Saturday, December 31, 2005

Kate O'Beirne Interview at NRO

Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review recently interviewed her colleague Kate O'Beirne about Kate's new book WOMEN WHO MAKE THE WORLD WORSE: AND HOW THEIR RADICAL FEMINIST ASSAULT IS RUINING OUR SCHOOLS, FAMILIES, MILITARY AND SPORTS. (That's quite a title!)

O'Beirne has long been one of my favorite political pundits, and I plan to read her book early in the New Year.

New York Times: Stuck on Stupid

Betsy Newmark has a great analysis of a snide story the NYT has written on President Bush's Christmas vacation.

Dessert Cookbooks for the New Year

USA TODAY has a rundown on some of the best recently released dessert books.

Chandra at Lick the Spoon plans to make everything in one of the books mentioned by USA TODAY, MARTHA STEWART'S BAKING HANDBOOK. She also plans to blog about her future "Martha" efforts at the group blog Good Things, which will be launching next year. Watch for developments on that new blog at Something So Clever.

Happy Hogmanay!

When Hogmanay came up on my calendar, I had to Google it to see what it was.

More on the history of Scotland's New Year's traditions can be found here. I was interested to learn that Christmas was a regular working day in Scotland until the 1960's.

Every so often I realize anew how amazing it is to have so much information available at our fingertips.

Arnold: Raise Minimum Wage

Governor Schwarzenegger unfortunately seems to be steering a new, less business-friendly course which will negatively affect the growth of businesses and jobs in California.

If his suggested $1 per hour increase is implemented, California may have the highest minimum wage in the nation.

The move may be a pre-emptive strike, as the state legislature wants to raise the minimum wage to an even higher rate. However, I would prefer to see Arnold stand on principle and veto the legislature's bill if it passes. Such a position, however, might be politically unpopular with many California voters, and the governor's political capital is currently at low ebb.

Unfortunately the idea of letting a free market work seems to be a thing of the past, even for Republicans. And so more businesses will flee the state...

Friday, December 30, 2005

Tonight's Movie: The Swan (1956)

THE SWAN is one of the last two movies Grace Kelly made before she became a real-life princess, and appropriately enough, she plays a princess in this film of Ferenc Molnar's play.

Shy Princess Alexandra needs to marry a visiting crown prince (Alec Guinness) in order to save the family fortune, but finds herself unexpectedly attracted to her brothers' tutor (Louis Jourdan). The film begins a bit slowly but picks up speed in the second hour as the characters drop their facades and expose their true feelings. It's an amusing and somewhat bittersweet tale.

The grand supporting cast includes Jessie Royce Landis, Estelle Winwood, and Leo G. Carroll. The movie threatens to be stolen by Brian Aherne, as a kind-hearted member of the royal family who is a monk, and Agnes Moorehead as the Queen, who breezes in near the end and has the best line in the movie.

The palace exteriors were filmed at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.

THE SWAN was filmed in CinemaScope but currently is available only in a pan-and-scan video.

Update: THE SWAN is now available on DVD in a remastered widescreen print from the Warner Archive.

Maybe This is Why... took Dodgers owner Frank McCourt so long to hire a new general manager this fall?

Ol' Frank seems to have been preoccupied with matters other than baseball...namely, football.

The LOS ANGELES TIMES today quotes an internal memo suggesting that, if successful in his football proposal, McCourt could enjoy the "psychic benefits of being the guy that brought football to L.A." (Registration may be required by the L.A. Times.)

Especially given McCourt's rocky ownership history thus far, I think Dodger fans would much prefer that McCourt spend his time contemplating basking in the "psychic benefits" of being the guy who brought the World Series back to Dodger Stadium for the first time since '88.

Turner Classic Movies Revamps Site

TCM gets my vote for the best channel on cable TV :). The TCM website has been upgraded for the New Year and looks very promising.

The site now features a movie database which might possibly give the amazingly useful IMDb a run for its money. A typical page not only provides cast info and availability on DVD and video, it links to current eBay auctions related to that title.

The daily schedule also has a new look, with the evening's theme highlighted at the top of the page and an easier-to-read format. This page has another great service: the ability to have TCM email reminders for movies you don't want to miss.

Nothing will quite replace the thrill, however, of receiving the NOW PLAYING guide in the mail and learning what new treasures are in store for the coming month!

"Extremely Critical" Windows Threat

Well, this is fun news for New Year's. Hopefully Microsoft can come up with a fix very quickly.

Justice Department Opens Leak Probes

The leaks of classified material to THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE WASHINGTON POST will be investigated by the Justice Department. Michelle Malkin has links galore (above).

I wonder if the NYT will think this investigation is as "important" as the Plamegate investigation? Some in the media are already outraged and pushing the "good leak" theory: "The public needed to know about it." (Lucianne has a link to an Editor and Publisher article making this very assertion, if you scroll down to the 3:35 P.M. post; a direct link to the Editor and Publisher article isn't working.)

Speaking of Plame, there was an odd story in yesterday's press; Plame and Wilson's 5-year-old son announced to a reporter, in an airport interview, that "My mommy's a secret spy." (What's with giving interviews in airports, anyway? Wilson and Plame obviously don't really want privacy...)

Jack Kelly on Bill Roggio and The Washington Post

The Washington Post's erroneous reporting on blogger Bill Roggio's experience as an embedded reporter in Iraq has caused quite a stir in the blogosphere this week.

As one blogger noted, in days past all Roggio might have been able to do is write a letter to the editor. Roggio has posted a detailed rebuttal on the Internet, while other bloggers such as Hugh Hewitt have called attention to the story and further critiqued the poor job by the POST.

If you're new to this story, Jack Kelly summarizes it at Real Clear Politics (linked above).

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tonight's Movie: The Little Foxes (1941)

Tonight I caught up with this classic, directed by the great William Wyler, for the first time. This engrossing tale of avarice and deception in a Southern family is, in the end, a morality play: you can win everything you want and still lose.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the movie is the unusual cinematography by Gregg Toland, whose previous credit was a little picture named CITIZEN KANE. Toland used many unusual upward camera angles; my daughter made the interesting suggestion that the photography itself was being used to convey the characters always having an "angle" in their dealings with one another. The DVD is a pristine B&W print; unfortunately it contains no extras other than the trailer.

The cast includes Bette Davis -- chewing the scenery as only Bette Davis could do -- Herbert Marshall, a very young Richard Carlson, and Teresa Wright, who made her film debut here and began a remarkable run of performances in classic films over the next half-decade which included MRS. MINIVER, PRIDE OF THE YANKEES, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.

Several years later a prequel to THE LITTLE FOXES, ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST, was filmed with Ann Blyth as a younger version of the Bette Davis character. I have a hard time imagining Blyth in the role but it would be quite interesting to see it. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be available on VHS or DVD at present. (Update: ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST was released on DVD in the Universal Vault Collection in 2016.) 

2020 Update: THE LITTLE FOXES has been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive Collection.

The Rose Parade

This is the fourth year my older daughter has enjoyed working on the Rotary Club's float through her Interact service group. Photos of the float under construction are linked above. Her job was applying cotton to a bear's ear. :)

Unfortunately the weather Monday may be a bit soggy, but the parade has had great luck with the weather over the years so perhaps we will be surprised and the sun will be shining on January 2nd!

The Great Raid

James Taranto at Opinion Journal points out this great CNN story, about soldiers who raided a Baghdad home, where they were shown a newborn baby girl with spina bifida. The soldiers immediately went into action to help the infant, having her examined at the base and working with Senator Saxby Chambliss to arrange her travel to the United States, where a surgeon has volunteered to operate for free. Without medical care, the baby was expected to die within weeks.

So much for John Kerry's claim that U.S. soldiers conducting raids are "terrorizing kids and children."

Friday Update: The baby has now begun her journey to the United States.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fire at Disneyland's Grand Californian Hotel

It must have been very frightening to be awakened by fire alarms at 3:00 a.m. Guests were evacuated to several locations, including California Adventure's Hyperion Theater and the Soarin' Over California building.

The fire apparently began in some electrical lights on the hotel Christmas tree.

(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

More information is in The Orange County Register.

Chief Justice Roberts Continues to Win Rave Reviews

USA TODAY also mentions that in a hearing this fall on parental notification of abortion, Roberts' views appeared to be in line with those of Justice Scalia. It will be most interesting as Roberts' written opinions are released in the months ahead.

