Wednesday, July 31, 2002

A few readers might remember that several weeks ago I asked where the Associated Press got their Israel vs. Palestine casualty figures? Tech Central Station does a great analysis of such casualty numbers today.

Lotsa people like the Boss: NRO, John Poedhoertz. Reading these reviews makes me look forward to getting my hands on Springsteen's new album.

I added a few worthy blogs and guilty pleasures to my template tonight. The dreaded "Error 503: Archive not found" problem was fixed, but my weeks worth of missing archives have not reappeared. Trying to reset them now, but it's not working so far. It may be awhile before I fix it. I hope to post tomorrow evening, but after that illinigirl may be silent as I vacation in Florida. I'll update if possible though -- don't forget about me in the next 10 days!
My Cheerios and blueberries were spoiled this morning when I turned on Fox & Friends to hear about the bombing within Hebrew University. My heart went out to all the victims, and then I got angry. This afternoon I was trying to explain to a work friend today why each Palestinian homicide bombing makes my blood boil. He pointed out that Israel's apartment bombings last week actually killed more people. I tried to make a distinction between military bombings that accidentally kill civilians in pursuit of a dangerous war leader and suicide bombings. Is there much difference? I'm sure the UN would say there isn't. Murder is murder, but I can't help feeling there is a difference. Killing of a few to prevent scores of needless deaths in the future, versus the killing of as many as possible to make a political statement and get revenge.
Wanted to post a link tonight to Wendy McElroy's column that was published over at FoxNews yesterday. I was reading it at work, and I kept thinking how much it relates to blogs. The columnist is discussing how a return to "intellectual virtues" is long overdue in our current, hyper-sensitive poltically correct climate. She does a better job than I can describing these virtues, focusing most of her article on the art of actively listening. My mind wanders frequently during conversations, so I'm always interested in pointers on how to become a better listener. She discusses how we should consider not only a speaker's literal content but the tone of voice and body language that accompany an argument.

Therein lies the problem with online communication. The voice and body language interaction cannot occur over the Internet, and this leaves us and bloggers/readers at a disadvantage in trying to understand each others' comments. Obviously there's nothing we can do to change this to help with weblogging. However when discussing more sensitive and/or personal issues, I think we can try to give the blogger the benefit of the doubt. As McElroy notes, the author is already exhibiting another important intellectual virtue:

"Courage is the willingness to take a risk with ideas. When you reach out intellectually into the world to argue a point, you run the risk of being proven wrong or, worse, of appearing foolish. The fear of embarrassment silences many people who have valuable things to say."

I personally can relate to this one. Basically, I held off for months on starting up an opinion-based personal website/blog because I was a coward. I'm a huge perfectionist, and I didn't want to put out a sub-par product. I didn't want to have my ideas out there, ideas that could be proven wrong in the future, associated with my name, and cause me to appear foolish. Eventually though, I got tired of just reading other people's columns and blogs on a daily basis. I did think I had some valuable things to say, so here I am. Publishing under an anonymous blog like an extremely brave person :) I do hope some of my readers find it useful and/or interesting though. I invite you to come out and challenge my ideas or argue you with them on a regular basis in the comments section. Intellectual growth is what we're all here for, I think at least.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Day Late and a Dollar Short

Joshua Claybourn's R-rated post on Eminem and Nelly has caused quite a fuss last week in the Christian blogosphere. This post is several days behind, but I wanted to throw in my two cents on the issue.

It's too bad really, because these are catchy songs. Sadly enough, I think they are some of the best pop songs out there at the moment. Aside from John Mayer and a few generic songs by the Britney wannabes, I can't think of any other songs on Top 40 radio that cause me to hum along on a regular basis. However, I rarely buy CDs and only listen to the radio-edited versions of these songs. I personally had no idea what the "real" lyrics were like. There's nothing offensive about "This looks like a job for me, so everybody come just follow me. Cause we need a little (eh) controversy, because it feels so empty without me". It's a bit cocky and lacks any real meaning, but it's entertaining and innocent enough. I owe Josh though for warning me about the true lyrics, and I do agree with him that both songs have pretty terrible, condescending attitudes towards women.

However, I do think that MarcV and Mark Byron made a valid point in their responses. I feel their responses were taken a bit too critically by the blogosphere. Truly, I think they were just asking us to stop and consider what standards we as Christian bloggers should try to maintain. In day to day life, our ears are assaulted with crude language on a regular basis. Heck, I was singing along with Nelly last week before I realized the first line was "Good gracious, a** is bodacious". At which point I snapped out of my sing-along and asked myself when that became passable on commercial radio. Apparently by July 2002, it had worked its way into even the "clean" radio version of the song

In being exposed to such lyrics on a regular basis in the entertainment world, the shock value of such words dissipates. I personally enjoy some "down-to-earth" programs that regularly employ crude, rude, or otherwise obtuse language -- Six Feet Under, Sex and the City, and South Park are the primary culprits. However, I have noticed that when I've been watching such programs regularly, I start slipping up language-wise myself. I'll accidentally say a** instead of rear-end, or I will mention how someone wouldn't stop b****ing about their workload. I will catch myself doing this and get embarrassed, particularly if I am at work for one of two reasons:
A) It's not professional, appropriate language for the workplace
B) I'm regretful that I've spoken that way around co-workers who know that I am a Christian

Basically, I've tried to cut down on my exposure to such elements -- both in the television and music arenas. Personally, I think I do appreciate it when bloggers stick to a higher standard, because it makes it easier for me to do so as well. What Mark Byron wrote about Phillippians 4:8 makes sense to me. Just my personal two cents on the matter as someone who has grown up in an similar environment in the 1990s. I have been out of college for two years though, so I feel that I have a slightly different perspective on the issue.

I can relate to Kevin Holtsberry's comments on the nature of his "Christian" blog. Another good question to debate -- by definition, what is a Christian blog? Perhaps I'll provide thoughts on that some other time. By the way Kevin, I like your wife's taste. Gilmore Girls is a good show, imho.
I had heard that the Islamic Jihad was attempting to hack into American websites before today. This isn’t news to me. However, the sheer ingenuity that is going on in the American hacker community as they hack into Al-Qaeda websites makes me proud to be computer geek. Check out this James Robbins NRO article and scroll down to the last two paragraphs for the good stuff. Just a little morsel to tempt you here…

"Whenever a new terrorist-linked website appears, its address is listed in bulletin boards frequented by the hacker community, usually with a note appended such as "Have fun" or ";-)" — no surprise if the site goes down shortly thereafter. The terrorists should understand that Americans invented these systems, we know how they work from the BIOS up, and we have the smartest, best-educated, most imaginative geek population in the history of the world. "

Two high-quality columns on FrontPageMag that I stumbled across today. I rarely visit David Horowitz's online magazine, but if they reguarly have such high-quality Larry Elder columns, then I will be coming back regularly.

Chris Weinkopf -- What Leftists Hate Most
Larry Elder -- Glossary for the Liberal Media

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Excellent weekend all in all. I spent quality time with my houseguests, finished off some wedding prep, and danced yesterday night away to my favorite 80s tunes. "Material Girl", "Walk Like an Egyptian", and "Come on Eileen" just to name a few. Sometimes I feel that I was born about ten years too late, but what can a girl do? Spent most of today catching up on my sleep and trying to prepare for my vacation. FYI dear readers, illinigirl will most likely be on hiatus August 3rd - August 11th unless I can find some internet cafes in Florida. This is my first full-week vacation since I started working two years ago, and it's desperately needed. Hopefully I will return refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to do some serious posting.

Few interesting links here, hopefully my "vulgarity in pop culture" rant will be up tomorrow:

"What took you guys so long?" It just made my morning to see all nine miners pulled out alive. They spent 77 hours emerged in waist-deep freezing water and emerged with only slight hypothermia. Perhaps miracles still do happen. I just know it was really nice to see an encouraging, uplifting bit of news like that for a change.

