Saturday, July 30, 2005

Catholics Need Not Apply

definitely not a Catholic babySeems like there's a Christian adoption agency in Mississippi that has a " no Catholics need apply" policy. If you're a Catholic (Hex sign! Hex sign!) you do not get one of Bethany Christian Services' little babies. Theology trumps parenthood.

Subsequent to applying at this agency, Robert and Sandy Steadman got a nastygram from the director:
"It has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith," Bethany director Karen Stewart wrote. "Our practice to not accept applications from Catholics was an effort to be good stewards of an adoptive applicant's time, money and emotional energy."
Parse that mealy-mouthed bigotry: "don't waste our time, you Catholic heathens. No Christian babies for you. God told us you can't have any."

My mother used to talk about this practice in Ireland in the old days: when she applied for a job the signs in the windows often said "Catholics Need Not Apply." One of the ways they tested for RCs was to have you recite the Lord's Prayer. If you didn't rattle off the Protestant version you were out on your ear.

Funny me. I thought we'd become more ecumenical than that. What is this agency afraid of? Maybe these (shudder) Catholics will sprinkle holy water on the baby?

Well, saints preserve us. What a bunch of haters we Christians be. Somebody get the rope and kindling. We need a good burning at the stake to clear the air. While the heretics burn, we'll all hold hands and sing that Austin Lounge Lizards' song:

Jesus Loves Me (But He Can't Stand You)

I know you smoke, I know you drink that brew
I just can't abide a sinner like you
God can't either, that's why I know it to be true that
Jesus loves me--but he can't stand you

I'm going to heaven, boys, when I die
'Cause I've crossed every "t" and I've dotted every "i'
My preacher tell me that I'm God's kind of guy; that's why
Jesus loves me--but you're gonna fry

God loves all his children, by gum
That don't mean he won't incinerate some
Can't you feel those hot flames licking you
Woo woo woo

I'm raising my kids in a righteous way
So don't be sending your kids over to my house to play
Yours'll grow up stoned, left-leaning, and gay; I know
Jesus told me on the phone today

Jesus loves me, this I know
And he told me where you're gonna go
There's lots of room for your kind down below
Whoa whoa whoa

Jesus loves me but he can't stand you . . .

File under Disgusting and Disturbing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Cold Day in July. A Hundred Degrees in the Shade.

I have now lived long enough to be able to say I've experienced both of these phenomena. They are -- as Jinnji might say -- kewl to contemplate.

The cold day in July came a few years back. I remember it because of the occasion: the Baron took his boy to see the 4th of July fireworks on the James River in Scottsville. When they ventured forth that afternoon -- leaving early to get a good viewing spot on the levee -- they were wearing flannel shirts against the damp cool air.

Today, on the other hand, July 27, 2005, at 3:00 pm it's a hundred degrees in the shade. I always wanted to be able to say that, too. But even though I recall some hot summers here, so hot and dry the James was a shallow spit down at Howardsville...well, until now I never actually thought to check the thermometer on the porch. Since it hangs in the shady northwest, it tends to register low...and at this here particular moment in time it says 100 degrees.

"Lordy, child, sit and rest a spell and have a glass of iced tea. It's a hundred in the shade. Hasn't been this hot since that time in '98..." Hmmm...wish I had a screen door I could bang for that old retro feeling.

Usually around here one says "it's not the heat, it's the humidity." Except in this case it's not. This is dry heat -- or at least dry by Virginia standards -- and it's been a job keeping enough moisture around the plants I put out last Fall and this Spring. The annuals are inexpensive and not a concern, but the curly willows and the Forest Pansy redbud and the camelia are all vulnerable in their first year. So I go out early -- early for Miz Dymphna, thank you -- and let the hose run into the roots of each. The well is not a worry since we recovered from the drought of three years ago. However, the pump is a treasure so I don't like to run it too long.

Y'all stay cool. Me, I'm going to go play in the hose.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Perfect Pancakes For an Imperfect World

Just as I sat down to write this, the Baron gave me a gruesome hat tip, which will have to be posted at Gates in due time. Meanwhile, I came here to pass on to you the perfect pancake recipe. It is perfect because it takes very few ingredients and about ten minutes to put together. Actually less time than that once you've made them and understand the set-up.

These are thin pancakes, but not as thin as crepes. They are moister and more full-bodied than crepes. Also, the batter does not need to sit as crepe batter does.

First of all, a few tips:

Don't double the recipe. Because these pancakes are too tender to be able to take much stirring, keep the amount of batter small. However, you could make two or three batches rather quickly for a crowd. As you will see, the ingredients go together quicker than two sisters in an alliance against their brother.

Also, I've been told that this recipe also makes good waffles.

Warning: this recipe calls for buttermilk. But don't despair. If you don't normally use it, get the powdered version at the grocery store (in the baking section) and keep it on hand. It's good for salad dressings and lasts forever.

Here's what you need on hand:

buttermilk*, 1 cup
egg, 1 large or extra large
butter, 2 TBS

plain flour, 1 cup
salt, large pinch
baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon

Before getting your materials out, begin by warming warm a pan or pancake griddle. I often use two pans to make it go faster. Turn burner(s) to medium. Don't grease the pans yet.

Now get out the wet ingredients, above:
Put the egg in a container of hot water so it will come to room temperature while you're doing other stuff.
Microwave 2TBs butter in a two cup container until butter has melted and is a bit frothy.
Pour a cup of buttermilk over melted butter and mix well.
Then crack the warmed egg into milk and butter and blend well.
Set this aside.

Time for the dry ingredients, above:
Sift or mix into a medium bowl--
1 cup regular flour
a large pinch of salt
1/2 tspn baking *soda* (not baking powder)
If you're lazy or sifterless (or shiftless), just toss it all well with a whisk.
Set the dry ingredients aside.

Decide what toppings you will have. If using preserves, syrup, etc., put them into serving dishes/jars and warm them on low in microwave. Don't warm more than you think you'll use.

