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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mysterious Events Afoot

As if my week couldn't get more bizarre, overnight it seems some pretty odd things happened.

Not only did the silver roach re-appear, which Dad unknowingly and may I say most cruelly killed (never mind blowing my future lost revenue), but:

  • My toilet basin overflowed for no reason, as I found out when I got that uncomfortably squishy surprise, stepping unto the bathroom tiles in the morning. My parents have their own bathroom, so I know no one used it. Not even Jinxy, my cat.


  • A stack of library books which I have set aside to read this week, about 12 in all, unaccountably collapsed overnight. "So what", I hear collectively from you all. Well, the kicker is that it's RIGHT next to my bed. I am a very light sleeper. How come, when it fell in a thundering heap to the floor, the falling sound didn't rouse me? Hmm, hmm?


  • I had left my computer running overnight, but in the morning, I saw that my programmes had all quit on me, and the voicecard didn't load! This means it rebooted by itself overnight for NO REASON. The clocks on the DVDs, microwaves were all perfectly correct, so it wasn't a power outtage. My parents don't touch my computer, so it just went off by its lonesome. It's fine now, but still, come on now


  • My OTHER tooth, the one which has my one and only cavity filling to date, started to hurt up a storm last night. I had to Orajel it, and pray my dentist can give me an appointment before Halloween next year.


  • Rantburg, where I have a BlogAd running, caught my Sundries heebee jeebees, since poor Fred's SQL server collapsed last night.


  • Whew, I think I need a despojo. Does anyone know a reliable babalao?



    UPDATE: Bleedin' 'eck, can my bad luck get any worse?? Been stuck all day at home, watching my local PBS Beg-a-Thon's As Time Goes By Reunion Special. Worst. "Britcom". Ever. And I love Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer too...LOL...for a $100 membership fee, you get a white porcelain music box which plays the As Time Goes By theme. Vade Retro Satanas!

    International Shopping

    Blogging has been light, and unusually airy, even for me, because of my wisdom tooth travails.

    Whenever I find myself putting finger to keyboard to compose a weightier blogpost or emailing, the painkiller I am taking reminds me I have only jumbled thoughts at the mo'.

    So today is fun day on Sundries! High-Five!

    THE JOYS OF BEING FOREIGN

    You know, being from another country has its advantages, but also some unforseen drawbacks, especially around Christmas hols.

    For it is around this time of the year, that I go on my shopping forays to buy my various relatives around the world, an extra-small, medium or large token of my affections.

    Unfortunately, that's when a spanner gets thrown in the otherwise well-oiled works.

    Some genius out there decided to let each continent (even each country) have its own measurement system.

    So if I want to buy my British cousin Reggie a pair of trainers -- sneakers to you -- at cut-rate outlet mall prices, only dreamt of in the UK at High Street shops, I have to Google yearly for shoe size conversions.

    This is quite annoying.

    Especially as Reggie is such a heel. But hey, even a heel has a sole, right?

    (Did I say it's "fun day on Sundries!"? I meant pun day. Sorry)

    Perhaps you are in the same situation as I am, so without further ado, I give you your handy conversion sites.

    Men's Shoe Size Conversions

    Women's Shoe Size Conversions

    There's one for the kiddies too, but I can't think of anything more dreary than giving some child you never see for years, a pair of clodhoppers for Christmas.

    "Oh look, dear. See what your auntie Vicky sent you from the US! Hush Puppies!"

    "A puppy?!?!"

    "No, love, a pair of shoes."




    They'd be scarred for life. I know I was.

    Clothes get the same size shock treatment, so print these out too.

    Men's Clothing (for shirts, suits, jackets)

    Women's Clothing (for blouses, dresses, and bras)

    Wow, I'm a size 40 in Italy. I am positively buxom! How depressing.

    But wait -- your shoppping along cross-cultural lines is even a minefield for rings, just in case you have a mail-order bride on request from Santa.

    International Ring Sizes

    I'm a rather sausage-fingered-sounding 55 1/4 in France. Yikes. Must cut down on those yummy escargots.

    But I did say it was fun day, or thereabouts, on Sundries, so now that our shopping investigations are done, let's continue to more amusing areas of the site listed.

    Fun Stuff

    Being a woman, I am obsessed by weight, my own, other women's, even Kate Moss'. My, isn't she scrawny? She must eat like a bird!

    So if you're interested in your Body Mass Index, as are all of Vogue's staff, as well as everyone else on this planet, check this out.

    When I input my weight and height, I got this.

    "According to the Panel on Energy, Obesity, and Body Weight Standards published by American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, your category is: Desirable"

    But don't get too excited, you randy lads out there.

    When I typed 6'8", 185 lbs. it also coughed up "desirable".

    (As a complete aside, did I ever tell you I once played point-guard at St. Joe's?)

    Don't mess around too much with it though.

    I found that out when I was fiddling with the heights and weights. "Underweight" is a possibility with one weight category. But when you put 600 lbs, you just get this.



    There are some things you just can't unsee. Sorry again.

    Consequently, though it may have crossed your mind I like a wee drinkie-poo on occasion, especially just before blogging, I am actually rather abstemious, though my entire extended family are rollicking drunks, so there is hope for me yet.

    But in case you'll be bending the elbow this Christmas, here's a Body-Alcohol Content Calculator.

    Arrive Alive!, as the old Florida license plates used to say, just before someone ploughed into you.

    Finally, as our last joint lark of the day, here is a very useful Häxor to English translator.

    Don't worry, I didn't know what Häxor was either, so they explained:

    Häxor is Swedish for witches, though this has nothing to do with witches. Häxor is also a slang term for Hacker.

    You can replace most English characters with other characters, that look something alike. It's kinda like a secret code, but you could probably still read it.

    Got that? Great.

    So off you go, with my Häxor injuction to all of you:

    $H0p uñt!l ¥0u dr0p, $uñdr!3$ r34d3r$!!

    Tuesday, November 29, 2005

    Rasputin -- The Musical

    Ozzy Osbourne's Rasputin musical (Via Reader_Iam)

    Rasputin, said Osbourne, lived the rock'n'roll lifestyle before it was invented. He drank heavily, was a womaniser, disregarded personal hygiene and was linked with witchcraft and the occult. He was also famously hard to kill - his assassins had to poison, shoot and drown him.

    I love anything Rasputin, but I strongly disagree with Ozzy. Liszt was the first rock star. Even down to busting up his hotel rooms.

    I cannot tell you how much I dislike musicals (especially Andrew Lloyd-Webber), but for this musical, I will fly down to London personally.

    Monday, November 28, 2005

    What A Bore

    Blogger has a new quirk.

    Now, when you compose a post, you don't see the "Change Time & Date" listing, until you click on the arrowed Post and Comment Options.

    It's a minor point, but a niggly one.

    Critters

    I'm used to much in South Florida, in the way of critterhood.

    In my short time here, I've seen godzilla-sized cockroaches which fly right at you, apparently called "Palmetto bugs" (and pronounced Southern-style, palmettoe buuuuuhgs).

    I've seen crickets so huge, you could train them as a spin-bowler for Sri Lanka.

    I've even seen a racoon close-up so immense and vicious-looking with that pointy snout, that he sent my father scampering up the stairs, ostensibly to find a "broom".

    And on the stretch of freeway known as Alligator Alley (I-10) leading to Tampa/St. Pete, I've seen traffic stopped, because, would you believe it -- there was a real live alligator crossing it (and news crews there to film it).

    Took his sweet time too.

    England, of course, is the land of logic and moderation.

    Sequoias, piranhas, boa constrictors -- they're more for lands where the terrain is savage and people have names like "Lance" and "Ronaldinho" not Gareth and Trevor.

    So all these various creatures took some getting used to, when I came over, I can tell you.

    But never did I dream I would encounter what I just did, a few minutes ago.

    For perched on top of my kitchen counter, looking out of place in its pristine Lysolness, was a SILVER roach.

    (The wags amongst you will refrain from inquiring about my bong habits)

    Not grey. Not dark beige. Not light black. SILVER.

    I panicked.

    I didn't know whether (a) to fetch the Raid (b) take out my camera and photograph it for my blog (c) sue the Federal government for obvious nuclear testing in the area.

    Before I knew it, it had shimmied under the ledge, not to be seen again.

    You have no idea how frightened, and yet, oddly exhilirated I am right now.

    For I know it'll make babies. And I know I'll make a fortune with my new all-silver roach circus, thus chucking the need for medical school entirely.

    Stay tuned.

    CORRECTION: Commenter C.S. MacDonald points out that 1-10 is up the road from 1-75, Alligator Alley. One day I'll tell you how I was going to Pensacola, and somehow made a wrong turning, finding myself in Georgia...

