Wednesday, October 31, 2007

weekly iraq round up

time once again to find out what your $2 Billion dollars bought for you this week in Iraq.

Total number of civilians killed by U.S. forces in October through the 29th: 90, including 23 children.

You won't read about this in the mainstream media. Probably because it won't make you keep watching, which means you won't buy the beer that's advertised during the commerical break.

I wonder if people would give more of a flying fuck if they saw actual images of the 23 dead children's bodies?

(don't mind me. I'm in a bad mood. I'll get over it, and be back to my relatively less unbearable self tomorrow)

299 civilians killed this week, including:

Tuesday, October 23rd, Mikashifa: US forces kill 16 civilians, including 3 children, in air strikes near Samarra.

Saturday, October 27, Falluja: woman and child shot dead by US forces when they open fire at passing car.

Monday, October 29:
Tikrit: rocket hits playground, kills 2 children; 2 killed in US air strikes.
Kirkuk: US convoy kills civilian. Kut:
US patrol opens fire on two men in a car, killing one and injuring the other

Do you guys think this is fake or something?
This is seriously FUBAR.


BALTIMORE (Reuters) - A jury on Wednesday ordered an anti-gay Kansas church to pay $10.9 million in damages to relatives of a U.S. Marine who died in Iraq after church members cheered his death at his funeral.

Church members said Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's death was God's punishment of America for tolerating homosexuality, and they attended his 2006 funeral in Maryland with signs saying "You're going to hell" and "God hates you."

The federal jury determined the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, and three of its principals invaded the privacy of the dead man's family and inflicted emotional distress. More here.

'bout time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

10-20-30 virus

A bit ago, I contracted the 10-20-30 virus, which I seem to have successfully passed on to Deanne. I wanted to draw your attention to her post, which I found moving. A couple quotes:

I was sure I was only experiencing pain because I was not strong or godly
enough. If God had called my parents, surely that meant I should be okay


I expect the pain to stay away and for those scars to no longer hurt. While
they are no longer as intense and overwhelming - the echo of the wound still
slithers in my heart



I wrote the following in response to comments on this thread. Your thoughts/reaction?


Yesterday I had a really fascinating discussion with a fellow student in one of my psych classes, named John. We were doing an exercise related to motivational interviewing in which we were practicing “reflective listening”. So we each had 5 minutes to ask the other “Tell me something you like about yourself” and then develop that with reflective listening.

At first John and I thought we were kind of opposite. What he liked about himself was that he is very relational. He likes to meet and get to know people. What I liked about myself was that I’m pretty good at noticing discrepancy between projected image and actual image, especially as I begin to become part of the “us” in any group. Part of the result of this for me is that I tend to be complete shit at small talk–I hate it. All these niceties seem to me often to be part of a somewhat false projected image. So I don’t really like parties and that sort of thing. John, on the other hand, likes parties, and he likes to try to spend 10 minutes talking to each person and circulating through the room.

But upon further reflective listening, we found out we are actually really alike. John recently spent some time in Thailand and Cambodia. His experience there was that the people were just bottom-line better at being relational. They would just open up with a person right away. He found that enormously satisfying. One thing he *also* finds frustrating is that people hide themselves away and often there’s no chance in hell of getting at them in the first 10 minutes of conversation. This wasn’t the case, in his experience, to such a degree in Thailand and Cambodia.

Both John and I find it rather enormously satisfying when we can get at the underlying reality of people–at their stories, because these stories greatly enrich our own stories.

I said all that to say the following. I remember back in 1997, when I was preparing to go abroad for two years with a large, multinational NGO. One of the books I had to read was a very basic primer on cross-cultural communication. And one of the things in that book that just bugged the hell out of me, at the time, was this strange (what seemed to me to be) moral relativity about “honesty”. The authors were explaining that in some sense, in eastern and/or african cultures, Relationality, or “maintaining face”, was a very deeply held core value, whereas in the west, and perhaps especially in the U.S., “honesty” is a very deeply held core value. The authors told a story about a white American who had the extremely frustrating experience of being given “wrong directions” by a local in an African country. The point was that from an American perspective, the fact that the African person didn’t *know* the directions to the place the American was going, and yet still happily gave him directions, was massively dishonest. Whereas from the perspective of the African, it was far more important to be seen to be meeting the need for the requested information than it was to be “correct/honest”

Don’t know if I’m making any sense here. I guess what I’m getting at is that I guess I’m hoping to tweak my core values a bit, so that community/relationality are at least as core valueish for me as “honesty”. By which I mean to say that it’s seems reasonable to me that “dishonesty” in the service of kindness may be something that we americans need to take into consideration more as a good thing.

