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.
United Future Organization
Bowling For Soup
The Constant Companion
by Eknath Easwaran
by Leonard Sweet
The Perennial Philosophy
by Aldous Huxley
Peace Like A River
by Leif Enger
by Bruce Sterling
An Intimate History of Humanity
by Theodore Zeldin
by Neil Gaiman
by Don Delillo
Creating Positive Futures
by James Ogilvy
Stuff To Do
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
Fred from Floyd
Places to Go
Building Tomorrow's Communities
Arts & Letters Daily
SciTech Daily Review
Business Daily Review
Red Rock Eater
The Marriage Movement
Monday, March 31, 2003
The Letter Opener
One of my online favorites, Matthew Sturges, posted one of the best things I've read in a while. See if you can figure it out before the surprise ending. Excellent!
President Bush, please listen to your Colin
Eric Umansky at Slate came up with the perfect word for the faction in the Bush Administration that is pushing for this global dominance model of forcibly spreading democracy worldwide -- "conservatopians". Brilliant.
The "Conservatopians" (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Cheney) don't like the Powell doctrine of "overwhelming force." In order to realize their vision, they need to be able to deploy "force quickly and with dramatic positive effect in multiple places at multiple times."
But it's looking like the Conservatopian approach was the wrong choice for Iraq. We need "overwhelming force." The Powel Doctrine still rules.
And if we don't use the Powell doctrine in any conflict in North Korea (which is up next, IMO) we'll be very sorry.
So this "operational pause" and the seeming switch in strategy is a good sign to me. Maybe it means that President Bush is going to listen to Powell and the C.I.A. more and the Conservatopians less. I think Bush should listen to Colin Powell. Let the State Department, and not the Pentagon, run our foriegn policy. Ultimately it will mean fewer lives lost. And fewer ill-advised wars.
More immediately, tossing aside Rummy's ambitions and rediscovering the Powell Doctrine will ultimately save lives. What's bad for the Conservatopians is good for America.
Open Letter to Science Teachers
Dear Science Teachers,
As a long time science fair judge, I recognize you as a key figure in the success of the kids you send to be judged by me and my associates. Therefore I think we need to clear some things up.
First of all, just because a kid uses a computer in his project does not make it a computer science project. Don't let your student enter into computer science category just because he uses a computer. We have to judge on the computer science aspects alone and cannot consider the kid's stellar work in physics or chemistry or microbiology. It is very frustrating to have to discount a very good project because it is in the wrong category.
If computers are the sole subject of study, enter it in computer science. If computers are just a tool used in the study of another subject, don't enter it in computer science. Simple, huh?
I know there are fewer projects in the computer science category so kids will be tempted to enter it there to "improve their chances." Don't let them. They'll get slaughtered.
Second, there are two kinds of science fair exhibits -- experiments and projects. Please don't try to make all of them seem like experiments. It is a Science *and Engineering* Fair, after all. Some projects don't fit into the "Problem, Hypothesis, Results, Conclusion" model. Some kids don't want to do a bona-fide experiment. They just want to build or invent something. Please let them.
And when they do, don't make them shoe-horn their project into a scientific method format. I know it makes it easier to grade, but it is very wrong from the judges' viewpoint. I don't ever want to see another project that goes like this:
Problem: "Can I build XXX?"
Hypothesis: "I can build XXX"
Results: "See, I built XXX."
Conclusions: "Yes, I can build XXX"
Please just let them build it and talk about how they went about it and what they learned.
Oh, and a tip, if a kid is going to do an actual experiment, encourage her to use the scientific method to answer a question to which she does not already know the answer. That makes for better science. That way it's a true experiment and not just a demonstration. I know you can't find such project ideas in one of those science project books, but your brighter students will have no problem coming up with an original idea.
And, lastly, the Bubble-gum chewing "How long will the flavor last?" types of experiments should be banned outright.
Just my opinion.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
A Good Day To Be Alive
I went to U.T in Austin, Texas. I've stepped over and around my share of "dragworms" -- the bums who squat along Guadalupe Blvd right off the west side of campus. Sarah Hepola made friends with one and wrote about it.
Her article made me smile. It also shamed me a bit. I chalk it up to my scatterbrained youth that I never really stopped to relate to a Dragworm as a real human being, but how many of the vagrants I encounter have I regarded with any warmth since I've grown up and become "enlightened"? Yeah, I'm not proud. We all have aspects of Jesus' teachings that we ignore.
For the record. A Rant.
I want to go on record, explicitly and uequivocably, that I am against the current war in Iraq. I believe it was the wrong thing to do for a number of reasons.
I figure this is one of those posts that'll be so long no one will read it. But it will be out there for me to read. It will keep me honest. If the war goes badly from here on out, I'll be able to know that my views are not just an opportunistic chiming-in with the opposition. And if it goes exceedingly well, I'll maybe have to admit I was wrong. Maybe.
Just like those thoughtful people who support the war start their explanations with words like, "Well, nobody likes war, but...", I want to start with a disclaimer too:
I hope our troops kick ass. I'm rooting for them with every newscast I see. I am resigned to the fact that the only way out of this is to get through it. So I want our troops to achieve their objectives quickly. I want them all to live. I want all the Iraqi citizens to live. I want to see humanitarian aid going to the people of Iraq. And I want each soldier over there to experience the satisfaction of seeing the regular Iraqi citizens reveling in their freedom in a Sadaam-free Baath-free Iraq. When they get through this thing, that'll be the least they deserve. I still hold out some hope for this scenario. I pray for it.
