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


not taking sides?

Well, my feeling that a Huckabee presidency wouldn't be so bad lasted less than 48 hours. Right:

nbc speakers announced

The lineup of speakers for breakout sessions at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant is out, and all I can say is WOW. It's clearly going to be very difficult to choose which sessions to attend, but I'm leaning towards doing something out-of-the-ordinary and not just going to all the public policy stuff like I usually do. Don't get me wrong; I'll be in some of those sessions as well (the chance to hear Miguel de la Torre speak on a panel on race relations is too good to miss), but one of my goals for the NBC is to step outside my comfort zone a bit and interact with those I wouldn't just see in everyday life anyway. "Prophetic Preaching" (with James Forbes on Friday!) looks pretty amazing, and I'm curious to hear David Gushee and Stan Hastey on "Peacemaking" (at, unfortunately, the exact same time as Forbes).

Don't miss out on hearing these fantastic speakers. Registration for the New Baptist Covenant is free - get signed up today!


"An 11-month-old baby girl has died in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo a day after she was raped, the UN says. The alleged rapist, a man aged 20, has been detained by Congolese police about 140km west of Goma. He faces a life sentence." - BBC

I wish I could tell you that we don't hear stories like this all the time.

The fact is, they're all too commonplace in Goma.

As is not the case with the vast majority of rapes committed in the eastern DRC, however, this guy has at least been caught and will be brought to something resembling justice for his alleged crime.

What has to happen to a society for someone to decide to rape an 11-month-old baby? Or a 6-year-old girl? Or a 90-year-old widow?

Sometimes I just don't have any more words.

You can donate to Heal Africa, a Goma hospital working to help rape victims rebuild their bodies and their lives, here.


This is taking Clinton hatred too far.

just hearin' what I want to

Oh, wow.

Thanks to the Mommy of Twins for passing along another reason to weep for America.


purity seiges on I-35!

I-35 is a highway prophesied in Isaiah 35:8! If Pat Robertson (or some Dallas college minister) says so, it must be true!

There's a whole website dedicated to this. Of course, you'll be interested to read the "prophetic synergisms" for Austin.

get the pitchfork

Several years back, Texas Monthly ran a cover headline entitled, "Is Jerry Jones the Devil?" My family has a ridiculous number of subscriptions to the magazine, so I mentioned the story when calling home that week. Turns out my mother, who usually lets daddy read their copy first, had ripped open the magazine and torn through the story as soon as she saw the cover. She was pleased with its conclusion ("Yes, and he's ruined the Dallas Cowboys.").

This is because my mother is still angry at Jerry Jones for the way he fired Him Who is the Symbol of All that is Right and Good, Tom Landry. (Those of you Not From Texas should note that Landry passed away nearly 8 years ago.) You can't mention that or how Peyton Manning was robbed of the Heisman because both of them were/are good and honorable men who deserved better treatment. She doesn't get any argument from me on either of those points, but it's best not to mention it.

I was thinking of that old story today and remembering why we all dislike Jerry Jones so much. Even though the cowboys are in much better shape today than they were a few years ago, he's still making life difficult and doing classless, tacky things that seem designed to upset the fan base. Because, of course, the game between the Cowboys and the Green Pay Packers isn't on television, and trying to watch an important game on ESPN's GameCast just isn't cutting it. Jones, you see, wants to make more money off his silly little NFL Network, and he can't cut a deal with Time Warner or Comcast, and so the fans who don't want to spend their Thursday evening in a packed sports bar lose out. I'm not saying he's the devil, but Jones sure isn't giving us any reasons to forgive him for his behavior in the last 18 years.


Ten points if you can name this current presidential candidate without cheating:

This is one of the most amazing political ads I've ever seen. Or at least the trippiest.

republicans 'a plenty

Well, last night's Republican debate was the first debate I have sat down to watch in quite awhile. (I don't think I managed to watch a whole debate in 2004 because I can only listen to George W. Bush for so long.) To be honest, if The Lobbyist for the Good Guys hadn't had a get-together for that purpose, I wouldn't have watched it all.

That said, I rather enjoyed last night's CNN/YouTube debate. While some of the questions were stupid(Exploration of Mars? Really? Is that the most pressing issue for our nation, CNN?), many were quite good. Of course, that doesn't mean the candidates actually answered them, because they've been trained to turn all answers into pat statements that point to their accomplishments and preferences. That 90% of the candidates don't seem to sense the fact that most Americans just want a straight answer these days is worrying, but not the least bit surprising.

Overall, I found Huckabee and McCain's answers to be the most compelling. Romney (and his "look-directly-into-the-camera-at-all-times" approach) comes off as creepy and a little slimy. He reminds me of no one as much as John Kerry. Huckabee probably won, but McCain's answers regarding torture gave him the clear moral high ground on that issue, and in that argument, Romney looked like an idiot. Giuliani is just as awful as he's always been, Thompson is clearly clueless and headed towards bowing out of the campaign, and the rest of them are irrelevant. Don't get me started on Ron Paul's fans.

Apparently Hillary-bashing is an obligatory part of a gathering of Republicans. I'm not one of her fans, but that seemed really unnecessary and childish. Clearly it appeals to the Republican base, given how much applause followed from the overwhelmingly white audience.

It was genius of CNN to air a great question from a retired brigadier general with over 40 years of military experience who is openly gay - and then to invite him to the debate (moderated by Anderson Cooper, which made it that much better). Despite the fact that he's apparently part of the Hillary Clinton campaign, his question was amazing, asking why the candidates think that our armed forces aren't professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians in the ranks. Watching the candidates tell him that he deserved to be treated like a second-class citizen despite all he has sacrificed for our country makes it clear what this party stands for.

Although I'm still very much undecided about this election, the liklihood that I'll vote Republican is admittedly slim. Still, I came away from the debate feeling a little better about the possibility of another Republican president, and liking Huckabee best, but trusting McCain slightly more on national security issues. Huckabee strikes me as genuine, and while I may disagree with him, he's not going to pretend that he believes something in order to win a demographic. I can respect that.

Put it this way: I would disagree with many decisions made by a Huckabee or McCain administration, and would probably be very unhappy and troubled by some of the things they would do, but I wouldn't worry about the fate of the country as much as I do now. Both of them strike me as serious grown-ups who aren't so smug and certain that they know the answer to every problem. And that is what our country needs, now more than ever.


beautiful and terrible things

"The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." - Frederick Buechner

I love this Frederick Buechner quote. Partly because it sums up a good bit of my theology, and partly because it speaks to something that is so essentially true. "Here is your life" - there's a point to you being here. "Here is the world" - you have responsibilities to it. "Beautiful and terrible things will happen." "Don't be afraid."

