Friday, December 25, 2009

Eve cheers the ratters on!


While I have a certain amount of misgiving into turning my all too cute nieces and nephews into parrots- they are quite good at it- it does make for some prime time entertainment. And given that Eve has learned this phrase not simply from parental prompting but real live experience, I post it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tools of Battle




From Zardowally on Ratting

Zardowally writes (re-posted from comments):
"A few observations from the mouse-hunting battlefields in Philadelphia
1) Don't give up. It is when you have just about given up, but don't, that you will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
2) On a similar note, there is a psychological element to this business. You will never catch them all--instead, you must break the spirit of your fury foes. They must conclude: "The losses, the travails, the discouragements, are not worth the warmth, foodstuffs and other comforts of this gentle home. We must retreat."
3) Children make this tougher--your tykes will leave a literal smorgasbord of dainty morsels spread around the house.
4) Children also add something primal to the battle. These googly-eyed ghouls compete for your children's food, they manouver without shame among their toys.
5) Kids can also provide just the encouragment you need to stay the course--when my 2-year old spots me trap-setting, she slaps her hands together in dramatic fashion and exclaims excitedly "All done mouse!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Things Learned While Ratting

In my three years of Baltimore life, I have dealt with more mice than I can count, and more rats than I care to remember. Today I scored a major victory killing one rat and identifying and plugging the hole of another rat. Between my own efforts, trial and error, and occasional illumination by various friendly Western pest techs, I have learned at least a little bit about the art of ratting.

1) Just because you have mice, doesn't mean you won't get a rat. The mice will just disappear while the rat is around.

2) Rats have selective tastes. They found our chocolate vitamin chews, passing over crackers, dried fruit, candy, and nuts.

3) They like to eat in a comfortable place. Thus, they moved all (meaning 20-30 foil wrapped vitamins) of the calcium chews from one drawer to the other, which was padded with dish clothes, before dining.

4) They are not that smart, and will get caught in a snap trap. 

5) Rats will scavenge their own kind.

6) Some rats look cute and fuzzy. The ones with the black and greasy tails are the worst.

7) If you think you have a rat, it sounds like you have a rat...then you do. Don't be in denial.

What do you know about ratting? Maybe I'll start a website dedicated to supporting all those domestic heroes out there, de-ratting their homes when all others have failed, when the "we are moving" ax is just about to fall (married men know what I am saying). Comrade, I salute you.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

For My Brother, The Butterfly Collector

A song that is probably less applicable than is immediately apparent:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fallen (Continued)

Rick Reilly has had front page commentary on ESPN.com all week with the headline "Tiger Will Be a Better Man." I would like to respectfully disagree. While I think humility and honesty in his marriage and public life are positive things at this point, Proverbs says that a "harlot" reduces a man to "a crust of bread." This is hardly something that can be taken back.
It is interesting to me, given the principles of Proverbs, that in the midst of a stunning public career, Mr. Woods has been so backwards in his private life. Things don't always work themselves out in reality in the way that we would think they should. David, living at ease and safety in a time of war, fell into adultery. So it would be less surprising that a man, laid up with a bum knee and time on his hands might similarly transgress. But it is apparent that Tiger has long been a dabbler among assorted women. Win a major event, stop off at the hotel, then fly home?
I get the feeling that everyone is embarrassed for Tiger. Talk about the rapacious gossip media that has scrounged all this up. Talk up the pressures and temptations of fame. But the reality is of a grown married man who has slept around for years behind his now humiliated wife's back.
I have been a fan of Tiger Woods for a while now. And it is upsetting to have another athlete-hero disappoint in this way. Lance Armstrong followed a similar path. Maybe I should not be surprised. With my own failings before me, I can only be saddened.
I'm signing out on this news topic. I won't read anything more about it and hope that Tiger will find a way to be a father and husband who no longer needs to lie and deceive. I hope he will be the better for it, for his own sake. We can be restored, public image be damned, by a higher source and power whose judgment knows no abating, and whose mercy has no end.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

FALLEN

I have been watching developments regarding Tiger Woods' car accident last week pretty closely, but the news has developed slowly, often beginning as rumors covered by disreputable sources. I don't know that we've heard the last of it, and I want to wait and comment further as things are clarified. For now, a few questions:

Was the media absolutely naive or absolutely complicit in propounding what now appears to be the daft notion that this was anything but an issue of a domestic dispute over infidelity?

Tiger Woods, although he has long refused to cast himself as such, seems to be considered a model black athlete. 
Will race play a role in the way his apparent "transgressions" (his words) are handled?

Does Woods have a "right to privacy" on this? He is not an elected official, but he is a public persona.

Daydreams

Red berries go rapping on my window.
Scarlet beads are pinging on the glass:
Ringing little notes of their derision,
Suggesting I get back to books and work.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Manhattan Declaration

Christian Evangelicals have issued a statement calling Christian leaders in the U.S. to hold the line on the "foundational" issues of marriage, abortion, and religious freedom in the face of "growing political pressure." The Manhattan Declaration, as it is being called, is being promoted by Chuck Colson and Professor Robert George (Princeton). The statement is given brief coverage in the November issue of Christianity Today.  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/novemberweb-only/146-52.0.html

At the end of the CT article, there is an interesting aside regarding Catholic Bishop's recent attempts to re-focus the institution of marriage on the church. If gay-rights advocates have indeed won the "civil marriage is a civil right" debate, the American church is already thinking ahead. Marriage is more than tax returns and health care benefits. Interestingly, there's nothing new about this move. Christianity has always had a certain flexibility in its "in but not of" this world tension.

