Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Weight Watchers Wednesday

This was my first week on the Points Plus 2012 Plan.  Once I got everything set up on the computer, it is a snap to track everything.  I did make some blunders but on the whole the system works very well.  I weighed in today and lost exactly 3 lb.  That was certainly more than I had anticipated. Weight now is 171.6.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Once a Republican, Now a Democrat

From David Brooks column in today's NYT

"First they went after the Rockefeller Republicans, but I was not a Rockefeller Republican. Then they went after the compassionate conservatives, but I was not a compassionate conservative. Then they went after the mainstream conservatives, and there was no one left to speak for me."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Afghanistan (yes again)

I just checked my previous posts on Afghanistan and found the my first post on it was March 1, 2009. So for three solid years now I have been yelling and screaming that we should Get. Out. Now.  Maybe, just maybe 3 years from now we will be out.  I suppose it depends on who wins the election in November. At least we are (mostly) out of Iraq.  I wonder who we will invade next??

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weight Watchers

I need to lose some weight so last Wednesday I joined Weight Watchers.  The program is based on food Points--every food has a Point value assigned to it.  From what I understand now, fresh fruits and vegetables are 0 points.  The more fat and calories, the higher the points.  Depending on your current height and weight you have a daily allowance of points. My daily points allowance is 26.  Exercise has a negative point value depending on the intensity and duration.  This is just like managing your checkbook -- can't go over your Daily Points.  The best part of it is the online Tools and Tracker.  I can do this. I weigh in once a week (Wednesday) and then attend a brief meeting.  The group leader, Myra, lost 81 lb in 1996 and has kept her weight off; she is very knowledgeable and interested in helping.

OK, last Wednesday I weighed 174.6 lb. (Ack!!) I will weigh in next Wednesday and post here any changes. Wish me luck!!

Kick Us Out of Afghanistan? Please!

Haven't we already spent enough money, lives, and limbs? Isn't there anything that we need to be doing right here within our own borders?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King

This is the story of the building of the dome on Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy over a period of 28 years by Filippo Brunelleschi.

In August, 1418 a competition was held to determine who would design and construct the dome on the cathedral which had been under construction for over a century. The dome was considered by many to be impossible because it would span 143 feet. It is still the largest dome in the world. The winner of that competition was the goldsmith and clockmaker, Filippo Brunelleschi.

Not only did he design the dome but he had to design and build the machines that would be used in its construction, the scaffolding used by the workers, and the selection of the building materials and methods.

This would be enough of a challenge in itself but the dome was built in the midst of the turbulent life of Florence--wars, plagues, politics, and rivalries.

Ross King' book makes the period come alive and we step into that time and meet both a true Renaissance genius and a very human man.

Coming Apart by Charles Murray

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray

I am less than enthusiastic about books which are mostly statistics and the interpretation of those statistics. Honestly, page after page of statistics, graphs, and interpretation of graphs and statistics. A summary paragraph at the end of each chapter would have provided a simpler (and quicker) way to read the book.

Coming Apart seems to have generated a lot of controversy among the talking heads but I don't see why. Surely it can't come as a surprise that the divide between the economic/educational classes has grown in the last 50 years.

I did find his list of American virtues interesting but not something I wasn't already cognizant of. And the waning of these among the lower economic class is rather apparent to everyone.

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

How does a young woman fresh out of high school where she had been Student Body President and Homecoming Queen radically change her entire life, go to Uganda, and adopt 14 orphans? She falls in love, that's how but not with her high school sweetheart. She falls in love with Jesus and decides to follow where He leads. I'll be honest, I don't understand it but to Katie following Christ's call to feed and care for the poor and sick is just compelling. She doesn't appear to feel burdened but rather in awe that Jesus would call her and use her to feed the poor and tend the sick. In order to feed and care for the sick, she has formed a non-profit organization, Amazima which means "the truth". More information about it can be found at
It's an inspiring book to read. Just her decision to love unconditionally those who come her way is a radical thought. She has a blog

Monday, February 20, 2012

Let's arm the Syrians!

Then we can send in a limited number of troops to train them.  And advisors to advise them. Then we can provide air cover.  And then we can...Wait!  Haven't we been here before? and before that? 

Thank goodness, McCain lost in 2008 or we would be hip deep in another war.