I like the idea of possibly seeing the Chief Justice eating his lunch in the Supreme Court cafeteria, which is open to the public.

More on Roberts' first months as Chief Justice can be found in a similar article at CNN.

Gender Gap on College Campuses

The gender gap continues to widen on college campuses.

In a new WEEKLY STANDARD column (linked above) it's noted that 58% of college freshmen are women. When the gender gap was balanced the other way a few decades ago and 57% of freshmen were men, it was a big issue on campuses and in politics. But when college freshmen are only 42% male, not many people seem to care. (Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt.)

I personally think there may be a connection between the gap and a public school system that increasingly overlooks boys. More on gender-based learning differences can be found here.

THE MINDS OF BOYS theorizes that since teachers are mostly women, they tend to teach the way girls learn while ignoring the often very different needs of boys.

The 12 Days of Christmas

The week between Christmas and New Year's is perhaps my favorite week in the year: a time to relax with family and friends after the hectic pre-Christmas season. We continue to enjoy Christmas music, books, and movies straight through till New Year's and sometimes until Epiphany! I'm always sorry when others are in a rush to end the Christmas season; some of our neighbors take down their decorations the day after Christmas.

Lanier's Books, one of my favorite blog finds of the year, has an essay on keeping the 12 Days of Christmas. Her website is a combination of Christian encouragement and literary discussion, which also includes some outstanding photography. I recommend a visit, it is most enjoyable.

Update: Kathy at One Clear Call also shares thoughts on the pleasures of this time of year. Her time off sounds idyllic!

President Bush's Holiday Reading

The President is currently reading WHEN TRUMPETS CALL by Patricia O'Toole, about Theodore Roosevelt's life after the White House. The book was recommended to the President by Brian Williams of NBC.

Recently I started reading MORNINGS ON HORSEBACK, written by David McCullough in 1982. It's a most interesting look at Teddy Roosevelt's childhood and young adult years.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More on the Truth About Kwanzaa

When Mary Katharine Ham (linked above) once tried to include some of Kwanzaa's true history in a newspaper article, it was cut because her editor said, "Well, you just can't write stuff like that. Just just can't." Criticizing or critiquing Kwanzaa, it seems, is just not politically correct.

My own politically incorrect viewpoint is that I strongly dislike this so-called holiday edging in on the time of year set aside to observe Christmas and Hannukah.

La Shawn Barber also has strong opinions on the Marxist "holiday" invented by a felon convicted of torture.

The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

I'm apparently one of a dying breed, someone who loves to write thank you notes. I find it enjoyable to contemplate a kindness received as I write the note, and it takes just a few minutes to let someone else know they are truly appreciated.

I suspect that when parents communicate positive feelings to their children about writing thank you notes, the children will be much more likely to enjoy the process themselves. This mother has exactly the right idea: "We started very early because we saw it as an opportunity for children learning to write to create something that was really short and would be so well-received. My kids were turned on by the idea of it being carried across the country by someone."

More on this timely subject here and here.

Can Krispy Kreme Be Saved?

Stephen Cooper is trying to turn around Krispy Kreme, once a great success story which went south in a hurry.

This enjoyable 2003 book, Making Dough:The 12 Secret Ingredients of Krispy Kreme's Sweet Success now seems a bit sad in retrospect, but hopefully good times will come again for a company with a great product.

(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

Wednesday Update: The last four Krispy Kreme stores in Philadelphia were suddenly closed Tuesday. (Hat tip: Kellyanne Conway.)

DVD Trends in 2005

USA TODAY has a roundup of some of the best and worst trends in DVDs this past year.

I particularly agree with the thumbs down on exclusive bonus discs. I want to know that I'm going to get the same DVD set whether I buy it online, at Target or Best Buy, or elsewhere.

Not a very happy thing to buy a DVD from Amazon and realize that people who bought it at a retail store have extra extras!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Media Inside the Bubble

Michael Barone concisely points out what was more apparent than ever this past week, with blog pieces such as Power Line's analysis of the legality of the administration's wiretapping program: the mainstream media (not, as NEWSWEEK recently suggested, the President) is living inside a bubble, "carefully insulating themselves and their readers and viewers from knowledge of applicable law and recent historical precedent, determined to pursue an agenda of undermining the Bush administration regardless of any damage to national security." (Hat tip: Betsy's Page.)

I suspect that as long as the mainstream media continues to exert its power in this narrow-minded fashion, its power will simultaneously continue to drain away.

Peggy Noonan recently suggested: "If only the MSM understood what money and power there are to be had from being famously nonideological, from being a famously reliable pursuer and presenter of fact."

Tony Snow: The Truth About Kwanzaa

This article was first published over half a decade ago; it was posted today at Free Republic and remains a very informative read.

Happy Boxing Day!

Christmas Music: A Great Sale

All Christmas music is half price today at Tower Records Online, but hurry, the sale ends Monday night, December 26th. Free shipping with a $20 purchase.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Late Start for 2006

The start of 2006 will be delayed by a "leap second" at midnight on December 31st.

(Hat tip: The Corner.)

NORAD: 50 Years of Santa Tracking

Merry Christmas to the good folks at North American Aerospace Defense Command!

College Board Tightens Rules for AP Classes

Beginning in 2007, any school that offers Advanced Placement classes will have to participate in a "self-audit" process and submit materials to the College Board to prove that the classes are being taught at a college level.

I lean toward thinking this is a good idea...for instance, I don't believe my daughter's current AP English class is being taught at the college level. It's enough of a problem that several students have visited both the teacher and the counseling office with their concerns, and the (new) teacher promises to "re-tool" the curriculum over Christmas vacation.

Depending on what's involved, perhaps the new auditing process will catch problem classes or teachers such as this before there is a real problem.

(Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs.)

Pat Boone: Just Say "Merry Christmas!"

Boone has a great paragraph in this column:

"Do you hear modern echoes of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'? I sure do. What made old Ebenezer so heartless and mean? It was his total self-absorption, his all-consuming greed and rejection of any expressions of charity – human or divine. To him, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim's cheery optimism and good nature was infuriating, incomprehensible, and somehow a threat to his pinched, selfish worldview. So he tried to shut them up. 'Bah! Humbug!!'"

I have made it a particular point this year to wish salesclerks a Merry Christmas, and have noticed they invariably brighten up and wish me one right back. They almost seem relieved to be given "permission" to say the special words if I say them first :).

Friday, December 23, 2005

Harry Potter Keeps Children Safer

My teenage daughter called this amusing story to my attention: when Harry Potter books have been released, children's accident statistics have declined markedly on the following weekends...children are too busy reading about Harry and friends to be active and injured at normal rates.

(Registration may be required by MedPage.)

(Hat tip: Fantasy Fiction for Christians.)

Christmas Music: New to My Collection

Last year I picked up several Christmas CDs half price in the Tower Records online sale after Christmas, and I added a couple more to the collection this month.

LeAnn Rimes' WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD (linked above) may be my favorite in the bunch. I really enjoyed her belting '50s style on songs like "All I Want For Christmas" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," and I particularly liked the rather unique-for-Christmas inclusion of the title song, which is a perfect match for the mood of the season.

Patty Loveless's BLUEGRASS AND WHITE SNOW runs a close second. Love the very country harmonies, particularly on "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem" (a favorite song on the old Judds Christmas album) and "Christmas Day at My House." If you like your Christmas music with a bluegrass twang, this is the album for you.

CHRISTMAS WITH JOHNNY CASH is pure Cash style -- not always the most tuneful of singers, but heartfelt emotion and a distinctive low voice that makes you sit up and listen. I was happy to discover "The Gifts They Gave" was a favorite otherwise known to me as "The Animal Carol" (a great alternative version can be heard here). There's also a particularly good cover of "Blue Christmas."

THE 25TH DAY OF DECEMBER by Bobby Darin is really two albums in one, including both spirituals and more traditional Christmas carols. The arrangements for the spirituals didn't always work that well for me, but tunes like "Christmas Auld Lang Syne" and a reverent, powerful "Holy Holy Holy" -- another unusual choice for a Christmas album -- make the CD worth its price.

EN LA FETE DE NOEL is a quiet album of French carols sung by a Montreal choir, perfect for late-night listening while addressing cards or wrapping gifts.

Finally, A MERRY CHRISTMAS WITH BING CROSBY AND THE ANDREWS SISTERS contains many familiar tracks heard on other Crosby Christmas albums, but is of interest as it also contains several songs the Andrews Sisters recorded on their own. "Christmas Candles" and "Christmas Island," recorded with Guy Lombardo, were particularly enjoyable.

