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Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Presents

An update to my earlier posts on Christmas presents, and the value of jewelry as a gift.

FDIL (Future-Dad-in-law) bought FMIL (figure it out!) a necklace with a lovely green sapphire and diamond pendant as a Christmas present. Her reaction was of the kind I predicted - she was speechless and teary-eyed, and couldn't get enough of it. And FDIL was obviously thrilled with her excitement; his smile was at least as broad as hers as he helped her put it on.

Perhaps it is a little silly for us to get this much pleasure out of trinkets that cost so much money, but it is a fact that we do. Ignoring that fact, and hence depriving yourself and someone you love of a source of much joy, seems like a shame to me.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I pray that every one of my readers has a peaceful, joyous Christmas, and that the New Year brings you all the happiness and success you desire. May God bless you all!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Did he just say what I think he just said??!!

Y108, the country music station I l isten to a lot while driving to and from work, has been giving this snippet a lot of air time recently:

And when Kenny Chesney came to town, he made this startling confession:
Y108: Briefs or Boxers?
Kenny: Depends...
Y108: Depends? Really? I wasn't expecting that answer!

You can hear Kenny's face turn red as he realizes what he just said on-air.


Friday, December 16, 2005


There's stuff going on - Iraqi elections, yet another White House scandal that will probably turn out to be nothing more than Democrats looking for an excuse to bash the President, the expiration of the Patriot Act... But nothing seems to be engaging my interest enough to write a post about it.

Maybe I'm not paying enough attention, or maybe I'm tired of politics. Or maybe it's just that it's almost Christmas, and all I want to do is be with people I love and enjoy their company.

Perhaps this will turn into a completely non-political blog. Or maybe I will summon up the energy sometime soon to tackle the bigger/broader issues that we all argue about. Things like abortion, gun rights, the death penalty, the role of government, social security, tax reform, foreign policy, etc. I'm a lot more interested in the basic arguments. In fact, the only time I really care about any given issue du jour is when the pro and con arguments come from viewpoints that illustrate differences on one of the big issues.

E.g. people's reactions to the Iraqi elections would depend entirely on how they view the issue of militant Islam, and how we ought to deal with it. And, since I have to work tomorrow morning, I will leave it at that for now, and save the elaboration for another day.

Thoughts on "The Apprentice" finale

The outcome of "The Apprentice" was fairly unsurprising to me, at least after watching the first few minutes of the final episode. They focused fairly heavily on Randal, and didn't pay nearly as much attention to Rebecca. Plus they had Donal Trump saying several times "I have to pick between two stars"

My mom-in-law made a good point about the end, though. It did look very much like The Donald wanted to hire both candidates, and asked Randal just to give him the chance to be magnanimous on national TV. If he had expected Randal to say "no," he might not have asked and just announced his decision. Having said it was up to him, though, he couldn't really say "Well, I don't care what you think, I'm going to do it anyway." Well, he could have, being Donald Trump, but it would have injured his relationship with someone he had just hired into a high-profile, high responsibility position. I'm fairly certain he will make the offer to Rebecca anyway; she just doesn't get the chance to accept on national TV with millions of people watching her.

I'm not sure what I think about Randal's decision, though. Sure, he missed the chance to be magnanimous on TV, and reinforce his image as the only genuinely nice person on the show. And that break with his nice guy image might be a drawback down the road, if people remember it. I don't know if people's attention spans are that long, though. A future boss might remember and wonder, but I'm guessing the next step after being Donald Trump's apprentice is being his own boss. And, as long as he's good at what he does, whether he's a genuine nice guy, or just playing the part as long as it helps him does not really make that much difference to potential business partners.