Beautiful and terrible things will happen, and do happen, every day. A friend's eyes sparkle as she tells you about her new sweetheart. Another friend's heart breaks as her husband up and leaves her with no warning. The sun sets and it is so lovely you could cry. An ex-boyfriend calls out of the blue, just to talk, bringing back tears you thought you'd left behind. A teenager thanks you for making a difference in her life. A baby announcement arrives for a miracle who, by all odds, shouldn't have made it, but who's thriving after the removal of a lobe of his lung. A friend's father sits under house arrest for doing the right and faithful thing. A job is lost, a baby is adopted into a loving family, a war rages on the other side of the world. Beautiful and terrible things.

It's what is after that that is the important part. Don't be afraid. Fear not, the angels say. Love conquers fear, conquers death, conquers all the terrible things and makes the beautiful things endure. Love sets you free to do that thing you're meant to do, to change things, to trust what is true. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.

i'll raise you one music honor society

If you haven't been following the nerd-off in the comments section of this post, well, it's time to catch up. Here's a brief review of what's happened so far, round by round:
  1. Texas in Africa: 1992 state champion in anatomy in junior high Science Olympiad, president of the French Club, member of the math honor society, lettered (4 years) in band.
  2. Euphrony: lettered four years in band, fourth in overall science in the state UIL, Number Sense and Calculator competitions, choir, Spanish club, NHS. "The summer before my senior year, I decided to spend taking a couple of college classes in anatomy and botany."
  3. Texas in Africa: summer before senior year I went to a monthlong, state-sponsored program for gifted students and studied Arabic.
  4. Kirstin: "I also competed in calculators and loved it. In fact, i picked out my purses based on whether my calculator would fit well into them. And I attended Math Camp when I was 16. I was also in band and played French Horn (the nerdiest of all instruments)."
  5. The Librarian: 3 YEARS OF PIANO CAMP!
  6. Texas in Africa: 7 years of a summer enrichment program called Young Scholars, first runner-up in a scholarship essay contest about the importance of freedom.
Who's next? Bring it on!


My friend Ali's father was released from prison over the weekend, but he is being held under house arrest. Thanks for your prayers, and please continue to keep his family in your prayers as this is far from over.


Here's what a nerd I am: tonight, after ending another semester of wrangling the GA's, I'm going to a watching party for tonight's CNN/YouTube Republican debate. That is hosted by a friend who is not one of my political scientist colleagues.

(I was also 1992 state champion in anatomy in junior high Science Olympiad, president of the French Club, and (inexplicably) a member of the math honor society. And I lettered (4 years) in band. We can nerd-off if you want to, but you're going to lose.)

Nerdiness aside, I'm looking forward to seeing which of the viewer-submitted YouTube questions will be selected for the candidates to answer. Ethics Daily's would be very fun to get answers to:

"the m25 is not the edge of the earth"

The voice of "Mind the Gap" on the London Underground has been fired for some spoof announcements she recorded and put on her website. I don't know about you, but I think the spoofs are for the most part hilarious (except the first one). Since these were a spoof that would never have been actually played, it really doesn't make sense that they would fire her, but it sure would make my annual day-in-London-on-the-way-to-the-Congo a lot more entertaining.

Even worse is the statement from the Underground on her firing to the Evening Standard: "'London Underground is sorry to have to announce that further contracts for Miss Clarke are experiencing severe delays.'"


you sit on a throne of lies

Sometimes you just have one of those days:

good times in round rock

So Krusee gives up before Craddick can go after him in full-force. My, my, my, the Texas election fun is already underway. And all those other R's who tried to oust our boy Tom had better watch out: Papa's mad, and he's got more cash to throw to your primary opponents now.

love is in the air



democracy in action

There are some doozies of questions for this Wednesday's YouTube Republican debate in which average Americans get to ask questions. Here's betting these won't make it through the CNN screeners.

random stuff


"Judge rules crosses are not always religious."

Other times in history that crosses were not considered religious:

  • When they were just a means of execution used by the Roman Empire.

Any others?


Can't argue with his assessment of the situation.


what southwest on the sunday after thanksgiving is not...



One of the realities with which I've had to come to grips this year is how painful it is to starve to death, especially for children. A child with Kwashiorkor - the protein defficiency from which the child in the above video is suffering - can endure everything from chronic diarrhea to liver disease to an enlarged heart before finally falling into a coma before death. They hurt all the time.

Tomorrow most of us will gather around tables that are loaded down with enough calories to feed an entire orphanage of children living with Kwashiorkor. We will say prayers of thanks that the accidents of our birth didn't land us in Haiti or Ethiopia or the Congo. We will be genuinely grateful that we have enough, that we have our families and friends around us, and that God has blessed us with more than we need. It will be good.

Here's the thing, though: I don't believe that's enough.

We have this strange theology in the American church that pops up here and there and now and again (sorry, PT) that suggests that what faith is about is believing and worshiping correctly. As long as people are really feeling God's presence in worship, as long as we believe that we should be thankful, as long as we say the right prayer and check off the boxes and make sure everyone's in attendance and don't have sex until we get married, then we're doing it right. And it doesn't matter that we accumulate unnecessary stuff and live in extravagant houses and never see people who look different than us.

One of my favorite places in Austin is El Buen Samaritano, a ministry of our local Episcopal Dioceses. El Buen helps immigrants in every way imaginable - with health care, with ESL and other education programs, with childcare, with a food pantry, with nutrition and exercise classes. It's an amazing, hopeful place that helps some of the most neglected, discriminated-against members of our society. El Buen's clients are the working poor, people who get paid minimum wage and who would otherwise never have the chance to get ahead.

El Buen is headed by the Reverend Ed Gomez, a priest who was a successful Houston businessman until God called him to minister to those in need. A couple of years ago, on a tour of El Buen with a group of high school students who were seeing the place for the first time, Rev. Ed said something to our group that stopped me in my tracks. He talked about the contrast in the Biblical stories about the center's namesake, the Good Samaritain, and the lifestyle of compassion that Jesus calls us to in Matthew 25. It's not enough, said Rev. Ed, to think that being a Christian means you can do occasional acts of charity and think you've got your bases covered on that whole "helping the needy" thing. Sending a Christmas basket or working on a Habitat house once a year isn't going to cut it, because that's not what God calls us to. God calls us to a lifestyle of compassion and justice.

Biblical justice is scary. It uproots our comfortable vision of how life should be. It completely dissembles most of our ideas about church and church buildings and church ministries (What would Jesus say about multimillion dollar church budgets when Christians are starving?). It doesn't allow us to rest comfortably, knowing that we believe the right things and have signed off on the right doctrines. The paradox, of course, is that living in such a way seems to set people free, such that they don't feel trapped or burdened by this call. Rev. Ed is one of the most free people I've ever met. But getting there means we have to change, and that isn't easy.

