Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Baby Blogging: Howdy!

I know ya'll are dying to see pics of the lil' feller, Preston. So here ya go. The lil' varmint is growing faster than a longhorn on steroids. He's 10 months old now and looks more like a lil' man, than a baby. He'll walk with help from his ma and pa. Pretty soon he'll be chasing those pesky cats all over creation.


Building Your Own Home? Yeah, That Was a Good Idea!

Hi ho, fellow bloggers, it's your long lost dr. fly killa. I've finally gotten some time to myself to blog a bit. My "free" time (i.e. the time not spent changing diapers, feeding Preston and hubby, wiping spaghetti off the floor and Preston, preparing for church responsibilities) has been consumed with acting as the co-general contractor for the home we're building.

Basically, we paid a fee to a consulting company called the Owner-Builder Network (OBN), and they gave us handbook for building a house, a list of contractors, and told us to go for it. Now I know absolutely nothing about construction or carpentry—I can barely hammer a nail in straight—so I thought there’s no way that I can do this. My husband has a bit more experience since he spent a summer building cabinets and has repaired or built many household items as part of his husbandly duties, but still he’s never done anything this big before. He found out about OBN at a home show and was so excited about building the house of his dreams that there was no way I could rain on his parade. Ever since we’ve been married and we started out in a tiny apartment, he’s been working on THE PERFECT FLOORPLAN. So now he has the chance to see his dream home take shape. Personally, it was a little too soon for me to be jumping into this project. I mean, Preston is our first child and I want to make sure I don’t scar him for life—joke! Geez, I hope no CPS (child protective services) workers are reading this. But we definitely need more space now, and when we add a brother or sister in the not too distant future.

So our OBN consultant Rick and my dear hubby convinced me that yes, we could do this thing and we’d only spend about 10 hours a week working on the house. Hah, hah, hah! What Rick forgot to tell us was that 10 hour thing only applies when everything goes as planned AND building materials don’t get stolen AND you actually know what you are doing AND you don’t have a small child that needs your constant attention. AND it also assumes that you like to call up lots and lots of people every day—remember that introvert thing? I have to either be so tired that I’m too groggy (and therefore incoherent) to be nervous or I have to psyche myself up before I make calls.

“All right, dr. fly killa. You are a potential customer. You have purchasing power. They want your business, so don’t worry about feeling like an idiot when they ask you technical questions like if you know what the pitch of the roof is. Come on, just do it! You may not know anything about construction, but you have a Ph.D. for goodness sakes! Too bad you didn’t pay attention when your dad was building a house while you were in college though.”

But seriously folks, I am learning a lot and we’ll eventually have a bigger and better house—for me to clean…hmmmm. No really, I know about soffetts and angle iron and R-values--all sorts of house construction-y stuff.

I think OBN is a good way to go if you have time to build the house yourself. You can build your house exactly the way you want it and pay less money than hiring a general contractor. Plus you know exactly what is going into your house so you can make sure the quality is high. General contractors tend to go with the cheapest stuff, not necessarily the highest quality. Exhibit A is our current too small HVAC system that lasted about 4 years before we had to start repairing it every summer. Anyway, I would recommend OBN if the husband or wife can work from home. Also, if you have kids it would probably be best if they are in school because I’ve had to do a lot of running around—meeting contractors at the building site, visiting prospective contractors, getting samples of brick, tile, paint, etc. It’s also helpful if you have a good idea of how you want your house to look. There are so many choices out there! Keep a folder of home decorating ideas that you like, swatches of fabric, or samples of paint colors.

Anyway, the framing of our house is almost done and then the brick goes up. I hope things start going faster. We’ll probably be moved into our house by March. Until then, I’ll post when I can.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Babyblogging: Musical Prodigy?

Of course, I'm joking in the title. I have no idea if Preston has an aptitude for music. I just thought he looked really cute standing next to his "piano." I have to laugh all the Baby Einstein-type toys for infants. Yeah, I'm going to try to teach my kid how to say dog in three different languages before he's 6 months old (I'm exaggerating...a little). Robert Deniro's character in the movie "Meet the Fockers" (which is hilarious btw ) plays the achievement-obsessed ulta-disciplinarian grandfather to a tee. How about letting kids learn the basics first and develop at their own pace? It's a pet peeve of mine when parents brag about how their kid read Charles Dickens or tossed a football like Tory Aikman by the time they were two and a half. No wonder kids get stressed out nowadays.

Anyway, Preston's almost 9 months old and has eight teeth (all the better to bite Mommy with). He's a very happy, chatty little boy--except when he's around strangers. I tend to be very (off the charts!) introverted, so I hope he doesn't take after me. I'm amazed at how fast he's growing. One day couple of weeks ago, he started pulling up on the furniture and now he's cruising around the house like a pro. It won't be long until he's running around the house chasing the cats under my bed.



Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hurricane Katrina and Emergency Preparedness

Yes, I know it’s been a lo-o-ong time since I last posted. My husband and I are building a house, and I’ve been going crazy getting things going. We’re not actually building the house ourselves, but we’re acting as the general contractors and hiring sub-contractors to do all the work. Anyway, we just got the foundation going and supposedly the process moves much quicker after that. I’ll post more about the process of building your own house later.

With the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a lot of things are on my mind. First of all, I feel so bad for all those people stranded or homeless in New Orleans and Mississippi and wish there was something more I could do. I attended a Biophysical Society meeting in New Orleans at the very convention center where all those people were trapped last week and it was horrible to see their suffering. Our family has donated money and I’m sure that our local church will send a group to help with the clean-up once things calm down.

On the first Sunday of every month, members of my church hold a fast where they go without food or drink for two meals (usually breakfast and lunch) and then the money that would be used for those meals (plus whatever extra you can give) is donated. The money usually goes to needy members in the local area, but when national disasters happen part of the funds go the areas affected. There is also a general humanitarian fund that can be donated to at anytime (click here if you want to donate to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts).

Anyway, my point is that one of the primary functions of almost all churches is to provide charity for others in the community. Each church does its part, so even if we can’t all agree on doctrine, at least we can work together to help each other in times of need.

Another thing that this disaster brings up is emergency preparedness. My heart just broke seeing all the families with small children stranded with little food or water and no diapers (yikes!). I wondered what I would do in that circumstance and how I could prevent it from happening to us. The key is being prepared. My church has urged its members for decades to have a 72 hour kit, and a year’s worth of food on hand in case of emergency—even if you live in an apartment or have a low income. Now a year’s worth of food may not be worth much if it’s suddenly soaked by flood water, but it is quite useful if the main bread-winner in the family gets laid off. I have friends that lost their jobs after the tech bubble burst, and food storage and savings accounts helped them out tremendously. See these links for more information on assembling your own 72-hour kit and for food storage tips.

Our family keeps two 5 gallon jugs of water and two 10-gallon plastic bins full of food and other supplies as our 72 hr kit. They can be tossed into the back of our car or carried in the event of an emergency. Some people use backpacks but they are more expensive. One system for food storage I like is spending $5 per person every week on food set aside for storage. The types of items purchased vary weekly or monthly. The key is to store extra food that you use all the time and that your family will eat. Fifty pounds of cracked wheat or 200 cans of cream of mushroom soup won’t do you any good if you never use it and it goes bad.

Another thing the tragedy in New Orleans impressed upon me is the importance of being able to defend yourself, your family, and your home. We can’t depend upon the government—local or federal—to defend us immediately if order breaks down in our area. This is one reason why the 2nd amendment is so important. Every American has the right and the duty to defend themselves, their families, and their property. Unfortunately, there are always criminals that prey on the weak and the helpless, even during natural disasters. It is up to the good citizens of a community to arm themselves so that they can defend each other. I’ve done my part by purchasing a gun and learning how to use it responsibly. I will certainly train my son to use a gun responsibly when he is old enough.

As far as the blame game, the whining, and the race-baiting goes—ENOUGH ALREADY!!!! There will be plenty of time after the stranded people have been rescued and the dead have been properly buried to find out how each affected area could have been better prepared or how the rescue and relief efforts could have been more quickly expedited. The people of Louisiana and Mississippi eye need leaders that will direct them and give them hope so that they can get back on their feet and rebuild their communities. Whining, swearing, and threatening governments officials (you know who you are) with physical violence on public television is unseemly and repulsive, especially for city or state politicians. Blaming everything on “Whitey” is not helpful either. We’re in this together as Americans and we need more rolling up of sleeves and less bickering if we’re going to rebuild these communities.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Baby Blogging: The Joys of Solid Food

Preston's been eating solids for the past couple of months. The great thing about feeding him "real" food is that it makes for entertaining pictures like this one. The drawbacks are that his diapers really stink now. Pfew!


Mmmmm...strained carrots.

