Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm holding out

for a god who is kinder than any of the ones I've encountered thus far.

Maybe there's some sort of inverse correlation, among gods, between kindness and power. If that were the case, I guess I'd also be on the lookout for a god who was weaker than any of the ones I've encountered thus far.

If that were the case, it would kind of suck, at some level. I mean isn't part of the point of god that she is supposed to ... embody a fix for that particular inverse correlation?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

If I had a lot of money,

I'd be willing to bet most of it that at least 98% of all people who have a problem with other people putting photos of themselves breastfeeding their own infants on FaceBook also voted for George Bush twice *and* John McCain (and, by implication, that they are American).

But I could be wrong.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Megs reads the night before christmas to the girls.

Hurrah for nathalie's Birthday!

'church' is too much a

'church' is too much a production. I'm sure jesus would hate it too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Somone who understands what happened to my mother

Today I saw this video of teenager Jasmine Mans at the 2008 Urban Word NYC Teen Poetry Slam Finals.

Please be warned this describes rape in vivid terms, so it could be triggering. If it is safe for you, I would encourage you to watch it. H/T Brooke

I loved you mom. You were very brave. Much braver, I think, than me.

Christmas--not living up to the hype

The story the Christians tell (and of course now we are speaking of meta story, which feels inherently less true. Nevertheless ...) is that the big deal about Christmas is that God (that is the one supreme God who made everything) sends his son who is born in Bethlehem, and whose is going to do something rather large--something along the lines of ... save the world, or make things better, or fix it, or ... what have you.

Let me see here .... from Luke's version ...

He'll reign over the house of Jacob forever. He'll have the throne of his father David (probably not really that great of news for the Palestinians, actually, considering the story of David.)

He'll be called the Son of God (very possibly not that great of news either, depending on ... the nature of the God of whom he is the son)

Then there's the bit from Mary:

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."

possibly not really that great of news for the Palestinians either, although filling the hungry sounds good. The Palestinians are definitely hungry.

Now we come to the real problem. The angel talking to the shepherds:

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people

Then there's Simeon:

For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.

I mean ... he *certainly* didn't fulfill the hype that most of these folks were thinking about--probably along the lines of Israel being independent again, out from under Roman rule, etc.

But way beyond that, it's been 2000 years, and the much *larger* hype put out by "the church" (and there's a big generalization for you) is just astoundingly ... unfulfilled. What good has the birth of Jesus done the world? I mean AIDS, war, nuclear arms race, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, starvation, sex trafficking, white phosphorous, cluster munitions, organized crime, genocide, child soldiers, slavery, people dying of *thirst* (for god's sake!), etc. etc.

*Maybe* I just got the story wrong? Maybe all this hype is overblown, and the ... "real" story doesn't really involve good news of any very large sort?

Maybe my expectations are too high. But the way people around here carry on...

Of course their carrying on *could* be more about ... trying to cheer themselves up in the darkest time of the year--something perhaps much older than the whole "christmas" thing--something about the solstice, something that makes a lot more sense, and which has had the trappings of some sort of "Christianity" fitted onto it in this culture, as it has no doubt had the trappings of other religions fitted onto it in other places and times.

Nevertheless, I have completely lost sight of any "good news" in the christmas story beyond that Jesus did some fairly kewl things while he was around, back in the day, and so it rocked that he was born.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A reminder

As America comes toward the end of the holiday insanity, and some 300 million of us get ready to sit down to Christmas dinners (or, for some, do without), some 160,000 U.S. troops continue to occupy Iraq, as well as somewhere between 20,000 and 100,000 "private security contractors"

The ongoing result of the presence of these hundreds of thousands of heavily armed Americans in Iraq:

so far in 2008:

406 children dead from war related violence.

That's about one a day. Imagine how that must feel--picking up a national newspaper each day to read about another violent war-related death of a child in your occupied nation.

72 of these have been killed by U.S. soldiers in "the line of duty". Here's to freedom, duty, and the American Way.

So far in 2008:

9,000 civilian deaths due to war related violence. That's almost 200 per week. How about picking up the New York Times every Sunday to read about another 200 civilian deaths in your occupied nation?

On Christmas day, the U.S. will spend about 340 million U.S. dollars to continue the carnage. And the same amount today, and tomorrow, and on New Years day.

Meanwhile the guy who threw his shoes at George Bush is facing charges. Bush faces no charges whatsoever. Here's to justice, and "joy to the world". It's nice, isn't it, to be the "Christian" nation--to be the ones on the side of the right and the good--of "freedom". Americans should do something to wish a merry Christmas to the tens of thousands of young female Iraqi Refugees living in surrounding nations who have been forced into prostitution due to economic hardship. Maybe send them some of the $700 billion bailout pie or something.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow in Seattle (an unusual treat). And sledding!

My new camera phone is pretty kewl. It has this software which allows you to take three photos as a panorama and stitches them together. A few weeks ago I published the above, the view from the hilltop just down from our house. Here the same view, with Snow!!

Just to the left of where that view is seen from there is a great sledding hill. There goes Megsie--yippee! This is a one minute walk from our house. Coco, who happily went sledding with me on Tuesday, didn't want to sled today--she seemed a little ... somber. She just stood at the top of the hill and watched.

Wow I love the snow.

Here's a little slideshow of all the photos I've taken on the new camera phone since I got it for my birthday. The camera seems to take such nice photos in spite of it's user's inaptitude.

Here's a link to the album


Sunday, December 14, 2008

'oh rest beside the weary

'oh rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing' (hint: they look like us.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I found this picture intriguing

It's not quite right somehow. I rather suspect the presidents have had a whole range of skin tones. This doesn't seem super helpful to me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dysthymia, and happiness.

From Wikipedia:

The symptoms of dysthymia are similar to those of major depression, though they tend to be less intense. In both conditions, a person can have a low or irritable mood, lack of interest in things most people find enjoyable, and a loss of energy (not all patients feel this effect). Appetite and weight can be increased or decreased. The person may sleep too much or have trouble sleeping. He or she may have difficulty concentrating. The person may be indecisive and pessimistic and have a negative self-image. The symptoms can grow into a full blown episode of major depression. This situation is sometimes called "double depression"[2] because the intense episode exists with the usual feelings of low mood. People with dysthymia have a greater-than-average chance of developing major depression. While major depression often occurs in episodes, dysthymia is more constant, lasting for long periods, sometimes beginning in childhood. As a result a person with dysthymia tends to believe that depression is a part of his or her character. The person with dysthymia may not even think to talk about this depression with doctors, family members or friends. Dysthymia, like major depression, tends to run in families. It is two to three times more common in women than in men. Some sufferers describe being under chronic stress. When treating diagnosed individuals, it is often difficult to tell whether they are under unusually high environmental stress or if the dysthymia causes them to be more psychologically stressed in a standard environment.

And from DSM diagnostic criteria:

1. During a majority of days for 2 years or more, the patient reports depressed mood or appears depressed to others for most of the day.
2. When depressed, the patient has 2 or more of:
1. Appetite decreased or increased
2. Sleep decreased or increased
3. Fatigue or low energy
4. Poor self-image
5. Attachment to relatives other than parents.
6. Concentration and decisiveness decreased or increased
7. Feels hopeless or pessimistic
3. During this 2 year period, the above symptoms are never absent longer than 2 consecutive months.
4. During the first 2 years of this syndrome, the patient has not had a Major Depressive Episode.
5. The patient has had no Manic, Hypomanic or Mixed Episodes.
6. The patient has never fulfilled criteria for Cyclothymic Disorder.
7. The disorder does not exist solely in the context of a chronic psychosis (such as Schizophrenia or Delusional Disorder).
8. The symptoms are not directly caused by a general medical condition or the use of substances, including prescription medications.
9. These symptoms must result in clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, academic, or other major areas of functioning (APA, 2000).

Which might leave one with the question: "What is 'clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, academic, or other major areas of functioning?"

Ah--here's an answer From "DSM IV-TR in Action, by Sophia F. Dziegielewski

The term "clinically significant indicates that the practitioner has clearly linked the symptoms present in the mental disorder with how the symptoms either stop or impair a client's current level of functioning. For example, an individual may at times exhibit the symptoms that match the criterion of a mental disorder, yet individual, social, or occupational functioning is not impaired. When this occurs, a diagnosis should not be given. A diagnosis should only be given when the client's symptoms are severe enough to either interfere with or disturb functioning."

