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

6.30.2008

40 days

Today's blogger for the 40 Day Fast is Jason Gray, who writes about World Vision's work all over the world.

bring what i am able



This is probably my favorite music video. I listen to this song just about every day when I'm in the Congo, where the contrast between rich and poor is so stark that it hurts.

I have been traveling to and from the African continent for nearly ten years now, and living in that tension never gets easier. Of late, one of the ways that tension has been manifesting itself in my life is an increasing discomfort with the way we do church in the United States. We put such a focus on programming and presentation and facilities and fancy gadgets and church growth. And I think we've missed the point.

Here's the problem, summed in some of those lyrics:

"The more we take, the less we become
A fortune of one that means less for some"

I got bashed on another blog last week for a statement I made here to the effect that the gospel has a much larger message about caring for the poor than it does about sexual ethics or raising strong families. The commenter noted that Jesus only told one man that he needed to sell all he had and give it to the poor, with the implication that that lets us all off the hook on that pesky little command.

Yeah, well, as Rich Mullins was fond of pointing out, Jesus also only told one guy that he needed to be born again.

I love how this video doesn't mess around, how it lays out so starkly the choices that we make every day and the difference that just a little money makes in the lives of millions. Our choices matter. And we are wasteful.

Don't get me wrong: I am sure that we as a species need art and beauty and music.

But I also think we deceive ourselves into believing that we need a lot more stuff than we actually do. I don't need another dress to look professional to teach my class. Nobody needs a huge house in the suburbs for her children to grow up healthy and happy. And a church doesn't need a fancy new building to reach the unchurched or HD DVD screens for people to be able to worship. We may want these things, but we don't need them. And I would argue that, in an era in which millions of people, including Christians, are starving to death because of the inequality in this world, it is immoral for us to spend money on excessive things we don't need. Even in church.

It's Day 8 of the 40 Day Fast, and so far we've been challenged to think about a lot of issues, from the material poverty of untouchable people in India, Haiti, and South Africa to the spiritual and emotional poverty of those living in Paris or right here at home. My turn to manage the fast at Inspired to Action starts tomorrow, which means that I've already gotten to read some of the upcoming posts. We are in for some really incredible stories in the week to come.

One of the dangers in reading about this many causes at once is that it can leave us feeling overwhelmed. In a world full of need, we know as reasonable adults that one person can't possibly change it all.

But what I love about this song is that it doesn't excuse us from taking action. There's a world of hurt out there, a world that's "more than I can handle." We can't fix it all. But we can bring what we are able to bring. We can take up one burden, sacrifice something we don't need anyway, and maybe, just maybe, save someone's life.

So I'm curious, Texas in Africa readers. Have you been following the fast? What posts or causes have touched you the most? Have you taken action as a result of something you've read? Will you be joining us for the fast on day 40, August 1?

meanwhile, back at the crazytown ranch

Speaker of the Texas House Tom Craddick will have a Democratic challenger on the ballot this fall. At least Midland voters will have an alternative.

In other Texas political news, there's nothing going on in Texas politics right now. That's because it's hotter than Hades here in the Heart of Texas, and it won't get better for three months. I cannot WAIT to decamp to the other hemisphere for awhile.

mud and community

My friend Julia recently moved to Colombia, where she is living in a peace community that protects farmers and families who are in danger due to nearby instability. She's recording some fantastic reflections on living in intentional community on her new blog. You should definintely check it out.

40 days

Today's bloggers for the 40 Day Fast are Licia, who works at and writes about the Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center, and Chris, whose topic is microfinance loans through Kiva.org.

6.29.2008

40 days

Today's 40 Day Fast bloggers are Lorijo, who writes about a peace group in Peru, and Fay, whose post is on Charity: Water.

6.28.2008

he doesn't speak for us

Peter Wehner, a conservative evangelical and former Bush administration official, writes a beautifully-reasoned explanation as to how James Dobson's attacks on Barack Obama were unfair and based in dishonest interpretations of his statements.

power to the people

We should start doing this when American (inevitably) cancels flights at DFW. If it worked in an authoritarian, Communist state, it outta work here in the liberty-rich U.S. of A. Of course, your name would probably be on a no-fly list forever...

40 days

Today's bloggers for the 40 day fast are Scott, whose post is about a need that is no less real than the others we've read this week, and Gene, who writes about those who are considered untouchable by their society.

6.27.2008

weekend this & that

  • Check out which hypocrites are sponsoring the new Federal Marriage Amendment.
  • Somebody beat the DOJ at its own game, and that somebody is a falsely accused academic who's now $5.8 million richer.
  • I'm surprised that I haven't seen more on this story from the right-wing blogs.
  • A very interesting question. I can tell you that 100% of the hate mail we here at Texas in Africa receive (whether over stuff on the blog or writings on other sites) is from men. Women write, but it's always friendly and constructive. Come to think, I don't even remember a time when a woman has tried to trounce my ideas at a conference. Hmmm.....

i feel ill

Oh, Bruce Ware. Blaming non-submissive women for spousal abuse is probably not the best way to get more people into the Southern Baptist fold. Just a suggestion.

40 days

Today's bloggers for the 40 Day Fast are Hip Mama, who's writing about Blessings in a Backpack, and Kelly, who writes about Children's HopeChest.

6.26.2008

congo watch

From our friends at Heal Africa, there's news that tonight's episode of Nightline will feature the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and the information-gathering that actor Ben Affleck has been doing there. A good bit of filming happened at Heal Africa Hospital, where I've spent a lot of time during research for my dissertation, and there will be a feature on Marta, above, one of the survivors at the hospital. Marta was raped and burned by members of one of the many militias operating in the region.

You can check out a preview of the show here and read an essay on the subject by Affleck here.

I'm always hesitant about the parade of celebrities who come traipsing through the region, get a few pictures, and leave with a nice story to take back to Hollywood cocktail parties, but from what I've heard, it sounds like Affleck has really done his research on three trips to the region. At any rate, it's never a bad thing for more attention to be drawn to this crisis, which, as of last count, has killed 5.2 million people and left 2 of 3 women as rape victims in some parts of the east.

I'll be writing more extensively about the rape crisis in the DRC next Wednesday for the 40 Day Fast; in the meantime, check out my article on practical ways to help Congolese women and girls who are victims of these horrible crimes. And don't miss Nightline tonight.

Photo: Max Culhane, ABC News

plain text

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." - version of the Second Amendment passed by Congress that is on the Bill of Rights in the National Archives

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." - version of the Second Amendment sent to and ratified by the states.

Here's a great analysis of the opinions in D.C. v. Heller. For someone who likes to interpret the Constitution according to what the words actually say, Scalia sure did some interesting mental gymnastics on this one.

nice guns

Beginning at 9 central, the Supreme Court will release its final decisions of the term, including, we expect, a decision in D.C. v. Heller, the first case in which the court will make a ruling on gun ownership rights since the 1930's. SCOTUSblog and many other court watchers think that Justice Scalia probably wrote the majority opinion, which would mean the court has found that an individual right to gun ownership exists.

I'm sure that'll be great news for the guy I sat next to on the bus this morning. In between answering calls signaled by his bagpipe ringtone, he was perusing a Glock catalog. You can't make this stuff up.