Seen "Over There" Yet?--Don't Bother

For some reason, my husband recorded the premier of "Over There," a show about our soldiers in Iraq now playing on FX. I hadn't intended to watch since I could tell from the previews that it was going to being the usual anti-war Vietnam-cliched crap from Hollywood. But since I could watch it sans commercial, I thought I'd give it a chance since the creator, Steven Bochco had claimed that it wouldn't be political.

Well, my instincts were correct. It was filled with every stereotype from every anti-war Vietnam movie ever made. None of the soldiers except the token dumb white-boy from the South wanted to be in the military. Most of the characters were either super-whiny and obnoxiousm (Mrs. B) or gung-ho crazy (Sgt. Scream). The officers were depicted as incompetent fools or oblivious to the needs of their men. I have never been in the military, but several of my family members have been, so I know a little bit about how the military does things.

The biggest error I could see was that none of the soldiers fighting together seemed to know each other either. They kept asking each other how they got their nicknames, which got very annoying. From what I understand, soldiers are deployed in units, so they've been training together and thus know each other well which allows them to work together efficiently. The soldiers in "Over There" were portrayed as bumbling idiots that were basically abbondoned by the rest of the military. Plus, the show was boring due to a weak plot and poor character development.

Of course, the show had to open with a gratuitous sex scene (thank heavens for fast-forward), which is a pet peeve of mine. I'm ok with sex (obviously since I have a kid), but I think it is a private and personal thing. I'm so sick of Hollywood liberals that say that what people do in their bedroom is their business and then constantly plaster up bedroom scenes all over the big and little screen. Ok, so Bochco wanted to show the newlyweds with the husband shipping out to Iraq. I think it could have been done a little more tastefully. Sheesh!

I'm not the only one who though "Over There" was horrible. Milbloggers like Blackfive and deployed soldiers interviewed in the Seattle PI had similar reactions. When is Hollywood going to get clue? I though HBO's Band of Brothers was very well done. I'd much rather see "Over There" modeled on that show than on Platoon.

Monday, July 11, 2005

10 Ways to Tell if Someone You Know Is the Mother of a Small Child

10. They accidentally refer to themselves in the third person—often as “Mommy,” e.g. “Mommy likes cheese on her sandwich.”

9. They can’t resist telling you what their child’s last bowel movement was like.

8. You hear them humming or outright singing snatches of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “The Wheels on the Bus” in a public place.

7. Their shopping cart is loaded to the brim with jars of baby food, formula, diapers, diaper wipes, and baby clothes 2 sizes too big for their child.

6. Every article of clothing they own has green, yellow, or orange stains from either spit-up or splattered baby food.

5. Their once-thick hair has thinned considerably from being constantly tugged on.

4. They appear to not have showered since last Tuesday and smell faintly of sour milk.

3. Said small child is permanently attached to their arms or legs.

2. They have dark circles and bags under their eyes the size of Ohio.

1. Every new feat their child performs, no matter how obnoxious, is immediately deemed “precious” or “adorable,” e.g. “Little Timmy threw his strained peas all over the wall today—isn’t that adorable?”

Friday, July 08, 2005

And Again…Terrorist Attacks in London

I sent my husband off to work yesterday with a prayer for his safety and that the Lord would be with the British people right now as they recover from the terrorist attacks that occurred yesterday. I think many of us here in the blogosphere have been expecting new attacks on the U.S. and her allies in their home countries at one time or another. It was just a matter of when they would occur.

My reaction to the bombings in London is mixed. I feel sympathy and sadness for the victims of the blasts who were just going to work so they could provide for their families. I can’t imagine the terror they must have felt. I’m sure that after the physical wounds have healed that many of them will suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome, and my heart aches for them. Events like this show just how small my problems are in comparison with those that have had loved ones murdered or maimed by terrorists in cold blood. Yet, I admire the pragmatic steadfastness of the British. They have experienced terrorist attacks before (via the IRA) and the citizens and emergency workers worked together quickly and efficiently to aid the wounded. None of the people that were interviewed after the attacks were hysterical or even crying. They seem quietly resolved that these attacks would not force them to change their way of life.

I also feel, quite predictably, anger towards the terrorists that committed this gruesome attack. Call them Koranimals, Islamofascists, splodeydopes, or whatever, I prefer the term evil-doers (a term used by the POTUS). For they quite simply are doers of evil. I don’t care what their motivations or justifications are, they are murderers. I think it’s quite disgusting that leftists (e.g. those found in the fever swamps of Democratic Underground and Indymedia) are already blaming the victims and/or the Jews for the attacks. Oh, if only you’d been nice to the wittle terrorists and left them alone in Afghanistan and Iraq instead capturing and killing them. Yeah, we see how that attitude worked out.

My life has changed considerably since 9-11. At that time, I was still in graduate school and we had no children. I also was less aware of how liberal our media is. I was listening to NPR in fact that morning (as I usually did) when the attacks occurred. Since then, I can’t listen to NPR. I was disgusted with all the attempts to “understand” the motivations of the terrorists, and the virulent anti-Bush rhetoric. The bias towards the Palestinian terrorists as they murdered Israeli civilians was also more than I could stomach. I turned to talk-radio as a forum to vent my feelings, to hear that I wasn’t the only American that felt our government, with its lenient immigration and transportation safety policies had let us down, or the only American that felt that the media was too often blaming the victim—Americans—rather than blaming the Islamic terrorists that had perpetrated the attacks.

I became quite the news junkie. What’s funny is that despite my ignorance at the time, when I heard that not one, but two planes had crashed into the WTC I knew Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were responsible. I had read a few articles in Time magazine or something about his group and their involvement in the Embassy bombing in Africa. Now I’m totally what you would call a Security Mom. I had voted for Bush in 2000, but I kept it a secret from my left-leaning coworkers and friends. But after 9-11, I had no qualms about defending my views and defending the President. I think he has been an outstanding war-time President. I do have a few problems with many of his domestic policies right now, especially the issue of illegal immigration, but that’s a discussion for another time.

These attacks in London have also caused a sense of fear to re-emerge—not fear for my own safety, but for that of my family and friends, especially my son. It’s amazing how strong the bond between a parent and a child is—the desire to protect them at any cost. It is similar to a mother bear defending her cubs because I feel that I would do anything to protect Preston from harm.

I’ve never been into guns, but recently I’ve become interested in learning how to defend myself and my family with them. My husband is from Arizona where one can carry a gun in public in the open, and he learned how to use guns in the Boy Scouts. This year for my birthday, I’m taking a gun training class this Saturday. It's good to know all the legal ins and outs of using a handgun if I am ever in the situation of having to use one to defend myself. Hopefully, that will never happen. I now believe that it’s a good idea for all of the law abiding citizens of the U.S. to own at least one gun and know how to use it properly. Like in Switzerland and Israel, I see it as a civic duty to be able to defend myself and my family from crime and terrorist attacks if the need arises.

So I guess now I’m an official member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (VRWC). Vote Republican? Check (until something better comes along)! Like and use guns? Check! Listen to conservative talk radio? Check! Watch Fox News? Check! Conservative Christian? Check! Rich, evil capital list? Check…er wait. Not rich, not evil. I guess I don’t qualify then.

Anyway, back to London. Tony Blair and the British government have been valuable allies in the war on Terror, but it seems that they are still treating their homegrown terrorists as criminals, not terrorists. Also it seems the British people have had some of their freedoms taken away from them by their socialist politicians e.g. the right to bear arms and the right to criticize Islam for inciting violence. I hope that the British people will be able to get their politicians to be tougher on terrorism. The mosques that incite violence and preach jihad need to be shut down, and the imams that preach that crap need to be arrested and/or deported.

As a descendent of American “colonials” this Yank wishes my British brothers and sisters that God will bless the British people and comfort them in their time of need.

Monday, June 13, 2005

No New Posts for the Time Being

Due to an on-going family crisis, I will not be posting for a while.

UPDATE 07/08/05:
Thanks to everyone for their concern and prayers. I didn't mean to worry everyone by being so cryptic, but I just didn't know what to write. Preston, my husband Randy, and I are fine. The problem concerns one of my siblings. I don't want to go into details right now since the problem has not been resolved, but things are not as bad as I initially feared. Sometimes, loved ones make stupid mistakes or believe weird things, and we have to let them do stupid things or believe weird things. But sometimes there is a time for intervention if these mistakes or beliefs are harmful to them or others e.g. mental illness or substance abuse. No matter what happens though, it's important to show your unconditional love for that person.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Mitt Romney for President in 2008?

