the minor premise

the minor premise

Monday, August 28, 2006

yestermeme - books

Cminor tagged me for the "book" exercise many posts ago, but I did not answer. Now that we have been tapped again by the Ironiccatholic , I figure I need to clear past blogdebts. Ironic's answer will be posted at a later time.

At first I found the book exercise a little intimidating, not being as prolific a reader as C. But I have done my best to complete the task in the blogospherical spirit:

1. One book that changed your life:

The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis ; the books are probably the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of going ahead and becoming Catholic. While the "Christ figure" bit has been done and overdone in literature and movies, C.S. Lewis' Aslan was a very strong portrayal of a God of fearful power who could still be approached.

2. One book that you've read more than once:

The Rolling Stones - Robert Heinlein

It was the first Heinlein -- and probably the first science fiction book that I ever read. When my kids got old enough, I insisted that we read it again. The technical mumbo jumbo does not get in the way of the story in any of Heinlein's works, and the theme of family is particularly appealing in this one. Certainly in this early work some of the references are dated (slide rules? what are they?), but the read is still pleasant.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court -- Mark Twain

While truly not a practical tome, it is inspirational how our hero improvises and invents he way to a better quality of life, despite his primitive company and circumstances.

4. One book that made you laugh:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglass Adams

I find the late Mr. Adams to be perfect in his comic timing and in the rhythm of his prose. Just try saying "Eccentrica Galumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon five"  or "Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster" or even "Ulan Kaluphid" and you will hear the almost Seussian music to his inventions. Adams' atheism doesn't really seep into his stories until later in the trilogy; so this one is just pure fun.

5. One book that made you cry:

The Jungle -- Upton Sinclair

I had to read this one for highschool, and while I expected gross (and wasn't disappointed), I didn't expect the compounding of misery that the main character had to somehow endure.  I learned later that the book was Sinclairs attemept at socialist proselytizing.

6. One book that you wish had been written:

Rock Stardom for the Mildly Talented -- could be written by any number of people; take your pick

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

Brain Droppings - George Carlin

The former Mr. Conductor spoiled my respect for him gained through his brilliant use of the English language by being just
plain old mean-spirited and anti-child.

8. One book you're currently reading:

Mere Christianity -- C.S. Lewis

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

From Beirut to Jerusalem -- Thomas Friedman
I have read the first half of the book twice; haven't sat myself down to read the second.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Debunking Dept. -- over "cell"

The recent reports of the ability to initiate embryonic stem cell lines without destroying the embryo appears to be exaggerated according to U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops Deputy Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities Richard Doerflinger.
The talley: two stem cell lines resulting from 16 destroyed embryos. Number of embryros to survive the process: zero.

Hat tip: Heart, Mind and Strength Weblog

Labels: ,

Friday, August 25, 2006

Back to Plan B

Not much time for posting today, but I wanted to get a couple of links up. If I find anything else, I will add it later.

Let me see if I've got this straight:
* A daily dose of from 0.05 to 0.15 mg of levonorgestrel requires a prescription.
* Requiring that a 1.5 mg dose of levonorgestrel must have a prescription is patriarchal tyranny over women's bodies, sexphobic anti-scientism and the precursor to a HANDMAID'S TALE-like theocracy.

One of several excellent points from
this view of the issue from Victor Morton of Rightwing Film Geek. August 24, 2006 post.
(Hat tip: Amy Welborn August 25, 2006 post.)

As Cassandra used to say, "Doom! Doom!" The mainstream media blithely ignores the facts in their Levonorgestrel love-fest and ridicules us poor benighted conservatives who just want to interfere with people's fun. I'm tellin' ya, folks, these things ain't Altoids-- though women and girls may soon be popping them as if they were. You mess with Mother Nature; you're gonna rue the day!

Levonorgestrel-based contraceptives like Plan B carry proven risks of depression, weight gain, skin rashes/discoloration, vision problems, breast pain, loss of sexual desire, etc. Repeated use of high-dose ECs will expose teens to these risks, as well as a significantly increased risk of a potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
Teens looking for Plan B are already risking exposure to STDs...

by Susan Willis posted on the USCCB's page (linked below.)

USCCB's page of factsheets, articles, and letters on the issue.

Doubly galling is the fact that the President's nominee for FDA commissioner has been stonewalled while the Plan B dereg was rammed through. Now the blackmailing senators say they're ready to lift their block of his confirmation, having gotten their way. More on this

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Post -August 22: Armageddon tired of this

It is well past the fateful day of August 22, and the world is still here. It is still here just like it was on April 22, 1844, January 1, 2000, and, for that matter, September 12, 2001. Frank Zappa once said that there would be no nuclear war, because there was "too much real estate," probably referring to all the money the capitalists would lose from spoiled land. I tend to take more comfort about end-of-the-world worries from the following:

But as for that day and hour [the time when Heaven and Earth will pass away], nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father only. For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing until the Flood came and swept all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes.
- Matthew 24:36-39

You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.
- Matthew 24:43

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Your Attention, Please

It has come to the attention of The Minor Premise that the following opinion piece:

Why I Choose Not To Use a Car Seat

has recently been making the rounds on the Internet and doubtless causing irritation to safety advocates everywhere.

