Friday, March 30, 2012

Various & Sundry

Whew! Lots to share.  Let's get to it.

The voting continues at Lent Madness, but more pressing matters are at hand: The Peeples Choice Awards for the Washington Post Peep Diorama Contest is on, and there's still time for you to vote for your favorite!

I saw this article courtesy of Word Boy Dave: memoirists' mothers review the memoirs written by their children! Brave mothers and children both.  And such good motherly advice, too! For example, when asked, "Any advice for Sara [Benincasa] about writing her next memoir?" the answer was, "I think she needs to put in more vulgarity in the next one; this one was way too innocent!" Coming right up, I'm sure.

If the book The Righteous Mind is anywhere nearly as informative as this review of The Righteous Mind, then I think it's something I'm going to have to read. Here's one snippet from the review:
To the question many people ask about politics — Why doesn’t the other side listen to reason? — Haidt replies: We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided.
Here's another: "The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours."  Isn't that amazing? And so obvious when you think about it. It makes me wonder what other insights I'll get if I read the whole book. And if it will change the way I talk and listen to others.

Speaking of reviews, PeaceBang wrote a perceptive review of the new Muppets movie this week that is worth a read for the critique that begins about a third of the way in.

In my ongoing resolution (now Lenten discipline) to give up shame, I appreciated this blog post on Perfectionism and Claiming Shame from Brene Brown from a few years back.  She defined perfectionism thusly:
Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
Well, when you put it that way...

In contrast, take a look at 43 lessons from 43 years.  For example, lesson 31: "The perfect is the enemy of the good. Too many people never get started toward their goals because they don’t know that the “best” first step is. Don’t worry about getting things exactly right — just choose a good option and do something to get started."

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, here is the Red-Tailed Hawk Cam from Cornell University. I find it very soothing to keep this up on my computer screen for a quick break during the day. Enjoy.

Watch live streaming video from cornellhawks at

Thursday, March 29, 2012

World In Prayer prayers

As I mentioned in the post below, this was my week to write the World in Prayer prayers.  As it happens, it seems as though the only news story I didn't include was the story about Pope Benedict in Cuba.  

The Palm Sunday connection gave a great framework for writing these, for which I'm grateful.  I'm a little worried that it got rather pro-democracy-heavy in the middle, there.  But I'm pleased with the ending.

World News This Week in Prayer

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace on earth and in the highest heaven.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

We greet Jesus who enters boldly into our world, as we call out:

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We lay before Jesus the pain and suffering of this world. We pray for those who seek peace and those who face war; for those who need healing and those who are ill; for those who provide for us and those in need. We lay our concerns and burdens down before Jesus as we remember the world in prayer.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Spain where union workers called for a general strike to protest government labor reforms. On Thursday, 58 people were detained and 9 injured in confrontations between protesters and police.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Kenya where the discovery of a major oil deposit creates hope for new wealth and fear of exploitation. We pray for Sudan and South Sudan as the African Union works to prevent renewed skirmishes over oil fields near their borders.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for the United States where the Supreme Court held hearings on the nation's new health care law and will determine its constitutionality. We pray for all those who are without access to health care.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for the Middle East as the Arab League Summit meets in Iraq. We pray for Syria where continued violence confounds the United Nation's plan for peace.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Senegal where incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade conceded defeat to opposition candidate Mackey Sall in a peaceful run-off election. And we pray for Mali where a recent coup has created confusion.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Myanmar where elections will be held on April 1. We pray for Aung San Suu Kyi, running for a seat in Parliament, who has suspended her campaign after falling ill.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Afghanistan where Taliban fighters have attacked a NATO supply convoy and 37 people were reported killed. We pray for women in Afghanistan imprisoned for so-called "moral crimes" such as running away from an abusive marriage. We pray for those seeking their release.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for refugees and those who seek refuge. We pray for the over 400,000 people who sought asylum in 2011 as they fled their homelands of Afghanistan, China, Iraq, and elsewhere; and we pray for South Africa, the United States, and other nations that receive their requests for assistance.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for those whose labor helps us live. We pray for farm workers as the United States marks the second annual Cesar Chavez Day on March 31. We give thanks for the pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement who were inducted into U.S. Department of Labor Hall of Fame this week.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We give thanks for the wonders of the universe and acknowledge our place in it. We gaze with awe at a new photograph of the Milky Way, revealing the details of a billion stars. And we pray for our environment as scientists discover that commonly used pesticides have severely impacted the bee population.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

Help us, O Lord, to walk in your steps, to follow your way, to teach with your wisdom, to speak with your courage, to love with your compassion, and to be faithful to the end. We follow you on this way of the cross as we hope to join with you in your glorious resurrection.

Which of these things is not like the other?

I'm working on the World In Prayer prayers for this week and these three headlines caught my eye.

From the BBC:

From Al Jazeera English:

From the NY Times:


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On the ObamaCare hearings at SCOTUS

It's a strange thing, watching the reports of the arguments about the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court, because as far as I can tell there is nothing I can do.  I can't sign any petition or write any letters or stage any protests or cast any votes throw any tantrums that will make the slightest bit of difference one way or the other.  All I can do is watch and pray, and for some reason that seems so much harder than doing something.  Or feeling like I'm doing something even if the petition or letter or protest or vote or tantrum doesn't do anything either.

It is so uncomfortable to feel powerless.  Which makes this an amazing reminder of how often I think I have power--and how often I actually do have power and don't bother to use it.

Evelyn Underhill's hour of need

To my astonishment, but also great pleasure, Evelyn Underhill made it to the third round of Lent Madness--the Elate Eight--where she faces off against the Mary Magdalene juggernaut.  Given the early returns, I think her chances are slim at best, but is that any reason to turn against her? No, I say, No!

However, over on Twitter, @ChurchSnobTEC apparently recalled that I asked him a couple of rounds ago what odds he would give me on Mary Magdalene--on round 2, Church Snob! On round 2!  Which may be why he tweeted this libelous statement:

So untrue!  And so I pass on to you what I also passed on to Twitter:

All of which is mostly an excuse to learn how to embed Tweets on a website.  And to encourage you to vote as well.  Go, Evelyn!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Morning Preacher: Prepping for Holy Week

I'm very excited!  As a supply priest, usually I sit in the back pews during Holy Week, but this year I've been asked to celebrate for a church in the final stages of a search and will be preaching and presiding for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter.  I've done a lot of Palm Sundays, but only one Easter Sunday.  And I'm not sure if I've preached on Good Friday before or not.