I don't think he was really thinking about long-term consequences, though. I think what he was thinking was "I won, and I don't want to share the glory with anyone else." Also, from a practical point of view, having two apprentices (not "apprenti") would probably not be the best experience for either of them, although it would still be to the benefit of Mr. Trump to not let either of these two very impressive candidates be picked up by someone else. Besides the national publicity, the biggest advantage of this position is the opportunity to work very closely with Donald Trump and learn from him. The apprentice would be stupid to not seek out every opportunity and spend as much time with the man as possible. Obviously, having two people in that position would make it a lot harder for either one of them to gain nearly as much from the experience as they would if only one of them were there. It is understandable that Randal wouldn't want to share this opportunity.

Ultimately, I think Randal made the right business decision, assuming he does outstanding work on the project assigned to him, and doesn't give anyone the opportunity to answer the "what if?" question in Rebecca's favor. And, honestly, apart from losing the chance to be hired live on NBC, Rebecca did not come far behind. It was obvious that the Donald did want to hire her, and if he doesn't, someone else will. I will be very surprised if she doesn't go far in the business world, even without the Trump name behind her.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More ideas on christmas presents

Daniel has a post up today about the worst Christmas presents you can get for people.

I agree with all his 5 worst picks. The only person I would buy either a pet or a cell phone as a present for would be one of my kids, and only if they had begged and pleaded for it for quite a while. Cash and gift certificates are just tacky and impersonal, and definitely inappropriate for close friends and family. (Getting a $100 bill from old Aunt Jane does do a lot to improve relations between little kids and elderly relatives, though).

And the only thing worse than lottery tickets as a gift is the fake winning lottery ticket as a gag gift. Take the emotional rollercoaster of imagining what you would do if you might win, and the disappointment when you don't. Then multiply it a million times to conceive the agony the person will be in who thought for a moment they really had won before they found out it was a joke. The person who gives that gift completely deserves the severe bodily harm that will be visited on them by the recipient.

The only one of his honorable mention picks I disagree on is jewelry. In particular, a man buying jewelry as a present for his wife. I think women do appreciate jewelry more than men think. It might not serve a practical function, but it's something beautiful that makes us feel beautiful. And a woman who feels she is beautiful is happy and confident. And she will love you for making her feel that way. And that can have many benefits for you as the giver, don't you think?

Plus, it's an extravagant, generous present. Most women, or at least, most women whose highest priority is their family, do not tend to splurge on things for themselves. And they tend to feel guilty about it if they do. So, she is certainly not going to buy something like that for herself. But that doesn't mean that she doesn't want it. It just means that she feels she ought to buy things that are more practical and useful for the family. When you, as her husband, buy her something like that, you validate that she does deserve these things. It also shows her that you value her enough to spend that much money on her. For all these, reasons, I think jewelry makes an excellent gift, if you can afford it.

That really is the only caveat here. If you buy her jewelry when the kids need new shoes, she will probably still appreciate the gift, but will not be able to enjoy it because she will be thinking about what better use the money could have been put to. (So will you, most likely.) And the gift will become a source of frustration more than a source of pleasure. So, please don't spend the rent money on jewelry for your wife. But, please do consider buying her something pretty and extravagant, and you may just be surprised at what happens.

Project Runway

Channel flipping the other day, I accidentally landed on Project Runway, and decided to see what it was about.

Well, it's one of the more annoyingly edited reality shows on TV. It's on Bravo, so I guess it's not surprising that it's the gayest reality show on, as well. But the clothes are wonderful! I'm not a huge fashion person; my personal style is based on comfort rather than style. Lots of jeans and sweater sets. (And scrubs for work, of course). So I'm surprising myself with how fascinated I am with the clothes these designers come up with in very little time, with lots of constraints as to materials and other resources.

I just wish watching the show wasn't so grating on my nerves. Part of it is the editing. All reality shows are edited for drama, obviously. It's just that this being a fashion designer contest means that the people involved are all the high-strung, easily driven to hysterics kind of people. There's so much crying on this show I'm not sure how they fit anything else in. But, worse than that is the way the show is edited to repeat their commentary so many more times than necessary. In that first episode we heard the line "One of you will be the winner, and 2 of you will be out" 4 times - twice before the commercial and twice again after. Ok, Mr. Producer, we get it!! Get on with the show already!