40 days

Today's bloggers for the 40 Day Fast are Annie, who writes about an arts-based program that helps poor children in South Africa, and P.D., whose subject is access to water. Be sure to check out their writings!

6.25.2008

"I'm existential"

McSweeney's does Lit 101 in three lines or less. My favorite has to be Moby Dick.

40 days, part 2

Professor Deutsch wrote a beautiful exposition on the meaning and implications of today's daily inspiration for the 40 Day Fast.

boo-ya

"Like all Americans, Dr. Dobson has every right to advocate public policy informed by his abiding Christian faith. I will be counting on him to continue to do so, but he will improve his chances of success by not pretending to lack the most basic understanding of democracy, which we all know he has, or by misreading and mischaracterizing the views of one of the country's most eloquent defenders of the importance of faith—maybe since George Washington opined that it was indispensable to the prosperity of the nation." - Professor Doug Kmiec

fun in the mail

Dear Texas in Africa,

"Pre-Owned Saturns are in great demand right now, due to extreme economic conditions. We could use your 1996 Saturn SL to fill over 30 special requests for this type of vehicle. We would like to buy your Saturn at or above market prices in an effort to meet these demands."

Sincerely,
Saturn of Austin

It's really too bad that 1) my Saturn bascially exploded once it hit 85,000 miles, costing thousands of dollars in repairs each year and blowing out the alternator every 5 years like clockwork; and 2) after I traded it in "to be sold for scrap," it apparently became the suspect vehicle in a murder-kidnapping case. Or at least that's what the homicide detective who called me to find out where I'd sold it said.

Oh, well.

this & that

40 days

Brian Seay (the answer to that FAQ is no) is today's blogger for the 40 Day Fast. Check out his excellent words on the global food crisis and ways to help individual children through Compassion.

6.24.2008

couldn't have said it better

From jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com, a group led by Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell (who officiated Jenna Bush's wedding last month in Crawford and who has endorsed Obama):

"James Dobson doesn't speak for me.

He doesn't speak for me when he uses religion as a wedge to divide;

He doesn't speak for me when he speaks as the final arbiter on the meaning of the Bible;

James Dobson doesn't speak for me when he uses the beliefs of others as a line of attack;

He doesn't speak for me when he denigrates his neighbor's views when they don't line up with his;

He doesn't speak for me when he seeks to confine the values of my faith to two or three issues alone;

What does speak for me is David's psalm celebrating how good and pleasant it is when we come together in unity;

Micah speaks for me in reminding us that the Lord requires us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him;

The prophet Isaiah speaks for me in his call for all to come and reason together and also to seek justice, encourage the oppressed and to defend the cause of the vulnerable;

The book of Nehemiah speaks for me in its example to work with our neighbors, not against them, to restore what was broken in our communities;

The book of Matthew speaks for me in saying to bless those that curse you and pray for those who persecute you;

The words of the apostle Paul speak for me in saying that words spoken and deeds done without love amount to nothing.

The apostle John speaks for me in reminding us of Jesus' command to love one another. The world will know His disciples by that love."




To be clear, I am not posting this to bash Dr. Dobson. I think he's helped millions of families and parents with his advice about relationships and childrearing, even though I disagree with parts of his stance on the role of women in the family. But I also believe that all of us would be a lot be better off if he would just focus on the family rather than playing political kingmaker.

edwards for vp? update

Update on the Chet Edwards story: he hasn't been contacted by Obama's VP team as of yet.

Why not? Seems like Edwards has a lot of the credentials and personal qualities Obama needs to shore up his ticket, including, but not limited to, being from a solidly conservative Southern state, being a serious Christian, his experience on the Homeland Security subcommittee, and having tons of experience in defense policy, as well as all the stuff I mentioned in the earlier post.

Edwards is also the kind of politician who can help figure out a sensible way to end the Iraq war - one that doesn't cause any more unnecessary loss of life and that gets us out in a way that leaves the country stable and secure.

disgusting and unamerican

Of all the objectionable things the Bush Adminstration has done (and there are many), one of the things that disturbs me most is their attempt to politicize our judicial system. A new, internal report, out today, confirms what has been obvious for quite some time: that the Justice Department under the Bush administration has been using political factors in its hiring decisions. That's not only reprehensible; it's also illegal.

Our system of justice is based on the rule of law, not politics. Everyone, from the poorest to the richest, is supposed to be subject to the same laws. You should know that whether your judge is a Republican or a Democrat, you're going to get a fair trial, and you should know that U.S. attorneys will only be filing cases when the law is broken. When we allow politics into the process, it inevitably corrupts the rule of law. It's unacceptable, and, more importantly, un-American.

For more on the politicization of the Justice Department under Bush and his appointees, check out the interview at the end of this episode of the Daily Show with one of the nine U.S. attorneys who was fired for his refusal to file politically-motivated charges against the administration's political enemies. The report on his situation still isn't finished; I wonder if we'll ever know what really happened there.

idle speculation

Chet Edwards for veep? That's not a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all.

Key upsides:
  1. He's a serious Christian. Grew up Methodist, now attends a Baptist church. And, unlike 90% of his party, he knows how to talk to Christians.
  2. The military LOVES him. Fort Hood re-elected him over and over until Tom DeLay redistricted Edwards away from the base.
  3. He knows defense policy.
  4. He supported the Iraq war, which could help with winning moderates. Extreme anti-war rhetoric won't work in the general election, and Obama knows it, even if the DailyKos crazies don't.
  5. Unlike certain governors of other states whose names keep getting tossed around, there aren't any skeletons in his closet. Edwards is a solid guy.
  6. He's figured out how to beat the Republicans in what should be a solidly Republican district.
  7. He knows more about church-state separation than anyone else in Congress.

Downsides:

  1. It's Nancy Pelosi's idea.
  2. He won't bring his home state over to Obama's side.
  3. He understands the importance of church-state separation in government, which doesn't always play well in middle America.
  4. The name Edwards might confuse people who'd think it was a rerun of John Edwards from four years ago.
  5. I'm not sure I can vote for a ticket with an Aggie on it. :)

in which i alienate another quarter of the readership

Although I have never really understood why it is that anyone would rely upon a child psychologist for advice about for whom to vote, it seems that Dr. James Dobson has once again weighed in on this year's presidential race, and, not suprisingly, he doesn't like Obama. (That's not to say that he likes McCain's, either. He apparently doesn't.)

Dobson's main problem with Obama is that he is supposedly "distorting the Bible" and giving a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution. He is particularly annoyed that Obama has pointed out that in a secular society, purely religiously-based arguments just don't cut it: you have to give a good reason that's acceptable to everyone, regardless of their personal religious belief. I'm inclined to agree, given that the Founders explicitly prohibited our country from being a theocracy.

I am quite certain that most of Dobson's listeners won't vote for Obama (or any other Democrat) anyway, so this probably won't have much of an effect on the race. But I do find it interesting and disturbing that Dobson apparently believes that Obama's calls to promote justice for those in need are somehow out of line with Biblical teaching. Much as Dobson might want it to be so, the primary message of the Gospel is not about building strong families or sexual ethics. It just isn't, and no honest reading of the text in all its inerrant glory can come up with that conclusion. Jesus - and the Bible as a whole - talked far more about the way individuals and a society treat their poor and disadvantaged than any other topic. And that seems to me to be as important an issue as any for Christians who are trying to pick their candidate in this election.

