Friday, September 30, 2011

Various & Sundry, September 30

Let's see here...What have I been stockpiling during the week? Mostly aid and development news, interestingly, but there might have been a bit of baseball news as well.

How about them Red Sox, eh? According to Nate Silver in the NY Times, the chances of the Red Sox not getting a Wild Card spot was one in 278 million. Maybe they should all play the Lottery.

 I loved this video revealing the amazing customs of the Austrians. I admit I didn't watch it all, but what I did watch was revealing. I doubt you'll ever watch a National Geographic special the same way again.

In a similar vein, this post on what to consider before volunteering overseas is an eye-opener.

 Also in the world of aid and development, this profile of Paul Polak was fascinating. Among other things, he developed treadle pumps that help people in remote areas get access to water. Whoo-ee, does he have some harsh things to say about traditional aid programs! Just to make sure you see it, here's the final question:
Q. What are your principles for success? 
A. In 1981, I said, “I’m going to interview 100 $1-a-day families every year, come rain or shine, and learn from them first.” Over 28 years, I’ve interviewed over 3,000 families. I spend about six hours with each one — walking with them through their fields, asking what they had for breakfast, how far their kids walk to school, what they feed their dog, what all their sources of income are. This is not rocket science. Any businessman knows this: You’ve got to talk to your customers.
Well, there's a notion!

In obituary news, I hope you all heard about Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She's the founder of the Green Belt Movement--an incredible person.
Wangari Maathai, who was planting a tree in the shadow of Mount Kenya when told she had won, was clear: “Wars are fought over resources. If we did a better job of managing our resources sustainably, conflicts over them would be reduced. Protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace.”
Finally, very much in non-aid related news, let us all enjoy either for the first time or once again this clever and oh-so-satisfying advertisement.

 What are the odds?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The two faces of Harper

Noble hunting dog Harper

"Did you say something?" Harper
Yeah, she's still a puppy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Garden update, September 25

I know you've been wondering for weeks now, "What's up with the garden? Where are our lengthy updates with dozens of photos of various plants? We want information on every variety of tomato under the sun!" But in your patience, you decided not to pester me. Because that's just the kind of forbearing folks you are.

But at long last, your patience will be rewarded! Mostly with the information that this has been a pretty lousy year for the garden due to a Certain Puppy Who Shall Remain Nameless. There's a reason when we let her out of her crate in the morning we say, "Release the Kraken!"

Exhibit A:
Maybe it was locusts...
Here's what didn't survive the summer:

  • basil
  • carrots
  • peas
  • peppers
  • green beans
  • corn
  • sunflowers
  • strawberries
  • various bedding plants
It's not all the nameless puppy's fault, however. I managed to kill the plants in the window boxes all by myself, due to neglect. I feel like a murderer.

I'm glad to report that the tomatoes did survive and are producing abundantly. Lots of BLTs and Caprese Salads are the fruit of my labors.

But here's what I want to show you. Do you remember the pumpkins I planted? Here's a reminder of what they looked like in July:

And here is that same spot today:

Peeking underneath the leaves, there are a few pumpkins plumping up nicely.  I just hope they turn orange soon!

The beds along the house are also looking...ok, though it's been uneven, to say the least. The white flowers in the foreground are cosmos that went absolutely crazy...and the small fluffy frond of a plant at the end of the bed is the VERY SAME COSMOS that never even bloomed.
As the predator puppy lurks...
All in all, an OK year, but lots to do as the fall approaches. Kind of like the baseball season: a rebuilding year with lots of hopes for the winter trade deadlines and spring to come. But I'm proud of those pumpkins. (Famous last words.)

Sunday Funnies, September 25

For depressed A's fans who will be glad to see the end of a lousy season. - Sorry the only positive thing to happen to your team in five years is Brad Pitt portraying your general manager Hopefully, the even more miserable Mariners will help us end on a positive note. Also, Moneyball was fun.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Various & Sundry, September 23

Let's see...shall we start with the news? Now here's a headline you don't see every day: Gordon Ramsay's Dwarf Porn Double Found Dead in a Badger Den in Wales. Of course, if you saw it every day, it wouldn't be news, I suppose.

I thought this story in the NY Times was very touching. A regular business blogger there received a heartfelt apology from a former employee he'd had to fire 10 years ago. As the blogger, Jay Goltz, said, "On paper, business is about marketing, management and finance. In reality, it is also about relationships: the good, the bad and the ugly." And later, "I now realize that just because you try and fail with someone doesn’t mean you are a fool. It means you are a boss." Or maybe just human. Really lovely, and about so much more than business.

