Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Weight Watchers Wednesday

I weighed in today and my weight loss was 0.2 lb. for a total lost of 6.6 lb.  Starting next week my weigh in day will be Thursday. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Maisie Dobbs by Jacquelyn Winspear

I think I'm going to love this series! Set in England in the years following the Great War, Maisie Dobbs is an investigator and solver of questions, puzzles, and intriguing situations.

This first book sets the stage for the subsequent books with her early life, education, and nursing service during the war. Maisie's innate intelligence spurs the benevolence of her employer, Lady Rowan, who aids in her education and introduces her to her mentor, Maurice Blanche. The story begins in 1929 with Maisie setting out on her own as an investigator. As the story unfolds we move back in time to her war time service and first love. Then back to 1929 and the perilous conclusion of the puzzle that she is investigating.

I can only hope that the subsequent books in the Maisie Dobbs series are as thoroughly engrossing.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking I loved this book because it validated so much of what I am--an introvert.   Our culture favors extroversion and looks down on introverts.  The author challenges both introverts who may need to develop skills to have a successful life in an extrovert oriented culture and extroverts to learn to appreciate the unique attributes that introverts can bring.   I found the first section very interesting in talking about how we have moved from a Culture of Character which values virtue and wisdom to a Culture of Personality which values American Idol.  The second section discusses many the biological factors of introversion and extroversion. The third section discusses Asian cultures which place more value on quiet, studious ness, humility, and careful thoughtfulness.  The fourth section is very helpful because of the advice for living with extroverts and raising and teaching introverted children.

Beautiful Minds by Bearzi & Stanford

Dolphins and apes and humans--all quite different, yet alike in many ways. This book explores the parallel evolution and the development of intelligence in dolphins and apes. The book details the ability  of these intelligent creatures to develop family bonds, form alliances, and care for their young.  The culture, politics, social structure, personality, and capacity for emotion are discussed with wonderful examples.  This dual portrait—with striking overlaps in behavior—is key to understanding the nature of “beautiful minds.” The last section of the book discusses the perilous plight of these creatures as their habitat is rapidly being destroyed and what can be done to reverse this and save these beautiful minds.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Top Ten Lessons of the Iraq War

This is from Stephen Watlt's article in March 20 Foreign Policy

1. The U.S. lost.  The revisionists will have you believe otherwise.
2.  It's not that hard to hijack the U.S. into war.
3. The U.S. gets into big trouble when the public and our leadership do not have an open debate about the course to take.
4. The secularism and middle class character of Iraqi society was overrated.
5.Don't listten to ambitious exiles. (Amhed Chalabi for example)
6.It is very hard to improvise an occupation.
7. Don't be surprised when adversaries act to defend their own interest and in ways we don't like.
8. Counterinsurgency warfare is ugly and invariably leads to war crimes, atrocities, and abuse.
9. Better "planning" may not be the answer.
10. Rethink the U.S. grand strategy, not just tactics or methods.

Weight Watchers Wednesday

Last week I lost 1.6 lb. for a total lost of  6.4 lb. Current weight 168.2.  I am treating myself to a spa manicure each time I lose 3 lb.  So I get to make an appointment Saturday for my second manicure.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Excuses, excuses

I haven't had posts up because I am spending every spare second on the baby quilt.  I am working on Block #6 out of 9 blocks and the baby is due April 11. The race is on!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Weight Watchers Wednesday

This week I lost 1.4 lb. for a total of 4.8 lb. Last night I used the WW cookbook to make Feta & sun-dried tomato stuffed baked chicken breasts.  A most delicious 4 points.

Search the Dark by Charles Todd

Search the Dark by Charles Todd.  Inspector Ian Rutledge solves another murder while listening to his inner tormentor, Hamish, a relic from his time on the Western Front. A good read; unlike Inspector Rutledge, I never know until the very end who the villain is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Out sooner?

There are noises that the recent shooting of 16 Afghans by an American soldier may speed up our withdrawal.  It is tragic that this event occurred and tragic that it may take something like it to get us out sooner.  It is also tragic that we have sent young men and women into repeated tours of duty in totally useless wars.  The soldier that is accused served 3 tours in Iraq and now in Afghanistan; that is wrong, just wrong.  I'll say it one more time: If we had to pay cash for these wars instead of indenturing our grandchildren to the Chinese and if we had a draft so each and every one of our sons and daughters was equally liable to have to go fight these wars, we would be mighty careful about which wars we chose  to get into.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Can You Find the Monarch Caterpilar?

I was sorting through last summer's photos and came across this one. It is cold and raining today and this reminds me of warmer days!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Quilting projects

I finished this quilt just in the nick of time for my sister-in-law's birthday.

This was the quilt I did before the Hearts quilt.  I called this one Jewels.

These are some blocks I pieced years ago but haven't done anything with them. 

Pictures from Birding at Brazos Bend State Park

It is a good thing we did our birding trip last weekend because it is cold and raining this weekend.  The pictures that Joe took with his new camera turned out very well.  With some practice, he'll get even better.

