Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday night after the LSAT

The LSAT went well. Reading Comprehension was tough and according to Kaplan's Test Day Blog the logic games section that I felt was the harder of the two ended up being the real section while the easy section was the experimental. Given how heavily the LSAT is curved, that's probably a good thing for me as I'm pretty good at logic games.

I think I did well enough. And I rocked the writing sample.

As I waited for the test to begin, I found myself thinking about Happy Feminist and PG, both of whom did the law school applications thing not too terribly long ago and have offered valuable advice and more valuable support.

In other news, I feel like messing with the Chaliceblog's design again. We will see if I can ever find a design I really like. I don't have the cash to have one designed just yet, but we will see if I can get the Chaliceblog looking a little better.


PS. I've notived that my sidebar sometimes jumps to the bottom in Internet Explorer. Anybody know how to fix that?

At the testing center

Wearing my YRUU shirt for luck.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The world gets a tiny bit weirder.

This sign was on one of the closed stores in my local mall.

If it's a joke, somebody had to print it out from somewhere and bring it to the mall. That's a lot of trouble for a pretty minor prank.

But I can't believe it's real either.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Personal Statements

I’m finding writing a personal statement really difficult, which is really odd given that some might argue I write them in another form just about every day right here.

They are a particularly troublesome yet ephemeral part of life. Most of the lawyers I’ve talked to about law school haven’t even remembered what they wrote about. Yet for a somewhat borderline student (quite low GPA as first tier law school applicants go, nice-looking LSATs even as first tier law school applicants go) admissions officers say a good personal statement can make all the difference.

I have an idea that I know I will never get around to accomplishing that somebody should put together one of those “Essays that got people into law school” books for lower-first tier and second tier schools. I’ve bought several books of successful personal statements and the are all from folks who went to Ivy Leagues. Thus most of them have a certain “and then when I got out of the peace corps, I decided to go for a master’s degree in math…” quality. My life just hasn’t been that impressive and when I write a statement along the same lines as those, I feel I sound like a poor man’s version of a real law school applicant.

I can’t write about my current planned legal direction because I am interested in working for legal aid as a divorce lawyer for the poor. I don’t know how or why I got interested in divorce law, but I did. At least part of it is seeing that badly-done divorces can ruin in some cases both parties’ finances, even more so for the poor. That, and divorce law is an unusual but quite valid argument for gay marriage. And yes, a lot of it is growing up in a house where taking care of society’s less fortunate and doing it yourself was a focus of life. (CC’s mom is in the low-income housing business, theChalicerelative has worked for the Presby church or for the poor for most of her life. The ChaliceDad admittedly doesn’t care about anything but music and perhaps not that at this point. Every family has one...) But my advice books by law school admissions officers are unanimous that admissions officers are pretty cynical about people who want to work for the poor and you’re usually best off not writing about the law unless asked to because you can’t help but come off as naive.

I think that I have a comparatively successful blog is a pretty interesting thing about me, but writing about your religion is an admissions no-no and my blog does focus around my religion.

I have a month and a half to solve this one, so I’m nor particularly worried about it. But it is odd to see that the writing is so far the most difficult part of the admissions process for me.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Comforting the afflicted, etc

Riddle me this:

If we send around a few meaningless petitions and perhaps have a candlelight vigil, and then go home, smug that we have done our religious duty and that as proud UUs who are saving the world, we're a lot better than those Vanilla protestants who are just building Habitat for Humanity treehouses...

Who are the comfortable?


Ps. I owe a big apology to Kim, who has told me about the impressive amount of charity work her church does, I'd forgotten. As Joel notes, this does give them a certain amount of street cred on social justice issues, street cred that UU churches that follow the "Have thirty committes where we talk at each other and MAYBE raise a little money, but never get our nails dirty" model do not.

Linguist Friend has told me (and written on this blog) about housing homeless people after an earthquake in his old church in California.

Apparently there are some California UU churches who are really doing it right.

If I weren't so proud, I'd go back and work at the soup kitchen my parents' presby church runs. During the winter, they drive around to the steam grates in the city and bring hot food to the people people who gather there to get warm.

Meanwhile, I found a homeless shelter I could cook for since the once a year my church supplies a homeless shelter wasn't enough for me.

It really makes me cynical to think about how my parents live out their religion, but people live out mine mostly by talking. And feeling proud of themselves.

If you've been wondering who this chap Cory Maye who CC keeps talking about is...

You can read all about him in an Reason Magazine artivle posted here.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Were you a "bought lunch kid" or a "sandwich for home" kid?

So after the Renn Faire last night, I ate dinner with theCSO and six of our friends. Still thinking about PB's post about a Lunchables commercial, I brought up the subject to our table.

"So, y'all remember lunchables? Were they a rich kid or poor kid thing?"

FWIW, the answers came out as follows:

CC and someone else thought of them as a rich kid thing.

Two people thought of them as a poor kid thing, explaining that the rich kids bought their lunches. (Ironically, I'm almost certain school lunches would have been less expensive, which doesn't at all mean those people weren't right.)

Oddly enough, the four people who were cleanly divided on the issue all went to school in the same county within a few years of each other.

Two people were too old and were out of school when they came out.

TheCSO said they were a "lucky kid thing" because they looked better than a regular lunch. Various people around the table concurred. CC recalled, as she did on the thread following Peacebang's post, that Lunchables always looked sophisticated and adult to her when she was a child.

The last person had gone to school in a town that she described as the "Welfare Capital of Idaho" she said nobody ate lunchables because everyone got their lunches for free.

The results of the survey are pretty inconclusive, IHMO. But other aspects of the conversation interested me.

One of the more conservative people at the table (NOT CC) started a discussion about how the kids who got free and reduced price lunches got the same lunches as the kids who paid full price and that as a kid he didn't think that was fair.

Various people expressed their disagreement with various levels of enthusiasm, but it's safe to say he was alone on that one.

