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:







This page is powered by Blogger. Why isn't yours?

This page is an H-town blog.

Thursday, October 31, 2002
Switching Comments

I am trying Haloscan for a while to see if it will be more a bit more reliable than enetation for my commenting system. And quietly I'm making plans for the rehosting of this blog which I can see is now inevitable. I don't want nothin' fancy. Just something that is reliable and not so crowded it runs slowly.

Problem is finding time to do it. Of course that's the problem with most of my project list.



What I tell my kids about Halloween

Halloween is a lot like the Christmas season.

There are a number of different groups of people celebrating around the same time for different reasons. Just like at Christmas time, there are a number of different religious holidays and observances that take place around Christmas time and it's important to know what you are and are not celebrating.

Today is, for us Catholics, All Souls' Day. It's a day when we remember and pray for the dead. Tomorrow is All Saints' Day, when we go to Mass and celebrate the Communion of Saints. Pagan sects such as Wiccans also observe this day, but for other reasons. Satanists, or so I'm told because I have not researched this, also observe this day for their own reasons. Our observance of this day is not an endorsement of their observances nor are theirs an endorsement of ours.

****** Update: All Souls' Day is November 2nd. Oops.

Just like around Christmas time, the majority of regular people partake in the fun of the Halloween season that surrounds the observances and traditions, some of them pagan, some of them Christian in origin. Most people who observe Christmas observe it this way -- it's not a particularly religious holiday for them, but they enjoy the fun and tradition associated with the season.

Halloween is like that for us -- we enjoy some of the fun of trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, and dressing up in costumes but do not subscribe to any of the religious belief that originated the traditions.

Halloween should be fun and, as long as you know which things you are actually celebrating and which things are just secularized fun, it is not "against our religion" like some kids at school will tell you.

But there is one real gift of Halloween to give praise for. A long time ago, people were in real fear of their lives on All Hallow's Eve or Halloween. Today is is mostly just fun.

The fact that we can scare ourselves for fun, the fact that we can confront demons and ghosts and laugh at them, the fact that we don't *really worry* that a disembodied soul will take our body on All Hallow's Eve, is a testament to the reassurance and protection our faith gives us. We know that as long as God is real, these things hold no power over us. We have the luxury of laughing at death for one night a year.

So it's okay to dress up on Halloween as someone or something else -- as long as we are firm in the knowledge of who and what we really are.


Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Scanner play

The Family

easter 2002

From Whence She Came

in the petunia patch



Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Pop Culture Exercise: Movie Music Moments

I saw "Mr. Deeds" last night. You know how a movie can be so bad it's good? This wasn't that kind of movie at all. It was just bad. I'm not even going to link it from this page.

There was this one scene which was kind of amusing, where Adam Sandler and his new buddies were singing "Major Tom" while on a helicopter to New York. And then today I heard Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" and was reminded of the scene in Almost Famous where everyone on the bus sings that song and quits being mad at each other. That was a great scene -- one of my favorite movie music moments.

So, like the borderline obsessive that I am, I began to try to think of my other favorite movie music moments, like:

The scene in Wayne's World where the guys in the car are jamming to "Bohemian Rhapsody."
The scene in the Big Chill where they are making a Spaghetti Dinner and dancing around singing "My Girl."
Tom Cruise in Risky Business dancing in his skivvies singing "Old Time Rock n Roll." (and Ron Reagan spoofing that scene later on SNL)
The scene in "My Best Friend's Wedding" when everyone at the table spontaneously sings "I Say A Little Prayer For You" to Julia Roberts.

So what are yours? It's a fun little pop culture exercise worth a few minutes conversation over dinner tonight. Now to narrow the choices and make it more interesting, here are the Movie Music Moment rules:

It doesn't have to be a good movie obviously.
It can't be a musical.
The music must be worked into the scene, not on the soundtrack in the background.
The characters must interact with the music in some way.
That said, it can't be a movie about musical performers like Fame or The Rose 'cause then it'd be way too easy.

I'll strike the most obvious one off the list -- The "play it again Sam" scene from Casablanca.


Cut

I went looking for Rosalinda this afternoon to give my hair and beard the favorite aunt treatment, but she doesn't work on Tuesdays. I need to remember that. So I walked down the strip to see if Mr. James could fit me in. Mr. James is the guy who cuts Mr. Freshpants' hair so well.

Mr James does not give haircuts; Mr. James cuts heads. Mr. James does not wear a nametag. Mr. James' shop does not have "ambiance." Mr James does not sell designer hair products. Mr. James cuts heads, that's all

Mr. James looks like he stepped out of a Spike Lee movie. Mr. James listens to Jazz as he cuts. Mr. James likes to talk about basketball and the weather. Mr. James wears a baseball cap, two earrings in each ear, and four or five gold chains around his neck. And he was on my head for about thirty minutes this afternoon.

Mr. James is not gentle. He doesn't come close to the favorite aunt style. He cuts you more like I imagine my old football coach might if his hands were more nimble and if he were painstakingly meticulous. Mr. James will give you a good haircut, but there'll be a certain amount of pain involved. Mr. James knows you're a man and you can take it.

Mr. James knows what will make you look good. He's been cutting hair for over twenty years and he *knows*. He doesn't ask what size guard you want your beard trimmed with. He doesn't ask whether you want a round or square back. And of course you want hair gel.

Mr. James takes charge. He left me feeling high and tight, but a bit shorn. If there is a hair on my head above my collar, it's because Mr. James allowed it to remain. My head feels disciplined.

If we could splice genes from him and Rosalinda, we'd have the perfect barber. The next best thing, I guess, is to have them cutting in shops a few doors down from each other. I'll never go to Supercuts again.


