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Encountering Mt. Doom: hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

15 - 2Completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in on March 25 was neither what I anticipated nor hoped for. My husband,  John, and I have been planning our trip to New Zealand for months and since seeing the trek described as “one of the world’s top single-day hikes” we had put it at the top of our to-do list.

New Zealand consists of two main islands and Tongariro National Park sits in the middle of the North Island. For people who are not trekking enthusiasts, the way that the park is most familiar is that it was the filming site of the fictional Mt. Doom in Peter Jackson’s adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There are several volcanic peaks in the park. Mt. Ngauruhoe, an iconic and stark volcanic cone became Mt. Doom–from which the One Ring was forged and to which it had to be returned.

First, let me say that the 19.4 kilometer “Crossing” was more of a “climb” than a “hike.” If I had understood more about the nature of much of the trail in advance–I might have had second thoughts. I read through the website, did some other research, looked at the beautiful pictures. The incredible scenery was all there when I did the hike. But, not surprisingly, there are not a whole lot of pictures of the narrow hogbacks that had to be climbed or descended (probably because few people are of a mind or stomach to stop and pull out the camera under those circumstances).

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Mr. Spock is dead: RIP Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy passed away today at age 83. I read that he was taken to the hospital last Thursday with a possible heart attack, so I am not completely surprised. I am, instead, deeply saddened. It’s like the end of The Wrath of Khan–but this time it’s for real and there will be no Genesis planet.

Spock: The ship… out of danger?
Kirk: Yes.
Spock: Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh…
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: Or the one. I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?
Kirk: Spock.
[Spock sits down]
Spock: I have been, and always shall be, your friend.
[he places a Vulcan salute on the glass]
Spock: Live long and prosper.

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It’s a good day to be a Buckeye

OSUScoreEven if Ohio State had lost the National Championship last night, I’d still be a Buckeye fan today. Granted, I’d be wearing my scarlet and grey a bit more humbly, but I would still be wearing it. My earliest sports memories are of watching Ohio State football on TV. The first coach whose name I knew was Woody Hayes (no, I’m not getting into an argument today about him).

What a season. Continue reading

A Christmas Story

Tamir Rice in the land of “A Christmas Story”

tamirTamir Rice grew up–and died–in the city that has adopted the movie A Christmas Story as its own, Cleveland, Ohio. But there is a vast gulf between Tamir Rice and Ralphie Parker that, even accounting for the gulf between real life and fiction, cannot be reconciled. At this holiday season, when the TNT network is about to indulge in its annual 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon, it seems a particularly appropriate time to reflect on the recent tragic shooting.

On Saturday, November 22, a man made a 911 call to the Cleveland police about “a guy with a pistol, and it’s probably fake. . . but he’s pointing it everybody.” Continue reading

CATEGORY: World

Havana here I come!

After 54 years, the United States will finally do the right thing, normalize its relations with Cuba and end its embargo. The embargo may be the longest-lasting ineffective and nonsensical foreign policy  in US history. This means that twenty years after getting my Masters in Latin American history, I will finally be able to legally visit one of the countries I read so much about. I’ve always supported the idea that the best way to “open” Cuba would be to normalize relations and expose Cubans to the flood of ideas–rather than trying to strangle it–ineffectually–into submission. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Funny

Breaking Bad toy fiasco

Irwin Mainway would be proud. Even he would have a hard time topping this headline: “Toys R Us pulls meth-toting ‘Breaking Bad’ action figures from shelves after Florida mom’s protest.”

The dolls, based on the recently concluded AMC series, featured characters based on White, a meth-cooking high school science teacher, and his sidekick, Jesse Pinkman. Along with the action figures, the toys came with fake bags of meth, sacks of cash and gas masks.

For those of you not old enough to remember, Irwin Mainway was a sleazy toy salesman who was perennially grilled about his dangerous toys (such as “Bag of Glass”) by Jane Curtin on the “Consumer Probe” skit. The toys were over-the-top ridiculous. Continue reading

ALECvUU

ALEC: Church activists are hurting us. Make them stop

ALECvUUThe conservative political Goliath known as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) may have met its David in the guise of Unitarian-Universalists and other progressives. ALEC has been wounded not with a sling and stone, but knowledge and organized financial pressure on its corporate backers.

On October 17, ALEC sent a fundraising  email to its members and supporters that starts off:

“Professional activists ranging from Common Cause to the Unitarian Universalist Church just won’t stop. As part of their misleading smear campaign, these activist groups demand members stop working with ALEC.”

It sounds, almost, unfair. “Professional activists” picking on poor ALEC.

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SCotUS

Scalia and categorical religious beliefs

SCotUSJustice Antonin Scalia believes that “religious beliefs aren’t reasonable.” He is not saying that religious beliefs are not appropriate or not fair–that would be a shock, coming from him. Rather he goes on to say that “I mean, religious beliefs are categorical.” In other words, religious beliefs are unequivocal or unconditional.