Everybody recalled knowing from a very young age who the rich kids were and who the poor kids were and how what you had for lunch was pretty important. Various people recalled stories of good and bad school lunches from yesteryear. CC packed her own lunch and tended to bring weird stuff like a deli carton of leftover cole slaw. One guy reported taking a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich to school every day for six years.

There was a lot of significance to that 45 minutes a day.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

If the Methodists jumped of a cliff, would we?

PB asked CC, given your recent call to disband the Washington office, how do you feel about the fact that most mainstream religious groups in America have an equivalent office?

I don't believe I've ever directly called for disbanding the Washington office. I do wish we could change its focus. Longtime readers know that the UUA Washington Office has pretty much been dead to me since they sent me an email telling me I should should rally to protect the filibuster because a filibuster was crucial in "protecting the rights of the minority to speak on issues that effect all Americans"*

At the very least anything written in our names should have a disclaimer that as we are non-creedal, we don't all necessarily agree. (I realize this sounds weak to some people, but it shouldn't. The ACLU includes that disclaimer on everything, and nobody accuses them of being shrinking violets.) No, thank you, putting that disclaimer on the version of the statement that goes to the congregations, but leaving it off the version that goes to the press and to Congress isn't good enough. (If you can't tell, these minor instances of weaselhood REALLY get to me. My thoughts on the subject tend to begin with "Where the hell do they get off thinking that they can pull crap like that…" and go on from there for quite awhile.)

When I read the question about the other mainstream religious groups, the first answer to pop into my head was "Well, the Southern Baptists are the largest protestant denomination so that must be mainstream, how do you think I feel about the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention has it's own Washington Office, working hard to quite effectively push issues politically that are pretty much the opposite of what I believe and paying no taxes for doing so?"

Seeing as how other religions' leaders rarely get themselves arrested, the only other denomination's Washington office I'm particularly aware of is, of course, the Presbyterian one. The rather earnest but much beloved Chalicerelative did work for them for a period of time, but even having lived with someone who'd worked there, my impression is that the political decrees the Presbyterian church puts out are on the whole cheerfully ignored by actual Presbyterians.

At least once, my family ate dinner at Taco Bell, then asked each other if we were supposed to all be boycotting Taco Bell because the presbytery had sent out an email to that effect. The PCUSA divesting from Israel was a tremendous shock to my parents, especially when it made actual newspapers. Didn't the newspapers know that nobody pays attention to the political stuff that the PCUSA puts out, even if it's voted on at the Presbyterian General Assembly?

Basically, other churches DO have such offices. But my impression has never been that other churches have UUism's impression that passing a resolution is actually DOING something. My fellow UUs seem to honestly believe that passing a resolution about global warming equates in some way making the global warming situation better.

With all apologies to Kim, whom y'all know I love, she wrote today that making sandwiches for the homeless is "putting out fires while not trying to find the arsonist."
This is the voice of someone whom I think actually believes that all these statements and protests and petitions we put out actually do something to end poverty.

I’m afraid the only solution to poverty I know is one sandwich, one set of new clothes, one job training program at a time.


ADDED LATER: Joel does believe in disbanding the UU Washington Office and defends the idea well in the comments to this post.

*Problems with them doing that:
-To say that filibustering is exercising free speech is at best stretching the truth, as anyone who had high school civics knows. (Did they really think a bunch of people in Washington DC wouldn't know what "filibuster" means?)
-When they sponsor a rally over a procedural vote, they are straight up carrying the water of the Democratic party.
-That situation was resolved by, not a bunch of hippies holding one more candelight vigil, but moderates in both parties being able to talk to each other and work out a deal.

CC is a big geek.

Hanging out with her amigos at the Maryland Renaissance festival.

One CAN be too inclusive, though

It makes me smile when we're included

Even when it is by a woodcutter in tights.

More on the role of politics in UUism.

Hafida asked:

For example, are Muslims in a mosque acting spiritually or politically when they attempt to respond collectively to a piece of legislation that disproportionately negatively impacts them? Were black folks mixing church and state when they organized in churches to march against Jim Crow laws?

Maybe it is that it's 7:30am, but I'm having trouble applying the first situation to UUism. As for the second situation, the crucial difference to me was that often the black church was usually the only place people who wanted to work on Jim Crow laws COULD get together.

I will admit a certain degree of leniance when reasonable people feel that the church is the ONLY place they can express their political views. When I went to church in South Carolina, there was a lady who worked in the public school system who every year did a political speech for a lay sermon. When she said the church was the ONLY place she could discuss gay rights without facing potential retribution, I felt that she had to be cut a bit of slack.

That said, after the first time I never again went to church on the Sunday of her lay service. Hearing Bush criticized doesn't feed my soul.

So yes, I'm willing to look past some organizing in places where liberals pretty much can't get together anywhere else. Especially if they can keep it mostly out of Sunday morning, though in my experience, they pretty much never can. My experience, over and over, has been that the people who talk politics at church and the people who tal about religion are rarely the same people.

But, this woman's service aside, in South Carolina I never felt like the political element was treated as the most important reason to go to church. I do feel like some people here and in UUism's leadership treat it that way.

I like moderation too, but not of things that are destructive. I don't want a moderate number of termites in my house, I don't want my church cited by the Federal Election Commission a moderate number of times.

Responses to Shelby:

Christian congregations promoting abstinence-only education should be criticized not because they are mixing religion and politics, but because they want inaccurate and incomplete information taught in public schools. UU’s can engage on the merits of the issue; we want accurate and complete information taught in schools.

Well, I am certain that many Christian congregations regard such sentiments as "masturbation is ok" and "homosexuality is normal" inaccurate and incomplete. When we argue with such statements on secular grounds (e.g. Scientists say homosexuality shows up all the time in the animal kingdom and is probably biological to some degree,) we don't really have to deal with this issue.

Once we're saying "Scientists agree with us AND our view is morally right" by arguing on religious grounds, we make their arguments more powerful by letting them bring in their moral issues.

