Saturday, September 10, 2005

Musings: Groom's dinner

It’s come to my attention that apparently only men call it the “groom’s dinner” and only women call it the “rehearsal dinner.”

Faith: Receptivity as purpose

(Tao Te Ching, Chapter 11)

Thirty spokes
Share one hub.
Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the cart. Knead clay in order to make a vessel. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel. Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the room.

Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Musings: Kids are kids

My brother Dave wants to know if there's any alternative to kids' just driving their parents crazy sometimes. I shared my considered wisdom, which says: Nope. They're human beings, and still-developing ones at that; they are going to drive their parents crazy, just no way around it.

I've seen even the most exemplary kids cause their parents twinges of anxiety, so maybe it's all relative; just be happy your kids aren't in juvie court.

I think God's plan in the whole thing is actually not so much for the parents to shave the rough edges off the kids, but for the kids to shave the rough edges off the parents. (I saw a mother yesterday cause her tyke to cry for no reason; she was snarling about his behavior when he was only being the sweetest little tater tot.) I believe God wants us to continue to grow and gain a balanced perspective as adults even as we did through childhood and adolescence.

Growth is built into the bones: If we allow it, every being will grow and develop as intended (physically, emotionally and spiritually). The only way to prevent that is to do something to squash the spirit.

Let's all vow: Do no harm.

Musings: Minnesota, the green

It's great to be back in good ol' environmentally sensitive Minnesota. In Houston, 70-80 percent of the cars -- I mean, vehicles -- are SUVs and pickup trucks. In Minnesota, 70-80 percent of the cars are cars.

From the sky, the Twin Cities metro area is a rich verdant green. Some 90 percent is as thickly treed as the greenest 10 percent of Houston, which is Memorial Park and River Oaks. Best of all, the Twin Cities are so neatly laid out that Houston, by comparison, looks like a bomb hit it. From above, with its perpetual and pervasive construction, Houston more closely resembles a post-Katrina clutter than a real city.

Musings: Flink Avenue

I discovered my brother Greg lives one street away from Flink Avenue.

Flink. Flink. Flink. Flink.

OK, I'm done now.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Dialogues: "Models" who scam

This Dialogues is a rare actual exchange. Increasingly, scammers ping or instant-message people on Yahoo Messenger, typically claim to be a 24- to 27-year-old model, and I have no idea what additional lies they present after that. You can either limit your IMs to people on your buddy list, or if you must be open to new contacts for business reasons, be wary and cut these cretins off using the Warn, Block or Ignore button in your IM software.

Q: Hello Sir
Q: Goodday
A: Hi who are you?
Q: Thanks Am Zanna Madiga from west Africa
A: Why are you writing?
Q: I have just sent an email to you and about myself
Q: I knew that we are never meet from anywhere on this earth before , but i write you by the name of God
A: Well it hasn't arrived, what's up? I am at work
Q: Please you can forward your private email to me , so that i can resend it for God sake
A: Forget it, you are scamming me, stop lying, good bye

Musings: No time to bleed

Jesse Ventura's book, I Ain't Got Time to Bleed (from one of his lines in Predator), refers to the mission-oriented male mentality that personal inconvenience (including pain or injury) is beneath consideration and should brook no delay. In other words, if it hurts when I hit my head on something, I just haven't hit my head often enough to get used to it yet; or I can simply ignore it. Men need to "take a licking and keep on ticking" -- largely because in war or emergency situations, they must -- just as most women will grab the tiger by the tail when the welfare of a child is involved.

Of course, that's macho crisis thinking which is stupid in daily life. Civilization is about taking advantage of medical care, taking an Advil as needed, daily grooming and so on. I say this because I know men who won't see a doctor on principle. I myself didn't take Advil (or anything) on principle, until a recent injury helped me reshape such thinking. It's for the same reason I order "just coffee" at Starbucks instead of some double-tall-skinny-caramel-mocha-latte-cino concoction that requires standing around for 15 minutes: Too much trouble.

Macho thinking is all about embracing crisis -- from warrior to workaholic -- yet avoiding life's little conveniences as "too much trouble." It's unhealthy and displays mismatched priorities outside of any crisis or competitive setting.