That said, the end does not justify the means. That the current leaders of our Administration have chosen the wrong means does not mean that I cannot hope for a good end anyway. I am opposed to the war, and to the administration's vision for America's role in the world, but I support the troops.
Yeah, that's not black and white. To insist on black and white is intellectually lazy. To say that if one does not support the war one is "against the troops" is not just intellectually lazy, it's dishonest and mean-spirited. If you've used that argument in the past, shame on you. It reminds me of how the pro-choice side of the abortion issue labels their opponents "anti-choice" instead of pro-life, and how, likewise, the pro-life side labels the pro-choice side as "pro-abortion". The Orwellian partitioning of the world into "Us" versus "Them" is the root of all evil. If you condone that kind of thinking, you are part of the problem we are supposed to be fighting.
Which is my first beef with the Administration. It's been "You're either with us or against us." since 9/11. I know the president is a devout Christian. Why then are the key teachings of Jesus Christ -- you know, the beatitudes, etc. -- not evident in his rhetoric? Indeed, Jesus' words are inconvenient, and probably a little embarrassing, if you are a Christian who supports the war. Fundamentalists who believe the Bible is the literal word of God have to dabble in a little relativism themselves when it comes to justifying war.
Yeah, I know about my Church's Just War teaching. This war fails that test. The burden of proof is on the side of those who want war. Peace always gets the tie.
Administration has unilaterally set a global agenda without consulting the people it represents in any meaningful way. I've written before that I think we're seeing the start of a global crusade. It's like we've dusted off Manifest Destiny to give it another go, this time on a global scale. Fortunes of nations wane and ebb, but empires *always* fall. I want us to be a country, not an empire. But nobody asked me, did they? Did anyone ask you?
Speaking of asking, whatever happened to the good old Declaration of War? Remember the Constitution? More inconvenient words there too, I guess. Billions of dollars and thousands of lives at risk in a far away land without so much as one representative vote of approval. Well, except afterwards in a tepid show of support for a foregone conclusion.
Since 9/11 we've seen an erosion of the personal freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights in an effort to fight terrorism at home. No news there. Well, forget the amendments now, this war goes straight for the body of the constitution by eroding the checks and balances and separation of powers that makes our government work.
The executive branch needs to be put back in its place. It needs to be made to ask permission like the founding fathers intended. The Administration made it very clear that it didn't need to ask permission. Three branches of government, different but equal power, all keeping each other in check, remember? Now we have a runaway executive branch that claims for itself more power at every turn. With a Congress that gets weaker and more irrelevant in response.
It is ironic that, as we send our young people off to make "Them" more like "Us" we are becoming more like "Them" to accomplish it. As we crusade off to forcibly export Democracy to the rogue dictatorships of the world, it concerns me that there might not be enough left here at home to sustain our country, much less the whole planet.
And so I consider my opposition every bit as patriotic as your support. I am a Constitutional conservative. I want the kind of government they taught us about in fifth grade. Heck, I'll settle for what we had back in 1998.
And while I don't want this current war, I want our troops to win it decisively and quickly.
Ultimately, I guess, it's the next war I am protesting. It's coming, you know. Study your maps of North Korea...
(If you've made it this far you are either really bored, know me in real life, or are from the NSA, FBI, or CIA. All are welcome. Howdy!
Oh, and if you are CIA, I think the White House should listen to you more. I'm just sayin'.)
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
An email came to me from Micheal Herman via a mail list I am on with some cheerful news. In what seems to me an extraordinary act of faith, this Chicago woman purchased a huge industrial-sized solar oven with the intention of sending it to a small town in Angola. She put all $10,500 of it on her credit card. And now she's throwing a party in Chicago -- a "Bake In" if you will -- to demonstrate the oven and raise the money to pay her now large credit card bill.
Once again, just knowing that there are people who do this kind of stuff is a cheerful thing.
She apparently is chairperson of a small Angolan relief organization called Sharecircle . The oven is a capital asset that will provide jobs and prevent further deforestation in that little corner of the world. The long term vision is to obtain a microloan for this village to enable it to manufacture these ovens and sell them across Africa.
Anyway, everyone's invited to a party on South Boulevard Beach in Chicago April 5 at 3:00 at 550 Sheridan Square.. It's BYOD -- bring your own dough (both kinds. heh.)
If you can't get to Chicago, you can still contribute. I'll give some space to Patricia Deer's own words:
"The background of this project: Six years ago I met Guerra Freitas in Sierra Leon where I was teaching conflict resolution. He was a jewel of a person and wanted desparately to come to the US to study since the infrastructure in his country, Angola, was so destroyed by the decades of war. So I sponsored Guerra as a student. He graduated last year Valedictorian. He has also put enormous energy into a 501-c3 organization called Sharecircle to help Angola. You can check it out at http://www.sharecircle.org.
If you can not come but would like to contribute by sending a fishing pole instead of a fish, you can make your check out to Sharecircle. You will get a receipt for tax deduction. Send to Patricia Deer, 550 Sheridan Square, 3A, Evanston, Il. 60202.
Some of you have already been generous, and this party is one way to thank you.
Thank you for caring, may it come back to you in spades."
