Tuesday, October 30, 2012

El Bloombito

I just had to share this, after laughing uproariously at NYC Mayor Bloomberg's attempts to speak (read from a card, actually) Spanish in his pronouncements about Hurricane Sandy.

Here are some of them: 

El ÑYPD que have grande flashlightos para los streetos que no tengo poder.
Mucho mas arboles esta fall dowño en el parkos. El parkos esta cerrado! No joggingo!
El Marathon esta still on los schedule. Maybe dancero los thriller en el racero? Tengo solutions!
Necesito to postpoño el Paradeo del Vilagero Halloweeño. Que more timero to learño los Thriller!
Yo talko to los owñeros de businesso. Necesito to que vamos backo to los businesso. Economico! 

Meanwhile, I was entranced watching Mayor Bloomberg's ASL translator.


Christmas Catalogs

I've been getting them for months now, and I wonder how I got on the mailing lists of all these companies. Some people save all the catalogs they get all year long and then write about them. I'm not doing that. Life is short, and I have enough clutter without saving those.

But I will say this: I receive an average of 6 per day, a stack about 1 inch tall, on 4 of the 6 days mail is delivered. Let's say they started the bulk of the deliveries in the last week of September. That means 52 days worth, so that's 52 inches tall, so that would be an almost 4-1/2-foot-tall stack of catalogs if I saved them all. And I've decided not to buy anything from any of those catalogs or any of those companies that have sent me those catalogs.

A ream of that thin paper (500 sheets) is (I'm guessing) about 3 inches tall, so that's about 17 reams of paper. How many trees? According to Conservatree.org, 1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets.

Of course I recycle, but I think it would be great if the one tree cut down to make all that paper for "my" unwanted and recycled catalogs had been allowed to stand, providing habitat for all kinds of other life.

That's all I can think of to say about that for now. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fiction Friday: October 26, 2012: The Forgotten Affairs of Youth

This latest Alexander McCall Smith entry in theIsabel Dalhousie series is, like the previous ones, brilliant.

It poses the question of how to live a full, satisfying, loving and loved life. Is it easier if you're a philosopher? It should be, right? Philosophers are guided by a firm foundation of understanding about what is important in life. But, as Isabel Dalhousie realizes over and over again, what you know and what you do are hardly ever in accord with each other.

And so the Isabel philosopher, guided by all the careful thoughts and observations and conjectures of philosophers throughout history, is essentially in the same boat as Mattie the religious person, guided by all the words of Jesus and her pastor and other religious friends.

Whoops, did Madame L say they're in the same boat? Bad metaphor for people who are crossing Egypt, but whatever vehicle one is using for crossing whatever vast expanse of unknown territory, we're all in the same one, aren't we.

And so Isabel reflects on Beauty ("always ready to do its work," even though we may have covered it up with ugly man-made objects), sarcasm ("could be fun, but...should be a private vice"), viscerality (one of those words you must say with conviction if you say it at all), what books one should read to a young child (not Babar or Tintin, for instance, unless you want your child to grow up with racist imperialist notions), how animals communicate (did she successfully send a telepathic message to a cat, or did the cat just assume she was thinking of giving it some fish?), the stock market (she invests only in stocks she finds morally acceptable), spiritualism (should she invest in a stock recommended by a voice from "the other side"?), the impermanence of human attachments (should she marry Jamie?), honesty (should she tell the health inspector where the mushrooms that made her sick came from?), and goodness (the one unabashedly good character in the book doesn't even know how remarkable her goodness is).

And Isabel thinks, "I have done the wrong thing...I have done the wrong thing for the right reason. Again."

Like Mattie and all the rest of us, Isabel realizes again, and again, and again, that doing what's right and good is not as easy as the philosophers and religious people make it seem.

And that's why we keep reading these books, isn't it: They show in these particular characters the very same and very particular flaws and wonderfulness of all of us, and they give us hope that when we do the wrong thing for the right reason there's still hope for us.

What about doing the right thing for the wrong reason? Not so much. Madame L will consider that issue in a review of another of Alexander McCall Smith's books.

