Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Book Meme

Bioephemera tagged me with a book meme. Smart lady, it's a meme I can truly appreciate.

The rules: boldface the books on this list that you've read, and italicize books you started but never finished. An * by the books you enjoyed and a ~ by the books a teacher made you read.

1 Pride and Prejudice* - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre* - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series* - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible~ - God
7 Wuthering Heights* - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four* - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials* - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations~ - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women* - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles* - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22*~ - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare** - most of the plays and sonnets
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife* - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby~ - F Scott Fitzgerald~
23 Bleak House~ - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland* - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows* - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield~ - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia* - CS Lewis
34 Emma* - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe* - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha* - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh* - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm* - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code* - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables* - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale* - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies*~ - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune* - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility* - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities~ - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World* - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time* - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo~ - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick~ - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist~ - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden* - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol~ - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple* - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary* - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web* - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness~ - Joseph Conrad~
92 The Little Prince* - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down* - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers* - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet*~ - William Shakespeare~
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

As far as the * markings go, some of them weren't fun reading, but they made me think -- which is the best thing a book can do for you.

Gotta say this is an oddly assorted lot of books.

I think I'm going to go tag Kate with this.


I want it!

You can buy it for me here for only $125 -- the shipping's free.

Guess I'm not going to get it. Sigh. And it would give the Engineer such fits.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dodder Invasion

Back home in North Carolina, I was used to seeing infestations of dodder by the side of the road. I was rather fascinated by it because it looks more like some kid went nuts with a can of Silly String than a plant.

This summer I was amazed to see it in Utah. I hadn't realized it could grow in this arid climate.So I looked it up on the USDA web site.

It's nastier stuff than I realized, and more widespread. It grows in every state except Alaska.

This infestation is less than a mile from my house.

Believe it or not, dodder is a vascular plant, Since it lives entirely as a parasite, it doesn't need to have leaves to photosynthesize, nor chlorophyll. It doesn't need roots once it gets it's vicious little holdfasts into its victim plant. So all dodder is is vining, twining, strangling stems and flowers to make more dodder. As far as I know, it doesn't do anyone or anything any good.

What can you do about it?

Tear out every speck of it you find, bag it and throw it away. It's a good idea to destroy the plant it was parasitizing too. Even if it does strangle bindweed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Trash and Testosterone

Every year the city has Big Trash Day. They will pick up and take away pretty much anything you can haul to the curb. It's kinda cool to watch. A huge dump truck and a somewhat smaller truck with a set of Tyrannosaurus rex jaws work together. The T.rex bites up the trash and spits it into the dump truck, then the humans who follow after take brooms to the scattered remains of the heaps.

Big Trash Day isn't on the same calendar date every year. Some years it's in June, sometimes July or August, once in September. You never know from one year to the next.

I think Big Trash Day is the Engineer's favorite day of the year. He dreams about it all year long. By January, he can't stand it any more and I am assigned to call the city and find out when. This year it's supposed to be the week of July 21st -- next week.

The Engineer and I were sitting at the picnic table eating dinner last Sunday and he was talking about Big Trash Day. He was feeling a little distressed that our across the street neighbor had already started on his heap, whereas the Engineer had nothing on the curb yet. He was working out his strategy for a giant heap, when I asked him, "Aren't you leaving for Canada Sunday?"

He replied, "No, no, I'm not going to Venezuela until the first of August."

"But aren't you going to Canada next week?"

He turned and looked at me in astonishment. His jaw fell open. He said something I'm not going to quote on my P.G.13 rated blog. I felt like I'd just stabbed an ice pick into his balloon.

I tried to convince him that having the biggest heap in the neighborhood for Big Trash Day did not reflect upon his manhood, but he wasn't buying it.

He's been scheming harder than ever all week. He is determined.

I just hope he doesn't do anything drastic.