In the world of social media, I just finished posting a series of blog entries on the Cephas Media site on Starting a Twitter Feed: Follow graciously, Interact generously, Share consistently, Grow Patiently. I think they're pretty good, if I do say so myself. If you're trying to figure out how to use Twitter, or whether to bother, take a look.

One obit I particularly noticed was that of Stetson Kennedy, an investigative journalist who infiltrated and exposed the KKK, revealing in particular "how silly they were."

I can't imagine why someone would think I would be interested in the Run For Your Life 5K Obstacle Course. "Runners will navigate a series of 12 obstacles throughout a 5K course in an attempt to reach the finish line — all while avoiding zombies. At the end of this adventure race, you get to celebrate survival (or zombie transformation) with live entertainment and music, local celebrities, vendors, food, and of course, beer!" Frankly, I'm glad there isn't one locally. I'm sure I'd be dead.

Finally, a friend of mine posted this to my Facebook page about a woman pastor's dark secret. I admire the way they built suspense through the video. Oh, those Unitarian ministers!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: One Of Our Thursdays is Missing

A very quick Teaser from the book I'm currently reading, One of our Thursdays is Missing:

We walked down the seemingly endless corridors, every door placarded with the name of the department contained within.  One was labeled OLD JOKES and another NOUN-TO-VERB CONVERSION UNIT. Just past the offices of the Synonym Squad and the Danvers Union headquarters was a small office simply labeled JAID.
The truth is, probably very little of this book will make sense unless you've read any of the other Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde. That man has the most amazing imagination. Enjoyable reads for readers, though the plots never stick with me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Undercover Clergy: Whose altar?

I almost went to a real-live church service yesterday. I had every intention of doing so before heading to work at the winery at noon. Then I looked at the potential church's website.

The "Welcome" page didn't say the address or the times of service (which itself makes me think hmmm...), so I went to the "worship" page, and beneath the times of the Sunday services found this:
All baptized Christians for whom this is a normal expression of faith are invited to receive communion at our altar, keeping in mind that it is the teaching of the Episcopal Church that Christ is truly present and God's power of love is truly at work in this blessed sacrament.
The more I thought about this, the madder I got. Now, I'm an open communion person, meaning I don't think you must be baptized before receiving communion, and I understand that this is not the official position of the Episcopal Church. But I thought, why put this here? Is that really the first thing you want to say about communion, is that "if you're not already in, you can't have it"?

But it was the "our altar" that really got me.  It's yours? Really? For my money, if you have to put any phrase there at all, I'd suggest changing that to "at St. Swithins". The altar you leave to God.

And what's with this "keeping in mind" business? Again, that reads as an "our altar" moment; if you don't see communion this way, well, then, you really don't belong here. The Episcopal Church's sign says "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You." In this case, I'd add the addendum, "...more or less."

Am I being hyper-sensitive here? What's weird is that I am completely offended by this, and I'm part of the in-crowd. The hyper-in crowd as an actual ordained minister in this denomination, more than welcome to receive communion under these conditions.  But what do you hear in this description?

As for church, I did what is now my usual thing and attended the terrific podcast of St. Laika's. I thank God and MadPriest for it, and for allowing me to attend communion after all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Funnies, September 18

I want to make sure you know that tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arr!
My pirate name is:
Calico Mary Cash

Often indecisive, you can't even choose a favorite color. You're apt to follow wherever the wind blows you, just like Calico Jack Rackham, your namesake. You're musical, and you've got a certain style if not flair. You'll do just fine. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from
part of the network
And in case you want to celebrate early and religiously, here is the infamous Pirate Eucharist! Arrrmen.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Various & Sundry, September 16

A quick update on Harper's Cone of Shame: I am now sporting a great many arc-shaped bruises on the back of my calves from where Harper has been ramming me with said cone.  I am also very glad to report that she is no longer wearing said cone.

All right, a few tidbits:

From the world of Social Media, I loved this article listing 5 signs your organization is ready to use social media--and 5 signs it isn't.  The article says it's about healthcare, but I say substitute, oh, church, for example, for healthcare, and it works just as well. (The "it isn't" list is particularly helpful.)

Although for the most part I am feeling some serious 9/11 fatigue, I was still moved by this book of photos that reports on the lives of the now-elderly dogs who took part of the rescue efforts in 2001.

Also in books, I loved this snippet of history about the man behind the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, and Tom Swift, among others. He himself apparently wrote more than 1,300 books.  Now, that's prolific.

I don't know if you heard the story about the three passengers detained after a flight to Detroit because they were "suspiciously" Indian and/or Israeli. Both James Fallows and TaNehisi Coates at The Atlantic had some sharp stuff to say about the incident, which is good because all I have to say is pretty vulgar.