"I just want to focus on my salad too" In today's column, Kathleen Parker writes that she knows how Martha feels. Chalk me up as another person suffering from TMI syndrome. It's enough to make a girl want to curl up on the couch and just watch Cosby reruns. However, this is the word we live in at the moment. As much as we may want to shy away, we have to figure out how to live in it and keep it safe for future generations.

Why did Alex McCloud turn the Trading Spaces reigns over to (Mindy) Paige Davis (Page)? Apparently she just got tired of spending three weeks a month in Holiday Inns. In other Trading Spaces gossip, some crack smoker has reported that Amy and Doug are dating. Interesting theory...

Stumbled across a blog that was discussing this "What's in a Name?" service. Give it a whirl, it's really pretty interesting stuff. My name report was pretty accurate, although its overall tone was a bit too negative and depressing for my taste. I will argue that they were wrong on the "little progress or financial accumulation" front, but they do have me pegged on the intense nature and stomach problems. Hit me with some comments if your "brief name report" turns out to be accurate.

"The influence of ****** makes you positive, self-assertive, and independent. You can be creative, inventive, and ingenious in practical matters, such as handicrafts. When you have the opportunity to pursue your own goals and interests free from interference, you can feel very agreeable and express a buoyant optimism. On the other hand, you can be impulsive and forceful when opposed, and act without due forethought and discretion. Hence you have many bitter experiences and generally rather unsettled conditions in your life, with little progress and financial accumulation. You cannot tolerate any domination by others, or circumstances that restrict your freedom and independence. You are inclined to make changes abruptly in your life as an escape from such conditions. When annoyed or offended, you can be very candid and sarcastic in your speech. Many disruptions in friendship and association have thus resulted. Verbal expression is difficult for you, and you can be forthright in situations requiring delicacy, even though it is not your intention to be. The intensity of your nature would cause you to suffer in the senses of the head, as well as with digestive problems. You also would have a sensitivity in your solar plexus. In extreme cases, mental turmoil, major stomach operations, and accidents of a serious nature could occur."

Friday, July 26, 2002

Hooray it’s Friday! A rather uneventful week but I am just as glad to finally see this weekend. Company is arriving in a few hours, and we will be doing all sorts of swell things this weekend. Shopping for wedding accessories, eating at nice restaurants, dancing to some sweet bands and crazy 80’s music…that sort of thing. Don’t be surprised if posting is light. However I freakishly find it impossible to sleep past 8 am on weekends, and I’m guessing my company doesn’t share this affliction. Who knows - maybe I will blog and maybe I will loaf.

At the moment though, I am drained and need a nap. I was going to post links to a couple items of interest, but I couldn’t find any. Seriously, I am not interested in most of what’s out on the news sites tonight. The news is either too depressing (Pennsylvania miner rescue stalled, poor little girl found dead in St. Louis glass factory, Ft. Bragg domestic slayings epidemic, West Nile crows everywhere) or a silly entertainment piece that shouldn’t qualify as news (Liza’s reality show, Jacko’s money problems, Ozzy’s royalties). As Peggy Noonan said in a very interesting column this morning, we are living in very interesting times. Go read her column – it seems a bit flowy and trite, but she makes some great points I can relate to. It does seem that we are living in a fantasy world, still happily living our day to day lives and pretending that petty entertainment gossip matters while the world seems to be falling apart. Excuse me while I head off to the fridge for some Hagen-Dazs…(or Edy's as the case may be)...

Thursday, July 25, 2002

A two-way messenger system exists between the following departments in a corporation: F and G, F and H, H and K, K and M, K and N, M and J, J and L.
There is also a one-way messenger system from department J to department G.
None of the messenger routes intersect one another except at the departments
There are no other departments or messenger routes in the corporation.
Messengers must follow the direction established for transit between departments.

Question: If the hallway between H and K is being resurfaced, making the route unusable, a messenger would NOT be able to travel from:
(A) G to F
(B) G to L
(C) J to M
(D) J to L
(E) K to F

Just as difficult, so much better. Who will post the correct answer in the Comments first? RIP gre analytical.
Apologies for the sporadic, short and not-so-insightful postings this week. Busy days and nights have taken a toll on me. The political world does not interest me at the moment. I think the whole mess about Traficant is kind of funny, but I don't give a fig about the "investment scandals" at the moment. I just want my 401K to start up again, and I am not sure that new federal criminal regulations are the best way to make corporations shape up. Since politics are not of interest at the moment, I'll give you my take on a few cultural matters tonight. (Amended: I will actually write about one cultural/educational matter. I intend to offer my two cents on the small blogoversy over Joshua Claybourn's post on Eminem and Nelly, but I'm too tired and cannot finish it tonight.)

On The Corner this morning, Stanley Kurtz pointed out that changes to the GRE that will be occurring this fall are less innocuous than they might seem. For those who have no reason to know or care, the GRE is eliminating its analytical section in the fall in favor of an essay test. Or an essay screening if you will, where test-takers are asked to write an essay based on a particular package and to write an essay on their own opinions. Erin O'Connor has done a wonderful three-part piece on why this change is a bad idea. She points out that while promises that essays will be evaluated from a politically-neutral viewpoint, the list of recommended topics suggests otherwise.

Some of my favorites include gems like:
1. "College and university education should be free for all students, fully financed by the government"
2. "No one can possibly achieve success in the world by conforming to conventional practices and conventional ways of thinking",
3. "In the age of television, reading books is not as important as it once was. People can learn as much by watching television as they can by reading books"
4. ” Education encourages students to question and criticize, and therefore does little to promote social harmony".

The first thing that struck me about these essay questions? How can the GRE people expect you to spend 45 minutes writing an essay on such a topic? As the official GRE site notes, the Present Your Perspective on an Issue task "states an opinion on an issue of general interest and asks test takers to address the issue from any perspective(s) they wish, as long as they provide relevant reasons and examples to explain and support their views". How in the world are you going to spend 45 minutes writing an essay on such a topic unless you write about your political beliefs? . While you may have some logic and reasoning behind your views, it's unlikely you will have specific examples that you can CITE in the proper format as you could in grad school -- author, title, year of publication, etc.

To be fair, there were a few innocuous, poltically neutral suggested topics. However, the vast majority of these statements would either be uttered by someone on the far right or far left of center. In writing an essay based on their own beliefs, the political leanings of the test-taker will become apparent to the scorer. As O'Connor notes, "One might argue that there are no right and wrong responses to these topics, and one could cite's own promise that evaluation of the essay will be viewpoint neutral. But that would be naive. In certain academic disciplines, there absolutely are right and wrong approaches to these issues. The GRE analytical assessment seems specially crafted to determine whether the test taker knows what the proper approaches are, to see if she can adequately reproduce the accepted tenets of the postmodern, multicultural academy, and to score her accordingly."

I'm somewhat exhausted, so I will just leave you with the l inks to her column. (Part I - upcoming changes, Part II - testing politics, Part III - credibility of GRE/ETS). Read it and ponder whether we really want an academia with just one point of view, and ponder whether this latest change might get us there. And if you're heading off to grad school in the near future, consider taking the test before October 1st.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Random links to interesting news and commentary:

There is a difference between being mean and simply voicing your displeasure on topics of interest. Michael Kelly's priceless column this morning proves that he knows it well.

Nice quote from the House of Representatives via Fox News : "My name will appear on the ballot. I want the people back home to know that they can vote for me. And it would be an unusual situation in American history, the first in American history I think, and I'm going to make this statement: I can run. I can operate and function as effectively as any member of Congress from behind bars." — James Traficant, on his plans to seek re-election in the fall. As FoxNews notes, Traficant is only the second member to be banished since the Civil War. The vote to expel him was 420-1. The lone vote to keep Traficant was courtesy of our honorable representative Gary Condit, who just seems glad that someone beat him to the title. Isn't it ironic?

Sopranos rumors and spoilers for those who might be interested.

