05 February 2016

Prayer as Action

Paul Ryan talked about prayer as action at the National Prayer Breakfast in response to recent criticism of lawmakers calling for prayer rather than changing laws, in particular regarding gun control.

Now, I do agree with Ryan that prayer can be a powerful action.  I don't think there are any circumstances where it's inappropriate (although there are certainly times when you should keep it to yourself- you can always pray privately), but while it can be your first response, it is very rare that it should be your only response.  

When I hear about a horrific mass shooting, I do pray for the people affected.  That's my first response. However, I want to help people in a way that actually makes them feel like I'm trying to help them and prayer is not the best way to do that in many cases.  I want our laws to change and only praying for people who were hurt doesn't stop other people from getting hurt in the future.  I vote for people who will change laws.  I advocate for changes in the law. In the end though, there isn't much I can do.  But our political leaders have the power to do something. If we set up a system where things are more likely to happen than need praying about, then we should fix it.   

I do think that this argument played out differently because the topic was gun control.  Republicans have made it extremely clear that they don't have any desire to change gun control laws so arguing about prayer instead makes sense politically.

So Paul Ryan, your refusal to take legislative action on gun control and many other topics does bother me a great deal. I am frustrated that you are dodging your responsibility to make this country safer by acting like your religious rights aren't being respected.  You can pray all you want- no one is stopping you.  You have freedom of religion. But as Speaker of the House, you have been given the power and authority to *do* something.  So do it.

04 February 2016

And the Mountains Echoed

This was a book group read that I liked very much and it was a great book discuss.  Maybe more than A Thousand Splendid Suns, but they are both very good.  This book tells briefly the stories of a lot of different people somehow connected to one house in Kabul.  There are lots of different types of people and stories so there's something for everyone which makes it a good book group book.

03 February 2016


I've really enjoyed the election campaign so far this time around.  I know that we're supposed to hate it, but it's been fascinating to watch and despite what everyone says, I do think there have been many chances to discuss issues rather than fluff.  Also, I get chances to talk about politics with interesting people in real life who care about a lot of the same issues I do (especially foreign policy).  So I'm having a great time.

Trump, of course, is awful, but I'm also not at all a fan of Ted Cruz and I think his ideas are as extreme and wrong as Trump's.  He just packages those ideas more nicely and I think that Trump is far more likely to be able to govern effectively (even if he's trying to implement things I very much disagree with) than Cruz.  Of course, then maybe I should hope Cruz is the candidate.  

Actually, I'm just pleased Rubio did as well as he did in Iowa.  If we're stuck with one of these three, then I'd rather Rubio. Cruz's and Trump's immigration policies are extremely similar with no plan for what do to for the millions of undocumented people living in the US; Cruz's plan has some real problems (he needs better incentive for people to register, for example (also, he needs to make his website more user-friendly rather than making people slog through long quotes from some book he wrote) but it also does far more to address helping people who are undocumented and that's a good thing.  I'd also prefer his foreign policy goals to Trump's or Cruz's even though I disapprove of many of them.

But Bernie and Hillary?  No idea what will happen there.  Bernie is a good man and I like that.  But he's old- 75 in November.  And I'd much, much prefer to have Hillary running US foreign policy (Bernie doesn't even have a foreign policy section on his issues page).  She knows how the system works, she's pragmatic, and she knows how to get things done.  Bernie is exciting but I'm not sold that he would make a great president (or that his ideas would go anywhere if he were elected).  Also, I really like many of Hillary's proposals- they are far broader and reach a much more diverse population than we're used to seeing, and I think at least part of that is because she is a woman.

No idea what will happen and it'll be interesting to watch it unfold, both from DC and Riyadh.

ETA a couple of days later the Rubio's criticizing Obama for visiting a mosque and calling for religious tolerance moves him neatly in the wacko box with Cruz and Trump.  I'm not a fan of Bush, but he has often at least said something reasonable when another Republican candidate says something crazy (saying that the president visiting a mosque is the right thing to do after Trump and Rubio attacked the idea, saying we welcome immigrants after Ben Carson goes off on them in debates, etc.)

28 January 2016


So, it snowed here.  Since it's the eastern US everyone heard about it.