Set the table. Don't forget the flowers and napkins. Put out pats of butter.

Okay, you have the pan(s) heating, and you have two bowls of ingredients, one wet and one dry. Now you can grease the pans. Grease a paper napkin with oil or unsalted butter and rub down hot griddle or pans.

Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and blend with a fork. Don't beat this batter, a light,oh-so-brief hand is all you need. A little lumpy is good in pancake batter.

Pour batter into rounds the size you like and spread them a bit to thin them out. When the bubbles begin to break and dry, turn pancake and cook for just a moment.
Turn out onto warmed plate or wire mesh rack (to prevent the steam from making them soggy). Keep warm.

Before putting more batter in the pan, grease it again.

Repeat until batter is used up.

LEFTOVERS: When pancakes have cooled, spread with preserves and top with a thin coat of sour cream. Roll the pancakes firmly, but be careful not to break them. Cover and hide them in the refrigerator until someone comes looking for you, complaining that they're hungry...

NOTA BENE Do not make these pancakes too often or your children will never leave home. Not good for either of you.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Brigham's Raspberry Lime Rickeys

Raspberry Lime RickeyIt's been many years since I lived in Wellesley. It was a good place to live and to be, even though our life there ended so sadly. Behind the house there was a pond where I learned to ice skate in my late twenties -- not proficiently, just adequately enough to feel the soar when the glide of metal cut a thin channel through the bumpy ice on early February mornings. Later, walking home with skates in hand, it still felt like soaring.

Our house was right in the middle of town. Open the front door, turn right and it would bring you to the library. Turn left and you were a few blocks from the theatre. We walked to church; the kids walked to school. The grocey store was nearby and a ten minute ride took you to the train station for Boston. The children could bike over to Nana's after school. Wellesley was the last place my oldest children had a real home. Little did we know it was the last time we were to be a family.

There are several things I miss about New England --besides my former in-laws, I mean. One of them is Brigham's ice cream shops. I looked it up: the one in Wellesley still exists, right there on Washington Street. The children and I would walk down to the shop on a hot summer day, they for ice cream and I to ask for a lime rickey. It was the drink of the gods when sweat ran down the backs of your legs and your hair stuck to your head in wisps.

Later we would stroll back down Washington Street eating our drippy sweets and savoring the shade provided by a long column of densely-leaved maples. In October they turned magically and predictably brilliant. Walking under them then was like moving in sunlight, even when it was raining.

For the uninitiated and those without a Brigham's nearby, here is the recipe for a raspberry lime rickey:

1 lime, room temperature and rolled about to make it release the juices when cut.
raspberry syrup
seltzer water

Obviously, squeeze the lime, use syrup and selter to taste. If you haven't any raspberry syrup, throw some frozen raspberries into the blender with ice and the lime juice. Sweeten to taste. If you're diabetic, use raspberries and some artificial sweetner.

Perhaps it's the citrus, perhaps the seltzer, perhaps some trace elements in the raspberries. Whatever the secret, this is the most thirst-quenching drink to come out of New England.

No, not that kind of thirst, m'boy. That's the cursed Irish thirst and has to do with the hole in your soul. I only ever meant the thirst of mid-day July.

You're So Vain

Have you ever noticed that men's vanity is like women's aggression: character issues that neither handles very well? Men can get mad and it blows over like a seasonal thunderstorm. Women simmer. They claim they're not mad. They don't give themselves permission to be mad. You know: "he's angry but she's catty."

Men and their vanity are similarly disowned. But you know it when you see it. I remember being in a bar one time -- in my youth, when I did such things and when doing them was simpler and more straight forward-- and noticing a bunch of guys sitting at a table. They were nice looking men, but one was particularly attractive. Not drop-dead handsome, just an open, friendly face and an obvious interest in whatever his friends were saying. I mentioned his demeanor to the person I was with and he suggested I go tell the man he was attractive. He reminded me that life was short and we needed to appreciate one another whenever the opportunity presented itself. He was right.

So I went over to the table and excused myself for interrupting their conversation. Their faces lit up and they assured me it was fine. I turned to the man (who happened to be wearing Goodwrench coveralls) and told him that of everyone there in that bar tonight, he was the most attractive. There was a stunned silence and then the rest of the group got up, remonstrating with me: "Hey, I'm better looking than him," and "No, it's me. I work out everyday," or "You're kidding! Joe is ugly. *I'm* the good looking one..." And so on. I turned back to Joe and he just said, with a big grin, "Thanks." I made his night and his reaction made mine.

Which tale is by way of introducing a funny story from Arghhh! The Home of Two of Jonah's Military Guys

After I got out of the Army the *first* time, I had a bartending gig at the local Large Chain Motel and Cocktail Lounge, which was Large Chain enough to have *two* bars. Mine was the "party" bar, so-called because it was part of the conference suite usually booked for large, festive weekend shindigs, such as umptieth birthday parties, wedding receptions or the local pols receiving a particularly grandiose campaign contribution.

But on weeknights, it was a nice, quietly contemplative joint, not unlike Callahan's (especially if you peered into the shadows after a few of my Perfect Rob Roys). Mostly regulars, with just the right sprinkling of passers-through to keep things light. One Friday night, I was pretty much alone except for a small gaggle of secretarials enjoying some liquid decompression, when in strolls Bobby, the local heart-breaker. Imagine (a young) John Travolta crossed with Ben Affleck, then add a dash of Leonardo diCaprio.

And just as shallow.

One of the secretarials couldn't take her eyes off him. Bobby made eye contact, zeroed in and walked slowly over. Before the secretarial could say a word, Bobby took her hand and purred his patented, "I'll do anything -- absolutely anything -- that you want me to do. No matter how kinky. For a hundred dollars. On one condition."

To her credit, the secretarial kept what was left of her cool and asked what the condition was.

Bobby replied, "You have to tell me what you want me to do in just three words."