I recently discovered a great article on Mitt Romney, the current governor of Massachusetts in the Weekly Standard. Romney also happens to be a member of the same church I belong to, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormon church). The article describes Romney's political background and explores the possibility of a Presidential run in 2008. In addition, the article is one of the most objective magazine articles I've ever read on Mormonism (unlike one that came out in the New Yorker a couple years ago). So if you're interested in learning a little about Mitt Romney and his beliefs, this is a great article. Romney is definitely a rising star in the Republican party.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day 2005

Memorial Day has always been special to me and I've always felt a respect for the men and women in the Armed Forces. When I lived at home, our family would drive up to the cemetary on Memorial Day to lay flowers on the grave of my grandfather who served in WWII as a navigator over Europe. Many members of my family have served in the U.S. military going as far back as the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. My two other grandfathers also served in WWII--one in the Army, and the other as a radio operator in the Navy. My Uncle served in the Army during the Vietnam War. My father served in Germany in a medical unit during Operation Desert Storm. My younger brother served in the Army 82nd Airborne Division a few years ago and my cousin and her husband are both serving in the Marines right now.

I feel lucky that none of my relatives were seriously injured during their service. Other families have not been so lucky. They've lost their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, or brothers in the many wars that have been fought for freedom.

Today, I'd like to honor the memories of all those who have fought and died for our country. And I say a prayer for all the soldiers that are still fighting for us today all over the world.

There are some moving Memorial Day tributes here and here (via my brother and Free Republic).

UPDATE: Denita of Who Tends the Fires has a great Memorial Day round-up.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Carnival o' Cats #62

Thanks to everyone who contributed this week.

The first part of this week's carnival is dedicated to the memory of my cat Fluffer who passed away 3 years ago and to contributors that have lost their furry companions. Fluffer (a.k.a. Fluffmuffin or Fluffy Beast) was about 14 years old and was suffering from kidney failure and arthritis. My parents decided that putting her to sleep was the best choice since she was in a lot of pain and could barely walk. I took this picture of her under my bed with my first camera when I was 13 years old. We named her Fluffer (or some variant) because she was super fluffy. She was abandoned as a kitten, but we believe she was part Maine Coon cat. She had a very sweet, gentle temperament. Where ever you are, Fluffer, I hope you find the comfiest chair in cat heaven.

In Memorium


Trish remembers Mulder’s strong dislike of pumpkins. Mulder passed away this week, so please send Trish your condolences.

Frightwig at Sundappled Wood presents In Memory of Abigail, her beautiful calico cat.

Julie at i-pets.com blog presents Buddy, the wanderer in memory of her orange tabby, Buddy.

Jazz Shaw’s cat Colin is still with us, but is extremely ill. Her vets are stumped, so if you can help please go check out her blog Running Scared.

Let’s lighten things up for the rest of the carny. I’m sure most cat lovers would like to know what their furry little friends are thinking. Most of their thoughts probably involve food, sleeping, and getting rid of the competition (other cats, dogs, significant others, etc).

Things a Cat Thinks About

“I could have sworn I heard the can opener.”
--Chandler, co-owner of Lisaviolet at lisaviolet’s cathouse.

“This looks like a good spot for a nap.”
--Norwegian Blue, owner of Russ at TacJammer.

“We fear change.”
-- Pica, owner of Labkat, when asked about the prospect of moving.

”I just know my human would appreciate a freshly killed little rabbit for supper.”
-- Sophie, owner of Vicki Bennett at OutsideIn, presents When Bad Things Happen to Good Bunnies.

“I know she put that tuna fish in here somewhere!”
--Milo, friend of Janette Stripling at Common Sense Runs Wild, presents Caption This! 5/27.

”The next person to come up here without a treat for me will meet a horrible end!”
--Blur, owner of Chuq Yang at 7610, presents Blur, the Stairmaster.

“Ah, now this is the life.”
--Kady, owner of Nuthatch at bootstrap analysis, presents friday cat blog: tower of fun.

“Must kill mouse-like object.”
--Amber and
--Mouse, co-owners of Storyteller at Scribblings, presents Feline Friday...Fun fun fun.

“Touch me while I’m eating and you’ll lose a finger!”
--Loretta’s kitty at Dust My Broom presents Is it Friday already?

“Look into my eyes…you are getting sleepy. Now go fetch me some tuna, human, and make it snappy!”
--Lola, owner of m0nkyman at Aptenobytes, presents Lola at the table.

“Whew! Good thing I’ve got 8 more lives left!”
--Mak, owner of Andrew Hecht at American Idle, presents Down to Eight Lives.

“I command you to bask in the radiance of my beauty!”
--Lady Radiant, owner of the Robot Vegetable at Middle-Fork, presents Lady Rampant.

“I think I’ll read a little before I doze off…zzzzzz…”
--Maggie’s kitty at maggies meanderings and shameless plugs presents sleeping kitty.

“I am Si-a-me-ese if you ple-ease. I am Si-a-me-mese if you don’t please.”
--Chloe, owner of srp at Melange, presents Chloe: a "Proper" Siamese.

“I am NOT a morning person!”
--Dust Bunny, owner of Josh Poulson at Josh's Weblog, presents Feline Friday.

“Few humans understand the significance of the ancient craft of Feline Crop Circles.”
--Aunty Holly at Aunty Holly presents Rampage of the Lawn Beast.

“You know you want me.”
--Russ Mitchell kitten at Boxing Alcibiades, presents You know you want to adopt me.

“It’s alive!”
--Cow Kitty and Fatty at Feline Queen present Rotating Poopie Boxes.

“I’m not fat, just big boned. More Friskies over here, garcon.”
-- Babatounde, owner of Tom at hamstermotor, presents Babatoundeblogging.

“It’s so hard being adored by everyone. I’m going to have to fire my human if he can’t keep those pesky fans away.”
--Gizmo, owner of Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy Blog, presents Carried in on a Litter.

“Urp! That canary was delicious!”
--Tommy’s kitty at almost average.

“Mmmmm…dreaming of a bowl full of goldfish.”
--Emily, owner of Catherine at Cathcoll.net.

“My human can’t go out in these jeans! They have no scent! Heh, I’ll take of that.”
--Jackie, owner of Enrique at the Blue Parrot.

“This house ain’t big enough for the both of us”
--Hi and Mischief, co-owners of Gir at your moosey fate.

“Get lost! We’re eating!”
--Elisson’s kitties at Blog d’Elisson.

”You can run, but you can’t hide.”

“I love the smell of catnip in the morning.”

--Meowsa, owner of Mog at Mind of Mog.

”Hmmm ... If dogs serve humans, and humans serve cats, why can't we cats ever get these STUPID dogs to do anything for us?!"
“Did I do that?”
”Don’t speak to me of nuance. Just bring on dinner!”
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
--Baby, co-owner of Sissy at sisu.

“Is there something I'm not getting when humans make noise with their mouths?”
--Velma, owner of Diane at Ded Space, while observing the French Open.

“If you were a mouse, I’d swallow your head.”
--Smudgie, owner of Romeocat at CatHouse Chat, presents Less stress; more catblogging!

“I am a princess... and, yes, you may pet me. Oh, no, I insist.”
--Lyra, owner of Kimberly at Music and Cats, presents Feline Friday: The Princess.

“One must be sure to train one’s humans well.”
--Venus, owner of Alicia at The Venus and Mercury Cat Blog, presents well-trained.

“Hey -- no kidding, I'm sure that's the can opener.”
--Ferdy, owner of Bruce the Human Pet at Conservative Cat, presents Emergency Catblogging.

“Dogs make useful pillows.”
--Spike, owner of SB at Watermark, presents Comfort.

“This had better be a dog-free zone, or I’m going back into my room.”
--Mac, co-owner of Mira at The Oubliette presents mac ventures out.

“I proclaim this box mine!”
--Noah, co-owner of Mira at The Oubliette, marks his box.

“Argh, I gotta scratch that itch.”
--Morris, owner of Martin Lindeskog at EGO, presents MORRIS IS GOOD AT JOB ROTATION.

“Damn it, I said I wanted it over ice!”
--Anonymous drunk kitten via Jack Cluth at The People's Republic of Seabrook.

“Do I get bonus points if I trip you?”
--Molly, owner of BJ at Quite Early One Morning

“Why doesn't the government do something about dogs?”
--Nardo's Israeli Cousin from Rahel at Elms in the Yard

“Yeah, I shredded your curtains. Now just try to come up here and get me!”
--Random cat via Rahel at Elms in the Yard, Wednesday Cat Blogging.

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
--Smudge, owner of Pipsqueak at The Common Room, presents Our cat Smudge.

“Bow before my angelic gorgeousness, or the fern gets it!”
--Sam, owner of Firefly at Bioluminescence, presents Sam.

And finally Steve of HockeyCat.com didn’t have an entry, but sent a letter telling us that all of the cats featured on his site in the past have been adopted. Keep up the great work Steve!

UPDATE: I fixed the broken links. Thanks for your patience with my newbie-ness!

