Monday, October 29, 2012

Bye bye, baseball

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."

-Bart Giamatti

Congratulations, Giants! We'll see everybody next spring.

Photo by Luanne Dietz, The Chronicle / SF

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Two open letters on the topic of politicians and rape

As you no doubt know, the issue of rape and of pregnancies resulting from rape have been in the news. I've seen two truly excellent and thoughtful responses to this issue and I didn't want them to get lost in a Various and Sundry post.

These are both in the form of open letters to politicians, and both begin by warning that these are likely to be triggers for anyone who has experienced sexual violence. With those caveats in mind, I highly encourage you to read both of these:

The first, from the perspective of a rape survivor and theologian, is a compelling piece illustrating how politicians on both sides of the political spectrum are not helping the conversation and especially are not helping anyone who has experienced rape. I was especially impressed by the tone of the comments following the post. 

The second is an amazing satirical piece written from the point of view of a rapist. Trust me, it's worth a read.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Funnies, October 21

Halloween Dog Parade 2012, Tompkins Square Park: Evita Pugron

 Many more photos from (and I am not making this up) the 22nd annual Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade can be found here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Various & Sundry, Education, Happiness, and two F words

A few quick items for your enjoyment and edification:

For example, students do a good job of evaluating their teachers. A company has developed a survey that seems to give pretty robust data on which teachers do a good job and which ones are struggling.
The survey did not ask Do you like your teacher? Is your teacher nice? This wasn’t a popularity contest. The survey mostly asked questions about what students saw, day in and day out. 
The results also fascinate me:
Of the 36 items included in the Gates Foundation study, the five that most correlated with student learning were very straightforward:
 1. Students in this class treat the teacher with respect.
 2. My classmates behave the way my teacher wants them to.
 3. Our class stays busy and doesn’t waste time.
 4. In this class, we learn a lot almost every day.
 5. In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes. 
 When Ferguson and Kane shared these five statements at conferences, teachers were surprised. They had typically thought it most important to care about kids, but what mattered more, according to the study, was whether teachers had control over the classroom and made it a challenging place to be. As most of us remember from our own school days, those two conditions did not always coexist: some teachers had high levels of control, but low levels of rigor.
Isn't that interesting?

Another insight I appreciated: there's nothing wrong with happiness. David Lose writes about how often Christians seem to denigrate happiness as vastly inferior to joy. But as he points out (not in these words), it's not that one is superior to the other; they are simply different things. There is no need to turn up one's nose at happiness.

Jennifer Weiner wrote an incredibly moving meditation on the F word - fat. Highly recommended.

And on another F word - fashion -, I have to admit I love this picture of Salma Hayak owning the sidewalk. You know what? It makes me happy. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


There's too much going on for me to blog about this the way it deserves, but I wanted to post a couple of things related to forgiveness. I'm still pondering these, so not much commentary. If you have brilliant things to say to tie these together, please do!

First, an obituary for Eric Lomax, tortured by the Japanese during WWII. Many years later, Lomax found a picture of the Japanese interpreter, Takashi Nagase, who had been involved in his torture.
For two years Lomax did nothing. Then he obtained a translation of Nagase’s memoir, which explained how shame had led the interpreter to create a Buddhist shrine beside the death railway. Patti Lomax then wrote to Nagase, enclosing her husband’s photograph and suggesting that perhaps the two men could correspond. She asked: “How can you feel 'forgiven’, Mr Nagase, if this particular Far Eastern prisoner-of-war has not yet forgiven you?”
You'll need to read the obituary to find out what happens. (Or you can wait til next May when Railway Man is released as a film staring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.)

But I was struck by that notion that you cannot feel forgiven if the person you have wronged hasn't forgiven you.

That same day I saw a video of Brene Brown, talking about going back to church "for the wrong reasons"--to get away from pain. Instead, she found that the church was a midwife, not an epidural. She describes how the dean of her church explained that "In order for forgiveness to really happen, something has to die." She goes on to say that in her research, there are two emotions that people fear the most: shame and grief. "And so, if something has to die in order for forgiveness to happen, and people are deathly afraid to feel grief, then we just won't forgive anybody, because I don't want to feel grief."

As I said: pondering.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Funnies, for people with a very particular set of skills

OK, this is probably only funny if you've seen the movie Taken. But I don't label this "Well, I think it's funny" for nothing.

Maybe this will help. Or not.

h/t Happy Place which has several other ways to apply the Taken speech to your daily life. They understand me.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Various & Sundry: Politics, Fabulous Women, and Snark

I have an ambitious Saturday to-do list, so let's get the important stuff out of the way: this week's compendium of stuff I found interesting, curated for your pleasure and edification.

I didn't watch the debate on Wednesday. Neither did Lance Mannion, which didn't stop him from posting something that I think captures the essence of the debate. Meanwhile, Brenda Peterson wrote why Romney's performance was a turn-off for women.

