Sep 29, 2008

On Pulpits and Politics

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Reverend Wiley S. Drake: politics and religion mix well for him

I read with some interest the news accounts of the The Pulpit Freedom Sunday of the Alliance Defense Fund, the group of pastors who decided to challenge IRS regulations that prohibit the use of churches to endorse political candidates. No surprise - the conservative pastors en masse urged their congregations to vote for Senator John McCain and to not vote for Senator Barack Obama.

Among the more incendiary of the preachers was the Reverend Wiley Drake, of the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, CA:
According to my Bible and in my opinion, there is no way in the world a Christian can vote for Barack Hussein Obama. Mr. Obama is not standing up for anything that is tradition in America.
Hey, Reverend? I'm a Christian, and I just cannot see any reference in my Bible about voting, let alone voting for a candidate of a particular party, or whose middle name happens to be Hussein. Could you point that out for me?

Now, as an independent voter, my loyalty is to policy over party, and I evaluate candidates based upon how I perceive their platforms will affect me and my family. While I have problems with some of Obama's policies, and I have yet to decide if his shortcomings outweigh his positive attributes, the last thing I need is to be annoyed with partisan propaganda in the middle of a religious service.

While an effective argument can made against the use of non-profit tax status of churches starring political-minded preachers, I think the larger issue is the abuse of the pulpit in the name of Christ. From what I have read in my decades of religious reading, just about the last worry of Christ would be the political persuasion of the next President of the United States.

His message is simple:
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
I think we can best address the sacrilege of secular political propaganda by marching our God-fearing derrieres straight from church the minute our minister launches into an irrelevant political tirade. Of course, for those folks who view their pastors as some sort of holy men - blackheads, warts, and all - this is easier said than done, but it seems to me that there is something warped about a church's interpretation of the Gospel when preachers are telling us how to cast our ballots.

And maybe - just maybe - preachers like Reverend Wiley S. Drake need to look in the mirror and question their true motives.

Sep 27, 2008

Rapid Rhetoric: THESMOTHETE

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Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

thesmothete (THEHZ-moh-theet) n. (Greek) a lawgiver or legislator; (Greek history) a junior archon of Athens.

In the city-state (polis) era of Greek history, there were originally three magistrates, or "archons," who wielded considerable authority: the archon basilieus, or "religious archon," the eponymous archon , who acted like a chief judicial leader, and the polemarch ("military archon"). The number of Athenian archons increased to nine in 683 BCE, and the additional six thesmothetes worked as scribes.

I came across the term in a reference to Hierotheos the Thesmothete, the legendary first bishop of the Christians of Athens. Saint Hierotheos is believed to have been instructed by Saint Paul the Apostle, and if you are so moved, you can celebrate his feast day next week on October 4.

Sep 25, 2008

Solitary Sunflower

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I'm not sure how this particular plant came to be. Perhaps a visitor to one of my bird feeders dropped a sunflower seed while in flight, or maybe the seed found its way into the soil after I scattered some bird feed on the ground for the squirrels.

Yet long after the rest of my sunflowers have been picked apart by the finches, a small and roguish sunflower opened up a few days ago. Its bright yellow petals greet me each cool fall morning as I walk to my car, and they reflect the late afternoon sun on the days I return home during daylight hours.

Sunup, sundown, sunflower.

There is an ill-formed idea bouncing around my head involving unexpected growth, the economy, and creative destruction, but I am just too tired to string it together, and my head hurts as well. Instead, I'll walk outside and stare at my solitary sunflower as a fall day winds down, and I'll just enjoy the moment, like I might with favorite appetizer recipes.

Sometimes it's better to experience the sublime than to try and recapture such a moment with words.

Sep 22, 2008

On the $700 Billion Bank Bailout and Business as Usual

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As an American taxpayer, it is with more than a little suspicion that I view the proposed $700 billion "rescue plan" cobbled together over the weekend by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the so-called Financial Services Roundtable. I find it especially ironic that Wall Street bankers - ostensibly some of the most fervent worshippers at the altar of what I like to call the Cult of the Invisible Hand - turn to the federal government when times get tough.

The assumption by the federal government of the "toxic debt" at the root of the financial meltdown means that every man, woman, and child in the United States - over 300 million of us - is on the hook for over $2300 apiece. Of course, given the fact that those who actually pay federal taxes is much smaller (one estimate places the number of Americans outside of the federal income tax system at 120 million people), the burden on taxpayers will likely be double the above amount.

