Friday, March 31, 2006

Facts? We ain't need no stinking facts!

Michael over there at Christian Conservative rejects (hey, here's a shock) the study showing prayer has no effect on the outcome of heart bypass surgery -- humans failed, though, he asserts, not God.

Fair enough, from our Christian Conservative's POV. In his worldview, obviously God can't fail. And if God can't fail, that only leaves us to fail. Right-o.

Here's the issue, then. Stop trying to shoe-horn religion into science. Admit it isn't rational. Admit it's not something that can be studied, or proven, or supported rationally -- which, Michael might notice, he has just done, in this post. He has said, right there in that post, that there is no way to test God.

(I agree with Michael, BTW. God, if he exists, being a supernatural critter, is outside the spectrum of scientific testing: that is, God, if he exists, obviously is not something that would obey natural law. He's not like the law of physics, for instance. We can't form theories about his behavior and then test them, because God doesn't have to follow rules. Again, if God exists. No way to prove that, is there? By Michael's own admission.)

Given that we have no way to prove God's existence, we must -- if we are inclined that way -- take it on faith.

Fine. Do that if you like. Teach that to your young if you like. Live your life that way if you like. This is America, and that's one of our rules. Everyone gets to have their own religious beliefs. Or, you know, not.

What we don't get to do, as American citizens, is attempt to impose those belief systems on others -- or on the children of others -- under the guise of pretending it is "science." I'm talking Intelligent design and Creationism and that sort of insidious attempt to insert religion into the public school system.

None of that can be proven. None of it can be tested. None of it is science. You can't form theories about it and test those theories, because all of those depend on there being a supernatural critter of some sort -- call him God, call him Factor X, call her Mama Creator, I do not care, but she is outside the laws of science, which are what we in the enlightenment universe use to do science with: empirical evidence. Not revealed evidence. Not "because the Bible tells me so," or "Jesus says it," or "Paul said it," or "I prayed about it and," or even "Buddha teaches us." None of that.

Because we say, "I think if I do this/look at this/try this/find this and compare them, I will find that X is so."

Then I go and do/look/try/find, and determine if X is, in fact, so. (I simplify radically. I leave out observer error. I leave out control groups and peer review and seventy other things. But that's the gist of it.)

That's science.

Saying, "Of course this is how the world works. God says it's how the world works. Go look at this spot in the Bible. It says that's how the world works." That's revealed knowledge. (Also it's your interpretation of a translation of a translation of that revealed knowledge, which, I might add, many believe was not revealed at all, but constructed for political reasons by some canny guys who were a bit desperate when their political situation was getting dicy, but we'll let that pass for now.)

Keep one in your church and home and keep it your own business.

Keep the other in the public sphere.

That's how this country was meant to be constructed. Anything else? You're flirting with disaster. And not, son, just for us atheists and Jews and Wiccans and other wicked folk, either.

Look up the concept of Fortune's Wheel sometime, why don't you? Just for giggles.

The Lord Said to Noah

Okay, so this Dutch guy is building an ark, after dreaming that Holland would flood. He plans to stock it with animals and charge five bucks a pop for folks to visit him -- it's a mini-Ark, mind you, with a petting zoo aboard. Next year he'll build the real ark, the one he stocks with all the animals (two of each, I guess) and sails off across the seven seas with.

I'd file this under ain't that a hoot, except for this one line:

Noah took 100 years to build his ark, but Huibers will finish his smaller version in 12 months.

That's off of the ABC news site.

(a) Printed as though Noah and his ark were fact -- actually ever existed.

(b) Someone go and open Genesis and show me, please, anywhere that it shows in that text -- anywhere! -- a timeline for how long it took Noah to build this mythical ark.

Oh, yes, our leftist media.

Cut me a frakking break.

"I'm not that!"

Another brilliant post by The White Bear, who is subbing for Dr. B over at Bitch Ph.D.

Whether you grew up an oppressed female or a free-range type like myself, you probably weren't actively a feminist in any real sense for most of your young adulthood. You heard about feminists and their arguments, and maybe they sounded "shrill" or "churlish" or "bitchy" to your patriarchally-attuned ears. You either didn't care about the issues they raised or didn't experience them as problems in your own life, so you had a hard time thinking of feminism as either valid or necessary. Then you read something or heard about someone, a feminist, and you thought about her experience and her struggle, you compared her to yourself, and suddenly it all fell into place. That's what the patriarchy is, you thought. The bastards!

I also like this bit, later on -- Bear is explaining about the feminist that made her a feminist -- Frances Williard: "[Williard argues that ] men only know how to read with their own best interests at heart. A woman is raised to think of everyone's needs at once -- her parents', her partner's, her children's, and her own -- so women read more generously, with everyone's best interests at heart. Until men learn to think of others' lives with the same immediacy with which they think of their own, they must relinquish exegesis to the female sex. This strikes us, of course, as sexist in its own way. Who is Willard to say what a "woman" is or is not? I think what she is arguing is that only those who have been oppressed can see the system for what it truly is."

This post by The White Bear resonates with me for several reasons -- one being that the Kid and I are doing a kind of feminist tussle at the moment.

She's reading this book, The Six Wives of Henry the VIII, by David Starkey, and keeps coming to me with fun facts about various wives and historical questions and demands for explanations(Henry VIII is outside my period, I am not a history major, I know that Elizabeth resulted from this union but that's about all I know, anyway, shouldn't she be reading, I don't know, Little House on the Fucking Prairie? Where was I?)

She wants to know why Anne Boylen (I'm probably not spelling that right) would have married Henry and why she would have had "such a hot temper" after she married him.

I don't, in fact, have a clue. See above disclaimer.

But I point out that Anne's time is pre-feminism and that Anne might not have had much of a choice. In those days, I tell her, before feminists, I tell her, women had to marry who they were told to marry. It wasn't up to a woman who she married.

I don't want to get married, she says, because she's seven.

Well, I say, if it wasn't for feminists, it wouldn't be your choice. Aren't you glad feminists changed the world?

She gives me a mutinous look and takes her big fat history book into the next room.

Then, about a week later, we're channel surfing, waiting for Bones to start -- she loves that Dr. Brennan -- and I stop for a few minutes of Yentl. It's the violent bit where Yentl is getting knocked around by Avigdor after she reveals to him that she's a woman. The Kid hates violence of any sort. She howls and demands to know what's up, why he's doing that. I explain what's up, that Yentl had disguised herself as a man, because in that place and in that culture women couldn't study, and she wanted to study so much, and that he's angry because he has just found that out.

"Change that channel! Change it!" the kid wails. "I don't want to see that!"

I change to Animal Planet. "But you ought to see it," I said.


"Well, because," I say. "That's what things were like. That's how the world was."

"I don't want to know! I'm glad feminism happened! I don't want to know how things were!"

"Yes, but," I hesistated. "First, if you don't know how things were, then you might think feminism isn't important. That you don't have to be a feminist. Second, you know, things still are like that, in some places."

I am thinking of blogs like this, specifically:

and folk that think like Mr. Akin, but of course we can add CWA and Scott County, AR, and places like the town in Indiana where my relatives come from, and well, you all have your own list, don't you?

I too was not a feminist always.

In fact well into my twenties I insisted I was not that.

