30 Friends at Our Doorstep


Our cul-de-sac is different from any other in the development: all our homes were built at the same time. So, there was no suffering through construction noise and dust, because we all moved in about the same time in 2006. From the time I invited everyone for a coffee and dessert gathering shortly thereafter, we were sure to be friends. And out of that friendship, an annual event is a highlight of the year for many of us.

A year or two after we all had moved in, our next-door neighbor (whom we call Mr. Mayor, since he often spearheads activities), suggested at one of our periodic neighborhood gatherings that the neighborhood do some subtle decorating for Christmas. His idea was to wrap a cord of white lights around the trunks and in the branches of the oak trees which were planted in front of every house. Most people loved the idea; I was uncomfortable at the thought, since I had never “decorated for Christmas.” No one made a fuss about my decision, but the first night the trees were lit off, ours was the only home, sitting sad and lonely in the dark. It was like a statement that white lights don’t really signify anything. The next day I went tearfully to our neighbor across the street and asked if her husband could help me string a set of lights on the oak tree. They were delighted to help, of course, although my husband grudgingly stepped in, too.

‘I Didn’t Pull the Trigger’


Really? That seems unlikely. I mean, that’s how guns work: it’s amazing how unlikely they are to fire if someone’s finger isn’t on the trigger. So, while it’s possible that Mr. Baldwin didn’t pull the trigger, there is about a zero percent probability that he didn’t pull the trigger.

Of course, he didn’t pull the trigger.

Quote of the Day: Father Brown on Skepticism


‘It’s what I call common sense, properly understood,’ replied Father Brown. ’It really is more natural to believe a preternatural story, that deals with things we don’t understand, than a natural story that contradicts things we do understand. Tell me that the great Mr Gladstone, in his last hours, was haunted by the ghost of Parnell, and I will be agnostic about it. But tell me that Mr Gladstone, when first presented to Queen Victoria, wore his hat in her drawing-room and slapped her on the back and offered her a cigar, and I am not agnostic at all. That is not impossible; it’s only incredible. But I’m much more certain it didn’t happen than that Parnell’s ghost didn’t appear; because it violates the laws of the world I do understand.

Much as I enjoy reading G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries, perhaps they’re best taken one at a time. There’s a certain uniformity to them, and I don’t just mean that the murderer never turns out to be Catholic. There are always sound, practical, men of the world who are deceived by some sort of supernatural occurrence, and Father Brown solves the mystery by disbelieving in old curses or modern magicians. While allowing for the vagaries of fiction there are things well worth learning in those stories.

The National (Socialist) Education Association All-in for “Anti-Racism”


The National (Socialist) Education Association is all in for poisoning children’s minds with the racist doctrine of “anti-racism.” The largest K-12 teachers’ union celebrated multiple examples of teachers twisting their subjects, from music to Spanish, into hate and loathing injection systems at every grade level. At the same time, the NEA lied about their opposition, smearing parents and politicians as white supremacists. What should surprise no one is the open display of Marxist advocacy under this branch of cultural Marxism. Here they are in their own words, still available on the NEA website, and available forever on the internet archive Wayback Machine:

Consider this music teacher’s twisting of history, to bury Stalin’s (and her, and the NEA’s) murderous Marxism, playing the same trick Stalin’s allies here played in the 1930s and following.

Witch Hunt Targets the Oil Companies


President Biden has issued firm instructions to FTC Chair Lina Khan to investigate whether big oil should be held legally accountable for the recent runup in oil prices. The fact of some price increase seems beyond dispute. The average monthly Brent crude price dropped as low as $18.38 in April 2020, at the onset of the COVID crisis, but had risen to $83.54 in October 2020. But look just a little bit further and matters are not so simple, for by November 19, 2021, that price had dropped to $78.60. Indeed, this nineteen-month period witnessed wide fluctuations in price. Nonetheless, without referring to any price data, Biden broadly claimed that the “mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil and gas companies” should trigger an investigation into potential collusive behavior.

Given that “gasoline prices at the pump remain high, even though oil and gas companies’ costs are declining,” such alleged behavior, Biden assumes, has allowed big oil companies to double their profits since 2019, thereby allowing for stock buybacks and dividends in the coming year. “Hard-working Americans”—a tried and true appeal to populist instincts—should not be “paying more for gas because of anti-competitive or otherwise potentially illegal conduct,” he said, which is why he has urged the FTC to bring “tools to bear” to ferret out and punish any possible wrongdoing.