    TTLB Haywire

    Instapundit has been knocked off his Number 1 Ecosystem perch!

    But you'll never guess who is first now. No, not Michelle. Nor Marky Markos.

    Higher Beings

    1.Cold Fury (62) details

    Who??!

    That's what I said.

    Cold Fury is followed closely by such Blog-luminaries as:

    2.Caterina.net (62) details
    3.http://www.ospolitics.org/ (62) details
    4.Inter Alia (62) details
    5.Times & Seasons (62) details
    6.Writing for the Web (62) details
    7.Go Dubya! (62) details
    8.Freedom Nation (62) details
    9. Cor ad cor loquitur (62) details
    10.Hypocrisy and Hypotheses... an acute angle in an obtuse world (62) details

    It was only after with laboured breath that I see I've fallen from "Flappy Bird" status ALLLLL the way down to "Jolly Happy Joy Joy Fish" or whatever, that I see this announcement from the poor, overworked, recently hitched Bear.

    "11/28/05 Early AMEcosystem maintenance is currently in progress. Do not be alarmed. Breathe deeply. Don't panic!"

    Shame. I would've dearly loved to have seen another Andrew Sullivan hissy fit.

    UPDATE: Slightly better. I'm back to being a Slithering Reptile. One word, one word out of any of you, and you get a belt 'round your mush!

    MONDAY NOON EST: Glenn back on top of Michelle (ooh, I'm tellin' the Instawife!), but I'm now down to a Slimy Mollusc. My ego is taking a big hit here. Quick, shower me with praise, somebody.

    Sunday, November 27, 2005

    Too Rich For My Blood

    In checking my Blogads placements in the coming weeks, as the Christmas season draws ever closer, I looked, as ever to get the best bang for my buck.

    And though I consider myself a traditionalist person, my blog is anything but a political blog.

    I am the ecleti-blogger, par arrogance.

    So I have been searching now for a few left-of-centre sites where I may place my Sundries advert. If those people are fair-minded, they'll accept it. If not, well, pfui on them.

    But such was my utter horror when I saw the left-of-centre Blogad prices -- good Lord.

    Talk about believing in Capitalism.

    I saw one site, Blue Oregon, which was listed for U$9999 PER WEEK!

    For that amount, I want mink underwear with every hit -- which would completely upset their sensibilities, making it a double coup for me.

    But that's when I noticed they in fact, were listed as part of the "Liberal Blog Advertising Network".

    Check them out:

    Daily Kos Reserved through: 11/29/05
    http://www.dailykos.com/
    Ads: 9
    $1400
    3,361,732

    [I shudder to think what the KosKids are doing with this moolah]

    Democratic Underground - Standard Ad
    http://www.democraticunderground.com/
    Ads: 2
    $600
    1,156,230

    [One of the "better" fora in the liberal blogosphere. Well, compared to Kos or Eschaton, they simply sparkle, me dears]

    Talking Points Memo Sidebar Advertisement
    talkingpointsmemo.com
    Ads: 1
    $500
    905,594

    [$500? Where's the Go'mint Cheese when you need it?]

    Crooks and Liars
    www.crooksandliars.com/
    Ads: 2
    $695
    803,255

    [The Political Teen rips off better, and does it MUCH cheaper. $50. I'm in!]

    Eschaton
    atrios.blogspot.com
    Ads: 0
    $650
    744,522

    [Like Kos, but on crystal meth and Cialis]

    AMERICAblog - featured sponsor
    AMERICAblog.com
    Ads: 2
    $695
    507,849

    [Sounds too much like the Cowboys -- America's team. Ick]

    The Washington Monthly: POLITICAL ANIMAL
    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/
    Ads: 2
    $195
    302,608

    [Will you snitch to PETA or shall I?]

    The Agonist
    http://www.agonist.org/
    Ads: 4
    $165
    203,988

    [Agonising price]

    Politics1.com
    politics1.com
    Ads: 5
    $85
    174,586

    [Cheapie. A possible. Maybe not]

    Firedoglake
    firedoglake.blogspot.com/
    Ads: 3
    $100
    167,914

    [Must be Fire Island with Dogs]

    TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime - Left Sidebar
    talkleft.com
    Ads: 1
    $175
    157,783

    [Nah]

    MyDD
    http://www.mydd.com/
    Ads: 1
    $190
    142,846

    [Never say never, but...never]

    Political Wire
    politicalwire.com
    Ads: 3
    $125
    137,043

    [The only wired I want, is a double espresso]

    Informed Comment
    http://www.juancole.com/
    Ads: 9
    $80
    128,416

    [Informed Comments ain't cheap]

    Booman Tribune
    http://www.boomantribune.com/
    Ads: 1
    $80
    122,371

    [Sounds as hokey a title as the New Orleans Picayune...Picayune? Come on]

    Hullabaloo
    digbysblog.blogspot.com
    Ads: 2
    $75
    111,737

    [And Tippecanoe. No can do]

    onegoodmove
    onegoodmove.org/1gm
    Ads: 2
    $60
    100,015

    [Would be to get a cheapo blogad here. We'll see]

    BartCop.com Ads
    http://www.bartcop.com/
    Ads: 2
    $80
    99,169

    [Bart Simpson -- cop. That's so wrong]

    Dem Bloggers
    www.dembloggers.com/
    Ads: 4
    $75
    96,279

    [Heaven forfend]

    Cursor.org/Left Sidebar
    www.cursor.org/
    Ads: 1
    $125
    84,329

    [Boring title, and pricey]

    Jesus' General
    patriotboy.blogspot.com
    Ads: 5
    $70
    75,677

    [Oh look, it's Dogma Jesus. I likes!]

    This Modern World ads
    http://www.thismodernworld.com/
    Ads: 8
    $75
    75,380

    ["This Modern World?" NPR-sounding rip-off, please]

    Steve Gilliard's News Blog
    stevegilliard.blogspot.com
    Ads: 0
    $100
    71,907

    [This is the freak who sambo'ed that black politician's pic, and then tried to change it thinking no one was looking. Over my cold dead lifeless, yet still rather adorable body, would I advertise with this wanker]

    BRAD BLOG Premium Ads
    http://www.bradblog.com/
    Ads: 5
    $120
    70,812

    [Too frat-boyish]

    The Left Coaster
    www.theleftcoaster.com/
    Ads: 2
    $70
    65,110

    [I didn't know Daniel Day-Lewis blogged]

    Democrats.com -- Regular
    democrats.com
    Ads: 1
    $100
    64,058

    [Boring blog title -- same as Republicans.com]

    Pandagon.net
    http://www.pandagon.net/
    Ads: 3
    $50
    50,984

    [Panda gone? Penta gone? Pandora gone? The references are rife]

    The Poor Man
    www.thepoorman.net/
    Ads: 3
    $40
    49,338

    [Po'boy prices too]

    TAPPED - The Blog of The American Prospect
    www.prospect.org/weblog/
    Ads: 1
    $75
    45,022

    [I'm tapped]

    Blogging of the President
    http://www.bopnews.com/
    Ads: 0
    $60
    43,512

    [Didn't know he had the time]

    The Carpetbagger Report
    http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/
    Ads: 3
    $50
    42,764

    [Self-deprecating. I likes]

    My Left Wing 1
    http://www.myleftwing.com/
    Ads: 1
    $45
    35,197

    [Ironically, in soccer, I'm a left-winger. Only I was always successful]

    Catch
    http://www.catch.com/
    Ads: 3
    $25
    34,047

    [Lost mega-bonus cool points by not keeping his/her blogad price at $22]

    War and Piece
    warandpiece.com
    Ads: 4
    $30
    28,882

    [War and piss]

    Swing State Project
    http://www.swingstateproject.com/
    Ads: 1
    $50
    28,520

    [Schwwwwing!]

    SistersTalk
    sisterstalk.tblog.com
    Ads: 3
    $100
    27,269

    [Oh shut up]

    Feministing
    feministing.com
    Ads: 4
    $40
    26,982

    [A feminist blog, pray?]

