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Beth: Little Owl
It's been officially autumn since Sunday.
Fittingly, we spent the equinox out of doors in the gorgeous, crisp, sunny weather.

Today is warmer and sunnier, but the air still has that 'edge' to it that indicates autumn. I'm looking forward to leaf piles, pumpkins, cider and sweaters and shawls over my blouses.

It's totally scarf weather. :)

That said ... I also welcomed the first of the season's virii with the equinox and am at home with a bad head cold. I feel like I have a tissue permanently glued to my face and tiny gnomes running around my skull tapping on it with bitty hammers.

Thankfully, our lovely babysitter is here today to run interference with Matthew so I can get some work done without going crazy.

We're also heading into my favorite month of the year: October. I should actually get to enjoy it this year too, since last year's October was fraught with moving stress and being 9 months pregnant. I'm looking forward to walks in the pretty weather with my family this October as well as celebrating both Matt's first birthday a little early and Mark's 51st a little late.

In just two weeks, Matt will be 11 months old and the countdown to his 1st birthday begins. It's hard to believe how quickly that 1st year flew by!

Monkey in the Morning

Beth: Little Owl

monkey in the morning
Originally uploaded by littleowl.
This year's baby fashions have been very heavy on monkey themes so we've received a lot of monkey-decorated gifts including this adorable set from my Aunt Elaine.

Matt is starting to fit into his 3-6 month selections a bit better this month as he hits the 2 month mark so I dressed him up in his monkey gear today!

His little legs are still a titch too short for the larger size, so I have to hike the waist band up high to get his feet into the footies. ;)

Matthew Richard Kelleher Pflum

Beth: Little Owl

2012-1108-Matthew 001
Originally uploaded by littleowl.
For those on LJ who might not be aware, this is Matthew, our little boy born on November 7th, 2012 at 5:15am.

He was 8lbs 12oz and 22in at birth. He's nearly 2 months old now and we'll find out his weight and height on Monday. I expect he'll be over 12lbs and nearly 26in long based on the heft of him in my arms and how he stretches out sideways in his crib and nearly takes up the whole 27 in wide mattress!


Beth: Little Owl

Originally uploaded by littleowl.

Deconstructing "Healthy Ridicule"

Beth: Little Owl
A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook recently stating how much she loved the piece and how spot on it was as a send up of Obama. But I don't get it.

Inline, below, my deconstruction of the article from the Wall Street Journal by James Taranto.

TAMPA, Fla.--Here was our favorite line from Mitt Romney's convention speech: "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."

Hasn't Obama also promised to help families? From his acceptance of the nomination from the DNC in 2008:

"Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their job and caring for a sick child or an ailing parent."

He also outlined other ways to help families in that speech. Some he's made good on, some he hasn't. I don't agree with all of the health care act, for instance, but in my opinion, it's a step in the right direction and it /does/ help families to survive in a tough economy given the high cost of health care in this country.

We liked it even better when we saw that the New York Times's Nicholas Kristof had tweeted: "Seriously, Romney's speech esp troubled me by mocking rising seas/climate change. The dismissiveness was appalling." Gaia is a jealous Goddess, and She will not be mocked!

This isn't really funny, it's jeering and sneering in tone and puts down a very real concern about climate change.

It actually hadn't occurred to us that the Romney line was a repudiation of global warmism. If so, that's lagniappe. What we enjoyed was the deft way in which Romney punctured Obama's self-aggrandizement--by quoting his most immodest promise ever, pausing for effect, then making an almost comically modest promise of his own.

Just because Obama supports trying to prevent climate-related problems /in addition to/ other issues, doesn't mean he's any more self-aggrandizing than any other candidate, past or present. Also, it's not modest or special to promise to help every family in America.

Every presidential candidate promises this. It's par for the course. It's also a very complex promise that hinges on /how/ a given candidate intends to make good on that promise. As stated above, Obama made similar promises in the 2008 election year. He's made good on some of what he promised but not all of it.

G.W. Bush also made similar promises in his nomination acceptance speech:
"And we will extend the promise of prosperity to every forgotten corner of this country. To every man and woman, a chance to succeed. To every child, a chance to learn. To every family, a chance to live with dignity and hope."

