Sunday, January 30, 2005

Another Sunday reflection

Today Fr. Rick spoke about the old Jewish religious laws and what that says about the world today. What follows is my best summary of what he presented in his sermon. (If I had a laptop, I would have started typing it in verbatim, but I did not.) I think it can speak to a lot of the frustrations that many of us have regarding the choices, opinions, attitudes, and legislative agendas that we see being created around us.


The Hebrews of Jesus' time has a great number of laws that guided their actions and told them how they should properly live life. Fr. Rick said there were 613 separate laws that told a good Jew how to act, live, think in a wide variety of circumstances.

Of course, even this many laws could not cover every scenario and life experience. So many Hebrew scholars tried to summarize the laws and find the most important laws that covered the widest possible situations. Over many generations several summaries were offered up by different people at different times. One of the most famous summaries was The Ten Commandments--ten rules that would help a good Hebrew live a godly life in almost every situation. Another was Jesus' statement that the greatest commandment was to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

People today try to live by these commandments and these guidelines, and they DO work for a wide variety of situations. But, as Fr. Rick pointed out there are Christians, Jews, and Muslims around the world that feel they KNOW what the best way to live life is. They have it all figured out. They have THE set of rules that we must all follow. If you don't follow these rules, then you are not living the right way and need to be corrected. The point is, they KNOW the answer and there is not room for debate, thoughtful discussion, disagreement, or possibility of alternative interpretation.

Fr. Rick wrapped all of this inside another of the Hebrew summaries, taken from today's first reading, Micah 6:1-8. The summary is:

" . . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

Are religious people who feel they have the ANSWER living humbly with their God? Are they interested in really doing justice to those around them? Are they truly interested in offering kindness? If so, why are so many Christians most comfortable when they are pointing out those who are NOT correct?

One part of being Christian, I believe is taking responsibility to spread the truth that you are learning as a member of the faith. I am not very good at it, not very dynamic and aggressive in that role. But that is partly because I do not feel that I have all the answers. I choose to believe (possibly cowardly) that I can demonstrate my beliefs and the convictions that I have through my faith by living a good, sensible, humble life. By allowing those in pain to see that I have a strength, maybe a inner belief that helps me in bad times. (Sure, this interpretation conveniently allows me to justify why I don't go knock on people's door and ask them about their soul.)

Anyone who knows me also knows that when times are bad, I don't become a zen master, full of calm acceptance. I rail, I fret, I worry, I sweat, I berate. (I did all of those things this past Friday alone!) So, how do I justify saying that I have an inner faith? Maybe I don't. Clearly I have work to do.

But, I believe . . . in fact I KNOW that don't have all of the answers. That makes me more standoffish when we start arguing about the truth of this or the right interpretation of that. But, I hope to find the courage to search for the right answer, the right path. As I continue to grow and mature in myself and my faith, my conviction also grows. I won't force my opinions on others, demanding that they see it my way. But I hope to be open to alternatives and be educated enough to present my own faith, my own convictions. If that comes across enough to convince others to consider my way of thinking, then I have helped further a cause where we can all walk humbly with God and with each other.

That is a good thing.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Snow day! (part 1)

We decided to get off of our duffs this weekend and mess up the pristine snow in our backyard.

By the time we got everyone bundled, tracked down Ariel's snowsuit, found appropriate mittens (that Ariel would even CONSIDER wearing), etc. the big, fat, wet snowflakes had stopped falling, but we had fun anyway making a snowman.

For other snow-related bloggings, why don't you skip on over to my friend Sven Golly's site.

Snow day! (part 2)

Can you believe that this is the first snowman that Tegan and I have ever made?

That is what happens when you spend all of your formative years in a Deep South state. But we are rather proud of it. (I think the flower pot "fez" hat gives him a rather jaunty, exotic air.)

Ariel helped us roll up the snowballs (For some reason, I couldn't help but think of Peanuts during all of this.) The scarf is in honor of my dad.

After all of this was done, we had a rousing snowball fight. At one point, I took Ruth up to the deck to let her dry off a bit and to rest my arms. Tegan let loose a snowball that hit the window behind us and showered snow all over Ruth and myself. She swears she wasn't trying to do that but simply has terrible aim.