The secretarial didn't even hesitate. She grabbed her purse and slowly counted out five $20 bills (I mentally kissed off the chance of a decent tip for the night). Then she wrote her address on the back of a barnap and pressed the bills and the barnap into Bobby's hand.

She looked deeply into his eyes and slowly, meaningfully said....
I know it's a mean trick but you have to go over to the link to get the punchline. Just in case it times out or you have dial up and could wait for Godot quicker than you can wait for them to load, tomorrow I'll put the punchline in the comments.

Let's just say that in the on-going war between the sexes, her tactical manuever left me with the same grin Joe had on his face. Just the nice warm feeling that doing the right thing brings.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

I Hate Japanese Beetles

Popillia japonica Newman. The current bete noire here in Eden. For some reason this year has produced a bumper crop of Japanese beetles. Considering the number of moles we had last Autumn, this is surprising. I'd have thought they would've been dinner for lots of mole families back then.

They warn you that hanging beetle traps attracts them from other yards. But since the nearest "yard" is quite far away, I'd say most of these are ours -- attracted by the grape vines and apple trees. Thus, I hang the traps in likely spots, though I don't think I have nearly enough of them. I have snared at least 10 bags worth this year and we're not yet done with the season.

Evidently, Japanese beetles showed up in the US in 1908. Here's a map of the inroads they've made.As you can see, they haven't moved all that far given that they've been here a century. According to information from Ohio State University, they can be somewhat controlled by "the spring Tiphia." In case you're wondering (I was) Tiphia is not a plant, it's a wasp. I will spare you the gruesome details other than to say the business is taken care of out of sight and underground. Or, another way to state it: God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

Meanwhile, here is more than you may want to know about getting rid of them and a larger version of the map above.

Now I must return to patrolling the perimeters, armed with my Neem spray. It says on the bottle that it works on beetles, but I'm not so sure about this kind. They seem to be slurping it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Opening My Eyes to Beauty

Why would it be that allergic conjunctivitis makes it hard to think? Unfortunately, such is the case for me. But then fortunately for me, wonder drugs ameliorate the problem, even if they don't cure it. Yesterday I started on Patanol, a tiny little bottle of drops that cost $89.00. Definitely, the price is a wonder all by itself. On the other hand, the relief is sweet; I can see the computer screen again.

Allergies have causes, right? It took us a looong time to figure out the reason for this one, but we think we may be on the right track: the duct work is filled with moldy particulate, having accumulated over the years, and in summer when the air conditioning is on, the dehumidification is not enough to keep the mold nice and dry so it comes out of the ducts and hangs in the air or clings to handy surfaces in the house. One of the surfaces it appears to favor is my conjunctiva.

So the repairmen are coming next week. Not to fix my eyes, however. An unfortunately not to install the new ductwork but to take pictures of it and to see how many feet of the stuff we need. Only then will the real help come the following week to put in brand new ducts. At which point life becomes liveable again. Meanwhile, I am going to buy a dehumidifier. And whine a lot. Whining isn't a cure either but it does help pass the time.

Meanwhile, life outside is in the nineties, so it's only a good escape in small doses. Here's one irresistible 'dose':
Morning glories

Is there anything more lovely than a morning glory? These are Heavenly Blue. Behind them is a Brown Turkey fig, which is full of fruit this year.

I planted morning glories on the east, south, and west sides. This one, on the east (southeast, really) is second best. The one that grows in the south light is bigger but doesn't photograph as well, planted as it is between two clematis.

Morning glories require little care, but deadheading is a good idea for continual bloom. Not much bothers them, though this year the chewing insects are more bounteous than usual so a shot of Neem on occasion is helpful. If the leaves begin to yellow a bit, use some kind of iron product to green them up. Nitrogen by itself isn't advisable since it's blooms you want.

In the cooler Autumn weather morning glory flowers will remain open all day. As will my eyes when this damned conjunctivitis is cured.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Having a Puck for a Brain

This latest p.c. idiocy is from Dissonance and Disrespect:
A British Columbia hockey mum thinks that it's discriminatory to require her 14-year old daughter to change in separate changing rooms from the boys before and after the game. So she's going to the B.C. [Kangaroo Court] Human Rights Commission so that her daughter can be ogled or groped by her horny teenage teammates.
The mother, Jane Emlyn, believes tht girls’ rights are being violated because they’re not allowed into the boys’ dressing rooms. Her daughter, Jewel, in the meantime, thinks she misses a lot of team camaraderie by being forced to use other facilities.

Here’s how Dissonance sees things:
Unlike this blogger, Ms. Emlyn has never been a 14-year old boy. Equally unlike this blogger, she is completely devoid of common sense. Which is why she probably thinks that matters of high moral principle drive the support of her daughter's teammates quest to share a locker room with the boys.

No doubt Ms. Emlyn will win her case. If our governing classes think that gender is irrelevant to the fundamental institutions such as marriage, why should it matter for locker rooms?

And her daughter's complaint sounds not unlike that of homosexuals about marriage--I feel excluded, it hurts my pride to feel left out, and nothing matters more than soothing my feelings of exclusion.

Dumb kid. Dumber mother. This is the kind of woman that makes men tear their hair out. How can she have lived in the world long enough to have raised a child to the age of fourteen and still not understood that there are two -- count them, lady, one-two -- sexes and such are the differences between them that one group should not have to be oppressed by the presence of the pubescent derriere of a member of the other group while they're dressing out for hockey?

Twit and her offspring, Twitette. Pass that aspirin bottle.

Homage to P. G. Wodehouse

The Baron's Boy is home for the rest of the summer holiday. Given that there are no television sets in the Neighborhood of God, the BB must resort to reading for entertainment. But then he runs into the reader's dilemma: what to do when one of your favorite authors has written his last -- or rather, what to do when you have re-read his oeuvre three times?

One thing you can do is write further sequels yourself. Here, the posthumous work of P.G. Wodehouse as Bertie sets off for the front in the Great War.