Meantime, Madame L hopes You, Dear Reader, will consider reading "The Forgotten Affairs of Youth," a charming book and an intelligent one, full of hope for the human condition, in spite of all our mistakes and reasons.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rape Is Rape

We had a friend many years ago who bought one of those new cars that automatically slid a shoulder belt around you as soon as you sat down and closed the door. And if you accidentally left the door open, a voice would say, "A door is ajar."

Our friend loved to stand by the open door and ask, "What is a door?" so he could hear the car's voice say, "A door is a jar."

That's something like what the Republican Party, headed by Mitt Romney and his boy-sidekick Paul Ryan, is saying to women: You were raped? No, not really. You almost certainly had consensual sex and decided later to cal it rape. Or you were drunk, or the guy was a friend of yours, or you were dressed in provocative clothing, or you were walking alone on a dark street ... so you don't count.

But the fetus resulting from that maybe-real-but-we-doubt-it rape? Well, THAT is a "person" who counts! That should have 14th-Amendment rights, meaning, life, liberty, and property. Yes, property. What property? Apparently the "real" property of your womb, until it is born, and then you must take care of it and in many states must even allow the father, that is, the rapist, visiting and other parental rights.

So now Republicans are making the distinction between "forcible rape" and --- what? --- and making snarky comments about women who are "easy to rape" and saying you couldn't really get pregnant if you were raped but, if you somehow did, that must be God's will.

Listen up, Republican politicians and other misogynists: Rape is rape. No woman deserves to be treated that way. No woman on a supposedly enlightened college campus (Amherst) should be treated the way women are being treated not only there but on college campuses and every town and city across America.

Rape is rape. Pres. Barack Obama reiterated that rape is rape on the Jay Leno show last night:

"Well...I don’t know how these guys come up with these ideas. Let me make a very simple proposition... Rape is rape. It is a crime. And so, these various distinctions about rape and, you know — don’t make too much sense to me. Don’t make any sense to me. The second thing this underscores, though, this is exactly why you don’t want a bunch of politicians — mostly male — making decisions about women’s health care decisions. I — women are capable of making these decisions in consultation with their partners, with their doctors. And, you know, for politicians to want to intrude in this stuff, often times without any information, is a huge problem. And this is obviously a part of what’s at stake in this election. You’ve got a Supreme Court that — you know, typically a president is gonna have probably another couple of appointments during the course of his term. And, you know, Roe vs. Wade is probably hanging in the balance. You’ve got issues like Planned Parenthood where, you know, that organization provides millions of women cervical cancer screenings, mammograms — all kinds of basic healthcare....And so I think it’s really important for us to — to understand that women are capable of making these decisions and that these are not just women’s issues. These are family issues." (emphasis added)

This reminds me of when I first moved to this area and volunteered to work in a program to help victims of sexual assault. In our training, someone brought up the case of a woman who had recently been raped in a bathroom in the mall. She had followed the rapist's instructions to put her one-year-old baby down on the hard tile floor while he raped her (or, he threatened, he would throw the baby down). Some people said she shouldn't have done that; she should have fought; she should have done this or that or the other thing. But our teacher said, "She is not the one who did something wrong. She was protecting her life and the life of her baby. The rapist is the one who committed the crime. We will never penalize women for being the victims of a crime."

Unless you're a politician in today's misogynistic Republican Party.

Finally, for a thankfully more humorous (though still angry, in the same way that the best humor is informed by anger) take on this issue, here's Tina Fey suggesting that maybe these old ignorant white politicians are confusing "legitimate rape" with competitive gymnastics:

    "Todd Akin claims that women can’t really get pregnant from a legitimate rape because the body secretes hormones. Now I can’t even finish this sentence without getting dumber; it’s making me dumber when I say it—but it’s something about the body not being able to get pregnant when it’s under physical stress. Mr. Akin, I think you are confusing the phrase ‘legitimate rape’ with the phrase ‘competitive gymnastics.’