Scalia made that statement yesterday during oral arguments for the case Holt v. Hobbs. The case involves a prisoner in Arkansas, Gregory Holt, who is a convert to Islam. He wishes to wear a beard in accordance with his new-found religious beliefs. The state of Arkansas is insisting on enforcing its state-law which prohibits prisoners from wearing religiously-motivated beards for security reasons (namely the threat of prisoners hiding contraband in their beards). Holt tried to be “reasonable” about his request and agreed to limit the growth to a half-inch. Scalia’s response to Holt’s request, reported in The Washington Post,  is telling:

“Well, religious beliefs aren’t reasonable,” Scalia said. “I mean, religious beliefs are categorical. You know, it’s ‘God tells you.’ It’s not a matter of being reasonable. God be reasonable? He’s supposed to have a full beard.”

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LeBron and the Prodigal Mother

LeBronLicenseEver since LeBron announcedI’m coming home to Cleveland,” there has been a persistent “LeBron James as prodigal son” meme. There’s even a movie (OK, a 4-minute video). Now an Ohio state representative, Bill Patmon, is proposing a “LeBron James Witness 2.0″ license plate, to “honor the return home of our prodigal champion.”

For those of you who don’t remember the New Testament parable of The Prodigal Son, a man had two sons. The older one stayed at home and worked the farm with his dad. The younger asked for his share from his father, went out in the world and blew the money on fast living. Younger son makes his way back home. His father is overjoyed at his return and orders a big celebration (to the disappointment of the fatted calf). Continue reading

By Cat White Posted in Sports
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Princeton Mom and the Chinese Government are on the same page

What do American conservatives and Chinese Communists have in common?

50__s_Housewife_ad_cutout_by_AbsurdWordPreferredHere’s a question I never thought I’d ask: What do the Princeton Mom, Susan Patton, and the Chinese government have in common? Answer: they both advocate educated women choosing marriage over careers.

In case you missed the Susan Patton story, she’s the Princeton alum and proud mom of “two [male] Princetonians” who wrote a letter to the Daily Princetonian advising coeds to “Find a husband on campus before you graduate.” Her reasoning is interesting:

Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are.

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Food & Drink Week

John’s Green Chili Stew Recipe: Food & Drink Week

Posole is a microcosm of New Mexico cuisine in one delicious pot.

My husband’s specialty is Green Chili Stew (aka Posole), a dish he learned to make when he lived in Albuquerque for six years. This is a staple food in our house from fall through spring. It is a microcosm of New Mexican cooking in one pot. Serve it with a hearty ale or porter and tortillas with honey.

Our strangest experience with it was taking it to a potluck soup party with our group of friends that includes several vegans (this was before they were vegan). The pot was on the stove bubbling away, smelling heavenly. People were stirring, sniffing, and considering their possibilities when someone asked, “Is it vegetarian?” Continue reading

Southwes Quinoa Salad

Cat’s Southwest Quinoa Salad: Food & Drink Week

Vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free dieters – this savory dish works for everyone.

We have a group of friends that includes several vegans, along with some who are gluten-free and one who has an aversion to orange vegetables. Needless to say, cooking for this crowd sometimes poses a challenge. I’ve had some tasty quinoa salads and some tasty black bean-corn salads, so I decided to try my had at my own version. This can be freely embroidered upon.

Cat’s Southwest Quinoa Salad

Salad

1 cup quinoa (I use half red and half white)

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CATEGORY: PoliticsReligion

Hobby Lobby hypocrisy: 401k plan invests in contraception

HobbyLobbyEverydayObamacare litigant secretly profiting from the very immorality it publicly opposes.

The story by Molly Redden in Mother Jones, “Hobby Lobby’s Hypocrisy: The Company’s Retirement Plan Invests in Contraception Manufacturers,” is absolutely worth a few minutes of your time. In short: three-quarters of the Hobby Lobby retirement plan investments are in funds that invest in pharmaceutical companies that produce contraceptive devices that Hobby Lobby’s owners object to having covered by their insurance plans: Continue reading

CATEGORY: Guns

Eggs vs bullets: Michael Dunn, Willie Noble, and teens being teens

egg-tp-musicI’m trying to wrap my brain around Willie Noble’s killing of Adrian Broadway in the wee hours of Saturday morning in Little Rock, Arkansas. Seems she and six friends drove to Noble’s house and proceeded to cover his car in eggs, toilet paper, mayonnaise, and other debris. Nobles response was to run out with gun blazing, firing into the fleeing car and killing 15-year-old Adrian, who was in the front seat.

Willie Noble, like Adrian, is African-American. He “was charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of a terroristic act and five counts of aggravated assault.”

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Pete Seeger

An era passes with Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger, a warrior for social justice in America, held the line until the end.

I regret not seeing Pete Seeger live in concert–I was too young to have appreciated him in the 1960s and 1970s . I eventually got to see Richie Havens on the same bill as Arlo Guthrie in 2009, but not Pete Seeger. And now he’s gone at age 94.

