July 13, 2013

June 10, 2013

  • Just wanna note the fact that we buried my dad on a particular June 10th about 14 years ago.  

    You never stop missing your parents. Love 'em now, folks, while you got them. 


    Traits I got from my dad:

    * a love for Johnny Cash songs
    * the ability to create any meal in the kitchen without a recipe 
    * the cool summer breeze of the Appalachian mountains
    * an undying love for garlic and onion as the basis of a good dish
    * an affinity for harmonica music
    * the quiet of a house dropped into the middle of a forest
    * a love for things hand-built
    * the value and joy of hard work even in the midst of working poverty
    * root beer in a thick glass put into the freezer to get really frosty
    * an appreciation for a great baseball game broadcast on the radio, with a colorful announcer, enjoyed on a front porch on a summer night with lemonade 


June 1, 2013

May 31, 2013

  • The End. Almost.

    well, dang. 

    I know I had already started moving my Xanga "best of" over to a WordPress site so my "public face" would reside somewhere more .... interesting? lively? stable?  But I am still kinda sad to hear that Xanga is on its death bed.

    Granted, it's been dying for years, and only a few people really keep it running anymore. Anybody who used to write truly interesting content fled to other sites years ago. I'm just here because I've already got such a history here, and because the "protected posting" feature is still unparalleled.  You can hack WordPress to do something similar, via password protected posting but it's not as secure. Blogger has a login feature for Google users (and who doesn't have a gmail account these days) but it's a clunky interface.

    Anyway.... I've been writing on Xanga since March of 2005.  A pretty significant 8 years of my life, to be honest.  Not all of my best writing is here, but I've run across some posts that frankly surprised me because I hadn't even remembered having those thoughts! 

    If you follow me here, go check out the WordPress site. It's starting to look better, I think. Still a bit clunky....WP.com (free) themes go only so far. But I'm trying to write regularly.....


    Geez. Eight years.  This would have been easier if I'd been writing in paper journals, right? 

    But what amazing community I would have missed out on....

May 30, 2013

  • Couldn't have said it better

    David Spearman's valedictorian speech at the NCS graduation last week was just awesome -- so cool to see him handle big ideas with agility and eloquence. It's always an amazing thing to see one of your own students "get it" and make it their own. 

    Very proud of my 10 years at New Covenant School, and thankful for the incredible students who touched my life in so many ways.


May 19, 2013

  • Review: Into Darkness (Star Trek)

    well, mini-review

    Going to avoid spoilers and simply say this:  J J Abrams has managed to craft a film that BOTH trekkers AND non-Trek fans can love.

    If you grew up on TOS and relish the character interplay among Spock, McCoy, Kirk, Scotty, Uhura - then you'll love the way Abrams' alt-universe reboot of Trek gives you ample reasons to enjoy discovering those friendships all over again.  Nothing is a given.... you get to see these young officers grow up into men and women who are willing to sacrifice for each other. The alt-universe differences enhance the story, sometimes giving you the joy of seeing "how it could have been" back in 1968 had the writers gone a different way.

    If you're just looking for a great sci-movie to entertain you on a warm summer day, Into Darkness may be the best film you'll find this summer. It's got wall to wall action, gorgeous shots and scenes, good dialogue & writing, pacing that won't wear you out or bore you, and plenty of material to keep your attention all the way through. I mean, what do you really need to know in order to understand a Star Trek story?  If it's written well, all you need is an understanding of humanity and the knowledge that they're in a starship in space. 

    The homages in the film to some of the best Trek moments in the original series & movie delighted me.  Loved every minute.

    This is also an ideal film to see in IMAX.

    So while I expect to enjoy many of this summer's movies, and already have found something to enjoy in Iron Man 3 and something to think about in Oblivion, I have to put Into Darkness high up on my list of forever favorites. 

  • 15 down, 30 (?) to go.

    quick life update and all before I continue my journey through older posts, rescuing the good stuff...

    Currently scoring a particular state's standardized / end of year short answer questions for the major education company that I work for (from home, occasionally). It always serves to remind me that education has become a trillion-dollar business, and a huge portion of that now flows into the companies who prepare and score the tests that have become the new backbone of the public school system. Getting real change in the high-stakes testing culture will be extremely difficult now that so much money is involved. 

    I will say that I've seen improvement over the past few years in the way test authors are constructing tests to make them more valid and useful. Still, so much of what a student needs to know and what students learn in daily classroom life cannot be measured in a multiple choice test.

    It always seems to come back to our fundamental misunderstanding (or forgetting) of what it means to be human. Reducing learning to statistics also reduces the LEARNER to a statistic.... and that diminishes their humanity overall. 


    15 YEARS.

    Whoa. Big number (in my life, at least).  That's how long we've been married! What a journey.  Couldn't have predicted the events in any of those years, or where our lives would have taken us. All I know is that I'm so incredibly grateful to have such an incredible man on this journey with me. 

    It's been a hard year, no lie. But watching my husband's faith grow and mine as well - totally worth it. 

    *raises glass* Hoping the 16th year is a little calmer but willing to let the Lord take us where He thinks we need to be.

