Friday, October 31, 2008

I totally missed National Candy Corn Day

I'm so bummed! Turns out October 30th is National Candy Corn Day and I missed it! I guess that I'll just have to celebrate Halloween instead.

But here's an important question: which end of the candy corn do you think of as the top? A friend and I spent waaay too long saying, "The top of the candy corn is white." "No, the top of the candy corn is yellow," when in fact what we first needed to decide is whether the little end or the big end is the so-called "top." Wikipedia gets around this issue (or refuses to take a side) by referring to the yellow part as the "base" and the white part as the "tip." Pretty cowardly if you ask me.

Incidentally, if you are wondering who made October 30th National Candy Corn Day, that would be the all-powerful National Confectioners Association, which also says that October is National Caramel month and that today is National Caramel Apple Day. Who knew that Caramel Apples had such a strong lobby? I guess I'm not ready for that one, so I'll just have to be prepared for November 7: National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day. Really, you should take a look at this calendar and get this marked down.

I am very pleased to see that chocolate mints get their own day: February 19th. I'm all over it.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What I want to know is, why is that Baptist minister a ghost in the first place?

Excellent (by which I mean, "Can you believe this?") article in yesterday's NY Times on how to get rid of ghosts in your house. Excerpt: "Before attempting to cleanse a household of ghostlike sounds and scents, the homeowner must first determine whether such sounds and scents are actually of the other world. Happily, there is no shortage of instruction manuals on the subject. One, an e-book called “Is My House Haunted? A Practical Guide,” was written by Bonnie Vent, the medium who founded the San Diego Paranormal Research Project."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Baseball, before it's too late, and belief, because I feel like it

I thought I would be rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays, so I was surprised when, on Saturday night during game three, I whooped when Philadelphia won in the bottom of the 9th. It was the weirdest sensation: I honestly didn't know who I was rooting for until the team that turned out to be my team won.

In my head, I was rooting for the scrappy Rays. In my gut, for reasons unclear, I was rooting for Philadelphia. Perhaps because Jimmy Rollins is from Alameda, or because Joe Blanton is pitching for them, or because the Rays are an American League rival. I couldn't tell you. It isn't rational, but it's true nonetheless.

I've thought for a while about how you can't make yourself believe something. Belief, I have come to believe, is a very strange thing that inhabits a person without as much rational thought as perhaps we might wish. Someone asked me not too long ago whether I believed literally in the resurrection of Jesus and as I thought about it, I realized that despite any rational argument to the contrary, I actually do.

It also seems to me that a lot of people either beat up on themselves or on the church for believing or not believing the right things. Shouldn't we be a bit more relaxed about it? Just keeping our eyes and hearts open, allowing ourselves to take in what's actually happening around us and in us, remaining curious and flexible, and being transformed by the renewing of our minds, as Paul says.

This thing with the Phillies was a surprise to me. I want to know how many more tenets I hold that I don't even know about.

Go Phillies!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Candidate clothing

As someone with no fashion sense and a notorious cheapskate to boot, I am not the best person to be talking about the recent revelations about the Republican campaign's clothing purchases for Sarah Palin. I did a post on it at "Just the facts ma'am," only verifying the amount spent, which was pretty darn close to $150K.

Now, here's the thing: I just got some birthday money and am planning to buy some clothes. With the $500 gift from my parents, I figure I can probably get a good professional outfit. One. And hopefully a decent undergarment that lifts us up where we belong, if I may be so bold. So I appreciate that it costs money to look professional. And I appreciate that being quickly thrust into a media spotlight might require the outlay of a good bit of cash to prevent the nastiness that often hits professional women as people judge on the basis of clothing and appearance.

I guess the question is, How much is too much? If it were only, say, $50,000, would it be OK? My guess is people would still say (and with some reason) "Fifty thousand dollars!!!"

My real problem with this situation is that there seems to have been NO effort made at showing any sort of economizing whatsoever. As one commentator (whose link I have misplaced) said, this simply seemed to show a tin ear to the current situation, and it also sent a very different message from the message Sarah Palin is saying, about being "just regular folks." It may have been different had the RNC spent a lot of cash in ways that felt economical: less upscale stores, for example.

Now, I've been annoyed with some of the egregiously outraged commentary. There was one that assailed SP for carrying this canvas tote bag (with a moose pictured on it) while also assailing her for the expensive clothes. Personally, I think the tote bag is a lovely a real touch, something that seems genuine in the midst of all the image. But again, I'm a fashion moron, so what do I know?

