Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Hurricane season 2005. Goodbye and good riddance!
Named storms this season...26
Hurricane strength storms this year...13
We also had three storms hit category 5 this year, more than any previous year. Katrina and Rita pounded the Gulf Coast and Wilma (the strongest storm ever on record) hit the Cancun area leaving Mexico to clean up the same sort of damage we are dealing with here in the states. It remains to be seen whether the Gulf coast will ever fully recover, I have a feeling things have permanently changed in New Orleans.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Times they are a changin'
Now we all know that according to the Bush administration (and that caustic, venomous Schmidt) that any talk about pulling the troops out of Iraq makes you a spineless, unpatriotic coward. They made their opinion perfectly clear when John Murtha stood before the press on November 17 and called for a plan to pull the troops out of Iraq. But the administration is also facing an election in less than a year and the majority of Americans now feel that Iraq was a mistake and are unhappy and uncertain about our presence there.
So, here are some observations.
According to Juan Cole we have already pulled our ground troops out of Najaf and Karbala and seem to be in the process of turning over various administrative buildings and such. There seems to be plans to further turn over other cities prior to the upcoming election on December 15, 2005. The troops pull back to an encampment outside the city and if all stays quiet they pick up and leave.
November 17, congressman John Murtha put forward his opinion and was consequently attacked by Cheney. (Murtha held his own though, he delivered Cheney a seriously deserved smackdown.)
Then on November 22 in an interview with Fox News, Condeleeza Rice said that we would not need to maintain our current troop levels very much longer.
Then yesterday, in the wake of strong public opposition to the war and calls for withdrawal and/or drawdown of troops by many within the senate and congress, the White House jumped on the bandwagon and said that they too have a withdrawal plan. In fact, they said that not only do they have a plan, but it happens to be almost exactly like a plan put forth by Senator Joseph Biden on November 21.
So, here is what I think is happening...
In the face of public opposition to the war, approval ratings in the toilet and an upcoming election the White House has decided to cut their losses and do what has to be done in order to save face and maintain Republican control after next November. They will continue to do exactly what they have maintained they would never do, they will cut and run. They will present it to the public in such a manner that makes it seem like this is the "course" that we have been "staying." They will say that the Iraqis have "stood up" so now we can "stand down."
Now, I don't claim to know what the best course of action would be in Iraq, although I think John Murtha would certainly know better than any of the other bozos who are playing armchair quarterback with the lives of our soldiers. It seems certain to me that once our troops are gone Iraq will fall into complete civil war. The Sunnis have been bombing the Shiites for months now and recent news has shown that Shia militia are taking their revenge on the Sunni population. I can see the definite possibility of political and social chaos perhaps ending in a repressive Shiite government closely allied to Iran and Syria.
So, what was the original goal of this war? Let's throw out the BS about WMD, I think we've beaten that dead horse enough for now. Get rid of Saddam? Yeah, he is a brutal man who tortured people and used chemical weapons against those who opposed him. However, since we've done the same things I don't think we get to bang the drum of moral indignation anymore where that is concerned. Bring democracy to Iraq? Okay, now we're getting somewhere.
The Bush Administration wanted Saddam out and they wanted a democratically elected (read "puppet") government installed. Bottom line, they wanted to free Iraq from Saddam and install a government that would allow us to exploit their oil resources.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
More Money, More Money!!!
And Saur has posted about the diamond trade. Please keep her post in mind as you shop this holiday season.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
My Very Dearest Guest Blogger
By Scott (GodlessDad)
Today is the one day of the year that I get to do a lot of cooking. I'm a big fan of cooking, I just don't have much time these days to spend hours in the kitchen. This morning I'm making three pies (mince meat, pumpkin and apple). This afternoon is the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner for the family including deep fried turkey. If you've never had a fried turkey for Thanksgiving, I highly suggest you don't unless you're ready to switch permanently. The difference is that big. You will never again want to eat baked turkey on Thanksgiving, or any other time for that matter.
This is in sharp contrast to a totally different taste experience I tried five years ago. It was the first Thanksgiving GodlessMom and I spent living in Houston. Not being a Southerner by birth, I have to admit I've developed quite a taste for much of the cuisine. I love cajun food. I love grits. I even like okra, be it in gumbo, batter fried, or with tomatoes. I'm a huge BBQ fan and I love Pecan Pie. So when a friend at work suggested I prepare another Southern taste sensation for my family's Thanksgiving dinner, I was intrigued.
Enter: The Turducken.
Now, if you live on either coast or up in the Midwest, land of beige food, you've probably never heard of a Turducken. I never had. Basically, it's a chicken in a duck in a turkey. I'll let that sink in and repeat it for dramtic effect:
Stuffed into a duck.
