"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


oh well

To quote Billy Joe Shaver, "It was fun while it lasted, but it didn't last long." Ah, well.

grace and peace

Wow, what a sad week. Volma Overton, former president of the Austin NAACP passed away overnight. Volma was responsible for the integration of the AISD -- he filed the desegregation lawsuit in his daughter's name.

It's been my great privilege these past few years to attend church with Volma. He was an incredible person who has seen the worst that people can do to one another, and yet who chose to respond with love. He also was a gifted ballroom dancer. At our 2004 Creative Arts Camp for kids, we had a dance component and Volma helped teach the kids. I will never forget the site of him foxtrotting with the second and third graders, encouraging them when they made mistakes and giggling along with them as they figured it out.

It's a sad, sad day, but how lucky we are to have had someone who challenged our city to be better, and who taught us to dance.

Diet Scalia? Scalia Zero?

So the president has, as expected, nominated Scalia-lite to the Supreme Court in order to appease his base in a time of, shall we say, personal need for his administration.

I am, in a word, horrified. Judge Samuel A. Alito scares me. You'll probably hear a lot about his record on abortion (more here), but on the issues that are important to me, the record doesn't suggest a happy future for America. His church-state separation record is mixed, the most disturbing of those issues being ACLU-NJ v. Township of Wall (2001), in which Alito ruled that a town didn't have to take down its eligious holiday displays because they were donated. (Which reminds me, I'm still waiting for someone to donate a giant Buddha to the state of Texas for placement on the capitol grounds.) His other cases seem to take a free exercise bent, which is fine, because I actually agree that religious student clubs should have the same rights as other clubs in public schools (see Child Evangelism Fellowship of N.J., Inc. v. Stafford Township School District (2004)).

SCOTUS blog has a great summary of Alito's work on the 3rd circuit.

On face, it doesn't all sound so bad. My reasons for being scared have more to do with the far-right's embrace of the nomination. Like this:

"Outstanding man! We're delighted!" sayeth Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America. "For 15 years we've watched this man, he is a strict constitutionalist."

That quote and more on what's likely to happen in the battle here.

Dobson's statement on the Miers withdrawl here is some funny backpedaling.

I'm off to Waco.


In the Crass Christian Product of the Week category, I give you the iBelieve. unBelievable is more like it.

Now all we need is an appropriate playlist. I believe I'll start with some Amy Grant, "Age to Age" before moving on to Steven Curtis Chapman, "The Great Adventure" and something as-yet-undetermined (mainly because I can't remember any of their songs - "Shine"?) from the Newsboys. Or perhaps Twila Paris singing "How Beautiful" would be more appropriate. After that, I think I'll throw away the Shuffle and weep for America.


peace be with you

Kyle Lake, pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco, passed away after a terrible accident during this morning's service. Please keep the Lake family, and the UBC family, in your prayers.


saturday update

Texas won. After scaring us half to death in the first half.

Baylor lost at Homecoming against Tech (whose idea was that?). Didn't even score. But they held the Red Raiders to 6 points through most of the third quarter. I sure hope Texas is paying attention to that defense before heading up to Waco next weekend.

Yale beat Columbia, 37-3, leaving some hope that they might be able to challenge Harvard in the Game in three weeks.

Lemony Snicket was the funniest speaker ever. We had great seats, right up front, and he talked to Julia and to me. Suffice it to say that between the "danse" depicting Mr. Snicket's unfortunate picnic encounter with a crocodile, the cry that "Being in the balcony won't save you now!," and the accordion-assisted rendition of "If You See Count Olaf, Scream and Run Away or You'll Die," no one should be able to forget the three important moral lessons we learned: 1) Never raise your hand (because it might expose your armpit to attack by a vicious creature); 2) If you see Count Olaf, scream and run away; and 3) If you squeeze anything hard enough, eventually it will make a noise.

To add to the list of reasons to dislike Barnes and Noble, they 1) did not plan for their volunteers to be able to hear the speech and 2) did not have nearly enough wristbands for the book-signing. We were somewhat heartbroken to find that we wouldn't get our books signed, but the fact that Mr. Snicket was 2 feet from us almost made up for that.

dtr time

Vince, darlin', we need to talk. You know that I believe you can do no wrong. You're leading our team to their best season in years, and I fully expect you to take us to Pasadena so we can enjoy those sideline passes. And I know that you do your best work in come-from-behind situations, especially when it involves teams from Stillwater. But my heart can't take many more first halves like tonight's against OSU. OSU! The team that couldn't do anything against the other OSU last year at the Alamo Bowl. Baby, please. Turn on the magic in the first quarter in the next few games. Okay? Thanks.


I am outraged. OUTRAGED!

How on earth can Yale shut down tailgating at The Game at halftime? The Yale Bowl only holds 64,000 fans, and there are usually another 50,000 outside who never go in. I certainly agree that it's a good idea to cut down on the binge drinking, but the way to do that is to stop allowing the undergraduate colleges to bring moving vans full of kegs and hard liquor, not to kick out the wealthy alumni and their beautiful, elaborate tailgates (Gilmore Girls didn't cover the half of it). I'm really mad, especially since I'm finally getting to go back to The Game this year. I probably won't be able to get a ticket inside, but I could've spent a lovely afternoon catching up with old friends in the golden autumn light outside the stadium. Instead, we'll be forced to retreat to Anna Liffey's or, goodness help us, Richter's. Darn you, Betty!