Blogging may possibly be light over Christmas weekend. I wish you all a very merry Christmas!

Another Top-Secret Program Leaked to Press

Real Clear Politics Blog notes that for three years the government has been secretly conducting surveillance to monitor radiation levels at Muslim sites around Washington, D.C., and other cities, looking for nuclear weapons.

A couple people decided that spilling the beans to U.S. News and World Report would be the right thing to do because they were "concerned" whether the program was legal.

I don't know about you, but secret surveillance for nukes is exactly the kind of thing I've been hoping my government is doing to protect me. And I hope that the government is more concerned with security than with political correctness. I frankly find this news, which we shouldn't know about in the first place, reassuring.

What is wrong with the people who keep spilling national secrets to the press? Does "top secret" mean nothing anymore?

Once in Royal David's City

Lanier's Books captures the beauty of Anglican worship in her eloquent description of attending a service of Nine Lessons and Carols.

"Once in Royal David's City," incidentally, is one of my favorite carols, though it has been recorded relatively infrequently compared to better-known Christmas carols. My favorite recording of this song appears on The Joy of Christmas, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Blogosphere at Its Best

John Hinderaker of Power Line has done an exhaustive analysis regarding the legality of the NSA wiretapping program.

Whether it's Rathergate, Hurricane Katrina, or the current wiretapping issue, I'm continually impressed by the ability of bloggers to be at the forefront of researching and explaining current issues in a comprehensive and coherent fashion.

The MSM usually doesn't attempt to do this kind of legwork -- often, I suspect, because the conclusions won't match up with the desired storylines.

I Love Williams-Sonoma

I had a surprise while wrapping gifts this week, I discovered that a box from Williams-Sonoma only contained one of the two items I had ordered, although the packing slip indicated both items were in the box.

I was initially disappointed when I called the company, as the item, a pretty blue spatula my 10-year-old had asked for for Christmas, was now out of stock. Yesterday I filled out a follow-up email survey from the company indicating that my call was handled politely, but I was disappointed I wouldn't be able to give my daughter the spatula.

Today I received a call from a Williams-Sonoma representative letting me know that they had found some of the same color spatula, though in a larger size than I'd ordered, and they'd like to send one to us as a gift! I was very impressed that they went "above and beyond" to such an extent to make up for their error.

Williams-Sonoma is not always the least expensive company to deal with, but I really appreciate a quality company that will go out of its way to make customers happy. They will certainly be receiving my business again in future.

Christmas at Arlington Cemetery

I found this photo of Arlington Cemetery indescribably touching.

May we never forget.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Appellate Judges: No Separation of Church and State

A decision from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the legality of the 10 Commandments being displayed in a Kentucky courthouse.

The decision said, in part, "The ACLU makes repeated reference to the 'separation of church and state.' This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state."

What an amazing thing: judges who can read the Constitution!

Judge Alice Batchelder, who concurred in the opinion, has been mentioned periodically by various sources as a potential Supreme Court nominee.

Christmas Bonuses Not Optional In Mexico

The Los Angeles Times had a fascinating article this morning on legally mandated Christmas bonuses in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Teachers in Mexico, for instance, receive the equivalent of 3 months' salary. Private employers are also required to pay the bonus, under threat of fines or prison; a typical Christmas bonus is a month's pay.

As much as Mexican citizens love their bonuses, it did cross my mind to wonder whether such government interference in the economy contributes to the overall poor economic situation in Mexico...perhaps businesses would hire more workers or pay their employees better wages in the first place if they didn't have to budget an extra month's salary for each employee at the end of the year.

(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

Harry Potter and Christians

La Shawn Barber, who recently began a new site, Fantasy Fiction for Christians, shares her insights on Christian themes in the Harry Potter books in a Townhall column published today.

Part 1 of La Shawn's thoughts was published last October.

More on California's Universal Preschool Initiative

The Orange County Register calls for California state law to be changed so that taxpayer dollars can't fund advertising for a proposed initiative, as has happened with Rob Reiner's "Preschool for All."

The paper also calls for Reiner to resign his chairmanship of the state's First Five Commission, or for Governor Schwarzenegger to replace him.

The Arizona Republic published an excellent opinion column yesterday explaining the questionable research cited by universal preschool supporters. The column concludes: "It's time for candor. Preschool is neither necessary nor sufficient for cognitive development, behavioral development or school achievement...What is best for children now is what has always been best for children: good parents."

Neil Cavuto=Courage

As if MS isn't enough to contend with, in and of itself -- on top of previously beating cancer -- can you imagine being on national television every day uncertain if you will suddenly be unable to read the teleprompter?

A Big Thank You to Real Clear Politics Blog

I did a Technorati search this morning after noticing relatively heavy traffic here thus far today. Very exciting to discover a link to this site under the "Latest Links" at The RCP Blog! All the more exciting as I am a regular reader.

Welcome to RCP readers!

Thank you to RCP, and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

If Carter and Clinton Could Do It...

Power Line notes that President Carter and President Clinton engaged in wiretapping; The Drudge Report published the background info on this today.

Power Line rightly asks, why is Presidential wiretapping only a problem for the New York Times now?

Two obvious reasons: the first, of course, is that President Bush is a Republican; the second is that the Times' writer, James Risen, has a book due out in mid-January. The Los Angeles Times published a story today in which some sources suggested that the book was a factor in the Times going forward with the story.

Does anyone want to take bets as to whether or not Risen will appear on 60 MINUTES?

Meanwhile Newsweek's Jonathan Alter has gone off the deep end into conspiracy hysteria and was allowed to publish a commentary in which his own (negative) beliefs about President Bush's thoughts and motivations are stated as fact. Alter said that "Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story...because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker...It was for that reason—and less out of genuine concern about national security—that George W. Bush tried so hard to kill the New York Times story."

I've hung on to my Newsweek subscription against my better judgment for some time now, as I have a good rate and generally find enough of interest in the magazine to make it worth the price, despite the regular bias found in the political stories. But I now seriously question whether I want to keep funding the magazine when they allow a writer like Alter to make up stories out of whole cloth.

More analysis on Alter at News Busters.

Wednesday Update: Hugh Hewitt interviewed Jonathan Alter on his show Tuesday afternoon. Radio Blogger has the transcript.

When Did FEMA Become the LA Secretary of State?

Since when is FEMA responsible for having the correct addresses of persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina, to the extent that Louisiana's Attorney General would threaten to sue FEMA for the info?

The Attorney General said "that location information is crucial to finding voters and rescheduling New Orleans' postponed February elections." Is it possible it's the voters' responsibility to file a change of address? And is it also possible some of the displaced voters no longer meet residency requirements to vote in the election anyway?

The Attorney General also said, "I'm a big, grown-up boy. I should have filed suit a long time ago." I'd suggest both his tone and the second sentence in that statement indicate the first sentence is incorrect.

There's a Blog For Everything...

This blog find amused me -- the Celebrity Baby Blog, with nothing but pregnancy, birth, and baby name news of celebrity children. Completely useless bits of trivia (grin), but fun to pass a couple minutes' time during a break from work.

Christmas Cookies & Other Baking Fun

Bakingsheet has a recipe for some yummy-looking Christmas cookies.

If you scroll down Bakingsheet, the gingersnaps posted December 17th look great too.

Mark Bittman at the New York Times assures that caramels are easy to make. Sounds fun -- have never tried them and I love caramels.

52 Cupcakes displays Christmas ornament cupcakes. Very clever :).

If you scroll down to December 14th, the baking racks from Bed, Bath & Beyond, pictured at Farmgirl Fare, look handy!

I'm hoping to fit in some Christmas baking time later this week...

A Rathergate Book I'll Read

Power Line reports that retired Col. William Campenni, who served with President Bush in the National Guard, is writing a book which tears apart the 60 Minutes story. Thanks to Col. Campenni's previous correspondence with Power Line, a literary agent contacted him and is working to sell the book.

Good luck to Col. Campenni on his project!

Woodward: Novak's Source Not in White House?

The interesting tidbit that Bob Woodward believes Robert Novak's source was not in the White House appeared in yesterday's Harvard Crimson.

I continue to suspect that the leak, if there actually was one, originated at the CIA and was designed to damage the Bush Administration.

(Hat tip: Lucianne.)

