Monday, June 29, 2009

Safari feature turns me into a cyber stalker

hmmm...I just realized that one of the new features of the Safari update we downloaded recently automatically registers visits to websites we frequently frequent.

It's an interesting application, drawing up a screen with "top 12" screenshots of your popular sites.

I couldn't figure out why the stats for my blog kept showing me repeatedly visiting it even when I knew I hadn't. Apparently, instead of maintaining an image of websites with a link attached to them, like a visual "bookmarks" or "favorites", Safari is actually "visiting" those sites every time it's opened.

Considering that our computer is always on, and multiple people use it off and on throughout the day, my IP address must appear dozens of times a day on certain blogs, even when I am not actively visiting them.

I must seem like a cyber stalker.

I'm not sure if I like this feature.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Grumpy

I'm not a rude person, in general. I'm very patient in grocery stores and traffic jams. I'll put up with inefficient servers and cashiers. I'll ignore most of the stupid things that people say to me and chalk it up to cluelessness...like when a family member said having breast cancer would get me a free boob job.

They weren't trying to be offensive and insensitive. They thought they were pointing out what seemed like an awesome benefit to them.

Everyday incidents like that, I seem capable of releasing. However, I wonder if I really just store up my frustration to keep ready for my true enemies: telemarketers and door-to-door salespeople.

This past week two people came to the door trying to sell us the local paper. I told them we already had a subscription to the paper. They proceeded to try and convince me we needed another local paper, so we could have two different perspectives. I told them I wasn't interested, thank you. They continued to try and persuade me, at which point I simply closed and locked the door in their faces.

The Rationalist was shocked. He'd never seen me do something like that.

"Mom! That was so rude! They were trying to talk to you and you just closed the door in their faces!"

"Yep...I did."

I'm such an unrepentant sinner.

My stance is that if I have been nice enough to politely listen to a person's opening spiel and inform them that I am not interested in their magazines, cleaning solutions, or meat products....and they refuse to accept my verbal decline of their services....then I am under no further obligation to be "nice."

They are coming onto my property, interrupting my day...usually while I have something on the stove, or have visitors...and being generally obnoxious and pushy. They are ripe targets for my wrath.

Telemarketers also fall victim to my discourteous replies, especially if they have called us more than once. Discover has called me 4 times to get me to enroll in an extra program. I declined nicely the first 2 times. The most recent time, frustrated by their repeated attempts to enlist me in something I have blatantly refused, I was not pleasant.

Today, as I was leaving the store, I answered my cell phone only to have someone ask for my dead father. I mentally tried to figure out who would have associated our cell number with my father and drew a blank.

"May I ask who is calling?" I said.

"Yes...it's Wachovia. We are calling our business customers and asking them to take part in a survey about customer service, and to see if we can interest them in any of our other services."

I was perturbed and annoyed. My father's account was closed and a new account was created...an estate account which is clearly labeled Estate of Daniel M. It was through this account that Wachovia had obtained my cell phone number. It should have been clear to anyone looking at the account that my father was dead and that I was the personal representative of the account.

"My father has been dead since October. He won't be able to help you out. You would notice that if you actually looked at the account."
I hung up.

I should have been nicer, I know. I was just too annoyed by the idea that a banking professional would have no clue about something so basic as the fact that estate accounts don't exist for living people.

I felt guilty a little while later.

I asked myself if 70 times 7 should be extended to telemarketers and salespeople.
How delusional does a person in a high-level public office have to be to think that they can leave the country to carry on an affair, without letting a single soul know where they were, and still manage to keep their marriage and political career intact?

It's an interesting and predictable phenomenon in politicians.

Narcissistic, selfish, egotistic behavior at its height.

So narcissistic, in fact, that the governor seems incapable of even understanding the gravity of his situation.

Surely there is some psychological disorder, or category, that can be created to label politicians and their bad behavior as part of a larger mental incapacitation on their part.

Once we establish what "it" is, we can start profiling political candidates and ruling them out on the basis of their disability--self-absorbed, lying scoundrels.

Oh wait...then we wouldn't have any politicians.

"Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys" needs to be changed to "Mama, don't let your babies grow up to marry politicians."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Relationship Rules

My encounters with God can come and go. I have had frequent times of silence from Him and other times of sublime peace and reassurance. I have had times when I wonder if I have wandered too far off track and times of feeling as if I am in the exact place I was meant to be in.

It's a slippery thing to try and capture.

As I sat in church today, watching the people enter and find their seats, seeing the young children skip down the aisle and dart in and out of the pews, I had one of those moments of clarity and peace.

Everything I ever learned came from another human being. Stretching all the way back to my childhood there is a genealogy of transmitted ideas that shaped who I am. Like some sort of unseen electricity passing through a superconductor, the thoughts of others have flowed through me, sometimes causing new thoughts within me which I later passed on to someone else in an endless game of telephone.