Meant to post a link to this article yesterday -- a study shows that women have better emotional memories than men. An acquaintance in college used to bemoan the fact that girls weren't more like guys in this respect. Men have a major blowup, begrudgingly decide to get together anyways, have a few drinks together, and all is forgiven. Women on the other hand, we never forget. Once we are burned, we seem much warier to forgive the past transgressions of an individual that has betrayed our trust.

Regardless of politics, you have to admire the gumption of Patricia Owens. Way to stand up for yourself when being attacked by the press and partisan hounds for political gain. Texas Republican women rock -- sometimes I think I need to move there. Back to Owens, I think she will make an outstanding appellate court judge. She would only represent Texas, Lousiana, and Mississippi though, so my vote doesn't count in this case. Consider contacting your senator today if yours does.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Something seems to have gone very awry with Blogspot tonight folks. Due to this and an ugly little tummyache I haven't been able to shake since lunch, illinigirl will not be offering any insightful commentary this evening. It is kind of a shame, because there were several items I wanted to comment on this evening -- such as my disappointment at the method of retaliation Israel chose to use against Hamas and the fact they have may have started up the cycle of violence again, my thoughts on this excellent WSJ piece describing problems with Canada's socialized medicine, pondering whether alpha females really exist, and a random assortment of other things I find interesting. Instead, it is off to sleepyland a bit early. Check back tomorrow though!
Illinigirl got herself some culture this evening and done went to an incredibly entertaining chamber music concert. (End of reprehensible country bumpkin English). She then spent an hour composing a great post on the idea of being uncomfortable within one's Christian denomination. Then she accidentally erased it. Drats. But she is a glutton for punishment and has attempted to recreate this post below. Do not be surprised if she edits/cleans up this post tomorrow.

On Christian Faith and Denominations

Came across an interesting post by HokiePundit last night, and I thought I would share some of my thoughts on it with you. He writes about his struggles with some of the points of view found within the Episcopalian church, and his thoughts as he mulls whether or not to leave for a different denomination. I love reading posts like this because it shows Christians actively considering the role that their denomination plays within their faith lives. I also really enjoy reading posts like this because I have undergone similar struggles lately.

Basically, I am a hard-core conservative and life-long United Methodist. As I really became a Christian and grew more involved within my faith the past few years, I have increasingly noticed the United Methodist Church adopting positions with which I vehemently disagree. Few random examples: a pro-choice stance on abortions that blatantly conflicts with the respect for life the church exhibits by opposing the death penalty, support of hate crime legislation that argues the lives of those within protected-classes are worth more than those of "regular" human beings, and especially the contemptible gift of $10,000 by the United Methodist's National Commission on Religion and Race to "aid in the elimination" of the University of Illinois's revered, respected, beloved mascot Chief Illiniwek.

Now while rational arguments can be made for some of these stances (Not Illiniwek!), the fact remains that they feel innately wrong to me. I have considered leaving the United Methodist church for another denomination. I have friends who are members of more right-wing denominatons that seem to look down their noses at conservatives like myself for remaining members of more liberal groups. I know others who think I am behaving hypocritically by remaining a United Methodist while I don't live strictly by its Social Principle guidelines on certain issues . However after much consideration, I have basically reached a conclusion similar to that reached by Robert Bauer on Sunday:

"It does help to remember that the church isn't what saves you, but faith in Christ and, by extension, the Trinity. The church is merely a means to advance understanding and knowledge, and not an end in and of itself. However, when a church does not fulfill its stated and obligatory goal, there must be a change, either from within or from without."

At this point, I remain in the United Methodist church because I have a wonderful church home in which I can still further my knowledge of Christ. I think it is entirely healthy for Christians to question and occasionally disagree with the social/political stances adopted by their respective denominations. In fact, I think they may only be growing within their faiths when they regularly do so.

Monday, July 22, 2002

And Now Time for Something REALLY Important *: Which fast-food chain makes the best burger? I think Rod Dreher started this fuss by attacking McDs on The Corner this morning. Kevin Holtsberry has decided to turn it into an official contest. Even though I have become a bit of an exercise freak the past six months, I am quite the fast-food connoisseur and cannot live without semi-regular doses. Now, I don't mind McDonalds burgers (although I frequently shun them in favor of McChicken), but I have decided that my favorites are:

1) Culver's Butterburgers. They sound quite disgusting, but really just have a buttered bun and taste mmm-mmm good. I also like that Swiss is an option on every burger. I also like that you can always get a big cone of the Custard of the Day afterwards.
2) Burger King. The flame-broiling makes them less greasy and gives you a charcoal-like taste. I really like the BK Broiler.
3) Dairy Queen. Similar to BK burgers, I was forced to endure two years of college without these puppies until an ice-cream PLUS DQ opened in my little college town. Stayed skinnier as a result - or maybe because of the Blizzards I didn't eat after each meal.
HM: A&W, hold the mayo. A little too greasy for my taste but quality junk food nonetheless.

* Sarcasm intended

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Personal musing: Breakfast at Tiffany's is on AMC right now. I will never fully understand this movie, but I will always enjoy watching it. Noticed a new part tonight -- where her new neighbor George Peppard comes in to use the phone. An incredibly "green" Holly Go Lightly is stumbling around her apartment, telling this complete stranger how she's got a case of the dark reds. He asks if those are like the blues, and Holly explains that the dark reds are this horrible feeling that hits you at times, where you're terribly afraid of something and not quite sure what it is. She can usually shake it by shopping at Tiffany's, because nothing terrible can happen to you in such a wonderful place. (Probably butchering that in my paraphrasing, forgive me).

Just found that bit kind of interesting. Nothing else has struck me as interesting to blog about this weekend, possibly because I have had a rought couple days. I can relate to what Holly was thinking. Talking to my friends lately, this seems to be something we are all going through at the moment. Despite however happy you are with your job, friends, schooling, or significant other -- generally there are still seeds of doubt as to whether you are making the right decisions about your career and/or life path. Everyone has to find their own way of fighting off these fears, otherwise the "dark reds" may help the seeds of doubt take root and grow. I'm still working on this part. IMHO, retail therapy does have its good points. Unfortunately it's almost useless when you're a recent college graduate that wants to stay out of credit card debt, not to mention one who hopes to avoid buying the cheap, needless posessions that are likely to be purchased for a quick pick-me-up when in such moods. The quality of merchandise (not to mention ambiance) at my local mall just doesn't compare to Tiffany's.

So anyways, weekend was so-so. Political news of interest is almost non-existent. Sex and the City premiere tonight was pretty good though. Perhaps I'll talk some trash about Carrie and her "boyfriend" tomorrow. Goodnight!

Friday, July 19, 2002

Trivial links here tonight. I'm not so good at having wild Friday nights out anymore folks. Even when I stay in - after working 39 hours in four days, I usually just want to collapse. Watched Wet Hot American Summer on cable tonight -- I had read good things about it earlier this year. All I have to say is WOW am I glad that I didn't rent it on video. It's kind of a super-farce, mocking the Porky-esque teen summer-camp sex-romp movies of the early 1980s. However, they take it all a bit too far. The movie basically has no plot, and I slept through the last 25 minutes of it. Illinigirl's rating: 1.5 *s (out of 4)

Stupid Internet poll approves of Illinigirl's moral code -- thinks she should lighten up and have a drink more often. My score of 16% sounded high to me, but the "What's Your Likelihood of Committing Murder" poll thinks differently:

"You have a score of 1 to 20: You have a few little quirks here and there and no one ever did find your childhood cat, Fluffy. But, when it all comes down, you are a really good person. Your strict moral code is hard for others to live up to, and you probably don't get laid much. But, there's definitely a harp with your name on it. You might want to give your conscience the weekend off and have a few drinks, the world can be pretty fun if you loosen up a little."

Want another good poll? Find out which Disney villain are you?

Apparently Rush is walking all over Bill O'Reilly in the Chicago radio ratings. I'm not entirely sure this is a fair comparison though. I can listen to WLS almost everywhere -- in eastern Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and just outside St. Louis. I've never heard of an AM station called WAIT.

