Wednesday, 30 August 2006
I said, "Thank you."
I was coming back from a seminar on how to sub with an temp agency I've repeatedly joined over the years. I'll not say which one out of respect for the agency, not because they did anything wrong, but because what I'm posting could be construed as negative. I've recently been contemplating some of what Jim Wallis says in God's Politics, and my friend Aimee's blog.
We were told some of the guidelines for teaching. A couple new ones caught my eye. You may now not touch a child. At all. Oh, at the high-school level, I can shake hands, if I'm offered a hand. But no pats on the shoulder for a job well done. You also may not compliment a student's shirt, or anything like that. Why? Another student might not be able to afford that shirt, and then feel sad.
I'm missing Morocco. As long as the student was male (considering the Arab culture), I could even freely hug a student, and it was no problem. I fully agree that children need to be protected, both from predators, and also from feeling bad. A teacher need to be careful of what they say, so as not to cause injury to other students. But how far do we go? I'm reminded of a couple pseudo-therapists that ran a small group in our pre-field orientation we had before going to Morocco. They were fully immersed in American culture, and learned that I would be living with an American family in Morocco that included small children. They warned the family that they should be careful, not having me hug the children or spend time alone with them. Why? I'm a single male. These small group leaders were operating out of the American cultural standards, and out of fear. In Morocco, this would not be an issue. After I heard about these suggestions, the result was an estranged relationship with the children, for fear usually leads to broken relationships. Doubly hard if your love language is touch, as mine is.
This temp agency I went to is not to blame for their guidelines. They could easily be sued if they didn't have them in place. Rather, we face a culture of fear throughout America.
With these guidelines the teacher in America is reduced to saying general platitudes, without touch, though most therapists would tell us that touch is a key part of showing love to children. Combine this with No Child Left Unrecruited, and I do think we would be better served with robots rather than human teachers under the current guidelines. Everyone is supposed to be teaching the same things, to meet the same test standards. They may not touch. They may not make personal compliments about dress. Seriously, couldn't we program computers to do the job? We could have them say every once in a while, "Good job, Johnny- you got an A." You could even make the voice sound human- no need for the Will Robinson style robot. We fear the students falling behind; we fear the rest of the world passing the U.S.; we fear our children being molested by their guardians and those who were supposed to protect them; we fear their feelings being hurt- and quite suddenly our educational policies have been built upon the edifice of fear, rather than learning, or even love.
At what point did we start to put fear on the pedestal to worship? When did it become possible for the government to issue a "blanket alert" about a "general threat", and that would suffice? It's one thing indeed to protect ourselves from serious threats, like stopping the use of SUVs to keep the earth from warming up and flooding. Or keeping track of sexual predators so we know if they move into our neighborhood. But it's quite another when we do everything to avoid the possibility of the image of a threat, even before the person is known to have been a threat. But when FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, George II took this as prescriptive. It's not as if the current president is the source of all blame in this- he is operating in the same mindset that we all have. Whether or not I should date a particular woman, the sole reason I didn't give her my number was fear. And the result- less relationship.
I knew a guy once who said there is no fear in love. That the opposite of love isn't hate, it's fear. Yes, we are all a lot safer if we are behind high walls, in full-body contact suits, and never interact with anyone else. But what of the quality of our relationships? My brother Kent, a therapist, tells me that since the internet was invented the number of close relationships the average American has has halved. The more we withdraw, the safer we are, with fewer relationships. Yes, all possibility of the child being abused is removed if the teacher doesn't touch them. But what other possibilities are removed as well? What of the possibility of real caring love being expressed? Yes, if no child is complimented in any way specially, other children won't be hurt. But is there not then a loss of personal relationship?
My dad used to talk about the fortress mentality, where everyone had bars on the windows because it was the murder capitol of LA, with 11 murders in one square mile in a year, right near where I lived in Venice Beach. The bars kept people out, and kept people in. You didn't approach your neighbors because of the bars; you didn't feel you could approach your neighbors because of the bars on your own windows. So we made it a point to leave the door unlocked, so we could freely let anyone walk in, and use our stuff, in order to build more relationships.
Why is it that Jesus first words to groups, and angels' first words to individuals, were "Do not fear."? And yet we are commanded to fear God. I think this is because fear is not negative in itself. It is the type of fear, and the object of the fear. A general dread lacks hope. A feeling of the numinous, directed at God, is an entirely different thing. And so our feeling of fear- of sexual predators, of terrrorists, of killer bees, all of it- is a form of idolatry. For we have placed Something Else on our alters, and not God, and that Something Else is now what runs our lives.
It is not enough to say that when we operate out of fear, we become paralyzed, and can not go as far, as fast. That may be true, but it is not enough. When we operate out of fear, we pursue something that the Bible states is the opposite of love, and therefore worse than hate. Jesus was all about increasing relationship, not destroying it. I would suggest the way we can know that we have created an idol is simple: did our fear lead to an increase in the depth and breadth of relationships, or a decrease?
Tuesday, 29 August 2006
The cruise was mostly dancing, drinking (water), and talking. Mostly I did talking. And I'm proud to say that I actually talked with a woman I didn't know for an extended amount of time, and I think I sounded interesting. But that might be just the water talking. At the end of the cruise, I determined I'd give her my number. But at the last moment that seemed far too scary.
It's difficult to find a safe place within the Christian world to explore potentialities. To say you're interested has become The Love That Dare Not Speak It's Name. You're not even supposed to talk about the concept. If you go to a single's event, you are often told that no one should actually be looking for a relationship with someone there. We are told we should follow I Kissed Dating Goodbye, rather than take the risks. The result is that most of those at single's gatherings pretend that they are there for completely other reasons, and the idea of pursuing a relationship gets degraded to the point that Song of Songs should rightfully be removed from the canon. At some point we as Western Christians lost some of the respect for the beauty of relationship that God intended for us in the garden. So I'm grateful for these rare opportunities to begin to try to work on relationships.
As Christians we are a judgmental lot, of which I include myself. I had a Coptic friend in Egypt once ask me who was the founder of my church, the Jesus Movement. I told him the closest thing was Lonnie Frisbee, pictured here. Without missing a beat, he responded from his own cultural background, asking what Bishop Frisbee was doing these days.