Which leaves one to ask what "impaired" and/or "functioning" might mean =)

From the writer of Ecclesiastes:

Call me "the Quester." I've been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I looked most carefully into everything, searched out all that is done on this earth. And let me tell you, there's not much to write home about. God hasn't made it easy for us. I've seen it all and it's nothing but smoke—smoke, and spitting into the wind.

Life's a corkscrew that can't be straightened,
A minus that won't add up.

I said to myself, "I know more and I'm wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I've stockpiled wisdom and knowledge." What I've finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind.

Much learning earns you much trouble.
The more you know, the more you hurt.

Here's a question. What if you were the sexiest man or women in the world. And you had dysthymia. Would you *feel* like the sexiest man or women in the world?

Of course you would. By definition. It wouldn't feel really great though, I bet.

Solomon fucked up, in my opinion. Have you ever read this passage?

That night, there in Gibeon, God appeared to Solomon in a dream: God said, "What can I give you? Ask."

Solomon said, "You were extravagantly generous in love with David my father, and he lived faithfully in your presence, his relationships were just and his heart right. And you have persisted in this great and generous love by giving him—and this very day!—a son to sit on his throne.

"And now here I am: God, my God, you have made me, your servant, ruler of the kingdom in place of David my father. I'm too young for this, a mere child! I don't know the ropes, hardly know the 'ins' and 'outs' of this job. And here I am, set down in the middle of the people you've chosen, a great people—far too many to ever count.

"Here's what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?"

God, the Master, was delighted with Solomon's response. And God said to him, "Because you have asked for this and haven't grasped after a long life, or riches, or the doom of your enemies, but you have asked for the ability to lead and govern well, I'll give you what you've asked for—I'm giving you a wise and mature heart. There's never been one like you before; and there'll be no one after. As a bonus, I'm giving you both the wealth and glory you didn't ask for—there's not a king anywhere who will come up to your mark. And if you stay on course, keeping your eye on the life-map and the God-signs as your father David did, I'll also give you a long life."

He should have asked for happiness. That's what I would have asked for. Delightful, overflowing, abounding happiness, which would overflow to everyone around me.

What would you ask for, if God made you the same offer he did Solomon?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Agreeing with the almighty

When I was 15 years old, I memorized the Old Testament book of Proverbs, chapter by chapter. I mean to say I only memorized each chapter, and once I could recite it, I left it alone and moved on to the next chapter. So I never actually could recite the whole thing.

But anyway, today I was reminded of these versed from Proverbs. Yahweh and I strongly agree on these. It seems like this ought to provide some comfort, but it doesn't, actually. These things suck, and the fact that Yahweh also things they suck doesn't really seem to help.

There are six things Yahweh hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Even thought it isn't very comforting, there is a certain sense of community in knowing that others hate some of the same things I hate.

A blow

Yesterday I received an emotional blow that was about the worst I've gotten since .... I guess since my mom died, and before that since 2006. Hardly slept all night last night. Wish the world didn't have to hand out such things.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why the fear re: gay marriage?

Can anyone help me to understand this video?

I just don't get this. Why are these parents so afraid to talk to their seven year old about gay marriage? If my 6 year old came home from school talking about a book called "King and King", about two princes who married each other, I would consider that a priceless opportunity to talk about homosexuality and heterosexuality--about human sexuality, about safe bodies, about wise choices, etc. etc. Because to me this is a huge difficulty/danger zone for people in general, and the problems/dangers aren't really about homosexuality vs. heterosexuality. The problems are about boundaries, and clear communication, and the long term results of short term choices, and so forth.

I wish my parents, or some caring adult, had been willing to talk openly with me about human sexuality when I was six and seven years old, and when I was 8 and 9 and 10 and 11 and 12. I think such conversations would have prevented a lot of problems for me.

Do you understand this? Can you enlighten me a little. I wish I could sit down with this couple and just ask them lots of questions. It sounds like they are ... afraid about something. I want to know what that is. I'm curious as to whether their fear is justified, and whether it is effectively directed (that is: I wonder if their fear is really about what they think it's about.). They also seem to be under the impression that they can protect their children. But I agree with Dan Allender. We can't protect our children, we can only enstory them. I wish that this couple would focus less on protecting, and more on enstorying. Or maybe they aren't afraid at all--maybe it's something else. They seem like a fairly reasonable, nice couple. I just don't get what they are talking about.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Why don't you just ..."

You need to know up front that my 6 year old daughter, E, hasn't really been exposed to much "Christianese" in her short lifespan. Note, as you read, the text I've bolded. It helps at the end.

The other day I picked her up from school and the following conversation ensued:

me: So E, I was talking to your teacher and she says that you and L. are the two best readers in the class. That's awesome! Way to go!

E: Yeah, and actually, I'm really the best reader, 'cause sometimes L. doesn't know a word and I help her.

me: You know why you're like that--so smart and good at reading? It's because of your genes.

E: What are genes?

me: Well, your whole body is made up of millions of tiny cells ...

E: (interrupting, and rolling her eyes) oh, *that* again!

me: (thinking "I'm losing her. Must regroup!") Ok, well, everybody has this special thing inside them called DNA, and it's kind of like your own special library. When you're born, your mom gives you half of her library, and your dad gives you half of his library, and it become your very own special library, and it tells you how to do everything!

E: Everything?

me: yes. and part of the reason your the best reader in your class, and you're so smart and so forth, is because your mom and dad are both so smart at that stuff, so when you were born, and got your DNA library from us, you got one that made you really smart too.

E: Ohhhhhhh! So L.'s mom isn't as smart as Mum?

me: (backpedaling). Well, it doesn't necessarily mean that. There's some variation. But essentially, yes, if your parents are really smart, then you're likely to be really smart, and if your parents aren't that smart, then you're likely to be not that smart. But sometimes you can be really different from your parents. Like for instance, you have this thing called "emotional intelligence".

E: Emotional intelligence???

me: yes. it means that you're smart emotionally. You're really good at being kind to people and connecting to them and so forth. It's important to have emotional intelligence to go along with academic intelligence

E: Academic intelligence?

me: Yes. That's like being really good at reading and understanding things. But it can lead to arrogance and obnoxiousness.

E: What's "obnoxiousness"?

me: that's a bad attitude where you think you're better than other people and then you're not kind to them.

E: That's what I thought you meant.

me: You don't have that. You have emotional intelligence, which means you're kind to other people and good at connecting with them.

E: Ohhhh! You mean like in class when L. doesn't know a word, and I kind of whisper it to her, but I don't try to take over the reading from her or anything.

me: Yes, exactly. You're good at that. I'm not very good at that at all. I have high academic intelligence, but low emotional intelligence. I wish I was more like you and had higher emotional intelligence.

E: Well, Why don't you just get born again?

me: (pondering) E, You're awesome. You totally rock. I'm glad you're my daughter.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A rant re: The Shack

Proof that Americans are just plain wierd (not to mention f***** up) (of course we humans in general are like that, aren't we?) can be found in the recent history of book sales in America.

Okay, maybe these book sales don't just represent purchases by Americans. But .. I'm willing to bet that they *mostly* do.

Right now at Number 8 on's sales ranks for all books (and number one on New York Times' paperback trade fiction) is William Young's The Shack. To (slightly mis) quote the brilliant Dick Staub (I mean I misquote the letter, but I get the spirit of what he said just right), "The Shack is another book in the vein of 'The Prayer of Jabez' and 'The Left Behind Books'."

Oh, by the way, here's my actual review of the The Shack.

The Shack is probably either rapidly approaching or has already left behind the one million in total sales mark.

The 16 Left Behind Books altogether have sold some 65 million copies. At the top of the news section of the web site: "Dating the Book of Revelation--Why it matters."

The Prayer of Jabez sold 9 million copies.

All these strike me as at least bordering on drivel. Sorry to be harsh. I mean drivel has it's place, I suppose. But with this many people paying to read it, it's frightening drivel. I absolutely cannot picture Jesus being into any of this stuff.