    Majikthise
    majikthise.typepad.com
    Ads: 4
    $50
    23,112

    [Loses my custom for the terrible orthography]

    Bitch. Ph.D.
    bitchphd.blogspot.com/
    Ads: 1
    $50
    22,394

    [I hate that word, and I hate women who use it for themselves, especially when Biatch is so much funnier]

    BAGnewsNotes
    http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/
    Ads: 0
    $40
    19,856

    [Old bags, young bags, fake bags]

    IsThatLegal?
    http://www.isthatlegal.org/
    Ads: 1
    $35
    19,575

    [I hope not]

    Ezra Klein
    ezraklein.typepad.com
    Ads: 2
    $40
    19,441

    [The only good Ezra was the one worth a Pound]

    BlueOregon Sponsors
    http://www.blueoregon.com/
    Ads: 0
    $50
    19,409

    [There ya go. On second thought, buh-bye]

    Needlenose
    http://www.needlenose.com/
    Ads: 0
    $35
    19,221

    [I like the sound of that]

    Suburban Guerrilla
    http://www.susiemadrak.com/
    Ads: 0
    $40
    16,215

    [Susie the gorilla. Lovely]

    First Draft
    http://www.first-draft.com/
    Ads: 0
    $40
    16,012

    [First drafts are not worth $40]

    DC Media Girl
    http://www.dcmediagirl.com/
    Ads: 1
    $50
    15,964

    [DC. Media. And girl. The trifecta of bad vibes]

    MaxSpeak, You Listen! 2
    maxspeak.org/mt
    Ads: 2
    $40
    14,373

    [Sounds like a bloody stockbroker advert]

    The Talent Show
    http://www.thetalentshow.org/
    Ads: 3
    $35
    13,488

    [Riffing on the "Daily Show"]

    Seeing the Forest
    seeingtheforest.com
    Ads: 1
    $40
    13,380

    [For the tree-huggers]

    Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid
    http://www.oliverwillis.com/
    Ads: 1
    $70
    12,618

    [Oh very LGF title at the end. Copy-cats]

    Hoffmania.com
    hoffmania.typepad.com/
    Ads: 1
    $40
    12,556

    [Jimmy Hoffa?]

    Pam's House Blend
    http://www.pamshouseblend.com/
    Ads: 2
    $25
    12,353

    [Better not be Hazelnut]

    Burnt Orange Report
    http://www.burntorangereport.com/
    Ads: 4
    $30
    11,262

    [I would've bought an ad if it were "Burnt Umber"]

    The Mahablog
    http://www.mahablog.com/
    Ads: 4
    $20
    10,678

    [For Maharajas and Majas Desnudas]

    American Street (Right sidebar)
    www.reachm.com/amstreet/
    Ads: 0
    $30
    9,506

    [The street, she is always listening. Don't you love Carlito's Way]

    Journalists Against Bush's B.S.
    jabbs.blogspot.com
    Ads: 1
    $14.5
    9,314

    [Otherwise known as CNN, NYT, WaPo, LaTi, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.....]

    Rox Populi
    roxanne.typepad.com
    Ads: 6
    $15
    9,283

    [Because the populi rox]

    EdCone.com
    edcone.typepad.com/blog
    Ads: 0
    $35
    8,620

    [Sounds blah. Now if he had gone with Conehead Blog, I'm so there]

    NathanNewman.org
    www.nathannewman.org/log/
    Ads: 0
    $25
    8,047

    [What is this? Name your blog after yourself day?]

    The Democratic Daily Blog
    blog.thedemocraticdaily.com
    Ads: 3
    $30
    7,841

    [Where's the Yearly Blog?]

    PinkDome
    pinkdome.com
    Ads: 1
    $25
    7,586

    [For gay NFL fans?]

    All Spin Zone
    allspinzone.com/blog
    Ads: 1
    $100
    7,304

    [Oh he didn't go there]

    Wayne Besen: Author, Activist, Public Speaker
    http://www.waynebesen.com/
    Ads: 1
    $35
    7,228

    ["Available for weddings, bar mitvahs, and smokers"]

    The Republic of T.
    www.republicoft.com/
    Ads: 4
    $20
    6,897

    [Mr. T? T-Rex?]

    c u l t u r e k i t c h e n
    www.culturekitchen.com/
    Ads: 0
    $50
    5,924

    [Where you learn to cook a mean culture vulture]

    NEWS DISSECTOR
    http://www.newsdissector.org/
    Ads: 5
    $15
    5,485

    [Oh gosh. Too reminiscent of Med School]

    Hughes for America
    hughesforamerica.typepad.com/
    Ads: 4
    $10
    5,418

    [Victoria for Canada]

    ArchPundit
    archpundit.com
    Ads: 0
    $20
    4,195

    [Nonono. If you have "pundit" in your title, you're a rightie. If you have "-ette", you're a lefty. Archette -- get it right]

    Left in the West
    leftinthewest.com/
    Ads: 0
    $15
    3,786

    [How the West was Lost]

    Mathew Gross
    http://www.mathewgross.com/
    Ads: 1
    $25
    3,671

    [Too easy]

    Latino Pundit
    http://www.latinopundit.com/
    Ads: 0
    $25
    3,561

    [Frijoles negroes, and mango. Que potaje]

    mediagirl.org
    http://www.mediagirl.org/
    Ads: 0
    $14
    3,133

    [$14 says, "I'm worth more than the $10 starting price, but stil reasonable". Uh, no you're not]

    Norwegianity Reserved through: 11/28/05
    http://www.norwegianity.com/
    Ads: 3
    $12.5
    3,061

    [A blog for, by, and because of Norwegian Lefties. As if there were any other kind in Minnesota]

    You have chosen:

    1 week ad in 74 adstrip(s).
    Total: $8496
    Total pageviews: 10755494

    Thanks, just browsing. Oh Miss, actually -- does this come in red?

    Saturday, November 26, 2005

    Wash-Day Red Hands

    I am one of those persons who loves to do laundry.

    It's an odd pasttime to admit to, I'm sure, but you see, I have this almost preternatural need for tidying up.

    It calms me.

    Whenever I have had a tiff, or am feeling a little antsy, all I have to do is to start shelving books, or taking the smudges off my computer monitor, that I feel instantly chipper.

    (I once read Laura Bush spent a lot of her time washing her shelves down with Clorox, but don't expect me to go, "that's my kind of gal!" here, because that's just freaky)

    Freud explains, as the Brazilians say.

    There must be something in me that needs the psychological therapeutic need to erase stains, perhaps to make things around me outwardly glisten, almost as if in doing so, I am erasing that momentary smudgey flare-up.

    So, since neither of my parents have any desire to do the laundry, my mother because she was raised with servants in a time when you didn't have to be rich to have servants, my father likewise, but added to that, he's never touched Daz or Persil (or Tide or ERA) in his life, I am graciously handed the laundry duties in my home.

    Now, in my family, at age 13 or 30, you do what you do for the family, without recompense.

    Americans have a very beneficial, common-sensical approach (they would) to doing "chores".

    You get this wonderful thing called "an allowance" for doing stuff.

    It teaches you the value of money -- how to earn it, by hard work, and self-motivation, which you can then spend either wisely, or ditzily, as the mood takes you. Cause and effect, as always.

    That was never my lot.

    People from my cultural and social background have a cradle-to-grave security, where you are assured complete freedom of worry of paying your own way through life, until you marry, just because.

    Some people call this the Welfare State. We call it "family".

    Having preambled extensively on my cleaning predilections, you will be let down enormously to hear that I also love taking my gear to dry cleaners.

    My mother jokes that should she die, she wants to be buried either in Saks Fifth Avenue, or our local dry cleaners, because that way, she's assured I'll visit her at least three times a week.

    Germans are rarely funny, so please guffaw accordingly. Thank you.

    So today, bright and early as Pepys would have it, I head down to my local dry cleaners, already packed even at that 9 AM hour with assorted yentas, WASP'y country clubbers in their crisp tennis skirts, and as ever in that neighbourhood, six-pack-abbed effeminate toy boys, who would not look amiss on a Versace runway or on a Calvin Klein bed.

    They were all there, doing what I was doing, dropping our clobber off so someone else could have the pleasure of washing our combinations (or what Americans call Long Johns -- hey, it's been chilly down here. Almost 60F! *brrrr*).

    The problem was that the woman they had behind the counter, spoke not a lick of English -- not even a hello escaped her mouth.

    She was new, this girl. About 20, I'd say. And certainly Central American.

    See, the thing of it is, my neighbourhood is one of the last bastions of non-Spanish-language domination in the area.

    Sure, there are plenty of Hispanics here, but if you live where I do, if you're Hispanic, you speak English. And the other residents, well, they just don't habla Spanish (or don't want to -- since I'm fairly sure a few took it in High School, as I did).

    But this girl was thrown in the deep end because her boss, and all the other attendants, were late. Real late. The place opens at 7 AM on the dot, every day.

    The other customers were incredibly irate, all shouting at her, gesticulating, posing, pointing at her, as they leant over the counter, demanding their two-piece wotsits they had to have NOW.

    And hey, listen -- they had a point. Even if they didn't know how to properly make it.

    She was near tears. They were near lynching.

