Nine Year Olds Cost the Most and Other Sickening Surprises from Google Alerts about Heavy Topics

I’ve recently reorganized my Google Alerts. The one that riveted me the most from last year was my alert for “gang rape”. I received daily collections of 5 to a dozen articles about gang rape from places like India and Pakistan. The stories often ended in in murder or suicide of the victim. It was overwhelming and so out of line with the occasional flurries of gang rape articles in the United States, which were usually multiple reports on one domestic event in which the accused had already been arrested. The only time US links drowned out links abroad was during the Rolling Stone journalism scandal.

The US media only covered a small fraction of the stories from abroad, and not even the worst of them. That’s partially why I was surprised. I assumed they had covered the most sensational but not all. Actually, they cover hardly any, and those aren’t the worst. The US media has a well-earned reputation for going for the drama, except it seems in the cases of gang rape outside the US. The public might be forgiven for not knowing how difficult life can be for women in other parts of the world.

When I added Google Alerts this year, I didn’t expect any of them would  surprise me more than the “gang rape” alert had. But I added an alert for “Christian persecution.” Not only am I getting more links than for gang rape–covered by specialized outlets not news organizations, of course–but also, some of the links are compilations compilations, long compilations, of reports covering everything from burning alive, to sports teams removing crosses from soccer jerseys so as not to offend Muslim sensibilities, to price lists for kidnapped Christian women and girls. Nine year olds are the most expensive.  They cost about $175.   It’s all at the link.

Below is today’s update.



Christian Persecution

Daily update ⋅ January 22, 2015


Catholic Online
India turns on Christians; 2014’s wave of religious terror leaves many fearing state-sponsored 

Last year was not a great year for ChristianityPersecution and murder were rampant in the Middle East-especially in Syria and Iraq-throughout Africa …

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Christian Post
ISIS Kidnaps 20 Egyptian Christians in Libya; Miracle of God Needed to Prevent Expected 

Jacobson explained that the abducted Christians were Egyptian residents working in Libya solely because they were trying to escape the persecution …

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The War On Christians

While in 2014 the days of throwing Christians to wild beasts in the arena may be behind us, the persecutionof Christians around the world isn’t. In fact …

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Patheos (blog)
Pope: Catholics, Lutherans in shared Christian witness

Your visit comes within the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. … insecurity, persecution, pain and suffering experienced so widely in today’s world.

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A Modern Tradition for The Twelfth Night

I’m an Advent and Twelve Days of Christmas purist. I wrote the whole thing up last year but keep needing a quick link for the women’s night out on the twelfth night, which I am trying to import from Ireland. (Stuff like this is one of the reasons I keep blogging even though I usually write elsewhere.) The whole Advent and Christmas discussion is here, but this is the bit on the “The Holiday That Time Forgot”:

The end of Christmas used to have its own rich traditions. In addition to being the day decorations had to come down—otherwise they had to be left up all year to avoid bad luck—the Twelfth Night was a bit like childhood Opposite Day only with more mischief. It is The Holiday that Time Forgot, which is a shame because it sounds like loads of fun. From King Bean and Queen Pea to Little Christmas, there are many Twelfth Night traditions one could revive.

The Irish Little Christmas tradition caught my attention. It started out as a women’s tea party, the little cake and sandwich kind. The women socialized after leaving the men at home to do the housework and childcare for the day. In the modern era, it has turned into a women’s night out to celebrate the end of the busy Christmas season.

That’s the tradition I stole. For the past two years I’ve gathered about a dozen of my girlfriends at a local pub to toast the end of Christmas. We’ve had a lovely time and highly recommend the practice.

A warning though, we’ve had some confusion about the date. Determining the Twelfth Night of Christmas isn’t as easy as counting. Different Christian traditions count Christmas differently. Some count Christmas Day as day one, while others count the 26th as the first day of Christmas. And in many old calendars, a day began at sundown the night before. So there is much confusion on whether or not Twelfth Night happens on the night of January 5th or 6th.

If you plan any Twelfth Night festivities, you will need to specify the 5th or 6th of January. When trying to revive and modernize a dormant tradition, I advise simplicity. I called Christmas Day day 1 of Christmas, used the modern midnight as the date line, and, therefore, declared the Twelfth Night the evening of the 12th day which is January 5th.