While I have had experiences with God as an individual, it is as a part of humanity that I have most often heard or seen Him. Whether it's listening to music which speaks to me, or reading something that gives me a new insight, or simply the physical touch of people who care about me, there is a consistent sense that I am a part of something larger than myself....something better than myself.

It's easy to think of wild-eyed prophets eating locusts and honey in the wilderness as examples of piety, swallowed up by isolation as they try to hear the voice of God away from the noise of all the other voices. The monastic life, meant to be dedicated wholly to God, seems purer and more holy than the ordinary existence most of us live.

Yet.....I wonder if the idea of retreats and pilgrimages and self-imposed isolation is a doomed enterprise, spiritually speaking.

When Jesus preaches to the crowds and heals the sick, it is it in the masses that the power of God is coming upon the world. When he delivers the Sermon on the Mount, he is teaching people righteousness through right relationships. He uses the Good Samaritan to cement the idea that loving God is loving people....serving God is serving people. He is pointing us in the direction of living relationally with people.

We are refined through other people. We are comforted through other people. We are given opportunities to live sacrificially and unselfishly through people.

Nothing comes to us that doesn't first pass through another person, both good and evil.

When we withdraw from life, or people, we hamper our own spiritual growth. I have been guilty of hiding within myself when I have felt misunderstood, or not quite accepted....but I never overcome those feelings without re-entering relationships and choosing to attempt to be forgiving and gracious to people who don't "deserve" it.

In the same way, I have been most satisfied when I have been useful to someone else. Knowing that I was a small part of the endless transmission of God's encouragement and love, in my own meager way, fills me with peace.

Friday, June 19, 2009

DH and I don't exactly have the best track record for working together on projects around the house. Putting up blinds, painting walls and patching drywall could land us in divorce court infinitely more easily than an affair or financial issues ever could. We're able to work well in almost every other area of our lives, but put a hammer or screwdriver in our hands and suddenly communication breaks down and becomes a series of grunts and irritated sighs.

We butt heads. We're too much alike. We both are take-charge kind of people.

To surmount this marital obstacle, we usually delegate projects and only work on things jointly that are simply impossible to do alone. However, after almost 12 years of marriage, we may have finally conquered our territorial leanings.

We repaired the duct work in our attic.....ourselves....together...without a single argument....with nary a bad mood.

We have either evolved, or simply gotten too old to care about fighting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Overthinking Things

We've been visitng my in-laws for a few days. It's always a pleasant time to relax and have fun with them and our children.

To be helpful, I decided to wash some dishes and fold their laundry.

As I was folding their shirts and shorts, I realized half of the load consisted of their underwear. I initially folded everything else and left the underwear in a pile because I thought that I wouldn't want other people folding my underwear.

A while later, I worried that they might be offended that I folded everything but their underwear....like I was afraid they had cooties or something!

I hurriedly went back and folded every pair.

Neuroses....it's what makes life interesting! :-)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Up Side of Living in Florida

Beautiful day at the beach.

The reason why they're so skinny.

Washed over by a wave.

Freely floating.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Blogging Slowdown

Today's the first day with no school for the boys.  

That means my blogging will probably slow down or become even more superficial....because I can't really think clearly with kung-fu sound effects ringing in my ears as my children use their ninja super-powers while fighting the imagined bad guys that lurk behind every corner of our house.

Plus...I'm going to try and actually have a productive summer, which means not taking advantage of the ability to sleep in until 8 or 9 in the morning.  Whenever I sleep in it always seems to completely mess up my momentum.

If I haven't answered your comments...it isn't because I'm ignoring you....really...I promise!

I just haven't gotten to it yet...plus I'm prone to procrastination.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

earth2100--scary comments

I followed the link I had to earth2100 in my earlier post, just to make sure that it was set up properly. Once I followed it, I noticed that the site had 939 comments on the show.  They varied in intelligence and coherency.....but this one caught my eye:
"The problem with freedom is that it promotes the notion in uneducated people like him that their opinion matters. It doesn't, he isn't a scientist and has no clue what he is talking about yet he thinks his ideas are valid. The other problem is we only react to a crisis, we never prevent them before they happen and that alone will eventually kill us. Couple that with the plague of ignorance that freedom breeds and religious fanatics that actually WANT this disaster to happen (like god is going to welcome them all to heaven if they cause the planet to be destroyed with overpopulation) and we are most likely doomed."

Did you get that?

Freedom is a problem.  Not only is freedom a problem...it breeds ignorance!

Holy Communist Party, Batman!  I think Stalin's forces are trying to take over the Bat Cave!

