Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that make you look cool.

Here are mine for this week:
  • In Your Eyes: Nichole Nordeman
  • Mothers, Daughters, Wives; Priscilla Herdman
  • Breathless; The Corrs
  • Punjabiyan di Shaan; Bally Sagoo
  • What a Wonderful World; Louis Armstrong
  • Fantasia on "Greensleeves"; Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Circle of Friends; Mary McCaslin
  • Under African Skies: Paul Simon
  • One Small Year; Shawn Colvin
  • Bicycle Named Heaven; Catie Curtis

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Maybe I Was Right the First Time

I mean... seriously.... who ARE these people who call themselves the religious right? Jerry Falwell, who blamed me and my friends (not by name, of course) for the destruction of the World Trade Center, has now suggested that Hillary Clinton is worse than Lucifer. Oh, yeah. At a Values Voter Summit, he said, "I hope she's the candidate, because nothing will energize my (constituency) like Hillary Clinton. If Lucifer ran, he wouldn't.''

Now, let's let this be clear. I hope she doesn't run for president. I don't think I can find it in me to vote for her, based on her support for the war in Iraq. But a personal attack, demonizing her for...what? And explain to me again how doing so is a Christian value. For shame.

To his credit, evangelical pastor Jim Wallis has already blogged against this nonsensical behavior. Let's see what the rest of the evangelical community has to say. And let's see if, God forbid, Jerry Falwell is right and the conservative voters are motivated by his absurd rhetoric.

Meaningful dialogue has to wait another day.

As we begin the Christmas knitting....

... this video seems appropriate. It's comforting to know that I'm not alone. I got the link to the video from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee AKA The Yarn Harlot.

So far, Christmas-wise, I've made two small-person jackets, started a non-small-person sweater for the long-suffering spouse, a pair of socks for one of our godchildren who loves wacky socks (what a dear!) and a sweater for the Dulaan Project. I couldn't find the camera this morning, but I'll look again this evening and see if I can post pictures.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Popcorn and Social Change

The long-suffering spouse is back in Minneapolis, thinking mathematical thoughts. We renewed our wedding vows on Sunday (much gratitude to Mike at Musing's Musings for singing at the ceremony.), so I suppose we're hooked for another 25-years. And last night I drowned my sorrow at his leaving by watching a movie and knitting.

The movie actually had redeeming social value (as opposed to, say, The Princess Bride, which I also considered...), so I didn't feel like I was completely turning into a slug. Seeing Red: A Journey Through the Moral Divide seriously merits your attention. We all find ourselves using polarizing rhetoric, even when we know better. One place I'm very guilty of it is when discussing the Religious Right. I mean, seriously, who ARE these people?????

Oh wait... sorry.

Film-makers Leah Belsky and Gerry Corneau examine the people in the religious middle. Is there such a thing as a uniquely American (meaning U.S.) faith experience? Both disturbed over the results of the 2004 elections, they look at the power that evangelical Christianity has over American political life. Is there necessarily a link between evangelical Christianity and the Republican Party?

Mostly they conclude that of course there's no necessary link between evangelical religion and Republicanism. Karl Rove's efforts at wedge-driving notwithstanding, nor is the split between liberals and evangelicals anything more than empty rhetoric. The problem as they see it is that it's easy for us to affiliate in groups where we aren't challenged, where we needn't wrap our brains around people who are very different from us. So we believe the media stereotypes.

Okay, sure.... maybe. Nonetheless, I can't think of truly meaningful ways to engage in dialogue. We can hardly do it within my church, much less outside. And the internet certainly hasn't worked yet for inter-religious dialogue. Sometimes I think the internet encourages disrespectful, inflammatory discourse rather than anything worthwhile. So... got any ideas? Where can we go from here?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Dulaan, Dulaan, Dulaan

There's some 50s song that sounds like the post-title. (OK, it's early and I'm having a bit of a brain cramp. Excuse my bizarre sense of humor.) What it really is, is the Mongolian word for warmth.

Well, that and a charity knitting project. The Dulaan Project is an effort to send tens of thousands of warm knitted garments to children in Mongolia. You can read more about it here: Mossy Cottage Knits. The general idea, though, is that Mongolian children face insanely cold winters and frequently have too litle to wear. Winter lasts from November to April, and the average temperature (the AVERAGE, mind you) is -13 degrees Fahrenheit. The infant mortality rate is 52 deaths per 1000 live births. In the United States it's on the order of 9 or 10, with wild disparity due to race and economic status.