Sadly, nothing now. For he has gone beyond, passing away a few years ago. I remember when he prophesied over me when I was young in Hawaii, saying I would influence many people. He was a very charismatic figure. It was he who was truly responsible for the growth of the Calvary Chapel movement. He walked in with a bunch of hippies into an Assembly of God church, barefoot and threadbare. Unlike most churches of the time, Chuck Smith is to be credited with not turning him away. But Frisbee was the evangelist of the group. He was the explosive force behind
the Calvary movement, and later behind the Vineyard explosion with John Wimbur's Signs and Wonders, that went on to have a heavy influence on Fuller and Peter Wagner.
Why haven't you heard of him? He was also gay at one point, and died of AIDS. Our Christian charismatic leaders aren't supposed to struggle with that kind of issue. There's often not room for a David or Samson in our theology, tragically flawed but still leading people to Christ. David Di Sabatino has become kind of the historian of the Jesus Movement, and has now put together a movie of Frisbee's life, recently screened at a number of festivals, including at Fuller Seminary. And I'm proud to report an abridged version of the film will be on local PBS at multiple times November 19th-23rd on KQED in San Francisco, narrated by my father, Jim Palosaari.
Friday, 25 August 2006
The poetry was also pretty good. Went with Adrian and thoroughly enjoyed myself on Capitol Hill. The poetry this evening was less angry, and more honest, than two nights ago. There was some good stuff two nights ago, but in retrospect it felt like, for the most part, they were trying to be raw, to be earthy. Here it actually was. There was less of the blatantly sexual- nothing wrong with sex in poetry, of course, but there is if you have to throw it in in every poem, every line, just to titillate. There was so many great words tonight I felt like I was drowning in the goodness, and the music. One guy not only looked like my dad, but even had the same stage presence, cadance, and rhythm of my dad- it was eery.
To complete the night of cheap wine and poetry, I was inspired as I listened, and thought:
Perfected without form,
Able to fill any vessel,
It draws me in,
Depths without measure,
Pulling me towards pure beauty,
Till I am surrounded by all,
It is murky ether
Slowing me down in deed and thought,
And I am content to rest in the air of Jupiter,
Finding my place in the rapture of the deep,
Once I see through a glass darkly.
Now I see face to face.
The depth of death.
Death comes to us all
...........and thank God.
Not a blissful release,
Not an angry opponent,
But the hope for transformation.
Wells of possibility,
Coming to greet me,
Pulling me forward,
Till He surrounds me,
And the rest is silence,
Within the sacrifice of life.
Thursday, 24 August 2006
The International Astronomical Union just came out with their new deliberations. Contrary to all expectations they reversed the recommendations of their board, a rare action indeed. The board had recommended that a planet be a body sufficiently large enough to be somewhat round by collapsing under its own gravity (somewhat, as Earth and most other planets are not actually round) and circling a star (so Charon would be a planet), resulting in three new planets: Charon, Xena, and Ceres. Instead the IAU voted to add one addition- the planet must have cleared all the objects out of its path. This refers to the development of a planet in the current Nebular Model. Planets start off as planetesimals, with every piece having some amount of gravity. The more gravity, the more pieces attract other pieces to them. The more they attract, the larger they get, the more gravity they get. Therefore in a matter of a few years you have a planet, clearing all other objects out of its path.
Theres a lot of controversy over this. The debates at the IAU were very contentious. Only 300 astronomers voted out of 2500 available at the IAU conference. The new guidelines arent completely precise. Pluto crosses Neptunes orbit, its true, and therefore has not yet cleared its path. Yet therefore neither has Neptune, though of course Pluto started orbiting long after Neptune did. All of the inner planets, including Earth, have major asteroids in their path, and therefore wouldnt be planets under the new definition. Even Jupiter has the Trojan Asteroids in its path. Therefore an object that isnt completely done with its work clearing paths can never fully be a planet, under the new definition.
But for now, rather than 12 planets, we are down to 8- Pluto is no longer a planet. At least until the IAU votes again and makes another decision. I must admit a certain sadness. Adding is always more enjoyable than subtracting. But there is a certain truth to it that I can see too. Round, yes. Circling a star, yes. And also, big enough that it controls the space around it- clearing its path so to speak.
But there is a great teaching opportunity here too. For we may not like the new guidelines, but that is what astronomers do. Sometimes students get the idea that science is merely competing beliefs or ideas, rather than a deliberative decision making process. They can begin to believe that a science teacher can choose what they teach, or change what they teach if they are convinced enough. But when we teach science, we don't get to decide what is true or what is not- we simply teach what the scientists do. That is the job of a science educator- to teach the scientific method of decision making. Whatever my pet beliefs or preferences, I must subsume them, if they run contrary to what scientists do, discover, and determine. I am not doing my job if I teach anything else.
Wednesday, 23 August 2006
It turns out there are a lot of poetry venues in the Seattle area. So I went to my first poetry reading ever. To be clear- not to pick people up. One, far to shy for that. Two, wanted to actually listen to poetry and enjoy it- as well as see about the possibilities of people who have similar interests.
I'm staying with my friend Adrian now for a couple weeks, who has a beautiful condo above Lake Union. You can see Gasworks Park from here and the waterplanes lifting and landing. And every week there is a sailing flotilla, where it appears everyone tries to get as close to each other as possible without hitting each other.
So tonight me and Adrian went off to the Poetry Slam. It was...interesting. Lot of anger there. Lot of gay artists angry at all straight folks, but in a sexually explicit way; lot of African-American artists angry at whites and everyone, in a sexually explicit way. Some evidently famous folks as well. Some of it verged on rap. Lots of call and response from the audience. And there was some real good poetry too.
It started with an open mike. Particularly I enjoyed a woman sharing about "One day I'll realize my thighs can not save me."- how being with a guy is not the end all to life. You go girlfriend. Then there was the feature, done by Mike McGee and Lizz Straight, the latter who has a webcast on poetry out of Florida, the former who has won a number of awards for his work. Loved Mike's bit on being in love with pudding. Nice to have not all the poetry about how hot a guy thinks women are, or how hot he thinks the men are.