This essay has been duly reviewed by the literary analysis experts here at The Minor Premise, with the conclusion that the piece is in all likelihood mere parody composed with the intent of informing readers that breastfeeding is as important to infant health as is using a car seat. This purpose may be deduced by the simple substitution of the word "breastfeed" for "use a car seat," along with the substitution of some other lactation-related words for car seat-related words throughout. When this is done, the actual meaning of the essay immediately becomes clear. Thus there is probably no need for readers to get their undies in a bunch over it.

The Minor Premise finds the essay astute, if perhaps a little too smart for the room, and urges caution in the employment of irony without proper training in the genre. Our analysts would add that the essay is an excellent resource when one is preaching to the choir, but has the potential to be inflammatory if disseminated generally. While we do not disagree with its fundamental premise, we do urge restraint in using exhortations of this kind among persons who are not already fully informed about the health benefits of lactation as this may result in the lecturer's being regarded as something of a fanatic and thus have the reverse of the intended effect. We also suggest that the comparison is not perfect as the human organism is singularly ill-equipped for sailing through windshields at 60 mph, but in most cases is able to tolerate (though seldom without some health cost) moderate digestive assaults.

We here at The Minor Premise are unaware of any brochures being handed out with gift packs at maternity hospitals that contain instructions for automotive travel with unrestrained children. Having intimate knowledge of the adventure that is automotive travel with restrained children, we fail to see the appeal the other seems to hold for certain people. Breastfeeding your child, except while driving, is just fine by us.

You may return to your regularly scheduled blog reading.

--DMinor contributed to this report


Top Reasons I'm Skeptical About Fidel's Improvement

1.The initial postop reports read almost as if Fidel (whom I guess could be the Chuck Norris of Cuba) diagnosed and performed surgery on himself and then gave himself a clean bill of health while meeting with assorted other tinpot dictators and launching a continent-wide literacy program. (Chuck Norris, of course, wouldn't need to do all that because Chuck's intestines are under orders not to bleed.)

2.Those cheery photos, posted on the occasion of his 80th birthday, that seem to be trying to make him look like some kind of tropical Santa Claus. ( What's with the vivid red pajamas, for Pete's sake? You mean his whole wardrobe isn't olive drab?) If those apple cheeks weren't airbrushed, maybe that wedding gown in the post-bombing picture from Lebanon really did get blown out of the shop and land, stand down, in pristine condition in the middle of the street.

3. That photo op with Mad King Hugo of Venezuela. Was it Reutered, or wasn't it? And if it wasn't, has anybody noticed another occasion on which Fidel failed to cast a shadow? Could he be...undead? Or has Hugo joined with the inner circle there in a grand production of Weekend at Fidel's? (For the definition of Reutered, and additional commentary on the mystery of the shadows, see the combox to the post. I wish I could claim originality for the vampire theory and the Weekend at Bernie's analogy, but others who are cleverer than I originated those.)

4. See D's post below.

5a. All is sweetness and light in the Workers' Paradise according to Granma Online. (Like that's new.) Fidel and Raul chat placidly together for hours on end like those old codgers in Secondhand Lions while peace reigns in the streets, youth swear eternal allegiance to the Revolution, and 80th birthday parties are celebrated as far away as Harlem. (Yeah, the one in New York.) Half the world strives to outdo the other half with increasingly absurdly ostentatious 'Get Well' displays. (John Paul the Great never saw the like of some of these, and was probably grateful.) Should that fanged maniac Bush try to invade, the Army of the Revolution is ready for him. Why Bush would want to give himself the trouble is a mystery into which Granma never delves.

5b. Darn thing about Granma. Normally the headlines are all about the latest miracles over which Fidel has presided, and how awful the news is in the United States (and occasionally, other free republics.) Well, the requisite bad-news-for-us story is there (an updated casualty count from Iraq) and they even graciously threw in one on Obrador's grandstanding in Mexico. Fidel, however, is conspicuously inconspicuous on the front page as the various triumphs of his wannabees Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales are given priority instead. Now I know he's not gonna be doing much heavy lifting after major surgery, but--why so little news? I mean, over here we had LBJ hiking the pajama top to show off his surgical scar. We hear more about our heads of states' medical histories than most of us want to know. Why no physicians' report? And why does Raul suddenly seem to be the one doing all the talking when fresh out of surgery it was the man himself?

5c. 5 a & b were drawn from Granma posts up over the weekend; I just went over there to copy the link. One of today's headlines is on a photo exhibit of Castro's life "attended by more than 100 people!" Why is this starting to feel like a setup?

I'll refrain from making any assumptions or placing bets as I can't afford to lose the money and I'm not keen on having to make myself a tinfoil hat. The old crumpet may yet resurrect--but I have a feeling that in the meantime he's got his cronies sweating.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fidel, while Havana burns

C was recently asking me if I thought Fidel was still among the living. I told her that, fauxtographed pictures not withstanding, I thought he was still kicking. "When he goes," I said, "they'll mobilize the army. Every communist/totalitarian country does that when their leader kicks off so that upstarts can be put down quickly. That hasn't happened yet, so he's gotta be alive." Well, they mobilized the army. Guess we can expect the martial music and the announcement any time now . . . .