40 days

Today's bloggers for the 40 Day Fast are Amy, who's writing about literacy, and April, whose focus is on the Mocha Club. Check out their posts!

6.23.2008

let's start this week off with a bang

(Photo HT to Big Daddy Weave, who found it in the CBF photo gallery)

40 days

Today is the beginning of the 40 Day Fast that we're hosting over at Inspired to Action. Brant Hansen is the first poster, and you won't want to miss his beautiful words about a Compassion project in Nairobi's Kibera slum.

6.22.2008

health care a la jester

For my intro American government class, I've developed a series of ways for students to do a term paper that is usually a little more interesting than a traditional, library-based research project. In election years, I have the students do a mock debate. Some ask questions, others answer. The students seem to like it, and it gets them engaged in understanding current political issues, which is one of my main goals for the course. It also meets a goal of involving students of diverse educational interests in experiential learning while requiring them to synthesize information in a creative way.

This summer, they had the option to get some extra credit by posting video questions on YouTube. I will definitely do this again as it's a good way to integrate technology in the classroom. Check out what they came up with.

6.20.2008

outta here


I love my tent.

Seriously. If I were a songwriter of the sort who writes about inanimate objects as though they were worthy of praise, I would write a song about how excellent my REI Half Dome Plus 2 is in every respect, how it's kept me dry in fierce rainstorms and cozy on cold nights. It's been through a lot, and it never lets me down. It is also remarkably resistant to tearing and leaking. And it's very lightweight, which is super important to me.

Thus it is that even though it's 100-and-ninety degrees outside and the only sensible thing to do is sit in a bathtub of ice water eating popsicles, this weekend, I'm going camping with a group of friends. And my tent. See y'all on the flip side.

world refugee day

A refugee camp is not a place you want to be.

It smells.

If it's early in the camp's development, there's probably open sewage.

There may or may not be a place to bathe.

There are diseases. The nasty ones. Cholera. Dysentery. Malaria.

Food is often cooked out in the open. If it's dry, this raises the risk of fires. If it's wet, it can be hard to get a good fire going.

If people are living in housing at all, it's a hastily-constructed hut. Or a tent made of plastic sheeting that the aid agencies hand out.

Refugee camps can sit there for a long time, so long that they become permanent settlements. Then, they get a little better. Do-gooders start schools and clinics become established.

But it's still not a good place. There aren't many jobs. Refugees can't work outside of the camp. It's boring.

Today is World Refugee Day, a day set aside by the United Nations for us to reflect on the problems faced by those who have to flee their homes, often on a moment's notice.

Have you ever thought about what that would be like? Soldiers suddenly arrive in your small town, and you have to run with just what you can grab in the thirty seconds after you realize you have to leave. Maybe you manage to get your kids, but what if one of them is playing at a neighbor's house, or at school, and there's just no time?

What if you didn't have cell phones, or a car, or enough cash and food on hand to keep your family going? Could you walk to safety for a week, two weeks, a month, a year? What would you do if you couldn't go back, if you weren't allowed to work in the place where you ended up, if no other country would take you? Would you sit in a refugee camp, year after year after year, wondering what happened?

This is not the stuff of some Hollywood-created nightmare. This is reality for 16 million people, and most of them live in Africa. The problem is getting worse.

Over at Inspired to Action, we are getting ready to start the 40 Day Fast on Monday. Over 60 bloggers will participate, with one or two sharing about a group that helps those in need each day. We scheduled everything last night, and it's going to be amazing. If you follow along, you'll learn about some organizations that do great work, and about ways you can help to alleviate the suffering of those people in our world who lost out on the lottery of privilege and safety.

One of the bloggers will be writing about refugee relief work on July 14. I'll look forward to learning about her suggestions for ways to help refugees.

But for today, I hope you'll remember that not everyone in this world is secure in the blessings of liberty. I hope you'll be grateful for the security we enjoy here in the West. And I hope you'll commit to helping refugees in whatever way you can, be it by volunteering to help those refugees who've been resettled in your community, giving money to groups that work with refugees, or even just remembering to pray for those who lose everything.

Jesus was a refugee. And I can't imagine that he wants us to turn our backs to those with whom he shared in this kind of suffering.

crazy in ohio

“'With the exception of the cross-burning episode … I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district.'’’

You can't make this stuff up.

6.18.2008

for the english majors



You should try grading the term papers of the most inarticulate generation in history. You know?

HT: Shaun Groves

my future = abilene?

Having a T.A. = Totally Awesome.
  • Exam at 8:30am on Monday after Texas in Africa was out entirely too late enjoying a Kenyan band? Given and proctored by the T.A.
  • 60 exams with one essay apiece? Magically graded, within 72 hours, even though the T.A. got sick and missed a day.
  • Lecture on the Federalist papers, not exactly our favorite topic? The T.A. wanted to do it, so he did.
  • Innumberable asinine questions from students who can't be bothered to come to class? Directed to someone other than me.

The best part is I only actually asked him to give the exam. I do not have any plans to abuse my T.A.'s friendliness and willingness to help, but, wow, this is great. Here's where I begin to rethink my plan to teach at liberal arts colleges forever.

In other news, job postings are starting to come out. McMurry is hiring. Yippee.

but obama has the oncologists

When you give money to a political campaign, the Federal Election Commission collects data on your donation that becomes a matter of public record. Part of that data includes your occupation, which is self-described. Here's an awesome list of which parties people in different occupations have been giving to in this election cycle. In what I'm sure is a shocking shift in group support for a candidate, it appears that Ron Paul has finally managed to corner the support of the wizard demographic.

this ain't right

And it's creepy.

Thanks to David for the tip. BTW, if you haven't been doing so, you should really be reading David's blog. He's filming a movie right now, and his descriptions of the process are really cool.

6.17.2008

yeah

I just got an invitation that, well, has to be read to be believed:

===============
Hey Guys!!!

Just a reminder that the Albanian Parade is coming up soon!!!! JUNE 21st
this SATURDAY!!!! and lets make this a great event every year. Make sure to gear up with Albanian flags, shirts, hats and paint your faces red and black.

Also if you have a traditional costumes don't leave them home please wear it for the parade so we can show our many beautiful costumes to the world.

We will start the celebration at 10:00am with Dj Mike until we kick off the parade. the meeting place will be on 36st and Avenue of the Americas(6ave) NEW YORK USA!!!

so i hope to see everyone there and lets have a great time.

Ps. i suggest to bring a bottle of raki for your voice!!!
==========

Mmm-hmm.

oh, for goodness sakes

It's a coke.

forty days

image

It's time for the 40 Day Fast!



Last year at this time, I was living and researching in the eastern DR Congo when somehow (and I really can't remember how), I came across Kat's website. She had come up with a great idea: that over the course of 40 days, 40 bloggers would each take one day to fast on behalf of a need somewhere in the world and an organization serving that need. This snowballed and led to the creation of Inspired to Action, a site where I (ahem) sometimes write (along with the rest of the site staff) about simple ways to make a difference. It's also been fun for me to be a part of a community of bloggers I've never met, but who share my passion for serving those in need.

This year's 40 Day Fast is being hosted at Inspired to Action, where we're choosing 40 bloggers to focus on 40 specific issues. It begins on Monday, June 23, and will last through July.