    "Fey summed up anger felt by many women across the country, adding, 'If I have to listen to one more gray-faced man with a two-dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I’m gonna lose my mind. I watch these guys and I’m, like, "What is happening? Am I a secretary on ‘Mad Men? What’s happening?"’”

Go, Giants!

That's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Great Quote for Today (Michelangelo?)

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark." --- Michelangelo Buonarroti --- I read this in an inspirational book, but when I looked it up online, I found that its authorship is disputed.

According to Wikiquote, this was "[a]ttributed without citation in Ken Robinson, The Element (2009), p. 260. Widely attributed to Michelangelo since the late 1990s, this adage has not been found before 1980 when it appeared without attribution in E. C. McKenzie, Mac's giant book of quips & quotes."

So that's an eye-opener, isn't it. It reminds me of those people who just make up inspirational stories because they think they'll help someone, or because they think they'll help the person who made up the story.

For example, in the latest episode of "Elementary,"  Sherlock tells a whole long story about when he was being bullied in boarding school. He tells the story in order to draw out a victim of kidnapping and abuse.  When Watson asks him afterward how much of the story was true, he says, "It's true that my father sent me to boarding school." (Later there's a twist to the real story of this victim, which shows Sherlock's effort in making up that whole long story to have been wasted).

Which reminds me of what my fifth-grade teacher wrote in my quote book at the end of that school year:

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?"   --- Robert Browning

You can read the whole poem here. It's "Andrea del Sarto." But when I read it, I wasn't as impressed by this couplet as my child's self was. Maybe I just haven't read the whole long poem carefully enough. I hereby promise myself to read it carefully this coming Sunday, when I won't be in a hurry to get off the computer and begin a day's worth of work and errands.

In high school we had to read a bunch of those Browning dramatic monologues, my favorite of which was "My Last Duchess," still one of my all-time favorites. And all this reminds me of the most often quoted bit from "Hamlet":

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

This, too, was presented to me as great advice. Then, when I read the play in high school and again in college and then watched several versions of it on stage and in the movies, I realized that the person giving that advice isn't really a role model. Polonius in fact is a foolish courtier who, while full of platitudes and fine-sounding advice, was a horrible father and, as Hamlet calls him, "a tedious old fool."

So, does that mean this piece of advice from Polonius was faulty? And does the fact that Michelangelo didn't really write that great quote make it less worthy?

I guess what I'm arriving at is that even fools often know the truth, even if they can't achieve it themselves; and even the greatest artists of all time may not have wisdom for our every occasion. Maybe we should be writing our own advice for ourselves...and then following it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How the Moon Was Formed

How was the moon formed? The prevailing theory until recently was that it coalesced from bits of two planets, for example the Earth and Mars, or the Earth and some other Mars-sized planet, that collided about 4.5 billion years ago.

(Does that number mean anything to anyone else besides me? Discuss amongst yourselves.)

But new research suggests that it was just the Earth itself that threw off bits of itself to form the moon. Earth would have had to be rotating really, really fast for that happen: for instance, going around every two or three hours.

Is that even plausible? According to this article at space.com, "[R]esearchers say the early solar system was a "shooting gallery" marked by many large impacts, which could have spun planets up to enormous speeds."

The two- to three-hour day "might sound incredible, and indeed it's close to the threshold beyond which the planet would begin to fly apart." But eventually the rotation rate could have (and obviously did) slow down. It would have happened after the breakoff, when a "gravitational interaction between Earth's orbit around the sun and the moon's orbit around Earth could have put the brakes on the planet's super-spin, eventually producing a 24-hour day, the scientists determined."

Anyway, it's a lot more complicated than I've made it seem here. Go to the space.com article for more, and while you're there you can take a quiz about the moon.

Full Moon over Long Beach, CA

Monday, October 22, 2012

"I Can't Believe You're Watching a Cooking Show!"

...said my dear husband. But I was: Martha Stewart's Cooking School.  I hadn't intended to watch it --- or any other cooking show --- but I happened upon it as I was searching through the channels for something else, and I stayed with it because she was showing how to boil an egg.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
Yes, something I theoretically knew how to do and had been doing for years. Guess what, good ol' Mrs. Tin-Can Tinay of seventh-grade home-ec class all those years ago was right: You don't really "boil" an egg unless you want that grayish-blue-green rim around a hard and tasteless yolk. 

