Friday, March 31, 2006

St. Baldrick's update!

My two oldest children (and my husband) have committed to shaving their heads to raise money for childhood cancer research. Gabby is 13 and Zack is 15. Please visit the Kojosho team page and help them reach their fund raising goals. If you click on the picture of each team member you can see their progress and make a donation for that team member.

On shaving day, those with hair over 10 inches, such as Gabby and Taylor, will be donating their hair to Locks of Love.

Kojosho is the karate school where we work out.

I have a feeling the kids are going to freak once their hair is off so DONATE!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My self-serving corrections policy

I reserve to myself the right to fix spelling, word choice, and anything else I please without noting the correction for at least the first 5 minutes after I post. After that, I'll make a note of corrections.

Those Muhammad Cartoons again

By now anyone who wants to see them has been able to find the cartoons on the internet somewhere. Gradually we're starting to realize that our freedom *matters*. But for so long no one wanted to show the cartoons and claimed it was out of respect for Islam. Our media told us that *showing* the cartoons was unneccesary to report about them or to inform people.

They were wrong, and here is why. There are two sets of cartoons. There are the ones that were published in the Danish press, and there are the ones added by those who wanted to promote the riots.

Without *seeing* the Danish published cartoons people have to take the radical's word for it that the cartoons were offensive. Have you seen the cartoons? Have you seen the added cartoons? (Here's a hint... I wouldn't let my kids see the added ones... they're *bad*.)

Instapundit has linked to a couple posts about a NYU event being held to discuss the cartoons. The cartoons *were* going to be displayed at the event. Or else the cartoons will be displayed and there won't be an event. Oh, who knows how it will end up but for now it's a mess.

NoodleFood talks about this at length. Scroll down and read the letter from Maheen Farooqi. Notice a couple of things. First, it's not just that the cartoons display Muhammad, it's that they display Muhammad and Islam "in a highly offensive manner." The letter goes on to say that the cartoons have lead to riots and deaths.

Both statements are wrong but without *seeing* the cartoons no one can know that. The *most* offensive cartoon shows a man (presumably Muhammad) with a bomb in his turban. Yes, this is rude, but it's as rude as it gets. And if Muslems rioted and *killed people* because of that it *matters* that people know what exactly they rioted and killed people over. It's important! It matters that people rioted and killed and the cartoons were *nothing*.

What will happen from displaying these cartoons is that Islam will have to face it's own shame, not for the cartoons, bur for it's behavior. What obligation do we have to protect them from that? People rioted and people died because of a picture of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban?

Well, no... not actually.

Pictures were added. "Muhammad" with a pig face is one that I've seen. Another is "Muhammad" being humped by a dog while praying. Were there others?

That makes more sense for the outrage, huh? But unless we *display* the cartoons no one can judge the meaning of the reactions to them. What's more, it keeps people from fully realizing the lies told by those who prepared for the riots, got the Danish flags distributed, and fanned the outrage that lead to embassy burnings and deaths. Imams lied, people died? (Pictures of the added "cartoons" at this link. More about Abu Laban at this one.)

We can't refuse to look at this and talk about this and it takes *pictures* to do that.

Atlas Shrugs has details.... and pictures.

Free speech matters. And bottom line is, that showing the cartoons isn't important *just* as a declaration of support for free speech but is vitally necessary to enable citizens to understand what is going on. In this case, words alone won't do it.

I won a prize!

Just call 1-888-786-8188 and I bet you'll get the prize too.

I don't know what they are selling but I think you should call because I think they should recieve lots of phone calls so that real people have to pick them up to hear you say (and this is just my suggestion, you can make up something different if you like) "Your time is valuable, that's why I'm going to waste it for no purpose."

If I were cleverer I'd think up something that was about the same length as the "You've won a prize!" etc., etc., etc., "Call me at 1-888-786-8188, that toll-free number is 1-888-786-8188, again, 1-888-786-8188. Congratulations!" I wouldn't really recommend it though because the longer you're on the phone the longer the guy with the sexy baritone has to get you listening to *him* and *then* you're a gonner. So if you do this be prepared. These people are professionals.

