Friday, June 29, 2007

Please Pass the Veggies

Following my diagnosis of NHL 13 years ago, Carol and I became quite interested in improving our health. We focused on what we seemed to be able to control, diet and exercise. Along the way, we became involved in Weight Watchers, which has helped us focus weekly on the matter of nutrition and we have read books and magazines, especially Nutrition Action Health Letter (which we would recommend).

Carol is simply a marvelous cook, and she transformed our diet: we moved away from red meats almost entirely, we eat plenty of vegetables, whole grain breads, brown rice, and so on. It would be difficult to be in a family where the cook is not on the same page. Carol is not only on the same page, she has developed simply delicious and healthy meals over the years.

Some people in the nutrition community, maybe a bit on the fringe, believe that being under-weight contributes to good health and longevity. This week I bumped into a the website of the "Calorie Restriction Society" where this thesis is presented and discussed. Among things that I note, after a brief review of the site, are these points:

1. Low glycemic index foods are much preferred. This is the thesis of Sugar Busters, a best seller for many years.

2. The sweet spot of being underweight is somewhere below 10% of our teenage weight. I weighed in around 145 when I was a teenager. When I got my cancer diagnosis, I was pushing 180. I weigh around 160 right now, although my Weight Watcher “goal weight” is 155, and I am trying to get back there. So that would make my sweetspot around 130, which I am sure would alarm everyone I know if I were to get to that point.

3. The reason one lives longer on this particular diet seems to be that the poisons and toxins in foods that one eats tend to be stored in fat, where there is fat around in which to store such things. So less fat means that those toxins and poisons will be sloughed off as you eat only what you will burn up in energy. And I guess the less food one eats over all, the less the foods will poison you. And, of course, the healthier food one eats, the less one is poisoned. I think this is it, but I am going to read more about this.

"Pulled out his handgun and shot both in the head."

Semper fi.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

No Signs

It's been a while since I've posted on K&K regarding this, but now is a good time.

...can't help to share some good news.

Scott

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Movies

Sean keeps an eye on Kelly's blog, which is worth keeping an eye on. Sean points to Kelly's post on the updated American Film Institute's new top 100 "American" movies. It looks like political correctness is alive and well at the AFI.

I like Kelly's comments. For example, I couldn't agree more with his comment on Saving Private Ryan. But his comment on Gone With the Wind shouts "Yankee! Yankee! Yankee!" But some of my best friends are Yankees.

Hello on Sunday.

Obama is a Bible reader.

Phoebe's portrait.

Build your own computer for $72? Sounds like fun!

The case against cardio.

Flash Gordan Conquers the Universe!
John Williams has nothing on Franz Liszt, and other similarities. CW is one of the advanced technologies exhibited in this masterpiece. Plus one of the deepest thoughts ever affirmed on the silver screen: "There is no power in the universe powerful enough to destroy human thought." And don't you think that Buster Crabbe could be Billy Graham's uncle?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Tall Poppy? Not I.

From a column by Dorothy Rabinowitz in Friday's WSJ.

Duke President Richard Brodhead was doubtless disturbed by the charges [in the Lacrosse team case] and the plight of the accused athletes. But that didn't prevent him from firing the lacrosse coach, in deference to the reigning hysteria--or treating the team members as though they merited shunning. For the most part, he kept his head down while the fires raged around him. His was, it should be said, not unusual behavior. The great consuming career goal of our college and university presidents--with the exception of oddities like Harvard's Larry Summers--has for more than two decades been the same: to avoid any word or deed that might incur the wrath of their gender- and race-obsessed faculties and allied campus activists. University presidents once had higher ambitions.

The entire article is worth reading.

Can it? Should it?

In an earlier post I posed the question "Can this marriage be saved?" in referring to the matter of a long-running disagreement between Carol and me over the question of whether any part of our precious lives should be spent engaged in board games and the like. I want to be sure that everyone understands the ironic allusion behind my use of the question "Can this marriage be saved?". It may not be obvious to younger members of the community.