I'm afraid it also means that we - that I - have to rethink Thanksgiving and what it means, especially when we know that there are children like five-year-old, 29-pound Henrius (in the video above) who are dying extraordinarily painful deaths from entirely preventable causes. That is not just, and as long as there are children like Henrius in this world, something in my life has to change. Let's give thanks, and then let's give until we can give no more.

funny things my students wrote

Actual titles of term papers turned in to yours truly in response to an assignment to write a paper about a current event and relate it to concepts discussed in class (not corrected for grammar or usage errors):
  • Stephen Colbert's Effect on American Political Culture
  • The Media Mothers The Permanent Campaign
  • Crack vs. Powder Cocaine
  • Illegal Immigrants Threat to the United States
  • Bull SCHIP


Ian & me

Ian Smith, the former white minority president of Southern Rhodesia, has died. Smith and his supporters unilaterally (and illegally) declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1965 and ran a white minority regime for 14 years, until an insurgency led by Robert Mugabe finally forced him into peace talks at Lancaster House in 1979. The Lancaster House Agreement led to the creation of independent Zimbabwe, which has been led by Mugabe ever since.

I met Ian Smith in 2001. Jesse Helms introduced us. Of all the people and things in life I never expected to encounter, Ian Smith was right up there, but one day I found myself stuck in a room with Helms, who told me he was about to meet his friend Smith. Helms asked if I knew who Smith was, and I told him that since I study African politics, I did. He proceeded to inform me that Smith was "a prophet," because "exactly what he said was going to happen to that country did happen."

And in teetered Ian Smith. I stood in the shadows, as good interns are supposed to do, and watched the two men greet one another. Smith took a look around and said, "You sure have a lot of pretty girls working for you," and Helms grabbed my arm, pulled me over, and said, "This one knows all about what a prophet you are. because she studies African history," and Smith smiled and stretched out his hand to greet me.

I shook Ian Smith's hand. My upbringing and manners won out over my sense of injustice.

I don't really remember what happened after that, until later that day, when a staff member who'd witnessed the whole exchange said to me, "You've never heard anyone say anything nice about Ian Smith before, have you?" "Well," I replied, "there was that whole 'white minority regime' thing."

"Well, sure, it wasn't one-man, one-vote," responded the staff member, "but he was fighting the Communists!"

Smith was a complicated man. I don't feel right about speaking ill of those who have died, but he was, as his New York Times obituary put it, "committed all the while to an unshakable belief that Africa without whites would not work." He and Helms were friends and allies in part because they shared certain values about race. And, as the Times points out, he clearly saw the events of the past few years in Zimbabwe (in which President Mugabe's expropriation of white-owned farms for his political allies and bad economic policies have caused unbelievable inflation rates and a near-total collapse of the national economy) as a vincidation of his views which Helms saw as so prophetic.

What do you say about an unrepentant racist? There's no question that his insistence on white minority rule set up the problems the country is having today. Land should not have been so heavily concentrated in the hands of whites, and if a liberation war hadn't been necessary, Mugabe wouldn't be able to spew vitriolic hatred of whites as a justification for his policies. Mugabe's last eight years of rule has been a disaster, but I would argue, however, that the bulk of the problem is not rule by black Africans, but rather rule by Mugabe. Zimbabwe is a complicated place, and too many people, both black and white, are responsible for messing it up.

What we can be grateful for, however, is that it's no longer socially acceptable in the bulk of the world to be so blatantly racist as Smith and others of his ilk were in their primes. In no sense have we solved the race issue in our society, but you can't stand on the international stage and proclaim that whites are superior to others and get away with it. So may Ian Smith rest in peace, and may we all work to build a better society than the one he left behind.

take off your shoes

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes...

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh

via a student

You have to admit, it's creative:

a miracle

Kelso's column on the Hyde Park/Austin Area Interreligious Ministries flap is hilarious. Favorite quotes:

"...what I can't understand is why it wouldn't rent it out to a prayer group because it includes local Muslims. Muslims don't bring in no hoochie-coochie dancers. Muslims don't even drink. If you took a 12-pack of Milwaukee's Best and had a bet on who could hold out the longest from breaking into it, I'd take the Muslims over the Baptists and give you the points.

"...But last week, Hyde Park Baptist told the group they couldn't use the Quarries, mostly because of the Muslims. So the prayer gathering took place Sunday at Temple Beth Israel instead. You had Jews and Muslims in the same place and no barbed wire. So in a sense, the Baptists performed a miracle."


"that was the hustle, you neophyte!"

I am so excited that Mr. Deity season 2 is now up! For those of you not familiar with the Mr. Deity series, it explores faith questions from a humorous view. It seems pretty clear that the show's creators do not believe in God. Because of that, I think it's really challenging and interesting for Christians.

Here's episode 1. It's kindof silly, and not for those easily offended by mocking George W. Bush:

And here's episode 2, my current favorite because it mentions Central Africa:


So the British Prime Minister wants his country to have a new motto, and a blog at the Times of London started a contest to come up with a motto using five words or less. Here are some of my favorite submissions thus far:
  • Once mighty empire, slightly used.
  • Try writing history without us!
  • At least we're not American

30 feet

Brian Seay (the answer to your question is no) has been in Ethiopia this last week. This post is one you need to see.

far, far away

If you've read Texas in Africa for any length of time, you know that I love Lionel Healing's photographs of the Congo. He has some newish ones up from the refugee camps outside Goma. Please take a look (click on "photos"), check out this heartbreaking story on "Living in Fear," and remember what people are going through as we contemplate Thanksgiving.


my weekend

This pretty much sums up a Disciple Now weekend with the 6th and 7th graders. In other words, wow, am I tired.

But it was a great weekend. Our church is blessed with a great group of middle schoolers who trust one another and their leaders. We're also blessed with a youth minister who refuses to do formulaic youth ministry, but rather encourages our kids to think, contemplate, and trust. So despite the raging hormones, occasional tears, near-total lack of sleep, and general loudness that are an inherent part of being twelve, these kids have the capacity to be deep. And this group is particularly good at figuring out how faith applies to our lives.

Our theme for the weekend was "Walk Through Walls." We talked about cliques and popularity and being afraid and becoming who God wants us to be. When I threw out that last one as a question, one of the boys, J, said, "I think God wants us to be us."

