2009-11-03

Do your actions damn you?

I've been thinking about this question a lot in relation to Christianity, and a number of thoughts have come up, so I thought I would share them here. I think this question has deep implications into the culture of organized Christianity and how it is often run.

First of all, I believe that looking at the Bible, as I understand it, salvation is not a matter of behavior, but rather, the condition and direction of the heart (obviously referring to the part of you that some would call your soul or spirit, not your actual, physical heart), which is turned towards God by God himself. You might say, "but behavior follows the heart." To which I would say, "when is the last time you did something you felt honestly bad for afterward?" Probably not that long ago. So yes, while the heart may give a general direction to our behavior, we are certainly far from always following through with what we believe to be true. Also, whether or not behavior follows the heart, there is still a difference between saying salvation rests on your behavior, as opposed to the condition and direction of your heart.

I see this being twisted a lot in the organized religion of Christianity, both in history and currently, so that while we would say "salvation is by faith apart from works", we act as though it is all about our behavior. Our churches become behavior modification classes, we make people afraid of wrong behavior and try to scare and manipulate them into right behavior. Often times, there is little or no attention given to the underlying issues which may be causing one or another behavior, there is little thought about why a particular behavior is wrong, other than that someone who is up on the stage has interpreted it that way. We are made absolutely certain that if we engage in certain behaviors, something horrible will happen, that our salvation is in danger, but if we stop engaging in those behaviors, everything will be ok again.

Here are two big reasons why I feel this is extremely harmful, both to the actual faith of Christianity (that is, the individual faith, apart from the organized religion), and simply to those people who are a part of it, as human beings.

1.) Under a system where our sense of security and salvation is based on our behavior, there is really no relationship with God (or at least, there doesn't need to be). There is also no knowledge of or understanding of Grace and what it means and how it effects us. It is much simpler for us to try to follow rules than to have a successful relationship with someone, as many of us can attest, from having had some difficult relationships in life. A person could, in this system, live his/her entire life simply checking off a to-do list, and honestly believing they know God. They could live an entire life never experiencing the source of the love, care and grace that they tell people about. I think that is horrific.

2.) Under a system where any deviation of behavior leads to eternal damnation, there is incredible motivation to get in line with the official set of rules, and very little motivation to question whether those rules are valid, where they come from, and what their purpose is. The people in charge realize this, and they capitalize on it, as well as just make mistaken judgments which then become part of this orthodoxy. Before you know it, you are terrified of doing or thinking certain things, and you don't even really know why, other than that you somehow know they are wrong. Also, before you know it, you feel compelled to do or think certain things, and you don't really know why, other than that you somehow know they are right. Under this system, even if some of the rules and actions you are pressured into are really right and good, you will never know why, and will only be doing them out of fear of doing the wrong things.

To me, this seems absolutely set against what the Bible teaches - the truth will set you free, not subject you to a mindless system of laws meant to scare you into behaving properly.

This is not to say that all behavior is ok. Just as Paul says in Romans, we don't do the things we want, and we are always doing what we don't want - that is, we know what is right and wrong, but our actions don't always follow what we know. But he separates this from salvation, saying that in Christ, we have died to the law and are now no longer bound by it. That is, our salvation is not bound to the law, and therefore also not bound to our behavior.

2009-10-29

Further musings on dichotomies... briefly

Have you ever noticed that if you don't absolutely agree with someone, they often tend to assume you absolutely disagree? Why is that?

note - this is not in reference to the comments on the previous post at all, just general thoughts.

2009-10-23

What love isn't....

I just want to make it clear that there has never been a definition of love that includes "makes a point of changing other peoples' behavior". That's part of the definition of fear.

Thanks.

2009-10-22

Right or wrong...?

It is often necessary to admit that you are wrong in order to love someone, especially when you feel absolutely certain you are right.

Moby - Study War

A song from Moby's new album Wait For Me.

Finally brethren, after a while
The battle will be over
For that day when we shall lay down our burden
And study war no more

2009-10-20

Dichotomy

I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of dichotomy, and how it's promoted and ingrained into our society until many people literally cannot think in any other terms but black and white, left or right, liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, christian or secular, whatever the two opposing viewpoints are.

It's almost as if our country runs entirely on the fuel of dichotomy and staged battles against groups of people on either side of certain issues. It seems that we've done this for so long, and with such fervor, that many people are now completely unaware of this fact, and are completely incapable of thinking about life in any way other than in dichotomies.

Here's how it goes: if you're a republican, anyone who doesn't agree with the republican 'agenda' is obviously a democrat, or at least a 'liberal'. If you are a democrat, anyone who doesn't agree with the democrat 'agenda' is obviously a republican, or at least a 'conservative'. If you're a Christian, anyone who doesn't agree with your accepted Christian agenda is a liberal, secular, and is probably trying to take away all your rights, and if you're not a Christian, the Christians are probably all trying to bang your door down to tell you how evil you are.

Obviously this is a generalization, as not everyone behaves this way - but this kind of behavior has become so rampant that I feel like it's the majority rather than the minority who are entangled in this mess.

Here's why I feel this is damaging. Life is just not this simple. You cannot simply group and categorize people by these labels, ascribe a set of beliefs to them, and then just make all kinds of wildly radical statements about what they do or don't believe, what their agenda is, how they're trying to ruin everyone in your own category, etc. All this tends to do is alienate people, make them feel misunderstood, and want to lash back. It certainly doesn't help solve anything, except maybe for easing your conscience by allowing you to dismiss huge groups of people as irrelevant.