Of course, ultimately the cost of the bailout will find its way into higher prices, so those lower-income people who dodge the tax bill will just get soaked in other ways.

In essence, the bailout is a form of financial extortion being used against ordinary Americans who pay their bills, save for the future, and have some assets at jeopardy in the event of a global financial implosion. Should the government fail to act, argue the supporters of this financial largess, there will be danger to every retirement account, every dollar of home equity, and every nickel not stuffed in a mattress.

So it is with considerable anger that I write these words: my vitriolic tirade I direct against members of Congress, our President, and the federal agencies that are supposed to be monitoring the financial markets. I have no choice and only a small voice in the resolution of this matter, and once again I have to watch the federal government step in to fix a mess created by wealthy bankers with the complicity of our elected officials.

Yet the federal government can while away and ignore reforms of such items as the national health care system and Social Security for decades. Support for education continues to languish, and good-paying manufacturing jobs disappear to low-wage employees in distant nations at an alarming rate.

The genuflection of the administration and Congress at the feet of the crooked financiers is yet another piece of evidence of how the middle and lower classes in the United States get screwed to line the pockets of the wealthy elites. This is a rigged game, folks, and anyone who believes otherwise is a naïve fool.

Sep 20, 2008

On Salmonellosis, Immune Systems, and Human Limitations

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The bacteria Salmonella typhimurium, my new enemy

I recently had the misfortune of experiencing a relapse of an earlier Salmonella typhimurium infection. I suspect that I caught the original case in Europe, and it seems that the recurrent case is a result of coming into contact with an antibiotic-resistant strain, as the prescribed Ciprofloxacin only knocked back the S. typhimurium for a few days.

A week-long regimen of sulfamethoxazole seems to have succeeded in sending me back to Wellville, but I remain drained of energy after the second, more severe infection. Unlike illnesses I experienced as a younger man, this month-long bout with recurrent Salmonellosis has left my immune system depleted, sent me into a mild case of anemia from hemoglobin loss, and has significantly reduced my ability to work long hours.

At the peak of the infection, I was able to manage only an hour or two of anything approaching physical exertion, and even a single one-hour lecture left me exhausted, almost unable to walk to the car to drive home and collapse. More disturbing to me is the exasperatingly slow rate at which I seem to be recovering my strength. I recall even into my thirties being able to bounce right back from even a severe case of the flu, but I find myself sapped of vigor even after 30 minutes of cutting the grass this evening.

Age, then, is likely a contributing factor in my post-infective sluggishness, and I suppose it is evidence of my ego that I stubbornly push myself to my reduced limitations. I want to return to the level of activity I enjoyed in mid-August, but my body refuses to accede to my demands.

Thus, I drink plenty of fluids, take vitamins and acidophilus capsules, and impatiently await my return to physical normalcy. I cannot say that I am content with my lot in health, but there is little I can do to speed up the process.

But hey - at least I did not contract Ebola hemorrhagic fever, right? And with the weight I have lost, weight loss pills are nowehere near top of mind for me.

Sep 19, 2008

Random Wikiness

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When I am especially bored with Net-surfing and cable-scanning, I occasionally visit Wikipedia and use the Random Article function. This is located on the left sidebar of Wikipedia, and clicking this link sends the visitor into unknown and often fascinating journeys into accumulated knowledge.

While I am a borderline Wikipediholic, I recognize that the articles are only as accurate as the last revisions, and I get sidetracked with repairing poorly-written pages. Still, I find the site to be an excellent basic reference for initial inquiries into a topic with which one is unfamiliar.

My first random page tonight found information about the gudok, an ancient Eastern Slavic three-stringed musical instrument that was played with a bow. I next ventured over to the page dedicated to the Toho Bank, a Japanese commercial bank based in Fukushima with approximately 2.6 trillion yen in assets and 116 branches.

Another click took me to the page on Pseudaneitea campbellensis, a species of air-breathing land slug with a pair of almost-invisible tentacles. Said gastropod is delicious, I am sure, when grilled with a litle olive oil and some scallions.