J is pretty sharp when it comes to faith. I think he's going to be a preacher one day, if, as the youth minister put it, he survives. But, really, doesn't that sum it up? God wants us to be us, to be truly ourselves, to stop being so afraid of what other people think of us or that we won't have the right stuff or that the right person won't love us. Even when we are stuck being twelve and we don't really have an idea of who that person is or what she is supposed to do, what God asks of us is to be us. If we do that, we can walk through any wall.

crown of thorns

This is really cool.

bless 'em!

Just after midnight last night while trying to convince the 6th and 7th grade D-Nowers to go to bed, I read a text message from my Daddy. "Tech 34, OU 27!"

In a season where Kansas and Missouri are ranked 2 & 3, why not?

Right now I need a nap. But, wow, I love this game. And these scenarios.


still the best prank of all time


I'm leading a Disciple Now group this weekend. For 6th and 7th graders. Your prayers would be appreciated. See you on Monday, or whenever I wake up.

bulldog, bulldog!

It's one of the biggest rivalry weekends in college football, but we here at Texas in Africa will be spending our Saturday hostessing a bridal shower and leading a Disciple Now group. (Don't ask how we are doing both at the same time.)

For those of you who care about whatever that game is they're playing in the Big 10, this is the wrong blog. Tomorrow is, of course, The Game, and I fully expect that the sons of Eli will prevail in its 124th edition over those namby-pambies from Harvard. Winning would give Yale a perfect season and the Ivy League Championship, and in a league of meaningless sports, that's everything. Let the games begin.


I don't know what to say about this.


$85 in buildings

Today's DCist photo of the day is awesome.

what would Jesus do?

Oh my word.

Would anyone but Hyde Park Baptist Church would throw the Muslims out of their gym? Thereby giving a local synagogue the opportunity to host them instead?

(I'm not saying they don't have the right to do whatever they want. And I'm not in the least bit surprised.)


No kidding.


This week on Inspired to Action, we're focusing on the holiday season. My post on shopping to help those in need is up today.

And, yes, I'm well aware of the contradictions involved in suggesting that people shop to make life better for others.



So the Congo's a mess, I'm meeting with The Advisor in 30 minutes, a fellowship application that's due tomorrow is Not Even Close to being done, the CPP is out marching in Washington to support Pakistani lawyers like A's dad, and 3,000 children are dying of preventable causes as they do each and every day. As are 1,000 Congolese.

It's enough to make a girl feel pretty shallow about being so excited about the premiere of Season 4 of Project Runway tonight. Such are the contradictions of life.

congo watch

"Internally-displaced person" is the technical term for a person who's fled his or her home, but who has not crossed an international border and is thus not a refugee. IDP's often have it worse than refugees; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees doesn't exist to help them.

Between the IDP's and the refugees, 375,000 people have had to leave their homes behind in North Kivu this year.

I want you to imagine what it would be like if 375,000 people had to flee their homes in Tennessee or Sussex or Lyon or whatever corner of this world in which you find yourself. Here in the states, we don't really have to imagine what that's like, do we? One effect of Hurricane Katrina is that Louisiana's population declined by more than 200,000. Unlike here, though, in North Kivu there is very little existing infrastructure that's equipped to deal with such a massive influx of people. Unlike in America, there aren't other cities that can absorb the population. There aren't jobs.

The bulk of the camps in North Kivu at the moment are at Mugunga, which is a place just to the west of Goma. I have been there. Yesterday morning, people living in the camps heard fighting in the hills. Between 28,000 and 30,000 of them fled again, towards Goma.

Things are not improving in North Kivu. They are getting much, much worse. It's raining. There's a cholera outbreak in the Mugunga camps. They're trying, but it's never enough. And despite an agreement between the governments of the DR Congo and Rwanda to root out the FDLR (a Hutu extremist-run militia), I don't see things improving anytime soon.


Turns out the Mississippi Supreme Court called the practice of waterboarding "torture" in a 1926 case. And the justices said it was not a basis for securing a confession.

This administration continues to kid itself.

a clairification

It seems my dear daddy is a little upset about something that appeared in yesterday's update to the Things to Know for Your First Time in Africa list. Just to be clear, in point #41 when it says, "Gray hair (which my dad has in abundance) is highly respected," that Euphrony talking about HIS dad, who has traveled in Ghana. I in no way meant to imply, nor did I say that my father has gray hair in abundance!*



How gorgeous are these photographic essays of modern-day ruins? The Holy Land series is particularly poignant. I also like the Boatyard 2005 set, as they remind me of all the wrecked ships in the rapids at Kinshasa.


Since last Sunday, "For All the Saints" has been stuck in my head, especially after I read Pastor Amy's beautiful words on one of her saints. At our church, we mark All Saints' Day by reading aloud the names of those who have passed from this life. After each name, the whole congregation responds, "Thanks be to God." It is powerful and moving and right.

This past Sunday was Veterans' Day, and I was late to the service because I'm teaching the 12th graders and my lesson ran a little long, so I slipped into one of the back rows, alone. After awhile, one of our congregation's oldest members, Harold, sat down beside me. At 98, he can no longer see or hear very well, but he still serves as a greeter at the door to the church every Sunday. When we honored the veterans in our congregation, he stood up with pride, sat down, looked me in the eye, and said, "thank-you." "Thank-you," I replied.

One of my students this semester is a veteran. He's served three or four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, learned to command troops, and seen more death than most of us will witness in a lifetime. Clearly the experience has affected him deeply. I can see it in his eyes, hear it in his comments. He's the same age as his friends in the class, but his experiences are a lifetime away from theirs.

He is 22 years old.

This afternoon I was looking for a version of "For All the Saints" to download or stream on YouTube, and I came across the above video. Maybe it's because these two days, All Saints' and Veterans', fall so close together, or maybe it's because a friend is thinking about becoming a military chaplain, or maybe it's because I worry about my student, or maybe it's because I'm thankful for his service and Harold's service that, well, it got to me.

I hate this war. I hate that the desire to go fight and politics trumped reason and a clear evaluation of evidence. I hate that we didn't exhaust other possibilities, which, the theologians say, is what you have to do if you want your war to be considered just. I hate what we've done to innocent bystanders, and I hate what we're doing to a generation of young men and women who will never be the same because they've seen too much. I hate that we're leaving 21-year-old widows and babies who'll never know one of their parents. I hate that we've made a bigger mess than the one we tried to solve.

And yet, I am thankful. Thankful for those who serve like Harold and my student and my daddy and my uncle, thankful for those who are wiling to give up their lives for a cause larger than themselves. Thankful for those who are called to be a non-anxious presence to those who are fighting, to give them some measure of peace in the midst of a nightmare. And thankful for those who work for peace.

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,

Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,

And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.

Alleluia, Alleluia!


