Sunday, July 31, 2005

More than a month after the Supreme Court ruled that governments could take one person's property and give it to another in the name of public interest, the decision has set off a storm of legislative action and protest, as states have moved to protect homes and businesses from the expanded reach of eminent domain.

In California and Texas, legislators have proposed constitutional amendments, while at least a dozen other states and some cities are floating similar changes designed to rein in the power to take property.

But at the same time, the ruling has emboldened some cities to take property for development plans on private land.

Via Hit & Run, I think.

Friday, July 29, 2005

THE high court ruled today doctors do have the power to withdraw food and drink from terminally ill patients--even if it is against their wishes.

The General Medical Council (GMC) was appealing against a previous ruling that gave Lesley Burke--who suffers from a degenerative brain condition--the right to insist on nutrition during the final stages of his illness. ...

Philip Havers QC, representing the GMC, said the [overturned] ruling would force doctors to provide the treatment a patient demanded even if the doctor's view was the treatment would not provide any benefit.

He said a patient did not have the right to demand any particular form of treatment.

Mr Burke, of Lancaster, suffers from cerebellar ataxia and sought the original ruling because he feared he would be in no condition to insist on food and water when his disease reached its final stages.

Joyce Robins, co-director of human rights campaign group Patient Concern, said the decision was a disappointment.

She said: "Doctors again have extraordinary power over us, making decisions on how and when we die.

"This is a huge step backwards for patients.

"The right to food and water is a right to simple basic sustenance but
because they are considered treatment, they can now be taken away."

Via Andrew Sullivan's guest-blogger.
Everybody's got blogwatch but me...

JaneGalt (or rather, a guest-blogger thereat): Whaddya know--Kennedy didn't say he was a jelly donut.

After Kelo: A roundup of state-level efforts to curb eminent domain abuse. Via... maybe the Volokh Conspiracy? Not sure.

Celebs Against Farm Subsidies!:
...The photo shoots were organized by the nonprofit advocacy group Oxfam America as part of an ad campaign to raise awareness of what they say is the unfair nature of agricultural subsidies. The campaign urges wealthy nations like the United States and European countries to stop dumping agricultural products onto the world market, which Oxfam argues makes it impossible for farmers in poor countries to compete.

The celebrities who agreed to be dumped on--the actors Minnie Driver, Colin Firth and Antonio Banderas; U2's lead singer, Bono; Coldplay's lead singer, Chris Martin; R.E.M.'s lead singer, Michael Stipe; Alanis Morrissette; and Radiohead's lead singer, Thom Yorke--say they donated their time for the campaign because they believe it is important to level the playing field for developing nations.

"People think more aid will help, but it won't," said Ms. Driver, an actress who is working on her second music CD. "Trade is the surest way of decreasing the savage amount of poverty in our world. These countries have got to be able to trade fairly." ...

Oxfam America estimates that from 2001 to 2003, the presence of artificially cheap American cotton on the world market caused an estimated $400 million in losses to farmers in these West African nations. American producers account for roughly 40 percent of the world's cotton exports, giving them considerable influence over prices, according to the International Cotton Advisory Committee, an association of the governments of cotton producing and consuming nations.

Via JaneGalt.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

DO MOTHERS MATTER?: Discussion thread sparked by this post. Start here and scroll down.

From the initial post: "Do children perceive [] their parents as gender-free beings? Do children ever talk about 'my parent'? Why does gender matter so much to gays and lesbians, who only want to partner with someone of the same gender, but it's not supposed to matter at all to their kids, who supposedly don't give a hoot whether their 'parents' are embodied as male or female, or whether the bodies they came out of (a male one and a female one) are the same bodies caring for them everyday? Why is 'embodiment' such a hot topic among liberal academics when it refers to fun things like sexuality and the discourse of fashion or whatever, but children aren't supposed to care about their own embodiment and its links to the embodied parents who conceived them, and who may or may not be the people raising them?"