UPDATE: Here's a last minute addition to the carnival.

"I'm taller, smarter, and better looking than you!"
--Claudius the magnificent, owner of Susan at Pages Turned.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Babyblogging: Crazy Hat Friday

When I worked in a biochemistry lab at the University of Utah, the grad students and I decided that Fridays were Crazy Shirt Fridays. We'd wear the brightest, loudest, most obnoxious shirts we could find. So in that tradition, I proclaim today Crazy Hat Friday. Here's Preston modeling his crazy sun hat. Poor kid will probably require therapy if his friends see this when he's older.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Revenge of the Sith: The Nature of Evil, and Redemption

I finally saw “Stars Wars episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (ROTS)on Saturday. My husband and I had to see it separately since we couldn’t get a babysitter. But I don’t normally talk much during movies in theaters. At home it’s another story. My husband is continually exasperated by my numerous questions.

Anyway, on the whole I was pleased with the movie. I thought the visual effects and the pacing of the movie were good. The acting was adequate, although the lack of chemistry between Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) and Natalie Portman (Padme Amidala) was consistently annoying (as it was in Attack of the Clones). Most of the time Anakin looked at Padme like he was stalking her and Padme looked either unexpressive or like she was a little girl meeting her hero, Mickey Mouse, for the first time. Nonetheless, I was very moved by the story of a hero who turns evil and destroys everything he’s ever loved.


I was also annoyed by Lucas’ politicization of the movie by throwing in a few lines here and there that apparently were taking jabs at the Bush administration. The worst one was when Anakin said something like, “You are either with me or you are my enemy” to Obi-Wan who replies, “Only the Sith deal in absolutes.” This line made no sense because earlier (Or is it later? I guess I’ll have to see it again.) Obi-Wan says, “Palpatine is evil” (an absolute), to which Anakin replies, “From my point of view it is the Jedi that are evil (moral relativism)." The Jedi seem to be the ones dealing in absolutes with their fight for freedom of members of the Republic (e.g. the Wookies), and Mace Windu (Samuel Jackson) determining that he must kill the evil Palpatine to save the Republic because the Senate and the courts have been corrupted. Palpatine, on the other hand, exhibits moral relativism by telling Anakin that it’s all right to use the dark side as long as you’re helping others e.g. saving Padme from death.

Based on these lines and by what he said at the Cannes film festival, it appears that Lucas is either politically ignorant, or playing to an anti-American crowd to sell tickets in Europe. Lucas claimed that "the parallels between Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable."

Um, yeah, right. Vietnam and Iraq are so similar. Let’s see. In Vietnam the U.S. was fighting to keep communist North Vietnam from conquering South Vietnam. In Iraq, the U.S. removed a murderous dictator so that Iraq’s people could form their own government In Vietnam, we decimated the forces of the Viet Cong during the Tet offensive, but paid a heavy toll in casualties. The U.S. eventually pulled out and left the South Vietnamese to twist in the wind. In Iraq, the U.S. rolled into Baghdad and totally obliterated all of Saddam’s armed forces along the way with relatively light casualties—complete victory. Then the military stayed in Iraq, at the request of the new Iraqi government, to help rebuild Iraq and ferret out the last few terrorists. Vietnam is full of jungles and nasty bugs. Iraq is full of sand and nasty bugs. Besides nasty bugs, and the U.S. promoting democracy, there’s not much similarity between the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq. But Lucas, like many in Hollywood, is an ignorant commie-loving hippy who happens to have talent making movies. Don’t quit your day job, George.

Anyway, there were two things about the ROTS that bothered me. First was the rapid transformation of Anakin into Darth Vader. It seemed a little forced and implausible. Anakin goes from regretting helping Palpatine kill Mace Windu, to slicing up little kids at the Jedi Temple in the next hour--all because he wants to save his wife from dying in child birth. I don’t buy it, unless somehow he was possessed by the Emperor and totally lost any ability to make choices of his own. It was all a little sudden and far-fetched in my view.

Also at Cannes, regarding how a good man turns himself into an evil man, Lucas said, "Most of them think they're good people doing what they do for a good reason." I don’t agree with this. Does Saddam consider himself a good person who murdered all those Iraqis and Kuwaitis for a good reason? It’s possible he deludes himself with that belief now, but I don’t think he was always that way. Saddam started out like the rest of us—as a baby. Mormons believe that all children under the age of accountability (around age 8) are pure and without sin. We don’t believe that small children must be baptized in order to be saved, but we believe that they are saved by virtue of Christ’s atonement. Therefore, any infant that dies is automatically received into heaven—he or she, by virtue of their innocence belongs to Christ.

Furthermore, I believe that each of us has a conscience given to us by God and that it is developed as we grow up. At some point, Saddam, Hitler, and Stalin each had a conscience and knew good from evil. But by continually suppressing their consciences, and justifying their evil deeds, they soon became desensitized to any feelings of good. They may have lied to themselves that the ends justify the means, but deep down I believe they knew they were wrong. But how could an evil person live with themselves if they acknowledged that their deeds were evil? At first, Anakin feels remorse for killing Mace Windu, but then Palpatine helps him justify what he did and then what he does later. I think Anakin still felt that what he did was wrong, as exhibited by his tears after slaughtering everyone on the volcanic planet.

I was also disturbed by Obi-Wan leaving Anakin to die on the volcanic planet. Anakin was no longer a threat to Obi-Wan and was mortally wounded. I tried to figure out what bothered me so much about this scene. I think it was because Obi-Wan had an opportunity to show mercy to Anakin, and didn’t. He seemed to decide that Anakin was beyond redemption and deserving of a slow, painful death. I mean, he could have ended Anakin’s suffering with one stroke of the light saber, but he didn’t. It didn’t seem very Jedi-like and certainly not like someone who considered Anakin to be a brother or son.

I don’t believe any of us, even Saddam, is ultimately beyond redemption. Don’t get me wrong, I support the death penalty if the crime is heinous enough. I don’t think mercy should rob justice, and I think Saddam should be executed for his numerous crimes. I believe that those that don’t get justice on earth will get it in heaven. Mercy is God’s greatest gift and is a very powerful tool. If Obi-Wan had saved Anakin’s physical body, he may have been able to save Anakin’s soul and prevented him from becoming Darth Vader, the half-man, half-robot monster. But then again, maybe not.

Of course, ROTS is not about redemption. That comes later in Return of the Jedi. Note how Luke never gives up on his father, while everyone else does. Anyway, I just had to keep reminding myself that this was only a movie, and if Lucas had done things my way, then the whole series would have been messed up. I do wish that instead of Obi-Wan coldly leaving Anakin to die, Lucas had somehow caused the two to become separated, making Obi-Wan’s recovery of Anakin impossible. However, Obi-Wan’s lack of mercy in ROTS does go well with Obi-Wan’s unspoken remorse masterfully displayed by Alec Guinness in A New Hope.

All in all, annoying dialogue notwithstanding, I had to give ROTS two thumbs up. I plan to see it again this weekend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Carnival of the Cats Coming This Sunday!

Calling all cat lovers! The next edition of Carnival of the Cats is being hosted by yours truly here at Ripe Bananas. Please submit your entries by 6 p.m. (Central time) this Sunday, May 29th at cats(at)isfullofcrap.com. I'm looking forward to all of your cat-related posts.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that this week's Carnival o' Cats is at thisblogisfullofcrap. Enjoy the cat crap.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Babyblogging: Leaving on a Jet Plane

Well, it seems our comcast cable is working well now so I have some catching up to do. Over the Mother's Day weekend, I flew up to Salt Lake City, Utah with my son and husband to attend my brother's graduation from the University of Utah. It was Preston's very first plane ride and he had no problems. He sleep most of the way, woke up for some dinner, and then spent the rest of the time watching the lights outside on the ground. Here's a picture of him strapped into his car seat in the airplane.


We spent part of the weekend with my brothers and their wives, my mother and grandmother, and my father and his wife. Of course, everyone was excited to see Preston again. Never mind about the parents, just leave the adorable infant with us please! I gave my mom, my grandma, and my stepmother each a framed picture of Preston for Mother's Day. Behold, the power of the smiling baby picture. Just try not to say, "aww...how cute."


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Comcast is the Devil!

Our Comcast cable connection has been in and out over the past three weeks. It always seems to work when my husband's using the computer, but the minute I want to blog or check email, it goes down again. We finally got Comcast to send out some repairmen and it's working now. Hopefully, I'll get to post more later.

