with the gentle tickle of a Bowie knife being shoved into my jaw) is her wrath. So hopefully soon I'll be fix... er.... healed.

Quote of the Week

Mild he lay his Glory by,
Born that men no more may die.
Born to raise the Sons of Earth,
Born to give us Second Birth!

- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Oregon Rain

Man, it's really coming down out there. I mean, the kind of rain someone from the coast would be used to. Kinda makes me wish I could be out in it.

I'm Not Swallowing It

I'm a huge fan of the Food Network. I especially love watching Good Eats with Alton Brown. I also enjoy Unwrapped, which is an educational program to watch if you're interested in regional cuisines.

But lately Unwrapped has been repeating a meme that I have to address. They keep repeating the claim that there are only three fruits native to North America: Cranberries, Concord Grapes, and Blueberries.

Now, as it happens, Oregon is a state where you will find two of these, the berries, and is in fact a major source of them. Most of the time, however, when Unwrapped makes reference to them, you'll be watching a section of the show on New England. And the people in New England being interviewed are even quicker to point out this "Only Native" claim, since all three fruit are native to that region.

But here's the interesting thing. That claim of those three being the only fruit native to North America?


They are overlooking at least three berries, all native to the Pacific Northwest, all edible:

Oregon Grape

Salal Berries


Oregon grape is, unsurprisingly, the State Plant of Oregon. Salmonberries are the same shape as a blackberry or raspberry, but their color makes them look just like a cluster of salmon eggs. Salal berries were a chief staple of the diets of coastal Native Americans in Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

All three are native.

Next on Unwrapped: Recipes for crow.

Ironically Enough....

Right after posting on my concerns about flooding, I feel compelled to post an apology for the Blogging Dry Spell. I just haven't had any inspiration lately. I still care avbout political matters, but haven't had much of a chance to follow them, between work, holiday preparations, and baby preparations. The Feared Redhead's condition hasn't improved or deteriorated, and we haven't passed any prepartum milestones, so there's nothing to report there. There's always plenty about my beloved home state upon which I could blog, but I'm at a loss to pick a specific theme. I supposed something on the holidays would be in order. I'll think of something. I promise I haven't forgot my loyal readers (EITHER of you)!

Rising Concern

The last couple of Days, as I've crossed the Willamette River on my commute, I've noticed that it seems pretty high for this early in the year. That's not a good sign, but I'm no expert and I haven't lived in the Willamette Valley long enough to judge from experience. Hopefully I have at least one reader who is or who knows a hydrologist who can interpret This Data for me, particularly the info for the Willamette at Eugene.

UPDATE (12/15/04):

I spoke to a friend of mine about my concern, and she gave me some information that allayed my flooding fears but raised other concerns. Apparently there's almost no snowpack up in the Cascades, which means that while the rivers are swollen with winter rainwater now, come spring there will not be much of an additional increase, so flooding isn't as much of a concern, Drought, on the other hand....

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Flew Flees Atheism

Thanks for the Memory to Ricky V at Ya Think So?

An interesting AP Article:

One of the World's Leading Atheists Now Believes in God, More or Less

The thing I found most interesting in the article was this note:

Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article "Theology and Falsification," based on a paper for the Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.

Given the conclusions he has now reached, and how he reached them, there's a serendipity, almost a symmetry, to this connection to Lewis, which will be apparent to anyone who has read Lewis' autobiographical Surprised By Joy. Lewis made a similar journey through Atheism and Agnosticism to Deism, then to Theism and eventually Chrisianity. In the end, he converted because he concluded that Christianity was the truth. As Lewis writes in the book,

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

Signs of Intelligent Life

Thanks for the Memory to King of Fools.

First, there was Alawi offering a handshake to the Israeli ambassador in the UN General Assembly. Now there's this from the Jerusalem Post:

Used Israeli buses end up in Iraq

Dan Gerstenfeld,
Dec. 9, 2004

Some 150 decade-old buses from Israel were sold to Iraq in recent months, general manager of Shasha Tours & Transportation Udi Shasha told The Jerusalem Post.

Shasha, who is part of a trade delegation visiting India, said that his company was approached less than a year ago by a Jordanian company asking it to buy dozens of used Israeli buses for Iraq.

"They called us and said they need as many buses as possible immediately," he said. "They were looking specifically for 10-year-old Mercedes 303 buses as they have spare parts for those buses in Iraq."