And Heidi Klum! That "out" is going to be the death of the show, seriously. I realize that at least since Donald Trump, they feel they need a punchy "You're fired!" line. But "out" is not a punch line; it's just a bad accent added to what sounds like someone losing a children's playground game. "Ha!Ha! you're out!" Doesn't really encourage me to take what happens in the show seriously. Although the most annoying line of the show was when Heidi Klum said "If I didn't have this bump, I would wear it right now," referring to her pregnant belly. I really feel sorry for that kid, although I guess (s)he should feel lucky that his or her mom didn't decide to have an abortion rather than let getting pregnant and having a kid interfere with her modeling career.

Still, the clothes are lovely, and perhaps I will suffer through another episode before I give up on the show. Or perhaps I will catch the last 20 minutes every week, and just hit "mute" on the remote, just to enjoy the clothes without needing to bear the commentary.

Christmas Presents and such...

I went shopping with my future Mom-in-law today, mostly looking for Christmas presents. We ended up buying a couple things each for ourselves and some groceries.... go figure.

But part of our discussion was that it gets harder every year to buy Christmas presents for people because everyone has everything they need already, and it feels like we're buying them something they will never use just to say we got them something.

I have a very short list of people I buy presents for, or at least people I buy significant presents for. I already have little gifts for people at work - Christmas scented incense stick packs, and something similar but a little bigger for my preceptors. That and personalized cards should get me squared away with people at work. But my list for people who get "real" Christmas presents is very short indeed.

There's my parents and my brother, who've gotten presents about every other year depending on whether I found something they would like, and that was easy to stash in my luggage when I went home. I would really like to get my parents something this year because it will be the first year I'm not spending Christmas with them. Plus, I am now working at my first real job, so I can afford to spend more on them. But, since I am not going home, I need to find something that will ship, and since I don't have it yet, it will probably not make it to them by Christmas. sigh...

Then there's the in-laws. I have no idea what I could get that would be appropriate. I would really like to get them something, because I am really grateful and happy that they accepted me so readily into their family. I just don't know what I can get that would be useful and significant enough to express this.

Besides those two, there's Daniel. He's not very hard to shop for, in general. But this year is hard because we're in between moves, and so anything practical might as well wait until after the move. At the same time, something fun seems trivial; it seems like I'm always getting him something silly and fun that he likes but doesn't love. (And I have one of those already; I'd just like to get him something more)

Then there's just a couple of my friends. 2 of the 3 of them are mutual friends of mine and Dan's and we can get them a present from the both of us. The 3rd is a very very good friend of mine that I would absolutely love to make a present for because he would appreciate the item, as well as the thought behind it. Of course, there's no way I can create anything worthwhile between now and Christmas, so that's frustrating too.

I guess the point of this post is to get your Christmas shopping done earlier, so you don't face the dilemma I'm in right now! I will definitely take ideas on presents if anyone has them, though.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More thoughts on the death penalty and redemption

A clarification of my basic point in my previous post.

When a person is convicted of a crime, (s)he is assigned a penalty to pay based on that crime. The jury or judge does not weigh everything good the person has done in his or her lifetime against everything bad (s)he has done and come to a definitive conclusion about the net moral worth of that person's life. That judgement will be made, for all of us, after we die by a Judge who both knows all the facts, and is Himself sinless and perfectly just. It is not the job of our courts here on earth. The only job of a judge or jury in our system is to determine if the person did in fact commit the crime (s)he is accused of, and if (s)he did, what the penalty is (s)he ought to pay for it.

Hence, any discussion of other good things the person has done in his or her lifetime, while emotionally moving, is ultimately irrelevant to whether or not the person ought to suffer the penalty that has been prescribed for him or her. We can always find good things people have done, even the ones convicted of the most horrific crimes.