"Can this marriage be saved?" was the title of a column in the Ladies' Home Journal, a women's magazine that was a best-seller in the 50s. The writer would present a particular non-fictional marital situation, one that seriously threatened the marriage, and then would offer suggestions on "saving" the marriage. The question, "Can this marriage be saved", crept into the language idiomatically, and, for example, one spouse would use the phrase as a sort of benediction after describing a not too serious disagreement with the other spouse.

I would see my mother reading that column sometimes and I would ask, "Should that marriage be saved?" But that was a little irreverent and, of course, not scriptural. My mother had an idiomatic phrase that she used in replying to me, her son, but I won't repeat it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

3,500

The average number of abortions that were performed daily in the U.S. in 2002, according to US Census figures. But don't worry, immigration will make up for it.

On the other hand, there's this.

"Flightplan"

Saw this movie with Jodie Foster on DVD last night. (By that I mean Jodie Foster was in the movie and I saw the movie. Jodie and I, in other words, were not on a movie date.)

(No Wednesday night Bible study for the rest of the summer. There was some sort of board-game activity last night at church. I should say "bored-game night". I came home after the supper. Carol, on the other hand, stayed on. She was in her element with the bored games and enjoyed every minute of them. Which leads to the question, "Can this marriage be saved?")

(Alert! Alert! I may give away too much of this movie.)

Anyway, I put on this DVD. It's not the kind Carol would have enjoyed: mother loses her kid on transatlantic flight and everyone else thinks she's delusional and never brought the kid on board in the first place. The movie is spookily dark. Jodie Foster is at her usual best, and Sean Bean plays the captain of the airplane, a giant 757 sort of thing. He's good, playing a slightly befuddled, tough, good guy. (He was in Lord of the Rings, the original member of the Fellowship who gets killed by orcs toward the end of the first movie. Hollywood can't decide whether he should be a hero or a villain when they cast him. He can go either way.)

The plot moved quickly, so quickly that after the movie I was unable to explain the plot to Carol. But it seemed to make plenty of sense as it was flying by. Of course, it comes out OK at the end, but the denouement is disappointing.

What disturbed me about the denouement is that the Jodie Foster character is essentially unforgiving of the people who didn't believe her, in particular the captain and an Arab passenger whom she erroneously suggested had been looking in her daughter's bedroom window before they left for the airport. During the denouement, both of them make gestures of regret about their not believing her, and she just looks at them without saying anything like, "Gee, I can understand the position you were in with me, although you probably should have realized this movie was made in Hollywood and I'm Jodie Foster. But it's OK."

I guess forgiveness - grace - is not a big value in Hollywood. But the movie disappointed me in that respect. I would have given it a B, even a B+, with an appropriate denouement. Instead, it gets the B-.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I, Claudius

I, Claudius was on Ann Perry's list of favorites that I mentioned in a post on May 17. I just finished reading it. It is an historical novel written in the 1930s. Robert Graves, the author, drew together all sorts of historical materials concerning the reigns of Caesar Augustus, Tiberius Caesar, Caligula, and finally Claudius himself (him, briefly, but there is a sequel Graves wrote just about his reign). Graves used a fictional narrative purportedly written in the first person by Claudius.

I have been reading Livy's, The Early History of Rome, which is so densely written (at least to me) that I can only read it in short sittings - but I am making good progress. It is "history" and not fiction, but it has the same feel as I, Claudius without the characterizations that help move Graves' narrative along. I enjoyed I, Claudius, and I continue to enjoy the bits and pieces of Livy that I am reading. (I'll finish it one day.)

Maybe you saw the Masterpiece Theatre series, I Claudius. It was broadcast at a busy time of my life, and I didn't get to see it. But I've ordered the first two DVDs of it from NetFlix. It was allegedly the most popular Masterpiece Theatre series of all time.

Email Survival

I was going to title this post "Email Management", but I realized that I do not find myself even near an "email management" status; I'm simply trying to survive. I would like to know how the community is dealing with their emails these days. I am not doing well.

At my former firm (KDW) when email first began to become prominent, the lawyers were very careful about publishing their email addresses. For example, a client would ask a lawyer's secretary for the boss's email address, and the secretary said "she [or he] would check", and not give it out without permission. An email address was treated something like a cellphone number is now treated (or itself used to be treated).