And then was the actual slam, which I found out is a contest. I decided to take a risk when they were asking for 5 volunteers for judging. Then I discovered that the audience cat-calls the judge if they don't like the rating. And I tended to give low ratings to extreme anger. Some anger in poetry is fine, even good. If all your poetry is angry, well, you need more out of life. Heard Maya Angelou speak once at Oxy. She has some great angry poetry. She also has a lot of other emotions. And her anger is expressed in an original way. They started with 9, winnowed to 4, and then voted on the last 2 for the best. I was supposed to judge on originality, content, and presentation. So I graded down when the poet just read from a book in front of his face, or where it was the same old sexually explicit stuff, or was explicitly racist (against whites), or if I tried really hard and couldn't figure out what the person was talking about. I found sometimes it was difficult to just enjoy the moment of the poetry 'cause now I had a job to do; at other times I knew I would grade high as I was swept away in the moment.
My favorite, and the one who won, was a Philipina teacher, Angelique I think, who gave a poem on what it's like to be Philipina and wealthy just because she's American, when her compatriats live in squalor on dumps in the Philippines. It was heartfelt, delivered with vigor, and full of honest emotion. Her second poem was like the first, but about her children in the classroom, and how they come in discouraged with the life they lead, constantly berated, perhaps by previous teachers, having to dodge bullets at home. She needs to be the teacher who encourages them in their potential. The final poem was probably the most personal, as she discussed a dad who was always angry with her, but now is growing old, and can't hold the same energy he once had.
This poetry event, a bit too raunchy at times. I'd like to find something a bit more honest. And Cheap Wine and Poetry at a $1 a glass sounds like just the ticket. I do love poetry, reading and writing. But for too long I haven't pursued my soul, and lived life deep. As an INFJ, if I don't invest in the artistic emotional, I don't think I'll be able to truly understand myself and others, or feel like the life that is happening around me bears any semblance to reality.
I entered a contest once, with poetry.com. They assured me it wasn't a vanity press, and that I had won the right to publish The Factory. They assured me that they would never publish it except in it's entirety, as I told them I did not want it published abridged. Then they told me that I had to pay only $50 to buy the book. I declined, as that was, and is, a lot of money.
A friend recently discovered that the poem was indeed published, and abridged. But when I contacted Poetry.com, they denied having ever published it. This I've discovered is a lie. Turns out that poetry.com is well known for misleading it's customers, always telling them that their poetry is excellent, for a price. They have been repeatedly investigated for fraud. You can see them above on the ads in adspace, under "Free Poetry Contest". I'd love to remove them, but of course, I can't, since Blogspot has repeatedly messed up this website since suggesting it migrate to the Beta, and nothing works right anymore on Blogger. Whatever you do, resist the allure of the Beta!
It never stops, the rumbling factory-
I believe it’s function is the production of our air.
It intercedes between the hills and forces it’s presence.
Tall concrete walls surrounded by barbed wire protect us from the pipes that spew out liquid, perhaps water.
It is good the fence is there,
lest we be tempted to run to the factory and hug it close,
thanking it for it’s existence among us.
The wood rises up next to the edifice,
and the hill remains
remembering when Natives conducted life with it.
Unlike the evergreen ever present in L.A.,
here there is some hint that the year has a cycle.
If I pick my way through occasional trash
I can see new grass shoots coming through the ground of the hill from the last storm.
Today the air makes itself ready for it’s next weather onslaught,
and the clouds hang at the top of the hill
and below the tops of the houses.
The factory billows clouds drifting out in a mist,
over the branches,
then with an eagerness they return on themselves,
settling before me among the trees,
speaking of a fresh morning on the heather,
of a long walk on the moor,
when the sun is not yet risen but is no longer missing,
when the ground rises about me and the numinous surrounds me,
when the nothing that is possible happens.
The hill here is always green,
as the factory continues to rumble.
Before the Beginning
In the beginning
Let there be light.
But before the light?
............(it was good)
There was the crash and pouring of rain from murderous waters,
Currents that dropped into the depths and rose to create a Pantholassa,
Darkness of mystery that called forth ecstasy,
An ocean not yet saturated with salinity,
An air not yet purified with oxygen.
Poison choked the fullness of life
And allowed freedom from death.
From latitude to longitude
Babelous waves climbed as they desired,
Hurricanes encompassed hemispheres,
And the cycle of water was the symphony of all existence.
The remains of The Little Mermaid tumultuously churned before visions of her were possibility,
Climbing up the face of the ripples that rose into waves that found their purpose as tsunamis
Ruling all of creation,
With no equal.
And the Spirit of God
Moved upon the face of the waters .
Monday, 21 August 2006
Victoria is an exceptionally beautiful city, with lots of fun for tourists- and lots of tourist dollars expected. There are sculptures of bears everywhere this year; last year it was Orca. The city is more environmentally friendly and more European in feel than most American cities, with an architecture that feels far older than one would expect of a 160 year old city.
This year was a little more disjointed than past years' reunions, as so few people were at the campground, but rather at various homes. I arrived via a very expensive ferry ride from Seattle to Victoria ($125), but really the only way to get from Seattle to Victoria in a reasonable amount of time. After the ferry ride I had my now customary extra security check with Homeland for 20 minutes ("Where have you been in the last year?" "Yemen, Dubai, Morocco." "Please go through those doors over there, sir..."). It was kind of interesting watching them look closely at my stroke medication, which I purchased in Morocco so it is all in French. In Canada, he could actually read what it was for. I of course had another 15 minute security check to look forward to on the return cruise. But disappointing- they didn't check the computer this time, and I had it all rigged up password-protected, with a background screen with a helpful quote from a previous post title.
Owen picked me up, and it was great to see him and Sandy for the first time in about 6 years. (They were guitarist and singer in Servant back in the day, which is just now releasing it's titles on CD.)
There at the house were Shaina Rose and her husband, newly temporarily moved to Bellingham, Washington, as well as the John and Suzie with their kids- and it was especially good to see them, as I hadn't since the commune ended. Unfortunately they all had to leave after the first day of wandering around Victoria, leaving only Owen & Sandie, Steve & Julie, and Kevin & Debi Gowey.
