Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Feel Like Hell and Microsoft is the Devil

Hi ya'll! Yes, it's been a week from Hades. First, my son got sick, then I did, then the baby did, and finally that rascally rhinovirus attacked my husband (who supposedly never gets sick). Of course, when everyone's sick, who's the one that nurses everyone else back to health? Mommy! But at least I didn't have to cook much, since no one felt like eating much besides soup or chili. But I shouldn't complain. Colds are temporary beasts and just a part of being human. But I look forward to the day that I can squirt a drug up my nose at the first sign of trouble, and avoid the endless boxes of tissues and drowsy side effects of cold medicine.

But that's not all, my friends, no. We also had some minor flooding in our house due to the abundant Texas rains last week. So much vacuuming and carpet cleaning and ventilating has been done.

And to top it all off, our computer has issues. We're using Microsoft Vista (please no booing!) and sure enough, one update later and all hell has broken loose. The computer won't turn off properly, won't load Outlook or Internet Explorer right, and crashes continually. The update (SP1) that's supposed to fix all this won't install on the computer, so I'll probably have to wipe the hard drive and reinstall everything. Argh! Curse you, Microsoft!

I was hoping to do some science blogging (on fruit flies too!), but that will have to wait until I can sort out the computer problems. So in the meantime, my friends, enjoy the bizarre sideshow that is our Presidential election.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Honor Killings: When Mothers Turn Against Their Own Daughters

On the first day of 2008 in the city of Irving (just west of Dallas), two teenage sisters, Amina and Sara Said, were murdered by their own father, an Egyptian Muslim immigrant. When I first heard that the girls' father was being sought in connection with their murders and I heard his name (it's Arabic), my first thought was that it was probably an honor killing. And my next thought was, "How could that happen here in Texas?!" Now, not all honor killings are committed by Arab men, and not all cases of children being killed by their fathers are honor killings. But honor killings happen frequently in the Middle East and have started to occur more frequently in western countries among immigrants from the Middle East and other Islamic countries.

Phyllis Chesler, of Pajamas Media, has a series analyzing the phenomenon of honor killing, especially as it applies to the Said case. The first installments of the series are here, and here. Today, she addresses the role of mothers that are complicit in the honor killings of their daughter (as in the Said case) in her article, "Murderous Mothers: The Hidden Female Face of Honor Killing."

Most of us probably can't fathom a parent being either directly or indirectly involved in murdering our own children. It runs counter to natural parental love for one thing. In her article, Chesler discusses the cultural and psychological factors that may have contributed to Patricia Said's involvement in her daughters' murders. Here's an excerpt (read the whole thing):

In the Arab and Muslim world—and in “Tissie’s ” world in Dallas , daughters are nothing but “trouble.” Their chastity has to be guarded, their modesty ensured. Otherwise, they will bring shame to their entire family. Among other things, this means that no one will marry the family’s sons or the other daughters. Disobedient daughters are dangerous and expendable.

But “Tissie” lives in Dallas, Texas. Why does she behave as if she lived in the Middle East?
Some of “Tissie’s” female relatives believe that she converted to Islam. However, they are not entirely sure since she has behaved in secretive ways. They have seen (or were told about) photos of “Tissie” and Yasser in Arab dress, posing with guns and knives in exaggerated “jihadic” poses. But they are unclear about whether Yasser and his family are religious or not. Or political. Or criminal. Violent—yes. Murderously “crazy” on the subject of women—yes. Gun-loving—yes.
But some non-Arabs and non-Muslims in America also engage in these behaviors—but not necessarily in all of these behaviors simultaneously: Some own guns and participate in a macho gun culture. Some batter and stalk their wives and physically and sexually abuse their daughters. Non-Arab and non-Muslim mothers also stand by their batterers (who may have girlfriends, and who, like Yasser, may leave for extended periods of time); and, they have been known to scapegoat their daughters for having “provoked” paternal lust.

