Most Important Job
Overflow
The stuff that spills out of my head. Half Journal, half Blog, half stream of consciousness, half meaningless blather, half....

My name is Cody Clark.
If you're interested, you can find out about me here and here. But this is the site where I am most at home. Please excuse the mess.

I love guests, like everybody else, so sign my Guestbook.

Oh and if you wish to shower me with gifts, here's my wish list.


Listening To
Wilco
United Future Organization
Thievery Corporation
Steve Reich
Fuschnickens
Mocean Worker
Bowling For Soup
Radiohead
Barenaked Ladies
Cornershop


Reading
The Constant Companion
   by Eknath Easwaran
SoulSalsa
   by Leonard Sweet
The Perennial Philosophy
   by Aldous Huxley
Peace Like A River
   by Leif Enger
Tomorrow Now
   by Bruce Sterling
An Intimate History of Humanity
   by Theodore Zeldin
Sandman
   by Neil Gaiman
White Noise
   by Don Delillo
Creating Positive Futures
   by James Ogilvy


Stuff To Do
Environmental Scanning
Work on Waitt Foundation Community Site content
Finally learn how to use Paint Shop Pro
Put poetry on website
Finish friend's tshirt
Paint more tshirts


People to See
me
Rebecca Blood
Fleming Funch
Chris Corrigan
Peter Russell
Phil Ringalda
pamie
Phil Gyford
Owen
Mark And(erson)
Bob McDaniel
Nick Bostrom
Eric
Mary T.
Margaret Berry
Eliot Wilder
Daniel Talsky
Fred from Floyd
Gwen Zepeda
Alison Hawke
Malcom Davidson
Veronica Nichols
Caterina Fake
Meg Pickard
Kurt Brobeck
Dave Trowbridge
meesh
Sarah Hepola
Matthew Sturges
Dooce


Places to Go
Building Tomorrow's Communities
Futurescan
Mondo News
Everything2
Arts & Letters Daily
SciTech Daily Review
Arts Journal
Slate
Salon
Business Daily Review
EurekAlert!
SmartMarriages
Metacritic
Red Rock Eater
Obscure Store
memepool
Techdirt
Robot Wisdom
kottke.org
Boing Boing
Daley News
Raising Hell
Internet Scout
The Marriage Movement
Shifted Librarian
Deviant Art
Beliefnet
Relapsed Catholic
Holy Weblog!
Sursum Corda
not martha



Archives:







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Monday, September 30, 2002
How blogging is like dating

Blissfully Bitter no longer links me. She got a new site and left my URL off her new sidebar. Sigh. I remember the early days, she linked me, I bookmarked her... I guess ultimately it's my fault. I never fully linked her back. I failed to commit. I can't blame her for moving on.

This whole linking thing really takes me back to high school. You've got the girl you admire who you link to and just hope she'll notice you and link back. There's the popular kid who goes to all the parties and has legions of friends and you wish you could be in that crowd -- except you really aren't each others' type and trying to be friends with her just because she's popular would be like way too shallow even for me. There are link sluts, the type your mamma warned you about. And then there are the A-list girls you admire from afar without the slightest hope that they'll ever know who you are. But all that's okay 'cause you've got a few close friends and that's what you really are there for anyway.

Now that I think about it, naw, blogging is nothing like high school. But don't y'all tell Rebecca Blood I liked her blog because if she found out I'd just die.


Closing on Petunia

This morning Heidi and I are going downtown to read and sign documents attesting to our willingness and readiness to adopt Petunia. It's like a house closing -- initial here, sign there -- except a house isn't gonna want you to take it to the mall in thirteen years.

So it's a happy occasion. Petunia will be our child. This was all so quick it hardly seems real. It almost feels like we stole her -- she's such a beautiful baby! At first I could not understand why her birth mother could sign her rights away so quickly like that, but now I just give thanks that Petunia's mother loved her enough to bring her to term.

So we and our lawyer are shooting to be ready for finalizing on National Adoption Day. Then we'll baptize both Petunia and Mr. Freshpants and have ourselves a big ol' Catholic whoop-te-do.

And, I'm happy to say that she no longer resembles Senator Phil Gramm. (scroll down to the June 18th entry)



The Itch

Heidi was talking to me this weekend about the Deaconate program, why she thinks I would be good, and also why she thinks it would be hard on us as a couple. And that got me thinking, which is always dangerous.

It's been two years since I graduated with my Masters degree in Studies of the Future. I have been making beer and skittles money doing futures consulting work ever since. I came across the personal strategic plan I had to do as a part of my seminar course and I re-realized that my goal way back in 1999 was to become a Catholic Futurist. My strategy was to build street cred as a regular futurist and then move toward merging my education with my faith by acquiring some education in the Church, maybe a degree in Pastoral Ministry.

Now it's been a few years an I am more or less on plan. I'm getting that familiar itch, but I don't know yet just how to scratch it. I am a big believer in life-long learning. I also believe that the work environment of the 21st century requires us to be training for our next careers while we are working at the current ones. And, heck, I just miss the academic environment. I am an eternal student, either to my wife's admiration or consternation.

But what to do? Get a PHD in Futures Studies? Invest years into getting a specialized degree for which there may only be a dozen possible jobs? Get a Masters in a related field like Knowledge Management or Competitive Intelligence and increase my marketable skills in a future careeer? Or go through my employer sponsored education plan and get a degree in Aerospace or Management of Technology and try to advance in my current one? Is my future in government-sponsored aerospace? Is there *any* future in government-sponsored aerospace? Good question.

But it hit me in Mass last night. The Deaconate program would give me the credentials in the Church to lend authority to what I write as a futurist. And I admit that the idea of being a deacon -- less status than a priest, years of thankless service, and lots of hands-on involvement with the faithful -- really appeals to me. So is this where I am being called?

Who knows? All I know is that the itch is back. And I keep hearing, reading, and thinking things that nudge me. How many tiny epiphanies does it take to make a Call?


Friday, September 27, 2002
CSI: Las Vegas trumps Miami

I've seen the season premiers of both CSI and CSI: Miami. Las Vegas is the better show hands down.

But hey, the Miami one is at least true to the CSI formula, which is what makes it a winner. It's just that the cast is so much more joyless and melodramatic. Instead they ought to be happier considering their incredible luck of getting on this show. With both David Caruso and Kim Delaney, the show looks like a halfway house for artists recovering from Colossally Bad Career Decisions. Soon they'll be adding Sinbad and David Lee Roth to the cast.

The thing that bothers me most about the show -- although I don't see any way for the creative team to get around it -- is that the characters walk around telling each other basic science that their characters damn well better already know if they're gonna be forensic scientists. They don't *need* to tell each other, but they tell each other because they need some way to tell *us*. Hey, maybe they could pilot a "pop-up" CSI where the characters don't explain any science at all but every subtle science tidbit appears as a pop-up bubble on the screen. Just an idea.

And the coroner on CSI: Miami talks lovingly to the bodies which just creeps me way the hell out.