Would you consider being part of this year's fast? The registration page is here - all you have to do is sign up, tell us about your cause, and we'll choose 40 bloggers to focus on these issues. Anyone can participate in the fast, and everyone is encouraged to join in on the last day, August 1. Please join us in helping to raise awareness for the billions of people who suffer worldwide.

6.16.2008

nobody puts baby in the corner!

The Librarian and I went to see tonight's double feature at the Paramount: Dirty Dancing AND Flashdance. It was, as you can imagine, totally awesome. (Also, Flashdance is among the worst movies I've ever seen on the big screen.)


sweet land

I just threw up in my mouth a little:



If what John Cornyn has been doing for the last six years is "the Lord's work for Texas," I guess I'd like to know where in the Bible it talks about pursuing policies that only help the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer, that favor big business over the 1 in 3 Texas children who are hungry or at risk of hunger (meaning they'd starve if they didn't get free meals at school), opposing the new GI bill, voting against funding health insurance for the children of the working poor, and voted to keep out undocumented immigrants by building that silly wall. Wasn't Jesus an undocumented immigrant?

The Lord's work? Reeeealllly?

thank-you, Jesus!

A.J.'s coming back! Probably.

for the professor

I am definitely not smart enough to be a German, although guessing got me the requisite 4 of 7 correct.

last night in live music: extra golden

I wish I could say that I was familiar with Kenyan/American band Extra Golden prior to hearing them on NPR back in January when there was so much trouble in Kenya. But I wasn't.

Which is too bad, because having seen Extra Golden play at Club DeVille last night, it's clear that I should've been enjoying their music for the last few years. The band, formed by an American musicology graduate student and several incredibly talented Kenyan musicians, has been through a lot, including the lead singer having his home looted in this year's post-election violence.

I wondered how many people would show up for such an act, but this is Austin, and on Sunday night, there aren't so many options that they weren't going to get a good crowd. I hadn't been to Club DeVille since they installed a permanent stage, but it's a great setting with its natural rock amphitheater, and the crowd was a good mix of People Who Like Jam Bands, People Who Like Africa, and the usual assortment of Hipsters-than-Thou. Second opener Rattletree Marimba blew me away with their Shona-style Southern African music - when's the last time you saw a band comprised of six marimbists and a drummer? Two more and they'd have a neuftet. I will definintely be checking them out again at one of their Ruta Maya dance parties.

Fresh from a tour that included playing Bonnaroo on Thursday night, Extra Golden took the stage around 10:15 and proceeded to get the crowd on its feet. Their music is a blend of typical East African rhythms and American guitar playing. It's impossible not to dance to, and we had a great time joining in. It was so much fun, from the opening number, through their thank-you song to a fellow Luo named "Obama," and into the gorgeous, slower "It's Not Easy." It's amazing how a little music and a bunch of dancing hippies can take you back to a place on the other side of the world. Lead singer Onyango Jagwasi started the evening on a poignant note by thanking all the American fans who donated money to help the band members and their families after the post-election (anti-Luo) violence, and told the crowd that he prays for them each day.

Extra Golden is playing a bunch of dates all over the place this summer; don't miss them if you get the chance!

women in the sbc

Ethics Daily today runs an excellent blog post by Emily Hunter McGowan that I've been meaning to post on for a few days now. It's about the role of women in ministry, and, to put it bluntly, the fact that we don't have time for cop-outs.

As I go to a non-SBC church that has ordained at least four young women to the ministry in the time I've been there, this isn't really a huge issue in my immediate life. But, as the sister of a Truett graduate and the friend of many more women in ministry, I know it's a huge issue even in moderate Baptist life, where the fight about whether women can be pastors is over. Instead, the problem that so many young, talented, female ministers face is the fact that so many churches that profess to affirm their callings are reluctant to actually go through with that commitment and hire them. The Baptist Women in Ministry report for this year is encouraging, yes, but there are far too many capable women in ministry who can't get jobs in churches for no other apparent reason than the fact that they are women.

Hunter McGowan is right: this is a hill on which to die. If you're going to deny that God calls women to ministry, you need to be clear about why it is that you believe you know better than God whom he can and cannot call to a specific task. If you believe that God calls women to ministry, then you'd sure better be doing something concrete about it.

report from the republic

Well, thanks to Steve the Lawyer's hard work (and his team's, whatever), the new Kosovo constitution went into effect at midnight on Sunday morning. Now the government controls the territory, with a "supervisory role" being played by the EU. (Steve assures me, however, that the UNMIK stamps in my passport are not a relic, but that capabilities such as airport customs enforcement will be phased in as capacity is built. Such a diplomatic way of putting it.)


The big question is what the Serbs will do. Serbia hasn't recognized Kosovar independence (nor has its biggest backer, Russia), and Serbs living north of the river in Mitrovica are living as though they are under Serbia's control. Which, technically, if we're living in pragmatic reality land, they are. It's a little messy.

shall I part my hair behind?


I love summer.

6.15.2008

"...and although El Paso was hot..."


She really did.

say it was only a dream

Ann describes the events of last night better than I can. And for the record, the wings under the arms on my muu-muu were not the only reason to never be seen in that in public again.

daddy

Happy Father's Day to my daddy! My dad is the coolest, and is a great husband and father. He retired this year from being editor-in-chief of a publication that had a huge circulation. At his retirement party, I got to give a speech about all the ways he's made a difference in our lives. As my sister pointed out later, we never had to worry that our dad would work late or not be there for us - he was always home for dinner at 6, and he never missed anything significant in our lives growing up. He has never - not once - said that I couldn't do something if I put my mind to it, but he also gives wise advice and encourages us to make the best decisions. He loves us unconditionally, and we are so lucky to have him as our father.

My dad gave me my hair and eyes, as well as my sense of adventure and love of music (My dad got to be a dj in his small West Texas town as a teenager because he had the best record collection. He even met Elvis!). It's also his fault that I am incapable of allowing students to get away with using poor grammar and syntax. :) Daddy and I also share an innate sense of direction, which has come in handy everywhere from the streets of Nairobi to a canyon on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. He also gave me my sense of humor, which he helped to develop by allowing me to watch far too many episodes of The Muppet Show as a child, which is why I think stuff like this is hilarious:


I love you, daddy!

sunday this & that

  • A cool project to collect labels from all over the world.
  • Money-management tips for the newly financially independent.
  • I read all about this guy a couple of weeks ago. He apparently sold nuclear technology to all kinds of bad people. Gre-eat.
  • Here's a fun piece on cheap African safaris. I will say this, while "cheap" is a relative term, my experiences in African game parks were 1,000 times better than what I would've gotten if we'd shelled out serious bucks for the luxury tented camps and whatnot. There's just nothing like hiking across the savanna and realizing that you're 100 yards from a giraffe - with no fence between you and him. Camping in the parks is also an unbelievably cool experience. This article points out that you shouldn't get out of your tent at night, and they're right. One night ten years ago in northern Tanzania, my tentmate Anne got deathly ill due to heatstroke. She woke me up, saying, "I have to go throw up." "Then go throw up," I mumbled. (I am not a very sympathetic person when I'm half asleep.) "I'm not going alone," she replied. "There are THINGS out there." So out of my comfy sleeping bag I got, and we went over to what could generously be described as a toilet for her to get do what she had to do. While she did that, I got to stand guard and watch the little eyes of who knows what circling our campsite out in the blackness. I'm guessing they were hyenas, and I'm really glad we never found out. You don't get that kind of experience with Abercrombie & Kent.
  • Here's a perfect poem for a summer Sunday.