These types of promises aren't out of the ordinary in nomination acceptance speeches. It's normal for candidates to make big promises when accepting the nomination. It doesn't point to any greater or lesser amount of hubris in a given candidate. It's just part of the politics game.

Previewing Romney's speech last week, Peggy Noonan advised him to use humor: "President Obama can't stand to be made fun of. His pride won't allow it, his amour propre cannot countenance a joke at his own expense. If Mr. Romney lands a few very funny lines about the president's leadership, Mr. Obama will freak out. That would be fun, wouldn't it?"

Given that Obama has proven he can poke fun at himself in public on a comedy show in the past, this is an invalid statement. See Obama poking fun at himself and accepting jabs on The Daily Show in 2010, for example (yes, even if Jon Stewart is an Obama supporter, he still asks probative, skewering questions).

Romney managed to do so at least once. In a somewhat similar vein was the more-in-sorrow-than-anger condescension of his assertion that "I wish President Obama had succeeded, because I want America to succeed." No doubt journalism's fearless "fact checkers" will be on the case. FACT: Romney is GLAD Obama failed! PANTS ON FIRE!!!!

Yes, they were and pulled up video of Romney stating very plainly, that he hoped Obama's policies would fail.

If Romney can strike a similar tone face to face with the president, the debates ought to be a blast. And he wasn't the only one having fun at Obama's expense. Clint Eastwood, a former mayor of Carmel, Calif., performed an apparently improvised routine in which he carried on a dialogue with an empty chair in which he pretended the president was sitting. It was very odd, but the crowd loved it. And, as notes, the president felt compelled to issue a rebuttal: a photo of a chair with him in it!

I'm not sure why people thought this was funny. It was pretty sad and made it seem like Mr. Eastwood is in the early stages of senility. I felt really bad for him. The spot was really, really awkward.

Throughout the convention Republicans made hay of Obama's infamous Friday the 13th "You didn't build that" speech. Romney celebrated immigrants to America, who "came, not just in pursuit of the riches of this world, but for the richness of this life. Freedom, freedom of religion, freedom to speak their mind, freedom to build a life and, yes, freedom to build a business with their own hands." The previous night, Paul Ryan said:

If small-business people say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place. Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at 5 in the morning. Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them. After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn't help to hear from their president that government gets the credit. What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.

Many other speakers touched on the same theme. The tone was indignant, not lighthearted, which was suitable given the viciousness of the president's attack on Americans who've earned their success.

" 'We did build that,' has already been established as one of the more dishonest political memes in a campaign season undisturbed by shame," the Times's Bill Keller harrumphed on Tuesday, after the convention showed a video in which three small-business men responded to the Obama attack:

The Republicans took a clumsy phrase from an Obama speech in July. . . . The Republican spin-masters whipped this into a preposterous claim that Obama denied American entrepreneurs any credit for their creations. The fact that this slogan has been thoroughly debunked has not kept it from being the defining theme in Tampa.

Keller actually claims that Obama "um, never actually said" what the GOP video quotes him as saying and what Keller himself shows that Obama said by providing an even lengthier quote than appeared in the video.

Obama's journalistic supporters live in a bizarre alternate reality in which a politician's actual words mean nothing. When the president says something foolish and offensive, he didn't say that. Meanwhile every comment from a Republican can be translated, through a process of free association, to: "We don't like black people."

Obama's speech in question, was definitely a stumble and an opportunity to humorously skewer the President for a misstep. However, the author doesn't do that. I don't see the author making fun of Obama for the misstep, but tearing him down for a single line and then focusing more on one particular journalist's remarks in support of Obama. He then goes on to paint the entire set of journalists who support Obama as in denial and reactionary. Again, these remarks aren't funny, because they don't point out an inherent truth/untruth imbalance. Also, ridiculing Obama's supporters is not the same as ridiculing Obama himself.

The question of race is central to the leftist media's protectiveness toward Obama, who has both benefited and suffered from a racial double standard. As the late Geraldine Ferraro pointed out in 2008--and was attacked for pointing out--Obama would not have risen so quickly had he been white. No sane person believed that stuff about casting down the oceans and mending "the planet," but a lot of Americans thought electing a black president would be a salve for racial wounds.