It almost makes one want to become Roman Catholic. Or Muslim. Or Australian. Or Welsh. Or something. I bet Muslims and Roman Catholics and Aussies and Welsh, by and large, don't buy this drivel. Or anything much like it. BICBW.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"post-marital sex in a different sex marriage"

I found this, from Barry Sanders, incredibly funny.

Although Mr. Obama drew scant support form the Religious Right during his campaign, Fundamentalist Christians would have no objection to the president having post-marital sex in the White House according to Focus on the Family's James Dobson. "Intimate relations in the context of a different-sex marriage is just not something we have a problem with, despite what the liberal media would have you believe," he said.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rick Warren gets it wrong on Prop 8

I suppose this shouldn't be news. But since the writing of the unbearable "Purpose Driven Life", Warren has wiggled his way back into Benjamin's good books with his advocacy over some of the same social justice issues about which I am concerned.

However, he got it badly wrong on this one. And not just because he is promoting the patently unChristian agenda of further oppressing the already oppressed. Also because he is just ... plain old incorrect. He claims that every culture and every religion for five thousand years has supported the "definition of marriage" as being between one man and one woman.

This is seriously problematic on three fronts. First of all because it's too narrow. Christianity of course springs from Judaism, and all its roots are in Judaism, including many, if not most, of its heroes--guys like Abraham, Moses, David. Too many of Christianity's story's heroes were into one man, *many* women marriages.

Second of all because it's too broad. It was totally against the rules for Jews, back in the day, to marry non-Jews. And much more recently, some *very* large segment of Warren's recentish American Christian forefathers argued very strongly against the marriage of one "white" man and one "black" woman. Or even worse (gasp!) one "black" man and one "white" woman (as in, for instance, Barack Obama's parents, whose marriage would have been illegal in 16 U.S. states when Obama was born).

The worst problem of all, of course, with Warren's argument is: So what? What if it was true, and every culture and religion for all time had cherished and promoted a "definition" of marriage which involved one man and one women. Is this a strong argument for that definition? Hardly. Nearly every culture and religion of any consequence in recorded history has promoted warfare as the ... normal, or at least best-we-can-do -- way of life between humans. Kill rather than be killed, for sure. So is Warren advocating such a stance? Is Warren willing to adopt any and every stance that has been promoted or lived out by the vast majority of cultures and religions in recorded history? I seriously doubt it.

I mean it's just a silly argument on it's face. If all those cultures and religions are just wrong, then who cares if they all agreed? Warren is arguing "tradition" (culture) and "morality" (religion), which is exactly the same sort of argument used against "blacks" marrying "whites", and not that long ago in this nation.

Just as all those anti-miscegenation people turned out to be wrong, so will Warren, Dobson, and company. And just as interracial marriage didn't destroy the fabric of society, neither will gay and lesbian marriage. Warren will turn out to have been just as wrong as another big-time Christian leader, Martin Luther, was about Jews. At one level one wants to give him some leeway, and acknowledge that Warren, like the rest of us, can't escape his own time and culture beyond a certain extent. But on another level, I feel like howling with rage and sadness. Warren and his friends have contributed to a horrible wrenching of 18,000 couples in California--couples, many with families, who have only recently been married, who are still in that amazing first year of marriage where anything is possible and the joy and the beauty and the glory are all still so fresh. There is enough in our culture and in human nature warring against love and life and beauty and glory--to see those who should be promoting and engendering these things doing exactly the opposite is untenable. It reminds one of this passage from the Hebrew Scriptures:

Doom to you who call evil good
and good evil,
Who put darkness in place of light
and light in place of darkness,
Who substitute bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Doom to you who think you're so smart,
who hold such a high opinion of yourselves!
All you're good at is drinking—champion boozers
who collect trophies from drinking bouts
And then line your pockets with bribes from the guilty
while you violate the rights of the innocent.

Warren and company have become the very religious leaders Jesus spoke so devastatingly against--the "pharisees" whom they pretend to so look down on.

Jesus had something to say to such.
You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The floating meadow


This is the view from the meadow at the top of the hill at the bottom of our street--just below Bag End, at Dusk.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 08, 2008

elephant in the room

It seems we are entirely capable of continuing to pretend it isn't there, or that it's not really an elephant, even after the elephant has died. We make the vaguest of possible references, along the lines of "There were times in my life when I sensed a certain ... grayness in the room." Meanwhile, the room continues to stink from the elephant's shit, which some of us are still trying to clean up, with limited success.

Image by nickandmel2006 on flickr, licensed as described here.

If I may be so bold: At least the damn thing is dead. Or as a very wise one whom I admire said "One down, 90,000 to go" (or something like that)

Note to elephant lovers: this post has nothing to do with elephants, and I apologize if it has offended your sensibilities.

34 stories for my 34th birthday, final installment

33. My oldest friend with whom I am still regularly in contact is Laurel. I'm fairly certain I met Laurel via the Thomas family (they of the quadruplets). There are lots of stories about Laurel. She was part of a group of us who all learned square dancing together, back in ... golly--mid-90s-ish? That group also included David, Ian, Janan, Christa, Kat, Brandie, and me. Wow, that list of names brings back a *lot* of memories. Laurel and I joined MV LOGOS II together, quite unwittingly. We bumped into each other at some meeting for people who were planning to join the ship, and were quite surprised. Laurel and Megan and I were part of a smallish group (a group which also included Matt Triplat) who held the top 4 spots on the "broke curfew the most times" list on LOGOS II. Wow. That opens the door to a lot more stories as well. Laurel is a dancer and actress and singer and artist, and she ... rocks. She works for a really kewl little organic produce company in Seattle. Laurel attended Seattle Central Community college slightly before I did. Then she transferred to Seattle Pacific University, which despite valiant attempts and a relatively few kewl people is still far too whitebread and conservative and "Christian" in the worst sense of the term. Fortunately (IMO), Laurel didn't last too long at SPU, and she's now at the far superior UW (that's University of Washington the uninitiated). Laurel is married to the totally awesome Chris, one of whose attributes is that being around him makes me feel relaxed and sort of ... makes me like myself more, somehow.

34. I'm an owl. I've been this way as far back as I can remember. I'm sort of the opposite of my dad in this sense. Given my druthers (that is such a delightful old word, "druthers"), I stay up half the night (or most of the night) working, or writing, or reading, or doing homework, or talking, or ... anything, really, and then sleep until noon. Or two PM. It's not that I can't operate on a more ... "normal" schedule. I can, and have, and do. It's just that if things can be arranged to have an owl schedule, without too much trouble, then I'll thus arrange them. I naturally *tend* (or to use a nautical term, *list*) that direction. Hence it's 1:32 AM, and here I am writing. My wife and our older daughter also have owl tendencies, although theirs are not as pronounced as mine. Our younger daughter, on the other hand, is a lark, and lists toward "early to bed, early to rise". Which reminds me of the old Proverb:

Early to bed, early to rise
Makes a man stupid, and blind in the eyes.

Here's Ben Franklin's original version of the proverb.

If you came to this string of posts somewhere in the middle, here's a link to the beginning.

Friday, November 07, 2008

34 stories for my 34th birthday, penultimate installment

32. I love to sing. I learned to sing from Cheryl Minnick, the pastor's wife in the sect in which I grew up. She and her husband both had music degrees, and they sang really well. In fact, here's a funny story about them singing. They loved to sing southern gospel style music. I used to love to listen to that music. It's sung in multiple part harmony. Here's an old favorite of mine from the fairly well known, in southern gospel circles, Cathedral Quartet.

I also learned from Cheryl's daughter Tiffany, who sang *rather* beautifully. When I was on LOGOS II, I became part of an 8 member ensemble. We sang in Italy and Albania and Turkey. There was Marco, from Italy, me, Simon from Scotland, Christine form Germany, and alas 4 others whom I cannot at this moment remember. It was enormous fun.

In summer of 2000, at a baptism, which was a bit of a party, the entire Minnick family, Cheryl, Tom, Chad, Shawn, and Tiffany all gathered in semicircle to sing a little song Cheryl had written in acapella 5 part harmony, for my soon to be fiance Megan. The song had been written by Cheryl for her then fiance Tom years previously, at Bible College, and involved two character who were worms, one of whose names (the male character) was "Willy". Willy worm and his amour (Wanda, perhaps?) fall in love with each other in this cute little song. I had been innocent enough, at some level, that, having heard this song several times growing up, it had never occurred to me that there were any ribald possible implications. Megan, on the other hand, instantly saw such implication (Willy Worm????), and was sort of forced, by politeness, to stand and listen to the entire pastor's family singing the entire song acapella. It's actually quite hilarious. There were even little hand movements involving a forefinger pretending to be Willy worm, singing his little heart out.

