Saturday, October 01, 2005

Neologisms: flirtual reality

Humor: "The hurricane ate my homework"

Books: Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich Books: Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream: "What surprised me most, right from day one of my job search, was the surreal nature of the job searching business. For example, everyone, from corporations to career coaches, relies heavily on 'personality tests' which have no scientific credibility or predictive value. One test revealed that I have a melancholy and envious nature and, for some reason, was unsuited to be a writer! And what does 'personality' have to do with getting the job done, anyway? There's far less emphasis on skills and experience than on whether you have the prescribed upbeat and likeable persona. I kept wondering: Is this any way to run a business? I was also surprised--and disgusted--by the constant victim-blaming you encounter among coaches, at networking events for the unemployed, and in the business advice books. You're constantly told that whatever happens to you is the result of your attitude or even your 'thought forms'--not a word about the corporate policies that lead to so much turmoil and misery."

Musings: Pets behind gates

You would think that the repair person would know (esp. after you directed him) to put a tenant's pet back behind the gate or door, so she doesn't poop and pee a lake all over the carpet while the tenant is out. Oh well, it could have been worse.

Email: How did you fare through Rita? [TO]

People always described The Far Side as "twisted" -- to which I thought "Hey! That's my sense of humor! What's wrong with it?" I think if people were that creative, it would be normal.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Email: How did you fare through Rita? [TO]

I've bumped into women who get on dating sites and then decide they're not ready to date, but I think that's better than men who think they are ready to date yet clearly aren't.

I've always been nothing if not tenacious and persistent.

My wit has gotten better because I was more academic when younger.

Email: Stress and storms [SD]

If you understand anything about me, it should be that I am willing to listen.

Press: Man bites hurricane - JWR

(Michael Graham in Jewish World Review)

"So why didn't hundreds of Cajuns from western Louisiana appear on my TV screen this week, complaining that George W. Bush doesn't like them, demanding $200 billion of my tax dollars or blaming the bad weather on Halliburton?

[...] Here's how one Washington Post story described the scene just hours after Rita made landfall near Intracoastal City, a "city" that in many senses barely exists:

'The only people who can get here are the sturdiest of sorts, a small armada of Cajuns with pretty French names and sunburned skin and don't-mess-with-me bravado. The bayous were full of them Saturday, gliding high and quick in airboats, and so was the Vermilion River, where they were spinning steering wheels on fast Boston Whalers and kicking up wakes in flat-bottomed, aluminum boats. They did not wait for the president or FEMA or anyone else to tell them that there were people out there — out there and desperate, on rooftops...'"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Email: Cyber flirting [SS]

Yes, I have always loved Stan Rogers. What a tragedy that he was killed (and John Denver and Jim Croce too). [Why do the good musicians die young? What did they ever do to Cessna anyway?]

I am not into cyber flirting because I prefer a real relationship to how a dysfunctional person may hide behind a computer.

Smoldering is good; we all do that. (Just so we know where the extinguisher is.)

By the way, there's nothing wrong with saying out loud, "I did so because I wanted to -- and I liked it!"

Email: Riches of faith [DW]

We can talk, or we can do (prayer, generosity, faith). Words without actions ain't nuthin'.

I agree that trials are not to teach us to be magnanimous of our own resources but of God's. It is about having a spiritual connection, a living-and-breathing relationship with our Father in heaven. The parental images of God that the Bible gives us are very important to me: "Can a mother forget her baby at the breast?" "Who among you, if your child asked for bread, would give him a stone?" "Like a mother hen, he gathers you close." I also know the love I feel for my sons, yet God has infinitely more love for each of us. I am uncomfortable with people who feel they have to wear their relationship with Christ on their sleeves (methinks they profess too much). Yes, it's important to sow the seed of Christ far and abroad; but to me, it's more important to tend the seeds that have taken root so that they grow to maturity. Do we want a world of grass and scrub and brush -- or of mature, fruit-bearing trees?

Like the writer who can only learn to write by the discipline of facing the page each and every day, so the person of faith can only cultivate a personal relationship with his or her Maker in the still, calm places of the heart.

We are a relatively rich nation, though our riches are not solely due to our own efforts. God has blessed this land from the start -- for a purpose. Discerning and acting on that purpose is, I think, our unique responsibility as Americans.