I next learned about the Catalan Agreement of Progress, a union of left-leaning political parties in Catalonia. I spent over a week in Barcelona this summer, and noticed quite a bit of anarchist, socialist, and pro-independence grafitti in the city. On the opposite end of the political excitement spectrum must lie Clemons, Iowa, whose page was my next Wiki-stop. With a population of only 148 people, it seemed unnecessary to provide demographic data, but I learned that the racial makeup of the city was 97.30% White, 1.35% African American, and 1.35% from two or more races.

That works out to exactly four people out of the 148 who do not self-identify as "White," and I suppose in a town this small you could have just asked somebody at the grocery store for the count, saving Census workers a couple of hours in effort and perhaps preventing the need to purchase new UGG Australia footwear.

Thus ended my 15-minute randomized journey through Wikipedia, time I think was well spent, although my lawn still needs to be cut and I have papers to grade.

Sep 18, 2008

Financial Advice to the Downwardly Mobile: Getting Ready for the Coming Economic Meltdown

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The news has been filled with coverage of the financial freefall into which we seem to be headed, and I thought this might be an ideal time to share some tips on stretching our remaining dollars. Feel free to offer other suggestions in the Comments section.

And really - even if we somehow manage to avoid a catastrophic depression, these are still smart moves in a chaotic financial world. Get started!

1. Cut your credit cards. You should have done this years ago, but now is better than later. There is no such thing as an "emergency" credit card, by the way: save your money for unforeseen financial problems. Credit accounts inevitably get filled with purchases of unnecessary items, and the exorbitant interest rates mean you will pay for everything you bought 3-4 times until the cards get paid off, like those expensive Nikon rifle scopes you bought for the gun you fire twice a year at deer you never hit.

2. Buy used cars and drive them until they die. I have always had a fondness for the $500 clunker with some life left in its engine, but these days you can save quite a bit of cash if you snag a 4-cylinder beast that runs fair enough. I bought a 1995 Hyundai for $700 last June and it is still running well, and in the past 15 months I have only spent about $600 on maintenance, which works out to a $40 car payment.

3. Shop at resale stores. Sure, you won't find much in the way of Abercrombie & Fitch apparel, but I suspect that the coming recession will see many well-dressed folks in the soup lines. You can find a ton of dress shirts for $2-$3 that look as good as a $40 new shirt, plus there is always the chance you might find money in one of the pockets. Bonus!

4. Get a second or third job. I currently have six part-time jobs generating income, not counting blog advertising and the occasional freelance journalism piece. An extra job will put even more cash in the bank, and you will be too tired afterward to go shopping and waste your hard-earned cash. If you just lost your job, take any job you can find to stay working, as the lack of work will eat at your self-esteem and burn right through your limited cash.

5. Develop a realistic budget and stick to it. Cut your entertainment and frivolous expenses to a bare minimum, and account for every last dollar you spend. Rent a $1 video and pop your own popcorn instead of dashing out to the theater for a $12.50 Director's Chair new release film. Share CDs with friends and burn a copy instead of dashing out and buying every new disc you fancy. Even better - become a regular at your local public library, where there are tons of new releases in music, film, and books.

6. Use sites like eBay to get rid of clutter and squeeze out some cash. People will buy almost anything online, and the junk you might want to toss to the curb probably has some cash value. At the very least, box up unwanted items that have usefulness and take them to the Goodwill, making sure to get a tax receipt for next year's return.

7. Delay big-ticket purchases. Yes, that washing machine sounds like a 1978 Peterbilt 359 semi with a blown head gasket and a rotted exhaust, but it still runs. Chances are it will also cost less to repair than replace, especially if you know someone handy with machine repairs.

Make the tough decisions. Do I REALLY need cable TV? Is a land line necessary in the age of the ubiquitous cell phone? Would I be better off buying a monthly bus or Metro pass instead of owning an expensive car? Wouldn't I get more exercise and save money by cutting my own grass? If you look critically at every dollar you spend, you will find areas that can be cut without much sacrifice, but most folks would rather put off making decisions that require change. Take the initiative - it's your money and your peace of mind.

Sep 17, 2008

On the Myth of Geographical Cures

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I was speaking recently with a young man who was somewhat despondent over a series of poor decisions he made. The legal consequences of the events were relatively minor, but nonetheless this person finds himself with extra court hassles that could have been avoided by: a) not horsing around in the middle of the night; or b) not associating with persons of ill repute.