Friday, August 18, 2006

quick note

No Pasaran! reports that Jack Kevorkian, despite age and ill health, doesn't seem to be in any hurry to take the 'cure' he provided for so many others. Excellent link to a paper opposing his selection for the Gleitsman Award in 2000 which incudes a partial 'patient' list.
This from the pages of Syracuse University's Center for Human Policy, a disability-rights organization. Also links to a Madame X column on the same topic.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

And Now, the Book Meme

1. One book that changed your life:
*Gotta be the Bible.
2. One book that you've read more than once:
*The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Also Mary Stuart's Merlin Tetralogy and the whole Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. I'm not too obsessive, am I?
3. One book you'd want on a desert island:
*Chesterton's answer to this was A Practical Guide to Shipbuilding, and I guess it would be cheezy to reuse that joke; maybe a really good Desert Island field and tracking guide instead. Or at least The Klutz Book of Knots.
4. One book that made you laugh:
*Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker "trilogy." And Last Chance to See. Especially the Lithuanian ant-proof socks part.
5. One book that made you cry:
*I'm not much of a cryer--I think the closest I ever got was at the end of a stage performance of Amahl and the Night Visitors. It's been published; does that count?
6. One book that you wish had been written:
*Ceiling Fan Mechanics for Dummies. It would take too long to explain.
7. One book that you wish had never been written:
*Most of the really good answers have been given already. I suppose I could toss off The Communist Manifesto or something like that, but I'll take a different tack, even if it's kinda stupid:
Cathy Williams: From Slave to Female Buffalo Soldier looks like it ought to be a fascinating read. It might have been, in some hands other than those of the author's. There being little firsthand detail on the lady's life, he resorted to heavy extrapolation, some of which was all right but much of which was unconvincing. His history was a bit shoddy in a few places--this is the only place I've seen it suggested that Revolutionary heroine Deborah Sampson might have been black. (If she had been, groovy, but there just doesn't seem to be any evidence of it.) He was also a bit repetitious.
The author, if I remember correctly, curates a military history museum. I don't know if he's ex-active duty, but his writing style indicates to me that he is. There is a reason why the military style of writing is not encouraged outside military reports. This book exemplifies it perfectly.
8. One book you're currently reading:
*The Neandertal Enigma by James Shreeve, and Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom.
9. One book you've been meaning to read:
*Teilhard de Chardin's The Future of Man. Actually I've read a couple of the essays but it's ponderously slow going and I have to take notes just to keep track of what he's saying, so it may b a while before I get to it again. Also The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio.
And yes, I do know the difference between one and two. But sometimes it's so hard to choose!

Now it's my turn to tag, so I'll tag DMinor. Also Ramblingspeech and Molly R., should they ever get around to visiting again. Maybe if I send Molly those tofu recipes I promised her...


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Order of the Tinfoil Hat #2

There are two kinds of people in Georgia: those who live in the Fourth District, and those who, for the past several years, have arisen every morning giving earnest thanks that Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney does not represent them. McKinney has in the past distinguished herself for the sheer number of tinfoilable assertions she has made during her political career; thus we can see this as sort of a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the wake of her disappointing loss in her party's primary runoff, McKinney is alleging, every chance she gets, that the election was stolen from her, and that electronic voting machines are rigged to cheat black voters.
Her tirade for this week was at the National Dialogue and Revival for Social Justice in the Black Church at Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Augusta.
link here
More on the story is here.
(requires registration)

Next time you're in town, Cynthia, drop on by. Give me a call before you come and I'll fix iced tea and muffins. I like what you've done with your hair, by the way; it'll be easier to size the hat over than that 'do you were wearing when you slugged the Capital Police officer.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Motion Tabled

Last week, my younger son was enjoying lunch with friends at the Large High School cafeteria, when he was informed by some of his fellow students that he and his group were sitting at the "black" table. My son and his friends were not to be easily deterred: they claimed that they had a right to be at the table, and that the student body should be one community anyway. Those that were staking out the table for "blacks only" weren't buying it. So, one of the boys took a different tack. "Well, I am black," he stated, his blond hair and northern European features giving the lie to his declaration. This strategy did not dissuade the claimants. Despite the objections, the boys held their ground until the end of their meal. When they got up to throw away their trash, the encroaching party at last won the day and took their seats.

When I heard the story, I was saddened, and a bit angered. Had we made so little progress in the last 50 years that our children still openly used race to include or exclude? And what would be the reaction, if someone had placed a "coloreds only" sign on the table? My own highschool experience at The Central Highschool in the late 70s saw plenty of racial incidents, but it was rare that anyone of any race would be so overt in their racism. On reflection, though, I found something about which to be positive. At The Central Highschool, a similar incident would have probably ended violently, especially if the party had decided to hold its ground as my son's party did. The incident at the Large Highschool ended peacefully, and my son did not indicate that he felt threatened. Perhaps this is all the progress I can expect.