But hey, it's still CSI so it's all good. Every season I have one show that I will make some effort to watch. This season it's CSI, but it's harder cause there are two nights. Well, I really only *have* to make Thursday night because that's the one I like best.


Squeaky Snacks

On a whim the other day, I bought a jar of Wheat Nuts. Yeah, I just had this vague yearning for some pressed wheat germ. Yum.

Not bad tasing. Nice and nutty. Still just as much fat as reqular nuts. And when you bite through a handful, there's this barely perceptible squeak. Kind of like you're eating pieces of styrofoam. And the wheat germ is pressed into these shapes that resemble the odd hardware bits you get with Ikea furniture. Then again maybe that's just residual trauma from my Ikea bed from Hell assembly fiasco.

But, despite my oh so flattering description above, I love them. They must have some sort of a cult following. How can such an odd little snack still sell well enough to be in just about every grocery store without much advertising for so many years? When was the last time you saw a Wheat Nuts commercial? See?

It's a niche market, I guess. There are lots of crunchy snacks out there, but only one that squeaks.



More of Merton's Seeds

Back to Merton. Again. It could take me years to get through this slim book. It's like ==> read a paragraph, think for a week.

In his eighth chapter on Integrity, he nails dead-on a spiritual conundrum that I have always wrestled with :

"And so it takes heroic humility to be yourself and be nobody but the man...that God intended you to be. You will be made to feel that your honesty is only pride. This is a serious temptation because you can never be sure whether you are being true to yourself or building up a defense for the false personality that is the creature of your own appetite for esteem."

Yeah. That has been a chronic confusion of mine. Am I living God's will or am I living my own rationalzation of His Will to fit my own desires? And how the hell can I tell the difference?

I'd like to request a little device like a sensor. Call it an ego meter, bullshit detector, whatever. It would alert me when I am living out of my ego instead of my true self.

I can tell when I am straying when I'm doing stuff I know is outright harmful or wrong. I need the most help once I am within the zone of being "righteous" or "spiritual." When I sit down to examine my conscience for obvious sin and I don't find much, I start to worry. I am suspicious of my own spiritual successes. I can't let a holy moment in prayer just be a holy moment. Am I confused or what?

But Merton says this struggle is a good one:

"But the greatest humility can be learned from the anguish of keeping your balance in such a poistion: of continuing to be yourself without getting tough about it and without asserting your false self against the false selves of other people."

That's all well and good Tom, but I still want my sensor.


Back at Ya.

I am not a knee-jerk reciprocal linker -- in fact many of my sidebar links are to Daily Reads who have no idea I exist -- but I added a link to Redwood Dragon after he linked me. He wrote some nice words about my blog, which I appreciate, but then I stayed and read and hey, I could make this a daily read. Another interesting, substantive person brought to me through my association with Sainteros who has been a real blessing.

This is the reason I have a traffic monitor. The hit counter has become virtually meaningless since half my hits are Google searches looking for poor Amy Wynn Pastor's naked behind. But I do get to see who visits me. And occasionally I find someone cool to read, someone to find an affinity with. That's what this blog is all about to me. And, okay, I do enjoy the link. I'm not writing all of this out here to be ignored.


Thursday, September 26, 2002
Who'd Have Thunk?

Where were you on the night of July 17th? I have no idea where I was. But Moby was laying in a hotel room just down the road from me. Whaddaya know?

And apparently, he enjoyed NASA.


Wednesday, September 25, 2002
After Letters To Cleo

Eliot Wilder wrote an article on what Kay Hanley's up to these days. If you liked the band Letters to Cleo or wondered who supplied Tara Reid's singing voice in Josey and the Pussycats, you might be interested.

I think I might borrow my Letters to Cleo CDs back from Girlzilla tomorrow...



Thinking about Karma while driving to the grocery store for a gallon of milk

I've been rethinking my whole position on Karma lately.
I used to think Karma was some mystical claptrap about fate and reincarnation,
but, from what I've read, it seems like a sensible idea.

My actions come back to me.
Cause and effect.
I place myself in the
proximity of my own destiny.
I create my own future.

As a child I used to think my sins were
recorded on some heavenly rap sheet
which would be read at a future
pearly-gates arraignment.

But just maybe my sins are more like cartoon bullets
impossibly ricocheting off a thousand surfaces
eventually to land in the seat of my own pants
while a greek chorus of gods laughs it up at my expense.

Maybe my actions launch off like golf balls over the horizon
and maybe somewhere a 6'4" hulking masher of a guy
is coming to look for the asshole who broke his windshield --
and if I'm not careful he will find me.

You can only slink away and hide so many times.
And if slinking away and hiding becomes a habit,
what kind of life is that?

Best to aim those golf balls more carefully,
or, better yet, tread lightly and
only send off those fake wiffle golf balls,
or maybe just marshmallows.

Whatever.
Anyway, I heretofore regard sin as it's own punishment --
Karma as a judgement of natural consequences,
a product of system dynamics writ universal.

When I shoot, I hit something,
which may eventually come back to hit me.
And whats' more, the recoil from the gun
of my own misdeeds knocks me ever-so-slightly
off aim with each pull of the trigger.
Constantly shooting and not re-aiming
leaves me lost and disoriented.
How often do I find myself aimlessly wandering
through my own life in need of some retargeting?

So is the answer as simple as that?
Avoid doing bad stuff?
Aim my actions carefully?

No, it's not enough. Can't be.
What if my future is manufactured
using the spaces between my thoughts,
my short-sightedness, my inaction,
my inattention to the obvious signs along the road?
And what of the subtle and non-intuitive evidence
of the shifting ground beneath my feet,
the world everywhere changing
into next week's unpleasant surprise?
Will I walk someday into a wall
that I swear wasn't there the day before?
When a new hole appears in the road,
will I look up from my worker-bee daily commute
in time to avoid it?

What I don't know might definitely hurt me.

Not to mention that if *I'm* aimlessly
shooting cosmic bullets with everything I do,
then everyone else is too.
I'm caught in a Karmic crossfire,
a crazy rain of unintended consequences.
The slings and arrows of outrageous Karma
some of which will have consequences for me.
I need to know when to duck.

So lessee, I gotta pay attention to what I do.
And pay attention to what I'm not doing.
And pay attention to what other people are doing.
Who can pay that much attention?
I don't even remember names all that well.

That's a pretty damn narrow gate to enter through.

Who, then, can be saved?

I think in the Bible it says something like
"With God all things are possible"
(I can't give the exact quote, I am Catholic after all.)

But for those of you that don't speak Deity
Think God as Love (the meaty kind not the mushy kind)
Think God as Connectedness
Think God as Other-Centeredness.

Maybe the answer is to watch each others' backs?
Maybe I create my future by looking out for the future of others
And surrounding myself with people who help me look out for mine?

What if all those cliches like
"no man is an island" and
"united we stand" are really true?

The fact that God would hide
the meaning of life in plain sight,
wrapped in a hackneyed truism
just confirms what I've always suspected --
God has quite a sense of humor
And can be pretty annoying sometimes.