But, such parents do not usually kill their daughters. And, if they do, they are seen as monsters, not heroes. Their families often give them up. They do not shelter them. Their families testify against them. (Recently in Israel, which in many ways is a western democracy, the women of an Arab Muslim family all testified against their men after the ninth female relative had been honor murdered). Our western culture has at least criminalized wife- and daughter-battering, incest, stalking, and femicide. While we may not always be successful in preventing or prosecuting such behaviors, we know that they constitute crimes.

So what can be done to prevent such monstrous crimes? According to the friends of the Said sisters, they had been sending out calls for help, but they were only recognized after their murders. Like other cases of severe child abuse, the best way to help these children is to establish relationships of trust, to listen to them, and report if abuse is suspected. Patricia Said tried to leave her husband and take her daughters with her. Unfortunately, like many abused women, she went back to him. Ultimately, there is little we can do in cases like this except to try to be good neighbors (maybe being a little nosey wouldn't hurt!) and reach out to troubled families.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When the State Oversteps Their Bounds

I was shocked by this story from Fox News.

Treffly Coyne was out of her car for just minutes and no more than 10 yards
away.But that was long and far enough to land her in court after a police
officer spotted her sleeping 2-year-old daughter alone in the vehicle; Coyne had
taken her two older daughters to pour $8.29 in coins into a Salvation Army

Minutes later, she was under arrest — the focus of both a police
investigation and a probe by the state's child welfare agency. Now the case that
has become an Internet flash point for people who either blast police for
overstepping their authority or Coyne for putting a child in danger.

Apparently, the weather was bad and she did not want to wake her sleeping daughter. She claims she locked her car (which was parked in loading zone near the door) and kept it in view the whole time while the kids donated their money.

I mean, WTH?! We've got parents throwing their kids off of overpasses, leaving them in roasting cars in the summer, or leaving them alone in a car that bursts into flames while they go shopping for an hour, and the State of Illinois is charging this lady? Gee, I'd better be careful or I might get ARRESTED for leaving my kids in a locked car for a FEW SECONDS while I run to get a shopping cart for them two spaces over in the PARKING LOT. What's next-- ARRESTING a mom because her 3 or 4-year-old ran away from her in the grocery store when she stopped to grab the Cheerios?!

In Texas there is a law for leaving a child in a vehicle (I got this from a Texas family law blog--

Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 22, Section 10 LEAVING A CHILD IN A VEHICLE.
A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a
motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the child is: younger
than seven years of age; and not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is
14 years of age or older. An offense under this section is a Class C

In Illinois, the statue says, "any person who leaves a child six years of age or younger, unattended in a motor vehicle for more than ten minutes has committed a Class A misdemeanor." The statute further defines "unattended" as "either not accompanied by someone fourteen years or older, or if accompanied by someone older than fourteen years the child must be within sight of that person."

This seems a little more reasonable . I doubt the mom in the story was out of the car longer than 10 minutes, but she was standing close enough to the car that I don't think the child counts as unattended. The police officer should have used some common sense. I bet the peace officer in this story had nothing better to do then wait for this mom to walk over to the front of the store, and then swoop in and look like a hero. A warning would have been sufficient. Thanks for wasting valuable tax payer money and ruining the lives of this family! Get a life, you busybody nanny-staters and try focusing on actual child abusers!

Update: If the mom was away from the car for less than 10 minutes, then according to the statue she has violated no law. She should be exonerated. I understand why police officers might be strict about something like this due to the number of children injured or killed by being left in hot cars, but they should be familiar with the revelant statutes so cases like this don't happen.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Random Thought No. 354 - Smelling Pretty

You know, I just love how everything smells pretty nowadays--from body lotion and shampoo to garbage bags and dish soap. When I go shopping it takes 5 minute just to open the lids of each product, get a whiff, and decide which I like the best.

Growing up, I remember that cleaners had 3 scents--ammonia, bleach, and Pine-sol. Lotion was either eau de baby or eau de Grandma's house. But now there are whole shops devoted to smelling pretty with scents like lime verbena, vanilla bean, and pear glace. Sigh! I love capitalism.