Shasha has managed to buy some 70 buses, which were exported to Jordan through the Allenby Bridge and were driven from there to Iraq. An additional 70 buses were acquired by the Jordanian company directly from Israeli Arab car dealers.

The buses, which were originally used by Egged, were purchased from different tour companies. Shasha said he has also sold four or five other buses from the same model that could not be fixed, for spare parts. The buyers have asked for more buses, but Shasha said there were hardly any such buses left in Israel.

"I believe that the buses are used by the American army to transfer civilians in Iraq," Shasha said. "I don't think there are private merchants in Iraq who have enough money to buy so many buses."

The buyers have instructed Shasha to strip the vehicles of all Hebrew signs and to take out the video screens from the buses that had them.

"They were under real pressure to buy the buses and they didn't even check them before the delivery. Any bus that was moving was taken right away," he said. "We managed to send them all the buses within four to 30 days."

The buses were sold for $25,000 apiece, some 20 percent above their market price in Israel.

Shasha said he had received a request earlier this week to try and locate Volvo buses manufactured in 1990-93 and he believes they would also be sent to Iraq.

Passionate Support

Thanks for the Memory to my friend Lisa.

Apparently Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ has been nominated for a Peoples Choice Award, and the American Family Association has launched a campaign to get out the vote for Mel.

I can't think of a film this year I'd rather see win this. Lisa pointed out to me that Passion and Fahrenheit 911 will probably be going up against each other for the Oscar. Given the attitudes of the Hollywood crowd, I have my theories about how that will turn out. But the People Choce Awards gives us as regular people a chance to let our voices be heard BY Hollywood. They're so keen on free speech, let's sow them how it's done.

You have two options:

You can register with the AFA so they can track the success of their efforts,


You can go directly to CBS's site and vote there.

Either way, I encourage you to vote.

Who Hates Whom?

Thanks for the Memory to Andrew Sullivan.

I know, I know, the referenced blogger is persona non grata among many conservatives. And to be honest, I'm not a big fan either -- I usually don't even bother paying attention to him. But when someone says something worth considering, the reasonable thing to do is consider it. Ironically, I only stumbled across the entry in question by following a link from another blogger (who shall remain anonymous) who was disparaging Sully. But this day, AS had posted an intriguing quote from a Jerusalem Post article. Admittedly, this is a source with a specific slant, but it raises some very good points:

by Amir Taheri
Jerusalem Post
December 2, 2004

In his recent foray into Ramallah, Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw identified the Palestine-Israel conflict as the most important issue between the West and the Muslim world. Straw was echoing the conventional wisdom according to which a solution to that problem would transform relations between Islam and the West from what is almost a clash of civilizations to one of cuddly camaraderie.

But what if conventional wisdom got it wrong?

I have just spent the whole fasting month of Ramadan in several Arab countries, where long nights are spent eating, drinking coffee and, of course, discussing politics.

There are no free elections or reliable opinion polls in the Arab world. So no one knows what the silent majority really thinks. The best one can do is rely on anecdotal evidence. On that basis, I came to believe that the Palestine-Israel issue was low down on the list of priorities for the man in the street but something approaching an obsession for the political, business, and intellectual elites.

When it came to ordinary people, almost no one ever mentioned the Palestine issue, even on days when Yasser Arafat's death dominated the headlines. When I asked them about issues that most preoccupied them, farmers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers and office workers never mentioned Palestine.

But when I talked to princes and princesses, business tycoons, high officials, and the glitterati of Arab academia, Palestine was the ur-issue.

The reason why the elites fake passion about this issue is that it is the only one on which they agree. In many cases, it is also the only political issue that people can discuss without running into trouble with the secret services.

More importantly, perhaps, it is the one issue on which the elites feel they have the sympathy of the outside world. For example, I found almost no one who, speaking in private, had any esteem for Arafat. But all felt obliged to hide their thoughts because Arafat had been honored by French President Jacques Chirac.

When some Arab newspapers ran articles on Arafat's alleged corruption and despotism, other Arab media attacked them for being disrespectful to a man who had been treated like "a hero of humanity" by Chirac.

Conventional wisdom also insists that the US is hated by Muslims because it is pro-Israel. That view is shared by most American officials posted to the Arab capitals. But is it not possible that the reverse is true – that Israel is hated because it is pro-American?

When I raised that possibility in Ramadan-night debates, I was at first greeted with deafening silence. Soon, however, some interlocutors admitted that my suggestion was, perhaps, not quite fanciful.

Let us consider some facts.