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."
- Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963


Not Too Smart

Apparently I got book memed a week or so ago and missed it completely; I realize it now only because D was playing geek and tracking links or something and pointed it out to me. My apologies; I'll get to work on it. Thanks to MrsDarwin for thinking of me!

A tech innovation widely coveted by school teachers today is a jazzy computerized 'blackboard' sometimes called an Active Board or SMART Board. It has some advantages over that the methods that went before: No chalk dust, no neuron-destroying hallucinogenic marker ink, no more collection of early Jurassic visual aid projectors that must be passed room to room and used with the blinds pulled down. The boards are controlled from the teacher's computer, and everything each class needs may be posted on them. Teachers can post and remove notes for each class they teach without having to erase and rewrite several times a day. The coach with the illegible handwriting can finally be understood. Films, pictures, charts and graphs are available with a keystroke. Maps can be kept up to date cheaply and easily--no more reminding the students to ignore those two Germanys, East Pakistan where Bangladesh should be, or that "Here be Dragons" in the more remote parts of the Indian Ocean. It's Powerpoint for the Converse All-Stars set; K-12 tech for the tech generation.

There's one bad meatball in this electronic smorgasbord, however, which we encountered the first week of school. Hon. Son #2 found out about it the hard way during his beginning-of-term Algebra pre-test the second day of classes.

When one of these silicon marvels is on but not being used to present information, the screen has to default to something neutral. This isn't a problem if that is a nice relaxing still picture of something. But often, it's the moving screen saver on the teacher's computer. Not everyone, it seems, has caught on that this can be a problem.

Hon. Son's Algebra teacher has a screen saver with a motif honoring her alma mater. That's fine as long as it's just on her computer screen--but not if it's playing life-size on the board behind her during a test or while she's lecturing! Hon. Son, who has no previous experience of SMART Boards, wasn't very smart himself that day. He was so thrown off by Ugga the Georgia Bulldog prancing back and forth across the classroom wall that he didn't finish the test before the bell rang.

School is in its second week now, and Hon. Son, not generally a distractible sort, says he is (after multiple repetitions of the dog act) able to tune it out completely. I wonder, though, if this space-age study aid will end up creating as many problems as it solves. I'm not sure, for example, that his older brother, who has learning disabilities and is easily distracted, would have made it through high school if he'd had to grapple with aquarium fish, cartoon characters, and fireworks dancing on the note board in front of him in every class.

We spend huge amounts of money (you could look it up) on school programs to assist special-needs students. Imagine all those programs, all those learning specialists, being mooted by an interfering bit of machinery and froufrou!

Most people will have difficulty focusing on a task when the environment is filled with distractions; some are especially sensitive and have very low tolerance for anything moving or making noises around them. If teachers want to be effective, they need to keep this in mind. Teachers, would you set up a television set tuned to Cartoon Network in the classroom during a lecture? No? Then please, please, spare your students the Smartboard Show as well!


Monday, August 14, 2006

A few reads

Nat Hentoff
deplores the lack of public attention to the Darfur genocide. With the world focused on flare-ups in other areas, God only knows where this will end.

When the violence began, it was Muslims targeting Christians. Now, it's Muslims targeting Muslims who happen to have darker skin and Subsaharan features. (Oh, did I mention the oil?) I'd really love to see some of those theorists who assert the unity of all Islam to explain this one.

A letter exchange between Luana Stotlenburg, an activist who now regrets her abortions and the editors of Ms. Magazine.

feminine genius, well-armed with irony, relates a case of side effects from the contraceptive patch, while the manufacturer looks the other way. There's something about these ladies' writing style that I like!

The Ironic Catholic launches an Iron Theologian competition and posts the first installment if a list of '100 Ironic Reasons to be Catholic.' One of her commentors was Sister Mary Martha, whom I decided to check out and have thus far found pretty funny. Like some other people around here, she couldn't seem to resist social commentary on Mel Gibson's troubles, either.

Mrs. Darwin at DarwinCatholic discusses the moral status of the tarot deck and other occult paraphernalia and It put me in mind of some issues I've been thinking about (and discussing) recently, but that's for another post.

I did recall that back when I was a plaid-skirted second grader at Catholic school, we had a number of donated board games on the cloakroom shelf for rainy-day recess use. It was the first time in my life I'd ever seen--or heard of-- a Ouija board (who in the Sam Hill let that one into the building, I wonder? I remember the Sisters being a little more on the ball!) Anyhow, nobody summoned up any spirits or created a need for a consultation with an exorcist (wouldn't that have gone over well? Our diocese wasn't taking any orthodoxy prizes as it was, even then. Well, especially then. It was the late '60s...but I digress.) A number of the boys, however, who had a little knowledge about the mechanics of the thing, found an entertaining use for it:
Small,nerdy-looking necktied Catholic Schoolboy:
Ouija Board, who is Pattie in love with?
(very brief pause)
For some reason, the mediums (media? medii?) in the movies always seem so much more laborious in their use thereof. Was it youthful energy, or did some of those guys have an in with the spirit world?...

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dr. Moreau, call your office, et. al.