It should be apparent that it does not take much in Biden’s eyes to instigate a lengthy and hostile investigation. Rising profits are no antitrust violation when they generate dividends, many of which end up in the pension funds of those hard-working Americans. And buybacks and dividends free up capital for either consumption or further investment. Unfortunately, in Lina Khan’s new age of antitrust enforcement, it appears unnecessary to allege anything that would make the price-fixing claim credible, for just how are the oil companies able to conspire to keep prices artificially high? OPEC finds that task difficult even with its formal agreements and enforcement powers. But the number of potential participants for any effective covert oil and gas price-fixing scheme must be few in order to deter individual companies from deviating from the cartel price by offering hidden concessions to its preferred customers. That does not seem possible when the roster of the ten largest oil companies reads as follows:

La Science, C’est Moi


“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamont

This quote has been one of my guide stars for decades. Watch what happens when we replace just two words:

It’s Harder Than I Thought It Would Be


When it was time to re-start my volunteer efforts with hospice, I decided it was premature to be exposed to patients and their families. So, I asked my supervisor if she had other work I could do in the meantime; I still wanted to make a contribution, even if I wouldn’t be visiting patients. She suggested I could make bereavement calls to those who had lost members of their families. It seemed like a great idea.

Only it’s harder than I thought it would be.

People have a hard enough time speaking about death in almost any context, but discussing the recent loss of a loved one can be downright painful. Of course, people can choose not to talk with me. I just want to speak with them for a few minutes to see how they are doing. (We especially want to learn if anyone is indicating they are suicidal.) We only ask a handful of questions; the rest of our interview form asks us to document actions they are taking (or not taking) to deal with their loss and begin to move forward in their lives. And we end the call asking if they would like to speak to a bereavement counselor.

A Glimpse of 1955


I’ve mentioned over the years my involvement with the life and works of Peg Lynch, an American humorist and actress. Small-town Minnesota gal gets into small-town radio, hones her writing chops on ads and skits, comes up with a thing we now call “the sitcom,” ends up in New York, makes a wild pitch to the networks, ends up on national radio. She’s a hit! TV comes along, and she’s in on the early days, doing terrifying live broadcasts on “The Kate Smith Show.” This leads to a network sitcom, which, like everything else, she writes and performs with her stalwart partner, Alan Bunce. After TV ends, she moves back to radio to turn out 750 more shows, each a lapidary example of her style: no schtick. No corn. No stinging, slanging banter. No cliches, no archetypes. Just a situation, laid out, a fuse lit, a slow burn, an almost daredevil-like decision to set the scene without laff-a-minute gag routines.

Most of her sitcoms were saved on kinescope. Perhaps a tenth have been transferred to digital media. (It’s an ongoing process at the U of Washington.) One of the most recent restorations was put up on YouTube for a fortnight by her daughter, and it’s the fabled Halloween ep. “Fabled” because George S. Kaufman said it was one of his favorite things he’d seen on TV; fabled because Peg, iirc, thought it a bit much, but it turned out to be wildly popular. Her co-star was unhappy because his face was obscured for most of the ep.

Omicron Variant: Here We Go Again!


No one — I mean no one — is going to put me through the fear and misery of the last two years with COVID-19. Fortunately, I live in Florida, and we’ve watched Gov. DeSantis behave like a mature and wise adult regarding the virus. But once again, panic reigns as another variant shows up on the scene. And one state and most definitely the federal government can’t wait to pass more draconian measures supposedly to protect us.

When the announcement first came from South Africa about the new variant, called Omicron, the scientists emphasized that data was limited:

Health officials in South Africa said the reaction by other countries was premature, given how little was understood yet about the new strain. [Professor Salim Abdool] Karim noted that it was only detected thanks to South Africa’s excellent scientific surveillance of COVID-19 cases, which specifically hunts for new variants. Few other nations have such a robust genomic sequencing program to find the strains.

Adventure in the Persian Gulf


Jack “Rattler” Owen had a dream when he was growing up: to become a US Navy fighter pilot. He is now a Navy pilot in today’s US Navy, but he is flying the E-2C Hawkeye, not fighters.

“Treason Flight,” a thriller by T. R. Matson opens with Owen discovering flying the Hawkeye can be every bit as exciting as flying a Hornet. He is over the Persian Gulf, flying a broken Hawkeye to USS Nimitz.

The aircraft has suffered multiple mechanical failures. “The Book” calls for him to bail out. Rattler wants to save the aircraft. It is expensive and operationally valuable. Nimitz has only four, and losing one during a potential war patrol will hurt capability. Rattler asks permission to make one try and gets it. He succeeds, saving the aircraft.