33. must off to see magic show and dinner at community center. will be back later with 33 and 34.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 7

28. My sister and I raised rabbits as pets for two years, as a business. We raised Holland Lop and Mini Lop rabbits. They both have floppy ears. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work. The bunnies are astoundingly cute. Here's a photo. Here's another. The bunnies sold for between 8 and 14 dollars each to the pet stores, who then, I suppose, sold them for a lot more. If I had it to do again, I'd focus on selling them directly. The mother bunnies pull lots of fur from their own chest area to line the nesting box with. The pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as the young bunnies, eat astounding amounts of food. Which is only to be expected, I suppose. Of course if it's to be expected, it's not astounding, is it? Ah well. When the babies are born they are actually really ugly, like little hairless rats, with closed eyes. But after a couple weeks they get fur and their eyes open, and you can hardly stand to part with them. Except that there are just so *many* of them. The does would have 5 to 8 bunnies per litter, and they could have multiple litters per year.

29. My sister raised male dairy calves for a while, and I helped. You can get them basically for free from the dairies when they are 1 day old. You have to buy 50 pound bags of powdered formula, which you then have to mix up and feed to them by bottle 3 times a day. You begin with a two quart bottle, but eventually you graduate to a 2 gallon bucket with a big nipple sticking out of the bottom edge. Finally there comes a day when you convince the calf to drink out of the top of the bucket, rather than the nipple. This is a great day because then you can just sit the bucket down and let them drink. You must be very careful to keep the whole area clean, or they will get sick. This, no doubt, is related to the fact that they are not drinking their mother's milk--becasue *we* are drinking it. Which is a bit horrible, if you think about it. When they get to the right age, you call they butcher, and he comes and kills them, and hauls them off to his shop where he chops them up and wraps them in butchers paper and freezes them. Then you put all that beef in you chest freezer, and you have plenty of beef to eat for a long while. All sounds a bit vicious, somehow, doesn't it? We always named the calves names that would remind us of their eventual fate, like "Cheeseburger" or "Stroganoff". =)

30. I was a fan of a lot of books in my childhood that I never read anymore. I liked the Hardy Boys books, and I liked all Marguerite Henry's books, and Jim Kjelgaard's books, and the Sugar Creek Gang books, and (ah groan, here comes true confessions) Janette Oke's books, and Frank Peretti's books, and I actually read the first several Left Behind books. Don't stone me. And Albert Payson Terhune's Lad books. And many Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books. Among all those, I wouldn't mind at all revisiting the Kjelgaard's and Henry's books. The Big Red Series and the Chincoteauge series are just delightful. I wonder if someday I'll be admitting, with groans, the books I tend to currently like? I doubt it.

31. I'm very good at math, and always have been. In grade school, learning long division and muliplication left me weeping with frustration because I got it, completely and thoroughly got it, way before it was over. Which mean I kept having to do the homework, and the long sets of problems, long after it had lost all interest to me. That's a brutal thing to do to a child, in my opinion. I loved algebra, and trigonometry, and geometry, and mathematical proofs. Maths is one of the more beautiful things in the universe. I remember back in 2005, doing Calculus 2, and coming to understand the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, and just being wowed and mesmerized by its simplicity and beauty and power. It was at university of Washington that I finally ran into a maths that was really really hard for me, in the form of differential equations, which I dropped out of (and hence didn't finish the math minor, alas). But I still totally want to go back and do diff EQ sometime. After Arabic, perhaps =).


34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 6

22. I remain deeply cynical about political solutions in general and about Barack Obama in particular. Earlier this year, I was completely sold on Obama. But that has been going away and going away. The level of narcissism it surely takes to run for and win the presidency of the United States is almost frightening. I'm disgusted with the American ludicrously pro-Israel (and by implication hate-Palestinians) take on the whole thing, and the way Obama has at best totally sold out to it. Beyond that, it's just not in my nature to believe to much in anything, or to see anything in black and white terms. But this deserves it own post, and I'll do that sometime in the next few days.

23. My memories of preschool are these: My dad would drive me to preschool in the morning. We'd stop at a donut shop and get two donuts and coffee and milk. This is a ritual my dad had from before I was born, and which he still keeps to some extent--getting up in the morning well before whatever it is you actually have to get up for, and going somewhere to drink coffee and talk or think or read or what have you. We'd sit in the donut shop and consume the food and drink, and then off to preschool. My pre-school teacher was Miss Kathy. We tended to have canned fruit in a bowl as part of our lunches at that preschool. We took a nap in the middle of the day, on a mat reserved for that purpose. Each of us got one mat. You didn't have to sleep, but you did have to lie quietly. Twice a week we had gym, which I rather liked. I suspect someone was helping us learn to read and write, but I don't remember such. I remember there was a pretty young secretary in the lobby of the preschool. When I was 5, I'd walk over every day from pre-school to Kindergarten. I think an adult walked me over. It was a Catholic preschool, and we learned this little prayer:

God is great, God is good.
Let us thank him for our food.
Dear Jesus, Thank you for our food.

We'd say this little prayer every day before lunch, and at some point I introduced it before dinner at home. My parents acquiesed to this, but I'm guessing they didn't feel super comfortable with it. Now, when I write it, in my head I can't help but mockingly force "food" to rhyme with "good", which makes me chuckle every time I think it.

24. I've known several dogs well over the years. My story about dogs goes like this. The first is Chuka ("CHUCK uh"), whom I meant at perhaps the age of 5. I think Chuka was a mongrel. I loved her, and she loved me, which seems the proper way for kids and dogs. She had puppies in our den (the same den where my parents liquor cabinet was, before they were teetotallers). She started having the first one in the hallway, which freaked me out. She quickly moved to her bed in the den. I remember the puppies were in their placental sacks, and thinking how wierd they looked, and then Chuka ate up the placental sacks (yum!), and magically, there were several little adorable puppies. Chuka actually belonged to my cousin Kelli, two years my senior, but I guess her mom, my Aunt Carol, was in some kind of tough transition and so we ended up looking after her. Unfortunately, after we'd had her a while, she got out one day and started chasing a car and got run over and died.

25. The next dog after that was a Cocker Spaniel named Oscar when I was 11. We kind of inherited him because his owner, another military family, had to move back to the States and couldn't or wouldn't take him. Oscar was fun, but he had the highly embarrassing habit of "humping" people's legs. I don't understand why I feel compelled to put the word "humping" in quotes.

26. The last dog I ever considered "mine" was a huge-pain-in-the-ass Shih Tzu named Scruffy. My parents didn't like us to say "shit", so we had to pronounce Scruffy's breed name "SHEET soo", which my sister and I found my highly amusing and incredibly obnoxious at the same time. Scruffy liked to pee on our hallway carpet. Over the years that we owned him, he peed on it so much that when we left that house and sold it, we had to tear up the carpet and sand about 3/4 of an inch off the hardwood underneath. That was some seriously smelly sawdust. Wow. Scruffy also had skin problems, which are endemic to the breed, and he would scratch himself until he bled. So sometimes he had to wear a ridiculous and obnoxious white plastic cone thing around his neck and head so that he could not use his teeth to scratch any part of his body. I think we were partially relieved when one day a completely intoxicated and weeping woman pulled up in her enormous 1970's style car to say she had run him over and killed him and she was so sorry. She had his body in the trunk. I guess, looking back, she was frightened, as well, that we'd call the cops over her drunk driving. But we didn't. We just buried Scruffy in the back yard, and that was that.