Even in the midst of all this dashed fighting there still seems to be a spark of jolly old what-d’you-call-it. You know what I mean, that intangible feeling of joi de vivre and esprit du corps. And it most certainly didn’t hurt that the top brass of His Majesty’s Royal Army had decided to withdraw from active duty the regiment in which Lieutenant Bertram Wooster was currently serving.

However, even the happiest of times have those bothersome black spots which will invariably find their way across the rose-coloured hue of contentment. You see, I recently came into possession of some rather lovely lavender puttees. It just so happened that an obliging chap in our Supply Company is able to procure custom-made items for a slight fee. Naturally, I was forced to take the issue up with the ‘old man,’ Captain Worthington. After he indulged in a little more tsk-tsk-ing and harumph-ing than seemed called for, he admitted that there was no specific rule against decorated footwear as long as our regiment was not on parade; and anyway, allowances could be made for units currently in the heat of battle. Thus encouraged (when his ulcer isn’t acting up, Worthington’s a dashed decent cove), I proceeded back to my billet.

Persuading Captain Worthington had been one thing; persuading Jeeves, however, was another matter entirely. Although Jeeves is without question the steady hand that keeps the HMS Wooster from running aground, he tends to be a bit—what’s the word? ‘obs-’something…‘obstreperous?’ ‘obsolescent?’ No…well, anyways, what I mean to say is, he can be a bit inflexible when it comes to clothing. Sometimes it seems to me that the British Army uniform could have been designed by one of Jeeves’ ancestors. No room for change. On the one hand, it is dashed convenient to wake up in the morning to stave off the Hun knowing that you needn’t worry about what the well-dressed English warrior is wearing. Still, I have a certain need to express myself, and these puttees seemed just the right thing with which to do so.

Therefore, it was with firm and steady conviction that I entered my billet that breezy summer morning.

‘Good day, Jeeves,’ I said with an air of nonchalance. ‘Any news from the chappies getting all the heat—what?’

‘No, sir, the German forces have been remarkably lethargic. I have it on good authority that—’ He paused as he turned around, and I gathered quickly that he had taken in the puttees all at once and the effect had been far from beneficial.

‘Something the matter, Jeeves?’ I asked as disingenuously as possible. I tried to give the impression that nothing was out of the ordinary; still, I felt a slight tension building in the pit of my stomach. A premonition of impending domestic unrest, you might say.

‘Sir, what are those—articles—with which you have chosen to adorn yourself?’ he asked with a slight touch of incredulity in his voice.

Now, certain people—not a few of them members of my immediate family—are of the impression that Bertram is not running with the rest of the herd when it comes to intellectual capacity. However, in this situation, even a much weaker mind that mine would have to realize that a stand had to be taken in order to preserve the common order. Jeeves is a marvel in more aspects than one, but the fickle train of fashion had left him standing at the platform some time ago. I therefore addressed him in a chiding but not necessarily unkind tone:

‘Come now, Jeeves. You mustn’t get stuck in such a bally rut about clothing and attire and whatnot. What you think is haute couture may not suit today’s generation.’

‘Sir, I must warn you that—’

‘Jeeves, these puttees stay and that is final. I think they go rather splendidly with the khaki material.’


‘Right ho, Jeeves.’

‘Very good, sir.’

On this somewhat chilly note, I sauntered back outside. After ambling a sufficient distance down the walkway I mopped my brow. After all, squabbles tend to take it out of a chap’s spirit, even if aforesaid chap is stout of heart and so forth. A restorative seemed to be in good order and I proceeded at a rather quickened pace to the officers’ mess.

Although occasionally daunted by life’s obstacles, a true English gentleman never remains under despair’s dark cloud for very long. After a salubrious lunch accompanied by a proper glass or two of something-or-other, I felt like a three-to-one odds on favourite at the Goodwood races. It was just as I was revelling in the pleasant noon air that I noticed the familiar figure of Annette DuChamp coming towards our section of the line.

Annette was the daughter of a local farmer who made a tidy bundle selling her family’s surplus fruits and whatnot to the chappies in the rear lines. She was an gift from heaven to blighters like Oofy Prosser who needed such-and-such spices and herbs to go with their meals, coves who keep spouting that rot about ‘gastric juices.’ Also, being rather pretty in a sort of fresh-air-open-spaces sort of farm-girl way, she was the recipient of the attentions of quite a few dashing young English officers. After seeing her blushing and smiling and hearing her murmured ‘Merci, messieurs’ as she sold her wares to the crowd of eager faces around her, one came away with the feeling that she wasn’t in it merely for the money.

At any rate, she was coming towards the mess, so I walked over and asked what she had today. An idea was beginning to form that perhaps I could pacify Jeeves slightly with some fresh vegetables and so forth. After all, it wasn’t the man’s fault that his instincts in re clothing wasn’t up to par; I imagine his upbringing had instilled in him a stern (albeit archaic) sense of etiquette that was to blame for his rigidly held views. All that notwithstanding, we Woosters do not hold grudges and it was therefore with a benevolent and cheerful heart that I purchased a few lettuces and carrots from Annette.

After a brief and casual chat about the state of things with the war and the Bosche I excused myself, saying that I must get the foodstuffs to my batman. As I was walking away, I happened to run into Basher Barnes, who had been standing some distance away enjoying a smoke. He turned and glanced back at Annette, and said in an offhand manner:

‘You know, she quite fancies you, old man.’

I must say, this shook me not a little. ‘Fancies me? I say, what?’

‘Well, she’s been asking a good many of the boys if you’re married or not. Discreetly, though. For instance, she asked Tosh Kensington if you had any children, and he replied that he hoped you hadn’t any, as you had no wife. Her face sort of lit up at this, if you know what I mean.’

Well, this was a situation, and no mistake. Not that I minded the attentions of the fairer sex. It was all rather flattering in a way, I suppose. However, the face that kept looming in my mind as Basher was speaking was that of my Aunt Agatha. As you can imagine, this was enough to cause me to break into a cold sweat.