Daylight Saving Time is Pointless & Stupid (Or I'm So Delirious from Lack of Sleep I Have to Rant About Something)

I hate daylight saving time (DST). I mean, what is the point? Are we really fooling our bodies by messing with our clocks? My son woke up at 6 a.m. and I couldn't fall back to sleep because my mind is thinking it's really 5 a.m. and you have to get up in half an hour for church. And my body is saying, "Fat chance, lady. I ain't moving. You went to bed last night at midnight (11 p.m. pre-DST), remember?"

DST is not such a big deal for adults. I mean, what's a few days dragging your half-dead self out of bed and staring at the ceiling for an hour at night while you try to convince yourself to fall asleep sooner? But when you have small children, all hell can break loose. Now all your appointments for the next week or two have moved up an hour, but your kids' bodies will stubbornly remain on the old sleep/feeding schedule.

Take church for instance (which is a day that messes up the baby's nap/eat schedule anyway). If it starts at 9 a.m., I plan to be up at 6:30 a.m. (6 if I want to eat anything besides a stale granola left in the bottom of my purse). I've got to shower, dress, and eat before the kids get up. Then, if the kids normally get up at 7 a.m., they've got to be feed, dressed, and hustled out the door.

But when DST happens, the kids now get up at 8 a.m. and have to be fed and dressed by 8:30 to get loaded up and on our way to church. My 3-year-old is the slowest eater on the planet, and takes an hour to eat his Fruity Cheerios because he has to fish out each one singly with a minimum of milk, and then spoon up each drop of milk while talking incessantly about his Thomas train, going on the potty, wanting some juice, etc. Trying to cut breakfast short will cause an outburst of "My circles! My circles!" and an effusion of tears.

Then 10-15 minutes must be allotted to dress each child, which is like putting clothes on a couple of monkeys. My 3 year-old has to do a lap around the room after each article is put on, while my almost-mobile 7 month-old squirms, shrieks, and knocks everything off the changing table. See the problem? My only hope of being on time (no matter how early I get up) is by opening a wormhole. I suppose I could wake the kiddies an hour earlier, but I'd get two outcomes: 1) a grumpy, crying, uncooperative kid or 2) a zombie not-fully-awake-for-another-hour kid. Neither outcome is desirable for punctuality.

Supposedly, DST saves electricity by reducing the amount of electricity used in the evenings, but studies have been unclear on this (see Wikipedia for a great article on the history and controversy of DST). But it is clear that it does increase revenue for retailers, tourism, and athletics. Farmers don't like it harvesting often is best done at certain times of the day.

It turns out that DST was not proposed by Benjamin Franklin, but by some guy named William Willett in 1907. One of the reasons was that Willett wanted to play golf later into the evening during the summer. Franklin's contribution to DST, however, was only satire. According to Wikipedia, Franklin "anonymously published a letter suggesting that Parisians economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. This 1784 satire proposed taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise." That's some funny stuff--mostly because it's absurd, but it could happen given the fondness for silly nanny state government regulations in Europe. Imagine being awakened at 5 a.m. by a cannon blast. I think that would lead to an armed rebellion in the U.S. No one messes with my beauty sleep!

In conclusion, I'd prefer that the government keeps their hands off my clock, circadian or otherwise. Moving to Arizona, which doesn't do DST, never sounded so good (if you can overlook the whole "hotter than Hades" problem).

Friday, March 07, 2008

Snow in Texas!

We've been having crazy weather here in the DFW area. So far it's snowed TWICE in the first week of March. We didn't get much the first time, but the counties north of us got 2-3 inches. This morning we awoke to about an inch of snow on the ground, but by 9 a.m. it was already melted. My son enjoyed playing in it while it lasted. Too bad we didn't have enough to build a snowman, but he did get enough for one snowball shot at Mommy.