CA Taxpayers Paying for Pro-Preschool Ads

I've mentioned before how annoying I find these misleading ads touting the supposed advantages of a preschool education -- particularly as the research cited in the ads is of a limited and questionable nature.

I was shocked to learn today that the ads are not funded by those supporting Rob Reiner's "Preschool for All" initiative, but they are being paid for by the taxpayers of California!

I'm incredulous to learn that my tax dollars are supporting proposed legislation which I strongly oppose.

(Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Thomas Sowell: Merry You-Know-What

Merry Christmas, Dr. Sowell! You are one of my heroes :).

More on John Spencer and The West Wing

This article takes an in-depth look at the history of John Spencer's WEST WING character, Leo McGarry, and how Spencer's death may impact the show.

The show's creative team will delay plot decisions until January.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

One of our family's favorite Christmas traditions is an annual viewing of WHITE CHRISTMAS. This movie has unfortunately never been particularly appreciated by film critics, but for us -- as for many others -- it grows more cherished with each passing year. Aside from the obvious talents of the cast and the beautiful music, the movie has an indefinable "special something" that makes repeat viewings feel like revisiting old friends, as well as revisiting one's own memories of Christmases past.

There is an excellent DVD release which includes a commentary track by Rosemary Clooney, who looks back fondly on her experiences with long-gone friends. Sadly, Rosie is no longer with us either, but how wonderful that she left her memories on this DVD set.

For more on the history of the title song, WHITE CHRISTMAS: THE STORY OF AN AMERICAN SONG by Jody Rosen is a fascinating slice of pop culture history, well worth a read.

Finally, WHITE CHRISTMAS is a pretty little picture book which includes stills from the movie, photos of movie posters and album covers, and more. The book is in our living room right now as part of our Christmas decorations.

C.S. Lewis's Stepson on Homeschooling

Charlotte Mason Mama has a fascinating post regarding the thoughts of Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis, on homeschooling.

Gresham has a background in dealing with "post-childhood abuse trauma" and has some profound thoughts on God's design for the family and how sending children to school not only runs counter to God's plan, but places children in an environment where their needs are not best-served. His ideas are certainly thought-provoking.

Pendulum Swinging Back to the President?

John McIntyre thinks the Democrats have dug themselves into a deep hole and don't yet realize "the political ground [has] shifted beneath their feet."

This article ties in with an interesting theory Rush Limbaugh shared on this radio show today, that the reason Congressional approval ratings are low is that the media "face" of Congress is Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Thus, the public is reacting negatively to Democrats, not Republicans, though Republicans hold the Congressional majority.

Both Rush and McIntyre believe, in essence, that the Democrats are treading very dangerous water by continuing to publicly pound away on their anti-war, anti-Bush positions and that it won't play well with the electorate over the long term.

Update: James Taranto has more in his "Best of the Web" column at Opinion Journal.

Michael Barone on the Lessons of the Last Quarter Century

Michael Barone is always an excellent read and this is no exception. Stick with this one to the end; the last couple paragraphs are particularly good.

Michelle Malkin's Bloggers of the Year

Worthy choices all...I'm struck by the number of sites which were valuable because the blogger specialized in a particular area, such as Brendan Loy of the Irish Trojan who did such a good job blogging Hurricane Katrina, or Just One Minute (nominated by Lorie Byrd of Polipundit), which was on the cutting edge of Valerie Plame coverage.

blogs4God has its own version of Time Magazine's Man of the Year cover which is very funny (and right on!).

UC Admissions v. Christian High School Classes

More on the very interesting lawsuit regarding the UC system's refusal to give credit for certain classes taught in private Christian high schools.

The article mentions that UC "has approved courses from other schools on Buddhism, Islam, Jewish history and the effects of feminism and counterculture on literature but turned down Calvary's submissions in history and literature, as well as a government class titled Special Providence: Christianity and the American Republic."

(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

Sound of Music Memories

This article really struck a chord with me (no pun intended!), as I have so many memories connected with THE SOUND OF MUSIC myself. It was the second movie I ever saw; the first was MARY POPPINS, so when I was little I thought Julie Andrews was pretty amazing -- and still do.

I have many happy memories of seeing the movie at various stages of my life, including going to see it in movie theaters several times when it was reissued. Some of those theater visits were with my grandparents, who are no longer with us, so the memories are especially sweet. In turn I have loved sharing this extra-special film with my own children.

I treasure an autographed copy of FOREVER LIESL and am fortunate to own a number of other special SOUND OF MUSIC collectibles, including what is probably a rather unique collection of costume test stills of the children.

My SOUND OF MUSIC connection was rounded out by appearing in the nuns' chorus in two different stage productions when I was a teen!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

UCLA Study Verifies Media Bias

Among other points, the study acknowledges that "almost all major media outlets tilt to the left."

Reid Still Having Trouble With the Truth

Last Week Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid lied when he said President Bush said Tom DeLay should not have a jury trial.

Today Reid again struggled with the truth. On Fox News Sunday Chris Wallace twice directly asked Reid whether he'd been briefed on post-9/11 wiretapping.

Reid initially refused to answer Wallace's question, saying instead that the President can't "pass the buck." He finally admitted in a roundabout way that he had known.

Reid's evasive performance today, putting politics ahead of the truth, is another sad example of what is wrong with Democrats.

Religious Christmas Cards Growing in Popularity

The Greeting Card Association reports that in the years since 9/11, use of religious Christmas cards, which is usually about 30% of all cards sent, has been growing.

(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

The Only Good Reason Not to Pass the Patriot Act

The hyper-regulation of cold and allergy remedies needs to be stripped from the Patriot Act immediately.

The new regulations encroach unnecessarily on personal freedom, and it's particularly absurd that the proposed laws were attached to an act regarding our country's national security; in doing so, Senators Feinstein and Talent have trivialized the rest of the Patriot Act.

Don't Do It, Arnold

The L.A. Times reports Governor Schwarzenegger may be considering a tax hike for additional school funding.

Such a move would certainly undo the uneasy truce between the Governor and GOP leaders in the wake of the Governor's hiring of a left-wing, liberal activist as his Chief of Staff.

Conservatives have had several disagreements with the Governor, but tax policy has generally been an area of agreement. If the Governor decides in favor of a tax hike, further alienating the Republican base, all bets are off for his re-election.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Australian PM Calls for Christianity To Be Put Back Into Christmas

Gotta love those Aussies. First the Premier of Victoria calls for schools to celebrate Christmas, including religious carols and Nativity plays.

Now Prime Minister John Howard has said Christians need to stop downplaying Christianity at Christmas because of fears of offending others: "You don't demonstrate tolerance towards minorities by apologising for your own's silly and it's patronising towards minorities and it's offensive to our cultural history."

He's got my vote! :)

"Senator Reid Tells a Lie"

Be sure to catch this post from Power Line.

The Democrats have no shame.

The President Strikes Back

President Bush has spoken strongly today against the manufactured "scandal" of this week regarding wiretapping, and pointed out that not only is leaking classified information illegal, but Congress has been informed about the so-called "secret" wiretapping on at least 10 different occasions.

Power Line has had several excellent posts over the last couple days including here and here.

Captain's Quarters has a must-read about the New York Times' manipulation of the story, which it's been sitting on for the last year.

As usual, Michelle Malkin has an exhaustive roundup of links on the subject. (Scroll down to yesterday's headline RED ALERT: CHICKEN LITTLES ON THE LOOSE.) Of particular note is a quote from Mark Levin on the damage these kinds of leaks do to national security.

The Democrats and many in the media seem bound and determined to lead us down the road to another attack -- which of course they will then blame on the President.

Friday, December 16, 2005

A Wonderful Story

Mary Katharine Ham, blogging at Hugh Hewitt's site, shares a lovely email about a Marine wife's meeting with President Bush.

A Sad Loss

Actor John Spencer, who played former Chief of Staff and current Vice Presidential Candidate Leo McGarry on THE WEST WING, has died of a heart attack at age 58.

I first came to enjoy Spencer's work when he joined the cast of L.A. LAW as Tommy Mullaney, and he has been one of my favorite cast members on WEST WING. Politics aside, over the years THE WEST WING has been a very well-executed, consistently entertaining show which won me as a viewer despite the liberal political views frequently espoused by the characters. Spencer was one of the actors I most enjoyed on the program. Ironically, Spencer's WEST WING character had a near-brush with death due to a heart attack. The show seemed likely to end after this season, and with Spencer's death hugely impacting the current election storyline, that seems to me more certain than ever.