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Punks and Monks
This is a very, very cool idea. Makes me wish I had been this cool when I was younger.
The Punx and Monx community is a small household of young creative people attempting to live in community. They all have their various individual activities, jobs, piercings, etc. but come together to share meals, art, activism, and prayer. They meet for vespers and compline, celebrate worship in their home on Sundays, and travel to the nearest cathedral to worship together once a month. It's an experiment in forging an "urban monastic" lifestlye amongst progressive, artistic, tech-savvy young folks.
This makes me feel, like, 17% better about the world just knowing things like this intentional community exist. I will pray specifically for its success and that the idea spreads. God indeed is working in new ways.
The Crux of the Problem
I found an online collection of the poetry of James Tate. I find his "conversational surrealism" appropos of current events, which are surreal in themselves but becoming mundane by their constant exposure on TV.
And I re-found this poem, which, to me, gets at the heart of what ails us....
Some people go their whole lives
without ever writing a single poem.
Extraordinary people who don't hesitate
to cut somebody's heart or skull open.
They go to baseball games with the greatest of ease.
and play a few rounds of golf as if it were nothing.
These same people stroll into a church
as if that were a natural part of life.
Investing money is second nature to them.
They contribute to political campaigns
that have absolutely no poetry in them
and promise none for the future.
They sit around the dinner table at night
and pretend as though nothing is missing.
Their children get caught shoplifting at the mall
and no one admits that it is poetry they are missing.
The family dog howls all night,
lonely and starving for more poetry in his life.
Why is it so difficult for them to see
that, without poetry, their lives are effluvial.
Sure, they have their banquets, their celebrations,
croquet, fox hunts, their sea shores and sunsets,
their cocktails on the balcony, dog races,
and all that kissing and hugging, and don't
forget the good deeds, the charity work,
nursing the baby squirrels all through the night,
filling the birdfeeders all winter,
helping the stranger change her tire.
Still, there's that disagreeable exhalation
from decaying matter, subtle but everpresent.
They walk around erect like champions.
They are smooth-spoken and witty.
When alone, rare occasion, they stare
into the mirror for hours, bewildered.
There was something they meant to say, but didn't:
"And if we put the statue of the rhinoceros
next to the tweezers, and walk around the room three times,
learn to yodel, shave our heads, call
our ancestors back from the dead--"
poetrywise it's still a bust, bankrupt.
You haven't scribbled a syllable of it.
You're a nowhere man misfiring
the very essence of your life, flustering
nothing from nothing and back again.
The hereafter may not last all that long.
Radiant childhood sweetheart,
secret code of everlasting joy and sorrow,
fanciful pen strokes beneath the eyelids:
all day, all night meditation, knot of hope,
kernel of desire, pure ordinariness of life
seeking, through poetry, a benediction
or a bed to lie down on, to connect, reveal,
explore, to imbue meaning on the day's extravagant labor.
And yet it's cruel to expect too much.
It's a rare species of bird
that refuses to be categorized.
Its song is barely audible.
It is like a dragonfly in a dream--
here, then there, then here again,
low-flying amber-wing darting upward
then out of sight.
And the dream has a pain in its heart
the wonders of which are manifold,
or so the story is told.
--- James Tate
Sunday, March 23, 2003
"Religions are different roads converging on the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads so long as we reach the same goal? I believe that all religions of the world are true more or less. I say "more or less" because I believe that everything the human hand touches, by reason of the very fact that human beings are imperfect, becomes imperfect."
Sort of speaks for itself.
I have some pretty cool kids. I was on my way to drop them off at our babysitter service on my way to the H-Town blogs meetup yesterday when I was compelled to crank up my Bowling For Soup CD.
They loved it. Petunia and Mr. Freshpants danced about as much as they could while strapped into car seats.
We rocked out all the way there. It was fun. Apparently the other drivers thought it was pretty funny.
The meetup was fun. Discovered a new place to get bubble tea and free wireless internet in midtown. Met some new interesting people. Re-met some old but still interesting acquaintances. Realized that, as a blogger and web page person, I am way outclassed (well, duh) but I really enjoyed soaking up the blogging juju and listening to the blog gossip from the well-connected and savvy H-Town Bloggers.
Friday, March 21, 2003
Fool for Tools?
Do you like tools? Do gadgets cry out to you, saying, "Play with me?" Turns out it's a neurological thing.
Praise be to God for his beautiful creation!
Lest you think I'm horribly pious and all Goody Two Shoes, I'll point you to Maggie Berry's new article at The Morning News called Releasing Your Inner Slut. It's a fashion article about the proper way to wear daring or revealing clothes. I'm all for this meme -- especially the part about taking time to do it right when you want to tart your sexy bits up for public viewing.
Being made by God as a guy, I enjoy a skillful presentation of the female form. I'm not going to be dishonest and dismiss or deny it. It is one of Life's simpler pleasures. But, I make a concerted effort to turn the admiration back to its source. I try to say to myself "Praise be to God for his beautiful creation!" For it is beautiful indeed.
And, anyway, I am a big fan of Maggie's writing. I'll read an article about dental hygeine if she's the author.
Not so spontaneous maybe?
A new book called Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order examines symptoms of Synchronicity -- concerning evidence of "spontaneous order" evident throughout nature. The book does a service by pointing out the many instances which give evidence of an inherent coordination and order embedded into nature.