This is a beautiful white ibis.

These are American Coots taking flight at our approach.

Little blue heron

Snowy Egret--note the black legs with feet like he steped in a puddle of yellow paint.

Lovely Tri-colored Heron.

American alligator.  Yes he was real and Joe was taking pictures--I was out of there!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Someplace Like America by Dale Maharidge

Dale Maharidge and photographer Michael Williamson have chronicled for 40 years the demise of the American middle class. Their previous books, Journey to Nowhere, And Their Children after Them, The Last American Hobo, and Homeland are extensively excerpted into this book and several lives are followed from decade to decade. My main criticism is that too much of the book is exerpted from previous books. Since I had not read the previous books, I found it of interest but it a condensed version from the previous books could have provided the necessary background.

Many of the lives presented are just flat depressing. Not everyone is a sympathetic character. Some people are solid, salt of the earth people who have had circumstances beyond their control push them out of their middle class lives into situations that they never imagined could happen to them. Others have drug, alcohol, mental illness problems for which there was no safety net for them.

While the first 3/4 of this book is fairly interesting, the final quarter is outstanding. This is the portion of the book that brings us up to date to the current Great Receession with its jobless recovery, compares it with the social, political, and economic situations of the Great Depression of the 1930's.

Maharidge postulates that we are essentially relearning the lessons of the 1930's. We are also reliving a version of its political and economic battles, as well as fighting new ones. For example, the concentration of wealth at the very top:
In 1928, 23.9 % of the national wealth went to the upper 1%.
In the 1970's between 8 and 9% of the national wealth went to the upper 1%
In 1982, 12.8%
1988, 16.6%
2007, 23.5%

A second example is the rate of unemployment: In 2010, 37% of individuals between 18 and 29 are jobless. Almost exactly what it was in the 1930's.

There are other example of the similarities of the two economic tsunamis such as the turn to right wing extremists such as radio personalities as Father Coughlin of the 30's and the Glen Beck /Rush Limbaughs of today.

To me, the best part of the book was the "What do we do now?" section.

First is taking personal responsibility-- people must realize that no one and no government entity is coming to rescue them. The people in this section are forming their own small communities, raising gardens, canning and preserving food, raising poultry and small animals, shopping for needed items at thrift stores, staying way low on the economic radar.

Second is the area of Government responsibility
1. Fair tax rates for rich and poor
2. Jobs programs such as CCC
3. Cut military interventions and spending

It is an excellent book and deserves to be widely read and discussed.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Now McCain wants to bomb Syria

Is there any Arab country he doesn't want us to invade / bomb?  Can't he at least wait until we have turned Afghanistan into a functioning democracy just like we did in Iraq...

The following was a response to a post in Rod Dreher's blog; it is by a writer known only as Lord Karth.  He sums it up perfectly.

Lord Karth, on March 5th, 2012 at 5:31 pm Said:
Here’s the Karth policy on the Middle East: Stay out. Under NO circumstances whatsoever should we get involved in a prospective Syrian civil war.
First, we would be perceived as being Israeli proxies, which would inflame the entire Muslim world unnecessarily.
Secondly, we do not know the real goals or motivations of the Syrian rebels aside from wanting to displace Assad. If they have anything to do with Iran (and given that there is a split of some sort in Iranian politics between the Khamenei and Ahmadinejad factions, it would not do to discount the possibility), we would only be risking going from bad to worse should they win. And there is no guarantee that they will win; Assad the son has evidently learned the lessons of his father and is playing by the Hama rules in this situation.
Third, we do not have overmuch in the way of military capacity to throw into the fight. I am given to understand that our stocks of drones and unmanned missiles are not what they should be, and our manpower capacity is not what it should be, either. (We have yet to rebuild our stocks to their pre-Iraqi war levels, from what I am told.)
Long-term, our most appropriate policy should include: a) gradually weaning Israel as well as Egypt off our financial/aid teats, and b) developing an energy policy that minimizes our reliance on oil from the Middle East. Developing the shale sands of Canada, solar power satellites and a greater use of Diesels in domestic auto production might be good places to begin.
Your servant,
Lord Karth

Birding at Brazos Bend State Park

We took a much anticipated trip to Brazos Bend State Park which is our nearest state park.  I love that place!! I do think that Texas has the best state parks!! Daisy (daughter's dog) was with us for the weekend while she was out of town.  We took the trail that winds around the big pond (keeping a sharp eye out for alligators all the while) and enjoyed the beautiful birds. It was a bit colder than we had anticipated and the wind was quite chilly but things warmed up as the day went on. JMM has a new camera and was practicing with it and taking lots of pictures.  I'll post them as soon as he downloads them. 
Here's the day's birds:
Red- winged blackbird
Mourning dove
Black vulture
White ibis
Tri-colored heron
Little blue heron
Black bellied whistling duck
Snowy egret
We were told that there was a vermillion flycatcher in residence but he evaded us.