According to this article, a number of clinics around the world are now offering face lifts and cosmetic injections using tissue from 6-12 week gestation aborted babies. Were this not grotesque enough, the article adds:

To obtain the cells, women in underdeveloped nations are paid up to $200 dollars to carry a baby up to the optimum eight to 12 week period when the fetuses are “harvested” for their stem cells which are then sold to exclusive cosmetic clinics.

Evidence again that one woman's "choice" is another woman's exploitation.
Cynthia McKinney's district contrived to get rid of her again; anyone could have predicted she'd go out with a bang. According to local radio reports this morning, members of her campaign were involved in a scuffle. I'll post the link when I get to it. The AJC's site has some items on it today.

Dick Yarbrough, an Atlanta-based columnist/humorist, proposed McKinney's nomination as ambassador to Outer Space during her last hiatus. Perhaps she'd be so kind as to oblige us again.
Iraq the Model present evidence in their Aug. 9 post that the spirit of The Onion is alive and well even in the Middle East. Who'da thunk it?

Personal: Tripped over a dog and jammed little finger of right hand day before yesterday. Don't think it's broken, but it is pretty painful and swollen. Have been keeping it taped to adjoining finger as I figure that's what a doc would do if it is broken; hoping to avoid half a day at the office. It looks better today. Thank goodness; typing with taped fingers is tricky business.
Yard eco: Squirrel munchkins have reached a size that makes them hard to distinguish from the adults; Momma was looking awfully chubby atop the feeder yesterday. A second litter? Maybe I'm overfeeding them. Hummers plentiful; I think we have a number of fledglings among them. There was a whole family at the backyard feeder yesterday: a larger female, and a smaller female and male.
Harvest: Lots of bell peppers; a sort of bruising or insect damage is common on quite a few of them. I'll have to look it up. Still have some cayennes and eggplants ripening.
Knitting: Have to pull out a couple of rows of baby gift. Should be interesting with taped fingers.
For days that couldn't be worse, from Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom:
Remember the psalm in which, after more restrained forms of expression, suddenly David bursts out, 'You, my Joy!'...when we can say to God 'O You my Joy!' or when you can say 'O You the pain of my life, O You who are standing in the midst of it as torment, as a problem, as a stumbling block!', when we can address Him with violence, then we have established a relationship of prayer.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I was directed to this Daily Mail piece titled Sorry, But My Children Bore Me to Death! by Enbrethiliel at Sancta Sanctis, who found it at feminine- genius. I gave some thought to trying an essay of my own but ended up with a garden-variety fisk. What the heck, I've been doing "boring" stuff (heavy on the back-to-school prep and shopping) with my kids all weekend, and I've still got a section of floor to finish. Baby still schools at home, furthermore, and we need to get started. Literary style points can wait.

I don't recommend the essay for the easily incensed, but it is an edifying read, especially if playing social scientist is your thing. (Note to Molly R.: deep breathing required before reading.) The author, according to the Mail "argues provocatively that modern women must not be enslaved by their children." I can't say I'd argue with that "provocatively," but I think the term "enslaved" is a bit gratuitous (what to expect from the Mail?) The author seems to be of the opinion that the term covers basic care of one's children. I think her attitude owes as much to the modern distaste for inconveniencing onesself to any degree as to anything cultural; still, she seems like someone who would have been at home as one of those obnoxious upper-crust female characters in a Jane Austen or English Victorian society novel.

I fisk it thus:

Invitations to attend a child's birthday party or, worse, a singalong session were met with the same refrain: 'I would love to but I just can't spare the time.

Okay, point for the author (not that she can expect many from here.) A one-year-old's birthday party is as a rule not terribly interesting except to the immediate family, which is why they have not generally been celebrated outside the immediate family prior to this generation. So why go to toddler parties at all unless they are for someone you know well and really care about? By all means, make an excuse!

A toddler playgroup is usually formed with the intent not only of allowing toddlers to experience interacting with each other, but also to give mothers who might otherwise be at home by themselves a chance to interact with their peers. The conversation at these events does tend to run to baby talk, (I'd rather discuss developmental milestones and the physiology of teething than gossip and fashion, myself,) but it need not be limited to that. Start a book club! Start a debate society! Take turns lecturing each other on current topics in particle physics!

I was probably ogling the merchandise at Harvey Nichols or having my highlights done instead.

Serious intellectual pursuits to be sure. I can see why she was anxious to escape the moms' coffee klatch. Believe it or not, one can occasionally glean useful information from discussions of "teething and potty training." Of course, if the nanny's just going to do it all anyway, one probably doesn't feel any need to have that information.

I spent much of the early years of my children's lives in a workaholic frenzy because the thought of spending time with them was more stressful than any journalistic assignment I could imagine.

The looming question on all our minds is, whatever possessed her to have children? Most people who don't enjoy spending time with children, have access to contraception, and have no objection to its use just take steps not to beget any. It's common and acceptable in our culture. We have to assume she was under no compulsion to become a parent, and career-woman status gave her an excellent excuse not to.

[Disclaimer, submitted at the suggestion of D, who thinks I'm going to be ostracized by the Catholic blogosphere for this: I accept and follow church teaching on contraception. I did not make the above statement to endorse the practice. As much of the western world doesn't see or do things my way, however, I remain surprised that given her stated distaste for childish things our author opted to reproduce.]