You put the eggs in cold water, bring the water just to a boil, cover the pan, turn off the heat, and wait for 13 minutes. You put them in icy cold water right away so they cool down and stop cooking. And you have a hard-cooked egg with a beautiful yellow yolk that actually tastes good and has a smooth, creamy texture.

She also showed how to soft-cook, fry, scramble, omelet, and frittata eggs (if "omelet" and "frittata" are not real verbs, they should be). 

So, I've gone from someone who used to make fun of a co-worker's Martha Stewart cookbook and recipes (until she brought in a key-lime pie that made you think you'd died and gone to heaven), to someone who has now set her TV to record every episode of this show and watch them all. And try out the recipes. 

Don't worry, I won't write a blog about it, a la "Julie and Julia," which however I thought was a lovely movie. I'll just write a few notes about my experiments here and there. Here's the list of episodes. You can find out when the shows are airing on your local PBS station here. Looks like they're every Saturday in my area. Next will be sauces, which I also need to learn about. 

Is Martha Stewart the next Julia Child?  I don't know.  I do know that I managed to stay awake for the whole program and even vowed to make eggs the right way, and --- then --- I DID IT!

In contrast, as my dear husband's surprise attests, I have never been able to sit through more than a couple of minutes of any other food program.

No matter; here is Martha Stewart talking about Julia Child's influence on her. And here she is on "Baking With Julia."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Meteor Shower Tonight

I'll be watching, if there's a break in the clouds. Here's someone else's amazing photo from last year's Orionid meteor shower.

The moon is not far from its crescent phase so its bright light won't block the view. Just before dawn is the best time to watch.

This meteor shower is the result of Earth's passing through some of the icy remnants of Halley's Comet. It's called the Orionid meteor shower because when you look up at Orion, that's where you'll see the most meteors.

Hey, I just read on space.com that if you've got clouds in your area you can watch the shower online.

Fiction Friday: October 19, 2012: The Way

Say you've built a very satisfying life for yourself. You're an ophthalmologist who takes care of people, who helps them see. You've got plenty of friends and a regular golf game. You're still sad about the death of your wife, but you're not about to go with your son on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Until you go with your son in a very different way.

The movie doesn't make a big deal about this idea of "seeing" things clearly, but the story is in part about gaining a new perspective.

It does make a big deal about the idea of making a pilgrimage because, well, that's what it's about.

People have been making this pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela for centuries.

The city of Santiago de Compostela gets its name from the legend that the remains of St. James (Santiago) were buried there. For more about that saint, also called Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moor-Killer), and the shrines and symbols of the pilgrimage, see this website, which has fascinating historical details and photos.
Some are still making the pilgrimage for religious reasons. Some even carry crosses and flog themselves with small whips as they walk in penance. Some do it now on bicycles. Some do it, like the hero of this story---because he is a hero---for personal and spiritual reasons.

That is, they do it for religious reasons, but they can't say---no one can say any more---that they're doing it for religious reasons. Because nowadays nobody can admit to being religious. It doesn't sound right. We can be spiritual, but we don't want to claim adherence to a "religion" as such. The reasons for this vary, and of course Madame L is over-generalizing about this, but it's often the way it is for people like our hero Tom.

So, there are the pilgrims, thousands of them every year, traveling the same route. Tom ends up traveling most of the distance with three others, a Dutchman, a Canadian woman, and an Irish poet. How they get to the cathedral, and how the pilgrimage changes them, will move you to tears.

Will they accomplish their goals? How will they express their reverence, or lack of it, toward the saint? How far will they continue to travel? What will they do next? In other words, how will the journey change them?

Madame L hopes every person who reads this will watch the movie and think about their own journey through life and what they can add to it.