I despised feminism as a youngster. Those feminists. Always insisting on making trouble. Couldn't they just sit down and stop blaming men for all their troubles? Men were good! Everyone knew that! (All the men I read knew that anyway. And who else was there?)

When I was a kid, the books I read -- almost all of them -- and somehow I never really seemed to hear the others -- said that men were what mattered. And women were whiny, noisy, silly, shrill, trouble. And if I did not want to be that -- whiny, noisy, silly, shrill, trouble -- well. I had better not -- be.

Or not be a woman.

When I was fifteen or sixteen I read Joanna Russ' A Female Man.

It's a record of exactly what I'm talking about here. But I was way too young to hear it yet. Way too scared too.

I spent my childhood and adolescence doing what I could to not-be those things that woman were (so the men told me): I worked at not whining, at not being noisy, at not being silly, at not being any trouble, to anyone.

(I knew another sort of woman existed -- the "mother" sort, the sort that wasn't trouble, that was just invisible until you needed her to provide cookies or comfort -- but like the Kid, I didn't want to be that woman either. I wanted to be in the plot! I wanted to be part of the story!)

The trouble -- as you can clearly see -- with not-being whiny, not-being silly, not-being X -- is that whole not-being bit.

About 29 or so I noticed I was spending most of my energy not-being. I was sitting in the backs of classrooms. I was drifting through the aisles of libraries. I was spending a lot of time watching other people have lives.

I had met a feminist about two years before. She had been pointing out to me a few problems with my definition of feminism. She and the other feminists in the graduate school I was then attending were pointing out to me and the other mutinous non-feminists in the program how, well, odd it was that only the men in the program ever seemed to win any of the awards that were being handed out to graduate students (almost all the professors in the program were male, and played poker and went drinking with the (male) graduate students -- but I was sure, at the time, that this had nothing to do with it -- and anyway, I could have gone down to Roger's Rec anytime I wanted, with the professors, couldn't I? I could have joined the poker game any time I wanted, right? It was a free country, wasn't it?).

I re-read The Female Man. I brooded. I listened to the feminists around me. A professor who was teaching me Chaucer called me a harpy one day in class when I asked him a rough question. I stared at him with my fangs (just barely) covered.

I went out of class that day and stood looking through the window of the breezeway at the Boston Mountains and tried to think what he would have said to a male student who had asked him a question he didn't know the answer to. I told myself he was joking. Which he was. But he wasn't, also.

I looked at the storm clouds gathering over the Boston Mountains. Thirty years ago, I thought, I wouldn't be here. In my boots. In my jeans. With my Israeli Paratrooper bookbag.

But if I don't speak up, am I actually here?

So that's how I became a feminist.

I ain't shut up since, either.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


While we're saying Amen,

Amen to Diana at Dees too.

She's cooking with gas lately.


I'm saying Amen to the Rude Pundit again.

Are atheists allowed to say amen?

Well, fuck it. Amen.

Michelle Malkin has been even more rabid, monkeyfuck insane than usual over the immigration bill protests. Bless her comically exaggerated facial features, she was all awake at 1:15 this morning, tapping her fingers bloody to reveal to all of us the outrages of the protests, including - holy fuck - the placement of a United States flag upside down under a Mexican flag. This was done by high school students, those models of subtlety, in California. Evacuates Malkin, "You will not see this heart-stopping photo on the front page of the NY Times or on the lead story of the major news networks." That's right - upside down American flag second on a pole - heart-stopping. Japanese Americans put into concentration camps for being Japanese - a-ok. Such is the morality of Malkin, for whom symbols are more important than people.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The South

A White Bear has a really good riff on what the South/being Southern feels like to those of us who grew up there and aren't that now and still are, sort of:

Teaching Post-Spring Break

Here's why I don't like Spring Semester: Spring Break.

Also Conferences.

It may not work this way everywhere in the world, but at the universities I have taught at, we go to conferences in the Spring, and we have Spring Break. What this means is that just when we have gotten our classes off the ground, and everything is cooking, we are slammed with midterms, and BAM, after midterm, a week off (don't mistake me, I loved that week off, I wrote nine hours a day, it was bliss), and just after that -- for me, anyway, and several of us here -- conferences.

I'm going to the CEA. Other professors, other conferences. We can leave students things to do, or find guest speakers, but it's not the same, it disrupts the semester, and by the time I get back, it's almost May. The semester's winding down. We're moving in on Finals, and the students already have their heads out the door.


All by way of saying I'm in a snarly mood these days.

I gave my freshmen Natalie Angier's essay on why she is raising her daughter as an atheist ("Atheism and Children," published by the Center For Inquiry sometime last year I think -- this link has the whole thing pasted in: and ai were they furious. Mainly they were furious that she was "doing that" to her helpless eight year old.

It's a class in argument -- we're working on Rogerian argument right now, which was why I gave them this essay, not just to piss them off. So I asked them why they thought Angier was an atheist.

"Probably raised that way," one said.

"Um, well," I said. "Maybe. But not likely. Any other ideas."

They're sulled up. They want me to tell them she's evil for raising her kid like this. Which I'm not going to do, they can see that. So they aren't saying a thing.

"She rebelled," said one of the cooperative middle-aged women. "Grew up and rebelled against her teaching."

"All right," I said. "Or?"

Those were the only answers they could think of, though.

I went over the rules for Rogerian argument again. How if they had to learn to think like the opposition. About common ground. How they can't just dismiss Angier, say she's evil, they have to pretend they believe, even if they don't believe this, that she's as well-intentioned and as intelligent as they are. Blah blah blah.

Today we're doing Curtis White's essay, the one from the current Harper's, "The Spirit of Disobedience," which, hah, if you haven't read that one, I can't wait. I'm not sure I'm persuaded by White, but I do know it's going to annoy them even more than Angier.

White says -- among other things -- that the true religion of America is neither Christianity nor Enlightenment values, but Capitalism; he says that we should, like Thoreau back there during slavery and the Mexican war, refuse to support a government that is doing evil things in our name; and he says that we should reject the culture of Capitalism.

His point: "If the work we do produces mostly bad, ugly, and destructive things, those things in turn will tend to recreate us in their image."

And this I find hard to disagree with.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Living in the Future

The kid, reading: "This sentence has one of those things in it."

Me, also reading, looking up: "Yeah? Let me see." (I investigate her sentence.) "Ah. No. That's called a semi-colon."

The kid: "Oh, right, that's what they're called. I remember."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

So we're wandering around....

So we're wandering around Linens'n'Things, the Kid & I, looking for a bin to keep sugar in.

"I need a bin," I told her. "A nice bin."

"A bim?" she says. "Why would you keep sugar in a bim?"

"I said bin."

"A tin? These are glass."

"A bin."

"In what?"

I give her a narrow look. She looks innocently back.

"Are you messing with me?" I demand.

"How could I dress you?" she replies, and begins giggling wildly.

"Oh, very funny," I say. "Very, very funny. " I turn a corner, heading down another aisle. "Keep up, you don't want to get lost in here."

"I'm not from Boston!" she shouts after me.

This is what you get when you torment them from an early age.

Oh, Wonderful

Here, here, here is what Bushco has done to our country:

Hey, who thinks torture is never justified?