Another reason this is damaging - if you get used to thinking about life in these categories and labels, you cease to be able to comprehend something that doesn't itself claim a label. For instance, in the U.S. right now, it's difficult for many people to understand a person who rides a bicycle for transportation as just a regular person who happens to use a bicycle instead of a car to get around. Mostly, they are just labeled "cyclist" - which carries with it all kinds of sports baggage, bad traffic behavior baggage, funny clothing baggage, and a tangible sense of "other-ness." To give another example, people often refer to 'liberals' as people who completely follow the American democrat agenda, believe in huge government with lots of spending, limitation of individual human rights, agreement with any philosophical view that comes along, wish-washy and of course, out to undermine anyone who comes up against them. If you think though, about the people who would usually be grouped into that category "liberal" - there are so many different viewpoints and beliefs and ideologies that there is no way you could generalize and say that everyone in that group is the same - and in fact, many of the viewpoints expressed by those in that group would be quite similar to viewpoints expressed by people in the group who would label them as "liberal".

Dichotomies are a great way to promote enmity, strife, and hatred. They do several things - they give you a sense of belonging by dumping you in a box with other people; they give you a sense of working against something - that is, the people in the other boxes; and they give you an easy way to not really think about the people you're fighting against in any concrete terms, but simply as an object with a label. It's exactly the kind of mindset you see surface on a mass level during war time - 'we' group together as 'us', and label 'them' as 'them' with all of the obviously negative connotations that we can attach to them, and then it's easy to just say "we have to eradicate them, because they represent everything that is opposite of what we represent." We did it with Germany, we did it with Russia (and likewise, they did it to us) - because if you can portray the 'other' as being obviously opposed to the 'we', then you have a good reason to promote war. In reality, our societies, and especially the people in those societies, are not all that different, but we have to make them so in order to justify eradicating them.

In the same way, the people in the groups of 'liberals' and 'conservatives' or 'christians' and 'secular' or 'democrats' and 'republicans' are not that different either, and the people in each group display a wide range of beliefs, opinions, viewpoints - if you actually get down to looking at them. But while we're all wrapped up in these little ideological wars all over the place between groups of people that don't really even exist in any kind of concrete way, we cease thinking about or doing anything that really matters.

2009-10-13

A good quote

"To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment." --George Orwell

In other words, simply changing the fashionable or widely accepted opinion or view on something doesn't necessarily mean you're making progress, if it was accomplished simply because the majority regurgitates whatever ideas are fed them. The danger is exactly that mindset, the unthinking acceptance or rejection of things. As long as that persists, there's no telling what might happen.

2009-10-09

I love Big Brother... er... I mean Christ.

I just saw that the lovely folks who came up with the idea to do Conservapedia have now decided to do a conservative "translation" of the Bible.

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:

  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias.
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity.
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[2].
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[3] defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots";[4] using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census.
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning.
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story.
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels.
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities.

In reading through these items, I can't help but be reminded of the principles of Newspeak set up in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell (go take a look at the article if you don't know anything about the book).

Let's consider them here:

"The basic idea behind Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies."

"The underlying theory of Newspeak is that if something can't be said, then it can't be thought."

In the book, the Party has invented a language called Newspeak, the aim of which is to reduce vocabulary to the point that nothing substantial that is opposed to the views of the Party could be expressed in language, and therefore could not be thought in any concrete manner by people who only spoke Newspeak. In the book, the Party combs through all existing literature, translating it thought by thought into Newspeak (since literal translation is impossible, they instead translate the original idea into one that fits within Newspeak), so that nothing can be read by the citizens which contradicts the views of the Party. This also has the effect of creating only strict dichotomies between things. If something is not in line with the Party, it is directly opposed. This is the only way of understanding things, and it is a great way of creating fear, tension, and setting up "us vs. them" situations with anyone it becomes convenient to alienate. After all, a common enemy unites, right?

Now, let's go back to the stated goals of this conservative Bible translation:

"Providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias."

Translate thought by thought into a language that allows room for one ideology.

"Using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[3] defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".

Create new words and remove others until the language only expresses ideas which fit a single ideology.

"Explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning."

Writing your own interpretation into the text, so that only one meaning can be interpreted by the reader.

"Excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story."

If a passage cannot support our ideology, we will remove it.

"Preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities."

Reduce the vocabulary of the language and remove possible ambiguities so that only one meaning could be understood by the reader.

In general, this just got me thinking that if being conservative means stifling thought, dumbing down and restricting expression, and associating God with a political party and agenda, I'm happy to not be conservative.

2009-09-14

I love farmers' markets

A few weeks ago, they just opened a new Farmers' market near us in the Irvington neighborhood, so we decided to go check it out this weekend. It was a fairly small one, but had a really good selection.

Farmer's Market Haul

We made quite a haul - a dozen farm-fresh eggs; we got a japanese eggplant, green beans, a yellow onion, and fresh sliced pork for a miso stir fry; we got some gorgeous beets, a purple pepper, green onion and ground pork for a borscht soup; we got some huge radishes to make radish sandwiches; we got some handmade tamales to have for a lunch or dinner this week, and we got a huge bunch of dahlias to decorate the apartment.