To answer that, here's what I know: As I have learned from being a regular reader of "Beauty Tips for Ministers," what you wear says something about you. What -- let me put it this way -- what the RNC and the McCain campaign is having Sarah Palin wear and what is coming out of Sarah Palin's mouth are at odds with each other.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Muslims in American politics

I've been thinking about this video ever since I saw it a couple of days ago:

In it (in case you, like me, often wish bloggers would summarize the video so you don't have to watch it all the way through), a man at a McCain rally is giving out bumper stickers that suggest Obama is a secret Muslim. And then what happens is that several Muslims who are attending the McCain rally - as potential McCain voters - say, "Thanks for making up my mind for me; I'm voting for Obama." And THEN a McCain campaign staffer - WHO IS MUSLIM - comes out and tells the people gathered around this guy that he's not a part of the campaign, that he's doing this on his own.

And I see this guy (the one giving out the bumper sticker) looking absolutely baffled. It's a beautiful moment, actually, as (I hope) he sees that a) the McCain campaign isn't as "pure" as he thought it was (in the best sense of the word) and that b) maybe America is bigger than he thinks it is. Baffled. In the best way of being baffled, when reality impinges on our prejudices.

I thought Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama was important mostly for what he said about Muslims. I don't think a Democrat could have said what Powell did without some serious howling. Here is the transcript:
I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
He then goes on to talk about a photograph of a gravestone at Arlington Cemetery for a young Muslim-American soldier who "serve[d] his country and [gave] his life."

I do think it's odd that either party would be willing to give up (or cede to the other party) the Muslim-American vote. Republicans have, in that sense, done the Democrats a favor. It's very strange. I'm grateful to Colin Powell for speaking up as he did - not because of his endorsement, but because he's right about what America should be.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Reading update

I have read a book! Still working on the Lust Lizard, but I finished a mystery called "Three Bags Full," quite wonderful! A shepherd is murdered, found in the field with a spade stuck through him. And his sheep decide to solve the murder.

The cleverest sheep is Miss Maple, and one chapter is entitled "Miss Maple Investigates." Then there's Othello and Cloud and Sir Ritchfield and Zora and Mopple the Whale, who probably looks somewhat like the sheep on the left in the photo.

There's also a wonderful reference to Wuthering Heights. And a sheep's eye view of the Blessing of the Animals. And a very complex mystery. Or else I'm just out of practice.

It was, all in all, delightful. And evidence that I can, in fact, still read a whole book.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A prayer

Every three months or so, I'm on the schedule to write for a webpage called "World In Prayer." Most often I peruse numerous online newspapers to sum up world events and put them in prayer form. This week, I felt newsed out and wrote something very different. It's not that I'm so pleased with the writing, but I think the prayer says what I'm really praying. And then I went and did it. So here it is:

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
What is man that you should be mindful of him?
The son of man that you should seek him out?"

- Psalm 8:4-5

God, I've been so hooked on the 24-hour news cycle that I forget that "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

I've been so concerned about each and every twitch of polls and stock market that I forget that "with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day." (2 Peter 3:8)

Forgive me for my anxiety, for letting it control my days and fill my thoughts.

Instead, God, today let me take a walk outside and look at the sky. Let me consider the world you have made.

God, let me breathe deeply, and feel your Spirit within me.
Let me move my limbs and remember that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Let me splash water on my face and remember my baptism.
Let me be loving towards my family.
Let me be generous towards strangers.
Let me commend my spirit into your hands.
Let me not be afraid.


In the obits

You may not know the name Neal Hefti, but you know his work. I shall demonstrate with a tune:

nananananananana nananananananana BATMAN!

Oh,THAT Neal Hefti, you say. Yes, indeed. He died last Saturday at the age of 85.

And the thing is, he was a serious musician, a composer and arranger who worked with the Count Basie orchestra among others. (He also wrote the rather catchy Odd Couples theme song.)

But "Oddly enough, his most famous tune is among his least musically interesting, even if it was somehow brilliantly apt: the jauntily arch and repetitive theme for the television series “Batman.” Mr. Hefti said that the show was so campy it took him weeks to come up with a suitable melody. It won him his only Grammy."

I like the fact that writing the Batman theme was hard to do. There's something very satisfying in that. And that the hard work was suitably awarded with a Grammy. Sometimes it's not about being profound, but being the thing most suited to the need.

“He told me he tore up more paper on ‘Batman’ than on any other work he ever did,” Paul Hefti [his son] said. “He had to find something that worked with the lowest common denominator, so it would appeal to kids, yet wouldn’t sound stupid."