    Shout out to Don & Martha Hall for giving us an incredible weekend getaway in their lovely house in the middle of nowhere for our anniversary. Sure, they asked us to "house sit" while they were away...but I'm pretty sure the timing was on purpose.

    I hope if I ever get the money/time/ability to build the proverbial "dream house" (and I like how Don & Martha were patient & waited years until the time was right, then took their time getting everything done the way they wanted it) that I have such amazing taste and style.  

    It's built like a great old farmhouse with roomy living areas, plenty of natural wood, a friendly cat, huge porches, and a master bathroom that nearly yells "Please come soak in my tub!" lol


    Approaching the house -- the big front porch is to your left. What looks like an "addition" on back (to the right) is the master suite.

    Sorry it's sideways. Xanga uploaded the photo weirdly. This is an inset shelf in the bathroom: 

    Speaking of that amazing bathroom.... here's half of it.

    The cat was ridiculously happy to see us. And caught a mouse on day 1. lol

    Even sideways, you can tell these are epic porches....





May 11, 2013

  • Gatsby tune

    Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film The Great Gatsby (Deluxe ) [Explicit]

    see related

    Currently loving this song from the Gatsby soundtrack, along with the Jack White theme for the trailer.



    We also liked the Gatsby movie a lot. I know that's controversial because a lot of the literary purists don't appreciate the director's changes to the feel of the story. *shrugs*  I have always appreciated a more lively reincarnation of favorite written works, as long as the film catches the "heart" of what the author was trying to say.

    And I think this new film gives us a really good portrait of just how empty and vacuous a rich man's life can be, even when surrounded by the drunken materialism of the Roaring 20s. It was all just one big gold-dipped kegger, and the nation work up with a gigantic economic hangover. 

    Fitzgerald was brilliant. The Great Gatsby is a masterful book, possibly "the" great American novel. Every sentence stabs you with its beauty. 

    The film can't possibly live up to THAT. But open your eyes and mind and you'll find much to appreciate on the big screen for this one.

March 30, 2013

  • On Poverty (again).

    Darrell is a nice conservative guy who got tired of the anger and hate surrounding the 2012 election, the fury of rhetoric from both sides. He decided to do what few of us are willing to do: walk a year in the mindset of his opponents. So he's blogging "My Obama Year" and his attempt to understand the progressive point of view.

    But none of that is germane to this post, really.

    Darrell reviews the book: Nickel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich. You can find his entire review on his blog. I'd like to use some of his points as a jumping-off platform.

    In fact, take 5 minutes and go read his review right now.... it's succinct and clear and crisp writing, and it won't take you more than 5-10 minutes.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.


    Done? Good.

    So, Darrell makes three major points based on Ehrenreich's attempt to step into the shoes of the working poor and understand just how hard it is to "make it" in America these days.  She worked a series of minimum wage jobs and survived to write a book about it. 

    His observations afterward are simple:  

    1) the upper classes don't understand the poor. 
    The people making the laws literally cannot understand the mindset of someone who has no social capital, no solid education, no mentors for career advancement, no aspirations to become anything better. To be poor is to live in a world the not-poor cannot understand. The book's author didn't. And so she tended to blame the poor for their failures, when her own successes and abilities are built on the shoulders of factors beyond her control -- social status, family wealth, parental involvement, access to education, etc.

    2) being poor is expensive. 
    Ever try to dig yourself out of a financial hole? It's tough. Unless you're making enough money to save a chunk each month, you can NEVER ever get ahead.  As Darrell writes, the startup costs of being poor are very high.

    3) being poor in America still sucks.
    We collectively love the mythology of the American Dream -- if we simply work hard enough, we can achieve success. People who are poor are being catered to by the government. They have no excuse, the story goes, for failure. 

    [points come from Darrell's post; examples partially mine]

    Truth is .... poverty strips people of their humanity.  It robs whole families and ensuing generations of the ability to launch themselves or their kids into a more stable position. 


    I didn't really understand this until recently. I think the American Dream mythology is so strong in our rhetoric, especially during election years, that any of us who made it into college or into a stable job feel pretty good about our success ... and assume that everyone else has the same chances. 

    But many people are beginning to recognize this isn't the case. 

    Now the crux of the argument is this: what are we supposed to DO about poverty? More on that when I have something to say.  


    Great stuff to read:

    A better definition of poverty from the Chalmers' Center at Covenant College, dedicated to "helping without hurting" (development for poor communities in the US and abroad, rather than simply relief)

    Don't say there's nothing we can do to make a difference. The Church is vast, and our Gospel mission extends to making the structures and systems of this world better for the people around us.

    In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about the poor, and how working for more just and humane systems/institutions is absolutely a biblical theme. [This site comes from a definitely point of view rather than an objective list, but the verses can speak for themselves.]

    It's not just about personal work ethic, though making good decisions and working hard IS the major avenue to a stable situation. But the system itself is broken. People who WANT jobs can't get one..... and our economic system struggles to match workers to open jobs.


    This discussion is just so huge.  As I do my own chewing, I will keep writing. Living a Gospel life *must* mean something in the lives of people I contact, and that will always include the poor.