The reviews stop short of summarizing this phenomenon as "intelligence." In my opinion, to assume that this "order" is "spontaneous" requires as much faith as assuming this "order" is some sort of "intelligence."
Occam's Razor be damned. "Intelligence" does not necessarily have to be more complex than randomness. Emergence is in essence a pretty simple candidate for an intelligent mechanism, seems to me.
Walking, Talking Gospel
"The inexhaustible nature of transcendence is expressed in the
profusion of creatures. The universe is the first Bible. Each being
manifests the creative word which gives it its identity and attracts
it. Each being manifests a dynamic idea, something willed by God.
Ultimately each thing is a created name of him who cannot be named."
- Olivier Clement, "The Roots of Christian Mysticism" -
Thomas Merton wrote that each being is "spoken like a word" from the being of God. Here each being is a "dynamic idea" willed by God.
Peace may be as simple, and as elusive, as reading the walking, talking Gospel in each person.
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Here's an interesting collborative Wiki focused on waging peace. Addresses peace from teh perspectives of governance, systems theory, group process, semiotics, and any other angle you want to contribute. (thanks to Feming Funch for the pointer)
I am already tired of the phrase "Shock and Awe" and the main event hasn't even started yet.
And the Boy Scout in me has been annoyed by this since September 11th, but I figure it's about to get a *lot* worse:
People, there is a proper way to display the flag. That's one of the first things every Tenderfoot Scoout learns. If kids can get it right, so can we. Here's another source if you don't believe me. Rallying around the President is fine if that's what you're into, but that's no excuse for flag abuse!
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Here's another on the ground source in Baghdad: Freelance journalist Christopher Allbritton has a blog there.
Network vs. Network
Could your beeper, PDA, or cell phone go to work to fight terrorism? Could Smart Mobs be a viable homeland defense strategy? Setting self-organized homeland security networks against self-organized terrorist networks seems like a good idea along the "fighting fire with fire" lines. But how reliable and vulerable to mob-mentality would that strategy be? What implications would an amorphous army of self-motivated civilian watchdogs have for the privacy and anonymity of minority citizens?
Second Chance Science
A good idea. A new website will feature research ideas rejected by the NIH, giving interested funding entities opprtunities to fund promising research that is not high-priority, or maybe too innovative, for the government right now. It's called FundAScientist and it welcomes all researchers, but extends special invitations to those rejected by the NIH.
Poem: A first on TV
This is the twentieth century,
you are there, preparing to skin
a human being alive. Your part
will be to remain calm.
Chilling. Captures the irony and horror of watching death on TV. Don't forget that every smart bomb we see exploding on TV is someone's death. It only looks like a video game.
Sharing War Links
Since we are all being forced into getting our war on, I am gathering links to alternative news sources. I resolve not to be glued to the television, but I want to be plugged into some more trustworthy ways of staying informed than watching the official coverage on our major media outlets.
The only Iraqi Blogger I know of is here. Don't know how long this will be available after the bombing starts, but it's a good and rarely-heard perspective.
And the personal blog of CNN war correspondent Kevin Sites is here. I can't say how much freedom he will have to be candid about what he sees, seeing as how he works for the Big Media Borg and all. But his posts are an interesting perspective too.
And my favorite source of news that is relatively clean of American bias is and has always been the BBC World Service. The Christian Science Monitor is another trusted source for me too.
Okay, I showed you mine. Now please show me yours. What alternative news sources/blogs do you plan to use to build a balanced perspective of upcoming events?
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Mr. Bush's Wild Ride
As or nation counts down the 48 hours to the deadline Sadaam's ego will not let him meet, my mind has been transitioning from praying for peace to praying that it goes as quickly and painlessly (?!?) as possible. Praying that the suffering we inflict on the Iraqi people is less than what Sadaam would inflict if he'd stayed in power. I mean, If we have to bomb, let the bombs be smart. Let the Shock and Awe strategy work well if we're hell bent on using it despite the wishes of the world.
It is with a perverse comfort that I have been reading lately that this war may not ultimately be about Iraq and the smoke-screen excuses about WMD and ties to terrorism. At least there's a plan that was not cooked up out of our President's knee-jerk reaction to September 11th. It's about an ambitious vision for an American-dominated global peace that's about to make Iraq the first up in a series of "regime-changes" targeted at stamping out terrorism and making the world safe for democracy and capitalism. And it's been brewing since 2000 when the administration's top strategists were still churning out policy analysis papers in the big think-tanks. Call it Pax Americana or The Pentagon's New Map, neocolonialism or regional transformation, the Pentagon and the Adminstration are looking to a strategy that extends beyond Iraq. After reading up on all this, the selection of the three "Axis of Evil" countries does not seem so bizaare anymore. It's all part of a big plan and Iran and North Korea are up next.
Well, hey, at least there's a plan. We're not being run by total bubbas and madmen, I'll grant. I don't agree with them, mind you. This is still not a Just War. And, I think their projected payoff is far from assured. I feel like I'm a kid watching on as Daddy places our life's savings on one number at the table and prepares to roll the dice. This is a vision for our country. Risky, belligerent, and arrogant, but somewhat coherent. But is the Administration's vision the American vision?
That's the rub. We haven't been included in the discussion. This complete makeover of American foreign policy has happened without an honest public dialogue. We're being taken for a ride. It feels like we're being Hijacked.