More Disaster Scenarios

After writing that little blurb on earth2100, I suddenly remembered a movie that absolutely petrified me when I was in either 3rd or 4th grade....The Day After.
"The film portrays a fictional nuclear war between NATO forces and the Warsaw Pact that rapidly escalates into a full scale exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, focusing on the residents of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, as well as several family farms situated next to nearby nuclear missile silos. The film was written by Edward Hume and directed by Nicholas Meyer. The film was released on DVD on May 18, 2004."
All that childhood angst did pan out for me, though.  I won first place in my fourth grade essay contest when I poured out my firmly anti-nuke sentiments into a paper that must have ultimately amounted to,"I don't want to be disintegrated into ash, or live on with horrible radiation poisoning....please stop using nukes."

My school thought it was a genius paper and even gave me a trophy to stroke my ego.  I'm not sure whatever happened to it, or the essay I wrote.  They're probably buried in a box somewhere at my mother's house.

All I really remember was that my classmate, Jennifer S., was mad at me because she came in second place and I had just beaten her at the annual Spelling Bee the week before. Sour grapes, I guess. Or maybe she wanted to see us all burn up in a nuclear holocaust. 

As an adult, I have always hated disaster movies.  In fact, I can't watch them without making fun of them:

"Oh no, a giant earthquake is going to kill us all! ....and the government won't listen to the world's expert on earthquakes!"

"Oh no, a super-volcano is going to kill us all!...and the government won't listen to the world's expert on volcanos!"

"Oh no, a category 10 hurricane is going to kill us all!...and the government won't listen to the world's expert on hurricanes!"

"Oh no, a new tropical virus is going to kill us all!...and the government won't listen to the world's expert on infectious disease and microbiology!"

You get the picture.  Thousands die in the first crisis.  The government starts listening to the world's expert in the related discipline.  The world recovers, stunned but full of new promise, having learned the lesson that we must always listen to world experts.

Without further ado.....the awesome destruction from The Day After. 



P.S.  Is it any wonder that The Day After was also shown on ABC?  

ABC--Alarmingly Bleak Coverage

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Earth 2100--or 20 ways to give yourself an ulcer


It's so good to see that it's not just End-Times-Obsessed Christians who can find ways to try and terrify everyone they come in contact with.

I can only imagine that this must have been written by a New Yorker/East Coast Environmental Liberal...because everyone knows that once New York City gets wiped out, all of humanity is going to hell in a hand basket.

The depiction of New York as the shining city on a hill is laughable.

And once the environment starts to decline, of course that means democracy and human decency will evaporate.

ugh.....thank you for the brain-washing ABC!  I feel so much better being told what to think rather than having to do any of it for myself.

Cinderella's Apprentice

I spent yesterday cleaning the carpets and upholstery in our house.  I still haven't managed to get rid of the Great Butter Stain of Christmas 2007. DH accidently dripped a line of melted butter 4 feet long onto the carpet while helping bring food to the table. Kind wife that I am, I never mention it to DH, except for every time I vacuum...or we're having company come over, or it's a month with 31 days.

I clean it...it comes back. I scrub it...it comes back. I unleash onto it a payload from my chemical arsenals....it comes back. I twirl in circles while chanting Native American spells and burning incense, or is that my cooking?....it comes back.

I feel like I'm Lady MacBeth, shouting,"Out, damned spot!"

or

like I am trying to rid myself of Georgiana's birthmark.

See how useful my English degree turned out to be? I can think of obscure parallels about my housecleaning. I'm so glad I spent thousands upon thousands of dollars becoming edumacated.

It really takes the sting out o' my drudgery.

Monday, June 01, 2009

How I Changed My Mind

My change in perspective has come about in several ways.  The first step was in realizing that the doctrine of "inerrancy" that I had been taught and embraced for much of my Christian journey was basically wrong. The aftershocks of that still rumble through me every once in a while. I had become so used to looking at The Bible as a singular "Word of God" in which every word, every story, and every principle had been handed down through perfect, divine revelation that when I began to poke at the concept a little and noticed it crumbling under pressure I was distraught.

When I was younger, I attended a Christian University. I took several religion courses, some as requirements, and some for my own personal interest. I probably would have majored in Religion if I had belonged to a denomination in which women were valued in leadership roles. However, I belonged to the SBC which has been, and continues to be, disproportionately obsessed with enforcing traditional gender roles in the Church. As such, it seemed like getting a Religion degree would serve no purpose in that particular denomination for me. It would be useless as far as pursuing any official role in ministry. I wasn't really open to other denominations at that point, convinced that while the SBC wasn't perfect it was as close as possible to what I thought of at the time as "biblical" Christianity. 

I wasn't ignorant of New Testament studies, or even the knowledge that the compilation of the Canon was not as straightforward as it seemed. I had a divided mind on the issue without realizing it. That divided mind was reinforced and affirmed not only by my fellow students, but by most of my professors. I was blind to the fact that the ways in which we spoke about Scripture were contradictory. On the one hand, we would have great discussions about conflicts surrounding the formation of the Canon, or particular doctrines, noting the uncertainty of what it all meant. On the other hand, each Sunday would find most of us in very conservative churches affirming that Scripture was the "Word of God" in that mystical, magical way that imported great meaning into every verse we read.