Monday, October 28, 2002
Tubular, dude.

I was just reminded of an old favorite recording of mine that did not make the format conversion from cassette tape to CD. I haven't heard Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells in forever, but it's one of my all-time favorite instrumentals.

This time of year is the season for Tubular Bells, or at least the first few minutes of it. It's better known as the theme from "The Exorcist" and is associated with Horror. But if you listen for the entire twenty-something minutes, you'll hear a work that is inventive and at times humorous and a bit bizzare in spots.

Hmmm, I wonder what else in my album and cassette collection did not make the format jump. This, I feel, is a legitimate use for P2P music downloading. I have already bought the music, but don't have the equipment to go from cassette to CD. I'm hitting my P2P source to see who has Tubular Bells.

Come to think of it, most of my Kronos Quartet is on cassette too...


Hooray!

It's back! Arts and Letters Daily has been saved from bankruptcy by The Chronicle of Higher Education.


Endearments

There are nicknames you choose, nicknames that are chosen for you, and the ones that just emerge as endearments used in daily life with those who love you. I noticed that all of my kids have endearment nicknames in my mind. Girlzilla is "Kiddo", Mr. Freshpants is "Buddy", and Petunia has become "Girly Girl." I have no idea why.



Angels and Tears

Last night's game seven was the first baseball game in years that I actually sat down and watched with interest in years. Maybe since the last time the Astros had a chance. Anyway, I was very glad when the Angels won.

But then they cut away to the Giants' dugout and there was this little black kid, couldn't have been more than four years old, crying his eyes out. Looked just like Mr. Freshpants in a baseball outfit. That took a lot of the joy away from it for me.


Saint Lloyd Dobler

I'm sitting here listening to Peter Gabriel sing "In Your Eyes" and that song always reminds me of the scene in "Say Anything" where Lloyd Dobler is standing in front of his car holding up his boom box playing that song, trying to get his girlfriend back.

And then I think of my favorite line from that movie, where Lloyd is talking to Diane's father and he says, "What I really want to do with my life - what I want to do for a living - is I want to be with your daughter. I'm good at it."

I couldn't appreciate that line when I first heard it, but being married fifteen years now, it's modern day Gospel. Lloyd Dobler is my hero. A patron saint of dedicated husbands everywhere. I want to be the world's foremost expert in how to love my wife.

And I'm thinking this as I sit here listening to music at my computer, reading email. Sometimes prayers come from left field.


Friday, October 25, 2002
Friday Fun

You know it's going to be a fun day when you're accosted the minute you walk in the door, before you have a chance to put down your things, by a coworker who says, "Oh, so *there* you are!"

Critical problem on a Sim for a Shuttle Mission coming up in 17 days, a critical processor hung and had to be killed and restarted. My processor. Managers wringing hands, wanting status before I had my morning coffee.

With help from some coworkers, I managed to come up with enough of the answer to:

1) Convince them it wasn't a critical problem.
2) Show it's not my fault. At least so far.
3) Allow me to go home instead of working the weekend.

Things are looking up. Have a nice weekend.



Thursday, October 24, 2002
My Big Fat Okie Thanksgiving

Like just about everyone else, Heidi and I loved My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I think I know why this was a hit. Good romantic comedies are pretty common, but this one was more of a romance about family -- how you can love them, be with them, and want to run away from them screaming all at the same time. It was about the balance between being your own self and being your family and how you really have to be both. It was about how the best families are wonderful and maddening at the same time. It was about my family too.

The movie made me really look forward to my Thanksgiving trip to the Clarks' big gathering up yonder in Oklahoma. It's so big we have to rent out a place for us to meet. One Grandma, eight kids, twenty-six grandkids, of which I am one, and I cannot count the number of great-grandkids. That's not counting spouses, friends, second cousins, pets, and anyone once-removed. People eat in shifts. Children run in packs. Work crews have to be recruited for cooking, cleanup, and childcare. Even when ninety percent of the little kids are happy, that means at least five or six tots are crying somewhere at all times. It's a big happy, sloppy, drawly family feast.

The Clarks are game players. If you have four people standing around, why, you have a game of Spades, why aren't you playing? The clattering of dominoes is even more prominent than the crying of babies. And the Clarks, though they are basically loving compassionate Christians who live Jesus' message of love and forgiveness in their everyday lives, all that stops at the edge of the gaming table. Clarks are ruthless gamers and sharp-witted card players and you learn to develop your sportsmanship skills playing with them. Can't be a sore loser, cause you'll probably do a lot of losing. And you learn not to be partners with Uncle Mike, who goes Nullo with the King of Spades in his hand, or his son Tim who inherited his dad's bravado. They'd rather lose than be bored, apparently.

I am proud to be a Clark. My dad lived in a tent when he was a baby. The Clarks started off dirt poor, Great Depression poor, hunt squirrels for food poor. And from humble beginnings my Dad and his siblings went on to become doctors, engineers, and self-made entrepeneurs. I have one cousin whose parents home schooled him through the college level (yes, you can do that) and he started what has become a multi-million dollar computer business. I am not self-made. I got my start from my family and I don't want to ever forget that.

Sure our family has its share of Black Sheep and ne'er-do-wells, but it's all good when we sit down to dinner and say grace. And yes, there are some fundamentalist elements in the clan -- the kind that'll corner you and start quoting scripture at you and asking if you're sure you're "saved" -- that used to scare me in my less sure-footed days. And we have our eccentrics, like the uncle who lived in a metal portable building like the ones you can buy at Sears, with a large satellite dish right outside. But the eccentricities add character to a family that has lots of character.