Friday, April 29, 2005

It's Good to Know That Not All British Professors Are Anti-Jewish Bigots

Last Friday, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) in the U.K. decided to boycott Israeli Universities (via LGF) to protest against the "apartheid" Israeli government and the occupation of Palestinian territory. Hmmm...I wonder if the AUT is also going to boycott North Korean, Iranian, and Chinese universities because their governments commit numerous civil rights abuses? How about Palestinian universities of death where they glorify mass murder of civilians? No? I didn't think so. This is nothing more than blatant anti-Semitism. Why don't these professors PUT DOWN THEIR TEA AND CRUMPETS, AND GET BACK TO WORK teaching at their universities instead of wasting everyone's time shilling for Palestinian terrorists?

I don't have a problem with professors and anyone else being involved in politics, but it's inappropriate to use a professional organization to persecute others in their profession. And that's what it is--persecution of other professors, and it's not that different from what the Nazis did to Jewish professors before WWII broke out.

Fortunately, there are some members of the AUT that are refusing to go along with the boycott (via LGF).

From the Jerusalem Post article:

John Vail, lecturer in political economy at Newcastle University, wrote in an e-mail to fellow academics: “The boycott is blatantly discriminatory and reeks of double standards.” He added: “Although I have no current research links with Israeli academics, this has made me want to go out and develop some just so as to show my disapproval of this motion. I hope that our local branch will pass a motion that expresses our disagreement with the national policy.”

Fifteen academics from the Board of the London-based Leo Baeck Institute signed a letter expressing “dismay” at the AUT resolutions: “All agree in deploring the proposed boycott of Israeli universities and academics who fail to satisfy a political inquisition. Israeli universities, notably the three targets of the boycott, represent the best ideals of the university as a place of tolerance and the free exchange of views, in which Jews, Muslims and Christians study and work together.”

The letter, which registered alarm at the “double standards and hypocrisy” behind the resolution, asked: “Will the tests and the boycott apply to Israeli Arab academics or only Jews?” The letter’s signatories are based in a variety of British universities, and include the Institute’s chairman Prof. Peter Pulzer, and Dr. David Rechter, both of whom lecture at Oxford University.

I was disappointed that there was no mention of the boycott in Science magazine this week. However, there was a small paragraph on it in Nature magazine. I hope more professors from all over the world step up to the plate to condemn this boycott.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Babyblogging: Mmmm...Rice Cereal

Preston has reached that wonderful landmark of sampling solid food...if you can call watered down rice cereal either solid or food. Most of it runs down his chin as he rolls the foreign-textured swill around his mouth. Sometimes he seems to prefer chomping on his plastic bib. His bottom two teeth have finally come in after a month of teething and now his top four are all coming at once, poor kid. Good times! It's all I can do to keep from laughing when his cute face is covered with rice cereal. And then there's the clean-up. It's not easy getting all of the rice out of the chubby little folds of his neck. I can hardly wait to start on the strained carrots and peas next month!


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Twilight For the Enlightenment, Are You Kidding Me?

Well, I’ve been meaning to do some science blogging, but I haven’t found any inspiring research articles that wouldn’t put my non-scientist readers to sleep. I’ve found a couple articles to be mildly interesting, but nothing spectacular. Let's see. There's Comparison of Fine-Scale Recombination Rates in Humans and Chimpanzees where the authors show that although chimp DNA is 99% identical to human DNA, it is regulated completely differently. Hmmmm...this probably is why we don't look like chimps. Then there was the article Do 15-Month-Old Infants Understand False Belief? Basically this explains that your toddler can swipe your keys, hide them from you, and then giggle because you can't find them.

But I did find an editorial in the April 8th edition of Science worth fisking. It’s been so long since I’ve fisked an article, so why not start with the smarty pants editor-in-chief from Science magazine, Donald Kennedy. It was so amusing reading the editorials in Science and Nature during this past election season as the editors attempted to appear like Serious Objective Scientists, interested only in TRUTH not in partisan politics. But sometimes I wonder if the editors got their talking points from one of the political parties--I’ll let you guess which one and their name doesn’t start with an R.

I was especially annoyed to read an editorial in Nature last year that basically declared that any self-respecting scientist had to vote for the candidate that best represented scientists’ interests i.e. unlimited stem cell research, and therefore they must support John Kerry. As if stem cell research is the one and only issue for scientists when they consider who to vote for. Come on, which biotech company specializing in stem cell research is paying you guys? You know, I don’t care if Science and Nature editorializes about politics. It gives me something to rant about, but I don’t like how they pretend to be the spokesman (or is it spokesperson) for all scientists. They do not represent me and many other conservative members of the scientific community—and yes we do exist. I know of one professor at my school that kept a punching dummy head on his desk. During the 2004 election, he taped a picture of John Kerry's face to the front of it. During the confirmation hearing for Condeleeza Rice, he taped a picture of Barbara Boxer's face to it. His office door was also covered with picture of Reagan and the Bushes.

So let’s start with the title: Twilight for the Enlightenment? Talk about hysterical. Oh no! That Chimpy Christian Crusader Cowboy Bushitler ™ has won re-election and the world is doomed to fall back into the dark ages where holes are drilled in people’s skulls to release demons and leeches are the cure for the common cold. Give me a break!

Then he talks about the Enlightenment and how it brought JOY and PEACE and LOVE to the whole world--or not.

For much of their existence over the past two centuries, Europe and the United States have been societies of questioners: nations in which skepticism has been accepted and even welcomed, and where the culture has been characterized by confidence in science and in rational methods of thought. We owe this tradition in part to the birth of the Scottish Enlightenment of the early 18th century, when the practice of executing religious heretics ended, to be gradually replaced by a developing conviction that substituted faith in experiment for reliance on inherited dogma.

That new tradition, prominently represented by the Scottish philosopher David Hume, supplied important roots for the growth of modernity, and it has served U.S. society well, as it has Europe’s.

I’m a fan of Hume, but he also gave us the Problem of Induction which as my husband translated from philosopherese is correlation is not causation --and everything is correlation. So science isn’t all that in the grand scheme of things. I’m especially annoyed when some correlational study comes out the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) that says this, that and the other is linked to increased risk of cancer or whatever and every media outlet declares that it’s a scientific fact that eating too many Twinkies will result in a HORRIBLE, SLOW DEATH. The CDC just got busted this year for exaggerating the figures of individuals who die of causes related to obesity . So much for the obesity epidemic.

The results of serious, careful experimentation and analysis became a standard for the entry of a discovery or theory into the common culture of citizens and the policies of their governments. Thus, scientific determinations of the age of Earth and the theories of gravity, biological evolution, and the conservation of matter and energy became meaningful scientific anchors of our common understanding.

In the United States, that understanding is now undergoing some dissolution, as
some school boards eliminate the teaching of evolution or require that religious versions of creation be represented as “scientific” alternatives. “Intelligent design,” a recent replacement for straight-up creationism, essentially asserts that a sufficient quantity of complexity and beauty is by itself evidence of divine origin—a retrogression to the pre-Darwinian zoologist William Paley, who saw in the elegant construction of a beetle’s antenna the work of a Creator.

Well, I think he’s being way too alarmist about those fundy Christians taking over our schools and banning all science. I reviewed the cases he’s referring to here, here, here, and
, and I think he’s exaggerating a bit. In Kansas, teaching evolution wasn’t eliminated, they just said it was no longer part of the required science curriculum and teachers could choose to teach it or not. A couple of states wanted to put little sticker that said evolution is a theory not a fact, and he gets all hot and bothered about it. The truth is, evolution IS a theory (a pretty good one so far) and what we claim to know as facts are subject to revision as our knowledge progresses. I think students should be taught evolution, but they should also be able to ask questions about it and see if there are any holes in it.

I personally don’t have a problem with most of evolution. But there are some aspects of it that I think are still pretty foggy e.g. evolution of the first living cell. I don’t really believe that men and apes evolved from a common ancestor either, but I think it’s a pretty good interpretation of the data thus far.

In 1998, I helped the National Academies produce a book entitled Teaching About
Evolution and the Nature of Science. At the press conference announcing its publication, I was asked if I knew that most U.S. citizens did not believe that humans descended from other forms. I said I did, but expressed a hope that things might change.

Well, I hate to tell you this buddy, but until belief in God is totally eliminated from human society, there will always be people that believe that we are more than mere animals, that there is a spark of the divine in us.

Well, things changed in the wrong direction: Alternatives to the teaching of biological evolution are now being debated in no fewer than 40 states. Worse, evolution is not the only science under such challenge. In several school districts, geology materials are being rewritten because their dates for Earth’s age are inconsistent with scripture (too old).

What happened to the idea that the debate of ideas is a good thing in a republic? Is science so infallible that there is no room for debate? I don’t see any harm in the public debating the teaching of evolution. If a state decides to phase it out, and the scores on the science portions of standardized tests will drop, and they’ll have to reconsider their decisions. I think evolution should be taught to all students in their high school biology classes, just one chapter or week of classes if time permits. But students that are taught evolution don’t necessary have to believe it, just know what it is. I made it through grad school just find without being tested on evolution or referring to it in my research. Evolution is a small , but important part of biology. I tend to think evolutionary biologists and other scientists tend to overexaggerate its importance.