I loved it.  It started snowing on Friday afternoon and didn't stop till Saturday night.  There were about 2 feet of snow here but it was hard to tell because of the wind.  The whole thing was wonderful, especially where we live because we have lots of friends here and the apartment complex had all sorts of activities going on all weekend.  We had potlucks, played games with friends, did church in our living room with 50 other people, drank hot chocolate, watched movies, played in the snow for hours and hours, and had such a wonderful time.

Watching this area dig out has been interesting.  I am fully aware that it snows less here than where I grew up (I never had a snow day growing up- the best I managed was having church cancelled one time when several feet of snow fell and then it was windy, but school was normal on Monday which was disappointing) but the cancellations and delays here are a bit much (don't tell anyone here that though).  They don't have the equipment here to deal with the snow efficiently but I'm not at all convinced that's wise.  This part of the country often has school, businesses and the government shut down for several days because of snow and it seems reasonable to invest in more equipment rather than hunkering down for so long.  I've also been surprised at how long it is taking to get major roads back to normal.  It's all well and good to plow your snow emergency routes through the storm, but you can't just leave them at one lane for days afterwards.  I won't even mention the hassle of walking when sidewalks aren't cleared and there are a lot that haven't been cleared.  Also, people get a little territorial with the parking spot they've cleared out.

But it's supposed to be in the upper 50s by Sunday and it will all melt away.  I'm hoping for another storm in February. :)

18 January 2016

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

We went here last week, finally.  This one is easier to drive to than to Metro to so I made everyone go with us.  We didn't go on the tour (reservations are recommended, but not really necessary in January) because I knew the youngest child wouldn't be willing to go, but we did watch the film at the visitor's center and walked around the outside of the house.  I poked around the bookstore while everyone else played football behind the house.

It's a lovely place to stop, the film was good despite being a little old, and I'd recommend this one.

It's important to DC history because Frederick Douglass lived here from 1878 until his death in 1895.  Neighborhood rules didn't allow blacks or Irish to own homes there so it's not known how he was able to buy the house.  He had been appointed marshal for DC- the first time a black man received a Senate-approved federal appointment- but it was mostly a ceremonial role since he wasn't asked to fulfill many of the marshal's duties because he was black.

There's also a new Anacostia Heritage Trail that opened a few months ago that goes by Douglass' house.

16 January 2016

Mid-January is usually not the most exciting time of year, but one year ago today we were in Uxmal.  Five years ago tomorrow we left Seattle for Tokmok.  And 10 years ago this week we were in China.

08 January 2016

DC Holiday Stuff Part 2 (and Interesting Detours)

National Menorah and Christmas Tree.  I made sure to go here during Hanukkah so we could see both.  We wandered around to see all the different state and territory trees and it was fun to be in the city at night.  But just as we were leaving, the Secret Service people closed off one of the exits and we had to walk all the way around the White House to get back to our car.  A detour around the White House is at least more interesting than many other detours.  When my middle son went there with a group of teenagers the next week, the same thing happened.

Georgetown GLOW.  I went here with my husband since I wasn't sure the boys would like it and that was smart.  There were about 5 or 6 pieces of art and we enjoyed looking at them, but it wouldn't have been worth going to if it hadn't been in a place like Georgetown.  We had a very pleasant evening and I hope this event grows because I think it has a lot of potential.

Mormon Temple lights.  This one was on lots of people's lists of things to do since free light displays aren't all that common in the area.  We'd been to the creche display at least 17 years ago, but I don't think we'd done the lights before.  As expected, the boys played geography games on the screens inside the visitor center.  They love that game.

Eastern Market.  There's always a street market on the weekends here that's fun to go to because of the part of town it's in and because of the stuff that they sell, but I wanted to see the holiday version.  It really wasn't all that different, but I did prefer it to the downtown holiday market.

Alexandria Holiday Market.  I went in the late morning on a weekday so that wasn't a great time to go, but this one was a dud.  On the way home they made everyone get off the metro so they could single track and wait for another train.  We got off in Arlington Cemetery so I walked up to Rosslyn so I could get home.  I don't know if I saved any time, but I'm sure I didn't lose any and a detour through Arlington Cemetery is good.

07 January 2016

New York City

We did a really quick trip to New York last week that everyone loved.  We were able to drive around Manhattan a bit without traffic, see lots of buildings and lots of Lego stores, stopped at the Museum of Natural History, rode the Staten Island Ferry, and while the husband and boys were doing their thing, I got to wander around the Lower East Side.