Lots to think about and work through, but I'm looking forward to it.  I'm finding the gospel of Mark has strange and fascinating little details in the midst of his rather terse exposition of events.  For example, that story of the woman anointing Jesus is familiar, but I don't remember hearing the phrase leading up to it: "While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper..." Who the heck is Simon the leper?  Answer (according to The Interpreter's Bible 1952): "Simon the leper is otherwise unknown (cf. the other Simon, 15:21, also unknown), but he was probably known to those who handed on the tradition, and presumably also to Mark." So that helps.

Also, love the spices in Mark's Resurrection narrative, and the way it ends so abruptly with such loose ends. I kind of like the thought that you leave on Easter Sunday a little confused about what happens. That seems appropriate.

One thing that came to mind for Palm Sunday is the Brene Brown video I linked to last week in which she talks about "Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage."  The woman with the ointment made herself vulnerable; Peter did not.  And of course Jesus did.  How can we be vulnerable? What kind of courage do we need to do that?

Good Friday, I'm thinking on the one hand how annoyed I am with Passion readings that require us to say "Crucify him!" (and preachers who tell us that's who we are: awful, terrible people who killed Jesus), but also how people let themselves off the hook by letting other people do the dirty work (i.e. "The Jews replied, 'We are not permitted to put anyone to death.'" while still managing to get the job done. You can bet those folks were not out with the rabble yelling "Crucify him!").  Something about systems that allow injustice...don't know.  Lots to think about.

So as you see, still in the very embryonic stages. I'll be doing lots of mulling about this week (hopefully with some mulling spices) and we'll see what comes out.

Thoughts? Ideas? Reactions?

And my earnest blessings to all of you preparing for Holy Week services. Be easy on yourselves.

Happy birthday Harper Lee!

Not that Harper Lee. Our Harper Lee, commonly known as Boo Boo, is one year old today.

And now. (sorry for the smeary window!)
Someday, she'll slow down. I hope.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Funnies, March 25

I love this. Just the thing for a gusty March day. Or a calm one.  Or any time, really.


 Pas de panique! I say.

 h/t The Bloggess, whose book is due out next month and I can't wait!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Signs of spring

You know how you can tell it's spring? Here's a clue.

I'm glad to report the bulbs survived possible trampling by canine perimeter guards, and they look awesome!

It's a wet, drippy day, but there's quite a few new blossoms holding up their battered heads.
Pear tree blossoms

The ranunculus (ranunculi?) try to keep their heads up

First blossoms on the weeping cherry.

It's the start of the wisteria outbreak!
And much more to come!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Various & Sundry: the "What is WRONG with people?" edition

As I look over what I've compiled during the week, things seem mostly to have taken a fairly serious turn. Nothing wrong with that, but if you want  something lighthearted, skip to the video at the end.

Trayvon Martin. Can there be a more appalling tale out there? Ta-Nehisi Coates has been posting something daily about what's being said and done, but I think the most...I don't know if "helpful" is the right word, but illuminating, perhaps, was this larger picture piece of the Stand Your Ground law that allows people to use lethal force when feeling--feeling--threatened. Trayvon Martin is not the only person to be killed because of this law. Unbelievable.

Again going to a larger picture, the Kony2012 video inspired Teju Cole's reflections on the White Savior Industrial Complex, which is very much worth your read.  Here's the key take-away:
What innocent heroes don't always understand is that they play a useful role for people who have much more cynical motives. The White Savior Industrial Complex is a valve for releasing the unbearable pressures that build in a system built on pillage. We can participate in the economic destruction of Haiti over long years, but when the earthquake strikes it feels good to send $10 each to the rescue fund. I have no opposition, in principle, to such donations (I frequently make them myself), but we must do such things only with awareness of what else is involved. If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.
Preach it.

I haven't had much to say about rhetoric recently, though I've been thinking about it.  I was struck by this article that talks about how changing the rhetoric on the "War on Islam" changed the narrative.  Am I happy about our current military engagements? By no means.  But I still think Saletan has a point when he says,
Bin Laden wanted a religious war. Bush and Obama refused to let him have it. At the end of his life, isolated by left-wing drone strikes and marked for death by PC commandos, this was Bin Laden’s chief lament. And that, Sen. Santorum, is why you don’t call it a war on radical Islam: because choosing your words carefully is part of winning the war.
Another time, I may (or may not) have something to say about how we use the word "war" to score rhetorical points--the War on Women vs. the War on Religion being a prime example. But while I'm pondering that, I am also still incredulous about Rachel Held Evans' report that her publisher wouldn't let her use the word...vagina in her book "because we have to sell it to Christian bookstores, which apparently have a thing against vaginas." This and more astonishing info in her post on Scattered Thoughts on my Life in the Christian "Industry".  Infuriating! The vagina is a body part! Not a dirty word, for God's sake!

OK, I'm calmer now.

All that being said, I am glad to report that baseball season is coming, and that right soon. So with all that is wrong with the world, please just take a moment to enjoy this nifty bat trick.

And remember it's spring. So that's good.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Evelyn Underhill 2012!

I am completely partisan in today's Lent Madness match-up between Monnica and Evelyn Underhill. Let's go Evelyn! I've gone so far as to bribe encourage voters by letting them know you can get a FREE Kindle download of Underhill's book, Practical Mysticism (with the great subtitle "A Little Book for Normal People").

One of the things I love about Evelyn is her insistence that mysticism is not about getting away from it all; instead, "Mysticism is the art of union with Reality."

"Because mystery is horrible to us, we have agreed for the most part to live in a world of labels."  In her view, mysticism is about getting beyond the superficial labels.