Perhaps this is a theorem, which we are attempting to prove, in the system in which the axiom is “It’s better to be kind than right.”

Monday, October 29, 2007

Help John Smulo get to off the map

You know this is one thing I think is kinda kewl about America. It's not considered offensive to ask people to give money to a cause. In some places, as I understand it, you gotta be a bit more careful about this.

So Helen and Off the Map blogs are asking people to help get John Smulo to off the map live. He's kind of a kewl guy, IMNSHO. So I thought I'd put a link up here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Seattle and Atlanta

Why I'm yotta happy to live in Seattle rather than Atlanta. (warning: slightly risque content).

(subtitle: when the punishment is 10 orders of magnitude worse than the crime) (hey, sounds kind of like a lot of christians views on sin and "eternal conscious suffering of the damned")

Here's what I don't get. How is it that these jurors all thought that they had to follow the rules and convict this young man, even though they thought he hadn't done anything wrong? Is that a function of ecucation, or acculturation, or what? I mean I've always understood that if I get on a jury, no matter what the judge, the lawyers, or anybody else says about what the rules are, if I think someone is innocent, or that the law is stupid or wrong, I'm gonna take steps to see that the right thing is done, sneakily or otherwise. I thought that was part of the deal with juries--part of why trial by jury is such a kewl idea. Thoughts?

gratitude expression

I'm working on increasing my gratitude expression. I'm tracking it on three axes, and instituting positive reinforcements. It's kinda kewl.

Today I got two letters in the mail from Kay Lewis, director of student financial aid at UW. About 5 weeks ago I got a note from them (I think an email) saying why don't I fill out the generic scholarship application for UW?

So I did--barely--got it turned in on the day it was due. I honestly didn't think anything would come of it, but on the off chance, ya know.

I also honestly didn't think you could actually reap any benefits from having a 3.9something GPA. (Gretta--click here for "what is a GPA?").

Anyway, long story short, I got these two letters today announcing that I have been selected to receive the Rodney I Straub scholarship in the amount of $3000 and the John F. and Stella Parks Leonard Endowment for Excellence Scholarship in the amount of $3281.

This completely blew me away. The letters told, very briefly, the story of these people's lives. All three have now passed on. But they all set up scholarship funds, and now I am a recipient of these funds, and I am just astoundingly moved by these--these people that I never met took steps which are seriously affecting my life in positive ways. Megsie cried when I read their stories. I still feel a little like crying. It just seems very strange and good, somehow. How is it that these people can reach out from beyond the grave and make such an impact in my life?

Just wanted to share that with you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

a meme

Helen tagged me for the 10-20-30 virus. You're supposed to write about what you were doing 10, 20, and 30 years ago. god I'm getting old.

10 years ago I was at Debron Conference Center in the Netherlands, at the global action launch conference for my cohort of Global action, hanging out with about 400 other people from all over the planet who were all there to hang out and learn for a couple weeks before departing to more places all over the world to "spread the gospel" (quotes because I have *absolutely* no idea what that means). We played a game in which half of us were the "missionaries" and the other half the "natives". The natives spoke a slightly altered version of english in which there were a couple simple but hard to figure out rules for beginning and ending sentences, which the missionaries were unwittingly trying to figure out. the deal was when one of the missionaries finally figured out the rules, but used them ever so slightly incorrectly, the native to whom they were talking was to shout "crucify" at the top of thier lungs. At this point, all the other natives (some 200 of us) were to take up the shout "Crucify" as loudly as possible, and chase all the missionaries out of the building.

That was actually astoundingly disturbing and frightening from both sides--that whole 200 people angrily shouting crucify. I had known it was gonna happen, and I *still* found it terrifying.

20 years ago. I was about to turn 13. There's a tough time for anybody! We had just returned from 3 years in (the former) West Germany, where I had two enormously good friends, Neil and Gary, for three years. So I was missing them terribly, and feeling really confused and super alone in the world. And we were just beginning to get involved in the sect in which I was to spend the next 10 years. And I was just about to jump off into a 12 year process of becoming increasingly and altogther entangled in addiction.

