Saturday, August 30, 2008

The breeding properties of M&Ms

This was linked on and is HILARIOUS:

Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. To this end, I hold M&M duels.

Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them breaks and splinters. That is the "loser," and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round.

I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theater of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world.

Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.

When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 U.S.A., along with a 3x5 card reading, "Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."

This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion.

There can be only one.

Politics for Kids

A little history: My parents, especially my dad, are VERY conservative. I have a nine-year old little sister who basically only hears one perspective all the time. Apparently in the car on the way to a family dinner last night, my parents were discussing McCain's veep choice and my sister, like all little kids, is agreeing with everything her dad says. When they get to the restaurant, my mom, the pacifist, suggests leaving the conversation in the car because she doesn't want it to get ugly between my dad and I. My little sister asks why, and my mom tells her because I'm voting for Obama. My sister says, "Why is she voting for Obama?!?" My mom tells her to ask me later, in private.

So she finally gets me alone after dinner and asks me why I'm voting for Obama. And I'm thinking, "How do I explain this to a nine-year-old?!?"

I started by trying to explain the fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans- more/less govn't, etc. Then I told her a couple of the reasons I am a Democrat in the simplest way possible:
1) Equal pay for equal work. I asked what she would think if my mom offered to give my brother $1.00 to do a chore, but would only give her 75 cents to do the same chore. She thought that would be unfair.I told her that McCain voted against legislation that would allow women to sue for being paid unfairly. (In other words, McCain thinks its cool for us to make .75/1.00.)
2) The rights of all Americans regardless of sexual preference. I told her I thought that if two people are in love, they should be able to get married, whether or not they are a woman and a man, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man.
3) Abortion. She asked me, "But what about abortion? Abortion is bad right?" I told her having an abortion is a tough choice, but that as long as women can get pregnant, women will have abortions, so there needs to be safe, legal abortions to prevent women's suffering and/or deaths. I wouldn't have mentioned this if she hadn't brought it up, I don't think that a nine-year old should have to think about abortion.
4) Money. Specifically Bush's tax cuts that McCain wants to make permanent. I told her it made more sense to me to give tax breaks to the poor/middle class people who need them, than to give tax breaks to people who are already very rich and just hope that it "trickles down".

She was quiet for a minute, really thinking about everything I said, her little brow furrowed. Then she said, "Okay, now I understand why you are voting for Obama." I told her that she should learn everything she can about politics and then make her own decisions and not allow her choices to be influenced by me, or anybody else.

What a smart, gutsy little girl to ask me that outright! She's gonna do big things.

Facebook Status Political War

I hope readership of this blog (by readership I mean mostly those of us who write from time to time) hasn't completely fallen off at this point. I know I'm partly to blame for nothing going on here lately, but I finally have something somewhat interesting to write about. Let's try to get back to writing more regularly. I really enjoy reading what you folks have to say.

I noticed something new during the DNC last week. Maybe if I hadn't been glued to the tv the entire week, political junkie that I am, I wouldn't have noticed it quite as much. What I realized was that people are now using their Facebook status to spew political rhetoric.

I've been somewhat guilty, but mine have been less rhetoric, more feeling. For example, mine said, "Quinn wishes he was at Mile High" on the night of Obama's acceptance speech. Others (I have to say, mostly, but not only, conservatives) were much more involved. One guy that Rachelle, Meg, and I went to high school with said "Rhett wonders if Obama supporters realize socialism has been tried before. It failed." Reducing a politicians position to socialism simply because he believes markets exists for people and not the other way around. Some weren't ideological, they were attempts at insult, like another guy from high school said, "Andrew wishes Obama would come up with something besides that dumb as [sic] 'yes we can' slogan." I guess the irony was lost on him in that in identifying something as dumb ass, he actually misspelled the word.

Anyway, I don't know what I think about this. I feel like already the general population is so dumb when it comes to politics, and I'm not talking about ideology. I know some very intelligent conservatives. I just mean that the general population are uneducated. Facebook status as a medium for political discourse will not help this. I actually question whether blogs even can.

Part of me wants to fire back at these people. Inform them that they misspelled dumb ass, tell them they clearly don't understand the differences between the Marxist tyranny of the USSR and the socialist policies of the UK or Sweden. However, I just don't think it's worth it. If someone is willing to bring the level of the conversation down that far, I see no point in stooping to try to correct their misguided feelings.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Just wondering...

Am I the only one who had tears in her eyes listening to Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton's speeches at the DNC?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I love you Keith Olbermann!


