Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas: Luke 2; Isaiah 9

Luke 2:8-20 (KJV)

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And then the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Isaiah 9:2-4. 6-7 (KJV)

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. [...] For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Let It Be Christmas

Let It Be Christmas (Alan Jackson)

Let it be Christmas everywhere
In the hearts of all people both near and afar
Christmas everywhere
Feel the love of the season wherever you are
On the small country roads lined with green mistletoe
Big city streets where a thousand lights glow

Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let every heart sing, let every bell ring
The story of hope and joy and peace
And let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year
And let it be Christmas
Christmas everywhere

Let it be Christmas everywhere
With the gold and the silver, the green and the red
Christmas everywhere
In the smiles of all children asleep in their beds
In the eyes of young babies their first fallen snow
Elderlys' memories that never grow old

Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let every heart sing, let every bell ring
The story of hope and joy and peace
And let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year
And let it be Christmas
Christmas everywhere

Let it be Christmas everywhere
In the songs that we sing and the gifts that we bring
Christmas everywhere
In what this day means and what we believe
From the sandy white beaches where blue water rolls
Snow covered mountains and valleys below

Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let every heart sing let every bell ring
The story of hope and joy and peace
And let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year
And let it be Christmas
Christmas everywhere
Christmas everywhere
Christmas everywhere

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What Not To Pack

The host of TLC's What Not to Wear, Clinton Kelly, talks to CNN's Travel section about packing light when traveling.

What Not to Pack

Do teenagers think rationally?

Interesting blog from the CNN Health section on whether teenagers are able to think rationally. Written by a producer on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's segment.

Do Teenagers Think Rationally?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

This Thanksgiving Day

We give thanks for all that we have been given...for friends and family, for good food, for the Internet, for blessings large and small. May the awareness of these blessings stay with us and strengthen us through the year.

Psalm 100: 1-5

King James Version (KJV):
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord, he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

New International Version (NIV):
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

The Message:
On your feet now- applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.
Know this: GOD is God, and God, GOD. He made us; we didn't make him. We're his people, his well-tended sheep.
Enter with the password: "Thank you!" Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him.
For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever.

The Word on the Street:
Let it rip! Let it out! Shout!
Let the planet pulse with songs that elevate, celebrate him:
Party songs, get-up-and-dance songs
'Bout the one who rights those wrongs!

Let it rip! Let it out! Shout,
'We know God makes us grow!'
Let there be no doubt, God is God; so elevate, celebrate him.
We belong, belong to him, sing along;
With him we'll sing those strong songs.

So come on in, party on up, give it on out;
Let the celebration in your soul shout out!
Let him know, let it show, throw your thanks about;
Spread his name around, bang the drum:
Make a solid sound with what you've found!

For God is top, large, in charge and pouring out
A barrage of good things! His love rings true,
Bringing in love when the new's not new;
Bringing in love from the future right through.
Bringing down love on everything you do.
So everybody sing, strong and true:
'He's top, till you drop- but he still don't stop!'

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Starting the beautiful season early...

"This Christmas" (Peter Mayer)

It's Christmas time again
New year's 'round the bend
There must be something more than give and take
What it's all about
Turns you inside out
'Til you finally see the difference you make

This Christmas
This Christmas
There's a gift that only you can give.
This Christmas
This Christmas
Give love

It's in short supply
Such an obvious demand
Shouldn't be so hard to understand
We hang the lights for hope
Look for the star to follow
Peace on earth
For what it's worth is in our hands

This Christmas
This Christmas
There's a gift that only you can give
This Christmas
This Christmas
Give yourself...

Start with the best of you
Followed by the rest of you
The things you say
The things you do this Christmas
This Christmas

This Christmas
This Christmas
There's a gift that only you can give
This Christmas
This Christmas
Give yourself...

Lend a heart, lend a hand
Make a start and understand
Lend an hour, lend a day
Wrap yourself to give away

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Democratic Debate (Part 1) Liveblog

Democratic Presidential Debate- University of Nevada Las Vegas- 8 PM EST
Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, John Edwards, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Sen. Joe Biden, Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Chris Dodd

8:14- Things are starting off with a bang. Obama and Clinton sparring back and forth in true debate form over healthcare. Clinton accuses Obama of not having a true universal health care program; Obama disagrees strongly. Active audience, already heckling candidates.

8:15- Edwards chimes in- starting interestingly with not claiming perfection, talking about restoring trust in the presidency. Challenges Clinton on a vast range of issues...talking about her voting record.

8:17- Clinton responds- attacks Edwards back, saying he wasn't for universal health care in '04- "positive plan for America"

8:18- Joey Biden weighs in- the mudslinging isn't important- it's all about who's going to take action- "little" plug for his experience at the end

8:20- Edwards: "Is it fair to accuse Sen. Clinton of flip-flopping, but change your own positions?"- his problem is that she sounds like she's saying two different things at basically the same time. Commentary on poverty issue. "People are entitled to know that they have choices."

8:22- Chris Dodd- we want a Democrat in the White House. The American people want results. Focus on that.

8:24- Bill Richardson- "All I want to do is give peace a chance." Stop the mudslinging. Let's debate the issues in a positive way.

8:28- Illegal immigrants: Obama- "a nation of law AND a nation of immigrants." Problem is so distracting we can't solve it. Pro- drivers licenses

8:30- Edwards- Doesn't support drivers licenses for illegal immigrants but is pro- immigration reform.
Chris Dodd- Anti- drivers licenses
Kucinich- pathway to citizenship

8:33- Richardson- pro-public safety; anti- drivers licenses for illegal
Biden- No.