That said, I realize I have the perspective of a person who lives ten hours away and who doesn't dwell in the maddening mess of family with the gossip and fighting and being all in each other's business every day. And at the end of the Thanksgiving visit I am always ready to take my paltry little family in our quiet car to drive toward home.

But the movie made me smile and look forward to being in the midst of my big country-kitschy clan. I may even buy myself a pair of overalls, just for the trip.



Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Censorship Starts at Home

People. Fellow Christians. Can we talk? This is one of my biggest Christian Busybody pet peeves. Let's look at the pattern here: Girl brings home a book targeted toward adolescents with some arguably inappropriate (but hardly uncommon for kids of that age) talk about sex. Mother gets up in arms and protests to the library, calling it "smut". Mom calls for ban. Library refuses. Ensuing controversy increases demand for book and increases the book's popularity.

This is a very familiar pattern. How about this scenario instead: Girl brings home a book targeted toward adolescents with some arguably inappropriate (but hardly uncommon for kids of that age) talk about sex. Mother discusses why the language is inappropriate with daughter, tells her to return the book, and guides her to more appropriate reading material. Book stays in relative obscurity.

In other words, let's all raise our own kids okay? I stay abreast of what my kid is watching, reading, and listening to and Heidi and I are the first and only censors Girlzilla needs. I don't want other adults, or my child's librarian, to make the decisions for me or my child. I'd like the freedom to decide that a particular book or show is okay to watch despite some "adult" elements. For instance, we let our nine year old Girlzilla watch the R-rated movie "Men of Honor" because of its message about hard work and determination despite the absolutely filthy language that she under threat of life and limb was not allowed to even think much less utter. She thought it was a great movie but complained about all the cursing. That's my girl.

This goes for the Internet, Cable TV, and video games. Don't let them use these unsupervised. If you want to fight smut, reduce demand with a family-level boycott instead of stoking it up by making a big stink. I, for one, plan to be a big meanie when it comes to my own daughter. I don't care what "all the other kids" get to watch and do as reported to us (indignantly) by Girlzilla. But I recognize that as their parents' fool-ass right to screw up, er, raise their kids as they see fit.

So, you media watchdog do-gooders out there, I appreciate your efforts when it comes to keeping me informed. Thanks for telling me which movies depict sex, which rap songs idolize gang-banging, and that Harry Potter books depict witchraft. Informatioin is a tool I can use to make better parental guidance decisions. But I won't sign your petition to ban X, no matter how awful X may be. I'll decide for myself and my child, thanks. I'll fight X by not giving it my money, time, or undue publicity.



Brahman is the new Zen


It is hard to find
A man who has desire
For what he has not tasted,
Or who tastes the world
And is untouched.

Here in the world
Some crave pleasure,
Some seek freedom
But it is hard to find
A man who wants neither.

He is a great soul.

It is hard to find
A man who has an open mind,
Who neither seeks nor shuns
Wealth or pleasure,
Duty or liberation,
Life or death. . .

He does not want the world to end.
He does not mind if it lasts.
Whatever befalls him,
He lives in happiness.
For he is truly blessed.

-Ashtavakra Gita 17:4-7


So, isn't this the same as being "in the world and not of the world"? I have gleaned lots from other religions that enriches my experience of Christianity, (which always brings me closer to concluding that our differences are basically cultural and historical) especially from Buddhism. But nowadays there is lots of Buddhist, especially Zen, pseudo religious-kitsch, which indicates that the influence of Buddhism on American spirituality is on the latter half of the S-curve. So, as is my bent, when something gets too popular I look to move on.

Hinduism, with its many deities in one God, which for me resembles our Holy Trinity, is a new, heretofore un-kitsched vista of spiritual exploration. Christianity is my home, but occasional travel can help one appreciate and enrich one's understanding of home, right?


Tuesday, October 22, 2002
My Favorite Poem

This poem by Edward Estlin Cummings is my favorite ever.


i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

-- e. e. cummings


It is a prayer I pray often. For me, the 'little church' metaphor is not such a metaphor.



Just for kicks

I joined the blogging team at Mondo News. An outlet for some of the bloggy excess of my blog/journal schiziphrenia I exhibit here on Overflow. Check it out. I think E.J. is going for kind of a Fark-ish vibe.



Girlzilla warning

Girlzilla saved me yesterday. I was taking her to school since both of us were running late and to get to her school we have to go through El Lago. El Lago is a small municipality that makes its entire revenue from traffic tickets. To that end, they have a 20 mph speed limit everywhere in El Lago and the cops'll stop you if you clock at 22. So I got pulled over yesterday trying to get Girlzilla to school as quickly as possible (I was going 28).


But then a great thing happened. Girlzilla saw the guy get out and said "That's officer King. I can get you out of this."

"Um, just let me do the talking, okay?" I said as I pulled out my license. I rolled down my window and was opening my mouth to say something like "What seems to be the problem officer?" (of course, both of us knew exactly what the problem was) when Girlzilla interjected in the sweet-talk voice she reserves for people who buy her gifts and do her special favors. "Hi, Officer King! Daddy, Officer King is my D.A.R.E. teacher. I love D.A.R.E."

"Hey, sweetie." He said and smiled. Then she turned on the charm. I was amazed. Here was Girlzilla, a child for whom Webster's has added two more definitons for the word "surly", wrapping this guy around her finger. From what I can tell the boys she will date in five years or so are in very big trouble. Granted I knew she could be quite pleasant, even fun to be around, but this was another creature altogether sitting beside me smiling and talking about how she loves her D.A.R.E. shirt.

So after their brief conversation, he looked at me and his smile turned into an "another day, bucko" kind of expression and gave me a Talking-To and let me off with a warning.