Last year's heap.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Political Propaganda - From Mom

Sigh. I love my parents, but we are at political antipodes. They sit on the extreme right in most things and I'm pretty far left. The only places we agree is that the government should be fiscally responsible - of course, we disagree on exactly what that entails - and that most politicians are lying scoundrels (well, duh, most of 'em are lawyers.)

I try my best not to talk politics with them, but they seem to firmly believe that they can cure my blind wrong headedness by telling me "The Facts." Mom sent me some very enlightening true facts about Obama today.

This one was in a purported thank you letter from an OPEC minister:

Finally, thank you for allowing us to nominate one of our own for president of the United States! We have donated millions to the election fund of Barack Obama-a man who is anti-American, anti-military, anti-Christian, and anti-white. Obama will be the ideal president for us, and we will donate billions more, if necessary to get him elected. When Obama is your president, we will decimate your military, open your borders to the people of Islam, set up terrorist groups in all of your cities, build mosques throughout your land, and begin the conversion of American people to Islam. In a short time, you will be working for us!

Geeze o' pete. I would think an educated person like my Mom would be embarrassed to pass that along. It's fear mongering without a single concern for reality. It's so outlandish it's in pretty much the same catagory as the Sock Obama to me.

I thought this one was scarier because it was more realistic, thus more likely to be taken as the truth:

This is something you should be aware of so you don't get blind sided.

Proposed changes in taxes after 2008 General Election:


0% on home sales up to $500,000 per home (couples). McCain does not propose any change in existing home sales income tax.

28% on profit from ALL home sales

and so on and so on, finally coming to the conclusion that taxes would double under an Obama presidency.

So I did a little fact checking and ended up at the Annenberg Foundation's political fact checking web site on this page. It pretty much corroborated and condensed what I had found elsewhere. seems like a darn fine, unbiased, site to me. I think I will be referring to it frequently between now and November.

Wish Mom would check her facts before she sends stuff along.

I'll bet she'd would love this little toy too.

(Image from the Hillary Nutcracker Official Site.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Have you ever noticed how a road crew works?

There's always one guy with a shovel who's actually in the hole digging. The rest of the guys stand around watching and probably making raunchy comments about the digger's style. Everyone has an opinion on who should be in the hole and how it should be dug, but nobody wants to do the actual digging. It's rather amazing to me that somehow the hole always manages to get dug despite the workers. Why do I have these photos?

Last week AT&T installed a fiber optic line through the neighborhood. They installed it right through my sewer connection. Found out when I did the laundry Sunday and the basement drains barfed up unmentionable stuff.

I want to divorce Murphy. He's ruled this house way too long.

Vigilante Justice?

Sunday I wrote about my thoughts on Joe Horn, his shooting two men and his acquittal of wrongdoing by a Texas grand jury. Monday I found this comment posted to my blog.

Anonymous said...
"As a people, we look down our noses at Arabs dancing in the street, firing their rifles into the air. We condemn them as violent heathens, yet Joe Horn gets called a hero for shooting two men in cold blood."

Joe Horn isn't out celebrating in the street. He said he wishes he could take it back. Your moral equivalence says as much about your wrongheaded ideological cynicism as it does about your abysmal ignorance of the law of your land.


I could be catty and make the assumption that Anonymous is signing her/himself "Idiot", but I'm 99.9% sure it was meant as a comment on my mental acuity.

Perhaps, Anonymous, you shouldn't assume I am ignorant of the law. I have indeed read the text of Texas SB 378 and more than one analysis of it.

Have you, Anonymous, listened to the full recording of Joe Horn's 911 call? Have you read the full text of the law, listened to the follow up interviews and analyses?

Nowhere in SB 378 is there specific mention of defending one's neighbor's home from anything.

Of the clauses stating what constitutes justification for using force the only one that doesn't specifically state that the threat is against "the actor" or his property/territory is, quote:
Section 2 (a) (1) (C) was committing or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery;

This is an extremely broad definition of what constitutes justification. I don't see where it would prohibit "the actor" from blowing away a kid he thinks is stealing an Xbox from a toy store. A ridiculous example, true, but I can see a lawyer arguing it.