6.14.2008

friends like these

Question: What did Texas in Africa do on this lovely, humid evening in scenic Austin, Texas?

If you guessed that she was lured out under false pretenses, dressed in a muu-muu and given advice on avoiding crow's feet and proper moisturization along with three other friends who also just turned thirty, and then taken to dinner at Luby's (still in the muu-muu), then congratulations. Clearly you were in on the plot.

(I haven't been out in public dressed that ridiculously since a certain ritual at the end of pledging. Of course, then we were "part of a group of friends" who were "playing a game." Because of course all Baylor girls like to dance around the fountain at Taco Cabana at 3am while wearing spandex and blue eye shadow.)

(We were one of the first classes after hazing became illegal in Texas.)

Yes, there are pictures (of both events). No, they will not see the light of day, and certainly not the lights of this blog. And yes, I enjoyed my LuAnn plate very much, thanks for asking.

Also, if you're in need of a royal blue (with brightly colored flowers) housedress, have I got a bargain for you.

on camp

Oh, camp nostalgia. And now someone's written a book about it. It may be a cliche, but I don't care. Spending two weeks of each summer sleeping in a cabin in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina was one of the great blessings and privileges of my life. To this day, eleven years after I last spent a summer at camp, some of my greaest friends are camp friends. A ridiculous number of my friends on Facebook are camp people, including the girls who were my campers the summer I was their counselor. They were seven and eight then. This summer, several of these cute little girls are counselors themselves. Gulp.
It's hard to put into words why I loved camp so much, but it had something to do with it being a constant place that was (and is) full of love. No matter what happened in your life that year, no matter how you had changed, you went to camp, and people knew you and cared for you just the same as always. I know many girls who weren't fortunate to have stable home lives for whom camp was a saving grace that gave them a desparately-needed anchor. Camp is a place to have fun, but also to be still for awhile, to take a break from reality and just experience the wonder of God's world.
Plus, you know, there was the fun of traipsing around the mountains, building and cooking dinner over a campfire every Tuesday, learning to shoot stuff, kayaking on the lake, figuring out how to get information to the boys camp (which, in true Baptist fashion, sits on the opposite side of I-40 from the girls' camp), and playing our awesome version of capture-the-flag, which involves elaborate story lines and socks filled with flour. Being a counselor was the most exhausting job I've ever had, but it was worth it to keep those relationships going and to give back what camp had given to me to a group of girls who have turned into incredible young women.
I still miss camp, especially this time of year when I know that the girls are arriving on the mountain with their trunks, picking up new camp t-shirts, and getting ready for what will surely, again, be the best summer ever. On the rare occasions when I get to go back for an alumni weekend, my heart and stomach still jump with excitement when I make that turn up the hill towards camp. The other day, I found an old pair of gym shorts with my name written on the label in my mother's handwriting. Camp comes back in those ways, in a call from an old friend or in the smell of pine trees in an unexpected place. I am a lucky, lucky woman to have had camp as part of my life.

ahhhh

You have to love life in Austin, Texas. I'm pretty sure we're the only place in the world that hosts a massive biker rally and a gay pride festival (with a fire truck in the parade) on the same 103-degree heat index weekend. Not to mention the Juneteenthers and the rest of us who are just living life and trying to avoid the traffic snarls...

6.13.2008

God bless the child...

...who wrote this on my spring evaluations. It will be on page 1 of my teaching portfolio for the job market this fall:

"I changed my major to government because of how much I loved this course."

oh, my gosh

NBC political analyst Tim Russert is dead at age 58.

today's the day

The Officemate (who is technically now the former officemate) is defending her dissertation as we type. I know she would appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

She is one year ahead of me in the program, but as some of the only women studying security issues and doing fieldwork on the other side of the world, we've been through a lot together. I'm so excited that A has landed a great job next year, but I'm going to miss her a lot! Check out her excellent thoughts on what she's learned from grad school here. Good luck, A!!!!!


UPDATE, 11:37am: Congratulations, Dr. Ray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6.12.2008

health and wealth


Here's a paragraph I read this morning while working on my chapter on Protestant mission efforts in the Congolese social service sector:

"The Lord told the children of Israel that obedience to his commandments would bring health and prosperity. His word has not changed, nor has his will for the health of his people. Teaching, motivating, demonstrating, and promoting are essential to restoring and maintaining health. The church is God's instrument for accomplishing this in Zaire..."

- Daniel E. Fountain, “The Health Ministry” in Dean R. Kirkwood, ed., Mission in Mid-Continent: Zaire: One Hundred Years of American Baptist Commitment in Zaire: 1884-1984 (Valley Forge, PA: International Ministries ABC, 1984), 91.

I am missing Goma a lot lately. Turns out that three years in a row of traipsing around a place means that I left a little part of myself there. A year ago last weekend, I walked up to the border for a sojurn I'd been dreading, saw Wilco Ben standing there, and both of us laughed in shock in one of those only-in-the-movies kind of ways. Then I saw N, and J and L, and everyone else, and remembered why I came so far.

I need to be writing in Austin this summer, but I still miss it. I miss my friends there, and I miss getting to see how remarkable people who have so little find ways to respond to a series of crises the impact of which you cannot begin to imagine unless you have seen it.

Dr. Fountain's quote got me wondering what would happen if the prosperity gospel people (you know, the "name-it-and-claim-it, Jesus wants us all to be rich" types) were to think of God's promise of health and prosperity not as something we get if we're faithful enough, but as something that we are to be part of giving. Or if those American Christians who seem to think that a church isn't a church unless it has 5,000 members and a sparkly new gymnatorium, I wonder what they would think if we said that we should use that prosperity for God's work and not for ourselves? Because I have a feeling that it's the giving that makes us faithful.

is there a badge for this?

We just received our summer departmental directory, which has everyone's phone number, email, and office hours, as well as general university contact numbers for the problems you may face.

I just noticed that one of these numbers is for "bat capture."

Thank goodness The University is prepared for anything.

show & tell

So this morning I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts on the way to work and remembered that I keep meaning to share it with all of you. I can't remember where, but somewhere I read about In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, a production of the BBC's Radio Four, and subscribed to the free podcast on iTunes. And proceeded to only listen to one or two of them for six months.

Now. Perhaps you, unlike me, are not a total geek and don't like to do anything but listen to radio banter or your perfect, worked-on-for-26-days-and-nights playlist on your mp3 player on your way to another soul-sucking day in the cubicle. I hear you. Really. That's me too, sometimes.

But of late, I've really been enjoying listening to these programs and learning something in the mornings. Sue me. The topics are unbelievably varied, but all have something more-or-less to do with Western civilization. Bragg brings in three or four scholars who are experts on the week's topic, they talk for 40 minutes, and eager, half-asleep listeners like me get to learn about the Charge of the Light Brigade, or the Black Death, or the Library at Ninevah, or the origins of Social Contract theory. Or that's what I've covered this week.

(The weather's fine here in Nerdvegas. Thanks for asking.)