Farmer's Market Haul

There are a lot of reasons I like farmers' markets. You get to meet the people who are growing and making the food you are eating. You support your local economy, which supports you, yourself. You get fresh food, that is probably not over-processed, sprayed with nasty chemicals, or irradiated. The stuff tastes great. You get to meet people who live in your area, mingle with them, eat some food together, smile, have a chat. It gives you a feeling that you belong to something, and aren't just an individual person living in an individual apartment leading a separate life.

Farmer's Market Haul

Anyway, we love going. It's a great experience, you get something great out of it, give something important to people in your area, and experience some community. If there's one near you, try it out sometime. Plan a recipe, and go there to get the food for it. Or, just go and pick up some stuff, and make a recipe out of what you got :)

Cheers!

Farmer's Market Haul

Farmer's Market Haul

Farmer's Market Haul

2009-08-21

More pictures...

Here are a few more pictures of the new place - we got the keys yesterday, so we had to take a load of stuff over in the evening. Today, Trina and my mom have spent a lot of time hauling stuff over in my parents' truck, and tomorrow we're making a family effort of the final push. See you all on the other side!

New Apartment

New Apartment

New Apartment

New Apartment

New Apartment

New Apartment

New Apartment

2009-08-08

We're moving!

Well, in a flurry of activity, we're packing and selling things like mad, as we're moving! Here are some photos of the new place - we move in on the 20th!

New Apartment

New Apartment

New Apartment

New Apartment

New Apartment

If you need any furniture, or a piano, let us know :)

2009-07-18

Stupid TV Shows

So today we were watching the Create Channel on OPB, and a show came on called The Katie Brown Workshop. On this show, her emphasis was how to get your kids interested in eating fruit. So, what does she do?

First of all, she makes hollowed out lemon, with store-bought lemon sorbet inside. Secondly, she makes hollowed out oranges with boxed cake mix inside, baked, and then with store-bought frosting on top. Thirdly, and finally the only fruit that actually gets eaten, is little wooden ice-cream spoons, with a dab of a yogurt and cream cheese mixture on the end, and a piece of fruit stuck to it.

Secondly, they make creatures of fruit, put together with wooden skewers, and decorated with frosting, licorice, life savers, peppermints, etc.

Thirdly, a hollowed out orange, with wood skewers through it, string tied to them, so they it can hang and be a birdfeeder.

So, the verdict - if you want to get your kids excited about eating fruit, don't feed them fruit, feed them sorbet, cake and let them stick candies to the outside of fruit. Do it everyone! For the health of your children!

2009-07-10

Life of Pi

Just a quote I wanted to share from the book "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel:

There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if the Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, "Business as usual." But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening.

These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defence, not God's, that the self-righteous should rush.

2009-07-06

a sense of belonging

I just finished the book "Flight to Arras" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and one of the final chapters was some really good, deep stuff. I thought I would try to summarize the main points of the chapter here and then give some of my own thoughts about it. If you'd like to read the chapter (and I hope you will, my post will probably seem more coherent if you do), you can see it here: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dfs668dz_50fzkh8hdk.

So first, a rather long summary of the chapter (up until the dotted line) -

He makes the point that we as humans are part of something that is greater than each of us individually - we are part of Man (meaning all of mankind), and this being true, we each make up a piece of a whole. There is in Man more than simply the sum of its parts. We make up more than just a group of individuals. Like a cathedral is more than simply a pile of stones, or a beautiful face more than just a nose, lips, eyes, ears, etc - we as humans make up more than just a group of individual humans.

The individuals are given meaning by this higher thing of which they are a part - not the other way around. The individual stones of a cathedral are simply stones without the art and architecture that goes into making them a part of something greater - they lose much of their meaning or significance without that which binds them together.

Each individual who makes up a part of the whole is diverse and varied, yet each is vital to the whole, just as the stones of a cathedral have different shapes, different sizes, different colors, different geological makeup - and yet they all fit together to form the cathedral. The differences are not threatening, they are enriching.

To him, the idea of setting a man free is to give him a goal and purpose, and then show him how to find his way there. To make a man thirsty, and teach him to chart a path to a well. He states that we ought to aim to set men free in order that their attitudes towards themselves and others would not be in blind conformity to the habits of their civilization, but would be free expression of love. The invisible slope of gravity liberates the stone, the invisible slope of love liberates man.

For centuries, men contemplated God in the person of man. Man was created in God's image. Men were brothers in God. Man's duty towards himself and others was evident from the fact of his relation to God.

It was because of this that men were able to be viewed as equal - they were equal in God. He states that men can only be equal in something, otherwise with no common denominator equality becomes identity, and the private refuses to salute the captain, because he is no longer doing honor to the Nation, but the individual.

He states that this is also the origin of the respect of men for one another - each man would respect each other, because what he respects in the man is not the man himself, but God. Each man was an ambassador for God, and each man therefore held an honored position as an ambassador, despite their place and role in society. Each man was given dignity and honor.

Similarly, he says that men can be brothers only in something - if there is no binding tie, men are not united, but merely grouped together.