On Tuesday, U.S. Catholic Bishops announced a new document emphasizing that marriage is an institution that can't be defined by the state. Catholic leaders wanted to focus their message on marriage, explaining it as a natural partnership that existed before the Bible was written, George said. "For the first time in history, we're talking about redefining marriage," he said. "So the bishops now in this new challenge are making the point that marriage is not something the state creates. Not only does marriage predate the state, marriage predates the church."

Yachtsmen Held

Released!

Negative News- Inquiry Advancing
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6940058.ece

Staying tuned regarding news of detained yachtsmen from Kingdom of Bahrain. The detained sailors are for the most part in their twenties. The BBC is reporting that they were able to call home on a cell phone this week. Iran is doing its usual grandstanding. The saving grace for the sailors is that Iran is so concerned over its international image it will actually go out of its way to treat them well. Take a look at pictures of the British Navy from a couple of years ago, dressed up in suits, and formally thanking Iran's dictator for their release.



Friday, November 20, 2009

Eicher on the state of News Media

"Major news organizations relied on advertisers—rather than readers, listeners, or viewers—to fund operations. Using lowest-common-denominator content, they attracted mass audiences, sold them to advertisers, and severed the relationship between journalism and the people. The ad revenue model of financing news-gathering has crumbled and may not recover. Up against (1) an ailing economy, (2) a revolution of new technologies, and (3) a widespread public perception that their products lack journalistic integrity, elite news executives find themselves with little audience loyalty. This may help explain a movement among some industry insiders—as well as liberal activists—to push for taxpayer funding of newsrooms. It will likely come in the form of an expansion of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. One proponent, former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr., recommends Congress rename CPB the Corporation for Public Media, and fund it more lavishly." World, Nikolas Eicher

News and Commentary

"...reporting seems to be merging with commentary just as surely as news is merging with entertainment." -S. Robert Lichter, Forbes


Lichter gives some interesting reporting and analysis to CMPA's data on the coverage of President Obama, Senator McCain, and Presidents past. More interestingly, he notes something that has also not escaped the notice of World's Marvin Olasky. Reporting is giving way to editorials and critique. Interestingly, World magazine does an incredible amount of commentating, even within the body text of many of its "news" articles. I have felt slightly uneasy for some time now about the magazine's claim to journalistic excellence when it doesn't always feel very journalistic (besides the few incredibly good featured articles with each bi-weekly edition). As the magazine hopes to grow as a reader-directed news source, bucking the norm and direction of news media, they should expand their original reporting and preserve the art of journalism for the purpose of "knowing." Mortimer Adler would whole-heartedly agree.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"The worse the terrorist, the more rights he has?"

This from William McGurn, WSJ...

When it comes to terrorists, you would think that an al Qaeda operative who targets an American mom sitting in her office or a child on a flight back home is many degrees worse than a Taliban soldier picked up after a firefight with U.S. Army troops.

Your instinct would be correct, because at the heart of terrorism is the monstrous idea that the former is as legitimate a target as the latter. Unfortunately, by dispatching Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda leaders to federal criminal court for trial, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be undermining this distinction. And the perverse message that decision will send to terrorists all over this dangerous world is this: If you kill civilians on American soil you will have greater protections than if you attack our military overseas.

"A fundamental purpose of rules such as the Geneva Conventions is to give those at war an incentive for more civilized behavior—and not targeting civilians is arguably the most sacred of these principles," says William Burck, a former federal prosecutor and Bush White House lawyer who dealt with national security issues. "It demolishes this principle to give Khalid Sheikh Mohammed even more legal protections than the Geneva Conventions provide a uniformed soldier fighting in a recognized war zone."

We don't often speak of incentives in war. That's a loss, because the whole idea of, say, Geneva rights is based on the idea of providing combatants with incentives to do things that help limit the bloodiness of battle. These include wearing a uniform, carrying arms openly, not targeting civilians, and so on.

ksm
Associated Press, Attorney General Eric Holder


The Sword for Battle

A review of news coverage for the past several years reveals the following:
(1) Military chaplains are needed more than ever, and (2) the chaplaincy, or more accurately evangelical chaplains, are increasingly under fire for practicing and providing witness to their faith. What I do not know is if there are no enough chaplains because there are less or just more need, whether chaplains are quitting because of pressure, and whether evangelical chaplains have actually gotten more outspoken bringing the additional attention.

Regardless, this seems to be a terrible time for there to be a lack of chaplains, regardless of denomination or sect. In general, I tend to think that people benefit by talking about the spiritual dimension of their lives, even if mistaken. Ministers tend to be good, if not excellent, counselors merely by rote practice and experience. Surely someone will disagree with me. But let's leave it at this- talking to someone is good.
 
"The U.S. Army reported Tuesday that the number of suicides among soldiers this year has already equaled the number for all of last year, and so will rise for the fifth consecutive year, in spite of a major effort to combat the trend. The Army's number two officer says he is significantly short of the type of professionals who could help reverse the trend."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Those Speedy Hybrids

"The three freshmen were arrested shortly afterward with companion Marie Montmarquet, 22, also a UT student. She allegedly drove their getaway Toyota Prius in which police found a pellet gun and hooded jackets."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Caring Is Creepy?