Yesterday the New York Times ran this profile of my friend Ali's father, who is still in jail in Pakistan for his role in pushing the country's military leader to accept democracy. Please continue to keep him and the thousands of lawyers, opposition politicans, and human rights activists that Musharraf's government has jailed in the last two weeks in your prayers.

your first time in africa, part two

Well, the discussion surrounding last week's post on going to Africa for the first time was lots of fun. As William, whose fantastic Stood in the Congo blog I adore, points out, customs are different in different countries and cultures. I would never want to give the impression that I think otherwise; Africa is an incredibly diverse continent, and practices vary. The things I listed were what I've found to be common in the eleven countries I've visited, all of which are in central, eastern, and southern Africa.

That said, Texas in Africa readers came up with some great additions to the list:

39. Allhokie points out that, "Not everyone sits to go to the bathroom." Yup.
40. Katherine says, "To number fourteen I would add ciprofalaxin. The miracle drug. Don't travel without your cipro. " Katherine is so right! I never go anywhere without Cipro.
41. And, "Prepare to come home and be stunned by how short church seems!"
42. And, "we are quite sensitive on topics such as weight and skin color, which are not as taboo in many other countries. Be prepared for unexpected conversations!"
43. Euphrony notes, "Gray hair (which my dad has in abundance) is highly respected." William disputes this, but in my experience, age and elders are very respected.
44. And, "Breastfeeding in public is only scandalous in the West." (Clearly, Euphrony doesn't live in Austin! :)
45. Tauratinzwe said, "Anyone who drinks the water of Africa has to go back. (Africa becomes a part of you that you never want to loose.) "
46. And my sister points out that often you will be "told what you want to hear because it's polite and not considered dishonest as we westerners think it is."

Thanks to everyone who participated in the conversation! Anything else to add?


tonight in live music: roky erickson

Thanks to Austinist's fantastic ticket giveaway, the Mommy of Two and I got to see Roky Erickson's taping of an episode of Austin City Limits tonight. And we didn't even have to wait in the space-available line. Here's a complete review of the music:

I saw Billy Gibbons play "You're Gonna Miss Me" with Roky Erickson.


a bit much

Via my sister, the entry for Democratic Republic of Congo in the Onion's new Our Dumb World atlas:

Congo "has endured decades of brutal civil war, in which rebel forces have adopted the gruesome practices of raping women with machetes, decapitating babies, and even … they, they just … with their teeth, they … [bleeeeeep] you don't want to know what goes on here."


My hairdryer caught fire yesterday morning.

I hope it's not going to be that kind of week.


perfect day

go back to lubbock

Today is the best tailgate of the year. It's our last home game, and we go all out. The ribs have been marinating since Tuesday. The women are having a dessert-off (my Dr. Pepper cake will bring B's peach cobbler down!). Oh, and we're playing Tech, which is always fun for family gloating purposes (my parents are graduates, my uncle played there, I was born there). Let the fun begin!



Guess what I won tickets to?!?

one scary pineapple

Via a friend, jack o'lanterns a la Goma:



Tonight makes 15 years.

By my count, that's about 21,916 syringes, somewhere around 600 bottles of insulin, and more than 16,000 fingersticks to check blood sugar. I've now lived longer with it than without it.

Being diagnosed with Type I Diabetes was certainly not high on my list of things to do as a freshman in high school. Nor was checking into the hospital for a weeklong vacation of learning how to use needles and calculate carbohydrate values and watching other patients in the teenager's ward of the children's hospital die.

Type I is the unfair kind, the variety of diabetes that results not from eating bad food and not exercising, but from nature. Like AIDS, it's an autoimmune disease. But there's nothing - at least nothing we know of yet - you can do to prevent it. For reasons we still don't understand, one day the body suddenly turns on itself and attacks the cells that trigger insulin production. And unlike its more popular cousin Type II, Type I can't be controlled through diet and exercise, because the body stops producing insulin altogether in fairly short order.

It was a lot harder to deal with then. The medicines required sticking closely to a diet and eating the same amounts of food at the same time every day. Times have changed; we now have better technology and insulins that give much more freedom. Now, if I'm not hungry, I don't eat.

I hardly slept that first night in the hospital. I'd been sick, so sick my mother made me go to the doctor after band practice one day. But by the time that whirlwind afternoon of diagnosis, tears, quickly packing, calling a friend, and being whisked off to the hospital was over, I just couldn't handle it anymore. I kept seeing needles in my dreams, and trying to figure out why this had happened.

A few years ago, I attended a Senate hearing that featured guests from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It was about embryonic stem cell research, which, at the time, was a realatively new thing, and which, to this day, offers the most hope for a lasting cure for this disease. The room was packed with children who have Type I diabetes, along with their watchful parents, and a whole mess of celebrities. You'd be suprised at how many people Type I touches. It's so rare - only about 10% of American diabetics have Type I - but there are celebrities and CEO's and Senators whose children go through the same routines as I do.

The hearing was more intersting than they usually are, but of course, it's more interesting to talk to people. During one lull, a father sitting next to me asked what I was doing there, and about my job. I told him that I was interning in the Senate and working on a master's in African Studies. "Have you been to Africa?" he asked, bewildered. When I told him yes, he could barely contain his disbelief in asking, "But how?"

That conversation stuck with me for years, because there we were, in a room full of children who lost out on the healthy-kid lottery. And there were their parents, who, in the natural desire to protect their children, by and large assumed that this disease necessarily limits their children's options. (I'm sure that's not fair to everyone, but the focus of that hearing and the speeches was definitely on limits and problems.)

I'm glad my parents didn't have that reaction. Of course, they were sad, and they would have done anything to keep it from happening to me. But they never let me make diabetes an excuse, and they never told me I couldn't do something because of my disease.

Learning that myself wasn't as hard as you might think. The morning after my diagnosis, a nurse woke my mom and I up at some ridiculous hour and said, "Okay, you have a choice. You can learn to do this yourself, or your mom can follow you around for the next four years." And so I learned how to handle it by practicing on myself. The next summer, I went to camp as usual, then to Governor's School and Paris and Baylor and all over Europe and Kenya and Cameroon and Italy and New Haven and Washington and Austin and South Africa and the Congo. I went on safari, watched my sandals melt onto a hot lava flow, learned to speak French and Swahili and failed to learn Arabic, stood freezing on the edge of Loch Ness, interned for a Republican (don't ask), hiked Hell's Gate, earned two degrees, lived in a village in the middle of nowhere Kenya, was a camp counselor, canoed up Santa Elena Canyon and the Brazos and rafted down the Nile and the Zambezi, saw the Southern Cross, went skydiving, wandered Naples, lived in Goma, bunjee jumped off the Victoria Falls bridge, and made friendships to last a lifetime.