Owen gave me a ride that night to the campsite, tree-filled Goldstream Provincial Park. It was my 2nd time camping in the last few weeks, and there were some differences. Turns out most provincial parks have raised areas for camping, filled with gravel. And that is decidedly uncomfortable to sleep on. Happily Paul & Lydia (elders in the commune along with Owen & Sandie and my mom and dad) provided me with another air mattress. However, they didn't arrive until late that night, and they were the only ones camping that night with me. There are other campers nearby, but far enough away that you only see the glow of their lights and hear the strange sounds they make at night. Which if you've seen episodes of Lost recently, decidedly doesn't help when you're all alone in the middle of a foresty area.
So most of my good conversations I had were with Paul, as he was around- which is a real blessing. He has recently won the Social Worker of the Year award in Canada and was mentioned on the floor of Parliment. He cares deeply about justice, the poor, and the equality of women. And he loves stories- getting everyone to tell their story, and helping people appreciate another's stories. He is a man filled with grace.
Steve & Julie were in Victoria to compete in the Victoria Dragonboat Festival going on this weekend- which explained all the paddles on the ferry. It is truly a festival, with a lot more than just races. Seen below are some of the Chinese dancers they had on stage.
Steve & Julie have been racing for years, and their team raced 4 times today.
Dragonboats are evidently sort of like crew, but with one paddle per person, and a large drum, sometimes beat, sometimes ignored in favor of yelling. The Portland Firedragons, Steve & Julie's team, came in 2nd in nearly every race, but by an amazing photofinish, less than a second behind. In the video above they are the third boat to appear, and you can see how they pull ahead for a moment, but are neck and neck with the 2nd to the bottom team that eventually wins. They ended up winning 2nd in the 3rd division down, bringing them 22nd overall in a tournament with over 180 entries.
Our time was spent between the dragonboats and the campsite- like I said, a bit disjointed. Unfortunately we had less time to really be together as compared to the norm. But I still really appreciate the chance to get together and affirm our long standing bonds. Steve impresses me again with his commitment to the community- he says that our commitments to each other didn't end just because the community ended, and then he backs that up with his actions, in repeatedly organizing the reunions and being commited to all of us as a group.
Every year we have a time of sharing, usually Sunday morning, but this year Saturday night. We discussed some of Servant's more prophetic lyrics from Look Out Babylon, 30 years ago:
"Soldiers in Afghanistan
Sanctions to Iraq
But where the Oil flows the most
Is where the tension lies.
Look out, Babylon,
You're going to have to pay your dues!"
In the midst of the darkness our voices floated out, disembodied due to dry season fire restrictions. Paul shared some of how my brother Seth's gravesite down on our old property in Southern Oregon is now substantially cleared of blackberries, with fresh gravel laid down, new stones for him, Fred, and John, and an arbor. There is discussion of having next year's reunion down at Rouge Valley Campground near Grants Pass in Southern Oregon. It would give an opportunity to have a memorial service for those laid there, as well as visiting the land.
Paul shared about his teaching classes on community. He tells of how much the treeplanters, the economic backbone of our community, made in a day, and asks his students if they would be willing to donate that amount. Usually they are. Then a week, a month, a year, and the total time working. Over the course of 10 years treeplanting an individual could make about $400,000- all of it given to the community. The students are invariably shocked at this, and unsure if they could donate that much.
I was struck by how much God had been moving in Dylan's life of late, as he expressed a real faith and humility. Dylan, Paul's son, was there with his daughter Gracie and his niece Djambe. And I had some really meaningful conversation with Owen, who has done a great deal of work on getting the Servant CD's released. We drove out looking for the Happy Valley House that I lived in when I was 5, but too much has happened in 30 years- we found the road, but there was no way we could be sure on a house that might be torn down, repainted, remodeled, with new housing, or new vegetation.
I was impressed that there were 4 couples there who were still married, to their first wives. It's so rare these days. I asked Owen and Sandie why that was, when they had been through so much. They had a lot of good reasons. They'd never escalated an argument to the hyperbolic, accusing the other of being absolutey wrong. They said they could tell with great anguish whether a couple would stick together or not by how they argued. Did they accuse the other of "never doing" or "always doing" something? Did one partner send out peace signals in an argument, and did the other party receive those signals to diffuse the situation? Where they "for each other"? Owen & Sandie both felt they were incredibly lucky to have the other one. And they practiced "the three dailys": daily prayer together, even if angry with each other; a daily word of affirmation and appreciation; and a daily time of sharing your feelings about something in life. They attributed this to being a powerful bonder in the hard times.
In observing and talking with people, especially Owen, I realized something about our break-up. I've worked for years tring to understand why we broke up, and probably will continue to work for years on that. It's important for me, as it was my entire culture, and it died. There are plenty of reasons for it ending- we were too authoritarian; Jonestown painted all the communes of the day in the same brush; the hippie movement from which we drew ended; more of our members were ex-college students who didn't adapt well to our authority structures; the IRS decided we weren't a church because we didn't have a steeple and wanted $24,000 in back taxes; we focused too much on the band; we had visionaries and managers but no closers who reviewed what has happened and worked on fixing problems...The list goes on. But I realized something new that I think might be the heart of it all.
We were great on the horizontal relationship, between people. Honestly, far better than most churches today, where you see people on Sundays and Wednesday nights, and don't ask, if we see someone once a week, then why don't we meet each other? But we were lousy on the vertical relationship, between people and God. Oh, of course we had worship, and talked about God, and prayed and all that. And there was individual quiet times, especially with the treeplanters. But there was no training in that relationship. There was no tradition of contemplation that we built up and talked about. The leaders, often young in the Jesus Movement, hadn't had training in that, and so couldn't teach it to others. And without that vertical component, the horizontal eventually fell apart, became corrupt, dysfunctional.
I really value some of what I've learned of that from IV, Grant Goble, and the Friends. But the legacy of my upbringing causes me not to practice it enough. And I've thought of late, I really need to dwell more in God, spend more time with Him, if I'm to be at all beneficial to others, and be a moment of grace to them. I keep it as a motto, but I need to far more actually pursue being served by God in order to actively seek out and experience Joy. If I don't, I'm in danger of following the way of others who did great things, but have no staying power, for there is no vision and reason to continue. In the end, no matter what things we do for the Kingdom, it comes down to one relationship: between us and God.