Janet Reno's Dance of tonight, it's not just a Saturday Night Live skit anymore.

Speaking of that administration, check out the plans for Old Billy-Boy's shrine to himself outside Little Rock. To quote the article, they are hoping to commemorate the "smoke-in-a-bottle legacy" of the Man from Hope. This is my favorite part of the article though:

There's some timidity in discussing funeral arrangements for a man approaching only his 56th birthday. When he was asked where Mr. Clinton's wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, might be buried, he (Mr. Bryan Day, Little Rock Parks Director) answered with a bit of a smirk: "At her own presidential library."

Argh. Let's hope not.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Just a couple pop-culture links tonight, because I have finally posted my first huge Sorority Life rant below. Hopefully it will be of interest to some -- not sure how many Greeks there are out in Bloggerland besides over at caffeinspiration.

Props to Six Feet Under for its 23 Emmy nominations. I've mentioned it before, but this show is a big part of my reasoning behind keeping cable. I'm a big fan of Peter Krause, and I'm also rooting for Lauren Ambrose and Freddy Rodriguez to win in the Best Supporting Actress/Actor categories. You've come a long way since Can't Hardly Wait, Lauren. :) I might actually have to watch the awards this year. The overly-sentimental kiddie side of me still would have liked to see a Gilmore Girls nomination or two though.

Voice of America is now available in the Arab world, according to Melissa Seckora. I'm a bit encouraged by this. Freedom of the airwaves is a good thing.

Courtesy of Inner Monologues and Jane-Blog, the "What does your bumper sticker say?" quiz. What does "Flies Spread Disease. Keep Yours Zipped" say about me. Um Meredith, isn't that worse than "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"?
This Week on Sorority Life (Part I):

"Six women are picked to live in a house, pledge a sorority together, break all possible rules in the process, and find out what really happens when girls stop being polite and start being bi**hy."

As an alumni member of a national women's fraternity, I was intrigued when I found out MTV was going to follow a group of women throughout their pledgeship at UC-Davis. Intrigued and terrified. I was fairly confident that it would be presented from a warped, politically correct, and somewhat mindless point of view by MTV. The first commercial I saw for the show did very little to allay my fears. First, they asked a group of women why they were pledging this house. They started off responding with the typical warm, fuzzy responses that made me somewhat proud: sisterhood, leadership opportunities, finding a home away from home, service projects, etc. Then the commercial seemed to come to a screeching halt as MTV changed the touchy feel music and whipped out the party animals - "I'm not going to lie, I like to party." The rest of the ad screamed "Party, party, party, party, party, drink, drink, drink, drink, drink".

Can't accuse MTV of false advertising here. So far, the antics of Candace, Jordan, Amanda, Dede, Mara, and Jessica have provided little of the former and lots of the latter. It's somewhat obvious that MTV has assembled this crew in hopes of creating drama and eye candy for the masses. For the most part, this is Real World Davis with lots of girls in pajamas, pillow fights, swimming in the pool, and sisterly conflict. Yet I am still hooked -- I find the women of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi quite entertaining. Here's why.

I was pleasantly surprised by the first episode in which these fraternity women were introduced. First of all, they quickly showed us that this isn't your typical sorority. It seems to be a local Jewish chapter which explains a why they could do this show to begin with. On the vast majority of college campuses (about 90%), sororities are nationally-affiliated. This means they are part of a network of chapters across the country that use the same letters, colors, mascot, rituals, and operation procedures at each chapter location. They have a national governing board that oversees their alumni and collegiate relations. Not unlike the Gestapo, these ladies know it all. If MTV was permitted to bring cameras into a national sorority's chapter's membership discussions during rush, they would be booted to the curb before they could initiate those pledges.

Other key differences between Sorority Life and Real-Life Sororities:

1) Jewish sorority -- This adds an interesting wrinkle to the whole show. It's a common interest and set of values that many of these active members share. In some respects, it does seem like these pledges showed up for the camera. They knew MTV was going to be there, and despite their lack of Jewish background decided pledging would be worthwhile. I mean -- one of these girls didn't even realize that Jewish people think Jesus was the Son of God until the final rush event. By last Monday's episode, three pledges were sarcastically bemoaning the fact they didn't feel "mitzvahy enough" This is bound to cause some problems.

2) Informal Rush -- It's a practice used mostly for upperclassmen on campuses where Greek life does not dominate the social scene. If a chapter still has openings and is below their allowable total, they can informally invite women to join. As the first episode illustrated, it's touch to really get to know people in such a short period of time and decide whether to offer them a chance at membership. I was impressed that SAEPi decided to give everyone a bid. My personal motto always was that anyone interested enough to rush deserved a shot as a pledge, but this show is quickly getting me to reconsider my position.

3) Non-Residential -- I could be wrong here, but so far I think the vast majority of these women don't live in the chapter house. This is not necessarily a bad thing. First of all, the rules that National Panhellenic Conference and other Greek governing boards ask women to live by -- they are a bit parental, totalitarian, and difficult to live under. Secondly, get six women to live together anywhere, and you will likely find that catty behavior and wicked hijinks always ensue. Multiply this by a number between 5 - 17, and imagine the problems of 100 women living together. I'd rather not.

I started writing commentary on the episodes themselves, but I have decided to save it for another night. Instead, read the disclaimer that follows here, watch the show if you so desire (Mon, MTV, 10:30 EST), and come back for a quick, pitiless write-up at a later date!

My disclaimer: I loved my college sorority experience. I went to a very small school, so I'm sure I didn't have the usual "Greek experience". I loved it just the same though. There were things I disliked about it: constantly struggling against anti-Greek factions on my campus, enduring the petty bickering that usually occurs when you get 20-30 women together in any one place, assuming responsibility for the idiocy of other members in my organizations. However, I would gladly endure all that for what I gained by being a member -- the leadership training, negotiation techniques, people skills, service opportunities, network of strong values-driven women that I've worked with from across the country, the meaning from our Christian rituals that I've been able to apply to my daily life. I have really found nothing like it -- the only experience I can compare it to is joining a church that you love, sharing common beliefs and ideals and goals with a group of people. It's more difficult than that though.

My time as a sorority girl also taught me some of the least enjoyable but most significant lessons I learned during college. Sometimes you have to learn to work with people you dislike; you can't just wish them away. Friendships change and some don't endure. Not everyone is meant to be best friends and agree on everything, you just have to try to maintain respect for one another. Your actions do indeed reflect on your friends and loved ones, so consider them before-the-fact. Things that are fun aren't necessarily rewarding, and things that are rewarding aren't necessarily fun.

All that being said, I am a few years removed from sorority life. There were times I wanted to quit, but I am glad that I didn't. I'm active in local alum groups, and I have made several friends through them in my new hometown. Will I be best friends with all my college sorority sisters forever? Hardly. I'm still very close to six or seven of them, and I'm fairly confident we will stay that way for the rest of our lives. Did I buy my friends in college? A few perhaps -- they didn't come cheap but they are high-quality and will last forever. Was my sorority experience worth amount I paid in dues? For me, yes - every penny. I really believe I'm a better person for it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Please forgive any typos/poor grammar that I have thrown up tonight. Can hardly keep my eyes open at the moment.

The Democratic Party One-Minute Speech Maker (TM Brian Knotts) is really pretty funny. Other variations (Medicare, Social Security, religious) also exist. Here's my best crack at it.

"Mr. Speaker: They're at it again! The disciples of Rush Limbaugh have once again proposed slashing funds for school lunches in order to give tax cuts to the rich! These extremist actions will force our children to prostitute themselves! Thank goodness our Democratic colleagues have bravely stopped this brazen attempt to starve our kids."

Think it's hard to give up baseball, huh Bobby? Try being a Cubs fan -- we never learn our lesson either.

I think Danny Pearl's father is a bit naieve, but his letter in the Wall Street Journal today was touching. Kind of ironic that an someone who "showed that an American can faithfully and unjudgmentally present anti-Western points of view" had to die such a horrible death, due to a few fanatic members of the Islamic Jihad trying to make a point. God rest his soul.

