Friday, January 30, 2009

Remembrance of snows past

Well, as long as we're coping with and reminiscing about great freezes and snows, past and present, here's a memory of mine that one of the people in the picture might get a kick out of :

There's no snow in this picture. It's outside, cancelling our flights.

Thousands of us were camped out inside the St. Louis airport starting on December 20th (I think?), 1973, a few hours into what would be our Adventure, brought to us by The Christmas Blizzard of '73. There being very little to do, I took some photos with my trusty Instamatic.

The college's chartered bus got us there around darkfall, and we quickly learned that every flight had been cancelled.

Most of us were there for at least 2 days and nights. I got out at about 2 o'clock in the morning of December 23rd. I was so numb i'm not sure of dates but I am sure it was my third night. I slept for about 18 hours when I got home, without missing Christmas, so I'm pretty sure the dates were 20th-23rd, but I could be off by a day.

The young woman in the background wearing a red sweater (not the one in red lying down in the foreground), fighting a migraine, is my roommate, Ellen -- who is reading this post! Hi, Ellen! A memorable freshman year, eh?

I don't miss it. Nope. Don't miss it at all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

She calls it a rant

I call it an excellent post.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yes, I'm nuts

So there I am in December, starting the 4th draft of my novel and thinking, Hoo-boy, this is truly bad in so many ways, and the chance to enter it in a contest comes up.

Suddenly I decide that I can not only make it a not-stupid book, but that I can do it in time for an early February (!) contest deadline, despite Christmas, houseguests and everyday life. I'm now thinking I belong in lock-up. Reformatting it for the rules turned into a whole, practically line-by-line, job by itself. Finished that yesterday, and only now can I even start entering substantive changes, from typos to genuine plot repairs. Oh and did I mention that I never completed the 4th draft edit before I started the reformat work?

All for something I haven't a prayer of winning, though that's not really a self-putdown. It has as much to do with my breaking a bunch of rules about what's commercially viable, as it does with writing problems. (Oh, well, yeah and with the fact that there might be 10,000 entries!) I'm pretty much doing what I want to do, not what "the market" prefers, But I don't mean to make it sound like I'm protecting My Terribly Important Artistic Vision from being commercialized. The story is pop fiction, meant to be fun, and even then, mainly to readers who give a hoot about the issues and angst of teenaged girls. All I care about is that I get to run my fictional world my own way. If I run it somebody else's way, the book becomes just a product and I fail to have fun.

Entering this contest sort of puts the book into fitness training. I see things in my writing, when I put it into public access, that I don't see when I'm still keeping it private. Posting an excerpt awhile ago showed me a major flaw that I'd missed when I was re-reading it only for myself. This contest is another chance to make me refine the thing.

Also - I'll be able to say I gave the commercial-publication route at least one fair shot.

Anyway, that's what I'm mired in these days. I and 9,999 other people who also cherish their novels. Yeah, mine could be one of 10,000 entries in this one contest. It doesn't do to take life too seriously!

The evangelism thing

In her comment on my bozo-bus post, my friend Catherine brought up some Big Questions : "How then can a Christian follow the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19] and still respect the beliefs of others? Can it be done? Should it be done?"

I think it's quite possible to respect others, but I have to say that I do not think it's possible to respect their beliefs, if I try to persuade them of another belief, no matter how lovingly or sincerely I do it. If it's a call to persuade others, that Commission, by its very nature, demotes their beliefs and places ours above.

To explain, I have to spout some AA 12-step philosophy because it's taught me the best way I've found to honor other peoples' views and still maintain my own integrity.

Here's what happens in a 12-Step meeting : I can be in tears over my boss, my love life, my money problems, whatever, but no one in the room will say, "Here's what you could do," or "Have you tried...?"

What I will hear is : "When I faced [ ]
what helped me was [ ]."

The difference becomes a LOT more obvious when it's about touchy subjects that are inclined to cause exchanges in which people judge or feel judged. I'm highly likely to slam down the mental receiver if someone issues a finger-pointy "you," much less the intrusive "should," but I can listen to some one say "It was like this for me," and not bristle, not close my mind. It's not something I need to rebel against.