Okay, so let's take that as giving anyone who legally owns a gun in Texas the right to shoot anyone they think is stealing anything.

There are still a couple of bounds "the actor" has to stay within -- he can't be committing a crime himself, other than a minor infraction or traffic offence, and he has to have a legal right to be where he is. If he was trespassing, he wouldn't have the right to use force against a robber or a rapist.

But then we have: Section 2 (a) (2) did not provoke the person against whom the force was used;

Joe Horn was safe in his own home. He deliberately chose to walk out and draw the attention of two men younger and presumably stronger than himself. He did this despite being told repeatedly not to do it. This was not "not retreating", it was aggressing. Seems to me, he was provoking those two men. If you don't want to get stung, you don't poke your hand into a hornet's nest.

I have not only listened to the full 911 call where he plainly states that he will kill the burglars before he leaves his house, I have listened to several follow-up interviews with Joe Horn and numerous legal analyses. Even Wentworth, the primary sponsor of the bill, has protested some of the broader ways in which it has been interpreted.

In Joe Horn's follow up interviews - the interviews where he has his lawyer sitting at his side - he insists he "had" to do it because they were charging him. Interesting considering that the shotgun wounds were in both men's backs.

Sounds to me like Horn's been listening to his lawyer's advice and is trying to cover the bones of what happened with what the lawyer thinks are the most palatable modifications of the truth.

The plain fact of the matter is, if Joe Horn had not walked out of his house with his shotgun intent on killing some burglars, Ortiz and Torres would still be alive. They would probably be in jail, captured by the police who had already arrived on the scene when Horn took justice into his own hands.

Horn has stated several times that he has lived his whole life, 61 years, without being a vigilante, so what could possibly make him a vigilante now.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Guns N' Idiots

The Engineer is a television news junkie, so for the last few days I've been hearing way more than I can stomach about a Texan named Joe Horn who fatally shot two men last November and was exonerated of wrongdoing by a grand jury on June 30th.

The bare bones of the story are this: Joe Horn was home alone in his upper middle class neighborhood when he heard glass breaking next door. He looked out the window and saw two black men breaking into his next door neighbor's house. He called 911 to report the break-in. Despite the dispatcher telling Horn repeatedly to stay in his house and wait for the police to arrive, Joe Horn took his shotgun and killed the burglars. He shot them both in the back.

I had heard bits and pieces of the 911 call, interspersed with commentary, on CNN and was astonished that any grand jury (even a Texas grand jury) could possibly let this man off. Perhaps the newscasters had put too much of their own feelings into their reporting, perhaps there was some kind of justification for what Joe Horn had done. I searched YouTube and found the full 8 minute recording of the 911 call.

More than ever I am astonished that any rational grand jury could have let this man walk. Listening to the call, you can hear Joe Horn working himself up to go out and slaughter the house breakers. There was never any ambiguity in the dispatcher's instructions to Mr. Horn. He told him 13 times not to go out there, that it was dangerous and unnecessary.

Joe Horn chose to walk out into his front yard with a loaded and cocked shotgun. He left no doubt even before he exited his house that he intended to kill the men. He came back in after blowing them away, shooting them in the backs, giddy with adrenalin. He murdered those men. And the grand jury patted him on the back and said, "Job well done."

What kind of a country am I living in?

As a people, we look down our noses at Arabs dancing in the street, firing their rifles into the air. We condemn them as violent heathens, yet Joe Horn gets called a hero for shooting two men in cold blood.

The Righteous Right is all for The War in Iraq and for capital punishment, yet opposed to birth control and abortion. It's wrong to remove a cluster of cells from a woman's uterus, but okay to blow away the doctor who does it. It's wrong to try to prevent an unwanted pregnancy but justice to kill a man for a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff.

Does anyone besides me see a moral disconnect here?

How can anyone think Joe Horn a hero? Joe Horn stood behind a gun and let it speak his fears and anger for him. If that 61-year-old, overweight, good ol' boy hadn't had a loaded shotgun, would he have walked out of his house to confront two much younger men?