Ads: Herky jerky

I saw a billboard for beef jerky that said "Fun Size A Cow." (It's been a long day, so I had to keep reading the sign, because my eyes wanted to put "Have" in the middle.) What's this: Promote the concept of chopping an entire cow into "fun-sized" chunks of beef -- commoditized snarf-'em-up consumerism like McNuggets and Snickers minis? It's ghoulishly reductionist and reminiscent of the Futurama commercial that parodies that very mentality: "Glergsnag's Human Rinds: It's a cruncha-muncha-buncha human!" I don't think we'd like that (leather) shoe if it were on another's foot.

Email: Weblog perspective [KF]

I am constantly thinking of others and what information or help they might benefit from or appreciate. Despite this, my work and communication load has dropped off significantly from what it used to be in the 1980s and 1990s. (It is a little disappointing that my intellectual interests and involvements have slipped from dozens to handfuls.) I am aware that most people frequently "cut corners" and "look out for number one," even if those would be diametrically opposed to how I have lived most of my life.

I don't want to be involved in [much less encourage] women's emotional weaknesses. I simply want to help any person who's hurting and wants to grow by serving as a sounding board, before they burn out and become embittered from ever finding happiness. Believe me, I try to dialog with every man I can, but it's just not their style.

I feel I am a servant of those who are trying to find the truth. I find I always have creative insights into "what is really going on," which through dialogue, can be applied to help people discover their own answers. Also most people have never found an empathetic voice who can affirm that, yes, such-and-such was in fact an abusive and wrongful experience. I [have a] passion for [helping others discern between] ethical vs. coercive or manipulative communication.

[I feel a] need to help others understand and overcome their trauma, because I am intensely curious about what makes people tick in these ways. We all deserve to be happy; are we to leave those who have stumbled or been tripped to their own diminished resources? Everyone needs help at one time or another; I will not leave others in the mud because it is personally inconvenient to me or I am so self-absorbed that I have no time for others.

My weblog is primarily intended to be an intellectual sharing and exchange, with the benefit of occasional humor. I really believe there is an intelligent approach to faith and relationships that accords with universal truths and bypasses partisanship (and all that that implies). In other words, I truly believe that we all can just get along.

Faith: Angels unawares

One morning during worship services at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in Minneapolis, a homeless person wandered in, shambled down to the front of the altar, lifted his arms in silent prayer and stood there, "bowing and scraping," for some time. I had the distinct sense that an angel was in our midst -- as did our pastor, lay pastoral leader and several parishioners, I later learned. (Like me, our pastor said he nearly smiled while watching several of the more uptight parishioners, wondering if they would have a bird.)

Thus began the short relationship between Esteban and our church. I was too polite a Minnesotan (in the Keillorean sense) then to probe for details, but apparently his common-law wife and daughter lived near the church and he wandered the streets. He was not lucid, but I could see he had faith in his measure. I saw Margaret and her mother at the children's Christmas party. She was a darling little girl -- who some months later was kidnapped in a Target store, abused and killed by a morally bankrupt teen (Target employee) who decided he was smart enough to get away with the crime. (He didn't.) Her death broke Esteban, who was beside himself at the funeral, and then apparently outside of himself. I never saw him again.

Angels do walk in our midst -- though they often come to us unawares. Their purpose is to break into our daily life and offer us a chance to think, feel and pray "outside of the box." (The box is our skin.) Angels widen our perspective and remind us that we do not have it all figured out. Angels also remind us that God is in charge, always, no matter what. And in a day and age when things can sometimes seem otherwise, we need that reminder.

Faith: WWJB - What would Jesus be?

Jesus was a Jew, but a decidedly nonconformist one. He fit into the traditions but sought to transform them for their larger meaning: the spirit, not the letter, of the law. He challenged the status quo and made the religious leaders so uncomfortable that they sought to have him executed (like the paschal lamb). So I began thinking: How far would God have stretched the envelope, in those days or in ours?

The historical Jesus had to be a man; if he had been a woman, he would have had no rights or voice at all. What if he had been a Samaritan? The religious authorities would have rejected him outright.

What if he came today and was a gay? I realize that is a controversial question, but Jesus said he came to be a stumbling block (the Greek word is actually "scandal") to many. When Jesus comes, he does not fit the religious leaders' expectations or interpretations of scripture; instead he comes to challenge, change and redefine them.