Yes, it's true. I shouldn't have listened to the recording all the way to the end. I should have hung up the moment I heard that cheerful recorded voice, but it just made me mad, all of a sudden, that she could talk to me and I *couldn't* talk to her. In a way it's easier to hang up on a recording but, dang it! It's almost enough to make me give up libertarianism. Where do these people get off interrupting my life and then have the gall to request that *I* call *them*. There ought to be a law.

I *do* hang up on the "I have important information about your credit card accounts. This is not a solicitation. Please call back immediately at..."

(clue: I don't have a credit card.)

If someone wants to talk to me, they can have the decency to invest an equal amount of time into the transaction as they require of me.

PS: Probably you shouldn't actually harass these... oh what the heck, if you feel led, who am I to stop you. It's not like I'm suggesting someone hook up a recording and auto-dialer after all. Still, calling them probably won't get the message across in any useful way. More's the pity.

PPS: I repent of my momentary spinelessness... they called me *again*.

So what about illegal immegration?

So I figured that this is the big topic just now and I should say something about it. The problem is, I don't know much about it. Oh, I have pretty firm beliefs on the larger issues, just not specifics.

I think that illegal immegration provides a sustained subculture that provides cover to gangs and criminals and protection to those who benefit from the exploitation of undocumented workers. This is unacceptable.

The situation is grossly unfair to those legal immegrants who went through significant hardship to come here legally. I don't think we should discount them.

Mexicans are not US citizens. Though if they (and Vicente Fox) insist that they are citizens, I'm okay with making that a reality. Mexico would be a worthy aquisition.

Concerning National Security issues... Neither our borders nor our ports can be made secure. Homeland Security is a feel-good farce and the people in charge of it have always known that. We can't protect ourselves with defensive measures so we must do so offensively. Which is a whole other rant.

What to do about illegal immegration? Heck if I know. I'd like to see some way of making it easy for workers to come from *and return to* Mexico. I'd like to see them *retain* their Mexican citizenship and residency for them *and* their children. (Which would respect those legal immegrants who come here to be citizens.) Worker exploitation depends on the illegal status of the workers... who can complain to the cops? This needs to end. They need a legal status while here and they need to come *and go* through border check points. This is important because it will be easier to identify those sneaking across the border as up to no good. (Yes, illegal immegrants by definition are breaking the law, but there's a difference between a middle aged Catholic nanny and a drug dealer.)

This does mean actual enforcement of those who are here illegally. If there is a guest worker program so that people don't have to sneak over the border, die in the desert or in overheated trucks, and face similar dangers in order to return home, then it will need to be enforced and people who stay past will *have* to be prosecuted and deported. Employers who employ illegals must be prosecuted vigorously.

So what about the currently proposed changes? I have no idea what they are. I could find out I suppose, if I thought my knowing would make any difference.

Which brings me to my last somewhat random and unrelated points.

What are the chances that the US students walking out of their classrooms to protest have any better idea of the proposed law on illegal immegration than the French youths have about labor reform?

And as someone mentioned elsewhere... if we're going to have a large immegrant population, having a Catholic one is probably a better plan than having a Muslem one.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The things Roosters say....

Since roosters are in the news, I thought I'd post a picture of Jeff, my Polish roo. He didn't crow anything so profound as "Allah" but it was rather funny to hear him crow "My shorts are tight!"

As he's matured his crow has become a bit more Cock-a-doodle like... no more tight shorts.

I'm serious about the tight shorts. I know that no one believes me but you *really* had to hear it.

(Thanks for the rooster link to Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs and the original link from Mudville's open post to Point Five.)

PS. My apologies for the blurry picture.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Fundraising for childhood cancer research - St. Baldrick's

My daughter is planning to join with other people in our karate school to shave her head for cancer research. If she decides to do this I'll be certain to post pictures and stuff (and hit you all up for donations.)

Because there are several people with long hair planning to participate, our local coordinator has made arrangements with Locks of Love to donate hair long enough for them to use.

Very cool! Two charities for the price of one!