Sounds like writing a sermon to me. Sometimes the most beautiful, most noble sermon isn't what's required. Just something catchy that people can take with them. Perhaps I should tape "BATMAN!" over my desk as a reminder.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My private fear... that I'll never read another book again. What with all the blogs I skim on a daily basis, all the political coverage to which I am riveted, I haven't read a book in I don't know how long. Plus there's the baseball postseason to follow.

But I'm working on the whole "book" thing. I'm easing back in with light fiction, such as "The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove" by Christopher Moore, which is by the bed and of which I have actually read, oh, 40 pages. (I'm not reading it in French, but I loved the thought of reading it in French, hence the image.)

In days of yore, a book such as this would have been finished by now and long since. But no. A couple of pages a day. Perhaps because I'm only used to reading in short bits and spurts. It's rather pathetic.

Someday I shall read again. It may require an intervention or a power outage, but I do believe that one day I shall read again. Though probably not in French.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The new California Academy of Sciences

Is it all right to admit that I was disappointed in the new California Academy of Sciences (CAS)? And by "disappointed" I mean "bored within half an hour." My parents and I went yesterday as a birthday thing and to see the new building and, as we kept saying, the building is wonderful. But the exhibits...I think the only fair thing is to say they didn't do much for me.

Which may very well make me a scientific philistine. I majored in English for a reason, after all. But the place just seemed so doggone earnest, so over-the-top Californian "nature is marvelous; too bad people are so rotten, except for those lovely homo pithicus types" that I, even I, native Californian that I am, wanted to burn some fossil fuels away from there.

At the gift shop, they offered a game called "Earthopoly," which suggested a lack of creativity and also parents bamboozled into buying a tedious game for worthy motives. "Players become the caretakers of wondrous locations around the planet, then increase their property value by collecting Carbon Credits and trading them in for Clean Air." Oh boy, doesn't that sound like a blast? The whole museum had a bit of an "earthopoly" feel to it. At least to me. I wish it were not so.

My personal take: go on a free Wednesday (such as today). And I hope you enjoy it more than I did.

The building, however, was very cool.

Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila! She has been a spiritual guide of mine for years, since that fateful Lent lo! these 18 (or so) years ago when I thought I'd read "The Interior Castle," expecting soothing pablum from a little lady nun and got my spiritual ass kicked royally.

So many things one could say, writings to recommend, but I still think her work as well as the work of faith is best summed up in her phrase:

"The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love."

And being reminded of it, let's see what I can do to love others today on her feast day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Many are called but few are chosen."

I'm working on a sermon and have to admit the gospel gives me the heebie-jeebies. It's the story of the king giving a wedding banquet; the first batch of guests bail out, so the king (after killing the first batch of guests) send his servants to invite anybody. They "gathered all whom they found, both good and bad;" which is my favorite bit of the whole thing.

Then Matthew (and I'm blaming Matthew for this) goes and spoils a lovely ending by adding on a bit about one of the new guests showing up without a wedding robe. Said guest is thrown out--into the outer darkness, no less, "where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." Then the passage ends on the nominally happy note: "For many are called but few are chosen."

What??? What's that supposed to mean?

Gives a preacher shudders, I tell you what.

But here's the thing. Think about it: that saying doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense in the light of the parable. At least not in the terms I'm used to hearing it, where being chosen is a good thing. The only one "chosen" by the king in the parable is the guy who's thrown out.

Here's another thing, from Ken Collins' webpage:
First Things First: The “Many” and the “Few”

It is easy to misunderstand the word “many” in the New Testament, because it has slightly different meanings in Greek and in English. In both languages, it refers to a large group. In English, “many” is restrictive, but in Greek it is inclusive. In other words, if I say “many of the people came” in English, it implies that most of them did not. If I said the equivalent of “many of the people came” in Greek, it would imply that practically everyone did.

In this case, we are dealing with a Greek usage that divides the whole into two unequal parts, which are called the many and the few. In Greek you might say, “The many are on time, but the few are late.” The English equivalent is, “Most are on time, but some are late.” In Greek, “the many” and “the few” add up to everyone; just as in English, “most” and “some” add up to everyone.

But if this is the case, then doesn't it mean that the called and the chosen are completely different groups -- i.e. NONE of those called are chosen? I mean, if "many" and "few" add up to "all," then the "few" are not culled from the "many." If that makes sense.

I need a Venn diagram or something.