    So in I walked, with my Spanish at the ready: surveyed the situation for a few moments, and calmly asked for quiet. It's easy to do, if your voice is commanding and your manner, self-assured. Try it. You'll see.

    I then translated, translated, and translated, until those 10 or so people were outtie, off to their pool cabanas or tennis lessons, befrocked and be-stuck up.

    She then helped me, pathetically, servilely grateful for what I had done. She even offered me a discount, which grade-A, prize-winning moocher that I am (see above), I accepted.

    Her name is Carla, and she comes from Honduras. She is 18. She arrived 3 months ago, and got this job because to her, it's like a miracle.

    In her hometown, she was a laundress.

    She worked almost 12 hours a day, only to take laundry home privately, to make a little money on the side. It's only her and her mother in this world.

    She came to America -- how, I didn't ask. She didn't divulge.

    Carla said she had been working since the age of 8, and like her mum, she entered the laundry biz.

    There she worked at the back of the laundry, which wasn't air-conditioned, and didn't have even a mangle -- just a rusty old iron.

    Other customers came in. I waited, translating when needed.

    When she was operating that spin thingie which brings you your clothes, matching your ticket-stub, I looked down at her hands.

    Chapped would not describe them. Red, would be a compliment.

    She came back. We talked some more.

    In real life, I am aloof with strangers, because that's how I was raised.

    Being too chummy is a lack of sophistication (the exact opposite of Americans, whose hail-fellow-well-met attitude is sneered at when they travel, say, in France -- now you know).

    But something about people who work hard, in dirty jobs especially, be they rubbish collectors, or builders, or char ladies who clean my toilet, something about them makes me pause, and open up.

    You know, chances are, I'll never have to have to do what they do, because my family made sure of that.

    Furthermore, I can't conceive doing what they do, because I have no frame of reference for it.

    But this slip of a girl, not that much younger than I, has had 100 times more reasons to be angry at life -- so was she?

    Not a bit of it.

    She was happy to be working for those irate, spoilt customers. In her homeland, they treated her just as bad -- worse. It's her own people.

    She was happy she didn't have to use those crappy bars of ridged laundry soap found in all Third World countries (which come in pukey pastel shades, like testosterone baby blue).



    She was happy she didn't scrub to clean the clothes, and had industrial washing machines which did her old job, which took slaving-intensive hours, in 20 minutes flat.

    She was happy she had a huge mangle, which made creases almost as good as her old iron (a bit of vanity, good for her).

    And she was happy with the money she earned, although most of us blow one hour of her labour on a venti caffe latte in a trice.

    For some people are born like me -- content to do laundry because it makes her feel good to help out her family.

    But then some people are born like Carla -- content to do laundry because it makes her feel good to help out her family.

    The only difference is, my hands are lilly-white.

    And I'm not pathetically grateful for anything.

    This post is dedicated to the Carlas the world over. You have the finest thing I can give you: my endless respect.

    Friday, November 25, 2005

    Watching The Watch-Words

    Friend:

    Is Political Correctness getting you down?

    Does having to say "logically unenhanced" instead of "stupid" throw you into a downward spiralling depression?

    Is the fact that the Dutch Language Union, the official organ for the Dutch language (analogous to the Real Academia Española for Spanish, e.g.), have decreed that Christ should now be spelt "christ" and Jewish "jood" in the lower-case, whilst aztec and eskimo, previously lower-case, must, starting in 2006, be capitalised as "Azteek" and "Eskimo" in Dutch...send you WTF'ing into the night?

    Or is your male or female alopoecia increasing now that your kids are being raised in PC-speak at school, like being read to from such books as "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times" -- reworking such beloved tales as Little Red Riding Hood into:

    On the way to Grandma's house, Red Riding Hood was accosted by a wolf, who asked her what was in her basket. She replied, "Some healthful snacks for my grandmother, who is certainly capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult."

    The wolf said, "You know, my dear, it isn't safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone."

    Red Riding Hood said, "I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop your own, entirely valid, worldview. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be on my way."

    Do you believe that it's a GOOD THING people say "handicapped" instead of "cripple" now, but that wymyn for women is a PC-bridge way way too far?

    Well, buster, so do I.

    And, fortunately, there are people like us the world over, who do too.

    What's more, they are monitoring these incremental and insidious changes to our languages, as they creep ever onwards with the previously self-righteous energy of Christian missionaries.

    (To paraphrase the Duke of Wellington: Capitalise and be damn'd!)

    Here is that entity, called the Global Language Monitor, who have just launched their:

    TOP 10 POLITICALLY inCORRECT WORDS AND PHRASES FOR 2005

    "1. Misguided Criminals for Terrorist: The BBC attempts to strip away all emotion by using what it considers neutral descriptions when describing those who carried out the bombings in the London Tubes.

    The rub: the professed intent of these misguided criminals was to kill, without warning, as many innocents as possible (which is the common definition for the term, terrorist).

    [To see one example used by John Simpson, BBC World Affairs Editor, Click Here.]

    2. Intrinsic Aptitude (or lack thereof) was a suggestion by Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard, on why women might be underrepresented in engineering and science. He was nearly fired for his speculation.

    3. Thought Shower or Word Shower substituting for brainstorm so as not to offend those with brain disorders such as epilepsy.

    4. Scum or "la racaille" for French citizens of Moslem and North African descent inhabiting the projects ringing French Cities. France's Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, used this most Politically inCorrect (and reprehensible) label to describe the young rioters (and by extension all the inhabitants of the Cites).

    5. Out of the Mainstream when used to describe the ideology of any political opponent: At one time slavery was in the mainstream, thinking the sun orbited the earth was in the mainstream, having your blood sucked out by leeches was in the mainstream. What's so great about being in the mainstream?

    6. Deferred Success as a euphemism for the word fail. The Professional Association of Teachers in the UK considered a proposal to replace any notion of failure with deferred success in order to bolster students self-esteem.

    [ed.- This is my favourite. It encapsulates all the things I loathe about Political Correctness. That maniac yet Paxil-driven upbeatness you have to ascribe to any possibility of negativity or failure, because Christ forbid , your feelings should be hurt. Don't worry, pet, this shouts, you're just a deferred success right now! As soon as your 43-year old body moves out of your mum's garage, you'll be another Bill Gates, Mahatma Ghandi!]

    7. Womyn for Women to distance the word from man. This in spite of the fact that the term man in the original Indo-European is gender neutral (as have been its successors for some 5,000 years).

    8. C.E. for A.D.: Is the current year A.D. 2005 or 2005 C.E.? There is a movement to strip A.D. (Latin for "In the Year of the Lord") from the year designation used in the West since the 5th century and replace it with the supposedly more neutral Common Era (though the zero reference year for the beginning of the Common Era remains the year of Christs birth).

    9. "God Rest Ye Merry Persons" for "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen": A Christmas, eh, Holiday, carol with 500 years of history is not enough to sway the Anglican Church at Cardiff Cathedral (Wales) from changing the original lyrics.

    10. Banning the word Mate: the Department of Parliamentary Services in Canberra issued a general warning to its security staff banning the use of the word 'mate' in any dealings they might have with both members of the Parliament and the public. What next? banning Down Under so as not to offend those living in the Up Over.

    Holiday Bonus: Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings for Christmas (which in some UK schools now label Wintervale. (In the word X-Mas, the Greek letter 'Chi' represented by the Roman X actually stands for the first two letters of the name Christ.)

    [ed.- This may not raise your eyebrows in North America, where you have said Season's Greetings for years, but the thing is, Political Correctness hasn't as YET taken as much root in the UK, as it has in the US or Canada. In a country where the majority are still unremarkably Church of England/Scotland, we say Happy Christmas to all and sundry, turbaned or not. This is obviously changing]

    Last year the Top Politically Incorrect words were:

    Los Angeles County's insistence of covering over with labels any computer networking protocols that mention master/slave jargon. Following closely were non-same sex marriage for marriage, and waitron for waiter or waitress."

    -- Oh yeah, I can really see that catching on, can't you?

    "Waitron, there's a gender-neutral fly in my vegan-approved soup!".

    Laughter is the best cure-all for what ails you, my grannie always said, and invariably, most people do laugh at PC-nes. I know I did, as I read the list above.

    But I also admit, it gives me pause.

    I want to tell these politically correct bodies to grow up, stop being so lame, and stop dictating what we should use, because the inference is that just everyday folks like you and I are insensitively rude and unfeeling towards their fellow man.

    Sure we are. That's part of life, like colds, flat feet, and halitosis.

    But whether you take an aspirin, wear corrective shoes, and use Listerine is up to each one of us to decide.