It's also about more than "the life of my own inside."  There's a great, but longish, quote from Underhill I wish I could have included in the write-up for today, but it was just too long.  (The last quote in the write-up is drawn from this passage.)  Here's an excerpt:
My spiritual life is not something specialised and intense; a fenced-off devotional patch rather difficult to cultivate, and needing to be sheltered from the cold winds of the outer world. Nor is it an alternative to my outward, practical life. On the contrary, it is the very source of that quality and purpose which makes my practical life worth while. The practical life of a vast number of people is not, as a matter of fact, worth while at all. It is like an impressive fur coat with no one inside it. One sees many of these coats occupying positions of great responsibility. Hans Andersen's story of the king with no clothes told one bitter and common truth about human nature; but the story of the clothes with no king describes a situation just as common and even more pitiable.
So vote Evelyn!  We need saints who encourage us to deal with Reality and not just labels. Practical Mysticism all the way!

Updated late afternoon: Someone in the comments on Lent Madness said "Generally, I have a difficult time with English mystics (yes, even blessed Julian!), but Underhill makes sense to me." This made me realize that most mystics write about "this is what I saw;" Evelyn writes, "Here is how you can look--and why it's worthwhile to do so."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage."

Brene Brown is an academic who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.  Doesn't that sound like fun?  But what she has learned is incredible--and how she herself has changed from her studies underlines her point.

If you didn't see her first Ted talk that she references, here's the link. So good.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning Preacher: Recycled sermons

I saw the readings for this week and thought, "hmmm...I believe I've preached on this before...and at a completely different church..."  A brief search later and voila! A sermon! One from 6 years ago, in full manuscript form, and not related to a current event.  SCORE!

I've never actually recycled a sermon before, so it was an interesting experience.  What I learned is that I couldn't use it as-is.  I had to rework it a bit to incorporate both for where I am now and to take into account that this is not new material.

First of all, the original version began, "I’ve been thinking about snakes this week." Well, that was a week six years ago, so I changed the beginning to strive for truth and accuracy.

Secondly, I completely rewrote the ending.  If you read the sermon below, everything from "let’s take a look at what this might mean for us" is totally new.  In the original, I thought I had done a good job with the exposition but blown it on the application part. So I had to revisit that.  I'm still worried it's a bit too Lenten and penitential, but I hope that for all the emphasis on "look at the bad, not just the good," there's a strongly positive underlying message.

Finally, another recent influence and change in tone came from reading up on Evelyn Underhill for Lent Madness (she's in Round 2 Wednesday!  Vote!--and today, too, of course), so the notion of the God as Reality was top of mind for me and became an important element in the sermon.

So even though a lot of the work was already done for me, this was still a sermon that grew out of where I am right now.  A heck of a lot easier to write, though.  And people really seemed to like it, so that's good too.

What's your experience of recycling sermons?

Sermon: Looking at the snake that bit you (abridged)

Preached Lent IV, March 18, 2012
St. Giles, Moraga

Let’s talk about snakes. In particular, let’s talk about these snakes in the desert, biting the wandering Israelites. Even more in particular, here’s the question: Why did the Lord send snakes to bite and potentially kill the Israelites when the Lord had taken such trouble bringing them out of Egypt? Is God a despot like King Lear who depends upon the flattery and kind words of those close to him? And then goes insane when that flattery isn’t there?

There certainly seems to be a taste of petulance and perhaps even insanity about this story: if you’re going to be thankless, then I’m going to send serpents. And then if you’re sorry, I’ll heal you. That will show you, God seems to say. If that is the case, then that’s a God I can’t worship. A God that says, “You don’t like me, so I’m going to punish you,” is not one that I want to adore. A God that works by fear and intimidation isn’t a God that I feel I could rightfully call compassionate or loving.

I think it’s just a cheap trick to say, “That’s the Old Testament God and God isn’t like that any more.” Instead, I want to take a deeper look at this nasty little story and see if maybe there isn’t something else to be found there. Perhaps there is more here than first meets the eye.

First of all, where in the Old Testament story are we? When you hear the Red Sea, you might think that we are towards the beginning of the Israelite’s wandering in the wilderness, but in fact, we have come a long, long way. And the people have complained almost every step of the way from the beginning of the departure from Egypt until now. When we finally get to this story that we heard this morning, by my count the people have complained that they were going to die in the wilderness six times. This is the seventh time we have heard the Israelites complain against Moses and the Lord, saying they wish they had never been brought out of Egypt.

With all that in mind, and with the knowledge that this is the end of a long series of complaints and rescues, here is my thought about these snakes: I think that the Lord made flesh the very snakes that were already there, the snakes of fear and faithlessness that had been biting and poisoning and plaguing the Israelites throughout their entire journey. Let me say a little more about that.

You may have heard this definition of a sacrament: a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. I think these serpents are anti-sacraments: outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual illness. To me, that explains why the response of the Israelites to the appearance of these serpents was to say to Moses, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you.” It’s because they recognized these serpents for what they were: a physical manifestation of their attitude and behaviors.

It also explains to me the next thing that happens. The Israelites say, “Pray to the Lord to take the serpents away from us,” but that’s not what happens. Instead the Lord says, “Make a poisonous serpent and put it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” Instead of getting rid of the serpents, God tells the people to look at the snake that bit them. No longer do they get to ignore the snakes; and the snakes don’t go away. The means of dealing with the poison of the snakes is that the people have to look at the snake that bit them.

Now, let’s take a look at what this might mean for us.

One of the problems I personally have with being forgiven is the part where I have to look at what I’m being forgiven for. I’m very happy to be forgiven. I’m even fine with repentance and amendment of life. It’s the part where I actually have to recognize what I’ve done that’s hurt someone else, that’s poisoned my relationships and hindered my community, that I have a hard time with. I don’t want to admit to the snakey parts of me. I’d rather be all pretty birds and fluffy bunnies and would prefer that those snakes just went away. But when I just ignore them, that doesn’t take care of the poison in the system.

The thing this story says to me is that as awful and ugly and scary and creepy as it is, I need to look at the snake that bit me. Being scared of it is not going to help. Running away from it is not going to help. Because there’s something about looking at that nasty snake, as awful as it is, that prepares the way for God to fully heal me.

I think Jesus is saying something similar as he speaks to Nicodemus. "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life,” he says, followed by that most famous line:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

And I am going to sacrilegiously change two words of that verse. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who looks at him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Looking at Jesus, not to see what we want to see, but to see what is really there. To see the one who challenges us about our behavior and says we must do more than follow the law. To see the one reverses our assumptions about who is an acceptable companion and who is important. To see the one who calls those he loves to suffer. To see the one who failed utterly, who was betrayed, whose disciples abandoned him at his lowest point. To see the resurrected Christ who appeared to dubious or unreliable witnesses and depended on them to tell the world he is alive. When it comes right down to it, when I really look at Jesus, that’s what I see.