Poetry: "Dolor"

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper-weight,
All the misery of manila folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplication of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.

-- Theodore Roethke

This poem caught my eye because a Roethke quote figured prominently in the plot of a movie I just saw last night called Kissing Jessica Stein. A very cute and ultimately sweet movie, not so much about lesbianism but about friendship and being true to who you are. Not exactly in line with my Xtian moral beliefs, but I enjoyed the endearing message that poked out past the tittilating plot.



Poetry: "Named"

He'd spent his life trying to control the names
people gave him;
oh the unfair and the accurate equally hurt.

Just recently he'd been a son-of-a-bitch
and sweetheart in the same day,
and once again knew what antonyms

love and control are, and how comforting
it must be to have a business card -
Manager, Specialist - and believe what it says.

Who, in fact, didn't want his most useful name
to enter with him,
when he entered a room, who didn't want to be

that kind of lie? A man who was a sweetheart
and a son-of-a-bitch
was also more or less every name

he'd ever been called, and when you die, he thought,
that's when it happens,
you're collected forever into a few small words.

But never to have been outrageous or exquisite,
no grand mistake
so utterly yours it causes whispers

in the peripheries of your presence - that was
his fear.
"Reckless"; he wouldn't object to such a name

if it came from the right voice with the right
amount of reverence.
Someone nearby, of course, certain to add "fool."

-- Stephen Dunn




The New Normal

A bunch of proprietary ethnographic anthropologists analyze the average American a year aftrer 9/11 and have produced an extraordinarily interesting report. We just think we've gone back to normal -- working, playing, loving, running errands -- but these guys are saying that American attitudes toward everyday life have shifted. We're living a "New Normal."

(It requires a free registration, but you gotta exchange your email address for the report. But I don't think I'd mind being contacted by these guys next time they produce something)


Art and Mind

The New York Times has an article listing the 10 most beautiful scientific experiments. And they're pretty much ones you can do with regular equipment -- Double sits, pendulums, prisms, and inclined planes yield the most beautiful science.

As a plus don't miss the forum discussion on Science News Poetry at the bottom of the page. It's the NYT, so a registration is required.


On Location from the Sandwich Generation

I'm blogging from Kaveh Kanes this morning. Yes I can procrastinate and avoid doing real work from just about anywhere. I'm talented like that.

I took my in-laws to St. Joseph's this morning as my MIL is going through an outpatient surgical procedure. I'm chilling here until she's done -- not worth going to work just to have to turn around and come back.

Last night, my MIL decided she was having second thoughts and didn't want to go through the procedure. Heidi was able to convince her to go anyway. She is in a lot of pain and this procedure should help reduce the pain and allow her to be more active if she wants to be. I really admire Heidi, but I don't envy her. I was all nervous about getting them up and taking them down to a doctor's visit that they at best were unsure about. But if it was in her best interest isn't a little prodding appropriate?

That's why I don't envy my wife. She's walking that line between letting her parents make their own decisions and looking out for their best interests. She's turning into her parents' parent and it's hard. It's hard to know when to be a pain in the ass trying to get them to do things to take care of themselves better and when to just let them live out their last years the way they want.

For instance, I'd love to get my father-in-law more involved in stuff outside the home, but who am I to say that sitting around and watching TV all day is a bad way to live? It's not for me, but can I decide that for my elderly FIL? I know there are times when I am so tired and strung out that all I want to do is to be catatonic in front of some reruns on the tube. Maybe after seventy years of hard work that's what they want to do too. Maybe he's just waiting for an excuse, an invitation, made forcefully enough so that he knows I mean it and am not just being nice. And then again maybe he'd think I was nagging and would just wish I'd go the hell away. And if this is my angst, I gotta imagine Heidi's is many fold more than mine.

Welcome to the Sandwich Generation. Sigh.

I'm planning for my old age. Girlzilla will be raised to know that taking care of family is just what you do. I am cultivating interests that I can keep up without having to be physically active. I plan to be an elderly, feisty, eccentric pain in the ass. My kids will know my wishes early. And I plan to cultivate a pro-active approach to my care. I want it to be really clear what my wishes would be when the time comes when my kids are starting to wonder whether they need to step up and be more parent-like towards me. And I plan to cultivate my faith more than anything. And buy some really wild pajamas to hang around in.

It's gotta really really suck to be an adult all your life and see your abilities and faculties slipping away from you slowly. I ask for prayers for my inlaws, my wife, and everyone out there who is in the same situation.





He who loves Me is made pure;
his heart melts in joy.
He rises to transcendental consciousness
by rousing his higher emotions.
Tears of joy flow from his eyes,
his hair stands on end,
his heart melts in love.

-Srimad Bhagavatam


Could be about God. Then again it could be about coffee. This early in the morning, I know which way I'm leaning.



Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Lounge Radio

Via Seb's Open Research blog, I discovered a very nice acid jazz/downbeat internet radio station out of Switzerland. Funky Lounge Grooves. Mmmmm... I love broadband.


Yippee.

Daypop is back in service again.


Sleepy pop

The bedtime routine goes like this: two to four little books ending with Goodnight Moon, two or three songs, and prayers. When it comes to what to sing, I'm in a rut. I'm not big on kid's music, so lately I've been ending with James Taylor's You've got a friend, which turns out to be a very good pop song to sing to a little kid at bedtime.

When Mr. Freshpants was a babe in arms I would sing to him Elton John's Levon for some inexplicable reason. But that would not be not very appropriate for bedtime. You'd really mess up a kid's dreams by singning lines like, "And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus..."

So, here's a pop culture exercise: What other pop songs are out there that would fill this bill well. They'd have to be soothing and the subject matter would have to at least be somewhat appropriate to be the little kid's last thought before going to sleep. Help me out here. James Taylor is great, but I'd like to vary my routine a bit.


Monday, September 23, 2002
With keywords like this....

Interdisciplinary communication, knowledge sharing, knowledge representation, knowledge architecture, unifying concepts, scholarly networking, collaborative filtering, social networks, social emergence, open hypertext systems, self-organization, collective intelligence, online community.

I have to link to Seb's Open Research. Bookmark-o-matic!
I plan to raid, pilfer, and pillage his sidebar links later.


Not While Drinking Milk

Or it will come out your nose. I am a parent and therefore have been subjected to more than my share of parenting humor. Unlike most, The Story About The Baby is very funny. Check out the bonus cute baby pics at the bottom.


Tulips Must Be Hindus

I've not been that bloggy lately. I'll make up for it by pointing out yet another poetry/art/culture zine called Eccentricity. Another corner of the web worth a bit of attention.

It's here that I read that tulips must be Hindus.


Your two cents are now welcome

If attention and participation are the currency of the Internet, then I now have a bona-fide cash register. At the H-Town bloggers coffee klatsch last Saturday afternoon, Elaine suggested I add commenting to my page so that people could give input to a particular post rather than having to use my guestbook. She said she had a comment or two.