Monday, March 17, 2003
Book of Clark, Chapter 14: The Pie of the Lord
In the land of the Suburbanites, in the tribe of Clark, there was a High Priestess named Heidi who served God and ruled justly, slow to wrath and abounding in kindness. And in her reign the people were happy, for the land flowed with home cooking and every domestic goodness.
It was on the feast day of Saint Patrick that the Lord came to his priestess Heidi and said unto her: “Heidi, my good and faithful servant, you are chosen this day to do my work.” Heidi, though she was shaken with astonishment, replied, “Whatever you will, my Lord, I shall do.”
And the Lord spake unto her: “You shall bring forth a pie such as none in this land has seen, that my name be praised. There shall be a homemade crust, not store-bought as the law does permit, but made by your hand from scratch so that all may taste and my name be praised. And in the crust shall be fresh cream and bananas and coconut and all manner of rich fare. And on this pie shall be real whipped cream, not from a container, as the law does permit, but fresh cream whipped by your hand, that all may wonder at the glory of their God. Sprinkle atop the pie crushed macadamia nuts and toasted coconut that it may be pleasing to the eye and increasing in flavor. Divide the pie into wedges and serve it with coffee, that the people may rejoice and praise their God.“ And then the Lord left her to prepare His offering.
The Priestess Heidi did prepare the Pie of the Lord and did show it to the people, who grew wide-eyed and wondered, “What manner of dessert is this that it is prepared by hand and not with shortcuts made common by permit of the law? What love brought forth this labor?” But when the pie was served, all speaking ceased, and the people paid homage, partaking of the pie with reverence. When the pie was eaten all went forth holding their stomachs, moaning praises to God.
And so it was that the Pie of the Lord was brought to the tribe of Clark in the land of the Suburbanites. And His glory was increased.
That's my name. Don't wear it out.
I've had a love-hate relationship with my name all my life. On the downside, it rhymes with too many childish taunt words -- grody, toady, commode-y. And it is for some reason easily mangled. From the misheard -- Cory, Tony -- to the misspelled -- Coty, Kody, Codi -- to the downright inexplicable -- Koadie, Coatie (Honest, people have spelled my name like this).
But growing up I shared my name with relatively cool namesakes. Buffalo Bill Cody was the most common and he was cool because he carried a gun and shot buffalos and bad guys. I bet they didn't dare rhyme Buffalo Bill's name with "commode-y." There was Commander Cody -- a bit hipper reference -- and, though I didn't know who he was as a kid, he was a Commander so there couldn't be too much shame in that.
And I shared my name with my Uncle Cody who, until I reached my current size, was known at family gatherings as "Big Cody." (I was "Little Cody." Really.) He was that cool uncle everyone has who gets to be a little bohemian and irresponsible because he doesn't have kids of his own to be responsible for. He directs plays and acts in Renaissance Faires and folds paper flowers while telling funny stories and all us kids (there are about 87 in the Clark family) loved him. So he was a cool one to share a name with.
But now I'm growing a little disillusioned with my name. It feels like the phrases "Don't go there" and "You go girl" -- a bit past the curve. What with all the little Codys running around out there, child naming fashion has "lapped" me and my name has become faux-trendy again. My name has become a little boy's name. My name has become younger than me.
And with all these little whippersnappers named Cody running about, I've lost the best thing about having my name. Used to be if I heard someone call out "Cody!" I knew it was for me. I grew up being the only Cody within earshot most of my life.
Maybe that's it. Maybe I just don't like to share.
My brother changed his name early in life. He got out just in time. He went from his middle name, Kerry, (Which he judged to be too feminine. Go figure.) to his first name, David. I tried on my first name when I was a kid too. I spent one afternoon where I wouldn't respond to anyone unless they called me "Bob." (Robert seemed too stuffy.) It was a lonely afternoon. Most of my conversations went along the "I'm not Cody. I'm Bob." lines. I gave it up. I didn't have the determination my brother Kerry (hah!) had.
But at this point in my life I could not think of changing my name. It's a branding thing. Just as Kleenex could never change its brand name and get it to stick, I'm a Cody no matter what I call myself.
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Like the start of a scary Sci-fi movie
Long time readers of Wired Magazine might remember the issue back in 1995 devoted to future scenarios. And if you read that issue (too old for online archives, unfortunately) you were probably affected most by the Plague Years scenario about the "Mao Flu." For a reminder, go here and scroll down to the middle of the page. Or read all the scenarios for a little extra chill.
So, recalling that particularly disturbing scenario, this development seems more than a little spooky.
Sure it won't be as bad as the 1995 Wired story, but I'm going to go wash my hands anyway.
Friday, March 14, 2003
Ontology On My Mind
Like a kid who's just learned a new word, I'm a little obsessed.
Y'see at work I've been engaged in a lot of debate about software testing process and software developer training process. In the process of discussing process I noticed that well over 70% of the discussion is spent clarifying terms. Because all process in my company is guided by a constellation of supervening documents dictating overlapping areas of software engineering, there has emerged a web of not-quite-analogous but semantically-overlapping terms that describe what we must do.
And it is very confusing for the average programmer to read the guiding constellation and figure out what's required of him. So we have "process weenies" who interpret the documents and tell us what to do.