Until I get pictures up, just let me say, my daughter is 13 and has hair to her waist. She's already planning the spiky hair gel thing... no doubt in unnatural colors. She could still panic and back out but we will see. Last time I trimmed her hair she cried for a day. Yes, that was several years ago and she's older now, plus she will have friends doing this with her.

I'll post more as I know it. The head shaving will be in May.

Why say "apologize" when you mean "grovel?"

Don Suber thinks that "righties" should apologize. Not Ben Domenech, who has (and certainly should) but "righties" should apologize to the Washington Post.

I'm a bit confused what this "apology" is supposed to look like.

This is, of course, assuming that I qualify as a "rightie."

But how did anything that any "rightie", myself (assuming as I said) or anyone else *other than* Ben Domenech harm the Washington Post? Because an apology assumes something to apologize for, and although I realize that "lefties" are always insisting on associative guilt (unless, of course, it involves some other group indentity than whites or conservatives) I refuse to play that game.

There's a whole heck of a lot that I'm NOT guilty of and refuse to apologize for. My own sin is weighty enough and I will not borrow and grovel over the sins committed by people who may look like me or have somewhat similar philosophies.

What is this "apology" supposed to look like?

Is Don Suber going to "apologize, apologize, apologize" to the college students of Colorado for Ward Churchill's sins? Why the heck not? They're all "lefties" right?

"Right" blogs have been forthright in their expressions of disappointment. Obviously that's not an "apology". If a few people assumed the "lefties" were talking out their rears, scraping the bottom of the barrel for dirt and determined to find it, and so they leapt to his defense, well, they were right about that... it wasn't plagiarism that *promted* the witch-hunt, it was the simple fact that they hated the idea of the Red America blog. They'd hate it every bit as much if Domenech was a pure as fresh driven snow. That they actually found something real isn't proof of precognition. The irrational witch hunt, based on outraged sensibilities, came first.

So. I'm disappointed. And I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that some people think that other people are guilty because of their associations, race, or politics rather than their own actions.

I'm sorry that some people harbor irrational hatred toward those with diverse political opinions.

I'm sorry that Red America blog didn't work out and hope they don't drop it altogether.

I'm sorry that I refuse to grovel just because someone else told me to.

Will that do ya, Don?

Update: So I go over to Wizbang on my normal "down my list of bookmarks" browsing, and in the open trackback post find this.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Freedom is Messy

Whenever people get motivated to clean up unsightly mess it tends to involve the destruction of freedom.

The result is important things, like traffic rules, and other things, like home owner's associations... as though people ought to have a right to keep another person from changing car oil in their driveway or washing their car on their own lawn or growing vegetables instead of grass.

And if your neighbor paints her house purple and plants cabbages instead of petunias... that's the price you pay for freedom.

As are roadside vendors, unsightly signs and displays, gaudy decorated crosses to mark car accidents and people with bad taste in fashion.

And protestors. And laws that make the job of law enforcement difficult. And trains that don't run on time.

Freedom is messy.

Now ask yourself what Freedom will look like in Iraq. Will it be messy? Or will it be orderly and peaceful? Will everyone agree? Or can we expect people to have heated disagreements about how the country should be run? Should we expect a rather chaoic mess or an immediate transformation? What should we expect to see and what would failure look like? A mess?

Freedom is messy.

So why do we not expect the mess?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Screenwriting in New Mexico

This morning (March 18, 2006) I attended a program hosted by New Mexico Screenwriters.

It was interesting, though I think it was a smaller group than they usually expect. (Someone said that last time was standing room only.) There were a couple of people there that I'd met before so I got introduced around, which is much more fun than introducing myself. ;-)

We *did* go around and introduce ourselves and say a few words about the ways that we get blocked when writing (which is what the program was about.) I think that I like writing so much because whenever I open my mouth in public it comes out like I'm speaking Martian or something. I get these confused and painfully polite smiles as they go on to the next person. But when I write I can EDIT. Whoo Hoo!!

I think, though, that I'm just a lost cause at meditation and visualization. I try. It just doesn't work so well. I start thinking about something else. It never fails. I can see how the excersizes would be useful and valuable in helping people reach a sort of self acceptance and honesty so they can move beyond problems or "blocks"... but I just keep thinking, "But I'm not in denial."