Stuffed into a turkey.
It's a simple concept really, although you have to wonder about the sanity of the person who first came up with it, let alone the circumstances surrounding its invention.
"Well here it is Thanksgiving. Ma likes duck. The kids like chicken. But I sure can't pass up on the traditional turkey for this special day. Dern, I'm plum short on cookin' space. If only there was a way to cook all them birds at once...."
A lightbulb moment that would have been best had it never occured.
GodlessMom was skeptical from the beginning but I was undeterred. I found a local butcher who prepared this bizarre contruction and pre-ordered one for about $80.
I started to get worried when I picked it up. It wasn't shaped like a turkey at all, it was in a plastic sleeve that looked like a sandbag - only it was heavier. The instructions said to bake it for 11 hours. Damn. Dinner was scheduled for 5:00, so you can do the math on that one. Upon inspecting the ingredients, I noticed that not only were there three birds crammed inside one another, but two different types of stuffing. One of them was cornbread, no problem there. The other was andouille sausage, a delicious cajun creation (pronounced An-Dew-Eee) but not exactly something I was expecting to find inside my frankenbird. I quickly scanned the rest of the ingredients, having decided to draw the line at four different animals in my Thanksgiving meal. Fortunately they had the sense to leave out the rack of lamb.
I dutifully woke up at 5:00 AM to load the birdcube into the oven. Further alarm bells began to ring as the aroma was not exactly what we were accustomed to. Gone was the comforting, traditional smell of roasting fowl. It was replaced with the not-quite-so soothing cocktail of boiling duck oil and fried sausage. It came out of the oven golden brown, but when it was time to carve it I didn't wind up with the perfect little three-layer slices of poulty promised by the packaging. It really just sort of fell apart as if the three birds had finally had enough of this horrific abomination.
Suffice to say it was a total disaster. The in-laws were very polite and nodded their heads before sneaking off to the other room to see if Domino's was still open. Everyone went after the turkey, looking for the pieces that hadn't been contaminated with duck oil. It was the first Thanksgiving on record with no leftover stuffing, potatoes or veggies. At least the pie was good.
So, yeah, go with the fried turkey.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
hHmmm, No surprises here.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Pride and Predjudice and Johhny Cash
Keira Knightley is starring in the latest film adaptation of the book. (In fact you can enter to win a trip to London on the movie web site.) It hit the theaters this week and of course I will be seeing it as soon as I can cut out a couple of hours for myself (I seriously doubt Scott will want to see this one with me, it being a chick flick and all.) I like Keira Knightley, but I have doubts that this entire story can be faithfully told in only a couple of hours. I will give it a chance though!
My favorite film adaptation of Pride and Predjudice is the 1995 A&E mini-series starring Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy Bennet and Colin Firth (sigh) as Mr. Darcy.
The supporting cast is remarkable, particularly Alison Steadman who plays Lizzy's mom, Mrs. Bennet and Crispin Bonham-Carter who plays the delightful Mr. Bingley. You can rent this film version at Netflix, it is a two disc series so it can provide wonderful evening viewing for at least a week!
On a slightly different note, Scott and I saw Walk the Line yesterday afternoon and I'm already chomping at the bit to see it again!
Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon were absolutely incredible. I can't recall the last time I was so completely convinced by a performance, let alone by two performances in the same film. Phoenix absolutley channels Johnny Cash, (it's almost creepy) and Witherspoon's portrayal of June Carter Cash is absolutely dead-on.
I can't comment on this movie without mentioning the music. Both actors did their own singing in the film and I was nothing short of stunned by their abilities. We've seen some actors turning to music in their films over the last few years but nothing compares to what you will see with the Phoenix/Witherspoon combination! They positively sizzle!
The supporting cast is strong, the pacing is good and although the story is familiar it is powerful and interesting.
Definite 5 star movie here. Oscar alert!
Monday, November 21, 2005
The reason we have Freedom Fries (HP, you can skip this one.)
"Then there are those who believe that continuing the inspection process is a kind of delaying tactic to prevent or avert military intervention. That naturally raises a question of how much time is allowed Iraq. And this brings us to the heart of the matter. What is at stake is our credibility and our sense of responsibility.
"Let us have the courage to see things as they are. There are two options. The option of war might seem a priori to be the swiftest, but let us not forget that having won the war, peace has to be built. Let us not delude ourselves. This will be long and difficult because it will be necessary to preserve Iraq's unity and to restore stability in a lasting way in a country and a region harshly affected by the intrusion of force.
"Faced with that prospective, there is an alternative -- inspections -- which allow us to move forward day by day with the effective and peaceful disarmament of Iraq. In the end, is that choice not the most sure and most rapid?