Believing is easy. Looking is hard. Whether it’s the snake of our own actions or the savior who doesn’t follow our rules, it is hard to look, to really look, to not take shortcuts to healing or belief. But to get to healing, to belief, to the promised land, to eternal life, first we must look.

And in looking, I don’t see a God who wants flattery. Just the opposite: I see a God who wants people to see the truth, to face reality, to acknowledge the bad as well as the good, the sorrow as well as the joy, the hard things as well as the easy ones.

So here are the two things these readings ask of us today: to look at ourselves: not just the pretty birds and bunnies, but the snakes as well; and to look at Jesus: not a sweet and affirming Jesus, but the Jesus who challenges us and loves us and calls us to new and eternal life. Because it is only after truly looking that we can truly believe.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Survey says...

Thanks to all of you who participated in the survey I posted on my 5th blogoversary, asking you what you want to see in the future. I was surprised by the results, actually.  Here's what you said:

What topics or types of posts would you like to see on The Infusion in the future?
Listed in order of preference:
1. Commentary on current affairs. 76.9%
[really?!  You want my commentary? I'm flattered...also very surprised.]

2. A three-way tie at 69.2%:
  • Reviews and recommendations
  • Religious reflections
  • Spouting off/opinionated and often ignorant rants
[a strange combination of things.]

3. Episcopal Church politics 61.5%
[this also surprised me, but I guess it reflects the audience!]

4. A two-way tie at 53.8%
  • Photos/videos/tales of cute animals, mostly my own
  • Random tidbits of fabulousness
[So I guess I'm keeping the Various & Sundry feature]

5. Obituary observations 46.2%
[Not a shock that this isn't everybody's favorite, but you're probably just going to have to put up with that]

6. A two-way tie at 38.5%
  • Garden updates
  • Snark
[what if they're snarky garden updates?]

7. The scandalous activities of my friends and relations 23.1%
[Why do I think it was the people who aren't my friends and relations who voted for this?]

8. And the two that tied for last place at 15.4%
  • Advice to the lovelorn/bewildered
  • Zombies
[which is just as well, since I don't have much advice for bewildered, lovelorn zombies.]

In the comments, people kindly wrote "Anything you want" and "Write early, write often." One person had the specific request for sermons, which I shall continue to post.

I also asked if you would like me to repost old blog entries from time to time.  Over 80% of you said "sure," so I will do that from time to time when I run out of opinionated rants on current affairs.

Thank you all again for your feedback! It was so great to hear from you.

P.S. You can find the map of Kyrgyzstan here.

Sunday Funnies, March 18

 Thanks, Este!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

This week in death

It's been another big week in death, obit fans. No big names, but some truly big characters left this world this week.

Let's start with Lord Revelstoke, shall we? Born James Baring and later the 6th Lord Revelstoke, he was a daredevil flyer, owned a recording studio used by (among others) the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix, and a consultant to the Oxford Refugee Council.  Other than that, he led a rather ordinary life.

loved the crazy tale of Raymond Scott, "a self-professed Ferrari-owning connoisseur of vintage champagne, beautiful girls and Cuban cigars, [who] sparked a literary sensation in 2008 when he claimed to have unearthed an unknown 1623 First Folio of the collected plays of Shakespeare." By a remarkable coincidence, a strangely similar 1623 First Folio had been stolen 10 years earlier from Durham University, 10 miles from his mother's house. He claimed it had been given to him by the friend of his true love, a dancer he had met in Cuba. So that seems like a reasonable alibi, then. Can't think why that didn't cut the mustard.

Then there's Mira Hamermesh, a documentarian whose own life was just as harrowing as the ones she documented.  Born in Poland in 1923, she fled ahead of the Nazis and got to Palestine.  Both her parents stayed in Poland and died.  She went on to make films about the untouchable caste in India and women living under apartheid in South Africa. As the Telegraph puts in, "her documentaries had explored virtually every regime of oppression except for the Holocaust." Finally, in 1991, she created a film about trying to find her mother's grave in Warsaw, called Loving the Dead.

In baseball news, umpire Harry Wendelstedt died last Friday.  As the head of the Al Somers Umpire School, he is responsible for every bad call made by an umpire.  Seems reasonable, doesn't it?

I was sad to hear about the death of Donald Smith, champion of Cabaret, as the Times puts it.  He created the Mabel Mercer Foundation to promote cabaret singing as an art form, "partly Mr. Smith’s response to obituaries and tributes that misleadingly described Ms. Mercer as a jazz singer." Ah, those obits, meddling in people's lives. Good work, sir, and here's hoping your good work continues.

Last but certainly not least, the tea world lost a giant this week in the death of Noble Fleming, official tea taster for Lipton for almost 50 years. "For decades, starting as a teenage apprentice, Mr. Fleming traveled to tea estates of 1,000 acres or more — primarily in India, Sri Lanka and East Africa — searching for varieties with specific tastes in the way an oenologist knows a chateau wine." I raise my Darjeeling to you, sir.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Various & Sundry, March 16: Curmudgeons, zombies, muppets

In case you haven't been keeping track of Lent Madness, we're now in the round of Saintly Sixteen, and today is the Battle of the Curmudgeons! Philander Chase faces off against Jerome, and I think it's the end of the road for ol' Phil, there.  But that's OK.  I like Jerome.  Still time to vote, though!

I think my blood pressure has finally returned to normal regarding the Kony 2012 video.  One last thing--maybe, we'll see--that I want to pass on to you is this blog post from Independent Global Citizen that answers the question, "So what do I do if I want to make a difference in Africa?" The answer? "My experiences have revealed an effective way to have an impact. Build sincere relationships with Africans. That’s it."

The results of the recent survey asking you what you wanted in The Infusion revealed most of you are not particularly worried about the impending zombie apocalypse.  Fine.  Be that way.  I still think you might want a white chocolate zombie rabbit for Easter.  At last a good reason to eat the head off first.