In this disaffected culture, sometimes it seems like the Shins are right- caring is creepy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

84 Year Old on Retirement

Northwestern Magazine: Any plans to retire?
GO: Not until the good Lord retires me.
 
Glenn Opie practices law in Kansas. He is a World War II vet and spent three days snowbound in Cheyenne, Wyoming on his way home from Northwestern's 1949 Rose Bowl Appearance.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Loyd-Jones Responds...

"Christianity is common sense and much more -but it includes common sense. 'Ah', but you say, 'I can hear that in the world.' Well if you can, hear it and act on it! Our Lord himself has said that the children of this world are wiser in this generation than the children of light. He commended the unjust steward and I am simply doing the same thing."

The Dark Murky Pond

You are the owner of a large pond in the middle of dark woods. The woods are dark because they are thick, but there are no leaves. The water of the pond is murky and not clear. Under the water lives many monsters. Each monster has a name that is familiar to you. Every fear you have in life has a corresponding monster in your pond. For example, if you have trouble with your anger, there is an angry monster in the pond. Describe your pond and the monsters in it. What do they look like? What do they do? Do they ever come out? What happens then?

******

He felt guilty most of all because of the soda. It's what first came into his mind- the very first thing. There were later moments to be heroic, to try to bring her back from the dead, but just then it was a petty instinctual selfishness. The passing black Civic crushed her between the side of their own car and the crumpled door she had just opened. He was scarcely, almost gently, pushed aside. They were walking back from getting burritos with their hands full. And the first thing he thought was, "Dammit! I just dumped my soda all over me!"

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Useful Thought

The following excerpt is from Martin Loyd-Jones Spiritual Depression, which as I am slowly reading is proving useful in a lot more ways than its stated purpose. The books intent is to provide practical, Biblical advice about being a happy Christian. It is striking the many ways in which we find ourselves unhappy, and Loyd-Jones urges us to take ourselves "in hand" and search out and destroy this soul depressing lies.
As I think about life in academia I find this advice useful- as I imagine it being useful to many others in nearly any other profession:
There are some people who seem to think that it is wrong for a Christian ever to use common sense. They seem to think that they must always do everything in an exclusively spiritual manner. Now that seems to me to be very unscriptural. The Christian is in no respect inferior to the unbeliever; he is always superior. The Christian can not only everything that the unbeliever does, he can do even more. That is the way to look at the Christian. He is a man who is to apply common sense to situations, and it is right and legitimate that he should do so... It does not matter at what level you conquer the devil as long as you conquer him. If you can defeat him by using common sense and ordinary wisdom, do so.

Is "common sense" simply the most general and most generally revealed revelation of God? If by common sense we mean the practical use of the mind in His image, then it certainly is so. The general and special revelation distinction which is so useful in certain areas of understanding is prohibitive in this case.
What Loyd-Jones does not develop, it is outside of the scope of his book, is the implication of what he is saying for the Christian in the workplace and public sphere. He should walk boldly, using common sense and reason to "defeat the devil," (which may simply mean do a good job, or get along with a co-worker), and appealing to the more finely revealed will of God when necessary. Some things may drive us to desperate prayer, but prayerfully we might not overly trouble ourselves when in other times common sense will suffice, and to God's glory.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The following is a fictionalized account of a real event that occurred in front of our house on Monday, October 26.

It was all about the drugs. They started with Rico who was the big time. That's how they got to Baltimore. Then on to Steve, also know as Zero, who bought them off of one of Rico's people. The day he bought the stuff, an old friend Devin showed up at his door. They picked up right where they had left off more than five years ago now and the evening involved a generous amount of alcohol. The next day, Devin was gone, and so were the drugs. Devin is Tiffany's brother.

So Tiffany came up the street screaming and wailing. Her 9 month large belly was sticking out, stretching the over worn t-shirt to a translucent grey. "My baby's in there, ohhhh, my baby! My BABY'S IN THERE!" It sounded like a fire, but there wasn't a fire. And no one ran. In fact, everyone was standing still and just watching. A little bit scared and a more than a little unwilling to get involved. Samitha the neighbor yelled for someone to call 911 while three masked men leaped from Tiffany's house and jumped into a champagne colored truck. So it was an attack or robbery. Tiffany's baby surfaced, not the one in her belly, but six year old Isaiah, shell shocked and soon crying. They put him inside the neighbor's so he wouldn't see his mother screaming. She hadn't been shot- she was in labor. "Where the hell is the ambulance?" everyone started wondering. Tiffany's sister was yelling "I need the fucking po-lice!" Blankets and pillows came out to cushion a now prostrate Tiffany as she lay across the concrete step.

The police did arrive, ten minutes or more after the fact. As if there weren't a half dozen squad cars within as many blocks. Maybe the 911 call had initially been too vague. Tiffany's brother, waving a relic of a pistol in his hand and yelling, was anything but vague. "I fucking fought them off, beat em' off me. Ain't nobody can GO OUTSIDE ON WHEELER AND FAYETTE NO MORE." He punctuated each word with an emphatic adrenaline induced wave of the piece in his hand. If shots hadn't actually been fired, there certainly was a chance they still might be. The ambulance took Tiffany away, her water breaking as they moved her onto the stretcher. The police fanned out to talk to witnesses. The car was actually brown. Maybe there was actually four. They wanted drugs? Devin's drugs - the only thing possibly worth robbing a house for in this neighborhood.