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

WHAT IS LIBERALISM?--the blog. New home of Lawrence Krubner.
"THE GILDED AGE": WHAT SHALL I CRY? Current short story, a.k.a. The Fall of the House of Being. In this episode, Margaret's interrogation; Douglas's funeral; Colin's colonial days. Story so far; new episode.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

IF YOU HAVE A SENATOR, click here. Via Unqualified Offerings.
THE AWAKENING: From the Washington Post. Heart-rending; this is only a tiny snippet.
"Are you glad to see me?" Pat would say. "Look at that smile. Now relax your arm. Relax, sweetheart. Say, my name is Sarah. Say, I'm hungry. Say, I'm thirsty. Say, I want to eat. I want to talk. Are you ready to talk? Yes, you are ready to talk."

Sarah would blink. And deep inside that face in which others saw only blank stares, Pat Rincon saw a flicker. ...

When Sarah started talking, they asked her where she had been, what she remembered.

Somebody asked her how old she was.

"I'm 18," her brother, Jim, recalls her trying to say.

"You are not 18, Sarah," he told her.

So she conceded: "I'm 22."

"No, you are 38."

But Sarah insisted she was 22.

"She missed a long time," her dad says. "She missed delightful periods of her life. I said if she wants to be 22, let her be 22."

In May, Sarah turned 39.

Her mother asked if she was aware of 9/11.

"I said, do you know about New York? She said, 'Yeah.' She said, 'Airplanes. Buildings. Smoke.' I said, 'Anything else?' She said, 'No.' I said, 'Do you know about Oklahoma City?' She said, 'Children. Hospitals.' "

People assumed she knew about them because her television was on, imprinting images in her brain.


via The Corner.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Michael and I are in the midst of a 30-day push to sell our books, particularly Here.Now and How to Get the Most out of the Eucharist. We want to try to compensate for the fact that their release in the spring was overwhelmed by Pope Books of every kind and size. We'll be donating the proceeds from our Amazon affiliates account, as well as the royalties from this period to Food for the Poor where, if we can earn $2000, we can build a house for a family in Nicaragua.

Both of these books are for Everyday Catholics who need a boost or a little substantive catechesis. I wrote Here.Now, inspired by my young adult sons. I didn't see much--if anything--in the Catholic market to help young Catholics connect I wrote one. It's simple really, but I just wanted to help young adults see what sometimes their exposure to the faith--usually just Sunday Mass--takes for granted and has perhaps never really made clear.

Michael's book was inspired by the responses he got to talks after he wrote the How-To Book of the Mass, during which he was often bombarded with complaints and concerns about the way in which Mass was being celebrated and the way people wre experiencing it. It was also impacted by life here at St. Blog's in which many of us spend a great deal of energy complaining about abuses, ill-dressed teenage girls and boring homilies, rather than focusing on Christ in the Eucharist, and trusting in His Presence there. He uses the letters in the word SACRIFICE to make his point. It's very good.

So if you have friends, acquaintances or fellow parishioners whom you think might benefit from our books, please check out the links, read Michael's post today, and check out the links. Last week we reached some great heights on the Amazon list--thanks for that. Thanks for the Amazon reviewer who bought 5 copies of Here. Now!
...Conflicts in the Middle East have a tremendous impact on Muslim public opinion worldwide. In justifying its terrorist attacks by referring to Iraq, Al Qaeda is looking for popularity or at least legitimacy among Muslims. But many of the terrorist group's statements, actions and non-actions indicate that this is largely propaganda, and that Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are hardly the motivating factors behind its global jihad.

First, let's consider the chronology. ...

"Born again" or converts, they are rebels looking for a cause. They find it in the dream of a virtual, universal ummah, the same way the ultraleftists of the 1970s (the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Italian Red Brigades) cast their terrorist actions in the name of the "world proletariat" and "Revolution" without really caring about what would happen after.

It is also interesting to note that none of the Islamic terrorists captured so far had been active in any legitimate antiwar movements or even in organized political support for the people they claim to be fighting for. They don't distribute leaflets or collect money for hospitals and schools. They do not have a rational strategy to push for the interests of the Iraqi or Palestinian people. ...

The Western-based Islamic terrorists are not the militant vanguard of the Muslim community; they are a lost generation, unmoored from traditional societies and cultures, frustrated by a Western society that does not meet their expectations.

