Thursday, June 30, 2011

Unnatural Selection

This is the book I mentioned earlier today.  And I must say, I think I underestimated its importance. Gender selection and the imbalance of sex ratio at birth is a huge issue -- a global epidemic, unaddressed -- and Hvistendahl's work is impressive. She's done her data crunching, her interviews, her reading and traveling, and she knows what she's talking about.
I've read four chapters, but I wanted to alert y'all to this book now, because who knows how long it will take me to get to the last of her 336 pages? As soon as I mentioned the reviews to Adam, and he read them, he immediately bought the e-book. (We never, ever do that.)  But just as fascinating as the issue itself, is the author's puzzling perspective.

If I didn't know otherwise already, I'd think she was pro-life. She's clearly appalled at the whole gender selection trend, and sympathizes with doctors and activists in India who want it stopped. She's dumb-founded at what drives this:  consumer demand. Women want male children, pure and simple, and they'll go to great lengths to get one. Fifty years ago, they'd have a passel of girls, if that's what it took to get a son eventually. But now, with the bizarrely coincidental arrival of one-child policies, easy abortions and ultrasound technology (thank you, G.E.), why bother with the passel of girls?

Gender selection in countries like China, India, Taiwan, Albania, Georgia, South Korea, and many others, is huge business. Societies with too many males eventually demonstrate more violence, the sale of women as wives, and a disturbing group of "surplus men," usually in the lower classes. These nations are borrowing trouble, at steep interest rates.  The situation is economic, political, cultural and -- disastrous. Some countries are still in denial, which will make correction of the problem much harder to implement. Hopefully this book will assist in reversing this trend.

But I've strayed away from Hvistendahl. She wants, above all, to preserve the right to abortion. She fears that the abuse of abortion for gender selection will give pro-life activists a new weapon in their arsenal. She's alarmed at the cultural damage done by too many males. But she does not mourn the deaths of 160,000 girls. Their absence simply produces a threatening imbalance. Thus, she fights gender selection abortions not to save the lives of little girls, but to preserve a "right."

As Adam said to me, what kind of person fights for a right, but won't fight for the person the right is supposedly for? I have never understood this warped logic of the pro-abortion crowd. Hvistendahl's book is a 336-page treatise propounding this warped logic. Population control folks have said that gender selection on female babies not only removes that one child from the population, but removes a potential child-producer;  this is an asset, in their view. So they fully understand that that baby girl in the womb would be a woman someday.  She has no rights at all, to abortion or anything else.

I'm enjoying hearing this author blow up her own position at every turn, showing the poverty and disgrace of allowing society to choose murder.  If there's more to say on this, you can be sure I'll let you know.

Well, what's for supper?

On Monday, I found a pork loin at WalMart for $2.09/lb. I don't buy much pork, but it looked nice and lean, and we cut it into medallions as soon as we got home, wrapped them, and put them in the freezer. Today I pulled six of them out, and Adam flattened them with a small cast iron skillet. Did you know that you get more meat for your money when you do this? It creates "more bites," as Adam says, and people measure their fullness level by how many bites they've had, not how many ounces they've eaten. It's true!

He did the hard cookin'. He breaded them in egg whites (left over from the ice cream he's been making), and cracker crumbs, and fried them in olive oil. Voila!

(Sorry these pics are very candid and poorly done. I thought about blogging supper as we were beginning to eat. I said, "Don't take a bite!!! And they all froze until I'd made the rounds of the table, clicking at their plates.  My poor family!)
This is very versatile meat. Anna toasted some homemade bread and  made hers into a sandwich with BBQ sauce:
Philip had a sandwich too, but with onions and Heinz 57 (actually, the Aldi knock-off, which is exactly the same, he says, and he's rather picky):
Adam slathered his with the same. Note his raw broccoli (he will not eat it cooked). He also made a mushroom/wine gravy for the mashed potatoes.
Speaking of the potatoes, they are little red ones, which I boil until very tender, and mash quickly in the mixer with some sour cream, butter and a little milk. So easy. Leave the skins on. I made my own cheese sauce the other night when we had mac/cheese, and I saved about half of it to serve on the steamed broccoli tonight.
So, there's supper!

Bloggy Yummies

I'm getting a little political today. I hope that's okay ....

Michelle Malkin is in London on vacation with her family, and the public sector there is on strike. Oh joy. Read her description of what England's like right now.