The bigger warning I got was about my daughter, who apparently has the one-two punch of infectious charm and strong-headed determination that is going to make her teenage years with us either very troublesome or very rewarding. Probably both.


I love the smell of Ugly Berber in the morning.....

....It smells like motivation.

I got new carpet in my cubicle last night. Instead of old, dirty, coffee stained ugly blue berber, we have brand new carpety-smelling ugly blue berber. It's that kind that, back in my landlord days, (that's a whole nother post) I would have ordered for the rentals because they don't show wear and it's cheap and it's ugly as sin. It's mostly dark blue but has little specks of every other color so that, no matter what you spill, it'll match the carpet. I don't understand why they didn't just order coffee and dirt colored carpet.

In preparation I had to pack all my office into boxes and stuff everything that didn't go into boxes into my desk. I came in today and had to reconstitute my work environment -- my geekosphere, so to speak. While I had all the horizontal surfaces cleared, I dusted and cleaned. So except for the occasional wisp of office berber fuzz, I am in a spankin' specimen of cubosity. I tossed paper clutter. I pared down my tchotchkes and bulletin board brickabrack. I washed the eight month old to-do list from my white board.

What's more, tomorrow is Health and Safety Day around here, which doubles as a cleanup day as well. So I thought I'd tackle my desk and clean that out too. So like the long lost white fat member of OutKast, I'm So Fresh and So Clean. I'm inspired. Maybe I'll clean my car. Maybe I'll clean out my briefcase. Maybe all this gusto will spill over into home...

I've been in a weekend-long holding cycle. Work, caring for kids, meals, taking care of daily obligations, TV and then bed. No energy, no ambition, no drive to do anything More. So I'll seize on anything -- even an ugly berber update -- to kick start me out of the little rut I'm in.



Friday, October 18, 2002
Linkin' for the Weekend

Here's a suggested Weekend Itinerary:

First, spark up some streaming music from an exotic locale using the MIT Radio Locator.
Then spend about ten minutes and read ten books at Book a Minute. (damn popups!)
Another ten minutes, ten feature films at The Editing Room.
Read a damn fine Internet journal of (unabridged) fiction and poetry.
Browse the shorts at Atom Films. Makes me glad I have broadband. Can spend a lot a lot of time here!
Visit the Internet Archive. I hear from reliable sources that this is the best site on the Internet. All I know is that, like all great sites, you can get lost in there and not really mind.
TheOoze, postmodern hipster ministry, is having their annual Soularize conference this weekend. Attend vicariously and read some of their articles.
Play the Game Neverending. I dare not even go there. Well, maybe.
Brush up my web searching skills.
Catch up on one of my favorite online comics.
And, since I just got a new flatbed scanner, I need to finally learn how to use Paint Shop Pro.

Or maybe I'll just watch T.V. and play with the kids. But you guys go on ahead without me, 'kay?


Praise Report

I had a doctor visit yesterday and am pleased to announce that, at least for another year, I have not become diabetic. Praise God.

Several close family members have diabetes and, since I am also, um, a person "of size", I get checked regularly. Low non-fasting blood sugar ==> not diabetic.

Though yesterday I resolved to resurrect Basketball Night. This time I'm going to invite so many people that there'll be a good chance that at least four will make each week. I need some sort of regular sports to anchor any effort of mine to get more exercise. Wish me luck.



Commericals make me Grimace

What do Grimace and Donald Trump have in common besides flogging Mickey D's "Big And Tasty" Burger? They're both wearing rugs, of course. Except Grimace looks more natural in his. He also has the better lines. Okay, that's kind of mean, but after watching CSI and Without A Trace last night, my patience with that commercial is wearing thin.

And who is this Grimace guy anyway? If I weren't 36 years old, I wouldn't have any background at all on the McDonalds Land characters. Grimace was the shake guy, right? Now he's hobnobbing with captians of industry like Donald Trump? Is he, like, the real power in McDonald's Land now? Is Ronald just a figurehead? Just a pretty face? This just messes up my whole notion of McDonald's Land power politics.

Seems like competitors could have some fun with McDonald's Trump endorsement with a counter-commercial. They could land Ivana:

(focus on closed office door with Do Not Disturb sign. You can hear voices.)
Ivana's voice: (moans) Ooooh Jack, it's so BIG!
Jack's voice: ...and Tasty... mmm...
Ivana's voice: Donald never satisfied me like you do, Jack.
Jack's voice: Yeah, I could show him something truly big and tasty
Ivana's voice: (laughs)

You get the idea. Except it'd have to air on late night. Well, with the incessant wank-vertising campaign of Clairol Herbal Essences paving the way, maybe not.

On a related burger note, I passed by Jack in the Box yesterday and noticed a new sign in the window. It showed a Bacon Double Cheeseburger and the words "Now Totally Reworked!" How do you rework a bacon burger? Quit using kangaroo meat? Wash the lettuce this time? Use Sizzlean?

I think all "New and Improved" advertising is ill-advised. What that says to me is "Forget about the crap we were selling you last week, this is much better crap."

Man, I watched two hours of television last night and my common denominator has been already lowered. I have to go read something uplifting and substantial to get out of this "Seinfeldian shallow and ironic observations about popular culture" mode. Bear with me.



Thursday, October 17, 2002
Oh yeah? Well, if a tree falls in the forest...

What is the meaning of life? Big provocative question. Popular subject of debate. I have the answer. Really.

Granted, it's an unsatisfying answer. It assumes one postulate and then dismisses the question as being kind of ill-formed. But it works for me as I now waste no time contemplating the big hairy "meaning of life" question.