Which is a bit like claiming not to be insane. If you were, you'd make the same claim, wouldn't you? Yet it's entirely possible that you are neither insane nor in denial.

In any case, I had fun and it was great to meet new people.

I also found out about the Governor's Cup Short Screenplay Competition.

Which reminded me of the Duke City Shoot Out.

The Governor's Cup wants a 10 page script and I think that the Duke City Shoot Out wants 12 pages. This is where my brain comes to a full screeching halt. 12 pages? Trying to work with a 120 page limit is mind bending enough. I've got it in the back of my head though, and maybe I can figure out something before the deadlines. Maybe.

PS. Oops! I should always be sure to mention this!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Where is the "honor" in "honor killing"?

The concept of "honor killings" shouldn't be respected. No one... NO ONE... is forced to kill his daughter or sister or cousin or mother. It's impossible. Culture or religion or *anything* doesn't force a man's hand or absolve him of criminal or spiritual guilt for the murder of people he is supposed to protect.

Honor is important and valuable, but let me paraphrase one of my favorite fictional characters... reputation is what others know about you, honor is what you know about yourself.

*Honor* can not be won by a public display of piety to make up for embarassment or personal failure. A man who kills his daughter because she runs away from home or refuses his authority or rejects his religion and culture has not redeemed his failure by a public display to prove that she was the guilty one. Because honor isn't what happens in public, it's what happened at home that made her leave.

Honor lies in truth, not in appearances.

A man concerned with honor can NOT be concerned with reputation.

A man concerned with honor, when faced with a victimized daughter or wife, is not concerned with how this reflects on *him*, he's concerned with protecting her and helping her heal. What he knows about himself, his personal honor, might well demand public shame. A man concerned with reputation will natually care more that he will be condemned by his neighbors for his failure to protect his family and will then transfer that guilt even if it means compounding the sin in his heart.

An honor killing is the action of a coward.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bush in '08

I foolishly got in a discussion today about, of all things, the 2000 US presidential election. One thought led to another and now I just want to say this...

Every single time someone comes with an over the top charge, such as Bush "stealing" the 2000 election or that Bush thinks he's above the law with the NSA wiretaps or any of a dozen recurring refrains, it makes it that much harder to get people to take real problems seriously.

The hyperbole and rhetoric is great for energizing the opposition, but it's piss poor for actually getting any work done. Will the problems of the 2000 election be solved by the 2008 election? Were they solved by the 2004 election, or was it better politics to continue to undermine confidence in the democratic process by portraying Republicans as determined to cheat to win? Why wasn't more done to be sure that every legal voter gets to vote and has their vote counted?

What little I've heard about attempts to fix voting problems, the Republicans suggest reforms and the Democrats portray those reforms as racist and/or preferential to Republicans. How can plans to stop fraud and take accurate counts be preferential to Republicans? Yet it seems a matter of faith that Republicans are opposed to fair elections.

What are the 2006 elections going to look like? Will King County Washington have more votes than voters? Will enough voting machines be delivered to polling stations in Ohio?

Has anything been done to ensure that the election in 2008 has a high level of public confidence? Or is everyone too busy attacking Bush to do anything about that? Because I've got news for 'em. Bush isn't running for President in 2008. I realize this is a horrific shock, but no one is ever going to vote for him ever again.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Recipe Blogging!

This is a recipe from 100 Great Curries by Keith Floyd, and one of my favorites.

Green Chicken Curry: I don't follow this recipe exactly.

1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
vegetable oil for frying
3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
14 oz canned coconut milk
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 fresh red chile, deseeded and finely chopped
1 fresh green chile, deseeded and finely chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
handful fine green beans
handful fresh basil leaves
4 tablespoons coconut cream, to serve

I never use 3 tablespoons of green curry paste. 3 teaspoons are more than enough, and my family likes severely hot food. If you use hot chiles this is going to be *very* hot. Before I used them all up, I used one Long Red Cayenne or one Serrano Chili from my garden. (Keep them whole in a zip-lock baggie in the freezer, works great.)