Wanted to post more tonight but most go to bed. Sorority post is half written -- up by next weekend, I guess.
News & Links:

Yet another suicide bombing in Israel today. See how effective it was to tell the Palestinians they can have their own state if they settle down, GW? I did find one thing incredibly interesting about this Washington Post article on the latest round:

"In more than 21 months of fighting, 1,759 people have been killed on the Palestinian side, and 574 on the Israeli side."

Where did this figure come from? Now I'm not the world's expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I try to keep up and know more than 95% of my family and friends. Somehow this statement -- that almost 1800 Palestinians have been killed in 21 months of fighting -- just does not add up in my head. Every two or three days it seems we hear about another suicide bombing by a Palestinian (or two or three or four), and usually it is followed by a military response from Israel. Does the media just not report the number of people killed in attacks on Palestinian targets? If the casualties are significantly larger, I would argue it is because the Israeli attacks are those of a civilized nation at war. Someone attacks your people, you retaliate by hitting them where it hurts so they (hopefully) will have a more difficult time attacking you again. Palestinians suicide bombings on the other hand occur on a random basis, with no rhyme or reason other than the end goal of killing Jews and acquiring their "own" state.

Yes, yes I've heard it all before how unfair it is. To be fair, I know very little about the long-term history behind the Palestinian-Israel. I also realize that Israel has this great big army and these attacks are seemingly the Palestinians' only recourse. That's no excuse. The fact remains that these are kamikaze attacks committed in a sneaky, cowardly manner. They don't want a fair fight -- if they did they would form their own makeshift armies and fight like real men. By comparison, running out into the streets in combat fatigues with bombs strapped around their waists would be incredibly brave. But they don't because they realize they would be shot on sight by Israeli security and have less of an impact for their cause. Instead they sneak onto buses full of innocent children and their grandmothers, crash wedding receptions, and interrupt pizzas parties -- with the sole purpose of killing people. Their sole aim seems to be to exterminate as many of the enemy as possible -- first to "win" their own state and then to exterminate Israel and all its faithful.

This post has turned more emotional than I intended. It's obvious where I stand on this conflict. I really am interested in hearing where and how these 1800 casualties occurred. Could someone more objective who knows about this post in my comments section? Please?

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Just a few links tonight. Made it through an incredibly long day at work, and then it was a torridly hot, must-head-to-the-air-conditioned-gym sort of Tuesday evening in Illinois. I ran a 5K for the first time in about three weeks, and I am definitely feeling it now. Note to self: Going from running 0 to 3.1 miles in one afternoon is not the best idea. No matter how much cardio time you have racked up on the elliptical trainer, your body will still punish you for this. Shin splints galore. I'm left with very little intelligent commentary...

Asparagirl reports on a forty-nine year old Canadian father of six that was killed outside a Jewish pizzeria in Canada and notes that the press is reluctant to label this a hate crime. This is quite similar to my comments this weekend on Hadayet shooting up LAX -- she echoes my thoughts that the media is failing to make a big deal out of these incidents because the victims are Jewish and they are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. She really has some interesting ideas here - I may offer some more thoughts on her hate crime definition when I am less tired.

Jonah Goldberg's annual French-bashing column is up over at NRO. Get those froggies!

I have just discovered the Beltway Bloggers. (Hey, I'm less than 2 months into the Blogger world - it's a decent excuse!) If you haven't checked out their antics yet, I highly recommend doing so. They're entertaining.

Patrick Ruffini links to an interesting site -- Port Authority's concept proposals for rebuilding on the WTC Site. I think I'm with Patrick on two accounts -- the Memorial Park design is my most favorite, the Memorial Square layout my least favorite. However, I think the Memorial Promenade runs a close second in my book. I like the idea that NYC would still have two twin towers -- basically telling the terrorists that no matter how they may try to destroy us, we will rebuild something just as good or better. My only hang-up about these designs? I understand such buildings were and are impractical, but I wish the towers in these designs were taller. Just because.
intro to illinigirl: for all the new visitors, welcome and I hope you come back soon. I started this blog in a desperate attempt to hone my writing skills and make all the hours I spend prowling conservative websites seem worthwhile. I'm a female in my mid-twenties, and I'm a couple years removed from a Midwestern liberal arts college. I dabbled in all sorts of subjects, but I am currently putting my most employable major to use with an information technology position in the corporate arena. Enjoy my work, but I'm planning on starting graduate school and/or pursuing some freelance writing in the near future. Most of this is currently on hold, because I'm swamped in wedding planning at the moment (t minus four months and counting!) I'm an internet media addict, a relatively new Christian (United Methodist by denomination) and a card-carrying Republican with a few strong Libertarian tendencies. I am also somewhat obsessed with pop culture, enjoying all kinds of trashy television and eighties music. So there's a quick introduction to my blog and the things I write about here.
Link love: It's nice to be getting some attention -- finally starting to feel like I'm writing for an audience. Thanks go out to one of my must-hit blogs caffeinspiration and to Bobby Allison-Gallimore for his plug today. I derived some pleasure from seeing my posts described as succinct. Generally I start out talking about a topic, decide I've become too long-winded, and either edit the post down to manageable size or scrap it. Maybe my discarded philosophical posts will make their way out here at some point. Also, thanks to Kevin Holtsberry over at Ideas etc. for the link on his page -- it is another one of my favorites.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Links of Interest:
(Disclaimer: I'm forgoing post links until Blogger/owners get them fixed. Screwed up everywhere at the moment)

Larry Miller has a funny, satirical piece related to my Hadayet post last night. It describes the struggle at the State Department to unravel the mystery of the LAX Fourth of July shooting as "A Deep Mystery for Deep People". Yup, that about covers it.

Standard has another interesting piece relating to Hadayet -- Steven Schwartz's "All the Hate that's Fit to Print" describing the underground "poison pen" American Muslim press.

Whether or not you support abortion, I would think that most people would find this piece as disturbing as I did. Lee Bockhorn writes on the Weekly Standard website about "Family Planning", a somewhat frightening New York Times Magazine essay in which an anonymous father described his family's efforts and inverventions as they convinced his pregnant 15-year-old daughter to have an abortion, despite the fact that she immediately wanted to have the child and try to be a good mother. The most ironic words in this piece are spoken by this young woman when her parents ask what she is going to do. "I don't have a choice"

73% of college students in a recent survey asserted that all beliefs are equally valid. As a recent graduate, I can vouch for the prevalence of moral relativism and postmodern thought on the college campus -- although I hadn't seen it exhibited to the point that 10-20% of students wouldn't criticize the Nazis as supposedly happened at a NY college. However, John Leo brings up an interesting point in his column -- students leave college convinced that ethical standards are simply a matter of individual choice, they are less likely to be reliably ethical in their subsequent careers. If we think our corporate tycoons are bad today, how are things going to improve when we are teaching students that there are no standards and moral debate is therefore pointless?

Rod Dreher has started quite a fuss out in Blogland with his Confessions of a Granola-Crunching Conservative. You can check out responses from Ben Domenech, Josh Claybourn, Mark Byron and several others. My favorite though has to be Amy Wellborn's over at In Between Naps . It starts off discussing conservatives that frequently exhibit the stereotypical liberal behaviors (frequenting natural food stores and farmers markets, growing their own vegetables, baking their own bread, shunning most of pop culture etc.). I'm with her here -- while "granola" types are more likely to be liberals, I don't think I equal representation of the materialistic culture-fiends that are . I think this whole ideas of "liberal" food activities has to be traced back to hippies in the 1960s. Perhaps it's a simplistic answer, but that is my gut feeling on the matter. If I am interpreting this right, Wellborn then asserts that there are three main dividing lines within the conservative factions today: organic/processed food activities, openness to contemporary culture, and acceptance of those with contemporary life circumstances. It really is a thoughtful post, and I recommend checking it out.