Okay Elaine, let 'er rip. I'm expecting some comments from you. :)

This makes me a little bit nervous. Kind of like throwing a party when you're not sure who, if anyone, will show up. I'm hoping I can get to know some of the "unknown" referrers in my logs -- the ones that apparently have me bookmarked -- so I can go read your pages too. Meeting new folks is the best part of doing all this blog/journal stuff.



Sunday, September 22, 2002
Social Butterfly

I'm just a big fat social butterfly. That's me.

Friday night, Heidi and our neighbor Cindy (our "Ethel") went out and saw The Banger Sisters while I watched the kids at home. I am usually all too happy to accommodate Heidi so she can enjoy a chick flick without me. Luckily, I had anticipated an estrogen imbalance and rented some testosterone-laden movies I knew she'd hate earlier in the day. So I was gonna "guy out" after the babies went to bed. Oh, but Girzilla had her friend Erlene over to stay the night and Cindy and Dan's (our Fred and Ethel) kid Little Ricky was over just hanging out. So I figured I might as well invite Dan (our Fred) over for beer and guy movies while the Girls were out bonding. And then I ordered pizza to complete the Guy Trifecta -- beer, pizza, and a kung fu vampire movie.

It worked out perfectly. The big kids behaved. The little kids went to bed on time. And as a bloody Wesley Snipes had just kicked the final undead ass, the girls came home from their movie and we all sat down to play cards. I stayed up later than I planned. I got heartburn from the pizza. And the evening ended on a bizarre note as we all sat down to watch the Dueling Banjos Inbred Kid scene from Deliverance. Not the movie mind you, but just that scene. It's a long story. And I don't recommend going to bed when the last thing you've seen that night is the Inbred Banjo Boy from Deliverance. But it was still a good evening overall.

Saturday I went down to Kaveh Kanes and had afternoon coffee with some of the H-Town Bloggers. I liked this outing better than the one at Little Woodrow's. I am a coffee bar person much more than a beer bar person. That and we were indoors in the AC and Kaveh Kanes makes the best iced coffee ever. I mean ever. I drank it until they ran out. Best iced coffee ever.

I took Petunia with me to meet the bloggers and she was suitably charming. She did all of the things that people who don't have young children like to see in other peoples' babies and none of the things that people who don't have young children do not want to see in other peoples' babies. Those things usually involve bodily fluids like tears, vomit, pee, snot, or blood. But Petunia kept her fluids in check and cooed, smiled, and was generally what adults term a "Good Baby" which means she was generally quiet. She just sat there and looked cute. I could learn a lot from a baby.

Houston has a pretty darn amiable group of blog people and I had a good time visiting with them. I soaked up a lot of blogging juju, being the little guy amongst the more accomplished bloggers. It was fun. The time I had to spend with them went too quickly. I only had two hours to visit cause I had to go home and get ready for the evening of Honky-Tonkin'.

Yep, Heidi and I got a sitter and met about a dozen or so of our friends at Joe's Barbecue, which is an Alvin Institution, and then drove up the road to the thriving metropolis of Manvel to kick it at Eddie's Country Ballroom. It's this big country dance place where kids are allowed to go. The place was packed with kids, which was the first point of cognitive dissonance for the evening --- a smoky longneck honky-tonk bar teeming with underagers. The biggest, and perhaps most unsettling cognitive dissonance for the evening was the band, The Emotions. After the first few surprisingly good two-step numbers, they broke out in a hip-hop beat and the guy in the band started rapping a top forty tune. White guy in cowboy hat, Lilly white honky-tonk, rap music. There were even country booty girls dancing on stage. That's just not right. I enjoy rap music, but in some other setting. Maybe I'm just old and not hip to some fresh Honky-Tonk Rap trend. Whatever, anyway, that's how they went all evening -- three or four two-step country songs followed by a hip-hop rap song. My friends and Heidi and I were old fogies and we left before 11:00.

So you'd think I'd have done enough socializing this weekend by now, but in a hour I'm going to play tennis with about seven of my friends (two courts of course) and then I teach Sunday School tonight after Mass. I'm a party animal.

And now I am looking for a cold-filter apparatus so I can make good Iced Coffee like Kaveh Kanes.



Thursday, September 19, 2002
My Bobo-Nature

I came home from the Beer Can House last night via Whole Foods Market. I hadn't been in a long while and I was gonna get supplies, mainly toiletries, that I cannot acquire easily out in the Burbs where I live. Well, it's a dangerous thing to go to Whole Foods when you're hungry, you're loosened up by St. Arnold's, and you've already had your bohemian nature primed by a visit to one of the country's famous Folk Art Environments.

I got everything I need and a lot of stuff I don't need. Like Sea Salt, Turbinado Sugar, and Arabic Couscous. Like a pound of Costa Rica Dota coffee that was just roasted that morning. Like smallish chunks of three different makes of gourmet couverture (70% cocoa or more) -- El Rey from Venezuela, Valrhona from France, and Scarffen Berger from the good old USA. Like Manchega, Parmesan, and Gruyere cheeses. Like Goat Cheese and sourdough baguettes which, along with our raspberry chipotle sauce, will make a very special late night treat for my wife and me.

I'm a sucker for single-source gourmet food products I don't need. I went from being Bohemian to being Bourgeois in the space of a half hour. Just yesterday morning I was contemplating my Buddha-Nature in the light of my Christian Faith. This morning I am contemplating my Bobo-Nature in the light of my own hypocritical materialism.

And then, in an attempt to center the needle on my Bourgeois-Bohemian Meter, I turned to the ever-eclectic KTRU and listened to some spoken word poetry by slam poet Alix Olson on the way home. And that was a telling picture -- me listening to a hip left-wing poet rant about materialism as I drive home with my bag full of gourmet goodies and organic toiletries.

Sigh. The Struggle continues within. I win some and I lose some. Need to meditate and read more Thomas Merton. Meanwhile I am enjoying some damn good chocolate for dessert. It's low-fat, low-sugar, and high in anti-oxidants. Want some?


Art Cars, Beer Cans, and Hot Glue

I went to the party at the Beer Can House yesterday. I'm glad I went though it meant leaving da fambly during the evening prime-time.

So I was walking the three blocks from the parking lot graciously provided by Otto's Barbecue and the Beer Can House guided by the art cars that were shuttling back and forth. An art car, or actually an art cycle, pulled up and offered me a ride. It was more like a funky loveseat on a trailer pulled by a three wheeled motorcycle. But hey, I got to ride in an art car! Very Cool.

The party itself was okay. I didn't know a soul there so I had a St. Arnold's, skipped the food, made a voodoo doll which will go as decorations for the upcoming Orange Show Haloween Gala, toured the Beer Can House, and left. As I was walking away I had a tiny beer buzz, a sheen of sweat, and a coupla fingers burned by hot glue. Yep, I could tell I'd just been to an Orange Show party.

The Beer can house was very cool. The biggest impression I had as I walked up is how much noise it made in the breeze. The entire house was one big wind chime. And once you get past the eccentricity of a house covered in beer cans, once you get past the obvious beer drinking jokes, the house is really a monument to focus and persistence.