    The fact of the matter is, most people do the right thing. When they don't, they admit it, even if few people like to be corrected, and might do so with bad grace.

    But bad grace doesn't mean monster of a human being. And this is the subtext of political correctness.

    That we are all presumed to be incredibly arrogant people, who need to be forcefed untraumatic tolerance.

    The irony is not lost on anyone reading this, I'm sure.

    Political Correctness is itself, politically incorrect.

    Thursday, November 24, 2005

    Canadian versus American Thanksgiving

    (Welcome ProudToBeCanadian.ca and Secondbreakfast readers!)

    Visit TTLB's Blogosphere Thanksgiving-Themed Posts

    A lot of people are unaware our cousins to the North, namely Canadians, also have a Thanksgiving Day.



    That's right.

    Canadian Thanksgiving takes place every year too, with turkey, with stuffing, with gravy and with family, same as American Thanksgiving.

    (Wasn't too sure about the cranberry sauce, but we'll all find out later in the blogpiece. Suspense!)

    But just before you start to send those gobbler e-cards to your Canadian friends, hold on a minute. There's a catch.

    The catch is that Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving on the second Monday of every October.

    You heard me -- a full month before we do.

    Well, if you think about it, it makes right bollocking sense, doesn't it.

    Canadians hit winter going 120 km per hour (note the snide metric reference), much faster than the comparative balmy climes of Vermont, and tropical oasises like that, do.

    They consequently have much less time to cull their harvests, which is the major impetus after all, for celebrating a feast of plenty.

    Frankly, I'm glad they celebrate it a full month before us in Merka.

    The quicker they get Thanksgiving, the faster they have to rush headlong into the next holiday -- Christmas.

    With Canadians, there is no hypocritical pretense that we still have Halloween...and...Thanksgiving in November to get through, before traipsing into the Yuletide season, and getting into hock up to our orbitals.

    No.

    Let them put out their Christmas lights in mid-October, I say, and suffer a slow, torturous three months of Edie Gormé and Steve Lawrence singing "Christmas Kumbaya". Losers.

    Of course, historian-manquée that I am, I had to go and look up the history of this curiously joint North American holiday.

    That's when I immediately shouted in horror at the monitor screen, because the official ThanksgivingTraditions.com site made a huge historical boo-boo.

    The first Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated on April 15, 1872 in thanks for the recovery of the future King Edward VII from a serious illness. The next Thanksgiving didn't occur until 1879 when it was celebrated on a Thursday in November.

    Yes, it is true. The then Prince of Wales had just recovered from a bout with typhoid in 1872, an illness which had taken the life of his father.

    But surely, this is not the "first Canadian thanksgiving", because Royal Thanksgivings, or national thanksgivings, were nothing new to Britain and thereto, to its colonies.

    Why, Royal Thanksgivings -- which take the shape of an official day of St. Paul's-attending celebration that some old royal bird had miraculously not kicked the bucket -- have been going on since the year dot!

    For those who remember, King George III was portrayed having just such a celebratory feast, when HE had (momentarily, it turned out) come out of his dementia, in the well-named film, The Madness of King George.

    Surely, Canadians celebrated a Thanksgiving Day then too? Even a little one? A quick Our Father and a wee bite of a drumstick?

    Well, this royal chit-chat is all very well, but in no way does it represent the true, modern-day meaning of Thanksgiving, as you and I know it today.

    In America, of course, this started as a sit-down dinner between viciously racist white genocidal settlers and the poor downtrodden, semi-enslaved indians, who were too famished to object to being called that.

    It has long been a tradition in these lands to honour the friendly truce observed on that day, as indeed George Washington declared Thursday, 26 November 1789, a day "we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks", thus prompting an immediate lawsuit from Michael Newdow.

    But for whatever reason, Thanksgiving was not given its official imprimatur until our martyred President, Abraham Lincoln, declared every fourth Thursday in November, a National Day of Thanksgiving.

    Emancipation Proclamation, winning the Civil War, and turkey-basting -- can you get a better legacy?

    None of this, however, answers the lingering question of how exactly Canadians decided to up the Thanksgiving stakes by a full-month, and how it differs from the American version.

    Here's the how. Hang unto your funny bones. It's a kick-save and a beaut.

    Much like the United States, Canada seemed to have a difficult time deciding when a day of Thanksgiving should occur. From 1879 to 1898 it was celebrated on a Thursday in November; from 1899 to 1907 on a Thursday in October (except in 1901 and 1904 when it was celebrated on a Thursday in November); from 1908 to 1921 on a Monday in October; and between 1922 and 1930 the Armistice Day Act declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on Armistice Day, the Monday of November 11. In 1931 the Act was amended and the old practice of Parliament declaring a day of Thanksgiving each year was resumed.

    On January 31, 1957 Parliament issued a proclamation to fix permanently the second Monday in October as "a day of general Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed."

    Dayyyum.

    This makes the US-invasion of Venezuela look like a well-planned campaign (quagmire!).

    Thank goodness there's the OSM/Pajamas Media debâcle around, else the Canadians would fight for the scatterbrained-wishbone by themselves.

    But in researching the "how it differs part", I felt it emcumbent on this pajama-clad reporter, to seek the truth from the veritable horse's mouth.

    Namely, my erstwhile Canadian guest-blogger, Renato.

    "Hi Renato. Thanks for acceding to this demand, erm, interview on Canadian Thanksgiving practises."

    "Hi Vicky. No problem. It's my pleasure."

    "I'll be the judge of that."

    "Hmm."

    "So Renato, I've heard all about Canadian Thanksgiving from internet sites, but now I want a real Canuck to tell it how it is.

    What makes your Thanksgiving different from the authentic, true Thanksgiving you guys so shamelessly ripped off from the world's greatest country, The United States of America?".

    "Is this what they call MSM Bias?"

    "Don't change the subject."

    "Well, it's not really that different. We sit down with our families on Monday, usually around 6 o'clock, and eat turkey. It's exactly like American Thanksgiving."

    "There has to be some difference."

    "N---no. Really."

    "What about the secret NHL handshake you give each other, starting grace by saying 'Holla back, Michael Moore!', just before putting on party hats with 'Ann Coulter Sucks' written on them?"

    "You really should stop believing Little Green Footballs."

    "Is it your oversized Welfare State that makes you so communistically controlling?"

    "Yes."

    "Next question: do you use cranberry sauce for purposes not tied to corrupt United Nations Oil-for-Food programmes?"

    "I don't like cranberry."

    "You're a smart one, arentcha."

    "Yes."

    "So in effect, you're telling me that Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving in much the same way we do, down to the fixins and sudden family bust-ups?"

    "You got it. Oh! Actually..."

    "Aha! I knew it. Out with it, you mooseburger eater, you."

    "The only difference I can think of, is that we don't have two NFL games to watch that day."

    "How about hockey?"

    "No hockey either."

    "Wow, what a boring country. Thank God I left."

    "Hmm."

    "Well, thank you, Renato, for this totally ineffective interview with a card-carrying citizen of the ACLU Republic of Canuckistan."

    "Go Leafs Go!"

    "Losers."


    So there you have it, ladies and gentlebodies. An interview with a real-live Canadian, who is too lazy to blog on his own, so he has to cleave himself unto the teat of Sundries.

    But, in closing, just remember this.

    Thanksgiving is a day of friendship, more than anything else. But its meaning is manifold.

    It's not a day of religious import, though thanking God for your blessings, however little you may think them, is a good idea.

    It's not a day to honour family, though surrounding yourself with family members you only see once a year, is a good idea.

    It's not a day to be thankful you live in the country you do, though praising a land where liberty was fought by all to make it what it is today, is a good idea.

    It's not even a day to just eat turkey, and stuff yourself with mashed potato and pumpkin pie, though remembering the good earth which feeds us all, is a good idea.

    It's a day of Thanksgiving.

    A simple day to pause, to remember, and to give thanks.

    There may be more important days in your life than Thanksgiving, but surely, there are few days which give you more, than what you give it in return.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    MORE THANKSGIVING GOODNESS: Read Stuck on Stupid for more Thanksgiving linkbacks.

    And maybe a Canadian can weigh in here, but it occured to me that Paul Martin does not issue a Premier pardon to spare the life of a turkey, like the US President traditionally grants every Thanksgiving. Fascists!

    There's good news and bad news. The bad news is that you are going to Guantanamo

    That's President Bush above pardoning either Marshmallow or Yam, one of the two gobblers who escaped the chop this year.

    I betcha he knows how they feel.

    Lastly, another salient difference between our nations' holiday, is that people up North don't have a Canadian Tire Thanksgiving Day Parade. Lucky sods.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Marianne Noire

    What would you do if your country were engulfed in the worst racial riotting in its history? Well, France has awoken from her nightmare, and said:

    Liberté ? Egalité ? Fraternité ? Réalité !