27. Wow, I have a lot of dog stories. When I was 6 years old, there was a little black boy who lived down the street. I don't remember his name, although I think I knew it then. I'm guessing it was semi-tough to be black in Wichita Kansas. Anyway, he had a German Shepherd that looked really scary to me, which hung out in their back yard. There was a sign on the gate into the back yard which said "Beware of dog", and I was! This kid always tried to convince me to go in the back yard, that the dog was safe, etc. but I never would. Then one day, the dog wasn't back there. He told me it was locked in the basement. So I acquiesed to go in his back yard. Almost immediately that dog bounded out of the basement and attacked me. It bit me 17 times. Not that I was counting, but this is what I was told later. That kid's big sister carried me home and delivered me to my parents, and my dad put me in the car seat and took me to the ER. I remember him putting the seat down so I could lie instead of sit. I remember being really scared and in a lot of pain. At the ER they gave me a rabies shot in my butt cheek, which I remember thinking was kind of kewl.

Ever after that, I've never been frightened of dogs. If a dog seems to me to have a threatening posture, my immediate reaction is to be doubly threatening back. Of course I'm a lot bigger now. But I'll go up to strange dogs to say "hi", and hold out my hand and stuff for them to sniff, when other people are a bit afraid. Wierd, huh?


34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 5

18. I am part of an elite group of people who do something rather difficult and amazing, and I am very likely one of the top 50 people in the world when it comes to this activity. (Is that mysterious enough for you) By the way, if you know what I'm talking about, please don't let on in the comments.

19. Last year Megs and I went down and toured Theo's chocolate. They are down in Fremont, in the old Red Hook Ale brewery. They are one of only a dozen or so places in the U.S. that produces chocolate all the way from bean to bar all in one place, and they are the *only* one in the U.S. that does it totally organically and all fair trade. Their chocolate is simply divine. It's also somewhat more expensive that brand name chocolate like hershey. But it's worth it--it's *so* much more delicious, and you know that no child or slave labor went into growing or harvesting the cocoa beans.

20. Van Gogh is my favorite painter. I didn't get much, if any, education in the arts during my growing up. So I don't have a wide knowledge of art, painters, and so forth. But Megs introduced me to Van Gogh, and I got to see several of his paintings at the big art museum in London, and I just find it .... real. His paintings seem to literally go beyond two dimensions in a way that other painters' works don't. he kind of applies paint like God applying reality to the universe. Yeah. And I feel like I understand, a tiny bit, his depression, being a dysthymic melancholy myself.

21. When I was about 24 or 25 years old, Chad and I got invited onto KIRO radio, one of the bigger AM stations in Seattle, to talk about why we were against a ballot initiative that have given minority status to gays. On the way over there, we decided that our two main points would be: 1. Homosexuality is just abnormal. Just look at the plumbing. and 2. Giving minority status to gays is like giving minority status to hot air balloonists. It doesn't make sense to give minority status to a group of people based on a certain type of activity that they engage in.

God, I was an obnoxious, blind little bastard. I'm not saying Chad was. I'm just saying I was. I just didn't, and still to some extent don't, have any understanding of what it's like to be a discriminated against minority. "Discriminated against" sounds so ... clean. But it's not clean. It sucks and sucks and sucks. And then it sucks some more.


34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 4.

13. For story 13, I was going to attempt to narrate a fictionalized and somewhat more detailed version of the first time that my grandfather, David "Buddy" Eaton, raped my mom, Susan. Probably when she was 12 or 13 years old. Or maybe the 10th or 20th time. But I find I don't have the stomach or heart for it today. I still think this story is part of my story. Maybe I'll attempt it later.

14. I used to like to play basketball. There was nothing really like organized sports in the smallish "Christian" school where I did middle school, nor in the "homeschooling cooperative" that turned into when I was in high school. But the guys did get together and play basketball. I enjoyed it, although I was never super good at it. I tended to try to make up for my lack of skill by being as rough as possible. We never had coaches or refs, so it was "call your own fouls", and/or "no blood, no foul." This generally worked reasonably well. One time, though, the pastor's daugher, Tiffany, who was very pretty and very ... saucy--in the sense that she wasn't really having any of the sort of general-putting-down-of-woman that took place in that sect, played with us boys. My memory is somewhat vague, but I believe she got her nose broken, and I believe I might have been somewhat guilty in the incident. Not on purpose, you understand. I wonder if my memory is vague because I felt really really awful? Can't remember. Poor Tiffness, as we used to call her, had, I believe, several incidents with her nose throughout her growing up, and as a teenager, she had to have this horrible surgery where they rebreak your nose and insert a big nasty plastic thing up inside to give it shape while it heals to it heals in the correct shape.

15. Chad Minnick was, I'm thinking, my best friend in high school. I remember lots of things about Chad. He was one year older than me, and was thus somehow part of a group of older boys that i was never really a part of. Back in the late 80's this rather pretty girl named Danica (Hey Danica =) (by the way, you simply must pronounce it "duh NEEK uh") came and joined our tiny "Christian" school. Chad had a terrible crush on her, and he had a pair of New Balance Sneakers that he wore, which have a big "N" on the side. So above the "N" he wrote, with a pen, "I heart" (that is, a little blue heart he drew), and below the "N" he wrote "ikki". So his sneakers read "I heart Nikki". Which I thought amazingly bold of him. Chad was always somewhat more charismatic and well spoken than I was. He became a politician when he grew up. A few years after the I heart Nikki thing, about 6 or 8 of us, all teenagers, went and camped on the shores of Lake Chelan together to celebrate Nikki's birthday. Chad dared me to propose a toast to Nikki at the birthday meal. I remember getting the impression that he was rather egging me on and thinking I'd embarrass myself. (Realize, of course, that we were all teetotallers, and more or less very good boys and girls all round, and there were of course, adult chaperones on the camping trip. So the "toast" was with juice or something. =)) I thought about it a bit and wrote down a little something and acquitted myself excellently, which I think left Chad both delighted and chagrined.

16. My best friend recently is Russell, whose dad was a New York communist, which among many other things makes Russell amazingly kewl. Russell, more than anyone else in my life, has introduced me to the delight of hanging out at a bar and imbibing good beer and just talking. This is something I missed out on altogether in the teetotalling family and teetotalling sect in which I grew up. Russell is the only person I know who has a greater actual grasp on the dark reality of the world than I do. Despite that, he's much more of an optimist than I am. You rock Russell.

17. I voted, in this recent election, for Washington Initiative 1000, which passed with nearly 60% in favor. It changes the law in Washington state in such a way that terminally ill individuals with predicted less than 6 months to live can request and self adiminister lethal medication. It strikes me as simply absurb that we wouldn't allow people to do this. We are kinder to our dogs than we are to ourselves. This is, of course, true about dogs in other ways than just this. My thoughts about suicide were shifted somewhat by a vignette in Helen Dewitt's The Last Samurai, which you must read if you haven't yet. Note: i just attempted to foist a "must" on you. Consider yourself notified. When I was younger, if I had thought about suicide at all, it would have been in terms of "sin". Now I find that "sin" is no longer a useful paradigm for much of anything, for me. However, I never did think of suicide as some sort of ultimate or unforgiveable sin. I have learned over the years that many people think that way--that if you commit suicide you go straight to hell. This strikes me as absurd on muliple levels, but back when I used the "sin" paradigm, it mostly struck me as absurd in that it was ridiculous to think that God couldn't or wouldn't want to love and help and receive a person who had such extreme pain. By the way, I still think suicide is a pretty bad idea for most people, and if you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, I'd love to talk to you before you do it.

Phew--that's 17 of 34. yeehaw.


34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 3

9. I'm having a really excellent brilliant birthday. Yesterday my yotta brilliant counsellor helped me partially convince myself that I'm not as horrible a person as I tend to secretly believe. This morning I got a birthday gift that made me cry. It was a card that said that Gretta, David, and Rachel had purchased, from TEAR fund australia, safe drinking water for one family in Bangladesh, Ethiopa, Laos, Cambodia, or Afghanistan. Actually there were a couple other countries mentioned, but I can't remember them. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all that I have. It kind of blows me away that one can give a bit of money and see to it that someone who formerly didn't have access to safe drinking water now *does* have that access. I also got a really kewl and enigmatic little magnet, with two words in Thai and the numbers 10 and 26. This from Rachel and Victor, my Thai brother in law, whom I've never met but who is by all reports an amazingly kewl person. Does anyone know what this says? I also got a really kewl book called "Eats, shoots and leaves", which is a funny title which does *not* use the Oxford Comma, the name of which I learned from Gretta. "Oxford Comma" is the antecedent of the second "which" in the preceeding sentence. I read chapter one aloud to Megsie and we laughed and laughed. The author reference the Apostrophe Protection Society, but claims they are too polite and suggests a new militant wing of the organization. One of the things this new militant wing will do is issue stickers which say "this apostrophe is unnecessary." This is such a marvelous idea that I'm going to go order some right now.