"Let's keep religion out of it and teach the facts" is a far more defensible position and far more consistent position with our usual pleas to keep religion out of school.

(((If we have a peaceful mechanism for making society more just, who are we not to use it?)))

1. Because we are too small to be particularly effective at it, especially on a national level.

2. Because there are other groups already working on such issues and usually more effectively so. We can use it more effectively by joining these groups as individuals. Reinventing the wheel just so we can have a UU group is silly.

3. Because we're not MoveOn. We're a church. There are many ways of improving the world. Perhaps preaching about goodness and mercy is a more subtle way, but that doesn't make it less powerful.

4. Because it's obnoxious when other churches do it, yet for some reason we can't smell our own stink on the issue.

5. Because as a creedless religion, we don't have a mechanism for making sure what we're doing is something that people agree with. Republicans usually leave very political congregations because they get sick of the money they donate going to fight for things they don't believe in. When we make our church only for people who agree with us politically, we decrease our diversity and we contribute to a polarized society. William Ellery Channing was a social conservative. Wouldn't you want him to feel comfortable in your church?

6. Because the Federal Election Commission is getting really sick of the "Two days before the presidential election, we're going to preach about how Jesus wouldn't have liked George Bush. But it's a religious thing, not a political one. We totally swear" stuff. If the FEC decides to start pulling the tax-exempt status of churches, the churhc without a creed will be the first to go.

7. Because in many churches, political activity takes the place of charitable activity just about entirely. Political activity lets us feel like we are helping people without requiring us to really do all that much. Why clean up a stream when you can hand around a petition without breaking your nails?

8. Because we were discussing this issue at my church retreat and a bunch of people were asking questions like "How can a Christian believe in the death penalty?" and I said "Why don't you find a conservative you know and ask that person? The reasonableness of the answer might surprise you."

And a lady haughtily looked at me and said, "All of my friends are liberals, I work with only liberals and a conservative wouldn't make it very long in our church. I don't KNOW any conservatives!"

I think more than one more voice for liberalism, we need to have a place that brings people together on neutral ground where they can talk and start to understand each other.

"You're technically welcome in our church, but we're going to say nasty things about politicians you might like whenever we feel like it and we're going to give some of the money you give to the church away to a group that's fighting for something you don't want and pay the salary of some full-time lobbyist in Washington DC who will lie to you and try to get congress to do things you don't believe are right" is not welcoming.

"We disagree on the politics, but we agree that we all want the highest and best. Let's talk about it while we make sandwiches for the homeless, because that sermon on poverty really inspired me to go out and help somebody" sounds better to me.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Followup on my post about plagarism software

I wrote this morning about how my high school made the front page of the Washington Post with student objections to a new plagarism program.

Joel commented "What I find interesting is the student's complaint that it violates their copywrite and their worry about their intellectual property. That sounds like an admission that they intend to sell their papers to other students!"

I didn't know what the deal with that was either, and y'all know me and leaving well enough alone. I called someone I know who is in a position to know about such things. She explained that the copyright issue is that once you submit a paper to this program, the program keeps a copy of the paper in its database forever.

Thus, if you use your sister's paper from two years ago, the database will catch it. The problem is, they are taking your paper and keeping it in their database and making a lot of money selling access to their database.

At best it's shaky, IMHO. At least until schools start making you sign away the rights to all your high school papers over to this company.

TheCSO made the point that it is probably pretty foolhardy to be trying this in a neighborhood that is probably a contender for the highest number of intellectual property lawyers per capita in the country.


Now THIS is a produce section

CC hearts Wegmans

Where CC draws the line between religious and political activities

Obviously, this line can be drawn lots of places.

As a general principle: If it’s about YOU doing something for someone else, it’s fine. If it about you trying to get the government to do something for someone else, it’s political. If you are educating people on an issue, the focus should be on what the people can do themselves, not what the people can force the government to do. And such education should not be a lay service.

Political Activities-- All of which are just fine if done as individuals. Please try not to do these as/within congregations or in the name of UUism. (e.g. Your banner that says "Unitarians for Peace" will not be nearly as effective as the same group marching with a banner that says something more like "Mainstream folks for peace.")

Handing out petitions at Coffee Hour

Speculating about what religious figures would think about politics today, especially from the pulpit

Organizing trips to protest marches or letter writing campaigns.

Donating money to political groups lobbying for specific legislation (yes, there are shades of gray here, but be reasonable. The Sierra Club does some lobbying but is probably fine. MoveOn does some charity work but we both know it isn't.)

Talking about specific legislation or candidates from the pulpit.

Forming a group so that the Unitarians can work on an political issue that dozens of other groups are already working on, almost always more effectively.

Spiritual Activities -These are fine

Preaching about general principles (taking care of the poor, the sanctity of freedom) without mentioning specific legislation or specific candidates.

Raising money to help people in need (or food, medicine, clothing, school supplies, it’s all fine.)

Building habitat homes

Educating people about what they can do to protect the environment and cleaning up a stream yourself.

Forming a group so the Unitarians can take care of some people in need who aren't being taken care of.

Recall Joel's story about how while the hippies protested that the government should clean up a certain stream, his ROTC guys went and cleaned up the stream.

Don't be the hippies in that story. Be the ROTC guys.


More on keeping (even my) religion out of the schools

A followup to this post.

A very nice lady from a UU-run organization called "Promise the Children" wrote a response to my post about Sinkford's new political stand for us. I think this is a discussion worth having where people can see it, so I'm making my response a new post. You can read her response to me here.

(((UU congregations' advocacy efforts advance the profile of our denomination and attract congregants.)))

This is a really common opinion among people who want politics to be a huge part of who we are. But I've never understood it. Why would people who come to UUism for the politics rather than coming for the religion make good congregants?

If they had to choose between funding worship activites and funding political activities, which would they pick?

If Bob joins the church because the church believes in gay marriage and is bugging their local legislative body to allow it, and the legislative body votes and settles the issue one way or another, why would Bob stay in the church? The reason he came is gone. If he's looking for politics rather than religion, won't he just move on?