Continuing in this cheerful vein, the Internet Monk asks why people are angry at the poor? I draw attention to this because if we want to change people's attitudes towards the poor, I think it helps to understand what is driving the current attitude.

I found this article about how Whole Foods primes you to shop fascinating--down to what shade of yellow makes a banana most appealing. The author has written a book called Brandwashed that may have to go on my list. Not to buy, though. Why would I want to do that?

Let's pick up the mood a little bit with this report from the World Health Organization, announcing that malaria deaths have declined by almost 40 percent over the last 10 years--and may be zero by 2015, at the time when the Millennium Development Goals are set to expire! Wouldn't that be fabulous? Let's keep that going!

I have a new blog I follow called Confessions of a Funeral Home Director.  He had a great post yesterday asking "Which funeral home wins the title of 'Worst funeral home name ever?'"  It was a tough call.

Finally, get your Kleenex back out to watch this video about Sherrie Gahn's amazing work with the kids at her elementary school:

Have a terrific weekend!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's only a Cone of Shame if you allow it to be

A life lesson ably demonstrated by Harper.

"What? Oh, this? It's a CONE!"

"You know what else is good to get under the cone? CATS!!!"

Monday, September 12, 2011

My new job

I will have even less time to blog than before because I have a new part time job at Hendry Wines!

It's an amazing coincidence, actually. I went to a tasting and tour with a friend of mine who said, "When I retire, I want to work part time at a winery," and the woman giving the tour said, "Are you available now?" Two weeks later, and voila! I am doing data processing, taking orders, answering the phones, and generally trying to make myself useful--and absorb information about wine in the process.

If you're ever in the Napa Valley, call for a tour. I may be the one answering the phone.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Various and Sundry, September 10

I'm on my way to Fort Bragg shortly, so this will be brief.

Let's start with an obituary for the fabulous Miss Betty Skelton, daredevil, stuntwoman, test driver, potential astronaut, and all-around record breaker. I'll give away the ending: "Latterly, with her second husband, Allan Erde, a retired Navy doctor, who survives her, she lived in a retirement community at which most of the residents travel about in golf carts. Betty Skelton, however, drove a red Corvette convertible that almost matched the colour of her hair."

I stumbled across this site that obsessively (or perhaps compulsively) catalogs the religious affiliation of comic book characters. Supervillains have a strong predilection towards atheism. Lex Luthor, I am sorry to say, is a lapsed Episcopalian. I found myself thinking, "What could his youth minister have done?" (Superman is good Midwestern Methodist.) You will also be glad to know that Captain Underpants is Jewish. I told you they were obsessive.

Finally (I did mention this would be brief), I loved this Ted talk on tinkering. True for kids, true for adults too. I think we worry too much about Messing Up. What if Messing Up were a good thing and part of the whole process?

Friday, September 9, 2011

World In Prayer

It was my week for the World In Prayer prayers. I found it difficult to get the balance between acknowledging 9/11, which is on everyone's minds, and the many other things going on in the world. Here's what came out:

O Lord, our God, how glorious is your name in all the earth.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we remember the pain we felt and the suffering that has echoed throughout our world since that time. In the jumble of emotions and stories and interpretations around us, give us the humility to recognize that we know only in part; comfort us with the faith that you fully know. Help us at all times to love.

Help us also to bear one another’s burdens. Open our eyes to the needs of our world today. Give us the courage to move onward, following you though you may seem to us only as a cloud.

As we pause in our wanderings to join with one another in prayer, let us call to mind the needs of the world.

We pray for Syria where Syrian forces have killed at least 28 people in response to continued popular protests.

We pray for Brazil where thousands of people joined anti-corruption demonstrations on their Independence Day.

We pray for Somalia where more than half the population is in crisis after the worst harvest in 17 years has led to famine.

In the United States, we pray for the state of Texas (US) where wildfires have destroyed more than 1500 homes and more than 175 fires have affected over 125,000 acres. We pray for those being evacuated from their homes due to flooding and heavy rains in Pennsylvania and New York.

We pray for India where an explosion in a courthouse in New Delhi killed at least 10 people and wounded more than 60.

We pray for Russia where a chartered plane carrying the members of a Kontinental Hockey League team crashed killing 43 people.

We pray for all those affected by the global financial crisis. We pray for Europe as its leaders continue to search for solutions to the debt crisis in the Eurozone and as people are impacted by those decisions. We pray for Australia whose unemployment rate rose to an unexpected high in August. We pray for all those who are looking for work.