10. I have hiked up to and stood directly under Maracas waterfall in Trinidad. It's 91 meters tall. The water thunders down on you, and it's so refreshing cause it's *hot* in Trinidad. I went up there twice back in '98 with other Logoids. It was awesome. If you ever get to stand under a waterfall, go for it.

11. When I was six years old, I ran all over the neighborhood with my friends Jennifer and Sammie. We rode bikes together, and built snowmen, and made little secret houses in the wheat fields at the end of the dirt road. We played in my sandbox, which my dad built for us. There was little or no adult supervision. Recently I have found this amazing, as I would never let my six year old go anywhere without adult supervision. Period. I can't figure out if only our attitudes have changed, or the actual danger level has changed. The thing is, there was *rather* a lot of danger involved for Sammie, Jennifer, and I. More than you could probably imagine. I could tell you more about that sometime, if you like.

12. In third grade I was at McCarver elementary in Tacoma Washington. Our teacher, whose name, alas, I don't remember, gave us an amazing and incredible gift. During second grade, the whole year, she read us 3 chapter books out loud. she read The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. And she read Sounder. And she read Pippi Longstocking. I wish I knew her name so I could track her down and thank her.


34 stories for my birthday, installment 2.

5. At some point in my early 20's, I decided to go on a 40 day fast and spiritual retreat. It turned out to less a "spiritual retreat" and more just a sort of adventure sans eating. I went and "camped" (in a pop up tent trailer) in Conconully all by myself. I consumed only fruit juice and water for 40 days. I generally had a grand time. I went down in the evenings to watch the basketball playoffs at the bar. Where I also drank only juice or water. I think that wierded them out a bit. During this time I acquired an 8 week old kitten whom I eventually dubbed "Ana", which was short for "Anaidia", which is Greek for "importunity". I named her this because at night, when I was trying to sleep, Ana would cuddle up to me, purring intensely. I didn't like this, so I would gently sit her to the side a bit. And back she'd come. And back i'd put her. this vignette must have played out thousands of times. Thus at some point I named her.

6. Here's a story I've been told, which I don't remember. Apparently, as a young boy of 4 or 5, one day while my mom was sleeping I found a 2000 foot long roll of aluminum foil. That's "aluminium foil" for the Aussies. Our house in Kansas was arranged in such a way that one could go fromt the living room, into the hallway, through my bedroom, through the bathroom, through the kitchen, through the dining room, and back into the living room. Apparently I attached one end of the roll of al foil somewhere and then proceeded around this loop again and again until the entire roll was gone. I used to have a lot more energy than I do nowadays, I guess.

7. I recently purchased my first motorcycle. I've driven over 700 miles on it already. when I'm driving it, I feel more alive than I do most of the time. I have nice riding gear that keeps me warm and dry even in endless Seattle downpour.

8. Up until recently I always thought I was pretty much way smarter than nearly everybody. I had a 4.0 grade point average through high school, and finished my university degree with a 3.92. I remember even in late grade school kind of knowing that I found learning and test taking easier than nearly everybody else. Recently I've had to do some redefinition in this area. Firstly, I've gradually realized that the kind of intelligence I have isn't really all it's cracked up to be. It will take you so far, but ... then, as it turns out, you need a big helping of something lately called "emotional intelligence", an area where I fall definitely below the average, rather than over it. Secondly, I took the LSAT, which is the law school entrance exam, and scored in the 71st percentile. I didn't do any study or preparation for it, thinking I'd do better than than, since generally I score above the 90th percentile on just about every such standardized test. I realized that "nearly everybody" is rather loosely defined, and that actually there are a whole group of people who are actually as smart or smarter than I am, and that among these people, I have to work a lot harder to come out on top. Such as, for instance, LSAT takers.


34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 1

1. My earliest memory, I believe, is when I was 3 years old and found my dad's stash of pornographic magazines and took them into the living room, where my mom was asleep on the couch, and spent the next few minutes looking through them and trying out poses, on my own, in imitation of the "models".

2. I used to hunt deer. To me, deer hunting is not associated with deer killing. When I was ... 15 years old (or so), I attended a gun safety course in rural Bothell, at a gun range. We had to bring a rifle the second day of the course. I borrowed an old 30-06 with steel sights from someone. The first day was just classroom. Learning things like "Never point your gun at anything you don't plan to shoot." I think the instructor was probably very slightly terrified about the second day, although I didn't know that then. The second day we took our rifles out on the range, put on our hearing protection, and fired live ammunition at targets some 60 yards distant. I performed reasonably well.

During the late 80's/early 90's, I went on several "hunting trips". These involved several teenage boys and a couple dads. The dads tended to be the pastor of the sect I grew up in, Tom Minnick, and ... another pastor named Gary Prisk, and my own dad, and ... I can't remember who else. We all drove over to eastern Washington to the tiny town of Conconully, in the Autumn. It was cold. We camped, and spent our days driving and/or hiking through the national forest, hoping to find deer. You are only allowed to shoot bucks, not does. We occasionally saw does, and saw lots of "sign". "Sign" means, mostly, deer poop. You were supposed to feel it to see if it was warm.

I only ever saw one buck in all those years. He was a big one. He had 4 or 5 points on each antler. He was about 300 yards away at the bottom of a ravine, while I was at the top. I was going to attempt the shot, a rather long one, but while I was lining up the sights on my rifle, he ran away. That was my one big shot at killing a deer. Ah well.

Still, we had a lot of fun. We also went fishing, and caught lots of lake trout, which we would fry up in the evenings around the campfire. For breakfast we went down to Vicki's restaurant, and ate enormous lots of biscuits and gravy and eggs and pancakes and bacon and sausage. The food was really good. My dad used to play the pulltabs in there and once he won a kewl hunting knife, which he gave to me. In the afternoons sometimes we went down to Mr. Magoo's restaurant. The owner, Jack, was a strange character who'd spent his life collecting all manner of strange things, all of which were on display in his restaurant. There was a small train which ran between the kitchen and the booths, and he'd put your food on the cars and run it down to you on the train. There was an arcade game in there called joust that we'd play. See a screen shot here. It involved flying ostriches with riders on board who would joust with each other. It was fun.

3. I remember deciding, quite ... consciously, back when I was about 10 or 11, that I was never going to have a girlfriend or wife. I was a student at a tiny "Christian" school called Faith Baptist Academy in Waldorf Germany, just outside of Frankfurt. There were maybe 20 students of all different ages, most of whom were the children of American military personnel stationed in what was then West Germany, and the rest of whom were the children of American missionaries "serving" in what was then West Germany. (I suppose the American military personnel were "serving" there as well.) I noticed, as time went by, that among the older students there were these pairings that happened between boys and girls, which inevitably ended in breakups and then awkwardness and trouble all around. I thought "Who needs that? It's ridiculous". This eventually turned into "I'm never going to get married.". The things we tell ourselves do have consequences, and as it turned out I technically never had a "girlfriend" until Megsie, when I was 25 years old. Although I guess it's reasonable to say there were a couple close calls before that.

4. I started learning Spanish in 1st grade at South Hill Side elementary in Wichita Kansas. I was part of a special advanced class of super smart kids. One of the things we did as super smart kids was start learning Spanish. I also memorized the entire poem "The Night Before Christmas" as part of this class. Shocking waste, that. They should have encouraged me to memorize a better poem. Ah well. In this same class we made our own sun dials one day. We cut out circles of cardboard, inserted a short stick in the middle facing straight up, places them all outside in the middle of the playground, and went out every hour to mark where the stick's shadow was at the top of each hour. It's interesting how this early training/exposure came to fruition, as I now speak Spanish reasonably well, and am starting in on Arabic.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Edgar Sawtelle

I just finished reading Wroblewski's "The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle". Best story I've read in years. Since ... I guess since Helen Dewitt's "Last Sumarai" and Chabon's "Kavalier and Clay".