Yeah, right.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Ways of seeing

At church today Fr. Rick talked about the different ways that people see the world around them. He specifically mentioned an optometrist that experimented with the notion that how we see, the actual mechanics of each individuals sensory interpretation, determines a lot about who we are.

This optometrist was of the opinion that if two people swapped eyes, they would be unable to navigate the room they just entered because the simple fact of seeing is so different from one person to the next.

Is that true? Certainly people bring their own set of experiences, expectations, memory, and past history to every life encounter. But do we really see the world so differently?

Anyone who has ever hung out with my friends for any length of time can attest to the fact that we do approach the world differently. Is this a function of our personality, our education, or our expectations of ourselves, of others, and of the world that we want to see? Do we really see differently?

I do know that I (at least superficially) see differently than others, because I have periodic double-vision thanks to a right eye that won't stay still and wanders a bit. This disrupts ideal stereoscopic vision and results in image duplication. So, I see two of things when I stare. How does that affect the way I view the world and how it should be? If someone else borrowed my eyes, would they gain some sort of insight into my personality and my life? (This is all sounding a bit like Being John Malkovich, but I think similar questions are being raised.

I don't know. I suppose I just wanted to throw the ideas out there and see what other people thought. Church sermons (the good ones especially) make me get all introspective.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Whole lotta trouble & deeper in debt

No, this is not a post about money troubles (again). I did that last weekend. Also, if you recall, the story wasn't about having money but was about tracking it effectively.

This post is about my brother Muleskinner's new band--16 Tons.

You can visit the band's website.

Muleskinner was in another band a while back . . . the Dappled Grays. They put out an excellent CD. And now he is part of this new band. Even without hearing them play, which I would love to do except I am in Ohio and they play in Georgia, I can promise you that they are good. Muleskinner has never been in a bad band and I have no reason to believe that he would do so now.

So, if you are ever in the vicinity of Athens, GA . . . go to the website and check their schedule. You will have a good time listening to good music.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Gay is EVERYWHERE!!!! Run.

First there was Lincoln, which I mentioned in this blog post a few days ago.

Now, there is this story, which was brought up at lunch yesterday.

Can't you see the resemblance?

(Well, at least both pictures are square, right?)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Night time rituals

I came home from work tonight worried about the work that I am trying to get accomplished.

(In fact, I am going to try and get some of it done after I finish this post. )

But first I had to get Ruth to bed. (Tegan and Ariel went off to get the groceries tonight, as we are supposed to get snow this weekend and want to try and avoid driving around in it if possible.)

So, I read her some books while giving her the breathing treatment that she has been on for a few days. It involves holding a sort-of atomizer up to her face, letting the medicated mist blow up at her. Trying to keep her still while this is going on is pretty impossible, so I just stay relaxed about the whole thing.

She looks at her books, pointing out everything of note and pronouncing everything in sight. I try to keep the nebulizer up in her grill while not getting her arm tangled in the hose that attaches the misting cup to the machine. The whole procedure is like being a persistent reporter who won't accept a "No comment."

After that, we brush teeth, singing the ABC song (which signals to her that her time of playing with and eating the bristles is over and it is now Daddy's turn to brush). And after that its a few more books, saying our nightly prayers in the dark, some gentle rocking, and softly down into the crib.

Very often I can get her down with no crying. Tonight she protested weakly for just a few minutes and then it was over.

Rocking Ruth in the dark of a quiet room in a quiet house is the best way I yet know to put the stupid stresses of work in perspective. Ruth doesn't know and doesn't care about the stuff I forgot to do, what I want to try and do tonight, and what I will be forced to try and finish over the weekend. She doesn't care about what has to get done in the next month or what the next few years are shaping up to be. She just wants some comfort and a warm shoulder to rest her head against.

She understands what we all want. And she has things in the right perspective.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

HoYay in Newsweek? Oh yes.

In the January 24th issue of Newsweek there is a Periscope item written by Ramin Setooden, entitled "Having a Gay Old Time." It reads:

In the coming weeks on "The O.C.," Marissa develops a female love interest. But what some fans really want to know is whether there's more than just brotherly affection between the show's male leads, Seth and Ryan. "Well, yeah, they're lovers," creator Josh Schwartz tells Newsweek.