Seriously, I realize this is about the most geeked-out thing ever, but I'm loving a chance to learn about things that are Not What I Do, but that I feel like an (over-) Educated Person Should Know About. Did you know that the Assyrians kept Babylonian scholars in chains, or that the Assyrian scholars at Ninevah themselves dressed up as the sacred fish who had given the Babylonians wisdom in their antideluvian era? Or that the famed, doomed Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War had no military significance whatsoever? Or that the plague changed social structures because it freed up land for the 14th century's "new money" to buy? And are you planning ways to drop these facts into conversations and blog posts where they would otherwise be completely irrelevant?

I didn't think so. Which is why you should listen to this podcast. Or, you know, whatever the dj on your local HOT101JACKAlternativeContemporaryHip-Skip-a-DeeDo FM is riffing on today. Whatever.

oh, fox news

Referring to Michelle Obama as Barack's "baby mama" is a big much, don't you think?

habeas corpus wins

"The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times,” Justice Anthony Kennedy, in today's ruling that terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay have rights to challenge their detentions in American courts rather than in the ridiculous Combatant Status Review Tribunals that gave defendants no defense lawyers, no access to the evidence against them, and no information about the witnesses against them.

6.11.2008

this & that

curiouser and curiouser

The SBC Executive Committee has rejected endorsing the creation of a sex offender database for SBC churches. The reason for their decision is based partly on practical issues (it would be really hard to do) and largely on the autonomy of the local church.

Now, look, obviously the SBC and its members don't support sex offenders and do believe that children and other church members should be fully protected from such individuals. I'm not here to comment on that, although I do think that Baptists are digging ourselves a hole from which it will be increasingly difficult to escape if we don't effectively deal with the issue of clergy sex abuse soon.

But I find it terribly interesting that a convention and leadership that is and has been so overly concerned with the activities and orthodoxies of local churches suddenly has such strong respect for the historic Baptist principle of local church autonomy. Ve-ery interesting.

6.10.2008

three of these are doable

I'm going to consider this a challenge.

pondering, pondering

An Obama-Clark ticket? That would win him the Kosovar/Albanian-American vote, for sure.

afternoon fun

So I've mentioned before that the Kirk Cameron witnessing show is just about my favorite out-of-touch Christian thing ever. This clip, posted on the Daily Dish today, is a classic case. Notice how they completely fail to consider what the creational genius of the banana tells us about the relationship between man and apes:

too self-absorbed

Dr. Jimmy Draper made some rather stunning comments yesterday to the pastors' conference that preceeds the SBC . Ethics Daily reports on it here, including this:

"We need to admit that the problem with America today is not the government or the politicians," Draper said. "It is not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or John McCain. It's not the senators or representatives. The problem is not the educational system or the economy. It's not the liberals or the abortionists. The problem lies with us."

"We conservatives claim to have the truth and we think we are rich in spiritual position and power, but yet we are cold, complacent, impotent and unattractive, and irrelevant to the world," Draper said. "I hate to say it, but we are not plateaued. We're not even just declining. We're in a free fall."

Draper said only three years since 1950 produced fewer than last year's 346,000 Southern Baptist baptisms.

"You know why we don't win the lost?" Draper asked. "Because we don't like them. They are different from us. We don't care for them. We have no real love for them."

"People just don't touch eternity when they are around us," Draper said. "We're too self-absorbed."

6.09.2008

and now for something completely non-controversial that won't get me any hate mail or called a heretic

Everybody loves babies, right? Luckily, a whole bunch of my friends/cousins just had several of those: (This baby is a little older, but the pic of her seeing snow for the first time is priceless, no?)

There. Maybe that'll keep the church police away for awhile.

ah, summer school

Student 1, in class today: "Well, it [the Top 10% law] was a good idea..."
Student 2, interrupting: "Marxism was a good idea."

I can't even write about the rest of the bizarro in my class this time around. Suffice it to say that I had not seen it all.

library randomness

As you may have guessed, I have a close, personal relationship with the people at ILS in our lovely, Texas-shaped library. I order obscure books to be shipped in from other places like nobody's business, because, well, when the Library of Congress can't get you access to the books you need, ILS is the last best chance you've got. (Cases in point: Friday I sent one back to the Fleming Library at Southwestern Seminary. Today I picked one up from Brigham Young.) I take the five-minute walk to the library at least twice a week, so much so that the guards know that my books, being non-UT books, are going to set the security alarms off.

It's awesome being a nerd.

Today I was standing there waiting for the guy to find my latest shipment and I looked over at the guy standing next to me and thought, "I know him." "I know you," I said, and we figured out it was because we went to church together in Waco, where he studied Classics with a bunch of my friends. It is such a small world. Even in the library.

again...

baptist brouhahas

Of all the things for which I am thankful to Jesus (and believe me, there are many), one of them is that, since I chose to no longer be a Southern Baptist, I don't have to worry about what they're going to do to embarass me every June anymore.

Sigh. You almost have to feel sorry for the SBC this year. Things aren't going super-well, and the fruits of 30 years of slash-and-burn purges turned out to have not been such a good thing for getting people to want to be part of your club. (One might argue that telling people who want to serve that they aren't good enough Christians to do so isn't exactly the best tactic for improving this little issue, but I don't have a dog in this fight, so I won't be the one to do so. Something about forests and trees comes to mind, though...) It's all pretty sad.

On the other hand, there's a definite sense that you reap what you sow. And cleaning up that mess is going to take a lot more than a fancy new website that proclaims that Southern Baptists are helping AIDS victims. (That would be a lot easier, by the way, if they hadn't pulled support for so many Baptist clinics in Africa a few years back to focus on church-planting instead. Also, ain't it a tiny bit deceptive to say that "Southern Baptists do not believe themselves to be the only authentic Christians, however, and work alongside other evangelical churches and organizations around the world" when many IMB missionaries have been shut down and shut out of doing just that?)

There was an interesting piece in the Washington Post this weekend about the stigmas associated with the name "Baptist," especially for churches who aren't Baptists of the SBC ilk. While I know that can be a problem for some churches (including SBC churches), I'm glad that I've been a member of progressive and moderate Baptist churches that have chosen to keep the name. I love having conversations with colleagues and friends about the true heritage of Baptists, how we were the ones who stood for the separation of church and state, and how Baptists were the ones who made the quest for civil rights in this country a movement. I wouldn't dream of being part of a church that called itself by any other name.

and wow, my bus is full

Who's really being hurt by high gas prices.

6.08.2008

don't mess with texas

Somebody set the Texas Governor's mansion on fire early this morning. Thankfully, no one was injured as it's under renovation while Governor Goodhair lives in a pricey rental that technically isn't even in Austin (which is unconstitutional, but apparently just a detail).

Now, listen. It's no secret that we don't particularly care for the current occupant of the office. But this is reproachful to a degree we can't even express. If you burn down the governor's mansion, you are not messing with the governor. You are messing with Texas.

And we do not stand for that kind of behavior around here.

(Photo: Laura Skelding, Austin American-Statesman)

this & that

  • We throw away a lot of food while people starve. (HT: Cool People Care)
  • This is an amazing chronicle of a life. Here's the story.
  • Among those embassies neglecting their fancy D.C. properties: the Democratic Republic of Congo. I can confirm this, having stood outside the gates to read a sign directing me to the actual embassy, which is in an office building on M Street. How hilarious that the guys next door have managed to purloin parking in Dupont out of the situation.
  • Speaking of my favorite basket case country, the idea that MONUC will be able to leave anytime in the next 20 years is a pipe dream. But whatever.