8:34- Chris Dodd- Pay for teachers- merit? excelling? Cannot judge based on students and the areas. Need to spend more on Education- NCLB is a piece of crap.

8:36- Teachers' Union clout- Kucinich "I'm the candidate of workers"- stands for jobs for all, education, health care, etc.

8:37- Richardson- teachers are underpaid and we need to be more bold- junk NCLB and get creative

8:39- Clinton- weeding out the bad teachers- system has served us well but we need to reimagine it
Biden- an excellent teacher should be judged by whether they improve themselves outside the classroom- that's merit pay- gathering additional knowledge- merit pay, who makes the decision?- we should demand more of the teachers but we need to pay them more- "don't tell me what you value, show me your budget"

8:42- Pakistan- are there times when the security of the US is more important than the way an ally conducts itself in terms of democratic ideals?: Biden- Musharraf needs to resign from army and hold free elections by January otherwise will move to cut off funding- needs to come up with detailed plan for Pakistan, not Musharraf- need to up economic welfare-type aid not military aid

8:44- Richardson- suggesting cutting off aid but problem, could endanger US national security- are you concerned? Yes, of course- in this policy we forgot our principles- democracy and human rights are most important to him- condition assistance- restore constitution, free elections, end state of emergency, allow Bhutto to run, reinstate Supreme Court, pursue terrorists effectively- we need to be on the side of democracy- at times human rights are more important than national security--VALUES

8:47- Edwards: basic goals: control extremists, support democratic reformers, free elections, control nukes--> Pakistan example of policy that will not work re: spread of nuclear weapons-- need to lead a long-term worldwide effort to rid the world of nukes

8:48- Obama: human rights and security are complimentary not contradictory > Pakistan's democracy would strengthen our battle against extremists > need to keep nukes out of the hands of extremists but can't just prop up anti-democratic practices

8:49- Dodd: ironic that Bush is encouraging Musharraf to restore constitution--national security more important- need to have sense of balance about free elections- might not work in our favor- need to move to remind Musharraf about his role and his promises but dangerous

8:51- Clinton: national security more important but they are not contradictory necessarily > "we are in a bind" > have to stay on top of situations like Pakistan- president needs to pay attention

8:53- Is Gen. Petraeus right about the surge working? >Richardson: we shouldn't be talking body counts- one is too much. The surge is not working- less possibility of a political solution now- get the troops out in a year but we can't just "wave goodbye"- US-led political compromise among three sects

8:55- Kucinich- surge is not working- troops need out now- adherence to internat'l law

8:56- Obama- troops are doing a great job and making a difference in some places but hasn't made real tangible (esp. political!) difference- troops out in 16 months

8:58- Dangerous toys from China- Kucinich: people who voted for free trade with China bear some responsibility

9:00- Edwards- "Cute, Dennis, cute." Free trade messed up. NAFTA/CAFTA not in the interest of American people.

9:01- Clinton- was Ross Perot right in the 1990s about NAFTA?- it didn't do what we hoped- we need to refigure it- smart trade relations to American benefits- about toys--we need to be concerned and keep an eye on corporations trading- need to be sure they're safe- NAFTA was a mistake because it didn't deliver- need to enforce labor rights

9:03- Dodd- global economy- we need to expand markets and shut down markets when things become unsafe

9:04- Obama- pro-Peru trade agreement but opposed to CAFTA and South Korea- need to send our inspectors over to China to see if products are safe, review agreement every year

9:06- Biden- we can shut this down! It's within our WTO rights- enforce the agreement.

9:07- Obama- Q: You're pro-nuclear power, but what about the waste? > nuclear power has to be part of energy mix, but not whole thing- charge polluters, reinvest in alternative power source research - we can meet our energy challenges

9:09- Richardson- technological solution- make Yucca Mountain a laboratory for safely disposing of nuclear waste-- also need to cut advantages for nuclear power companies- energy revolution- renewable energy- American people need to make some sacrifices

9:10- Clinton- are you exploiting your gender?- no, just trying to play the winning card- people don't attack her "because I'm a woman, they attack me because I'm a-head"- HST quote- "I feel very comfortable in the kitchen"- America has made a lot of progress- especially significant to women- not running because she's a woman but it's history in the making and that's significant

9:14- Edwards- all candidates should be held to same standards- need a strong candidate but voters entitled to know they have choices

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Notes: Terry McAuliffe; Valerie Plame Wilson

Again, benefits of being in Washington, D.C. include being able to hear amazing people speak. Last week, I was able to go and hear from Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and from Valerie Plame Wilson, the former CIA operative who was "outed" by senior Bush administration officials in July 2003.

Terry McAuliffe
Former DNC chairman; chairman of Hillary Clinton for President
7 November 2007
Sponsored by College Democrats

-The Clintons were "the most expensive friends I've ever had."
-Democrats "have got to win this election."
-Iowa's caucus on January 3rd is the earliest ever held in U.S. history.
--> very early primary season, going to go very fast (1st three: Iowa, NH, NV)
-"When I refer to the president, I'm never talking about George Bush." > maintains that Bush stole the election that Gore won.
-Hillary is in a very strong position but polls can change easily- motto is to campaign like they're 20 points behind in the polls
-"Anything can happen in Iowa."
-"You win Ohio, you win the election."
-When other candidates are attacking you- "If they don't talk about you, they don't care about you."
-Woman vote very important in this election
-Democrats are probably going to pick up at least two more Senate seats (NH and VA)-- hopefully!
-Lots of opportunity coming up, but lots of work left to do
-Going to be a very tough, very dirty campaign
-The GOP will tell people things enough that they'll believe it > "The big right-wing echo chamber"
-Mistakes from the 2004 election:
-not responding quickly to the Swift Boat ads
-not being allowed to go on the offensive and say Bush's name at the convention
-losing Ohio
-On being chairman of the DNC: "You get no credit when you win and you get blamed when you lose."
-Hillary won't be elected just because she's a woman BUT don't underestimate its added benefit
-What separates her, among other things, is her solid experience.