Spencer was a greatly talented man who has died far too young. He will be missed.

Update: This article includes quotes from some of Spencer's WEST WING colleagues.

The Return of Remington Steele?

Pierce Brosnan is in talks to make a film version of the beloved '80s detective series.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christian Colleges Growing in Popularity

Enrollment has increased at 102 evangelical colleges a whopping 70+% in the last 15 years, compared to 12.8% and 28% for public and private colleges, respectively.

I think those numbers tell an interesting story in and of themselves.

Christmas Bookshelf: The History of U.S. Celebrations

We have many favorite Christmas books...mainly children's books, a number of which focus on the Biblical Christmas story.

In this post, however, I wanted to mention some very enjoyable, colorful books on the history of American Christmas celebrations. By their nature they are focused heavily (though not entirely) on the secular cultural aspects of Christmas. MERRY CHRISTMAS! CELEBRATING AMERICA'S GREATEST HOLIDAY by Karal Ann Marling (linked above) and INVENTING CHRISTMAS chronicle the evolution of our modern Christmas celebrations, from Christmas trees to Santa Claus to wrapping paper, ribbon, and Scotch tape.

Jock Elliott, the author of INVENTING CHRISTMAS, was a marketing executive who collected Christmas ephemera as a hobby. His collection included a copy of A CHRISTMAS CAROL which Charles Dickens used for public readings. The book is illustrated mainly with old drawings and paintings depicting the origination of various customs and characters in the 1800s. Elliott passed away just a few weeks ago.

Marling's book is not as heavily illustrated as Elliott's, but it contains fascinating tidbits of history such as the evolution of giftwrap and tree decorating. She also has an excellent chapter on Christmas movies -- and points out an interesting anachronism, the use of white tissue paper in LITTLE WOMEN.

IT'S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS: THE BEST OF THE HOLIDAYS 1940-1965 by Susan Waggoner is pure "eye candy." There are pages of beautiful graphic art, particularly from the 1940s, including catalogue pages, movie posters, and magazine ads.

CHRISTMAS, 1940-1959: A COLLECTOR'S GUIDE TO DECORATIONS AND CUSTOMS by Robert Brenner, and its sequel CHRISTMAS, 1960-PRESENT each contain hundreds of photographs of everything from record album covers to cardboard manger sets to Christmas ornaments and candles. It was fun to recognize some items handed down from my grandparents (such as the aforementioned cardboard manger set) among the pages.

Kerry Advocates Bush Impeachment

John Kerry has stated that "if Democrats retake the House, there is a solid case to bring articles of impeachment against President Bush."

Kerry's spokesman said this was a joke.

Ha, ha.

Rush Limbaugh has the details (above).

Robert Novak on the Barrett Report

More on the independent counsel report I mentioned yesterday: The Democrats, aided by sympathetic judges, are attempting to bury information about possible wrongdoing by President Clinton, the IRS, and the Justice Department.

It remains to be seen whether Senator Charles Grassley, head of the Finance Committee, will have a stiffer spine than some of his Republican colleagues and follow through on making sure that the report is released in its entirety.

New Blog at National Review Online

Kellyanne and George Conway's new blog, "Reconcilable Differences," is the latest addition to Blog Row at National Review Online.

Conway is a well-known longtime Republican pollster. I remember when she was known as Kellyanne Fitzpatrick (grin). Her husband George is an attorney. Looks like fun.

Upcoming Book on Washington and Religion

WASHINGTON'S GOD, by Michael and Jana Novak, examines George Washington and his religious beliefs and relationship with God. The book will be published next March. Looks like an interesting read.

(Hat tip: The Corner.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

CA Sued For Tuition Breaks for Illegal Immigrants

California is being sued by students from 19 states for charging the students higher out-of-state tuition to attend UC schools, while the state gives illegal immigrants the same lower tuition rates as legal California residents.

The lawsuit says California's tuition practice violates a 1998 federal law which requires states to offer in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students if in-state rates are being offered to illegal immigrants. The federal law was intended to discourage states from offering better tuition rates to illegal aliens than U.S. citizens but has been ignored by several states, including California.

The Washington Times has additional interesting details regarding the UC Regents' refusal to implement the tuition law unless they were first given legal immunity by the California state legislature.

"Becoming Mary Poppins"

The first film I ever saw was MARY POPPINS, and it remains my favorite live-action Disney film.

I also loved the books by P.L. Travers, though the "book Mary" was quite different from the "movie Mary" I'd met first. I've always felt that somehow the film caught the essence of Travers' books, even with pretty Julie Andrews in the place of the cranky Mary of the books.

The New Yorker has published a lengthy article on Travers and the film, subtitled "P. L. Travers, Walt Disney, and the Making of a Myth." The article is unfortunately rather dismissive of the film and Walt Disney -- when reading the article I couldn't help but think there are two sides to every story -- but it contains a number of interesting tidbits and is worth a read.

I highly recommend last year's 40th anniversary DVD, which is filled with extras (I haven't had time yet to watch them all!), as well as the Special Edition of the soundtrack.

Barrett Report: A Bombshell That Could Sink Hillary?

Word is starting to percolate around the Internet that the long-delayed Barrett Report, investigating former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, has uncovered evidence that the Clinton Administration used the IRS and Justice Department to harass the administration's enemies.

The news will come as no surprise to those who closely followed the Clinton Administration. The big question is, will the report be released? And when?

(Hat tip: Michelle Malkin.)

More at Power Line here and here.

In November American Thinker published an article by Rick Ballard which is fairly thorough and has several good links, including one to a November piece by Byron York of National Review.

I Want My Sudafed

For some time now California Senator Dianne Feinstein has been hawking a terrible idea, to tightly regulate the availability of cold remedies such as Sudafed, as this will supposedly cut down on methamphetamine production.

I have been deeply disappointed that Republican Senator Jim Talent has also supported this legislation.

I find the idea as silly as gun control -- criminals will find a way to do what they are determined to do, while the innocent pay the price with ever-dwindling personal freedoms. Further, The Orange County Register notes in an editorial today that the legislation's impact on meth production would be minimal, at best.

Under Feinstein's proposed regulation, cold and allergy sufferers will no longer be able to buy their medicine, go home, and start feeling better. Instead sick people will be treated as irresponsible semi-criminals who must stand in line at a pharmacy counter for their non-prescription medication, hand over personal information such as a driver's license, sign a logbook, and have their purchases recorded and shared with government agencies.

As if that weren't bad enough, the proposed legislation has now, incredibly, found its way into the renewal for the Patriot Act. Yes, the government having records of my purchases of allergy medications is going to prevent terrorism.


(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

Red Cross Chief Quits

This story contained a bit of news near the end that I found shocking: although the Red Cross raised $1.86 billion after Hurricane Katrina, the agency spent the money so quickly they borrowed another $350 million.

Consider that information when you hear that at a House hearing, Representative Jim Ramstad said that in one Mississippi town with minimal damage, residents received Red Cross checks which they spent on "DVDs, jewelry and electronics." Ramstad noted that "If Americans don't think their donations are being used wisely, they might not be so generous when the next disaster strikes."

(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

La Shawn Barber's New Website

Popular blogger La Shawn Barber recently started a second blog, Fantasy Fiction For Christians (linked above).

My older daughter, the biggest fantasy fiction reader in the family, reports that the site is filled with interesting links about Narnia, Harry Potter, and more. Analyzing Christian themes found in these books is one of the new site's goals.

Brent Bozell Critiques Newsweek's Latest Bush Bashing

Brent Bozell of Media Research Center has a good piece on the latest silliness from Newsweek.

Brit Hume's Special Report roundtable had a good discussion on this issue on Monday, summarized by Brent Baker at News Busters. The Fox panelists pointed out that Newsweek had the same criticism of President Reagan, and were in agreement that the Newsweek reporters aren't happy because Bush isn't talking to them or hiring Washington insiders.

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin reports that according to the Washington Post, Washington insider types are also up in arms over the food served on Air Force Two. (Rolling eyes...)

Merry Christmas From Disneyland

We made our annual Christmas visit to Disneyland quite a bit earlier than usual this year due to the unusually heavy crowding at the park this year. It was a good choice as the park was quite busy today, but not overcrowded.

We had a lovely day which included cookie decorating at Big Thunder Ranch and our family being the only passengers riding on the 1958 fire engine which Walt Disney used to like to drive when the park was closed.

