Monday, May 28, 2007
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Day in and day out, Katrina or no Katrina, New Orleans is America’s most dangerous city. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. White and black residents, rich and poor, of good neighborhoods and bad, are afraid to go out at night beyond the clear boundaries of well-patrolled areas like the heart of the French Quarter—and night means 6:00 pm, not 2:00 am. Everyone in New Orleans knows someone who has been violently mugged—and everyone knows someone who knows someone who has been violently killed.
This article was printed in 2005, but the picture since hasn't gotten any prettier. The violent crime rate this year is up 107% compared to the same time last year.
And for the record, I'm from New Orleans and I know someone who knows someone who has been violently killed. Not only that, but I know someone who was murdered (by her boyfriend), and I once saw a man who had been shot (executed? nothing was stolen...) lying in the street in a pool of his own blood on my way home from work.
The very sad truth of this violence is, though, that, although it is bad for all of us, it is worst of all if you are poor and black. And if you are a young man.
We can't turn our eyes away, and think that someone else will take care of this, because they won't. It's for all of us to figure out how to change this world, how to be a positive element. The world is hungry and thirsty.
The Sheep and the Goats
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of
these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
My brother, the polymer scientist. He's got a bit of a "Grizzly Adams" thing going on, but it's alright.
This morning (Sunday), Dad made scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, biscuits, and blueberry muffins. We're all so spoiled!! It was delicious.
This is Maya the cat nearing the end of her two-year extended stay at Kitty Fat Camp. She's THRILLED to have her darling cousin Bella, who wants to play and play, in the house. You can see from the picture how much weight she's lost ... at this point a little plastic surgery for the extra skin might be nice, but she is as lovely, if as annoyed, as ever.
Bella has been having fun exploring all of the nooks and crannies around here.
And now it's time for a nice cuppa.
Have a great day!!!
Friday, May 25, 2007
On the final exam, I asked the 102 students to describe their favorite holiday and the family traditions associated with that holiday. One student started by saying that Christmas is his favorite holiday because of the food. He then goes on to explain, that Santa Claus doesn't come to his house, but that he can be found at the mall. And the story continues (my translation):
I think Santa Claus is very big and red. He has lots of red on his sweater, his suitcase, and on Mrs. Claus. Santa Claus is best friends with the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny is very white with lots of eggs. Santa Claus thinks eggs are bad, but he eats 20 a night. My family would like to invite Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to dinner. Santa Claus would like to eat the Easter Bunny. But the Easter Bunny would like to give Santa Claus flowers. But Santa Claus doesn't need flowers, so, for Easter dinner, his family eats meat, happy meat. The children who come from the Easter Bunny have no father. Christmas is of course a fantastic day.
I love my job.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
What's your number?
Addendum: I fly to Europe once or twice a year (twice this year) and to Austin, Texas 2 or 3 times a year (twice already this year). I have no idea how much each of those flights adds to my number, but they add quite a bit. And in August I'll also be flying to Hong Kong and back. Any ideas how much that adds?
Addendum 2: I went to Erase My Footprint to get information about my flights. I used "European flights" as the equivalent of my flights to Austin and "Long Haul flights" for the others. They calculated that I emit 3.072 tons of CO2 for the flights. It would take 6 trees to erase my CO2 output, for the flights alone. I'll go back and calculate the other, but right now I don't have time to gather the amount of electricity and natural gas I use over the course of a year.
The "100% safety record" and watching the video don't really make me feel any better about this.
The Economist has a pretty good City Guide, with Insider Tips, useful phrases, other information and what-not. They link to previous articles about the city both at the Economist website and all over the web. The "Religion in Latin America" article might be useful; they even mention the Pope. And did you know there are 1.1 billion Catholics at this point? Huh.
Here are some fun facts I've gleaned:
* don't trink the tap water
* don't put your briefcase or bag on the ground -- local superstition holds that your money might walk away, and in reality, it might.
* Petty crime is on the rise, but murders are down. Woo hoo!
* You should only take official taxis, and keep your door locked and the windows up.
* don't go to an ATM after dark.
* only carry necessary cash and credit cards -- but keep some dollars with you to placate an assailant in case of mugging. Ugh.
* Tipping: round up for taxis, 10% in places with table service, and don't worry about it otherwise.
*Business contacts will often speak very good or fluent English. Other people like you to at least try to speak a little Portuguese.
* As risky as the whole mugging thing is, you are at least as likely to possibly get hit by a car or run over by a bus. Be careful crossing streets. They don't follow traffic rules in quite the same way, or really, at all. Red lights seem to be there for decoration as much as anything else.
