Gift ideas

December 6, 2010 It’s the most ... wonderful time ...of the year. And the most frantic and anxious and mind-numbing and expensive. The rewarding part is my ongoing seasonal side job as a lumpy elfin holiday gift consultant, where it is an honor and a privilege to be able to pass along some hot tips for this year’s Christmas shopping lists. None of which involve surplus uranium tailings from sales to the Iranians.

Preserving the memories

December 6, 2010 When Scarlett O’Hara needed $300 to pay the taxes on Tara, she found a way to get it and she’d be proud to know the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas-Austin has done the same in the name of her dresses.It only took three weeks for “Gone with the Wind” fans around the world to respond to a request to raise the $30,000 needed to preserve many of the fragile dresses actress Vivien Leigh made famous as Scarlett O‘Hara in the 1939 epic.

Does God make a difference?

December 3, 2010 “American education proceeds on the assumption that God is either dead or irrelevant.”So argues philosopher Warren Nord in a provocative new book, “Does God Make a Difference?,” published by Oxford University Press.

Secure ‘feeling’

December 3, 2010 One thing you can say about this whole TSA enhanced pat-down mess: nobody will ever board Virgin Airlines again without ruefully grimacing.

Palin a professional duelist

December 2, 2010 The template for the perpetual Sarah Palin feud was set last Valentine’s Day. The animated series Family Guy aired an episode in which a character with Down Syndrome said her mother was the former Governor of Alaska. From her platform as a paid Fox News contributor, Palin pounced on the moment to condemn Seth MacFarlane.

Call it treason

December 2, 2010 If we had a president in the White House who understood that we are at war with a crazed faction of Islam, and was willing to act on that belief, there would be no question about how we should deal with people who give aid and comfort to the enemy — they’d be tried for treason and when found guilty stood up before a firing squad.

Bad ‘feelings’ at the TSA

December 1, 2010 I feel bad for them, if you want to know the truth.I speak of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees who are paid to do things with their hands that the rest of us wouldn’t do for any amount of money.Like most government employees, they are simply carrying out the policies of their overlords. They must screen every traveler as though he or she is a terrorist in waiting.As everybody knows by now, travelers who opt out of the full-body scanners — which display everything under their undies — must be patted down everywhere.

Don’t ask, don’t tell

December 1, 2010 Nine months after nearly 400,000 service members and more than 150,000 spouses of active and reserve component service members were surveyed by the Pentagon for their views on a potential repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the results are in.In what’s been called “one of the largest surveys in the history of the U.S. military,” more than 70 percent of the 115,052 service members who completed the survey said the impact of repealing the policy that bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the armed forces would be positive, mixed or nonexistent.

First Black Friday experience

November 30, 2010 Well, my niece Abby has seen what all the fuss is about regarding Black Friday, and she’s still not sure she understands it.She’s not alone.

Hunting for heroes

November 30, 2010 America’s developing a real thing for heroes — not the kind in fiction, but the real-life variety.Oprah does entire shows about them. CNN ranks and profiles them in recurrent specials. President Obama even released a kids’ book about his 13 favorite heroes, and recently presented the Medal of Honor to Army Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, the first time the award has gone to a living hero since Vietnam.