Obama rose in 2008 as a symbol of racial aspirations--the black aspiration to be recognized as fully American and the white aspiration to redeem the sin of racism. That made it difficult to criticize him, much less to mock him. John McCain's campaign was hobbled by a fear of appearing racist, and Obama himself received a degree of deference that is excessive for any politician.

The left has not moved beyond seeing Obama as a racial symbol, and that is for two reasons. First, his record as president doesn't have much else to recommend it, so that crying racism is about the best they can do as an argument for re-election. Second, it is of great psychological importance to American left-liberals to believe that their opponents are racist and they themselves are not. Their self-image as a moral elite revolves around the imputation of invidious racial attitudes to others.

There are racists across the political spectrum in the U.S. There's a lot of invective back and forth from both sides on this issue. Read the comments on any political article and you have a lot of self-righteous Democrats and Libertarians waxing on and on about the bigotry of all Republicans or all conservatives. But this is a case where it is absolutely true that there are racists on all sides and it's not right for any one group to claim the 'not racist' card. That said, if one breaks it down to /policy/, there is a lot of bigotry inherent in Romney's proposed platform directed against many groups. How is banning women from combat /not/ bigoted and misogynistic? This policy makes absolutely no sense and isn't grounded in any kind of logic that I can see. "Don't ask don't tell" is discriminatory towards anyone who is queer. Banning civil union/secular marriage for queers is also discriminatory towards non-traditional couples and families, because any form of marriage in this country currently entails tax breaks and legal rights for spouses that queer folk are barred from based on sexual orientation.

Romney and the Republicans, however, have moved on. This was best exemplified by the nominee's birth-certificate quip, which we wrote about on Monday. Birtherism, once mortifying to mainstream conservatives and Republicans, is now just a joke, although the left continues to take it very seriously.

Maybe Romney has wisely moved away from stumping about birtherism ... but it's alive and well amongst folks commenting online.

It is healthy for America that the president be criticized and even mocked. Deference to a Dear Leader has no place in a democracy. It's healthy for race relations, too, that he be judged on his record rather than held to a lower standard in the name of racial progress. When a black politician is treated just like any other politician, that's genuine progress.

I agree that it's healthy to criticize and poke fun at our leaders. We should always think and question. But we should do so /rationally/. I also agree that Obama shouldn't be favored because of race issues. His record isn't perfect, but it's nowhere near as dire as most opponents rate it.

If Obama had been subject to the usual rigors of politics in 2008 and before, and if his backers in the media and elsewhere had not been so keen before and during his presidency to deflect criticism by invoking race, he probably would have a thicker skin, better arguments and a deeper understanding of America. Those qualities would make an incumbent a better bet for re-election. Then again, without the racial symbolism and all the accompanying baggage, he probably would still be the junior senator from Illinois (if that). Life is full of trade-offs.

I disagree with these statements and again, there's no inherent humor or 'healthy ridicule' in this paragraph. Obama generally argues well when put on the spot, though he has his stumbles just like any other politician. I've yet to see a leader or politician in the world handle every remark, speech, question perfectly. I also dispute the idea that he doesn't have a deep understanding of America. He /has/ proven time and again, in his commentary to the public that he understands the diversity of this country and the complexities of its make up. Romney, by hearkening back to the "Leave It To Beaver" era of supposed simplicity, betrays a deep /lack/ of understanding of America. We don't live in that world anymore, if we ever did.

Romney's speech continued the convention's theme, noted here Wednesday, of appealing specifically to women. But whereas we had some quibbles with Ann Romney's special pleading on behalf of her sex, we rather liked Mitt's formulation in describing the Romneys' life as a young family:

These were tough days on Ann, particularly. She was heroic through it all. Five boys with our families a long way away. I had to travel a lot for my job then, and I'd call and try to offer support. But every mom knows that that does not help get the homework done or get the kids out the door to school. I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine. I knew without question that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine.

Implicit in this is a very effective rebuttal to all the left's "war on women" nonsense. Romney's account is entirely traditionalist inasmuch as it puts the family at the center of life, but the opposite of misogynistic in that it puts the mother and her domestic labors at the center of the family.

This is not an effective rebuttal at all. Rather it points out the inherent bias and misogyny in Romney's stance. Replace the word 'mom' with 'parent' and maybe he'd be getting somewhere. The responsibilities described are not the sole province of women and shouldn't be. They are the province of /parents/ regardless of gender.