And the take-away image is of Big Bird getting the axe; in response, anibundel has "rounded up Exhibits ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ (that’s pronounced “ab-key-deaf-gher-jeckle-mer-nop-qur-stuv-werx-yvs”, for the uninitiated) as to why Sesame Street is one of the greatest programs on television for children." Starting with Big Bird learning about the death of Mr. Hooper.

Hope you had your Cool Touch (TM) Kleenex handy. And if you have time, check out her wonderful compendium of Sesame Street videos.

A couple of bloggers review the Letter from 2012 in Obama's America that Focus on the Family wrote before the 2008 election -- a letter that describes the world of October 2012 in a way that, shall we say, is apocalyptically wrong. They were 0.5 for 34, getting half of one prediction right for correctly seeing that Obama would repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. A great insight:
Re-reading the Focus letter four years later, what strikes me most — besides how utterly wrong they are about everything — is how parochial their imagination is when attempting to envision a political dystopia. The horrors they predict are almost all narrowly targeted at and tailored toward them. I’ve read a ton of dystopian stories, good and bad, and this is the most cluelessly self-absorbed vision of its kind that I’ve ever seen.
For a final note in our political coverage, Patton Oswalt wonders what would happen if everyone voted. Wonderful post about, you know, participating.

In the Fabulous Women's Obituaries department, two great ones this week: first up, Lavender "Pinkie" Barnes, champion table tennis player, palm reader, and advertising copywriter ("Veet. It's always summer under your arms.")

Then there's the amazing Vanya Kewley, an utterly fearless documentarian.
"She worked from Chile to Saudi Arabia, via Vietnam, producing early profiles of controversial international leaders such as Colonel Gaddafi (Soldier for Islam) and General Ojukwu (The Man Who Made Biafra). Though she stood just over 5ft, dictators held no terrors for her.  
"She was beaten and imprisoned in Uganda when her crew were mistaken for mercenaries; clubbed unconscious when living on famine rations among the Ananaya “freedom fighters” in South Sudan; and threatened with death by North Korean soldiers."
The next paragraph then describes how she deserted a tour group to trek 4,000 miles through Tibet with a hand-held camera. Formidable would be the word that comes to mind.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Tim Schenck reminds us that October is Pastor Appreciation Month. He offers a few suggestions of what pastors might appreciate being appreciated with. As he notes,
Most pastors don’t have nearly enough crosses in their lives. Usually only fifteen or so hung up in their offices plus countless others in their homes. What they really need is one more with “Pastor” written across it to remind them of Christ’s self-giving sacrifice on Cavalry.
You know what else coincides with Pastor Appreciation Month? #snarktoberfest.

You know what else was being celebrated on Twitter? The social event of the year: the My Little Pony wedding, aka #mlpwedding. Well, all right, it happened a while back. But Nancy Davis Kho and Wendi Aarons are just getting around to apologizing to Hasbro for their inappropriate tweets.
For instance, we realize now that tweets like “CARAMEL IS ONLY MARRYING KNIGHT SHADE FOR THE GREEN CARD! #MLPWedding” and “WHEN PLASTIC HORSES CAN MARRY PLASTIC HORSES, MAN MARRYING DOG FOLLOWS RIGHT BEHIND! #FamilyValues #MLPWedding” forced you, a non-partisan toy company, into debates on illegal immigration and same sex marriage that you had probably hoped to avoid when you planned your wholesome My Little Pony Twitter Party. We thought Nancy’s contribution of “THANK YOU #VERMONT! NOW DESERT ROSE AND DAISYJO CAN MAKE IT LEGAL! #MLPWedding” added balance to the discussion, but we see now that it falls into this category as well.
I'm not sure they sound truly sorry. They still want to know why the couple registered for a whip.

Having been led from their letter to Wendi's open letter to the brand manager for Always Maxi-pads, and on to the rest of McSweeney's Internet Tendency, it is also all their fault that I am ending with this completely profane article that I am compelled to include for its timeliness and best use of seasonal vegetables. Because it's decorative gourd season, motherfuckers. And I've got things to do.

Friday, October 5, 2012

International James Bond Day

An important announcement! Today is International James Bond Day, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Bond film franchise.

Quick: which is your favorite Bond film? I do love From Russia With Love. Though I have a soft spot in my heart for On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Yes, George Lazenby and all. And of course Casino Royale was an excellent reboot. Couldn't stand any of the Timothy Dalton films, though.

And are we looking forward to the new Bond film? Why, yes. Yes, we are.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Let's go, Oakland! Guest posts from the Parental Units

Photo by Michael Macor, SF Chronicle
I have been a half-hearted fan at best this season. I never even got to a game. But my parents were there today for game 162, so I asked them for their take on the final, and division-clinching, game of the seasons.

Here's my mom's contribution:

5 games behind the Texas Rangers with 9 games to play. 