You see, my Aunt Agatha is sensitive to class distinctions the way a ship’s captain is sensitive to mines. If she found out that I had made a liaison with a French peasant girl, I would be persona non grata throughout the entire jolly country of England—as far as my Aunt was concerned, which is all that matters. Single-minded, my Aunt Agatha is, and she would not rest until I had paid in full for such a ruinous act upon our family.

However, a chap can’t simply walk up to the girl who fancies him and say, ‘Sorry, but you might as well forget it. Tinkerty-tonk,’ and be done with it. Not even if said girl is of a lower class. It isn’t done, you see. Not sporting. I had to find a way to do so delicately but—most definitely—with finality.

My pensive musings were interrupted by Basher telling me that he had to be off; replacements were arriving in his company and he had to get them situated. ‘Give them the Cook’s Tour, I suppose,” he said glumly as he made his way towards his section. It was then that I looked down and remembered the green whatnots I had purchased for Jeeves. Putting them together in a bundle under my arm, I carried them into my billet as a sort of peace offering. An olive branch of sorts, you might say.

Jeeves thanked me courteously enough, but I must say he was still rather distant. I had considered broaching the subject of how to handle Annette with him, but since his mind was caught up on such petty matters as my puttees, it seemed rather pointless.

‘Any news on Bingo, Jeeves?’ I asked as I straightened up my bunk and put away some old magazines I had been reading.

‘No sir. I understand Mr. Little is convalescing quite rapidly.’

‘Well, I imagine it isn’t too hard to recover from having a rifle drop onto your head. And besides, Bingo’s is thick enough to take worse knocks than that.’

‘I would not venture to guess on such matters, sir. Wounds to the cerebral area can be quite difficult to categorize.’

‘Yes, there is that. Suppose I ought to pop round and see him. Comfort to the wounded and all that, what?’

‘If you so desire, sir. I believe there is a convoy of vehicles leaving here in an approximately an hour. In speaking to one of the drivers I ascertained that they are passing by the field hosptial where Mr Little is convalescing.’

‘Lucky, that. Well, I imagine I shall be away for most of the afternoon. Hold the fort here, Jeeves. If the German divisions break through send me a carrier pigeon immediately.’

‘Very good, sir.’

Several days ago, you see, back when we were on the front lines, Bingo Little had been walking around the trenches looking for his helmet. Always losing things, is Bingo: his sidearm, his helmet, cigarettes, and so forth. Anyway, he had just found it and was bending over to get it when some careless chappy coming back from reconnaissance tossed his rifle into the trench. Bingo’s luck being notoriously bad, it struck him crossways on the head and rendered him unconscious. The doctors came to the same conclusion espoused to me by Jeeves and recommended that he be taken to the field hospital in case of a concussion. Needless to say, Bingo was immensely pleased with this news and even tried to reward the cove who owned the rifle. However, he had managed to misplace his wallet and was therefore carried, penniless and grinning, off the battlefield.

I managed to find the convoy that Jeeves had mentioned, and, after catching a ride with an obliging lorry driver, I arrived in a somewhat dusty condition at the field hospital. Rather drab affair, but comfortable—though I suppose when you’re recuperating from wounds and so forth anywhere is better than those blasted trenches. At any rate, through a rather remarkable coincidence I happened upon a quite pleasant girl working as a nurse who just happened to be the sister of a Good Egg back home. Margaret Faversham, her name was; I’d seen her once or twice at the Drones for evening socials and whatnot. We chatted for a bit—apparently times were fairly trying back in England—and she was able to direct me to Bingo’s cot. I did notice at the mention of his name that her good humor seemed slightly strained. Old Bingo can be a trial to even the most patient of souls.

At any rate, I arrived at his bedside to find Bingo the last person in need of cheering up. He was sitting up in bed, a white cloth wrapped around his forehead, smiling beatifically and being rather a glutton with his luncheon.

‘I say, old man, you don’t seem to be very much in need of medical attention,’ I remarked upon watching him devour his cold cuts of ham.

‘Oh, but Bertie, you don’t know what an ordeal it’s been,’ he reproached me, waving a chicken bone at me reprovingly.

‘What, having to stuff yourself with three meals a day while getting no exercise? I should bally well think it’s an ordeal.’

‘No, no, Bertie, you don’t understand,” he sighed. ‘Having to be around her without being able to express my feelings properly.’

A familiar creeping sensation spread its way across the vastness of my jolly soul. This was a familiar refrain with old Bingo; you see, the blighter has absolutely no defenses against the fairer sex. What I mean to say is, the poor chap is forever falling in love under crossed stars and so forth. Some things in this world are unpredictable, but when asked if Bingo Little will have chosen the right girl the answer is always a resounding ‘Ha!’ It would take a superior memory than Wooster’s to recall all of Bingo’s failed liaisons.

‘So which unlucky—er, I mean, that is to say, who is it this time?’

He glared at me. ‘If you mean to taint my blissful mood with memories of those—those errors which I have made in seeking the Love of my—’

‘Yes, yes, quite, sorry to impugn the nature of your, er, attachment and so forth,’ I hastened to placate him. ‘Out with it, old bean, who is she?’

‘Her name is Margaret,’ he murmured soulfully.

A jolt when through my spine. ‘Margaret—Faversham, by any chance?’ I asked as casually as possible.

He gave a jump, quite an impressive feat while half-sitting on a hospital bed. ‘You KNOW of her?’ he gasped reverently.

‘Well, she’s the sister of rather a decent chappy back in London, don’t you know. Nice girl.’

He sniffed contemptuously. ‘ ‘A nice girl.’ Of course an ignorant oaf such as you, Bertie, would cheapen her with such faint praise. She is an angel come to minister to me in my hour of need, a heaven-borne—’

I must confess my mind stopped taking note of Bingo’s words at this point. It was far too busy sending silent messages of sympathy to poor Margaret, who by now had no doubt suffered the effects of Bingo’s lovelorn glances. Not a chap to suffer the pangs of unrequited love in silence or solitude, is old Bingo—everyone in the bally room knows of his aching heart within five minutes.