I grew up thinking cities were a bad idea and that I'd never want to live in one.  I really hate traffic and crowds so that makes sense, right?  But then I started living in them and I found out that I love them.  They're filled with stories and history and food and things to see and if you do things right, you don't have to deal with the crowds and traffic.  I feel more anonymous in a city than in a smaller place.

Going to New York also reminded me how good we have it in DC with so many free things to do.  And it reminded me how much I'd love to live there for a while because I don't want to be a tourist there.

06 January 2016

Tacopedia and The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook

Tacopedia came out in English a few months ago and it arrived quickly at my house since I'd preordered it.  It's definitely shorter than the Spanish version and not as good, but I still love it.  It's so Mexico.

I've been checking out The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook from the library ever since it came out a couple of months ago and I really ought to just buy it.  It's great to just read, the recipes are good, and the stories about the people are worthwhile.  Try it.

05 January 2016

The Graveyard Book

I forgot about this one when I posted a few days ago, but doesn't mean I didn't love this book.  And I really did love it.  It's perfectly creepy and perfectly wonderful.  Neil Gaiman is such a good writer.

04 January 2016

2015 and 2016

I had this post partly ready to go and then we went to New York and I didn't get it finished till today.  Still counts.

Here's what I hoped for this year, with the stuff I did crossed off:

Walk normally ASAP
Guanajuato with the boys
Oaxaca?  Probably wishful thinking
Cousins visit
No medical mishaps or emergencies for anyone
Everyone makes it to the US for a quick visit in June
Master tamale making so I can eat them anywhere in the world
Explore western Mexico more
More pyramids
Visit Charlottesville
New York City at least once
Get ready to wring everything we can out of a few months in Washington DC

Pretty good. It is cheating to say we went to New York because we didn't get there till January 1st, but I'll count it. And I wouldn't say I capitalized Arabic, although a lot has come back to me. The Yucatan trip was one of the best things we've ever done.  So amazing. It was a good year although I knew I'd have to leave Mexico and I never like leaving another country.  That part has been as bad as usual. Maybe someday it won't be so bad?

This year:

  • Finish Washington DC.  I don't want to have a lot of things I wish I'd done. I'll be back, but it probably won't ever be both as easy as it is right now to see all the things.
  • Have school go well for everyone
  • Get to Saudi by train and ship and not so many planes (at least with a few trains?)
  • Figure out how to live in Riyadh reasonably well by the end of the year
  • Moderation in all things 
  • Write something?

31 December 2015


So, I'm still clearly not a very good blogger in the US.  I didn't even write about the books I've been reading.  Here's an attempt to make up for a few of the books I missed.

The Hollow City and Library of Souls- These are sequels to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  I felt like they were a little dragged out and didn't quite work as well as the first book, but they were still good.

Greenglass House- I really liked this, although it felt like it was missing something at the end.  It was always leading up to something big but when it happened, it didn't work for me.

Uprooted- This is a Beauty and the Beast story that I liked a lot.

Circus Mirandus- I liked this one.

The Dagger in the Desk- I had thought this would be a trilogy so I was expecting the series to be over with this one, but who can complain about more of this group?  I loved it.

Starclimber and Skybreaker- These are sequels to Airborn.  The plot was, again, not great, but I don't mind that I finished them.  The first book was best.

Go Set a Watchman- I liked this more than a lot of people did.  I didn't think it unreasonable that Atticus was as racist as his society made him, but that he also could be a good lawyer and defend a man from an accusation that wasn't right.  No one is a saint.

Fangirl- I liked this one quite a bit.

Half Brother- Interesting premise, but not a particularly interesting main character.

14 December 2015

Georgia Avenue Trail

We did this walk today because we keep reading about the 7th Street turnpike in the books.  A lot of the signs were down for construction on Georgia Ave. and it would have fit a little better if we'd done this a few decades later, but it was still an interesting walk on a very warm December day.

10 December 2015

Barracks Row Trail, Union Station, and the National Building Museum

It's still hard to place these trails in the best time period.  This is one that could have been done a little earlier, but it fit fine in the late 1800s.  We'd seen some of the places earlier.  The best part was going on one of the alleys that still has a few houses in it.  We keep reading about people living in rotten conditions in the alleys inside many of the large blocks in DC so it was interesting to see one (even though the conditions weren't at all the same).  It was another good walk.