Quote of the Day: Rich


“I am indeed rich, since my income is superior to my expenses, and my expense is equal to my wishes.” – Edward Gibbon

This year — or maybe last — I became rich. Not Bill Gates rich or Jeff Bezos rich, but rich by my definition of rich: If you can maintain the lifestyle you desire without having to work, you are rich. If not, whether you are earning $15,000 or $400,000 a year you are still among the working poor.

What a 2,000-Year-Old Story Can Teach America


Every month I’ve been leading a group on Zoom to discuss some aspect of Judaism that we all may not know much about. Although some of my research describes familiar practices and beliefs, almost everyone learns something new. This month we discussed Chanukah, which begins very early on the secular calendar on November 28. We reviewed not only the familiar stories, but I realized that everyone, American Jews and non-Jews alike, have opportunities to reframe the way we see our lives during a season that is holy for many. These are the insights that emerged for me.

The Lighting of the Chanukah candles—

Most people probably know that Jews light eight candles, plus the shamash, which is the lead candle. The candles are lit to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah: when the Maccabees liberated the Temple from the Seleucids and restored and cleaned it, they found only one pure cruse of oil remaining. It was enough to burn for one day, but it burned for eight days, until additional oil arrived. To Jews, the miracle was a reminder that G-d was once again with us. The shamash, which is used to light the other candles, serves as the leader in this process. It “lights the way” to remind us of the miracle of the holiday.

Burned Out on Reality or Who Cares How Kamala Harris Spends $500?


A restlessness is pervading my soul. I’m tired of the horrid news, the insolubility of the issues, the repetitiveness of the ideas and my own inability to do something productive, when hopelessness seems impossible to shake off.

And this morning, I heard all the outrage about Kamala’s disgusting behavior in France when she bought a bowl and a pot at the insane price of $500—how dare she? When our own televisions and refrigerators are stalled indefinitely in storage containers in the ports of our great country.

Humor Writing 101


Atlantic.com, Molly Jong-Fast:

I’m here to tell you Thanksgiving is terrible, and if you at least spend the time trying to deprogram your niece, you won’t be bored or depressed (though you might be enraged that Fox News or Infowars has convinced her Trump can ‘save America’ from Joe Biden’s radical agenda of giving people hearing aids and free pre-K). Maybe it won’t work. Maybe you’ll leave Thanksgiving dinner as divided as you were when you sat down at the table five hours and 4,000 calories ago. Or maybe you’ll plant the seed, sow just a little doubt about whatever Tucker Carlson is saying now. Maybe you’ll even change a heart or a mind. Maybe you’ll bring the temperature down just a tiny bit. Or maybe you’ll need to report a relative to the FBI! Either way, it’s something to do besides just eat.

Lighter Feasting for the Holidays


CornbreadI clipped two dessert recipes from the November 1982 issue of Chicago Magazine, “Best of Dines, Worst of Dines.” Four decades later, they are still in my recipe file. One is complex and very rich, while the other is true simplicity and light in both preparation time and calories. I further simplified the simple recipe to universal acclaim this past week. For Thanksgiving, I will prepare a cranberry relish, made from scratch, that is both flavorful and ridiculously healthy. I suspect I will also make cornbread muffins, relatively healthier than general-purpose flour breads. What tasty, tempting recipes have you enjoyed with Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts and parties?

When I first carried the two restaurant dessert recipes away from school in Chicago, I took the first occasion to wow home audiences. The first was a flourless chocolate cake, that requires a springform pan. This was gluten-free before gluten-free was a thing. The volume of the cake is created by six egg whites beaten stiff. The substance comes from finely chopped nuts. The chocolate is semisweet. For garnish, either dust with powdered sugar (perhaps with a pattern/stencil) or follow the original recipe for another level of chocolate ganache. If you like chocolate, if you really like chocolate, you will love this.

The other recipe, even in its original form, is far simpler, far quicker, and far lighter. Pears, poached, with fresh berries, reduced to a sauce over low heat, that is all. Now the details.

The Lunacy of Government Programs


We’ve all seen them, the Medicare TV ads exhorting seniors to apply for enhanced benefits. Government appears to be coaxing often reluctant retirees into greater dependence.

But this is a colossally bad idea, even for those of us who support helping citizens in their sunset years. It stimulates greed (it’s freeeee!) and entitlement in the demographic which government programs have already made into the most wealthy. It expands the reach of government into our lives.

Who Shot First at Jamestown?


My family descended en masse on Virginia this fall. You see, my cousin had had her first child, and while we missed out on the baby stage (there was this disease; you may have heard of it), the collected aunts were determined to get at this boy while he was still cute. So we converged on Williamsburg, Virginia. While we were there, we stopped to see the sights.