For example, Donald hopes that most U.S. citizens will someday believe that humans and chimps evolved from a common ancestor. I think most Americans know about evolution, but don’t buy into all of it. We’re not necessarily a 3rd world backwater like say Sudan because of it, however. The U.S. is still leading the world in R & D in spite of (some might say because of) the high percentage of the population that believes in God.

Meanwhile, President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief policies recommend
“evidence-based” risk-reduction strategies: abstinence for youth, fidelity for married couples, and condoms recommended only for infected or high-risk individuals, such as sex workers. Failure rates for condoms are commonly quoted, apparently to discourage their use by young people for risk prevention. Mysteriously, the policy doesn’t seem able to cite a failure rate for abstinence.

Shocking! Promoting abstinence for the youth, fidelity for married couples, and condoms for high risk individuals is certainly radical! As for citing the failure rate of condoms, I think it would be irresponsible to promote their use as safe-sex and then not tell the failure rate. Condom use is not 100% foolproof, while abstinence (if maintained) is.

Finally, certain kinds of science are now proscribed on what amount to religious grounds. Stem cell research is said by its opponents to pose a “moral dilemma.” Yet this well-advertised dilemma does not arise from a confrontation between science and ethical universals. Instead, the objections arise from a particular belief about what constitutes a human life: a belief held by certain religions but not by others.

And what are these ethical universals, pray tell? Would these be the same ethical universals espoused by people like Peter Singer who believes parents should be allowed to kill their newborn children if they wish? I think Donald’s also picking on Catholics here since they believe that human life begins at conception. But other people besides Catholics have problems with using human embryos for stem cell research. A friend of mine who is Hindu and also has an M.D. and Ph.D. is uncomfortable with the idea of destroying human embryos for research. Hindus have a profound respect for life—all forms of life—since many of them are vegetarians. I think it would be ok if embryos left over from in vitro fertilization treatments were used for stem cells, but only if it was ok with the “parents.” But I don't think human embryos should be produced by cloning for stem cell production. It would be too close to A Brave New World scenario with a subclass of humans (or potential humans) used for the benefit of the superior class.

Some researchers, eager to resolve the problem, seek to derive stem cells by techniques that might finesse the controversy. But the claim that the stem cell “dilemma” rests on universal values is a false claim, and for society to accept it to obtain transitory political relief would bring church
and state another step closer.

I see, Donald. Why should scientists attempt to make the American taxpayer feel better about how their tax dollars are being spent on stem cell research? Scientists should just be able to do whatever they want with taxpayer money since they are so much smarter than the average taxpayer. I’m sorry, but if the American public is footing the bill, we should have a say in what is ethical and what is not as far as research goes. There has to be some kind of acocuntability if public money is used. Private funds are another matter and stem cell research is not restricted in the private sector. Also, California managed to convince its citizens that it was worthwhile to fund stem cell research with state money through a referendum. This is a republic after all, not like Plato’s republic where the guardians (scientists) decide what is in the best interests of everyone else.

The present wave of evangelical Christianity, uniquely American in its level of participation, would be nothing to worry about were it a matter restricted to individual conviction and to the expressions of groups gathering to worship. It’s all right that in the best-selling novels about the “rapture,” the true believers ascend and the rest of us perish painfully. But U.S. society is now experiencing a convergence between religious conviction and partisan loyalty, readily detectable in the statistics of the 2004 election. Some of us who worry about the separation of church and state will accept tablets that display the Ten Commandments on state premises, because they fail to cross a threshold of urgency.

But when the religious/political convergence leads to managing the nation’s research agenda, its foreign assistance programs, or the high-school curriculum, that marks a really important change in our national life.

Translation: To all you religious types, go ahead with your primitive God worship, but when it comes to politics and science policy, just shut up and let us intellectuals run the show. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind if we raise your taxes a bit to fund all our dream projects. Yep, the defeat of that towering intellect John Kerry was all due to those evangelicals. Never mind that Kerry couldn’t win over those of us in the middle because of his weak positions on terrorism, and his smarmy insincerity (not to mention his limp-wristed salute at the Democratic convention--ugh).

Twilight for the Enlightenment? Not yet. But as its beneficiaries, we should also be its stewards.

Well, I'm glad to hear that not all is lost. Just get rid of the influence of those pesky religious types and everything will be hunky-dory. I think Donald fails to realize that the results of the last two elections and the school curriculum fights are part of a backlash. The average American is sick of being pushed around by anti-religion groups and ivory tower intellectuals, and is fighting back. There will have to be some compromises made. If that means that in some states intelligent design is taught along with evolution, then so what? If the evidence for evolution is so strong, then it should be able to stand on its on. Let the kids decide for themselves. Let the American public decide where their tax dollars should go.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Babyblogging: Springtime in Texas

Every spring it's tradition for us to photograph the blue bonnettes in bloom. This year we can photograph Preston as well. Since he can't sit up by himself yet, Mommy has to be in the picture too. Oh well. It was a bad hair day and Preston was kind of tired so he's not smiling.


But he's got a big ol' grin in the next picture. He just got an exer-saucer and he has a ball playing in it. There are things to flip, twirl, roll, twist, and masticate. Now that he's teething, it's a mega-drool fest every day!


Today was his four month check-up and you know what that means--vaccinations. I'm sure all you parents out there can relate when I say I wish the nurse would give me the shot instead so Preston wouldn't have to feel the pain. But I know that it's best for him to be inoculated against all those nasty diseases. I just wish that shots were like the ones you see in Star Trek episodes--a little puff into the arm and you're on your way. I can dream.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Saturday Catblogging: Omni, My Anti-Muse

Omni is a big-time mama's boy. He just loves to invite himself onto my lap, even when I'm trying to feed Preston or type on the computer. He makes it impossible to get anything done at the computer. So after I've kicked him out of my lap 5-6 times, he finally gets the message and decides to sit ON TOP of the computer. Of course, he's not as small as he used to be (because he eats my other cat's portion of food too) so sometimes he slides off. I try not not to laugh because he looks so embarrassed. I mean, who ever heard of a clutzy cat?


UPDATE: This week's Carnival of the Cats is hosted by Barry at enrevanche.

Women and the Priesthood

I was listening to Dennis Prager yesterday and he was talking about the criticism of Pope John Paul II with regards his refusal to ordain women priests, and it got me thinking about the role of the priesthood in the LDS church. Numerous times, people have told me that LDS women are OPPRESSED by the male hierarchy of our church. But I’m sure they aren’t aware that women were given the right to vote in the territory of Utah in 1870 before it became a state and that many early LDS women were heavily involved in the women’s suffrage movement, such as Emmeline B. Wells.

So I guess by OPPRESSED these people mean that women in the LDS church are not given the priesthood, nor allowed to hold the highest offices in the church. There are plenty of leadership roles for women in the LDS church such as serving in one’s local or the general presidency of the Relief Society (one of the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world), the Primary (a Sunday school program for children), or the Young Women’s organization (a program for teenage girls that includes weekly activities and Sunday school classes). I served in the local presidency of both the Relief society and Young Women’s, and often attended meetings with the male leaders of our church. Not once have I ever felt discriminated against or been sexually harassed because of my gender. I wish I could same the same about my experience in academia, but that's another story.

Only males that hold the priesthood can hold the highest offices in the LDS Church, such as president, apostle, seventies, high priest, priest, and bishop (these offices are based on those found in Christ’s church as described in the New Testament). The LDS church, unlike most churches, has a lay clergy, meaning the officials are just regular Joes and are not required to hold theological degrees.

Gordon B.Hinckley , the President of the LDS church, received a bachelor’s degree in English and had planned to attend the Columbia school of journalism when he was asked to serve in the church. One of the 12 apostles was a heart surgeon, another a Utah state Supreme Court judge, and the rest were lawyers, businessmen or educators before being appointed apostles. Men from all walks of life are called by top officials of the church to serve in various positions and as in the Catholic Church, it is believed that God directs these officials to choose the right men for the job.

There’s a simple reason why women in both the LDS and Catholic churches are not ordained in the priesthood (and this may sound weird to atheists or agnostics)—God has not willed it to be so. The definition of priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name, and thus both churches believe that the priesthood is given by God to man and passed down according to His direction. The Catholic Church believes that the priesthood was given to Peter directly from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and then passed down from Peter to every pope until now.