Then we walked up to the National Building Museum by way of Union Station. We ate in the food court but it's only a sorry imitation of its past glory because half the food court is gone and there are mostly chains there now.  It was still good when we were there in 2013. Sad.  Anyway, Union Station was a little out of order since it would be better to visit when we're around 1900, but it was convenient today.

 The National Building Museum offers free tours of the building and it was absolutely fascinating.  It's one of the best things we've done in DC.  We were the only two people on the tour and the volunteer who took us around spent plenty of time answering our questions and he knew a lot about the building. Highly recommended.

09 December 2015


There's lots of stuff out there now. Too much stuff.

Donald Trump.  I think that when it comes time to punch a hole in the ballot, people won't actually vote for the man.  But even if he fades in a few weeks and isn't the Republican candidate, he is causing a great deal of harm to this country right now.  He is using people's fears about Islam to promote things that are completely unacceptable and that are creating an environment that is at best scary and at worst dangerous for Muslims living in the US.  In addition, his words are getting a lot of coverage in the media internationally and whether we like it or not, people are hearing what he is saying and that is not good.  Also, while the media has played their role in this fiasco, I do not think this is a media-driven crisis.  It is driven by fears that too many misinformed Americans have about Islam. Also, I am concerned that Trump will make candidates like Cruz look rational which they are not.

Muslims, refugees, all of that.  Please tell your elected leaders to welcome refugees.  Please make it clear that any rule that applies only to people of one religion is not acceptable.  Please protest if your city council tries to vote to ban refugees from your city.  Please be friendly to any Muslim you see (and usually you won't even know you have, of course, but do it if you notice).  Support businesses run by Muslims.  Please don't define terrorists by their religion- there is no major religion on this planet that promotes terrorism.  Please don't contribute to the fear even if you are nervous yourself.  Educate yourself instead.

The policy.  I support my leaders and I follow church doctrine but I can't support this specific policy.  I couldn't have supported the priesthood and temple ban for black members either.  Some people think that a good member of the church must support this policy, but that makes no sense to me since many of the same people also don't support church policies about not carrying concealed weapons into churches or that undocumented immigrants can get baptized. You can tell me all the reasons why this new policy is logical and necessary but that doesn't fix anything for me because it just feels painful to me and seems neither logical or necessary to me.  It is so hard to be LGBT in this church and now it's even worse. It's so hard already when your family doesn't fit the Mormon mold and children from some of those families will now be even further isolated by not being able to be baptized or (for boys) to receive the priesthood which will greatly limit their church participation.  I care greatly about the impact this will have on individual members. I am sad that some friends of mine, including people I have known for decades, have left the church because of this.

San Bernardino.  I cannot begin to tell you how ironic it is that two terrorists used a common US method to kill people- one that we never really have tried to stop no matter how many times it happens. They bought their guns legally.  They did what a lot of other people have done in the US so many times in the last twenty years.  We will still not pass any more measures to regulate the sale, purchase, transfer, modification, manufacture, storage, or use of guns.  We won't even have a decent conversation about it.  We'll just have people advocate for banning Muslims from entering the country so Americans can continue to kill each other because apparently we aren't terrorists.

And despite my testiness on these subjects, I am enjoying Advent and Hanukkah and Washington DC right now.

DC Holiday Stuff

I have a long list of things to do this month in DC because there is so much to see right now.  So far we've done ZooLights, the Smithsonian Holiday thing, Winternational, the Downtown Holiday Market, and the Alexandria Boat Parade.

I'd been told that ZooLights wasn't amazing so we weren't expecting anything amazing.  We did have a great time at the zoo in the dark though and it was a pleasant evening.  I drove in and we found parking easily (we parked and entered at the lower entrance where it's not so crowded), but getting home when rush hour was still winding down wasn't fun.  But it takes a lot time to Metro in from our house so there's really not a good way to do this.  I'd go again if someone else drove me home.

Winternational was fun.  I got a ticket like I was supposed to, but no one was taking them and it was rather crowded.  There were people from about 25 different embassies with lots of food and things to see so it was fun.  The Uzbekistan line was always long, but I eat Uzbek food all the time so I didn't wait in it.  I tried things from Uganda, Nepal, Uruguay, and more, and talked to the person at the Saudi Arabia stand for a while.  If you go, arrive at the very beginning.