Friday, 18 August 2006
I've been reading over the Re-Entry Guidebook on Reverse Culture Stress and have found a lot there that I can relate to. I'm feeling lonely, and wanting to talk about what I've gone through, but at the same time tired of it all and not wanting to talk about it. I feel out of place in relationships. I feel out of place in my life. Feeling clueless about the culture- but then, I always felt clueless about this culture. I can't remember the correct way of greeting- my hand always goes to the chest after shaking hands. I'm shocked at the bare mid-riffs- not because of being in a Muslim country for 3 years, but because that wasn't normal when I left. I remember when songs were mostly sung. I feel like I'm unneccessary, not doing a job that I know how to do- not doing any job at the moment. I don't like leaching off people while I'm here. But I also want to take the time to relax that is the traditional teacher experience over a Summer- even if I'm no longer a teacher. I love moving- but I don't like all my stuff in boxes and not being able to find anything or be settled at all.
I have had some good leads of late. A potential $40 per session of tutoring, and beginning in late September, probable subbing for Kelley Educational Staffing that might be as much as 3-4 days a week. Of course, I have to decide, as I can't do both- one requires a regular commitment, and the other a regular availability at the drop of a hat. But I found out KES has "very positive reviews" of me from when I subbed for them 3 years ago- which was nice to hear, as I hadn't known that, and I always tend to feel I don't measure up to snuff teaching-wise- especially compared to all the excellent teachers at GWA. But it turns out I can only sub for KES- they do private schools, and all public schools now require certification for subbing, thanks to George Bush's No Child Left Unrecruited Act. (The more I hear about it the more I appreciate the empowerment I had at GWA, for it appears NCLB removes a lot of the creativity a teacher can have in imagining lesson plans and yearly schedules. But I digress.)
Feeling like things have changed so much too. I'm totally not on the Reality TV bandwagon. I miss a workable cell phone system that doesn't charge you for incoming calls, cheap taxis, and a train system that runs close to on time at reasonable rates. I'm frustrated because I can't do the things that a man is supposed to do in this culture- like put up a tent, or get around town in a car, or know how a dishwasher works. Too many changes, and I was never around the more advanced stuff even when I was here- like cable and dishwashers. And now you can TiVo things, and I'm still trying to figure out how the cable remote works (which evidently is different from the On Demand remote).
So a couple days ago Kent (my brother) and Trina had a House Warming Party at 1700. If you had quizzed me, I could have correctly told you that an American party would begin at 1700. But in getting ready for it, I just fell into the subconscious expectation that it would actually begin around 1900, and I was totally unprepared for the German couple showing up at 1645.
I'm still having trouble with language. I naturally lapse into Arabic if I hear someone speaking another language, but even with English I'm having troubles. I want to say the English word and Arabic comes out. I'll catch it a half-second too late- it happened the other day with Aimee and Angela at Yearly Meeting, where they thought I was trying to say Arabic on purpose, but it took a moment too long for me to remember the English words. I do better sometimes- I just translate the words into English, saying all the time "God willing", knowing full well that's not a natural thing to say in American culture, but knowing it only after the words are out of my mouth. And then, I'm not sure if I want to lose that, if I'm going back over there shortly. But maybe it's a good thing to say anyway?
Trina has some Sudani/Eritrean friends from her church, who came by to visit today. As I came in I said the traditional "Allah, Allah", if there are women present in the house, that they might know to cover up. Turns out these women spoke Arabic, closer to Fousha, and even with my sad Moroccan style Arabic we were able to communicate a good deal. And when I went to the back room, and greeted their kids in a seemless flow of Moroccan Arabic, there were just shocked faces with their mouths open. As I left I told them, "What? Don't you know all Americans speak Arabic?"
Wednesday, 16 August 2006
The International Astronomical Union Exec Committee just finished their long-awaited two-year deliberations, and have submitted a proposal. There proposal to the IAU will be voted on next week, but they only submit resolutions likely to get a 2/3rds vote. After all the flack over some demoting Pluto to a mere sub-planetary body, they have now proposed a definition for a planet: anything large enough to collapse under it's own gravity into an oblate spheroid (necessitating approximately 800 km in diameter), or round; and anything orbiting a star that is not a star. So, for instance, the moon, Luna, larger than Pluto, is not a planet, as it orbits Earth, not a star.
By this definition, as expected, and as I have long argued to my classes, Pluto and Charon are now a double planet, the only one in the solar system, as they orbit a common center, and therefore both orbit the sun together, not a larger body. Xena was temporarily named such as they wanted to give a nod to Planet X and because the guys discovering it were all...guys. (It has a moon named, you guessed it, Gabrielle. Temporarily.) The true name at the moment is the rather unimaginative 2003 UB313. The amazing thing about this (now) planet is that it was discovered in 2005, is farther out than Pluto, and is larger than Pluto. So the IAU was being pressured to decide soon- if Pluto was a planet, then so was Xena. As indeed they now decided.
But the real shocker- Ceres! Who would have thought??? Now suddenly the Titius-Bode Law no longer has an exception- there actually is a planet between Jupiter and Mars! Lowly Ceres, only 950 km in diameter, is now a planet. Further, there are another 12 probabilities under consideration, that could shortly be planets, bringing the total number to 24. And some are saying there are at least 53 objects that could be planets under the new definition.
What does this mean? If you're teaching astronomy next year, good luck. You might have to have them memorize 53 different names. But it will be exciting, with all the new extra-textual developments to report. And this is just fun! Yeah, it's anthropomorphic, but our whole Solar System is changing! You can visit the IAU website to see a video of our new planets.
Monday, 14 August 2006
The beauty of it was the syncronicity. For in a very short amount of time, in quick succession, those sitting for the bus at 830 in the morning began to hear, "Shut up!" "Kill, kill, kill!" "Shut up!" "Kill, kill, kill". Then a street sweeper, just for fun, began mocking the 2nd homeless, doubling on his kill, so that we got "Shut up!" "Kill (kill) Kill (kill) Kill (kill)." It was positively operetic.
Ah, good to be back home.