This will be my third year. We’ve done rain and cold and still had fun. This year the 5th happens to fall on the evening prior to most kids returning to school, so turnout might be smaller than my invite list. But it takes three to cinch it as a habit. So some friends and I will venture out for a half pint at a local pub and raise a glass to the arrival of the Three Wise Men. (Depending on the calendar math used, the twelfth night starts Epiphany, which is when the three kings arrived to meet Christ.)

(I’m a little grouchy that I will have to toast them without Strongbow. The perfect apple cider is distributed by Heineken US, who have apparently decided that the way to expand the US cider marker is not only to add new sweet ciders–Jolly Ranchers in a bottle according to the unimpressed Facebook group–but also to discontinue importing the good, dry cider. Yasha just broke the news to me two days ago, as I swigged my last of my Strongbow stores, hence my grouchiness. The FB group recommended Mangers Irish Cider–Irish cider to import an Irish tradition. That’ll work.)


Christmas Questions of the Life Admin Kind

To Elf on the Shelf or no?* Should you lie to your kids about Santa Clause or not? Those two questions alone are enough debating to be getting on with.
But there’s more. There has been some chatter in declared feminist circles about gender holiday roles. Is it gender bias for women to wrap the presents? I tend to agree with Amy Otto here that this is much self-imposed ado about nothing. Domestic chores need to be done and done competently, but whipping up a storm about is is complete waste of time. More importantly, marriage, and family, is about partnership not scorekeeping. This all came to mind last night as per the stereotype I sat on the floor in my husband’s study, cutting up red and gold paper and running out of sticky tape.
My eldest daughter joined me, and so, the lady Lofti wrapped the gifts. But where were the manly Lofti? They were in the kitchen making dinner…and the mulled wine we give away as gifts…
mulled wine mulling
and keeping us–or me–supplied with an adult beverage. Yasha has started teaching Calvin the art of drink mixing. Although my son is quite the mixer now he’s still a novice. My sidecar is delicious but he made it “up” which is not very conducive to gift wrapping. I did manage not to spill.
Sidecar presents
These are but details. The father-son bonding is happing. The grandmother-mother-daughter bonding is too. Who cares which set is in the kitchen and which set is in the study? The gifts are wrapped, the house smells fabulous. And we are waiting on Santa.
Waiting for Santa
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
*Link to the Kindness Elves variation because one of my girlfriends highly recommends it.

The Force Awakens—from what? And other Star Wars musings.

Millennium Falcon on toasterI interrupt this Black Friday, or in my case Advent prep, madness with a little geek timeout. The Star Wars Episode 7 teaser trailer came out today. A couple of things, first, I don’t like the title. How can the Force “Awaken” now? Isn’t that what it did when Luke refused to turn to the dark side? (Update: I changed the title and published a post at PJLifestyle on this awakening. I could muse on this for a while.)

Second and more important, I get the notes they are trying to hit in the trailer, the Millennium Falcon flying and a new red lightsaber in which the hilt is part of the weapon–which has already become a meme:

But the trailer stirred nothing in me. I got no hint of a story and as I’ve written elsewhere, I don’t think Hollywood is very good at telling stories anymore. It was, after all, the missed story that killed the prequels.

About the prequels

My version spilled out when ari, my commenter, turned research assistant, now hopefully turned blogger (no, I’m not pressuring her at all) and I got into a conversation about the fascist origins of school lunches. They started out of the need to grow soldiers. (I’ll make her post on that as soon as that blog is up and running.) On food and Star Wars, ari had noted: [edited for flow to make sense out of our email thread]

Most notable nourishment in the series is a school lunch meal on a cafeteria tray, at a recognizable school lunch table. Future soldiers eating.  Accelerated childhood- scenes of intense study- no playing. No horseplay, no summer camp. No swimming.