(This gorgeous photo is part of a series by Arnold Gold, who holds the copyright on it. You can see more of "Yale in Light and Shadow" here. If you have a lot more disposable income than the average graduate student, you can also buy limited edition prints from the AYA. My favorite in the series is the second photo, of SSS 114, which was the first classroom in which I was ever a teaching assistant and learned that I wanted to be a teacher by watching Mary Habeck deliver incredible lectures on American military history. I adore this photo, Mr. Gold. Please don't sue me for promoting your work.)

happy day

It's not as good as a whole new album, but the preview tracks of Wilco's upcoming live album, Kicking Television, are fantastic. Why they pushed it back to November 15 is unclear, but it'll be worth the wait if they've managed to capture the feel of a live show on CD. AND, I got an email today saying that my tickets to Tweedy's solo show in Kingston are on their way to Austin!

a scooter for christmas

Oh, Wonkette...

In other news, the Association of Yale Alumni still hasn't removed his office phone number in the alumni directory. Aren't we donating the big bucks so they'll do quality damage control? In other news, if anyone wants to send condolences to a p.o. box in Southeast, let me know. Ooh, and they've got Kerry's email! Finally, something good resulting from those two miserable years in New Haven.

sad day

It's fun to see the White House get its come-uppance, but this is a really sad day for America. Tom Delay is wrong - it's not a crime to be conservative. It is a crime to behave as though you are in any way above the law, even if you fully believe that your cause is just. What makes America great is that we abide by the rule of law -- and the laws are developed not by fiat, but by a representative, collaborative process. When our leaders start behaving otherwise, as both Delay and Libby are accused of so doing, we run the risk of eroding that principle. And places where the rule of law doesn't prevail are not fun places to live. I don't want my country to be a place like that. I want my country to be a place where public officials are held to the highest standards of ethical behavior, where the rule of law prevails, and where we develop policies that give all people the chance to pursue their dreams.

Breaking news: Libby has resigned.

a fantan-diddily-astic weekend

So Karl Rove is off the hook, for now, and says he's looking forward to a "fantastic weekend." I'm assuming he won't be running in the Marine Corps Marathon, but it is supposed to be lovely in DC this weekend. I'm sad not to be there for my usual last weekend in October trip! Good luck to all the runners, and Karl, since we run into each other everywhere (more on that if/when he gets indicted), I'll see you at CityZen on the 11th.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it looks like Scooter Libby will be indicted in the next few minutes. Or maybe Grand Jury 03-3 will have its term extended for a bit longer (my gosh, wouldn't you be annoyed if you'd been on a grand jury for two years and they asked you to keep on keepin' on?). All the gossip/news that is gossip/news can be found here.

That said, without further ado, I give you a list of "Things, Other than Conservatives in a Tailspin, to which I am Looking Forward this Weekend":
1. The Texas Book Festival on the capitol grounds this weekend. Ginger, Julia, and I are going to hear Lemony Snicket speak in the morning and have our books, etc. signed. I am also hoping to catch historian David McCullough, historian and legal scholar John Hope Franklin, Coach Darrell K. Royal, and constitutional scholar Noah Feldman.
2. Texas trouncing Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
3. The Iron & Wine and Calexico show at Stubb's on Sunday night.
4. Skipping Baylor Homecoming. I am finally too old to stay up late for the brothers' party and still make it to the parade looking like a Baylor girl should.
5. Hanging out with my friend Whitney, who's flown in to spend most of Baylor Homecoming in Austin.
6. Halloween-related festivities.
7. High school football tonight!
8. Dinner with Alexander McCall Smith on Monday.



I frequently serve as a source or provide background information for journalists on the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. My specific areas of expertise are:
  • Nature and history of the conflict
  • Ethnicity in the DRC
  • Protection of civilian populations
  • Human rights situation, including the rape crisis
  • Role of churches and other community groups in health care and education
  • International dimensions of the conflict
  • Role of the MONUC peacekeeping force
  • Why peace agreements fail

For more information, contact me here.

the other white meat

Burnt Orange Report (several of whose posters are my former students - way to apply those reasoning skills!) posts online and files an election law complaint concerning the unbelievable letter on Prop 2 that Representative Chisum sent out ON TEXAS HOUSE LETTERHEAD to pastors in his district.

Now. Far be it from me to determine whether he actually violated election law. I'm sure it's more complicated when it comes to propositions as opposed to candidate elections. What's appalling is his assumption that all pastors and people of faith will support Prop 2, and his use of state letterhead to campaign for something using religion. What's amusing is the fact that all this was brought to BOR's attention by the Reverend William D. Nix, Jr. of Canadian. Chisum is from Pampa, and it and Canadian (which, incidentally, has managed to build a tourist industry based on its status as home of the Spring Lesser Prairie Chicken) are close to our family's place on the prairie. When it comes to the Panhandle and the High Plains these days, it's generally a safe bet to assume that many people vote conservative. But it's not a safe bet to assume that you ever know what anyone will think on any single issue. If my granddaddy were still around, I bet he'd have something to say about politicians who get a little big for their britches and start making too many assumptions. Or maybe he'd just roll his eyes and go back to shelling pecans with his granddaughters on the back porch.

they should call it mcfunny's!