30 years ago I was about to turn 3 years old. My mum was about to quit her then 5 (?) year long Air Force Career in order to stay home with baby Benjamin. My dad had not yet ever spent time in a psychiatric ward anywhere (I think), and He was ... 10 years into his 20 year long Air Force career. He had probably already sustained a lot of the physical damage that would lead to decades of chronic pain and heart disease. I can almost guarantee that both of my parents were fun loving, hard working, hard playing individuals who were mostly altogether delighted by my existence =)

I tag Wayne Taylor (dude--get a blog =), Megan Ady, Deanne, Russell, Jim, and Jennifer

the queen

My 3 year old daughter, Coco, climbed onto the tiny set of bleachers next to our little local baseball field a couple days ago, and she stood on the very top bench, and spread her little arms wide out, and spun around shouting "I'm the queen of the world. I'm the *whole* queen of the world!!"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

pro israel?

My lovely mum posted this on her blog recently. For some context, Papaw and Mamaw were the pastor and pastor's wife of what was bascically the first ever christian church that my family was involved with, when I was 10,11, and 12 years old, '84 through '87.

Papaw told us an encouraging story when we visited him and Mamaw. He said that the church he fellowships with -- I think it was called Cornerstone Baptist Church -- began to fly not only the American flag and the Texas flag but also the Israeli flag. Since the Bible does speak a lot about Israel and the Jewish people being God's chosen nation/people -- they wanted to identify with/promote that Bibical idea. One day though someone burned their Israeli flag. This prompted all kinds of national and international media and the church was thus able to explain/expand on their position to an ever-widening circle of people. One person called and told them he would love to send them another Israeli flag, and yet another if the first one he sends gets burned.

According to the church's pastor, The Rev. Bobby Herrel, Cornerstone Baptist began flying the Israeli flag last July to support the Israeli people during its conflict with Lebanon

How best to communicate to my lovely mum that the international community was outraged, in that particular Israel/Lebanon conflict, by Israel's massive use of U.S. made cluster weapons, the use of which amounts to wide scale land mining of your enemies' land, leading to large numbers of civilian casulties, especially of children, long after the hot conflict is over? Yes, of course Hezbollah *also* failed to follow international law in that conflict. That's hardly any reason to come out as pro Israel during the conflict. most of the civilian casulties even during the hot conflict were Lebanese (~1000 dead Lebanese civilians, ~43 dead Israeli civlians. god this is a greusome math. how can a "christian church be in favor of any of this?) I'm guessing that the people in this church are ... relatively normal, compassionate, people. How could they take such a position? (such is the banality of evil) How does the muslim community in their town (Fort Worth, Texas) feel about them flying that Israeli flag, especially as it was in response to that particular lebanese/israeli conflict? It's hardly surprising the flag was burnt. I'm guessing that in Texas perhaps more than in some other parts of this country the Muslim community feels marginalized and put down in really cruel ways all the time.

I love you mum. Can you see this stuff? How to share it with you without automatically raising a wall? Maybe it's impossible. maybe I lack the social intelligence to accomplish it. alas.

Monday, October 22, 2007


three blessings for today

Wordpress is down right now, and it's late, and I'm supposed to type my three blessings up, and I can't do it at three blessings. so here they are here. three things that went well today, and why they went well

1. I saw a magistrate to get my $120 in parking tickets (all from one incident) reduced. She reduced them to $30, and morever she was really nice about it. That went well because I took the time to go in there and ask for it.

2. My super kewl spanish prof, Alberto, upped my self inflicted low participation grade for last week (we have to give ourselves a participation grade each week) to a much higher grade, thus indicating that he actually thinks my participation was excellent, in spite of my own misgivings. That made my day. That went well because I gave myself the lower grade, and thus created the opportunity for that to happen, and because I actually do normally participate perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.

3. I got the fed ex tracking number for the shipment of my brand new free cell phone from verizon, which arrives wednesday. kewlness combined. That went well because I finally managed to choose a phone upgrade, in which process I was enormously helped by the thought record exercise from my clinical psych class (thankyou christeine). =)

your suggestions wanted

So we have lived in the lovely little rental home where we now abide, Bag End, for about 18 months now. It used to be a two bedroom with a garage. At some point in time in the past, either the current or a former owner converted the garage to a bedroom. (don't worry--this is going somewhere) So there used to be a driveway which went into the garage. Now that same driveway just basically goes up the the window of the bedroom which was formerly the garage.

So there is a front lawn, and a gravel driveway where we park our minivan.

So as it turns out, when they converted the garage to a bedroom, the former driveway technically became part of the front lawn. Which is techncically illegal to park in.

Which is to say that it is technically illegal for us to park in our own driveway.

Which nobody would really care about except for one thing. There is a department in the Seattle City government which is responsible for, among other things, enforcing this technicality. And they decide *when* to enforce it based upon, and *only* based upon, when people complain.