If Muslims hate the US because it backs Israel which, in turn, is oppressing Muslims in Palestine, then why don't other oppressed Muslims benefit from the same degree of solidarity from their co-religionists?

During Ramadan, news came that more than 500 Muslims had been killed in clashes with the police in southern Thailand. At least 80 were suffocated to death in police buses under suspicious circumstances.

The Arab and the Iranian press, however, either ignored the event or relegated it to inside pages. To my knowledge, only one Muslim newspaper devoted an editorial to it. And only two newspapers mentioned that Thailand was building a wall to cordon off almost two million Muslims in southern Thailand – a wall higher and longer than the controversial "security fence" Israel is building.

Muslim states have never supported Pakistan on Kashmir because most were close to India in the so-called nonaligned movement while Pakistan was a US ally in CENTO and SEATO.

When Hindu nationalists demolished the Ayodhya Mosque, no one thought it necessary to inflame Muslim passions.

Nor has a single Muslim nation recognized the republic set up by Muslim Turks in northern Cyprus. The reason? Greece has always sided with the Arabs on Palestine and plays occasional anti-American music while Turkey is a US ally.

When the Serbs massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica 10 years ago, not a ripple disturbed the serene calm of Muslim opinion. At that time, the mullahs of Teheran and Col. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya were in cahoots with Slobodan Milosevic, supplying him with oil and money because Yugoslavia held the presidency of the so-called nonaligned movement. Belgrade was the only European capital to be graced with a state visit by Ali Khamenehi, the mullah who is now the Supreme Guide of the Islamic Republic.

And what about Chechnya which is, by any standard, the Muslim nation that has most suffered in the past two centuries? Last October the Muslim summit in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, gave a hero's welcome to Vladimir Putin, the man who has presided over the massacre of more Chechens than anyone in any other period in Russian history.

Right now there are 22 active conflicts across the globe in which Muslims are involved. Most Muslims have not even heard of most of them because those conflicts do not provide excuses for fomenting hatred against the United States.

Next time you hear someone say the US was in trouble in the Muslim world because of Israel, remember that things may not be that simple.


Maybe I should bother to weigh in with my own take on what Amir has to say. I'm not 100% in agreement. I highly doubt that Muslims hate Israel because of their friendship with the US. And I'm sure that our friendship with Israel does little to endear us to Islam. However, I'm equally sure that if relations between the US and Israel were to suddenly and sharlpy decline, God forbid, the Impact on Israeli-Arab relations would be negligible at best, and furthermore, the improvement of America's image in the eyes of Muslim extremists would be similarly less than significant.

If Amir is right, as I suspect, and the hatred of the US and Israel ARE separate issues, there may be another reason that those in the know and in power in Islam want to maintain the facade of a relationship between the two: As long as the perception is that it's our support of Israel that makes us hated, there will always be those here in America who will push for the US to abandon Israel. But as soon as we realize that the Muslim Extremists hate both countries on their own merits, the relationship between the US and Israel is strengthened -- the Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend. It is in the best interest of our mutual enemies that we view each other as liabilities. As long as Israel is viewed as the source of Muslim hatred for the US, she will be viewed by some as a liability. As soon as she is recognized not as the cause of that hatred but as a fellow target, she ceases to be as much of a liability.

My First Halting Steps

Towards Computer Nerddom....

My employers have a fairly liberal policy regarding software. I've been growing weary lately of having IE crash on me every 17.8 seconds or so. So last night, I downloaded & installed Firefox, which is what I'm using right now.

Daddy Like.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Treachery at Pearl Harbor

Thanks for the Memory to Scott at Vultures Row.

No, it was not the Japanese this time. It was the Democrats:

Dem uses Pearl Harbor to slam GOP

Washington, DC, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The remembrance of Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor took on partisan political spin Tuesday with a Democrat leader using it to attack House Republicans.

[This would be a leader of the same Democratic Party that criticized President Bush for “politicizing” the GWOT during the election, right? OK, just checking.]

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, in a special Pearl Harbor Day statement, said national unity 63 years ago enabled Americans to go forward and defeat the country's enemies, but the same kind of unity needed now was being undermined by Republican disagreements over provisions of the yet-to-be-voted on intelligence reform bill.

[Um… just what were those “disagreements? That’s an important question to ask. Oh, wait, that’s addressed later. For now, we’ll just wonder why it was ok for the Democrats’ candidate to oppose important defense bills (like the $84 million) over specific provisions, but when the Republicans do, they’re “Undermining Unity”.]