This is a big difference between me and John Milkovisch. I am eccentric only for moments at a time but he was a dedicated eccentric. When you get up close, his work had pattern and detail that was obviously sustained by a methodical process over many years. Plus, from the brands on the cans, he had to have drunk a lot of really crappy beer. Now that's the definition of suffering for one's art. I'm just not that into it.

But I did come away with a hankerin' to do some of my assemblage sculpture again. I have sold or given away all of my junk crosses and did not leave one for myself. I might just have to make one soon.


Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Manifesto

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.


Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.


Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

by Wendell Berry


Emphasis mine. I love Wendell Berry. Like Thomas Merton, he writes about stuff I aspire to.




Monday, September 16, 2002
Project Row

More Art. The sixteenth round of the Project Row Houses starts up in less than a month on October 12th and goes thru til next spring. (Their website is terribly out of date. I verfied the Oct. 12th date with a phone call.) The opening of the round coincides with the African American Cultural Arts festival that's coming up soon in Houston.

If you've not been to the Project Row Houses, you're missing an interesting combination of art, education and activism that's open and free to the public.

This is the kind of thing I like about Houston -- there are little surprising alcoves of culture all over the city.


Don't get me wrong, folks

Talent and training should not be discounted, though. If you live in Houston and haven't been to the Center for Contemporary Craft, you're missing out.


Folks makin' art.

Two Houston folk art experiences I have yet to make it to are a place called Pigdom and the studio of Houston artist Sharon Kopriva.

And while we're on folksy art Jane's Addictions is one of the best, most complete sites for Folk Art I've seen on the web.

If you look at folk art and say, "Heck, I could do that. A child could do that." That's entirely the point. Barriers like training, talent, and access to expensive art supplies didn't stop those folks from expressing themselves. Shouldn't stop any of us either.


Folk Art Fever

What with the upcoming Orange Show party at the Beer Can House this Wednesday, I'm getting the folk/junk/naive art fever. Then I came across this really cool slideshow of the Orange Show itself. It's more impressive in person (in a folk art environment kind of way) but this is the best online tour I've seen.


I'm not listening. I'm not listening. I'm not listening. I'm not listening. I'm not listening......

I learrned as a young man that you can't just ignore a problem and make it go away. Okay so sometimes I get a refresher course.

But you'd hope our leaders in Washington would learn that lesson. No, guys, omitting global warming from an EPA report will not make the issue go away.




Amused

It worked. My page is now the number one site when searching for "Any Wynn Pastor nude" on Google. I had a large increase in traffic over the weekend while I was away at my wife's family's reunion. Most of them were looking for... yep. You guessed it.

I wonder how many read my whole entry? (see 9/12 entry below)



Friday, September 13, 2002
Cosmo, Sex Tips, and the Primal No!

I was in the checkout at Krogers this morning perusing, as I tend to do, the tabloid and women's mag covers. I object to reading them, but the covers are fair game. How else can I know what Ben Affleck and Jerry Lewis are up to?

Anyway, for the seventy-fifth straight month in a row, some clever author has managed to come up with more secrets and tips about how women can drive their men wild in bed. I mean, there can't be too much new, can there? There are only so many parts and so many permutations involving one man and one woman.

And I'm not one to engage in locker room talk, but not once, not a single time ever, have I ever heard a guy say something like, "Man, you won't believe how the wife was in bed last night! She was like a tiger! She said she got some new ideas from one of those women's magazines." I have a feeling that there are no men who have ever said sometihng like that.

If it were possible that these articles actually had unique things to say about sex, and if these unique things actually made it into bedrooms and actually transformed peoples' sex lives, marriage license applications would have subscription forms for Cosmo on the back. I'm just sayin'.

So why does it concern me so? Do I protest too much? Maybe, but I resent having to actively resist the myths and unrealistic expectations that our booty-obsessed culture has about sex. And I am growing ever more aware of issues about unrealistic expectations, misinformation, and body image issues as my daughter enters puberty. These are becoming real issues we're gonna hafta deal with soon.

I also think that most Christian Churches' approach to preaching about sex in society -- a misguided strategy I call the "Primal NO!" -- is all wrong, but that's a whole 'nother entry.


Submit Dammit!

"There is no solid peace except in submission to the divine action.

The soul that does not attach itself solely to the will of God will
find neither satisfaction nor sanctification in any other means
however excellent by which it may attempt to gain them. If that which
God Himself chooses for you does not content you, from whom do you
expect to obtain what you desire? If you are disgusted with the meat
prepared for you by the divine will itself, what food would not be
insipid to so depraved a taste?

ABANDONMENT TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE
- by Jean Pierre de Caussade, S.J.


Submission is the theme that is coming out of my prayer lately. Defiance is all that seems to be coming out of my life right now. In certain areas of my life -- the hardest, most stubborn areas -- I cannot turn the knowledge that I must submit to a Rule into the actions to follow that Rule.

I haven't talked about my diet in a long time. That's because it sucks. I had some promising progress early on -- as it is with all of my new initiatives -- but the last two weeks since school started have been a real setback. My basketball guys have been scattered to the four winds by the demands of school schedules. Apparently carting your kids around to watch him/her do physical activities takes precedence over taking your own exercise. I am despairing of ever finding a physical activity that I actually enjoy that I can make happen without coordinating the busy schedules of other people. I feel like I am doomed to have exercise in my life remain a tedious chore that I only perform under the burden of guilt or doctor's orders.

On a brighter note, my prayer life has had some improvement. I am more regular than ever before, but still a long ways away from the kind of regular prayer I need. I think the key for me is to mix it up by keeping a toolbag of prayer types and techniques that fit my situation. No quiet space available to meditate? Fine, I'll do scripture and journaling at lunch. Need to make it a working lunch? Lectio Divinia on the way home. And there are always scripture readings and prayers in my email inbox.

I went to reconciliation last week -- another nod to the theme of Submitting to God -- and my new pastor said that was the first most important step to having more discipline in my life. Discipline in prayer is the precursor to discpline in my life, I guess. God I hope so. Sigh.

And I guess part of the whole discipline thing is to keep trying. So I'm re-starting this diet thing from freaking scratch. And what the hell, maybe I'll call up a new group of guys and schedule something. Maybe the key is to focus on inviting more guys who have no kids to cart around.


Thursday, September 12, 2002
First comes blog... then comes marriage....

One of my daily reads, Mighty Girl, thought her impending marriage proposal from this guy was an attempt to ambush her and rape her. She had scissors ready to defend herself.

Who says romance is dead? Congratulations, Maggie.



Should be ashamed.

Click here for NAKED PIX OF AMY WYNN PASTOR!!!!!
Free pix of Amy Wynn Nude!
Yes, Amy Wynn Pastor is TOTALLY NUDE!!
Naked Amy Wynn Pastor pics!!!!