We, as a society, have decided that certain crimes deserve the ultimate penalty. This decision is based on the severity of the crime, not the overall badness of the person who committed it. There may be irredeemable people, although I hope that everyone, at least when death is imminent, will in fact regret the bad things they have done. But, the fact that someone may reform in prison or even that (s)he has reformed, does not negate the fact that (s)he committed a crime for which the assigned penalty is death. And justice demands that (s)he pay that penalty.

This is not to say that the judge or jury deciding a case ought not to consider things such as potentially extenuating circumstances, motivation, provokation, etc. Certainly, these things ought to be considered, both in determining whether the person ought to be convicted, and what the sentence (s)he is to be punished with. However, once the verdict has been handed down, and the sentence decided on, anything relevant has already been considered. This is especially true when the case has gone through all channels of appeal. If anything relevant has been overlooked in the initial trial, it will certainly have been addressed by the time the appeals process ahs been concluded. Certainly, anything the person does after the conclusion of the trial is entirely irrelevant to whether or not (s)he ought to be punished for the crime (s)he has committed.

Of course, you may argue that no one ever ought to be executed. This is a completely different argument, and like I mentioned earlier, one that, on the whole, I agree with. However, as long as we as a society continue to use the death penalty; I believe the only thing that should be considered in regard to its application is the severity of the crime and the guilt or innocence of the person accused of it.

A little late, but...

Almost everyone I know was talking about the impending execution of Stanley Tookie Williams, that took place last night.

My feelings on the matter are a little mixed. In general, in theory, I am opposed to the death penalty. I agree with what the Catechism says on the death penalty:
2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2267

Hence, I don't really think most people, even murderers ought to be executed. However, the law, and the majority public opinion in this country we live in, states that certain crimes are to be punished by death, and Williams committed such a crime. He was found guilty and sentenced, and exhausted all avenues of appeal. No judge or jury authorized to make the decision has felt that he ought not to be executed.

In addition, the reasons proposed for why he ought to be granted clemency did not at all pertain to his guilt or innocence, or even reference the nature of his crime. Rather they centered around his supposed redemption of himself by good actions done while he's been in prison. And certainly, people can change and redeem themselves in prison. Especially in the case of people sentenced to death, I would hope and pray that they all redeem themselves before they die.

However, I am not sure that this redemption ought to be ever considered as grounds to overturn a judge/jury decision as to the sentence a convicted criminal deserves. The judge/jury were the people given the authority to decide the penalty for the crime; their decision should not be overturned unless there is exceptional reason to do so. Any post-conviction / pre-execution conversion should be welcomed for the spiritual benefits it brings to the criminal - hopefully, none of us is uncharitable enough to hope that even the worst convicted criminal is sentenced not just to death but to Hell for his actions. Rather, we hope that even the worst criminal repents, and seeks forgiveness for his crimes, if not from his victims, at least from God, who does forgive any truly repentant sinner.

However, the basis of redemption is remorse for your crimes. And Williams never admitted his guilt, and hence never expressed remorse or apologized to the families of his victims. And this makes me wonder about how real his so-called redemption was. It seems more and more likely that the 'redemption' argument was just another tactic in order to avoid being executed, since at the same time he was also arguing that he was wrongfully convicted, that his conviction was racially motivated, that the death penalty system in California is fundamentally flawed, etc.

All in all, I still feel that no one ought to be executed in this country, because we can effectively protect society from criminals without resorting to the death penalty. However, as long as people continue to be executed, I think the punishment ought to be applied uniformly. People ought not to be granted clemency merely because they have managed to get the attention of one or more celebrities. I don't think Willims deserved clemency any more than any of the other people on death row, and I think his execution was as just as any other.

Songs for difficult emotions

This song's been playing on the radio for about a month now. I didn't like it that much when I first heard it, but have since found it exactly expresses a feeling that would otherwise just have me feeling frustrated and angry, without being able to put the feeling into words.