Scenes with people eating food- Anakin and Padme flirting over dinner- and Anakin is griping about Obi- as close to a family as he’s got- Luke and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru- where Luke is begging to go to the Starfleet Academy- again with the bickering- and the clones eating off school lunch trays. There are three other consumable scenes- two at a bar- and one at a diner- the Han Solo and Greedo bar scene, the Kenobi and Anakin chasing the assassin, and the Dexx’s diner scene. No food gets eaten by a principal player. I’m not even sure Kenobi sips his drink. The two kitchens shown- Beru’s and ( possibly) the Mandalorian father of the clones– you see a lot of tupper-ware-ish plastic, but not any food. [Nope, Beru was cutting fennel root while Luke and Uncle Owen bickered. And she forgot Luke nibbling on a ration stick after crashlanding on Degobah, but the omissions bolster her argument.]

Star Wars is a modern version of Wagner, and really one of the most perfect fascist film series ever made. I mean, there’s even an essay about how George Lucas cribbed Leni Reifenstahl’s entire oeuvre- her “mountain adventure” movies when she was an actress, and then the graphics from her work as a director.

I hadn’t seen the fascism, that is, the elevation of the state, in the food, but I had seen it in the plot. I had thought the prequels were going to go after the fascist nature of the Jedi. The reason Anakin fell was because they had tried to sever all his ties with everything but the Jedi State. They tried to make him submit. He wouldn’t. But he was unmoored from everything so he split off.

Here Lucas made his error.

Lucas was right that a separation from Padme could turn Anakin, but he was wrong about how. Anakin wouldn’t turn against the Jedi just out of fear of her death in childbirth. He would have to see the Jedi cause his separation from her. That would trigger his rage. Admittedly, Lucas tried to bridge that with Palpatine’s offer of knowledge the Jedi wouldn’t use, but that is an act of omission or just ignorance on the Jedi’s part. That Anakin will be angry with the Jedi, true, but to get him to slaughter younglings, you need more than anger. You need him to think he is fighting for an idea. That’s where the fascist story was. For instance:

While afraid of Anakin’s power and his friendship/power play against the Jedi Council with Palpatine, the Jedi find out Padme is pregnant. They kidnap her or some such, planning to take the child and raise it, anon to Anakin, within the order. They have done this, separate the Force sensitive from their families, for centuries. Isolation and detachment from larger culture is what they do. Taking the baby would have been the obvious play to them.

So, they order Anakin to stop all contact with Padme or face excommunication. Actually, I would have liked it if Padme had to out her pregnancy to the Order because she was having force premonitions through the twins (totally plausible with the blood based Force theory) and realized that the Palpatine was the Sith Lord. She saw the danger to the Republic and her husband. She sought help from the Council. But they saw the child and Anakin’s defiance of rules as a threat as well as the Sith. They take Padme until she gives birth.

Either way, Anakin sees the Order as a threat to his family and his ally. Palpatine doesn’t even need to out himself as Sith to Anakin. He only whispers in his ear about how the Jedi are really the bad guys, out to control. Destroying Ani’s family and keeping him, the all powerful One, under their control are just means to their ends. This Anakin will destroy the Jedi and go to rescue his wife who is now so freaked out and worried about her baby she seeks shelter with Ben. Now, we can see a young, powerful man manipulated by pride. It turns to jealously and an epic mentor/student battle.

Yoda and Ben have a crisis about what the Jedi did wrong. They think their error with Anakin was taking him in when he was so old and couldn’t detach from his mother. They both isolate themselves to think, as is the Jedi way. But they handle the twins differently. They separate them so the Emperor can’t feel them as easily but decide, perhaps at Padme’s insistence, to let them grow up in a family. For the first time they will truly trust the Force to tell them when it is time for training. Padme goes into hiding with Leia as her nanny and later dies of heartache. And under the Emperor’s control and influence Vader becomes the controlling State he thought he set out to destroy. And like his predecessor, Dooku, he does not realize his error until Sidious prompts the new apprentice to kill the old.

But Lucas was apparently too much of a state worshiper to fully embrace the implications of the Jedi State. He set the story that way, but didn’t follow though. The story became Anakin’s crazy and unpredictable internal struggles and people reacting nonsensically to them. So it just became visual artistry with no story to back it up.

The new trailer doesn’t give me any hope that the next trilogy will do better, Lucas or no. Granted, I’m a little jaded about Hollywood messing with favorite modern myths.