And their vision of a global ummah is both a mirror of and a form of revenge against the globalization that has made them what they are.


via Hit & Run.
The Bush administration in recent days has been lobbying to block legislation supported by Republican senators that would bar the U.S. military from engaging in "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees, from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, and from using interrogation methods not authorized by a new Army field manual. ...

One McCain amendment would set uniform standards for interrogating anyone detained by the Defense Department and would limit interrogation techniques to those listed in the Army field manual on interrogation, now being revised. Any changes to procedures would require the defense secretary to appear before Congress.

It would further require that all foreign nationals in the custody or effective control of the U.S. military must be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross -- a provision specifically meant to block the holding of "ghost detainees" in Iraq, in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The provision would not apply to detainees in CIA custody at nonmilitary facilities.

Military investigations into the abuse in 2003 of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad disclosed that dozens were held without being registered at numerous prisons; the administration has said it needed to do so to conduct interrogations in isolation and to hide the identity of prisoners from other terrorists.

Another McCain amendment prohibits the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone in the custody of the U.S. government. This provision, modeled after wording in the U.N. Convention Against Torture -- which the United States has already ratified -- is meant to overturn an administration position that the convention does not apply to foreigners outside the United States.


via Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOGGED PRINCE: A bit more. Won't be doing more of these unless I come across something really awesome.

water, healing, and Slytherins
a rambly review with which I almost entirely agree (and the stuff about Tom Riddle almost reconciled me to what is still by far my least favorite section of the new book)
this is a book about reading under the influence
more on fathers and sons

All of those are very much worth your time if you're a Potter fan; the first one has pretty much convinced me that I should read John Granger's book, which I'd been avoiding as it seemed likely to be full of special pleading.
SICUT CERVUS: This Positive Liberty post (via Jon Rowe) on "how not to make me ex-gay" captures pretty much everything I like least about this... what? "movement"?

First off, the "ex-gay" writer's description of gay life: "Unlike homosexuals, heterosexuals sacrifice themselves and their personal desires for the sake of their partners. They commit to each other and care for each other even when times are difficult. Being 'gay' is only about sex, and that's no way to have a life."

Jesus wept, people, read some daggone Evelyn Waugh why don't you! Read some Augustine. What on earth would make you think that sin never contains any seed of goodness, any element of love? St. Augustine thought precisely the opposite of that--that every sin was a virtue misdirected.

(Oh, and does the writer know any heterosexuals? Or even read books about them? Because I realize they're odd creatures, with bizarre folkways, but... I can recommend some basic materials.)

So at first, my reaction to this post was just the usual inchoate fury: "Why can't we just kill everyone in the world and start over?!"

But then I noticed my other huge problem with the "ex-gay" form letter Jason describes: There's nothing to be loved. There's nothing beautiful to Whom the writer cleaves. There's only something horrible to be shunned. And while I have some personal sympathy for that perspective--the horror of sin is sometimes much easier for me to see than the beauty of Christ--it's a thoroughly crippled view of the Christian life.

I believe what the Catholic Church teaches not solely--not even, when I'm at my best, primarily--because the alternatives are ugly. Quite often the alternatives are attractive, insofar as they partake in a partial share of the goodness, love, and grace that God offers. I believe what the Catholic Church teaches because, when I'm at my best, I love Jesus Christ, I love God, and I can faintly discern the beauty, hope, and peace He wants for me.

Accept no substitutes.
HELL HAS NO THERMOSTAT... AND HEAVEN HAS NO CHURCH SIGNS. I don't agree with all of this site's judgments, whether rhetorical or theological (re the former, I find "All saints have a past. All sinners have a future" quite moving), but nonetheless, a fun site. Via Relapsed Catholic.
SEX OR GENDER?: Book review by Sara Butler.

Various related posts with my own take on such matters: here, here.
Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn't have done that?