I say "weenie" but what they do is an invaluable service -- they read the documents so everyone else doesn't have to. Unfortunately the job of the process weenie is virtually shamanistic, requiring interpretations divined by communal consensus, ritual sacrifice, and a psycho-active drink that gets passed around in a hollowed-out guord.
Wouldn't it be great if there was a systematic way to derive shared meaning of similar terms in overlapping semantic contexts? Enter Ontology.
Apparently it's used a lot in the A.I. world and there are even software process ontologies, but I've found nothing that directly helps me in my endeavors. But I've not given up on the idea.
So I've started with the basics of formal ontology and will work my way there. Now I'm seeing ontologies everywhere. I'm like the dude with the new hammer who thinks everything looks like a nail.
As they say, a fool with a tool is still a fool. And I'm feeling foolish.
Voting for Emergent Democracy
I don't usually blog other people's blogging, but sometimes I want to vote for an idea I read elsewhere, and since Daypop, Blogdex, and Google indexes my site, my posting is a vote of sorts.
So I am voting for this Vision for Emergent Democracy from Dee Hock of chaordic thinking fame posted over at Fleming Funch's blog. Go and read it now.
"...a few dozen dedicated people with fairly modest funding could change everything, by setting up a system that analyzes and understands all matters and activities important to society, and shares the information openly and widely, so that people can make informed decisions by themselves, based on the truth. He's right. Everything would change. I think that is an extremely profound vision and observation, and a very worthy goal."
I was pointed to the Waging Peace website by a post to a mail list I'm on. And on the front page there was a nice poem:
Wage Peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble.
Breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red-wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
Breathe out sleeping children and fresh mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out life long relationships intact.
Wage peace with our listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothing pins, clean rivers.
Play music; learn the word "thank you" in 3 languages.
Learn to knit: make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries.
as the outbreak of beauty or gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Never has the word seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
-- Judyth Hill
Might sound a bit Pollyanna-ish to a lot of Good Christian Folks out there, but so does a lot of what Jesus said re: the Beatitudes and all that "turn the other cheek" stuff. What I call the "yeah, right" Gospels. People read them and say "Yeah, right. Like that's gonna happen."
And that is my task -- to go beyond the "Yeah, right" reflex and have faith. I mean, common sense is so....common.
Faith is un-common. Faith doesn't always make sense.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
This morning of all mornings I have been given the gift of gratitude, hovever incomplete. I couldn't help but notice the incredible blessing in all of the mundane aspects of my morning routine. A comfortable bed, warm shower, soft towels, good clothes that fit, a job to go to that will support my family, fresh ground coffee, nutritious cereal with fresh toasted pecans for breakfast. You get the idea. It is at that level -- the level of mundane particulars I usually take for granted -- that the Gospel has been whispering to me this morning.
There have been times in my life when I have been without all of these things. There is a vast number people who live without any realistic hope, who do not even dream, of having such blessings. I did not wake up cold or hungry, nor did I wake up in fear for my livelihood, or in dread of the drudgery of a dead-end job, or in fear for my life. There are people for whom that is a reality. It may be so for me one day. But not today, and for that I am grateful.
But I am also tinged with anxiety. How am I to be worthy of all this treasure? I am in a position that I take for granted a lot of things that other people struggle for. How can I make the resources God has invested in me bear interest? Soft towels, a life free from constant worry, a stable job -- all this frees my mind and spirit up for some thing, some task. Am I on the right track?
Wendell Berry expresses this sentiment better and more succinctly:
Prayer After Eating
I have taken in the light
that quickened eye and leaf.
May my brain be bright with praise
of what I eat, in the brief blaze
of motion and of thought.
May I be worthy of my meat.
Indeed. I pray that I be made worthy of my meat. I pray that I can bear fruit.
Anxiety aside, mostly I am just grateful.
Thich Nhat Hanh said in one of his Dharma talks rings particularly true. He said that while you have a bad toothache all you can think about is getting rid of the pain. When the pain finally goes away you are happy. The mere absence of the pain makes you happy, and you momentarily forget all your cares, enjoying the present moment of your "non-toothache." That is the trick, Hanh says, to enjoy in every moment your "non-toothache."
This morning I am quite happy with my "Non-Toothache."
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Are terrorists better managers?
I came across a recent article advocating research into organizational learning to combat terrorism. Terrorists, if I get the gist of the paper right, are ahead of the heirarchically-impaired West in management and organizational learning practice. They apparently have a highly-advanced sense "of the importance of organizational learning, of the significance of knowledge as a resource for fighting, and the value of efficient knowledge management and sharing."
This goes to show that even the most progressive tools can be used independently of the morality of the cause for which they are employed. Organizational learning seems like too progressive a thing -- a kindler, gentler management practice -- to be used for such an evil purpose.
(And now I'd like to send a big shout out to all the fine fellows at the NSA and in the intelligence community who are now reading my blog. Hi, y'all.)
It's taking most of the willpower I have not to eat the whole damn box of Bananabix I got the other day. From the makers of Weetabix, with its crunchy lightly sweet whole grain with dried bananas, it is my new breakfast crack. Tastes great dry so it makes a good healthy snack.
A beautiful, troubling poem from Richard Wilbur of Charlotte's Web fame:
'Advice to a Prophet'
When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God's name to have self-pity,
Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.
Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?--
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
A stone look on the stone's face?