Some of my professors were also ministers in local churches who, without a doubt, taught their congregations the doctrine of inerrancy. I didn't think it at all unusual.

The two prongs undergirding inerrancy, without which it can't stand, are the beliefs that everything that happens in history happens by God's purposeful, sovereign will, and secondly that the writers of Scripture were somehow more holy and peculiar in their relationship with God, passing along insights which were given only to a very elite group of people. Without belief in those two ideas, inerrancy cannot hold up.

I've recently connected the first idea to Calvinism, finally understanding the ways in which it interacts with that strain of Christianity. It is no coincidence that Calvinists and the doctrine of inerrancy are so interlocked. It's hard to tell which came first; the belief in inerrancy causing the formation of Calvinist theology, or the idea of God's far-reaching, sovereign, active control of every aspect of the Universe causing a belief in inerrancy. Because the Church assembled these texts, it must be God's will that The Bible we have is the one we were meant to have and has been carefully inspired and preserved by God. In other words, it happened in a particular way, so God must have willed it to happen that way because nothing happens, in this view, that God hasn't willed to happen.

Is that clear as mud?

If you're a Calvinist, then you have no problems that can't eventually be solved through this circular logic. I don't mean to sound uncharitable, because to be truthful I can't find any belief system which doesn't at some level have circular, self-validating logic. We can't know all things, so any comprehensive opinion on the matter will always have some basic presuppositions guiding it. Some presuppositions are simply more sweeping in scale than others.

Now I have long glanced down my nose at Calvinism ever since my freshman year in college when one of my new friends explained that her pastor taught that Christ didn't die for everyone's sins, but only for those whom he chose beforehand. Everyone else was just plain out of luck and better bring some marshmallows to roast during their long stay in Hell. I was outraged, aghast, revolted, and convinced that this was the worst heresy I had ever heard of. Slowly, I began to realize that not only did this particular friend believe this, but so did many other people, including some of the professors I knew. There were variations in how strongly individuals held to TULIP(only follow that link if you're up to tasting some strong Calvinist Kool-Aid), some expressed a weak assent, while others wholeheartedly viewed it as the "theory of everything" making sense of the Cosmos for us lowly humans.

I was young and earnest in my faith. While never completely reconciling myself to Calvinism, I did begin incorporating some of its theology into my view of God. I was proving the principle that humans, despite their best intentions to be objective, are notoriously easily influenced through time, repetition, and the appearance of authority. Because pastors and professors were communicating these concepts, they must be at least partly true...right? 

To concede that they were completely wrong would have shaken my faith to its core. I wasn't at a mature enough age to handle that kind of dissonance and keep any shred of belief intact. It was all or nothing. To believe that the people who were teaching me were gravely mistaken would have called into question any trust I might have had that I  knew anything about God, or that my experiences with Him had any merit to them.

So what changed?

Well, I could never get around the Calvinist version of God's Sovereignty and the horrific tragedies throughout history. There are really only two ways to reconcile them.  One way is to dispassionately declare that God willed even the most terrible things to happen because he had some higher purpose, or just because he wanted to. He has some master plan going on and even The Holocaust was a part of that plan.  Another way is to consider that much of what transpires on this blue planet is in no way connected to God's divine will. Evil is perpetuated by people who make evil choices. Not everything that happens occurs on the basis of God's active choosing.

I could never, in any way, make God the author of Evil in the way that Calvinism does. Calvinists will say that's not what Calvinism teaches, going to great lengths and producing voluminous works to try and redefine very basic ideas of good and evil and causes in order to portray God as both Sovereign and guiltless of evil.

It doesn't matter how many words are used to do this. Even my 9 and 7 year old children would be able to see through that kind of reasoning in a few minutes....see my last post for more evidence of that. (As an aside, I think it's funny that people always tell us to "be as little children" when we question things, implying that children readily believe whatever they are told.  My experience with children is that they are the most severe critics and detectors of BS....hardly unquestioning drones.  They naturally poke and prod at most everything they are told.)

If God doesn't cause everything to happen...if circumstances aren't the way they are because God caused them to be...if events happen in history which aren't God's will....then on what basis can we declare Divine intervention in the compilation of the Canon? It doesn't mean that God couldn't have intervened and caused the Church to assemble this particular set of Scriptures. It doesn't mean that God couldn't have inerrantly inspired the biblical writers. However, it does mean we can't appeal to the logic of " it happened in this way, so it must have been by God's will."

So, if you're not fully Calvinist in scope, you can't rely on that presupposition to support inerrancy.

I'll work on another post about the second prong of upholding inerrancy next.