What kind of mother hates reading bedtime stories? A bad mother, that's who, and a mother who is bored rigid by her children.

Well, she said it, I didn't.

few of those women will admit that they made a bad, or — worse — a boring career move to motherhood.

Wait--I know this sounds crazy, but--is it remotely possible that some of them find motherhood at least as interesting and rewarding as whatever they did before? There's no end of drudgery in office work, either.

And while we're on the boring theme again, I'd like to ask: This lady's a writer by profession. Does she own a thesaurus? Do her kids just have to be boring and tedious? Can't they occasionally be tiresome, noisome, wearisome, annoying, or a nuisance?

Am I a lazy, superficial person because I don't enjoy packing up their sports kit, or making their lunch, or sitting through coffee mornings with other mothers discussing how Mr Science (I can't remember most of the teachers' names) said such and such to Little Johnny and should we all complain to the headmaster.

On one of the blogs that directed me to this article, someone remarked surprise that an educated woman who seems to hold education in high esteem doesn't even take enough of an interest in what her sons are learning to know who their teachers are. I have to agree.

At this point in the conversation, my mind drifts to thoughts of my own lunch and which shoes I plan to wear with what skirt.

Hmmm...are we beginning to see a pattern here?

since when did masterminding 20 school runs a week become an accomplishment? Getting a First at college was an accomplishment.

I have to make some assumptions here, as I'm not familiar with the lexicon of the English education system. If we equate 'getting a First' with, say, graduating Summa Cum Laude or being valedictorian, I'd say it's an accomplishment...right up until somebody hires you. Then it's back to the bottom, none of it matters one whit, and you have to prove yourself all over again. All that signifies in the real world is, can you rise to the job you've been called upon to do? It doesn't make any difference whether that job is in a newsroom or a nursery. Both are pretty darn challenging, if you ask me. In neither do you get rewarded for resting on your laurels.

Research tells us that mothers drink the most when they have young children. Is that because talking to anyone under the age of ten requires some sort of lobotomy?

Never heard that stat, and ceratinly never practiced it myself. But I'll let you in on a little secret: If you talk to children as if they are rational beings capable of understanding you, you raise rational beings capable of understanding many things, and of speaking intelligently. I personally have heard more sense from many a kid than I have from some adults.

'Bringing up children is among the most boring and exhausting things you can do,' she says.

Exhausting, yes. Boring, I would say not. BTW, can't she sing any other tune? I'm really getting that "lady doth protest too much" feeling. Personally, I'd be bored to tears at Harvey Nichols or sitting in a hairdresser's chair.

Her solution was to avoid subjugating her own life to that of her chil-dren's. 'I'm certainly not traipsing around museums or sitting on the floor doing Lego if that's what you mean by being at home,' she explains. 'I'm loving it, but my children fit into my life and not the other way around.

All right, I'll bite. Just what does she do at home all day? If it's eating bon-bons while watching soap operas, maybe leaving the job wasn't such a good idea.

I've always found kids a great excuse for slipping off to a musem for the afternoon, or for playing with Legos. At my age, I'd look silly doing it alone (the Legos, that is.)

Many of my friends — fortysomething, university-educated professionals who swore that they would be normal parents — make it a policy now that 'our kids go where we go'. They drag their three-year-olds to dinner parties where the youngsters end up in front of a video all night. (I have seen children having tantrums in front of guests, and rather than send the children to their rooms, the parents send their guests home.)

Okay, here we have the crux of the problem. On the one hand we have peple who want to reproduce, but not trouble themselves with such trivial pursuits as raising the resultant offspring, and on the other people who think raising children requires either making little emperors of them or pretending they are an accessory (or a pint-sized adult.) There is, surprise, surprise, a middle way.

Children, as they used to say at La Leche League, need quantities of quality time. They need you the parent, actively involved in their daily lives, taking an interest in the work and play that they do. That doesn't mean they have to have every single blessed minute of your time. It doesn't mean they have to be attached to you as with an umbilical cord. It doesn't mean they should dictate every hour of your schedule. It certainly doesn't mean they should be thrust into social interactions they can't handle, or allowed to be inconsiderate of others.

Part of being a parent is understanding what your children can handle, and what they can't. An adult dinner party is no place for a child. It is a very rare child who wouldn't be better off having take-out pizza and board games with an accomodating neighborhood teen. If an error in judgement leads to your taking your child to an event that is too much, you need to inconvenience yourself a little in order not to inconvenience everyone around you. It's happened to all of us.

'We live in an age when parenting is all about martyrdom.'

No. But it is a responsibility, and like any responsibility requires time and effort to do well. Therein lies the difference.

'When the current generation of mothers was young, children were simply appendages.

It's an odd sort of appendage that is completely detached from the main body. Our heroine then continues (quoting:)

'Our parents would never cancel an adult activity to get us to a soccer game. They would often not show up for our games or school plays, and, as a consequence, they never witnessed our great triumphs or were there to comfort us in our humiliations.'