Now our email addresses are printed on our business cards and stationary. They are better known than our mailing addresses and telephone numbers. They tumble in, not mediated by receptionists, mail room clerks, and secretaries. They come in without any priority except the time of receipt. Nowadays, they come in with a receipt feature, so the sender will know if and when I opened it, and I would not be able to duck it by using "my spam filter ate your email" white lie. (Anyway, we are criticized for not reviewing what our spam filter eats.) Not that I would use such a lie, of course.

I have started using Outlook "rules" to try to herd some of this stuff. I have tried telling people who are not clients to use my home email, and that's very often ignored.

Macon told me that he has (or is thinking about) an automatic response that says something like "I'll get back to you within 24 hours". I am thinking about "I'll get back to you in about 24 weeks".

I would appreciate suggestions and links to advice on managing this mixed blessing of email. I suggest we label such posts "email survival".

Don't send me an email on this. Just post something.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Duke Faculty Member for a Duke Alum to be Proud Of

Steve Baldwin, Professor of Chemistry.

Here
is a post about him and what he had to say about the Lacrosse Travesty. Be sure to follow the link to what he wrote last year in the Duke Chronicle, the student newspaper. (Thanks, Instapundit.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Visual Technology Advancing

Unbelieveable.

Steve Peifer's Computer Ministry

Macon and I have posted about Steve's work in Africa before, and I am going back and label those posts "Steve Peifer". His computer ministry, to which I made oblique reference when I was suggesting Father's Day gifts, is now featured on the AIM website. (Mary sent me the link.)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Agricultural Development in Africa

Problem solved.

"God said, 'Put down the Boxing Gloves'."

In a comment to Kellsey's great Rhythms post, a friend of her's, Nancy, tells her that a mutual friend of the two of them, a young woman, has died of cancer. Nancy writes:

[Sandra] would have been 31 on June 30. After fighting cancer for 3 1/2 years, she is no longer in pain. A week before she passed she said that God was telling her to put down the boxing gloves. Now she is celebrating with her dad and our Heavenly Father.

(Nancy solicits prayers for Sandra's family.)

Such a poignant metaphor - "Put down the boxing gloves" - especially in the context of a mortal disease. But I would think it applies to everyday life as well. God says, "Put down the boxing gloves, I have plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." See Jeremiah 29.11

"A Lot of Blocks in Miami"

We spoke with Mary this morning. She described a shopping trip that took her to a little stand where a Kenyan was selling the sort of scarves she was looking for. She said that when you discuss a possible sale with a Kenyan shopkeeper, they fall into conversation with you (probably to disarm the shopper - a great technique!). She said that the Kenyan asked where she was from, and Mary said "Miami", of course.

"Oh, there are a lot of blocks there."

Mary didn't know what to say to that. Yes, she could say, there are blocks, and streets, traffic circles, parks and such in Miami.

"Blocks?"

"Yes, blocks."

Then she realized he meant Blacks, as in Black people. How politically incorrect, she thought. He should really say African-Americans, she found herself thinking.

"Oh, you mean "Blacks"! Right, there are many Blacks there. And a lot of Latin people too, who speak Spanish."

"Do you speak Spanish", he asked?

"Yes, I do, but I want to learn Swahili".

"Yes, you should learn Swahili."

Mary said it would probably have been foolish to describe to the Kenyan the "blocks" in Miami as "African-Americans". I would agree. I think its a little foolish to describe them that way over here too. I think of them as, well, Americans. Haven't we all been trying to think of each other as Americans for quite some time?

I'm Feeling Infringed

As a Stokes, you know.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Life with Father: What Kids Get from Time with Dad"

If you can get your hands on yesterday's WSJ, turn to page D1 and read Sue Shellenbarger's "Work & Family" column with this title. She writes about the special ways that dads positively impact their children, even if they are not able to spend as much time with them as mothers sometimes are, especially when the children are toddlers, but later as well.

For one thing, dads get physical with their children in a way that mothers don't. This was called "rough-housing" when I was growing up, and it was fun to rough-house with the boys, even when they were tiny. (I was more reserved with Mary. She's a girl, after all.) We would "wrestle", rolling over and over on the floor, with my protecting them with my elbows as my embrace trapped them against my chest when I rolled on top. That was great fun.