Darn you, Attorney, for getting me hooked on this silly site. But this list of "The names of the president and the members of the presidential cabinet according to the etymological backgrounds of their first and last names, and of their middle names when available" is just too funny.

Henceforth, Texas in Africa will refer to the Secretary of Energy only as The Bathhouse Builder Who Has Been Heard by God. Make a note.

Wait, isn't he now the former secretary? Yes. Ah, well, It's still funny.

thanks, 'stros.

Completely unsurprisingly, Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court. Why the White House decided to do this in the week that it's very likely that one or more senior White House officials may be indicted on Plame affair-related charges is beyond me. It was obvious at least two week ago that Miers needed to withdraw -- why wait until a totally horrible week (in which, sadly, US deaths in Iraq also topped 2000) to get it over with? Has Karl Rove lost his mojo?

Who will the White House nominate now? And will they wait until after the Plame issue blows over or no? The arch conservatives with whom I occasionally dine are furious about the Miers nomination. They consider it a betrayal and agreed with my assessment that she probably actually didn't know how she would vote on abortion, much less how she would make an argument to get to her opinion. They weren't too pleased about Roberts, either, and generally think that a stealth candidate isn't good. My impression is that they want a record that shows a clear judicial philosophy that indicates that a nominee will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, thus setting up a Senate vote that forces everyone to vote on the issue. I go on about them not because dinner companions are generally good indicators of a group's opinion, but because one of the hosts of this dinner is a rather influential philosopher for social conservatives who knows what's going on.

So. Will W & Co. appoint a clearly socially conservative candidate for the O'Connor seat? Who knows? They've lost a lot of political capital on this debacle and don't seem likely to gain any in the next few weeks. But they clearly can't get away with just appointing friends and neighbors anymore. My money's always been on Judge Emilio Garza in this fight, but I have no idea if W has looked into his soul. We'll see. The Note thinks it will be Michael W. McConnell. McConnell probably wins on having clearer pro-life credentials, certainly has the legal-scholar background to keep some people happy, and scares me on church-state separation. In the meantime, I'm glad that O'Connor will be sticking around for a couple more months.

It'll be tomorrow before we know anything about the Plame investigation.

This is a great article about Baptists, segregation, and Rosa Parks' legacy.

In other news, I babysat for the kiddos last night and have therefore been up since 5:30 getting everyone off to school. To add to the list of horrible, awful things no one should ever have to do, telling two little boys that their team got swept in the World Series is right up there. They were supposed to be at tonight's game.

Finally, the Austin City Limits Festival issued its list of lame excuses as to why they're not moving the festival back to a cooler date. Their arguments are that:
1) average temperatures are the same in September and October;
2) it hasn't really been that hot the last four years;
3) bands wouldn't come because of tour schedules; and
4) we need an away game weekend.
My rebutals are:
1) we all know that it's almost never in the upper 90's in mid-October, so I don't buy their arguments that October is just as hot, forty-year-averages or no. Rain -- even cold rain -- would be better than triple-digit heat with not a cloud in the sky. Really. It would.
2) It WAS that hot for those of us who didn't have access to nice, air conditioned trailers. If you're treating hundreds of festival goers for heat-related problems, it's too hot.
3) The argument about fitting bands in on their summer tours is more compelling, although clearly in Austin, Texas we don't have much trouble booking people whenever we want to. And others agree that the festival has gained enough prestige that bands would come regardless. I do find it funny, though, that they say we wouldn't have been able to get Coldplay as though that were a bad thing.
4) There are away dates in October. Specifically, October 21, when we're playing in Lincoln, Nebraska, so we won't even miss an interesting game.
5) Did they SEE that dust? Rain might help!

Anyway, the same people who set up the no-chair-zone nonsense have ruled, and they're not prone to listening to the consumers. Mark your calendar for September 15-17, 2006. And start buying sunscreen in bulk now.

It's only 9am and I need a nap.


the plame game

There won't be much news on Texas in Africa today, primarily because I stayed up way too late last night trying to figure out who Barbara Bush's date to the Astros game was. Oh, yeah, and watching them not capitalize on a number of opportunities to end the thing with a win. Just when I was starting to get over my bitterness about the Astros eliminating my Braves from the playoffs and cheer for them again, they let us down. Houston.

You can all but smell the liberal glee over today's possible/expected indictments in the Fitzgerald investigation. I'll be very curious as to how Fox covers this one. Meanwhile, the Note says that there won't be an announcement today.


smilin' at me

i thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirit of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural
which is infinite
which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any - lifted from the no
of all nothing - human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings


grace and peace

Rosa Parks passed away this evening at the age of 92. Her simple act of defiance against injustice sparked changes that undermined a whole system of fear and hatred.

From an interview here:
Q: Did you think your actions would have such a far-reaching effect on the Civil Rights movement?
Parks: "I didn't have any idea just what my actions would bring about. At the time I was arrested I didn't know how the community would react. I was glad that they did take the action that they did by staying off the bus."

May we all have the courage to follow her example in our daily choices.