Diabetes hasn't limited me one bit, and in the process, I've so far avoided major complications, learned to be responsible at a young age, and remembered to be grateful for insurance and superb healthcare.

Fifteen years of shots and sugar checks and lows and highs is not fun. But it's funny, because I wouldn't trade those years for anything. Life's too short, and there's too much living still to be done.


"Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says he imposed a state of emergency to limit terror attacks. Then why is he arresting so many nonterrorists?

"Beginning Saturday, the main targets of police have been human rights workers and Mr. Musharraf's political opponents. While precise figures are hard to come by, more than 1,500 people -- mostly lawyers who participated in anti-Musharraf protests -- are thought to be incarcerated, either in their homes or in jails.

"...Next comes Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, a member of Parliament and a former law minister. Mr. Ahsan, who defended former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry earlier this year when Mr. Musharraf sacked him, stood up at a press conference Saturday and denounced the state of emergency. Mr. Ahsan is now in Adiala Jail near Rawalpindi."

- Wall Street Journal editorial, 11/8/07

last night in live music: the pipettes

I've reviewed the Pipettes here before, and, well, there's not much else to say about their live show. The Pipettes are three Brits who sing and dance like a 60's girl group, but their songs are all about how liberated they are as women. It's a hoot. As one member of our group put it, it's as though the Supremes were listening to the Smths. Or something like that.

The Pipettes played their entire repetoire at the Parish last night, and a great time was had by all. We dressed up cute (how jealous are we all that the Mommy of Twins has an adorable polka-dot dress), danced, and sang along. Oh, and opening act Nicole Atkins was really good. The Librarian and I predicted the encore on the basis of the fact that those were the only two songs they hadn't already done. And we went home far too late with bouncing melodies and sha-la-la-la's in our heads. Perfect.



Please say a prayer today for my friend A's father, who is a prominent Pakistani politician and lawyer. As part of Pakistani President Musharraf's suspension of the constitution, he is one of about 500 people who've been arrested by the military. He has not been permitted visitors or outside contacts. As you can imagine A and his family are quite concerned. Please keep them in your prayers.

rest in peace

Rest in peace, Hank.



Tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, November 7) a group of helicopters will be practicing for their flyover at the DKR stadium during this weekend's football game. This activity is coordinated by the university's ROTC program. Campus Safety and Security is providing this advance notice to faculty, staff, and students so they may be aware and, hopefully, unalarmed at the helicopters' presence.

your first time in Africa

In getting ready for tonight's talk, I've been thinking a lot about how to portray the Congo in all its dimensions, not just as a place of great suffering and sadness, but also as a place of laughter and joy and wisdom about life that we just don't have here in the West.

There's an unintentional arrogance in so many first-time travelers to Africa that drives me up the wall. I get so tired of reading about mission trips that purport to "bring Jesus to Africa" or study-abroad students who want to "save Africans" from poverty and despair. I roll my eyes at people who think their two expensive weeks in "Africa" (and it's always "Africa," not the actual country someone is visiting) will change the continent's destiny.

News flash, kids: Jesus has been in Africa a lot longer than you'll be there, and those Africans you want to save will be working hard to provide for their families long after all of us are gone. The money you're spending on a two-week trip could have fed ten families for a year.

Also, Africa is not a country.

My sister reminds me that I was once a first-timer too, that I first spent a semester in one of what we jokingly refer to as "starter countries," that I didn't have a clue (see above). She's right. I should be more forgiving, and more open to helping people who want to learn more about a beautiful place. And I should remember that I needed to go and see, and that I needed to be humbled and changed by those whose faith is stronger than mine will ever be.

So in an attempt to be more gracious in this regard, I thought maybe I'd try to share some of the things I've learned in and from the continent over the years, in hopes that doing so might help others who are headed that way for the first time. If you've spent time in "Africa" and can think of anything else, please mention it in the comments and I'll add it to the list.

1. Ask, "How are you?" of everyone you meet. Always. First. And shake hands.
2. Long floral skirts look silly. If you wouldn't wear something at home, don't wear it in Africa. On the flip side, don't wear short skirts. You'll scandalize the neighborhood. Africans tend to be conservative in dress. A skirt that's just longer than knee-length is fine. Unless you are on safari, don't wear shorts, even if it's 90 degrees and humid. Only little boys wear shorts.
3. Clean up. Even the poorest Congolese are usually well-pressed and neatly dressed. It's a cultural value, and showing up looking like a slob is offensive. Would you wear a wrinkled t-shirt and safari pants to a formal Sunday service in the States? Then why would you do so in Africa?
4. You will not save Africa. Accept this now.
5. You will not even begin to understand Africa.
6. Africa (say it with me) is not a country.
7. Loosen up. Being an hour late to church is no big deal. Even if you're the preacher. Eventually, it will happen. If it doesn't happen, it's no big deal.
8. Ix-nay on the anny-fak-pay.
9. You can buy toothpaste in Africa. You can also buy diet Sprite, bug spray, and sunsceen. Every capital city (which you are almost certainly flying through) has at least one store that caters to the fickle desires of expatriates. Don't overpack.
10. Buy gifts locally. It's much better to help the local economy by buying soccer balls, household items, medications, and clothes once you get there than to bring overstuffed suitcases full of stuff. Arts and crafts supplies are the one thing I can think of that's justifiable to bring (unless you're going to South Africa, which is like Europe. You can buy everything in South Africa.)
11. God is bigger than the way we do Christianity in the American South and Midwest. Respect what local pastors and church leaders tell you, and don't assume you know more than they do.
12. It's rude to refuse an invitation. Unthinkable, really. If someone offers you somethinkg you accept. Period. Drink the tea. Eat the mystery meat. Sit and talk.
13. When evangelizing, remember #12.
14. Never go anywhere without drinking water, toilet paper, and pepto bismol.
15. Don't drink water that isn't bottled or from a filtration system. Again, South Africa (in the cities) is an exception.
16. Nothing for sale in the crafts market is authentic, antique, or terribly valuable. If it's for sale to you, it's mass-produced for tourists. This doesn't mean you can't find something beautiful. Offer 1/3 of what they ask, and don't enter into negotiations unless you plan to buy. Beginnign negotiations is almost tantamount to signing a contract.
17. Buy stuff made by orphans, women, and refugees if possible. There are shops in most countries. You can't bargain there, but you'll have the knowledge that you're helping those who are really in need. And their products are usually of significantly higher quality.
18. Only dance if you are invited to dance. If you are invited to dance, see #12.
19. Get over your personal space issues. If you're lucky, you'll hold someone else's child for the duration of that supposedly 12-hour bus ride. If you're unlucky, you'll hold someone else's chicken.
20. It gets cold in Africa, especially if you are going to the highlands. Find out beforehand what the weather will be like. Bring a fleece if necessary.
21. Even if it isn't hot, you're closer to the Equator. Wear sunscreen. With a high SPF. Religiously. And drink lots of water.
22. Ignore Lonely Planet whenever possible. They're paranoid. Bradt guides are usually good.
23. You don't need that much stuff. Seriously. Unpack, get rid of 1/2 of it, and take twice the cash you think you'll need. Preferably in crisp, post-2001 series dollars. Traveler's checks are useless in most of Africa.
24. Yes, the roads are bumpy and people cross in front of your moving vehicle without looking.
25. Stay hydrated.
26. If you get sick, it's better to get it out of your system than to stop it up. Think Pepto, not Immodium. Exception to this rule: long bus rides.
27. If you get dehydrated, mix a spoonful of salt into a Fanta. It works as well as rehydration salts and is significantly less expensive. Do not, under any circumstances, stay dehydrated. Nothing good comes from dehydration.
28. Africa always wins. The sooner you accept this, the better off you'll be.
29. People will be generous with you. Be generous with them.
30. Don't promise things you can't or won't deliver. It's cruel to give a child hope for a scholarship if you can't provide it. It's wrong to promise to raise funds or awareness if you won't do either.
31. The best Indian food in the world is at Khana Kazana in Kampala. Zig Zag in Livingstone makes the yummiest hot chocolate in southern Africa. The best pizza in central Africa is at the New Cactus in Kigali. Java House in Nairobi has honest-to-goodness quesadillas. Skip the sour cream. The Congolese maek the best, most flavorful greens on the continent. Order the tsombe.
32. If you're doing Cape-to-Cairo, be a man and don't skip Sudan. Get a visa from the SPLM in Nairobi and fly into the South. You can get to Juba from Lokichogo.
33. Ask before you take pictures. If they say no, there's a reason. Better to miss having a picture of the airport/train station/Parliament than to spend a night in jail and lose your camera for good. Never take pictures of the above-mentioned public facilities.
34. Poverty is reality. You can't help everyone, but you can help someone. How much did you spend to get here? Yeah, that's what I thought. You can afford to give some money away.
35. You are not "one with Africa."
36. Use your right hand. To exchange money or goods, to eat, to shake hands. Always. Only.
37. It's better to empower and employ. There are people in the place you are visiting who know how to build churches/orphanages/schools. You'd help the community much more by financing a building than by actually building it yourselves. Teach skills if necessary, but let partnerships actually be partnerships, and help the community to maintain self-sufficiency.
38. Most importantly, stop being afraid. Africa is a wonderful place. The vast majority of people are welcoming and kind. Behave as you would anywhere else (would you count your money on the street in New York?), relax, and don't worry so much.