First, heat a little bit of oil and the curry paste in a large wok. (If you heat the oil first the curry paste is going to splatter like mad.)

Add the chicken and stir fry it.

Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, chilies and sugar. If you're using green beans, add the green beans.

Cook for 5-7 minutes. I don't think it will matter if this simmers for a while. You want the chicken cooked through and the beans how you like them. I never have used green beans. Usually I use spinach. Fresh is great. Frozen works.

If you use spinach or if you follow the recipe, now add the spinach or the basil leaves.

Serve hot with coconut cream.

I serve it with rice in a bowl, a scoop of rice on one side and the curry next to it. I'm not sure what coconut cream is, so I've not tried that yet. The coconut "milk" is usually close to the consistancy of sour cream... it doesn't pour from the cans. That surprised me. It also surprised me that this recipe doesn't have a strong coconut taste. I don't like coconut usually and this is very good.

Try it!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Al-Qaida Last Warning

This isn't surprising. I'm sure that there are some very spooky folks doing their best to determine if the threat itself is the attack or if the bad guys do have something planned.

In a sense, though, it's irrelevant. Because Al-Qaida isn't giving us a choice between safety and risk. Suppose they really could do what so many people fear? Suppose they could set off a large nuke and destroy a city? Would we be incapacitated by our grief?

What do you think?

Bin Laden made a mistake. His mistake brought down two entire countries.

If Al-Qaida's threat has substance it only proves that they haven't learned a single thing from Bin Laden's mistake.

And in the end it won't matter if America is noble and just or if America is a blundering baby. The end result will be the same, and it will be a result that no-one in the middle east wants.

h/t Instapundit

Friday, March 10, 2006

Words of Wisdom

My son, who turns 15 years old today, just looked over my shoulder at my blog. He was impressed. "Wow, Mom. Is that your blog? You wrote all that? Wow, it could go in your book."

Yes, dear. I should be writing my book.

Or script, as the case may be.

The next scene is Lauren, at a "sidewalk" cafe, has a run in with some young ladies who assume that she's a professional surrogate and snub her when they find out she's a breeder, after which she encounters an angry Ellen, who lets her know what happened to Paul and gets to utter the words, "Nice to see you're still in one piece."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chicken Blogging!

This might be Helga or Olga. I can't tell them apart.

Port deal: It's all about me, me, me

So, the Dubai Ports World is bowing out gracefully, Bush won't have to veto a congressional move, attached to a supplimental funding bill for Katrina and Iraq, blocking (recinding?) the sale.

And what was the objection to this deal? Bush handled it badly. Yup. The timing was bad. Okay. People are nervous about Arabs. Uh, huh.

So... what was the objection to the deal?

Do we toss our best interests to the winds because Bush is less than graceful? Do we let timing dictate how we treat our friends? Do we bow to prejudice rather than combat it? Do we expect our representatives in Congress to *lead* or do we expect them to be sock puppets?

Yes... sock puppets. We've got the internet, how hard would it be to skip our representatives all together and just run a program to determine what constituents want and animate a little sock puppet to vote that way? It's not like our representatives add value. Obviously.

Citizen Smash said it fantastically well: "This sad episode has undoubtedly confirmed suspicions in the Arab world that they will never get fair treatment in the West. (...) Xenophobia wins again."

To add my two cents... We've invited the Middle East to the 21st century, and then slammed the door in their face. The message is entirely clear.

Arabs need not apply.

Don't doubt that the message has been recieved, loud and clear. It's all about me, me, me.

Update: Link to lots of links at Wizbang.

Update: Wizbang links to blogger reactions.

Monday, March 06, 2006

James Hetley

Here's a shameless plug for an author I know.

He's on a crit list that I'm on so I've seen some of his unpublished (as yet) stuff too. The future does look bright.

Check him out of the library and see what you think!

Defending Confinement

All wealth is biological.

This post by Shannon Love (and the comments that follow) ((h/t instapundit)) tie in to the script I'm working on. She's more focused on the economic and free-riding aspect of expecting other people's children to support the economy in the next generation, but it all ties together.