So putting aside the fact that Prop 2 is a mean-spirited attempt to legalize discrimination, it looks like Representative Chisum and company really messed up the language on this one. Save Texas Marriage is arguing that passage of the constitutional amendment will make all Texas marriages illegal because of the failure to separate "marriage" as something separate from "identical to ... marriage."

“This sentence will certainly generate litigation. It is a drafting catastrophe. It is not even grammatical. And it’s [SIC!!!! DMN - get it right!] meaning and coverage are extraordinarily obscure,” said Andrew Koppelman, a professor of law and political science at Northwestern University to the Dallas Morning News.

See, kids, precise language and good grammar ARE important. You could fail to correctly modify a noun and end up inadvertently nullifying all kinds of contracts.

This should be fun.

TEXAS #1!!!!!!!

Texas is ranked #1 in the BCS standings!
And I'm posting it before the Statesman!

really procrastinating

Those Photoshoppers are something else. Thanks, FakeDelayMugshot.com!

monday morning musings

Want to know why I don't like Tom Delay? It's not because of the ethics committee violations (he ain't the only one, and that applies to both sides of the aisle), or the fact that he dragged my alma mater's name through the dirt a couple of years ago at First Baptist Pearland. No, the reason he upsets me is this map. It was not right for a national figure to interfere with the state legislature to force through unnecessary and unfair redistricting. There is no reason I should have liveed in a Congressional district last year with people who are 200 miles away in Houston! And there's no reason Austin shouldn't have a Democrat representing the whole city. Austin is largely Democratic, and we deserve to have our interests represented in Congress.

There's a very interesting piece on marketing, Christianity, and power in the Times today. As one of two participants in the ongoing, mailing-products-with-inappropriate-uses-of-Jesus-around-the-world battle (now in its seventh year), I've seen my fair share of things that are way more upsetting than anything that could happen as a result of Starbucks quoting Rick Warren. (Why they chose Warren to represent Christianity is another question entirely. He's good at marketing, no question. The guy has the "pastors.com" domain name.) Melissa and I started sending each other these things because they were just so wrong - the glow-in-the-dark crucifix, the dashboard Jesus, and the pope-soap-on-a-rope are funny, but they're also attempts to commercialize my deeply held faith, and I find that deeply offensive. Then again, I love my new Last Supper luggage (thanks, Jane!), so maybe there's something to be said for it all. Ri-ight.

Other random news:
  • in Namibia? Who'd've thunk? (Washington Post)
  • Indictments in the Plame Affair (also related to Africa), if there are any, will come in this week. (The Note)
  • A terrible plane crash in Nigeria killed all 117 passengers aboard. The first lady of Nigeria also died this weekend after having surgery in Spain. And this story somehow covers both events.
  • The Statesman runs a stupid headline on Prop 2.
  • Early voting on nine proposed constitutional amendments begins in Texas today.
  • Col. Theoneste Bagosora, who is accused of orchestrating the 1994 Rwanda genocide, began testifying in his trial in Arusha, Tanzania today. Twelve years later.
  • If you take this seriously, Baylor won't have a new president before the year is out. That's what you get when you let the fight continue two years past the point when it was clear that the last administration was going to tear the place apart. It's harder and harder to heal a wound the longer you let it fester.
  • A doe just ran by my window. The clouds are breaking up and it's going to be another gorgeous day. Guy Clark is on the stereo. The last thing I feel like doing is working on the dissertation.


perfect football saturday (almost)

WHAT a day!!! Up before sunrise and on the road by 8. Ben and I staked out our spot for the tailgate at 8:30, then walked over to Meyers Stadium to meet Patrick to see ESPN's College GameDay Live. It was SO much fun! Patrick jumped up and down with my sign enough that you could see the bouncing "Vince" over Herbstreit's shoulder. Getting to see Lance Armstrong up close was a treat, too. But the best part was the fun signs that people came up with. My favorites: "My grandma could put up 70 against Sam Houston State," "All I want for my birthday is a kiss from Lee Corso," and "Vince Doesn't Need a Push."

After GameDay, we walked back over to the garage, met up with everyone else, tailgated, and watched the world go by on San Jacinto before heading over to watch Texas show Texas Tech what D-1 football actually looks like. Up to the last week or so, I've been thinking that we probably deserved to be #2. But why USC is ranked ahead of us when we continue to dominate and have a much stronger defense is becoming less and less clear. We'll settle it in Pasadena.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day and while watching Tech get routed wasn't exactly what I'd hoped for, you just can't get much better than a perfect football day in God's country.

Got home late, exhausted, and collapsed in front of the Baylor-OU game in Norman. Baylor pushed it into overtime with an amazing td with 1:17 left, but couldn't hold OU. Did you know that Baylor's defense is ranked 20th in the country? I had no idea. Despite the losses on our record, Guy Morriss has really turned the program around and deserves lots of credit.

Yale lost. To Penn. Clearly this isn't the Eli's season. Here's hoping they'll pull it out against Harvard, making for a winning season regardless of what happens.

And finally, since it's the Third Saturday in October, Alabama won. Roll, Tide, Roll!


game on!