Another thing she mentions is that dads talk to their little ones differently. They tend to talk to them as they would to grown-ups. I remember that too. I would intentionally use adult words that I knew they wouldn't know, just to get them at least familiar with the sound. And then I would give them longer answers to their questions than one might expect. If an answer led to another topic, then I would discuss that topic. (At the very least, this approach would lead them to thinking about taking a nap as Dad dronned on and on and on.)

She mentions playing games. (Not board games!!!!) Hide and seek was really fun. Once I had a couple of two way radios, and put one in a closet and then I hid elsewhere in the house. As they were getting close to my hiding place, I would whisper in my radio, and it would make a sound where I had hidden the other, and off they would go!

We also had a really grotesque halloween mask, one that would fit over one's entire head, and I would put it on a soccor ball. Then I would put it in various surprising places and scare the heck out of them when they opened a closet door or a drawer or whereever. One night, before they went to bed, I put the thing on the pillow of one of the boy's bunks, and pulled the covers up to it after placing other pillows under the covers to make the shape of a body. Another night I propped the thing outside their bedroom window, looking in.

Then she mentions how dad's deal with behavior. She said that they are more likely to warn a child about "real-world" consequences that would attend bad behavior than mom's. I recall warning one of my children that his/her unfriendly behavior to his/her sibling(s) could result in their not being friends when they grew up. He/she took that seriously I think, and they are now great friends. Or maybe they would have been great friends anyway. (After all, they obviously had a common enemy.)

If you are a dad, you will find that article very encouraging and not feel so bad about spending less time with them than, perhaps, their mother. That sounds like the old "quality time" excuse, but I think Ms. Shellenbarger has a point. (We had a joke about quality time vs. quantity time around our household. When the kids and I were just goofing off, we called that "quantity time" and loved it.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Power of Ten

Cool!

"Africa should stand on its own two feet"

When we visited Mary in Kenya, we had dinner with a third generation missionary who had been born and raised in Kenya. He spoke to us of his frustration. He values the idea of providing the resources to the Kenyans to build their own country, but he laments the fact that they largely waste what is given them and nothing is accomplished. They are often back for more help, depending on the white missionary to solve their problems. He said to me, "I just don't know what is to be done!"

Carol brought to my attention this interview in Der Speigal of Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, and it is well worth the read. (Glen Reynolds links to it on Instapundit.com). Shikwati cries, "For God's sake, please stop the aid."

A mere ten days in Kenya hardly makes one an expert, but I came away thinking that the main thing these people need is the Gospel. See Acts 3:1-10. And John 5: 2-9.

UPDATE: This on the West's patronizing interference with Africans regarding the malaria menace.

The Make Way Partners Report 30 May 200

Dear Friends,
This week’s story is longer than most. It is the story of Mary Adut, the oldest girl in our school in Sudan. Mary knows that girls don’t have many opportunities in Sudan and has fought hard to be faithful with the privileges she receives through Make Way Partners, especially her education. Please read to see what a difference your support for the children of Sudan is making.

In Christ,

Kimberly L. Smith
Executive Director

· To learn more about Make Way Partners Child Sponsorship Program click here
· To become a Child Sponsor and be a part of a transforming ministry to those at risk click here.
Become a Child Sponsor Today!


If you can’t save them all, what difference does saving
one child from slavery make?



(Kimberly Smith and Mary Adut)

I was the first white woman she had ever seen. It was my second trip to her school in Sudan, but my first visit was for just a few days, and I was with a large team of men. This time the word was out – the ‘white woman’ was there for two months, and alone.

The pilot of my small, chartered plane circled the dirt airstrip where I could see hundreds of Sudanese below waiting to greet me. The landing kicked up so much dust that I lost sight of them for several moments. As the pilot opened the door, it was their beautiful voices singing praises to Jesus that first greeted me.

From there on everything happened so fast. The crowd pressed in; everyone wanted to touch the ‘white woman’. Within moments of my foot leaving the last step of the pull-up ladder descending from the plane, the pilot threw my bag to the ground and started his engine to leave. As the crowd sang, cried, danced and grabbed at me, the plane took off. I now had no transportation, no satellite phone and no other American with whom to talk.