My script is an adaptation of one of my stories, and one of the few where I *knew* the title and theme before I'd even written it. Defending Confinement. "Date of Confinement" is what they used to call the day that a woman went into labor.

It's morphed a bit over time and certainly has changed since I started to think of it as a movie.

Renegade belt miners have built a hardscrabble society selling ore and are attempting to expand into the middle market with the construction of an ore refinery. The corporation opposing this pushes for child welfare laws to be enforced. The miners, a bunch of brutish, near criminal men, maintain small stations where they "confine" their women and make them have children. A well meaning woman puts herself at considerable risk to infiltrate the miners and rescue the children.

The "civilized" society sees having children as *bad*. Bad for women, at the very least.

The "uncivilized" society sees children as a valuable and necessary resource, and what appears to be an oppressive patriarchy is actually a strong matriarchy. Small children are coddled in the nursery and expected to contribute once out of the nursery. As junior they study and work. At the age of 14 they begin apprenticeships and adult labor with the respect accorded any other contributing member of their community. At the age of 17 a young woman planning to be a doctor is delivering babies and assisting in the minor surgeries the miners are equipt to handle. At the age of 21 a young man is in charge of the construction of the ore refinery.

The "children" saved from this life do not consider themselves "children," nor helpless, nor in need of rescue. They are frustrated and angry at being disrespected and their opinions ignored. As things go from bad to worse they decide they have no choice but to take action, hijack the entire space station by planting explosives (they've been training to be *miners* after all) and steal a top-secret military vessel to get away.

The woman who "saved" them is forced to see the attitudes toward children that she's always taken for granted. She is frustrated that her superiors can't recognize that letting the "kids" roam the station is dangerous. Because she is pregnant she has to face the attitudes her community has toward "breeders" and the automatic loss of respect for her opinion that is part of that. She eventually crosses over to the other side, at least philosophically, and names her daughter after the child's great great grandmother, the matriarch of the belt-miners, who died during the "rescue" of the children.

She finally understands that the belt miners really meant it when they told her to collect the enormous bounty that had been on the old woman's head for 70 years because the corporation forced to pay out is the same that promoted "for the children" as a way to cripple the miners and their plans for economic expansion.

I think this is going to be a hard sell... how does one present a movie about having babies as something that will appeal to young men? Sure, it's got spaceships and violence and fighting back against "adults" who want to control you... but it's about having children.

And I think that will appeal to young men BECAUSE they've been told since they were little that having children is bad, children are consumers, that THEY are a drain on the world's resources, a hinderance to their parents, and probably shouldn't have been born. Wait! You say they weren't told that? What message is sent every time a teenager is told that having children will ruin their lives? They aren't so old that they aren't going to associate that with their own existance.

This movie would appeal on a primal level to young people, to young men, even if it is about having kids.

It probably needs a different title though.

Logline? All wealth is biological. An old feud is carried on into the next generation after an infamous space pirate is killed by a corporate agent.

Update: My friend Sandy wrote some related thoughts on her new blog a couple days ago. I could have written this post nearly word for word myself.

Recruiting on Campus

Well, Duh!

And do I understand correctly that SCOTUS was unanimous on this?

It's just common sense. " "The Solomon Amendment neither limits what law schools may say nor requires them to say anything." Roberts wrote. "

How could anyone think it did?

How could law students and professors think that it did? Or was this something they knew they would lose because they *knew* they had no legal free speech basis to fight it? Was this all a way to get press coverage? If so, how much of our tax money went directly to this PR campaign?

If the law schools wanted to spend their own money on the noble fight against discrimination against gays they've got a legal way to do it.

Refuse Federal Funds.

Grow a backbone and some integrity.

Update: Wizbang has a bunch of links.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Truth by Poll - VOTE NOW

I think it's time that someone takes a stand against the riddiculous notion that a poll of opinion has any relevance to the truth.

VOTE NOW - Do you think Scott Peterson is guilty?
VOTE NOW - Are we winning in Iraq?
VOTE NOW - Do Aliens want to eat your brain and plant their evil seed in your womb?
VOTE NOW - Is Bin Laden alive or dead?