But it was his summation of his current state that caught my ear:

"I just hate this town," he said. "I wish I could just pack everything up and move 2000 miles away."

Ah, I thought to myself. The perfect example of what some folks refer to as the geographical solution or geographical cure. Following the illogical reasoning behind this fallacy, a person need only relocate to a distant quarter to find peace of mind and an end to life stressors.

Those of us who have been around the proverbial block - or who in fact have pulled up their tent stakes in search of a better place - know that our problems tend to follow us wherever we go. In the case of the young man above, his affinity for late-night thrill-seeking, expensive toys, and friends in low places will continue to plague him, at least until such a point as when he realizes that such habits bring with them unwanted results.

So I gave the following advice, for what it might be worth: until you fix YOU, a change of scenery will at best bring only a week or two of respite. The established character flaws to which we cling continually haunt us, that is until we make conscious decisions to change our ways.

Sep 16, 2008

The Quote Shelf

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Medieval text with Latin script A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

You know, I was such a big Beatles fan, and when I'd buy a new album I'd invariably hate it the first time I heard it 'cause it was a mixture of absolute joy and absolute frustration. I couldn't grasp what they'd done, and I'd hate myself for that. -- Andy Partridge

Sep 14, 2008

September 15 - Bloody Monday?

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Lehman Brothers: Dropping like a bowling ball from a freeway overpass

While I am not surprised that Lehman Brothers is spiraling toward bankruptcy liquidation - having predicted said possibility on this blog back in March - I did not expect that Merrill Lynch would also be so quick to fall in the ever-deepening U.S. credit crisis. Yet both financial firms are among the latest casualties in the financial implosion that both major political parties would just as soon ignore.

To be honest, I spent most of the day puttering around the house on a variety of work and home projects that piled up last week. It turns out that I did not have a case of influenza, but rather a recurrent and particularly nasty case of Salmonellosis, a bug I possibly caught at Charles DeGaulle Airport in mid-August.

And then there was the whole fantasy football dealio, which gnaws at me throughout NFL Sundays.

Thus, it is with morbid curiosity that I will be watching the stock markets tomorrow. I am not one to cheer for a financial panic, but the chaos certainly makes for riveting entertainment, provided that the collapsing banks do not hold any of the retirement monies my wife and I have stashed away in the past decade.

Frankly, I'm too old to idly sit by and watch another liquidation of my life savings.

Sep 13, 2008

Freestyle Rap "Translation"

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I came across the following video on the Radar website, and I found the nerdy interpretation of the freestyle rap battle between rappers Boost and Hydrogen to be hilarious. Some viewers of the video have derided this work of satire as racist in spirit, but I laughed out loud at some of the quasi-intellectual "translations" of the language of the street.

Anyways, feel free to offer your opinions on the video in the comments section.

Sep 12, 2008

On Starting a Garden

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A site visitor recently posed a question about advice for beginning gardeners, and I thought that this topic would be better used as the focus of a post. Feel free to chime in with any other suggestions that you have for neophytes to the world of gardening.

I have toyed with gardening for much of my life, but only in this decade have I fully embraced the gardening ethos. I prefer to use high-fallutin' terminology like "experiments in urban agriculture" for what I do in my .33-acre city lot, since I derive as much pleasure from seeing what happens as I adjust variables as I do from simply following the instructions on the seed packet.

Thus, I am more of a gardening dilettante than some sort of master gardener, but I have learned a few things that are worthy of passing along. Here, then, is my short list of advice to new gardeners.

1. Start small. I once rented a roto-tiller with the idea that I would create a bunch of well-defined plots in my backyard, but I was unsure of what to do with the spaces after I cleared them. Consequently, they returned to the domain of "lawn," and I have since learned that it is better to gradually add new growing spaces - even just one 8'x8' plot per year - to avoid getting overwhelmed.

2. Become an expert at a few crops first. I used to purchase all sorts of interesting plants and flowers every spring, only to become disappointed when they failed to sprout or thrive. I now try to focus most of my energy on 6-8 basics - such as tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini - and try one or two new plants per year. That way I can remember the specific approach I took, and not get confused trying to remember all of the variables.