    Marianne, the beautiful female symbol of France, whose face is chosen by the 420 mayors around France, modeled after such Frenchwomen as Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot, and Inès de La Fressange, is scheduled to be "anonymous" in the year 2006.

    And word has it, she'll be black.

    As shown on France2's newscast Tuesday, the ideal of French womanhood could well fit this description:

    "Et pourquoi pas, en 2006, une Marianne au teint ébène et aux cheveux frisés?"

    (And why not, in the year 2006, an ebony-complected Marianne, with frizzy hair?")

    Why not indeed.

    Not that it'll solve jacques, of course.

    Read Wednesday Blogpost 2: Woman's Day

    IN THE COMMENTS: Commenter XWL asks a not-so-left-field question about these future Mariannes.

    "(and will Marianne be wearing a hijab and cover both her breasts?)"

    Which immediately brought to mind that no wonder they're going for a black Marianne first.

    A Berber Marianne might be more problematic, precisely along those lines.

    Yet another reason why the French are playing a mean, but not very well thought-out game of tokenism in this matter. And badly thought-out multi-culturalism always comes back and bites you in the culottes.

    Woman's Day

    Move over, lads.

    Your days of being the majority in the Conservative Parties around the world are numbered.

    On the day when CDU leader, Dr. Angela Merkel, assumes the Chancellorship of Germany, comes word from the UK that the Tory Party chairman, Francis Maude, has thrown his support behind the Women2Win pressure group.

    Their goal? Very simple.

    To ensure 40 of the Party's 100 target seats select and field female candidates in the next general election.

    Mr. Maude expounded:


    "Women are 52% of the electorate, but less than 10 per cent of our MPs are women. At the next election, if we are to make real our aspiration to represent the whole country, we need to send new MPs to Westminster who get much closer to representing the country's gender balance. Ten per cent won't hack it. It needs to be much nearer half."

    You might think that for a political side which has given Britain its first female Prime Minister, that they wouldn't have to go about encouraging the Party in upping the female candidate quotient.

    But look at this telling stat.


    In 1932 there were 13 Conservative Women MPs. At the last election, 73 years later, 3 newly elected women MPs brought our total up to 17.

    That Lady Astor sure cast a long shadow.

    But you know, it's no surprise that women are growing increasingly more comfortable belonging to the Conservative side of many countries.

    In fact, here and now, I predict a swing to the conservative parties all around the world, by women -- who furthermore, are seen as infinitely more electable by men and women both.

    There are many men who even today cannot entertain the thought of a woman in charge of anything more intricate than a shopping list. For a politically liberal woman, the hurdle of backing her is that much more unthinkable.

    But not so much a conservative woman.

    She hits the same buttons many men are comfortable in supporting -- tough on crime, militarily hawkish, fiscally reductive.

    For those who would scorn such women, as many feminists do, for being tools of the "patriarchy", this is precisely the type of attitude that repels people, middle-of-the-road people, whose votes they need to win elections.

    These talking points are the obsessions of academics, not the concerns of just folks, and they are destined to be beaten when it counts most, more often than not.

    Even history is distancing itself from those who hold such notions.

    For as a generation of politically pioneering women (as the self-same American-born, and Tory, Lady Astor certainly was, despite my sarcastic tone), followed a generation of middle-class working women, followed a generation of feminists, there is now in place the generation of the 1980s, who grew up with an Indira Gandhi, with a Margaret Thatcher, with a Golda Meir in power.

    And now, it bears repeating, Angela Merkel has joined that lofty sisterhood.

    It may seem a comparative drop in the power dynamic bucket, but not to many women like myself.

    Take note though.

    For those with my particular world view, it's not about quantity of women, and it probably never will be.

    Yes, this despite my unalloyed satisfaction that the numbers will increase in future -- but for every side of the political divide, it should be noted.

    My main concern, however, is not that women should overrun the coffers of political parties the world over.

    That vision belongs to a more trenchantly feminist crowd, who will not be content until women have the exact same proportion in any field of human endeavour, that they do in population numbers -- roughly making up just over 50% of the world.

    And if women outclass, outproduce, and outnumber men, that will be a red-letter day for them especially.

    But not for me.

    There may be safety in numbers for those with narrow abacus visions, but my view of the world promotes worth not gender.

    To me, a woman like a Margaret Thatcher is worth a dozen lady Tory MPs put together.

    What she was able to accomplish, to lead her society, as Indira Gandhi in hers, or Benazir Bhutto in hers, or Megawati Sukarnoputri in hers, on and on, in an endless parade of examples, is nothing short of miraculous.

    All the explanations of cultural niceties, opportunistic vacuums, or inherited mantles of power cannot explain how these women could lead these avowedly masculine countries, when and how they did.

    And this is the crux of the matter.

    They did so despite being one woman, rather than having a gaggle of women shoring them up in power.

    Angela Merkel is already being likened to Margaret Thatcher, but the truth of the matter is, she's her own woman.



    Shy.

    Awkward.

    Not voluble.

    Best known as a compromiser -- and small wonder that she leads a national coalition in the Bundestag, today.

    (Just thinking of Margaret Thatcher leading a coalition which might have included Neil Kinnock is enough to bring on the vapours. It just would not have happened)

    Apart from the fact that both started out life as scientists (Thatcher, a talented Chemistry doctoral candidate at Oxford; Merkel, a physicist with a prestigious Leipzig degree), all the comparisons to Thatcher by the news media today have seemed comically forced.

    Merkel comes saddled with internal contradictions, and she has been poised to fail by even the conservative news media in her country.

    Thatcher was the warrioress in shining handbag, who was part-nurse, part-nanny, giving the nation sour doses of medicine ("the only way the patient would get better"), and part-saviour, who would vanquish the strangle-hold of the TUC from the British throat.

    Thatcher left office, stabbed in the back by her own associates, but left a legacy which is as memorable as any sterling Prime Minister before it.

    Merkel hasn't the luxury of time, nor has she the whole-hearted approval of a people who are scared to death of the tough decisions it must make.

    1) Lower taxes. 2) Promote private enterprise. 3) Above-all, reduce reduce reduce the social welfare system, which is dragging Germany down with its lumbering, unsustainable, aging population girth.

    (Quick Factoid: Over 40% of University-degreed women in Germany have no children. Germany has one of the oldest populations of developed countries. Something has got to give)

    If Angela Merkel accomplishes even a third of that, her legacy might not be as grim as those naysayers make it out to be.

    Above all, her legacy, any woman's legacy is not about her sex, although she is a product of it.

    Those who would ONLY emphasise gender in politics miss the point, totally.

    Judge a woman by what she does, and let their gender be a milestone, not a millstone around their existence.

    ...finally, a small anecdote to close this blogpost on the rise of conservative women in politics.

    You know, many years ago, I was talking to an Argentinian friend, a Leftist.

    Progressively political though he was, he nursed an unvarnished hatred towards Margaret Thatcher, for "daring" to counter (the Fascist) General Galtieri's invasion of the Falklands.

    As we bandied back-and-forth, talking about this episode in both our country's histories, he finally lashed out with what I presume he thought was an argumentative coup de grâce.

    "Margaret Thatcher fought a war against Argentina because...she wanted to act like a MAN!"

    No, I said quietly.

    She did so because she wanted to act like a Prime Minister.


    UPDATE: The BBC came out yesterday with a lukewarm piece on Lady Thatcher (there's a shock). But it did quote this intriguing line from Lord Bell.

    "She was in a world dominated by men and one of the things men are very bad at is handling women."

    Heh. Quite.

    IN THE COMMENTS: Commenter Michael takes elegant exception to my characterisation of Dr. Merkel as "shy". He continues,

    "In my view Mrs. Merkel is a rare combination (in German politics at least) of tactical astuteness and courageous and principled strategic vision. During her career she has outmaneuvered many grandstanding competitors and adversaries, as well as repeatedly taken measured risks at the appropriate time."

    Not so different from Maggie T. after all.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    I Wonder If...

    Condi Rice, who has oft-mentioned how she would adore being NFL Commissioner one day, plays fantasy football?

    I went with Peyton in the First Round

    Sadly, my team, Suddenly Sapp, falls from Number 1 to Number 2 in my Yahoo Winner's League, despite Alexander the Great's best efforts on my behalf. Life sucks.

    You Show Me Yours. I'll Show You Mine



    Let's see what our Desktops look like. Print Screen, then go to Xs.to to post it.

    A window into each other's tastes.