Christ comes to us each day, in many ways and through many people, yes, to fulfill scripture but also to transform it. So what is written in scripture should not be our entire understanding of him -- as the conservatives believe and teach -- but his own holiness of character and servant's heart -- which the conservatives cannot monopolize, since they are his teachings, not theirs.

Email: Dating "experts" [CR]

I hope you're not paying too much attention to this overinflated windbag of a player who no doubt has the attention of ungainly beta, gamma and delta males who don't know how to "get any."

Email: Fear at work [CR]

You could have done his job, and done it better; and I've rarely found anyone who appreciates that. Most people see threats against themselves instead of opportunities to collaborate and grow stronger.

I don't think [XX] will reply because people's natural loyalty is to keep their jobs; I've seen (and I understand) when they "turn" against you in order to keep favor with their boss or co-workers.

Dialogues: You think too much

Q. You think too much.
A. You know, I get that a lot, and I finally realized that I think just enough for who God made me to be. Thinking is fun; I feel like an otter swimming when I do it, and it gets me to where I need to go. Now if you can't or don't want to think that much, that's your choice; but don't lay blame on me by setting yourself up as the standard by which I am to be compared and judged.

Dialogues: You seem dogmatic

Q. You seem dogmatic.
A. That statement seems dogmatic. I wouldn't have drawn such a conclusion so quickly myself, stated it as a fact, or accused the person instead of his statements of the same. I would have asked the person this question: Do you feel as if your words might make you seem dogmatic at times?
Q. That was a long answer. Who died and made you the lawyer?
A. Questions are never as simple as they seem, to the simple.
Q. You seem judgmental.
A. Believe me, I know what being dogmatic and judgmental is, and I'm far from that mold. In fact, I'm so open-minded that I drive those people nuts.
Q. You seem opinionated.
A. My, you have a quite a propensity for the dogmatic, judgmental and opinionated shtick yourself! On the contrary, I've kept an open mind on nearly all issues, all of my life. By all indicators and measures (including Myers-Briggs), I keep an open, non-judgmental mind about everything I can. When I do need to make a judgment, it is not for arbitrary reasons or for reasons of taste, preference or convenience, but for the facts and moral values. My values are universal as well as Judeo-Christian: Do no harm, tell the truth, people before profits, all people are equal before God, and so on.
Q. Good grief, you talk too much.
A. It's better to discuss a matter than to draw terse, dogmatic conclusions about it. Some people decide never to ask or discuss the great questions of life, so they impute everyone else as being dogmatic, when in fact, they are the dogmatic ones. I think if you are the type who doesn't ask questions, you lack the tools to discern or decide; only through asking questions and considering alternatives can you keep an open mind -- which isn't what a dogmatic person wants to do anyway. It's not having a closed mind that leads to being dogmatic, it's being dogmatic that leads to having a closed (and ignorant or bigoted) mind.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Neologisms: how (verb)

I've been fascinated by the prospect of "how" being used as a verb ever since my youngest son once said "I how do that!"

Quotes: "What's bred in the bone will out"

"What's bred in the bone will out in the flesh." -- ancient Irish proverb

Press: The column I didn't want to write

(I just ran across this dated Kathy O'Connell column on an apparently timeless topic.)

Record-Journal: "My church, which I love despite increasing frustration with boneheaded statements by those in 'power' (we, the people, are the church, not just the guys with the big kissy rings), is based on forgiveness and redemption, not judgment and revenge.

I thought they knew that already.

Boy, was I wrong."

Email: Grace will out [SD]

Yes, it certainly is God when we don't know how it worked out, but it did!

Musings: Hummingbirds

We have hummingbirds; I see one in front of my place fairly often. Well, standing on the stoop just now while letting Molley out, two hummers zipped in front of my head and flitted back and forth between the bottlebrush tree, the myrtle tree, and the fireweed-looking bush.

Email: Prayers for the Gulf [LD]

Thank you very much for your prayers for New Orleans and the whole Gulf coast (all the way from England)... That's what we need to sustain us, all right.

I very much believe God loves me as I am (without Botox) too.

Email: Say it or convey it

I understand that communication doesn't just mean saying it, it means conveying it. I know that words on a page or screen don't convey a message to some as clearly as having "the whole enchilada" of a live person speaking, emoting, and gesturing in the same room.