The above lines are a blog entry version of what I see when I check my referrer logs. Lots of attempts to see Amy Wynn Pastor naked. Before I was just annoyed, now I am disgusted. I included the above four lines in hopes that this page comes up first in the search results of the CRETINOUS SALAMI-SLAPPING JERKWEEDS who are so persistently looking for this when there are NO such pictures on the Internet.

Yes, I'm talking to you, butt-wipe. Quit searching for naughty pictures of nice women. Get back to your homework or whatever. Let another library patron use this computer. And wipe off the keyboard before you leave. Yuck.

Yes, I'm cranky.


Fun with Mr. Freshpants

Mr. Freshpants and I have invented a new game. It involves him kneeling on a chair at one end of our small air hockey table and me on the other. Using all three available pucks, we hit them willy nilly around the board. Any scoring that happens is purely accidental. I'm talking minutes of madcap toddler fun.

Oh, and Mr. Freshpants is allowed to stop and pick up a puck at any time with his hands. This amendment to the rules was his idea. The rules are actually fairly fluid but the game is fun nonetheless.

We call this game "Crazy Puck." Besides being a pretty descriptive name, it is also interesting to hear him try to pronounce the phrase "crazy puck" correctly. He knows lots of words but is still a little sketchy on the finer points of their pronunciation.

He apparently drops the "r" part of "er", "ir", and "ur" sounds in the middle of words. This has not escaped Girlzilla, who finds endless amusement in trying to get him to say the word "shirt."

Girlzilla: "Say 'Shirt'."
Mr. Freshpants: (with gusto) "Shit!"
Girlzilla: (laughs) "No, I said 'Shiiiirrrt'."
Mr. Freshpants: "Shiiiiiit."
Me: "Alright, cut it out."
Girlzilla: (feigning innocence) "I was just trying to teach him to
talk."

Yeah. Anyway Mr. Freshpants has discovered the world of Thomas the Tank Engine and I read him the board books at bedtime. So far Thomas is not his favorite character, Percy is. I admit that I have to supress a Girlzilla-esque giggle every time he announces, "I want Percy!"
(You have to think about it a bit.)

So Mr. Freshpants' bed from Ikea hell has turned out to be pretty nice once we figured out how to turn it so that the slide didn't block the door to his room. Another slight mis(non)calculation. I can sit in my chair and hold a book and he is right at eye level. We can be face to face with him tucked in and me sitting and we can read books, sing songs, and say prayers at bedtime.

And I'm very pleased that he has taken to having "Goodnight Moon" read to him at night. I loved reading "Goodnight Moon" to Girzilla when she was that age. She was, at age two, quite accomplished verbally. (This surprises no one.) And sometimes tucking her in at night she'd just spontaneously sigh and say, "Good night bears sitting in chairs." When I read it to the twins we fostered a few years ago we discovered the mouse that was hidden on each page. They wouldn't let me turn the page until each of them had touched the page in the place where the mouse was hiding. It was a ritual that made them feel more settled and me feel less like throttling them when they climbed out of bed for the umpteenth time.

Seems like the great children's bedtime books like "Goodnight Moon" are all about rhythm. As it turns out, putting a small child to bed is also like that -- all about the rhythm. Crazy Puck, however, has no absolutely no rhythm whatsoever.


Goodies

Our little corner of suburbia is becoming so multicultural. First the Bubble Tea parlor and now this.

There's this new ice cream parlor in Clear Lake called Goodies that is run by a very nice Vietnamese family. At any time they have 49 of a possible 200 homemade flavors available for tasting. They have all the ususal suspects as well as surprises like remarkable Root Beer Float and Cotton Candy flavors which are kids' favorites.

But what makes them really fun to visit are all the more Asian flavors. I tried Durian, Sour Sop, and Purple Yam ice cream and didn't care for those much. But I really liked Green Tea, Lychee, Longan, and Ginger (with real bits of ginger) My favorite Asian flavor so far has been the Pandan Leaf flavor I tried yesterday, which tasted a bit like vanilla/hazelnut/grass and was pretty darn good.

Oh, and the big selling point for me is that they occasionally make a Licorice flavored ice cream. This is the only place in the world I know of where I can get a Licorice ice cream shake. The flavor was almost sold out, so I can't be the only weirdo in my area that thinks Licorice Ice Cream sounds good.

Anyway, maybe you Houston Bloggers should come down my way for a gathering. I'll buy anyone's first scoop of Durian Flavored ice cream.



Monday, September 09, 2002
Before and After

There are moments in life that tend to define us. Wrenching discontinuities happen to us after which everything changes -- we see everything as "before" and "after" that one moment. Part of the pain of life is that you can have that "before and after" moment and go through the grief and upheaval it brings while all those around you are cruising along in their own little lives of continuity. True empathy is as difficult as it is rare in our fast-paced society.

It's like when you walk up to a mom-n-pop business you visit infrequently, maybe a florist or a little curio shop you stop by every other month or so to get a little appreciative something for a friend, and you see the handwritten sign in the glass door regretting to inform you that the business has closed and thanking you for your patronage. You might feel a vague sense of loss, like one of the niceties of your daily life is suddenly gone, but you realize you are standing inside the grief of someone's "after."

You can imagine the very instant, maybe late at night over tears and stacks of bills, that someone, the wife perhaps, realizes "It's over." You can only imagine the pain of dreams dashed, the shame of failure, the "what if's". You feel only a muted sense of that loss if you can feel it at all. You might, if you're trying to be thoughtful, struggle to connect with the pain of an unknown person's acute anguish, but it's a very hard thing to do. Especially if you're not in practice.

I remember standing in my kitchen holding my keys trying to do just that last September on the 11th as I was watching the TV coverage of the WTC disaster. I remember the very moment I realized that the towers were going to completely collapse. I tried to connect with the anguish of all of those before and after moments being created that morning in New York, but I was just numb and in shock.

Each person in those towers had to have a moment where they knew for certain, "It's over." I cannot imagine facing the personal finality of such a moment. I cannot imagine being in the family of someone facing such a moment. Any empathy I could muster standing there crying in front of the TV felt like nothing. I felt helpless, useless, futile.

Sometimes someone else's "before and after" moment becomes one for you too. This Wednesday we as a nation try to grapple with what the "after" part means to us as a nation and to each of us individually. It is the mystery of Jesus' cross that every "after" is another "before" being born. It's what we do with the "after" that counts.

So this Wednesday I'm going on a media fast. I'm not blogging. And I will try to spend an hour in meditation on the transforming pain of the "befores and afters" we all face and the particular defining moment our country is facing. I invite you to join me, if only to stengthen the collective voice we send up to God in the anguish of our collective "after."


Unused Earplugs

I have a pair of unused earplugs in my pocket. I am wearing the jeans I wore last night to the Jars of Clay concert we had at our parish. I usually wear my church outfit on Moday as it is generally still clean and is convenient to throw on the next morning. So I have the earplugs that were handed to me last night during the sound check in my pockets this morning. I'm pleased I didn't need them.