Soon, Mary made her move. A tall, strikingly beautiful girl, who I guessed to be about 12 years old, took the lead. With wide eyes blazing directly into mine, she put out her hand as if to take my hand and said in precise English, “My name is Mary.” Impressed, I started to take her hand. Just as our fingertips brushed, Mary withdrew her hand, threw back her head and laughed as if she had made the biggest joke of the year. The two girls with Mary cackled bravely along with her.

I figured, “12 year-old girls are 12 year-old girls all around the world.” They threw their arms around me, and we continued our walk together toward the compound and New life Ministry School. Several of the teachers (who are all male) and a horde of children walked with us. The singing and drumming set the pace and spirit as the girls laughed and danced around me.

Once we arrived at the schoolyard, the boys beat a massive drum while the other children gathered in a large circle around them. Mary and her two friends jumped to the center of the circle where the trio danced to the beat of the boys’ drumming. I stood on the inner fringe of the circle watching with pure joy and utter amazement. Suddenly, Mary rushed over, grabbed my arm and pulled me into the circle. I quickly learned that Mary’s precise English was limited to a few practiced phrases. However, it didn’t take verbal language to understand that she and her friends wanted the tindeet (old woman) to dance with them.

My first attempt at trying to acclimate myself to the Sudanese form of celebration and worship – I danced. Mary led the trio in laughing as only preteen girls can laugh at other females. I had to laugh at myself as well; I was certain that I was a ridiculous sight indeed! A three-day trip to get to them had surely taken its toll on my appearance even without the aid of my combat style hiking boots, filthy cargo pants and unruly, dirty hair! So, together, we danced, and laughed at me.

James came over to the dancing circle. As soon as he approached, he began to sternly scold Mary and her sidekicks. The gaiety died, and all the children were sent back to class. As we walked from the schoolyard, I asked James to explain to me what had just transpired. He told me that the girls were laughing at me and he could not tolerate that. They must be disciplined and learn to respect their elders.

I told James that all girls go through a time of challenging or competing with older women, just as boys do with men. But girls and women have a different style. I asked James if he would permit me some time with the young girls to earn their respect. This was a foreign thought to James – to earn respect. In his experience, you either respect the authority or be severely disciplined.

James desires to grow strong and healthy leaders among his people so he was open to my suggestion, but he told me he would not tolerate the girls laughing at me or being disrespectful in any way. Reiterating that I would need time and his patience as the girls and I learned one another, he agreed.

It didn’t take long for the girls to seek me out. With Mary in the lead, they found me in church. They found me in my tent. They found me on a walk. They found me in the latrine! Each time, the others would hide slightly behind Mary while she would first ‘invite’ me into some interchange so that she could get the upper hand by rebuffing my response to her. When we walked together, Mary would often run a few feet ahead so that she could mock the way I walked or carried a stick (to ward off rabid dogs).

Each time James caught Mary mocking me or displaying some form of disrespect, he intervened to discipline her. I again appealed to James to allow time and relationship building. I told him that young girls who have been through such unthinkable things as these girls have experienced could not be forced into submission, but they could be loved into healing and eventually, true service. Frustrated, but not knowing what else to do with females, James agreed to turn Mary and her ‘shadows’ over to me.

Then my big break came. All week long, the school was abuzz because of a soccer game being planned for Sunday evening. One of our donors had given 50 soccer balls for children in the area, and our school had kept several. I heard chatter about the ‘big game’ everyday.

It was all very informal. Two of our school helpers arranged the game; whoever showed up could play. We waited until late in the evening, a couple of hours before sunset, so that the heat was not so intense. I had never played soccer, but I wanted to join in. So, without thinking much about it, I joined in.

Our ‘soccer field’ was an area in the bush where the children had worked with relentless vigor to clear out all thorns, debris and roots. With only small tools, not much more effective than spoons, it had been taxing work!

Once on the ‘field’, I noticed there were no girls. I asked James about it; he told me that the girls didn’t like soccer, only volleyball. I was heartbroken! I had only been told about the love of soccer in Sudan so I had only asked our donors for soccer balls. Had I known girls loved volleyball, I would have asked for volleyballs also. I was confused because I had seen the girls working just as hard to clear the field, as had the boys.