Downtown Holiday Market.  This is exactly what you'd expect it to be.  It's fun to poke around and you can stop at the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum if you want to.  Some vendors are there all month and some just for a few days or weeks so you can wander through throughout the month and see different things.

Smithsonian Holiday Event.  This is on the first weekend in December at several different museums.  We started at the American History Museum, then went over to the Air and Space Museum where you could make some ornaments and do other projects, then went to the Museum of the American Indian for their market. It was fun, but not an amazing must do.

Boat Parade.  We were first planning on going to Alexandria to see this, but then I decided there much be a better way to see the parade than to deal with the crowds that would assuredly be in Alexandria.  So we tried Potomac Park and that was perfect.  There were people there but it was never crowded and we had a great view of the boats.  There is plenty of parking and plenty of places to watch from.  You can arrive around 6 PM and bring a picnic then watch the boats when they arrive between 6:30 and 7, depending on where you are in the park.  I'd definitely do this one again in that park.

02 December 2015

Queen Ammanisa

This is a new Uyghur restaurant that just opened in Crystal City.  There are lots of Uyghurs in and around DC but there hasn't been a real restaurant here before so we tried it out today.

If you're going to eat Uyghur food, you need to get laghman.  Uzbeks make laghman but it's just an imitation of the real thing and Kyrgyz already know that when they make laghman, it's Uyghur.  They don't call it Kyrgyz.  This place had several different types of laghman which means you know you've come to the right place. You can get plov but there's not a good reason to do that.  This was real, hand-pulled laghman (not flung though; I asked).

I got the gyuro laghman (I think it was the braised meat one on the menu?  We didn't really use the menu) and my husband got the dry-fried.  Apparently they also have a picture menu, but we didn't look at it since we knew what we were getting into, except that we couldn't always figure out how they'd translated some things and we would have been better off with the Uyghur one.  Anyway, both were delicious and perfect, although both weren't as spicy as they should have been. I asked for lazy, but our server wasn't Uyghur and didn't know what I meant.

We also got a couple of samsas.  Some of the reviews of the place hadn't liked the samsas (they seemed to be comparing them to other things like dumplings, which samsas most certainly are not, or to empanadas, which is a closer comparison but still not right), but they were absolutely right.  They tasted exactly the way they should have and were perfectly warm and flaky.

It was such a lovely meal.  The owner has been in the US for about 6 years and his family owned a restaurant in Urumqi (he was born in Kashgar and grew up in Urumqi).  We were there around 2 and there were a couple of Uyghur women there along with two men who were speaking Russian- one was Russian and the other Central Asian.

I can't imagine that this restaurant has much chance at success- Uyghur food isn't well known at all and it's stuck in Crystal City. It's also categorized as Chinese or Turkish food in some places which is probably the best they can do, but it doesn't give people the right idea because it's neither Chinese or Turkish.  It's just amazing Central Asian food.

And now I need to make laghman again.

01 December 2015


A lot of the DC heritage walks don't fit in just one time period, but since the city grew a lot after the Civil War, we're checking out some of the different neighborhoods and this week was Tenleytown.  Nothing of national significance really happened here but it was an interesting walk around the neighborhood and we both learned a lot.

A few of the signs were down.

29 November 2015

Freer and Sackler Galleries

I went to these on my own a few weeks ago since they have some Asian art and since the Freer is closing for a long time at the end of the year. I happened to be there on the one day in the month that they open the shutters to the Peacock Room and even though it was a cloudy day, it was nice to have some natural light in there.  I like the Asian art too, but in the end, I don't like art museums like these quite as much as I ought to.

I really liked Filthy Lucre though, over in the Sackler.

28 November 2015

Botanic Garden

People say that the Botanic Garden's trains are worth visiting during the holidays so we tried to see them today.  I knew it would probably be crowded, and it was.  But no one wanted to wait in line so we skipped the trains and poked around the gardens a bit.

If the youngest child weren't in school we'd go over on a weekday morning to see the trains, but since that's not an option, we were happy seeing one train going around a tree inside.  I don't think any of us minded not seeing the trains, at least with that long of a line and I imagine it wasn't that bad a line since we were there early.  But the gardens are worth visiting and even if you don't see the trains, it's a nice holiday stop.