Is it courage to point a cocked shotgun at someone and shout, "Move, you die!" then shoot him in the back less than two seconds later as he tries to flee?


Every week there are stories on the news about someone being shot, maybe it's a kid who got into Dad's gun safe and was playing with a gun, maybe a crazed college student avenging a bad grade, maybe someone whose "protection" was taken from them and turned on them.

It's true that a gun can't kill without a person pulling the trigger, but a gun sure as hell makes it a whole lot easier to do the killing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I never learned to cook from my Mother. She is not able to share her kitchen with anyone, nor has she any patience with a naturally messy critter like myself. When I left home, I was under the impression that Jello was difficult to make...

She did, however, make marvelous pies. They were stuffed full of fruity goodness. Back in the days before Pillsbury came out with Already Pie Crusts, she used to buy Pillsbury Pie Crust Sticks (I don't think they make those anymore.) A pie crust stick looked pretty much like a stick of margarine. Mom would put a couple into a bowl, break them up with a fork, then mix in the water and roll out a pie crust. Her pie crusts were always very thin and flat. (The better to taste the filling, in my opinion.) Once, she actually came up with a flaky crust. She was delighted. I was not, nor had I any idea that a flaky pie crust was desirable. To this day she likes to tell people that my response to my first taste was, "Eww, what's wrong with this pie crust? It's flaky."

Frankly, once I learned how to make pie crust, I never understood why she bought those pie crust sticks. All they were was a mixture of flour and lard. It's pretty easy cutting the shortening into the flour, to me the hard part is putting in just the right amount of water. I almost always make my pie crusts from scratch. Pillsbury's are convenient, but they get soggy quickly and mine are better anyway.

The Engineer loves pie. When he and I were in high school, we lived kindof across the street from each other. He and the Twin had pie radar. Every time my Mom baked a pie, she would have twins on the front porch almost as soon as it was out of the oven.

When the guys were in grad school, they firmly believed it was my job to keep them in chocolate chip cookies and pie. It became so expensive that they were required to buy the ingredients. When they complained about my pies being too small, I said, "The pies are as big as my pie pan."

They bought me a bigger pie pan.

This early training has resulted in my having a fine reputation as a pie maker. True, the circle of my fame is small, but my fans are sincere. It's flattering, I enjoy it.

Today I made a rhubarb pie for the 4th of July BBQ. Rhubarb is one of the Engineer's favorites, one of mine too.

And I don't skimp on the rhubarb, there's eight cups of it inside that pie crust.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Taking Pictures of Cats

Every morning when, upon arising, I stagger into the bathroom, Sachi comes with me and gives me her best, most sincere flirt. I can practically hear her saying, "Look how cute I am. Don't you love me so? Don't you want to feed your sweet kitty? I love you. Feed me!" And she is adorable - mercenary, yes, but adorable.

The last few mornings, I've been carrying the little camera into the bathroom with me so I could document the flirt. Which means, of course, that she hasn't performed. She's a cat.

This morning, as soon as she saw the camera, she turned around and walked out - again. I figured I'd wait her out. A hungry Sachi is a flirtatious Sachi.

I had a ring on my rump by the time Kitsu took matters into her paws.

She came in, sat down on the shower mat and stared at me. "By the Power of Cat Stare, I command you to feed me!"

When that didn't work, she licked her derriere at me, then took to cleaning her tail. I thought perhaps I could convince her to flirt and started sweet talking.

Obviously I disturbed her important bathing activities.

She finally flopped down for a brief moment. "Okay, I did it. Now let's eat."

As I followed her to the kitchen, Sachi was crouched in the hall waiting, studiously ignoring me.

She gave me a quick flirt as I walked into the kitchen, but ran into the dining room before I could bring the camera to bear. There, while making sure I could see the full glory of her beauty, she ignored me again.

Kitsu voiced her thoughts about the goings on, "Come on, quit fooling around, it's breakfast time!"

Sachi finally succumbed and gave me a flirt. It worked, the girls got their canned cat food.