The White Witch of Narnia was visiting and was quite something -- when she arrived at Sleeping Beauty Castle, it snowed! Those who wished an audience had to bow before she would provide an autograph or photo. The Witch's pages had shields which visitors could carry with them during the meeting if they felt the need for a little protection :).

I was pleasantly surprised when multiple Cast Members wished us a "Merry Christmas" today. Now if only the park could start using the word "Christmas" instead of "Holidays" in its advertising, at least part of the time!

Wednesday Update: Mouse Planet has a good photo of the White Witch's snowy arrival at Disneyland, as well as pics of the El Capitan in L.A. dressed for its special Narnia engagement. Scroll down and click on the 12/12 Disneyland Park Update. There is also good info here on how to handle the unusual crowds at Disneyland.

Media Bias and Rush Limbaugh

Last night I read a Yahoo News story about Rush Limbaugh winning a court ruling upholding his right to doctor-patient confidentiality.

I was quite surprised, therefore, when I briefly logged on this morning and saw a headline on AOL that Limbaugh had lost the court ruling in this case. The Associated Press chose a completely different spin for the story than what I had previously read on Yahoo.

Analysis linked above at National Ledger, and more can be found at Outside the Beltway.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Chris Wallace Says Father Has "Lost It"

NewsMax has info on a fascinating radio interview with Chris Wallace.

(Hat tip: Michelle Malkin. Michelle's ability to be ahead of the curve on so many stories is a wonder!)

Judge: FEMA Must Continue to Ease Suffering

A judge ruled today that FEMA has been "callous" and "insensitive" and must continue to pay the hotel bills of Hurricane Katrina victims through February.

Since when are legal rulings to be made on the basis of emotions? The judge, a Clinton appointee, in essence said that since the federal law authorizing FEMA created the agency to ease suffering after disasters, FEMA must keep easing suffering as long as the judge sees fit. FEMA's arbitrary deadline was "unduly callous" and victims might be "without shelter for Christmas" the judge substituted FEMA's arbitrary deadline with his own.

The judge also said the victims were "discriminated" against due to their "economic status." Personally, I feel discriminated against by the judge due to my economic status...he feels perfectly comfortable taking the hard-earned fruits of my labor to give to others. A new form of taxation without representation? Maybe our representatives need to un-fund FEMA so that a judge can't spend the agency's money for them.

Whatever happened to the idea that family, community, charity, and state should take care of their own, rather than the federal government? And while we're at it, what about the issue of personal responsibility? I live in California, and I pay a substantial amount for annual earthquake insurance. I wonder how many hurricane victims didn't buy flood insurance but had DVD players or big screen TV's? Hmmm.

Incidentally, I'd be really curious to know if FEMA paid nearly half a year's hotel bills for victims of the last couple major earthquakes in California.

(Registration may be required by The New York Times.)

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin reports that media and political ranting to the contrary, less than half of those who died in Hurricane Katrina were black.

Back to Supreme Court News...

Things have been relatively quiet of late on the confirmation front, but Confirm Them has some interesting updates today, including rumors of attempts by Democrats to persuade Senator Specter to go after Judge Alito on the subject of abortion.

Blanco's Staff Worried About...Her Wardrobe?

A staffer suggested that Liz Claiborne sports clothes were just the thing for Governor Kathleen Blanco to wear post-hurricane, as they looked "kind of Eddie Bauer, but with class," and would "show she is MOVING MOUNTAINS."

Considering the time Blanco & Co. spent planning her wardrobe and blaming President Bush, perhaps it's not surprising she didn't have time to actually manage the hurricane crisis successfully.

Michelle Malkin on the NYT and Bloggers

Michelle Malkin had a great piece this weekend on a NYT article which asserted that liberal bloggers are free thinkers who criticize other liberals, while conservative bloggers stick to a monolithic party line.

As Michelle points out, hasn't the NYT heard of Harriet Miers? Her critique is worth reading top to bottom, she makes many great points.

More Black Families Homeschooling

Issues such as sub-par schools and values cut across racial lines...

(Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs.)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Actress Jean Parker Passes Away

Jean Parker, who played Beth opposite Katharine Hepburn's Jo in my favorite version of LITTLE WOMEN, has passed away at age 90.

I deeply appreciate her significant contribution to a film which has provided me with hours of pleasure and happy memories. My sincere condolences to her family.

(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

Christmas Music: Amy Grant

Amy Grant's Christmas albums are modern classics. I particularly love the first and last of her three albums.

Her earliest Christmas album, 1983's A CHRISTMAS ALBUM (linked above), is simply brilliant. Grant co-wrote several of the album's songs, including "Tennessee Christmas," which has become a country Christmas standard covered by singers including Alabama and Lee Greenwood. My favorite tracks are "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which begins with Grant a cappella and builds to a grand climax with orchestra and chorus, and "Angels We Have Heard on High," which is preceded with an instrumental rendition of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

The middle album, HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, is the least impressive of the three, but still a very good listen, including a fun cover of "Jingle Bell Rock."

Grant's most recent CD, A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER, is the hands-down favorite of my children. I can easily say that everyone's favorite song is "Christmas Can't Be Very Far Away." "Highland Cathedral" is a wonderful track performed by bagpipers, and "Agnus Dei" is stirring. My copy was sold by Target and includes a hidden bonus track of "Merry Christmas, Darling" which is a very nice "extra."

Light blogging this weekend due to Christmas preparations (the tree went up last night!) and family visits. Hope everyone is enjoying the season!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ditch the SAT Essay Section?

Betsy Newmark, who is an Advanced Placement teacher, has some solid thoughts today on the value -- or lack thereof -- of the new SAT writing section.

Personally, I think the essay is worthless, especially compared to content-driven Advanced Placement essay tests. There was an interesting article in The New York Times a few months ago in which an MIT professor could judge the writing scores from across the room, based on the way the essay looked!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"Life, Liberty, and Digital TV"

Where was Congress with my share of the taxpayer pie when I had to upgrade my Beta VCR?

Cookbooks for Christmas

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a nice article suggesting some of the newest and best cookbook titles for Christmas gift giving.

I highly recommend the cookbook mentioned first in the article, THE AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN FAMILY COOKBOOK. This book combines a huge number of do-able recipes for the average cook with helpful step-by-step photography and photos offering tips for beginners. Want to know the difference in size between minced onions and finely minced onions? There's a photo! Within the last week I made my first-ever Chicken and Dumplings, as well as the Pan-Seared Steak with Red Wine Sauce, and each meal turned out great. One very rarely can go wrong with anything from America's Test Kitchen or Cook's Illustrated.

THE BEST RECIPES IN THE WORLD by Mark Bittman looks like an interesting purchase for the future. Bittman's HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING is one of my most-referred-to volumes. His new book, as one could guess from the title, has an international spin.

Bittman, incidentally, has a nice article on the pleasures of cast-iron cooking in today's New York Times. (Registration may be required by The New York Times.)

Returning to recommended cookbooks: I haven't read it yet but Lisa Yockelson's CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE looks like an amazing feast for the eyes, if not the stomach!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Feeling Safer

Today's shooting by U.S. Air Marshals of an airplane passenger who made a bomb threat sends a powerful message to would-be terrorists.

Some stories indicate the passenger may have been mentally ill, and if so, it is very sad he was in a situation where he could make such a threat and put the marshals in a situation where they were forced to act. It would be hard to imagine the marshals being able to judge instantaneously whether the threat was serious or not. I seem to recall that Richard Reid, the would-be "shoe bomber," looked unkempt and possibly mentally ill, but he was nonetheless a very dangerous person who came far too close to blowing up an airplane.

Regardless of how the details unfold, I'm glad to know that there are marshals out there who are doing their utmost to protect our airplanes.

The Revolt Against Arnold Continues to Develop

Grassroots Republicans aren't at all happy about that controversial appointment of a far-left Democrat as Governor Schwarzenegger's chief of staff.

Mel Gibson's name was floated again in this article. There is now a "draft Mel" website, Mel Gibson for Governor.

Meanwhile, the Governor was hospitalized overnight with a rapid heartbeat. He is reported to be fine.

It's Time for the Annual Barney Christmas Video!

The Washington Post has a link up for the annual fun from Barney and, this year, Miss Beazley...Barney is a little jealous of his sis in "A Very Beazley Christmas."