Mother yelled at me to stop picking on my little brother, and my little sister was born. Tiffany's child was born of the gun.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Los Lonely Boys


What struck us the most when we first sat down in our seats was the consistency of demographics in the room...
Aijalon and I had secured last minute tickets to a performance by Los Lonely Boys at the Old Town School of Folk Music. The theater is an intimate and very comfortable venue with pew style seating, a cozy balcony, and plenty of good beer available at the lobby snack bar.
...Except for three middle school aged kids, we were the youngest people in attendance, the rest being very decidedly middle age. Aijalon commented, "What is this? A middle age date night?!" The crowd was boisterous, calling out often, and the number of wolf- whistlers in the room was certainly at a much higher ratio than normal. What is What was it about this crowd and this band?
(1) Probably the venue, more than anything else, was to contribute. One would expect that many of the school's band of of faithfuls are typically the re-invented ex-hippie types who talk like teenagers although they very well may have grandkids.
(2) Los Lonely Boy's solid Texas roots bring out a particular crowd as well- people from, well, Texas.
(3) The music itself is a bit middle age. Not particularly serious but not childish either. Just fun.
The concert was fun. And the musical ability of these three brothers is incredible. Probably what first jumps out at you is their beautiful harmony, "the genetic match" as an audience member behind us noted. They also were hilarious, goofing off and joking around with a comfortable level of self-deprecation. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Winepress

The winepress 

That crushes grapes

Is not broken

It is merely resting 

If you are thirsty
As I am thirsty 

Grab the sickle 

Harvest the land

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Anger


I finally saw the Oscar recognized There Will Be Blood this weekend and was stunned a bit by its raw display of anger. The only redeeming aspects of the movie were technical- the soundtrack, composed by Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood, and the excellent acting. The movie develops Plainview's character (Daniel Day Lewis) mostly in the first 10 minutes of the film- a series of scenes depicting his unflagging determination amidst the hard and tragic life of oil prospecting. This battle to success, along with a vague angry past, is what we are given as the reason for Plainview's anger and his hate for everyone, including, as it turns out, his adopted son. I wondered, "Can anger really do this to someone?" In general, I think people are much more mediocre, even in their worst passions. But it is a process. It wasn't really until the end of the film, which comes a bit in fits and starts, that I decided how terrible Plainview was. Because we don't have anyone really good or honest to compare him too, we get lost in his maniacal delusions a bit. Looking back, I understand why his interactions with Mary Sunday put me so on edge. She was the closest thing to purity. H.W. was too much a part of him. His abrupt transition to an adult critical of his father is disappointing but only as abrupt as his loss of hearing.
The movie made me sort of hate rich people. As my friend Ben put it, "it makes you wonder what they did." Something terrible. And is that what hateful terrible rich people do alone in their mansions- shoot things, crush things, and drink themselves into oblivion?
A disheartening film. How does it build us up in any way?

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Year Later

As a word of tribute to our forgotten Columbus:

Columbus! Twice forgotten voyager
Who knew you would be buried twice?
I cannot tell which one is worse,
to be lost to history or to a hearse.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Will it change the day?

If I give this day, now that is has expired, to God- will it change? Will it matter?

Friday, October 2, 2009

The vanishing "F" word?

I realize this blog is supposed to be about life in Bmore...and this post really is about life at NU.
However because I probably won't be exactly firing out posts or anything I hope you guys don't mind taking a quick trip north that for many of you (those of you who are my brothers) may be rather familiar!
But first, I must delve into my childhood. I remember as a youngster between 8 and 11 hanging out with the neighborhood kids. I believe that was probably the only time in my life that I hung out consistently with non-christian friends. That is until I got to college anyway. I remember hanging out on the the block trying to get kids to stick their finger in the back of the air-conditioner at Jeffrey's house so they would get shocked. And I remember that back then when I was maybe kind of actually cool was also my first exposure to that special group of words known as "curse words" (or as I consistently term them to people's amusement "bad words"). Now I don't remember Jeffrey and his friends ever referring to those odious words in their full form. It was always mysteriously put, the "A" word, or the "S" word. And you were a very special person if you happened to actually know what the full words were! I was never blessed with those divine secrets and so I always had to pretend that of course I understood just how bad those words were.

Now this may seem like an interesting little childhood anecdote but I have a point here. See, Jeffrey was one bad kid. The baddest kid on the block! Or at least thats what us other kids got the impression of by the way he talked...the only kid badder was actually his younger brother who was infamous for allegedly hitting his Grandmother over the head with a chair (thats how Jeffrey explained the big bandage on her head at any rate). But even big bad Jeffrey knew that bad words were bad words! They were just bad! Unacceptable in societal functions! Only excused when released in a extreme situations or else on TV!

BUT when I started in on this great old adventure of my life, college, that is supposed to determine who I grow up to be and become for the rest of my life, I quickly realized something very strange and different. The old terminology I had grown up with, the "A", "B", "S", and "F" words had been left behind! In fact they didn't exist anymore, because people didn't even think that these words were bad anymore. I want to speak specifically about the "F" word here. There is no such thing as the "F" word anymore. Not in my generation. There is only the word F***. My generation doesn't just not care about whether saying a "bad word" whenever they want is socially unacceptable, they don't even seem to know it was ever "bad". It is the new "crap"! There is no flinch in their eye or anyone else's. There is no lowering of their tone. And if you ask them why 50% of the words in their sentences is the same curse word they will probably look confused. In fact I wouldn't be at all surprised if next year's generation will be raising their hands in english class to ask why the word F*** is not in the dictionary!