Valerie Plame Wilson
Former CIA operative
8 November 2007
Sponsored by Women's Initiative and the Women in Politics Institute

-Finally back to Washington to tell her story, 4 1/2 years later
-Promoting her new book, "Fair Game"
-Proud to serve country in CIA- had many diverse experiences- also served as wife (of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson) and mother (of twins)
-Administration betrayed her status to get back at her husband after his New York Times Op-Ed, "What I Didn't Find in Africa."
-Cannot acknowledge that she was in the CIA prior to January 2002
-Joined CIA because of theme of public service in her family and because it sounded exciting
-Went through exams, interviews, psychological profiles
-CIA- function is to provide solid intelligence to senior officials so they can make informed decisions
-Divided into the Directorate of Administration, Directorate of Intelligence (analysts), Directorate of Science and Technology (Q-branch), and Directorate of Operations, where she worked
-Went to "the farm" after passed exams-- boot camp- paramilitary training, hostile interrogation, escape and invasion, automatic weapons--best shot in her class with an AK-47
-Learned who you could trust, who would fold, who could deliver
-After that, went through Ops course in surveillance, counter-surveillance
-instructors had developed a fake foreign country- elaborate, detailed
-had to find people to spy for the U.S. government/pass information along
-to do that, had to figure out what would motivate them
-artificial but still real pressure
-On her first day, goes in to see her legendary boss, who says, "Twirl around," and then "You'll do." --> disconcerting but proved to be a great boss
-CIA known as an "old boys" network
-no overt sexism
-DO- 17% female, only 1% were in the senior ranks
-Looked for role model who retained her femininity but was well respected in the agency, and who even had a family--near impossible
-Worked in counterproliferation division- facing new kinds of threats- ops started to work with the analysts, bringing in all kinds of diverse experts- known as the "Island of Misfit Toys" but was a new and effective model that was largely responsible for bringing down the Libyan nuclear program
-former Ambassador Joseph Wilson- met at Turkish ambassador's residence, caught each other's eye across the room
-Working on the Iraq Taskforce- try to understand state of Iraqi scientists' research
-1998- UN inspectors left Iraq
9/11- state of WMD intelligence think inconclusive- needed to be sought out- not easy, required creative operations
-Feb. 2002- received phone call from VP Cheney about report on sale of yellowcake uranium from Niger to Iraq
-CIA officials arranged for Joe Wilson to go over to Niger and investigate- Plame did NOT recommend him but was asked to ask him by senior CIA officials- Wilson came back and reported (corroborating other reports) that the rumors were false
-Later in 2002-2003, heard administration's speeches leading to the war- knew they didn't match up with CIA intelligence
-"sinking feeling"- realized intelligence was too patchy- disappointed in the job they did, concerned for troops- CIA ran out of time
-Joe Wilson- told by NYT that the story about the Niger was about to break open, told to write something himself if he wanted to control the shape of the story- wrote op-ed, "What I Didn't Find in Africa"
-both prepared for backlash- gov't acknowledged mention of Africa in speech was a mistake (good)- a week later, Plame revealed as CIA operative
-the Bush administration "used treason as a means to get back at one of its critics"
-senior officials betrayed national security
-series of personal attacks on Plame and Wilson
-Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reports- took info. about Plame passing on the request that Wilson go to Africa out of context
-Jan. 2006- resigned from the CIA
-wrote her book- censored to "protect further vindictive attacks by the government"- denial of First Amendment rights- sued CIA- lost Round 1- appealing- lawyers created to raise awareness and support
-publisher of book left in black "censored" lines so the public is aware
-Filed civil suit against the VP, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and others -- hold them to account for the abuse of their positions
-moved to Santa Fe- get on with life- but telling the story is important- citizens are the ones responsible for keeping democracy strong.
-Thomas Jefferson- "When the citizens fear the government, that's tyranny. But when the government fears its citizens, that's democracy."

Answers to Questions:
-Impeachment- flows from investigation but can be distracting
-Betrayal has a ripple effect- make informants take their info elsewhere because if the CIA can't protect one of their own, how could they protect them?
-Politics needs to get out of the intelligence industry
-Doesn't want this incident to define her
-Director of the CIA needs the ear of the president but needs to stick to the facts and keep politics out of it

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Amazing song!!!