Congratulations to California's Newest Representative

John Campbell is going to Congress. This is a Very Good Thing.

Hugh Hewitt has more on the election of "the smartest man in Sacramento."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fred Barnes on Bush's Communications Strategy

Fred Barnes dissects why the President was silent so long in the face of Democrat attacks on his war policy. He explains the President was consciously trying to be "nonpolitical" on Iraq, and consequently paid a high political price; he only reversed course once the Democrats "began a campaign of accusing Bush of lying to the country about prewar intelligence to justify invading Iraq--an impeachable offense."

The President's past attempts to be nonpolitical or bipartisan have been similarly rebuffed by the Democrats. Senator Kennedy was gifted with being the chief architect behind the No Child Left Behind Act -- and repaid the President's bipartisan gesture by being one of his loudest, nastiest critics.

Hopefully this time the President has learned the lesson for good: Democrats never play nice, and Republicans must thus always remain on the offensive.

The CIA Continues Its War Against Bush

What's with "Current and former CIA officers speaking to ABC News on the condition of confidentiality"?

Is it possible these leakers are committing treason?

Power Line says "Nothing short of criminal prosecution is going to stop these CIA leakers from further endangering the national interest. Let's get started. Now."

More on Blanco, the Emails, and the Buses

Last Saturday I posted regarding the emails which clearly showed that during that first week after Hurricane Katrina, Governor Kathleen Blanco was busy shaping a political fight against the President rather than focusing all her attention on managing the ongoing crisis.

Junkyard Blog (linked above) has been pondering this issue and says: "Rather than working strategies to get food and transportation lined up, they were lining up an air war against President Bush. Her actions are beyond criminal..."

Michelle Malkin has further thoughts in "Blanco, Brown, and the Bus Bungle" (scroll down).

I'd like to welcome La Shawn Barber readers who have found this site via the link posted there yesterday in the "From Bubba to Blanco" piece. Please visit again!

Universal Preschool: California Should Learn From Canada

It drives me crazy when I hear radio commercials here in California asserting that a child attending preschool will reap untold benefits not only personally, but for society. One such commercial is playing on KFI at this very moment, narrated, I believe, by Adam Arkin.

As Joanne Jacobs notes above, studies have shown there are some benefits for disadvantaged children who attend preschool, but for other children the benefits are questionable, at best. I recently read an article about a study showing that full-time preschool could actually be damaging for some children.

Beyond the questionable value of preschool, there is the issue of cost. Joanne has a link to an article showing that in Quebec, Canada, their program is not costing the millions originally projected, but is now into the billions.

Kate O'Beirne's New Book

Rush Limbaugh mentioned today that Kate O'Beirne has a book coming out at month's end, WOMEN WHO MAKE THE WORLD WORSE: AND HOW THEIR RADICAL FEMINIST ASSAULT IS RUINING OUR SCHOOLS, FAMILIES, MILITARY, and SPORTS (linked above). Rush wrote a "blurb" for the book.

Over the years I've particularly enjoyed O'Beirne's columns and appearances on THE CAPITAL GANG, and I'm interested to learn more about her book.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Two different papers have run major pieces today on A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

One of my favorite Christmas ornaments is a Hallmark glass ball marking the special's 25th anniversary. It doesn't seem possible that's now hung on my tree for 15 years!

One of the things I like best about this Christmas show is that, unlike many other Christmas specials, the Biblical Christmas story plays a significant role. I always find the scene where Linus recites the Christmas story very moving.

Here is the story from The Los Angeles Times.

Update: Mary Katharine Ham, guest blogging at Hugh Hewitt's site, has a nice post on this subject.

Monday, December 05, 2005

"California Teen Wins Science Competition"

If you read down to the third paragraph, you will find that he's a homeschooled California teen. Most impressive.

Happy St. Nicholas Day

Our children have their shoes lined up in the hall tonight, St. Nicholas Eve...when they awaken in the morning they will find a chocolate Santa Claus and other Christmas candies inside (which hopefully will survive past breakfast!).

Along with our Sunday night Advent celebrations, when we light another candle and one of the children reads a devotional and prayer -- often followed by watching a Christmas movie or special -- celebrating St. Nicholas Day is one of our family's favorite Advent/Christmas traditions.

Christmas Music: Dean Martin

One of my favorite albums not just at Christmas, but year 'round, is Dean Martin's A WINTER ROMANCE (linked above). Recorded for Capitol, Dean is in absolutely prime voice on a variety of winter-related tunes such as "June in January," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" and the lovely title tune. Five or six of the album's songs are traditionally associated with Christmas, including "White Chrismas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

A more complete collection of Dean's Christmas recordings can be found on MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT or the more recent release CHRISTMAS WITH DINO. MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT is one of the Christmas CD's most frequently requested by our children.

Dean can also be heard on the fun compilation CHRISTMAS WITH THE RAT PACK.

Thomas Sowell's Christmas Book List

Real Clear Politics has a Thomas Sowell column up with some terrific suggestions for books to give as Christmas gifts.

Two of the books on the list, David McCullough's 1776 and Sowell's own BLACK REDNECKS AND WHITE LIBERALS, are sitting on my shelves waiting to be read.

The main drawback to being in the business of proofreading is I spend so much time reading other people's work I don't get nearly as much time as I'd like for pleasure reading...

Half of DeLay Case Thrown Out

A judge today threw out conspiracy charges against Tom DeLay. This was the indictment reached by a jury after six months. Prosecutor Ronnie Earle then went "grand jury shopping" and secured a second indictment for money laundering in mere hours. DeLay will go to trial on the second charge.

Michelle Malkin has analysis and links (above).

Power Line thinks it's only a matter of time before Earle's humiliation is complete.

Kerry: U.S. Soldiers "Terrorize Kids"

I heard this sound bite this morning on Rush Limbaugh's show and was amazed. According to Senator Kerry, U.S. troops in Iraq are terrorizing "kids and children...women."

Captain's Quarters (linked above) has more.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

John Fund on Arnold's "Harriet Miers Moment"

So the question is, will Governor Schwarzenegger, like President Bush, recognize his mistake for what it is and change course?

This Weekend's Movie: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

As I mentioned Friday, I caught up with the film Friday night and thoroughly enjoyed it, though I had numerous quibbles with some of the filmmakers' choices.

The quibbles were part of the fun; it was fascinating dissecting the attempt to give a fresh spin or voice to a familiar story. The film's "revisionist" tone reminded me of the Winona Ryder version of LITTLE WOMEN, as each film attempted a grittier, more "realistic" depiction of its story -- though P&P was mercifully without the feminist overtones of the LITTLE WOMEN remake. (And is it just me, or did Keira Knightley look and act just a bit as Ryder did in LITTLE WOMEN?)

On the whole I found it a worthy entry among the filmed versions of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. They did a fairly good job condensing the plot, although I didn't enjoy the "spinning" seasonal changes, which made me dizzy (grin). I find Wickham a tiresome character and didn't mind seeing so little of him in the film. I found it refreshing that Mr. Collins wasn't portrayed as quite the buffoon he has been portrayed as in the past (although he's still pretty silly!). I particularly liked the re-thinking of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett's relationship in this version; in the Firth version in particular the parents barely tolerated each other, and I enjoyed seeing their marriage portrayed with more affection and good humor. I also liked seeing genuine tender emotion from Mrs. Bennet (i.e., when Lydia left).

As Missy has pointed out, some of the attempts at "realism" did not come off so well. The pig?! Puh-lease. The dance coming to a screeching halt when Bingley and Darcy entered? It just seemed silly. And Lady Catherine "calling" in what appeared to be the middle of the night?! The Bennett dinner table scenes seemed to me to be overdone in their messiness, but they were also visually fascinating. And I thought Chatsworth too famous a site to use as Pemberley; it took me out of the movie's reality, but maybe that's just because I've been there. ("Oh, look, there's the hill with the waterfall we climbed!")

I'm of two minds about the (in)famous ending; I rather liked being treated to a little more "romance" than we're used to with Austen, but I think it could have been handled somehow in a more Austen-like way. (The, er, hand on the leg? Not Austen!)

But enough of the question marks. The cinematography was dazzling, particularly the sequence where the camera moved through room after room at the ball. Matthew MacFadyen grew on me over the course of the film, and I found his Mr. Darcy rather touching. Keira Knightley aquitted herself well as Elizabeth, and the rest of the cast were all quite good. Donald Sutherland in particular was very touching in his last scene.