    Monday, November 21, 2005

    Mystery (Kinda) Solved

    After my post Virginia Woolf Friday, one of the commenters (with the wonderfully evocative name of Buck Pennington, which sounds as if he should be quarterbacking Red Grange in the 1920's), asked what on earth a panettone was.

    Well, before I tell you how the mystery of the 40-50 panettoni was solved, let me delve into the topic a bit further.

    First off, this is a panettone.



    And just like you can't avoid death and taxes, the modern corollary is, "or having a Wikipedia entry":


    Panettone is a typical cake of Milan, Italy, usually prepared and enjoyed for Christmas, and one of the symbols of the town.

    It has a cupola shape and is usually about 30 cm high. It is made of a soft, incompletely-cooked dough containing candies and raisins.

    Note, that in most Latin countries (in the true, not just American sense of the word, which seems to be synonymous here with simply, "Hispanic"), having panettone on Christmas day, is as traditional as our plum pudding is in Britain.

    Having a wide selection of fruits, sultanas, and especially nuts, on the table alongside it, is also the done thing.

    They all represent the cornucopia of plenty that the Three Wise Men brought the baby Jesus on his birthday.

    When I was a child, I detested panettone, since its caramelised fruits, especially the little greenie ones, I got into my head tasted like liquorice, which to this day, makes me gag.

    But such is life -- today, I love panettone. Children are very silly creatures, no?

    So, back to our mystery.

    I went to pick up a cake I had ordered at the self-same supermarket were the elegant-looking gentleman had bought dozens of panettoni at one go.

    All kinds of scenarios had entered my mind since posting the anecdote.

    - Was he late for an office Christmas party, and wanted a quick gift for his staff?

    - Was he stocking up for his family for future Christmasses, since I have it on impeccable authority that a panettone loaf lasts 20 or 30 years, or indeed, more?

    - Did he have a hot date with a hot date? Oh hush.

    Well, as I waited for my cake to be readied (they got the name wrong on the icing, so I asked for and got a 50% discount...yay...I love beating the system), I saw the attendant that had helped that guy that day.

    "This may seem an odd question, but I saw you help out a man with many Arco panettones the other day. I'm curious, what was that about, do you know?".

    (laugh)

    "Yeah, he was a Brazilian guy. The manager told me he called to put an order for ALL the panettones we had on sale. He was taking them to Brazil as presents or something."

    No way.

    This (non-) mystery gets odder and odder!

    Why would a rich Brazilian tourist buy 40-50 panettoni in an US supermarket at 3 bucks a pop, if in his country, he can get them for half, if not a third of that price?? And possibly even yummier??

    And there's no way he can pass them through customs, without bribing the custom officials...like all muambeiros do. That's a lot of dough for some dough (I said hush).

    Side explanation: Muamba is the Brazilian Portuguese word for illegal goods brought into Brazil for very profittable resale. It was BIG business in most of South America, where buying a Panasonic or Sony DVD player, for example, cost the earth. These days, with a more free-market economy, I'm not so sure.

    The only explanation I have is, he was asked by someone for REAL Italian but American-bought panettone, as a kind of reverse snobbism.

    You know the kind -- where you go to France, and buy yourself some Crest toothpaste, just because you could.

    What an odd business this.

    One day, I'm going to get to the bottom of this story, you watch.

    And then I'll bore you (some more) on my blog with the upshot.

    Sunday, November 20, 2005

    Family Gal Has A Quiet Word for Mr. Depp

    I'm taking the day off for a family celebration, but fear not -- I'm thinking of my Sundries readers, percolating some new blogpost inside, even as I take a bite of the Sachertorte.

    On that note, here's a random Johnny Depp observation, as discussed on a few sites this week.

    Seems Mr. Depp stated he left LA shortly after the Rodney King riots for pastures Frencher. No sooner than a few thousand cars are torched for mere 20 days in his new homeland, than he wants out of La Belle France too.

    Tell me -- what are the chances, do you reckon, that Mr. Depp has ever hung around East LA or the depressed quartiers of Paris, for any amount of time?

    Let alone talked to any of the aggrieved participants of both revolts, even when they were not riotting?

    You know: actually gotten to know your fellow man in the country you've pitched your new tent in?

    Honestly. These modern-day celebs.

    You'd think by their precipitous reactions, it was THEY who were the ones who had a problem in those countries.

    Spoilt (if prodigiously talented) little brat.

    Saturday, November 19, 2005

    Embracing The Infidel

    Run, don't walk, to place an order for this book.

    Embracing the Infidel : Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West

    By Behzad Yaghmaian; Hardcover; Amazon.com price, $16.32.

    Obviously a most topical subject, since he focuses a chunk of the book on Muslim migrants to France.

    Amongst the interesting tidbits gleaned on his appearance on Fareed Zakaria's PBS programme -- that Muslim women have a MUCH easier time integrating into Western European societies in general, and France specifically, than do Muslim men.

    Why? Well, we'll have to read the book, but one reason is that, apparently, 25% of Muslim immigrant women marry "native" Frenchmen.

    -- In the UK, the rate of intermarriage is almost 0%. That floored me --

    The question is then begged: if women can integrate themselves better, why can't men?

    It's just not a question of unemployment, as the rates between the two are very similar.

    I shall try to get a copy forthwith when it's realeased in the US on 29 November, and post a review here.

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Virginia Woolf Friday

    Come traipse with me as a stream-of-consciousness mood overcomes Sundries.

  • - I swear, one day I'll have a blog called "A Fistful of Catnip". Why? Why NOT!


  • - As I milled about with the supermarket hordes yesterday, I saw a tall, well-dressed man rush headlong with a Publix attendant, both of them plunging into the Coke & Pepsi & Cookies aisle, as I call the more pedestrian-sounding "Aisle 11".

    The next moment, I saw both of them come out with arms FULL of Arco Panettone, @ $2.99 a pop. Each of them must've had about 20 panettones in their arms. Just as quickly, the darkly handsome man paid for all of them with a platinum credit card (I have damn good eyesight when I'm being nosey), and was gone, a-hugging his dried fruit cakes in the double paper-baggies.

    Good Lord, what was that about? I mean, I love Panettone as much as the next woman, especially if that woman is from Calabria, but why the sudden maddening hurry to buy 40-50 of them at one go? Life is full of these unsolved mysteries, don't you find?


  • - A Harvard prof has embarked on a crusade to thumb his nose at the system of "grade inflation", which unfortunately has resulted in the dumbing down of students' true efforts, since giving anything under a B- is a severe punishment to the GPA. Instead he will mete out to each of his students two grades: a public one which he will submit to the Harvard Registrar, and a private one, or the truthful reflection of that student's efforts in his classroom.

    And this AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY.

    Says the professor in question, Harvey C. Mansfield:

    When I was interviewed by The Boston Globe about my two-grade policy, one cause of grade inflation that I cited provoked a fiercely defensive reaction from the administrators at Harvard. I said that when grade inflation got started, in the late 60's and early 70's, white professors, imbibing the spirit of affirmative action, stopped giving low or average grades to black students and, to justify or conceal it, stopped giving those grades to white students as well.

    Harsh. I like it. (Via The Royal Economics Academy)


  • - Australia are in the World Cup, Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!

    Finally, after threatening in so many qualifiers, only to fall bitterly to Iran or Uruguay (whom they beat this go around), the long-LONG suffering Australian footie fan will have his moment in the sun in Germany, next year.

    If you are an American soccer fan, and you think the US as a nation pays little attention to the sport of football, man are you a sick, deluded ingrate. For a nation which not so long ago referred to the sport as "wog ball" (because dark-skinned foreigners like Italians and Greeks were the ones who nourished and sustained the sport in that rugby/Aussie rules/cricket mad country), this is indeed a day to savour.

    Unlike World Cup 1974, the only other time Australia have qualified for a Finals tourney, this time, they have a very decent team who could make life difficult for many another team which could underestimate their gritty play. Trust England to get Australia in their Group. They'll love to stick it to us Poms.

    Ah well. Never mind. Congrats Aussies!


  • - Two words: Marcello Mastroianni.



    *rrrrrrr* Mama mia! Che bello, hubba hubba, yowza! ...what?


  • - Coming as I do from two military families, and with my love of militaria in general, I cannot imagine anything more disheartening in a nation, than not taking the time to be grateful, and to honour those who sacrifice their lives to keep you safe.

    Such was my sadness when I read the following, in The Globe & Mail.

    "The Liberal government has indefinitely shelved a Defence Department proposal to buy badly needed new military aircraft, including transports and helicopters for the troops in Afghanistan, because it has been deemed too politically risky."

    Ugh.

    Politics over safety, especially as Canada is due to take up her share of peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan in 2007, is absolutely criminal.