Remembering the Sonic Flood concert our parish had last year -- how unnecessarily loud they were for our tiny sanctuary -- we had anticipated this year by making earplugs available to anyone sitting near the speakers. But the production guys for JoC apparently knew how to make the sound appropriate for the venue, and while it was still quite loud it was not inappropriately so. Heidi and I were drafted/volunteered as ushers to do crowd control and were rewarded for our efforts with seats down front about ten feet from the lead singer's microphone. It was like having them play live in your living room. A very cool experience.

Jars of Clay played with a lot of energy. They told us several times that they "didn't get to do this very much" -- which I take to mean play in a venue as personal as a small church. They were on top of their music and seemed to be enjoying themselves. If the concert lacked anything it came from us, the audience. Most of the audience were adults, who resisted standing the whole time like the kids and the band seemed to want everyone to do. A few times when the lead singer held his mike out to the crowd as if to say, "Surely you know this part. Sing along." he got an anemic response. And I don't know if it is just our kids or teens in general, but instead of getting into the band or the music, a prominent group of them got wrapped up in their own little synchronized dancing routines. I got irritated like I do when at sporting events when the fans get all wrapped up in doing the wave. I mean, I'm all for having spirit and energy and cheering and all, but let's focus it on what's going on at the moment and not be so self-absorbed, okay? The basic courtesy an audience owes a performer, especially one who was obviously performing for us as some kind of a favor, is to Pay Attention.

Ah, but the irritation was small and the moments of genuine energy and prayer were many. Rocking out is one of my favorite ways to worship and this was a great gift in that regard. I don't know how our little church scores such big name Christian music talent to come play every year, but it is one of the things that makes me love the extraordinary ordinary little parish that is my spiritual family.


Sunday, September 08, 2002
Whoa.

Very rarely, after viewing a film, do I think, "I gotta see that again." Even more rarely do I say to myself, "I must own a copy of that." But, I saw Richard Linklater's "Waking Life" last night and then went directly to Amazon to check out the price. I think the last time I felt this way about a film was after I saw The Iron Giant. I'm a sucker for well-done animation with pseudo-religious philosophical themes.

I was confused at first, trying to put together all of the philosophical detritus the characters were spouting into a common theme, but then I realized that there was no real theme. The object of the movie is to get you to think, and it succeeds. If you listen to the whole movie, a few of the bromides and philosophical ramblings will rise above the level of meta-reality mumbo jumbo and hit you square in the brain. You carry away a few weighty nuggets for later meditation, loosely coupled with a vague urge to "wake up and live life."

And like the Lion King, you can simply put the audio into background, quit trying to figure anything out and feast your eyes on an extraordinary feast for your eyes. It was not just a film, but a work of art -- abstract art in places. Worth repeated viewings. Worth owning.



Friday, September 06, 2002
Weevils, Dog Puke, and an Endoplasmic Reticulum

Heidi called for sympathy while I was in a meeting yesterday. The message she left said she'd found more weevils in our pantry, thus necessitating another industrial strength purge. We suspect we're bringing them home in too-old pasta bags bought from a local mom-n-pop grocery store. So yesterday was Heidi on the home front battling the weevils. Thank God I have someone in my life who battles weevils for me while I am at work.

(And clean underwear. I can't tell you the Joy of having someone who makes clean fluffy underwear just appear in your drawer. A Domestic Godess, that woman.)

In her message she also was lamenting the green stuff running from Petunia's nose and worrying that she was sick. I said no biggie. One of the blessings of Heidi being a stay at home mom is that we can let our kids be sick. As long as Petunia is not in distress and has no high fever or dehydration, we can let her have a cold and let her give her budding immune system a chance to get some exercise. Back when we were both working, we pretty much had to go to the doctor with Girlzilla's every illness and get antibiotics because her sickness meant absence time from work that we could ill afford.

Later in the day, Heidi called me to tell me about the three pools of dog puke she had to clean up. Killing bugs, Picking up poop, and cleaning up pools of body fluids is my job when I'm home. But I wasn't home. She said she was calling to let me know so she could get "Full Credit".

I'd say she deserved extra credit. Did I mention I love my wife?

So I walk in the door and Girlzilla is stringing de-weeviled macaroni together.

"Dad, do plant cells have endoplasmic reticulums?"
"I dunno. Look it up. What... are... you making?"
"An endoplasmic reticulum."

It's been a long time since my Life Science class, but I don't think a string of macaroni makes a good endoplasmic reticulum. She had resourcefully gathered Life Savers for vesicles, pinto beans for mitochondria, but there was nothing just laying around that looked like an endoplasmic reticulum. So after a fish stick dinner, a Girl Scout rally in which I somehow ended up registered as a Girl Scout even though I didn't attend, and finishing up Mr. Freshpants' Ikea Bed From Hell assembly (It took me three days. I don't want to talk about it.), Girlzilla and I made an endoplasmic reticulum using a picture off of the Internet and some of my polymer clay. I baked her endoplasmic reticulum as she got ready for bed.

So at 9:00, de-weeviled, de-puked, kids in bed, and fresh baked homework cooling on the kitchen counter, Heidi and I collpased on the couch and watched a well-deserved mindless hour of CSI on TV. "Us Time." Ahhh...

And BTW, plant cells *do* have endoplasmic reticulums. We looked it up.


Seed

From my Daily Seed:


"'Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One.' If you see this in the
pure simplicity of your mind, you will somehow be bathed in the
brilliance of eternal light."
- Bonaventure -


And then Phil St. Romain, whose online efforts and writing I greatly admire, adds that Bonaventure's comment on the One God implies that there can be no other Gods for me in my life.

Seems to me that in the old times those Other Gods were more overt and therefore easier to avoid. The False Gods of today that sway my attention are so entwined into modern life that they cannot be avoided completely. I must instead learn to calm the desires aroused by my interactions with the World, thus depriving these False Gods of their power over me. Easier said than done.

And so what is at the end of my Daily Seed post? An appropos passage from "The Imitation of Christ":


"True peace of heart, then, is found in disciplining passions, not in
satisfying them. There is no peace in the carnal person, in the one
given to vain attractions, but there is peace in the fervent and
spiritual person."


True peace can be found in discipline. Indeed, Daily Seed. This Discipline thing is the theme God seems to be hammering me with lately. I just pray I can follow through.


Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Real Life Aptitude

I fancy myself as a person of above average intelligence. I don't believe in IQ tests, but I did get a 1400 on my GRE without studying. That has to count for something, right? Well It didn't matter much back when I was getting my master's degree. And it sure didn't matter a whit last night as I was taking the Scandinavian Furniture Aptitude Test. Better known as the Loft Bed From Ikea Hell -- twenty four thousand pieces and instructions in some Scandinavian language with exactly four pictograms.

Most of the pieces looked exactly alike. They all had holes drilled in similar looking patterns but with tiny differences in hole spacing and hole circumference that would become crucial after, say, the next six complicated assembly steps. I'm sure some of that Swedish text on the instruction sheet must have translated like, "These pieces may all look alike, but pay attention to the crucial tiny differences. Be glad you're not an American."