Friday, September 18, 2009


As loathe as I am to do anything at all to promote the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) I think this is an important article- "AFT Report Finds Abuse in Overseas Teacher Recruitment."
While teaching in a Baltimore City school last year I worked with a Filipino who left a young husband and two kids behind to work in the U.S. teaching. She and her husband were in serious debt from their education. Her parents agreed to raise their children while the husband worked in Taiwan. The grandparents also gave their house as collateral for the loan that was necessary to pay the recruitment company. Arriving in Baltimore, my co-teacher along with many other Filipinos were housed in a brand new, very expensive high rise development. They were not permitted to break the lease made for them for a full year. My co-teacher struggled to teach across multiple cultural barriers- just like me- but there is no doubting her commitment and absolute love for teaching and for the students. The article also rightly notes that many foreign teachers have been highly succesful in the classroom.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Celebrities are poison to your computer!

Celebrities are bad for you and your computer. According to this article by Thomas Claburn from Information Week.

"In its third annual list of the most dangerous celebrities in cyberspace, McAfee has found that 20% of searches for "Jessica Biel," "Jessica Biel downloads," Jessica Biel photos" and the like lead to Web sites where malicious content has been detected," writes Claburn.


The "virus spreader" herself.


McAfee was in the news again...
for something completely different. A massive airplane hangar give away by founder and namesake John McAfee sparked renewed debate over the relative suffering of multi-millionaires in the economic downturn. While McAfee's staggering losses unsurprisingly garnered little sympathy, his response was gracious and refreshing. To see the full text, to the follow up NY Times article.

"The Entrepreneurial spirit is what made America great. But we have over time equated entrepreneurism with the drive to accumulate wealth, which is a perversion of this spirit. Whatever the entrepreneur creates should be the reward, not just for the entrepreneur, but for everyone..." -John McAfee

I think that McAfee's point is more profound than he may even realize. At the center of the human heart is a desire to create (man in God's own image). In creating, the creation itself is the natural reward of the creator. Creation is hard work (on the seventh day He rested), but worthwhile, especially when the creation is good. The creator creates because it is in his\her nature and because it brings them glory and credit. Creation for the sake of anything else, even personal gain beyond the natural glory is not creation but prostitution of the self. And the perversion of creation brings dishonor and shame.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Young and Healthy

Young adults who overwhelmingly voted Obama into office are disinterested in the health care debate, according to this AP article.
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hEl6XNNanFnCo4oXWo0T-0YaelrAD9A9GRT81

The young and healthy are the most likely to foot the bill for the health care plan, in all of its current forms, but this may not be what is behind the lack of enthusiasm. Fouhy suggests something that made me wonder, and that is with college on break until this week, some until mid September, there hasn't been much opportunity for engagement.
But because the young also do not have a seat at the table in health care reform negotiations, I don't know that they will get involved anyway. It will be to their detriment, as they are forced to pay for treatments they do not need or for the the treatments of others they do not know

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Bacchae, Public Theater NYC



Intermittent rain all day scared off enough people that we scored much sought after tickets to the Public Theater's The Bacchae directed by JoAnne Akalaitis with an original score by Phillip Glass. Recent actor in The Hurt Locker, Anthony Mackie also made an appearance as Pentheus.
After failing to get tickets using the "Virtual Line" on Friday, we biked over to the theater at 1 PM on Saturday and found the line was short. By the evening performance, most seats were taken though.
The performance was startling. Greek tragedies are dark and the more so when performed live. Laura and I both enjoyed the score and the ravishing chorus pieces. Agave was a bit short of convincing but Cadmus and Tiresias were excellent and even funny in their opening act. My favorite was the monologue given by the messenger, Pentheus' servant, graphically describing his masters murder by the hands of his mother. Riveting and more stunning than the dripping head and body parts that were subsequently brought on stage and then fondled by a now lucid Agave.

NYC Day 2-4

Friday Night- Tourists in Little Italy
We got to Little Italy just as the roads had been blocked off and the restaurants were busily setting out tables and chairs. We couldn't so much as make eye contact, even peep at a menu without being assailed by a smooth talking Italian (or Hispanic, or Eastern European- you can't always tell).


The food at Lunella was ok but overpriced. And basically we felt like tourist buffoons instead of a newly married couple enjoying fine dining. Maybe that was our problem and not the restaurants but I wouldn't suggest dinner in Little Italy. At least not Lunella.

Saturday- Biking!
We decided to brave NYC by bike- and had the good fortune of running into the third and final Summer Streets day. We rode from the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Central Park on car free streets with water stops, free food give-aways, free bike repairs, and even free bike rentals. I was reminded of Chicago's Bike the Drive.

We then spent the rest of the day in Central Park- IOM racing on the Conservatory Waters, the children's lily pond in the Conservatory Garden, swimming in Lasker pool, and people watching at the Carousel were highlights.

Friday, August 21, 2009

NYC Day 1- Siggys Good Food in Brooklyn Heights


At the suggestion of our remote hosts, Logan and Laura, my wife and I had dinner at Siggy's Good Food on 76 Henry Street. The place had an excellent dinner vibe, thanks to the outdoor seating. Although it was muggy out, we weren't up for the loud and upbeat music in the small dining room.
The menu is 100% organic including wine and beers, and also offers a number of gluten free options. I went for a basic but delicious spaghetti and meatballs with a bottle of New Grist beer- all gluten free! Laura had an excellent Chicken Melanese. Dessert sounded gooded- two pies, brownies with chocolate sauce- but we passed in favor of a mad dash to bed after a long day.