I don't feel like loving you today,
So don't you even try to change my mind,
The best thing you can do right now,
Is just go away,
Cause I don't feel like loving you today,

I don't wanna talk about last night,
I'm angry and I haven't had much sleep,
And I'm so tired and bloodshot,
There's no tellin' what I'd say,
I don't feel like loving you today,

But you know I will anyway,
Even though we make it hard sometimes,
I'll wind up forgiving and probably loving you,
For the rest of my life,
But I don't feel like loving you today,
And I've got 16 hours left to go,
I might tell you that I'm leaving,
Even though you know I'll stay,
Cause I don't feel like loving you today.

-- 'I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today' by Gretchen Wilson

Here's another one that expresses pretty much the same feeling.

I'll never leave, I'll never stray.
My love for you will never change.
But I ain't ready to make up.
We'll get around to that.
I think I'm right, I think you're wrong.
I'll prob'ly give in before long.
Please don't make me smile.
I just wanna be mad for a while.

-- 'I Just Wanna Be Mad' by Terri Clark

I think all couples should have these songs on their playlists for the times when nothing else will work quite as well to express what they are feeling.

Any ideas for other songs that convey complex emotions perfectly?

Monday, December 12, 2005

A question about TV ads

How long does an ad have to run before the makers decide it's hit its saturation point? The point at which we all have seen it so many times that they can switch to showing us a shortened, cheaper, punchline-only version of the same ad, and trust our memory to fill in the rest.

Who makes that decision, and what do they base it on? Are there different timeframes for different products, or different ads? Is it the mark of a well designed ad that it can be made into long and short versions? As opposed to the ones that only work at one length?

Of course, this is all secondary to the question of whether any of these ads are effective. As in, do any of them convince people to buy the product they are advertising. A lot of ads seem to get people talking about them, or chuckling over them, without doing a whole lot to motivate sales and actual revenue for the company paying for them. Is this really the case, or am I just not the target demographic for any ad out there today? I'm a 25 year old single working woman - surely some of these are aimed at me? Or are these companies really continuing to pay out for ads that do nothing more than keep their name in front of people all the time, even without an actual call to action.

Any advertising / marketing type people out there who can answer these questions?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A few of my favorite things

Things that inspire me, things that changed my life, and things that made me think. (And several of these fit more than one of those descriptions)

1) Daniel, the love of my life (TLOML) - always the top of any such list.

2) bloggers - Dean Esmay, Alice in Texas, Sarah of Trying to Grok, Bill Whittle, Stephen Den Beste, and the no longer active Kim and Connie Du Toit.

3) authors / books - C. S. Lewis, everything he's written, but in particular, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity and Perelandra. G. K. Chesterton, and, particularly, The Everlasting Man. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. Heinlein's Starship Troopers. A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking.
(Ok, not a particularly original or earth-shattering list, but it gives you a decent insight into my worldview. And I'll stop with those for now, although my inspirational book list might go on forever if I listed them all.)

to be continued...

second post

(if it ain't broke...why try for creative post titles?)

Obviously, school kept me busier than I thought I was going to be. It's been more than 16 months between my first and second posts. I did make it throught nursing school, and am now working at Mercy hospital of Pittsburgh, in a Neuro/Trauma progressive care unit. (And I will shortly be moving again to Lynchburg, the middle of nowhere, VA, but that's a whole other blog post!)

I'm still conservative, although I'm no longer in an environment where everyone else is an avowed and outspoken liberal. Most people at work are, but they don't tend to talk about it. Every once in a while we do get a patient who answers the 'Who is the President?' orientation question with 'ugh.. Bush' or some such, but I can laugh at that with them.

What inspired me to come back to this blog, though, was the death of Stephen Malcolm Anderson. This man I never met was a frequent commenter on a couple of blogs I regularly read, and his comments were always thought-provoking and interesting. While he and I were very different, I always learned something from his thoughts, and felt on some level he was a kindred spirit. I hope he is at peace now, even though my idea of Heaven is not the same as his. And I still hope one day to meet him in person. In the meantime, though, I will see what I can do on this little blog of mine to live my life with as much enthusiasm, joy, good humor and style as he did.