Ken Collins concludes thusly: "In the end, everyone had been invited, but only a few were permitted to stay for the wedding. In other words, everyone is called, but some people refuse the invitation and are not chosen." This makes no sense, either with what he just said about "many" and "few," or with the reality of the parable.

In the parable, it seems to me that everyone who wanted to come to a party got to come to the party. The people who continued to work, or who dressed like they were at work, were excluded or excluded themselves.

But still...not Matthew's finest work, I'd have to say.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Happy birthday to me!

Is it too rude to announce it's my birthday? It's a big one -- 40 -- and I'm very excited about it. So call me silly, but I feel that I, at least, can take myself more seriously now that I am 40. And I hope all the rest of you will as well. Well, maybe not THAT seriously.

More financial advice

Remember my investment advice from a week ago? Well, Stephen Colbert agrees with me:

Comfort food. It's a solid investment.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

This is not patriotic

The nastiness of the presidential campaign as it enters its last month has gone beyond the pale, as far as I'm concerned. I can understand raising insinuations, innuendos, and even smears, but I cannot tolerate that at a Palin rally a rally-goer can yell "Kill him" about Barack Obama and that the McCain campaign doesn't respond. I can even (barely) understand that in the moment, Palin didn't hear the comment or simply didn't have the wherewithal to respond. But not to send out an immediate statement saying, "This is unacceptable. This is not what we stand for. This is not patriotic"--that's where I lose my respect for the Republican presidential ticket. I am appalled.

God keep all the candidates and their families safe from harm.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An obit with audio!

Because today I read the obit of "Ruedi Rymann, Swiss Yodeling Star." Lest you mock, be aware that I am 1/4 Swiss. "To the Swiss, Mr. Rymann was something of a cultural representative, the embodiment of a kind of Swissness that was steeped in tradition. A forester, a hunter and generally an outdoorsman, he was an athlete as well, running a local club devoted to the uniquely Swiss style of wrestling known as swingen, in which the combatants strive to toss each other beyond the bounds of a circular bed of sawdust." And he was a cheesemaker. Blessed be he.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sermon from October 5

I have been back from Uganda now for longer than I was there, which is strange in and of itself. And of all the things that happened while I was there, the thing that stands out most in my mind has nothing to do with Kiva or with the official reason for my visit. The thing that still looms in my mind is the time I was robbed by my servant.

First of all, it is exceedingly strange to me still to use the words “my servant” in a sentence. Strange and very uncomfortable. I tried and tried to come up with a better term, by which I mean a term that made me feel better about myself and my relationship with this man. But the local term is even worse: in Uganda, he would be called “the boy,” or “the houseboy.” I just called him Alex. He called me Mami.

Here’s what would happen. Every morning I would get up and put some water on to boil on my gas cooker. I’d make some tea and keep the rest of the water to drink or use for washing the rest of the day. At about 8:00, Alex would come and knock on the door of my apartment and say, “I clean for you,” and I would say thank you. He would bring in a basin of soapy water and a cloth and would proceed to mop the apartment, bending at the hips and swiping over the floors with the wet cloth. He would take out the trash, tidy my things, and twice a week or so, change the sheets on my bed first ironing them.

All of this came at a price, but at a price I did not understand. “Oh, mami!” he would say, “I am very thirsty. Give me some money for something to drink.” I would give him perhaps 500 shillings, enough for a bottle of soda. Or “Oh, mami! I am a very poor man,” and I would give him 1500 shillings, roughly a dollar.

I never knew if I was doing it right. I never knew if this was accurate, good, proper, unusual, patronizing, unreasonable. Some locals tried to help me, but most of the people I knew didn’t live the kind of exotic lifestyle I was living: in a three room apartment, with electricity, running water, a heated shower, and (huge luxury!) a washing machine.

Not long ago, I got a call from a man who is going to Uganda as a Kiva fellow who wanted to ask me how to go about getting an apartment. He said to me, “I don’t need luxury; I just want to be comfortable,” and I thought, “In Uganda, those two are the same.”

But let me tell you, the luxury was uncomfortable, in no ways more so than in what it showed me about my relationship with others.

As I mentioned at the outset, I was robbed. Probably cheated as well, but certainly robbed. One time, after I’d been in Kampala about two months, I lost the key to my apartment, and Alex asked for a ridiculously large sum of money to have the key replaced. I knew it was a ridiculously large sum, but I also had no way of knowing what the right sum would be and so I gave it to him. What I suspect is that he made a second copy of the key for himself.