It would seem that those "appendages" had but little connection to Mum or Dad. Did they see the outside of the nursery? Oh, yeah, that's what the nanny was there for.

Besides, in my view, making a child your career is a dangerous move because your marriage and sense of self can be sacrificed in the process.

Yep. It's risky. So's getting up in the morning, and walking out your door. So's taking on that new project, that new job, that new acquaintance. Living isn't for sissies, and neither is parenting.

'Women now feel great pressure to enjoy their children at all times,' she says. 'The truth is, a lot of it is plain tedium. It's very unlikely that a mother doesn't love her child, but it can be very dull. Still, it takes a brave woman to admit that.'

All right, put me on the record as admitting it: there are plenty of things I would rather do than change a messy diaper, sort and fold laundry, scrub the kitchen floor, or figure out what I can throw together for dinner when I haven't been grocery shopping all week. With the possible exception of the first item, however, all those occasions of drudgery are with me whether or not I have children--and if not with me, then with whatever poor soul I've contracted with to do the work. Not that she's likely to find it loads of fun.

The fact is, for the majority of us who can't afford a housekeeping staff, a certain amount of drudgery in life is inescapable. What the rest of us do with the spare time I'm not sure. I've heard Paris Hilton got into videography.

All us bored mothers can take comfort from the fact that our children may yet turn out to be more balanced than those who are love-bombed from the day they are born.

Research increasingly shows that child-centred parenting is creating a generation of narcissistic children who cannot function independently.

Hope--or perhaps self-delusion--springs eternal. And again, the extreme case brought in to make benign neglect seem sensible by comparison.

This, of course, makes mothers like me — who love their children but refuse to cater to their every whim — feel vindicated.

The impression I've had until now is that she refuses to cater to anything at all, unless it's her own self-absorbed life. That's a different thing entirely. To parphrase the wise Mrs. Sowerby in The Secret Garden, " The two worst things for a child are when it always gets its way, and when it never does."

Frankly, as long as you've fed them, sheltered them and told them they are loved, children will be fine.

Not quite. Telling them you love them doesn't amount to much if the evidence of same isn't there.

Mine are — at the risk of sounding smug — well-adjusted, creative children who respect the concept of work. They also accept my limitations.

They stopped asking me to take them to the park (how tedious) years ago. But now when I try to entertain them and say: 'Why don't we get out the Monopoly board?' they simply look at me woefully and sigh: 'Don't bother, Mum, you'll just get bored.'

How to take this bit of wisdom from our confident author? For starters, that last sentence doesn't sound like kids who "accept limitations;" it sounds like kids who have long ago resigned themselves to the fact that Mum couldn't give a darn about their needs. Unlike the ever-hopeful Charlie Brown, they aren't about to go for that football yet again. Why bother? The park, the board game, just like everything else germane to the life of a child is, to her, "tedious." No matter that to the kids, it's anything but.

The author strikes me as phenomenally lucky. Her boys might have become vindictive or whiny. They are, we assume, free of serious problems or disabilities. I can't imagine how with her attitude, she would have dealt with a child with, say, autism or learning problems, or a physical handicap.

You haven't seen tedium till you've done the OT exercises for the hundredth time with no apparent improvement and no crystal ball to clue you in that the next time just might bring some small glimmer of progress. You haven't known boredom until you've sat through a few dozen IEP meetings with your kids' teachers. You think college was an accomplishment? Try getting a kid who's in his own little world most of the time to play a couple of quarters of a soccer game or respond to a friendly overture. Try getting one who can't decipher letters to read a book or get his spelling list down pat. Try getting one with a neurological condition to pick up the bow and try that violin piece one more time--not just so you can show off her accomplishments to your friends, but because the process of learning to control her movements is one of the keys to her future independence in that adult world that may otherwise be as intimidating to her as it is exhilarating to you.

It is noteworthy that the boys in question are ten and twelve years old. At those tender ages, they have not even begun to be one iota of the trouble they could be. While Mum is off trolling through the garment racks at her favorite department store, arranging her wardrobe, having her hair done, and perhaps having the time in her busy schedule to follow some of those much-vaunted intellectual pursuits the adult world has to offer, those boys with a few more years on them could be getting into stuff that would curl her hair, no beautician needed. She doesn't have the time to find out who their teachers are or who's dropping by this weekend to play; why assume she's going to know what they're up to at school or elsewhere, or who they're hanging out with--until the headmaster, or the police officer, or the girlfriend's father calls up with the bombshell? She may well find, half a dozen years up the road, that what she took for "adjustment" was merely a talent for concealment, helped along by her own inattention.

If they manage to avoid the pitfalls and grow up to be reasonably decent, productive human beings, hurray for them! But the author shouldn't be too quick to claim the glory as by all indications in her article, she had but little to do with that miracle. And she still might find, years later, that the sons who wouldn't trouble her to play with them have concluded that in their own busy lives, it's too much trouble to visit Mum at the Old Folks' Home.

UPDATE: I stopped briefly by feminine-genius after posting, and learned that Milady has evidently been fisked up one side of the Internet and down the other since the publication of her opinion piece--so much for any pretenses at originality I might have entertained. [NOTE: Following is a correction of the original.] I also learned that this Independent article she wrote about a year before trashes just about every nanny who has ever had the care of her boys; God help those kids. It seems Milady isn't easily satisfied.