The Problem with Painting

Several months ago I noticed that the little section of wall by my computer was dirty and needed a fresh coat of paint.  So I got out the paint and painting paraphenalia and painted it.  Looks clean and fresh.  Good job, Florence!!  Oh wait, the wall next to it looks awful!  How did that happen?  It looked fine until I painted the first wall.  OK, out comes the paint and paraphenalia and once again, Good job! Looks gr....Oh no, the next wall looks grungy.  Why did I ever start this when I could have just taken my glasses off and not noticed the first wall??

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cooking Disasters

This has not been my week for cooking.  It all started when DH bought a big bag of cheap rice and not my usual Uncle Ben's Rice.  Monday I made one of my standard casseroles--Chicken and Rice.  I have made it hundreds of times over the 43 years we have been married and it is really fool proof and always turns out scrumptious.  Not this time. The rice did not soften as the casserole cooked.  It was awful with crunchy rice and runny sauce.  I threw the whole mess out for the raccoons to eat.  Ack!!  The second disaster was yesterday when I made Red Beans and Rice.  Only I decided to make it a bit more flavorful by adding some browned sausage. Bad idea.  The sausage made it greasy. Yuck! More food for the raccoons. I hate wasting the time, energy, and money spent.  I've had my share of cooking disasters over the years but I can't think of when I had two in one week.  Maybe we better have Subways tonight.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Catherine the Great by Robert Massie

I would never have thought that a 575 page biography could possibly hold my attention all the way through.  But Catherine the Great by Robert Massie did just that. Catherine comes across as a real flesh and blood person.  From her birth and early years as the daughter of a minor noble in Germany to her disastrous marriage to young Peter through her long reign as empress of all the Russias, this book make her come alive.  She lived an loved on an immense scale.  I won't even try to enumerate her interests and accomplishments; I will leave that story to Robert Massie and encourage you to meet Catherine through his book.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.  In 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt named a new ambassador To Germany, William E. Dodd who was a professor of history at the University of Chicago.  This book covers his 4 years as ambassador during the rise to power of Adolf Hitler.  Ambassador Dodd brought his family with him—his wife and grown son and daughter.  The first year was a study in willful blindness to the growing evil of Nazism.  It is understandable only by remembering how strong the isolationist sentiment was at that time and how prevalent anti-Semitism was in the United States.  After the first year though the Dodd family’s eyes were open to the horrors.  Much of the time Dodd was at odds with the State Department which seemed more intent on recovering bonds from the German government than in facing Hitler.  The strain of living in Germany during those years caused a decline in Dodd’s health and he retired at the end of 1937.  After that, he spent much of his time and energy to alerting the citizens of the U.S. to the mounting danger from Germany.  The book included (maybe a bit too much) the various love affairs of his daughter Martha.  All in all, it presented a realistic picture of a family from Chicago suddenly plopped into the middle of the rising Third Reich where they had great cognitive dissonance between their expectations of a civilized society and their observation of a descent into barbarism.

The rosy lies we are being told about Afghanistan.

This article in the Armed Forces Journal is written by a Lt. Colonel who has done 2 tours in Iraq and 2 in Afghanistan.  The man is not just another talking head.  He knows what he is talking about.  Read the whole thing and weep for the lives and limbs and minds lost.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

U.S. Planning to Slash Iraq Embassy Staff by Half

Well, it's a  start.

From today's NY Times:

“We always knew that what they were planning to do didn’t make sense,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “It’s increasingly becoming clear that they are horribly overstaffed given what they are able to accomplish.”       

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.  If Jane Austen herself did not actually write at least the first chapter of this book, surely P.D. James was channeling her when she wrote it.  Did you ever wonder what happened after Jane and Bingley and Elizabeth and Darcy married?  P.D. James enlightens us in this delightful sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  There is a murder at Pemberley and the morally challenged brother-in-law and husband of Lydia, Wickham, is the obvious suspect.  The murder sets the stage for the delicate interactions among the characters from Pride and Prejudice.  A delightful, pleasant read.

At age 92, P.D. James is still dazzling us with her amazing talent.   

Friday, February 3, 2012


We seem to have missed winter altogether this year. We have gone from autumn to late autumn to early spring. We had one killing frost which laid the garden low but that's it. We have had several good soaking rains for which we are very thankful. However, around here rain without cold weather means only one thing--mosquitoes! The weeds in the yard and garden are greening up and growing taller than the brown grass--looks most untidy. OTOH, the new roses have buds on every single one of them. One thing about the garden, there's always something new and always something to do.