It's like that old "Can God make a stone she can't lift?" question. Doesn't matter what you believe about God, it's a logically ill-formed question. It assumes two contradictory propositions as given -- an all-powerful being and something that makes it not all-powerful -- in the same context. Any freshman level logic student knows that assuming both P and ~P is a logic no-no. Still the answer is sort of unsatisfying.

So my unsatisfying answer assumes that you believe in God. Sorry, if you don't believe in God, I can't help you on the "meaning of life" question. My answer is that Life either has no meaning or is its own meaning. Whichever you wish.

Look at the word "meaning." Without digging too far into semiotics and epistemology, I am defining "meaning" as having a relationship to a larger context. Well, if you believe, as I do, that Life *is* the context, since God *is* Life, God *is* Love, then there'd be no way to situate Life in a larger context. So my unsatisfying answer is that "Life is its own context so it has no meaning."

I summarily dismiss all other questions that assume propositions that put God in a larger context, as they contradict my primary assumption. No more "What came before God?" or "Well then, who created God?" as they assume propositions that contradict the postulate.

Of course, the postulate itself is subject of endless debate (or at least another post).

There are better questions to ask. Like what is *my* meaning? I *do* exist inside a larger context. Thomas Merton points out to me that somehwere inside me is a place where my being and the ultimate Being (God) intersect. I am "spoken like a word" that expresses some aspect of God, and I must look within to determine my identity and purpose in God and assert that purpose in the world.

And it ain't gonna happen if I waste all my time contemplating ill-formed philosophical questions.



Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Shut up and bring flowers

Yesterday I bought flowers from the only post-pubescent female I've ever encountered who has no natural ability to arrange flowers in a nice bouquet. How ironic to find her working in a florist's shop. I ordered two types, alstromeria and daisies, and actually had to suggest to the woman that it might be nice to intersperse the two types together rather than just slappinng and wrapping the yellow flowers right upside the bunch of white daisies. Of course, some masculine alarm went off deep inside me that kept me from being *too* insistent about the arrangement, so I just let her put it together in her ham-fisted way. People are rarely what you expect -- I'm sure she was a very talented, I dunno, cook or auto mechanic or something.

The flowers were for my wife. I'm not telling you this to claim credit for being a good husband, I'm telling you this to give her credit for being a good wife. Recently we had a big disagreement over a rather important event in our lives. It involved dates and who could attend and how much effort was going to have to go into planning and logistics and also it was The Principle Of The Thing. Basically, one of us was not going to be happy. It was one of those either-or things where there was no compromise really possible.

So after an evening of lively discussion as us married folk tend to have from time to time, I was going to capitulate. Mainly because in another situation a few years back that involved conflicting holidays and family celebrations -- another time when someone was not going to be happy -- Heidi was the one to capitulate. But as it turns out, Heidi came up with a way to cut the Gordian Knot and compromise. She found it in herself to put, yet again, my concerns ahead of hers and decide, bitter pill though it may be, that my happiness was more important than The Principle Of The Thing, which I had already basically conceeded to her.

So now I will cut away to this story I encountered in my scanning which talks about trends in relationships. Forget about the effects of divorce, out of wedlock births, and the breakdown of the nuclear family. The really disturbing trend, implied by this study, is that people are losing their ability to maintain intimate relationships of *any* kind. Even close friendships are on the decline. There are more people alone around the developed world than ever before. It's like we're living in an increasingly Seinfeld-ian world of singletons who can never quite mix right.

It is a good article. Read it. You'll find no knee-jerk conservative reactionism there or any alarmist traditionalism, just a thoughtful analysis of the social context for intimate relationships these days that makes them tougher than ever to maintain. Essentially, it's not that people are just more individualistic and stubborn and selfish than ever before -- it's that modern society has become oriented toward the cultivation of the individual, the self, and that tends to deprive intimate relationships of a wider, culturally sanctioned web of meaning within which self-sacrificing intimate relationships can thrive.

"Love today finds it difficult to say anything plausible about attachment, self-sacrifice or lifelong commitment. The story of love is about me - finding my self, self-actualisation, autonomy and personal growth. Ultimately, the orientation towards the self erodes the foundation for intimate relationships. Self-interest that remains unmediated by wider cultural meanings encourages a withdrawal from the pursuit of intimacy."

So I have a wife, and a marriage, that bucks the trend. We have a relationship in which we sacrifice -- occasionally in big, pride-swallowing ways -- for one another. It's not even like we take turns. Sometimes it goes in streaks. And lately I have been the streak-ee. That's why I brought flowers. They were "I know" flowers. They were "I'm blessed to have you" flowers. They were by no means "I'm glad I got my way" flowers. Really. Well, okay, maybe just a teensy bit.

You see, I'm a bit chagrined. It's an embarrassment of riches. I like to see myself as the biblically-ordained leader of our marriage. My interpretation of that leadership is that it is my responsibility to apologize first, to be the first to say to myself "What would Jesus do here" (I don't own a single item of the kitschy WWJD stuff, but it's still a useful question.) I like to see myself that way, but in reality, Heidi leads just as much if not more than I. I'm supposed to say "Hey, that's my job." But too often, my protest is faint. I am humbled by her humility. And I am damn lucky to have her.

Thing is, I couldn't find the words to explain all of this to Heidi last night. (That's why I like writing and taking time to get my thoughts down.) Sometimes the best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut and show up with flowers.



Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Light from Leftovers?

This is some exciting news. British researchers have developed a cheap, efficient microbial fuell cell (MFC) which runs off of organic waste. It uses e.coli bacteria to generate hydrogen from carbohydrates. Waste products are not a concern here because the raw materials would have gone into the trash to begin with.

50 grams of sugar can light a 40 watt bulb for eight hours. With three children and four adults in our household, we generate enough carbo waste to light up the whole block.