Rob stated in a post last week that "...we have been rescued not for ourselves, but for others." He and I have been having a lot of conversations recently about what true community looks like, and I think this statement ties in very closely with that. We've been talking about the idea that true community is when I am more concerned with the other individuals involved than with myself. True community is seeking someone else's best above my own preferences. And their "best" isn't necessarily equated with me being "nice" to them. It is sometimes saying what they need to hear, even when that is not what they want to hear. It is sometimes making the choice that they do not want me to make, knowing that it will be more beneficial for them in the end than what they are asking of me. And sometimes it's being a friend to someone I would not naturally be inclined to be friends with. It's the idea that the community is about something bigger and more important than just me. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To quote the movie Everything is Illuminated, "It is not here for us; we are here for it." (Granted, the quote is in reference to a burried wedding band, but you get the idea.) Anyway, these are incomplete thoughts for now. This is just what has been on my mind lately.

What does community mean to you?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Unclean Energy

I am astounded how some impoverished nations have found ways to overcome their circumstances by developing unconventional ways of producing energy or supplying sustenance for their communities. I was watching a program on the History Channel about India. First of all, I was very impressed by the irrigation system in Calcutta. They have built these deep trenches for the city sewage to flow into. The solid waste settles to the bottom, and the clean water from the surface of the trench is filtered into a shallow trench that is used to irrigate wetland farms. The deep trenches containing the “unclean” water are filled with certain types of plant life that naturally filter out the harmful heavy metals, therefore making the water capable of sustaining fish, which are no longer at risk of being contaminated. These fish, in turn, are caught and sold in local markets, drastically reducing the price that the members of the local community are required to pay for fresh fish. And that’s not all. On a rotating schedule, the trenches are drained. The natural waste is then harvested from the bottom of the drained trench and used as fertilizer for crops. Yeah, it’s a dirty job, but it sure is efficient!

Then, there was a teacher in a very rural community in India who has developed a way to use animal dung to make batteries. (He uses salt to cause a chemical reaction of some sort. It was a little above my head.) The batteries are about the size of a coffee can. Four of them could power a radio, and eight of them could power a television. The batteries last something like 48 days. And obviously there is an endless supply of dung to make new batteries. It’s basically free energy.

The thought that struck me while watching this program was that these ideas have already been developed, and are clearly not very complicated, as they are being used in very poor, very rural areas. Yet in the “first-world” we are not using these very practical, planet-saving ideas because they are just too uncivilized. Meanwhile, our “civility” is costing more money and doing more damage than ever before. I’m not saying everybody should have a case of poo powering their TV in their living room, but we sure could stand to learn a thing or two from those who have developed solutions to their problems out of pure desperation. Solutions born of desperation are often much simpler… and cleaner.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I was doing my typical web trolling this morning when I stumbled upon the blog of pro-feminist Rad Geek. His site is interesting but it was a Rosa Parks quotation at the top that really caught my attention:

I’d like people to say I’m a person who always wanted to be free and wanted it not only for myself; freedom is for all human beings.

Love it!

Sidenote on Rad Geek: Hooray for pro-feminist men!

Friday, August 8, 2008


In this week's Talk of the Town section of the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes
Clearly, the only way to change America's consumption habits is by making those habits more expensive.
McCain, in his straight-talking days, acknowledged as much. In 2003, he broke with the Bush Administration and co-introduced legislation to reduce carbon admissions, by, in effect, imposing a price on them. That same year, over strong White House opposition, he brought the bill to the Senate floor. (It was defeated, by a vote of fifty-five to forty-three.) In an interview with this magazine, he said... "I think it's a dramatic example of the influence of special interests here in the Congress... It's a combination of the utilities and the coal companies and automobile manufacturers- an unholy alliance of special interests that have made it a top priority to prevent any action from being taken."

But now, he is this guy.

And people wonder why no one votes in our country.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Meg and I went to see Wilco last night at the Florida Theater. Freaking amazing!

So much trouble...