3. Take notes. This is related to the last point, as I no longer have that razor-sharp young mind that can instantly recall details from earlier in the planting season. Heck: I can no longer even remember exactly what I planted and where I planted it if I do not keep notes.

4. Mulch is your best weed-reducing option. While chemical pesticides and weed-killers are an individual choice (I largely avoid them), you have to do something about the weeds. I prefer to heap mulched leaves and lawn clippings in between rows to keep down the weeds in spring and summer, and I use the fall leaves as mulch to cover my garden plots for the winter. Also: this type of mulch works well in killing grass over the winter, denying it sunlight, and this is much easier than ripping up sod in spring when you are starting a new plot.

5. Perennials rock. Listen: I love marigolds and zinnias and other colorful annuals as much as the next bloke, but there is much to be said for the ease of maintenance and predictability of perennial flowers. Provided that you choose perennials well-suited for your area, they can provide you with many years of color by which to mark the changing seasons. If you do some planning (like my very smart wife did in some of our plots), you can choose plants with staggered blooming times to have color from March through November in a place like Ohio.

6. Plan your gardens around your lifestyle. Parents with small children should be aware that there is an irresistible force generated by plants that will draw children to pick flowers. Thus, do not invest in expensive perennials or orchids until the children are older (and preferably after they leave home). Likewise, I used to get frustrated with my dogs running in my gardens until I created an 18-inch path along the fence, pushing out my garden plots into the lawn accordingly. Now they can run free, and I no longer spend time chasing them out of the garden when they want to bark at a passing dog.

Sep 10, 2008

Blog Break

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I found myself felled by an influenza-type illness the last few days, and - given the ferocity with which said pathogen hit me - I've spent most of the last three days in a feverish, achy haze. I think my immune system had been running low due to an earlier bout with Salmonellosis two weeks ago, but the net result is that I am sicker than an antifreeze-slurping dog, leaving me completely out of the market for the Internet's best diet pills.

I hope to return to the blogosphere sometime in the next few days, but at the moment the focus of my interest is squarely on sleep. See you soon!

Sep 7, 2008

Unusual Tomato

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My daughter picked this tomato with a nose-shaped appendage this morning from our gardens. While not as exciting as, say, finding a grilled cheese sandwich with a likeness of the Virgin Mary, nonetheless this deformed vegetable provided a few minutes worth of mirth at Château Brooks.

One family member suggested the tomato bears the likeness of actor Karl Malden, but I think that the Muppet Show character Beaker is a closer match. Feel free to offer your analysis in the Comments section as to the significance of this strange example of Solanum lycopersicum, especially any commercial potential this specimen might hold.

Any offers need to be forwarded quickly, as the tomato will otherwise wind up in a Bolognese sauce.

Sep 6, 2008

Rapid Rhetoric: PECKSNIFFIAN

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Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

Pecksniffian (peck-SNIH-fee-uhn) adj. smugly hypocritical in benevolence; falsely moralistic.

This word is derived from a linguistic invention of Charles Dickens in his 1844 novel Martin Chuzzlewit. The character Seth Pecksniff is an especially despicable con artist whose principal source of income is fleecing would-be architectural students out of their money.

An interesting use of this adjective was generated by political blogger Digby in listing one of the reasons he wanted to see Barack Obama win the Democratic presidential nomination:
And it's this kind of thing that makes me want to see him win the nomination so he can make that Pecksniffian twit Peggy Noonan choke on her Pinot Grigio when he throws a hard, high fastball right between John McCain or Mitt Romney's eyes.
Ah, what wondrous prose flowed from the pen of Dickens, giving us all sorts of arcane literature-based references with which to skewer political figures.

Sep 4, 2008

On Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit's Struggles, and Old Memories

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(Detroit) I spent most of the day in the city of Detroit, though admittedly my reasons for being in Motown had nothing to do with the resignation and plea deal of beseiged mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. In fact, I was unaware of the looming end to this political saga until I overheard some folks discussing the sudden turn of scandalous events.

In addition to having to leave the Manoogian Mansion by September 18, Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and will get 120 days in jail. He also has to pay a $1 million fine, he loses his license to practice law, and Kilpatrick cannot run for any elected office for five years.

I spoke with quite a few Detroit residents today about the plea deal, and most people seemed relieved that this political mess - which has generated a ton of negative national publicity for the city - is finally over.