I also learned that Sao Paulo is the financial center of Brazil, and that it is rich in culture (museums, nightlife, etc.) as well. Also, they see themselves as starting to rival Rio in the number of visitors (although most are still going on business), which makes them proud and happy. Nothing like a little tourist-envy to pep up a city.
In other travel news:
* TexasInAfrica will be leaving for the Congo soon. She will be there for 10 weeks, and we will all be keeping her in our prayers until her safe return!!!!! In addition to interviewing people, she'll take a little time-out to raft the Zambezi river (class 5 rapids). Just because she can. This rafting adventure has a slightly lower likelihood of leading to her sudden demise than her recent trip down the White Nile (class 5/6 rapids). She reports actually thinking she might die on that trip, but she thankfully made it back to us unharmed.
A short picture essay of my trip to Austin. It's all about the love, really :).
There are actually 7 people in this picture. Can you find them all?
What would I do without friends who open their hearts and homes, no matter what time I show up, and whether or not I've called in advance?
Blessings and Peace!!
Monday, May 21, 2007
And some favorite quotes from the Lemony Snicket book of advice to the graduate, given her by TexasInAfrica:
"It is always cruel to laugh at people, of course, although sometimes if they are wearing an ugly hat it is hard to control yourself."Best of luck in the future!!
"A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the area around it has been flooded."
Sunday, May 20, 2007
It's about sharing fries at Hyde Park Grill -- not too many, but enough; because they're the best fries in town. And having the space and the freedom to just be open and be real, and share what's in your heart, the good and the bad, a friend to share the journey.
It's about lying in the green grass, staring up at the stars and listening to the music that moves you, surrounded by a multitude, remarkable in the fearless way they share who they are with strangers (fun fashion choices). It's the old couple holding hands, gently dancing to Delbert McClinton and Bonnie Raitt, and the remarkable Kris Kristofferson.
It's hearing Bonnie Raitt and Ruthie Foster sing "Angel from Montgomery" in memory of Molly Ivins.
It's the humbling and powerful reminder that Christ comes to find us in the midst of the garbage we climb into, and that God is both the journey and the journey's end...
... and the One who graciously blesses us with friends to be with along the way.
Friday, May 18, 2007
What I'm listening to now: Alison Krauss' "A Hundred Miles or More"
# of hours I slept last night: 4
Days until I leave the country for 3 months: 9 and a few hours
Panic level: burnt orange; taking it one major catastrophe at a time =)
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Any teacher could have told you that as well. Encountering entitled, narcissistic students fills us with less-than-joy on occasion. But there are also plenty of kids that don't fall into this category at all.
One of my favorite lines from the Brazelton piece is, "The kids drink the Kool-Aid, but they know it" -- they know they're being praised for mediocrity, and as much as they enjoy hearing it, they also don't take it completely seriously.
And they yearn for honesty. So, praise your kids when it's appropriate. But keep it real.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
But on this particular Sunday morning I wanted to pause right here, at the beginning of the day, and honor two women, my grandmother and my mother.
My Grandmother, Elfreda Catrina Hughes, was born on this day, May 13, in the year 1904. She dressed like a flapper in the 20s, and has lived through two world wars and the first forays into space, and she has watched the world change ever more quickly as technologies develop. She lost her husband when her two children were very small, but she went to work and did what had to be done to take care of both of them. She's lived through good times and bad, but kept her sense of humor through it all, and a delightful laugh. I don't know if she still does, but for years she began her day at 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning, even well into her 80s or 90s, and so the early hour of this post is in tribute to her (although there's an excellent chance I'll go back to bed when I'm done; though I may stay up to watch the sunrise with my first cup of coffee).
Today is also Mother's Day, so I'd like to pay tribute to my mother, Diane. She inherited her mother's sense of humor and her laugh and, like her, finds the humor in the small absurdities of life (and in her children -- she thinks we're fun and funny). She's also an excellent gardner, and tends to her roses and other flowers with great care, when she has time in the midst of everything else that is going on. She is strong and tender and sometimes ornery, she knows [almost] everything, and she can tell you the home remedy or solution for just about any problem -- because she has all the books necessary to look it up, or she'll just run out to the library to find the book with the answer. She laughs easily, but you'd better watch out if she's upset. She's quietly modeled devotion and unostentatious spirituality to us, and shown us the right way to live. She's also taught us how to make the perfect cup of tea, and the importance of sitting down to enjoy your tea and a crossword at some point in the day. Crosswords keep your brain healthy ... so does Sudoku.