Charity was a free gift to God through the individual. Charity never involved humiliation of the recipient, nor did it leave the recipient bound in any way, since the gift was not made to them, but to God. Meanwhile, the giver was never giving to support insignificance, brutishness or ignorance. The physician could help the thief with no moral qualms, as his gift was to something greater.

Humility, considered in light of being a part of something greater did not cast down the individual, but raised him up - it forced him to consider his proper place in relation to God and other men.

The being of which we are a part must be created within ourselves, not by words, but by acts. The essential act is sacrifice. Sacrifice is the gift of oneself to the being of which one is a part. A person will only understand what a farm is, if he has given part of himself to the farm, fought to save it and to make it beautiful.

He observes that, instead of affirming the rights of Mankind in each man, we started dealing with the rights of the collective - that is, viewing humanity as strictly a collection of humans. When this happens, he states, it makes sense that one man would sacrifice himself for the community, but it would be ridiculous for the community to sacrifice itself for one man, because preservation of the collective is of prime importance, and losing one individual makes no difference to the simple collection of individuals. This to him is a result of the loss of the idea that we are a part of something greater than ourselves.

As a part of something greater than himself, each man was responsible for all men, and all men responsible for each man. A man ought risk his life for the good of the whole, but at the same time, the whole ought risk themselves for the life of one. Liberty is the ability to grow into what you are meant to be, not simply individual license to behave as you wish, as long as you don't harm anyone else.

In his view, we as humans often now view equality simply in material terms, rather than as the result of being parts of something greater than ourselves. There is no material equality between a doctor and a flunky, an imbecile and a genius. What gave them equality has been forgotten.

He feels that we have defined liberty as a vague license given to each individual to do whatever they please so long as it doesn't harm others. But he feels that there is no isolated individual, you cannot act without involving another person. We found it impossible to define when this liberty was valid or not, and so we made a mess of society in defining it.

As for charity, he notes that when we forget we are part of something greater than ourselves, it becomes a gift to an individual, and as such establishes a hierarchy, and binds the recipient to the giver.

We ceased to give, and in doing so, we received nothing, and we built nothing of which we were a part, nothing for which one would sacrifice.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ok, now that I've already written a huge post summarizing the chapter, I'd like to write some of my own thoughts on some of the ideas presented here.

Much of this resonates with me in terms of why I feel so out of place in America. I feel like in American society, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, we have forgotten that there is anything greater than ourselves that we belong to, and we therefore tend to treat everyone as individuals, completely on their own in a collective of individuals. Our entire society is set up that way, from the legal system to the social values people hold to the form of government.

If a person has some misfortune or makes a mistake, they are often left alone to deal with the consequences. If a person has success in life, they are often left alone to enjoy the fruits of that success (unless they decide to give some of it to charity, after which they expect gratitude). Of course there are exceptions, but as a whole our society is set up so that every individual is absolved of responsibility for every other individual.

Many people are afraid of diversity because they have no common denominator to show them who they are in relation to other people - like you might react to an unknown creature you have never seen or heard of before - and put them in categories and label them all kinds of different things, because there isn't a unifying common denominator to bring us together - so we label in order to separate, to move aside, to dismiss, to avoid (amongst other things). When we forget that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, we start to lose the idea of equality in a true sense, where every human has equal honor and dignity as a piece of the whole, and equality begins to mean identity - we only see someone as equal to us if they are the same as us. Because of this we are able to hold ourselves above others who are not like us, and we lose respect for those who are not the same.

When we come together, it is largely in separate groups of interests, fads, cliques, fashions, etc. We can fit in to those groups based on some criteria, but there is nothing to belong to.

And that, I think, is the crux of the feeling of disconnection I feel here in America - I often feel as though there is nothing to belong to here, because you cannot belong to a mass of individuals, you can only fit in somewhere. You cannot be brothers in nothing. Many people cling to political parties because it gives them a semblance of something to belong to; to what passes as church and religion because it gives them a semblance of something to belong to; to class status, high or low, because it gives them a semblance of something to belong to. But much of that is simply more groups based on some criteria that we either do or don't fit into, and does little to nothing in the way of teaching us about what we really belong to.

I long to live in a society that expects something of me, that expects and believes in a common humanity, a common respect, a real equality, and maybe most importantly a responsibility towards each other. I long to live in a society where it is understood that the welfare of each member of society is vital to the welfare of the society. I long to live in a society where the members recognize that their actions effect other people, where they recognize they make a difference, for good or bad, and because of that, they have a responsibility for the people around them. I long to live in a society where the right to be dependent upon each other is a privilege and not a burden.

I don't know if such a place exists, but this is what I wish for, and what I don't see around me. There are a few who I see from time to time who share this view, but the sheer weight of absolute independence here is crushing.

2009-06-25

sourdough

We're trying our hand at sourdough bread. It's a several day process, so we'll let you know if it turned out sometime next week. Cheers! :)

personal

I think one of the most wonderful things about God is how He is so personal, and I can relate to Him in whatever way is meaningful to me. I can pray in the way that my soul prays, and that ability makes Him feel close. I don't have to pray a set prayer, or recite the right words, or perform the right rituals, or even say or think words at all, necessarily.

I believe the Bible when it says: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

So, I also believe that if anyone seeks to find God, they will.