Brave by Idina Menzel

I don't know just where I'm going
And tomorrow is a little overwhelming
And the air is cold
And I'm not the same anymore

I've been running
In your direction
For too long now
Lost my own reflection
And I can't look down
If you're not there to catch me when I fall

If this is the moment I stand here on my own
If this is my rite of passage that somehow leads me home
I might be afraid, but it's my turn to be brave
If this is the last chance before we say goodbye
At least it's the first day of the rest of my life
I can't be afraid, 'cause it's my turn to be brave

All alone
All I ever wanted was to be the light
When your life was daunting
But I can't see mine
When I feel as though you're pushing me away

Well, who's to blame?
Are we making the right choices?
'Cause we can't be sure
If we're hearing our own voices
As we close the door
Even though we are so desperate to stay

If this is the moment I stand here on my own
If this is my rite of passage that somehow leads me home
I might be afraid but it's my turn to be brave
If this is the last chance before we say goodbye
At least it's the first day of the rest of my life
I can't be afraid cause it's my turn to be brave


Oh, and I might still cry
And I might still bleed
These thorns in my side
This heart on my sleeve
And lightning may strike
This ground at my feet
And I might still crash
But I still believe

This is the moment I stand here all alone
With everything I have inside, everything I own
I might be afraid but it's my turn to be brave
If this is the last time before we say goodbye
At least it's the first day of the rest of my life
I can't be afraid, it's my turn to be brave

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

God's Politics (1)

Thoughts from my readings of Jim Wallis' book God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It.

Introduction: Why Can't We Talk About Religion and Politics?
<>Wallis is frequently correct about how most people don't want to talk about religion, or politics, or both- being at AU, a politically active place where there is a lot of religious diversity and so at least some conversation, I forget sometimes how those subjects turn people off. I remember how much it always annoyed me in high school that the only place we ever talked at all about politics was in Civics class my senior year. People looked at me like I had two heads if I talked about it outside there, and ended the conversation rather quickly.
<>I wish people would take more time to ask whether they are on God's side rather than proclaiming confidently that God is on their side. It ticks me off to no end when people claim God for their political party--not because God is indifferent but because I think He is bigger than any one political affiliation. Like Wallis says, "God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat."
<>"Faith must be free to challenge both right and left from a consistent moral ground." I agree strongly, especially with the consistency part. So few people are consistent on what they believe. For instance, people will be pro-life on abortion but support the death penalty. It bugs me.
<>Poverty is a religious issue. The environment is a religious issue. War is a religious issue. A "consistent ethic of life" is a religious issue.
<>"Personal and social responsibility are both at the heart of religion."AND "God is personal, but never private." Both very true--and something people should keep in mind.
<>It's not a good idea to polarize politics and religion- the two are not mutually exclusive. If you try to isolate them, that leaves "a spirituality without social consequences and a politics with no soul."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Harry Potter's Secret

From The Washington Post, an opinion piece by Michael Gerson: "Harry Potter's Secret."
'Hint: It has nothing to do with gay headmasters.'

Notes: Helen Thomas and David Gregory

"From Kennedy to Bush: Covering the White House from the Front Row"
A Conversation with Journalists Helen Thomas and David Gregory
Moderator: Prof. Steinhorn

Helen Thomas: former correspondent for United Press International; columnist
David Gregory: chief White House correspondent for NBC; AU alumnus

Q: What is your perspective on journalism, politics, and the White House media today?

HT: The White House and Pentagon press corps "fell down on the job" leading up to the invasion of Iraq- ran away scared from the administration by not questioning them more. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the reporters were "unleashed" but were still complacent in the questioning. The Bush administration is the most secretive she has ever covered--including the Nixon administration. "Every president tries to frame the truth, and the country suffers." Journalism is meant to be the search for truth.

DG: The time period between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq was a momentous time. Disagrees with Helen Thomas that the WH Press Corps was negligent in their questioning- the country was in a different place then than they are now, they wanted action to be taken on those who attacked the U.S. Bush had a lot of political capital and spent it all on Iraq. The Congress and the country believed the evidence. Thinks the press corps did ask the right questions. People are now placing the blame for the Iraq debacle through the "prism of results." Doesn't see it as his role to tell the president his policies are bogus. Talking points for the country on politics come from the press. Congress didn't ask too many questions about the war either- pervasive post-9/11 fear. The anti-war movement took a long time to pull together. The media values their credibility with the public. The important questions pre-war were asked but didn't get airtime > the media was "turned against itself." Recognizes that reporters need to look hard at whether they did the right things, asked the right questions. The press had no leverage with the president, so the president had no accountability. Spikes in news coverage occur- intense investigative reporting doesn't always happen.

HT: Disagrees with DG- White House fed propaganda and the press corps let the rest of the country down by not questioning what they said more.

Q: What are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert doing that the mainstream media isn't, and what does it mean for the media at large?

Moderator's Comments: Stewart and Colbert expose hypocrisy in the government by putting the present actions in the context of past actions.

DG: Big change away from network news to cable and online news. Stewart and Colbert make us laugh and have a left-wing point of view that a lot of people appreciate. They point out the ridiculous and have a niche audience. Not a direct challenge to the mainstream media, but it is at the same time. Different audience, different products. It's not the news networks' jobs to be funny like Stewart and Colbert.

HT: Read the newspapers. Read the comics first. You can find a lot of truth in comics.

DG: Build your critical thinking skills. Read columnists and editorials with different points of view, and challenge them.

Q: How do you as journalists build up firewalls against spin?

HT: Take everything with a grain of salt. Assume they aren't telling the whole truth- they spin everything. Spin was made state-of-the-art during the Reagan administration. White House press secretaries have to be a little schizophrenic because they have to talk to so many different people.

DG: Spin is the toughest part of the job. Very subjective relationships- administrations have to be salesmen. Campaigns are like relationships- politicians have to know themselves and know the other people. Question everything, including conventional wisdom. Compare current statements with past statements--important to separate the spin.