A few Star Wars Black Friday shots

Since it is Black Friday, a few geek items anyone reading this post might like. You can get the Falcon church key, above, at Think Geek, the mugs on etsy. No idea where my sister-in-law got the decals. And it’s hard to tell, but in that sidecar in the double olds glass–that’s a Death Star ice sphere. Totally cool. My brother got it for me. Happy shopping.


IMG_1918 IMG_1723 IMG_1722 Death Star Sidecar

There is no Such Thing as Rhythm in Motherhood

Years ago Maverick told me something that unnerved me a little at the time, but which I quickly learned was the truth. Until recently I just thought it was the truth about life with young children. Nope. It’s just the truth.

Back in the days when our kids were babies and I was trying to get some motherhood rhythm, she told me scheduling was great, but just as soon as you get used to a schedule, it changes. School schedules killed rhythm, as did Yasha’s business trips, our trips home, growing up, illnesses. Don’t even start me on potty training, the only aspect of motherhood upon which I will never reflect fondly. A steady schedule sticks around for about six weeks and then something changes.
Now, for readers with young children, that I felt inspired to write about this little truth on the switch to Daylight Savings weekend probably doesn’t shock. I routinely got bedtime and waking rhythms down just in time for Fall Back or Spring Forward. And it shouldn’t shock parents that Fall Back was weeks ago, and I didn’t manage to publish this little post. More events intervened. These were tragic, not for me, for a friend. Yet I wouldn’t trade being present for her for any sort of rhythm. (What happened in her life, that I’d trade, it just wasn’t on the table.)
It’s all ‘life is what happens when you are making other plans’. Life really isn’t your plans. It’s what you do when the big, and the little, moments come. It’s taken me a long time to learn, but the rhythm I’ve got has one baseline beat, my husband and I, and then it’s pretty much improv jazz.
I kept looking to the next hurdle to jump and then I’d get into a rhythm. That’s what I thought this summer. I had huge writing plans for summer. It quickly became apparent I wouldn’t do those. I actually wrote just a little less than I planed over the summer, just not on the topics I had planned. I thought it was an anomaly. No, it’s the norm.
I have finally learned—I hope— to switch predicted progress with steady progress. Despite the lack of predicability, I do still get things done. (All of this blog is getting ready to change, by the way.)  Years from now, I might be able to reflect and hear the rhythm. For now, however, I’ve got a basic daily rhythm—sometimes.
london series082-2
And that’s just fine.

Who is Lena Dunham?

I know many of you have no clue who she is. She’s a twenty something author who wrote a HBO series, GIRLS, about her life. It’s not really her life, but she plays the main character, Hannah, who is based off Dunham. GIRLS is coming to its 5th season soon but by the ratings it seems that everyone who has ever watched an episode has written about it. (Guilty.)

In the blogosphere and new media, Lena Dunham’s comments and actions drive feminist commentary and conservative criticism. She did that lose your voting virginity to Obama ad two years ago. She recently became the spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. She was also the woman on the Vanity Fair cover that Jezebel offered a bounty for the unaltered photos, assuming that Vanity Fair would Photoshop her shots as, by model standards, she is heavy. That’s the long way of saying, all the writers talk about Lena Dunham and when she is involved, things get mixed up.

But if you are wondering why she’s in your feed now, she just published a memoir (for which she got a multi million dollar advance; odd for a twenty something, no?). In it she compares herself to a sexual predator for her curiosity about women’s bodies because she used her little sister to explore. If you are curious, the memoir is called Not That Kind of Girl.



A poor title but a great write-up on Lena Dunham and over-sharing

One of my all time favorite SNL skits, up there with Jesse Jackson reads Green Eggs and Ham. Tina Fey joins GIRLS

I thought business cards were over.

No. Apparently not.

Moms don’t need business cards. We call each other and then enter the identifying information while the kids snack and play. Or we have the class list, well sort of, usually. Class lists are complicated (and that privacy issue I mentioned, it came up here in Texas just this year when teachers recalled their first class emails because they hadn’t bcc’ed all the parents.)