So okay, those 52 babies don't all die because of exposure. The Mongolian embassy reports, in fact, that it's sanitation (or the lack thereof) that is responsible for most of the problem. But still... there are children living in the heating ducts that run under the city in Ulan Bator. This is just wrong. And if my knitting will help, then knit I shall. Besides, how can you NOT knit for the little sweetie in the picture; don't your fingers just ache to start knitting when you see her? Or.... maybe that's just me.

The idea is to make 5 children's garments by July, 2007. For heaven's sake, I can do that. I've just made two of the Cottage Creations Lillie sweater, for twin friends of mine. I can whip another one of those out in no time, just to get me started. I'll keep you posted as to my progress.

Anyone want to join me?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle mode. Tell us the first 10 songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like an idiot or adding in ones that make you look cool. Here are mine for the week:

  • The Little Old Lady from Pasadena; Jan & Dean. The boy-child put this on my iPod because he claims it's how I drive. Go, granny. Go, granny. Go, granny, go ;)
  • Wayfaring Stranger; Anonymous 4
  • Elevate Myself; Grandaddy
  • Eternal Flame; The Bangles
  • Chicks Dig It; Chris Cagle (An explanation for why boy-children do absurd things that begin "Hey ya'll, watch this."
  • Celeste Aida; Luciano Pavarotti
  • All Day and All of the Night; The Kinks
  • A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing; Tower of Power -not a great song, but the title is possibly the theme song for my life
  • How Many Mistakes?; James Gordon
  • Lothlorien; Enya

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Happy Anniversary to Us!

It's our 25th wedding anniversary.

In some ways this story begins when I was 15 -and with my mother. Meeting Dave was almost a decade away, yet. Mothers, I knew from all the "wisdom" accumulated in 15 years of living, lied. Or were seriously deranged. I wasn't sure which. The lie in question went like this. "Sweetie, 'pretty' is a genetic accident. In the end, the guy you want will appreciate your brains, your sense of humor, and your looks." Sarcasm was easily available to me even then, so my response was something along the lines of "Oh yeah... supermodels hear that all the time. Please button your shirt and let's discuss epistemology." In a world that values beauty in women and minimizes intelligence, I was up the dating creek without the tiniest of paddles.

But then, eventually I met a guy who did say that. Well, not literally. I'm sure my shirt was buttoned when we met ;) We sat in a bar (a bar that has a full set of Shakespeare and an OED, in order to resolve factual conflicts that arise) and discussed truth, the universe, and everything in it. For hours and hours and beers and beers. I was done-for.

And here we are, 25 years later. We've never done marriage terribly normally -although I'm not even sure what that means. Living apart for a year is only one example of our strangeness. Nonetheless, it works for us.

I think my sense of humor still escapes him, though. So, my mother wasn't quite right, which turns out to be a relief ;)

Happy anniversary, dear one. I miss you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Access To Voting

The House of Representatives is considering a bill (H.R. 4844) that would require us to present identification before voting. We have to show identification to get on a plane. We have to show identification to leave or re-enter the country. We have to show identification before giving blood, for heaven's sake. Moreover, voter-identification laws are already in place in Arizona, Missouri, and Florida. There are probably more; those are the states I know about. So, why would a requirement to present still more identification concern me?

There's the obvious point that voting is a right and not a luxury. No one HAS to give blood. It seems that with a right, the default should be the other way. No one HAS to be denied access to the polls. Moreover, no single piece of paper proves my citizenship, from which my right to vote stems. I have a birth certificate that proves I was born in this country. It has my maiden name on it, and wouldn't prove that I'm the person who was actually birthed to that mom on that day, even if I hadn't changed my name when I got married. So to prove anything with that, I'd also have to present a marriage certificate and a photo ID.

And thanks to having married Mr. Organization, I have all those documents and know where they are. (He's a wonder, and that's the truth -but that's another subject.) Nonetheless, many people don't. Current evidence suggests that 6-10% of current voters don't. 22% of African-American males between 18 and 24 don't have a driver's license -which I'm guessing would be one of the allowable forms of identification. Many senior citizens lack any form of photo ID. Homeless people would almost certainly be excluded, since address verification from any ID they did have would undoubtedly fail.

So what are the Republicans selling, when they try to convince us that this proposal is necessary? In the states with successful initiatives, they've told stories of grievous voter fraud: non-citizens trying to register to vote, people being transported into precincts in order to vote illicitly, people voting in many different precincts. So... ok. Did it happen?