Q: Which candidate in the 2008 presidential election would be most interesting to cover?

DG: Newbies are the best. Unscripted moments are fun.

HT: Obama- a new face, an idealist.

Q: Which president would you most like to have at dinner at your house?

HT: Kennedy- eyes on the stars.

Q: If you could give one president truth serum, who would it be?

DG: George W. Bush

Q: What was your best White House moment?

DG: The State Dinner with Queen Elizabeth and the press conference in Paris when he spoke in French to President Chirac and Pres. Bush started ribbing him about it.

HT: Several Reagan moments- "I should have taken your advice."

Q: How did the White House Press Corps change between the Clinton and Bush administrations?

DG: Under Clinton, the briefings started being open to the cameras; the increase of the Internet.

HT: WH Press Corps has changed a lot- the atmosphere especially- less personality is seen in the president

DG: Insight into the president personally helps with the quality of the coverage.

Q: What do you think of the coverage of the crisis in Darfur?

DG: Humanitarian crisis- coverage has increased but it hasn't been a huge priority. It's been underrepresented but some pockets have done a good job with the coverage (New York Times, NBC)- priority in the country as a whole needs to change.

Q: What are the consequences of the budget cuts that caused the closure of foreign news bureaus?

DG: Budget cuts did have a big effect on foreign news coverage.

Q: Is Fox News fair and balanced? Where should the line be in the relationships between relationships and the people they cover in terms of friendly and detached?

HT: Needs to be a respectful relationship- talk to them, get insight- part of the integrity of reporters. Fox News is not especially balanced- but any presidential interview is a good one.

DG: There's too much of a wall right now between coverers and coverees. Need to get to know people as well as you can. Fox is part of a niche audience.

Q: What's the future of TV network news with a more apathetic generation?

DG: Doesn't think this generation is that apathetic- lots of activism involved. TV news has to evolve to satisfy a more active audience. There's still a place for network news- it is still integral.

Q: Is there a declining interest in newspapers?

HT: Corporate chains problem- "Competition is the lifeblood of journalism." TV reaches more people than newspapers.

Q: What final words of wisdom do you have?

DG: Helen Thomas is the "conscience of the national press corps." She challenges the press corps. Study her example (?). Also DEVELOP CRITICAL THINKING.

HT: Keep learning--one of the privileges of journalism. Be attuned to what's going on. Don't repeat past errors. Participate in the system. "We are all responsible."

Friday, October 26, 2007


Live from American University over the friend Graham and his friend Nick now have a political news and opinion podcast: The AU EagleCast.

From the website:
"Join Nick Troiano and Graham Vyse for an inside the Beltway perspective on U.S. politics and current events."

First episode is now online...hopefully more to come soon! :-)

Chris Golden: Reflection on Jimmy Carter

Below is the text of a response written for a class assignment by my friend Chris Golden, who had the opportunity to go hear from former President Jimmy Carter about the crisis in Darfur and other topics. Unfortunately I was unable to attend, but I enjoyed reading Chris's thoughts on the event and so thought I would post them here.


As Dr. Cornelius Kerwin, President of American University, said in his introduction, “the opportunity to hear from a former President of the United States on any topic is uncommon.” It was with the awe and respect for the office of President and the former officeholder that Nicole and I attended an address by Former US President James Earl Carter, Jr. on Wednesday October 24th. The topic was Darfur and specifically President Carter’s work with The Elder’s Group, a group of what he called “political has-beens” who have been established to solve some of the world’s most complex issues. Carter outlined the four areas of The Elder’s work: stopping the violence and renewing attempts at democracy in Burma, democratization in Zimbabwe, a comprehensive plan to bring peace to the Middle East, and the Crisis in Sudan including the Darfur genocide.

The CEO of the Elder’s Group is Dr. Robert Pastor, a Vice President at American University. In his flattering introduction, Pastor declared that Carter is “the best ex-president the US has ever seen,” which is the tag line that has come to signify Jimmy Carter. Indeed in his opening words, President Carter repeated the familiar joke of a young child saying to his father, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a former president.” In his introduction, Pastor cited many of Carter’s foreign policy and diplomatic successes during his administration, many of which I have seen as lost or blurred with other presidents in the hindsight of American history. “President Carter normalized relations with China including spiritual relations with Taiwan,” Pastor said indicating that this normalization had a greater effect than President Nixon’s famous trip to China. “Because he negotiated the Panama Canal Treaty,” Pastor said, “the Canal is still open and doing better.” Pastor said that in the first three years of his Presidency, President Carter accomplished more in terms of foreign policy than any other United States President except for FDR & LBJ. “He is one of our greatest Presidents and one of our best past-Presidents,” he said.

This introduction made me think more about the Carter presidency, which is often cited as unsuccessful because of the Iran Hostage Crisis, the Iranian Oil Embargo, and the national climate of malaise which persisted during his four years in the White House. Pastor made no mention of these challenges in his introduction and I would argue that when the Carter Presidency is studied with the advantage of independent historical thought (i.e. historians who were not alive during the Carter Presidency), the challenging and difficult aspects of the Carter Years will have more prevalence. However, I was also thinking during the introduction that when the Former President passes away (he remains vigorously active and in excellent health, however), that the successes of his Administration will again be considered by the nation as a whole.