When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq -- a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations -- when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"THE GILDED AGE": THE RISE AND FALL OF PRACTICALLY EVERYTHING. Have started new story. May abandon--suspect this may have been done better by others. But maybe not. So: a family tragedy, a political fantasy, an everyday apocalypse. Because every ending has a beginning; and this ending begins here. ...And yes, "Margaret" is a shout-out.
NITWIT. BLUBBER. BLOGWATCH. TWEAK. Some Potter posts I've enjoyed in recent days. The spoilers--they're breeding! So don't click if you don't want to know what happens. Some of my favorite aspects of the book aren't touched on in these posts, because I haven't found one post that summarizes what I'd want to say on those topics; and many of my least-favorite aspects aren't touched on because most of the posts I've read that growl at the same things I growled at are, frankly, over the top. (Although if you click on the Percy post and do a "find on this page" for "honestly, what kind of ethics," there's a little taste of character-loathing that I very much share.) Also, I've seen some fascinating speculations about events in the final book, but I lost those links (except for this one and this one), so you don't get 'em. Finally, there's cussin' and other not-for-kids stuff in several of these posts, so assume neither the imprimatur nor the nihil obstat. Anyway, here, enjoy!
thestrals bored Draco
father figures
wish I was a tin can, then someone could redeem me
page 394
Weasley Is Our King (with graphic!)

ETA: Dumbledore's man. (I feel for you, you little horror....)
MARTIN X WAS MAD WHEN THEY OUTLAWED BELLE BOTTOMS/TEN YEARS LATER THEY WERE SHARING THE SAME CELL...: "Former Black Panthers are hoping the phrase 'Burn Baby Burn' will help their nonprofit organization market a new product--hot sauce." (more) Via SRD and Relapsed Catholic.
THAT'S ALL RIGHT, THAT'S OKAY, WE'LL BE NOMINATING YOU SOMEDAY: So far, the only bad thing I know about John Roberts is that he's a Cantab. Let the games begin! (Although this Randy Barnett post--basically an anti-"Organization Kid" take on Roberts's career--is interesting.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

HAVE FINISHED NEW HARRY POTTER BOOK. General reaction: !!!!!!. Have a lot to say about it, actually, but can't figure out a good way to hide spoilers. For the moment I'll just say that JKR reminds me of Moaning Myrtle--sitting in her U-bend, thinking about death--and I love it. Sixth book my favorite thus far.
DAPPLED THINGS ON POPULAR DEVOTIONS: "These devotions have given voice to the common spiritual sentiment of the people for ages, and they have flowered into a beautiful (if, at times, idiosyncratic) garden that makes religion more enjoyable and humane. Nobody has to practice them, but a great many choose to do so. And that, I think, leads to greater fervor in other areas and must be very pleasing to God." (quite a bit more)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

"Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

Vaclav Havel, Disturbing the Peace

Via About Last Night.

Friday, July 15, 2005

AN AGE LIKE THIS. Chinese General Threatens Use of A-Bombs If U.S. Intrudes. (Via Unqualified Offerings.) Stratfor chairman says Chinese growling is result of tottering economy. (Via The Corner.)

Hilarious flash satire of British i.d.-card scheme. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)

Meanwhile, Dappled Things asks what's on my bedside table, but the answer is stupidly boring: I don't have one. I sleep by the windowledge, but the only things on the windowledge are my alarm clock, a very pretty lamp, and an autumn-leaves-theme vase which sometimes contains sunflowers. On the bed itself, you will find Choice: The Best of Reason (which is an excellent collection), a Bible (published by Ignatius--I don't know if that tells you what you need to know about the translation--I'm at the office and can't check), the comp book where I keep notes from Bible-reading, and at least one ballpoint pen. I think that's it. Under the bed are various copies of The Weekly Standard, from a copyediting job I did a while ago. Half-under the bed are some comic books and a cardboard box filled with printed-out emails from 1996-2001, which I need to file. ...Told you it was boring.

Going home now.
"The kind of techniques used in Abu Ghraib--sexual humiliation, hooding, use of dogs, tying prisoners up in 'stress positions', mandatory nudity, humiliating prisoners for their religious faith, even the famous Lynndie England leash--were all developed at Guantanamo Bay under the strictest of supervision. What we were told were just frat-guy, crazy techniques on the night shift--had been deployed by the best trained, most tightly controlled, most professional interrogation center we have." (more)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"THE ZOMBIE GUIDE TO LIFE": BETWEEN THE INTENTION AND THE ACT. The end. Yeah, I can't write suspense to save my life--let alone the lives of my characters. Did my best here; but "if that's your best, your best won't do!"--which, if you think about it, is kind of the point of the story. ...Yeah.