After a few more minutes of amateurish romanticism on Bingo’s part and mumbled responses on mine, I took my leave. I hastened to find Margaret and explain the predicament to her—Bingo wasn’t going to let her out of his jolly old mind anytime soon, and his incapacitated state make the whole situation worse. I found her taking a short break outside, reading a letter from her mother.

After a few words of greeting, I mentioned Bingo and she stiffened perceptibly.

‘If you’ve come to propose for him, I’ve no interest in hearing about it,’ she said grimly.

‘No, dash it, listen,’ I exclaimed. ‘The old blighter isn’t going to propose to you. He’d bally well rather suffer.’

‘So I’ve gathered,’ she sighed. ‘He’s been like this ever since he woke up.’

‘I thought he was awake when he got here.’

‘He was. He’s been doing this since the ambulance arrived.’

‘Doing what?’

She did such a jolly good impersonation of that fish-eyed stare that signals Bingo’s attraction to a female that I burst out laughing. ‘It isn’t funny!’ she fumed. ‘It’s become a running joke here. The doctors are beginning to think I’m incapable—they may even send me away, perhaps back to England.’

I could see she was visibly distressed, and it awoke within me the determined spirit of my ancestor, old Philippe de Wustre of the Flemish Light Horse Marines. It is on occasions like this that Bertram rises to the occasion, and with solemn promise in my voice and a gentle hand on my shoulder I said firmly but reassuringly, ‘Fear not, old gel. I’ll help you find a way out of this.’

‘You mean—you mean…?’ She said with hope in her voice.

‘That’s right.’ I nodded, my chest swelling as I felt the old warrior blood flow through my veins.

‘Oh, Bertie, I’ve heard ever so much about your Jeeves from my brother Edgar. You mean you’ll put him to work on this?’

Thank goodness for the old warrior blood, or else I would have fallen like an overcooked soufflé at these words. Although deflated and wounded to the quick, I managed to put up the bold front.

‘Quite, quite,’ I responded frostily. Standing up straight and tall, I bade her a formal farewell, assuring her that I would return in several days with some good wheezes from the front. Let it never be said that Bertie turns his back on a damsel in distress—even those who sting his pride mortally.

It was thus with a troubled mind that I returned to the lines. Although it pained me greatly, I decided that further strain in my relationship with Jeeves would be detrimental to my overall fighting spirit, and so it was with not a little regret that I relinquished the puttees to a pocket in my tunic before alighting from the lorry. Upon entering the billet I found Jeeves tidying his cot in preparation for ‘Lights Out.’

‘Good evening, sir. I trust Mr. Little was in good health?’

‘Oh yes, fine. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that the doctors were keeping him there at the request of the Colonel. The last time Bingo led a reconnaissance patrol he got caught up in our own wire, you know. Dashed uncomfortable to explain to the divisional commander.’

‘I imagine it would be quite awkward, sir. Will there be anything else, sir? No? Very good, sir.’

Jeeves spared one final—and none too friendly—glance for the puttees on the floor by my bunk before extinguishing the light. What with all the other mishaps in my life up ‘til now, there were plenty of things to make Bertram brood for some time before finally ambling off to the jolly old Land of Nod.
To Be Continued

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Invasion of the Aliens

The tsunami did more than kill people and suck up large amounts of graft and corruption. It also created an alien invasion of plant species that moved further inland:

Nearly six months after the disaster that killed more than 31,000 people in Sri Lanka, studies have found that the tsunami waves have pushed seeds of so-called alien invasive species from their coasts farther inland on the tropical island, the United Nations Environment Program said.

“In some areas, including important national parks, the wave has encouraged the spread of alien invasive species, such as prickly pears and salt-tolerant mesquite,'' the agency said in a statement.

Neither species is native to Sri Lanka, but they existed in small numbers in limited coastal areas, said Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, the country's best-known nature expert. He did not say how the species first arrived in Sri Lanka.
Notice they just mention in passing the fact that the plants were already on the coast, evidently put there by the Plant Fairy (i.e, somebody thought "hey, let's get something different. Everyone else has palms and fronds. Let's do mesquite." And so they did. And along comes Mr. Tsunami, who airmails this bright idea further inland).

“Now they can pose a threat to our ecosystem,'' he said. “Our local plants and animals have not co-evolved with these alien plants so when alien plants dominate in the ecosystem they will reduce the diversity of the local fauna and flora.''
I'll say. Where we live, the Japanese kudzu and honeysuckle threaten the life and limb of many a tree. But the special scourge in our yard is this:

The mimosa tree

Beautiful,no? But invasive doesn't begin to describe the torture of being owned by such a beast. Normally, mimosas live about fifteen years or so. Some plant biologists even term them a shrub rather than a tree. Well, this monster is going on thirty years old now. It's at least forty feet high and perhaps fifty feet wide. To give some perspective on its size, the small red area under the tree is the bench and begonia pictured in a previous post.

All those beautiful flowers are going to turn into seed pods. And because the mimosa is in the legume famly, all those pods will have at least six seeds. And most of those seeds will be viable. Imagine the thousands and thousands of mimosas that have been exterminated in the last thirty years on this patch of land.

"Get rid of it," you say, and we will, as soon as it dies. But its beauty, though brief, is quite enthralling, and so it lives on, spilling its wretched seed each Autumn, all the season long. And the following summer is spent eradicating its spawn.

I do wonder sometimes why kudzu, blackberry vines, black locusts, honeysuckle, and oh -- especially-- mimosas haven't taken over the world.

Such a brazen bunch. Invasive aliens, all.