After some initial jockeying among the boys over who was on whose team, the game began. I was amazed at how good the boys were! I ran the best I could and played as hard as I could for nearly an hour. Spent, I went to the edge of the ‘field’ to sit on a mahogany tree branch lying on the ground. Other late-arriving boys joined in or out of the game without interruption to the play.

Within moments I saw Mary and several other girls walking toward me. I was accustomed to basking in their high spirit; I had never seen them so crestfallen. I watched cautiously as the girls found a place beside me on the mahogany branch. After a few moments of pregnant silence, I asked Mary what was wrong. She moaned, “We want to play soccer.” I was delighted. I said, “Great! Go ahead.” A wide smile consumed her face, “Really?” “Sure!” I said.

Mary and several of the girls got up and took off. About 20 feet away from me, they stopped in their tracks and turned to me, “You come with us. You play, too.” Still tired, I simply could not run in the heat one more step. “Sorry. You go ahead.” Satisfied, they ran onto the field.

Immediately the game came to an abrupt halt. Hoping to avoid hoisting myself from my perch, I tried to discern what was going on. I could hear shouting but could not make out the words. Then pushing began. I ran to the center of the field.

The main spokespersons for the dispute were Mary and a young boy Deng for whom moments earlier I had fought for his right to play. When Deng first showed up, none of the boys wanted to let him join the game; they said he was too small. I defended his right to play since it was a game for all the school. The larger boys relented. Deng ended up being a tremendous player and both sides now wanted him on their team.

However, none of the boys wanted girls to play, and Deng was the ringleader in keeping them off the field. I looked at the school staff (all male) who stood on the boys’ side without speaking. I addressed them. “The girls would like to join the game. Are you going to let them play?” The men looked at the ground, kicking it like little boys and said, “Girls don’t play soccer. They only like Volleyball.”

“These girls say they love soccer and want to play. Are you going to let them play?” They answered, “In Sudan, girls don’t play soccer.” I reminded them that I played and no one complained, which set precedence. I said, “How can we tell them they can’t play? I need your support on this. Can the girls play?”

As Deng felt the male staff crumbling, he had held his peace about as long as he could and shouted, “Girls can’t play soccer!” I reminded Deng of what the larger boys said about him just moments before that; and if I hadn’t fought for his right to play, he would still be crying on the bench. “Don’t you want to help someone else who is being sidelined also?” I asked. Deng shook his head, “No! If girls are going to play, then I quit!” I said, “Fine, but you can watch us from your seat on the mahogany bench if you like!” Suddenly, the staff laughed. The boys jokingly punched Deng in the arm and said, “Let’s just play.” The game was on.

Exhausted, but filled with joy for Mary and her friends, I made my way back to the mahogany bench where I was better suited. It only took a few moments for me to figure out why the boys didn’t want the girls to play. They ran like the wind and had far better coordination at this age than did the boys. I knew, in time, the boys would out maneuver them for they had much more practiced skill since the girls never got to play. But for now, the girls surely gave the boys a run for their pride.

From that moment on, Mary has never laughed at me or mocked me. She still seeks me out but now it is for a hug, to practice her English reading or to paint our toenails.

For three years now I have watched Mary grow in stature and in wisdom. I have seen her struggle to leave behind the rebellious girl-child and grow into a woman of wise council and leadership. She has fought with and for those same girls, who used to just follow her around to make fun of others, to help them understand their value and responsibility to become educated, Christian women leading their people to freedom in Christ.

When the meningitis outbreak hit us this winter, we almost lost Mary. She became the sickest of any meningitis survivor that we had. Without your prayers and financial support to provide food, medicine and medical help, I believe Mary would have died. Then, the people of Sudan would have been denied a powerful woman of the Lord, which I have no doubt, with your continued prayers and support, will remain faithful in the Lord’s work to set the captives free!
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Join us to combat human trafficking.
To save a child like Mary and support a future leader in Sudan costs only about a dollar a day.

Make Way Partners
P.O. Box 26367
Birmingham, AL 35260 U.S.A

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The 40s were busy.