On another front of the arts, my church has a ministry, a quilting ministry. They pray over quilts, handmade, that those in the church and other places make, and then hand them out to the sick, mostly cancer victims, at local hospitals. Pretty cool actually- you get to pray for healing, and keep people warm at the same time. And we've got some pretty awesome quilters in the venerable Quaker quilting tradition, like Patty Federighi & Carolann Palmer.
Now, I love the way our particular meeting is set up, for it represents the best of Quaker beliefs, in the consensus of believers. The pastor doesn't lead the meeting; we all do. So this is shown in the way our seats are arranged, facing each other.
But today was something extra special. All of these quilts were spread out over the seats, so that we could lay...hands on them and pray for them, and vicariously for the recipients.
The result was a cornicopia of colour and touch, a feast for the senses. Suddenly the seats were so comfortable, I joked to Aimee that I was so falling asleep during open worship today. Actually, I'm not so sure it didn't turn out not to be a joke. A couple of the sharings did go on a while, and those seats were so soft. Nice job Quaker Quilters!
Since I'm sharing about the arts, something recently came to my attention from the past. I have just learned some added information, that frankly astonishes me. You'll remember I posted about the Etic Eatery, a cafeteria in a school in Morocco that works to Americanize as much as possible. You may remember my mentioning a rather risque picture long posted there, in the center of the cafeteria for all to see, of a cowgirl with her midriff bare, countrary to Moroccan standards and what is generally considered non-sexist treatment of women in most American schools. (There was no guy next to her showing his mid-riff.)
Well, it turns out, if what I've heard is true, that shortly before the final day of school, in fact the very night before, it is now rumored that two teachers snuck in, in the dead of night, dressed all in black, with the lights off, and one solitary lantern to see by. Evidently the aforementioned Elissa was in the adjoining Teacher's "Lounge", busily working on the final adjustments to her latest musical, blissfully unaware of criminal activity right next door. These two teachers then pulled out some acryllic paints, and painted in clothes on the midriff of the cowgirl. She is now fully covered up, and no longer inappropriate.
Frankly, I am horrified to think that the reports of this act of blatant vandalism might have some ring of truth. I would like to think better of the teachers at GWA. I am astonished that such an act could be perpetrated on school grounds, and would strongly urge a complete investigation of this so-called addition to the arts.
Thursday, 10 August 2006
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
I shared that Homeland Security had searched my stuff for 3 1/2 hours at the Portland Airport. I was trying to follow up on this before I shared more, but after sending a letter to them a while back, I still haven't heard back anything. Searching my stuff is fine, for 3 1/2 hours, and grilling me also okay- they have a job to do. And they did it with kindness. But searching through my computer, despite my repeatedly asking for it's return, not so much. Turns out that when I got the computer back, I happened to notice a number of emails were opened. (I always leave them unread.) And the most recent files were not files that I had opened in a long time. Some were clearly private, such as those marked "Journal". Not only was I not asked for permission to read those files, I was not even informed that Homeland had done so. I'd be the last to say there is an inherent "right to privacy" as enshrined in Roe v. Wade. But I should still have the choice to decide what to divulge, at least, when no warrent is present. Evidently, the new laws of this nation of freedom mean that the government can now search your laptop and anything on your possession- as you go through an airport, you give up the rights to all civil liberties that were supposedly enshrined in the constitution. It would appear that even a Fortune 500 executive's laptop could be searched, and corporate secrets discovered. (I don't refer to oil company executives, of course.) I've yet to hear any explanation from the government about this, or even a justification.
I remember when I had freedom once, back in Morocco. Hopefully I won't disappear in the next 24 hours after posting this. Better mirror this site now.
Wednesday, 9 August 2006
But since they are so high, I thought I'd take Amtrak rather than renting a car, to get back to Seattle. $50 more to fly, very uncomfortably, with a couple layovers. $50 to go Greyhound, very uncomfortably, for 25 hours. A comfortable 36 hours on Amtrak from LA to Seattle. Makes sense, right?
Before I left me and my brother went to get more fish and inverts for his aquarium. He's got a giant dinner table-sized freshwater aquarium and a smaller salt-water aqarium 1/2 the size of a dishwasher. Unfortunately, an electrical circuit fried all of his salt-water fish a few weeks ago. (The suprising part is that one survived.) Therefore he needed new fish. Pictured here is an anemone fish, and the featherduster worm with it's tentacles out to capture plankton. I had the honor of naming it "Mom", because it uses a featherduster. I also suggested "Teenage Boy" for the brittlestar, because it's all arms, but I don't think that one's going to stick.
I met up with my 2nd cousin, Leslie, for lunch, and then later Grant & Teri from Oxy days, as well as Brad Arnold. All of these people were of a great encouragement to me in many different ways, and suggested some great ideas for the future. And I got to discover that there are now some 30 channels in LA without cable- and 1/2 are now Spanish in the city of El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula. (Incidently the shortest abbreviation for the longest referent in the world.)
And then I was off on the Orange Line to Amtrak, for a relaxing day and a half trip up North. (This is the part where you yell out at the blond on the movie screen, "Don't go in that door!")
Amtrak has lots of commercials about how wonderful it is to travel by train- longer, yes, but plenty of beautiful scenery. And this was indeed true. The scenery was exceptional. I found myself continuously reflecting on what train travel was like in the US compared to Morocco, which I've used much more extensively. There is a lot more room on the trains here, and they are indeed more plush. You can nearly lie down all the way in the seat to sleep. There aren't individual cars but rather the entire car of seats that you find in the Casa-Rabat train- except that most of the seats are facing the same way. Though I had bought the very last seat on the LA-Seattle run, down on the lower level, I was blessed to get an upper level seat, where you can see more of a view- another difference, a 2 level train. The lower level is for a few seats and about 5 bathrooms per car, including a large one for the handicapped and two changing rooms.
There are no dining cars coming down the aisle. (I kept on expecting it in the back of my mind.) Instead there is an observation lounge with expansive glass for viewing, and on the lower level of that car a snack lounge. The next car over is the dining car, and then towards the front the upper class sleep in sleeping cars costing between $450-$1200 a piece. By contrast, I paid only $175, though for the distance covered (the length of the US from Canada to Mexico is about the equivalent of the length of Morocco), it's still about 4 times the price you pay in Morocco.