So about 3 months ago some LOSER ASSHOLE from somewhere around here decided to start complaining about our van being parked in our driveway. And the nice people in the aforementioned department at City of Seattle were thus required to enforce. So I've spoken to them on the phone, multiple times, and we've gone back and forth. I've been very nice and polite and positive with them. They would love to let me keep parking in the driveway. They and I have tried changing the *position* we park in in various ways so that this ASSHOLE will stop complaining. But nothing works, and now we are going to have to park on the street. which is megastupid.

So I've been pondering possible responses to this. As in, how to ... communicate my disgust to the aforementioned asshole who keeps complaining to the bloody city about my car. A couple ideas have presented themselves to my fertile imagination, but I'd love your suggestions as well. =)

Just venting a little. Don't mind me.

conversation with an eritrean guy

I had a really interesting conversation the other day here on campus with a guy from eritrea whose name I can’t remember (partially because it was a foreign name). He was a really nice guy. We ended up walking along the same direction, and I said,

“Good afternoon”. And he said

“Good afternoon, how are you?”

Benjamin: I’m okay. The gray, heavy weather gets me down a little”

Eritrean guy: Oh really? I feel happy in spite of the weather. Jesus is my lord and saviour–so I feel happy all the time.

B: (somewhat bemused, and somewhat triggered, and therefore kind of gearing up for a potentially fascinating conversation) really? what do you mean when you say Jesus is your lord and savior? How does that make you happy?

E: Well, he died for my sins, so I can go to heaven when I die. Everybody needs Jesus as their savior so they can go to heaven.

B: okay–that sounds kewl. But what has Jesus done for you here?

E: well–he died for my sins.

B: yeah–but what has he done for you here? Has he helped you in any particular way? like for instance, I get in arguments with my wife sometimes. Has jesus helped in relationships with your spouse, your friends?

E: well–yes of course we are humans, which means that we get into fights and arguments. that’s okay–it’s part of life. We work through that stuff. But Jesus (as before)

B: (bull dog now with bone in mouth–won’t be put off =) Yes–great. But has your life changed since you met Jesus? Are you any different now from how were you before (thinking to self: come on, come on–tell me a goddamned story already–I’m setting it up for you here!!!!)

E: oh yes!!! I used to be a drunkard, and a (goes on to describe person who is a general loser). Yes Jesus changed me a lot. Don’t you want to be a christian too?

B: well it’s really interesting and great that you had that experience. I’ve had almost the opposite experience. Back when I was a Christian and knew Jesus, I was a pretty horrible person. Now that I’m not a christian anymore, I’m a much nicer person–I treat other people and myself better. Isn’t it intriguing that we have had such opposite experiences?

E: Well, I’m very happy to be here in a christian nation, and be able to love Jesus and that he has forgiven my sins

B: (alas, a new trigger) Why do you call this a christian nation? what do you mean when you say christian? didn’t Jesus say to love your enemies? But we kill our enemies.

E: Yes–but you must of course defend yourself!

B: well–at one level I agree with you. but then I’m not a christian. you call yourself a christian, and yet you condone killing your enemies? How’s that?

(this next bit is mega fascinating to me)

E: well–I don’t really like to talk about politics. But you know, back home in eritrea–this is how Christians believe–that we must not kill our enemies. The fighting has been going on a long time with ethiopia, and the government requires everyone to serve in the army, but the christians refuse. and many of them are imprisoned or killed because of this. So when I came to this country, I joined a little Eritrean church (points in general direction of church building). and about 80% of the people in this church have this different view now that since america is a christian nation, that it is okay for them to condone killing enemies in defense of america. So I have been swayed by this 80%, and my thinking has changed. But perhaps you are right.

B: (thinking to self: wow!! I’m stoked I got in this conversation. How fascinating is that???) So what do you mean when you say Jesus died for you?

E: well, you see, he was killed on a cross for your sins and my sins, so we could go to heaven. He did not sin–but you, and me, and all of us–we sinned–we deserved to be on that cross–and he took our place.

B: yes, yes. But what is this “Sin”? I mean you know what a cross is, right? It’s a roman execution by torture device. Our closest equivalent might be an electric chair combined with a cia black site. So you are saying that you deserve to be tortured to death? what for? what have you done that’s so awful that you should be tortured to death? What is this “sin” you are talking about?

E: well, it doesn’t have to be about what I personally did. It’s in our blood. Adam sinned, and that sin came down to me in my blood.

B: So you are saying you are convinced that you and me and everybody ought to be tortured to death because some guy thousands of years ago didn’t exactly follow what god said?

E: yes–we deserve to die for our sins, but Jesus came to save us.

B: okay–I don’t get that. I can’t really believe that you believe that. I gotta get to class. Great talking to ya. Later!