How can we justify the biggest and the best (SUV, TV, DVD etc.) for ourselves, when others must do without basic necessities? If everyone went on a mission trip to Mexico or India or Indonesia just once, it just might make an impression that would stick and influence our investment decisions for a lifetime. "Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth eats and rust corrodes; stores up treasures for yourselves in heaven."

I know what you mean: Beyond just a daily spiritual discipline, when we feel drawn to come into the Lord's presence to pray or give thanks; when we feel led to speak to a stranger who turns out to be struggling with just the thing we felt prompted to say (or give); when we feel "a peace that passes understanding" in the midst of trials and deprivation; then we know what developing a relationship with the living God is like. Faith building occurs not just in the language of the heart; we can see it in action too. The only question is: Are we listening?

Internet: Grocery shopping abroad, part 2

Internet: Grocery shopping abroad, part 1

Email: How did you fare through Rita? [JS]

I would suggest that you go to and create your own [weblog]; you should be able to figure it out and be done within 5-10 minutes. It can be endlessly customized, but the templates are completely point-and-shoot.

Chapelwood Methodist seems like a great church. I haven't attended yet, but they have a host of great programs for the community and citywide.

Try Blogger; it's easy as pie.

Email: Being a survivor [LG]

People believe what they want to believe, and if their motives are selfish rather than oriented towards finding the truth... What a mess.

You have been overloaded. Of course men think sex is the best way to release tension, but that's because they're not as emotionally complex as women. So don't sweat the petty things (or pet the sweaty things). [A man should] like you just for who you are. Anything else (if ever) is gravy on the cake (to mix metaphors).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Email: How did you fare through Rita? [BF]

Cajuns are a friendly and loving people, all right.

Hallelujah for Café du Monde's opening! That's one way to start getting back to normal.

I have yet to see New Orleans, but now I want to go there more than ever. It's like seeing all that Manhattan means to America after the 9/11 attacks (which I have yet to do also). I saw an A&E program on New Orleans and its vast contributions to music in America and the world; I was impressed.

Email: How did you fare through Rita? [BF]

I know the good people of Louisiana to be sincere, hardworking folks. The neighbors of Texas are our friends. You are all in my prayers.

Email: My first hurricane [DW]

Funny how some parents (who want children to be silent during a storm for their own reasons) will say to be quiet "because God is angry" -- scare them good! Respect for the Lord ("fear of God") and nature is a good thing though; it can keep you alive.

Outgoing FEMA director Brown had better 'fess up honestly instead of trying to bluster his way through the hearings. As the Democratic senator from Louisiana pointed out, even the President said his job was inadequate. For someone to "light out" and try to "save their own ass" in this situation is not only reprehensible, but it shows how warped Brown's grasp of reality and his motives truly are.

I think God is teaching us to be humble. Many of us are (as can be seen by the neighborly service and good spirits among many during crisis), but any "trial by fire" (or water) brings out our true mettle. (The smelting process brings impurities to the surface so they can be skimmed away.) We are all stressed, no doubt; and stress shows strength or fatigue. Even in this war on terrorism, God wants us to be humble. "Pride goes before a fall." God is testing us spiritually and financially through these disasters. We owe it to ourselves, our nation and the world to be industrious but to know our limits, and to look to our Maker in all things.

Lyrics: Hallelujah - Rufus Wainwright

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty
in the moonlight
overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne,
she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there's a God above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

(Lyrics are property and copyright of their owners, and provided for educational purposes only.)

Lyrics: "I Will ... But" - SheDaisy

I first heard SheDaisy on their Christmas album, and I had time to say "Wow!" before it became one of my year-round favorites. I describe them on this album as Not Your Mother's The Lennon Sisters on Megadoses of Estrogen. The vocal arrangements are rich and adventurous (to say the least); SheDaisy is a hard act to follow.

I just heard their "I Will ... But" (The Whole Shebang, 1999) and I like the lyrics, because it's what many women should say to men:

I won't be bored
I won't be ignored
Hey! [...]

I won't be your crutch to lean on
I won't wear stiletto heels
I won't walk a mile in your shoes
Just so I know how it feels

I won't be your obligation
I won't be your Barbie doll
I won't be the portrait of perfection
To adorn your wall

But I will, I will, I will be your everything
If you make me feel like a woman should
I will, I will, I will be the whole shebang
You know I will...

(Lyrics are property and copyright of their owners, and provided for educational purposes only.)