How they express what they find could look very different than how you express what you find when you see God. That doesn't mean that God changes, simply that humanity is diverse and each person expresses what they experience in very diverse ways. For instance, two painters might both paint the same sunflower, and the end results could be vastly different based on how each painter sees the world and expresses what they experience. Two people could read the same paragraph of a book, and come away with very different ideas about the emphasis of meaning. Also, everyone's perception is imperfect, and that comes out in how we think and talk about things we experience. We all are struck by different qualities and characteristics of God, and we bring what we experience to the benefit of all humanity, by offering a unique and meaningful perspective of who God is.

Ok, that's all for today. Cheers!

2009-06-09

laughing with - regina spektor

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine or fire or flood

*Chorus*
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke

God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke

God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God


2009-05-31

New (Old) Raleigh Sport

So, as a bit of an early birthday present for me (really early, thank you my dearest love!), we just today bought this gorgeous 1952 Raleigh Superbe. It came up on Craigslist yesterday (I subscribed to a search for Raleigh), and it looked so amazing we had to go look at it. It has the original Sturmey Archer 4-speed internal rear hub in, and it still works fine. It has the original front dynamo hub as well, though he wasn't sure if it still works, as he'd never had a light attached. He had the wheels rebuilt around the original hubs with alloy rims and put some nice Schwalbe Marathon tires on it, as well as new brake pads. It has the original Brooks saddle, which is a bit worn out, but isn't uncomfortable and has a nice squeak to it :) The bike itself feels really solid, and I'm amazed at what good shape it's in, being nearly 60 years old. This one has found a very happy, loving home, and hopefully it will still be in use after another 60 years. I would love to see that. Ok, enough jabber, here are the pictures:

New (Old) Raleigh Superbe

New (Old) Raleigh Superbe

New (Old) Raleigh Superbe

New (Old) Raleigh Superbe

New (Old) Raleigh Superbe

New (Old) Raleigh Superbe

New (Old) Raleigh Superbe

New (Old) Raleigh Superbe

New (Old) Raleigh Superbe

Edit: I forgot to mention, we saw this ad recently in a 1950's National Geographic Magazine we have, and I remarked "too bad they don't make those anymore." Now I own one :)

Raleigh Advert

2009-05-27

random thoughts

I think it would be interesting to do an anthropological study on the effects of language on certain facial characteristics.

I've wondered before if the different requirements of different languages might cause certain facial characteristics in people who speak that language - for instance, lip shape or jaw musculature.

If anybody has done this, please let me know, I'd be interested to hear what you found.

Cheers!

Blog trolls

I don't understand why blog trolls (people who read blogs and wait around to make incendiary comments at the right moments) seem to be so prevalent. Do people really not have anything better to do than subscribe to blogs whose authors they disagree with and then just wait until the author mentions the right thing to fly off the handle with angry/derogatory comments? I really don't understand this phenomenon, and I see it happening so often. If you really disagree with someone that much, you can stop reading their blog. If you actually have something constructive to say, then say it and spare everyone the ranting. Really people, you have to be able to find *something* better to waste your time at.

2009-05-22

St. Vincent

We just got tickets to go see St. Vincent on Monday at the Aladdin Theater! Here's a video for you all:

2009-05-18

Summery Sunday

Sunday I woke up early and rode down to New Seasons to get some bacon, cream and a couple of other things, then came back and whipped up some breakfast for us all, coffee, more bread and jam and cheese, and we lazed around the house for a while. Tori had a meeting to go to, so she took off for a while, and we ran out to do a couple of errands. Theresa came over and we hung out a bit, then Tori came back, and we rode our bikes over to Pix Patisserie for a nip of amazing ice cream and some fruit jellies.





When we came home, I had a note saying my bike was ready to pick up at Clever Cycles, so I rode the loaner down there and swapped. Came back and said goodbye to Tori, who was heading back down to Corvallis, and then went to New Seasons to pick up groceries for dinner.

We made a delicious pasta with chard, carrots, celery, spring onions (from our garden), leek, tarragon and chicken. Our friend Tiana came over to share it with us, and we ended up talking until 1.30 in the morning. It was a wonderful way to end a pretty fantastic weekend.

2009-05-17

Summery Saturday

Our friend Tori is up for the weekend, so we decided to make it a good one. She was coming up in the morning on Saturday, so Trina and I got up early and made breakfast - coffee (of course), baked eggs with chives from our garden, bread and good creamy cheese and strawberry jam, and fresh strawberries.

From there, we hopped on the bikes and rode our way down to the Saturday Market, which had its opening in the new facilities that have been under construction. They aren't quite finished yet, but the main part where the vendors sit is finished.

Saturday Market, 05/16/2009

Saturday Market, 05/16/2009

Saturday Market, 05/16/2009

On the way home, we stopped at New Seasons and picked up some bread, cheese, meat, and wine for an afternoon picnic:

Afternoon picnic

Afternoon picnic

Afternoon picnic

We laid out a blanket by our garden and ate and drank and laid in the shade, and Trina worked on some knitting.

Finally, we came in, and I shaved to refresh myself a bit, and then we all got ready for dinner, which we had at Nuestra Cocina, one of the very best restaurants in Portland. We had carne asada, pork chops, and pan-seared halibut, and they were all amazing.

Hope you all are having a wonderful weekend!

2009-05-12

What up?

This weekend we went to the Portland Farmers' Market and got some interesting and (for us) unusual things, like wild leeks, green garlic, fiddlehead ferns, and sea beans.