Here's a pic of our front yard covered in snow (yes, I know this must be pretty boring for all of you that have 3 feet of snow on the ground right now, but for those of us down South it's like Christmas!).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Texas Primary results

Things couldn't have turned out better in the not-so-super primaries on Tuesday. The Wicked Witch is still in the Democratic race against the Obamessiah, and the Huckster got crushed by John McCain. The main thing the Republicans should be worried about in November is turnout. In our precinct, my husband reported hundreds of Democrats showing up for the caucuses while only 5 Republicans (out of 33 needed) showed up to be delegates for the county Republican convention. My husband was appointed the precinct chairman so he can name more delegates if necessary. He said I could be one if I wanted and it might be interesting to attend the convention to see how the process works in Texas. But then again, it could be completely boring and tedious. Anyway, we'll see. At the very least, we'll make some new friends. But if John McCain doesn't start to generate some excitement among his base, he has no chance of beating the Democrat nominee.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Why Doesn't the Media Talk About Iraq Anymore?

Because it's mostly good news, that's why. John McCain, for all his faults as as lukewarm conservative, was right about one thing--the surge is working or has worked already. McCain staked his reputation on the success of the surge and for that, I'm willing to forgive him for his missteps on immigration and campaign finance reform.

But back to Iraq, violence has dramatically decreased and political reforms are finally starting to be put in place. I've never understood why the Democrats in D.C. have been so determined to cut and run from Iraq, except as it serves their own selfish needs of having power and proving that President Bush was wrong. I always thought that it was self-described liberals that were in favor of fighting wars to protect other people from human right abuses and genocide e.g. U.S. intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo. Based on the recent behavior of Democrats in D.C. (with very few exceptions), I can only conclude that Democrats think military intervention is a good idea only if

1) DEMOCRATS think of it and

2) intervention is NOT in the national interests of the U.S.

In my opinion, the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein were perfectly justified based on:

1) the genocide being committed against the Kurds, Shiites, and Marsh Arabs in Iraq especially the chemical attacks against the Kurds in the late 80's. That alone was reason enough for me to support the removal of Saddam--even though I was in junior high when that happened and I didn't learn about it until I was in college. As most people know, there is no statute of limitations on murder in the United States, why should genocide be any different?

2) Saddam's continued breaking of numerous resolutions passed by the U.N. as a condition of cessation of hostilities. He continued to fire on our aircraft in the no-fly zones--zones that had been set up to prevent him from going in and slaughtering Shiites and Kurds again.

3) Saddam providing material aid to known terrorists including cash payments to Palestinian suicide bombers and providing safe haven to Zarkawi , Abu Nidal, and others.

4) Saddam's pursuit of and threatened use of weapons of mass destruction. Even though it's likely that Saddam lied about the extent of his WMD capability before the world, in a post 9-11 world, I think it's effective to show the rest of the two-bit tyrants of the world what happens when you threaten the U.S. with WMD. Look how Libya fell right in line as a result of the Iraq invasion.

Fortunately, there are still some true liberals left that are genuinely interested in human rights. Michael Totten is one of them. I first began reading his blog after the invasion in Iraq in 2003 because I was curious about his pro-war position despite being a self-described liberal. Michael is a thoughtful and honest writer who now travels to the middle east and reports on political and social issues in those countries as an independent journalist. He has been to Iraq and Afghanistan numerous times and really gives an eyewitness account of the work of our military men and women. He also describes everyday life for the inhabitants in those areas affected by the War on Terror. Here's his latest post titled, "In the Slums of Fallujah."

Michael Totten isn't the only independent journalist that has picked up the slack from the mainstream media's lack of interest (beyond bombings and alleged atrocities) in Iraq. Michael Yon has been reporting from Iraq for years as an imbedded reporter. His photos from the war have become iconic, especially this one titled "Strength and Compassion" which depicts an American soldier cradling an Iraqi toddler after she was mortally wounded in a terrorist bombing.

To me, this photo is the ultimate expression of why we are in Iraq. It's a humanitarian mission to protect this fledgling democracy and her people from the terrorists that would destroy it, slaughter thousands, and use Iraq as a base of operations to spread their terror around the world. We have invested too much money, blood, and tears to abandon it now and hope for the best, as Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton would have us do. We should never forget what happened in Vietnam and Cambodia after we abandoned it--the fleeing of thousands of people, the slaughter of millions of people. Let's not turn Iraq into another Vietnam.