"No one today can claim that the path of war will be shorter than the path of inspections. No one can claim that it would lead to a safer, more just, more stable world, for war is always the sanction of failure. Would this be our sole recourse in the face of the many challenges at this time?...
"Ten days ago, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, reported alleged links between al-Qaida and the Baghdad regime. Given the present state of our research and intelligence in liaison with our allies, nothing allows us to establish such links. But we must assess the impact that disputed military action would have on this level.
"Would such intervention today not be liable to exacerbate divisions between societies, cultures, peoples; divisions that nurture terrorism?"
In return, a wave of intense French hatred swept through our country. We even went so far as to rename French Fries, how pitifully childish is that?
Let's not forget the way things actually went down.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (no real spoilers.)
There was plenty of excitement and several great scenes with incredible special effects. However, this film lacked some of the heart and emotion which has been so present in the other films. Up until now the films have definitely made the viewer feel the progression of the Hogwarts school year and hence the progression of the interpersonal relationships of the characters over that time period. Goblet of Fire lacks that school-year feeling, instead the focus is on the adventure of the Tournament. As a result there are times in the film when the relationships between the characters seem ham-handed and plastic.
It is definitely worth seeing. Emma Watson has really grown into quite a young beauty, Daniel Radcliffe has lost the rounded cuteness of youth and now possesses very chiseled good looks, Rupert Grint has left behind any adolescent gawkiness and has become a very handsome (and very tall) young man (I admit it...I'm a sucker for that red hair!) For some reason I've gotten a big kick out of watching these kids grow up! Once again the supporting roles really flesh out the movie (Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith are great.) If you like dragons you won't want to miss the special effects in this one!
Friday, November 18, 2005
Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.
There is a fine line that we walk between being informed and being obsessed. I think that line is different for each of us. Some people can read the daily news and then go on with their day, better off for knowing but still capable of going through the motions of daily life. Others can't read the news at all, it weighs too heavy on their soul so they prefer to go through life blissfully unaware. Then there is the category I fall into...The grab-onto-a-subject-and-gnaw-at-it-until-you-bleed group.
My bulldog approach to news has served me well on occasion but just as often it leaves me feeling depressed and hopeless. I'm really a rather optimistic,upbeat person by nature, it isn't in my character to dwell on things beyond my control. My problem is that I can't convince myself that things like chemical weapons and bombs in hotels ARE beyond my control. I keep thinking that if I write enough letters, talk to enough people, protest enough injustice I WILL make a difference. It doesn't always happen but I like to think I've made at least a little dent here and there.
I am really fortunate, for the next nine days I will have both Liz and Scott at home with me. My parents and mother in law will be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and I will be putting up the holiday decorations next weekend. So, for the next week I'm going to take it easy on the heavy stuff and just let myself soak in the beauty of my life.
In the interest of peace, harmony and happiness I'd like to show you a picture of the interspecies harmony that exists in my house. I took this picture yesterday morning after I dropped Liz off at school. That is Echo, my 15 year old poodle mix, on the dog bed to the left of the fireplace. In the center of the photo are Stuey, my 7 year old cat and Savvy my new puppy. Maybe the whole world needs to lay down in front of the fireplace on a chilly morning!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I'm having some technical issues with the picture hosting server we use. As a result you'll see the annoying red Xs in place of images until I can get it fixed, probably this weekend.
Sorry to hijack your blog honey.
Back to your regularly scheduled programming.
*** Update ***
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Clear Skies Initiative and WMD
The US government admitted to using White Phosphorous (a chemical that ignites when exposed to oxygen) against insurgents in the Fallujah battle last year. It says that civilians weren't targeted. I don't know if you've seen the post mortem photos of the victims of this weapon but it is unbelievably gruesome, the flesh is literally burned and melted off the skeleton while the clothing remains completely intact (Doug posted some of the photos on his blog, I'll put the link here but be warned, it is difficult to look at.) From what I understand it is a sent up in a missile where it explodes and the White Phosphorous is released. The chemical ignites and falls to the ground destroying any flesh it happens to touch. How in the world could you possibly know if that type of weapon is only going to hit insurgents? Sure, many folks had evacuated Fallujah prior to the offensive but (just like New Orleans) there were plenty of folks who couldn't or wouldn't leave. I'll spare you the full force of my soap-box righteous indignation, I think the situation and pictures speak for themselves.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Out to lunch
If you get a chance, check out this article from the Los Angeles Times by Jimmy Carter.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Walnut Grove in Houston
The play is Tuesday so I thought I would have the weekend to finish this project. Silly me, they announced yesterday that they want all the costumes for the play ready and hanging in the wardrobe room by this afternoon. I know what I'm doing today. Blah!
Have a great weekend! I'll be back Monday.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Look! A room full of atheists!