Thank you, both of you, for the great gifts you've passed down -- for your strength and your laughter, your kindness and your willfulness; for your sense of fun and spontaneity, and for the ability to see the possibilities in every situation; thank you for passing on your sharp intellect and capacity and love of learning for the sake of learning. But thank you most of all for loving us and putting up with the good and the bad, and believing in us despite all evidence to the contrary.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
Luke and Maggie
Elizabeth, Gena and Rachel.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
This is utterly ridiculous. 287 sections and 777 amendments, some of which are amendments to amendments.
Check out Amendment 774 - the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment. Is it just me, or are subsections b, e, f, and g just a little redundant??
I've been giving oral interviews all day today. It's been exhausting. I realize it's difficult for the students as well, but as the professor you have to pay such close attention to what everyone is saying. You have 10 minutes with one student, a few minutes to regroup, and then you move on to the next. And I've been interviewing students from all of my different classes, with language levels ranging from elementary to advanced.
As you try to ascertain how well a student communicates, you try to give them an opportunity to elaborate about something they find interesting. In the course of the day, I've become something of an expert in World of Warcraft, among other things. And I have my brother to thank for the fact that I could carry on a reasonable conversation with students with a Level 70 Gnome Mage and a Human Warrrior who carries a Claymore.
But then I had the student whose favorite sport is Basketball and whose favorite team is the Phoenix Suns, whom he deems to be the best team out there. Thanks to Arizona, I was able to carry on a reasonably informed conversation about the subtleties of the Suns v. Spurs match up and Nash v. Duncan, among other things.
... go figure.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
A rich and rewarding ecumenism is available for Baptists wishing to escape the provincialism that has polluted our denominational stream. We may embrace the dialogue and profit thereby, that is, if certain men are powerless to restrict our freedom with fear of ostracism or even excommunication. It is possible to retain our Baptist identity without acquiescing to the oxymoronic fundamentalist intelligentsia or impeding the confessional potency of our distinct heritage.
Quite simply, there is a way to be Baptist that requires neither a lobotomy nor a vasectomy.
I want to examine ten ways that the current Southern Baptist Convention is dangerously reminiscent of the earlier Roman Catholic Church so as to necessitate an urgent reforming alliance among us monks doing theology in the hinterlands of denominational life. These striking similarities differ in the strength of their comparison, though all of them, I believe, are worthy of consideration. Some of these comparisons will anger, and some will provoke. Others will resonate and convince. Some Southern Baptist leaders will object to any comparison. Still others will think I’ve not gone far enough.
Whatever your predisposition, I ask you to keep an open and fair mind, reflecting on these ideas and interacting as you see fit. My thesis is not fully formed or exhaustively argued. These are rather the mere ruminations of a traveling Baptist, offered for you to masticate and/or expectorate as needed.
Thanks, Texas In Africa. I'd like to point out an excellent comment by Coleman Fanning to TexasInAfrica's post concerning all of this. If you go to her entry, there are also links to Frank Beckwith's explanation for his decision, as well as a Christian Century article about 6 evangelicals who have converted. Both are worth reading, as is the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, just FYI.
There are several comments under the Beckwith blog, ranging from anti-Protestant to anti-Catholic, and covering just about every position in between. Two things annoyed me: 1) being referred to as "separated brethren," and 2) the condescending notion that because I do not believe in transsubstantiation it is therefore not possible for me to experience the presence of Christ in communion. For those of us in the Baptist tradition who believe that the eucharist is a symbol of Christ's sacrifice for our sins, taking communion is a powerful experience of His presence both with us and in us. The words spoken over the bread are, "This is my body, broken for you". And we remember, and we commune with Christ in Spirit.
But I WANT new one. Why? Camera envy, according to my sister. *sigh*
In elementary German we're working on subordinate clauses, which just means that I spend a lot of time asking students things like: What do you do when you're hungry? What do you do when you're thirsty? etc. because "when you're hungry" is a subordinate clause in German, with special word order. Anyway -- one of the questions I always ask is, "What do you do when you're stressed?" and this is what they answered, in no particular order: sleep, eat chocolate, watch TV, and ... go shopping.
Which all pretty much covers it for me as well, particularly the shopping. Not that I buy things, necessarily, but just thinking about buying something is fun sometimes. And finding an adorable top at a really good price is OH, so much fun.
There's a Whole Foods here in Birmingham now. It is fun to wander through the aisles, just to see what they have. They have fruits for sale ... piles of fruit ... that I've never even seen before. And they serve gelato. But what's cute, and maybe a little disturbing, or just an honest, open-eyed, sober look at reality, is that they have little shopping carts for kids with a big flag that announces, "Consumer in Training". Or maybe it's "Customer in Training," but I always see consumer. Either way.
