30 October 2008

Smile! For The Not So Candid Camera

I am on Facebook now. There might be two or three others who are not, but judging by the teeming hordes that were already there I must be among the last.

A church member suggested it, a younger member, a much younger member meaning someone under forty. It all seemed pretty silly at first, and lots of it still is. But like junk food and MASH reruns, there is something habit forming about. I only drop in at night.

I think the appeal is that nothing important happens there, or needs to happen. There’s a certain intentional and institutional goofiness about how it’s laid out. People send one line messages, like text messages but for public consumption. Right at the top it asks. “What are you doing right now,” to which you can respond, but not very much. The text box is rather small so anything more than a sentence is hidden. This invites a silly response and therefore makes the whole thing like a party.

But I hate parties!

What I hate are noisy, busy, frenzied, crowded parties. Facebook lets you take your time. Even on line chatting goes kind of slow. The people are not actually there, of course, and you can think about what you write or the messages you send. Not deeply, but enough to make sure you are intelligible, funny, kind, caring.

In other words, there are a lot of people to talk to, but you can decide how many and how much and mostly do it one at a time. And no one can see you scratch your nose, or worse.

No doubt more high octane stuff goes on outside the peripheral vision of my AARP eyes, but who cares? Facebook slows us all down just enough to connect at human speed, but fast enough to make it fun.

Somebody is getting rich.

26 October 2008

Ludwig, Bill and Me

I am really ticked off today because the office upgraded computers and software and now all my programs look different. For example. I like seeing all the keystrokes, including spaces and paragraph marks. But with this new layout I can’t find that option. Likewise,”Outlook” now looks very different and I cannot find where the switches and buttons are.

Meanwhile, back home, I have spent almost two full days moving my jalopy of a computer network at home from one internet provider to another. It was supposed to be easy. My former provider, note the word “former,” sent me mail almost daily about how much I could save if I bundled my electronic services like phone, tv and internet. These are lean times so I bit. Instead I got bit.

Actually, getting the new internet and VOIP and TV bundle was easy (from another source and all in two hours). What proved wild and wooly was disconnecting my old router/print server and reconnecting. In the end I gave up and bought and new router, added a signal enhancer and a separate print server (way more money than I ever planned to spend) and proceeded to spend a day and a half getting them up and running.

What do these things have in common? They reminded me of my innate conservatism. My threshold for uncertainty depends on what is up for grabs. Theological, intellectual, emotional, and political uncertainties are easy. I prefer them. Personal matters like food, sleep, and the assortment of daily tasks I prefer to be rather predictable. When I cannot exercise, do not have my preferred ice cream (Edy’s low fat ‘dulce la leche’) or my glass of shiraz (Yellowtail) or get to bed after 1030, I am cranky. When the internet is gone, or my ability to write and communicate is thwarted, I am angry and finally scared.

I suspect we are all conservative in some ways and liberal in others. What a pity we use them only to describe ideologies and theologies rather than what they really are, temperaments. Maybe that’s another of my conservative things, wanting us to use words clearly. Who knew Wittgenstein, Safire and I would be rowing in the same direction?

22 October 2008

Bread and Chocolate

I love traveling. Especially overseas. But time and money and college tuition and the exchange rate and more have not allowed that for seven years. If I am not careful, I will confirm my friend’s observation that by the time you have enough time and money you have lost so much hearing and eyesight and mobility that you can’t enjoy it.

My list is long. Istanbul and Petra and Athens and Granada are high up on the list. But I could as easily go back to Rome or Vienna. Oddly, Paris is not a favorite of mine, except for one thing.

“Pain chocolate.” This breakfast indulgence of the French exists here as well, but it is platonically ideal there. Croissant pastry wrapped around an ounce or so of excellent dark chocolate, in the right proportions and baked within hours of eating, which when baked marries the two without spoiling either, is incomparable.

And as it turns out, it is probably the only way I should enjoy either bread or chocolate, which is to say rarely. These past two weeks I have enjoyed more of both than I usually do, and to my horror the scales leapt up.

Careful eating habits and common sense assure me I have not eaten an extra 10000 calories in the last two weeks, so I am surmising that for some reason my body responds to bread and chocolate as some people do to salt – holding its moisture. As I prize seeing no more than 185 pounds on the scale, this means cutting back on both these lovely things. As someone long ago said, “thin feels better than fat tastes.”

Age does force choices that youth can ignore. Late nights, loud music, multiple drinks, and rich food are fun at 25. By fifty they taxing. You start doing cost benefit analyses. Much as I love the narcotic pleasure of chocolate, the cost is too high. As sumptuous as the croissant is, the quiver of the gallbladder is worse.

I could lament this loss, but I think it is not a loss. Rather, my choices now have clear and often quick consequences. That’s good. Maybe our current economic state would have been better served if the real cost of SUV driving, super sizing, and Mcmansion buying were evident. If age brings us to a clearer sense of what reality is about, then bring it on. We could all use a little more pain and a little less chocolate.

18 October 2008

Wassamatta U

Anyone remember Rocky and Bullwinkle? One of their wonderful lame puns was Wassamatta U, Bullwinkle’s alma mater. I thought about that this morning because it combined two facts this week that conspired to keep me from writing.