Last night we cooked some tasty pasta with wild leeks and green garlic, and it came out really well.

Also last night, I went over to Michael and Dara's and Michael walked me through building a bicycle wheel. That was really interesting, and I'm glad I had the chance to do it.

Happy Tuesday everyone, see you soon!

2009-05-08

fear

If I could give one adjective that I felt described American culture, it would be fearful. We are afraid of everything. I'm not joking. We're afraid of our cars, our bikes, our recliners, our stairs, our food, our water, our air, we're afraid that we'll die, we're afraid that we'll get sick, we're afraid that everything around us might be toxic, poisoned, heat seeking head missiles, or waiting to squash us. The weird thing is the "solutions" we sometimes come up with to quell our fears.

The latest thing I've heard talk about is food irradiation. That is, exposing food products to radiation to kill off bacteria, insects, etc. I've been well aware that Americans are deathly afraid of bacteria and viruses for a long while now. The recent swine flu pandemic is a great example. What is just a different strain of the flu gets caught by 150 people and suddenly the world is about to end (by the way, normal everyday flu kills about 3,500 people in the U.S. every year). We are so obsessed with killing bacteria and viruses in everything that we touch, that we are not only more than willing to use dangerous chemicals in order to do so, we severely harm our immune systems by never giving them a chance to fight off disease, and then when we are exposed to something, we get severely ill, when a healthy immune system would have barely noticed.

Now, apparently, we are willing to expose our food to radiation, potentially change it's molecular structure, and then eat it like it's just what nature intended. Sorry, no thanks. I'm perfectly happy with my food just the way it comes. Somehow, I think the survival of the human race will continue, and probably with better health, if we stop all this nonsense. Not that I expect it to stop.

First of all, if your food has enough bacteria, virus, etc in it to be really harmful to you, there is something more fundamental that needs taking care of than simply exposing it to radiation.

Secondly, if you are potentially changing the DNA structure of the food you are exposing to radiation, how do you know your body is going to digest it in the same way as the un-modified version? Even if it's not harmful, it may very well change the food's nutritional value, and you may not end up getting the same benefits from foods that you would otherwise.

Thirdly, I work at a Dental School. The radiologists are very careful about how much radiation exposure they give a patient, even though a typical dental x-ray is giving a pretty minimal dose of radiation to the patient. This is because radiation has been shown to have harmful effects on us. The levels of radiation, from what I can find, that food is exposed to in food irradiation is many times higher than that which you are exposed to for a typical x-ray at the dentist/doctor. The units for medical radiation are typically measured in rads, the radiation for food in grays. Apparently a gray is about 100 rad. During a dental x-ray, you are exposed to about 2-3 millirads (technically millirems, but specifically with x-ray radiation, apparently they are nearly equal). Food, even for the lowest dose purposes, is exposed to 150 grays. That's a pretty significant difference in the level of radiation, unless I'm severely misunderstanding something.

Ok people. Look. You don't have that much to fear from your food. People have been eating it for a VERY LONG TIME, and believe it or not, the human race is still going. We haven't died out yet. You don't need to treat your food with radiation, chemicals, genetic modification. You don't need to scrub your environment clean of all bacteria. It won't hurt you to eat a little bit of dirt with your vegetables, and it won't hurt you to eat a fruit fly here and there either.

Can we stop being afraid of life for a while and just live? Is that really too much to ask?

2009-05-03

Terrific 10 Foods

We just saw this article in our Bon Appetit magazine from this month, and it was really good, so I posted it over at our food blog. We're also hopefully going to do a series of recipes featuring the items in the list, so stay tuned :) Cheers!

2009-05-02

Spring Wardrobe

In springtime we like to do a bit of shopping to refresh our wardrobes (we also go through and clean out our closets and get rid of things we haven't been wearing, are worn out, or don't fit us any longer). Today we went by Bombshell Vintage over on E Burnside, and I found this fantastic three piece grey wool pinstriped suit from Hart, Schaffner and Marx, originally made for Liemandts in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

new suit

I also got this tie, to go with my other suit.

new tie

Happy Spring, all!

first produce of the year

We just picked the first produce of the year from our garden (besides herbs, which we've used quite a bit already), spring onions! We're making some Thai panang curry with it tonight, with potatoes and cauliflower. Cheers!

first produce

2009-05-01

allergies...

it's official, something that started blooming today has it out for me.

2009-04-30

Funniest things

I think this is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I don't know why exactly it strikes me so much, but there you go. Hope you enjoy it too :)

A greyscale day

Yesterday it was a bit dreary as I was coming in to work, and it just seemed to really suit some blanc et noir photography, so I snapped these photos down on the waterfront. Enjoy!

A greyscale day

A greyscale day

A greyscale day

2009-04-29

Society, celebrity, and not thinking for ourselves.

Due to a couple of things I've read or heard about recently, I've been thinking about celebrity and why it is we in America have such a weird, voyeuristic interest in celebrities, and also why we have such a desire to insert ourselves into what we perceive their lives to be like.

I think in many ways in American culture, we are not encouraged to think for ourselves, and in fact, we are encouraged not to think for ourselves. This happens in politics, as we are told to simply "vote Democrat" or "vote Republican" with the implication that anything/anyone from that party is good, and anything/anyone from any of the other parties is inherently bad.