Madame L will consider in her Sunday book review an account of another person's life pilgrimage and how she added to it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Vote for somebody! Make our democracy work!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Twist on the Shotgun Wedding

From today's local paper:

   "Have you spent your life hunting for the perfect wife?  Maybe you have met the one 
but are feeling gun-shy?  
   "An Iowa jeweler is offering free rifles for husbands-to-be who spend at least $1,999  
on an engagement ring at his store near Iowa City.
   "Jeweler Harold van Beek told KCRG near Cedar Rapids that he wanted to "do 
something for the boy who doesn't like to hunt for diamonds but likes to hunt for deer."
   "The deal at Jewelry By Harold in North Liberty starts Thursday and will run through 
the end of October.
   "The rifle offer is subject to Iowa laws on gun ownership. Those barred include 
felons and addicts."
---The Associated Press

I wonder what they offer for a couple that comes in to return their ring?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hooray, Hooray, It's Boss's Day!

(Notice how that rhymes?)

I got the message yesterday from a certain online flower delivery service.

My first thought: As if!

My second thought: Who came up with this idea? I mean, obviously Hallmark came up with the idea, but who thought there was any merit to it? Because EVERY DAY IS BOSS'S DAY, is it not?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

La Tarasca and Centralia College

Here's a better photo of the place, taken with my own camera. As you can see, it's right on Main Street, on your left as you come in from the I-5. Can't miss it.

Sorry I didn't get photos of the inside, which I'll do next time, because, yes, there will be a next time.


And of course there's more to Centralia than this restaurant. There's also a community college there, Centralia College:

I realize this photo makes it look like I was having some kind of revelation. But the sun, which was setting, was in my eyes. That's all.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Birdley Singing

Oh, yeah, he knows how cute he is. So I started taking photos, and when I did, he began singing, so of course I recorded it. He has many many more songs in his repertoire, and he's always learning new ones. I'll keep recording them.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stars, Then Rain

Finally, the rain. After 80 days of no rain.

Up until last night, the sky was so clear that you could see the tiny pinpoints of stars all around and where they gathered together closer to form the Milky Way (which however I have never understood why anyone thinks is "milky").

But I never did get my camera out to take a picture of it because (1) I would have to find my tripod and (2) I would have to figure out how to take a time exposure and (3) by the time I ever got out at night to look up at the sky I was so tired that I just said a quick, "Thank you, God, for making such a beautiful universe and letting me see it again tonight," and went to bed.

It looked something like this (without the red arrow).(I got this photo from an online article about how the Milky Way got to be the way it is: supposedly by "cannibalizing" (absorbing) other "dwarf" galaxies. The red arrow is pointing to "Dwarf galaxy Sculptor, with S1020549 singled out.")

I saw some constellations, Cassiopeia, for example (but without the lines), and Draco (also without the lines):

(Wow, just looking online for a picture of Draco, I found, with this one, the most interesting information I've ever read about Draco and the ancient Egyptians. Check it out!)

And now the rain, which I'm so glad for even though I won't be able to see any stars for probably a month or two.

(Good thing we finished painting the deck last night!)

And again, seeing the rain this morning, I say, "Thank you, God, for making such a beautiful universe and letting me see it again today."

I'm OK With Not Getting the Nobel Prize This Year, Too. Really.

Did you hear about the Nobel Committee awarding this year's prize in physics to two physicists who were not involved with the big-news supposed discovery of the so-called God particle?

Those people at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), who did not win, are not miffed. No, not at all. They are graciously congratulating the winners. 

“The announcement of the Nobel prize in physics is always a great day for physics, and our congratulations go to the winners,” they said in a statement. “Each year, it puts a different area of physics in the spotlight, which is great for the field as a whole.”

They also said, for those numskulls among us, that their work and the work of the winners are "two very different things.” They added that the winners' methodologies and results “sound like a very interesting achievement" and admitted they "knew very little about their research area."

Are you kidding me? This year the Nobel Committee awarded its prize for physics to some upstarts who have been studying how to observe quantum interactions without destroying them. (Because, remember, as the famous Schrodinger pointed out, the very act of studying them changes them.) So, a big deal, right?  

Therefore I, like the CERN people, am big enough to concede that, well, those other guys did some good work, even though it's really different from what I do (and don't even ask about that!); and I wouldn't presume to try to understand what they have done.