I have found myself at a loss for words lately. Well, not a loss for words per se, but rather a loss for good ones. I have wanted to say something that would answer all my questions, but such words don't exist. I read Rachelle's Spiritual Hunger blog which I though was great and honest, and it has spoken into some of my own concerns as of late. The main one being that American Christianity has been evangelized in a way more similar to products being sold on television than a community of faith living out a transformed existence. Rachelle and most people I know who would classify themselves as agnostics, have been fed an idea that "Jesus will make you happy." This of course is a lie. I am not the one saying that, the Bible does. Paul speaks of the Christian life as one lived in a way that if Christ is not the son of God, we are a people to be pitied most in the world. However, that doesn't sell. You don't get a lot of people to show up for a life of serving others. So what have we done? We have put Jesus in shiny new packaging, and sold Him off at bargain basement prices, all with the promises of whiter teeth, shinier hair, more money, a healthier, happier life, and eternity in Heaven. The worst part is that I have been guilty of buying into all that. I have used these ideas to convince someone to "buy my product," rather than telling them of the opportunity in Christ to bring real rescue into our surrounding community. That is the truth of the Kingdom that Jesus came to announce. It is about recognizing that we have been rescued not for ourselves, but for others.
This hit home all the more this week as I watched one of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers, win this years TED award. He has used his success and wealth, and leveraged all of it to try and get people to volunteer to work with local public schools and invest time with students. He has developed a foundation, 268Valencia, which has over 1400 adults within the publishing and writing communities working directly with local public schools. Meg and I watched the video of his speech, and all I kept saying to myself was "there is no way that someone should ever have been able to beat the church to this idea." Inherently, an agnostic has been a part of something that brings hope and healing to the community, while evangelicals are pulling their kids and resources out of public schools. We have bought into the lie. It needs to end.
The Church needs to be the Church.

The Church needs to be the Church because no argument is going to convince anyone that Christ is here, if the people who claim Him don't live like they believe it.

I am not going to try and evangelize anyone here. I am not going to try to get you to "buy" in. I am not going to try and win an argument. I simply believe that Jesus is alive and that He came to bring hope, not happiness. I am sorry for the ways I have failed to live that out. I am sorry for the ways I have tried to sell something different. I want to be the Church, and that requires more of us than we have given.

As for Rachelle's post, thanks for sharing. We are all in community together. That is not dependent upon your faith, or mine.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Housing Situation Update

We went and looked at a loft in Springfield today. Wow. I want to move right now, as in right this second. It was incredible, beautiful, unique, and historic. It was a true loft with one giant living space (except for a small, separate side room) and 13 foot ceilings in an old converted school house. Hopefully, we will be living there in a month or so.


This post will sort of connect with Rachelle's post on spiritual hunger. Sort of.

One of our priests, Gena, is in charge of our church's center for spirituality. Essentially, the center is a group of contemplatives within our larger church family. Many of them make frequent silent retreats and they have weekly contemplative prayer sessions (they meet and spend 30 minutes in silence and then a few minutes in discussion). Yesterday, Gena unveiled a new "Comtemplative Eucharist" that followed approved liturgies of our church but left lots of room for silent contemplation and meditation in between the readings, prayers, and other parts of the liturgy.

Having grown up rabidly protestant, things like meditation, contemplation, etc. were not exactly the bread and butter of my spiritual formation. However, having become more familiar with meditative practices, be it for long periods of silent contemplation (as in the Eucharist yesterday) or for brief trips to our quiet garden or prayer labryinth at the church, have helped me realize how essential these practices are for us as humans (be we religious or non-religious).

We need to unplug. Mind you, as I said in the comments of Rachelle's post, not for long periods of time. I'm not the type of Christian that believes the world is evil, so it's best to disengage from it. But, I think a measured temporary detachment can actually teach us the beauty of the good earth and people around us! We need to not watch tv, not tweet, not read blogs or online newspapers or books for that matter, and embrace silence. I think this is why things like yoga are becoming increasingly popular. Besides the fact that it is wonderful work-out, it is a great way to disengage for a few moments.

Silence, though, is scary. This is what I battle with anytime I engage in contemplative prayer or meditation. Why is it scary? I'm not sure. I think maybe we live in a culture that constantly demands answers and explanation, and silence forces us to engage with that deep part of ourselves where, even in an atheistic world view, mystery still lives. And mystery in a world that demands an answer for everything is scary.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


After 23 years of being just the opposite, I am slowly converting to being a Jacksonville fan. I know, that's really weird. I've been busy lately educating myself on the roots of our municipal dysfunction, and am encouraged that there may be light at the end of the tunnel (somewhere in the distance, and the light might be a train... hopefully some form of light rail).

Anyway here are a couple of helpful Jacksonville links:
Metro Jacksonville
Urban Jacksonville

My heart is also encouraged that our sorry little newspaper is taking a few leaps into the electronic age by setting up a twitter account. It's rad.
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