When everyone believed that the world was flat it was exactly the same shape as it is now. Things are true or not true. People on trial are guilty or not guilty, and incidently, were guilty even *before* they were convicted... "innocent until proven guilty" is a legal form, not a reflection of the truth.

We do not create truth by our belief, not even about God. God exists or doesn't exist quite apart from our belief or disbelief.

The one way that we do create truth through belief is when we believe things about our culture or ourselves. Our belief is self-fulfilling to an extent. Someone who believes they are a good person is likely to try to behave accordingly. Believing in freedom and liberty is necessary prior to gaining freedom and liberty. Believing that you can succeed often leads to success.

"Are we winning in Iraq?" isn't subject to opinion. We could be winning even if everyone said no. We could be losing even if everyone said yes.

If there is an element that relates opinion about war in Iraq to truth it is to the fact that people who believe they are losing stop trying to win. Students who believe they are stupid don't study. People who see the glass ceiling don't advance beyond it. People who are accustomed to slavery don't seek freedom.

And people who believe the US is evil no matter what we do will not push to accomplish good in the world.

Louis L'Amour: Master of the Primal Plot

Cliff face in the Sandia Mountains, New Mexico

I write science fiction, not westerns. But I had a western phase, sometime around the age of 13, when I discovered books by Louis L'Amour. The first one I ever read was The Key-Lock Man. It had *everything*, horses, a beautiful lady of viking decent, a dangerous hero unswayed by greed or avarice.

I've started rereading, buying the recent republished books at the grocery store... It started when I saw The Key-Lock Man on the shelf and wondered how different it would be to read at the age of 41 instead of 13.

The biggest difference, even more than age, is that I'm a writer. I notice things related to craft that I'd never have noticed before, each POV shift or if the book is written in 1st or 3rd, word choices, structure. Concerning continuity, Lois Bujold insists that she reserves the right to have a better idea in a later book... Louis L'Amour sometimes had a better idea on the same page. No one is going to mistake this for literature.

But he does something right. Something vitally important. A screen-writing book I read recently used the term "Primal". Louis L'Amour writes primal. The themes and conflicts of his books are not complicated... life or death, to stand on values or abandon them, jealousy, greed, family, loyalty, and the human desire to build and create something to last.

This is where my plots are weak, my characterizations mushy. My characters don't want anything bad enough to sacrifice for it. They don't face life or death issues where their beliefs and principles are tested. In my mind I suppose I'm viewing life realistically, but the plot and story that results just isn't very interesting. It's not compelling, vital, primal.

There is a lot I can learn from Louis L'Amour.

No Sleep Pill?

One of the fun things about sharing a car is that turning on the radio is always a surprise.

This time the radio was set to the local Christian station. They were taking calls between songs to comment on a pill that made people only need two hours of sleep a night. "Oh, great," I thought, " more Christians saying ignorant things about science."

I don't know when the "pill" was discussed or if the callers only had the question to respond to. Unsurprisingly the callers that I heard uniformly gave some version of "God created us to need sleep. He knew what he was doing and we shouldn't mess with it."

My immediate reaction to the question was, "I can see the obvious military applications." LOL, maybe it's a good thing I don't ahve a cell phone.

In blogging about this I've come upon a problem, though. I can't find any information on this "pill" through google. All I get are hits about needing sleep, none about not needing sleep. I believe I heard something in passing about a week ago, a link somewhere else that I didn't follow because until it got more attention it was probably not actually *real* but some scientist's pipe-dream. If anyone has any information or links please let me know. I sent an e-mail to the radio station asking for information and haven't heard back.

So... what if there *was* a pill that made it possible to be fully rested with only 2 hours of sleep a night. Firstly... you wouldn't have to take it. Or would you? Nancy Kress wrote Beggars in Spain with the premis "what if children could be genetically engineered to not need sleep?" In that world it was expensive and difficult so very few children were born without the need for sleep. Those elite few outproduced and outcompeted ordinary people. But what if it was a pill that anyone could have. If it didn't have significant side effects, how soon would it be before refusal to take it would lose you your job? If soldiers could take it during active combat, how soon before they had to take it all the time? We've all heard of the schedules that doctors doing their residencies endure. Wouldn't this be a boon? Or would the schedules just be pushed farther?