There are the Asimov Humanists, The Houston Atheist Society, The Humanists of Houston, the Houston Church of Freethought and many others.
Each group has it's own focus, some are merely social groups while others are very active in political and charitable causes. Basically, there is something for everyone!
Each year the groups all get together for a Solstice party at the Museum of Natural Science. Scott and I attended last year and really had a great time. You will never meet a nicer, more eclectic and diverse group of people!
My only issue with the group is the fact that most of them are a generation or two older than Scott and me, I was hoping there would be more young people. I would like very much to introduce Liz to other children from non-religious families. I'd like her to know that we aren't the only non-believers in the world. I want her to have friends from all over the theological spectrum and while we have many friends from many different religions I haven't found any other young atheistic families here in Houston whom I can befriend.
So, we are going to the party again this year. With any luck we will meet some kids! The party is open to all freethought people in the Houston area, so if you are interested in attending let me know and I'll give you the details! It is a potluck affair and last year the food was incredible!
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Bible Belt Blasphemy
I'm so glad I live in Texas, I'm surrounded by such love, acceptance and understanding. It is good to know that my marriage and my child are safe from such a dangerous influence.
God bless Texas.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Get Out and Vote!
Today we have the opportunity to go to the polls and save Texas from the vile clutches of them homoseckshulls. The Powers that Be here in Texas (under the divine guidance of the Lord) have put forth Proposition 2.
Prop 2 will ensure that them gays will never drive our society into ruin by getting married. It will also make certain that they are not encouraged in their sinful ways by the promise of a "Civil Union" and that they will never get any domestic partner benefits.
We must stop the homoseckshull agenda in it's tracks. If we do not amend our state constitution who knows what these people will do? I've heard rumors that they will actually infiltrate society, they will want to work with us, eat in the same restaurants, shop at the same stores and even teach in our schools.
It is our duty to protect our lives, our children and the sanctity of marriage from these people. You know how to vote!
Mrs. Persnickity Tightwidget
Seriously folks, Prop 2 is nothing more than government sanctioned bigotry. Why do these people feel the need to take away a privilege that the gay community here in Texas has never had in the first place?
Monday, November 07, 2005
The Face of Evil
Check out this link. It is an article regarding Cheney's attempts to keep Congress and others from passing more restrictive rules regarding how we can treat prisoners and detainees. The man is doing everything he can to maintain his right to torture people.
I don't know how much Bush knows about what Cheney and his cohorts are up to. If Bush doesn't know then he is incompetent and out of touch. If he does know then he is as guilty as the rest of them.
This is not the America I love. This is not the will of the people. These people have got to go.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
New Orleans Now
My hubby Scott was in New Orleans for a couple of days last week and returned with some great, if somewhat disturbing, photos and some really interesting thoughts on what remains of that great city. First, the photos. They are thumbnails, so you can click on them to see a larger image.
This is a typical sight in the city. You can see the high water mark on the building and the red pickup. You can also see marks left as the water receded. All the lawns are dead and the trees are all dying.
Here is a photo of two houses that were under water. Note the water marks on the white house on the right side of the photo. The signs in front of the homes have been posted by various people who are trying to make money off the whole deal, real estate investors, photographs for insurance purposes...That sort of thing.
Here is a home that is beginning to go through the gutting and salvage process. All the homes have these codes painted on them in orange spray paint, the codes were painted their by search and rescue personnel to indicate that they had searched the premises and tell recovery teams whether or not they had found bodies inside. Rather macabre.
A small private deli/restaurant. I don't imagine it will be open for business any time soon.
Structurally this one looks okay but it will obviously needs to be gutted. It's interesting that the flag is still hanging on the porch. All the cars are covered in this grey/brown gunk. Note the power lines laying on the ground.
There are huge piles of garbage everywhere. There is a huge median on the street by Lake Ponchatrain which is now a garbage dump. I guess they have plans to bring a garbage barge into the lake and truck it out at some point.
A big boat in the middle of the street.
This area used to be quite the happening place. There were sand volleyball courts, a bar, a great restaurant. Nothing remains except one volleyball net and a bunch of debris.
More boats sitting where boats don't belong.
All of these photos were taken in the Lakeview and Gentilly areas.
Cafe Du Monde has re-opened. They are serving soft drinks, cafe au lait and beignets and they are swamped with business. Cafe Du Monde is on Decatur near the French Quarter. Scott didn't see any souvenir shops open and many small businesses had For Sale or For Lease signs in their windows. A couple of fast food places were advertising big sign on bonuses and $10.00/hr. However, even if you get a job there you will have a really hard time finding a place to live.
Scott has agreed to be a guest blogger here at GM in the BB. He will be discussing what he saw, the feel of the place and his thoughts on what the people of New Orleans really need at this point.