Class list complications or no, business cards are just one more thing to keep up with in the diaper bag, hence the on-the-spot call-each-other number exchange technique. I was actually surprised the beaming contacts Palm trick didn’t take off (remember Palms?), but I guess by the time you beamed you could call. Anyway…

When my writing started moving, my helpful husband made some business cards for me. I carried them for a while but never found need of them. I put them someplace out of the way that I can no longer recall, which is unfortunate because now I need those cards.

Lack of business cards first became a problem while I was organizing the Hub Dot Houston launch. The night of the launch, not having business cards was a full hindrance. Less than two weeks later, I attended a Fan Studies conference. I got a few business cards—including a gal who did her grad thesis on translating novels to screenplays, one of my favorite topics—but I had none to give. Ditto for the first Hub Dot Supper Club in London. (That was loads of fun.) And when I got back, writer networking picked up. I could have used cards last week at an Independent Women’s Forum meet and greet.

It’s all sortable. I found the prof who did the insightful Morrissey talk at the conference. And I’ve read a bunch of IWF’s Lean Together (my favorite chapter, 10, A Safety Net that Empowers, not Enables by Patrice Lee.) But it would all be easier with business cards. Things that have been around as long as business cards have, they probably lasted for a reason. They are useful. UPDATE: A friend designed some cards for me. I got them printed at (Site for the link below.) I highly recommend them. They turned out great and MOO is a pleasure to buy from. And the whole thing inspired me to finally design this website the way I want. Changes coming soon.


Imagined business cards for historical figures such as Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Ian Fleming, and Charles Darwin

A Central Market Story and Whole Foods Survey

My friend Virginia came to Texas for my 40th birthday party. Virginia grew up in Virginia (hence her handle), moved to DC and then Manhattan in her early married life. We met as expats in London. She moved back to the States, New Jersey, about two years before I returned home. She flew down to Austin for my birthday. Among other Austin sites, I took her to 38th Street and Lamar where the original Central Market lives.

Combination US grocery store and European market—Borough  Market, I told her—I thought she’d love it. The selection, the style, the Keep Austin Weird clientele.  I thought she would like these things.

We didn’t make it past the door before she went into shock. They had a display of grapes.

Virginia looked at the grapes.

She looked at the sign.

She looked at me and exclaimed, “They are giving grapes away! That’s the price? Seriously?! These are free!”

She wondered how I ever lived in London with this as my baseline. Actually, that is a common refrain among my non Texan friends who visit, although I usually draw the incredulous question after a trip to Target. Central Market is HEB’s upscale shop. It’s not cheap. Regular HEB is cheap. (And has good adverts.)

As I have told my friends, I just didn’t look at the grocery bill in London. I wasn’t buying indulgences like caviar. I had to feed the crew and so just wrote off large sums in the budget for groceries. But it was hard. I couldn’t look or I’d freak out.

Now, after this grocery store comparison survey and chart, HEB’s budget friendly rep should become more well known. As should Whole Foods un-affordablity. That’s some chart. I know I beat on food fads, often, but juxtapositions fascinate me. In this case a Republican—generally more market-oriented capitalists—worked out that he could sell politically-correct apples to liberals—generally not very pro-market—for twice the supermarket price. And the trend is holding.


We have a Summer Home in a Village Called Wits End

Yasha and I name things, our cars, our dwellings. But the names come when they come. Forced names don’t stick. We hadn’t named our current house in the past three years. A few weeks ago we named it Wits End, a name prompted by a confluence of events this summer.

I got busier in late April, which was long enough to see my summer time conflicts coming but not long enough to accomplish proper prep to avoid them. Besides, it wouldn’t have worked. Surprises arose. My dad got sick, twice. In addition to the worry, this cut short our standard summer plans. Other than some logistical hitches, however, coming home early was really only a problem because it meant we were all together, in the house at Wits End, for six poaching-heat weeks. (In Houston, the heat is wet. August doesn’t bake or fry us, it poaches us.)