If there were no side effects... who'd *want* to spend time sleeping that could be spent on family activities, or hobbies, or being productive? But what if there were mild side effects? How much pressure would be put on people to conform?

Sometimes people have reasons, or gut feelings, they can't necessarily articulate or articulate well. That doesn't make them wrong. Sometimes, "This idea makes me uncomfortable," is entirely legitimate.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Le Moyne College Poll

This is what people have been talking about. Triumphant anti-war folks are claiming that this finally shows that our soldiers in Iraq agree that we should leave. In fact, it turns out, our soldiers in Iraq apparently agree with just about everything that the anti-war people have been trying so hard to get us hawks to admit.

Interesting, that.

I'd like to know if the poll questions are available anywhere. The summary raises some questions in my mind. Knowing how *exactly* the poll was worded might answer them.

For example... did the question about internationally banned weapons include the words napalm or white phosphorus? More than one milblogger is calling BS on that one. Would four of five soldiers answer that they oppose the use of WP in the battlefield for any purpose? I would expect our soldiers to answer that laws should be followed and banned weapons not used. I wouldn't necessarily expect them to ask for clarification "banned by whom?"

55% of those surveyed said that "it is not appropriate or standard military conduct to use harsh and threatening methods against insurgent prisoners in order to gain information of military value." This is interesting. Even more interesting is how it is presented... "And, even as more photos of prisoner abuse in Iraq surface around the world,"... The clear implication is that what 55% said was in conflict with the facts. A less obvious implication is that the 55% were talking about torture, as the "pictures" are linked to the question. "Harsh and treatening" is pretty low key, really, and I don't see how it could be equated to torture or even to "sadistic and humiliating"... 55% answered that NOT EVEN to gain information of military value was it "appropriate" OR "standard military conduct" to use harsh or threatening methods. We can't even assume that any significant amount of the remaining 45% think it's okay to actually hurt prisoners, even to get valuable information... only that harsh and threatening might be appropriate in a pinch.

What are "harsh or threatening" methods?

I think we all know... if we ever watch Law & Order and they have an interrogation scene.

Lastly... I think this is interesting. 24% said that "establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World" was the main or major reason for the war. I think that's remarkable because it's a really big-picture way of looking at the situation and soldiers often are focused more narrowly on their particular mission. The summary of the poll puts a "Just" in front of that statement. *Just* 24% responded that way. Well, technically, yes. But the implication of that is that this is a smaller than expected result. Expectations are bias.

Okay, that's not the last thing. I could go on with nit-picks forever but without the poll questions themselves I can tell if there were questions to reveal changing attitudes over time to support John Zogby's statement that the reason 93% said that WMD is not a reason for US troops to be there is because "that initial rationale went by the wayside..." Did they determine that the soldiers who took the poll *had* that"initial rationale" or is that just Zogby's opinion?

Smash is also talking about this.

And Glenn Reynolds has additional links... I just can't figure out how to link the entry that has them.

Still learning, I hope I'm forgiven.

MORE: ( 5 March 2006)

Mudville Gazette has a link to the poll questions asked.

As you can see, no reference was made to "internationally banned" anything. The question was if weapons like napalm or white phosphorus should be used on insurgents.

I'm not sure what I think of that. It doesn't say "shouldn't be used ever" or anything like that. Or "shouldn't be used by our military". It just asked if it should be used on insurgents.

Like I've said, I don't know who they interviewed to get 1 in 4 female respondants. I don't know enough about the battlefield uses of white phosphorus to say, but would going into houses and arresting insurgents or returning fire in populated streets be appropriate for those weapons?

I think that someone is reading a whole heck of a lot into this survey that simply isn't there.

Update: (9 March 2006)

According to these guys, white phosphorus is used in grenades that 80% of infantry soldiers carry.

Who did Zogby interview?