Putting "the mother and her domestic labors at the center of the family" is NOT the opposite of misogynistic, it is the epitome of misogynistic. Assuming that domestic labors are the province of women is /classic/ misogyny and completely at odds with the growing number of men who have assumed a central domestic role. It's great that Romney gives his wife props for the work she did and recognizes that the domestic role is a /valid/ one. But continuing to conflate domesticity and the female gender continues to promulgate a biased view of gender-roles in the family.

It would be nice if someone would say a word about fathers, whose presence is vitally important to a child's socialization even if their domestic duties are less labor-intensive than Mom's. But politicians go where the votes are. Almost every family includes a mother, but in recent decades divorce and illegitimacy have thinned the ranks of fathers (except of course in the bare biological sense). Anyway, it's hard for anyone to argue with a celebration of motherhood.

Again, this is an inherently misogynistic and biased statement. The presence of loving caretakers is vitally important to a child's socialization, regardless of gender. Assuming that a father's domestic duties are or should be less labor-intensive than the mother's is patently biased and also ridiculous, given the world we live in today. This view ignores domestic fathers entirely which is an insult to every man who has chosen that path. It's also an insult to divorced parents, especially divorced fathers who are /good/ parents in spite of divorce. There are plenty of deadbeat dads out there, both divorced and not. There are plenty of deadbeat moms out there, both divorced and not. There are also plenty of divorced people who manage to be good parents /in spite/ of divorce. I'd also challenge the author to define illegitimacy and why it's even a factor in this discussion. There are plenty of children born out of wedlock who live in supportive, loving families with both parents present, again, REGARDLESS of gender. Stating that 'illegitimacy' has 'thinned the ranks of fathers' is a gross assumption that flies in the face of every family where the partners choose not to marry. Marriage is not the end-all-be-all to creating a happy family.

To be sure, some women will be impervious to any effort Romney might make to attract their votes. We saw a group of them yesterday afternoon, standing across the street from a shopping center just outside the convention's perimeter. They were dressed in odd pink outfits, and two of them held aloft a banner that read VAGINA IS NOT A 4-LETTER WORD. (Math is hard.)

Here the author decides to pick on an extreme as an example of the only type of woman who might object to Romney, as if only extremists in 'odd pink outfits' would object to him. There's also an assumption of extremism here, which isn't necessarily warranted. Even if Romney's social policies weren't entirely whack-a-doodle and discriminatory, personally, I wouldn't vote for him based solely on economics. According to my research and understanding of history and economics, the proposed economic changes from the Romney/Ryan won't solve our problems and are highly likely to make them much, much, worse. I don't think Obama did enough to bolster the U.S. economy either, but I firmly believe that the Republican proposed platform will utterly sink our economy. There are plenty of women like me out there, who believe the same and wouldn't vote for Romney based on economic policy alone. We're not fringe crazies (and the women protesting Hooters probably aren't either), we're smart, educated women who've weighed the policies and found Romney's ideas lacking.

At first we thought they were there to protest the event we were attending, billed as a "Celebration of Pro-Life Women Leaders" (they included Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch of Wisconsin). But it turned out instead they were opposing the restaurant downstairs from the venue to which we were headed.

"Hooters discriminates against women's body parts!" one of the pink protesters screamed as we walked by. Perhaps she's right, but one wonders what kind of equal-opportunity effort she would propose to remedy the problem.

Most of this is really irrelvant to the debate, though this is an example of poking fun of extremists which is more apt to the "Healthy Ridicule" title. However, again, this isn't ridicule of Obama, but of a specific group of protesters who may not even support Obama. Heck, they might be Green Party. Or Libertarian. Or heaven forbid, REAL SOCIALISTS. Or even economic conservatives!

Arriving at the celebration, we were crestfallen to learn the bar offered only soft drinks. It turns out there are both wet and dry pro-lifers. The ladies at the Susan B. Anthony List (counterpart to the pro-abortion Emily's List), who invited us, are among the former. But a co-sponsor, Concerned Women for America, has a policy against adult beverages at its functions, and the drys prevailed--until after the event, when we adjourned to the nearby "Woman Up Pavilion" for a tipple with the SBA ladies.