He's kidding--but not everyone's so sure. These days, looking for romantic tension between male TV characters is a popular side attraction to the actual plotlines. A phrase has even sprung up in the blogosphere--"HoYay!" meaning "Homoeroticism Yay!"--to describe awkward glances or sexually ambiguous dialogue between guys. "The director sets up a soap opera--two male characters clenching their jaws--and you're totally thinking to yourself, 'Just Kiss already!'" says Sarah Bunting of [Way to go Sars!] "It's almost funnier when the writers aren't aware."

They ususally are, Schwartz acknowledges. "The O.C." has HoYay!-like moments, "from time to time"; the boys hetero love interests even mock them about their relationship. In addition to Seth and Ryan, other couples attracting online attention include Clark and Lex [Omar shout out!] on "Smallville" (maybe it's a love-hate relationship?), several of the characters on "Everwood" and most of the men on "Lost" (wouldn't you get lonely on a desert island?). But some online forums are flooded with fans who see HoYay! in almost every scene, even in dramas like "ER," "The West Wing," and "CSI." Hence the need for the HoYay! backlash to begin with HoNay!" which, as you can probably guess, stands for "Homoeroticism Nay!"

So, who'd have thought that I would have been in front of this curve, by about two years or more?

The secret ingredient? Disaster!

I watched the taped premiere episode of Iron Chef America last night. I then wrote a lengthy review of the episode outlining how it compared to the original Japanese series Iron Chef, how the show seemed to lack a little something, how my contempt for Bobby Flay is increasing, and many other things besides.

Then, just as I was spell checking and preparing to his the "Publish Post" button, my crappy $10 per month ISP disconnected and I lost the whole thing. About twenty-five minutes of good writing, trenchent commentary, and more blog-worthy desire than I have put forth in about a week and a half.

All gone.

Maybe I will try to recapture the magic tonight before every phrase and paragraph construction is gone forever. But maybe I won't.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Gay Emancipator?

(Click on the post title to be directed to this HIGHLY interesting book review.)

Do you think, in your heart of hearts that there was something not quite right with Abraham Lincoln?

Ever wonder why his wife went crazy?

Do you wake up at night in a cold sweat because you simply can't reconcile how someone who was self-educated could have been so eloquent?

Well, you might hope that this book will answer those questions, but you would be wrong. THIS book only seeks to connect a great president with one of today's hot-button political issue (presumably in order to generate quick sales).

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Money troubles

I don't really have any money troubles, but I am reflecting on how technology has made paying bills easier and harder (for me) at the same time.

I remember when I first started balancing my checkbook. I did it with the lines on the back of the statement. Everything was very neat, tidy, easy to understand.

When Tegan and I got married, well I started taking care of the finances. I have been doing it ever since, with varying degrees of success.

It's not incredibly complicated, because we try very hard to keep things simple. Right now we have two credit cards and I have begun thinking about dialing back down to one again. (We aren't exactly flying on airline miles a whole lot with kids and most airlines are teetering on bankruptcy these days anyway.)

But the complicated part is keeping track of my transactions, Tegan's transactions, keeping two people's actions current in one main register, putting all of that in the computer software, downloading stuff from credit card companies, banks, paying bills online.

It sometimes seems that numbers are flying out of control and I am not writing it down fast enough. This is especially driven home at the end of each year, where we are typically travelling in other states and paying bills online.

There comes that time when we return home that I have to try and catch up with all those electronic numbers and try to corral them in my check register, reconcile it all on the computer and decide who is right: my arithmatic on my hand register or the numbers that the bank lets me download? These projects invariably take about one to one and a half hours of my weekend afternoons, hunched over my desk, looking at small columns of numbers, and getting frustrated.

I have also adapted a habit, since marriage, about ten years ago of keeping credit card receipts and other bill stubs, and financial records in small accordian folders. Each months bills was put in its own slot. That was fine and remains workable today, but as the years go by I shift out records that are about six or seven years old and repurpose the accordian folder.