WSJ -- Connecticut will begin firing public employees, because they couldn't agree on how to fix their pension/benefits crisis. Such a shame. New Jersey, on the other hand, found a Republican governor and a Democratic Senate president who could work together, compromise, and find a way to keep their pension funds solvent for the future.

Walter Williams gives us a fresh take on bashing the founding fathers on the issue of slavery.

Mara Hvistendahl's book Unnatural Selection is getting lots of attention these days:

Ross Douthat at the NYTimes writes a review, "160 Million and Counting," in which he begins to crack open the issue of gender selection in abortion.

Jonathan Last at WSJ does a more factual job of presenting Hvistendahl's discoveries in his review of her book, and he also did an interview with WSJ on the book, called "The War Against Girls." Both are worth your time. Last deals with the consequences of a society with too many men. Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A New Apron

I told PomPom that I was feeling "apron guilt," since she's finished her new apron (see her post about it), and I hadn't even started! Well, I am behind no more!!

Almost two years ago, I bought four pieces of fabric, for making aprons. First, I made a white one for Adam. Next, I decided to use one of the fabrics for packaging my soap.  Then, last December I made a blue apron for Rebecca for Christmas. Today, I finally used the fourth fabric!

The ancient apron I use as a pattern, complete with rip.
I thought I'd include a pic of Anna and Julia, wearing the aprons I made for them in about 2002. These aprons reached to the floor on both of them. I think Anna's dragged, honestly. Can you tell Julia is catching up with her sister?
So here's the new fabric, my least favorite. Rather big print and flashy. I always wear bib aprons, because I'm messy. Starting at the top with the large panel for the skirt, clockwise you see the waist ties, the neck band, the pocket, the bodice and bodice liner.
The is the fine old lady, my sewing machine. She belonged to my grandmother. She's a Singer Slant-o-matic 600. (I have no idea what part is supposed to slant.) The publication date in the instruction manual says "1963," the year I was born. I suspect she is more sturdy than I am.

And here's the finished apron. Not the best photo, sorry, but my models had flown the coop. The fabric is stiff, thick and sturdy, the corner seams are reinforced, and it's ready to use.
On the long, rounded hem of the skirt, I used an interesting special foot, a hemming foot. It easily feeds the edge off the fabric into the foot, which automatically curls it around into a slim loop, and stitches it down in an enclosed hem. Very neat!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Deboning a Raw Chicken

If you don't care for pictures of butchery and carnage, then I'd advise you to click away now! Adam tried his hand at deboning a raw chicken today. He's deboned cooked chickens many times, but a raw chicken is a, um, slightly different bird.
Adam began with two very sharp knives: one small and one large. He dealt with the wings first, removing the tips, and then the drummettes. (Cutting through the joints takes some muscle and aggression.)
He said it was slightly harder to find the right spot in the joint to cut.
Now he's removing the wishbone. Occasionally it comes out in one piece, but not this time. He made a slit on either side of the neck opening, to dig in and remove the wishbone on either side.
Then he made a deep slit down the back.
Now Adam will remove the back. This seemed the hardest part to me. Basically, the idea is not to cut the meat off the bone, but to strip the bones out of the meat. Does that make sense? Anyway, he seemed to pull and wiggle the meat down, off the backbone; that's what's happening in the next two pictures.

Now you can really see how the chicken is butterflied -- opened up -- with the backbone over there to the right. I think it still has the breast tenders on it, but that's all.
In this picture, Adam is removing the leg bone from out of the leg. But he wants to leave the small end of the leg bone in there, to prevent the skin from drawing up as it bakes. So he takes the blunt side of the knife (see below) and gives it a good whack to break the tip end of that bone. Then he pulls and coerces the rest of the bone out.
Thoroughly deboned:
Now he'll work on those breast tenders. They have those really annoying white tendons running down them, y'know? He grabbed the end of the tendon, pulled it firmly, and scraped the tender back, off of the tendon.

Then he took the tenders, along with other smaller pieces (like the wing drummettes, which he also deboned), and filled out the inside of the chicken.
He salted it well, and neatly rolled it up. Then he tied it with twine.
Don't ask me what kind of fancy knot-work this is, but it worked like a charm. I think I've seen Jacques or Julia do this, so I'm sure you could find the whole thing on Youtube.
The string was long, and he ran it back down the other side, looping it around to make the bird very secure. and knotting it back where he started. Here she is:
It didn't occur to me to photograph the finished product, but I'll say:  it was yummy!