Musings: If rappers got the raptors

What if the rapper culture took over and put out their own version of our kids' dinosaur books?

Each of the following creatures might be renamed as its rapper counterpart:

Eoraptor : Yo Raptor!
Tyrannosaurus Rex : T-Rex
Triceratops : T-Ops
Pachycephalosaurus : Packy-C
Herrerasaurus : Hay-Ray-Saur
Plateosaurus : Pla-T-Saur
Brontosaurus : Brizzle-my-Schizzle
Carnotaurus : Ice-C
Archeopteryx : X-Bird
Tuojiangosaurus : T-Liz
Dromeosaur : Dr. Dawg
Iguanodon : Izzle-fo-Lizzle
Edmontonia : Diz-Z
Velociraptor : V-Rapta (or V-Rappah!)
Giganatosaurus : Dy-No-Mite! (or Da-Bom!)

Email: Aftermath of Rita [MS]

I think we don't yet realize how fortunate [all of] Houston was to be spared the devastation that our dear friends just east of us did.

Email: I Ran Over the Taco Bell Dog [DB]

[Regarding the Adam Sandler song,] I believe the operative word might be "rank down there" [with "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer"]!

(Out of respect for Gidget -- the Taco Bell dog's real name -- we present this Taco Bell Dog fan site.)

Websites: Speaking truth to power

(Fred Barnes, of The Weekly Standard and Fox News' The Beltway Boys, via Gegrapha)

"Speaking on the subject of 'Speaking Truth to Power' is a tougher subject than I thought it was going to be. I'm going to talk about it mainly autobiographically, about how I've dealt with that as a journalist in Washington, DC, getting to know Presidents and members of Congress and so on, and dealing with them as a journalist."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Quotes: "All this and I have to go to hell, too" (anon.)

It Could Always Be Worse Dept.: WTFWJD?

Email: How did you fare through Rita? [CK]

I do appreciate all these provisions and protections from the Lord, but it is important to both see it and to say it (repeat with me out loud: "Thank you God!"). I am beginning to think he appreciates or blesses prayer even more if we speak it aloud or are emotionally invested (from concerned to desperate) in the outcome. I grew up camping so I have always understood life without conveniences. (I don't think any tribal people is "backwards" or "deprived" because they live in grass huts without running water.) In fact, it's interesting to note what was a luxury when we were young is now considered by many to be a necessity (such as each child having their own room and TV, not to mention DVD, video game and MP3 players). The trend toward bigger is not necessarily better; convenience and technology have to do with how but "better" has to do with why.

Gosh I'm glad you like my blog. I'm worried that I will alienate people who take offense at one thing or another. ("You said "some" instead of "all"! I can't believe you would be so [adjective of your choice]!") You have to trust your instincts to be a writer though.

Email: Surviving weather and men [LG]

Yay, God, for saving Houston!

I think it's best to let something happen when it happens. I think "wanting a partner" too much can lead to poorer choices than when you can freely choose either way. I don't think you're "done" or fated to be single for life; you really are a neat woman to know, and with a lot to give. Just practice giving it to those around you, and eventually (I believe) God will give something extra to you.

It's good for you to focus on building your own life; I don't think that should ever have to suffer, even when we are in a season or a vocation of caregiving to others. I've always worked to "have it all" anyway: maybe having just a little bit of each dish at the buffet, but having each dish at the buffet; maybe burning the midnight oil, but getting done what I choose to get done. It takes effort to really live one's life and not just subsist from day to day. You are so very right to choose to end it with someone who (you say) was telling you what to think, feel and do. That's simply garbage. No woman (or man) should ever put up with that, for even one minute, be it friendship or romance.

Email: Going on vacation [KF]

I've never really considered visiting family (as welcome or necessary as it may be) as a "vacation," which somehow in my mind carries the connotation that you get to do relaxing (or active) things of your own choice and timing. Isn't it [also] weird to feel the dichotomy between a welcome chance to "get away from it all" versus the welcome feeling (by the end of it all) of getting back home?

It seems like women usually are expected to do all the travel planning (unless for some reason the man likes to do it). It's in that domestic sphere for which men are still learning to share responsibility.

Email: Dealix Support

If you don't pay attention to my answers, then why do you ask the questions?