1. My internet connection caved. In my effort to combine the several accounts I have with a company named – well let’s just say it’s initials are the same as American Telephone & Telegraph – they ended up cancelling my order without telling me and then cancelling my extant DSL service as well. I spoke with voices in Ohio, Michigan and India over three days and now I am worse off than I was before.

So the only way I can connect is through my workplace, where I am right now, unwashed on a Saturday morning, before attending the memorial service of a former member.

Anyway, that’s the first reason.

2. Secondly I spent yesterday on a campus visit with my son, who is a HS senior that took all day. Great day, lots of fun and questions and so forth, but it ate up the whole day.

Now you get the joke, right? Something was actually the matter, and I was on campus – rah rah.

But being that I am unwashed, wearing sweat pants and a crew cap behind my desk, and people are coming for an all day meeting I simply have to get out before my state of undress is known to one and all. Once again the truth of SNAFU and FUBAR are evident, but were they ever not? Compared to Wall Street I am debonair. See ya!

11 October 2008

Coming Unhinged?

I now know what Kurt Vonnegut meant when he said Billy Pilgrim was unstuck in time.

This past year, in the cracks between tasks and chores and deadlines and just wasting time, I have eked out the first 100 pages of a spiritual autobiography. It started after I revisited St. Augustine’s Confessions. But the first part arrived with a tone that reminded me of Holden Caulfield. The second part has aspects of Thomas Wolfe. I expect to find Allen Ginsburg in a later portion, and maybe Henry Louis Gates in another.

(I may seem to flatter myself, but these are voices that ring in my head, having gotten there before starting this thing. (Parenthetically, George Carlin has begun to affect my preaching. Maybe I’m channeling him!))

My real point is that when you really get into your past it comes back in full force. Not just memories in the sense of what happened, but sensations, emotions, the person I was as a child can come back so strongly that I find myself wobbling between then and now.

So it was that when I did my part in our National Coming Out Day service this evening, the residuum of a particularly hard day in my childhood, coupled with attending Yom Kippur services this week, turned my voice toward remorse and regret, very much to my surprise.

I was not in the present.

Of course, being in the present is what we are all supposed to be, the more the better. Casting away the past is even part of the Yom Kippur ritual. I feel very spiritually inadequate at these times.

And yet something tells me we cannot cast away sins or anything of the past until we have fully lived them through. It may be that when some moment from my past rushes up to claim my present mind there is some unfinished business.

How much of today is simply yesterday deferred I wonder.

10 October 2008

Change Is Good!

As long as everything else seemed to be whirling about, I dccided today was a good day to update my look. Why? Well, I wanted to get your attention, but mostly I wanted to point to a little thing over on the left - followers. I have no idea who reads this thing, unless you tell me.

So tell me.

I've got a sermon to write today, so that's about it for now. But believe me there is plenty on my fevered brain. Watch this space!

03 October 2008

At Least You Get Free Giggles

Every time I write something I check it and proof it and "mark it with a B," as the poem says. And still gaffes get through. You could say I have Bidenesque fingers, but the fact is that I can't type. Those who watch me laugh hysterically.

Spellcheck helps of course, but sometimes my mistake is not a misspelling at all. It's another word. I typed "sing" for "sign" yesterday, for example.

The good news is that you knew what I meant. Some researcher somewhere, my brain remembers many facts but rarely their their provenance, found out that most words can be read eevn wehn atrsioucly mpslelled so logn as teh first lttre is crroect adn the rtes aer mstly prsent.

See, you got that, right?

No excuse of course, as my William Safire loving parents (his linguistic not his political chops) taught me. My religion and politics may be relaxed but grammar and logic are rigorous. Sloppy thinking, both the ideas and the expression, are anathema to me. Which is why I do not watch debates. It's a solid ninety minutes of intellectual vandalism. "O, the horror!" as Conrad wrote.

Well, my sermon is whining like a half dressed toddler, so I must be off. Enjoy the mistakes. Think of them as a "free gift."

(my father hated that phrase!)

02 October 2008

A Gift That Keeps On Giving

A friend yesterday told me he checks my blog every day to see what I might have written. I say, why not subscribe?

He did not know he could. Yes, he can and so can you. Down at the very bottom of this page are two things. One says “view my stats” and you can click on that to see how many (or few) people drop by from day to day. But above that is an orange square with some white lines that are supposed to look like radio waves or something.

Click on that and you will go to “feedburner.” Don’t worry, it is a safe site. In the yellowish box at the top it says

“You are viewing a feed that contains frequently updated content. When you subscribe to a feed, it is added to the Common Feed List. Updated information from the feed is automatically downloaded to your computer and can be viewed in Internet Explorer and other programs.
Learn more about feeds.

Subscribe to this feed

Click on the “subscribe to this feed” and a little box will open that you confirm or cancel. Once you confirm, you will get all my posts sent directly to you. How cool is that?

More ranting and raving soon. But in the next three days I have a funeral, a wedding, and a Sunday service. That means today is kinda full. But I promise if a few of you sign up I’ll make sure you get a little something real soon!