Speak of the world's own change. Though we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
How the view alters. We could believe,
If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip
On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without
The dolphin's arc, the dove's return,
These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken
In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.
Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.
-- Richard Wilbur
It's as close to an anti-war statement as I'll come. The poliiti-bloggers have trod this ground into dusty hard earth.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Open Letter to David Caruso, er, Horatio Caine
You are not an action figure. You are a scientist. You do not shoot people. You do not lead investigations. You analyze crime scenes.
You are not supposed to be a reprise of David Caruso's NYPD Blue character with extra brains. Please stop it.
Attaining to holiness
"Those who imagine they can attain to holiness by any wisdom or
strength of their own will find themselves after many labours, and
struggles, and wary efforts, only the farther from possessing it, and
in proportion to their certainty that they of themselves have gained
-- John of Avila
When I start to feel too good about myself, I get a little wary. At first I thought it was because I'm Catholic (hee) but it may just be good general policy. I pray that I may always offer up praises to God for the good that comes from me, give credit to the big-S Self in me for my best fruits, and keep my sin before my eyes. This is lest I lose sight of the Goal and fall prey to the deadly illusion that I have already arrived.
Now is that a Lenten sentiment or what? I'm so holy, aren't I? ;)
Monday, March 10, 2003
Big Moment Points
Girlzilla is in Washington D.C. The U.S. is on a yellow level terrorist alert. Coincidence? Hmmm....
No, this is yet another one of these milestones -- a Big Moment. Girlzilla's first trip Away with out us. Yes, she's been to sleep away camp, but that was across town. She's flown by herself, but that was just to meet us or another relative waiting at the terminal when she arrived. This is the first real trip away -- the fifth grade trip to the national capital.
Heidi and I both wanted to take her to the airport to see her off. But there were the other children to watch so only one of us could go. Heidi went with Girlzilla to the airport. She did most of the planning and oversaw most of the packing and pre-trip shopping. It was only fair that she'd get to be there for this one --she'd earned all the Big Moment Points.
Besides, there'll be one big moment in the future when Heidi will do all the work and I, unfairly or not, will get the Big Moment. I get to walk her down the aisle when the time comes. I can wait.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
"Brahman is the Self hidden in everyone. He is only obvious to those who, minds focused one-pointedly on the Lord of Love, nurture intuitive knowledge. Meditation leads them deeper into consciousness, passing from the world to thoughts, and beyond thoughts to the wisdom of the Self."
"I am in all things,
From Brahma to a blade of grass."
When you know this,
You have no thought
For success or failure
Or the mind's inconstancy.
You are pure.
You are still.
-Ashtavakra Gita 11:7
These scriptures are from the Hindu tradition, but they echo what I have been meditating on lately -- The Self vs. the self. Or as some Christian thinkers have put it, the "true" Self (Big S) and the "false" self (little-s). Seems I spend alomst all my time with the little-s self. My Lent this year is about striving, through awareness of the mundane aspects of my life, to be more Self-centered instead of self-centered.
I used to view morality as a continuum between being self -centered on one end vs. being other-centered on the other. But I am seeing that the "other" might just be a mental device that allows me to perceive myself as separate instead of connected to some core at the center of every thing. It might be as simple as finding out who I am. (As finding "I Am?")
You know how you feel when coming up to a map at the head of a trail and you're disoriented, trying to figure out where you are and then you see the little "You Are Here" arrow? You know that moment of sudden orientation when your perception of the map comes into square with your perception of the sights around you? I've been having a number of those moments lately, which I should take as a good sign.
But still, I am just at the trailhead, reading a map. Perpetually, it seems. Am I making any sense here?
Friday, March 07, 2003
A friend pointed me to this Visual Thesaurus, a beautiful marriage of visual and conceptual representation. Made me kind of dizzy though. Enjoy.
"Continual moderation is better than fits of abstinence interspersed
with occasional excesses."
- Francis de Sales -
This is a great example for me of how I can know something intellectually, but in practice.... Pfeh.
A cheerful thought, appropos of Lent:
"I got this today," they say; "Tomorrow I shall get that. This wealth is mine, and that will be mine too. I have destroyed my enemies. I shall destroy others too! Am I not like God? I enjoy what I want. I am successful. I am powerful. I am rich and well-born. Who is equal to me? I will perform sacrifices and give gifts, and rejoice in my own generosity." This is how they go on, deluded by ignorance. Bound by their greed, and entangled in a web of delusion, whirled about by a fragmented mind, they fall into a dark hell.
-Bhagavad Gita 16:13-16
Ah, a fragmented mind. I relate to being fragmented. I need some de-fragmentation, the kind that internal silence alone can provide.
It's been too long since my last defrag. And you?
Thursday, March 06, 2003
He's such a Card.
Theory trading cards got me going. Then I found...Mathematician Trading Cards, Friendly Dictator Trading Cards, Artists' Trading Cards, trading cards for TV Shows, for regular people, international politicians, and my favorite...
Psychadelic Republican Trading Cards.
You can also make and trade your own.
Philosophy of the Everyday
This guy's Critique of Everyday Life, Vol II caught my eye last night. I am fascinated by the systematic study of the mundane, as that is where I believe much of Life's Spiritual Ground lies. I see a trip to the library in my near future (I was too cheap to buy the book.)
And might I say that the idea of Theory Trading Cards is simply smashing!