"I voted for him the first time, but Kwame clearly overstayed his welcome," said one young woman. "But when his mother [Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick] stood up and told us: 'Don't let nobody talk about y'all's boy', it was over for me. The both of them have got to go."

One elderly man said he could have forgiven Kilpatrick for lying under oath about his affair with his former Chief of Staff Christine Rowland Beatty, but that another recent incident made him decide to stop supporting the mayor.

"When you go around assaulting a police officer, you are just asking for trouble," he said, shaking his head. "That's a special kind of stupid arrogance there."

A Detroiter by birth, I spent the afternoon driving to some of my old neighborhoods, looking at the many changes in the nearly two decades since I moved to Toledo. My old schools are either closed or renamed, and even my alma mater - Bishop Borgess High School - was a victim of downsizing by the Archdiocese in 2005. Heck, even Plymouth General Hospital - where I took my first breaths and began life outside my mother's womb - fell to the wrecking ball some years ago.

At least the houses I lived in as a child are still standing, though my old neighborhood near Plymouth and Greenfield is looking pretty ragged. My former home on Mettetal has empty lots next to it where once stood houses, and it now looks like a sort of pioneer homestead, as both vacant lots are filled with trees and underbrush.

Yet there were quite a few children playing in front of the remaining houses on Mettetal, and a number of homes still exhibit the stubborn pride of their owners despite the urban decay that continues to creep in the area. Even a tough neighborhood like this still exudes plenty of life, and the idea that Detroit is somehow "dead" is a falsehood promoted by people who never venture into the city.

"Struggling," yes, and perhaps "blighted" is also appropriate, but even a thieving thug like Kwame Kilpatrick cannot kill the city of Detroit, and I suspect that this once-fine city will one day rise from the imaginary ashes of so many ignorant people who like to perpetuate such stereotypes about urban Rust Belt cities.

Of course, this renaissance may be long after I have departed this plane of existence, but that's another story.

Sep 3, 2008

The Quote Shelf

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Medieval text with Latin script A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

He is the best man who - when making his plans - fears and reflects on everything that can happen to him, but in the moment of action is bold. -- Herodotus

Sep 2, 2008

On Academic Nomadism and Institutional Bureaucracy

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As a member of the segment of the academic population known as academic nomads, I have been forced to develop the unusual (and perhaps unenviable) skill of knowing how to maneuver through unfamiliar institutional bureaucracies. There is a certain specialized language of academic bureaucracy that takes some time to get used to, but learning college-speak is a necessary prerequisite to the life of the nomad.

Departments like "media services" and "technical support" contain some of the best friends an academic nomad will make, as these folks hold the keys to network access (of course, they also monitor the keylogger software, but my use of university networks is always responsible). Forget human resources, as the checks will eventually arrive: without the power to access a university's computer network, a modern academic nomad is hopelessly isolated.

As I write this post I am sitting in yet another temporary office filling in for another full-time professor. I am glad for the opportunity to teach, but I know that the end of the semester means that this office space will likely be filled by another short-term hire, unless it sits vacant for a term. Thus I resist the urge to bring in wall posters, extra books, family pictures, and other elements of personalization, as these will just mean a weightier move in December.

Of course, part-time college instructors do not have the additional unpaid chores of their full-time counterparts, like committee work and departmental meetings. Still, I find myself looking with envy upon those folks who have a place to call their academic homes.

Sep 1, 2008

Potato Picking

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, the urge to plant potatoes is strong in me, and undoubtedly appeals to the inner Irishman that lurks within me and probably composes 40 percent of my DNA. I decided to check on my modest potato crop today after I noticed my dogs had all but killed one of my potato plants with their frequent canine death matches in the yard.

Though edible and tasty, I think that another 3-4 weeks will be necessary to produce potatoes of the size well suited for baking. The largest of these early potatoes was about 10 ounces, while others were quite tiny. All told this small potato plant produced about two pounds of spuds, which is quite an investment return on the quarter-ounce potato eye from which the plant grew.

Ideally I should store my potatoes for a few weeks in a cool, well-ventilated place without sunlight, but I washed one of these Kennebec whites and microwaved it for a quick taste test. While not the most flavorful potato I've ever eaten, there is a certain pride associated with the consumption of food one grows, and I relished the spudly moment in the late afternoon sun.