Here's the Nobel Committee's statement about the winners and their work: The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012 was awarded jointly to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems."

They look like nice guys, so I'm okay with their winning. This time.

Fiction Friday: September 12, 2012: The Rest of the "Make Lemonade" Trilogy

After Madame L wrote about how much she enjoyed reading "Make Lemonade" a couple of months ago, it took her awhile to get copies from the library of the next two books in the trilogy. (Her local library didn't have either book---unbelievable!---but was able eventually to get them from another library.)

In the second book, "True Believer," LaVaughn has to work even harder to hold on to her dream of getting out of her crime-ridden neighborhood and go to college. Her father, though he wasn't a gang member, was killed when LaVaughn was a little girl, when gang bullets went astray. Her mother works and scrapes and sacrifices her own life in order to give LaVaughn the best life she can.

Her mother finally starts to date again, Lester, from work. Although LaVaughn sees from the beginning what a creep the guy is, she doesn't want to interfere because she wants her mother, who has sacrificed everything for her, to enjoy the love and appreciation she has denied herself all these years. Wait till you see what happens when LaVaughn's mom figures this guy out!  From the book:

What were you THINKING, Lester?
Did you make the mistake of imagining you could

Yes, like the first book, this one is written in first person, blank verse. It's the perfect form, and if you think about it for just a minute, your mind boggles at how hard it must have been to make it work so perfectly.

LaVaughn, like all teenagers, interacts more with her school friends than her mom, though, and here she has growing problems. Her two best friends, Annie and Myrtle, have joined a religious club which LaVaughn declines to join, and their friendship wavers.

Also, like every young teenager Madame L has ever known, LaVaughn has a crush on a boy and disdains the affection of a boy who has a crush on her.

She thinks about friendship and whether God exists. She finally realizes she is a "True Believer," but don't worry, Dear Readers, this isn't at all what it sounds like, and you won't be smothered with mushy fake sweet religiosity.

You WILL, however, want to read the final book, "This Full House." Again, the title does not reflect some sappy ending where everybody gathers around feeling happy. Okay, well, everybody does that, but it's not sappy. Read it to find out what Madame L means by this.

LaVaughn takes an after-school class in grammar, so her writing changes, though she still has her distinctive first-person voice and free-verse style. Then she makes it into the "Women in Medical Science" program, where she's taking classes at the city university. She still sees Jolly, the young mom with two kids who LaVaughn used to babysit, the young mom who got into a GED program with LaVaughn's help.

LaVaughn writes, as always, about what's going on around her, including what she's learning about science. This means her vocabulary changes, and her outlook on life changes, and she starts to think she could even go to college and become a nurse.

But she still makes mistakes. Oh, does she make mistakes. She makes so many mistakes---and not just in lab, where she and her four partners call themselves the "Never Right the First Time" team---that you want to cry for her. Go ahead and cry. Madame L cried more than once, more than twice, while reading this book. Don't worry. It's a good kind of crying.

Madame L hopes she hasn't gone on too much about the plots and characters of these books, hopes she's given you just enough information that you'll want to check them out of your library, too, or even buy them at Amazon.com, where all three are available new and used for very good prices.

Maybe you'll want to read these books and then pass them along to some young woman you know. Madame L hopes so.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10/11/12: International Day of the Girl, Why It Matters, and Malala Yousafzai

Today is the first ever United Nations International Day of the Girl. If I'd known about it before last night, I would have downloaded a toolkit from this website for some ideas and materials to help make this day special. I looked at it online, and it has great resources for understanding the problems and challenges facing girls and young women.* (See bottom of post)

But, meanwhile, since I just found out about it, I'm just writing this post to say how important girls are. There's even such a thing as a "girl effect"---the potential for girls to make positive changes.

This article by Maria Eitel says it more eloquently and with more knowledge and understanding than I can. She participated earlier this year in the Family Planning Summit, where leaders came forward to "help expand access to contraception and related health services "not just for women but, for the first time in history, for girls."