Not just for Wallets anymore

I like to think of myself as a Duct Tape Innovator, having designed my duct tape wallet with see-through ID window as well as a duct tape checkbook cover. So naturally this story caught my eye: Duct tape can cure warts. Now that's some Duct Tape Innovation!



Mind What You Eat

A few days ago I posted an old, funny link to explain why engineers should not write recipes and just today I came across an old, funny link to why philosophers shouldn't write recipes either:

"October 6
I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long...."


It all comes from thinking too much. Sometimes a cake is just a cake. I may be revealing my pretensions, but I laughed.


Monday, October 14, 2002
While we are Looking Elsewhere

Atlantic Monthly, one of those publications on my "If I only had time to read it I'd subscribe" list, has an excellent feature on the future of Christianity in the early 21st century. While the scandal in the American Catholic Church and the challenge of Islamic Fundamentalism is getting all the press, the driving force in the Christian Church is coming from the southern nations of the world, from Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

The brand of Christianity being practiced there is very traditional and conservative, with a lot of emphasis in the power of supernatural forces to directly influence the lives of the faithful:

"The most successful Southern churches preach a deep personal faith, communal orthodoxy, mysticism, and puritanism, all founded on obedience to spiritual authority.... Whereas Americans imagine a Church freed from hierarchy, superstition, and dogma, Southerners look back to one filled with spiritual power and able to exorcise the demonic forces that cause sickness and poverty."

Given that the populations are growing fastest in the south and slowest in the north, American Christians, and especially us American Catholics, may find ourselves and our perspective to be a tiny atoll in a swelling sea of resurgent orthodoxy. Before you conservatives out there lick your lips and rub your palms together, consider that this will be an orthodoxy quite unlike anything most of us know. Most of the Southern nations are places where democracy and capitalism have been for the most part failed experiments if they've experienced them at all. This won't be your Granddaddy's Conservatism.

Not saying I am sure that this would be a bad thing overall. But it wouldn't hurt us to turn our attentions south, way south, of the border and anticipate what's coming next. Let's not let the future hit us in the jaw from the south as we are looking at the Middle East.



Now, with more meat!

One of the brightpoints of my weekend was discovering that the Sunday morning lineup on the local classical/NPR station had been beefed up with even more NPR. In fact their whole schedule has more NPR. I was able to hear This American Life for the first time, which was wonderful, and then got to hear the repeat of A Prarie Home Companion at a time that's better for me than the first-run Saturday afternoon time.

I like this trend in providing more NPR. Why, I may even contribute more at the next campaign. I never really listen to KUHF's classical programming. I like classical music like I like contry music -- I like only what *I* like, but don't really like what gets broadcast on the radio very much. I wouldn't mind seeing KUHF go all NPR/news/talk during the day eventually, but that's just me.


Friday, October 11, 2002
Poem: Variations on the Word 'Sleep'

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.


-- Margaret Atwood


Unnoticed and necessary. Yeah.
And as if scolding me for my little pity party below about not being "successful" or "important" in the worldly sense, God sends me this little poem today.

Unnoticed and necessary, like the breath that animates one you love. Should I ever be that blessedly simple!

And then I remember my Merton, my Nouwen, and my rebellious little ego feels chastened. It is not my Life Choices that make me unhappy, but my undue desire for importance and admiration that does so. I don't mind being necessary at all. It's the unnoticed part that I have a hard time choking down sometimes. More fodder for prayer.


Poem: On the Nature of Love

The night is black and the forest has no end;
a million people thread it in a million ways.
We have trysts to keep in the darkness, but where
or with whom -- of that we are unaware.
But we have this faith -- that a lifetime's bliss
will appear any minute, with a smile upon its lips.
Scents, touches, sounds, snatches of songs
brush us, pass us, give us delightful shocks.
Then peradventure there's a flash of lightning:
whomever I see that instant I fall in love with.
I call that person and cry: 'This life is blest!
For your sake such miles have I traversed!
All those others who came close and moved off
in the darkness -- I don't know if they exist or not.


-- Rabrindranath Tagore
(From Chaitali (1896),
Translated from Bengali


It is always interesting to get another culture's view of love. But I cannot tell from this poem whether the person you fall in love with was predestined by fate or encountered by chance. Or whether there's any difference at all.

If you believe, as I do, that two people can decide to love each other even after they transcend the temporary nature of their chemical attractions, then wouldn't it be reasonable to believe in parallel universes in which I am making a good life with the woman I dated before I found Heidi? Or a universe in which I am living a good life with the woman I found after not having the good sense to stay with Heidi? Was my marriage to Heidi my destiny, or are we creating our destiny out of the raw material God sends our way?

I pray that, whichever parallel universe I perceive myself to be in, the grass is greenest there. It looks pretty green to me right now.





From the "Way too much free time" files, it's Escher's endless "Belvedere" staircase made of Legos.



Refuge Wear

As our war with Iraq draws closer, the art of Lucy Orta grows ever more relevant.


I'll never make Colonel

My Dad was in the Air Force for the full twenty. He ended up as a Major, which is a very respectable rank. But I remember my Mother telling me that Dad might have made Colonel had he spent more time at work and traveling. Instead he was a family man and asked for the assignments that let him be around us more instead of the ones that would have taken him farther up the ladder. My Dad never made Colonel, I guess, cause he was a Dad first.