Email: Old man of the Internet [SD]

It's not trying and failing, it's doing and learning... Yes, we learn by falling down; but I'd much rather learn as much as I can before the test (avoiding the need to fall down) than after the test.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Email: Making plans [KF]

I used to have an easier time planning trips, but I think that's because I had more time when I was younger. At our age, we juggle so many things -- which I refuse to accept as normal, though of course I will deal with it.

Email: Old man of the Internet [SD]

Do you have a problem with what I've seen before [because I've been on the Internet for 20 years]? Who cares? Should I be penalized for saying something (and having to second guess you, like you're trying to second guess me)? No... Just say and share what you want, I'll say and share what I want, and neither of us will make a federal case out of it. That's how I live anyway.

I wasn't saying this was a waste of time; in fact, it's a learning experience for you. Please don't jump to the bottom rung of conclusions on my account. I like it up here at the top. You would too.

Think empowering thoughts, not defeatist ones.

Email: Radio Shack Support

Every time I search for "Labtec," your site breaks up this word into "lab" and "tec," then gives me hundreds of irrelevant items such as "Security Labs" etc.

Proverbs: Be careful what you fish for

You never know what impishness will bring you, so be careful what you fish for.

Internet: Body painting

Email: News from Mr. Houston [SS]

Sorry to disappoint, but I had my hands full taking care of my own business: meeting a Wednesday work deadline, [taking] two days to prepare for evacuation, and getting away for a couple of days. When you evacuate, you don't bring much (just what you can carry yourself), but you prepare for the worst before you leave. (Imagine you were told this Wednesday that a tornado might possibly punch in all your windows and rip off your roof at 2 am next Saturday morning, and flood your place with at least six inches of water, depending on your location; where would you put and how would you protect all your belongings?) Because of the traffic gridlock and gas shortage, at one point it looked like I would have to walk six miles to the staging point for my group's evacuation in three cars (leaving behind [our] food [if not] Molley [herself]), but traffic lightened up later on the back streets.

Your creativity can make airy spaces come alive with your own spirit, which will be inviting to others.

I love the storms that drive the North Shore of Lake Superior! Have you ever seen The Shipping News? That's set in Newfoundland.

Email: My first hurricane [PK]

A gas-generator-powered web server... Sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it?

I like power... esp. for AC (very necessary here) and Internet and cooking (even just the microwave) and TV (for news of the storm). Yes, I am an expert camper; but as you say, life with no power at home, 'tain't as fun. You can read (so long as it's light out), wash dishes manually, shower, and flush the toilet... That's about it!

Press: Mysterious dog flu spreading across the U.S.

Mysterious Dog Flu Spreading Across the U.S. - CME Teaching Brief - MedPage Today: "NEW YORK, Sept. 23--A new and highly contagious canine flu that superficially resembles the familiar kennel cough has sickened and killed dozens of dogs around the country.

There is no evidence the virus poses any threat to humans though it is possible humans may be spreading the pathogen, said Ann E. Hohenhaus, D.V.M., chief of medicine at the Animal Medical Center here."

Email: Return from Rita [CC]

Thank the upper-air high-pressure system that ontogenetically displaced the... Oh, never mind; thank God. :-)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Weather: Après Rita

Like the string of bad relationships that some divorced people fate upon themselves, you can feel the Gulf Coast population starting to feel communally skittish about hurricane season, ready to join Floridians in last year's edgy mantra: "Hurricanes suck!"

I reached AS in Beaumont, and she is fine: No power, but her mobile home is intact (not like the shattered ones I have seen on the news). She sheltered in town, at the center where she has been a volunteer for the Katrina evacuees.

Molley and I grew closer during these days, as I had the chance to give Twerpette's namesake more attention than usual (that is, more than the computer). You could tell she was on edge, and she spent many hours hunkered in my lap with her nose buried under my arm. Speaking with the many people who met her, or asked me about her over the past week, reminded me of how small and close to the ground a dachsie is. As a result, even though I'm a softie in general, I am even more tender with her now. She is still my Pretty Girl, and Princess.

I just assumed we would lose power, but my hosts not only kept power but had a DSL connection, so if I had brought my wireless router, I could have blogged to my heart's content from the comfort of the living room. Another item for the expectation management list.

As a local sci-fi group organizer wrote yesterday morning: "I was looking forward to an exciting evening with Rita. And I couldn't even get a wet kiss!" I know how JM feels. On the other hand, we are all happy not to have met this hurricane up close and personal -- because a hurricane up close, always makes it personal.