The 12-Step way, that of telling how I see things, not how anyone else "should" see them, lets me be genuinely respectful of others, and still honest. About faith, or politics, or my friend's marital problems, or whether my brother should eat Ding Dongs [TM] , or anything else.

Carrying the message and persuading are not the same thing, and when I read the Matthew passage, I see an instruction to inform those who haven't heard the Christian tenets, not a responsibility to persuade people who have heard and rejected them.

I'm fully capable of saying, "This is my experience," but wholly incapable of making any experience, much less a particular one, happen for somebody else. People have certainly questioned my beliefs and had no impact at all. I've been told that the faith in which I was raised probably planted images in my mind that I clung to in time of trouble.

I'm actually fine with others thinking that. If it's supposed to either burst my alleged bubble or tee me off, I'm afraid it's done neither. Spiritual belief doesn't enter us through the mind, even if it does come to rest there. It's a watershed, heart(?) soul(?)...OK, OK, irrational! 8~) moment that is strictly one-on-one between that great Source and each of us, and if we -- yeah, I include myself -- need more enlightenment it too will come from the source.

It doesn't mean that I hide what I believe. It does not even mean that I tell about it only when asked. Nobody asked for my thoughts about anything, but I've been jumping into online conversations for years and I, um, did start a blog. I just decided to start yammering away, and about faith as well as any other thing I feel like pontificating about. This might even meet some people's criteria for "evangelism," but it's just being who I am.

I also can't ignore times past when I thought I was doing the right thing, the best thing, and later realized i had not one clue.

There's yet another Twelve-Step tenet, which is that we don't know everything, and that "more will be revealed." That is, when I think about it, literally the most comforting phrase I've ever encountered.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Probably no butterflies today

Marsh ice.
9:00 AM, January 17, 2009
28° f.

Somewhat different from the way
things were 12 days ago.

Friday, January 16, 2009


We get winter, too. Not like some of my friends get it, but today's high made it up to freezing: 32° f. Tonight's low will be 15°.

Taken about 20 minutes ago: hose-shaped ice shards, which spurted out when Larry turned the water on to fill the birdbath.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We're all bozos on this bus.

Atheists, True Believers, everybody.

Yall are gonna have to forgive me for treating with dreary seriousness something started by a comedian.

I'm talking about the pro-atheism ad campaign, in which a lot of people apparently had nothing better to do with thousands of euros than fund atheist messages on public bus flanks, which kind of tells you where I'm at.

I actually see the intended pointed-but-gentle humor in the bus campaign, but what I fear some of the contributors do NOT see is that they've escalated this culture war. If they do see it and it's what they meant to do, fine, freedom of speech and all that. They have a right to annoy me, despite the fact that I have not attempted to annoy them by proselytizing. It's understandable that those who are fed the bleep up with the evangelical version of Christianity...

(God, I get so tired of trying to remind people that it's only one version)

...anyway, it's understandable that they'd take off the gloves and say "Two can play this game."

But despite the amiable tone of the ads, and the careful insertion of the word "probably," i can't help but think it's a deeply stupid mistake. The people who built the bandwagon may be pretty lighthearted about it, but the jumpers-on are less so. Their outpouring of contributions sure looks like it has struck a nerve. An angry, "Let's take this outside!" nerve.

Ad-proponents could certainly point out that Christians dish out the proselytizing, so it's bloody well their turn to take it.

But evangelicals aren't the only ones who'll take it. Just as atheists who've never tried to inflict their views on others have been plagued for years by buttinski Believers who want them to change, so will we believers who've never supported proselytizing get our beliefs ridiculed. Wars always inflict collateral damage. Always.

What, exactly, makes the message telling us Believers that we're misguided and that belief impairs enjoyment of life (huh?) less condescending than the Christian message telling atheists that they're misguided? How does this atheist proselytizing help end the intrusiveness of proselytizing?

It perpetuates it. It rebels against an evangelical attitude problem --"The Smart Enlightened People Must Educate the Silly Dimwitted People!" -- by doing the exact same thing.