Miami Springs growth over the last 75 years.

Obscure (to me) but Interesting (to me) Christian Things

I'm calling out Macon to comment on Robert's post here.

Candidates' Religious Affiliation

Sean credits Brad with finding this link that runs down the religious affiliations of the Presidential candidates. They are fun to consider:

1. Isn't Hillary's response just so predictable?

2. I liked the honesty of Kucinich's response. I like him too. Not as a President, but as to what I perceive to be his character.

3. Don't you think Giuliani's response is just a little testy? And how is God these days, Rudy?

4. Some mixed religious practices here. Brownback is a Catholic in the AM and an Evangelical in the evening. And McCain too. A Baptist Episcopalian. Do you think its the drinking-in-public thing? Do you think that if the Baptists came on out of the alcohol closet they would pick up thousands of Episcopalians? I think so. Drop the grape juice, guys. Let's have some wine!

5. Boy, the Methodists are all over the block. We have Edwards and we have have Gilmore. But the Methodists have always been all over the block.

6. Obama is UCC. "Unitarians Considering Christianity", I've heard it said.

7. Tancredo is a Presbyterian. I'm so embarrassed.

8. Fred? Fred?

9. Romney. The article says all of the candidates are Christians. The AP, then, has decided the question of whether Mormons are Christians. I'm glad we settled that. If Romney's candidacy does nothing else, he has scored a victory for the Mormons. They are finally seen as one of us. At least by the AP.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Mary's Latest Trip Up the Escarpment

Don't miss this one!

What Happens to Tall Poppies

This past week NPR interviewed a Kiwi comedian/pop star, Jemaine Clement. (Apparently this genleman and his group are about to burst upon the US cultural scene under the auspices of HBO.) The interviewer ask Mr. Clement to describe what he saw as the main difference between the culture in New Zealand and that in the US.

He said, "Tall poppies get cut", which puzzled the interviewer. Clement explained that "tall poppies get cut" is a saying in New Zealand that refers to the strong cultural value there of keeping one's affairs below the radar. He said that in the US, on the other hand, people seemed to value standing out from the crowd. People down under find that risky.

I think that was once the value in the US as well, and still is in many parts of the country.

I remember when I was a young partner at Smathers & Thompson attending a partners meeting when this value was discussed. During this period of time the legal practice generally was in transition. The practice, the experts insisted, had to move from being a profession to a business, and our firm was struggling with that change. Part of being a business was marketing, apparently, and so we discussed retaining a marketing firm to get our name in the paper and so forth.

Hervey Yancey, an elder statesman in the firm and a fine trial lawyer, blasted this idea. We did not want to get our names in the paper. "Fools names and fools faces", he recited, "oft appear in public places," a saying that mother was fond of using until I got my picture in the paper once. (The saying remained true. In fact it was then and there for my mother demonstrated. But my mother quit using the saying.)

I think flying below the radar is a good thing. When I was litigating full time, I had a number of cases and in each case there was another lawyer, of course, the opposing counsel, most likely smarter and more experienced than I. The lawyers with whom I contended also juggled a great number of cases. I wanted to remain a very short poppy as the lawyer on the other side surveyed the field in which he worked. I did that by always being courteous and not being contentious on issues that really didn't make any difference. When that lawyer came into the office on Saturday, in the peace and quiet of the morning, to think about the week just past and to plan the week to come, to plan the next steps of his various battles, I really didn't want him to think about me and my case. I was hoping that some other adversary of his had made himself quite prominent during the week before and that I would be unthought of, unseen, and safe.

I remember when I was in college and once visited my aunt and uncle in Spartanburg, SC, home of Deering Milliken, a large and well-known multinational textile firm. My uncle was on the faculty at Wofford College, and one day we drove together from the college back to his house through a well kept residential neighborhood with nice houses. It was not a neighborhood that would strike you as being particularly a wealthy one, but the houses were of a generous size and well kept. As we drove by a particular house on a corner lot, my uncle said, "That's where Roger Milliken lives", the president and chairman of Deering Milliken. I was suprised at how modest it seemed, next to the image I had of this great businessman from this great business family. He did not live as such a tall poppy, and my respect for him increased greatly.