In other blood-spattered news, I'm looking forward to The Happytime Murders, a film noir featuring muppets!  Anibundel has the report:
[E]x-cop Phil Phillips...exists in a world where puppets are acknowledged but play second fiddle to humans. Phil is searching for a serial killer who murdered his brother and is now targeting cast members of ’80s television show, The Happytime Gang. The catch? The clues to the killer’s identity begin to point back to Phil himself.

I am so there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One of a kind Barbies

So when your sister comes to visit you and you live in the cultural center that is the San Francisco Bay Area and you want to show her the best your town has to offer, what do you do? Well, since the cupcakery that sold Chicken and Waffle cupcakes has sadly closed, you do the next best thing and take her to One of a Kind Barbies!

Here's how I learned of One of a Kind Barbies:

That's advertising money just can't buy.  Well, I guess it can, but most of the time for some reason it just doesn't.

I'd passed by this car a zillion times on the way to Elaine, the fabulous tailor (but that's another story), and it was hard to miss it, but I'd never stopped by the actual storefront before.

But then my artsy sister came a-calling and I knew I had to get in there somehow.

Despite the fact that we stopped by on a Wednesday and she's only officially open on Saturdays, the artist, Lavonne Sallee, was working in the back and opened the store for us.

And can I just say, I had no idea you could make Barbie look quite like this.

This place might just be the Barbie Diorama Capital of the World. Barbie got eaten by dinosaurs, blinged beyond belief, turned into a centaur, re-cast as Kathy Bates' character in Misery, and shish-kebobbed.  And if you've ever thought to yourself, "Gee willikers, why won't someone just give Barbie nipples already," well, you're in the right place.

My personal favorite was Barbie's Last Sleepover:

Description: "The lead Barbie is dressed in a white velvet robe as she holds out her arms to welcome her 12 followers. Some are White, some Black, some Asian and some Latin. Each of the 12 is dressed uniquely in a velvet robe with a matching scarf around their hair. Maybe they just took a shower and are eating before the sleep over. I made the bread of Polymer Clay and the glasses of wine out of ear ring findings. They set on benches around a long table covered with an amber velvet cloth." Price: $800.

We must have spent the better part of an hour looking at Barbie in all her various guises.  It was...I'm not sure what it was, but it certainly wasn't the usual.  Because I take my sister only to the best places in town.

I didn't spend the $800 it would take to own Barbie's Last Sleepover for myself, but I got several cards with this image on it.  If you're very nice, maybe I'll send you one for Easter. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

What's wrong with raising awareness?

I'm sorry, but you're just going to have to put up with this Kony 2012 obsession of mine for a bit longer.

As I've been reading various posts responding to the Kony 2012 campaign, one response comes up over and over again in the comments: "At least they're raising awareness, and that's a good thing. No one else has ever gotten anyone to pay any attention to the situation in Northern Uganda, so quit your armchair quibbling!"

So what's wrong with raising awareness?

And the answer is of course there is nothing inherently wrong with raising awareness, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with chocolate pie.  (mmm...chocolate pie...)  But not all awareness-raising is created equal.  Raising awareness, like eating a chocolate pie, requires both discipline and discernment.   And if you don't have any discipline or discernment, well, people are going to feed you all kinds of stuff.  (You've read/seen The Help, haven't you?)

There are three ways I can think of that "raising awareness" can be misused: when information is presented out of context, out of proportion, or as an end in itself--or a combination of the three.  A quick look at each.

1. Out of context  No one can give the full context for a complex situation, and certainly not when they're trying to catch our eye when we're thinking about other things.  It would be wonderful to believe that each and every awareness-raising organization is doing its utmost to present a persuasive yet accurate picture of the whole situation.  But when an organization is appealing for our time, money, or action, it is often in their interests to leave out complicating details.  

2. Out of proportion  Of course an organization that's focused on a cause that is the most important thing to them is going to want you to make that your most important cause too.  But watch out when there is an insistent urgency.  Watch out for the word "now."  Organizations want you to care about their cause; that is their job.  But just because they say something is the most important thing to be done this very instant doesn't mean it is.

3. An end in itself  I worry about organizations or movements (I'm looking at you, Occupy Wall Street) that only want to raise awareness.  OK, so I'm aware; now what? Are they done now? Or will they not be satisfied until they are absolutely sure that everyone, everywhere knows--and wears the right color ribbon to prove it (I'm looking at you, Susan G. Komen).  If the cause is important, then something in the world needs to change.  What an organization chooses to do is important.  Awareness is not enough.

But I don't blame any organization for doing the best to promote its cause however it can.  It is incumbent upon us as potential supporters to do due diligence: to find out more, to learn about the cause, to discover what the organization actually hopes to accomplish, and to discern whether that meshes with our own hopes and goals for a better world. 

An important cause deserves to be taken seriously.  If you really don't know anything about it--and refuse to listen to anyone other than the organization who does--then I need to ask, how aware are you?

Compare and contrast

Last week, I posted a long response to the Kony 2012 viral video.  In it, I suggested a number of questions for you to ask yourself when watching the video.

Yesterday, Ugandan blogger TMS Ruge (whom I quoted in my post) recommended a video by a different organization also working in Northern Uganda, called Hope North.  I cannot tell you anything about this organization itself, but I do ask you to watch the video, which is 10 minutes shorter than Kony 2012, and ask yourself the same questions:

1. How are Africans portrayed? 
Are they victims, villains, or heroes? Do they have power or are they powerless? What do they get to say for themselves? What actions do they ask others to take?

2. How is the West portrayed?
Again, victims, villains, or heroes? Do Westerners have power or are they powerless? What do they get to say about Africa?

3. Who gets to speak? 
Pretty self-explanatory. But also note in what role people are cast when they speak and who gets to interrupt whom.

4. How does this video appeal to your emotions? 
What techniques does it use to heighten emotions? When does it speak to you directly? What does this video tell you about you?

5. What does Hope North get out of this? 
Not assigning any motives here, but what does this organization get if people participate? How does this campaign benefit them?

And I would add the following question:

6. Does watching this video change your image of what's happening in Northern Uganda?
Does it complicate things? Simplify things? Clarify things? Confuse things?

So what do you think?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Funnies, March 11

I've never had anything remotely like this happen to me.


Nope.  Can't imagine what that feels like.

 h/t and thanks to my sister for sharing this with me. Great seeing you this week!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This week in death

So many good obits this week! So many interesting people doing such diverse things that I can't find a theme among them.  I mean, we have a madam, an "elephant whisperer", a war hero,  the guy who designed C3PO, a botanical artist, and a songwriter.  It's...supercalifragilisticexpialidobits!