Sin in a Nutshell
Sounds like a new O'Reilly Book, don't it?
Here's the highlights from the first installment of the Lenten Lecture Series at the University of St. Thomas last night. It was about the "Theology of Sin":
Last night's lecture was edifying, because it confirmed what I have come to understand though my own study, though much more systematically and thoroughly, as the Catholic teaching on the nature of sin. I've been told in the past that my view of sin, while kind of reasonable-sounding, was not the real teaching of the Church and that I was a "typical Cafeteria Catholic." Well since the Bishop was in the room and he clapped too, I'll take that as an imprimatur of sorts.
I guess being called a "Cafeteria Catholic" is a natural hazard of those of us who want to study and inquire and form our own mental models of the concepts on which dogma is based -- to basically think for ourselves in whatever limited form. And though (I hope) I am through with trying to be an apologist and defending myself from the "Cafeteria Catholic" label, it is nice to get an independent confirmation that my own studies are leading me more or less on the path of truth and not astray. You don't get many of those. So last night was nice, if not a bit mind-numbing.
It was also a nice deviation from the "Dinner and Movie" date rut that Heidi and I have been stuck in. We drove home discussing theology. It was kinda cool.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Day of the Smart Mobs
This CNN story is a great illustration of the power of the Smart Mob concept.
Monday, March 03, 2003
If you're one of those looking for my post about musicsettlement.com my original post is down there on Feb. 27th. Whether you're money-grubbing opportunists or just curious or, like me, wanting so many people to sign up that the whole pot gets given away to charity, welcome!
You have until 11:59p.m. tonight! Quit reading my blog and go get registered.
Go get some money! Git!
Still here? Whew. I don't know how this happened, but apparently I'm like one of three or so bloggers who show up in Google searches for "musicsettlement.com" Of course this way skews my site stats, because most of the hundreds of people who've been through here in the past few days don't want to read my B.S., they're saying to themselves "show me the money!" It's like having a little house on a freeway.
But you're still reading. Gosh. Hey, I like readers. Leave me a note.
After reading an editorial in my latest Smartmarriages newsletter, I have a new crush. I am an adoring fan of Michelle Wiener-Davis, the famous marriage therapist of Divorce Busting fame. Her latest book, which has started a naiscent meme in the therapy world and the press, is called The Sex-Starved Marriage. Who wouldn't love a woman who writes a book trying to convince more married people to have sex more often?
I saw her speak at a Smartmarriages conference in D.C. a few years back and have always admired her pragmatic, cut-through-the-BS style. She's direct like Dr. Phil *and* she actually knows what she's doing! But after I read her essay in this latest letter, well, I'm even more hooked.
She was responding to an article where men were being criticized for lagging behind women in developing "emotional IQ." The article ragged on men for being reticent to share feelings and be "intimate" in relationships. She responded that the only reason that men lag behind women on emoitional IQ and intimacy is that women control the very definitions of intimacy and emotional IQ. She's calling BS on the whole emotional I.Q. deal.
She asserts, correctly from my experience, that men tend to share intimacy from shared action -- doing stuff together. This is what some women (I said "some") patronizingly refer to as "male bonding." Yet "male bonding" is a major way that men achieve intimacy. Wiener-Davis put it this way:
"So rather than label men slow learners, I say we broaden our definition of what it means to be intimate. Women simply do not have a corner on the intimacy market. Men and women bring different intimacy skills to the marriage table. Let's learn from each other."
Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W.
Boo-yah! Yeah baby. That's why I love ya!
Now I wish I could get this somehow to the folks who are planning our men's ministry at Chuch. Stereotypically, mens ministry has been a copy of womens' ministry with men shoehorned in. Lots of sitting in a circle Robert Bly style talking about our fathers and our feelings. Lots of hugging and holding hands and praying.
I say for our first men's ministry meeting we all go bowling and share pitchers of beer. And when I do, I'll raise my first plastic cup of Bud Light to Michelle Wiener-Davis, the stand-up woman who gave "male bonding" some legitimacy and exposed "emotional IQ" as to the cheesy buzzwrod it truly is.
As if to egg me on in my pursuit of the Perennial Philosophy, I found this in my inbox this morning:
Aldous Huxley held that ultimate truth is experiential in
nature and, contrary to most Western philosophical traditions, cannot
be known through a collection of rational facts. However, to say that
ultimate truth is experiential does not mean that it can't be made
sense of or rationally explained. Huxley believed that it could and
should be. For though the intellectual analogue would be inferior to
the truth (differing from it as a cake recipe differs from a cake), a
philosophical description could have value if it led the intellect to
accept the need to transcend itself--to go beyond the ideas to the
experiential truth itself.
- Dana Sawyer, "Aldous Huxley: A Biography"
Monday Morning Encouragement
Apropos of Monday Morning, scriptures speak truth:
The body trembles,
The tongue falters,
The mind is weary.
Forsaking them all,
I pursue my purpose happily.
Knowing I do nothing,
I do whatever comes my way,
And I am happy.
-Ashtavakra Gita 13:2-3
Indeed. I do nothing. I do all things through the Christ who strengthens me.
Between the gritty residue left on everything by the whipping winds of Corpus Christi and the green pollen sheen my neighborhood trees are painting on everything, something was kicking my ass all weekend. My sinuses are revolting.
But I am not going to let that get me down. Forsaking it all, I pursue my purpose happily