At the Jamestown settlement museum, the group stopped to watch an introductory video history. “You’re a history buff,” they said to me. “You know all this already, but the rest of us would like a chance to catch up.” Despite my prodigious memory for trivia, it had been mumblety years since my high school AP history class, and so I was glad to catch up with the rest of them. One scene in particular described the start of conflict between the Native Americans[1] and the English settlers. The movie was vague as to the question of who started it, blaming cultural misunderstandings. It showed an Indian grabbing the hilt of an unsuspecting Englishman’s sheathed sword. This led to a fight, and the movie went on to describe the war between the settlers and the locals.

Loaded for Bear, or How Moms Take Back Our Country


You’ve heard how parents having been fighting back at some school board meetings to take back the rearing and education of their children. Now Florida has set a new standard for fighting back, and it’s spreading all over the country. The message it is sending is more than a shot over the bow to angry Progressives. This exciting movement is called Moms for Liberty.

The group was started by Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, and they began their efforts fighting mask mandates. When those goals were pretty much met with the help of Gov. Ron DeSantis, they started to go after books they called pornographic, as well as books that discussed gay and transgender questions, such as “Gender Queer.” Their message is being heard not only all over the state but all over the country. Currently, they have 60,000 members in 152 chapters in 33 states. Chapter locations can be found here.

It’s not surprising that Progressives are upset at their efforts and are pushing back:

Quote of the Day: Chronic Hysteria of the Democrats


Democrats are running around like they found a hair in their biscuit.  — Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy

In his usual irreverent and amusing away, Sen. John Kennedy soundly takes down the Democrats. He focuses on their obsession with turning those events that aren’t catastrophes into devastating predictions, ignoring inconvenient facts when they shouldn’t, and making up stories when it serves them well.

The Woke Left’s Ongoing Gain of Function Experiments


Gain of function. Unfortunately, by now everyone should know what it means. It’s the deliberate amplification of aspects of a pathogen that sensible (albeit nonexpert) people might consider undesirable. In particular, it includes efforts directed at making an infectious agent more communicable, more resistant to countermeasures, and/or more lethal to its victims.

As I type this, gain of function experimentation is going on in thousands of laboratories across the United States under the misguided supervision of people who often fancy themselves knowledgeable experts qualified to engage in such a dangerous project. The pathogen in question is racism, something to which humans are by nature susceptible but for which we have developed, over hundreds of years, fairly simple and effective preventative treatments.

Hear Him! Hear Him! And See Writer Seawriter.


I appeared on “Xtended” (Europe’s premier aerospace Internet radio programme) on Nov. 21, episode 124: “Coastal Command Chapter 3: Battle for the Atlantic.” In it, I discuss the role of the RAF Coastal Command during the Battle of the Atlantic. I wrote a two-part series on the air phase of the Battle of the Atlantic for Osprey a few years back. For those interested in listening, the link is https://aviation-xtended.co.uk/ep-124-coastal-command-chapter-3-battle-for-the-atlantic/.

It was a long, and I thought interesting, discussion (nearly an hour).

Annie Oakley Is Back!


Well, the title is sort of true. My husband began calling me Annie Oakley after my early performance on the gun range, and my trainer enjoyed calling me Annie just to tease Jerry about my prowess. For some crazy reason, I’ve always had a certain level of skill. So, what’s the big deal for me? I hadn’t been to the gun range since the end of last year, after I received my cancer diagnosis.

Jerry has been very patient with preparing me to shoot again. We also both have concealed carry licenses here in Florida, and more than just the idea of getting ready to shoot the gun again, being prepared for the unexpected, has always made me a little anxious. And I knew I had to deal with the question of carrying all over again.

Since for a period I wasn’t very strong, Jerry took his time coaxing me back into shooting. He suggested eventually that I use the snap caps and just practice taking my weapon, a Glock 42, out of my purse properly. (I did not want to wear my gun on a belt.) You wouldn’t think that was a big deal, but there are so many steps to focus on when you carry: practicing situational awareness, putting my right hand on the gun in my purse, not drawing until I feel there is reason to use the gun, bringing the gun out, racking the gun to put a bullet in the chamber (yes, I know that some people always have one in the chamber), bringing the gun up to my chest and grasping it with both hands, leaning forward, putting my finger on the trigger when I’m prepared to actually shoot, aim, and pull the trigger, bring the gun back to my chest, look around both ways to see if anyone else might be a threat, and put the gun away.