Email: Online players [JB]

Unfortunately the Net can, as you say, be the ideal playing field for players. That's always pissed me off.

Email: Creative impulse

I think it's good that you can enjoy doing things alone; too often women have a problem with that, so it probably shows a healthy independence (to my mind).

When I say I work at a higher level, it means I provide services for corporations and often work with chief executives, so my schedule is a bit more full than it was in college. (Working 65 hours a week in creative and technical writing [for] an advertising and marketing agency in 2001 tended to squeeze out any personal time I had to do Martha Stewart like things for self and friends.) I'm not saying this is better or higher than the creative flair itself; I'm saying that as a man, I [have limitations women do not]. I agree that creativity is a broad concept, and I continue to use it professionally and conversationally; but time for personal and domestic creativity (like hand-making cards and gifts for friends) is nil when one's career demands [a great deal of time, being] self-employed.

Email: Slouching toward Bethlehem [JB]

I've heard of men sexually abandoning their partners after marriage and preferring solo sex or porn or worse; I don't know what that's about, other than something is clearly deficient and needs to change or be changed. In your case, his bringing home gay porn suggests he was dishonest about more than one thing. Why would he marry you unless he wanted a sham marriage as a cover story? Your second ex did the same but added a sham religion.

I don't think it's dating services or dating itself that causes one to be offended and critical, I think it's making bad choices about dating partners. That's why I talk to anyone who dates in the first place: We have all got to get better at choosing partners (esp. in this day and age) since I believe singles only have so many disillusionments before establishing a pattern. If you can learn and grow, well and good. If you choose to cling to the same behaviors, then God help you, because it seems your friends and I can't.

Getting used to email communications is settling down instead of moving ahead. Email is a tradeoff, so a person who prefers that to more direct communication is hiding or otherwise unavailable to you.

Your alcoholic neighbor who used Eharmony to meet someone who never left her, moved in and married her immediately? She's not going to be a poster couple on those Eharmony commercials.

Email: Bad day, good day [SD]

From the It Could Always Be Worse Dept.: LK has a neighbor with a yappy dog that's outside barking all night, then they start breaking up concrete at 6 in the morning. (She and her son have major medical complications.) I said call the constable, that's what she's paying them for.

Isn't it great when it all fits in a day? I think that means we've had a day of clear thoughts and decisions -- which for me is one of life's primary goals: to be so free of stress and distractions that we know what we're supposed to be doing, and get it all done.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Email: Politics and religion [EH]

Politics are not important to me though I should mention my values are conservative while my politics are progressive. (I don't believe we should try to live in the 1950s but in the current decade and beyond.)

It's good that you converted to Catholicism; it shows a mature, intelligent adult commitment. I was an active Catholic for 40 years. I still love the liturgy (I led worship music for 23 years) however I don't like being considered a second-class citizen when my divorce is good enough for every other denomination or faith in the world.

Email: Après le deluge [CC]

You speak of the ideal [spiritual lessons], if people are willing and able to go beyond the places they are now. During a recovery effort, so much need is just for the basics first, however (water, food, bed, clothes, cell phone). My heart goes out to everyone. Houston suffered a lot from Tropical Storm Allison (to the tune of $4 billion) but this should top $100 billion!

Email: Catholic mates [JB]

Men are insecure that way [leaving women who won't be codependent on them]. Well, the insecure ones are. Is it their fault they are that way, their fault they convince women to marry them, or the women's fault for believing and marrying them? No one can say without living through the individual situation.

[Catholic] Mingle is dead quiet and I don't think many men are on Eharmony. Men get many matches [there] but no woman I know there gets matches often.

I was Catholic for 40 years before moving to Houston. Catholics can often be good mates so long as they're not insufferable; Catholicism has and imparts many strengths, so long as it is not regressively and inflexibly conservative.

Press: Foreign aid for Katrina - Yahoo News

Here is the good news.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Email: College "edjucated" [JB]

Oh I know teamwork, believe me!

I wrote that if you look at college graduates' dating profiles, 6 to 7 out of 10 can't spell or write a clear sentence. I have no idea why, but for someone to get out of college (much less high school) in that shape is deplorable, in my opinion.

Public speaking is an excellent skill. Your journalism degree will serve you very well.