Now, here's the important part, for those of you who think it might be a bad idea to give contraception and family planning advice to girls.

They're doing this "Because girls told us that when they are 9 or 12 or 16 years old, they cannot protect themselves from being married, and, if married, they cannot protect themselves with family planning," writes Ms. Eitel.

She continues: "Traditionally, family planning is targeted at older women in their 20s and above, but in the 2 minutes it takes you to read this post, 52 adolescent girls will give birth, 90 percent of whom were child brides, and four of whom will die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. So we all listened to girls, and the commitments that were made at the Family Planning Summit marked the first time in history that the unique challenges faced by girls were addressed. Now we need to deliver for them."

I've also been seeing stories in the news about the young Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for advocating for girls in Pakistan. What does she want for girls? She wants all of them to be able to go to school without being afraid for their lives. She was on her way to school, in a schoolbus, two days ago when a Taliban murderer got on the bus and shot her.

Here's a documentary about Ms. Yousafzai's from YouTube:

Here she is again:

And here's just how radical her behavior has been, causing the Taliban to hate her so much:

Malala Yousafzai was already in the Taliban's sights. She had written a diary on the BBC website in 2009, telling about her life as a schoolgirl in Pakistan. She wrote in January of that year:

   "In the past the reopening date was always announced clearly. The principal did not inform us about the reason behind not announcing the school reopening, but my guess was that the Taleban had announced a ban on girls' education from 15 January.

   "This time round, the girls were not too excited about vacations because they knew if the Taleban implemented their edict they would not be able to come to school again. Some girls were optimistic that the schools would reopen in February but others said that their parents had decided to shift from Swat and go to other cities for the sake of their education."

The Taliban extremists are proud of the shooting. They claim that Shariah law requires them to shoot and kill little girls who want to be educated.

Citizens throughout Pakistan and the whole world are appalled and angered at the attack.

But what can we do? For me, on this International Day of the Girl, I am pledging to continue working with girls and young women to help them become strong and brave, and educated.

*From the Day of the Girl Toolkit, some facts about the importance of taking care of girls: 

ILLITERACY: By 2015, females will make up 64% of the world’s (adult) population who cannot read.

SCHOOL DROPOUT:  Only 30% of girls in the world are enrolled in secondary school. In America, the dropout rate is worse for boys, but one in four girls does not finish high school, and the dropout rate is even higher for minorities.

FORCED MARRIAGE: One in seven girls in developing countries is married off before age 15.

VIOLENCE: In the US more than half (54%) of all rapes of females happen before age 18. One in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. Worldwide children as young as age 11 are forced to work as prostitutes. Some estimates have as many as 1.2 million children being trafficked every year.

BODY IMAGE:  More than half (54%) of 3rd-5th grade girls worry about their appearance and 37% worry about their weight. More than half (57%) of music videos feature a female portrayed exclusively as a decorative, sexual object.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fossil: Spider Attacks Wasp

This is the coolest scientific discovery I've seen in a long time, and it's definitely not the kind of thing you see in your ordinary amber jewelry:

About 100 million years ago (Cretaceous Period), this spider was about to attack this wasp, when resin flowed over the two of them.

The fossil was found in the Hukawng Valley in Myanmar and the discovery was reported in "Historical Biology" by Oregon State University researchers.  They wrote that, because the fossil has an adult and a juvenile spider, it shows evidence of "sociality" among spiders, something we laypersons don't generally associate with them.

The wasp was a parasitic wasp that might have eventually killed the spider, had it lived. Both species are now extinct.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

La Tarasca

We ate lunch yesterday at La Tarasca in Centralia, Washington. It's the first really-and-truly authentic Mexican restaurant we've found in the Pacific Northwest.

It doesn't look like much, but it's easy to find on Main Street in the little town:

Google image

Sunset Magazine has listed it in its "The West's Best Road Food." Most important, for those who don't read that magazine and/or don't care what its food reviewers have to say about anything, the food is great and the people are nice.

And even though famous people (for example, actress Salma Hayek) have eaten there, the staff, all family members, don't think their national fame is as important as serving delicious, authentic food made from their mother's home-cooking recipes from Estado Michoacan. 