FYI, I am a devotee of the same HBO shows used as an example of acquiescence to contemporary culture -- The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and Sex in the City. While I agree with her that these shows show a lot of "sinful acts", I still find that they present more moral lessons than 90% of TV out there today. No matter what questionable lifestyle elements they exhibit, it seems most main characters on these shows long for a more moral and/or meaningful existence. Whether it's Carmela wishing Tony wasn't a mobster and respected their marriage vows or David dreaming about having a family of his own or Samantha's hoping for a monogamous relationship with Richard. It's just hard to find characters on other shows that are visibly pondering moral issues in their lives. I'll pay for HBO to have a few hours of TV each year worth watching, a few shows that reliably both entertain me and make me think.
Quote of the Day: Solzhenitsyn from the front of my church program this Sunday - it follows below. I have found that as a twenty-something and a Christian, I am constantly trying to pin down what I should do next and wondering if I am making the right decisions. I have found this passage reassuring, and I feel that it helps me put things in perspective. Hopefully it might do the same for some of you.

"How easy, Lord, it is for me to live with you. How easy it is for me to believe in you. When my understanding is perplexed by doubts or on the point of giving up, when the most intelligent men see no further than the coming evening, and know not what they shall do tomorrow, you send me a clear assurance that you are there and that you will ensure that not all the roads of goodness are barred.

From the heights of earthly fame I look back in wonder at the road that led through hopelessness to this place when I can send mankind a reflection of your radiance. And whatever I in this life may yet reflect, that you will give me; and whatever I shall not attain that, plainly, you have purposed for others." -- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Like it? Does it rely on predestination a bit too much for your taste? Respond below...

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Beautiful weekend here in Illinois. The heat wave finally broke last Wednesday, and we were treated to 84F sunny days and 60F crisp nights. I spent a good portion of it doing some volunteer work (home improvement tasks and the like), visiting an art festival, hitting the gym, and entertaining a friend from college. Nothing too exciting, but I was happy.

Watched Pearl Harbor this weekend with the honey on STARZ. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I refuse to contribute to the success of Ben Affleck films in the theatres, and I somehow missed the movie on HBO. So-so film but it had awesome special effects. It was also an incredibly interesting screen for someone who isn't well-versed in WWII history, a disturbing movie to watch in the wake of 9-11. As IlliniFiance put it, "It just shows that we made the same mistakes all over again, that we didn't realize what a particular society was capable of doing." It seems that history really does repeat itself. The scenes that affected me the most were of the Japanese planes raining down gunfire on the seemingly innocent civilians -- the nurses and off-duty pilots. It still strikes me as so foreign -- the idea these attackers were not just seeking to destroy the enemy's military equipment and preparedness, they were hoping to inflict as many casualties as possible. In my young lifetime, I just can't remember enemies that fought us this way. Apparently, the rest of the country can't either. We need to remember, because that's the kind of enemy we are facing now.

The American media seems to have sympathy for Hadayet, the Egyptian who shot up the El Al terminal on the Fourth of July. Even Fox News has an article tonight bemoaning the fact that he was in money trouble, as if this gives him any excuse for taking the lives of innocent air travelers. Thank heavens for a competent El Al Security guard at LAX, or who knows what might have happened to our economy after the "Fourth of July Massacre 2002". As many other bloggers and a fabulous Jack Dunphy piece on National Review Online have noted, the facts in this situation are all too obvious. The Hadayet incident was terrorism, pure and simple. It was not only terrorism, but it was a hate crime in that this man sought to make a statement by killing Jews on the Fourth of July in America.

Read the Dunphy piece and ponder the question it asks, "Is there a sentient being on earth who, when presented with these facts, would not conclude that Hadayet left home that morning with no other intent but to kill as many Jews as possible?" I just don't understand where the outrage is in our nation's media. While I understand our government's reticence to label this incident terrorism, I have a sinking feeling that it would be entirely different story with the media if Hadayet had shown up at a location with a primarily Hispanic, African-American, or homosexual clientele. We can't pick and choose here people -- the loss of one life, any life to terrorism should be tragic.

I was working on a related hate-crimes comment and my sorority piece, but they need some more work at the moment. I will try to fix and post tomorrow -- visit again soon readers!

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Still needing some fuel tonight, but the gym was strangely energizing tonight. I am pretty darn happy that it is almost Friday again. I am also trotting out big words in improper contexts, which is another sign that my body is screaming for sleep.

The Washington Post has a really interesting article today about C-Span founder Brian Lamb. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lamb in 2000, as he was the commencement speaker at my graduation. He really is a fascinating man with quite a good sense of humor, which you wouldn't really expect from a man who created such a dry cable channel. He showed up on campus approximately 24 hours before the ceremony, proceeded to document his whole visit on a digital camera, plugged his newly created graduation website during the speech, and had photos and commentary posted within 48 hours. Quite an impressive effort for 200 plus recent college grads. I think meeting Brian Lamb was refreshing because he truly seems to believe in what he's doing -- giving the average citizen access to and a voice within the American political system. It really is quite a public service if you think about it, and C-Span demonstrates the inherent greatness of our democratic society. Think about it -- how many other countries televise the day-to-day votes and procedures of their legislative bodies or give their citizens such a great forum for expressing their views to one another? Even if every country had a C-SPAN, it really takes quite a bit of talent to make it: A) remotely interesting to watch B) profitable to run C) a relatively unbiased sounding board for folks all across the politcal spectrum. Kudos to Lamb - he deserves them.

Today's famous person run in is quite a bit different -- Frank W. Abagnale, a reformed scam artist with a fascinating life story. So fascinating in fact, that he sold the rights to his autobiography Catch Me If You Can in 1980, and it will be released on Christmas Day 2002 as Steven Speilberg's newest Dreamworks film. The movie stars Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio (bet he's banking on this one reviving his career), Christopher Walken, James Brolin, Amy Adams, Martin Sheen, and Jennifer Garner. I realize I'm totally plugging this flick, but Abagnale is a fascinating guy. This man managed to pose as both a doctor and an airline pilot, wrote $2.5 billion in bad checks and has seemingly turned his life around to assist in protecting the financial companies he once brilliantly defrauded. Stealing checks out of people's mailboxes, illegally altering the payees and amounts with scotch tape and acetone, crooks watching over your shoulder at the grocery checkout to steal information to order checks from Current and drain your account -- he warned us about scams that I've never even dreamed of. It's enough to make anyone paranoid about identity theft. Check out Abagnale's website publications for more information.

Blog Updates...

Megan McArdle is running a rather amusing contest over at Live From the WTC. If Michael Jackson is one of the four weirdest people on the planet, then who are the other four? I nominate: Angelina Jolie, PeeWee Herman, Prince... I'm having trouble deciding on a fourth, any suggestions?

Ben Domenech is preparing for the one-year anniversary of his site. In doing so, he's posted a "best of" compilation for this year. Check it out. I like the 2001 Ben Domenech Awards, especially for Republicans of the Year: Matt Stone and Trey Parker. If you haven't seen the new season of South Park, you're missing out. In two weeks, they've tackled Martha Stewart, the Catholic church crisis, and the PC replacement of guns with flashlights/walkie-talkies in ET and other classic films. They've actually got me laughing again.

Benjamin Kepple has an interesting piece (7/9, links aren't working) on a recent Slate blogger argument -- Oliver Willis doesn't believe that Mickey Kaus is correct in saying that ultra left-wingers are more violence prone than ultra left-wingers today. Somehow this dissipates into an argument about Rush and the right's unfair attacks on the Clintons in the 1990s. I don't understand, but it's an interesting piece nonetheless. Still not convinced there wasn't something fishy about so many Clinton cronies dying in mysterious accidents - and I don't consider myself an ultra right-wing zealot spouting fire and brimstone at the left either.