Nope. Or not much, anyway. They tried these arguments in Ohio, and the League of Women Voters (careful, it's a .pdf file) actually studied the data to see if it had happened. In the previous election, four Ohio votes were deemed to be fraudulent. Four out of 9 million and change. On the other hand, over 100,000 voters would have been immediately disenfranchised had the bill passed.

I hear you. The obvious answer is that identification is not difficult to obtain. Most of the disenfranchised people would march themselves to the DMV -or wherever- and get ID, if voting were important to them. SO not the point. First off, if you think getting identification is easy, you've never had to replace your driver's license after having had your wallet (and therefore most of your corroborating identification) stolen. And secondly, there's a cost. I just had my driver's license renewed; it cost $10, I think. And, in the interest of full disclosure, people over 65 can get state ID free of charge. So the costs aren't wildly prohibitive, but they are costs. And what is the justification for putting barriers between people and the polls, when the need hasn't been proven?

Oh wait... I get it. Look again at the categories of people being at least temporarily disenfranchised: the poor, minorities, the elderly. People who vote Democratic, statistically speaking. In the good old days, I wasn't much for conspiracy theories, but this presidency has cured me of that delusion. I absolutely believe that's what they're about here.

It looks like the bill is going to pass in the House, by the way. The best chance for defeat is in the Senate. Call your Senators, if you're so inclined.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Testosterone, Machinery, and Me

I have long had a theory that machines are testosterone-dependent. The data are clear. My car makes a noise. I ask Dave to listen to it. The car stops making the noise. The computer does something weird. I call the boy-child for help. The problem resolves as soon as he sits down, but before he's done anything. I theorize that machines draw power from ambient testosterone. When I sit in front of them too long, the testosterone levels are depleted and the machinery fails. A boy-person walks into the area, and *magic* -everything is fine. This is the not-so-natural order of things.

What I didn't know is that my house is also testosterone-dependent. Last week wasn't a great one in the "year of Andrea's independence" project. There was a rather disturbing encounter with the lawn mower and blue smoke pouring from it. Unfortunately, we'd had something like nine days of rain, so there was also really long grass. The shower doors came off their track. The dryer started making that noise it makes. The lightbulb that I absolutely can't reach without hauling the heavy ladder up the twisty stairs burned out.

I would love to tell you that I handled these things with grace and aplomb. Not so much. I whined to my friends and siblings. I whined to my on-line "invisible friends". And arguably worse, I whined to Dave. That needs to stop. In the end, all those things got fixed. Power tools were involved. Yay me! As it turns out, I am not testosterone dependent.

I learned that I need to ration my whining. Even I was losing patience with it; my friends were probably ready to throw me off the nearest tall building. And I learned what I've told social work clients for about 100 years. Keep options open. If the first strategy doesn't solve the problem, the thing that competent adults do is find another way. Of course, having the thought pop into my head is not the same thing as really learning it. But it's a start.

I am not testosterone-dependent. It's my new mantra ;)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Random 10

I'm so sorry about the erratic posting this week; this meting out justice to my peers thing -on top of my regular life- is fairly exhausting. Now that there's light at the end of that tunnel, I really intend to pull myself together. And, oh heck, establish world peace, while I'm working on unlikely-to-succeed projects.

But in the "getting back in the saddle" department, here's the Friday Random 10. You know what to do. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that make you look cool. Here are mine for the week:

  • If the Good Die Young; Tracy Lawrence (an anthem for mothers of rowdy children!)
  • Serenade for Strings in C Major: Waltz; Tchaikovsky
  • Light One Candle; Peter, Paul, and Mary (Someone make sure this is sung at my funeral)
  • Angels Love Bad Men; Barbara Mandrell (Oh for pity's sake -for the title, the sad truth of the title, and the fact that I'm getting busted on my country music collection.)
  • Lullabye; Billy Joel
  • Every Breath You Take; The Police (Oh for crying out loud. This is in a cycling playlist, for working out at the gym. So when I tell you I'm listening to work stuff or classical music at the gym - - -I'm lying. Sigh.)
  • That Don't Impress Me Much; Shania Twain (Listen to the first verse. If you know Dave at all, you'll know why this is on my iPod. It's only for when I'm irked.)
  • Louisiana Saturday Night; Don Williams (from my New Orleans music playlist)
  • Living with War; Neil Young (sadly obvious why this one is here)
  • Dance Ballerina Dance; Nat King Cole (This is in a playlist dedicated to my ballerina daughter, so I have a good excuse for this one.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Targeting of Lesbians in Uganda

Last night I went to the first session of Sit and Knit for the LGBT group on campus. I taught one person to knit; if he'll just keep up with it, he'll have a Barbie-sized potholder any minute now ;) Seriously, he did great. Everyone else was already going great guns, so I just sat and knit and listened to a knitting podcast and chit-chatted about the state of the world. Pretty much like every Sit and Knit I've ever been to.