Getting to NYC was a snap using Mega Bus- we left our car at the White Marsh Park and Ride (free parking). The bus did arrive an hour late and then the heralded WiFi access worked only for the first 45 minutes of the trip. We managed to grab a few snippets of airtime from the competitors Bolt and Greyhound while they were driving alongside our nearby us! Even given these problems, I'm glad we left the car behind.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fairness or Justice

Interesting article that imagines what a government run panel on medical decisions might actually look like.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204683204574356241709682828.html
I can believe that a similar but very different situation occurs all the time at present. People come to the end of their personal and family resources and doubtless that is the argument for fairness. People also run into unfairness in the system, dishonesty amidst bureaucracy, and other difficulties that are unacceptable when life is in the balance. Here's an example, though different in that it is an individualized experience:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/08/18/free-market_death_panels_97922.html

But Klavan has an interesting and insightful answer:

"Free people can treat each other justly, but they can't make life fair. To get rid of the unfairness among individuals, you have to exercise power over them. The more fairness you want, the more power you need. Thus, all dreams of fairness become dreams of tyranny in the end."

You teach a child, "Life's not fair." Mostly it is in the context of trying to explain this tension between justice, power, and fairness. Yes, you actually could insure fairness for your kid if you wielded enough power- to change soccer schedules, to give everyone a part in the play, etc. But then you wouldn't be very just. The child with a lead foot would be out in front and center while the prodigy sat on the bench. People are different.
We teach children that life isn't fair because we want them to get the point that there are many things in life that cannot be controlled, or at least are not worth being controlled. We want our kids to grow a self-efficacy that takes responsibility for the kind of life they want to have- and a sense of realism, for what they cannot.

Ultimately, only a beneficent God can be truly powerful to justice. Yet in our kingdom on earth, we don't yet know what it is to say, "It is well, It is well with my soul." We should not give up on a fair and equitable society altogether, within our limited means. But we must recognize that

Monday, August 17, 2009

GRE Vocabulary Practice

The vicissitudes of the public school system have a detrimental effect on progress. Principals spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to mollify teachers and staff who resent sudden and unexpected changes. The principals must perform a galliard, or lively dance, between following system protocol and supporting their staff. One gets the feeling that each new innovation or policy that comes down from the system is nugatory and of little value but rather a nuisance. The perceived truculence of the system does much to disillusion teachers and promote the ignominy of public schools. This problem could be obviated by the effusion of cogent justification for changes in practice and policy and an overall reduction in the flux to which teachers are subjected to. Understanding the reasoning behind changes may serve to palliate them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obama Wants Health Care Competition?

Apparently. Or so says his press secretary, Robert Gibbs.
"What the president has always talked about is that we inject some choice and competition into the private insurance market."
Read more in the New York Time article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/17/health/policy/17talkshows.html?hp

It appears that Obama may be more of a pragmatic populist than he has been given credit for. The White House seems to be very open to negotiation. I wonder if this pragmatic tendency is backfiring in that conservatives in Congress, knowing that Obama will negotiate, are driving a hard bargain. I also think that the crisis mentality that has been created at least in part by Obamas own campaigning has been co-opted by those un-friendly to the finer points of his reform. Having brought the essential members to the table- largely Healthcare and Business lobbies and Congress, with a splash of grasroots furor, they are now writing their own healthcare reform without the White House.

Consequences and Race

Thursday night one of our adult neighbors from across the street, Jeff, startled me by calling me through our rear window at about 10:30 in the evening. He said, "Hey Asa, I didn't want them to know I told you but some the kids dented you wife's car playing football." Feeling slightly sickened, I thanked him and peaked out the front windows to see if anyone was still out there. Amazingly, there was still a collection of kids throwing a football around, and one of them was actually lying on top of the hood our another neighbor's car. A few minutes later, I ventured out to investigate. I saw the damage pictured to the left. As usual, none of the kids knew or saw anything. "We just got out here," they said in almost unison. After pressing them without luck, I went inside and told Laura whose wrath was kindled a bit hotter than mine. She did a little better and with the help of a mother who had apparently seen what happened but only now decided to chime in, the story emerged. Running to catch a ball, "he pushed me" and a kid ran full force into the car. The kids seemed slightly dumbfounded that they would even have to apologize and then when they did so it was without remorse. We had them take us to their parents- a mother and older cousin. Both of whom who expressed regret but promised nothing. We didn't expect to have the damage paid for but the feeling that Laura and I walked away with was of anger and real disbelief. Later, came a conviction that we needed to the best of our abilities see that there would be some sort of consequence for both kids. To the extent which families would be cooperative, could they do community service by cleaning up the alley and local park with us to "pay" for the damage? Without at least trying to serve consequences, we are doing the kids a disservice.

This is not the only sour thing that has happened in the past two years involving the children on the street. Often there has been a level of dishonesty on the part of adults involved too- or at least a lack of cooperation. The situations have become public though, and we've gotten a lot of sympathy from neighbors as well. We don't want to become the poor white couple that the neighborhood feels bad about. It does seem like every time something happens our friends on the street feel embarrassed about it a little. They feel like they have to vehemently condemn it, shake their heads, and commiserate with us. Maybe they are just being good friends. I am worried though that there is more to it. Race is woven throughout our interactions as surely as it is not discussed.

