Monday, November 28, 2011

Protect the kiddies! Bible stories!

I was struck by this post at the Episcopal Cafe about the Lego Bible being removed from Sam's Club because of "the mature content that was contained in what was supposed to be a children's book."

A big tip o' the hat to the illustrator Brendan Powell Smith for reminding people that the Old Testament is not a children's book! Mild example:

Judah and Tamar
Though it's not like Lego sex is all that offensive.

So much to do, so little time

Friday, November 25, 2011

In thanksgiving

Sometimes when the news seems too depressing and the nights seem long and (to name a completely random example) your back goes out on Thanksgiving day when you're putting stuff away in the freezer, it's a wonderful thing to watch small English girls in pink fluffy dresses dance and sing with joy and abandon. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Epistolary Pastry Petulance: An open letter to Peet's Coffee

I am posting this on my blog because, when I tried to send this via the feedback form on the Peet's site, it said "The specified URL cannot be found." And because it may help you to know this yourself. Did you know that restaurants with 20 or more outlets are required to include calorie labeling on menus, and to provide additional nutrition information on request? Very useful info. At any rate: rant follows:

To: Peet's Coffee

Let me start by saying I love Peet's, not least because you actually take tea seriously. I'm grateful to have a place to go that has a wide range of teas and treats them well. 

This letter to you relates to the labeling of your pastries.

Like many people, I'm counting calories, and I'm very grateful that you provide nutritional information about your baked goods.  I'm especially glad because I was surprised at how little relation there was between those items that were low calorie and those labeled "low fat" or "reduced fat." 

It was very strange to see that (for example) the Reduced Fat Fruit and Nut Scone had 100 more calories--and 90 more calories from fat--than the Cranberry Walnut scone.  Is not Cranberry a fruit and Walnut a nut? What on earth makes the "reduced fat" scone merit that name when so many other things on the menu have less fat and fewer calories?

When a customer sees that something is labeled reduced fat, we expect that it will, in fact, have less fat than other items that are not labeled reduced fat.  The designations given to your pastries now seem ambiguous at best and deceptive at worst.  I would urge you to revisit your labeling policy to make it easier for your customers to make the choices that are best for their health and dietary needs.

Incidentally, I had the whole wheat honey bran muffin. It was delicious.

Obit du jour: Mark Hall, a creator of "Danger Mouse"

I loved Danger Mouse as a kid, so I was affected when I saw that one of its creators, Mark Hall, has died.

And if you don't know Danger Mouse, well, you just need to that he's the dashing eye-patched rodent superagent who lives in a pillar box with his hamster assistant Penfold.

Oh, heck, here's the theme song:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Obit du jour: Rose Robertson

A spy obit, and so much more. Let's start with this great sentence:
After leaving school, she took a series of secretarial jobs, but her unremarkable existence changed dramatically during the war when she was recruited into SOE and later parachuted into Nazi-occupied France.
Yes, that would change one's existence. While there, she worked with "two young gay anti-Nazi fighters," which leads us to stage two:
In 1965 she took in two young male lodgers. On eventually learning that they were gay and had suffered because of their parents’ homophobic attitudes, Rose Robertson set up Parents Enquiry. This was the first organisation in Britain — and possibly the world — dedicated to advising and supporting parents and their lesbian, gay and bisexual children. She ran it almost single-handedly, without payment, from her home in south-east London until the 1990s.
Perhaps the best part of the story is that Parents Enquiry no longer exists, in some measure because it's no longer needed. And in some measure it's no longer needed because she offered it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Various & Sundry, November 4

First of all, a head's up: a week from today is Nigel Tufnel Day. Or at least it ought to be. Why? "The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven..."

If you haven't already disposed of your Jack O'lantern, I learned this week that you can donate them to wildlife centers where they can be used to feed the animals. Or maybe they have already been used to feed the local wildlife.