On My Feet

We've been dog-sitting my mother's corgi, Tasha. Tasha is attached to me, since my mother's not here, and when I mean attached, I mean attached. If I'm sitting on the couch, this is where she is:
Sometimes, she's even on my feet. That's to ensure that I don't, y'know, leave.

"I'm in Clothing Heaven!"

Yesterday the mailman brought a box of joy to our house! A good friend had told me she had some very nice clothes she no longer needed, that she thought might fit Anna.  Well, boy did they!  To a "t"!

Anna opened the box from "J."
I think these two young women have very similar taste in clothes, because Anna loved the color, cut and style of all these items.  See this happy face?  This shirt she especially likes.
Anna immediately put this shirt on and wore it all day yesterday.  Julia was desperately hoping it would be too small for Anna.  Alas, not! Anna's look here says, "Nobody is getting this shirt away from me!"
There were a number of fabulous skirts. "J" has excellent taste. Anna liked this one:
And this one was great too:
Look at the beautiful detailing on these pants:
Anna came back in, trying on some of the clothes. She loves this lightweight, filmy blouse.
What a great dress! I'm sorry the photo is a little dark. (Our living room is dark, generally.) It's just a perfect fit: not too snug or loose, feminine, fitted perfectly. There was another gray sleeveless sheath dress that was perfection as well.
What a happy thing!!  Anna said, "I'm in clothing heaven."  And all these arrived at the perfect time, before she heads off to college in the fall.  She will really get some wear out of these.  Thanks so, so much, old friend!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review of "Green Dolphin Street"

I finally finished reading Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge. It took me forever because I read in little snatches at night, before going to sleep. Toward the end, I began reading in longer stretches, and got it finished. I didn't know it was a movie too; I'll see if Netflix has this one. Nope. Just checked, and they don't.
I'd recommend this book if: 1) you enjoy reading, 2) you don't mind long, old-fashioned, highly descriptive prose and romantic stuff, 3) you enjoy a good yarn that takes you around the world, and 4) you don't mind a character or two who might irritate you.
What I liked about this book: 1) Complex characters who are still kept believable. They change and learn and improve over a lifetime. 2) The book does cover a lifetime, which is interesting and rich. 3) The writer is at thinker, and although she doesn't weary you with philosophy, she comes out with some interesting ideas. 4) Her locations are beautifully described, lush and appealing.
(Apparently there is a business somewhere ....)
For those who are Goudge fans, there are three passages that I want to dwell on for a while, so if you're not interested, this would be your cue to click out :)

First passage: When the Green Dolphin is sinking, and Cptn. O'Hara sees a man (William) swimming toward them to save them, O'Hara compares him to Christ: "He was the Savior, saving sometimes by life and sometimes by death, but never failing to redeem."

This is an idea that my brain has toyed with, but has never wanted to express openly:  that death is a way of saving someone, that when we die and go to heaven with Jesus, we are then fully saved, in our deaths -- or rather through our deaths, because we have to pass through death, to reach salvation. I've avoided this concept at times, because I really wanted only the first type of salvation;  I wanted "saving by life," as O'Hara says. We all want deliverance in this life, on this soil, in real time. But in this scene from the book, O'Hara has resigned himself joyfully to going down with his beloved ship. He wants his buddy Nat to be saved in this life, but he knows that he himself will be saved also, by dying. They're both saved either way.

I'm not expressing this well, but in the past I've viewed the deaths of Christians as a failure. God didn't heal them, and so they died. A sad, second-best finish. This passage celebrates that the Christian's death is also salvation, and is a perfectly good option.

Second passage: When Marguerite is talking with the Rev. Mother, they discuss what reality is. The nun says that all people are searching for a better reality, but they search for it in three different ways, depending on their temperaments. "We think of it as a place, a person, a state, according to our temperaments." Marguerite describes her sister, Marianne, as a "restless" person; the nun states that Marianne has "that conception of reality as a place that makes some souls pilgrims and wanderers."  The instant I read that, I felt it was true. Some people are wanderers, and are always looking for a place. And I think it's unfair to say they're unsettled, or unsatisfied. They are searching for a beautiful reality, and they conceive of it in a place.

Others look for their reality in a person. "If the craving of the soul for its perfect mate remains unsatisfied, they find salvation in the service of others, in saving others." This also rings true. Many humans cling to each other, looking for fulfillment, joy, or they love to serve others. This is fairly common.