    But it's not because of the usual corrosiveness of politics that it makes me depressed to hear this, but rather, the reader-reaction commentaries that follow the article below it.

    One, from St. John says:

    "My brother will be in Afghanistan putting himself in harm's way in 2007 as part of Canada's international peace keeping commitments. The cause is just. The danger he will face is very real. He should not have to endure further risk due to his own government's lack of willness to step up to the plate and invest in FUNDAMENTAL military infrastructure while at the same time patting itself on the back for maintaining Canada'a military contribution to international security.

    I know how I will vote in 2006."


    So would I, if I were Canadian.

    And this career military official in Ramstein, Germany writes plaintively:

    "As a member of the Canadian military for over 30 years, I have seen many governments come and go. None of them, Liberal or Conservative, have proved themselves "military friendly". The military budget is always the first department to get chopped when "fiscal restraint" is implemented. This is a fact. Canada does not have a population that relates the military. The average Canadian would rather have more effort put into subsidized day-car or the medical system rather than into the military budget. Military rust-out is not a new phenomena here, it is rather the norm when it comes to personnel and equipment.

    The military will always play second fiddle in Canadian politics. We take the crumbs the politicians throw to us and make do the best we can."

    I feel for this man. It must be awful to live in that type of cultural climate.

    Second only to the incursions against religion in the public sphere, this erosion of respect for the military that is symptomatic of the "Brussel's Syndrome", that which seeks to reduce, remove or ridicule the military, is one of my greatest concerns for the future of Western Europe and North America.

    -- One can already see the seeping of this disapproving tone, by certain elements who ostensibly are working to keep military recruiters out of public schools in the US, who must do so to man the 100% VOLUNTARY military; one of the few countries which doesn't have a mandatory period of duty for all able-bodied males when they reach the age of 18. And still, they're not satisfied. And they won't be, until there is no military at all --

    If we abdicate our military responsibilities in the name of "peacekeeping" tokenism, with a mere for-show military power structure, is it a small wonder those who would harm that which we share, our Western ideals of liberty, are emboldened by this lack of resolve when we need it most? (Via The Snapping Turtle)


  • - Sodoku. I don't want to know. I already have too much on my hobby plate, like erm, blogging.

    But every time I pass the "Sodoku" table in my local bookstore, daggumit, I feel out of it.


  • UPDATED MALARKEY: More stream-of-consciousness below, before I head out for the night.

  • Bonnie Prince Charlie, a recent blog subject of mine, celebrated his 58th birthday upon his return to ole Blighty, by suing the pants off of the Mail on Sunday, who somehow got a copy of his private journal.

    In the entry in question, when the Heir to the Throne was present at the handing-over of Hong Kong to China, he described the Chinese leadership present as "appalling old waxworks".

    He entitled the entry, "The Handover of Hong Kong — or the Great Chinese Takeaway".

    (Takeaway, is the British equivalent of the US term, take-out, and this un-PC reference raises my opinion of him, which was lying on the ground, a tiny notch)

    It's one thing to go around berating the public on your views, but even I realise they're entitlted to their private opinions, as long they keep them private. It's not like he were blogging about it, so good for him for suing them.


  • Has Family Guy become the new 3 Stooges? You know, that divide between male and female humour.

    As I revealed recently in another blog, I used to LOATHE Family Guy, and now I tolerate it. In fact, yes, I like it a lot -- especially Stewie. Well, I would.

    But here's one guy, who uses it as a litmus test for his potential girlfriends, if you please.

    Anyway, the nail was drilled into the coffin when we watched an episode of The Family Guy together-- a good litmus test for a girl's "keeper" status by the way-- and not only did she not think it was funny, but during the funniest, most absurd part, she went, "ooooookayyyyy..." Every muscle in my body tensed up at that moment and that was the last time I ever saw her.

    It's good to know I'm a potential "keeper". (Via Underneath The Turban)


  • A gel which grows human organs for potential transplants? It's not Asimov. It's reality from Utah and Missouri researchers.

    As for ethical implications, as long as it's not from tissue of foeti, dollink, I'm in.

    I'll be keeping an eye on this story, fear not.


  • So Castro has Parkinson's, eh. And I always thought it was just Viejo-chochoismo.
  • Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Buy Nothing Day

    Didn't know that this Friday, November 25, the United States' so-called Black Friday, has been declared by self-appointed corporate-busters, as

    International Buy Nothing Day



    Yes, it's true.

    The biggest US retail shopping day of the year, traditionally the day after Thanksgiving Day, will be ixnayed by the anti-globalisation, anti-corporate, anti-everything Capitalist crowd.

    I love it!

    It's difficult to make these umbrella-groups of disaffected peoples look even more humourless, curmudgeonly, and as full of the warm cheer of blankets dripping in baby poo, than they do already.

    But never fear.

    Just when you think they can't possibly get more absurdly Ebenezer Scrooge-like, shouting bah humbug to no one in particular, but to every corporation in general, they do.

    From the aptly titled blog, These Impossible Days:

    November 25th is International Buy Nothing Day, a day in which thousands of people all over the world will take a stand to show the corporate machine that we are not ruled by their glitz and glamour marketing schemes. Can you do it? Can you go an entire day without spending a single dollar?

    Groups from all over the world will be organizing events and demonstrations to mark this special day. You can find out more by visiting
    Adbusters' website and learn about events that will be going on all over the world.

    Because it's not just the United States they target, despite the pertinent reference to not "spending a single dollar", oh hated currency of the Evil Free-Market Empire.

    It's a world-wide protest day, despite very few turkeys being sacrificed the day before in Cambodia.



    Journée Sans Achat... Entire Day Without Buying -- the inelegant syntax aches. "Allons enfants de la patrie" it ain't.

    You know, if it were JUST one day, a day to pause and reflect about the status quo of modern life, I wouldn't be so sarky in my dismissal of this movement.

    Who amongst us has not been sick to death of the commercialisation of beloved holidays, which bring to mind so many cheerful tension-filled childhood memories en famille?

    I love giving and receiving presents, despite groaning inwardly whenever I see a very early Christmas tree display, as I did in my local public library on 1 November.

    There's something unseemly about bandwaggoning unto the holiday season, such as QVC or the Home Shopping Channel do, which probably upsets you too.

    And I'm well aware it is we women especially, who jump on that bandwagon with the desperation of marauding pioneers, more often than not.

    But if you think this day is an one-off protest against commercialisation, you've got another thing coming.

    It spills over to other days, like Christmas, and where the wheel of disdain'll stop, nobody knows!

    And therein lies the rub, as my old masseuse used to say.

    The type of person who is anti-globalisation, is almost invariably, anti-any public expression of religion, as well.

    They are no less nonplussed by the significance of Christmas, the birth of Our Lord, than by the free-for-all buying spree that results from it.

    O, irony of ironies.

    If people were MORE religious, than less, they wouldn't be so greedy, breaking limbs to get to that last Cabbage Patch doll for their assorted rugrats.

    On the contrary -- they would have to pay more attention to the true meaning of Christmas, its spirit of birth, renewal, and of wonder that the birth of Jesus Christ means.

    But these people don't want that either. If they want a holiday, it can't be Judeo-Christian. Indeed, it must be secular. And if it's secular, it becomes earthy.

    And there is no more earthy a desire, than greed.

    So screw yourselves, you impossibly humourless, impractical, and illogical little people. And stick your bloody Zenta posters up your collectivist ying-yangs.

    Subliminal message: Christianity bad; Zen Buddhism good

    I'm dropping a wad on my parents, my friends, and my dog this Christmas, and afterwards, we'll sing Hosannas to the Federal Reserve and drink mulled wine in honour of The Gap.

    Amen.

    Maronne! I'm James Bond

    You scored as James Bond, Agent 007. James Bond is MI6's best agent, a suave, sophisticated super spy with charm, cunning, and a license's to kill. He doesn't care about rules or regulations and somewhat amoral. He does care about saving humanity though, as well as the beautiful women who fill his world. Bond has expensive tastes, a wide knowledge of many subjects, and his usually armed with a clever gadget and an appropriate one-liner.

    James Bond, Agent 007

    83%

    Maximus

    71%

    Batman, the Dark Knight

    71%

    Indiana Jones

    63%

    Lara Croft

    58%

    Captain Jack Sparrow

    58%

    William Wallace

    58%

    El Zorro

    54%

    Neo, the "One"

    54%

    The Terminator

    46%

    The Amazing Spider-Man

    13%

    Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
    created with QuizFarm.com


    I was certain I was Laura Croft...that's what I get for saying I wouldn't rob the rich to give to the poor.


     




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