I'm glad that some individuals at the grassroots level want to fight for comprehensive sexuality education. They should do that. As individuals or as members of the numerous non-religiously affiliated groups that exist for the purpose. As a church, we should be staying out of political issues. Don't you think the evangelicals who want creationism taught also view what they are doing as "reality-based" and "social justice work?" They might have different terms for it, but it's the same idea. My philosophy is that if we want religion out of the schools, we need to keep OUR religion out of the schools.

Honestly, the impression I get from the comments on my last post is that people think "Religions shouldn't have sway over what is taught in schools, except for when UUs want something, because UUs are correct. It's all those OTHER religions that have crazy ideas that should be kept out."

Y'all don't think the evangelicals and mormons are saying the same thing?

As for growth and politics not being mutually exclusive, the UUA has made headlines about politics for at least four decades at this point. My old church on the edge of New Orleans was formed when the downtown church was so overrun with hippies that the group of people who supported the Vietnam war felt they had to leave.

So how big has decades of activism made our church? (Answer:217,000 people in a country with circa 300 million people.) Is it the size we want it to be?

And if it isn't, why are we advocating doing the same thing we've been doing and saying that "this time" it will be effective?

And when was the last time Sinkford sent out a letter about growing the church rather than a letter about what we should be writing to our congressmen about?

(((Without UU social justice initiatives, many congregants would drift away, and the denomination would lose much of its vitality.)))

Wow. So you think social justice programs are propping up UUism because the religion isn't enough? Without politics, we would all "drift away?"

Sunday morning must not mean much to anyone for whom that is true.

People see me as a curmudgeon sometimes, but that is a far more cynical sentiment than anything I've ever said about UUism.


One more on Rhode Island UUs

From the beliefnet thread about the Rhode Island UUs:

Normally, I wouldn't bite on a thread like this, but since this media tempest in a teapot involves my congregation, I feel obligated. The article was the result of one individual who felt it necessary to forward something critical of paganism to the media that they didn't even write. I agreed with some of the criticism and found it humorous, and that was supposed to be the end of it. I still feel a real dialogue is long overdue in UU about what our "theology" really is. After all, our forebears created this religion by rejecting "bad theology". We can't seem to say no ... anything goes. For the record, the original author is no "atheist fundamentalist" but more of a non-realist Christian.

So one Christian wrote a letter more or less making fun of the Pagan festival.

Someone else forwarded it to the media.

There was never an organized resistance to the festival or any real controversy. There was never any danger of the festival getting cancelled. And while some Humanists might have recieved the letter, there's nobody saying even that is the case.

IMHO, if you've ever written anything anywhere that is snarky about Christians or Huamnists, you are no less guilty of intolerance than these Rhode Island UUs. (FWIW, I have written things that were supposed to be funny and saw my work get passed around more widely than I meant it to. It's actually a really uncomfortable feeling.)

I'm sure the guy who wrote the beliefnet post will be written off as an intolerant bigot by some because of his concerns about "anything goes" theology. But I think it's reasonable for him to state such concerns, though I don't 100 percent agree with him as I tend to think everybody draws the line between "Liberal Religion" and "anything goes" at a different place, be it theism, biblical authority or the maypole.

All that aside, the fact remains that a Christian UU (albeit a non-realist Christian of the Don Cupitt school, but a Christian UU just the same) wrote this letter. Whether the bit about "superstition" sounded like something we imagine a humanist might say is immaterial.

I'd say everybody who looked at the letter and assumed that anyone who doesn't like a Pagan festival must be a humanist and assumed a humanist wrote it owes the humanists an apology.

I'll go first.

Though a humanist myself, I did assume that a humanist had written this note and I'm really sorry I did. I will, in the future, not be so quick to assume bigotry before I know the facts of the situation.

Can everyone else who assumed the writer was a humanist do the same?


What the heck, one more on Wal-Mart

All of y'all who get so teary-eyed when Walmart pressures a supplier into lowering its prices better get out your hankies. According to the Washington Post, this time Wal-Mart is going after *sniffle* those poor, innocent pharmaceutical companies.

Yep, those evil bastards at Wal-Mart have a plan to sell generic drugs for $4. (Item: CC's birth control is a generic, even with double health insurance she pays $8.)

First they sell affordable clothing, then affordable food and now affordable medication to their mostly-poor customer base. What evil plot to destroy our national fabric will they come up with next?


CC and her brothers went to McLean High School and her tax money still supports it.

Which is why she is pretty weirded out by this story, where the Washington Post said that a whole lot of said tax money is going to support a plagarism-prevention computer program at the school that all of the students will be forced to put their papers through.

A couple of my professor friends have reported great success combating plagarism with the combination of intuition and Google, both of which are free. I don't think a program that searches academic journals is really necessary.



Wahoo! Cory Maye gets at least part of a new trial

Cory Maye is off death row.

Maybe permanently.

Let's hope.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

CC presents the other side on the Cory Maye case

Here at the Chaliceblog, I’ve been pretty one-sided in my portrayal of the Cory Maye case. I don’t believe that Maye should be given the death penalty for shooting one of the (white) cops who came bursting into his house dressed in black clothing. As an African-American man who lived in a bad neighborhood, Maye was pretty justified in assuming that a bunch of guys who broke into his house in the middle of the night meant him harm. The fact that Maye was protecting his baby daughter only serves to underscore that point.

But perhaps I have never given the other side a fair hearing. The prosecutors claim that these cops were acting on the advice of a “reliable informant” who said that Maye was a drug dealer.