A well-made, diverting film which I'll certainly be adding to my DVD library in due course.

Goodnight Moon Still Not P.C. Enough?

You may recall that Harper Collins digitally removed a cigarette from a photograph of illustrator Clement Hurd on new copies of GOODNIGHT, MOON. In these politically correct times, Hurd was setting a bad example and the cigarette had to go.

Here is a very funny piece on further work that must be done to the book to bring it into conformity with current standards.

(Registration may be required by The New York Times.)

(Hat tip: Betsy's Page.)

NASCAR Helps U.S. Bobsled Team

A rather fascinating sports story: former NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine builds bobsleds. In the past the U.S. teams have used European-made sleds, but with Bodine's company entering the picture, that has changed, and the U.S. team has been having excellent results this season using Bodine's sleds.

In January ten NASCAR drivers will be in Lake Placid driving bobsleds in a fundraiser for the bobsled team. Among the racers may be Boris Said, whose father was a two-time Olympian.

(Hat tip: Holy Coast.)

Homeschoolers and College

The Los Angeles Times notes that more universities are finding ways to accommodate homeschooled applicants who do not have traditional high school transcripts.

While private colleges have been in the forefront of recruiting homeschooled students in recent years, public universities are increasingly working on ways to increase flexibility in admissions policies within the framework of state laws. The article particularly focuses on UC Riverside's pilot program to admit more homeschooled applicants.

(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Blanco's Staff Was Working to Blame Bush in Midst of Crisis

A series of emails have been released to Congress which show that while New Orleans was in a state of crisis within the first week after Hurricane Katrina, Governor Kathleen Blanco and her staff were hard at work -- not managing the hurricane's aftermath, but figuring out how to blame the federal government for the "slow" response to the hurricane.

Update: Welcome to readers from La Shawn Barber's Corner!

The Cornbread Book

I purchased this book as part of my ongoing quest to find the perfect sweet cornbread. It arrived yesterday from Amazon, and I've been greatly enjoying the author's sense of humor and devotion to all things cornbread. Looks like lots of good recipes, too! I've got one picked out to try for Sunday dinner.

"Free Speech Under Siege"

A must-read by George Will, it particularly addresses concerns about attempts by the government to regulate free speech in the blogosphere and on talk radio.

Louisiana Greed?

Louisiana officials complain they haven't yet received enough federal dollars to fund their rebuilding.

Maybe if the state's representatives hadn't been so greedy, asking for an outrageous $250 billion, they might have received more funds by now?

I note that Walter Isaacson, vice chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, says "We're not asking for $250 billion anymore," he said. "We're asking for things that at most would total one-fifth of that." Which just shows to go how wrongheaded Louisiana's initial demands were.

Senator Landrieu insists her actions had nothing to do with the initial resistance to meeting Louisiana's high demands, as she continues to childishly zing the administration: "I'm not sure it was ever the intention of this administration to really help."

Whatever happened to the idea that the state and local communities should take the chief responsibility for helping themselves?

(Registration may be required by The Los Angeles Times.)

Books vs. Movies

Time Magazine recently ran this fun article comparing the book and film versions of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, HARRY POTTER, and THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE.

And on Friday USA TODAY ran an article about the Narnia books as Biblical allegory. (Input "Narnia" in USA TODAY's search engine. Their direct links seem to be glitchy fairly often...)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Brief Thoughts on Jane Austen

I saw PRIDE AND PREJUDICE tonight and thoroughly enjoyed it, even while I quibbled with some of the filmmakers' choices.

A more detailed review will have to wait for the weekend, but in the meantime I wanted to share this most interesting analysis of Jane Austen's writing (linked above).

(Hat tip: Missyisms.)

Blogs of Beauty Awards

Sallie of the blog Two Talent Living is hosting the Blogs of Beauty Awards, created to honor the work of Christian women who blog.

If you are looking for new blogs to visit, I highly recommend checking out the links for some of the nominees and finalists. There are a number of gifted women in the blogosphere writing about motherhood, homeschooling, religious issues, and more.

Some of the award finalists I have particularly enjoyed visiting in recent months are Mrs. Happy Housewife, Life in a Shoe, Spunky Homeschool, Biblical Womanhood (click on "Crystal's Blog" on the left), and Amy's Humble Musings.

As with blogs of any kind, I don't always agree with the points of view expressed in these blogs, but they all make for interesting and sometimes thought-provoking reading.

Macy's Says "Merry Christmas"

USA Today has a brief but interesting article on the "Merry Christmas" policies of various retailers.

Macy's, which saw controversy last year due to stories its employees were forbidden to say "Merry Christmas" -- the article doesn't make clear whether or not that was the actual policy -- is going all-out this year with full-page ads that say "Merry Christmas."

I found it rather amusing that Lowe's attempted to sell "holiday trees" and pulled banners with that phrase from all its stores after receiving complaints. I'm glad to hear that at least they were responsive to the public on that issue. It's always particularly perplexing when stores want to sell "holiday" items which are specifically Christmas related and will thus be purchased only by those who observe Christmas. Who could possibly be offended?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Allen, McCain Favorites?

I'll stay home before I'll vote for McCain, who among other things interfered in the race here in O.C. for Chris Cox's former seat in the House. McCain campaigned for a pro-abortion moderate Republican, who fortunately lost to conservative, pro-life State Senator John Campbell in the primary. Campbell is familiar to many as a regular on the Hugh Hewitt show, and he's in a runoff election for the seat next week.

At this point I'm very positive about George Allen and feel he has great potential...

Filibuster Coming?

Bring. It. On.

And if the Republican Senators turn into a bunch of spineless wimps (again) at this crucial juncture, they won't ever again see a dime of my money, and I'm sure there are many more who would say the same.

Revolt Brewing Against Arnold?

Hugh Hewitt said today on the radio that he is on the verge of regretting his endorsement of Governor Schwarzenegger. When Hugh, a Republican party loyalist to the core, says something like that publicly, you know the situation isn't good.

George Neumayr of The American Spectator (linked above) quotes the California Republican Assembly President, Mike Spence, likening Arnold's appointment of Susan Kennedy as chief of staff to "George Bush appointing Howard Dean to be his chief of staff."

Kennedy, incidentally, is not related to California's First Lady, Maria Shriver, whose mother is, of course, a Kennedy.

A point in the article I question: "They were given a choice between a meaningful victory with real Republican Tom McClintock or a hollow victory with a de facto Democrat, and they chose the latter." As deeply as I admire McClintock, I'm not sure he was a viable candidate against Democrat Cruz Bustamante. Perhaps McClintock might have been able to win with Scharzenegger out of the picture, but the real choice might have been a loss with a "real Republican" versus the "hollow victory with a de facto Democrat." And as much as I dislike some of Governor Schwarzenegger's policies, to date I think we've been better off than we would have been with Davis or Bustamante in office over the past months.

I wonder if there is any seriousness whatsoever to the idea that Mel Gibson's name "is being floated." I suspect it doesn't have much basis in reality, but I was intrigued to receive a fundraising letter for McClintock from ol' Mel a few weeks ago.

The Governor did appoint a Republican as his new finance chief today.

Giving Thanks for Walt Disney World

Kevin Yee of Mice Age has a great column up in which he lists 10 things in each Disney World park for which he's thankful.

I've been very, very fortunate to be able to spend a couple of vacations at Disney World. Being a Disneyland enthusiast (and former employee), I wasn't quite sure, before my first trip, what I would think of Disney World. I fell in love almost immediately. Staying in the themed resorts is almost like staying overnight in one of the parks! If you have the opportunity to visit, by all means do.

It may be a while until I can visit again, but in the meantime, I'll be dreaming of it!

The Cupcake Craze

A fun story from an Australian paper on the current interest in cupcakes, which mentions a couple of my favorite "food" websites: 52 Cupcakes (my source for the article link) and Cupcakes Take the Cake.

Fred Barnes: The MSM Still Has the Power

Fred Barnes has a good analysis pointing out that while conservatives have created a strong alternative media via talk radio and the Internet, the mainstream media still has enormous power to set the agenda, while conservative media usually reacts to same.

He points out some recent -- and disturbing -- samples of the MSM's news fakery which prevails as conventional wisdom, such as the idea Rep. Murtha had suddenly changed his position on the Iraq War. He also mentions the MSM's ability to create "characters" such as Cindy Sheehan "out of whole cloth." A worthwhile read.

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