It's my favorite weekend of the year. When I was growing up, the third weekend in October (whether actually the third or not) was the big Tennessee-Alabama game weekend. It was always so pretty, the leaves were changing, it was crisp and cool, and everyone was excited about the big game, whether they cheered for the Vols or the Tide. (By the way Ken Mobley, wherever you are, whatever you're doing (oooh! apparently professional golf!), you still owe Kristen and me $10 for that bet we made in carpool over the results of the 1986 game (Alabama 56, Tennessee 28). We won't charge interest.).

That game is still big, and it looks like Phil Fulmer may need to watch his back, but this is also the best home game we have this year. Texas Tech -- where I was born, where my parents went to school, where my uncle played tight end -- is in town. This is always a big weekend for us, but this year Tech comes in ranked 7th in the BCS and 1st in offensive yardage. With College GameDay Live in town, a fun tailgate planned, and what should be a really great game on a beautiful October day, it just doesn't get much better than this.

(I feel sooooooooo guilty about this picture....)


Mmmm, tortes!

My attorney informs me that the word is "tortious," not "tortial." It's fancy lawyer-speak for "someone did something really rotten and now I have to clean up the mess." Or something like that. It is NOT related to fancy, cake-like desserts served at high-falutin' lawyer parties. Thank goodness he's working pro bono.

"So I sleep on it. Literally."

This has been something of a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week for me. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that it involves 1 unfinished dissertation proposal, 5 sleepless nights, 2 possible lawsuits concerning defamation of character and/or something called "tortial" something (who knew that was a word?), 1 leaking toilet that will theoretically be replaced by 7pm, 3 incompetent human resources employees, 4 meetings with disgruntled supervisors, and a lot of time on the phone with 1 very friendly customer service representative who can do absolutely nothing to answer the question. And that doesn't even cover tonight's dinner with ex-fundamentalists, planning for Saturday's tailgate, attending a high school play, and critiquing three friends' dissertations, which are not terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad things, but are things that need to be done, along with the laundry, cleaning up the mess in the bathroom from the above leak, talking to the Advisor, and sleeping.

I'm a little worn out. Suffice it to say, this was exactly what I needed this afternoon. Thanks, Virginia!!!

best perp shot ever!

He smiled for the cameras. But, wow, the lighting in the Harris County Jail certainly is unflattering. (Photo credit: someone who was probably not Holly Hunter and who probably did not say, "My fi-ance left me," with a tear, to Nicolas Cage).

For those who haven't been waiting for this for three years, Tom Delay is supposed to appear in court in Travis County tomorrow. No word on whether Ann Coulter and Kinky Friendman will have a smackdown out front, but you can be sure some characters will arrive. I'm thinking of taking popcorn and a lawn chair to enjoy the circus.


jeff tweedy solo

Wow am I glad I got my tickets to see Jeff Tweedy's solo show in Kingston instead of fighting this mess. Fifth row, center seats are hard to beat, and getting them didn't involve spending the night on a street in lower Manhattan. Thank my lucky stars.

Today's better than Christmas?

Okay, not really. But today is one of the happiest days of the year -- the release of the newest Lemony Snicket novel in the Series of Unfortunate Events. I LOVE these books! They only come out once a year (usually in September or October) and Ginger and I always make sure to go to the bookstore on the release date. Today was extra-special because I got to stand in a long line to get a wristband to hear Lemony Snicket speak at the Texas Book Festival next weekend! Ginger heard that he plays the accordion and sings gloomy songs when he speaks! And he'll be signing books!

Anyway, for those not familiar with the series, you should check out The Quiet World, a site run by fourteen-year-olds who managed to get the title and dedication of the book two weeks before its release (everything was a BIG secret). Or you should talk to any ten-year-old you see reading the books at church, on airplanes, or in bookstores. It's a fantastic, 13x13 serial gothic novel for children that involves all kinds of miserable moments, ludicrous literary allusions, and pitiful plot twists. The movie didn't do it justice, but the story is wonderful and well-thought out. And it builds your vocabulary. I've already learned a new word today.

Today's release, The Penultimate Peril, is the last book before the last book in the series and promises to answer many of our questions about the VFD (which "fights fires both literally and figuratively") and how this will all end. I'm only on chapter 2, but we're already learning a lot about Kit Snicket and the Hotel Denoument. I'll probably be up all night reading this thing, but, wow, is it fun to have a new installment around!


What's wrong in the Congo

My friend Eddie Sanders' piece on mining in the eastern Congo appeared in today's Los Angeles Times. It's a really good explanation of the root of most of the DRC's problems. Notice the bit on the "illegal taxation." This - and thousands of things like and unlike it, some good, some bad - is what my dissertation is about. As good as Eddie's words are, though, Wally Skalij's pictures of the crisis, including this one, say more than words ever can about just how sad it is.

Eddie and Wally are great guys. We met at the Hotel Nyira in Goma when Wally was climbing around in the garden trying to set up his satellite phone and the hotel staff started wondering (in Swahili) what on earth he was up to. They were nice enough to give me a ride back to Kigali at the end of my time in the DRC, meaning that I didn't have to take another very long bus ride through the mountains.

(Photo by Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2005)

What does this MEAN?!?

"'I'd trust her with my wife and with my life,' former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice John Hill told reporters on the White House driveway after a meeting with President George W. Bush." - In today's WP. Huh?