I had to disassemble and reassemble no less than four times. I'm talking Major Subcomponents. I got a headache. I got sweaty and sore from holding my body in mid-crouch so that beam A, slot B, and freaky hardware gadget C could all become close friends. I did finally get the bed part done, but not the cute little ladder/slide and, most importantly, not the bed rails. Poor Mr. Freshpants ended up sleeping on the floor for most of last night.

But he'll get to sleep in his full-up bed tonight if it kills me. Mr. Freshpants is ready for a Big Boy Bed. I'll dismantle his crib tonight and store it away for the next baby, if any, that God sends our way. (If you're a baby, we're always good for a place to crash.)

And Petunia is now crawling. Not very quickly yet, but she has the moves down. So up went the gates this last weekend. And so there is yet more baby proofing to do. As our family becomes more complicated, so does our Infrastructure. Each new project is like a little Real Life Aptitude Test. I can only hope most of that stuff will have instructions in English.


It's easy for trees

More from Merton:

"A tree gives glory to God first of all by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be, it is imitating an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree." (p18)

But a tree cannot be other than its Self -- what God made it to be. It has nothing to get in the way of simply being as God made it. I don't have it that easy.

By Original Sin I have been born with a false self apart from the God-given Selfhood he has bestowed on me. The false self constantly commandeers my ship and brings it off course, hijacking it to destinations it mistakenly believes will fulfill its illusionary desires.

So I cannot be satisfied to simply "be myself", a phrase which seems to be the Self-Help Mantra of our Pop Psychology Age. I need to "Be my Self." My true Self, which I can only really know by knowing God. I do not need "self-esteem". I need to have Esteem for my true Self.

And I can only find it by seeking to know God because:

"Within myself is a metaphorical apex of existence at which I am held in being by my Creator. God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of Himself." (p. 25)

I am not God, but I am an expression of a part of him. To know him, to be with him, is to know my Self. And thus find my Home.

And until I have more discipline in prayer, I will tend to wander. Always needing to be steered back.

Seems simpler sometimes to be a tree.


Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Pen Geek

I love to collect pens. Not your Levenger catalog, too expensive, so nice you're afraid to use it because you might lose it pens. I'm talking the hidden treasure in the office supply cabinet for people who actually write with pens a lot pens.

It's a great time time be a pen lover, what with the smooth-rolling gel inks and advanced roller ball technology these days. I had to pick up a prescription at the drug store this morning and I purchased a Sanford Uni-ball Vision Elite while I was waiting. This is a nice, very smooth pen with a very eye-pleasing design. A pleasure to write with. This is one you let people borrow only if you will have your eyes on them the whole time.

The Papermate Gel.Max pen I tried wrote in nice bold strokes. Not as smooth as the Vision Elite, but it lends a satisfying scratch to my writing that makes me feel like I'm Getting Something Done.

While both of those are nice for variety, neither are in danger of filling the place I hold in my heart for the Pilot G-2 Gel pen which is still my all-time favorite and which I greedily hoarde.


My post-post

Wanna know the key to instant hipness? Wanna strike that Gen-X pose that says to the world that you're too with-it and aware to succumb mindlessly to the trends and institutions of this world? Apparently all you gotta do is be "Post-" Something. If you're post-something, you are so over that. And everyone seems to want to be "so over" something and let everybody else know it.

Postmodermism is all the rage in academia. If you turn your nose up at the Dead White Male "Classical" Liberal Arts and opt for Women's or Multicultural studies, you might already be postmodern. (Hmm... I could see an entire Jeff Foxworthy-esque schtick here that would just leave 'em in stitches at the Semiotics Colloquim -- "You might be a postmodernist if...")

If you see yourself as a "spiritual but not religious" person, hey! You're "Post-Secular"! Are you a clod when it comes to dating? You can be "Post-Romantic."

It works for me too. I don't dress in frumpy clothes I got on sale at the Big and Tall shop, I'm "Post-Fashion." I'm not a geek, I'm "Post-Cool." I'm not fat and sedentary, I'm "Post-Fitness." Yes, I'm so over all that stuff. Aren't I hipper-than-thou? And all I needed was this handy new prefix.

Actually it's not a new prefix. Postmodernism has been around for quite some time. In fact, I've read of some who've used the term post-post-modernism to lament how tired the Postmodernist school of thought has become over the last (what, forty?) years. I thought "schools of thought" were supposed to stick around longer than that. Like several hundred years. Apparently post-post-modernists have gotten so over being so over modernism. And in record time.

Actually I don't think that "post-post-" should be allowed. You should only get one "post-" before your particular school of thought has to think up its own name. The Classicists and the Modernists came up with their own names. It's only fair.

And can you change your mind and be "pre-post-"? If you decide that the books of Dead White Males weren't so bad after all, does that make you a pre-postmodernist? I try to be spiritual and religious as well. Does that make me pre-postsecular?

And this page started out as a blog, but became more like a journal for a while, but now has the charateristics of both. Welcome to my pre-post-blog.


Only human after all

More from the frontiers of the Science of Altruism. A recent article by the American Sociological Association debunks the myth of widespread panic during disasters. You know, like in the movies when people knock down their own grandmothers in panicked attempts to get away from some sort of danger. The society finds from a study of actual behavior in actual disaster situations that people collaborate and are generally altruistic in life-threatening situations. When the chips are down, we tend to team up. This accounts for all the platitudes about September 11th and how it "brought the nation together." Sometimes the platitudes are true.

Add to this a new book which engages scientists, psychologists, sociologists, and theologians in a study of Altruistic Love. This is a growing school of thought opposing the conventional evolutionary wisdom that humans are motivated, even in apparent cases of altruism, by self-centered goals. There may indeed be at the core of our humanity a knack for unselfish love.

I've said this before, but it's appropos here. I hate it when people tell Heidi and I that we are some kind of "saints" for opening our home to underpriviledged children. Okay, I don't "hate" it -- they're only trying to be nice -- but it makes me uncomfortable.

In saying such things, people imply that you gotta be some sort of extraordinary person to act selflessly. "Y'all are so good. I could never do that," they say. Yes you could, and we are no better than anyone else. We don't do it because we're saints, we do it because we're "only human."

I'm used to hearing "only human" or "human nature" to euphemistically describe human failings and weakness -- to refer to that part of us that is not the Godly part of us. I think we need to switch it around and use the term "Human Nature" to refer to that part of us that *is* Godly. We need to step up to our heritage as sons and daughters of the Divine. It is our selfishness and hatred which is unhuman, not the other way around.

And now there's a growing school of scientific and academic thought that's backing me up. It'd be nice if we could reverse the centuries-old mental paradigm of social darwinism and self-interested action and redefine our own humanity. I'm not being all Pollyanna-ish here and saying that people are not selfish and mean often enough. But in my mind, that's sub-human behavior, not Human Nature. We need to expect more from ourselves. We are, indeed, "Only Human." But that's a *good* thing.