Any other ideas?

Update: Here's part two, with TIA reader ideas.

tourisme de baghdad

You can't make this stuff up.

shameless self-promotion

One more reminder that I'm speaking about the situation in the Congo and what we can do to help TONIGHT (11/6) at 6pm at Concordia University in Austin.

Concordia is on the west side of I-35 between 38th and 32nd, just north of St. David's Medical Center. My talk is in the lecture hall at the Beto Academic Center(Building P on this map: http://discover.concordia.edu/campusmap.htm). It's best to park on surrounding streets. Oh, and there's a dessert extravaganza afterwards!

Hope to see you there!



So the whole abstinence-only-focused sex education thing isn't working out so well here in Texas. We now bear the dubious distinctions of having 1) the most teenagers having babies, and 2) the most teenagers having babies after they've already had a baby.

By contrast, California, which combines abstinence education with information about contraception - and gives teeenagers access to contraception without parental consent - has seen a 47% reduction in its number of teen births.

Look, I do believe that parents should have the right to opt their children out of sex ed classes in public schools. Texas law clearly makes such a provision. But we clearly have a disaster here - 63 of every 1,000 teenage Texas girls had babies in 2004. And the frustrating thing is that this is a totally preventable problem. It's glaringly clear that abstinence-only sex ed isn't working, especially with respect to our state's Hispanic teenage girls, who accounted for 61% of teen births in 2004. Some teenagers are quite clearly going to have sex whether they're taught that it's a good idea or not, and while teen pregnancies make the consequences of such decisions quite clear, we're doing a disservice to these kids by not giving them better information. Until the people who control this state wake up, it's just going to get worse. I'm not holding my breath.

Anyway, we're still near the bottom in SAT scores.


I threaten my students up front. The result? 1 ring in 3 months, and that was from a student who joined the class late and hadn't read the syllabus.


This week Inspired to Action is featuring ways to help with and pray for the situation in Darfur. Take a moment to check it out!

voting time!

If you are a Texan, you probably (hopefully) know that tomorrow we vote on 16 proposed amendments to the state constitution. I know you're all eagerly looking forward to wearing your little "I voted" stickers tomorrow like I am. The Christian Life Commission of the BGCT has published a handy non-partisan voter guide that explains all the propositions and what supporters and opponents think about each one. Check it out!


O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart. Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is all but out of me, — let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

- "God's World," Edna St. Vincent Millay


heads up

I'm speaking about the situation in the Congo and what we can do to help this Tuesday night (11/6) at 6pm at Concordia University in Austin. I PROMISE it will not be a guilt trip - just a chance to learn about the good things people are doing in the midst of an awful situation and to hear about exactly what I've been up to these last couple of years of traipsing around in a conflict zone.

Concordia is on the west side of I-35 between 38th and 32nd, just north of St. David's Medical Center. My talk is in the lecture hall at the Beto Academic Center(Building P on this map: http://discover.concordia.edu/campusmap.htm). It's best to park on surrounding streets. Hope to see you there!

last night in live music: fun fun fun fest

Well, as the Librarian put it, all the emo kids came out into daylight for Fun Fun Fun Fest. Seriously, we didn't know what to mock: the ridiculously tight black jeans, the men in women's v-neck shirts, or the girls who shouldn't have been wearing leggings/dying their hair multiple colors. The whole day was people-watching at its finest.

Aside from that amusement and the fact that we were definitely in the 99th percentile in terms of age of the fans, I really enjoyed Fun Fun Fun Fest. It's at Waterloo Park, which means it's considerably less crowded than ACL, and the weather couldn't be beat. (Dear ACL: THIS is why it's much better to have your festival at a time of year when people aren't miserably hot.) And, with one exception, the music was rockin' all day long. The crowds were probably into it, but being as they're hipsters who refuse to show emotion about anything, we couldn't always tell. (These are the kids who would never admit to anyone that they actually read Pitchfork.)