One day in May I came home to find the gate locked and no one to answer the door. Eventually, I called my landlady who had someone come over to climb over the 8-foot-high gate and let me in. Alex was gone, and it was very strange. No one knew where he had gone, and the overseer for the house said, “He didn’t even say goodbye.” There seemed no reason for it.

It was only a day later that I looked in the money belt that was in my luggage in my bedroom and realized the 500 US dollars that were in there had been taken.

One thing that was sad about this whole affair is that this US money was in my luggage because it was worthless in Uganda, or at least I couldn’t get it changed at the local Forex bureaus. Because of counterfeiting, they would only accept US dollars printed in 2001 or later. So sadly, though it was quite a bit of money for me, it wasn’t nearly as much for Alex – though still probably worth a lot more than he could earn in quite some time, if he could sell them on the black market.

Please understand that I am not telling this story so you will feel sorry for me. I’m telling this story because this is one of the many stories in which I am still trying to understand what happened in Uganda. I am still trying to understand the relationships there, and especially the relationships between the wealthier west and the poorer south.

Because if there’s one thing I learned during my time in Uganda, it is that these relationships are complicated. And the saddest thing about this story, and the thing I finally realized about the Ten Commandments that we heard this morning, is that in breaking them, we damage our relationships with God and one another.

I think I went to Uganda thinking, not that it would be easy, but that it would be clear that I was doing a good thing and that everyone would see that and respect that. This was real naïveté on my part, I think. But what I did see in being part of microlending was that loaning money instead of giving it away does, I think, change those dynamics of power a little bit. A very little bit.

The dynamics between Alex and myself were very different. They were different from anything I had encountered before. Even though they resembled some relationships I have seen and known, there were huge divides, in terms of culture, status, and position. I could not imagine what it would be like for Alex who stayed in this small compound most of the time, because someone needed to be there to open the gate. What did he do all day? From my perspective, his was a life of tedium and frustration. This is not to excuse what he did, but to remember again that so much of what we think we have earned is a mere accident of birth and history.

I think that by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was fully aware of this. The self-righteousness he displayed as the murderous Saul in the book of Acts is gone. The self-righteousness of the new convert to Christianity is fading away as well. I suspect that these things are gradually falling away because of the people he has met. I suspect it because that is what, in part, happened to me. I met good people and bad people and people in between. The best thing that happened to me in going to Uganda was that I no longer considered “the poor” in the abstract and as if they were all the same. I met people I liked and people I didn’t, people who treated me well and people who didn’t. They were no longer “Ugandans” or “the poor” or “Africans,” but Alex, and Joseline, and Sally, and Fred, and Teopista, and Ezra, and Peter. I had relationships with each one of them that were more or less complicated by who I am and where I’m from, but it’s possible that for them, too, they may no longer think of “Americans” or “whites” or “the rich” in quite the same way because they’ve gotten to know me.

Once again I was reminded that this is not about the law: doing the right thing as prescribed by scripture or culture or expectation; but about relationships – relationships founded on grace and love. The law is not about keeping the law because it's the law; the law is about how can we best relate to one another.

I have more to do in thinking about my time in Uganda and the people I met there. I think I went believing that I could love in the abstract, and that may be true to a point. But I also found how much better and how much harder it is to love in the particular, and how very hard it is to keep that law of love. I believe I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cardinal Newman's practical joke

I don't know if you've heard about this, but back in July, the Vatican asked to exhume the remains of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Their plan was to move the remains to the oratory in Birmingham, thus (so they say) making it easier for pilgrims to venerate him as he moves forward in the canonization process.

This was big news (well, OK, that's a relative term) for a lot of reasons. For one thing, Cardinal Newman was a convert from the Anglican Church to Roman Catholicism after being a leading light of the Oxford movement (aka Anglo Catholic high-churchmanship), so there was some turf scuffling, there.

For another, Cardinal Newman's own request was that he be buried with his "lifelong friend" (I am quoting here from an article in the Daily Mail) Ambrose St. John. "He wrote the following just weeks before his death in the summer of 1890. 'I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Father Ambrose St John's grave... I give this as my last, my imperative will.'"

Hmmm...could it be perhaps that the Vatican didn't want to canonize someone deading openly with a person of the same sex? Naaaah.