I had expected something similar to the Cascades route, from Seattle to Portland, a route I've been on before and enjoyed- fast, with plenty of outlets for computers, and a free movie. Turns out on this route there are very few outlets, as the cars are quite old, though there are a couple movies playing in the observation car. (Never, ever, ever see RV, even if they hold a gun to your head.) But I was able to sneak the occasional socket from the observation lounge, and then get a wireless download in 1 out of 5 stations- always fun to download email and respond in the middle of thin air.
So I settled down for a long summer's ride, 36 hours. But for those of you on the East coast, a West coast ride is far different on the rails. See, on the East coast, Amtrak owns the rails. On the West coast, Union Pacific owns them, and never fails to let Amtrak know. In fact, of late, they have been trying to let Amtrak know this a great deal. At every chance they get, they tell Amtrak to pull over so that the freight lines can run through- freight takes priority over people. On the East coast I'm told trains can run at 100 mph. On the West coast, the trains could do that, but never do, because the tracks are being continually repaired or trains diverted. At times we were ordered by Union Pacific to run at only 10 mph for extended lengths of time. At other times we stopped completely for 45 minutes at a time. The final result were delays far more extensive than anything you find in a 2/3rds world country. I was supposed to arrive in Seattle at 2340. The arrival was actually 340, so I elected to land in Tacoma an hour and a half earlier. Yet a 4 hour delay is not why I would never recommend taking Amtrak again.
I wouldn't recommend Amtrak because never in my life have I experienced such a non-existent level of customer service. Actually, that is too kind. It would be better to describe it as customer attack. It was far inferior to the treatment I regularly got in Morocco.
They had troubles with their regular dining car for the upper-class, and so had to make the journey without it. Therefore all of the sleeping car folks were eating with us in the dining cart, and therefore all dining was by reservation only. Sleeping car folks had times, the rest of us waited for our names to be called. Lunch began at 1100, and by 1400 they hadn't called me. But the snack cart attendant announced that he had to go on a lunch break- one much deserved, So I figured it was best to grab some lunch, as it didn't appear my name would be called. As I sat down at 1430, I finally heard my turn called.
But I started to get pretty thirsty by 1430. I thought though that I needed to wait till the snack car manager was off lunch break, so waited till 1500. At that point I went down to the dining car, only to be told that he had just started his lunch, and I'd have to wait till 1600 to get something to drink. Unfortunate, but the poor guy needed to eat. Except that the dining car attendant told me before I could even ask if there was some way to get a drink that I must wait, to leave, and that there was no way to get a drink. (Later I found that there were water dispensers in the cars.) I was ordered away, and then he turned around and pretended like I wasn't there.
But that wasn't the worst of it. I registered for a dinner reservation with Kimberly, the reservation woman. And because I wanted to make sure I got the dinner card, I waited in the very next room, the observation lounge, for my call. And waited. And waited. Dinner began at 1500. Around 2000 they began a movie. No one mentioned that with the movie RV playing, you couldn't hear announcements in the observation lounge, one car over. At 2040 I went in to the dining car to ask if I could reserve a spot for tomorrow's lunch, as it looks like my name wouldn't be called. I later returned to my seat, only to be told by seat mates that my name had been repeatedly called a 1/2 hour earlier, around 2030. I returned to the dining car at 2100 to tell them I had been in the next car. Up till now, inconvenienced, but nothing remotely inappropriate.
But when I went to tell Kimberly that I had been waiting right next door, before I could get a word out, she immediately started to raise her voice at me, saying she had repeatedly called me. As this was now not the first time I had not been allowed to speak when talking to dining car attendants, I tried to ask for a chance to speak. She continued to loudly tell me that she had called me and that I had not come. I begged her for the right to speak. She accused me of yelling and told me not to do that in her dining car (though I had only begged loudly, not yelling, because she was loudly keeping me from speaking by continuously publically berating me). For she decided what happened in her dining car, and she had many customers to cash out. She told me if I liked, they would find a place for me to eat now, as a special favor, and that I could sit down or leave, but I may not speak to her. (I had as of yet not said anything except asking for the right to speak.) As I had the ability to eat without getting hungry for another day and a half at least, and I prefer respect to food, I told her I would come back when she was less busy so that I could tell her what I had wanted to.
Two hours later I returned, and was summarily told to sit, and speak. I told Kimberly that I had only wanted to tell her I was sitting in the adjoining car the entire time, and had not heard any announcements. That I had come in 10 minutes after she called, to say that I hadn't been called, but no one had said a thing. She focused on that many witnesses had her call my name, and it took repeated affirmations on my part for her to hear me say that I fully believed her, and didn't fault her for that. I had only wanted to say that I had been waiting next door.
It's hard when you have a nearly fully booked train, with very few dining facilities, to serve all the customers. It's a long ride from LA to Seattle. I sympathize with Kimberly and the other Amtrak employees, who have a difficult job. I don't mind having to be delayed, and having to wait to eat. Yet never in my life have I been treated by a service rep in such a low fashion, as if I were a dog kicked to the curb or chattel, with out even the right to speak, assumed to be guilty before I even opened my mouth. And it wasn't just one individual, but the regular attitude I got from those working the dining car. I might take the Sounder some time down to Portland again, but I don't think I will ever again in my life take a long Amtrak train, where I am in danger of being treated as carrion who was stupid enough to fork over $175 with the expectation of customer service.
Friday, 4 August 2006
Things are different here as well. There's now a Gold Line going into Pasadena, and suddenly, the East Side is no longer isolated. I can take the train everywhere, and it takes only an hour and a half from Long Beach to Pasadena. Suddenly L.A. seems like all the other major metropolises in the U.S.
Inbetween visiting my dad, little brother, and friends, I've also gotten a chance to see a few other memories.
The Armadale House, where IV was centered at Oxy, my undergrad. Troy Burgers, with 10% off for Oxy students, just off campus. It used to be called Clancy's, named after the woman who ran it for 50 years, but now they just call it a cafeteria and student center. There's a brand new science center, but the Biology Building, where I spent most of my time studying, remains. There I got to talk with my former Marine Invert professor, Gary Martin, who was a great encouragement in my struggles with evolution and intelligent design. I told him I hope he never leaves Oxy- he's my last real link to the campus, with so many professors having left, and the RV Vantuna that I worked on now gone as well.