President Carter gave a brief but understandably detailed account of the Crisis in Sudan, the division between the North and South, and the ethnic cleansing (as a technical point, Carter does not go as far as to use the term “genocide”) in Darfur. Carter said that he has visited Sudan at least once a year since 1988 and has been actively involved with negotiations between leaders within the country and with neighboring nations. Carter directly criticized the attention that Darfur has received in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations and openly chastised both leaders. However, Carter stopped short of offering specific policy changes that he would urge the US Government to impact immediately—he always phrased them as occurring in the future, meaning the next administration. It is common for former Presidents to try, as much as possible, to not criticize the current administration or answer questions like “If I were in office, I would do this…” because it can limit the effectiveness of decisions made by the Current Chief Executive. If one follows the news, however, they will find that of late Carter has had problems with keeping his personal and partisan views out of the public limelight, as when he said recently that Vice President Dick Cheney has been “a disaster for our country.”

One of the most interesting moments during the President’s hour-long talk was when he put himself in the shoes of the next President of the United States and offered suggestions as to what should be said in his/her inaugural address. “I hope that the next President will be a Democrat,” Carter said, “and then there will be an all-out effort to support peace,” specifically referring to peace in the Middle East. President Carter said that the 44th President should immediately abdicate the “new policy of pre-emptive war,” assure that the United States would “never again torture a person and adhere to all International agreements on torture,” work towards a permanent comprehensive peace plan in the Middle East (“I hope that the next President will announce at the initiation of their term an effort for comprehensive peace,” he said”), lead an effort to protect the environment and combat global warming, and insist that “we will raise high the banner of human rights” again.

It was an honor and a privilege to hear from President Jimmy Carter. Carter is the feature of a new documentary called Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains, and I will undoubtedly think about my front-row vantage point to his thoughts about the state of the world today, its troubles, its tribulations, and its future. Jimmy Carter may be a former President but he is forever an Ambassador of the United States.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Notes: Brookings Institution Visit

Speaker: Dr. Pietro Nivola, Vice President and Director of Governance Studies program
October 24, 2007

On the Brookings Institution
-Independent organization designed to influence government policy and inform the public debate through (somewhat biased) research.
-In terms of slant, Brookings is just left of center overall, but is one of the most centrist think tanks
-Oldest institution of its kind in the world, one of the biggest and most renowned
-Founded by St. Louis businessman Robert Brookings in 1916 or 1917 (about the time the U.S. entered WWI) because he and others saw that the government needed to develop a better planning and administration apparatus for management and budget especially
-Oldest department is Governance Studies; since then, it has branched out and formed different departments and centers for study
-Unlike university centers, Brookings exists not just to do academic studies, but to impact governmental policy. The amount of impact they have depends on the issue and on who is in power at the time.
-More right-of-center sister institute: American Enterprise Institute
-Brookings studies have impacted tax reform bills, the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act, and the Intelligence Reform Act, among others.

About Dr. Nivola
-Has worked at the Brookings Institute for 20 years
-Has worked on energy policy, trade policy, urban policy, and federalism
-Currently is working on a project about partisan polarization with the Hoover Institution at Stanford