I was sorry to read that Prairie Home Companion sound effects man Tom Keith ("Mr. Tom Keith") died last week.
He was serious about silliness and worked hard to get a moo exactly right and the cluck too and the woof. His whinny was amazing — noble, vulnerable, articulate. He did bagpipes, helicopters, mortars, common drunks, caribou (and elands and elk and wapiti), garbage trucks backing up, handsaws and hammers, and a beautiful vocalization of a man falling from a great height into piranha-infested waters.
He will be a great loss to the show.

On the theme of death, I loved this Flickr feed of Ofrendas, shrines and altars for Dias de los Muertos. Really some amazing pictures. Here are just a couple of examples:                                                              

Dia de los muertos Día de los Muertos Altar 2010

And finally, I got a phone call from my parents last weekend waxing rhapsodic over a concert they had just heard with Philippe Jaroussky. I can see why! Here's a video with the added bonus of being filmed in Versailles:

 A rather autumnal aria for a November evening. Enjoy!

World In Prayer, November 4

It was my week to write the World in Prayer prayers, and they didn't turn out as I hoped. I had been pondering them early in the week, but ended up writing them in a rush yesterday in order to make our deadline (which I still missed). I had wanted something to tie in neatly with the gospel reading for All Saints...but I'm not sure they tied in as well as I would have liked. Nevertheless, here they are.

As we remember this week all your saints, O Lord, and all who have died in Your loving embrace, we give you thanks and offer our prayers for all the blessed, known and unknown, whom you love and call your own.

We pray for the poor in spirit.

·        We pray for the dozens of Chinese miners trapped in a pit in Henan province after a "rock burst."
·        We pray for all who were born this week, as the UN estimated that the world's population reached seven billion people on Monday.

We pray for those who mourn.

·        We pray for those whose families have been killed in conflicts throughout the world.
·        We pray for those who have lost loved ones to hunger or deprivation, to disease and injury.
·        We pray for those who mourn the loss of their livelihood or their home.
·        We pray for those who mourn any loss.

We pray for the meek.

·        We pray for the people of Oakland, CA (USA) as they try to address issues of income inequality through the Occupy protests in the face of retaliation and violence.
·        We pray for those whose lives are affected by decisions they cannot control. We pray for wisdom for the European Union as they make financial decisions whose impact reaches millions of people.

We pray for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

·        We pray for those who participated in the second Africa Human Rights Defenders Training in West Africa last week, as they return to their homes to carry on this work.
·        We pray for the work of the Ecumenical Water Network Forum, who address the literal issue of thirst throughout the world.

We pray for the merciful.

·        We pray for Venezuela, where officials are trying to negotiate the release of two police officers taken hostage during a prison riot in the western state of Tachira.
·        We pray for Serbia, where 27 Roma families in Belgrade face imminent forced eviction from their homes to make way for new commercial housing to be built by a government-owned company.
·        We pray for Housing Justice in the UK, which welcomed the news that Westminster Council is dropping its proposal to introduce a new by-law making it a criminal offence to feed homeless people on the streets.

We pray for the pure in heart.

·        We pray for Honduras, where 176 police were arrested in a purge against corruption and organized crime.
·        We pray for those Muslims who are taking part in the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

We pray for the peacemakers.

·        We pray for Syria, where Syrian forces killed at least 12 people just one day after the Arab League brokered a plan to halt violence and convene talks between the government and the opposition.
·        We pray for relations between Pakistan and India, after the Pakistani government's recent decision to award "most favored nation" trading status to India.
·        We pray for peace in Gaza, where Israeli forces killed two Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday shortly after two snipers on motorcycles fired at Israeli troops patrolling the border fence; and where Israel has announced that its navy will attempt to stop two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists bound for the Gaza Strip.

We pray for those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

·        We pray for Qiu Xiang, a Buddhist nun in China’s southwest Sichuan Province, who died Thursday after setting herself on fire.
·        We pray for those who are mocked or despised for their desire for justice or peace; for those who seek justice and do mercy and walk humbly with their God. 