Anyway: Zombies. Mysteries solved. Lilacs. Zombies with guns! You know you want to read it. Story so far here; final section here. (It's vast. This is the only other thing I've written that's as long as "Kissable Pictures.") Your criticism welcomed.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Why do we feed them? What good do they do?
Did you ever know a blogwatch to do something good for you?

So, as you may have guessed, I did not in fact finish "The Zombie Guide to Life" last night, though it's very close to done. I need to write a couple more scenes, do some sanding, and solve two plot problems, and then I'll post it. Maybe tonight, maybe not. In the meantime, why not check out this stuff?

Old Oligarch: Living Idol to Chinese Communism Spawns. "It's cute! It's so cute! Squee! I'm an American. My brain is shutting down.... Must pay money and coo over the little soccer-ball bear."

A tribute to the Tube: "How do Tube drivers obtain the cups of hot tea they often carry? (There are kettles waiting at 'tea points' around the network.) ...Is there really a man who goes around the system killing pigeons with a hawk? (Yes.)" Via The Corner.

Who are the pro-Americans? "Direct political experience is not, however, the only factor that shapes foreigners' perceptions of the United States. Around the world, there are millions of people who associate the United States not merely with a concrete political ideal, or even a particular economic theory, but with more general notions of upward mobility, of economic progress, and of a classless society (not all of which exist in the United States anymore, but that's another matter). Advertising executives understand very well the phenomenon of ordinary women who read magazines filled with photographs of clothes they could not possibly afford. They call such women 'aspirational.' Looking around the world, there are classes of people who are 'aspirational' as well. And these aspirational classes, filled with people who are upwardly mobile or would like to be, tend to be pro–American as well." (that stuff is on pp 2 and 3.) Via Dappled Things.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

"THE ZOMBIE GUIDE TO LIFE": THE CAT CAME BACK, THE VERY NEXT DAY. Next section of current short story. In which we learn whodunnit (which I expect was obvious) but not why. I think there's only one more section, and I hope to finish it tonight. We'll see. Here for story so far; here for most recent section.

Friday, July 08, 2005

"THE ZOMBIE GUIDE TO LIFE": I WOULD KILL FOR THE THRILL OF FIRST LOVE. Next scene of current short story. Braaaaaiiiiins!!!!

Here for story so far; here for most recent scene.
"THE ZOMBIE GUIDE TO LIFE": WHY, MAN, THEY DID MAKE LOVE TO THIS EMPLOYMENT! Second section of current short fiction. I really meant to get all the pieces on the chessboard in this section, but it didn't happen, so one crucial character is still waiting to be introduced. Anyway, here is more of writer/director Stephen Cantwell and actor Billy Sealey reflecting on the movie that made their names.

"This--audiences are really sophisticated, nowadays," Stephen said. "They can pick up with only a few visual clues on something like a dream sequence or a flashback. We really exploited that here. Audiences now are really wired for film--they have this huge, like, library of cuts and scenes and genre conventions, that they probably don't even realize they have, but we as directors can call on them really easily and show them things in abbreviation and they'll get it. Like with this movie, in some ways it follows the horror genre really blatantly--you'll see, at the end, when the reveals start happening, you'll see a lot of it is very standard. Because those tricks work. They're scary. But then the reveals kind of twist around on themselves and the genre gets disrupted, broken up. Turned against itself."

New scene. Story so far.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"THE ZOMBIE GUIDE TO LIFE": THE LAST SMOKER IN HOLLYWOOD. Current short story. A director and an actor take a look at their breakthrough movie. Sorry about all the italics--there'll be much more plain-text stuff in the next segment.

"--Yeah, but so, the--the sort of opening irony of the movie is that here's this woman who teaches about zombies all day, it's her job, but she can't recognize one in her real life because she doesn't really believe in the stuff she teaches about. So we had to show Soleil teaching. But we couldn't make it too blatant. It's a balance." (more)
MESSAGES OF RESOLVE here. More here, here, here.
IRAQI CONSTITUTION: From Balkinization:
...Now Nathan Brown (author of the path-breaking Constitutions in a Non-Constitutional World: Arab Basic Laws and the Prospects for Accountable Government) has provided a translation (PDF) of the biggest leak so far--the draft bill of rights for the Iraqi constitution. He has also provided a wonderful commentary on the text.