This happens in religion. Among Christian circles, for instance, things are grouped into "Christian" and "secular" and then one group is blindly accepted and the other blindly rejected.

Our country has a great desire to be focused on automobiles as the primary form of transportation. So, when a bunch of people want to ride bicycles instead, rather than actually looking carefully at how to make it safe and convenient to do so, we paint the picture as if cycling is highly dangerous, only athletes would do it, and we start telling people to just wear a helmet and you'll be fine. This propaganda has gone so far as to cause many people to use leg injuries in cyclists as a reason for wearing a helmet, media outlets to emphatically state, when reporting on bicycle/car collisions that a cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet even if the cyclist wasn't injured or suffered only non-head injuries, and even doctors to exclaim that a helmet saved someone's life when all of their injuries were to the face. You're not supposed to think about it, you're just supposed to wear a helmet. You tell me how that makes sense.

All of this kind of behavior (these are just a few examples) is encouraged, we are told that it is the appropriate thing to do, that it is perfectly fine and right to do so. I think this leads to a society where we make mass generalizations based on labels, we judge large groups of people wrongly based on preconceived notions and assumptions. We feel perfectly comfortable, for instance, calling someone a "liberal" based on a particular view, and then simply laying out every other belief the person must hold, because surely all "liberals" believe the same things. It happens both ways, and all over the place in American society. We use these mass generalizations as excuses to not actually deal with issues, to not think carefully about things, to not really address problems.

So, how does this fit into celebrity? In a society where we are encouraged to live on the surface of life and not dig deeper, we begin to see that as actual life, we think that's all there is. We are trained not to think and make decisions for ourselves, to look into who we are and what we feel we need to do with our lives - we just pick the paths that are accepted because they are accepted and play along for our whole lives. So to me, it's no big surprise that we have this obsession with celebrity. They are people who, on the surface, look healthy, happy, successful (based on the definition of success floated about by society) - we are happy to accept that at face value (in fact, we do it without even thinking about it), and then wish we could simply step into that idea of their lives - as it would save us the trouble of having to figure our own lives out. Worst of all, it doesn't seem at all unusual, because this is just how life goes here. It's become so usual we don't even think about it anymore.

So there you have it. Just some of my thoughts on the subject, musings and such. Feel free to comment if you have any other thoughts on the subject. Cheers!

2009-04-25

if the world were ending...

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." -Martin Luther King Jr.

2009-04-23

A bit of a shameless plug... can you blame me? :)

Well, it's not entirely a shameless plug, because I've really been interested in checking out the Madsen cargo bike since I saw a while ago that the Bike Gallery in Portland was going to be the first retail shop carrying them. Anyway, they're having a drawing for people who link to them, to win a free bike. So, everyone go click on the link, and if I win one, I'll post a good review of them on Portlandize with lots of good pictures :D

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

2009-04-21

Why I like Portland

There are a number of reasons I think Portland is an amazing city, particular for the United States. Recently, they have just put out a draft Climate Action plan which addresses a number of issues, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions in Portland by 80% by the year 2050.

The specific goals of the plan focus on 8 target areas of energy usage: Buildings and Energy, Land Use and Mobility, Consumption and Solid Waste, Urban Forestry, Food and Agriculture, Community Engagement, Climate Change Preparation, and Local Government Operations. Amongst a lot of great things like new building requirements for energy efficiency, incentives to update existing buildings, converting public buildings, infrastructure and services to more energy-efficient technologies, and promoting electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, here are a few of the things that really struck my fancy from the plan.

  • For each type of urban neighborhood, identify the land use planning changes, infrastructure investments, including public-private partnerships that are needed to achieve a highly walkable neighborhood and develop an implementation action plan.
  • Together with Metro and TriMet, develop a joint funding schedule for infrastructure improvements such as sidewalks and improved access to destinations beyond a reasonable walking distance.
  • Identify the steps necessary to create a world-class bicycle system throughout Portland and Multnomah County.
  • Fund the first tier of improvements identified in the City of Portland Bicycle Master Plan and adopt a schedule of funding to address subsequent improvements.
  • Implement appropriate pricing mechanisms on driving such as congestion pricing, tolls and parking pricing and direct these funds to infrastructure for non-automobile transportation modes and programs to promote their use.
  • Encourage businesses and residents to purchase new and reused goods with minimal packaging that are durable, repairable and reusable.
  • Complete the implementation of mandatory commercial food waste collection in Portland and begin collection of residential food waste.
  • Provide weekly curbside collection of food waste, other compostable materials and recycling. Shift residential garbage collection to every other week.
  • Acquire, restore and protect open spaces to promote functional forest ecosystems with high potential to sequester carbon dioxide.
  • Recognize trees as a capital asset to City and County infrastructure.
  • Establish joint City-County institutional capacity to support the development of a strong local food system. Provide policy direction and resources to significantly increase the percentage of home-grown and locally-sourced food.
  • Increase the viability of farmers’ markets, community gardens, community-supported agriculture farms and home-grown food through qualitative goals. Integrate these goals into all planning processes.
  • Provide educational opportunities for residents that will enable them to grow fruit and vegetables at their place of residence and in cooperation with their neighbors.
  • Encourage the use of public and private urban land and rooftops for growing food and remove obstacles to local food production.
  • Create 1,300 new community garden plots.
Particularly the transportation and food-related bits get me really excited. Not only are those things I'm particularly interested in myself, but I think they will encourage people to really think about consuming less, and about changing what they consume. It's incredibly exciting to me to think about a network of community gardens throughout the urban boundary of Portland producing fruits and vegetables for the neighborhoods they are located in, greatly reducing the amount that has to be shipped in, as well as giving people a closer connection to their food - and encouraging them to cook more often, spending more time at home, and again having a closer connection to their food. It's exciting to me to see the possibility of some real limits being put on car travel, to reduce the unnecessary usage of automobiles within the city. It's exciting to me to see the planning of neighborhoods as a community unit, with all daily needs arranged within feasible walking distance. This will encourage non-automobile transportation, community focus, and just allow people to spend less time traveling to the places they go on a daily basis.