Except that there was this bit of disturbing news; I've since researched it a tiny bit and the foreboding that I felt last night seems to be merited. On September 8, the Ugandan newspaper Red Pepper published a list of 13 names -women they claim are lesbians. Homosexuality is a criminal offense in Uganda, and Amnesty International believes that making such allegations against these women puts them in danger. Moreover, the article called for people to name other women suspected of being lesbians in order to "rid our motherland of the deadly vice."

Wow. A suspicion of being a lesbian is all that's necessary for the motherland to want to be rid of her? Just as an odd thought, what are the chances that, after last night -sitting and knitting as I did with those dangerous, dangerous knitters ;)- that my name wouldn't be on the list? It's funny, except oh-so-not.

If you want to take some action, here's the Amnesty International Action Center: Amnesty Action Center. Do what you think best.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Deliver Us From Evil

I feel like I need a shower. Through slightly illicit connections I've just seen Deliver Us From Evil, a documentary about the pedophilia crisis in the Catholic Church. Oliver O'Grady, Thomas Doyle, and Roger Mahoney are all featured in the movie. O'Grady is now a white-haired, twinkley-eyed older man, who while serving in northern California abused God only knows how many children. Thomas Doyle is a canon lawyer who tirelessly advocates for the victims and families of victims. And Roger Mahoney is the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, who was responsible for moving O'Grady from parish to parish and failing to inform parishioners (and the police) of O'Grady's history.

It's chilling how easy it is to see why O'Grady was trusted in his parishes. How could a man who looks like that be anything other than a genial priest? It's even easy to see (although it's still reprehensible) how a bishop would want to cover up an offending priest's sexual history. And yet, it all adds up to a picture that is just unbelievable, somehow.

As recently as 15 years ago, the priests I knew commonly acknowledged that pedophilia was a problem and a huge betrayal of trust. Yet, they also claimed that it wasn't statistically more common among priests than it is in the general population -possibly even lower. So, yes, it was a tragedy, but it wasn't a flawed system. Just flawed individuals. We now know that to be wrong. Something about recruiting people to fill seminary slots attracts people who are broken in this particular way. How can that be? Of course, I know. Getting butts in the seats is more important, lately, than psychological screening. But having been presented with the evidence, to say nothing of the negative P.R., wouldn't you think they'd rush to change the situation? Apparently not.

Deposition footage of Archbishop Mahoney and his second-in-command (whose name escapes me) shows them passing the blame to the parishioners, to the diocesan lawyer, and anybody else who will hold still long enough. When they aren't doing that, they just deny everything, including the records they kept in secret files throughout the years. The whole thing just makes me feel dirty for being associated with the church.

There were a few things I was concerned about in the documentary. The film-maker might turn out to be right about them, but I don't think so. She claims that being Catholic is somehow different from any other religion (ok so far, I suppose) and that one must understand the culture to fully appreciate the damage that pedophilic priests cause. I'm still fine with this line of reasoning, but here's where we part ways. She further claims (and she's far from the only person to make this claim) that these priests are so destructive because of our belief that their power is absolute. Being abused by a priest is tantamount to being abused by God. Wow. In 12 years of Catholic education I was never taught that a priest's power was absolute or that he was God-like. In fact, theologically speaking, I'm absolutely right -as were the nuns who taught me. A priest's power is not absolute. Period. Which doesn't rule out the possibility that people think it is, so her claim could end up being right for the wrong reasons.

And if that's the case, we have bishops filling seminary slots with too many dangerous men and sending them to parishes where no one will question their behavior. We need a new theology of the priesthood and a mechanism for empowering the laity, and we need these things immediately.

My second quibble is with the disclaimer at the end of the movie that "the Catholic Church refused to be interviewed." What? How does one interview a church? Who would stand for the church, in this context? She means, I imagine, that Cardinal Mahoney refused to be interviewed. But equating "the church" with its administrators just perpetuates the same problem I was ranting about above. The church is all of us. Its administrators are just... its employees. (Ok, that's not entirely theologically accurate either, but I will stick to my guns and insist that priests and bishops are not "the church".)