Musings: Speaking for God

I deeply wish people would stop presuming to speak for God and telling others "what God wants," wills, or intends.

As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in a strong vein throughout his works, chief of which is Lord of the Rings: "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."

Summary: People are people. God is God. Not the same, people! Not even close!


NOAA has published satellite imagery of the flooded areas after Hurricane Katrina at; try this closer link, then click on any rectangle to get a magnified view.

Email: God's will, nuh-uh [JB]

Some people say God sent the storm as a punishment for sinners. (So what about all the churchgoers, huh? What about God telling Abraham he would save a city if five moral people lived there, huh?) Weather happens whether people are on the face of the earth or not. People should not try to impute (assign) too much of God's "purpose" behind neutral events like weather, and it's scary when they believe that hundreds or thousands died through justice and God's will.

Raves: Sweet & Salty Nut granola bars

I've just discovered Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut almond granola bars. Chewy almondy goodness!

Email: Recovery and relocation [SL]

Recovery in New Orleans will take months so people will go where they have family or preferences; Houston being a major metro area with great opportunities, the majority will probably settle here since it's the closest neighbor with many cultural affinities. Children are being enrolled in schools and people are already finding apartments and jobs here. Those whose heritage is in New Orleans will return; as they should. If I grew up in St. Paul and had to relocate to Minneapolis, I would eventually return to St. Paul for such reasons; or having lived in Minneapolis, I might stay.

Email: Fishes in the sea [EH]

You explain the fishing metaphor quite imaginatively. I'm sure it applies as a rule, though I hate to think of dating in competitive Darwinian terms as if it were a Survivor show. I'm too much of a romantic for that. Oh, I understand men's motives, even if I can't conceive of myself as being that shallow. It's in the genes, I suppose; we're just supposed to rise above that. I'm just glad most women are "deep" [regarding relationships].

Email: The game is not blame [AS]

It is important to decide whether our leaders are doing their jobs; but no time for that until after all the lives have been saved that can be. Blame isn't the game, post-event assessment and remediation is.

Email: Pass the lightning bolts [JB]

Some people say God strikes those who do wrong with lightning bolts. I don't believe that, but if he did, mightn't he also strike a pastor for not doing right [for example, ignoring the hurricane victims]?

Musings: Butter, margarine, spread

My family uses butter for everything. (Land O' Lakes is a favorite since it's from Minnesota and excellent.) Butter doesn't just taste better or best; it's the only thing that has any flavor. (I will sometimes use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, but that's it.)

Put a pat of margarine in the pan to sauté something; it will evaporate like water. Nothing left.

And what do you say about a product called "spread"? I thought most things were named for what they are or what they are made of, not for what you can do with them (as if you're avoiding the issue of what is really in the stuff). Yuck!

Email: Church as potluck dinner [JB]

Every church [and synagogue] I've heard of has taken up collections and sent food and volunteers already, including every Catholic Church. Yours has said no prayers but scheduled a collection in two weeks? Yow, I'm half tempted to say keep your head low in case of lightning bolts!

I attend Episcopal church (and other good ones of any denomination). My relationship with the Lord is what feeds me. I believe it's what you bring to church that feeds you; if you come to church to get fed, you're not a provider (chef, nutritionist, or "foodie") but a consumer. It's a hard metaphor to explain (apparently esp. at 4 am), so I usually say we bring food to a potluck dinner instead of showing up expecting to eat others' contributions.

I think it's good that you have a vision of what church should be like; I do and I think any good believer does. If we accept (and consume) what's placed before us unquestioningly, then we do not know "food" [(our own faith)] at all. Consequently we might prefer hamburger to a ribeye steak and not know the difference between butter and margarine (much less "spread").

Musings: The lost heron

I took Molley out at 4 am and found a blue heron on the lawn opposite (just above the trace, which is still under construction), fly-hopping across the street into the park. He's got to be confused: Dude, where's the water -- not to mention the minnows? The draw's entire trench is still a naked gash, filled with open-top concrete sluice segments; I think the waters are still blocked at I-10. Once they finish and fill it all in and cover it with sod, that heron is going to be even more confused.

Email: Hateful nutjobs [JB]

Anyone who would claim that political actions determine weather, and that weather is a judgment for "morality," is a hateful fundamentalist nutjob.