But then I wondered, what does "La Tarasca" mean? Here's the definition from an online dictionary:

1. a carnival dragon or monster
2. a glutton
3. an old hag
4. a big-mouth

So, well, I don't know who the "tarasca" is that the restaurant is named after, but I'll ask next time I'm there.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fiction Friday: October 5, 2012: The Count of Monte Cristo

Madame L has already written a tongue-in-cheek "book report" about this book, based on her many book reports of elementary school days, when she had to fulfill this odious assignment of writing about a book she didn't even want to read and in fact hadn't finished reading.

But Madame L did enjoy reading "The Count of Monte Cristo," even though she seriously thought it had TOO MANY WORDS!  Madame L wondered, in fact, if Alexandre Dumas, like Dickens et al., was paid by the word. So she checked online, and, guess what, he was: 

"... Similarly, it is important to understand that Dumas was effectively paid by the word. And Dumas was quite adept at wringing as many words as he possibly could from his work." 

Thus we have passages like the following, from chapter 7:

   "No sooner had Villefort left the salon, than he assumed the grave air of a man who holds the balance of life and death in his hands. Now, in spite of the mobility of his countenance, the command of which, like a finished actor, he had carefully studied before the glass, it was by no means easy for him to assume an air of judicial severity. Except the recollection of the line of politics his father had adopted, and which might interfere, unless he acted with the greatest prudence, with his own career, Gerard de Villefort was as happy as a man could be. Already rich, he held a high official situation, though only twenty-seven. He was about
to marry a young and charming woman, whom he loved, not passionately, but reasonably, as became a deputy attorney of the king; and besides her personal attractions, which were very great, Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran's family possessed considerable political influence, which they would, of course, exert in his favor. The dowry of his wife amounted to fifty thousand crowns, and he had, besides, the prospect of seeing her fortune increased to half a million at her father's death. These considerations naturally gave Villefort a feeling of such complete felicity that his mind was fairly dazzled in its contemplation."

AAAAARRRRGGGGHH! This kind of stuff, which goes on for almost 1,500 pages in the unabridged version, drove Madame L crazy.

Here's how crazy: She is going to recommend to her Dear and Loyal Readers that they read one of the abridged versions of the novel! That is severe for this former college English and literature teacher. And, if  Alexandre Dumas had been a student in one of her college English classes, she would have flunked him. 

By the way, here's a website with some of the great quotes from Dumas.  And here's where you can read the entire, unabridged, "Count of Monte Cristo," if you're so inclined.

Madame L realizes she has not given a standard review or book report here, has not revealed any more about the characters and plot than she did in her previous bit. She promises she'll do that on her own blog in her Sunday review.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dogs with Cones

For Ellen, who asked why that dog ("Your Awww! For the Day") had that plastic cone on its head, I checked, and it's to keep the dog from licking a wound. thereby preventing it from healing properly.

So then of course I had to look on YouTube for some more examples. Here's a cute one:

There are also lots of people who have figured out more comfortable ways to keep their pets from doing that.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Standing Up to Fat Shaming

Jennifer Livingston, a Wisconsin local TV station  news anchor, handled this beautifully:

Excerpts from the transcript:

"The truth is I am overweight. You can call me fat. Even obese on a doctor’s chart. Do you think I don’t know that? You’re not a friend of mine. You’re not part of my family. ... You know nothing about me that you don’t see on the outside. I am much more than a number on a scale...

"This behavior is learned. It is passed down. If you’re at home and you’re talking about the fat news lady, guess what, your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Frogs, Again

We keep seeing a red-legged frog that has stuck around through the summer. I'm hoping to see more of these, and of course their eggs, in the spring. Here it is:

After it got tired of letting me look at it face-on, it swam over to the other side of the pond and waited for me to leave:

We also keep seeing tree frogs, but they don't stick around waiting for me to find my camera and take their pictures. Also, their whole body is about as big as the head of this one, so even if I had my camera ready, I don't know if I could get a good photo. But I'll try!