But some people in the US make a living off of being tall poppies, often wittingly but sometimes unwittingly. Not just movie stars, but businessmen, clergy, lawyers, politicians. Wittingly, Paris Hilton was a tall poppy. Perhaps unwittingly, Skooter Libby was a tall poppy.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rhythms




Lately, I have found that my life is very full, so full that I can't possibly find time to do everything that needs doing, and yet when people ask me what's going on in my life, I find that I don't have much to say. I have been thinking about this and have wondered, "how can I have nothing to say? My life is so full!" Then, I realized that my life is very full but it looks very much the same every day and progress is slow and change very gradual. There are not many tasks that I can point to that are truly and finally done as most of them are tasks I will simply have to do again the next day or the day after that (e.g., laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, cooking, changing diapers, putting kids down for naps, feeding kids, burping my baby). These things all take time, and none of them are inspiring to talk about, but in the midst of them I am learning to recognize the rhythms of my children, their needs, their highs, their lows. I am learning when to discipline and when to laugh (and sometimes choosing to laugh is one of the hardest choices in my day...I tend to be more of a worrier than a laugher, and laughter is so necessary to both my sanity and my children's sense of hope and confidence).

I am learning to enjoy this slow and gradual process. I am learning to laugh when I would rather shout or maybe even cry. I am learning to give choices when I would rather just push something through and say "because I said so" (although sometimes it comes to that anyways). One of the greatest achievements in my recent life is beginning to discover my daughter's cues of tiredness before she reaches the point of sheer exhaustion. This was difficult to do with my son, and that was when he was the only person I was paying attention to. Now, I am paying attention to him and to her, and having enough presence of mind to read her signals has taken most of the attention that I have to give. But it is so exciting when I put her down and she drifts off without fighting it, when she can fade into drowsiness and sleep because I didn't wait until she was too tired. I feel like I have served her well and like I am getting to know her better as I begin to sense her rhythms.

My son is finally starting to be okay with me saying "I need to go feed your sister and put her down for a nap", and I cannot tell you what a relief it is when he does not pitch a fit every time I need to put her down. He has been having to learn new rhythms. Everything he thought he knew has been shaken up and put back down in a different space. This has been very trying for him at points, but he is beginning to be able to move with the new tempo. He is beginning to find himself again in a new way, and is learning to enjoy his sister. One of the great joys in my life right now is how he can make his sister laugh. She is only 4 and 1/2 months old, and while her father and I can make her smile, only her brother can really make her laugh. When he is silly for her, she will laugh from her gut and will shriek with glee. What a gift! What a pleasure. What a wonderful thing for him to discover that one of the spaces he now fits into is that of her friend.

As I move through my days, one looking much like the other, I am discovering what a privilege it is for me to get to watch and take part as my children begin to discover themselves and one another, as they learn how to move within their own rhythms and that of the other.

It's a full life, and one I love. So, that is what's going on in my life for those of you who have asked and found me silent or slow to respond. I wanted to share and let you know, but the rhythm of my life is slow and it took a while for me to figure out what to say about it.

Now Who Did This Remind Us Of?

Carol reports that as she was jogging this morning, on the bike path by the canal she saw a boy, about nine years old, standing on the bank, fishing pole in hand, tackle box by his feet, silently waiting for a bite. Carol wondered, "Just what is he using for bait? A kernal of corn? A tiny ball of bread?" Sigh.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Is Something Up in Hollywood?

Ann Althouse comments on two "date flicks" where abortion is rejected as a solution to the problem.

Carol and I saw Spiderman 3 last night. Unlike Superman Returns, where patriotic references are pared (Truth, Justice, but no American Way), there is a quick scene with Spiderman swinging in front of a large American flag (although it would be easy to edit that one second shot out of international editions of the movie). The vengence-is-bad, forgiveness-is-good theme is very prominent and the deus-ex-machina solution to the evil black stuff takes place in the bell tower of a church. Moreover, even though this is the third movie, we don't see MJ and Peter in bed, it's simply a kiss that causes the main romantic complication. Finally, Peter's aunt gives a theory of marriage under which the husband is to put the wife first (as Christ loved the Church?).

What's going on?