Aside from whatever Judge Hill meant to say there, sorry, Mr. President, but the fact that six former Texas Supreme Court Justices endorse anything isn't enough of a reason for me to believe anything. These are the same gentlemen who've too often left this state with policies that favor big business over public education and prioritize the rich's interests over those of the poor. If you'd managed to get Judge H, now that would've been something.

Even if the BCS is a mess...

...you can still help Vince win the Heisman by voting here. Yes, it's early, but I'm not even pretending. Our boy deserves this, even if Reggie Bush is a "more exciting" player according to those silly ESPN analysts who seem to be campaigning for all things USC every week. Vince has proven that he can deal with whatever running backs and receivers he's got. Let's see how Reggie does without Matt around next year.

You can vote once a week, so get on it!


Opportunity Rocks!

So it's a year after the election. America's working poor are still suffering, opportunities are still uneven across the country, and John Edwards is still on the campaign trail. He's speaking on poverty issues at UT on Monday, October 24. You can get free tickets (and see my former student/future UT student body president) here.


People who love Target as much as me! I am a Target addict. No, seriously. I'm there five times a week. Where else in this world can you get toilet paper, deoderant, AND cute shoes-that-last-two-years -- all in the same red cart? My entire outfit for church today was from Target. I used to be able to walk to Target, before moving to the Ranch, which is a tragic, ten-minute drive from the nearest Greatland. But I just thank my lucky stars that I live within 20 minutes of at least 8 different Targets. Skye has to organize her weekends around trips to the 'burbs to go Targeting up there in the big city. Anyway, this week I discovered the fabulous Slave to Target blog. All things Target by two crazy moms who apparently go there more often than I do. And they link to a word that's been needed for awhile...

Selling Jesus

Here's a site to check out: Church Marketing Sucks. While I agree with the title sentiment, the goal of the authors is apparently to help churches market more effectively, not to actually outright disagree with the idea because their goal is to help churches be more authentic in their advertising, although to be fair, they say that it's a tricky question.

Of all the things in the world that drive me crazy, the idea of churches marketing themselves like businesses is right up there between people who vote without thinking and that girl who stood behind us at the Arcade Fire's show at Emo's last January talking through the whole set (which, btw, was amazing) about how much she loved the Fine Young Cannibals and that one song they had. I know, I know, I know that outreach is important, that we live in a market-saturated word, and that some people like pretty brochures. But that's exactly the point. Church is one of the few places in my world that is quiet! Of all places, I feel like a sanctuary should be just that. I should be able to get away from advertising and flashy websites when I'm going to worship, or dealing with things associated with church. It's supposed to be authentic. And nothing in this world is less authentic to me than someone trying to sell me yet another thing.

Of course, if my church were putting out ads like this, I might change my mind. And maybe the guys at the CMS blog are helping churches be more real in reaching out to their communities. But it's a fine line. What most of my friends are looking for is authentic community, places where they can be themselves, places where they don't have to agree with a pre-determined set of answers to every question, and places where faith in Jesus does not equal faith in the Republican party.


Why I am so bummed?

My team won. They won big. They won convincingly. They're going to be undefeated when the regular season ends, should be able to crush Colorado again at the Big XII Championship (in the "neutral" site - Houston) and will definitely be playing in a BCS game -- hopefully the championship.

But doggone it, USC won after a lucky break at the very end and I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really wanted them to lose. Baylor didn't even come close to pulling it out against Nebraska. And Yale fell to Lehigh. Lehigh?!? How are we supposed to win The Game if we can't even beat Lehigh?!?!?!?!?!?!?

At least Florida State is losing (to Virginia!), Penn State is no longer undefeated, and Ohio State won so its ranking will go up, which is good for us. Tech won really big, and with Penn State and Notre Dame losing, they might break the top 10 before we let them have it next Saturday. Poor Baylor's dream season is nearly over. Next week in Norman won't be pretty, although I think they'll manage to get past OSU.


Because we all need beauty in our lives

I've had a generally miserable week (preparing a proposal draft to turn in last night, insurance cancelled by mistake, someone wrote a dissertation that's way too close to what I'm doing, advisor saying I can't defend this semester, dreaming about my proposal, issues with mr. stupidity, generally aware that The Advisor is disappointed in me and my unlofty goals, etc.). So this afternoon, between having my proposal, um, shall we say, dissected by The Advisor and letting my wonderful research group attack it (thanks, y'all!), I wandered over to the Harry Ransom Center to check out the wonderful Ansel Adams exhibition that's on right now. It is so good - if you are anywhere near Austin between now and January 1, you owe it to yourself and all that is right and good in this world to get over to campus and check it out. It's free and fantastic. Details on hours and all that here.

Aside from the incredible beauty of the photographs, one of the most interesting things about the exhibition was how actively people responded to it. I haven't been in many galleries where everyone was talking excitedly with friends and strangers about the work. I was lucky enough to be behind a father and son who knew a lot about photography and whose comments made me pay much closer attention to special details in the art. But it was also neat to see grandchildren with their grandparents, professional and amateur photographers, UT students there for class assignments, and normal people off the street all enjoying Adams' incredible work. You need something beautiful in your life. This is not only beautiful, it's also free.