The first few years of marriage, the folders were nice and small. But as time passed, as bills and finances became more complicated, as children and their expenses, and mortgages arrived, the accordian folders that were once entirely adequate are now, year after year, stretched to bursting. It is a stark visual reminder that as time marches on, things can become more complicated.

But I have to step back, find the simple things, the things that I have always wanted to have--family, friends, basic security--and enjoy THOSE things. Let the other complications come and try to distract me from my real purpose of who I am and what I am really here for. If I can hold on to those important things, then maybe I can let the complications go and avoid worrying about the stuff that is truly less important.

Friday, January 14, 2005

I know, I know . . .

I didn't sit down and lavish attention on WWYG?! last night.

I'm sorry.

Maybe this weekend?

I did, however, spend quality time with my wife, relaxing, watching some TV and LOTR:TT.

Plus, before I got Ariel to bed she made me play this game with her, but she makes up all the rules and uses all these nonsensical words. It is very cute, but it makes me wonder if that is what mommy and daddy sound like in her head when we are trying to explains stuff to her.

Maybe it's something like, "Ariel, you take the dkddfghked and then you put it in the dkcialik4t. You wait a few minutes and then dkae;'d."

Is that how my daughter sees me . . . as a 93eka4kjaehee;???!!!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Another day, another ulcer

Today was another of those freaky days where I vacillate between angry, frustrated, manic, funny, desperate, and beaten.

I feel better now (maybe because we are going to a pub for some post-Xmas drinks.

I am sure that tomorrow will be another roller coaster ride.

Tonight, I will do an hour's worth of work and then I am going to sit down and really lavish some attention on poor, old WWYG?!

JT has requested some commentary on last night's episodes of Lost and Alias. So maybe I'll do that . . . or maybe talk about my spasmodic cough, or maybe talk about my kids.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Working at home

I sometimes really try to get work done at home . . . really I do.

It's just so hard, you know? You spend one-third of your day in a place trying to get something accomplished. Then you stop, start up the rest of your life, and somehow try to find time to get a bit of work squeezed in there as well? Too hard.

And some days of the week are better than others for extra-curricular work. Mondays is usually a good day to try, and I did accomplish a little bit last night. (Another problem I have is that I very often set too large a goal when I take stuff home.)

Tuesdays are not good. We have a weekly Bible study get together with old church friends and by the time we get home it is late and I am too tired.

Wednesdays is TV night: Lost, Alias, Smallville. I mean, come on, you can't work when that is going on!

Thursdays is a possible night for some work. I am a pretty faithful CSI viewer, so that makes it difficult.

Fridays is the one night of the week when you shouldn't at all feel guilty about not even considering work.

And all of these brief thoughts don't even take into consideration the kids, dinner, etc. By the time we get home, make dinner, eat dinner, and clean up after dinner, it is almost 7 pm. Then it is usually get the kids washed up, in pajamas, and a little bit of play time before we have to get them to bed. Ruth is down by approximately 7:30, but Ariel lingers until we can leave her in her room at about 8:30--after brushing teeth, reading stories, saying prayers, etc.

So, by the time all the parental duties are completed, it is about 8:30, or close to 9 pm. And good luck having energy and mental sharpness to do anything effective and meaningful at that point.

Weekends of course is another time to work, and we sometimes do. But Ariel doesn't take afternoon naps anymore, so there is no time when both kids are asleep and you can be sufficiently alone to concentrate. (Unless you let Ariel watch a movie or something.)

But, I try to find a little time during the week and weekend to do a bit of work. It makes me feel that I am giving extra effort to make the project get finished.

I don't want to work at home. It's not good for me or for my family. But sometimes I try.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Ariel a.k.a. Tigerlily

Work be damned! This story deserves a few moments of typing, reflection, and fatherly gushing.

Tegan was in Austin, TX the last day and a half for a work conference. So, I had the kids the last two nights. They were nearly perfect for me, so much so that I feel guilty that they aren't this way for T. when we are together. But, whatta ya gonna do?

Anyway, last night, as Tegan was traveling through Atlanta and then home, I got Ruth to bed and Ariel and I watched Peter Pan. We went to the library after I picked them up at the daycare and looked for the Disney animated version, but the library was out of those copies. But, I did find a A&E broadcast of a stage version starring Cathy Rigby. It is more true to Barrie's story than the Disney version, so I was a bit worried that it would be too real-world for her tender sensibilities. But I watched it with her.