I have internalized my Dad's example into how I balance my career and my family. And 95% of the time I have no qualms about that choice. But this time of year -- raise time, performance review time, end of the fiscal year time -- it's kind of hard. It's hard to see others get awards and promotions that you might achieve if only you were willing to put in 50-60 hour weeks and maintain that fierce, career minded focus. It's kind of demeaning to have to explain that your department-high total of personal time was spent caring for sick kids and that you were not off galavanting gaily around the city charging the hours to the "personal time" bucket. It's frustrating to have to work unpaid overtime in hopes that your personal time balance might be forgiven in the future. Most unpaid overtime is worked in hopes of reaping some sort of a future career bonus, mine is worked in hopes of staying off the layoff cutting block.

So that's why I'll never make Colonel. It's a sacrifice of my choosing. I'll never be a captain of industry. I passed on my opportunity to be a young turk, a bright young mind, or an up-and-coming anything, and most of the time that's okay with me.

It's just that performance review time is for me is what I imagine Holidays are for the career-focused, single, childless young hawks out there. For me, it's a time tinged with melancholy. A time to face the sacrifices manifest in any Life commitment you choose to live.


Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Busy, busy....

I'm supporting the flight (uh, the Shuttle flight for you folks not from Houston) so too busy for real entries.
I'll post a cute picture of my wife and baby instead.

awwwww.....


Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Well, at least it's relaxing....

update: here are the requested bigger pictures. I am a tad bit better painter than these pictures show (only a tad). What these pictures really show is that I am a crappy photographer...










Here's some of my painting I do on T-shirts. No, I'm not quitting my day job.
BE Four Ideas About God
crucifix Mantra



Monday, October 07, 2002
Today is the first day of the rest of my life...

At 6:30 this morning I found myself sweating, lying flat on my stomach in the middle of Forest Lake drive with my tennis racket in one hand swatting at the large plastic toy that had become wedged underneath my low-to-the-ground Honda Accord. Apparently Mr. Freshpants left out the cab of his toy truck and it got under my car as I backed out the driveway. I don't know what angle the toy was at relative to my car that allowed it to get under my vehicle in the first place, but it couldn't have been close to the angle at which it was now firmly lodged despite my best attempts to swat at it with my Wilson Hammer tennis racket.

I considered driving with it that way hoping that either bumps in the road would dislodge it or that the pavement would simply grate the truck down to a more dislodgeable size. But I feared the damage that this surprisingly hardy plastic might do to the underside of my vehicle. If you had to build something really sturdy, say a bomb shelter or a suspension bridge, and you could only use plastic of some sort, I'd use the kind this toy was made of. Okay, I may exaggerate, but this plastic seemed perfectly capable of ripping up stuff underneath my car. With the kinds of cars I drive, it doesn't take too much damage for it to be totaled, you know?

So, frustrated with the racket's inability to budge the toy, (Any tennis player will tell you it's always the racket's fault.) and having given the last half-dozen joggers a good laugh, I decided to go back home, jack the car up, and remove the toy like the pissed-off father of three that I had now certainly become.

So, with the plastic on concrete grinding sound loud enough to wake the neighbors and set dogs a-barking, I carefully backed the half block back to my house. Finally the toy truck caught the front of the driveway and tumbled, apparently harmlessly, out from under my car as I pulled in. So I went back in my house, changed my sweat-soaked shirt, grabbed some extra caffeine, and I went to work. The day could only get better, right?

And so there are moments in life when you have the opportunity to attend to some tiny detail, like say, picking up a toy in your driveway. It may seem to be almost insignificant; too much trouble to stop and mess with, especially when you're tired after being out shopping with three kids all day. You may say to yourself, "I'll get it later." All too often I find that you will indeed "get it" sooner or later.


Sunday, October 06, 2002
Art as Prayer

I wanted to paint last night but was too tired, so I got an early bedtime and set my alarm to wake early to paint. I forgot what a prayerful experience art can be. I painted four new t-shirts and worked on one with a friend. All had Christian themes and all were in my trademark sloppy, bohemian, abstract style --- and I was pleased with them.

I was fully engrossed, single-minded, totally silently engaged in an expression of my soul. What a nice Sunday morning prayer time. I'll have to do that again.

If I can, I'll post digital pics of some of it.

Have a restful Sunday.



Raymond Carver

I didn't know he wrote poetry. This one made me smile:


'Happiness'

So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

-- Raymond Carver



Friday, October 04, 2002
Fed up with Democracy

I am a big believer in Blogger. I am all for services that allow people to get their feet wet in the world of web content for free or cheap. Blogger is a democratizing force on the Internet -- any service that will make it possible for a homeless guy to blog is a great thing.

That's why I stick with it. I am envious of web sites powered by Moveable Type and Radio, since they indeed look like superior technical products. But Blogger Pro works for me okay, and paying for it helps enable the free part of their mission. I like that.

But I am about at the end of my rope with Blogspot. It is so incredibly slow right now because the service is so crowded. (If you're reading this, thanks for hanging in to read me. You have more patience than I do.)

I'm not that democratic. I will not sit by as my loading speeds, along with my visitor hit counts, crawl to a halt. Blogspot is too big. I like that it's free for people, but bandwidth is not unlimited and it should be under better stewardship. What's wrong with limiting the number of hosted blogs to a reasonable number, making newer people wait until capacity can hold them? I've been paying on Blogspot for more than a year now and (call me selfish) resent that people cashing in on freebies are eroding my site's loadability. If there's something I can pay to get on a priority server, let me know, I'll pay it. I don't want to leave Blogger. But I don't think I can put up with these crawling loading times much longer!

Anybody have a lead on good cheap web site hosting? I'm looking.