But you want to know about the madam, don't you?  I know you do.  That would be Edna Milton Chadwell, the final madam of the actual Chicken Ranch of Best Little Whorehouse in Texas fame. Doesn't she look like a society matron? After the brothel was shut down, she married and moved to Phoenix.  I wonder what she did there. According to the Telegraph, "Her nephew, Robert Kleffman, described her as 'hard-nosed, but with a spine of steel and a heart of gold'."

The Elephant Whisperer is Lawrence Anthony, a South African conservationist who, among other things, slipped across the Kuwait-Iraq border to rescue the animals of the Baghdad zoo.  Amazing story in its own right.  Then there's the elephants...
In 1999 he was telephoned by a conservation organisation which asked whether he would be willing to take on a herd of nine animals which had escaped from every enclosure they had ever been in, wreaking havoc across KwaZulu-Natal, and were considered highly dangerous. Realising that the elephants would be shot if he declined, Anthony agreed to give them a home. 
“They were a difficult bunch, no question about it,” he recalled. “Delinquents every one. But I could see a lot of good in them too. They’d had a tough time and were all scared, and yet they were looking after one another, trying to protect one another.” 
Anthony decided to treat the elephants as errant children, working to persuade them, through words and gestures, that they should not behave badly and that they could trust him. He concentrated his attention on Nana, the matriarch of the herd: “I’d go down to the fence and I’d plead with Nana not to break it down,” he said. “I knew she didn’t understand English, but I hoped she’d understand by the tone of my voice and my body language what I was saying. And one morning, instead of trying to break the fence down, she just stood there. Then she put her trunk through the fence towards me. I knew she wanted to touch me. That was a turning point.” Soon they were allowed out into the reserve.
I love that story.

Then there's Van Barfoot, who won a Medal of Honor for taking out a whole passel of Nazis in WWII, and then had to fight his neighborhood association so he could raise a flag in his front yard.  Damn neighborhood associations! There should be a medal for taking them on.

It's probably due to Ralph McQuarrie that we have any of the Star Wars films at all.  It was because of his artwork that the film studios could picture what the movie might look like and helped persuade them to greenlight the project.  You can see some of that original artwork on his website, including this conception of C3PO and R2D2.

In a very different world of art, the story of how Mary Grierson became a botanical artist at Kew Gardens is worth noting. "In 1960, while applying for a post organising exhibitions at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, she proffered a portfolio of her paintings of wild flowers (executed as a hobby in her spare time) to her interviewer, Edgar Milne-Redhead, Keeper of the Kew Herbarium. He took one look at them and told her she would be much better employed as the Herbarium’s resident artist."  Which says something about not minimizing your gifts, I would say.  Gor. Jus.

Finally, Robert Sherman, who with his brother Richard wrote so many wonderful songs for Walt Disney and won an Academy Award for the score to Mary Poppins, died on Monday.  All week, I've been thinking to myself, "If you say it loud enough you'll always sound precocious" was such a fabulous line!  Really, "atrocious" and "precocious" in a children's song? We need more of that.  But here's my favorite song from Mary Poppins.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Various & Sundry, March 9

First off, don't forget to fill out the 2 question survey on what you want to see in The Infusion in future.  So far, reviews, religious reflections, and rants are leading the way. What, you don't like zombies?

Speaking of rants, a couple of updates to yesterday's post on Invisible Children.

I thought this post on How to Determine If a Charity like Kony 2012 Is Worth Your Money was a terrific response that helps donors with due diligence not only in this situation but in many others.  It tells you how to find out how a charity spends its money and what kinds of things to look for, using Invisible Children as a case study.

Also, while I was looking for an image to go with yesterday's post, I found this beauty, courtesy of The Onion:


And before this even started, I had tweeted this article from The Lark, The Onion's sacred counterpart: Church sends clown and puppet teams to war-torn Africa. Ha.

In other news, Church Marketing Sucks offers a great suggestion that organizations need to write about benefits, not features.
Features are all about you. It’s the checklist of whatever you have to offer. Certainly you care about it, but it doesn’t mean anybody else does. Features are how many services you offer and the incredible music and the coffee hour. But most people don’t come to church (or buy anything) because of a list of features. 
They do it for the benefits. Benefits are all about them. How does this church service (or product) benefit them? The spiritual change, the fellowship, the community–those are benefits. While features are external, benefits are internal. Benefits are all about what people get out of it, what they experience, what’s important to them.
Good to remember.

The NY Times had an article last week asking Does Couples Therapy Work?  There was a link within the article to another article called Bad Couples Therapy, written by a couples therapist who pointed out some of the pitfalls of the trade.  I recommend it to anyone doing pastoral care; great food for thought.

Finally, two writer-related tidbits: first, this excerpt from a story written by a 14-year-old Jane Austen:
One evening in December, as my father, my mother, and myself were arranged in social converse round our fireside, we were on a sudden greatly astonished by hearing a violent knocking on the outward door of our rustic cot. 
My father started — ‘What noise is that?’ said he. ‘It sounds like a loud rapping at the door,’ replied my mother. ‘It does indeed,’ cried I. ‘I am of your opinion,’ said my father, ‘it certainly does appear to proceed from some uncommon violence exerted against our unoffending door.
Love those sarcastic teenagers.  And from the same blog, JRR Tolkien had this to say about The Lord of the Rings to his publisher:
My work has escaped my control, and I have produced a monster; an immensely long, complex, rather bitter, and rather terrifying romance, quite unfit for children (if fit for anybody); and it is not really a sequel to The Hobbit, but to The Silmarillion. Ridiculous and tiresome as you may think me, I want to publish them both — The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. That is what I should like. Or I will let it all be. I cannot contemplate any drastic rewriting or compression. But I shall not have any just grievance (nor shall I be dreadfully surprised) if you decline so obviously unprofitable a proposition.

Glad they didn't listen to him.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why I don't support Invisible Children or Kony 2012

You know that scene in a movie when someone is about do release the tiger (for example) and another character is shown in slo-mo saying "Noooooooo!" but can't get there in time? That's kind of how I feel watching the video for Kony 2012 go viral.