In the interests of fairness, I will now present a statement that was left on Maye’s defense attorney’s* answering machine by that “reliable informant:”

Yeah, this is Mr. Randy Gentry. Hey, I got to thinkin' about my friend. I got yo' message this morning, Bob. Y'all -- y'all threaten me all you want to and everything. I don't like fuckin' niggers from jump street but call me or whatever and I'll -- but the day I burn five cents on gas to help that fuckin' cocksucker Cory Maye get out of jail is going to be a hell of a damn day. But -- uh -- if you want ot talk to me like a fuckin' white man, you talk. But don't threaten me on bullshit. Get your NAACP motherfuckers -- I don't give a fuck -- niggers, bro, fuck niggers! But I'll tell you what. That's a good friend of mine they killed, buddy. I'll -- I'll tell you anything. I'll -- I'll be honest with you as fuckin' gum (?) street. But I don't like no motherfucker talkin' shit to me or about my friends. Alright, well look here. Call me today and look here. Y'all buy my fuckin' gas, the NAACP buy my fuckin' gas I'll come talk to y'all or whatever. But look here. I'm -- I'm a poor-ass motherfucker too, bro. Call me. You got my fuckin' number. Don't piss me fuckin' off.

So that’s the sort of man who is reliable enough to convince the police to burst into a black man’s house at 3am in Mississippi.

Kinda says it all, doesn’t it?


* Yes the same defense attorney who was fired without cause from his public defender job when he took Maye’s case.

Hat tip

New blog I kinda like

Though it isn't updated often.

Perhaps Joy.


Rock on, Cuumbaya

Joel Monka has a truly fabulous post about growing the UU church.

If only UUA leadership were running programs like this instead of getting themselves arrested on TV.

who honestly can't even remember what cause Sinkford was protesting when he got himself arrested.

Ps. His post on 9-11 conspiracies is really good too. Some time ago, somebody asked me if I wanted to debate about what happend on 9-11, my side being that the 9-11 report is a substantially accurate recounting of what happened. I was concerned that I didn't have the technical know-how, so I nominated theCSO and Joel to debate in my place. The moment they started sounding like they knew what they were talking about, the opposition totally disappeared.

Voltaire could say no more.

In the Toledo Blade, on Sept. 20, 2006, on pp. 1 and 12 of the first
section, it was noted that in a church bulletin from St. Hedwig Catholic Church on
Lagrange St., on Sunday, there appeared an interesting announcement.
"Listed in between announcements for a polka night and a prayer service was
an item from "Friends/Supporters of Fr. Robinson" announcing a
chicken-dinner fund-raiser for Gerald Robinson, the Toledo priest convicted
in May in the ritual murder of a nun 26 years ago." Further on, we read
"Robinson, 68, was arrested in April 2004, and convicted May 11 in Lucas
County Common Pleas Court for the murder of sister Margaret Ann Pahl in the chapel at Mercy Ann Hospital in April, 1980." On the bulletin board at St. Hedwig's, the announcement of the chicken dinner was posted above a flyer for a Right to Life event.

From an article by David Yonke, Blade religious editor.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So why don't more gay people join a church that is so very proud of how accepting it is?

Bill Barr asked an interesting question in the comments.

The deeper question though, and the one that gets to your buiding UUism, is why a faith that welcomes same-sex marriage has so little appeal --it seems to me-- to Gays?

I lived in Oak Park Illinois with the largest per capita population of Gays in Illinois yet I always felt the conservative and Catholic Churches had far larger Gay memberships. I'd ask Gay friends why and it was because Christian faith that appealed to them.

Our's didn't. Something was missing.

My guess?

Because gay people pick churches based on faith, not on the church’s politics. Why shouldn’t they? Everyone else does.

This is one more reason why we should focus on getting our message out theologically and growing the church rather than telling the government how to run. Because if a person, gay or otherwise, does decide to visit a UU church, and his/her first Sunday the sermon is about the importance of forcing congress to put someone we like on the Supreme Court (something the UUA Washington office encouraged ministers to preach about,) that person is going to assume we are the League of Women voters and tell his/her friends that and anyone who cares about spiritual concerns will stay away.

Honestly, would you rather be not particularly welcome in a church that you felt would otherwise nourish you spiritually? Or going someplace that accepted, and to some degree pandered to, your demographic, but didn’t feed your soul?

For me, at least, that’s not a hard question.

I honestly think that lots of people, gay and otherwise, would join UUism if they knew who we were and what we believed spiritually. So why don't we talk a little less about how we know how the world should be run, and a little more about that?

Make it not suck, and they will come.


When you're second best, you try harder.

UUpdater has posted his list of blogs most visited from his site and the Chaliceblog came in second behind Peacebang.


Thanks, UUpdater. Thanks, Chalicesseurs.

This makes my day. That's sort of sad, but it does.


Standing on the Side of Keeping Religion out of Schools

Sinkford's latest article in UU World really pissed me off.

So why is it that we are totally in favor of keeping religion out of schools when evolution is the question, but when the subject is sex ed, our church is supposed to behave as a political force to get what we want taught in the schools?

Are we correct? Of course we're correct. Of course I believe in comprehensive sex ed. If a bunch of individuals (UU or otherwise) want to fight for that or give money to organizations that will, they have my blessing. That's not the point. The point is that the UUA is not a lobbying group and has better things to do.

I, for one, am standing on the side of spending our energies growing the damn denomination rather than wasting what little credibility we have campaigning for things we will have no effect on one way or another.

In his letter Sinkford writes "Our leadership in the fight for marriage equality has been sustained and effective," which is a bizarre sentiment coming from a man who lives in a country where gay marriage is illegal everyplace but Massacusetts and 20 states have laws explicitly banning gay marriage and in many cases anything that even SOUNDS LIKE gay marriage.

Sinkford writes "As I told the General Assembly in June, the UUA now has the capacity to advance multiple issues at the same time."

Can we make growing the Unitarian Universalism an issue then? It's not sexy like lobbying, but if we do it right, someday, maybe a politician will actually care about what the Unitarian Universalists think about an issue.

Until then, while there are on 217,000 of us in a contry with 300 million voters, I promise you, nobody does.


Small vindication on Rhode Island

That church is Rhode Island is still having its pagan pride day. You can read about it here, in an article that all but admits what I surmised a few days ago.