Thursday, October 03, 2002


Zone 9

If you've got a few minutes for a funky art experience, check out LA artist Kimmy McCann whose art sort of reminds me of Robert Rauschenberg's. She's involved with an art group called Zone 9 which organizes shows that appear to be to the visual arts what raves are to dance music -- parties organized ad-hoc style in abandoned buildings and old houses, featuring "emerging art". They even oragnized a drive-by art show with the cooperation of local homeless people.
10/03/2002 02:43:00 PM  [edit]


Get A Groove On

My mind has not stopped playing this tune since last night when I heard it on a Lincoln Navigator Commerical. Unlike most tunes in my head, I haven't tried to stop it. It's a really great tune.

So I did some research and found out it's called "Get A Move On" by a guy named Mister Scruff whose CD, "Keep It Unreal" is now on the way to my house.

I've always thought I was immune to the power of commercials to loosen my purse strings, but I guess I was wrong. Hee.


Wednesday, October 02, 2002
Pray Tech

After I finished "The Way of the Heart" by Henri Nouwen, the biggest thing that stuck with me has proved to be the most useful thing about prayer I've read recently. It is only though some recent conversations that I have discovered that I am the not the only one who does not know about this. So I'll tell it here just in case you, like me, haven't heard:

I have always felt a little disingenuous in the past when I have told people "I'll pray for you." That's because it is very rare that I ever sit down and use thought-words to list off to God all of the people I need to pray for. And I always forget someone when I do. So I feel bad. "I'll pray for you" had become an equivalent of "I'll think of you" which just seemed less than what I promised.

So what Nouwen told me was that I bring all my intentions automatically to God when I go to him in silent prayer. He knows my entire being -- there's nothing I can "tell" him about me that he doesn't already know -- so I don't need to sit and check off a list of prayer requests in my mind. Simply entering into silent prayer and staying a while will do the trick. Then the concerns of your heart will sort of "upload" on their own. Who'd have thought?

What a relief to me! I am a lot more generous with the prayer intentions now, becuase I have a way to lift up all my friends, family, and those I care about in a way that I will actually do it.

Now this may not be news to most of you, but it was a revelation for me and has done good things in my prayer life. It would be selfish of me not to share.



So who's the new Barbara Streisand?

It has occurred to me recently that Owen Wilson is the new Karl Malden of this generation.


Turning over the playbook

I feel pretty dumb. I was walking along in some store and that old Extreme song "More Than Words" came on the muzak system. So I was singing along because, hey, this is a great old romantic love song, right?

And then I get to the words

"All you have to do is close your eyes
And just reach out your hands and touch me
Hold me close don't ever let me go.
"

and I realize that this isn't just an innocent romantic love song. This guy's just trying to get laid. He's trying to make her feel guilty by using the old, "If you love me, prove it." line. What a doof I am..

Maybe it's 'cause I have a pubescent daughter, but I am more sensitive to stuff like this now. Sorry guys, I feel an urgent need to "turn over the playbook" of Guydom, if only to arm my daughter with the competitive intelligence she'll need to navigate the sexual politics of dating in years to come. Not yet, as she's only ten, but soon.

Yep young fellas, I'm turning Benedict Arnold on your asses. I'm not only gonna teach her the "If you love me, prove it." countermeasures, I'm gonna blow the "It's not real sex if you don't stick it in." ploy wide open. And the "You can't get pregnant the first time." ruse? It's history. And don't even think about that fake yawn-stretch arm around shoulder thing.

Okay, so it's been, like, twenty years since I've been on the front lines. But I'll blow all the old plays and then maybe I'll go undercover to expose the ones that have been invented since I've retired. There's a reason I work with youth at church. It's not just a ministry, it's reconnaissance!


Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Swim

Here's an old poem I wrote. I wrote it for a reading I did last summer and I just came across the old email I used to mail it to myself when I was working on it. Needs some polish. And it doesn't read on paper as well as it does aloud.

SWIM!
-----------

You talkin' to me? Excuse me?
Quiet! I've got guests on my boat.

And what are you doing down there anyway?
Swimming at the Marina is stirictly prohibited except where posted.
(Where is that useless security guy when you need him?)

Quit all that screaming and splashing. You're distubing the peace.

What? You want help? A hand?

Oh, you're one of *those* people aren't you?
Always got your hand out, looking for someone to pull
you out of the fix you've gotten yourself into.

Go ahead, swim! Help yourself! Come on!
Put those strong, capable arms of yours to work.

Well, you're obviously too lazy.
I can't help you if you won't help yourself.
I'll tell you, mister, I worked hard all my life to afford this boat.
I stayed in school at the Y and learned to swim on my own.
Don't blame society if you didn't do the same.

Swim already!

If I give you a hand,
I'll just be hurting you, not helping.
You know that old saying:
"Pull a man from the water, and he'll live for a day.
Teach a man to swim and...
well, that's definitely better than a handout!

Swim already!

Oh, so you wan't one of *my* life vests?
You see that I have four right here
and you think I can spare one, do you?
Well, that's where it starts.
Then you people will be wanting
your own lifeboats
and 24 hour lifeguards
and special safety rules.
Yeah, you liberals will just tax and regulate
the good life right out from under those of us
who worked hard for the American Dream
that you want handed to you on a platter
without lifting a finger!

What!? Oh, don't do that bug-eyed, flailing, screaming thing.
You're just playing on my sympathy.

Okay, tell you what.
Here's the number of Marina Security,
they have assistance for people in your situation.
I'll even let you use my cell....

Hey, where're you going?
Come back up here, I'm talking to you.

Oh, how rude!

Well fine, don't let me help you!
You should swim on your own anyway.


Copyright 2002 me (as if someone would want to steal this. ha.)



Most Precious Blood

"It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed."

-- Billy Collins, from 'On Turning Ten'


But the blood makes us real. We start to grow up when we finally realize we are not invincible.
What's under your skin?