6.07.2008

five years

Five years ago, my phone rang. I was driving down I-40, just getting into Memphis, when Allison gave me the news.

It's hard to believe it's been that long.

My friend Ken was one of the most amazing people I've ever known. He had this gift for living unlike anyone I've ever known. Ken ran with the bulls in Pamplona, went skydiving in Rio, was willing to try anything once. It was Ken's idea to get a group of east coast Yankees together and take them to the infield at the Kentucky Derby - in an R.V. - right before we graduated from Yale. He had no fear.

He was also incredibly considerate. It was Ken who was chosen to represent our class by accepting the symbolic M.A. diploma at the big graduation on the Old Campus. Because he knew the rest of us would want to see what it was like up there, he took his camera, got us close-up pictures of Steven Spielburg and all the other honorary degree recipients, and showed us what it looked like to see a packed Old Campus on a beautiful May morning. At Thanksgiving, Ken and his wife were the ones who made sure that the international students and others who couldn't travel home from New Haven had a place to celebrate over a meal.

Ken served his country where he was asked, even when he had doubts about the policies he was enacting. Even then, it was an adventure. Our inboxes would fill up with crazy pictures of Ken, just out there doing his job.

Ken was the coolest dad ever. The last Thanksgiving he was alive, he took his boys (who were about 9 and 7 at the time) pirhana fishing on the Amazon. They adored him, as well they should have.

Ken has been gone for a long time now, but he's impossible to forget. There's a whole network of people who are friends because the one thing we all had in common was friendship with Ken. Cleaning out my email address book the other day, I realized I'd never worked up the nerve to delete his addresses, or the last emails we exchanged.

As our friend J said after he died, Ken was the closest most of us ever came to knowing a hero.

Rest in peace, Ken. We miss you.

6.06.2008

boo-yah!

Second best TPIR contestant ever:


HT: Ragamuffin Soul

(The first best contestant ever is here.)

friggin ut

I finally have access to my course management website.

For the class that began yesterday. For which I needed access on Monday.

I just love bureaucracies.

6.05.2008

update on pakistan

Many of you prayed for my friend A's father a few months back when he was placed under house arrest by Pakistan's dictator for his support of democratic practices and the rule of law. I thought you should know that he's no longer under house arrest, and that he was profiled in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend. Take a look to see what the government of the United States is, at least in part, against: democracy in Pakistan.

mixed messages

The Attorney sends along this little, uh, nugget of, um ... purity. Which is for real.

a slight complication

Anybody out there read Swedish and/or Norwegian? I've got a tiny dissertation issue with which I need some translation help. Anybody? Please?

this'll be nasty

Robert Mugabe's police just unleashed a world of pain on their government. Detaining American and British diplomats (and slashing the tires of their cars) is never a good idea.

Last month my "brother" and I were hanging out on a cafe patio in DC when a Zimbabwean friend of his walked by and stopped to join us. This friend is the child of a Zimbabwean who was a prominent opposition politician from the Ndebele tribe, in contrast to Mugabe, whose family is Shona, which pretty much screwed him over when ZANU split along ethnic lines. We talked about Zimbabwe, his home, and what's happened there. It's just sad. It's easy to forget that this is not just politics, but that what's being destroyed in Zimbabwe are people's homes.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

It's the first day of summer school.

I had to get up at 6am. To be on the bus by 7:20, to get to work by 8.

I am so not cut out for teaching American Government at 8:30.

This is the eighth time I've taught the class. Which is a good thing, because I'm basically doing it in my sleep.

I am so tempted to go home and take a nap, but I need to be on campus until 7:30 tonight.

At least it gives me the whole day to work on my dissertation/try to avoid taking a nap. Right? Right?

6.04.2008

'bout time

Hillary will finally - FINALLY - give up and endorse Obama this weekend.

congo watch

details

So the whole abstinence-based sex ed thing isn't working so well...

in which i offend half the tia readership



My friend C (who probably needs a nickname, hmm?) sends along this little gem, which you may have heard about. Apparently some people in our society are in need of a way to continue sending emails after the Second Coming - specifically for the purpose of explaining where they've gone - and, as is the case with any perceived need in America, there's a capitalist ready to step in with a solution to such dilemmas. For only $40 per annum, Youvebeenleftbehind.com will send emails to 62 of your closest friends and family to explain why you're gone and they're not. And, presumably, what they'll need to do during the next seven and/or 3.5 years of tribulation.

Sigh. I just have no patience for bad theology, and most popular understandings of the so-called rapture are based on really bad theology. This is largely based in my having spent way too much time as a teenager being taught really distorted garbage about the Second Coming (including that the antichrist would be the Secretary-General of the United Nations, that the battle of armageddon would take place somewhere near Moscow (or was it Jerusalem? I forget.), and a whole lot of other crazy). Don't get me wrong, as my sister always points out, there are 2000 years of church tradition (not to mention scriptures) about the return of Christ, but returning to judge the quick and the dead is quite another matter than all the nonsense that's been popularized as a result of a poorly written series of fantasy novels and one too many Dawson McAlister conferences.

(Don't get all mad. Other than the fact that it's based on stuff that someone made up less than two hundred years ago that was then exaggerated in the face of the Cold War nuclear annihilation threat in contrast to 1800 previous years of Christian tradition, I'm sure it's fine to believe whatever you want about these things.)

This post was probably enough to get me on someone's post-rapture email list, huh?

oh, my word

Quiz:

What's more disturbing?
  1. The fact that former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's son, Chet Lott, has a cd out, or
  2. The music itself, which features some very, um, repetitive lyrics.

At least he's not a Singing Senator.

"don't patronize me, sir!"

Last night's Stephen Colbert vs. George Will interview was hilarious:

recent reads

Being as the last four weeks have been what passes for "vacation" here in the world of Texas in Africa (meaning that we stay up until all hours, sleep 'til 11, and stumble into the office for a few hours of remarkably productive dissertation work before leaving for the gym at 5. Or, you know, go to DC for a week to sit in the Library of Congress all day.), I've actually gotten to read some books FOR FUN of late. Here are my (mercifully brief) thoughts on each:
  1. The Heartless Stone, by Tom Zollner. I'm reading this right now. It's about the global diamond trade, written from the point of view of a guy whose fiance returned her diamond to him when they broke up. Basically, if you or someone you love are planning to purchase a diamond as a symbol of your love, you probably shouldn't read this book. Unless you want to be reminded that children die in mines in Africa digging for what is, at its essence, nothing more than a really hard rock whose supply is controlled by a monopoly cartel. A beautiful, sparkly rock, yes. But still a rock. (And you do not want to know how some of those rocks get smuggled out. Put it this way: you wouldn't put one of those on your finger if you knew where it had been.)
  2. Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone, by Larry Devlin. Yes, I read "popular" books about the Congo for fun. Larry Devlin was the CIA's main man in Leopoldville (now called Kinshasa) from a few days after independence through most of the sixties. The book is full of fasinating tidbits for those of us who follow the Congo. For normal people, it's an exercise in justifying having done some questionable things in the name of keeping the Soviets out of Africa. Devlin comes off as having been awfully paranoid about Kruschev's intentions (not to mention the USSR's capabilities) in the Congo, but then again, what do I know?
  3. The Atomic Bazaar: Dispatches from the Underground World of Nuclear Trafficking, by William Langewiesche - I should say up front that I am totally in love with William Langewiesche, based entirely on his story about Congolese aviation in last July's Vanity Fair, because he managed to capture the Congo for what it is and not for the pity party that's generally portrayed in the western media. When Steve the Lawyer told me he met Langewiesche by chance in a bar in Baghdad a couple of years ago, I was totally, completely, 100% jealous. Anyhoo, I thoroughly enjoyed Langewiesche's take on how one with bad intentions would hypothetically wreak havoc in the world by using a little nuclear mischief. The book was originally a series of articles in the Atlantic and it shows - the second half is really disjointed from the first. You probably shouldn't read this if you like to sleep well at night. It reminded me way too much of things I learned in a singularly bizarre summer internship many, many years ago.
  4. The Miracle at Speedy Motors, by Alexander McCall Smith. The latest installment of the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series (the only series I read now that A Series of Unfortunate Events ended in such an unsatisfactory fashion) is fun and totally predictable. I still like it. And nothing in it makes me 1) feel guilty or 2) worry about the fate of humanity.