Hat tip: Hyscience

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

It is Harder to Kill A Lie

It is much more difficult to kill an agenda-driven lie than it is to bring the truth into the light. Case in point, from Crisis magazine:

It is now common medical knowledge that a full-term pregnancy, especially before the age of 32, acts as a protective mechanism against breast cancer. Thus, research shows that teenagers with a family history of breast cancer who have abortions before their 18th birthday have an incalculably high risk of developing breast cancer...yet such [young]women are rarely informed of this indisputable link.
And here’s another link to cancer through abortion, a link which is “contested” (I guess so!), but supported by numerous epidemiological studies:

abortion itself can cause breast cancer. Through abortion, a woman artificially terminates her pregnancy at a time when her breast cells have been exposed to high levels of potentially cancer-initiating estrogen but before those cells have matured into cancer-resistant cells (as they ultimately do in a full-term pregnancy). According to breast surgeon Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, “The same biology that accounts for 90 percent of all risk factors for breast cancer accounts for the abortion–breast cancer link.”
So much for the safety of abortion. Now try on the mental health consequences:
A study published in a recent edition of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders found that women who aborted their unintended pregnancies were 30 percent more likely to subsequently report all the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder than those women who had carried their unintended pregnancies to term.
Somehow I’ll bet they don’t give out this information to young women when they show up at abortion mills -- oops, I mean clinics. Yeah, that's the word: clinics -- for “counseling.”

Hat tip: New Victorian

Monday, July 11, 2005

Sweet Are the Uses of Adversity

Gardening is often the avocation of des femmes d'un certain âge. Being precocious, though, I started fiddling with flowers at the age of twelve or so. Our neighbor grew beautiful daylillies while ours were the common garden variety. So for fun (I had a sheltered sense of “fun” at twelve), I would ask permission to take a stamen or three from some of his beauties to cross-pollinate them with our Cinderellas. From seed to flower is at least two years; that’s a longish eternity when you're twelve. Nonetheless, I remembered to check occasionally. There were some interesting results: some of the lillies were prettier than their mommas and some got smacked a bit uglier than seemed fair at the time. Some seeds just never did grow.

Looking back, I can see a pattern. Kind of like raising children. You never know what you’ll get and there’s no way to tell what the vicissitudes of fate and fortune have in store for them. But eventually they all get grown and gone so you go back to raising flowers again, just for someone to boss around.

There are advantages to children: they give you grandchildren and they send you birthday cards and sometimes they call for advice. But raising flowers has some benefits, too. For one thing, you have more control over the process. During the dry spells you can water things, for example. Or maybe just install drought-resistant plants to begin with. You can move things around to suit yourself without having to listen to the flowers complain. Or at least not complain much; some of them refuse to grow or blossom under certain conditions so you can’t just stick them any old where. Zinnias and bergamot will have sun or they will have mold and mildew and not much in the way of flowers. On the other hand, in this climate it doesn’t seem to matter where you put rudbeckia, it just blooms.

Some of them are sooo fussy. Take clematis. There’s a large white variety that does quite well on my porch railing. Several feet down from it is a jackmanni. Now the latter is supposed to thrive and grow all over the place. Not this one. It sends out three or four branches, rather skinny and tentative, that curl around several spokes in the railing and looking like they don't want to take up too much room. For a week or so, it blossoms and then it just sits there, vegetating while the white one glories in the warm weather and grows thick and lush. The jackmanni is definitely the sickly sibling. Though clematis don’t like to share their space, I stealthily put a Heavenly Blue morning glory in between the two of them and it’s taking up the slack for the spindly one. That used to be the spot for moonflowers, but they took so long to finally blossom —August, usually — and they’re more voracious than morning glories. But the fragrance is wonderful, even better than mimosas.

Garden bench with Red Dragon Begonias

The bench is under the mimosa. Next to it is a Red Dragon begonia which I got for Mother’s Day. It’s outgrowing the pot so has to be watered assiduously until I find a bigger pot. If I do. Behind the bench (to the right in the picture) is a Brown turkey fig that was there when the mimosa was quite small. The fig is overpowered by the mimosa, of course, but as a result its fruit is tiny — like large grapes — and very sweet. Fig trees in other parts of the yard produce the usual-sized fruit but aren’t nearly as good…

Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in the stones, and good in every thing.
I never did get the part about toads wearing precious jewels in their heads, but I do love a toad's appetite for bugs. I've put a few toad houses under the hostas and such. I figured they needed housing when I found one huddled under a trowel I'd left by the salvia.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Stuck in an Elevator with Nancy Pelosi

The Joy of Knitting is often a joy indeed. I used to think she was an American ex-patriate, so excellently crafted is her English. But no, she's the real Sophia all right. Who knows what her real name is? No matter; Sophia suits her well. Here's her spot-on definition of pee cee prison:

Political correctness is a form of moral and emotional blackmail whereby if you call a spade a spade you must a) apologize to the spade, b) if you live in the US, take a sensitivity training course, or c) if you live in Old Yurp, you are taken to court for defamation of the aforementioned spade. It’s a perfect way to keep people forever trapped in an endless round of self-guilt, self-blame and self-loathing. As a subtle means of repression, it works wonderfully. Everyone becomes his own watchdog, becoming afraid not only to speak, but even to think.
Think about it: we have willingly internalized the fear of thinking. I must ask Shrinkwrapped what that might be called in psychiatric terms. Being a woman who comes right to the point Dr. Sanity would simply call it horse manure and keep going. Shrinkwrapped, being the analytic sort, would be reflective and perhaps give us the Greek/Latinate neologism. Let's see...

Phobia is 'fear' -- though I've often thought it sounded like someone's name. As in "Horace, I'd like to introduce my Aunt Phobia." Or, "No, I can't go with you. I promised Dysphoria I'd visit."

What should we put in front of phobia to give us the fear of thinking so wonderfully impressed upon us by the Mandarins, that elite group who will do-all-the-thinking-required-thank-you-just-the-same? Since this is a psychiatric condition, let's stick with the Greek; those guys eschew Anglo-Saxon (using English would be a waste of all that medical education). And the Greek for thought is, tah-dah... ιδέα, from whence comes our "idea."

So here you go: a word for p.c. mind control: ideophobia. It's what happens when the Mandarins have taken such control of your thinking processes that you're incapable of entertaining an idea of which they do not approve. The advantage of suffering from this condition is that you'll never be in any danger of having to attend a sensitivity-training course.