Too tired, must sleep, reality TV rants will appear this weekend. Come on, you know you are looking forward to them! Check back soon.
Illinigirl had its highest traffic day ever yesterday with a whole dozen unique visitors to the site. A close friend's blog had its IPO yesterday, to borrow some lingo, and I have a feeling this initial public offering garnered me some additional traffic. Another week or two and I am hoping to do the same -- to start promoting my random musings to the friends, family, and general public instead of just a few privileged beta testers and other bloggers.

It's been a busy week and the tank is running on empty. Just a short update tonight, and I promise to be back with some interesting commentary sometime soon. Provided that there is something interesting to comment on. I can sympathize with Kevin Holtsberry's post tonight -- the news seems to have slowed down and there is nothing out there I feel passionate enough to rant about. However, I am a huge TV junkie. When politics fails to entertain, I will probably result to getting philosophical and/or making fun of TV. Consider yourself forewarned :)

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

I thought I would be up for posting a good rant on MTV's Sorority Life tonight, but alas that is not the case. I had an extremely restless night and got approximately 4.5 hours of solid sleep before the daily grind began this morning. Top that off with burning 450 calories at the gym and watching tonight's Real World Chicago finale was about all I could handle tonight. I promise it will come soon though. Why watch reality TV if you aren't going to make fun of it?

Tonight, instead Reasons Why I Blog Under a Pseudonym:

1) I like being able to speak my mind freely. For example, I fully support Israel and appreciate that I can say so on my blog. I'm also a bit paranoid in terms of terrorism, and I don't want to provide Jihadists with a map to my front door. Not that they've ever practiced anything but tolerance for those who hold views in opposition to their own or anything...

2) I am a perfectionist by nature. If I knew my name was somehow attached to my posts forever out in cyberspace, I would obsess about making each and every one perfect. With my hectic schedule as of late, nothing would ever get posted. I used to write a column for my school paper, and I could spend hours proofreading a 500 word column. Enough said.

3) I am avoiding conflicts of interest. Given the influx state of my future career aspirations and my employer's ultra-PC learnings as of late, I have decided I'd rather my comments stay anonymous for the time being.

Just a smattering of my thoughts on the subject. I may change my mind on this one -- I'd be interested in any reader comments on the matter. Tell me I'm a genius or a coward below ==>

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Annie Hall, this one's for you! "Soda or Pop?" A researcher at Cal Tech has attempted an interesting study of the linguistic battle that many of us face each day. Check out his cool map explaining the differences, and vote for any "other" nicknames that you use. Just for the record, it's SODA in Central Illinois.

Jane Galt with some pointers on what is truly right, center, and left in American politics today. For the record, I agree that more liberals think their beliefs are centrist than conservatives. I am saddened by how far right my views are in comparison to most of the American public :) On the other hand, I think Al Gore is a little bit to the right of Chairman Mao. You've got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk to truly be a lefty in my eyes. I'm pretty certain his family will be consuming more than their share of fossil fuels as they heat that new mansion in Belle Meade, TN this winter.

Just when I'd caught up on Trading Spaces reruns, they break out While You Were Out. Send the spouse/housemate away for the weekend, get yourself $1500 and a decorator, and see how they react to a brand-spanking new, redecorated room. Way to feed my home-improvement obsession TLC!

Although I like Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith films, I just never got Men in Black. However, I did get a kick out of Bobby Allison-Gallimore's story about his experience at the film opening night Post links don't seem to be working, so check out caffeinspiration's "Saving the US from Terrorizing Aliens".

Taking off for the time being, but may post tomorrow once the blogging world is running at full tilt again. Also, mark your calendars for the rant of a recently-graduated sorority girl on MTV's Sorority Life. Until then...
Illinois GOP Update: For anyone who might care, it's time for some Illinois political news! I've been marginally involved with the state GOP campaigns for about six years now. The only thing I have learned for certain is that being a Republican in this state is currently an exercise in frustration. Probably due to a few million people in Chicago and several union-heavy areas downstate, this state seems to think like Blue America. Peter Fitzgerald was able to win election to the Senate four years ago in large part due to blatant abuse of power and misuse of funds by his opponent. Even though the state seemed neck and neck a week before the vote in 2000, it went 55% for Gore on election day. This state voted for Clinton -- even the second time. Enough said.

Yet somehow over the past couple decades, the GOP has retained control of the governorship in Springfield. I grew up watching Governors Thompson and Edgar on the news. While I knew very little about them, I felt an incredible amount of confidence in them. They seemed to have it under control, to never do anything embarassing or stupid. Not so for George Ryan. I won't go into all the license-for-bribes scandals, the idiotic only-for-PC-and-PR-purposes death penalty moratorium, or his detestable trip to Cuba. Let's just leave it at this -- I am tremendously glad he is not running again. While I never could have punched out a Democratic chad for a Daley-machine cog like Blagojevich, a second run by the George would have certainly driven me to voting Libertarian. (No offense to Libertarian readers - I sympathize with a great many of your viewpoints but still feel it's thowing my vote away at this point).

So what did the Illinois political machine do? It goes topsy-turvy with scandal during the primaries. Lieutenant Guv Corrine Wood was running radio ads begging soccer moms to skip Democrat in the primaries to protect their abortion rights. Ultra-conservative Pat O'Malley called names, implying that his opponents were both in bed with George and that Jim Ryan was suffering from another bout of brain cancer. Jim Ryan was too afraid to blow his lead to say anything at all. It worked and won the primary, but Blagojevich is ahead in polls and the in-fighting has not stopped. So what's to do? Reportedly, the state GOP chairmanship has been offered to Jim Edgar. Unfortunately, Edgar is now a distinguished fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign the school's Institute of Government and Public Affairs and they feel it is "too deeply into politics" for him to accept. Why not? A great big boo to UIUC and this page's namesake for prohibiting him from offering his expertise where it is desparately needed. For some reason, I highly doubt the university would object to a race-relations scholar becoming head of the Illinois NAACP. I imagine most state schools would have a similar response in such a situation, but I still feel UIUC is really showing its liberal bias here. Apparently the second choice is the former head of Quaker Oats. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out...hopefully it won't end in Governor Rod B. Stay tuned.
Patriotism and Tolerance: I may have made allusions to it on this blog, but I haven't really discussed my faith. I've technically been involved in the United Methodist church since birth, but I consider myself a relatively new Christian. It wasn't until I faced a rough couple years in college that I really opened up and let faith become an important part of my life. That being said, my ideas on Christianity and evangelism are somewhat malleable and definitely evolving. Luckily, I've found a wonderful church in my adopted hometown that is both open-minded and intellectual in its approach to faith yet somewhat conservative in practice. We had an interesting mix of a service today. Theologically, it held that sharing good news, setting a good example in day to day life, yet practicing tolerance/acceptance of other faiths would be a Christian approach to respecting others' beliefs. Musically, it was still unabashedly patriotic. I actually found it quite appropriate for Fourth of July weekend, 2002.

The choir sang a patriotic medley of "Battle Hymn of the Republic", "America", and the "Star Spangled Banner". It was somewhat heart-warming to see everyone from six year-old girls to gentlemanly old men singing in the choir. It made me proud to see the entire congregation instantly stand and face the flag when our national anthem began. It made me somewhat scared -- as I realized how frequently these songs gave reference to God and wondered just how long it might be before they were under assault within the courts. If it's unconstitutional to have the pledge said in public schools, then how long before it's determined "against the law" to sing these songs in a public place? I realize that this lawsuit stems from the civil arena, but technically anywhere you sing these songs someone might have different views and take offense. Ballgames, city fireworks shows, etc. My point is basically -- can you imagine how empty our culture would be without all its references to God, without all the related great art and music and literature? In my opinion, it is not tolerance to remove all references to the Lord from the public sphere, it's more like totalitarianism. I hope it never comes to the point we have to pretend that great artistic works don't exist just for increase the comfort levels of overly-sensitive people.

Saturday, July 06, 2002

Just a few more interesting Independence Day links for you all:

Megan McArdle had a great idea yesterday -- posting a plethora of document texts and poems related to our great nation and its founding. Check out her Fourth of July tribute here.