All of which to say, among other things, that people get taught and buy into what seems to me to be a really shockingly cruel, horrible theology–but there seems to be a huge disconnect somewhere between their theology and their actual real world experience as a human being.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

3 blessings

Due to outside forces, I have begun posting regularly again on Any of ya'll are welcome to post over there as well. Just shoot me an email and let me know, so I can set you up to write over there. Welcome you are to write just once, or regularly =)


book review

Rachel has posted a book review of brian mclaren's new book over at JaC (er .. Jacques). Among other things, she says:

McLaren critiques the “incredible shrinking gospel” of popular Western
Christianity which promises peace, forgiveness, and eternal bliss for the
individual, but fails to also address our most pressing global and societal

check it out.

Weekly Iraq roundup

This is what Baghdad looks like. I'm guessing the populace is used to it, after 4 years. In fact, I'm guess these images are going to be in their heads 'til they die.

This week in U.S. occupied Iraq:

  • The U.S. spent 2 Billion Dollars on our ongoing occupation.
  • 237 civilians killed, including:
  • Baiji: US forces kill 4 civilians inside their car. October 18.
  • Diwaniya: multi-national headquarters come under mortar attack, clashes between militia and multi-national forces ensue, followed by US shelling -5 civilians killed, 2 of them children under the age of 3. October 15.
  • Riyadh: 3 members of Awakening Council die in US shelling. October 14.
  • Total violent civilian deaths in Baghdad this week: 68

    All information from Iraq Body Count

Truth is, I caught myself this week gradually making this less real. To witness: I said to myself and others at least 3 different times this week, with a grin on my face, "Hey, could be worse, we could be in Baghdad." In the interest of counteracting this tendency:

Question to consider: With whom are the 160,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq having sex? And what are the long term consequences of the the answers to this question?

The rate of violent deaths per capita in Iraq over the last 4 years is approximately 4 times higher than that in the United States. so what would it look like in Seattle, for instance, if we had 4 times as many violent deaths? Scary, I guess.

Note to self: Take steps to start learning Arabic. What advantage did white americans who spoke vietnamese have in the 1960/1970's have in terms of helping to end the war?

Here's a really enlightening round table discussion about Iraq, four years after invasion

Baghdad has a population of somewhere between approx. 6-7 million. Other similar sized cities: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Santiago Chile.

A couple images:
View Larger Map

Saturday, October 20, 2007

how I want to be buried

EcoEternity Forest. (anti)H/T Chuck Colson.

I think this is a really kewl idea.

more fuel

Well, in case they lacked it, the world's first billionaire author, j.k. rowling, who had previously come out as a christain (talk about a sentence with too many dependent clauses here), provided even more fuel for religious conservatives to *freak* about her books on Friday when she outed Hogwart's head master Albus Dumbledore as being gay.

Good on her. I hope she gets half as much glee from the reaction she'll doubtless get as I'm already getting.

This is one interesting result. Actually that page is interesting for it's own sake.

Friday, October 19, 2007

what should athiests scream out in "bed"?

Hemant's having a contest for the best answer to this question. You could possibly win a gnarly friendly athiest wristband

ultimate hard drive

Thought this was fun.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I realize

I realize that this probably isn't the most constructive possible take on this. Nevertheless:

Jim's comments

Jim henderson recently replied to some of my thoughts in this post. I wanted to repost here with my comments. Jim starts out by quoting me. He says

you said
"It has been my experience in churches in general, especially in this country, that we are not allowed to engage our negative emotion. Like you're not allowed to feel really really angry and super super sad and at the same time to think "god's a bastard, the world's FUBAR". And if you do start thinking/feeling along these lines, you get corrected. But I think that's pretty toxic."

I had to leave church for some similar but different reasons. Bottom line Church is not and never will be a support group or therapy group. Church is based on the "family" model which brings a lot of baggage and expectations and limitations. One of which is to not say everything you are "really" thinking. Families need to hold stuff in in order to stay together for the long haul.
Jim, I'm thinking maybe not. Gottman found that couples have three models of conflict which all work equally well. The three models exist along a continuum from conflict avoidance (we just agree to disagree) to total conflict engagement (when we disagree, we just furiously engage). The way that any of the models work in the long term is that the couple needs to have 5 times as much positive interaction/engagement as negative. As you can imagine this means that the "furiously engage" model couples (Megan and I, for instance), if their relationship is working well, have a whole ton of furiously positive, delightful engagement. (yippee!!)
All sounds quite innocuous until you compare it with some of the more radical things Jesus said which definetly look more like a group on a mission - where talking in real time is critical so you can accomplish what you need to together.