And the night before last I watched "Fight Club" -- for those of you who haven't seen it, please do. It's a good movie. Not what you expect, or at least not at all what I expected. And the cast is amazing ... I mean, Meat Loaf is in it, for crying out loud. Anyway, there's this great scene in which the protagonist is talking about going to IKEA and finding the perfect endtable or set of glassware to fully express who he is. If our furnishings and choice of dishes are meant to express our essential nature, it makes sense that we would have to keep buying new stuff as our sensibilities changed. Not that our essential nature changes, but our sense of how to express it.
We can buy products mass-produced in a factory, or by some small children somewhere, and thus express our personal, unique, individual style. And we will be fulfilled, whole and integrated people ...
If my apartment is an expression of who I am, then I am some strange jumble of functional-modern and old, but not completely worn out, timeless elegance, strange, bizarre, eclectic, bohemian, the cheap K-mart radio and Big Lots! Lamp that won't stand straight, next to the beautiful China dishes I've inherited and received as gifts at different points; and sentimental little figurines, whose provenance is no longer clear; and a tea box made out of teak wood and inlaid mother-of-pearl that was made sometime towards the middle or end of the 19th century and stands as a testament to the time my great uncle, or perhaps great-great uncle?, served in India at the behest of the British Crown. And I'm a MESS! But with all of this stuff, why do I still walk into stores and think, "Ooh, I need that and that and that...."
And all of this brings me to the point --- around my elbow to get to my nose, to quote a friend -- Brian Ulrich has published a photo essay in Mother Jones: American Happiness and the Need to Consume. I'm quite sure no further comment is necessary.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Sunday, May 06, 2007
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
The pictures were taken by Robyn Debenedet, a bright, fun, engaging German student, and great artist. The candles pictured are from a church in Frankfurt -- they represent the prayers sent up for loved ones, and are the expression of every day's most quiet need for someone out there.
The peace of the LORD be with you today...
Saturday, May 05, 2007
2. Circular Quay
3. Storm in May
4. Nobiz like Shobiz
5. Scat Daddy
6. Street Sense
7. Any Given Saturday
8. Hard Spun
9. Cowtown Cat
"I am fulfilled and weary. This Kentucky Derby, whatever it is--a race, an emotion, a turbulence, an explosion--is one of the most beautiful and violent and satisfying things I have ever experienced. And I suspect that, as with other wonders, the people one by one have taken from it exactly as much good or evil as they brought to it." - John Steinbeck, from the "Ode to the Kentucky Derby", original posted in Louisville's own Courier-Journal on May 5, 1956.
Addendum ... once again, I didn't get a single horse right. Are there points for missing each and every one? As I said to Arizona a few minutes ago, when he called to let me know he had put money on Street Sense -- many congratulations! -- I should never bet money on anything. Really. Never. But it doesn't mean I won't try again next year.
Hope y'all had a great Derby. I'm going outside to the Homewood festival now, to drown my sorrows in two-steppin' fun. Gotta love it when they bring the live bands to you :).
Addendum: Mom says that the rose in the picture is a Peace rose. Appropriate, somehow. It's from the Rose Garden next to the Bishop's New Residence in Bamberg.
Friday, May 04, 2007
This is funny in a "wow. huh" and "you're kidding" kind of way. For those of you who don't know, Cullman was founded in 1873 as the "Germany Colony of North Alabama"; Col. Cullmann (who was about as much of a Col. as the fried chicken guy....), wanted to create a "thriving colony for German immigrants". Don't we all. It's also the locale of the Ave Maria Grotto. Which is featured on RoadsideAmerica.com: Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions.
This sounds like fun as well ... and really, who can resist a pot luck supper and Dulcimer jam session?
Moulton is having an Antique and Strawberry Festival and Virginia Samford Theater is showing "Louise: the Story of a Magdalen" -- decisions, decisions.
Too much fun ...
And then there's the East Lake Farmer's Market Strawberry Festival featuring:
· Fresh strawberries and other produce
· Strawberry recipe contest
· Live music (bluegrass!)
· Free strawberry ice cream and shortcake
* * * * * * * * *
And a “dog wedding” (real dogs!)
And no, I have no idea what a "dog wedding" has to do with strawberries, but it probably doesn't matter.
Viva el Cinqo de Mayo!!
And ladies? Hats and gloves for the Derby this weekend? I guess I'll be sipping my Mint Julep alone ... but there in spirit.
But no, just the wrong email address ...
And now I'm curious about Kamloops. Has anyone ever been?? Road trip?