There was was a recent Facebook post asking people to name ten albums that stayed with them. I forgot to add in my response one important collection: Songs for Political Action. It’s a 10-disc collection of American protest songs from the 1920s through the early 1050s. One of the songs was “Hold the Line” by Pete Seeger, written about the Peekskill Riots. I first heard selections from these albums in 1998 when I participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities workshop called “Communism in American Life” at Emory University. Continue reading

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Huckabee’s botched Jedi mind trick on women and reproductive rights

Creepy2Mike Huckabee wants Americans to believe that Democrats are interfering in the reproductive rights of women by bribing them with birth control:

“If the Democrats want to insult women by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”

In a version of the statement on his Web site, Huckabee has a slight variation in which he charges that Democrats “reduce women to beggars for cheap government funded birth control.” Continue reading

Wealth

Born rich: “Affluenza” is now a license to kill if you’re wealthy

Accountability? Not for rich people: being wealthy absolves you of responsibility for your actions.

We have a new legal defense and this one will be the death of us: Affluenza. I have to admit that the term, used here on Scholars and Rogues in a number of previous posts, including Amusing ourselves to death, circa 2010 and Affluenza: Black Friday is America’s new high holy day, both by Sam Smith, had not seeped into my consciousness. It took a death, four of them, actually, to emblazon the term on my mind. In case you missed the story out of Texas, a 16-year-old stole alcohol from Walmart, got drunk, drove recklessly, and killed 4 innocent people. His court ordered punishment: 10-years of probation and some pricey rehab to be paid for by mums and daddums. No jail time. None. Continue reading

Slut-shaming quantified: science catches up with female power

CATEGORY: RaceGenderFellow Scrogue Russ Wellen called our attention to an article in the New York Times, “A Cold War Fought by Women,” about research by Dr. Sarah Hrdy that quantifies female competition and aggression. Not surprisingly, Dr. Hrdy and her colleagues conclude that it exists and, importantly from a scientific standpoint, it can be measured through experiments that can be replicated. Continue reading

A chili response: Cat & John’s Anniversary Chili

CATEGORY: FoodDrinkMy esteemed colleague, Sam Smith, recently posted the recipe for his award-winning Doc Sammy’s Three-Meat, Three-Bean and Molasses Crock-Pot Chili.  It sounds amazing.  And if I’m ever in Seattle when 40 degrees and damp, I’d be tickled to sample the original.

Today is my 6th wedding  anniversary and John and I celebrated at home with a pot of chili (a good idea on a blustery day in November in Ohio).  We started with Sam’s recipe, but made some alterations to accommodate our lower-salt diet.  My thanks, and apologies, to Sam.  Hope you enjoy. Continue reading

Politics: Don't Tread on Me

A house divided: what happens after government shutdown ends?

“And we are looking for ways to reopen the portions of the government that we agree with.”  Jenny Beth Martin, Tea Party Patriots

There it is in a nutshell.  The whole national divide summed up in one sentence.  So, Ms. Martin, we know you’d like to defund the Affordable Care Act.  What else? I’ve met Libertarians in my life who would strip all funding from public radio and television and the arts in general.  How about National Parks and monuments?  There sure was a stink this week in DC when the World War II Memorial was closed.  Rand Paul went so far as to label those who closed it “goons.”  But should such a memorial even exist at taxpayer’s expense?  Should its maintenance and upkeep be sold off for naming rights?  But opening those closed attractions seems to be a high priority for even members of the Tea Party.  World War II vets storming the barricades is certainly more photogenic than furloughed meat inspectors or passport clerks. There’s a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico–granted a weak one, named Karen.  Surely it will cause damage and certainly there will be requests for aid.  FEMA was already reactivating personnel previously labeled non-essential.  But even in the event of a natural disaster, is the federal government’s assistance really all that essential?  After all, a number of conservatives exclaim loudly that the federal government is incompetent.  But let a disaster strike, say a fire or flood in Colorado, and even those counties that will be voting to secede from the rest of the state because of its recent too-liberal tendencies line up at the federal trough.  Certainly a number of conservatives objected last fall to aid to New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.  It’s a lot easier to say no, to place conditions, to object, when it’s someone else’s state or district or city.  Or home. I’ve thought about objecting on those grounds myself.  When I see Texas or Alabama in the news for some disaster:  chemical plant explosion, hurricane, drought, I think, “No help for you!  Let you fix this on your own, since you don’t want to help others.”  Briefly. It’s just anger–mine.  I realize that.  And I know that, in reality.  I would never want people to suffer that way just for the sake of a political disagreement.  How about you, Ms. Martin?  How hard is your heart?  Does it satisfy you to see people suffer? Abraham Lincoln said of slavery, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Well, we certainly tested that theory.  And three-quarters of a million men died to make the house all one thing. Is there going to be a civil war this time?  No.  Eventually our representatives will be forced to come to their senses and realize that, when you govern, at least in this country in this century, you don’t get to just operate or fund “the portions of the government that we agree with,” but you have to deal with the rest of it, too.  Getting to that point is getting uglier every day. But will there, nonetheless, be a time of reconstruction?  A time of binding up the nations’ wounds?  I certainly hope so. I can’t see how it’s going to happen.  But it has to at some point.  Lincoln, after all, was right. Image:  Marty Duren.