And we pray that we may be counted among the multitude of saints who are your witness and workers in this world. Give us courage and wisdom to do your will and persevere through all things, that we may end our days in your peace and rest with you eternally, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

A friend of mine posted this to her Facebook page:

Sounds good, right? Reminding us to care for the poor and needy rather than our own selfish wealthy Western selves? But I would argue that this is a dangerous distortion that hurts the poor.

It's clear to me that the photo on the top is the 1%--the poorest of the poor. This kind of thing is often referred to in aid circles as poverty porn, used by charities to drum up donations.  This skewed view of poverty leads to discrimination throughout society.  Fox News did a segment during the summer on the "so-called poor" complaining--complaining--that 99 percent of them have a refrigerator. The Heritage Foundation uses the Census Report to proclaim that
For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests near destitution: an inability to provide nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter for one’s family. However, only a small number of the 46 million persons classified as 'poor' by the Census Bureau fit that description. While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is limited in scope and severity.
THAT is why this picture is so dangerous. It establishes a picture of poverty that requires the poor to be absolutely destitute before they deserve any pity. Clearly if "the poor" look well-fed and happy then they're not really poor, are they? Just lazy whiners.

Let's take a look at another picture of poverty, one I took while I was working with Kiva in Uganda.

These women are all entrepreneurs getting microfinance loans. They fit any definition of "poor" you care to name. Do they look miserable enough? Should they even be getting a loan? In fact, there was another photo (that I didn't keep) of this same group hamming it up and smiling which I didn't post to the Kiva website because I was afraid that lenders would think they didn't need the money because they looked too happy.

Luckily in the picture I took, at least the poor in question are African women. At least they are the right color and gender to appear properly poor. How dare a white male suggest he could be part of the 99 percent! Except if he earns less than $47,500 a year, then he is. Not just in the U.S., but in the world. Leaving aside  any other consideration: what do we know about this guy? Absolutely nothing. He could be doing  an unpaid internship. He could be unemployed. He could have a good job somewhere. He could come from a wealthy family--we don't know.

But it is presumptuous to claim that he is part of the top 1 percent without information. We are basing that on a stereotype of rich and poor that is not helpful to anyone. It certainly does not get to the issues behind the Occupy Wall Street protests. This image is a cheap shot and it isn't good for anyone.  

Dinosaur clean up on Aisle 5: A guest post from LKT's mom

As you can guess, I've been too busy to blog, which makes me unhappy. I was going to write something about the very cool trip my parents recently took and then I thought--hey! I'll just get them to write it! Thank you, mom, for being my first guest blogger! (I note that you didn't include any photos of yourself. Hmph.)
An Archeopteryx is thought to be an intermediate
between modern birds and predatory dinosaurs.  

 So what can only be found in Berlin Germany, London England and Thermopolis, Wyoming? Give up? Why a fossil of an Archeopteryx of course.

A few weeks ago we (LKT's mom and dad) spent an amazing week at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, a town of 3500 people in the middle of Wyoming, with a Road Scholar program learning how to prepare dinosaur bones.

We spent hours and hours hunched over a camarasaurus femur using toothbrushes, water and dental picks to remove mud then transitioned to small hand held jack hammer like tools to deal with the rock or matrix that still surrounded parts of the bone. This was followed by an application of an epoxy to repair and stabilize thin or broken parts.

Dinosaur femur pre-cleaning 
LKT's father engaged in femur cleaning. They paid to do this!

Stegasaurus bones
We got to see the bones for a Stegasaurus  already prepared and laid out ready to assemble as well as how foam casts are used for missing parts or parts too heavy to mount (see below). The hours, days and years necessary for preparing the final displays we see in the museums are many and speak to a dedication on the part of some pretty special folks. We were delighted to be a part of this for a short time.  
Foam casts of bones

More photos from the exhibits at the Dinosaur Museum below:

Awww...mama and baby dinosaurs--how cute!

The Dinosaur Museum in Thermopolis, WY