House Changes

We finally had some long anticipated work done on our house. We are feeling more at home now, although inner city living has its day to days trials.


































Our wedding flowers are doing wonderfully and we're lookng forward to home grown tomatoes. The guest room has a new ceiling (goodbye moldering acoustic panels!) and a storm dorm opening on to the balcony that lets in tons of light.
Our dryer now vents to the OUTSIDE and we get a little natural light into the back of the basement too.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Collapse of Evangelicalism

"What we know as evangelicalism is a temporary cultural expression of the Christian faith. It comes with idiosyncrasies, good and bad. It has produced the populist Religious Right activist Jim Dobson and the careful, moderate scholar Mark Noll." -Mark Galli, Christianity Today

As I have been considering a graduate school application to Notre Dame among others for history (Early America and Religon), I've been digging in the trenches of quite a number of topics. I am most interested in studying the persistance of Protestant orthodox belief since the early 1600s. By "Protestant orthodox belief" I mean Protestant belief that affirms the basic historical tenents of the Christian church. Some of these beliefs include, the deity of Christ and the preeminence of scripture as the divine word of God, Underlying this interest of course is an assumption, that belief has persisted. If it has, it has overcome some significant odds. Many intelligent people in many generations have predicted its demise.

As a side note, I don't think Galli meant to suggest by his syntax that Dobson and Noll represent two sides of the good and bad coin or even operate on some sort of continuum between good and bad. He is just suggesting, and I agree, that there is a very large variety of self identified evangelicals out there. Dobson and Noll are certainly very diferent.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Here's Someone Making Sense

A very straightforward, although admittedly without details, approach to positive health care reform given by John Mackey, of Whole Foods.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052970204251404574342170072865070.html
The key is the underlying assumptions- there are many good people smarter than most of us to then make it work. But we must start with, What is the nature of human beings? leading to How are people best motivated? leading to Who is responsible for healthcare? When we get these fundamental questions wrong, we end up with a lot of nice sounding policy that is completely off base. Intrepid men and women with long term vision see the writing on the wall. The less than brilliant of us can only instinctively know, deep down, that something is off. The fundamentals are wrong. And some of us, in panic, cry "Socialism!" Not necessarily because that's what Obama's reform would give us, but because it is the classic example of getting the basic fundamentals of human nature wrong, and building a house of cards on it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Buttons


Buttons is celebrating his 55th birthday today. He asked for our folding table and tent this morning in his Pajamas. At 4:30 PM, he still had his PJs on. He gave us two cards to sign for him, to him. So I guess he is planning his own party. We gave him a T-Bone steak to grill. Happy Birthday buttons.

Careless



When we got home from vacation yesterday, I found out that the black kitten had died. It lived a short and scared life in careless hands.

A Face in the Crowd \ Robert Randolph




Waiting for Robert Randolph to begin his set at Artscape, I caught a few faces in the crowd. A group of high schoolers gathered to our left, sharing joints and a few beers. Two adult mothers (or teachers from the school?) joined them at some point and one boy begged gulps of his moms beer.


Robert Randolph played a blazing set in tribute to MJ with numerous references in his solos and a very good cover of "Billie Jean." I wasn't sure if the white rhythm guitarist was up there on a whim or a permanent part of the band. He seemed at times lost, but trying hard. One decent solo.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Doubt

How has our perspective on doubt and faith changed over the years? Today, we seem quick to excuse, even affirm doubt. We take doubt as a sign of an active faith, rather than a sign of a weak faith. But is it often, in fact, a callousness or lack of surrender that feeds our doubts? If relationship is built on trust, and doubt is the antithesis of trust, how can we have a solid relationship with God when we doubt him? If my spouse constantly doubts my abilities and my intentions, our relationship is bound to be unhealthy. She will not be willing to be close to me, much less one with me, and I will certainly be put off. Now God is not human nor one to be put-off. He bears our daily insults without ignominy. But from our side of the bench, we certainly must do damage to our relationship with Him when we doubt. When we do not believe something could be true since it violates our sense of logic, time, and space- we doubt God's abilities. When we do not believe something is true because it violates our sense of ethics, or justice- we doubt God's intentions. Doubt is the domain of those of us with a small god. With our doubts, we cut him down to size. And when he is small, our doubts find more than a feast.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Relativism

"Relativism spares us from far worse sins...those greatet of all sins for my baby-boomer generation -judgmentalism and hypocrisy." -Shelby Steele

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Graduation Thoughts

It has been a pretty fast two years. They say that life is that way. Always speeding up. We are looking forward so often. And then what we've been looking forward to is here. And Gone.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Dough Train

So this is what you can do with a 3.5 trillion dollar budget!
I have been increasingly taken back by the litany of bold plans and promises of President Obama and his administration, the most recent being a $13B investment into high speed railways. Add to that a pledge of replicating the "Harlem Children's Zone" in 13 major U.S. cities, the bailout of nearly every state budget in the country, a pledge to cut off weapons supplies to Mexico, grand plans of healthcare reform... the list goes on.
There's a note of optimisim in my voice, even if I am a little dubious. I like big plans. I don't know if I like deficits. Sometimes things just need to get done. As it is, 13 Billion for our outdated rail system is merely a shot in the arm.
 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Sad Sad Sight



While sailing in the 505 Midwinters Regatta at Ft. Desoto I noticed a number of boats like the one above. Low tide presented a particularly distressing sight, as the abandoned boats rolled on to their sides. This is apparently becoming a common thing all around the country as boat owners can no longer afford slip or storage fees. See this NYT article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/business/01boats.html?_r=2&ref=business