I think in lieu of taking the nanny article for another round of fisking, I'll just pour myself a tall glass of iced tea, lean back according to good lazy Southern modus operandi (perhaps cueing up the blues harmonica tape first,) and watch her dig her own hole.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Order of the Tinfoil Hat: #1

D and I had occasionally discussed including a special award on this blog for the most preposterous conspiracy theorists out there. Unfortunately, we did not get around to setting it up in time on the last occasion of Charlie Sheen shooting his mouth off.

We'd prefer to have set the whole thing up with a nice illustration of the award, but that will have to wait as D is pulling loads of overtime and Luddite C isn't always sure which end of the computer is up (to be frank, were it not for D I'd blogging longhand in 5-subject spiral notebooks or, at best, on the manual Olivetti Lettera on which I typed my college papers. But hey, I bet you can't run a mimeograph machine!)

So, as nothing occurs as planned, The Minor Premise would like to make the best of things and present its First Irregular Order of the Tinfoil Hat. As Time Magazine periodically issues its Man of the Year award to an entire demographic, we thought we'd follow suit.

Therefore, (ahem) we present the Minor Premise First Irregular Order of the Tinfoil Hat to...

...The 36% of Scripps Howard survey subjects who still think the U. S. government had something to do with the 9/11 attacks because they secretly wanted a war in the Middle East.

Congratulations, guys and gals, and we'll have those awards out to you just as soon as we can get around to folding the Reynolds Wrap. Please submit your requests for triangular, square, or soda jerk style, along with head measurements, in the comment box below.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

DWI = Didn't want it -- in the news

Since Mel Gibson knocked the Middle Eastern wars
off the front page, I thought it was time for a
little music . . . .


"My Own Worst Enemy" by Dminor
To the tune of "My Own Worst Enemy" (Apologies to the group "Lit")

Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk?
I didn't mean to call Jews that
I can't remember that you said you'd throw the book at me

chorus: Please tell me --- please tell me why
The Press is in the front yard
and I've got some orange clothes on
Bars are in the window --- all right
My rep's gone -- gone

It's no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy
Tho' I make films that sell, that people see religiously
But hanging out in bars is fun and
there's a young nymphet --- still yearning

chorus: Please tell me why --- my car is in the impound
I've got some orange clothes on
My picture's on the gossip --- web site
my rep's gone -- gone

[guitar solo]

Please tell me why the press is in the front yard
and I've got some orange clothes on
Bars are in the window --- all right
its no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy
Tho' I make films that sell, that people see religiously

Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk
I didnt mean to call Jews that


So I ask - doesn't everyone know someone who has
said or done things while they were drunk that they wished they hadn't?

Brittany Spears says "I do!"



Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Where to Begin...

I already put in my two cents' worth on the Plan B pill so I'll refrain from further comment as it looks like OTC status is going to be up for review. At least there is the stipulation that the drug has to be kept behind the counter and only dispensed to 18-and-ups so at least the women screwing up their reproductive systems ought to be adults who know better. As the Morning Aftervists continue to hammer on that age limit I suppose it will only be a matter of time before little girls in their early teens will have access. There is something singularly dissatisfying about the likelihood of being in the 'Toldja so' seat in the future. Pray that this thing fails, spectacularly.

I'll refrain from dancing, prematurely or after the fact, on Fidel's grave. Though there is a certain satisfaction in seeing the beginning of the end of the despot's rule, God only knows what will follow. Prayer assignment for the week: the people of Cuba.

My Cuban uncle, who remembers Fidel a couple of years behind him at University (they didn't socialize, being in different programs) once remarked that, having a few years on Fidel, he really didn't appreciate the Fidel Deathwatch habit in the Cuban exile community. Perhaps he'll outlast the curse.

Jimmy Akin has an article posted on ESCR and the principle of double effect. I'm still reading this one with its links and comments; thus far it looks like a good read (not to mention excellent debate fodder.)

An update at Save Nazanin reports:
The International Committee Against Execution have confirmed the report in the Iranian Newspaper "Hamshari" that Nazanin's execution has been commuted by Ayatollah Shahroudi (the Head of Judiciary). A retrial has been announced and Nazanin's case will be sent to a lower court for further investigation.

However, the Save Nazanin campaign is far from over yet. Nazanin is a victim of attempted rape, and should not be further punished. There is also a chance that Nazanin may be sentenced to death once again by the courts as seen in past cases.We do not want this 18 year old girl's life to end up like Kobra Rahmanpour. Rahmanpour is an 19 year old girl who killed someone out of self defence and had her execution stayed several times before she was set free. She was even at the execution site where they announced that "they did not have enough rope". She ended wasting 7 years of her young life in jail. In her first trial, Nazanin had a state appointed lawyer as her family was too poor to hire a personal lawyer. Measures are now being taken to hire a lawyer with experience in these cases.

But the important thing now is that Nazanin will not be executed in the near future, as we had feared. And we want to thank all of you who have helped to achieve this!

God be praised.
See also my previous post on this.