Oxy has a number of nods to modern kinetic art, including the famed Star Trek Fountain, so called because it was used in Star Trek III: Search for Spock. (It's at the end where they are returning Spock's Katra to him on Vulcan.) Oxy is a beautiful campus nestled in the heart of LA, right next to Hollywood, so it's been used for a number of famous films and TV series, including Real Genius, and I'm ashamed to say, the college years of 90210.
There's a Herrik Interfaith Center and Memorial Chapel here. It was a chapel my first year there, but then, they realized it hadn't been a Christian college for 60 years, and so changed it. Unfortunately, the alumni hadn't kept up, and there were a lot of complaints from them.
To facilitate this change, the crosses that were on top of the sides of the building were removed, so that it wouldn't appear too Christian. That's understandable. However,the building is still in the shape of a large cross. So, multiculturally, they chose well: architecturally, they chose poorly. And I discovered, after 16 years, if you look closely at the white image above, the mark of the crosses remains. Hmm.
Then on to Fuller. An incredibly beautiful campus, with some intriguing new sculputes as well.
In the center of the campus is a prayer garden, with a small stream running through, perfect for contemplation. I ended my visit there with another helpful conversation with my former Islamics professor, Dudley, as he gave guidance concerning difficulties in applied anthropology, with so many in the country I'd been in against that ideology. After three years of struggle, it's good to be reminded that I hadn't been alone.
Tuesday, 1 August 2006
Bob loved it there. He was pretty built and good looking, and gay guys would follow him home on his jogs on occasion. They would stay a few days in the commune, until they realized what we were on about. Then they would escape out a back window as quickly as possible. I have driven through on the One, but haven't been back since.
Today I returned, to see some of what I once new. I am thankful to Anne for this opportunity. It is truly one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, and I have seen many. There is a certain architectural style that is simply, always San Francisco.
But it has changed, too. I saw plenty of guys holding hands- this looked pretty normal for me- it's standard fare in Morocco. Actually, what most suprised me was seeing male/female couples holding hands as they walked down the street. A new modern art museum in Golden Gate Park- quite beautiful, with strange sculptures that play shadow puppetry with the walls, reminding me of the Crystalline Entity from Star Trek. The Thinker has been removed- but perhaps from my memory. I remember it in the Park. The Japanese Tea Garden still beautiful, but you have to pay now to get in.
Too late, after we've left, on another day, I remember I was baptized in Golden Gate River, in the middle of the Park. We could have visited there. My dad baptized me, asking me if I believed in Jesus as God, and if I always would. I responded that I did, but couldn't say if I would always- after all, who could know. Next time, I must visit.
This day, I got to see what an incredible dancer Anne is. She regularly gets out for all kinds of dances, especially Swing and Contra. I was sad for her, to have to endure my paltry steps, but was quite glad to see her in her natural element, doing one of the many things she is excellent at. I had been quite disappointed to miss out on Swing at GWA when there was a party, as I do love dancing, so it was wonderful to be able to get out there an dance, just a little. We even got to do some modern dance and hip-hop at the end.
There were a number of gay couples there, making it confusing when they said simply "The Leader" rather than "the guy"- I couldn't tell who I was supposed to be emulating. Reminded me of Lewis' rather weak argument against women in leadership- it was practical, but, quoting Jane Austin, not nearly so much like a ball. Though I still disagree with his argument, I for the first time saw the importance of the gender difference in the middle of a dance.
Afterwards we found a great restaurant, Tajine, in San Francisco. There is Moroccan food, and there is Moroccan food. Most of the Moroccan food here in the States gets more expensive. Tajine is reasonable- a little on the high side as compared to a Moroccan sit-down restaurant, but not much. And the food, scrumptious and authentic. None of this lying down on cushions, which frankly they do only in Moroccan homes and the fancy tourist restaurants. Sitting on chairs, as we do there. No Dr. Pepper thank you- only Coca. We had harira, the Moroccan bean soup served at the end of Ramadan, and then a Tajine dajej muqalli- chicken stew without water, kind of. The kind I always had our maid, Zahara, make for us when she came once a week, with preserved lemons and olives- very well done. But even better here, as the olives were pitted. We ate with our hands, as is the style in Morocco, with the left hand in the lap, and endeavoring to stay in our lane in the common dish. My theory is that there are two kinds of societies in the world- those that stay in their lane on the road, and those that stay in their lane in the dish. Never the twain shall meet. I explained to Anne about how that was the tradition, to eat only the food in the dish near you, and that it is very shameful to eat from the other side, using a Joha story. Joha is a wise fool, an every-man, sort of like the Brer Rabbit tradition in the Southern U.S.
One day, Joha from Morocco had dinner at the house of Joha from Algeria. And Moroccan Joha saw a juicy piece of meat on the other side of the dish. And he thought and thought, how can I get that piece of meat? And he came up with a thought. So he told Algerian Joha, "You know, the world is in an awful mess. If I were God, I would take the world, and change it all around, like so." Saying this, he picked up the Tajine dish, and turned it all around, now with the juicy meat next to him. Now Algerian Joha saw this, and he thought and thought. Then he had a thought. "Ah, but you are not God. So the world is like thus." And he returned the dish to it's original location.
This is why I believe a Moroccan can never marry a Japanese person, with one of those round twirling dishes.
We followed the Tajine with a sugar chicken pie, one of the best dishes Morocco has to offer, Pastilla. Mohammed, our server and I believe the owner of Tajine, was incredibly kind. We had a good conversation in Dareeja, and he comped us the mint tea we finished with. Anne was shocked at how sweet the tea was; I thought it a trifle on the bland side, but standard for Moroccan tea. The entire meal ended up being only 350 dirham ($35)- probably about 130 dirhams more than you'd pay in Morocco at a sit-down restaurant. Although the food was great, even better was the excellent and friendly service. Tajine is the finest Moroccan restaurant I've been to this side of the Atlantic.
And then, I had to say goodbye to Anne, as I headed down with my dad and brother, who I'd not seen in a year and three years respectively, down to my brother's house in Long Beach. But that's a story for another day.