Catholics 26%
White Protestant 31%
White evangelical 31%
Secular 41%
Total 32%


Unless -- and this will depress me even more -- unless I can't blame Bush for this one, and Americans even before that little fucker believed in torturing our prisoners.

(You might find it puzzling that more Christians than Secular-humanists believe it's okay to torture folks. That one isn't a puzzler to me. Christians as a whole are (a) into violence porn -- look at that movie they went so hot over last year, that Passion and (b) believe in violence as solution -- look at how many of them think beating their kids is the right response to any sort of misbehavior and (c) espouse a religion that uses, after all, everlasting torture as one of its main tenets. Believe in their god or face ever-lasting torture? Of course (some) Christians think torture is cool. They're all about the torture. Go to half the Baptist churches in the South and have a listen, some Sunday. It's all they talk about.)

Oh, okay then...

Digby takes advantage of the Ben Domenech fuss to clarify Winger Ethics for us.

It's enlightening.

Domenech believes in epistemic relativism (as well as moral relativism.) He thinks that truth is contingent upon who is delivering it. And he's right as far as the right is concerned. They have proved that they will believe anything if it emanates from the tribe. President Bush believes this. For instance, inspectors and Iraq. You can choose to believe him or you can choose to believe what you saw and heard and remember in acute detail, which was that inspectors were in Iraq before the invasion and found nothing at which point Bush pulled them out and invaded --- an act he now says was precipitated by Saddam's refusal to accept inspections. Anyone who sees this differently is a partisan leftist. As Rob Corddry sagely observed, "the fact's are biased."

There's more, including quotations from Plagiarist Ben.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Jeebus Says So

And while we're visiting the Chronicle --

Here's an article about a place called Pensacola Christian College.

Not accredited. Tuition plus room and board? Six thousand a year. Students aren't allowed to cruise, or read any book not in the library, or ride elevators with members of the opposite sex -- or, and this is my favorite, hold eye contact with someone of the opposite sex for too long. (That's called "optical intercourse." I'm like, well, all right then.) (Making eye contract with someone of the same sex is, apparently, just fine. Gay eye sex is cool. Heh.) Woman students are not allowed to hold jobs off campus, or to leave campus alone. Ever. (Or with make students, obviously.)

Here's more:

Lisa Morris was walking to class with her boyfriend last October when something happened. At first Ms. Morris, a sophomore music major, is reluctant to divulge the details. Eventually, however, the truth comes out: He patted her behind.

Someone who witnessed the incident reported Ms. Morris and her boyfriend. At Pensacola any physical contact between members of the opposite sex is forbidden. (Members of the same sex may touch, although the college condemns homosexuality.) The forbidden contact includes shaking hands and definitely includes patting behinds. Both students were expelled.

Of Pensacola's many rules, those dealing with male-female relationships are the most talked about. There are restrictions on when and where men and women may speak to each other. Some elevators and stairwells may be used only by women; others may be used only by men. Socializing on particular benches is forbidden. If a man and a woman are walking to class, they may chat; if they stop en route, though, they may be in trouble. Generally men and women caught interacting in any "unchaperoned area" — which is most of the campus — could be subject to severe penalties.

Those rules extend beyond the campus. A man and a woman cannot go to an off-campus restaurant together without a chaperon (usually a faculty member). Even running into members of the opposite sex off campus can lead to punishment. One student told of how a group of men and a group of women from the college happened to meet at a McDonald's last spring. Both groups were returning from the beach (they had gone to separate beaches; men and women are not allowed to be at the beach together). The administration found out, and all 15 students were expelled.

There are three levels of official punishment at Pensacola (four, if you count expulsion). Students can be "socialed," "campused," or "shadowed." Students who are socialed are not allowed to talk to members of the opposite sex for two weeks. Those who are campused may not leave the college grounds for two weeks or speak to other campused students.

There are plenty of other ways to run afoul of the rules. Last spring Timothy Dow was caught playing the video game Halo 2. Such games are banned by the college. Movies are also forbidden, including those rated G. Music is restricted to classical or approved Christian ("contemporary Christian" artists are deemed too worldly). Students are allowed to watch television news at 6 o'clock, but that's it. The TVs are controlled by college employees, who flip a switch to black out the commercials, lest students see anything inappropriate.

In the library, books and magazines are censored. One student says she saw a pair of black-marker boxer shorts on a photograph of Michelangelo's David. Any books that students wish to read that are not in the library must first be approved by administrators. Those containing references to "magic," for instance, are normally rejected. The rule book specifically prohibits "fleshly magazines and books."

Pensacola Christian College was founded by Bob Horton and his wife Rebekah, "graduates of Bob Jones University. While it appears that [Horton] copied his alma mater's demerit system and some of its rules, there is a longstanding rift between the two institutions. Several years ago, Pensacola publicly criticized Bob Jones University for using translations of the Bible other than the King James Version. (Pensacola's policy is that the King James is the only divinely inspired English translation.)

(My emphasis.)

Students who go to this fine institution discover, once they've been kicked out for looking too deeply into someone's eyes, or even after they have graduated, that their coursework and their degrees are, often, useless:

[Harding] applied to the University of Florida and was told that none of his credits would transfer. "I had to start over," he says. So, after three years at Pensacola, he enrolled as a freshman at nearby Santa Fe Community College and later transferred to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, from which he eventually graduated.

He says he called Pensacola for help, and offi-cials there provided none: "There's no label that says, 'We're not accredited.' How many 18-year-olds know enough to ask that?"

When he was a student, Mr. Harding traveled with a singing group that promoted Pensacola. When prospective students asked about accreditation, Mr. Harding says the singers were instructed to tell them that Harvard and Yale are not accredited, either, and so accreditation doesn't matter. (Harvard and Yale, for the record, are accredited.)

Lack of accreditation has been a problem for Amy Brown, too. She graduated from Pensacola in 2003 with a degree in early-childhood education. But because the college is not accredited, she cannot teach in public schools, she says. She had no idea what accreditation was before enrolling at Pensacola.

"I never tried to transfer," she writes in an e-mail message, "because I had friends that did and ended up with all of their credits as electives," meaning that they had to retake required courses.

You can argue this is just rank discrimination against religious institutions, we biased liberals elites refusing accreditation to PCC -- except accreditation isn't something that just gets handed out. It's earned, by proving that an institutions does certain things, such as teach what it says it teaches, produce what it says it produces (for instance, here at UAFS, nurses who can pass exams, accountants who can do accounting): whatever the standards are for your region. PCC knows it can't pass those standards (probably because one of them is that its science department actually has to teach science) and so it hasn't even applied.

Universities aren't taking any of its courses, though. What's that tell you? Not even the Freshmen courses. Not even Comp I! Not even Sociology! Not even Golf!

I'll tell you what it tells me. Whatever they're teaching at that school, it's not university level work.

Words are our business

This essay from the Chronicle of Higher Education reminds me why I love the Academy --

It's by a scientist who studies ants. (Unlike C. S. Lewis, she's not appalled or terrified by their collective or female-dominated behavior. Anyway, she doesn't seem to be.) She's been studying ants, and she's received some bad comments from people she's talked to about some of the language she and other scientists use when they study these ants.

I have been repeatedly surprised by reactions to my use of the term "slavemaking" to define behavior and of "slave" to define the status of the captured ants in their captors' nests. On several occasions, individuals objected (usually after public talks, interviews with reporters, and scientific presentations, and usually anonymously) to the slave metaphor....