From the article, which ironically I found because Robin Edgar was using it as an example of UU awfulness:

In a letter being circulated among members, one critic called the scheduled series of pagan workshops...

This is reporter talk for "You know that controversy we wrote about last week? There's really no there there. It's just one nutjob with a knack for publicity who didn't like the festival and managed to make himself sound like an organized opposition by passing some copies of his rant around and then calling my boss and making me write about his one letter as if it represented an actual controversy. But the story was fun to read, wasn't it?"


Are there humanists who don't like pagans? Sure, and vice versa. But I still maintain that the majority of both groups get along and are minorities within their own churches. I don't get much out of pagan rituals myself, but I don't have to go.

I don't see Paganism as taking over UUism or trying to, despite, yes, the one sermon I attended where a pagan minister preached that this was the plan. (That guy creates a lot of bad blood. If you're a pagan and you know who I'm talking about, you might want to do yourselves a favor and ask him to take it down a notch.)

But in Rhode Island?

It was just one cranky dude who knew how to manipulate local media.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Brainstorming session: Banal things

Could y'all list some banal things in the comments? This is for a writing project.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Learn somethin' new every day

I got a good deal on green beans at the farmer's market and was looking for good bean recipies. I came across this one, commented upon thusly:

This green bean dish is considered the ultimate comfort food in America. Most holiday meals (especially Thanksgiving and Christmas) wouldn't be complete without this green bean dish. This dish can be done early in the day.

The dish is some sort of cheese and green bean casserole. I'm sure it's fine if you like that sort of thing. But it was weird to see it advertised as an American traditional dish without which holidays are not complete when I've never had it.

Ah well.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

VA politics on the Colbert report

Hat tip to Sisyphus.

Doesn't she have an intelligent face?

Her Honor contemplates the world.

I swear this blog will not turn into Dooce and Her Honor will be allowed to grow up with privacy despite living with a blogger.

But I am gonna put up a few baby pictures.


Admit it. You're morbidly curious

Yep, Beltane makes me squirm.

A humanist response to Joel's post on Humanism vs. Theism played out in the church in Rhode Island having a controversy over the church hosting a pagan festival.

This isn't sneering, but I always dreaded Beltane when I was in a congregation with a critical mass of pagans.

I didn't like the costumes or the chanting or the maypole or the Queen of the May election all out on the church lawn in a big festival. I always thought it made us look sort of silly. And whatever the pagans do is reflected on us. As I sat at the toasting table and tried to play along, I was nervous as I watched people walk by on the sidewalk and stare.

And pagans who invoke the four directions without using a compass make me nuts. "North" is not the front of the church. It's a real direction. Find out which direction it is and point that way for goodness sake.

Id disagree when Joel writes I’ll tell you old-school UU Humanists out there something: you should thank Bertrand Russell that you don’t always get what you wish for... if all the UU Christians and UU Pagans left, the average age of the average congregation would approach triple digits, and the membership list would drop down to double digits- and half of them would be Buddhist. We irrational, superstitious psychotics are keeping your doors open; the least you can do is sneer at us behind our backs instead of right in our faces.

The people who strongly identify as Pagans and the people who strongly identify as Christians and the people who strongly identify as humanists have always seemed to be in roughly equal numbers in the congregations I've attended, and all minorities compared to the larger group of people who are just want to be Unitarians withour adjectives.

All that said, there's no way I would have signed such a letter. (And there's no reason to believe that all that many people did sign. If the letter had a lot of signatures, the reporter would have mentioned it. This whole controversy could be the work of one crank wrote wrote a bunch of letters and called a newspaper editor, who told his reporter to go investigate and come back with a story. This stuff does happen.)

I think it is telling that the local news article Joel cites calls the situation "Unitarians" sparking a controversy and the story never makes it clear which Unitarians are doing the sparking or that the distinction even matters. Though we aren't always the best of friends, we're indistinguishable as far as the rest of the world is concerned, so we should do our best to get along.


Friday, September 15, 2006

New Appeal Brief in Cory Maye trial

The Cory Maye case is something I've been writing about for a long time.

Another previous post is here.

Anyway, the document is here.


I'm starting to think that non-Crazy animal rights people need their own club

Because the head of the Humane Society is quoted here as saying we should start calling dogs "canine Americans."


Is it just me or...

is the MySpace angle in this news story pretty much irrelevent?

I know it is sexy to write about the awfulness of MySpace, but geez...


Thursday, September 14, 2006

On going Vegan suddenly

Peacebang’s post on her bad experience with Lean Cuisine Swedish Meatballs reminded me of a time when the CSO and I had the opposite experience.

We had some vegan friends who lived near San Francisco and we went out to visit them for a vacation. They offered to let us eat meat when we went out, but we figured “when in Rome” and ate Vegan.

We arrived on a Thursday night. As the weekend progressed, we kept having these little arguments. By Monday morning, we were not happy people. We were bitching at each other and arguing, saying some really hateful things I recall, and we could no longer hide our mutual nastiness from our friends.

We were all spending Tuesday in San Francisco, so that morning theCSO and I politely excused ourselves and went off to a diner to talk things out.

We both ordered bacon and eggs.

Fifteen minutes later, we were laughing and talking and best friends and lovers all over again.

I think any rapid change in diet will mess with ya.


Niftiness around the blogosphere

Apparently, sleep drug Ambien can have a really good affect on people in persistant vegetative states. Read about it here.

I'm delighted to hear this, but also worried that it will start the Terri Schiavo fight all over again.

I've always thought that body parts were an underappreciated subject for art. Apparently these guys agree with me.

Yesterday, I read the post about men of Miss Kitty's generation at Miss Kitty's and I emailed Linguist Friend and was like "Dude, go respond to Miss Kitty." The post was good, and all of the comments were really good. It's a great discussion, go read it.

A woman getting into an altercation at a bar isn't typically news. Unless you happen to be Instapundit's wife. Then it becomes a blogopshere-wide issue. Here's Happy Feminist's take.