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Causality

Are there varying degrees of causality? We disbelieve the murderer who says, "The devil made me do it." And we also disbelieve the man who says "The world cheated me out of my money and that's why I'm homeless." The devil probably is in the details of any murder- he was even a part of the murder of Jesus of Nazareth, who died of the Father's accord; and the world probably did cheat that homeless individual. But I typically focus on ultimate responsibility, at the expense of a fuller, a more messy picture of causality. Who is he, that would cast the first stone? Are all of our hands collectively guilty?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Paradox 1

Paradox 1: Americans who typically have stronger beliefs about an afterlife (and presumably have stronger beliefs that they have something to look forward to) fight the hardest to stay alive.
No surprise there really- assisted suicide and anything moving in that direction has typically belonged to the domain of atheism. And there has long been a thought, perhaps stemming from the Catholic church, that suicide is an unpardonable sin (despite no Biblical evidence suggesting such a thing). But the presumption has been, and Biblically so, that humans created in the image of God are subject to his will in life and death. Self-murder is not terribly different than manslaughter.
But what about a "Do not resucitate" clause, ventilators, and "pulling the plug." In these difficult and greyish matters of life and death, made all the more difficult by hospitals, 21st century care, and the reality of "medical miracles"- what are we to think? The presumption of the believer, the study suggests, should be toward sovereignty. In there is to be error, let it be on the side of life. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why Minorities Need Conservatism

What drew me to conservatism years ago was the fact that it gave discipline a slightly higher status than virtue. This meant it could not be subverted by passing notions of the good. It could be above moral vanity. And so it made no special promises to me as a minority. It neglected me in every way except as a human being who wanted freedom. Until my encounter with conservatism I had only known the racial determinism of segregation on the one hand and of white liberalism on the other -- two varieties of white supremacy in which I could only be dependent and inferior.

The appeal of conservatism is the mutuality it asserts between individual and political freedom, its beautiful idea of a free man in a free society. And it offers minorities the one thing they can never get from liberalism: human rather than racial dignity. I always secretly loved Malcolm X more than Martin Luther King Jr. because Malcolm wanted a fuller human dignity for blacks -- one independent of white moral wrestling. In a liberalism that wants to redeem the nation of its past, minorities can only be ciphers in white struggles of conscience.

Liberalism's glamour follows from its promise of a new American innocence. But the appeal of conservatism is relief from this supercilious idea. Innocence is not possible for America. This nation did what it did. And conservatism's appeal is that it does not bank on the recovery of lost innocence. It seeks the discipline of ordinary people rather than the virtuousness of extraordinary people. The challenge for conservatives today is simply self-acceptance, and even a little pride in the way we flail away at problems with an invisible hand.
 
--Shelby Steele, WSJ

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Thought in the Middle of Panic

We spend so much time avoiding guilt. It's a double edged sword because as much as I'd like to say that I did the right thing for its own sake, the truth is that I am often simply trying to avoid the inevitable regret that I know will follow it. This seems particularly true for obedience involving self denial. But then isn't that the problem? Seeing right action (or unaction) as self-denial, rather than love, and a great gift. Well thank goodness for guilt anyway. I'd be lost without it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Brilliant Success

Brilliant! The dapper Englishmen clink two pints with a splash of foam. But if sitting on top of the world wasn't so trite, he'd have said it. Mr. Asahel Dillon Church is indeed the master of this ship, purveyor of all mortal knowledge… and leaving Lombard Middle School –in a good mood. Why, you ask? Because his students give a damn. Applause please. And isn't that the art of teaching? To coax care out of the uncaring. To penetrate bitter tough skinned middle schoolers- the ultimate conquest. There was energy. Whit and humor. And then the students, they were brilliant too! Who would have known it but lawyers and doctors, politicians and professors, sat in these very seats just moments ago. What a day!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Interview Thoughts

I doodled during a Baltimore school interview day: "These conversations make me want to build a bombshelter, close the door, and not come out." We were participating in a moderated discussion of an Alfie Kohn article, the perpetual devil's advocate of education policy discussions. It's sort of surreal- three men in their fifties, all with prominent facial hair, and four young teachers in their twenties and everyone is posturing and sort of talking in a semi coherent way- myself included.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Passing




One of my favorite artists, Andrew Wyeth has died at age 91. In some ways, I feel like I have known the Wyeth family through their paintings. Generational conversations in a place of timelessness. In their paintings, it feels as if they are living all at the same time. Living in the same musuem, the same room. What beautiful art.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My dog is a prostitute...

"When I look into his eyes, I think he's my dog," Kaori told me. "But when I take him back to the shop, he runs away from me and starts wagging his tail when he sees the next customer. That's when I know he's only a rental dog."
-BBC News
 
 
 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What mythic folly...


A $3m ransom is believed to have been parachuted onto the tanker [GALLO/GETTY]
WE WERE PIRATES IN A MODERN ERA
AND NOW WE'RE LIVING WHERE OUR ANCESTORS BE
WE WERE SWASHBUCKLING THIEVES RUNNING FREE
AND NOW WE'RE MAKING PAPER MACHE' BOATS
OF DOLLAR BILLS AND KELPISH WEEDS
OH WHAT A STORY
OF MYTHIC PIRATE FOLLY
SIX DEAD PIRATES AND THEIR BOOTY
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA
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