I think AA and 12 steps (not church version) gets much closer than church ever will.

I stopped going to church not becuase it pushes the same buttons it does for you but because it makes me crazy in other ways.

Now I go to church whenever I meet with people I like.

I know that I could not live up to your expectations if I was a pastor- Church requires some limiting realities. I chose to disengage from the Sunday morning ritual because I couldn't figure out what it is doing.
I'm not convinced that you would disappoint me as a pastor, but I can see what you are saying. Zimbardo talks about how frickin' difficult it is for people who are inside the system to overcome that system--they are the heroes, and they are inordinately rare. I understand what you are saying in that I know for sure I'm not a hero, and the only way, generally speaking, that I've been able to overcome the system is to leave (or, more often, get kicked out). So you are saying if you and I were still in that system, you as pastor, me as layperson, then we would probably both find out that we weren't heroes, and either I'd leave, or you'd kick me out =). There's something to be said for the idea that system is so badly broken that it *should* be dumped (i.e. "church sucks"). The problem is that taking this position too strongly leaves one in a position where it's very difficult to be human with the people still inside the system. I think OTM strikes a good balance here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Paper shrinkage

This made me laugh 'til I wept. Megan and I laughed and laughed and confessed to each other how we've done all this and more. H/T Sharon. Click on the picture to see a larger (and thus more legible) version.

presidential fundraising 2008

Numbers are out today for third quarter fundraising for the 2008 presidential campaign in the U.S.

Stats are from here.

All the Dem candidates combined have raised about 240 million dollars

All the Rep candidates combined have raised about 170 million dollars

All of which adds up to about ... 410 million dollars. which is about 1/1000 of the total amount we've spent on Iraq invasion and occupation. Or another way to look at it is about $1.40 for every man, women, and child in the U.S. Or another way to look at is enough money to pay about half a days wages to the 1 billion people on the planet who "survive" on $1/day or less. Or enough to double (or more) the wages of one million of those same people for one whole year. Or enough to to eradicate malaria worldwide for about 5 months, thusly saving the lives of 850,000 children.(Note--all the numbers are on the fly estimates using the old noggin to mulitply, add, etc. So sorry if I'm way off. But I'm pretty good at arithmetic, so chances are I'm fairly close. Feel free to correct)

Just some thoughts

It's interesting to me that Barack Obama, who is refusing *all* money from lobbyists and special interest groups (PAC's, unions, etc.) has raised very nearly as much money as Hillary, who is refusing money from *no one*. I think this one simple and enormously relevant fact is a very strong indicator that Hilary doesn't really stand a chance against Barack in the primary. BICBW.

the atheist theist continuum

I found this model by Dawkins really useful. HT Siamang.

1: Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung, “I do not believe, I know.”

2: Very high probability but short of 100%. De facto theist. “I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”

3: Higher than 50% but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”

4: Exactly 50%. Completely impartial agnostic. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”

5: Lower than 50% but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. “I don’t know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be sceptical.”

6: Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

7: Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung “knows” there is one.”

What number would you use to characterize yourself? I'm a 4 leaning both directions =)


These people seem to be of the opinion that ... non violence implies learning how to deal with conflict without using violence. ... profound.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My recent experience at Union church seattle

So I recently attended the sunday morning service of Union church Seattle, a presbyterian church which I have previously written about here.

So to use the old sandwich technique: There are a few people at the church that I have gotten to know through various means whom I like rather enormously. Tony and Diana are at the top of the list. Closely following them is Renee, and James B. Also Tracy. and Jo. and Jennifer. So I was glad to get to connect with some of these people.

I realized that because of my own stuff, church services are generally speaking quite toxic for me. This was the second week in a row I had attended union. I really didn't wanna go today, but I went on the off chance that I could promote off the map live, because I think that it would be really connective and broadening for a lot of the people at union to attend this conference. I think Union is trying to go in some of the same directions as Off the Map, and so forth. So anyway, I went for that reason against my own best judgment, and pretty much paid for it the rest of Sunday, in which I felt astoundingly crappy--a feeling I could trace quite easily back to having gone to church. Not that that's the church's fault--like I said--it just triggers a lot of stuff for me. I should just have known better than to go. alas. I can do one week ok, but two weeks in a row is just over my limit.