We pray for all those who mourn; all those who suffer; all those who are sick; all those in want.

We pray, O God, you would fill us with compassion and guide us into all truth. May we remember you in all we do. May we find you in all places. May we see you in every person. May we be your light to the world.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Sermon prep for 9/11

I'm preaching this Sunday up at St. Michael's Fort Bragg and would love to get a little input as I mull over the readings. Specifically the gospel, which is this passage from Matthew:

Peter came and said to Jesus, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, `Pay what you owe.' Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

Here's the thing: the 10th anniversary of 9/11 seems like a great time to talk about forgiveness, but I don't want this to be cheap grace or easy platitudes. This is not an easy gospel, nor was 9/11 an easy moment; I don't think the sermon should be easy either. In fact, there are a lot of ways this gospel works against preaching about forgiveness. After all, are we talking about other members of the church? And weren't the events of 9/11 more than owing a few hundred denarii?

But there it is, and I think the gospel demands being faced head-on and in conjunction with all the remembrances and events. But this will require some care and consideration. And I'd love your help.

What comes to your mind, hearing this gospel in tandem with remembering 9/11?

Ground rules: State your own opinions and respect those of others. Personal reactions are just that: personal. If you have a completely different reaction it's because you are a completely different person with a different experience and perspective. How people should feel or what people should think is irrelevant. I am grateful for your honest thoughts; I hope that you will be kind to one another.

A poem for this Labor Day

Calling Him Back from Layoff├»»¿ by Bob Hicok : The Poetry Foundation

Calling Him Back from Layoff

I called a man today. After he said
hello and I said hello came a pause
during which it would have been

confusing to say hello again so I said
how are you doing and guess what, he said
fine and wondered aloud how I was

and it turns out I’m OK. He
was on the couch watching cars
painted with ads for Budweiser follow cars

painted with ads for Tide around an oval
that’s a metaphor for life because
most of us run out of gas and settle

for getting drunk in the stands
and shouting at someone in a t-shirt
we want kraut on our dog. I said

he could have his job back and during
the pause that followed his whiskers
scrubbed the mouthpiece clean

and his breath passed in and out
in the tidal fashion popular
with mammals until he broke through

with the words how soon thank you
ohmyGod which crossed his lips and drove
through the wires on the backs of ions

as one long word as one hard prayer
of relief meant to be heard
by the sky. When he began to cry I tried

with the shape of my silence to say
I understood but each confession
of fear and poverty was more awkward

than what you learn in the shower.
After he hung up I went outside and sat
with one hand in the bower of the other

and thought if I turn my head to the left
it changes the song of the oriole
and if I give a job to one stomach other

forks are naked and if tonight a steak
sizzles in his kitchen do the seven
other people staring at their phones


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Various and Sundry, September 4

The reason I'm so late with the V&S this week is because on Friday I had to make an EMERGENCY trip to Sebastopol to get Gravenstein apples after reading this article about how those big bully grapevines are pushing those thin-skinned apples around. Here's a picture:
I have Gravenstein apples and you don't! ha ha ha!

But I did want to fill you in on a couple of things.

I loved this fabulous flowchart to help you decide which baseball team to root for. First option: "I have a soul." If no, you root for the Yankees. If yes, move to the next option. Apparently, I'm a Colorado Rockies fan.

This was written for writers, but is true of so many things: about how we need to focus on goals rather than milestones. Meaning this:

Too many people, when they create lists of goals they’d like to achieve in their year, choose to list milestones over which they have little control. Saying you’d like to sell a novel as a ‘goal’ is possibly not in your control. The market may not be right. You may not have written a good novel. But you can certainly somewhat control writing a novel and submitting it.

It's a very practical application of the Serenity Prayer.

In social media, I really liked this blog entry on Twitter that covers all of the basics in a clear, comprehensive, British, and non-social-media-guru way. For example:

"TIP: Don't be a wanker and pretend you're Cameron's personal advisor."

Words to live by.

Speaking of Twitter, I also loved this which I found on Flickr:

Follow me or...

That's what most people are really thinking, of course.

This UCC minister also reveals what pastors are really thinking when someone explains to us that they are "spiritual but not religious."

Next thing you know, he's telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach. Sometimes I think these people never leave the beach or the mountains, what with all the communing with God they do on hilltops, hiking trails and . . . did I mention the beach at sunset yet?

Oh yes!

Finally, for all the over-doers among us, I highly recommend this column, Stop Giving One Hundred Percent!

I think I'll go kick back for a bit. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday Funnies, September 4

A new sculpture for your garden, available from Zombie Gnomes:

They also have a Facebook page which of course I have liked.