I can hear the Right-Wing Reactionaries -- steam shoots out of their ears, how dare we object to this, how silly, how ridiculous, it's JUST LANGUAGE, besides, that's what the ants are doing, how dare we not want to describe EXACTLY what the ants are doing, in the name of PC bull-CRAP,

AND so on.

But not our scientist, Joan Herbers, by the way.

Dr. Herbers ponders the problem. She thinks it over. She, like the academics I love so much, considers the nuances of the problem and consults sources. (God, I love the Academy. What do we do when we want answers? Research! Ha!)

I did not invent this jargon, but I have certainly used it without thinking. Dulosis is the technical term, derived from the Greek doulos, or slave, and these terms have been in use to describe entomological phenomena for some 200 years (check out The Oxford English Dictionary). Given its long history of usage, and by no less august a figure than Charles Darwin himself, what is the problem?

I posed that question to a colleague who specializes in rhetorical studies of (human) slave narratives from the 18th and 19th centuries. She responded crisply: "We should be able to study ants without being reminded of race, for crying out loud," and then introduced me to Toni Morrison's essay collection Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Morrison suggests that an analysis of American literature is incomplete unless it confronts the essential truth that our writers have been immersed in a racialized society.

Her discussion of how inattention to racial constructs has hampered literary criticism led me to consider the problem of how our use of loaded jargon might affect the scientific enterprise itself.

I, too, became uneasy with the slavery metaphor, and concluded that it might even be affecting my discipline's struggle to recruit scientists of color. That we have failed to attract young blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans to science careers is indisputable, and has varying causes. Now I must confront the uncomfortable truth that our very jargon may be part of the problem....

Does Dr. Herbers stop here? She does not. (Picture me bouncing in joy at this point.) No, if she stopped here, it would be interesting, but a failure.

That is, whether or not "slaveholding" as a word is offensive and destructive may, in fact, be irrelevant -- if it is accurate. If it, that is, describes the universe as the universe actually exists.

But that's a big if, isn't it?

Dr. Herbers returns to the issue. She considers whether, in fact, ants, when they take other ants and force them into labor, are doing what humans do when humans make other humans into slaves: whether there might not, that is, be some better word for what ants are doing: some word that both would not harm our society and would more accurately describe what's happening in the ant world:

[I]n fact [these terms] are not particularly accurate. Unlike human slaves, captive worker ants cannot breed, nor are they sold to other captors. Instead, the predatory species must repeatedly raid colonies to replenish its work force; indeed, voracious colonies can overexploit their captives and engender their own demise when there is no one left to do the work.

I propose, then, that we adopt a pirate metaphor to replace the slavery jargon. Human pirates engage in behavior much like the ants I study: They attack ships to steal cargo, usually inflicting considerable mortality among the defending crew. We can therefore write about pirate ants, captive ants, raiding parties, and booty. Since we scientists love jargon, I further propose that we call this "leistic" behavior, from the Greek leistos for "pirate."

As Herbers concludes:

Scientists like to think their work is unhampered by human conventions, an illusion fostered by their ignorance of the work of philosophers, historians, linguists, and rhetoricians who study the scientific enterprise. I now understand that those delusions of objectivity can hamper our ability to further the progress to which we are passionately devoted. Scientists use language, and so must take responsibility for its rhetorical impact.

I'm teaching History of the English Language here in Arkansas -- HEL class, as my students cheerily call it -- and every semester along about week 14 we get to the same point, the Sexist Language Rant.

Of course, if I've done my job right, this rant goes down without a wince, since I've already given them the Socialist Rant and the Classicist Rant and the How Can You Possibly Believe That Good Grammar is Moral Rant? about fifty times already by this point -- but anyway. Almost always I'll have a few fellas and maybe one Good Woman who want to argue with me that it doesn't make any differencee whether we say "Every scientist deserves his Ph. D." and that everyone knows that "mankind" includes girls too and why must feminists insist on grubbing up the language?

When it was such a nice language, you know, before we got our sticky fingers on it?

It's what we all instinctively fear, you know -- females getting their hands on our tidy language.


From Bill Moyers' essay: A Time For Heresy

I'm quoting a big chunk of this, but there's even more -- follow the link:

Said James Dunn: "The Supreme Court can't ban prayer in school. Real prayer is always free."

When the fundamentalists and their obliging politicians claimed that God had been expelled from the classroom, Dunn answered: "The god whom I worship and serve has a perfect attendance record and has never been tardy."

I think of people like Dunn as primal Baptists. Traces of their mindset go all the way back to the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in the book of Genesis. I relish the interpretation of this ancient story of Davidson Loehr, a former carpenter, combat photographer, and scholar who is now a minister in Austin, Texas. He reminds us that technically Jacob's adversary was not an angel; it was the local deity who stood guard at the boundary beyond which Jacob was not supposed to venture. Local gods were everywhere in those days, protecting parochial fiefdoms. This one told Jacob he couldn't leave, to turn around and go back.

But Jacob wouldn't turn back; he had miles to go and promises to keep. He was called to discover his destiny, move out to the great world awaiting him. If he turned back he would spend the rest of his life in a place too narrow, with a god too small. So Jacob had to go to the mat with this presumptuous authority figure and they wrestled all night. It must have been a terrible struggle because when morning came and Jacob had pinned the god for the last time, his leg was on fire with pain. He crossed the river and on the other side he got a new name - now he would be known as Israel - but for the rest of his life Jacob walked with a limp.

Pain comes with freedom - it's just the deal. The little gods don't want you to grow, learn, think for yourself. But you have to test their truth claims against your own life's experience - against your own faith and reason. To cross over to freedom you have to show the bogus gods at the border that you have a mind of your own.

It's fascinating what is revealed to you. Joseph Campbell told me a story (also recently recounted by Davidson Loehr) about the Australian tribe that used the bullroarer to keep people in awe of the gods. The bullroarer is a long flat board with notches, or slits, at one end, and a rope at the other. When you swing it around your head, the action produces a musical humming. The sound struck the primitive tribes as other-worldly, causing them to tremble in fear that the gods were angry. So the elders would go into the forest and come back with word of what it would take to placate the gods. And the people would oblige.

Now when a young boy in the tribe was ready to become a man, a ritual took place. Wearing masks, the elders would kidnap him and take him into the woods, tie him down, and with a flint knife slice the underside of his penis. It was painful, but the medicine man said this is how you became a man.It meant shedding one's innocence.

At the end of the ritual one of the masked men dipped the bullroarer in the boy's blood and thrust it in his face, simultaneously removing his mask so the boy could see it's not a god at all - it's just one of the old guys. And the medicine man would whisper, "We make the noises."

Ah, yes - it's not the gods after all. It's just the old guys - Uncle George, Uncle Dick, Uncle Don. The "noise" in the woods is the work of the old guys playing gods, wanting you to live in fear and trembling so that you will look to them to protect you against the wrath to come.