Invisible Children, a San Diego-based organization, has launched a huge campaign to support the arrest of Joseph Kony, the head of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda.  They have a video called Kony 2012 that they posted 2 days ago that now has almost 37 million views.  I watched it and was appalled. Just appalled.

I posted something yesterday on my Facebook page in hopes of slowing down the virus, but by the afternoon at least three of my friends had rapturously shared the video and I'd gotten an excited text from someone saying, "Wouldn't this be great for youth group?" Nooooooo!

And I'll tell you why, in four parts: my personal experience, what others are saying, my observations, and some questions to ask yourself.

My personal experience
In 2008, I went to Uganda as a Kiva Fellow.  The first organization I worked with had offices in Kampala (where I was) and Gulu, in Northern Uganda, the main city near where the LRA was operating.  One day, I went with one of the loan officers to the Kampala offices of Invisible Children to talk to someone there who had received a loan.

I found out from the loan officer that when the head of Invisible Children first arrived in Gulu, they had begun a partnership with the loan officer's organization.  But as time went on, IC (according to him) reneged on their original agreements and partnership, poached workers and donors and allies, and generally made it harder for this organization to do its work in Gulu, which it had been doing for years.

Now, I have to say, this organization also had its problems.  However, it also sounded like Invisible Children took help when they needed it and then discarded locals when they had the resources to carry on on their own.  *Please note this lack of respect for local organizations and abilities! This theme will return.*

The Invisible Children compound was in the most beautiful and wealthiest suburb of Kampala.  That still doesn't mean what it means in the US, but it was strikingly different from any other NGO (Non-governmental Organization) office I saw.

There, about a half a dozen people were being paid to create bracelets to send to donors.  These bracelets were not like anything I saw anyone in Uganda wear.  They were a kind of hip accessory to go with an urban American outfit.  It seemed to be a gimmick, at best, to get my money and make me feel I had done something.  It's hard to convey exactly what it was like, but I was overwhelmed with the sense that this was a cash cow for the founders with a dollop of Good Deeds on top.

I left there feeling jaded, used, and angry.  Although I hope they were doing good things on the ground, what I saw made me feel that they were at least as interested in perpetuating their organization through continually whipping up donors than in solving the problems that needed solving.

I am very grateful to Invisible Children, actually.  It was seeing their organization in Kampala that opened my eyes to the fact that not all aid organizations are the same.  At first, I was so disgusted by the disjunction between the messages of aid organizations and how they operate that I stayed away for a while.  But I also began to learn more and (I hope) become more savvy, with the help of a lot of other people, to whom I'd like to introduce you.

What others are saying
First off, this article gives some more information on what is actually going on in Uganda today--much of which recasts (to put it kindly) the information in the Kony 2012 video including the fact that (as the headline says) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda.

The posts I think are most important for us to listen to are the ones by Ugandans themselves.  Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist, posted her own video response to Kony 2012, outlining how the video simplifies the situation and denies Ugandans their own voice about their own circumstances. In comparison to IC's 36 million views, Kagumire has 301.  If life were fair, at least as many people would listen to the local perspective as that of someone recent to the situation.

TMS Ruge, also a Ugandan who works with those directly affected by the conflict in Northern Uganda, wrote a powerful post at Project Diaspora called Respect My Agency that deserves to be read in full.  But here is one thing he says about IC and similar projects:
They are not selling justice, democracy, or restoration of anyone’s dignity. This is a self-aware machine that must continually find a reason to be relevant. They are, in actuality, selling themselves as the issue, as the subject, as the panacea for everything that ails me as the agency-devoid African. All I have to do is show up in my broken English, look pathetic and wanting. You, my dear social media savvy click-activist, will shed a tear, exhaust Facebook’s like button, mobilize your cadre of equally ill-uninformed netizens to throw money at the problem. 

Cause, you know, that works so well in the first world.
Yeah, he's ticked. Please read the whole thing.

I won't go into detail about others, but on Twitter you can check out the hashtag #stopIC.  Other articles of note:

How matters
Invisible Children and Joseph Kony
On Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign (particularly even-handed and good, I think)
Why You Should Not Donate to Invisible Children/Kony 2012
Visible Children tumblr

My Observations
I watched the Kony 2012 video.  Here are my problems with it:

1. It's all about what we can do, not how we can support those already doing the work
Early on, the filmmaker says to a boy whose brother had been killed by the LRA,"We’re going to stop them."   But "we" never seems to include Ugandans themselves. Throughout this video, I never hear him asking Ugandans, "What is being done about this? What would you like us to do to help?"  Instead, Invisible Children is going to come in and fix this. The West comes to the rescue of the poor benighted Africans. I'm sure they appreciate that.

2. It oversimplifies and distorts the situation
"Who is the bad guy?" the filmmaker asks his young son.  Really? That's the information we as viewers need to respond to a situation that's been going on in Uganda for 20+ years? Who is the bad guy?  It skips over any changes in the situation over the past 10 years, including how things have improved in Northern Uganda, how much less influence Joseph Kony now has, and what is currently being done.  And it makes it seem as if it would all be better if only Kony were brought before the ICC.

3. It removes the Ugandan leaders from the equation
Invisible Children petitions the government...but just the U.S. government.  Why did they not interview the Ugandan president or members of Parliament?  Why not the African Union or United Nations? Invisible Children wants to involve culture and policy leaders...but not African culture and policy leaders.  There are no Africans on their list of influencers.  Justin Bieber? Really?  Rather than have young Justin, there, tell the world that Joseph Kony is the bad guy, why not have Americans hear about that from Ugandan artists?

4. It is promoting ad hoc, a la carte military actions as justice activism!
Really? This is what we want to be promoting in our churches and youth groups?  Really?  We want to support putting pressure on the U.S. government to keep sending military advisors to Northern Uganda?  That's what we think will help?  That's what will solve the problem?

I could go on.  I will just leave you with

Some questions to ask
If you watch the Kony 2012 video, ask yourself:

1. How are Africans portrayed?
Are they victims, villains, or heroes?  Do they have power or are they powerless?  What do they get to say for themselves?  What actions do they ask others to take?

2. How is the West portrayed?
Again, victims, villains, or heroes?  Do Westerners have power or are they powerless?  What do they get to say about Africa?