As long as you're into either punk or indie rock, you'd probably enjoy Fun Fun Fun Fest. I don't have time to review every band we saw here, but since they were all of the indie rock variety my sister refers to as "skinny boys who all sound the same," you can match the bands to their pictures yourself, along with my brief comments. Good luck!

a. Of Montreal (My favorite act of the day. They're completely insane, tiger heads, dancing sabre girl, and all. Possibly my favorite live cover of all time was their take on "Purple Rain," performed by the lead singer, who was wearing thigh-high blue nylons. He's a man.)
b. White Denim (Very cool Austin band.)
c. The New Pornographers (Great, high-energy set.)
d. Okkervil River (Excellent set. Loved it.)
e. The Evangelicals (Not so much.)
f. Explosions in the Sky (One of my favorite bands.)
g. Final Fantasy (Still stinks. I don't get why people care. We tried to avoid it, but couldn't escape.)








a penny for the old guy

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

We will probably celebrate by throwing pennies at a burning effigy of something later today.



This is way cooler than Wikivision.

weekend update

We here at Texas in Africa are very much looking forward to a fall weekend full of some of our favorite things: camping, watching football, live music, and books! For a heads up on this weekend's Fun! Fun! Fun! Fest at Waterloo Park, we turn to Texas in Africa's occasional contributing editor The Attorney for a Japanese-inspired musical update:

This weekend, November 3-4, is the FUN FUN FUN FEST AT WATERLOO PARK. It's obviously going to be FUN FUN FUN, because it even says so in the name. This music festival will be smaller than ACL, if for no other reason than it's in a smaller park, and they have a great lineup scheduled. It would take me too long to write my normal descriptions of each band. So instead, I am going to describe some of the bands that I am most excited about seeing this weekend in haiku.*

Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007

"Okkervil River"

Why do these songs
Have so many words?
Sing quickly and tunefully, Will.

"Of Montreal"

Of Athens, Georgia,
Really, and the
Lead singer in a dress or naked maybe.

"The New Pornographers"

Canadian supergroup with
Neko Case too. Take
That Broken Social Scene.

[Editors note: my blog so just got filtered by some of your internet service providers. It's just a name. Their music isn't dirty.]

"Explosions in the Sky"

Ambient noodling from Austin.
Friday Night Lights soundtrack.
They know David Morley.

(P.S. They're almost as good as the Hydmen.)

"Girl Talk"

Is not a girl, and he
Doesn't talk that much. He's more
Of a "mash-up" DJ and also a biochemist.


Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007

"Mates of State"

Husband/wife duo from Kansas.
Drums and keyboard. Catchy tunes.
See their AT&T commercial.

"Ted Leo and the Pharmacists"

Punk rock for English majors.
Righteous political rage. Leo
Plays with such fervor often injured onstage.

"Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues"

New backup band
But same old crazy.
Q: Will she make it to the end of the set?

* I don't really know what a haiku is.

Thanks, the Attorney!



Congratulations to our dear friend the CPP, who is now one of the newest members of the Texas bar! Woo-hoo!!!

is it over?

Colbert's candidacy filing has been denied by the South Carolina Democratic Party, and he hasn't paid the $35,000 filing fee to run in the Republican primary.

justice is served?

A jury finds in favor of a deceased soldier's father who sued Westboro Baptist Church and three of its leaders over their protests at the families of fallen soldiers. The jury awarded the soldier's father $11 million, far more than the net worth of the church and those members included in the lawsuit.

There's no question that the actions of Westboro Baptist Church are reprehensible. Their message is contrary to the gospel of Christ.

But I am concerned about the limits on free speech for which this case could serve as precedent. Maintaining our civil liberties is always a delicate balance. Here's hoping that this case will serve its intended purpose of stopping Westboro. And no more.


If you happen to be, say, proctoring a midterm this afternoon, here's a fascinating way to waste time: watching people edit Wikipedia.

all saints, all souls, all song

I had disappeared
into grassland, the high plateau
where the Missouri begins
to claw its way south, where hail
wets the wreckage of fields. I accept it
gratefully, even this
bitter pill.

The chaos of the wind
had taken me, like topsoil
off a hill, dark steam
churning, away
from earth. But you kept me
on your radar, Bill--
Kneel down
you said, explore
for the poem.

I love the saints,
Thérèse cried in mortal illness--
I love the saints,
they want to see--the other side
of death's bitter
remedy, Bill,
the sleep
of grass, both root
and blaze, the river ice waiting
as time forms its word, the garden
where we need not hide.

Home, you say,
as feasts wheel around
in the dark of the year, All Saints,
All Souls; all song
and story. Sing it now, Bill,
let it come.

- "All Saints, All Souls," Kathleen Norris

a halloween conversation

Well, another Halloween has come and gone. Halloween is a big deal in Austin; when it's on a weekend, up to 100,000 people show up on 6th Street to ogle one another's costumes and get into various kinds of trouble. Being as we are not a 6th Street kind of girl, the extent of our involvement in this celebration involves strongly encouraging our students to be safe and not drive.

Instead of joining in this party, I joined friends at a birthday/Halloween party at their house, and for taking their kids trick-or-treating. We had a good variety of clever costumes, from Socialized Medicine (a doctor with a Che hat) to Harry Potter, and a Best Buy Employee to the Sheik of Crestview.

I'm pretty proud of my costume this year; I went as Habeas Corpus under the Bush administration. (Habeas corpus is your right to challenge your illegal detention by the government; the Bush administration has basically thrown it out the window with regard to suspects in the war on terror.) So I went as a hospital patient, with a black eye, a bloody nose, all sorts of bandages and braces, and a crutch.

At one point in the evening, a child we don't know looks at me and says, "Oh, I get it, you're a sick person." To which all my friends replied, "Yep." Then the girl paused and thought and said, "Or dead. " To which everyone replied, "Not yet."

all saints' day

November dawns the cool side sunny,
and I walk to class thinking what I might suggest
to the eight young writers around the long, dark table.
I could point out once again that the walls in our room
are made of windows, that mountains are trying to get in.

Or I might say, "The soccer coach greeted me
in the parking lot in high spirits. His team is going
to the playoffs; his father, however, is dying of cancer."
Or I might say, "The Filipino maintenance man
asked me this morning what I am teaching.

"Shakespeare," I told him. 'Is Shakespeare in the arts?'
he asked. "Does he write opera? Is he an American?"
Or perhaps I could share my sorrow about the Korean
pitcher who lost a World Series game in Yankee Stadium
last night. It was midnight, Halloween, there in

Yankee Stadium, but for all of his countrymen
in Korea, it was two o'clock in the afternoon.
In Korea, it had been November for a long time
when the ball sailed into the stands and the pitcher
placed his black glove like a dark flower upon his face.

- "All Saints," Paul Willis