Email: Rating Rita [JL]

Houston was blessed to have missed the bullet. Rita would have cost $40 billion they say (as large as Andrew) if it had not turned at the last moment and headed up the wooded Texas border. You can't imagine how happy everyone is that all the evacuation brouhaha proved to be just (literally) a dry run. Lessons learned!

It really is true that personal experience or a personal connection to the place of disaster makes it more palpable. Living in Minnesota, Andrew was a remote news story to me; as Christians, we sent help to the victims, but you don't understand until it's a place you've seen or called home. Empathy needs experience to become real. You respond differently about an Amber Alert after you have become a parent. Thank heaven for the times when compassion becomes more than clinical; God has "tender bowels of mercy," and I think it's right when we feel such a connectedness with others too.

My favorite season is autumn in Minnesota! Here in Houston, the temp is back to the high 90s again. Keep in mind that during my first full winter here, I mowed the lawn after pulling up the lawn lights after Christmas.

Email: Finding serenity [MG]

It seems clear that your job offers you more than the usual amount of stress, and I submit that your ability to tolerate this over time has limits (as well as costs). Perhaps you should work on expanding your options.

I'm not given to sloughing off and doing nothing myself (though I do when I need to), but given my experience and impressions, lounging on a beach or in a hammock with a mai tai or a piña colada in hand seems like the ideal picture too.

Relaxation and contentment are absolutely up to the individual! In fact, that is probably the entire point of my life, esp. since I am a White or Serenity temperament. (Maybe I should teach finding serenity?) I seek challenge and I eat stress for breakfast, but I couldn't do it if I wasn't maintaining an inner calm and a steadfast spirit. I similarly learned in high school that "doing something about it" is the simplest path toward happiness; melancholy comes from passively allowing others to determine one's direction in life. Nor do we want to dwell on negative matters that are "beneath our attention"; in fact, if someone has found a "hot button" we didn't know we had, it is incumbent upon us to learn how to master it, and not to allow it to master us.

Sometimes just letting go and moving on (surrendering our inner need to understand and find closure) is the best thing we can do. Reflecting on a matter is only helpful if we are learning something about it or ourselves that help us move on. In the end, whether we understand or do not understand a matter, the important thing is that we do move on with the rest of our lives.

I think some people are more reflective and conscientious about learning their lessons from the Lord than others are. These tend to be the truly spiritual (not just religious) types. I get the idea you don't need many "wakeup calls" from the Lord; by the time others are waking up spiritually, you may already have finished making breakfast in bed. Just remember that St. Paul didn't know what he was going to do "when he was a grownup" until a very late age, either. Or Grandma Moses, for that matter.

I think it's hard to pray for getting a specific job (or mate). It's hard to pray objectively about such things, so I try to learn more practical lessons in those areas. (Hint to those who seek a job or a date: Maybe the Lord is telling you to use breath mints!) My spiritual version of Occam's Razor is this: All things being equal, a natural solution is likely more needful than a supernatural one.

Speaking of my recent experience: When the door opens, you'll know it -- and it may even be a floodgate.

Email: How did you fare through Rita? [SD]

I have told people for years to either use a mail program that lets you save as you go, or else just write your letters in Word and then copy/paste the text into an email at the end. It's most important that your software or hardware not cost you time or cause you to lose what you're creating. Anything that isn't working, should be discarded for a better alternative that is working. (That's in fact the whole point of technology: Costs aside, if someone builds a better ballpoint pen, use it.)

I certainly count it as God's providence that you did not evacuate to Jasper (even though I encouraged you to do so). I don't mind being wrong, so long as it's not all the time, and everything works out all right in the end. (Thanks, God.)

Email: How did you fare through Rita? [LJ]

I'm partial to power for AC, computing, Internet, cooking and TV. You are so right about our good fortune! I wanted to stay awake and "guard" the house but was so tired from preparations that I crawled off to bed before 3 am. I could just imagine staying huddled for hours in a small room alone (even with Molley). If living in Houston has taught me anything, it's much better to get out of the storm path and return after power returns.

Weather: Goof-Off

KF, a realtor, says Goof-Off works like a charm for cleaning tape residue from windows. I know nothing yet about another product called Goop-Off. Anyone?

Email: How did you fare through Rita? [MB]

I'm sure glad Rita was not as bad as initially projected. I'm sure some spiritual efforts had a part in that.

I'm linking to your Embracing Change weblog and will keep up with it.