It takes courage to put their truth-claims to the test of reality, to call their bluff.We need such courage today. This is a time for heresy. American democracy is threatened by perversions of money, power, and religion. Money has bought our elections right out from under us. Power has turned government "of, by, and for the people" into the patron of privilege. And Christianity and Islam have been hijacked by fundamentalists who have made religion the language of power, the excuse for violence, and the alibi for empire. We must answer the principalities and powers that would force on America a stifling conformity. Either we make the heretical choices that will inspire us to renew our commitment to America's deepest values and ideals, or the day will come when we will no longer recognize the country we love.

Here's what I mean.Two years ago, the American Political Science Association produced a study entitled Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality. The report said people with wealth - privileged Americans - are "roaring with a clarity and consistency that public officials readily hear and routinely follow" while citizens "with lower or moderate incomes are speaking with a whisper."

The study concluded that "progress toward realizing American ideals of democracy may have stalled, and even, in some places, reversed."The following year - 2005 - the editors of The Economist, one of the world's most pro-capitalist publications, produced their own sobering analysis of what is happening in America. They found great and growing income disparities.

Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives was 30 times the pay of the average worker; today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker.They found an education system "increasingly stratified by social class" in which poor children "attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries."

They found our celebrated universities increasingly "reinforcing rather that reducing" these educational inequalities.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fort of Affliction

Passover approaches, the season when, here in the Fort, we invite our non-Jewish friends to our Seder and make them eat the bread of affliction with us. It's always big fun, and this year we've got both Miles and Mick -- Mick has just turned one and it turns out he loves Matzoh -- to afflict.

Anyway, in order to have our big fun at Passover, with the Other Liberal Professor's family, and Zelda's family, and maybe I can talk Mouse and Dragonfly in coming over to be afflicted too this year, we have to find some bread of affliction first.

This is a problem in the Fort. The Fort sells no KFP supplies. We can order some online, but yikes does that get pricey.

We're going to San Antonio on the 5th of April, just before we get Afflicted. Anyone know if San Antonio has a sizeable Jewish community? Will we be able to get Passover supplies there?

I mean, I know it's in Texas, but still...

More Lewis

I have seldom taught a writer that I dislike.

I really, really don't like this C. S. Lewis.

How I let myself get sucked into teaching him -- well. One of my teaching goals is I want to be more open, more receptive to my conservative students. You know. Give them a voice in the classroom.

It seems like a good goal. Doesn't it?

Does't it?


Anyway, one of my conservative Christian students, one I like, a smart one, whose mind I sincerely admire, asked me whether we could read this book by Lewis, Till We Have Faces, in the myth class.

It's a work that's considered (by lots of folk) to be literature. It uses mythology. As I recalled, having not read it in over 20 years, it wasn't badly written. (It isn't, by the way, badly written. He's not a bad writer, Lewis.) And this student had, in fact, quite staunchily, read all the feminist and queer and Asian and Jewish literature I had presented him with in my diverse cultures class. Turn about, right? So I said, cheerily, oh, yes. Why don't we?

Lewis is kicking my ass.

I despise this man.

It's not because he's a Christian. I swear it isn't. I swear, I swear, I swear.

I read Milton and I love Milton. (I disagree with him at every turn, but hey, he's brilliant and he's worth the battle.)

I read Chaucer, a Christian, and I love Chaucer. Also a Christian, who makes no bones about it.

I even read that Jesus fellow. What a Christian. I like him too.

But this fucking Lewis. He's -- he's -- he's shallow. He's a second-rate thinker.

And he does not pay attention. He does not give the actual world his attention.

For a writer, there can, in my opinion, be no worse crime.

In my opinion, by the way, he is doing this because if he looked at the world, it would contradict his worldview -- he doesn't want to see things that would make him doubt what he already "knows" to be true.

And that -- in my worldview -- is the true evil.

Reading him, frankly, makes me filthy. Even when he says things I like, or find interesting, which he from time to time does, he's not wholly useless, I feel like I'm talking to someone slightly creepy.

Here, btw, is my favorite quotation so far: It's from Surprised by Joy, his autobiography about his early years, and is his explaining his dread of insects: "You may add that in the hive and the anthill we see fully realized the two things that some of us most dread for our own species -- the dominance of the female and the dominance of the collective" (7).

I love that us.

Also, note that it's bees and ants he's terrified of. Bees and ants! What kind of kid hates bees and ants?

Fucking freak.

The Rude One Speaks

The Rude One is right again.

Dan Savage is right - it ain't just about icky queer fucking. It's all the icky fuckin', man. It's any sense that joy can be achieved on one's knees without prayer. It's the fear that the release of cock and cunt will lead to the release of the mind, for, indeed, if one can achieve bliss through the body, what other bliss might be possible? What other release?

I'm studying this C. S. Lewis -- and frankly, this C. S. Lewis is giving me such heebies that I would not wish his ass on anyone -- and this is utterly the mindset of a certain sort of human that Lewis might be the archetype for: the person who distrusts human love, all human love, maybe even all human feeling. So, therefore, all human feeling, for this sort of person, human passion, human emotion, human feeling must be contained, trapped, killed, as much as possible -- by law, by ceremony, by marriage, by calling it evil, by saying the devil owns it, by whatever means.

Listen to this -- also from the Rude Pundit's post. It's from a Mississippi Law: "A person commits the offense of distributing unlawful sexual devices when he knowingly sells, advertises, publishes or exhibits to any person any three-dimensional device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs, or offers to do so, or possesses such devices with the intent to do so."

"Unlawful sexual devices"? UNLAWFUL SEXUAL DEVICES?

Why, why, why would these twisted loons want to make sexual devices unlawful? What sort of mind do you have to have to think that things that help folks enjoy sex should be unlawful?

I am dizzy with amazement that these people exist.

Wolf Child

So the kid wore her wolf shirt to bed last night.

She wakes up this morning and goes into her wolf crouch, peering through her tangle of hair very fiercely -- did I mention she's been reading Jack London?

"I think I'm part wolf," she mentions.

"Well," I say, "you are, in fact."

She gives me a dubious look. I have to tell you up front I am not always strictly honest with my child. She has learned, that is, to doubt my word.

"What I mean," I explain hastily, "is humans and wolves descend from a common anscestor. So in that sense we are all part wolf."

"Oh." She ponders. "Do you think I'm one-third wolf? One-fifth?"

"I don't know the exact percentage," I admit. "Words are my business, not genes."

She thinks a bit longer, and emits a short howl. "I think I am more wolf than most people."

"I think you might be," I agree. "So long as you don't start tearing field mice to shreds with your fangs, I'm cool with it."

She giggles. "I'll just tear bean burritos to shreds," she assures me, and leaps around the bed, a wolf pouncing on burritos with all her fierce might.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why Prager is Silly

Dennis Prager is at it again.

He's written another sterling column full of uncited claims -- conservative Americans, he claims, give more to charity andvolunteer more of their time than those Evil Liberal Americans do -- and we should believe that this is true because -- because -- well, because Prager says it's true, obviously. He ain't need no stinking sources.

Anyway, that's not his main point. His main point, his thesis, is that Socialism Makes People Worse. Which he knows because (a) some kids in France protested something. Which protesting things is bad. And (b) Liberals are socialists and Liberals are Evil. I think that's his (b) point. It's sort of hard to tell, as usual, with Prager.

Here's my issue. I don't actually think protesting things is among the worst thing humans can do. So I'm not all that convinced that Socialism Makes Things Worse.