Oh, and Fr. O'Grady? He's out of jail. He served seven years of a 14 year sentence, and was then deported to Ireland. He lives there in a parish which has not been officially informed of his history with children. Here we go again.

I need to focus for a few minutes on the things I love and need about the Church, because the picture I have in my head right now is just revolting.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Jury Duty vs My Attitude Problem

Sigh... I missed my first opportunity to be rejected for jury duty. Everyone with last names beginning with A-R has to report on Monday.

I should want to do this, but the most I can summon is being willing to do this. Not that I have a choice, since I will be held in contempt if I act on any unwillingness to serve. Really, I SHOULD want to do this. It's a cool thing. I want a "jury of one's peers" to mean more than having your fate decided by 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty. Surely we can do better than that.

Juries are the finders of fact in the United States legal system; they determine which side has proven its case, including whether a criminal defendant is guilty or not. Judges, on the other hand, determine the legal questions shaping the trial and can decide facts if litigants waive the right to a jury trial. So, okay... I can do my part with that process.

Potential jurors who make it past initial screening are then presented for a particular trial and before the particular litigating parties and lawyers (government prosecutors and defense counsel in criminal trials, lawyers for plaintiffs and defendants in civil trials) as well as the trial judge. Lawyers and the judge then conduct voir dire, a process by which they ask potential jurors questions to determine their suitability for that particular trial.

Lawyers can challenge a potential juror "for cause," arguing that the potential juror has some kind of bias that makes him or him unable to make findings impartially. Once the trial judge has ruled on such challenges and made any removals for cause, lawyers for both sides then can exercise peremptory challenges to remove potential jurors themselves.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I might still be rejected and return to my regularly-scheduled life. I'm so small-minded that that's what I want, but I'll do the right thing. Really. I will. But the burning question on my mind right now is "can I take my knitting with me?". We are informed by the insultingly phrased and toned recorded message that the first day involves significant waiting. Who's surprised? But can I fill that waiting time with knitting, that's the key question. Yes, I have reading to do, and yes, I'll be prepared with it. But the world would be a happier place if I could alternate knitting and reading.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle. Tell us the first 10 songs that appear -and no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that you think make you look cool.

Here are mine for the week.

  • Jerusalem, My Destiny; Still Pointe
  • Riu, Riu, Chiu; King's Singers
  • A Fine Romance; Michael Feinstein
  • Road to Hanna; Shadowfax
  • Om Namaha Shiva; Sheila Chandra
  • Sky Starts Falling; Doves
  • I've Got Rhythm; Ella Fitzgerald
  • CLoser to Free; The BoDeans
  • Oh Mary, Don't You Weep; Arlo Guthrie
  • Right Field; Peter, Paul, and Mary

Okay, by my standards, this isn't too bad.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Airborne: Offsetting Air Miles

It's becoming a common(ish) practice for leftie-environmentalist types to offset airmiles through one of the services for that. Carbonneutral, as an example. Of course, another thing we do to ourselves is immediately point out the futility of direct action. Planting a tree is a)not nearly enough to offset the several tons of carbon the various airplanes I took in the past week spewed into the air, and b)trees are not actually useful in the long-term for balancing environmental carbon, and c)the trees are at least sometimes planted on land belonging to indigenous people. Great. I'd be offsetting my guilt rather than my carbon-responsibility AND I'd be hurting other people into the bargain. There's an interesting article about this issue here: New Internationalist and a different environmental perspective here: TreeHugger.

So, what???? Do nothing? Do something better? Is there something better? I don't know, but here's what I decided. Tree-planting-through-credit-card strikes me as a little.... lazy, or an environmental version of conspicuous consumption. I'm not sure why I feel that way, and I'm open to another perspective. But for right now I need to choose something, and I'm choosing to send a donation to an alternative-energy project. Fairly randomly, I choose a project that provides efficient lighting sources for the tourist industry in Jamaica. Here's the link (.pdf!): Lighting Jamaica

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Honey, I'm Home

I'm back from our 25th anniversary "honeymoon trip" AND the dreaded trip dropping the long-suffering spouse off in Minneapolis. Here we go... the year to.... learn something.... do something.... figure out who I am when I'm alone, which has happened precisely never in my life. One of the consequences of growing up in a large family, living in a dorm, marrying young, having children..... I guess I'll learn something.

In the meantime, these are some pictures from the trip. More can be found by clicking on the flickr link in the sidebar.