Also, last night after regaining my composure and finishing the draft, I went to the movies for the first time since Kenya. Proof is good, although in retrospect it was probably not the best choice on a night when one is 1) questioning one's entire career as an academic/ability to have an original thought and 2) wondering if one is losing it after bursting into tears in the middle of Dean Keaton on the way over to fix a nasty insurance problem. (On that sanity question, luckily Ginger was free for lunch at Shady Grove (our Official Nervous Breakdown Lunch Spot), where we were able to enjoy their Frito Pie with none of the nasty bird issues that plagued our last visit there, and left after I was pulled-together enough to get the proposal draft done by the 4pm deadline. Whew.)

Happy day, it's the weekend. I'm looking forward to the Colorado game tomorrow and to hopefully seeing "Not Lost: From South Sudan to North Texas" on Sunday. The Daily Texan says it's at 4 at the Alamo Downtown, but the theater doesn't list it on their website. Maybe it's the mysterious private party. UPDATE - it IS on at 4 on Sunday for $8. At any rate, this look at the journeys of some of the lost boys of Sudan should be interesting.

Other than that, it's just another gorgeous weekend on the ranch in Austin, Texas. Don't get much better than that!

(Photo: Ansel Adams Self-portrait, Monument Valley, Utah, 1958 Gelatin silver print © Trustees of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust Collection Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, Tucson - Please don't sue me, I'm promoting your show!)

Separate is not equal

I am really disgusted (but not surprised) that the Executive Director of the BGCT appears to be taking sides on Proposition 2. Shouldn't Baptists be free to disagree on political issues? Texas in Africa feels strongly that Texas Baptists are getting themselves into a mess by getting involved in issues like this - a silly, frivolous, hateful, and most importantly unnecessary constitutional amendment. Gay marriage is already illegal in Texas. And prop 2 will apparently throw some civil contracts (like common law marriages) into the loop, which seems like a dumb thing to do if you're trying to strengthen marriage. If people would spend more time strengthening their own families and communities, we wouldn't have this nonsense. To quote a bumper sticker my friend Jess has on her car from Nebraska's "Defense of Marriage Act" battle: "Our marriage doesn't need defending. Sorry about yours."


I (heart) larknews.com

Because no one knows just when it will happen, and the ushers won't be there to direct...


So Gargamel's with the FDLR?

This UNICEF campaign is apparently supposed to help raise funds for the Congo. How I'm not sure, but I'm willing to bet that my friends at MONUC didn't come up with it. They're too busy disarming real insurgents in a real war.

SEVEN home games!

UT released next fall's football schedule today. Looks like our season tickets will be pricey - we are playing seven home games, including two OSU's, the Aggies, and Baylor. But I'm not complaining, after this year's boring home game schedule.

Sept. 2: North Texas
Sept. 9: Ohio State
Sept. 16: at Rice
Sept. 23: Iowa State
Sept. 30: Sam Houston State
Oct. 7: vs. Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl)
Oct. 14: Baylor
Oct. 21: at Nebraska
Oct. 28: at Texas Tech
Nov. 4: Oklahoma State
Nov. 11: at Kansas State
Nov. 24: Texas A&M, 11 a.m.

Album of the Week

When Dave first mentioned Explosions in the Sky last fall in a discussion about the Friday Night Lights soundtrack, I didn't think much of it. Their music was the perfect acompaniment to the film's wonderful evocation of the West Texas I know and love, but I didn't really get it until the winter, when Stephen started going on and on about how wonderful their last album, The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, is and, well, he was right. Now lucky us - today EITS has reissued its first album, 2000's How Strange, Innocence, of which only 300 copies were burned. It's not yet available on iTunes (curses on you, Apple!), but your local independent record store should have it, even outside of Austin, Texas.


Mom was right

I should've gone to law school:

You Should Get a JD (Juris Doctor)
You're logical, driven, and ruthless.You'd make a mighty fine lawyer.
What Advanced Degree Should You Get?
Although it's good to know that my lack of a JD apparently won't interfere with my ability to be a Supreme Court Justice when Beau or another of those Baylor boys gets elected president.


double trouble

My cousin Michelle and her kiddos are featured in this story in today's Amarillo Globe News. But I think this picture along with it says everything there is to know about the boys!

(Robin O'Shaughnessy, Amarillo Globe-News)


One more thing...

I am so proud of the Baylor Bears - now 1-37 in Big XII road play. It took ten seasons to get this one, but that doesn't reflect the fact that the program is finally turning around. The Bears were really competitive at Kyle Field last week and seem to finally believe that they are capable of completing passes. And winning. Sic 'em, bears!

Enough said


It's still a shootout to me

Aside from corporate-sponsor nonsense on the nomenclature, this weekend's 100th Texas-OU game should be fantastic. The Horns seem unstoppable this year (at least until the Rose Bowl) and there's good reason to believe that our recent string of bad luck (please! five years is NOT a curse) will end in less than 48 hours. (If I'm wrong, well, at least I don't have to go home to Mobilehoma.)

Check out ABC at noon on Saturday - I'll be in a TCU t-shirt on the OU side's fifty yard line. If I survive the bus ride from the Omni-Mandalay with their biggest donors...