I'm thinking that, oh, invading and bombing the living shit out of a country that hadn't actually done anything to you -- for instance -- might be a tad worse. And that columnists who live in glass houses ought to watch where they fling their farking stones.

I'm only saying.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Reading C.S. Lewis

I'm reading Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis, for my mythology class.

And really, really trying to give the man some room. Because I know I've got, how should I put this, issues with that whole Christian worldview thing.

But man is this boy fracked up.

Did he never actually speak to an adult woman?

I know he was a professor at Oxford, and I know he hung out mostly with men; but it was after women students were admitted. And he did marry. So he must have known woman. At least one woman.

He apparently actually believes that being ugly -- or rather, being not pretty, because there's no hint that our main character is like a mutant or whatever -- destroys a woman so utterly that her life is ruined by it. Wholly warped by it. She's unable to recover from such a fate.

Were there no women in his life?

Obviously there must have been. But Mr. Lewis, just as obviously, either (a) paid them no mind [because woman don't matter -- only men matter?] or (b) was not interested in reality, only in what constructs he could spin.

Either way, I'm unhappy with his fictional universe.

I'm goingto read it again, since I'm teaching it, in case I have missed something -- and I might have missed something, of course. Maybe he's got some point that's gone right past me.

I've got my doubts, though. I'm thinking I was right the first time I read Lewis, back when I was twenty-six, and he's just a stupid old tip.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I Get Mouth From the Kid

We're on our walk, over the Interstate Overpass, down by what I call the creek -- it's actuall more like a storm drain, but it collects rocks and pebbles at this bit where it curves, and I like to take the kid there so I can mess around in the rocks.

Me: Look here. I think this one's granite.

The kid: (out poking in the water): Oh, you think everything's granite.

Did I mention she's seven?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Hippy Hauppy Buthaduy

It is indeed my birthday. I was born on the green. When I was a kid, I always thought this made me part Irish.

The kid has, already, given me a present -- a pipe-cleaner four-leaf clover, very pretty, which she says is a "kiss-mover." I am not certain what this means. And she says she is going to get mr. delagar to go to the Creative Kitchen, a local bakery, and buy me Petit Fours, which are the only sorts of cakes I really like. And the entertainment? A cylon musical. She's writing the songs. mr. delagar will play them. The cylons are made out of pipe cleaners. There will be dances. And shoot-outs. Special effects.

I can't wait.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

So you Thought We Were Nuts?

Ha. Don't you wish.

Up there in Missouri, the Republicans are banning birth control.

Yesterday, during debate on HB1010, the budget for the Departments of Health and Mental Health, House Republicans voted to ban county health clinics from providing family planning services.

So the GOP has finally come clean that they are opposed to contraception. They used to argue that they opposed family planning because Planned Parenthood played a role. But now the GOP has targeted family planning provided by the county health clinics. Their action is a direct attack on women's access to traditional family planning services.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Susan Phillips (R-Kansas City) removed "voluntary choice of contraception, including natural family planning" as one of the permissible services that county health clinics could provide with state funding.

And yes, that's Missouri. Not Mississippi, not Bama, not Texas, not even us here in Arkansas, where we ain't smart enough to buy shoes. That's the good folk in Missouri, deciding woman can't have birth control.

So here's my question. How long are we going to keep lying to ourselves about what the Republican's true agenda is?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Stealing From Other Bloggers

From Barely Legal, who cracks me up:

Today I saw a cross with a crown of thorns tattooed on the small of a young woman's back (that's two inches above the ass crack for those not familiar with anatomy).It achieved its desired effect.

When I saw it, I said, "Oh Jesus."

Good News in the Fort

(1) It's raining again! Rained last week, rained the week before, we've got more rain coming this weekend, if you can believe the weather guys. For the first time in two summers, the grass is green in my yard and along the roads and in the meadows. And little flowers blooming wild everywhere. Redbuds! Clover flowers! Tiny little pink things in the grass! The kid stopped in the middle of our walk to the library yesterday to say to me, "What are those?" Um, flowers... It's so pretty, it brings tears to my eyes. (And you know me, I'm stony-hearted feminist. Nothing makes me cry.) No one is saying so out loud, lest we hex the weather demons, but we're hoping maybe the drought has ended.

(2) Three separate students came to me this week to tell me how easy they were finding this guy Chaucer to read these days. "This middle English isn't so hard." "Hey, how come Chaucer's so easy all of a sudden?" "Is Canterbury Tales just easier than Troilus and Criseyde or did we get better?" Ah, how I love it when students learn.

(3) Not only rain? Bright and cool spring weather. Almost as good as snowy winter weather, for my taste.

(4) I'm writing like a woman possessed again and -- here comes spring break!

(5) The car, which we thought was broken, turned out to be only a little broken. So, while we still need to buy a new one, not just now. Which is good, since we are stony-broke ourselves. (Yes, this qualifies as good news.)

(6) San Antonio, TX, I find, is only 9 hours from the Fort. Also good news, since I'm going to the CEA in April and it's in San Antonio. I'll only have to spend one day driving across Texas. Yay!

(7) As I mentioned in 4, Spring Break!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Oh yeah...

Now I remember why I don't shop at Wal-Mart...

Yesterday was the night my writing group meets, so I stopped at Wal-Mart on the way home from picking the kid up from school, because it is right on the way between our house and her school, and all I needed was a loaf of the white bread the kid eats (yes, she insists on white bread. without crusts: we're trying to break her of it, but so far, well), and I just didn't have time to go across town to the Harp's on Apostate Row.

Anyway. The Wall was its usual nightmare: lines stretching to infinity, even in the 20-items-or-Less line (the Grammar Nazi in me grits its teeth -- 20-items-or-FEWER, that should be), swarms of people with heaping carts lurching about, candy and bad food piled in mountains, idiot magazines shouting from every surface about who's been boffing whom and what diet will work and when Jesus will return...I got my bread and we got in the shortest 20-items-or-less checkout we could find, and waited and waited and waited. The kid is telling me her latest saga, about a dragon who got turned into a princesses and then found her dragon friends would no longer play with her. It's pretty good. I tell her she should write it down.

Finally we hove near the checker. He's about 19, smirky. The woman in front of me looks exhausted. She is buying the cheapest sort of white bread, a sack of oranges, a sack of apples, a half gallon of Wal-Mart milk. He asks how her day has been. She says fine. He says, not at all nicely, "You don't sound convinced of that."

She gives him a look. He's 19, did I mention that? She's at least 35.

He keeps on checking out her stuff. Gives her the total. She runs her credit card. He says, as we're waiting for her card to clear, to me and to her and to the guy behind me, who looks as tired and worn as she does -- this is the Fort, remember, where the average income is about ten thousand dollars -- he says, holding up one of those donor cut-outs, "Hey, anyone want to give some money away to lazy poor people?"

I look at him. The woman in front of me looks at him. The guy behind me, who's about 40, looks at him. None of us says a thing.

He seems to realize we don't think he's cute or funny. He says, handing the woman her credit card slip to sign, "Well, it's not like the money is going to teach them to fish, or buying them farms, or whatever. It's just giving them food."

"Right," I said. "Feeding the hungry. The bastards."

Mr. Snotty looked confused. And shocked. Probably at the bastards. People don't cuss in teh Fort.

The woman glanced at me, took her bag of groceries, and left.