"While we as a nation are united in this fight, there are clearly deep divisions within the Republican Party, divisions that are impeding our fight against terrorism," he said. "Moving forward, it is my sincere hope that the Republicans running Washington will stop playing their political games and start fighting for the American people, just as our honored veterans did 63 years ago."

[For any politico, especially Terry McAuliffe, to criticize his opponents for “playing political games”, is the height of hypocrisy.]

Intelligence reform arising from the Sept. 11. 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington, was stalled in the House earlier this month over concern by some GOP leaders that provisions detailing intelligence authority could hamper military units getting real-time tactical information from spy satellites and aircraft.

[A valid concern. Throughout the Clinton years, one of the issues that hampered the US military in its efforts to combat terrorist groups was the amount of time it took tactical units to get actionable intelligence, and furthermore to get clearance to use it. Anything that would block the flow of information to the boots on the ground are what is referred to in military terms as a Bad Thing.]

New language appears to have assuaged those concerns and passage of intelligence reform could come this week.

[Great. Super. So it’ll pass, the sketchy bits that might have handcuffed our troops are fixed, and reform will roll on. So what’s the beef? Are the Democrats specifically opposed to clearing the way for the military to receive important information? Or are they just playing up the delay it took to get that fixed, specifically to make Republicans look bad? That wouldn’t be a case of the Democrats “playing their political games”, now, would it?]

Vulture 6 is right, this is tacky. It’s also an indication of how low the DNC will stoop. Fortunately, this attack at Pearl Harbor won’t succeed.

Give In to the Dark Side

You know you want to.

Thanks for the Memories to Blogfather Rusty at The Jawa Report.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

How Do *I* Spell Relief?


As in negative.

that was the result of The Feared Redhead's gestational diabetes screening.

Although I can assure you I'm not as relieved as she.

Tree Hunting

A few days ago I posted a gloating little entry on my plans to spend yesterday feasting on dungeness crab. Alas, this plan did not materialized. The Feared Redhead had to spend the morning taking a glucose test, a test used to screen for gestatuonal diabetes. We'll have the results today. This test is neither pleasant nor brief, and by the time it was done, we did not have tome to both go out for crab and attend to the second most important business of the day (after making sure that my beloved is healthy): we went and got the Christmas tree.

Let's get one thing out in the open: I love Christmas. I especially love the event that we Christians observe on this Holy Day (Yes, I know, commemorating His Birth at this time of year is suspect among many. But we have no record of what time of year it actually was, so this is as good a time as any), but I also love all of the trappings -- the decorations, the wish for certain weather phenomena, the gift giving (even more than the receiving), the carols, the culinary traditions. But of all the trappings, my favorite is the tree. I love getting the tree, dectorating the tree, everything about the tree.

I suppose this has to do with the way my family would get the tree when I was a kid. Living in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho and Oregon specifically) almost my entire life, we never bought a Christmas tree. We always hunted one and cut it ourselves. My parents would load me and my sister into the car with them, and we'd head off to into the woods (further away when we lived in Southern Idaho, not so much in Oregon). Once we arrived, it was my mothers job to pick the tree, and my fathers to cut it down, and mine to help him carry it out. My mother preferred Noble Firs to all other species, and when that was an option, it was what we'd cut. My mother usually spotted an ideal tree pretty quickly, but would make my father look at other trees for a good 15-30 minutes before finally returning to that first tree. It was usually the top 8 feet of a 15-20 foot tree that she'd want. So up my father would climb, and cut the top, and try to ease its descent, then we'd take it home and decorate it.

In addition, there was one other tradition associated with our tree. Each year, my parents would purchase one special ornament each for me and my sister. when we married, we each in turn received all of our ornaments from over the years as a starter set for our own trees.

From the first year we were married, the Feared Redhead and I agreed that getting the tree would be a joint activity. While still in San Diego, this was simply a matter of driving to the lot together. But once we moved back to Oregon, we agreed that tree hunting would be a family tradition. Our first year here, we were still living in the 24-foot motor home(Which we referred to as "Living in a VAN down by the RIVER!) at Christmas. But our second year, we were in an apartment, and so decided to go on a hunt. We teamed up with a coworker of mine who owned an SUV, bought the requisite tree permit (not a necessity back when I was a lad), and headed up highway 58 (which follows the course of the Willamette and then crosses the Cascades) until we found a promising BLM road, and began our quest.