Totally totally moving.

One thing it made me realize. This is kind of strange. But it made me realize what unbelievable CRAP Young's "The Shack" really was. It's like eating a really good meal makes you realize what unbelievable crap some of the meals you've eaten recently have been (that's when *I* do the cooking, most of the time, and then afterwards eat Megan's cooking. I think "Why the frack do I even try to cook"?)

Are all the books Oprah picks of this caliber?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

He said it first

Megs and I laughed and laughed over this. You have to watch it at least three times

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'm not making this up: $150,000 for clothes, hair and makeup for Sarah Palin

As reported here:

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

Here's what I wanna know. How much have the spent on hair, makeup, and accessories on John and Cindy McCain?

Honestly, the story seriously cracks me up. It just has *so* many incredibly humorous angles. What's your reaction?

my birthday

is coming up in about 17 days, on November 6th. I'm going to be 34. But I think the Spanish (and, as it turns out, Arabic) way of saying "I will *have* 34 years" is a lot more descriptive.

Thirty Four is kewl because it's the smallest number that has the property that it and both of it's neighbors have the same number of divisors.

What the hell does that mean? Well. 1*2*17=34. and 1*3*11=33. and 1*5*7=35.

That is, they all have 3 prime divisors.

Did you notice the misused apostrophe earlier in this post?

Last year for my birthday I wrote 17 of the best and/or hardest things in my story (you figure out which is which) (not necessarily in any particular order!) (and also not necessarily *not* in any particular order). (Maybe I'll do another 16 for my half birthday):

I never did the half birthday thing. So now I'm asking what you think. Shall I write another 17 best and hardest things for my 34th birthday? Or shall I write something else? Suggestions?

Today I decided that for my birthday I want a new phone. I wish I could get an I-phone, but ... it's not compatible with Verizon's network. Alas. And besides the fact that it would cost me a ton of money to get out of my contract, I rather like Verizon's network. I find I often have coverage when other people I'm with don't.

So instead, for my birthday I want the LG Dare. It looks pretty kewl. =) And they are going for about $300 on ebay.

I feel vaguely guilty for wanting one. I'm thinking--3 billion people on the planet live on $2/day or less. So I'm wanting a phone that's worth as much as half a year's wages to them? Is that right? Plus, there's also this: 426,000 cell phones are retired in the U.S. every single day. Where do they go? I mean--how many into landfills? Check out Chris Jordan's artwork with regards to 426,000 cell phones. This is part of his running the numbers exhibition. The actual piece is 60 by 100 inches. God, I'd love to see it sometime. It's currently on exhibit in Texas. Ah well.

426,000 cell phones, the number retired in the U.S. every day:

Partial Zoom

Detail at actual size

Jon Stewart clarifies his Sarah Palin remarks

For the record, I think Jon Stewart is both very funny and very astute.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

""""Health of the mother""""

Does this come across to you as totally, shockingly, unbelievalby dismissive of pregnant women in the same way it does to me? I just about fell over when I saw McCain say this last night. I felt furious. My mind instantly went to my beautiful wife Megsie, who almost died giving birth to our beautiful super amazing daughter Eowyn. I hope Cindi McCain sticks up for her gender and gives McCain what for over this.

I bet this video hits 100,000 views by the end of Friday.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Have you ever played wink?

Also known as Ratchet Screwdriver, Bloody Winkum, and, among Young Friends in the New Zealand and Australia, the Kissing Game. ("Young Friends" here refers to, I believe, Young Quakers.)

I've never heard of this game before. I found it in the process of trying to learn the etymology of "hoodwink".

It sounds like a lot of fun. Does the fact that it sounds like a lot of fun to me prove that I'm young at heart?

Reading about the game reminded me of the sort of lovely communityish feeling one gets, in cultures where everyone kisses everyone else on the cheek, when one exchanges kisses with other people. I *do* rather hope to live in Argentina again, at some point in my life.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Biblical Worldview" and "Biblical Puppy Dog"

Ran into this definition for "Biblical Worldview" from the Barna Group today. Overall, I rather like the *direction* the Barna Group is moving. But this is just obnoxious. Beyond that, "Biblical worldview" is an incompatible mixture of terms, something akin to "Biblical puppy dog". There is no such thing. There may be puppy dogs in the Bible (although I can't think of any right off). But there just is no Biblical Puppy Dog. If I were to *define* a Biblical puppy dog, my definition would certainly not be any better than *your* definition of Biblical puppy dog (although mine would probably be better written =). I don't even think either definition would be super useful. Okay, they might be useful for telling us something about what we each like in puppy dogs.

For several years, The Barna Group has been tracking how many people possess a "biblical worldview." The organization defines such a life perspective on the basis of several questions about religious beliefs. The definition requires someone to believe that absolute moral truth exists; that the source of moral truth is the Bible; that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches; that eternal spiritual salvation cannot be earned; that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth; that every person has a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others; that Satan is a living force, not just a symbol of evil; and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful maker of the universe who still rules that creation today.

Your advice requested.

Here's the story, in a nutshell: About two months ago, on a whim, I met up with my little sister Kat down in Auburn because I happened to be down there for another reason. She was on her motorcycle. One thing led to another, and soon I was whizzing down the freeway sitting behind her on her motorcycle, going 65 miles per hour.

It was like an ephipany. It was ... like the most ... astoundingly beautiful, amazing, delightful, .... I could go on, but you get the idea. I was thinking "This seriosquilio fucking rocks, where has this been all my life, it is now simply unimaginable to me how I could have wasted the probably 2 to 3 hundred thousand miles of driving I have done in my lifetime on a car, when I could have been on a motorcycle."

So a couple weeks later I was signed up for the evergreen safety council's two day long novice motorcycle rider's safety course. I concentrated, bringing my considerable capacity for learning to bear, and I passed both the written and driving tests at the end of the course with flying colors.

I am currently in the process of buying a used motor cycle which I went and drove the other night for about an hour and which I rather like and which is rather inexpensive, as these things go--kind of a beginner's bike, as it were.

Today I had another revelation. In many different ways, large and small, my lovely super amazing wife Megan has been communicating to me over the past couple months that she is ... very much against the idea of me becoming a regular rider of motorcycles. I think this is mostly being informed by her fear that something bad will happen to me, and is being exacerbated by her fear of the expense involved in buying the bike and the gear I need.

Now I find myself ... "torn" isn't exactly the right word. It's more of a ... wondering. Something more like Tevye with the first pair, Tzeitel and Motel, rather than Tevye with the last pair, Chava and Fyedka.

On the one hand ... This is a *big* "want to" of mine. Lately, whenever I drive anywhere in the van, I'm thinking "I could *so* be on a motorcycle. It would rock. The open air, that astounding feeling of being on the bike, etc. etc."

On the other hand, in the larger picture, my relationship with Megan is *very* important to me. Very very important. And ... marriage and relationship is sometimes about sacrificing what I want in favor of what the other person wants--"deference", as Mike Weeks taught us all those years ago.

And yet on the other hand ....

I could continue back and forth on the hands for some time here. But I think you get the picture, and no doubt you could continue the hands thing yourself for at least a few more paragraphs =).

What do you think I should do?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Arabic classes!

Today I start Arabic classes, twice a week for two hours each time, for the next 8 weeks or so.

I'm super excited. hooray. =)

Thursday, October 02, 2008


A fellow in Barefoot Bay, Florida, has put up a homemade sign in his yard that reads: "OBAMA HALF-BREEd MUSLiN"

When you add up the capitalization along with the obsure reference to the cotton material commonly used in sheets and curtains, also called "sheeting', one is left to wonder if the author isn't rather hurting their own cause. Certainly made me chuckle.

I rather suspect anyone reading this blog already knows better. But for the record, Senator Obama is a Christian. Not that I would have any problem with it if he *were* a "Muslin".

Don't vote!

I thought this was well enough put together to merit posting.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Revisiting my predictions for the electoral college 2008

One can note that back on June 30, I predicted that Obama would win 476 electoral college votes in November, to McCains's 62.

Today both Realclearpolitics and Intrade show serious progress in the direction of my predictions, both with Obama now over 300 electoral college votes, and Intrade with Obama getting 338.