We made popcorn and drank some Sunkist. It was cool. She especially liked Tigerlily, the Indian princess, who (in this play version) does some nifty dance/ballet moves in her short Native American outfit.

The funny part was when we stopped halfway to get her to sleep. We went upstairs, got on her pajamas, and "played" the parts for a few minutes before saying prayers and going to sleep. Her rendition of Tigerlily's dancing was adorable/hysterical.

Imagine a four-year-old trying to emulate the precise, quick moves of jazz/ballet/modern stage dancing. It is something cuter than Elaine's dancing on Seinfeld but with a similar, odd, jerkiness to it. Rest assured, it was a wonderful sight to behold, especially when you combine her dancing with the look of excitement and happiness (a little half-smile) on her face as she dances--knowing that I am slightly laughing as her as she does it.

It was great. I hope she does it again, and I dearly wish that she holds onto this fearless/unself-conscious pleasure as she grows up.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

My "ER"day

Do you remember ER? That show about emergency room doctors that were all earnest and deep and performed superhuman feats of medical derring-do while simultaneously looking really, really good?

Do you remember how that show captivated the nation, back in those days where Friends was still on (and still worth watching), back before CSI dominated the drama? Back before J.J. Abrams and Aaron Sorkin were household names?

Well, if you remember any of that, then you might know something about what I am going to tell you about the day that I had yesterday. I call it my ER day.

Back when ER was good, back before helicopter rotors maimed doctors, back before every episode was a must-see ER event, back before Noah Wiley grew that crappy beard and was still a young actor . . . back when the show was captivating, it did it with rapid camera moves, rapid medical dialogue, tense soundtrack, and a tense situation.

I didn't have all of those things in my own ER day, but if you put a soundtrack on me and filmed me with a jerky-cam, and made me jump over a gurney or something while I went from one thing to another, then you might see why I am calling yesterday me ER day.

Work was a crisis. Things were not working out (mainly due to poor planning and some mistakes that I had made previously). So, I had to dig a way out of the immediate crisis and find a solution--STAT! With the help of other team members and the indulgence of many friends who didn't tell me to shut up and get it over with, the basic crisis was averted. A fix-it solution was cobbled together and it looks like the basic mistake is fixed.

There are (as my fellow bloggers could attest) more systemic, procedural problems that have NOT been solved at work, but we don't (in my judgment) have the luxury of trying to fix those now. We must simply get stuff done by deadline--whatever that deadline is today.

(Of course, being so rushed that we can't see past our own noses is the root of the systemic problem . . . one that doesn't seem to be getting any better.) But still . . . that is a problem for another day. Hopefully, we won't have many more ER days before we get to a solution to THAT!

[On a personal note, I would like to thank my coworkers for putting up with my problems yesterday. I remember your words of encouragement, friendly support, and your avoidance of telling me to stop being a general nuisance.]

In more typical, if abbreviated WWYG fashion . . . Lost was middlin' fair (but the company was EXCELLENT) and Alias is back, in its old, confusing state! Wednesday nights rule!!!!!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Anywhere, anytime

Well, I have this brief opportunity to hit a computer while out running errands and I want you to know that blogging can occur anywhere, anytime, as long as there is something to talk about.

My purpose? Dropping off Ariel's books at the library and picking up something on reserve for me. I hit the top floor to grab a computer for this entry while a nice young man is playing classical guitar in the library lobby below me. Ain't life grand sometimes?

What am I reading? Check the side column to see what I am attempting to read now.

You will see that I have taken Readers Block off . . . and that is because I am returning it to Spec, with my tail between my legs and my head downcast. I just couldn't get it read and wasn't captivated by it.

I am sorry Spec and beg you to forgive me.

What else is going on?

We returned from our travels and are now trying to get our routine back in order. Work begins again tomorrow, clothes are put away, Christmas decorations go down this week--I think, the house needs to be reorganized.

I am working on a big blog entry that will take a few days to complete and many more to finalize. . . . You'll see what I mean soon.