3. Who gets to speak?
Pretty self-explanatory. But also note in what role people are cast when they speak and who gets to interrupt whom.

4. How does this video appeal to your emotions?
What techniques does it use to heighten emotions? When does it speak to you directly? What does this video tell you about you?

5. What does Invisible Children get out of this?
Not assigning any motives here, but what does this organization get if people participate?   How does this campaign benefit them?

OK, I'm done now.  Here's the video if you want to see it.  If you do, please watch the video by Ms. Kagumire, which is immediately below.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Infusion is 5!

The Infusion is five years old today. Can you believe it? I sure can't.

As I tried to figure out how to mark this milestone, I've gone back and read through almost everything I wrote over those years. First of all, there's a lot! Over 1400 posts, if you can believe it, over 280 posts a year--not counting the posts I wrote from Uganda. Astonishing.

Second of all, it's not bad, in my opinion. There's not a whole lot of stuff that I read and cringe, which is a relief (though this post does make me wince a little). In fact, there's quite a bit I think, "Hey, that's pretty good!" I'd be willing to post them again...if that would interest you.

 In fact, I'd like your opinions about a couple of things. If you would take a moment to take the survey below, I'd be mighty grateful. That means you, too, lurker types. I know you're out there; I've seen the stats. What would you like to see on The Infusion in the future? And do feel free to offer further feedback or suggestions in the comments.

My thanks to any and all of you who take the trouble to stop by and read what I write.  I'm mighty grateful.  This is fun to do, but it would seem mighty futile if I didn't know that you were out there. I hope The Infusion is a worthwhile and hospitable waypost as you gad about on the internet. Thank you for your input. (The survey will be open for 1 week, unless weird stuff happens.)

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

You can also click here to take the survey. Thank you!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Funnies, March 4

Speaking of contraception, as we so often seem to be these days...

A girl asks her boyfriend to come over Friday night to meet, and have a dinner with her parents. Since this is such a big event, the girl announces to her boyfriend that after dinner, she would like to go out and make love for the first time.

The boy is ecstatic, but he has never had sex before, so he takes a trip to the pharmacist to get some condoms. He tells the pharmacist it's his first time and the pharmacist helps the boy for about an hour. He tells the boy everything there is to know about condoms and sex.

At the register, the pharmacist asks the boy how many condoms he'd like to buy, a 3-pack, 10-pack, or family pack.

The boy insists on the family pack because he thinks he will be rather busy, it being his first time and all.

That night, the boy shows up at the girl's parents house and meets his girlfriend at the door.

"Oh, I'm so excited for you to meet my parents, come on in!"

The boy goes inside and is taken to the dinner table where the girl's parents are seated. The boy quickly offers to say grace and bows his head. A minute passes, and the boy is still deep in prayer, with his head down.

10 minutes pass, and still no movement from the boy.

Finally, after 20 minutes with his head down, the girlfriend leans over and whispers to the boyfriend, 'I had no idea you were this religious.'

The boy turns, and whispers back, 'I had no idea your father was a pharmacist.'

h/t MadPriest

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Garden Update, March 3

Spring...isn't here yet, but it's close! And it FEELS like spring. And anyway, I'm behind on planting stuff.  Waaaay behind. It was time to get out there are get dirty.

I spent the morning working on the front yard; let me take you on a little tour.

First, here are the sad remains of my attempt at growing cauliflower.  It wasn't that my gardening was so inept so much as that my furry friends thought cauliflower leaves were delicious.  Even with cages over them to protect them, I never got a floret.
Oh so sad.
So I pulled out the sorry remains of the cauliflower corpses and turned over the dirt in hopes that when we grow stuff this year, we'll figure out a way to keep Harper from pulling everything out. A girl can dream.

Aren't they beautiful?

Meanwhile, on the long front stretch of the yard, this is (as they say in baseball) a rebuilding year. I'm hoping for dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, more alstroemerias, and a couple of plants to be named later. But oy. That's a lot of bare dirt that needs filling.

On the other side of the yard, the tulips and other bulby plants are doing their thing and looking pretty good!

And the magnolia looks fabulous!
Except, of course, for the ones that have been trampled by a person or persons unknown. (Harper would insist that she kept those nasty tramplers out of the yard by saying hihihihi.)

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the bulk of the bulbs make it to full flower.

On the other side of the fence, I weeded around the sweet peas and tried to train them up the fence. I also planted some Tigridia bulbs. I'd never heard of these, but found a bag of them at CostCo. They look good, and they should come into flower just as the sweet peas poop out. That's the plan anyway.

I'm happy to report that the hydrangeas survived my ruthless pruning in the fall. They are clearly already making plans to devout  devour the house yet again. (Devout, devour...whatever.)

Next: planting vegetable (and flower) seeds using my new Mini Greenhouse! That will require a further report, another time--once I've actually done it.

What's new in your garden?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Various & Sundry, March 2

So much good stuff this week! Let's get right to it with a pressing ethical question: When is it okay to kill a zombie? I'm glad they also note "zombie end-of-life issues":
The resolution is that for those who know they are infected, an honest discussion about how they wish to die before infection sets in is had. Mourning, goodbyes and choice of euthanasia are allowed as the situation permits (we are presuming an ideal here, not under constant assault by a shuffling hoard). In this instance, the amount of pain likely caused by transition makes "letting die" an immoral and impermissible decision, thus "active killing" becomes the moral action.
Well, you need to think about these things. I plan to add this in my living will.

Philander Chase prevailed in the first round of Lent Madness this week (as I knew he would), thanks in part to the promotional efforts of a Kenyon College blog called The Thrill, which is where I also found the very helpful How to Succeed as an English Major Without Really Trying.  Fabulous.

I loved, loved, loved this report about how Olivia de Haviland prepares for her a lector at the American Cathedral in Paris. I would love to hear her read scripture.  Has anyone out there had the opportunity to hear her in person? Hmm?

Via Good Intentions are Not Enough, I found this article on the 7 worst international aid ideas.  I simply find these fascinating as an object lesson. I hope that if I hear about them enough, I'll understand the principles behind bad and good aid and avoid egregious missteps.

And finally, Anibundel (happy blogoversary!) posted Relentlessly Cheerful Star Wars, including Wookie the Chew, which you really must see.  Adorable.  Also geeky.