Anyway, we had a kind of interesting discussion at our table. Before the discussion, there was time for prayer requests in the larger group. Someone at another table told a story of their friends who had just had a tiny little baby, and on the way to the baby shower, the dad, who was writing a motorcycle, was hit and killed. To which I responded under my breath "what a fucked up universe!". And then when James B. was leading in prayer I was sitting there weeping quietly as I pondered the horror of the dad dying right after the smallikin was born.

then right after that, James B. introduced the sermon topic and asked us to discuss, around our table, the subject of God's generosity--how have we experienced it, etc. So I stayed pretty quiet, but eventually my turn came, and I said I was still dealing with the dad dying in a motorcycle accident right after the baby was born, and I didn't see how I could jump to the subject of god's generosity that quickly. like god didn't seem super generous in light of that. so then there were a couple really astoundingly annoying and offputting typical christian responses to that--like "Well, I can hardly talk, since I didn't go through that--but maybe it has to do with our perspective--maybe we should instead be grateful for the time the dad *was* with the family". blah blah blah.

Jennifer, who is a sociology prof at SPU, and whose ideas I've found provocative in the past, said something interesting. She said that we want to be able to switch rapidly back and forth between calvinism and armenianism. Which is to say, we want all the autonomy and control which the armenian view gives us, but then when something really bad happens, all of a sudden we're all calvinistic and want to blame god for it. she gave as an example that her students will say things like "Well, God put me into this horrible marriage with this awful man". And she asks questions along the lines of--well, why are you all of a sudden so calvinistic about it?

I thought it was an interesting take on it. But it also kind of bothered me because in the context of our conversation it seemed like she was saying that ... maybe it was a bad decision to drive a motorcycle and take that risk when you have a new baby. which seems to me to be an enormously cold take on things. but maybe that's just me.

It has been my experience in churches in general, especially in this country, that we are not allowed to engage our negative emotion. Like you're not allowed to feel really really angry and super super sad and at the same time to think "god's a bastard, the world's FUBAR". And if you do start thinking/feeling along these lines, you get corrected. But I think that's pretty toxic. Cause engaging the thoughts and feelings while they are happening means dealing with them right then in some way which is a lot harder to do later on, after your attempts to disallow them have led to depression and all sorts of other crap.

Just me rambling a little bit.

It also seems to me that there is a really nasty corollary to Jennifer's observation about the calvinistic/armenian thing. It seems to me that Christians are required to externalize all the *good* stuff--like be thankful to god when good things happen, or when things don't happen as badly as they might have, etc. But they are required to *internalize* all the bad stuff--not allowed to blame god for the super bad stuff. Seligman talked about some of this in his learned helplessness and learned optimism work. It seems that optimists do just the opposite of this christian thing--they internalize the good stuff and externalize the bad stuff. So when something good happens, they say to themselves "Wow--look at what I did to cause that to happen. I rock!". But when something really bad happens they say "Wow, that sucks, but it's not my fault--it happened due to circumstances beyond my control"

Of course we can go too far in that direction too, I guess. Addicts, for instance, want to think that they have no autonomy in terms of their acting out, when actually there is a long chain of events that leads to that, and during that chain of events there are generally multiple places where they are making a decision where they are allowing the chain to continue.

Anyway, there was one other thing I wanted to say. I learned in the 12 steps that the difference between the church model and the 12 step model is that typically in the church model, there is a sort of hierarchy, either explicit or implicit, where you have God, then the church leadership, then the laity. whereas the idea in the 12 step model is you have God, and everybody else. The 12 step model both *worked* a lot better for me and is far more attractive to me. What I realized last Sunday at Union is they that use the church model. Which in one sense is probably okay--I mean they are a church. But I realized that I can't do church with that model anymore. so I got to thinking that there are exactly 3 churches with which I am familiar that employ a more 12 steppish model. What makes these 3 churches so astoundingly kewl is that the "leadership" isn't afraid of the people. That is to say, they're not the least bit worried that the people might do or say something shocking, or disruptive, or .... fill in the blank. cause god's got things handled, so they don't have to "handle" things. So how that comes out experientially is that I, as a "people" (and thus not as a "leader"), found that the *normal* thing was that in a regular community meeting (generally known as "Sunday morning service"), there was both opportunity for and actual practice of the regular people getting to say things--to share their stories, to share their thoughts. Not just as "prayer requests/praise reports, but also as "We are a community. Does anyone have something to share with the community?" You didn't have to get permission to do that. There was no sense that there was a gate or a hoop through which you'd have to go to gain that platform, or what have you.

On the other hand, of course that's ridiculous. What kind of insane community would open themselves so broadly? I mean to be *that* intentionally choosing to operate against the leadership/laity or us/them paradigm is astoundingly dangerous. People are nuts, and if don't at least put *some* controls in place, anything is, as my dad used to say, liable to happen.

god i have carried on, haven't I?