The highlights? Strongly stated protections for speech, religious liberty, equality under the law, science. Relatively robust protections for women, though more in their capacities as mothers than anything else. A strong prohibition on torture, including an absolute ban on using confessions acquired by torture in court. Many social rights. Very little mention of Shari'a. All in all, this is a very interesting document and shows that the Iraqis are not just copying other countries' constitutions--but also that they are not just copying international human rights agreements either.

TERRIBLE NEWS. Kathy Shaidle reminds us to pray for the first-response personnel as well as for the victims.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

IF I DIDN'T TELL HER, I COULD LEAVE TODAY: So I knew this guy, one of the smartest guys I've known, and one day we were all sitting in the main college dining hall eating lunch. And he had this Fudgsicle, which he was loving. He was loving it all over his face. The fudge was everywhere. And Ratty (I think she was there?) pointed out that he had festooned his phiz with fudge; to which he replied, "It'll help me with my humility."

In a similar spirit, I should note that I've posted a third part of "Endless Summer." The first two parts have been significantly reworked, as well. This story isn't over--I thought it would be an easy triptych, but, as befits the subject matter, it's gotten messy. I will need to write scenes from (at least) Magda's and Melaney's points of view. So... it's somewhat horrifyingly awful right now. I'm inflicting it on you because some of you have been reading it, and giving excellent advice.

Also, disturbing content, by which I don't mean sex. So, forewarned. Story so far here, most recent episode here.

I don't plan to finish this very soon. Instead, I'll be starting a new story; probably tomorrow; probably "The Zombie Guide to Life."

Your critiques, comments, howls of execration all more than welcome.
KITCHEN ADVENTURE: PAN-ROASTED RIB-EYE STEAKS WITH GORGONZOLA AND SWEET ONION SAUCE. Sounds complicated. Is actually stupidly easy, but expensive. If I were you I would substitute a cheaper cut of meat. Still, delectable, and it makes excellent leftovers.

What you need (cooking for one--mess with the proportions for more, but don't assume that two people = double amount, or four people = quadruple--use common sense) : The smallest rib-eye steak your butcher allows. I tried for 10 oz, but they just didn't have anything that size. A Vidalia onion. Olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, heavy cream, Gorgonzola cheese. The actual recipe also called for ham and scallions, but... whatever, I don't care about ham and scallions.

What I did: Heated oven to 375. Rubbed onion with olive oil, salted it, peppered it. Put it on a foil-covered baking sheet. You're then supposed to bake it, turning two or three times (three, since I am paranoid), until it is slightly soft when pressed, about 35 minutes. (This was not quite what happened. After 35 minutes my onion was totally soft and in need of exactly no further cooking. Next time I will bake it for 27 mins or so. You do it to taste--if it's very soft after 35 mins, don't worry, it will still be delicious.) When onion is cool enough to handle, peel and cut into thin slices.

If your onion is still kinda firm, do the following: In a large frying pan, heat some butter over moderate heat. Add onion, ham if using, and some more salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened but still slightly firm in the center. I didn't do this, because my onion was already quite soft.

In saucepan, add cream, rosemary, and scallion tops if using, and cook until thickened, about five minutes. Stir in Gorgonzola and heat until smooth.

In a big old frying pan, heat olive oil, salt and pepper steak, and cook to taste, turning etc. Top with creamy oniony sauce and enjoy.

How it turned out: Sauce was a bit soupy, but delectable. I don't much care for Gorgonzola, but if you don't use too much (let's say a 1 1/2-inch wedge off a cheese wedge, for one person?), you get a lovely cheesy flavor without the distinctive "imperialist" taste of Gorgo. This recipe cooked the meat medium, perfectly--still pink on the inside, but cooked through. The next day, the meat was still pink on the inside, and when you cut into it, juice still flowed. I think if you try the onion-baking technique, you'll agree with me that it should be used frequently, in much cheaper dishes. All in all, a success--restaurant-rich and much easier than it looks.
Take me back to dear old Blogwatch,
Put me on the train to London Town....