Now here's the interesting thing about evergreens, particularly firs. The closer together they are, the less sunlight they get, and the less full and "Christmas tree-like" they are. Furthermore, the Noble Fir tends to grow at altitudes higher than 5,000 (unless culitvated lower). So despite our best efforts, the best tree we could find was a young Doug Fir, and despite my enthusiasm for it, it was, as the Feared Redhead puts it, "A Charlie Brown Tree". But my beloved wife humored me, not wanting to dampen my glee at conquering the mighty specimin, and held her peace as I strapped it, and a twin for my coworker, to the roof of her SUV. And down the mountain we came, back onto the main highway. The highway on which I learned just how important it is to properly tie down your tree, and also learned that I had failed to do so. Both trees came off the roof, hit the road, and were snapped in two. At this point, I began to suspect the feelings of my coworker and TFR towards the trees, as they were, shall we say, less than utterly devastated by the loss of the trees. It was decided that we would forgo the hunting in the woods, "just for this year", and buy a tree. So we met the next weekend to go hunting again, this time in a less adventurous environment. Little did we know our adventures were only half over.

My coworker had been told of a tree farm (not surprising, considering that Oregon is the nation's biggest exporter of trees to other states) far in the country, up in the foothills of the Cascades. We decided to make a day of an outing to this farm. We headed east out of Springfield, up highway 126, the McKenzie Highway, up the course of the McKenzie River, toward the hills. Along the way, we passed several other tree farms, including the quaint Holly Farms and another place with a vaguely French-sounding nami that I can't recall, but we passed them by, intent upon finding The Farm. We had been told it was somewhere 15-20 miles upstream in the area of the Leaburg Dam, or maybe Goodpasture Covered Bridge, so we took detours at both those places, with no luck finding The Farm. We drove 2 miles back downstream to Leaburg itself, and asked for directions in a woodcarving shop, where we were directed back upstream, perhaps the 15 miles or so to McKenzie Bridge. We stopped at a restaurant at Finn Rock, just this side of McKenzie Bridge, where a helpful waiter finally had accurate directions. He directed us to drive back down to Leaburg Dam, and then instead of going straight, to turn right at the fish hatchery, drive through it's parking area, to a road at the back of the hatchery. This road was gated, but the gate was open, so we passed on through. This took us onto a rutted dirt road, muddy from the Oregon winter, which climber steeply into the hills. We followed it for several miles, hemmed in by the woods, until we came into an open clearing, full of newly planted young trees. Surely, this is the farm. There was a side road with a building down it, so we turned and followed. As we approached the building, we began to question its status. It was, to be generous, a residence -- straight out of the new movie "Twister Vs. Deliverance". A single wide mobile home sat there, it's lean-to garage covering several vehicles in various states of (dis)repair) A Jolly Rogers flack was being used as drapery. Outside, several old couches and carseats surrounded a 55-gallon drum that had been converted into a fire pit, and there was evidence on all of the objects there that indicated A)The resident(s) practice the use of their firearms and B) That practice was not helping much. Suffice it to say, we were amazed at how fast a Kia Sportage can go in reverse.

we got back to the first dirt road and continued on our way. Several miles later, we came out of the woods once again, into the driveway of a very well-maintained and well-run farm. In one direction were numerous outbuildings, including what appeared to be apartments for the laborers. in the other was the main house. We pulled up to it, and I was elected (selected/forced -- you pick) to make inquiries. the front porch door opened, and out stepped a dog the size of a school bus, acting very protective of the woman who followed him. She calmed Cujo, and then addressed my quesations. Yes, this was the Christmas tree farm we sought. No, they don't sell to the public, they're a wholesale operation, but there is a place not far from here that does sell their trees. You can buy one there. The name of this business?

Holly Farms.

The irony was not lost on any of us.

So this year (last year the holidays were spent with family in Michigan), we drove up to Holly Farms. One of these days we'll find a place high enough up to cut our own wild farms, but for now, they're our substitute tradition. On the way up, while stopping for gas, I learned that the snow level was down to 2500 feet. So we drove to McKenzie Bridge, looked at the snow, came back down, and arrived at Holly Farms just in time to pick the right tree just before it got too dark. It's beautiful 7 1/2 foot Noble Fir, and our duplex now smells just like the Oregon woods when it rains. The smell of fir pitch is, to me, the smell I most closely associate with the color green, and also with Christmas.

It's beginning to look, smell, and feel a lot like Christmas.