The LDS church, on the other hand, believes that the priesthood was lost from the earth after the death of the Apostles because of apostasy or falling away from the true church of Christ. It was then restored to the Earth to Joseph Smith and others through administration by John the Baptist (for the lesser priesthood known as the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood) and by Peter, James, and John (for the greater or Melchizedek priesthood). (Melchizedek was the king of Salem in Canaan during the time of Abraham in the Old Testament and was also a high priest of God). The doctrine of the LDS church states that the priesthood was given to Adam in the beginning and has since been passed down through the generations to males only. The priesthood line has been broken only once—after the death of the Apostles.

Now the question is why does God allow only men to hold the priesthood? Well, at one time only males of the tribe of Levi were allowed to hold the Levitical priesthood and administer in the temple (see the Old Testament and the story of John the Baptist’s father Zachariah in the New Testament). LDS theology holds that after the fall of Adam and Eve, men were given the priesthood while women were given the gift of bearing children. Now believe me, giving birth doesn’t seem like such a gift when you’re in the middle of labor pains, but it is something special that men will never be able to do (except in a Schwarzenegger/Devito comedy). Plus, I’d rather not be the bishop of my church and have to a kazillion meetings and appointments on Sundays and during the week in addition to my duties at home and/or work.

In LDS theology, men and women have different roles in God’s plan—men are primarily expected to provide for and protect the family while women are expected to bear and be the primary caregivers of children. However, allowances are made when women and men are forced to switch roles due to hardships such as divorce, death, or chronic illness. The priesthood is to be used by men to bless and serve others-- his fellow man but primarily his family. Men holding the priesthood give blessings for the sick, dedicate grave sites, and administer church ordinances such as baptism and the sacrament. It is not something to be used to dominate others, especially not one’s wife and children. This is clearly spelled out in LDS scripture (Doctrine and Covenants Section 121:34-46 and in the New Testament, Ephesians 5:22-33).

I believe the feminist movement and liberalism in general has taken religion and the priesthood, and turned it into a political tool. Feminists demand that women be ordained in the Catholic and LDS churches because they want women to be EQUAL i.e. the same as men. Dennis Prager, when discussing this topic said, “Egalitarianism is their religion rather than the religion is their religion.” I think it is arrogance to demand something from God without knowing if it is His will that they receive it. Either they believe that the leaders of these churches have been ignoring God’s will all these years in not giving women the priesthood (and they know better), or they don’t really believe that the priesthood is from God.

Really what feminists want is for the pope to do the P.C. thing, and one day declare that any woman that wants to be a Catholic priest may be ordained to the priesthood. What they don’t think about is what happens later on that night when the pope is praying. “Dear God, I gave women the priesthood today. Er, I hope that’s ok with you.” The priesthood is not the pope’s to give to whomever he chooses. In contrast, Protestant churches (except for the Anglican Church), believe that all members are universally endowed with the priesthood rather than receive it through succession, and therefore have no reason NOT to ordain women as priests.

The LDS Church got a lot of heat in the 60’s and 70’s for not giving the priesthood to those of black African descent. It wasn’t until 1978 that that was changed. The primary reason for this was that it was believed that God had withheld the priesthood from the lineage of Ham, who was cursed as to the priesthood because of wickedness (see Genesis 9:22-28). Now this did not mean that people of Hamitic descent (i.e. black Africans) were bad people, but that they were restricted as to the offices they could hold in the Church until God saw fit to give them the priesthood. Elijah Abel, a contemporary of Joseph Smith, was an exception to this ban because of his faithfulness.

In 1978, the President of the Church Spencer W. Kimball, after much fasting and prayer throughout the Church, received a revelation that ALL worthy males were to receive the priesthood. Skeptics might say well he was only giving into societal pressures at last so that the church could expand. But believers would say that God, through the faith and prayers of those that desired the priesthood for themselves or for their brothers, relented and lifted the ban. See this link to an article by the Elijah Abel Society for more info on blacks and the priesthood in the LDS Church.

Anyway, it may be that someday God will permit women to hold the priesthood, but it will be on His own timescale, not because of the whining of a bunch of feminists. As for Pope John Paul II, I believe he was a decent man with a true love of God and his fellow man. I hope the next pope is as inspirational as he was and as strong in his convictions. May God bless his soul.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Babyblogging: If the hat fits...

Just when I had some free time yesterday to do a couple of posts, Blogger goes down and then my comcast connection goes out. Argh! So I'll try again today.

I've never been into photography. Mostly I've just snapped a few pictures of special family occasions or scenic views on trips IF I remember to bring my camera along, which is not often. My husband on the other hand, is an excellent amateur photographer and can take hours waiting for the perfect shot. On our honeymoon in Cancun, he waited until Chitzhen Itza was closing to get the perfect shot of the Temple of Kukulcan without a flock of tourists around it. I was kind of annoyed because we missed seeing the Observatory ruins.

But now that I have a child, I'm using our digital camera like crazy, just trying to get the perfect shot that captures the essence of cuteness that Preston exudes. Unfortunately, Preston is not interested in sitting still or smiling for the camera, so most of the shots are blurry or show Preston with a funny look on his face. One of the baby magazines (yes, another thing I'd never subscribe to) has a contest for the cutest photo of your baby wearing a hat, and I thought I'd try to get one of Preston. But he dislikes hats, so here's the best I could do this week. He looks pretty surprised in his Winnie-the Pooh hat and probably is thinking, I can't believe you stuck this silly-looking hat on my head. Just wait until I can pick my own clothes and then you'll be sorry!


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I'm Not Dead Yet!

Don’t worry, my blog friends, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. I was suffering from a temporary bout of baby/blogging blues. You know, the kind of blues where you question whether blogging is worth the time invested because probably no one bothers to read your rants, and you find yourself having a small identity crisis because life at home with your baby is altogether TOO TRANQUIL with not enough mentor- and thesis-induced CHAOS with daily intellectual overstimulation as you dissect tiny fly heads in the dark while listening to loud music and the myriad of social and political issues on talk radio, frantically reading and re-reading every paper on fruit fly vision, typing and editing over and over until your thesis is just so while at the same time managing to get into political and theological debates with every co-worker that has free time on their hands.

To summarize, I’m having a hard time adjusting to life at home all day with an infant after spending the last eight years in several research labs. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with Preston all day. It’s fascinating watching him grow and develop. Each day I wonder what new thing he is going to do, whether he’ll trying to wiggle out of his infant seat or say something almost like “mama.” And he’s just so darn CUTE! I wish I could capture all the precious moments on film where he just looks at me, and my heart melts.

But it is rather lonely at home all day with no one to talk to except a 4-month-old baby and two cats. I’m an introvert through and through, but I can talk up a storm around friends and family—just ask my husband. Unfortunately, during tax season my husband’s work heats up so he’s been working long hours. And when he comes home exhausted at night, he’s not ready for his wife to talk his ear off for the rest of the night.

So my pent up oral energy has gone unspent, day after day. I started leaving on the T.V. all day just to have something besides silence permeating the house and to have some sort of adult interaction that didn't involve actual people. I also developed an unhealthy addiction to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and although I’ve had lots of thoughts rolling around in my head, I just didn’t have the motivation to form them into any type of essay for my blog. I had lost the will to blog! Pathetic, eh?

So upon further reflection, I think blogging is the perfect activity for someone like me. I get the chance to “talk” through my posting to whoever is reading (or not), and I can correspond and debate with my friends and critics over a myriad of issues. I’ve never been interested in garnering fame and fortune from blogging, and I’d prefer to have a small readership because I really don’t think I could handle all the hate mail that “famous” bloggers attract. Through blogging, I’ve established friendships with several wonderful people that I would have never met otherwise.

So I’ve decided that I need to continue blogging. To better focus my energies on writing and other daily tasks, I’ve started a one-month moratorium on watching T.V. It’s been hard when lunch-time comes around to not flip on the tube and see what nasty demons Buffy is skewering this time (I've been told I have a morbid sense of humor). I also started a regular exercise routine that includes aerobic training and weight-lifting. Exercise is always great for easing mild depression, and it’s a good time to think about topics on which to write.

Anyway, I’m going to continue baby and cat blogging as well as add more science and politics blogging. I think it would be great to start a Carnival of the Babies (or Carnival des Enfants). If anyone is interested in participating, please leave a comment and we can get something started. I know there are tons of cute baby pictures out there that people are just dying to share with the blogosphere.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Babyblogging: Week 11

Ok. So today I'm posting a picture from last week and this week to make up for the missed post. And I promise the pictures are worth the wait. The first one shows Preston at age 10 weeks taking a bath. He loves his baths! He hated them at first, but now he just relaxes and enjoys the warm water. I can't wait until he's old enough to sit up by himself in our bathtub, and play with a bunch of unnecessary toys purchased because I was convinced they were critical for his intellectual and emotional development. Of course, babies can be entertained by almost anything, not just overpriced toys. Sigh! It's so easy to spoil your kids.