Oh, and Ann Richards died. This really sucks. Katy-the-Wise once provided the prayers at the prayer breakfasts Richards had in New Orleans. Katy told me once that Richards, who was campaigning against a guy who wanted taxes to be sales tax only, had held up a huge can of Aqua Net (that's really hardcore old lady hairspray, for you non-Beauty-Tips-For-Ministers readers, it comes in a huge can...)and Richards had said:

"Do you know how expensive this can of hairspray would be if we adopted this sales-tax-only stuff? And I go through two or three of these a week!"

Ok, Katy-the-Wise no doubt tells it better, but you get my drift. Richards was a cool lady (follow the link if you want to see how cool,) and the world sucks slightly more without her.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Clarification on PETA

Rather than railroading a discussion at Peacebang with my own axes to grind. (Heh. Mixed metaphor.) I'm going to respond more fully to a comment there right here.

PowderBlue wrote That’s why the animal-exploiting industries focus their attacks on the characters of PETA’s members and their communication style rather than the content of PETA’s reporting, which they of course prefer not to talk about."

First off, PETA has been caught in mistakes and exaggerations many times.

But to me the primary issue that makes this hard to discuss is that animal-rights activists and I approach this issue from such different premises.

Fundamentally, I believe that if an animal has to die, even painfully, to save human lives, then that is unfortunate but quite acceptable.

And make no mistake, Mary Beth Sweetland, the diabetic PETA executive who uses insulin, believes it, too, at least when it is her own life at stake. She's just apparently OK with letting other people die for her beliefs.

She was quoted in Glamour magazine saying I'm an insulin-dependent diabetic. Twice a day I take synthetically manufactured insulin that still contains some animal products -- and I have no qualms about it ... I'm not going to take the chance of killing myself by not taking insulin. I don't see myself as a hypocrite. I need my life to fight for the rights of animals."

But if YOU have a disease as scientists are trying to find a cure by testing on animals, PETA is against that. Sweetland needs her life, you might not need yours.

While I think that Sweetland's position is pretty indefensable, I do consider "An animal life is worth the same as a human's if we wouldn't test something on humans, we shouldn't test it on animals. If I get diabeties, I will control it through my diet and hope for the best" a moral and decent position. But it doesn't leave much room for discussion.

We can discuss how PETA's tactics hurt PETA's cause and make people think that animal activists are all nutjobs, though, and that is usually the point I try to make as it so nicely points out some of the problems in the comparable activists I see on other issues.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

And in other news from CC's church retreat...

I made a kilt out of colored duct tape for this girl's toy monkey. We named him "Angus McMonkey."


Notes from the church retreat

My YRUUERS have a rather politically incorrect joke they like to tell.

The joke is called "the pimp and three hos." If I were telling you, I would sit in front of you and say:

"once upon a time there was a pimp who had three hos. He calls the first ho over and said "you owe me $100."
The woman says "no, I only owe you fifty dollars."
"don't correct me, Bitch!" the pimp says, slapping her.

He calls the second ho over and said "you owe me $200."
The woman says "no, I only owe you 150 dollars."
"don't correct me, Bitch!" the pimp says, slapping her.

He calls the third ho over and says "you owe me $300."
The woman says "no, I only owe you $250 dollars."
"don't correct me, Bitch!" the pimp says, slapping her.

Then the pimp called his forth ho over...

This is where you would probably say "But CC, you said the pimp only had THREE hos!"

And I'd get to slap you and say, "don't correct me, Bitch!"

Now this is nobody's idea of polite humor, but in YRUU and life everything is a teachable moment and this joke has really made me think about a few things.

Thanks to this joke, "don't correct me, Bitch" has become a running joke in our youth group.

The little corrections, those "that's not how the song goes," bits of information that we all say so naturally, now earn one a sharp though joking "Don't correct me, bitch!" from my YRUUERS.

The "don't correct me, bitch" is now in my head and I notice corrections far more easily. I'm intrigued.

We correct each other all the damn time.

I'm not saying this is completely a bad thing. I like to be correct and half of correctness is knowing when you're incorrect and fixing it.

But their joke does have me thinking about how often I correct, and whether I really need to do so quite so much.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Postcard from CC

CC is still on vacation in Ohio through tomorrow evening. Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here!

You've probably already heard that Little Miss Sunshine is a good movie. CC concurs, FWIW.

I believe the first trailer I saw for Little Miss Sunshine was back in May or so and before the new X-men movie. I said to theCSO, "I have to see that movie." TheCSO grumbled that it wasn't his sort of thing.

The movie isn't particularly well advertised, but I saw several more trailers and each time thought, "I have to see that movie!"

Having seen it just last night with LinguistFriend, I'm telling you now. "Y'all have to see this movie."

Perhaps this well-written, well-acted, well-directed satire on the American ideal of "winners" versus "losers" hit me so hard because it was a jolt of needed perspective to someone who is low-level freaking out about her law school applications. Having some experience with dysfunction myself helps, too.

My sense of humor is exteremely non-slapstick, so there were times when that aspect was a little much for me, but even those fit with the characters and were less painful than I usually find slapstick.

The comedy itself is dark and in places a little mean, but I don't think I've ever seen a family in a movie who loved each other as much as the Hoovers do. At one point as they are all push starting the bus and helping each other jump on, I realized that the feeling of teamwork and mutual support they showed was what we're trying to induce with those cheesy ropes courses we make the YRUU kids do.

And the parody of pageants was spot on. I have no experience with beauty pageants whatsoever yet judging by this and Drop Dead Gorgeous*, I like movies that make fun of them. Perhaps that's the plain girl in me talking.


*Drop Dead Gorgeous is funnier and is more directly a comedy than Little Miss Sunshine, but it doesn't have much soul. Both movies are really good in different ways.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

More on groceries

This post started out as a response to Kim, who wrote:

Why would it look like that and not like your local Farmer's Market? Lots of places have farmers markets that are a lot of little concerns

We would need quite the confluence of factors for farmers markets to work for that:

Your local farmers market would need to be:

1. Open when you can get there (I have to got to the farmer's market in the next town over that's on Saturdays. My town's Farmer's Market is only open Wednesday mornings.)