Another plus is the fact that if you're ever stuck in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi neither one of you will care because there'll be so much to talk about.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Rebellion Became Revolting a Long Time Ago

Over on Neuro-Conservative his commenters who work or study in academia are explaining the necessity for living their secret conservative lives while surrounded by what I call the Mandarins. Actually, Theodore Dalrymple uses "mandarins" too, but since I commandeered the word some years ago, it will serve nicely here.

The Mandarins mostly inhabit academia and charitable foundations. They are intelligent but not particularly educated beyond their specialty, a situation Max Weber warned us about. They know a great deal about a very little and it tends to make them believe they know a great deal. Period. As someone remarked recently, these are the kinds of people who remember their SAT scores.

The thing is, they don't know much beyond what they're paid to know and disseminate. What they don't know about world history, say, or mathematics, or the philosophy of science, or -- and especially or -- economics, is appalling. They have encapsulated theories about how things work without actually knowing how the gears mesh. They can spout bromides, one-sentence summations, and they have an opinion on every subject. But no one lives a more sheltered life than a Mandarin. I was about to add, "except a nun" but the one I know bops around the state raising money and teaching people to sing. Sheltered she's not.

I live near a university blue town which floats in a sea of red counties. Not another blue boat afloat till you get to Washington D.C. You know how New York is the Big Apple? Well, this town is Lil' Kumquat: sweet on the outside, sour and seedy in the middle. Every election cycle Lil’ Kumquat sends forth some "progressive" candidate to joust with the current conservative incumbent. And each time the progressive gets knocked off his horse, his lance broken, and the denizens of Lil’ Kumquat are puzzled and angry that another shining hero could lose to the "pol" from the sticks. They do not discuss the congressman's own journey from Democrat to Independent to Republican. In fact, they are strangely uncurious about his political progression.

To give you an idea of the political climate in Lil’ Kumquat: during the last presidential election one of Senator Kerry's daughters came to town to rally the troops. In this case, she was seeking particularly to rally the unmarried, single mothers -- of whom Lil’ Kumquat has its share. Based on my work with this particular demographic, I could have told her to stay home. You won't meet a more apolitical group anywhere than unmarried, single mothers. Not unless the Senator's daughter was handing out husbands...hmmm, there's a thought.

One of the commenters on Neuro-Con says that the ratio of liberal to conservative librarians is 223:1. Amazing. As she noted, that's why you can't get the local library to filter the computers your children use. And if you've ever seen what unaccompanied kids access on the library computer, you know what she's talking about. The main library in LK has a wealth of computers, including a number of them in the children's section.

Looks like it's time to saddle up Rocinante and ride on in to Lil’ Kumquat.

Stay tuned. I'll let you know what the Mandarins say about why they can't put filters on library computers they let the children use. What do you want to bet I get a lecture on the First Amendment?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Enemies of Humanity Strike Again

I had a post prepared for today but when I woke to the news about the craven terrorists in London, the joy of writing withered. All else seems trivial in the face of this new atrocity.

All day, those Londoners have been on my mind: Most of them were on the way to work, perhaps late, no doubt harried in the morning traffic. Some had made appointments for lunch, perhaps things to shop for before going home, the thousand quotidian tasks that make up our daily round.

And for some, it was all blasted in a moment. For others, there will be pain and suffering until merciful death, and for many more, deformities and deficits for the rest of their lives. The news outlets will list the numbers but they can't know the real numbers of people for whom life will never, ever be 'normal' again. The children,the parents,the brothers and sisters and husbands and wives of the people murdered today are all falling endlessly, again and again, down through the dark world of those who tumble against the rocks of sudden loss when death descends...death in the form of an ugly fist smashing what they loved.

In its long, long history London has seen many disasters, much sudden death. Unlike Spain -- which was too long under the brutal, life-leaching thumb of the Moors -- London will not cave in face of this treachery. She will do as she has always done: persevere.

As I do every day, but especially this one, I thought of my hero, Sir Winston Churchill when I saw the pictures of the mayhem and death:

"Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar."
Tonight I light a candle for the dead and dying and wounded, for those in pain, and for those whose housekey will open the door of a now-silent home. For all of them, let us pray.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Fourth of July Brunch

Here's a loooow carb version of Eggs Benedict for brunch. Perfect for Fourth of July. Or St. Patrick's Day, if you prefer.

Make the hollandaise the night before. The dish itself takes less than five minutes to make and assemble.

Dymphna's Benedict

2 large portabello mushrooms
2 eggs
2 slices canadian bacon
2 T hollandaise (I like the quick and easy blender kind).

This goes together very easily if you have a George Foreman grill.

Preheat grill. Spray a shallow saucepan with oil and put in about a cup of water to boil for poached eggs. Crack eggs into a bowl (use just a few drops of vinegar in the water to hold egg whites together).
Put bacon on preheated grill and cook lightly.
Spread a bit of butter on each side of mushrooms.
When water comes to a boil, slide the eggs gently into the water and turn heat down to medium.
Put mushrooms on grill (gills facing up)and move bacon slices onto the top of them. Grill one minute or more.
When the mushrooms are finished on the first side, remove bacon to a plate and keep warm. Turn mushrooms over and close grill.
Carefully spoon out poached eggs onto a linen napkin to drain water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep warm with the bacon.
Mushrooms should be done. Turn over on grill and close top for a moment to let accumulated liquid run off and to dry the mushroom a little.

To assemble:

Put mushrooms gill-side up on a plate. Add bacon on top and then slide poached eggs on to the bacon. Grate a bit of fresh pepper again and put a tablespoon or so of hollandaise on top of each egg. Garnish with a sprig of summer savory.

This is good served with steamed asparagus(those can be prepared the night before, too).

NOTE: If you have to eat a low carb diet, keep hollandaise on hand for flavor. Handle it like you would milk or anything perishable: keep refrigerated at all times, except when serving of course!