Then, on October 3, 2102 the amazing A’s, on the last day of the regular season, game #162, won the third game of their series with Texas, 12-5, to take the American League West Championship! And…we were there (along with 36,000 other hopped up fans) The weather was perfect, high 70’s with a nice gentle cool bay breeze. Great ball park food: nachos, hot dogs, ice cream, popcorn, cotton candy, soft drinks and beer, beer, beer. Only once did the team and fans falter, when, in the 3rd inning Texas scored 5 times to take a 5-1 lead. But when the A’s answered in the 4th with a big 6 run inning, thanks in part to Josh Hamilton’s unbelievable error on a routine fly ball, everyone got refocused and never looked back. The fans roared for every strike an A’s pitcher threw, and got even louder for every out. You could know what was going on with your eyes closed just by listening to the fan responses. No one sat still, folks jumped up to see the plays then flowed up and down the isles. The Coliseum rocked. It was a very satisfactory day. Oh and did we mention that the A’s won?

Now we get to fidget as the post season begins.

Dad's take:

Proverbs 24:17

Oh, to heck with that. Go A's!

On the first presidential debate

All week, and for longer than that, actually, we've been hearing about the debate and who's going to win, and the expectations game, and Mitt Romney's been practicing zingers and blah de blah de blah. I'm not planning to watch, and was feeling guilty about that, but this morning I woke up and realized that who wins the debate is completely irrelevant.

The point of the debate for me -- and what I think the point of the debate should be -- is to get an idea of what each candidate thinks about important topics and how his administration will address them. Zingers be damned. What is their approach to topics such as the economy, foreign policy, and governance? You know, things they actually would have a say about were they elected or re-elected. The "winning" thing is not actually going to make a difference when it comes to enacting policy.

So I plan to follow along via Twitter and blogs and read about their answers, examining those for the content. Not that I need help deciding who to vote for. But boy is this not about who "wins" for me.

Then again...

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Democalypse 2012 - Negate Expectations - The Presidential Debates
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kleenex (r) Cool Touch (TM) tissues

The Kleenex (r) brand Cool Touch (tm) facial tissue,   "enriched with moisturizers and aloe" that "immediately feel cool to the skin." They provide "a rush of comfort when noses are sore or gentle refreshment anytime." (Yeah, I want to know when noses are gentle refreshment, too.)

Let me tell you: I am amazed at the variety of Kleeneces available for your purchase. I bought a medley of Kleenex, including anti-viral, ultra-soft, with aloe, with moisturizers, and now this one. And I've got to tell you, this one...I don't know if it's the best, but it sure is odd.

It really does feel cool to the touch when you first use it. I suspect that is a property of the stearyl alcohol that somehow is in the tissue (along with polyethylene). Other than that, I'm not sure what they bring to the party. In my extensive comparison testing, I can't say they're any better than any other Kleenex.

It's not that they're bad. It's just that there's something peculiar about them. You've got to wonder about a Kleenex that warns, "Best if used in conditions below 75 degrees." Additionally, I have to keep dumping my wastebasket into the kitchen trash because I can't imagine these ingredients are good for Harper, who likes to pilfer the used Kleenex and shred them. I find myself concerned about the environmental impact of my Kleenex. They're not the greenest item to begin with, but when you start adding all this stuff to the paper, what does that do? Anybody know?

Good Housekeeping had a brief review of this product earlier this year. For a better sense, though, check out what people have to say on Amazon. They describe the sensation well. In the meantime, I'm going to go hack some more.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Daring Greatly

I'm stuck at home with a cold which is no fun, but at least gives me added time to read, and blog.

Readers of the blog know that I'm a huge Brene Brown fan and will not be surprised that I think her new book is terrific. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead draws on her many years of research studying shame and vulnerability to offer insights into how we can use that information to live a more Wholehearted life.

One thing I deeply appreciate about Brown's work is how research-based it is. Even more compelling, the answers she found were not the ones she was initially looking for. This is not a light-hearted feel-good kind of a project. I was glad she included a section at the end of the book in which she explains the research process and how she collected her data. There are moments in the book where she says, "We don't have the data to back this up yet," as she offers a hypothesis and makes it clear that she is waiting for the data to bear that out. But overall, the theses in this book are backed up by data and research, not a wishy-washy "you should feel good about yourself" sentimentality.

I also appreciate that Brown offers very practical suggestions of how to apply what she has discovered about shame and vulnerability to become, as she terms it, "shame-resilient" (since there is no way to completely avoid shame). She looks at some common areas where we can apply these techniques, such as in leading or parenting, with a lot of case studies and examples.

Many of which are her own life. And this I appreciate as well. She is learning to do these things as well. Brown is well aware of her own imperfections and is not speaking from the point of view of "I've got it all together and you can too!" Instead, as she shared in her initial TED talk, she's coming to all of this information from the perspective of a person who hated the thought of being vulnerable, but has come to see that this is the way to live a whole-hearted, courageous, and joyful life.

There's a lot of information to take in, and I think this is a book that I'll need to revisit. But I think this is an excellent resource, worth adding to your arsenal of life skills.