I just didn’t have any plans for August because in the past August has involved about three weeks of heat avoidance relaxing, late bedtimes, and school prep. That works pretty well. Six weeks of late bedtimes, however, just makes everyone cranky. Cranky children bicker more than well rested ones. We already call the eldest two The Bickersons—at 4:30 in the afternoon they bicker about whether they are bickering and at 10:30 at night they are giggling besties—but when the girls start bickering more than occasionally, I know something is wrong. My tried and true tactic of separating bickering children by sending assortments to my mother’s for sleepovers wasn’t available because my mother moved in with us back in January. (Why I bought a Not So Big House for six people, I don’t know. We have hardly lived alone since we became a sixsome.)

If bickering children wasn’t enough noise, continuing our summer animal adventures an escaped cockatiel flew into our yard in late July. We estimate he’d been

Meet Andi, the loudest 11 ounces in the Animal Kingdom.

Meet Andi, the loudest 11 ounces in the Animal Kingdom.

loose for a few days and had learned about hawks and cats. I have an old birdcage in the garden as art; he wanted in. I got lovebirds as a kid by catching a pet shop escapee in our yard. The kids thought this was a way cool parallel event. HGClaudia has already planned to catch parakeets when she has kids. But my mother remembered a different parallel: lovebirds are noisy, very noisy. Cockatiels are too. And the dogs are jealous when we talk to the bird. They bark in protest. All of this is the long way of saying that our house is rarely quiet.

Don’t get me wrong, clan Loftis had a great summer (and my father recovered), but my nerves are frayed and the children are suffering from an excess of togetherness. Penelope Trunk thinks public school, or any outside the home school, is just a glorified form of babysitting. She’s not wrong. That is one of it’s functions. I quibble with the “just”. Among school’s many uses is away time for siblings. By next Friday, I expect bickering levels to return to normal.

That should help my frayed nerves, but the kids only aggravated my frayed nerves this summer. My dad and my writing did the initial work. It was summer, I’d planned a series of happy, funny posts, such as The Diary of A Transplanted Suburban Mom. But events kept bumping the happy stuff. Instead I did fatherhood research complete with heartbreaking interviewsunintended consequences of the contraception mandate, breastfeeding mommy wars, Christian persecution in the Middle East and what we might do about it, Ann Coulter on international charity, the US’s border crisis, and suicide. The suburban mom piece is coming soon if only because I need to write something happier for a round. Girl in a Country Song was about as chipper as my summer writing got.

If you have gotten the impression that I’m looking forward to school starting on Monday, yes, yes I am.


Herd Dogs vs. Possum (Not really vs. so much as watching)

Fourth of July is a late night for us. And we fly the next day, as usual.* So I was trying to sleep in, but a no sleepover article that a friend posted on FB was churning my gut. (That’ll be an article in the next few weeks.) I went to make coffee to write a reply. And this is what I found in the den. Herd dogs and possums.Herd Dogs vs Possum

Note, they aren’t chasing the varmint. They are just watching it, making sure it doesn’t go any further into the house. Or so I thought. When Jim finally got the critter out—he had to use a big shovel as the dogs wouldn’t chase it but their guardian pose had it playing, well, possum. It wasn’t going to walk out that door up those two steps.

When we got it outside, Sydney (the black dog) went out the dog door, picked it up like a puppy, AND TRIED TO CARRY IT BACK IN THE DOG DOOR! (I don’t often use shouty capitals. This seemed like a good time to make an exception.) That’s how the varmint got in! It’s Sydney’s pet! The dog who allows my daughters to dress her in tutus (scroll down) she adopted a possum. When my mom got in from staying with my dad last night, she completely freaked out, because if that “pet” gets brought back in the house while we are gone—well, she just has my brother and my contractor who will be painting while we are away, set to speed dial. Sydney is my brother’s dog anyway. To my poor dear contractor, to whom I will break this news at a BBQ later this afternoon, sorry, my friend. Looks like you pulled varmint duty at the Loftis house. (For the record, he’s one of those great, manly guys that seem so elusive in the modern era but aren’t. He’ll tease us, but happily help my mom out in a pinch. And, yeah, I’m using a little flattery psychology. Not strictly necessary, but deserved.)

By the way, possums are really ugly.

*This year I checked the passports months ago… and again last week. Maybe next year, we’ll have a normal 4th of July.