This next picture shows Preston at 11 weeks taking a nap with Mr. Rabbit. I can't think of a better name than Mr. Rabbit, so I'll leave the naming up to Preston. I never had a favorite stuffed animal, but I had a favorite blanket. I carried it everywhere with me until it fell apart. I still remember the smell of it, but I don't remember what it looked like. So far, Preston is not a thumb sucker, as I was. He sucks on everything--pacifiers, various fingers, Mr. Rabbit, Mr. Bear--except he hasn't yet discovered his feet are just as tasty.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Babyblogging: At Last, a Smile!

Finally, I was able to capture Preston smiling. It took many attempts and much shaking of toys. I'm glad he's in such a good mood today. Yesterday he got his first set of vaccinations, and it was not fun for either one of us. The emotional pain I felt when seeing him in pain, even though it was short-lived, was indescribable. I wanted so much to take away his pain, to comfort him. I've never felt that way before. I think the only thing that comes close is seeing a dear pet suffering. A friend of mine lost her son to a car accident when he was 12 years old. Last year he would have graduated from high school, and she's still grieving. I can't imagine the magnitude of her grief. I pray that Preston will outlive his parents, and have a long and happy life.


SuperMom Anxiety for Children Syndrome(SMACS)

Being a new mother, of course I want to be the best mother I can be to my son Preston. I want to make sure he eats enough, sleeps enough, stays healthy, is clothed properly for the weather, gets enough intellectual and physical stimulation for his proper development, and is in general a happy fellow. Sometimes mothers can drive themselves and their families crazy with their high expectations for themselves and everyone else. An article in Newsweek called Mommy Madness (via James Lileks) drew my attention today. It describes how many American mothers are not enjoying motherhood because they are so caught up with being the perfect mother. I have been thinking about this topic for a while.

I admit I am sometimes guilty of being an obsessive-compulsive mommy. The first week of Preston’s life, we took him to church so that he could receive the traditional LDS baby blessing with my whole family in attendance. I’d been told that babies should be kept at home for their first month to reduce the chances of contracting an illness while their immune system was still immature, but this Sunday was the only day that my whole family could be together to celebrate Preston’s blessing day. Well, the whole time we were at church, I was a nervous wreck. Every time someone around us coughed or sneezed, I thought, “If Preston gets sick because I brought him to church, I’m a bad mother and I’ll never forgive myself.” I was positively Monk-ish in my anxiety for him.

Well, Preston didn’t get sick, and I eventually forgave myself for taking him out too early. He’s happy, healthy, and growing at an astonishing rate. Yesterday I took him in for his two month check-up, and he weighed in at 13 lbs. 9 oz. (90% percentile) and measured 25 inches in length (97%). I’m finally starting to loosen up, and not be such a basket case over Preston’s health and happiness. It’s probably natural for first-time mothers to suffer from SuperMom Anxiety for Children syndrome (or SMACS, I made the name up) for the first few months because of the fear and doubt about their abilities as a parent. What’s not healthy is for moms to stay that way for the rest of their child’s young life and with all of the other children. Over-protectiveness and constant anxiety can cause a child to become co-dependent and anxious himself. A member of my extended family has SMAC and her adolescent children are nervous wrecks just like her. Holidays are a burden because she feels like she has to deprive herself of sleep so that she can make everything perfectly decorated, wrapped, and color-coordinated.

The SMAC-suffering mothers described in the Mommy Madness article fall into two categories: working moms trying to balance careers and motherhood, or stay-at-home-moms going crazy with boredom and lack of fulfillment. I think the major problem with these women is that they want everything at once—fulfillment via a challenging vocation and a traditional home life with adorable, perfect children. If they don’t obtain these goals, then they blame themselves for not doing enough. What women with this problem need to realize is that they can’t have everything at once. You can do one or the other thing, but you can’t do both at once and expect them to be the best. It’s just not humanly possible. Some people can make both work for them and not be basket cases, but one area will suffer and that’s just the way it is. If family is what’s most important, than focus on that and let the vocation slide and vice versa.

In my case, I was unable to have children right away due to health issues, so I opted to work on a Ph.D. for a while. There’s no way I could have had children and worked on my doctorate unless I let someone else raise them or got zero sleep. What would be the point of that? Since family is so important to me, I decided to give up a potential career in research so that I can stay at home and raise Preston. Later on when he goes to school, I may take my Ph.D. and work part- or full-time, but I’m content to wait and see. I don’t feel deprived; I feel fortunate that we have the means so that I don’t have to work. I do miss the intellectual stimulation of an academic environment sometimes, but I’ve found other ways to keep my brain nourished. I read a lot—books, magazines, blogs—and I enjoy watching the news and some favorite programs like CSI. The History and Discovery channels are a good diversion when I’m breastfeeding or folding laundry. I also try to keep up on my hobbies like playing the piano and writing. But I’m also trying to develop some new talents, like sewing and cooking.

Of course, most of my time is spent caring for Preston, but I make sure to set aside some time for me as well. My faith and my family are the two most precious things in my life, as I suspect they are with most people. My faith helps me keep things in perspective. My church encourages women to stay at home with their children if possible because we believe it’s important for their physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development. Some mothers have to work due to financial circumstances, and I feel blessed that my husband makes enough money to allow me to stay at home. There’s a great article in the March issue of Ensign (a magazine published by my church) entitled “My Stay at Home Education” (this issue will be available in PDF format in March) that outlines things a stay-at-home mom can do to improve herself physically, intellectually, and spiritually. I’ve paraphrased the main points here:

1. Develop new skills that can come in handy caring for kids, e.g. first aid.
2. Read good books.
3. Develop talents with worthwhile hobbies (I guess this leaves out collecting Elvis paraphernalia).
4. Accept callings in church (or volunteer in your community).
5. Use community resources e.g. plays, concerts, education courses, book clubs, museums etc.
6. Take time for personal scripture study, prayer, journal writing, temple (or church) attendance etc.
7. Set goals and work towards them.

I’ve tried to follow this advice as well as get involved in a playgroup, and I’ve found that I feel very happy and I don’t get bored that often. These suggestions are good for stay-at-home moms even if you’re not part of an organized religion. And of course, remember to go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect and your child doesn’t have to be the next Mozart. The important thing is that you and your family are happy and enjoy being together.

There’s another article in the same issue of Newsweek called "The Good Enough Mother" that sums up what I’m trying to say perfectly.

There's the problem with turning motherhood into martyrdom. There's no way to do it and have a good time. If we create a never-ending spin cycle of have-tos because we're trying to expiate senseless guilt about working or not working, trying to keep up with the woman at school whose kid gets A's because she writes the papers herself, the message we send our children is terrible. By our actions we tell them that being a mom—being their mom—is a drag, powered by fear, self-doubt and conformity, all the things we are supposed to teach them to overcome. It just becomes a gloss on that old joke: Enough about me. What about you? How do you make me feel about myself? The most incandescent memories of my childhood are of making my mother laugh. My kids did the same for me. A good time is what they remember long after toddler programs and art projects are over. The rest is just scheduling.


Friday, February 11, 2005

A Little Light Reading?

If there are any insomniacs out there that need a sure-fire sleep-aid, here's a link to my Ph.D. dissertation entitled "The Role of the Scaffolding Protein InaD in Localization of Signaling Complexes to the Rhabdomeres of Drosophila Photoreceptors." I can't believe I actually finished that monstrosity. Anyway, if you ever wanted to know in gory detail how those pesky fruitflies see well enough to dodge your fly swatter, THIS is the dissertation for you. No takers? Don't worry, you won't hurt my feelings by telling me that the topic bores you to tears. It nearly killed me just doing the experiments for this dissertation, over and over and over....

Friday Catblogging

Here's a pic of Omni sitting on the top of my book shelf gazing out the window. It's his 2nd favorite spot to sit when I'm blogging (the 1st being right on top of the monitor). Omni's much easier to photograph than my other cat, Asia. In fact, I suspect he's a ham. The elusive Asia, on the other hand, will either attack the camera strap, or run away and hide under the futon. I'll try to capture her next week.


PrestonWatch: Week Eight

I've been desperately trying to snap a picture of Preston smiling, but usually he wiggles his head around when he does it and I get a blurred image. The best I could manage was this one where's he got this small "I'm up to something" smile. He's growing so fast, it's hard to keep him in clothes. He's about 14 lbs. and his 3-6 month clothes are already getting too short. Between my husband (6'1") and me (5'11"), he'll definitely be taller than average. I don't know if he'll be as tall as my brother who is 6'5", but maybe he'll play basketball when he gets older. Then again, he might be interested in science like his mom, or the law like his dad. Or maybe he'll have musical or artistics abilities. The possibilities are endless at this stage of his life!