I was glad to see Minnesota holding onto its senses, after sliding a little bit toward McCain recently. Minnesota is a hero of mine, being the only state in the union that did not vote for Reagan in 1984.

I'm standing by my predictions. We shall see.

Not again!

I am *seriously* pissed off by this whole $700 Billion dollar bailout of wall street thing. More evidence that Americans are just stupid. Period. The bloody congress and senate are going to pass this thing. Not *one* leader (at least not that I've heard) has called Bush and co. on their ridiculous urgency. The so called "House republicans" seemed to be providing a little resistance, for a while. But alas.

Nancy Pelosi should seriously be fired. Immediately. The frog is officially boiled.

Can someone please explain to me what's going to happen to *me* if we *don't* pass this "urgent legislation"? I'm *still* not getting it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Witness Protection

I wonder if the NSA is picking up on this post? =p

Have you ever known someone--a whole family--who were there one day, and then they were gone the next, seemingly having dropped off the very face of the planet?

I know a family that used to live not too far from here. They had a bunch of kids, and I used to go to church with them. A while ago they disappeared. All of them--mom, dad, and all the kids. Their parents don't know where they are. Their church denies that they were ever members. Their former workmates don't know any thing.

Very strange. I have concluded they must have gone into the federal witness protection program. That would very very seriously suck, in my opinion. I hope they are coping reasonably well with the trauma, in their new life. I hope whatever bastard or bastards they are testifying against get life in prison with no parole, along with all their cronies and confederates. This despite the fact that I'm rather of the opinion that putting people in prison is generally just a bad, dumb idea.

Register to vote!

I'm convinced one relatively simple thing you and I can do to help make the world a more just and compassionate place is to register to vote and then vote in local, state, and national elections. It's a chance to take our power and give it away, ideally. So if you haven't registered, I would encourage you to do so ASAP. I in no way mean for this post to be heard as against those who choose not to register or vote for well thought out reasons. I'm rather saying I'm kinda of thinking a lot of Americans don't register and don't vote from mere apathy, and hoping to throw my little voice out there against such apathy =).

A quick count from this page reveals 34 U.S. states have voter registration deadlines between October 4th and October 15th.

Rock the vote will email you a copy of your voter registration form. If for some reason that doesn't work for you, here's Obama's voter registration site (which will work just fine for you to register even if you don't support Obama) and here's McCain's voter registration site (ditto)

I tried out both of the latter sites, and the Obama one seems a bit more user friendly, but both of them work reasonably well. The Obama site will actually check for you to see if you are already registered.

And for our Canadian friends to the North, who are also holding federal elections on October 14th, I found this voting information website =)

By the way, can anyone help me out with why this question and answer are on the FAQ of Canada Elections online? I'm terribly terribly curious:

* Is someone allowed to eat a ballot?

Eating a ballot, not returning it or otherwise destroying or defacing it constitutes a serious breach of the Canada Elections Act.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

In defense of anti-wanking groups

About a month ago the brilliant and hilarious Stephy wrote a post entitled Not Masturbating on her insightful and astoundingly funny blog Stuff Christian Cultures Like. (There, not one but *two* links for you Stephanie!). She says:

Support groups are formed for the whackmasters to congregate and discuss how hard it is to keep their hands off their junk

I think Stephy has a point. Christians tend to get ... a bit obsessed with this whole thing.

Of course it's not just Christians. There are at least 3 big sexual addiction recovery organizations (SA, SAA, SLAA). There are guys meeting in rooms across Western World today, and tomorrow, and every day this week, reading the twelve steps aloud and sharing how sexual addiction has destroyed their lives, and then helping each other remain sexually sober, providing accountability, honesty, and support.

It's fairly easy to mock, on the one hand.

It leads one to ask questions about focusing one one particular "sin" to the exclusion of other "sins". And I'm using the term "sin" here in an entirely secular sense. I'm talking about relational harm, about ... life vs. death, about hope and glory vs. despair and destruction and horror.

I think people who really understand and appreciate the 12 steps, and *maybe* people who really understand and appreciate the way of Jesus, are aware that "sobriety", or "being in God's will", or whatever the hell you want to call it, go way beyond wanking, or not wanking, or (insert your "sin" of choice here).

Is it possible that 12 steps groups, or church groups, or churches, or what have you, are ultimately accomplishing more good than harm? This seems like a reasonable question. Often the answer is probably no.

But again, I think Stephanie has a point. While sex addicts are focusing on trying to improve or repair their relationships which have often been destroyed by their masturbation, use of pornography, voyeurism, exhibitionism, having sex with other people without their spouses knowing about it, sexual abuse, etc. etc., it is distinctly possible that they are missing the perhaps much larger sins of consuming inordinately large amount of food, gasoline, textiles, etc. etc. while a billion people go without fresh water and live on less than a dollar a day, or 30,000 children starve to death today, or their government spends another $600 billion on it's military this year, leading directly or indirectly to the death or impoverishment of millions of people.

On the other hand, maybe anti-wanking groups are actually helping people grow as human beings to the point where they can appreciate these larger issues. Just a thought.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The unnaturalness of death and the glorification of war

Today I went with my dad to visit my mother’s grave site for the first time. I found myself feeling disturbed and furious. I don’t know whether my emotions were right or wrong, nor whether they were normal or abnormal (and I use these terms in the way my psychology training has taught me–in the sense of where they fall on the distribution)

My mom died very nearly three months ago, June 27, 2008. Her body was burned, and the ashes, which my father tells me were heavier than one might expect (one of the many and ongoing surprises, mostly painful, which my father keeps butting up against in the aftermath of my mom’s death), were placed in one of these vaults at Tahoma national cemetery. She was 57 years old, and had been healthy all her life before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004.

I found the burial method very very disturbing. My mothers ashes are somehow forever separated from … nature–from the sun, the wind, the dirt, the natural cycle of things. Separated by cement and steel. I decided I must take steps to make sure this doesn’t happen to my mortal remains.

I also found the burial *place* very disturbing. There are 139 national cemeteries in the U.S., and they are almost exclusively for the burial of U.S. military personnel and their spouses (or spice, if you wish). My mother “served” in the U.S. air force from 1970 to 1981, so she had the right to be buried here.

It seems like part of the glorification of war in this country, which, I think it might reasonably be argued, glorifies war more effectively than most other nations. If you “serve” in the U.S. military, one of the many benefits you can look forward to is the right to be buried in a national cemetery, with beautifully landscaped grounds and promised maintenance and so forth for as long as the U.S. federal government exists.

But what have all these people who “served” in the U.S. military done? I don’t mean what have they done *individually*. I mean what have they done *collectively*? How many people have they (we) killed?

My mother’s gravestone says “Vietnam” on it, because she “served” during the era of the Vietnam war. During that same era, the U.S. military (that is, “we”) was certainly largely to blame for the deaths of some 5 million Vietnamese people. I am led to wonder what sort of burial, what sort of cemeteries, were afforded to those 5 million? Anything like the beauty of Tahoma National Cemetery? Somehow I doubt it.

I don’t understand the whole cemetery/burial thing at all. I found it really disturbing that so many flowers had been placed there. There are 6 billion living people on the planet, many of whom, no doubt, would be enormously delighted to receive flowers. How many flowers are delivered to the dead every week? It seems a shocking waste of beauty and joy, to attempt to give it to the dead.

My mother isn’t *here* anymore. She’s not here, and she’s not there. Her actions and her words live on in seen and unseen ways in the people she was in relationship with, probably more than anyone else in my sister and me. We can’t escape the truth of that, both the nasty and glorious parts of it. But the actual real her is *gone*. It doesn’t make sense to me confine the ashes of her dead body to a “niche” in a cemetery. If for no other reason than that the cost of building and maintaining the cemetery could go toward alleviating the suffering of some people who don’t have enough food to eat.

I have the sneaking suspicion that my *thoughts* on this whole subject are *way* out in the tails of the distribution–4+ standard deviations out. Ah well.

As for my *feelings* on the subject–I’m out of touch with them. I have feelings about the … general concepts–feelings engendered by my thoughts. But in terms of feelings about my loss specifically, I … can’t find them. Maybe I’m still in denial. Maybe I’m still obeying, against my own will and better judgment, the rule which my mother so strongly inculcated in me: “Don’t feel”.