Well, how's that for variety? Blood diamonds, nuclear terrorism, espionage, and a Botswanan detective novel. Next up is an autobiography of legendary Texas politician Ben Barnes, a copy of which the Librarian was sweet enough to pick up for me at the Texas Library Association meeting in April. I love vacation. You read your beach books and I'll read mine.

6.03.2008

this moment

Wow.

tacky, tacky, tacky

I don't think I could vote for a ticket with Hillary Clinton's name on it.

this is the end

The AP says that Obama has clinched the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

I have to say, I am not yet sold on an Obama presidency. I'm very unsure as to whether his vision of foreign policy is solid enough to get this country out of the mess Bush has left us in. I do think an Obama presidency would rebuild credibility with many of our allies, but I also think McCain understands the importance of doing the same. Obama's statements on Iraq have been pretty naive in my view, and I'm concerned that he'll lead us down a Carteresque path (Before you jump on me for that, as much as I admire the former president's humanitarian and peacebuilding work, as a political scientist, I believe his foreign policy work as president was a disaster.).

But for the first time in my adult life, I am looking forward to watching a campaign that will be fought between two candidates that are worthy of respect. I don't know for whom I'll vote in November, but I know that, for once, I'll get to vote for a candidate, rather than against one.

(BTW, Obama will just be asking for disaster if he picks Clinton as his nominee for the vice-presidency, but she would make an excellent Secretary of Homeland Security, and could clean up that disaster while staying out of Obama's hair.)

That said, I never believed that a major party would nominate an African-American for the presidency in my lifetime, nor did I believe that he or she would actually have a chance at winning. That's something.

closure at last

Former president (and thus far uncommitted superdelegate) Jimmy Carter will endorse Obama tonight after the polls close in Montana and South Dakota. It's over, even if Hillary Clinton's campaign doesn't want to admit it. Obama already has seven supers who've committed to him today, including five from Michigan (who, granted, only count as half delegates given the compromise worked out over the weekend).

If McCain is smart, he'll announce his veep nominee tomorrow. I'm just sayin'.

one last tacky stand

Well, in typically tacky Clintonian fashion, the AP reports that Hillary Clinton will concede "the delegate race" to Obama tonight. He's almost certainly going to cross the threshold of pledged delegates and superdelegates today, so there's not much she can do. But her people are making a point to say that she will continue her campaign (even if they're firing most of the staff) and that she is not conceding the nomination.

Tacky, tacky, tacky. I'm not a bit surprised.

6.02.2008

last night in live music: time for something different

I went to an opera yesterday.

No, really. There I was, sitting on my sofa after church, contemplating a nap, when, at precisely 2:26pm, my phone rang. It was Steve Not the Lawyer, asking if I wanted to go see The Bat, an Austinized version of Johann Strauss's operetta Die Fledermaus as interpreted by Esther's Follies and the Austin Lyric Opera. At 3pm.

Who could say no to that?

(Actually, I could have. I'm not really one for Opera in all its varied forms. My main reason for jumping off the couch, finding a dress and my pearls, and dashing out the door within six minutes was that my poverty means this was probably my one and only chance to see the inside of the bajillion-dollar new The Long Center for the Performing Arts.)

It was really bizarre. Really, truly bizarre. It was not, as I had feared, in German. It was, instead, a send-up of Austin and its many characters, real and otherwise. And partway through the second act, everything stopped while Shannon Sedwick (who, incidentally, apparently played a stripper in the Coen brothers' genius Blood Simple (according to the IMDB). You learn something new every day.) came out and did her Patsy Cline routine. Then Joe Ely came on stage and played "All Just to Get to You," just him and his guitar. It was awesome, so awesome, in fact, that the crowd of Sunday-afternoon lyric opera subscribers demanded an encore. Which Ely obliged by playing a cover of my favorite song, Billy Joe Shaver's "Live Forever."

That alone was worth the price of admission.

I should probably mention that our price of admission was $0, because these tickets belonged to someone at the church who passed them along to someone who passed them along to Steve Not the Lawyer. But you know what I mean. It was an amazing, only-in-Austin moment.

Anyway, this was far from my typical kind of musical outing, but The Bat was lots of fun nonetheless. The Long Center is gorgeous, and the acoustics are great. Now if only they could solve that pesky parking problem...

mad world

My dad is in Cape Town, South Africa. He visited this refugee camp last week. It's a brand new camp that formed as a result of this violence.

Please say a prayer for these thousands of innocent people, and for those who are serving them.

dilemmas of modern life

Over the weekend, I got a save-the-date for the wedding of one of my closest friends from New Haven. We were some of the only women doing international security stuff, which meant we bonded for life over the fact that the boys wouldn't take us seriously until we proved we knew our stuff about weapons systems. She's still fighting the boys over national security matters, while I'm safely ensconsed in the world of academia, but she is one of my only friends with whom I can seriously discuss both theories of state collapse, responses to terrorist attacks on a major port, and serious fashion dilemmas, like what to wear when an invitation says "evening casual."

Anyway, she was planning to get married early next year, but plans have changed, and she's tying the knot with her sweetheart in October. In Vermont. On OU weekend.

WHO GETS MARRIED ON OU WEEKEND?!?

To make matters worse, this is two years in a row that a good friend has chosen this particular weekend for a wedding. And it's my last season of big-time college football, probably ever as I have no intention of ever teaching at an institution like UT again. Although dear, dear Aunt Becki's 50-yard-line seats will hopefully be available for many years to come, I won't always be so close, and my baby sister won't always be living in the Big D.

To be fair, they're Yankees. They don't know any better, bless their hearts. And the second weekend in October is absolutely perfect as far as seeing the fall foliage goes. It will be lovely.

What am I going to do?!?

well, well, well

Have the Clintons realized the reality of it all?

the tangled web


For many years, I've been convinced that just about everyone I know knows just about everyone else I know. (Case in point: I just found out that a friend from high school knows a friend from summer camp because they went to grad school together. Natch.) Now, thanks to an intriguing little Facebook application, I can show it. Craziness, no? And many of my closest friends aren't even on the Facebook...