Mr. Snot rang up my loaf of bread. I left.

I wish I had added, "Wonder what Jesus would think of that?" to what I said. Because I bet Mr. Snotty goes to church on Sundays.

I also wish I had said Yes when he asked if anyone wanted to give any money to lazy poor people. But I was so busy being outraged at his snottiness that it didn't occur to me.


I also should have gotten his stupid fucking name and turned him in.

Man, I need to learn to think faster.


If you want to know what academics do for fun, this is it:

(I'll tell you you what -- it makes me consider something I've never considered before. What if Plato was just fucking kidding? What if all the Dialogues are just, like, really dry Monty Python routines? Wouldn't that be a hoot?)

(Via my hero, Dr. Bitch:

Monday, March 13, 2006

So I says to my students...

This was my freshman comp class this morning.

We're talking about interpretation, and how different folk can read the same work, or see the same movie, and nevertheless experience different results.

My students aren't getting it. It's the same movie. How could different people watch the same movie and see a different movie?

"It's like the five blind men and the elephant," I say.

They stare at me as though I am speaking Ancient Greek.

"You know," I say. "The five blind guys who go out to look at the elephant?"

No. They don't know. They have never heard this fable.

And my class last year had never heard Aesop's story of the dog in the manger. When I said someone in a story was a dog in a manger, they had no clue what I meant.

These kids today.

(So I switched tactics, btw. I went to Brokeback Mountain. All right, I said. Let's suppose all of us in this room go to see Brokeback Mountain -- which is still playing, right here in Fort Smith, something that boggles me every time I think of it -- the class erupted in wails of dismay, they were not going to see Brokeback Mountain, not even in theory, not even in supposition, laws a mercy, heavens no! -- let's suppose we did, I said, do you suppose we would be seeing the same movie, all of us in this room? No, said the rude punk in the back row, because not all of us are fags. Not quite the uncivil way I would put it, son, I told him, but precisely. Those of us who aren't too scared to see the movie would see one movie. Those of us who are frightened, well, they'd be seeing another, wouldn't they? And so on.)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Conversation While Folding Laundry

The kid, folding her socks: oh, no.

mr. delagar: what?

The kid: my socks have come out an uneven number.

Me: that's odd.

(Sorry. Can't help it. It's the only math joke I've ever made. And the kid loved it. She's good at math, not like her parents. She gave me this long suspicious look, and then rolled around on the bed giggling. "That's odd!" she kept saying. "That's odd!")


This is the cost of the parental consent law the "pro-life" folk love so much:

(Via Pandagon:

Coulter Tells Lies

Here's a paragraph from Ms. Coulter's latest column, which I am not linking to, because the woman is such a liar I won't give her a link, but you can Google it if you want to read the rest of her evil hateful nasty vile:

The box office numbers for this year's favorite, "Brokeback Mountain," are more jealously guarded than the nuclear codes in the president's black box. Hollywood liberals want the government to release everything we know about al-Zarqawi, but refuse to release the number of people who have seen "Brokeback Mountain."

And here's my question for you: how stupid does this woman think we are?

Well, not us, I suppose. We're not her audience. Conservative idiots are her audience and maybe they are this stupid. All I myself get is EW, which has the box office numbers in that little chart in the back, and I know better than this -- but come on. Refuse to release the number of people who have seen Brokeback Mountain? Not only are they releasing that number daily, it's, like, common knowledge, how many people have seen Brokeback Mountain. For a bit there I was running a fracking tally of the number of people who had seen Brokeback Mountain! I'd check it first thing when I got to school in the morning! I'd come home every afternoon and tell mr delagar about it! I'd email folks the count! People got sick of hearing from me! Refusing to release the number?

And there are folk out there who believe Ms. Anne?

Well, yes. Apparently so.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I Blame Bush

Well, who else would I blame?

This is a post about what's up at the grocery story, and with the power company, and the gas company, and at the pumps.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's noticing how much harder it is to get from one end of the month to the next these days.

"What's the deal?" mr. delagar demanded of me last night. "Why don't we have any money any more?"

I didn't smack him, because, you know, I'm a sweet woman, I am.

I just pointed out to him a few rough things that had happened over the past few months -- Spike's eye injury, and the car trouble, and me getting slapped in the hospital for a suspected tumor, and the kid's nine weeks of therapy, which the insurance did not cover -- and told him he might add on to all that what the entire country had been going through this year.

Which is that all of us have, in fact, seen our electric bills and our gas bills and our gasoline bills double, at least. Grocery bills and clothing bills have also increased -- well, clothing bills did not increase for me, because we haven't bought clothes. No money left for clothes in the delagar household. Not after paying medical bills.

But grocery bills? We walk into the grocery store these days, buy almost nothing -- nearly no meat, no junk, nothing fancy -- and walk out with a bill for over a hundred bucks. For just basic food. (Well, okay: I do buy organic milk and free range eggs and free range chicken -- those are my three luxuries -- but except for the milk, which *is* pricey, none of those are much more than the regular goods.) For three people. One of them only seven. What's happened here? Why is food so expensive?

Because fuel is so expensive. It costs more to ship the groceries, so they cost more. And it costs more to cool and store them -- more to run the grocery itself. Prices everywhere have increased. The only thing that hasn't increased is my salary, or mr. delagar's.

In fact, my salary looks like it might get cut -- already the university is talking about raising the caps for summer classes, and cutting those that don't meet the caps. No summer pay for you!


Here's more from mouse:

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Making Bagels

mr. delagar's family owned a bakery in trenton for five generations -- this is an adaptation of the recipe they used in their bakery. It's not the same receipe, because their bakery kept kosher, which I don't, yikes, don't tell mr. delagar about the butter on the baking sheet, will you? and I've made some other changes. But the product is, all the same, satisfactory. Even mr. delagar has to admit that.

You’re going to need

(1) Good flour. By this I mean a high protein flour of some sort. I recommend King Arthur white flour. Feel free to ignore me at your own peril. But I’ll just tell you what I have learned in all my years of cooking and baking: The One True Thing: Good Product comes from caring about what you do, and starting with good ingredients.

So go get the right flour, damn you. And DON’T use any of that snotty whole wheat flour, thinking you’re going to make these bagels good for you, or I will haunt your dreams. Yes I will.

(2) You also need barley malt syrup. You can get this at health food stores. I don’t know where else you can get it. If you live in the real world, and not Arkansas, it’s probably available in gas stations.

(3) Aside from good flour and barley malt syrup, you need only water, salt, yeast, and oil. Isn’t this cool? Oh, also toppings, if you’re the sort who wants to fancy up the bagel.

Okay. Here we go.

Take two cups of really cold water. Ice water works best. Put it in your industrial grade mixer. I use a Kitchen Aid stand-up mixer. If you don’t have one, use what you have. You can even mix bagels by hand and I used to before I married mr. delagar and he brought the Kitchen-Aid into the marriage. Gives you strong wrists, mixing bagels by hand.

Mix one cup of flour, the yeast – about a spoon full – and a spoon full of salt, and a spoon full of oil, and a spoon full of barley malt syrup, in with the water.

Mix the whole lot for one minute. Add another cup of flour. Mix another minute. Add another cup. Mix another minute.