Did the Christian evangelicals start it? Did those who opposed the Christian Right's public intrusions fail to speak up? Is the atheism campaign a gentle one compared to the Christian Right noisemaking?

I won't attempt to answer those questions ("us" and "them" is as old as human consciousness) because even if every one of them merits a resounding "Yes!" payback takes things in the wrong direction. By saying, "If you do it then we'll do it," they have just acknowledged that proselytizing is a swell idea.

It means we've all retreated to the defeated position that my right to freedom and respect for my belief depends on the society around me thinking like I do. It follows that we each therefore need to try to remake society into one in which our beliefs are the default setting. May the best Force win. It's innocuous and vaguely amusing in its early stage, and that remaking of society into "correct" thinking isn't real obvious, but the sides are lining up.

Think about it. If you really do believe that it's not, and cannot be, a personal matter, that the community must establish a position on the God question, and that you must fight to make sure it matches yours, OK, your delight in this ad campaign is right on the money.

Make no mistake about it : it is your war, not ours. That term "you" will now embrace atheists and fundies. You've both decided to fight for converts. Me, I'm not ready to give up on freedom of thought. Real freedom, you know, freedom in which we all quit smirking or sneering at each others' beliefs.

But if you don't believe the game must be played and won...?

If you realize that recruiting, whether for Jesus or for physics-is-God, is by definition intrusive....?

If you still want humankind to outgrow evangelism...?

IMO this ain't the way to do it. It's a Three Stooges sketch. It's starting with a funny nose-tweek, but the stakes will inch higher, bones will crack. It feels like it's bringing balance but it's really bringing escalation.

Personally I think it's a monumental waste. That 200,000 bucks is globally tiny, and might not have changed the world. It won't rebuild a bombed-out city. It would feed X-number of hungry children for X-amount of time, then the problem would remain.

But it won't stop with that 200,000. And the evangelical effort will rise to meet it.

This is one battle that really really ought to have heeded the old poster:

What if they gave a war and nobody came??

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Help out teh animals!

Downyflake, Graymatter and Scooter -- who rarely agree about anything -- do agree that .... is one cool site!

Answer the trivia question of the day, correctly or incorrectly, and you contribute to the donation of pet food to animal shelters.

The People magazine article about sooperhero kid Mimi Ausland, who started it, can be found here! (PDF)

There's a dog page and a cat page, and you can donate at either or both, once a day.

Every day~!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


A voice from Israel:

Yes, I know, war is war. After all, they brought this on themselves. They are a terrorist organization and we are not. They want to destroy us and we seek peace. Still, is there nothing here that will stop this blood pipeline? Even those whose hearts are hardened by "moral righteousness" will have to momentarily halt the bombing machine and ask: Which Israel do we have before us? What will become of its standing in the world, which is now watching the events in Gaza? What are we inflicting on the moderate Arab regimes? And what of the simmering popular hatred we are sowing throughout the world? What good will emerge from this killing and destruction?

It is doubtful whether Hamas will be cut down to size as a result of this wretched war. Yet, the face of the state has been cut down to size, as have civilian elites who are apathetic and scared. The "peace camp," if it ever existed, has been cut down to size. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz authorized the Ghayan killing, regardless of the cost. Haim Oron, the leader of the "new left-wing movement," supported the launch of this foolish war

The full text of the piece can be found here

Monday, January 05, 2009

OK, it's getting weird now

The Christmas photos have been piling up in my camera, unexamined until last night. I didn't think I'd succeeded at catching the yellow butterfly (December 26th) with the camera, but wow, there he is.

And then, there's today. January 5th. I have seen four butterflies today(!), though I only caught these two lookalikes "on chip."

The 2 that I did not get in photos were another yellow sulphur and an orange one.

And this is getting weird. They should all have disappeared a month ago. Today, it's 70°f, and that's strange in itself -- sure, 70° days pop up all year, but as exceptions, not as such regular events -- but where did the butterflies go on those 30° nights?!

The warm weather is lovely. It's cheering. It keeps our power bill down and that's extremely nice right now, but it is not normal.