Must-read of the week

My favorite publication is definitely The Texas Observer. And you'll love it, too, after you read this.

(Image from the current issue of the Texas Observer)

Why Bono was the only one with the nerve to say this is beyond me

"Now, for all its failings and its perversions over the last 2,000 years—and as much as every exponent of this faith has attempted to dodge this idea—it is unarguably the central tenet of Christianity: that everybody is equal in God's eyes. So you cannot, as a Christian, walk away from Africa. America will be judged by God if, in its plenty, it crosses the road from 23 million people suffering from HIV, the leprosy of the day.

What's up on trial here is Christianity itself. You cannot walk away from this and call yourself a Christian and sit in power. Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not. The church is going to have to become the conscience of the free market if it's to have any meaning in this world—and stop being its apologist."



Religious Liberty and other Wednesday musings

So, Americans don't understand the establishment and free exercise clauses. Shocking. It is mind-boggling to me that people don't understand how dangerous it is to set the precedent of allowing the U.S. government to favor one religion over another, whether it's by posting sacred texts in public spaces or by allowing government-sponsored prayer in public buildings. "But ours is the right one" is the common fallback as to why the New Testament should be allowed but the Qu'ran shouldn't. Maybe, but the problem is that almost no evangelicals argued that when evangelicals weren't in possession of so much power. Being a religious minority makes you view religious rights quite differently. Do people not understand that evangelicals are not the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S.? Do you really want to set a precedent that would, somewhere down the line, result in having prayers that are not of your faith said in Texas public school classrooms?

My friends at the Baptist Joint Committee have put together a nice issue guide on these topics. Learn something about religious liberty - learn why diminished religious freedom for really diminishes freedom for all.

In other news, yesterday Brian, Neal, and I went to hear Mark Halperin speak at the LBJL. He's the political director for ABC News and what struck me was his shirking of responsibility for the lack of hard news presented in today's mainstream media. Seems like if anyone is in a position to change that, it would be Mr. Halperin, but his constant refrain was, "There's no market for it." I'd like to know what the basis for that claim even is, given that there hasn't been much of an option for Serious News in about ten years. Everyone I know loved NOW with Bill Moyers and would love more real, thoughtful reporting in that vein, but it's nowhere to be found. Wayne Slater of the DMN was in the audience; he didn't challenge that assumption, despite the fact that he is a serious reporter.

Oh, and Halperin thinks that 2008 will be Clinton vs. McCain. But he's not super-confident on that. We shall see.

Finally, George Will's article today is a doozie. Here's my favorite line: "the president has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution." That's not really a fair shot in the context Will puts it, but the sentiment is accurate.


major congo posts

I traveled to and lived in the DR Congo (and elsewhere in central Africa) in July/August 2005, and February - June 2006. The eastern city of Goma is the main place I lived and worked. Posts from the main trip are in the archives; here are some of the most interesting:


November 15!

The track listing for Wilco's upcoming live album is out! It looks suspiciously similar to most of their live shows lately. That's why they call it a live album, kids.

Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
Disc One
1. Misunderstood
2. Company in My Back
3. The Late Greats
4. Hell Is Chrome
5. Handshake Drugs
6. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
7. Shot in the Arm
8. At Least That’s What You Said
9. Wishful Thinking
10. Jesus, Etc.
11. I’m the Man Who Loves You
12. Kicking Television

Disc Two
1. Via Chicago
2. Hummingbird
3. Muzzle of Bees
4. One by One
5. Airline to Heaven
6. Radio Cure
7. Ashes of American Flags
8. Heavy Metal Drummer
9. Poor Places
10. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
11. Comment


Weekend Update

I had a fantastic time in Franklin. It was nice to get away to a place where 1) mama's cooking and 2) it's 40 degrees cooler than Austin. Seriously. Friday night as Whit and I were headed to the Bluebird, I saw a temperature sign that said 54, meaning it was exactly half the temperature of Austin last Sunday. It was so nice. Daddy and Mama and I went to my favorite restaurant, the Loveless Cafe, for some of their super-fantastic biscuits on Wednesday when I arrived. I went to the funky new record shop on South 8th, Grimey's, and caught an in-store by Matisyahu, who is doing something totally unique: Hasidic Reggae. It was really cool and as an added bonus, you'll be able to see the set on MTV2 sometime soon.

Thursday night I went out with Laura to meet her Mr. Wonderful. Friday Whitney and I went to 12th & Porter to see her friend Diesel's set (which was excellent) at the 2nd Harvest Food Bank Benefit, then couldn't get into the Bluebird to see Leslie Satcher in-the-round, but caught a very entertaining coffeehouse set at the Frothy Monkey. Saturday we (the family) watched 11 hours of football (Texas/Missouri, Baylor/A&M, Tennessee/Ole Miss, Alabama/Florida, USC/ASU, Vanderbilt/MTSU, and Notre Dame/Purdue - that split screen HDTV thing makes it possible to do all this and more). I think we're all good on football viewing for now. We did okay for the weekend (Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Notre Dame won; Baylor, ASU, Vandy, and Yale lost).

All in all, it was a perfect fall weekend and a much-needed break. Now it's back to the proposal and to getting excited about Saturday's Big Game.