In which spirit, I hope all American readers had a wonderful Independence Day. I watched things blow up on the Mall. Children howled, entrepreneurs hawked wares, two versions of "God Bless America" played (along with "It's a Grand Old Flag" and, of course, "The Star-Spangled Banner"--with "the rockets' red glare" coinciding with beautiful red fireworks), and I did not hear, this year, "Moon River"--which still strikes me as one of the absolute best July 4th songs.

Amy Welborn: I met a man just yesterday who said he was a Trad.
He said that electricity was just a passing fad.
He'd rather see a castle than a Coca-Cola ad,
And the Middle Ages really weren't that bad, weren't that bad!
No, the Middle Ages really weren't that bad!

History Spork: They watch historical fiction movies so you don't have to. Doubtless there are areas where scholars will disagree, but I think there's a lot of hilarity to be shared across philosophical and historiographical borders as well. Films sporked thus far include "Troy," "King Arthur," and "Gladiator."

Christian Science Monitor: "New political tool: text messaging." Money makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel.

Washington Post real estate section: "Court Ruling Leaves Poor at Greatest Risk." Because most homeowners don't want their castle turned into a Coca-Cola ad.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

She said, "Well I want sixteen kids, and a house out in Speke';
The spirit was willing, but the blogwatch was weak...

Angevin2: What starts as a poll on which Shakespeare play you'd boot from the canon becomes a fascinating thread where people discuss the gems found in lesser-known plays.

Oxblog: Nihilist seeks nothing. And other great London Review of Books personals ads.

Friday, July 01, 2005

LAW GEEK FUN. Hey, I laughed.
KITCHEN ADVENTURE: CHICKEN BREAST WITH GOAT CHEESE. Well, except for setting off my smoke alarm (managed to catch something on fire on one of the broiler heaters), this went really well. And very simple.

All you have to do is: Buy a chicken breast with the skin on. Cover a tray with foil. Loosen the chicken skin with your fingers. Smear goat cheese under the skin (this was demi-complicated at first, until I figured out how to kind of stuff the cheese down under the skin). Brush/smear olive oil over both sides of the chicken. Broil it skin-side-up for approx 5 minutes (this is when my oven caught fire!); then bake it at 375 for approx 15 minutes. Take the chicken out, pepper it, and, if you're me, top with shredded fresh basil leaves.

It was delectable: moist and juicy. The fresh basil was a good choice; I bet you could also top it with dried basil and rosemary before baking it, or, if you feel like being complex, work the herbs into the goat cheese before you begin.

Serve with, maybe, a baked potato, or roasted new potatoes, and maybe a broccoli crown. From Jane Galt I learned a super-easy way to cook broccoli in the microwave: Get a big ol' crown and cut off the hard, tough end of the stalk (you don't have to be exact--just cut where it looks good to you). Put the crown in a dish in about three inches of water. Squeeze half a lemon over the crown. Cover the dish. (If you use plastic wrap to cover it, be sure to wear oven mitts when you take the wrap off, because the steam will be very hot.) Microwave on high for five to seven minutes. Drain, pepper, and eat with (if you're me) lots of butter.
Angry over a recent Supreme Court decision, the House on Thursday began a legislative drive to roll back the power of local governments to seize homes and other private property for economic development projects.

By a vote of 231 to 189, the House approved an amendment forbidding the administration from spending money on local projects that seize private property for business development.

"What all of us who wish to see this legislation enacted into law want to make sure happens is that the federal government's money isn't used to finance taking someone's property from them to build a strip mall," said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.).

In their opinion, the justices noted that state legislatures are free to pass laws that bar officials from condemning property for private development. California and at least eight other states have laws on the books that forbid the use of the eminent domain power to condemn private property for economic development, except in "blighted" areas.

Via How Appealing.

Tell your governor to sign the "Hands Off My Home" pledge. (more)

And, for those who need yet more reminders of the stakes, The Agitator has a list of localities moving to seize property in the wake of Kelo. Link via Hit & Run.