The third assessment is a bit deeper. The Rev. Mother says, "Ascetics like ourselves conceive of reality as a state. We long for inward perfection." Yes - that's true also! Isn't it odd to find a person who doesn't seem attached to places or to people, but to something inside himself? He is also searching, in a different way.

I don't think Goudge means here that people are seeking reality in other things, when they ought to be seeking it in God.  Her assumption is that the Rev. Mother and Marguerite (at least) are devout believers. But even Christians are still searchers in this life, searchers for the good and beautiful that God leaves for us to find. We find it in different ways.

I found this orderly evaluation of humans into three categories very refreshing and true. I'd never thought of it before in any organized way, and I find myself wanting to ruminate and test it. Which of the three am I?

Third passage: Well, the third one is just a short finger-shaking. At one point, Goudge refers to "the waters of Jordan [River] ... poised above the ranks of the Egyptians before they fell and swept them to annihilation."

Um, that would be the waters of the Red Sea. They killed the Egyptians. The Israelites also walked through the dry bed of the Jordan River, but there were no Egyptians in hot pursuit by that time. It had been forty years.
A Green Dolphin Store! 
For anyone still reading, the most appealing thing in this novel is the complex relationship involving Marguerite, Marianne and William. They remind me of Scarlet, Melanie & Ashley, in Gone With the Wind. Marianne is fiery, arrogant, confident, annoying, driven like Scarlet. Marguerite is sweetness and light, joyful, kind, full of love. William adores her. He is a dear, bumbling, happy boy who accidentally asks for the wrong sister, when requesting a wife from half a world away. But he makes the best of it, marries Marianne anyway, loves her and saves her with his love, and sacrifices everything for her in the end. It's a stunning story of how complex and bizarre life can really be, and how people must somehow deal with the messes they make -- and, most important, how huge mistakes can still be redeemed over a lifetime. Most authors simply aren't brave enough to undertake such a tale. I admire Goudge for it.

"Patience" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

PATIENCE, hard thing! the hard thing but to pray,
But bid for, Patience is! Patience who asks
Wants war, wants wounds; weary his times, his tasks;
To do without, take tosses, and obey.
  Rare patience roots in these, and, these away,     
Nowhere. Natural heart’s ivy, Patience masks
Our ruins of wrecked past purpose. There she basks
Purple eyes and seas of liquid leaves all day.
  We hear our hearts grate on themselves: it kills
To bruise them dearer. Yet the rebellious wills     
Of us we do bid God bend to him even so.
  And where is he who more and more distils
Delicious kindness?—He is patient. Patience fills
His crisp combs, and that comes those ways we know.

Hopkins's poetry is so thick. No word is wasted; every one is so necessary. Patience is a virtue, we're told, but have you ever thought of it as a mat of ivy, covering over and concealing all the things you've lost in life, all the hopes unrealized? Patience thrives in disappointment. Her roots are happy in the soil of affliction and loss. The patient person is slowly filling the chambers of his heart with honey, with sweetness. 
A bruised heart is a gentle heart.

For more Hopkins, here's a link to a website with his poetry.
If you've only read a few of his poems for literature class, I'd recommend reading more.
Spend an hour or so browsing through, and see which ones you like.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On Request: The Sandy Fan Club

Okay, Pom Pom, here are those up-close face shots you wanted, of Sandy! She's a doll :)
Her bib looks whiter in this one.

Here, she seems to be smiling at you :)
Sorry they are a bit dark; her fur is very black. I was holding the camera in my right hand, and a large table lamp in my left, tilted to get as much light on her as possible!

Happy Hour

Adam and I aren't going on many dates these days, since money is tight, but he wanted to take a brief jaunt in Fiona, to celebrate her new dashboard. So we went to Sonic during their afternoon "happy hour."

We have a rule when we're in Fiona:  I'm not allowed to touch the door handle, if I'm traveling in the passenger side. Adam puts me in, and lets me out :) I like that.

I like riding behind that "Leaper" -- the dashing jaguar on the hood.
And now the radio's working! Although the antenna needs a little work ....
We arrive at Sonic. There's just something fun about a drive-in. (Although Sonic now has a drive-through and a dine-in.)
During "happy hour," their drinks and slushies are half off, every day, from 2-5 PM. What a deal! I got a medium strawberry limeade, and Adam got a large blue coconut slushie. He also ordered onion rings, because he really likes them.
And we sat and talked, in our cool car, at the drive-in. I'm not sure whether I felt like a '50s teeny-bopper, or an old lady at an antique car show :) Sure was fun!