All of this makes today's news so much more fun. Because on Thursday, they dug up the tomb and nothing was there. Here's the bulk of a lovely update by Ruth Gledhill in the London Times:
On Thursday, having won the battle to exhume Cardinal John Henry Newman's body for its transfer to the Oratory in Birmingham, those paying their respects at the graveside had a bit of a shock. There was no body to exhume, nothing at all. Not a trace of bone, hair, human remains or anything except this plate. It means that he was not buried in the lead coffin that many supposed he had been but a simple wooden affair. It is not apparently unusual for remains to disintegrate totally in this fashion. A few fragments of hair preserved elsewhere will now be placed in a casket for veneration in the Birmingham Oratory, but of course there can be no 'lying in state' for a real body.... As the spokesman for the Cause, Peter Jennings , has just told me, rarely can there have been a more vivid reminder of the truth of what the priest says at the Ash Wednesday Mass: 'Remember Man, thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.' As our capitalist world crumbles about us, it seems that Newman is a saint for our times in more ways than we could previously have imagined.
Good on you, Cardinal.


I do not remember a time when ASL was not considered a real language. I went to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf from 1991-93 to get an Associates degree in Educational Interpreting, and the linguistics of ASL and other signed languages were well-known at the time.

Which is why it was a bit of a shock today to see the obit for Edward S. Klima and to realize that ASL has been understood and accepted as a language only in my lifetime.

"Before the couple began their research in 1970, everything known about the human language instinct came from the study of spoken languages...A.S.L., used by a quarter-million to a half-million deaf people in the United States and Canada, was widely disparaged as either a rude pantomime, devoid of grammar, or a broken version of English, rerouted to the hands. Deaf people were made to feel ashamed of it. Teachers of the deaf tried to suppress it, forcing pupils to speak and read lips instead, no mean feat if one cannot hear."

And of course I had heard stories about this, but for some reason I hadn't realized that, had I been born deaf, this might have been my experience as well.

It's strange to realize how academic research can have practical implications, can truly affect people's lives for good or for ill. Strange, too, to understand how far we have come and how recently: for people with all kinds of disabilities, for women, for gays and lesbians. It makes me wonder what needs to be done right now.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Just Gravy

All these funerals and obits and nothing has made me cry until I read the blog this morning of Grendel, the Misanthropic Dog.

I got to know Grendel because he is the friend of various Episcopal bloggers and Episcopal dogs and cats, including +Clumber, canine bishop of Pittsburgh.

Grendel is a sweet little guy whose profile reads in its entirety, "Hi, I'm Grendel. I like Gravy." He didn't blog very much but he had a very distinct and tail-waggy style, even in hard times, such as when his cat companion did not come home from the vet.

He also provided a great example of prayer and Christian charity: "Please, God, smile on Mr. Underwear and his Family and the Woman named Martha and all the people who are Under the Passes to keep them Safe and Warm and with Love. Bless him for the Hard Work that he Does, and make me grateful for all the Gravy and Warmth and Love I have. Amen."

He was also very food-focused, which is a good thing in a dog. In this post, he provides a Public Service: "I like Chinese food very much. (In China, they just call it Food.) Natalia didn't know that It Is Okay to give dogs Treats from Plates. I informed her. Now she is More Aware. I feel this is a Good Public Service."

And then all of a sudden, reading one of the other blogs today, I learned that Grendel had died. I went to his blog and it appears it was very, very sudden; the limp that was thought to be arthritis was instead a tumor on the spine. And that was that.

Hearing about Grendel's death made me cry harder than anything has in a long time. I'm not alone. The Mad Priest felt the same, and Father Christian Troll actually admitted he didn't know everything because of Grendel. As crazy as it is, this little dog, whose guardians channeled his personality through a blog, touched a whole lot of people. That's not a bad thing for a little dog.

Here's hoping that we can each touch others to a small degree, that we can do as much simple good as Grendel, and that we can live and die with as much dignity, silliness, and joy.

And give the special dog in your life some Gravy today.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Investment advice

Loved this from Sunday's SF Chronicle:

In a Union City factory that twists out 150,000 pounds of Red Vines licorice a day, plant manager John Nelson is betting that $10 million in capital investments, made when money flowed freely, will help his 240-person plant prosper through tough times.

"We won't call it recession-proof, but licorice has always held its own. It's kind of a comfort food," Nelson said.
I'm thinking comfort food is probably a good investment these days: Hershey's chocolate, Kraft mac and cheese, things like that. You heard it hear first. Maybe. Or maybe this is old news.

Anybody ever play the game "Pit"? Remember that one? Where you could corner the market on wheat, corn, oats and flax? No way, baby. Processed food. That's where it's at. High fat, low nutrition. That's what we're looking for.

Then again, Red Vines. After all, they're always fat free.