Note to self: "Self--save yourself some pain, and limit sunday morning church® visits to once per month, including *never* two weeks in a row."

(the lovely thing about owning a blog is that I can carry on at great length like this, and I don't have to do a damned thing about it--such as go back, reread it, boil it down, make it more consice, cut out all the excess verbage, figure out what my point was and stick to that, fix the organization of it, etc. etc. I can just kick back and know that at some level it's readable simply because I've read so much good writing that I can write (nearly) readable stuff in my rough draft. Kewl!)

Lagoa Dos Patos

This lake is in Brazil. It's huge, and it's absolutely beautiful, and you have to sail all the way up it to get to Porto Alegre. I have a story about this lake. BTW, the larger body of water to the right (to the east)is the Atlantic Ocean.

View Larger Map

awesome people

I really like this photo of two totally awesome people. Photo by Megsie.


How many other nations in the world have failed to elect to their highest office, in a general election, a candidate who later received the nobel peace prize?

Just shows to go ya how out of touch we are. Are we the world's *most* warmongering nation? ... uh .... yeah, I guess so!

Sunday, October 14, 2007


so I finally started getting all Megsies photos a bit organize. They're available here, if you wanna see photos of my family--there's lots of 'em, and I'm going to be uploading lots more over the next couple weeks.



Still round the corner there may wait, a new road, or a secret gate.

— J.R.R. Tolkien

H/T DeeDee

Saturday, October 13, 2007

If you're in seattle

You might enjoy this event thursday evening.

Because Post Secret is just so amazing.

the incompetency of hewlett packard

My hard drive crashed on 9/24, and I finally got a new one under warranty from utterly incompetent hewlett packard on 10/11. That's after over *8 HOURS* on the phone with them trying to help/convince them to overcome glitches in their system which were making it literally impossible for them to send me the hard drive, even though both they (the 15+ different people I talked to on the phone at HP) and I *both* strongly desired for them to send it. So I can tick another computer manufacturer off of the list of computer manufacturers from which I shall ever again buy anything, ever.

*8 HOURS!!*. I'm going to have to adjust my cell plan minutes up this month just to account for this. bloody incompetency.

May I strongly disreccomend ever buying a hewlett packard laptop, or for that matter anything else they make which may put you in a position of needing something fixed under warranty by them.

Friday, October 12, 2007

what you are getting for $US 8 Billion/month

what you are getting for $US 8 Billion/month. Part 54.

From Iraq Body Count.
42 Iraqi civilians have been killed by US forces so far in October -16 of them children.
108 Iraqi civilians were killed by Americans (military and private contractors) in September -including 7 children and a 90-year-old man.
103 civilians were killed by US forces in August, including 6 children.
In July, US forces killed 179 -17 children among them.

Just in case you forgot.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

emotional health

My favorite therapy.

Nuclear Guniea Pigs

In the name of research

Love Dove's advertising

Ok, so I almost without fail find advertising amusing. Stating the underlying messages out loud is just generally really funny.

That said, I continue to love the way Dove's advertising is swimming againg the cultural stream in really important ways.

Friday, October 05, 2007


"I did not have sexual relations with that women" January 26, 1998

"This government does not torture" October 5, 2007

further evidence of my wierdness

So a new iteration of this little mocking poem has come into my head occasionally over the last ... 3-6 months.

JaC and CatE, sittin' in a tree ...

then again, apparently this sort of thing happens to other people as well.

I think what makes me wierd is not that I have these thoughts, but that I am willing to admit it.

By the way, "JaC" is NOT to be pronounced like the American "Jack", but rather like the French "Jacques". Just so you know. =)


dialogue like this is why off-the-map kicks ass

quote from Rachel

From this thread. I said:

we are *meant* to be plugged in to a body/community, with the relative loss of personal freedom/autonomy that implies.

and Rachel responsed:
I completely agree, Benjamin. And we live a a country with both a personal gratification oriented consumer culture and a radically individualized “personal Savior” version of Christianity. This combination powerfully reinforces a sense of absolute autonomy and entitlement. That viewpoint was summed up well in the Ronald Reagan quote you recently posted.

Very pithy. Thankyou Rachel.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

brian mclaren rocks

(and funnily enough, he reminds me of my father in law. Just a little)
And his new book is out today.

If you can't see the embedded videos, the links for them are here and here.

have you ever

tried out the stroop experiment?

Monday, October 01, 2007

I invite you to read

and/or comment on my mother's current ongoing travelogue.

I finally figured out the reason

that I keep putting off grad school applications. I'm terrified.