2. Willing to accept food stamps. (Some do, most don't.)

3. Willing to grow and sell some stuff out of season, unless everyone's willing to give up eating out -of-season foods. (Lettuce is a cool season vegetable. At my local farmers' market, the only lettuce available right now is from a boutique lettuce grower who sells fancy brands groen hydroponically at five dollars a bunch.)
This may not apply in parts of California where the seasons are more even.

4. Open year-round with stuff to sell. Because if it's not, we don't get vegetables between mid-December and early May.

5. Accessible to public transportation. (Though even then, if you have a large family and no car, getting your stuff home will still be an issue. It's less of one at grocery stores where you can stop by every other day and don't need to buy a week's worth of groceries at one time.)

6. Willing to open in less desirable neighborhoods. Not that low-income areas have an overabundance of grocery options now, but occaisionally a big grocery store will open up there and Walmart keeps trying. Ideally, the poor should have access to fresh vegetables, too.

Now, I'm not saying that it's impossible that Farmer's Markets could get there, but at least in my neck of the woods they have a long way to go.

As for the picture in the post below, which is of the local Mom-and-Pop grocery and butcher in Bowling Green, Ohio, the point is that we romanticize small grocery stores because they are cute and we like the idea of knowing our grocer, but the truth is, I think most of us like being able to buy tostadas and thai peanut sauce and guava juice and pectin and leeks and all the weird stuff we like. Small grocers can only stock the basics.

I had a headache yesterday afternoon and we discovered that the little market doesn't even sell ibuprofen. (OK, they don't sell bottles of Ibuprofin. They had little travel packets of Motrin available for 50 cents, but that wasn't practical.) Making an extra run out to a drug store was no big deal, but imagine having to run to an extra store or two every time you needed something that a place with a produce section that looks like this doesn't sell.

I can't help but think that the day of Mom-And-Pop grocery stores was the day when women mostly didn't work and could be expected to have the time to go seven different places to buy everything their families needed.

That said, I don't want every store to go to the Walmart method. I like buying clothes in a store that sells mostly clothes where the salespeople like clothes and can help me pick out something. But for groceries? Viva la Kroger.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

If we only had Mom-n-Pop grocery stores, this would be your produce aisle.

Viva La Kroger

Who took this at a small grocery store in Ohio

Notes from an attempted vacation

So, an airport security guy just went by on a segway and this lady went "Look!" like it was the coolest thing she`d ever seen.

I didn't bring any makeup on this trip as I was concerned it wouldn't make it through security. At the checkpoint, the guy explained that liquids can be packed in to luggage. To me, that makes no sense. Couldn't exploding liquids do their jobs just as well in the luggage area? Explanations on that one are welcome.

Also, from a terrorism perspective, I'm sort of creeped out that my pedometer didn't set off anything when it went through the metal detector still clipped to my slacks.

I couldn't sleep and left the house at like three for a six thirty flight out of Baltimore. It turns out that was overkill but as I'm sitting here at 5:39 awaiting my flight, I can see that people are already at the gate across the way awaiting the 7:25 out of Memphis, so I wasn't alone in assuming security would suck more than it did.

Ok, segway guy has gone by three more times on that thing. He's starting to bug me.

Guh. They just announced that the jetbridge isn't working and they are hunting for a solution. My solution is "move the dang plane" since we`re the only flight out if this terminal until the 7:25 to Memphis. But nothing's ever that easy.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Oh, and...

I finished Chuch Palahniuk's novel Diary. Palahniuk really does horror fiction well, IMHO, though it is a more subtle kind than Stephen King could touch.

The book is set on a creepy resort island and has much to say about class disparities and, more centrally, the relationship of suffering and art.

I got my copy from the library and somebody had underlined a sentence where Palahnuik was writing about the very rich's habit of finding a peaceful vacation place and ruining it. Sedona, Key West, Sun Valley, the paradox of a half million people going to the same place to be alone." Much as I disagree with defacing library books, I did agree that this was a line worth noting.

The plot's a little thin, but plot is rarely the point of a good horror novel, even a mostly psychological one like this one with very little actual violence. There's an aspect of the end that still doesn't make much sense to me.

But I'm creeped out. Profoundly so. So the book has done its job.


Who has also read Christopher Buckley's No Way to Treat a First Lady this week. That was a lot of fun, with humor really reminiscent of a very well-written Boston Legal episode. But it really didn't inspire a post.

People rock.

I've been kind of down and cranky the last few days. I'm sure why, though I have a variety of pressures on me right now. I'm going to see Linguist Friend in Ohio for a few days and that ought to help. TheCSO's mom sometimes goes on a retreat to this place in a forest where the nuns take care of you and you can meditate. Linguist Friend's house full of books, with a guest room that always smells a little bit like the catbox that usually occupies it, is sort of my version.

(For whatever reason, thinking about meditation is reminding me of the the time, as a college freshman, I took a Tai Chi class with my incredibly competitive roommate. After the first class, she asked
"Did you feel anything?"

"Not really," I said.

She sniffed, "Oh. I got my chi. I could TOTALLY feel it.")

Anyway, intellectually, I'm looking forward to my trip away, but I've still got a cranky squeeziness inside.

An old friend found me on Myspace the other day and sent a message. I sent a message back. Just got a response this morning that read, in part,

Hi! This little digital internet world is fabuloso right?! God who knew we would cross paths again. your humor always made me feel like i wasnt alone in the world


That's about the nicest thing anybody's ever said to me, even better than that lady at Victoria's Secret who said "You've been measuring yourself wrong. You're actually a D cup," which made for a good day, too.

So now I've got a cranky squeeziness inside, with a little spot of hope.

And that's an improvement.