Questions and Answers
-What impact does polarization have on foreign policy?
-Polarization is not always bad, but in conducting foreign policy (which is more long-term strategic concerns) it can have very negative effects.
-Without bipartisanship, foreign policy gets very messy
-Regarding the UN: John Bolton was your typical partisan posterboy, but there is precedent for having similarly U.S.-sovereignty-focused ambassadors from both parties (Daniel Patrick Moynihan would be an example)
-In what ways is partisanship not so bad?
-Without ideological differences, there is little to no debate, which makes politics very boring. This leads to low voter turnout and interest in the system, because differences inspire interest.
-People used to complain that the parties were too "mushy." No one knew what the platforms of the party were, because people shifted around their positions too much. Discipline in a party (voting along party lines) gets stuff done, for better or worse. This would be a majoritarian parliamentary-esque system.
-Do candidates utilize the Brookings Institute for their campaigns?
Brookings is not allowed to line up as an institute with any one campaign. Certain individuals will work on an individual level with campaigns, but they are not representing Brookings.
-Opportunity '08 project- attempt to engage candidates in policy dialogues. Most candidates stay pretty vague on policy throughout the campaign, but once they get elected, they want to know what next, and that's where think tanks like Brookings can step in.
-If partisanship is so prevalent, how come the frontrunners in the 2008 presidential campaign are the moderates?
The problem with primaries:
-Graham: Candidates need to cater to their specific parties, then reposition themselves for the general election to appeal to centrists
-Jenny: Yes- primaries are all about fundraising, and the money comes from the passionate people who are usually more fringe- the frontrunner is usually the best fundraiser
-When the party bosses picked candidates, they were looking for someone electable, close to the bulk of the voters. Today, only the committed passionate voters are the ones who vote in primaries, and they pick different kinds of candidates: either ones who are more extremists or virtual unknowns (like Jimmy Carter) with no paper trail and lots of time to campaign
-Hillary Clinton had to run a more centrist campaign to compensate for the ultra-liberal stigma that the conservatives are painting her with. She also has a big Rolodex of supporters thanks to her husband, so she doesn't need to pander to the Democratic base as much. Additionally, the Democratic party as a whole simply wants to win the election, so they'll probably bite their lips and vote for the person who has the best chance of winning.
-Rudy Giuliani may or may not prove to be the real Republican frontrunner. He's hard to characterize, a "weird duck," a social liberal trying to offset that image with a very hard line on foreign policy
-Don't write off Mitt Romney, although he could be easily painted as a flip-flopper- governed MA in a very moderate way but running now as a stern conservative- again, you have to paint yourself in one certain way to win the primary and then another way to win the general election.
-On federalism
-currently, the federal government will always override the states in disagreements, no matter which party is in power
-Abortion: could let the states decide- laws would vary state to state based on the opinions of the citizens of that state- would depolarize the issue
-Abortion and gay marriage- should one, both, or neither be left up to the states?
-Moving one state to another, gays could become unmarried but the abortion would still have happened
-Some issues can't be left to the states-- slavery was left up to the states, and that led to the Civil War.
-Advantage of federalism: responsibility for a lot of things is given to the states, leaving a more manageable agenda and costs for the federal government
-People think the federal government should be helping them. How do you reconcile having a manageable federal agenda with what the people expect?
People do have a notion that the feds should take care of everything. Concurrently, the politicians view their role as doing something (of a local importance) for their constituents.
-Huge momentum towards centralization
-What are some smaller-issue examples of returning powers to state governments?
Welfare reform- has been in some cases successfully given back to the states
-Transportation infrastructure- federal Highway Act- has created a tight web of highways, but now it's created and therer are other priorities. Local governments can take care of improvements- for instance, Boston should have taken care of the Big Dig instead of having the federal government pay for it.
-Has political polarization manifested itself in think tanks like Brookings?
Yes- parties listen to their echo chambers. The Republican party listens to right-leaning think tanks, and Democrats listen to left-leaning think tanks.
-Although there's a considerable amount of partisan alignment in think tanks, the opinions in think tanks are not totally along party lines- for instance, two left-leaning Brookings scholars went to Iraq at Gen. Petraeus' invitation, toured, came back, and reported that we can't write off the surge just yet. The right-leaning Cato Institute has criticized the Bush administration for many of its policies. There is a certain amount of independence and internal splits within think tanks.
-What are some of the thoughts within Brookings about pulling out of Iraq?
very divided thoughts person-to-person within the institute
-Some align closely with the Democrats, saying that we need to withdraw from Iraq immediately and let the Iraqi government take control of their policies.
-Some are more inclined toward a different point of view, saying that if we withdraw too fast Iran will come in and fill the military vacuum, leading to genocide on a huge scale.
-Kenneth Pollock (Brookings scholar)- have to be careful about how we withdraw, because creating a vacuum would be a bad idea.
-It's hard to know in politics if when a candidate is elected they will hold on to their campaign promises-- when they get hit with the reality of the situation in Iraq, they may not be as apt to run away from the situation.
-There are even dangers in drawing back the number of troops, because having too few troops would again create a vacuum that Iran would fill, posing a real threat
-If Clinton wasn't so far ahead in the polls already, she'd have to be running her campaign differently regarding Iraq, perhaps even having apologized for her war vote
-Iowa runs a different sort of primary- it's a much more ideologue-oriented state
-What is the relationship between Brookings policy makers in helping them make educated decisions?
It's harder for House members to risk doing the right thing- while most have very safe seats, their terms are very short so they have to listen to their base
-Brookings tends to appeal to independents and moderates
-Members of Congress from swing states and districts might be more interested (i.e. Chuck Hagel, John McCain, Congressman Davis, Joe Lieberman) - non-extremists
-Some issues with bipartisan appeal (NCLB) will be more inclined to listen to think tanks
-Issues with more splits (tax reductions) - the GOP will not pay attention to what Brookings has to say (and Brookings won't pay attention to the GOP)
-How does polarization affect and blur the three branches of government and the checks and balances system?
Polarization can upset the checks and balances. For instance, when the GOP was in charge of both the White House and the Congress, they were disciplined enough that there were virtually no checks-- oversight and vetoes just didn't happen.
-In the judiciary: polarization can result in radical appointees because the president needs to appeal to his base > pitched battles with opposition
-Still some checks, with respect to appointments-- Senate confirmation process-- filibusters cannot be stopped without 60-vote cloture.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Problem Food

When I'm having problems, if I'm not turning directly to God or friends or family, I turn to food for comfort. That is, if they're not so serious that I just don't want to eat.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a compulsive problem-eater. But there are just certain foods that fit certain problems.
So, just for kicks and giggles, I have compiled a list of food that I turn to frequently- my favorite comfort food, if you will. There is more, but these are the top five:

1. ICE CREAM- next to item #5, ice cream may be the best comfort food in existence. This is especially the case for relationship problems. Seriously, who do most girls turn to when they're having issues with friends or especially boyfriends? You got it: Ben and Jerry. I sometimes call them "the two dates of the dateless." One sugar rush and consequently mood change, coming right up. Best when combined with sympathetic and/or silly friends.
2. JELLY BEANS- they're just such a naturally happy candy. For minor bad moods (a bad class, bad test grade, annoying people, something like that) they can be very helpful. Have a silly conversation while eating for best results.
3. MACARONI AND CHEESE- perhaps the #3 best comfort food in existence. Warm, cheesy...just a good mood in a box. Expect inexplicable cravings once you get onto it, whether you're in a bad mood or not. Top kinds: homemade is obviously number one, closely followed by Annie's Pasta and Kraft Mac-and-Cheese or Easy Mac (or ghetto mac, if you prefer :-p)
4. SALT AND VINEGAR CHIPS- OK, so I know not everyone's as much of a fan of salt and vinegar chips as me. But when you're me, being in a minor bad mood is often frequently solved by curling up in front of the TV with a sitcom or romantic comedy and a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips.
5. CHOCOLATE- THE INDISPUTABLE BEST PROBLEM FOOD IN EXISTENCE. More girls turn to chocolate during PMS than to Midol or any other drug. It doesn't matter what kind you prefer. Chocolate solves (or at least helps with) ALL problems.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Cool blog

The Hip Tranquil Chick...very neat blog. Check it out:

Here's a link to the yoga studio she runs in D.C.:

Sunday, September 02, 2007

To grab a city by the tail...