Imagine neighborhoods in Portland where only 10% of daily trips are by car, where the neighborhood worked together to cultivate a community garden (or several) that supplied a significant part of the produce used in the neighborhood - or perhaps had small gardens themselves and pooled produce, and perhaps even chickens for eggs and eventually meat (since that's legal within Portland city limits). In this neighborhood would be at least one park, a school, a grocery store, perhaps a food co-op, retail shops, a mix of houses and apartments, a bakery, a coffee shop, a movie theater, a brewery (or two), restaurants, some specialty businesses, etc - all within easy walking distance.

That physical description isn't too far off from many already-existing neighborhoods in inner SE/NE Portland, now we just need to get the parts that encourage transportation and community changes down.

Anyway, the potential of this plan to really significantly change the city is exciting to me. Have a happy, sunny Tuesday, Portland! (and elsewhere, too)

2009-04-19

Noris Dairy

We just started getting Milk, Yogurt, Butter and Cream delivered from Noris Dairy, which is down between Salem and Eugene. We've had their milk and cream before, as New Seasons used to carry it, and we loved it. The milk is pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), and non-homogenized, so it has cream on top and you have to shake it. It is exceptionally tasty, comes in glass bottles and has really spoiled us for most other dairy products. The butter we had never had before, but we used it for cooking recently, and I just happened to try a little bite on its own, and it was absolutely delicious. They also have chocolate milk, which we have added to our weekly order as a bit of a treat for ourselves :)

It's so nice to have it delivered every week, and it will be nice for us to be able to just plan that as our dairy intake for a week.

Cheers, and best wishes for a wonderful week!

a good start to the weekend

So far we've had a great start to our weekend. Friday night, we went to our friend Lauren's birthday part out at the Night Light Lounge, and had a nice time chatting and people-watching.

The Filmed by Bike opening night at the Clinton Theater was going on, and they had the entire block from 26th to 25th blocked off to all traffic, full of bike parking, with a beer garden and food. We didn't go, but we did happen to ride by it:

Filmed by bike

Yesterday morning we woke up pretty late, had a little bit of breakfast, and I walked over to Clever Cycles to pick up a nut I needed. I walked back and met Trina at New Seasons, and we picked up some groceries, headed home, and then rode our bikes over to Division Street, to Village Merchants. We poked around there for a bit, then got some tacos for lunch from the next-door taco cart:

Tacos!

We then followed the tacos with a waffle with strawberries and cream from the waffle cart down a block:

Waffles!

We never knew it was there, but I saw it in the morning on my way to Clever Cycles, and wrote Trina about it, so we decided to try it out. It turns out, the waffles were delicious.

Waffles!

Waffles!

From there, we headed down to New Seasons again, and picked up some seeds and flowers to plant in our front flower garden, and our vegetable garden. The flowers looked especially pretty in Trina's basket:

What bike baskets were made for

We came back home, and I gave the bikes a bit of a spring cleaning while Trina started on planting things. Søren especially was pretty grungy from riding all winter.

Søren and Tilly

Here are a few pictures of some of the stuff we have growing in our flower/herb garden:

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

After we got the new stuff planted, we cleaned off our outdoor chairs, plopped down in the grass, and read for a while. We brought Teagan out with us on his leash, and he enjoyed being able to explore a bit:

Teagan

We tried to bring Piccoli out too, but she nearly killed all of us trying to get back in the door again, so we decided to leave her inside :)

Our neighbor Kathy came by, and we chatted for a while, then Theresa came by, and we asked her if she'd want to ride over to the taco cart with us later for dinner (we liked it so much we were going to go back). She said yeah, so we just sat out and read some more. Eventually Theresa came out with her bike, and we toodled over to the taco cart.

Theresa's bike

We got there, and noticed that we had an hour until they closed, so we decided to look at Village Merchants really quickly. Theresa found a great dress that she bought, and then we went back over to the taco cart, which apparently had decided to close early, and was closed :(

So, we decided to ride to New Seasons, and we got a Vietnamese banh mi baguette sandwich they have on special this week, which was really tasty.

We came back home, and were realizing that Theresa didn't have a bell on her bike, so we donated one we had sitting in our basement, and I put it on for her. Then we just sat in the grass for a while as the light faded and it started getting cooler out and chatted for a while. Finally, we parted ways and Trina and I came back inside - she doing some shopping for yarn and fabric, and me playing video games :)

All in all, a great start to the weekend. In store for today - more gardening, washing dishes, laundry, and haircuts!

Happy weekend!