On that spirited note we bid farewell to Tampa and the Republican National Convention. Next week it is off to Charlotte, N.C., for the Democrats. We just hope we get invited to the Unconcerned Women for America party.

The end of the article continues to drift away from Obama-ridicule and stays stuck on woman-ridicule. But at least it's ridicule?

Long story short, there's maybe two paragraphs of good argument in this mess.
The rest is just typical election-year hyperbole which is common on both sides of the political spectrum. Most of it isn't even focused on Obama or the Democratic Party.

Jon Stewart does a much better job of skewering everyone on any given broadcast of "The Daily Show" than Mr. Taranto does of attempting to skewer Obama in this piece.


War on Xmas?

Beth: Little Owl
Saw this article posted:

My favorite response to the situation in the comments:

Comment by Wingedbeast:
"Let me translate for those who don't get it. "Merry Christmas" when said among strangers, particularly when we're talking about corporate or business entities to their customers, doesn't translate to "I wish you positive feelings surrounding this upcoming holiday" so much as "I assume you to be of my faith and put it on you to make waves by correcting me" or, to shorten it "Christians dominate the culture".

"Happy Holidays" translates, not to "I hate Christmas" and more to "I wish anybody good feelings surrounding this time of year without putting anybody in a position of having to choose conflict or discomfort". Or, to shorten it "Happy Holidays".

So, let's play out the scene. Let's look at a common grocery store. Let's move across the registers.

Register 1. "Thank you for shopping at Volde-Mart. Christians dominate our culture" says the teller. "We sure do" pleasantly responds the customer.

Register 2. "Thank you for shopping at Volde-Mart. Christians dominate our culture" says the teller. "Uh... yeah, you kinda do" acknowledges the nonchristian customer who doesn't want to make waves.

Register 3. "Thank you for shopping at Volde-Mart. Happy Holidays," says the teller. "Happy holidays," happily responds the customer of potentially any faith or lack-there-of.

Register 4. "Thank you for shopping at Volde-Mart. Happy Holidays," says the teller. "What?" asks the customer angrily. "It's Christians dominate the culture! Don't you try to oppress my faith!"

Thank you for going along with this little play.


Long Weekend

Seasons: Summer
It's mostly cool and quiet here in my room, but the sound of the TV and Vic's video game are drifting down the hall and through the door, where the sunlight is playing against the walls and heat pulses inward from the patio.

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Boston Cream Pie Birthday Cake

Beth: Little Owl
I made a Boston Cream Pie completely from scratch for my mother's birthday on the 19th. I usually like to decorate cakes all fancy but my mother really loves Boston Cream Pie so I decided to make her an all-time favorite instead of going crazy with colors and shapes.

Before I started making the cake, I pulled out my cookbooks to refresh my memory about how to make this particular dessert. I was vaguely thinking that I just needed a recipe for yellow butter cake, chocolate frosting and I could pick up some vanilla pudding pre-made at the grocery store. I even bought the pudding in anticipation of doing the easy version of Boston Cream Pie.

And then I found that I didn't have the recipe for Boston Cream Pie in my cookbook. Apparently my revised version of Betty Crocker doesn't have it. Neither did I have it my hand-written recipe collection. I experienced a moment of uncertainty that I was remembering the right components and hopped online to look up a recipe instead.

As these things are wont to happen, I wound up spending a half hour reading about the Parker House Hotel and the restaurant and the history of Parker House Rolls and Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie which became known as Boston Cream Pie.

The upshot: I wound up printing out the recipe that the Omni Parker House Hotel uses today to make Boston Cream Pie and I made the whole thing from scratch. Butter genoise cake, rum syrup, creme patissiere, chocolate ganache and all.

I had to make some substitutions: I didn't have rum on hand but I did have Grand Marnier so I made the syrup to brush the cake with that instead. I also wound up with shaking hands after making the creme patissiere because of the sheer amount of stirring with a whisk required. This led to the fondant spiderweb on top of the cake being ... less even than is desirable.

Ultimately though, it didn't matter, because it tasted divine and my mother was absolutely thrilled. She got the biggest kick out of the candles too: Disney Princess star candles for the queen of our family.

And here she is in her birthday tiara and wand, getting ready to blow out the candles.

Happy 61st Mama

Happy birthday Mommy.


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