Lileks Bleat on the Fourth: "This is the greatest nation on earth in the history of the species. No qualifications. You want to reaffirm what a hellish hell-like hellhole this is, go read the Guardian, or any other paper put out by pasty slubgullons who can't bring themselves to shake free of monarchy. It's the Fourth. Take it to the ICC."

Anita Creamer thinks Americans aren't patriotic enough and are uncertain how to help in the war on terror. I agree with her that our attention has wandered - we need more than good intentions.

Friday, July 05, 2002

A belated Happy Fourth of July to everyone. I got some rest, spent time with friends and future in-laws, saw some great fireworks, and won a marathon session of gin rummy. Good times, to quote a friend of mine. However, I did have an interesting emotional experience during the fireworks show last night. We were watching a "skyconcert" synced up with a local radio station, and the fourth or fifth song during the show was Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA".

"If tomorrow all the things were gone
I'd worked for all my life,
And I had to start again
with just my children and my wife,
I'd thank my lucky stars
to be living here today,
'Cause the flag still stands for freedom
and they can't take that away.

I'm proud to be an American
where at least I know I'm free,
And I won't forget the men who died
who gave that right to me,
And I gladly stand up next to you
and defend her still today,
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God Bless the U.S.A."

I'm not even sure that this is my favorite patriotic song, and musically it is not such an interesting piece persay. As I was listening to it though, I got a little emotional considering the meaning behind those words, the importance of the American freedoms that we were celebrating. Last night, I was thinking how fortunate I really was to be able to spend that evening in the company of loved ones, to have time off from my safe, stable private sector job while thousands of Americans spent the night on duty defending our country. I was thinking about all the servicemen and women stationed far away from their families, spending the Fourth rooting out terrorist networks and protect American citizens. I was thinking of the World Trade Center, how those business people, policemen, firemen...they all basically died in the first battle of a war to protect our freedoms, our tolerant society, our way of life.

Last night, I felt like vast members of the crowd there didn't realize this. I got a little perturbed watching people who didn't stand, take off their hats, or pay attention to the "Star-Spangled Banner". I listened to this song and watched the fireworks and left the riverfront wondering if most Americans realize why we are fighting this war. Our country is standing up to an oppressive society. A militant Islamic way of life in which seeks to treat women as third-class citizens, tells its followers exactly how to behave or suffer brutal physical punishments, and hopes to exterminate all those that hold religious beliefs in conflict with their own. Would we want to live in a society like this? Can we in good conscience stand by and watch it forced upon other nations?

I felt a strange mix of emotions last night..a great deal of gratitude, a hint of anger, a few pangs of guilt. I was grateful for so many things -- my comfortable lifestyle, the relative safety of my family and friends, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans to practice our faiths and express our viewpoints. The hint of anger I felt was towards two different groups -- the "Blame America First" crowd and the "Why is America Even Important to Me, I Just Want to Watch the Fireworks" crowd. I resent the fact that there are atheists out there who can't just suck it up and shrug off the "under God" in the pledge because our country has more important things to worry about at the moment, and I resent the spectators who couldn't be bothered to set down their drinks or remove their ballcaps to show respect for the flag, the national anthem, and the sacrifices made by those who protect America and its freedoms. Finally, I felt a few pangs of survivors' guilt -- that I was home and able to celebrate our independence while so many families faced an empty seat at the picnic table this year. I felt like I should have contributed to the war effort in a more significant way. I felt certain that we have been fighting for a just cause and that we should be doing all we can to preserve our American way of life - freedom, liberty, and opportunity for all.

So now that it's July 5th, I am still experiencing these feelings to a slightly less intense degree. Hope I don't come off looking a bit loco here, but I started this blog just for this reason -- to rant about issues that I feel are important. I guess the Fourth just reminded me of the enormous challenge our country may be facing, and I desparately hope that more Americans realize this soon. Consider tonight's little loopy diatribe a contribution to the war effort. If my tirade makes one person think differently about the significance of July 4th this year and think about what they can do to help confront the challenge I believe our nation faces -- I'll be a happy camper.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Wow is it nice to have such a nice long weekend! The gym has taken its toll on me tonight, but I thought I would provide a couple interesting links before I hit the hay. Tomorrow it's off for a day of good food, good company, and probably good fun down on the banks of the Illinois River. Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Peggy Noonan has a wonderful way of pointing out all the things for which America should be thankful in her column today. I actually felt a short burst of pride when I saw that blogging made her list. It's a nice group to belong to, and I like the idea that someone out there is benefitting from reading my current events and pop culture rantings on a regular basis.

How stupid are various members of Sadaam Hussein's family? His 35 year-old stepson was arrested today for attempting to take classes at the same flight school as many of the September 11th hijackers. Great plan there buddy.

Finally, this report is kind of scary. I was planning on avoiding Chicago this weekend due to safety concerns, and then I read that terrorists may have been casing stadiums in my other two weekend getaway cities, St. Louis and Indianapolis. Kind of just furthers my suspicions that the next attack is not going to be something as massive and dramatic as 9-11, but it will hit us unexpectedly in a location where they can cause the highest possible number of casualties with the least work. Let's hope and pray that the paranoid Illinigirl isn't right.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone - keep hoping and/or praying that our country is kept safe this weekend!

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

I was thrilled to actually get a new link today -- if you're visiting via Bobby Allison-Gilmore's Caffeinspiration, welcome. I have no real rationale behind my linking strategies -- articles I find interesting and people's blogs that I enjoy reading. I'm interested in any feedback that new visitors have on the site. My posts are a bit mundane today -- please check back for thoughts of more consequence sometime soon.

Darn it, why did Tom Cruise have to go spouting idiotic nonsense about how terrifying America is? Couldn't he have waited until after I saw Minority Report in the theatres? Now I am faced with the moral dilemma of whether to pour my hard earned seven dollars into the box-office of such a whining, Hollywood ninny. Specifically, he said he can't keep ignoring America's terrorism threat, crime, faltering financial status and corporate corruption. What the heck did he mean by this anyways? Can anyone put together these two quotes from the Fox News article for me?

"I think the U.S. is terrifying and it saddens me. You only have to look at the state of affairs in America."
"I do worry about my children. As a parent you are always concerned," he told the paper. "I just want them to be in a place where they are going to be strong enough to make the right choices. Unfortunately, we're in a position where people are so irresponsible that human life holds such little value to them."

I wish I could ask Tom Cruise to elaborate on which people area "so irresponsible that human life holds little value to them". My first instinct was to think this was an abortion comment, but he's a Hollywood liberal so he can't be pro-life. My second thought was that he must be alluding to either Bush, the military, or our political leaders. But that makes no sense in realtion to the little value for human life comment -- unless he somehow thinks the Islamic Jihad respects life more than freedom-loving America does.
Ack, I am too confused to devote more energy to this comment. His agent came out with a retraction today, claiming that yesterday's quotes were factually correct but not true. Huh? Isn't something that's factually correct...inherently true? Sounds like Tom's agent has stolen a page from Slicky Willy's gamebook.


Thank you President Bush for keeping us out of this scary kangaroo court a bit longer. Stand firm. Pretty please?

Glad to hear that President Bush has chosen the bio-warfare warrior Julie Gerberding to head the CDC.

Sorry to hear that JC Watts has decided to retire. I have always admired this man, as I thought he had the brains and appeal necessary to go far within the GOP. At National Review, Timothy Carney speculates that he is retiring due to frustration from not rising within GOP leadership after Dick Armey's retirement, specifically to Majority Leader or Majority Whip. If so, that's too bad. I would have loved to see him in either position. I saw him on Fox News this morning bantering with ED Hill, and he had more charisma than all the GOP leadership combined. God bless Mr. Watts, and don't stay off the national Republican political scene for too long.

Memo to Bush twins: You will be 21 in less than five months. Until then, could you please show a little respect for George and Laura and curtail the blatantly obvious underage drinking? Subtletly works wonders.