When you get to clean up – when the flour comes away from the sides of the bowl and starts adhering to the mixer paddle, in other words -- start adding flour in smaller increments, about a fourth of a cup, but keep mixing for a minute each time. Switch to the dough hook if you’re using a Kitchen-Aid around this point. If you’re mixing by hand switch to stronger music on your i-pod and keep kneading.

Knead/mix for about ten to fifteen minutes altogether. When the dough is very nearly not sticky but still just a tiny bit sticky, stop. It’ll be a stiff dough but not really dry. Put it in an oiled bowl. Cover, let it rise for an hour.

Punch down, cut it into eight or nine bits. Shape by rolling into snakes and then hooking the ends together. You need to wet the ends and roll them together and smush them to get them to stick. Even then you’ll have to be really firm with them. Don’t take no for an answer.

Put the shaped bagels on a greased baking sheet. I grease my baking sheet with butter because I like how that makes the bagels taste, but use what you like.

Have a five quart pot filled with water started on the stove. Have the oven heating to 400 degrees. Put a spoon full of malt syrup in the water.

Let the bagels rise for about 15 minutes, while the water heats and boils. Once the water’s boiling good, drop the bagels into it. Boil one side 30 seconds, flip and boil the other side another 30 seconds. You can boil 3 or 4 bagels at a time, depending on how big your pot is.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a towel. If you’re the sort who likes bagels with stuff on them, sprinkle stuff on them while they’re still damp. (Stuff: sesame seeds, Kosher salt, poppy seeds, minced dried onions, whatever strikes your fancy.)

Put the bagels on the greasy cookie sheet and stick that sucker in the 400 degree oven.

Bake for 15 minutes. Flip the bagels over.

Bake another 15 minutes. Take them out. Cool.

They freeze well, or you can eat them all now.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Grading Midterms

And it's way depressing.

I always hate exams. Why haven't these students learned what I was teaching? Why am I not a better teacher? What is the point of anything?

All that.

Fearing Cylons

I'm driving the kid to school this morning, when she says, meditatively, from the back seat, "You know, those Cylons are scary."

"Well," I say. "They can be."

She's eating a waffle, because, as usual, we are late. She chews it awhile, and then says, "I know why most Cylons are beautiful women."

I bite my tongue, hard, and I mean I actually on it, to keep from spilling out a raging lecture on why most Cylons are beautiful women, the misogyny of American culture, rant, rant, and instead say, really calmly, I swear, "Yes? Why is that?"

"Well," she says, "it's to show you that things are not what they appear. You think something is pretty and nice and then BOOM! It blows up your ship."

"Huh," I said. "I like that one."

"Why do Cylons have everything like humans, though?" she asked. "Bones like humans and blood like humans and sweat like humans? I don't--"

"Here's the real question," I interrupt, unable to contain myself. "How are Cylons not like humans?"

She chews on her waffle, thoughtfully.

"Humans say Cylons aren't human," I agree, "but they look human to me. They have human bodies and human emotions and they bleed and they hurt and they die. How aren't they human?"

"Well," she said. "Cylons blow up your ship."

I laugh.

"Also," she said, pleased with herself, "they can do that thing where they jump to that copy of themselves. That's not human."

"Excellent points," I agree. "I suppose that's not human."

We drive for a bit.

"On the other hand," I say, "don't humans blow up Cylon ships?"

"Well, yes," the kid concedes.

"And you remember when the humans were burying their dead pilots? What did they say? They said they would meet again in a better world? That sure sounds like they believe their souls jump somewhere after their bodies die. How's that different from what the Cylons do, in any essential sense?"

She pondered this.

"It's true," I said, "on the other hand, that the Cylons attacked the humans without warning and blew up their planets with nuclear weapons. But the story also tells us that the humans enslaved and oppressed the Cylons -- created them in order to enslave and oppress them. And what do humans call Cylons?"


"What kind of a word is that?"

She thought it over. "A mocking one?"

"A racist one," I said.


"Well," I said. "So I'm not sure what to think about the humans here. The Cylons are a bit scary. But the humans scare me too."

Which I'm starting to think is the point of the show.

Monday, March 06, 2006

It Burns!

Russ over at Barely Legal writes about the experience of having a liberal parent turn conservative on you. His experience doesn't exactly match mine, but it's close enough to sting.

My mother was in all sorts of female empowerment groups in the early 70s. She was an Indian Health Nurse (the only health care on an entire reservation) when she was 22 where she would explain to Indian women in Cree that they didn't have to be just squaws and that they should start practicing birth control and take control of their lives. While this makes for an interesting woman, it also makes for a bizarre mother. When I was 12, I remember calling a woman a "chick" and getting a stern lecture from my mother about the equality of the sexes.

Then my mother stopped working for the government and opened up her own business. Slowly, government bureaucracy and shiftless employees drove her to the brink of madness. That's right, she began listening to conservative talk radio. She claimed to be older and wiser but crazy things would come out of her mouth like, "How would you like to have been adopted by a couple of homosexuals. That should be illegal." Now, instead of getting lectures about women's equality I have to listen to, "You better do right by that girl. A woman has to depend on a man," and "A man's life is empty without the direction a woman provides from the home." The woman who once rode in an elevator with the prime minister of Canada and lectured him about women's rights would now prefer to listening to her idol, Dr. Laura Schlesinger.

There's more.


Crossing the parking lot this morning I saw one of those magnets, like the yellow Support-the-Troops magnets, but this one was jet black, and said SUPPORT PIRACY!

All right, then.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Zelda Does It Again

I love it when Zelda writes about her Nanny --

Go see:

Social Darwinism, Anyone?

Very good post on why not over on GreyThumb.Blog:

One of my favorite papers in evolutionary biology, which I have mentioned here before, is this:

Muir, W.M., and D.L. Liggett, 1995a. Group selection for adaptation to multiple-hen cages: selection program and responses. Poultry Sci. 74: s1:101.*

It outlines the group selection effects observed when trying to breed chickens for increased egg production in multiple-hen cage environments. In short, selecting individual chickens for increased productivity in a group environment didn't select for increased productivity. Instead, it selected for mean chickens. The result was an overall reduction in productivity. Only by selecting at the group level was productivity increased.This is a great experiment because it illustrates why evolutionary theory cannot be reduced to the phrase "survival of the fittest."

That phrase isn't technically wrong, but it neglects so much that it might as well be. "Survival of the fittest" is either meaningless or misleading. It's like saying that mountain climbing is just "walking upward" while neglecting to discuss proper supplies, fitness training, establishment of base camps, selecting the proper climbing group, atmospheric oxygen considerations, and... the fact that you don't always walk upward. Sometimes you have to walk sideways, or downward, to get to the top.

So how does this chicken paper relate to Enron? Well, it turns out that Enron sorta reproduced this experiment through their corporate human resources policies. (Are you shuddering yet?)

Read on:,-asshole..html

(Oh, and BTW? This is why Zelda's ( Least Favorite Professor is wrong to scoff at the school of Poultry Science, up there on the hill. Just for the record.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Shoot me now.

I swear. I swear. I just said this to the kid:


Mourning Butler

This blog posts an essay by Octaia Butler.

I'm still mourning for her. I'm not this upset when blood relatives die.

On the other hand, frankly? The world will do just fine without most of my blood relatives. We needed Octavia Butler.