Going to school in Washington, D.C. does not just mean merely going to class here. There are a plethora of opportunities to be seized, places to explore, people to meet. Here's a list of place I want to go visit- to be revised multiple times, no doubt.

National Zoo- yes, again. I didn't see nearly enough the first time.
U.S. Botanical Gardens
Einstein Memorial
the Canadian Embassy- okay, so this one MIGHT be unique to me...
the Old Post Office Pavilion
the International Spy Museum
Ford's Theater
the National Cathedral
National Gallery of Art- never gets old
National Portrait Gallery
Library of Congress- I can get a reading card there as a D.C. resident since I go to school here! YESS!!!
National Museum of the American Indian
Newseum- once it opens
Rock Creek Park
Carnegie Library
National Archives
Kennedy Center performance
National Book Festival
Eastern Market
Hirshorn Art Gallery
Arlington National Cemetary
U Street- want to go back and explore when I am in a state of mind to appreciate the history. IE not in pain.
Congressional Cemetery
D.C. United soccer game
Dupont Circle
MetroCenter area
FDR Memorial- haven't been back this trip. Reallyreallyreally want to go.
Friendship Heights
Holocaust Museum
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Folger Shakespeare Library

Outside D.C.:
Bethesda- hello...Tastee Diner!!
Alexandria, VA
Williamsburg, VA
Mount Vernon, VA
Baltimore, MD
Annapolis, MD

To be continued, likely...

P.S. Don't underestimate the value of NOT taking the subway wherever you're going, and just walking instead. You see so much more when you're not underground.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Locksley Hall

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)

COMRADES, leave me here a little, while as yet ’tis early morn:
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle horn.
’Tis the place, and all around it, as of old, the curlews call,
Dreary gleams about the moorland flying over Locksley Hall;
Locksley Hall, that in the distance overlooks the sandy tracts,
And the hollow ocean-ridges roaring into cataracts.

Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.
Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro’ the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.
Here about the beach I wander’d, nourishing a youth sublime
With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time;
When the centuries behind me like a fruitful land reposed;
When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed:
When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.—

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;
In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Then her cheek was pale and thinner than should be for one so young,
And her eyes on all my motions with a mute observance hung.
And I said, “My cousin Amy, speak, and speak the truth to me,
Trust me, cousin, all the current of my being sets to thee.”
On her pallid cheek and forehead came a colour and a light,
As I have seen the rosy red flushing in the northern night.
And she turn’d—her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs—
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes—
Saying, “I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong;”
Saying, “Dost thou love me, cousin?” weeping, “I have loved thee long.”

Love took up the glass of Time, and turn’d it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.
Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass’d in music out of sight.
Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!
Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature’s rule!
Cursed be the gold that gilds the straiten’d forehead of the fool!

Well—’tis well that I should bluster!—Hadst thou less unworthy proved—
Would to God—for I had loved thee more than ever wife was loved.
Am I mad, that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?
I will pluck it from my bosom, tho’ my heart be at the root.
Never, tho’ my mortal summers to such length of years should come
As the many-winter’d crow that leads the clanging rookery home.

Where is comfort? in division of the records of the mind?
Can I part her from herself, and love her, as I knew her, kind?
I remember one that perish’d: sweetly did she speak and move:
Such a one do I remember, whom to look at was to love.
Can I think of her as dead, and love her for the love she bore?
No—she never loved me truly: love is love for evermore.

Comfort? comfort scorn’d of devils! this is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.
Drug thy memories, lest thou learn it, lest thy heart be put to proof,
In the dead unhappy night, and when the rain is on the roof.
“They were dangerous guides the feelings—she herself was not exempt—
Truly, she herself had suffer’d”—Perish in thy self-contempt!
Overlive it—lower yet—be happy! wherefore should I care?
I myself must mix with action, lest I wither by despair.
What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr’d with gold, and opens but to golden keys.
Every gate is throng’d with suitors, all the markets overflow.
I have but an angry fancy: what is that which I should do?
I had been content to perish, falling on the foeman’s ground,
When the ranks are roll’d in vapour, and the winds are laid with sound.

But the jingling of the guinea helps the hurt that Honour feels,
And the nations do but murmur, snarling at each other’s heels.
Can I but relive in sadness? I will turn that earlier page.
Hide me from my deep emotion, O thou wondrous Mother-Age!
Make me feel the wild pulsation that I felt before the strife,
When I heard my days before me, and the tumult of my life;
Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father’s field,

And at night along the dusky highway near and nearer drawn,
Sees in heaven the light of London flaring like a dreary dawn;
And his spirit leaps within him to be gone before him then,
Underneath the light he looks at, in among the throngs of men:
Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do:

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro’ the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.

So I triumph’d ere my passion sweeping thro’ me left me dry,
Left me with the palsied heart, and left me with the jaundiced eye;
Eye, to which all order festers, all things here are out of joint,
Science moves, but slowly slowly, creeping on from point to point:
Slowly comes a hungry people, as a lion creeping nigher,
Glares at one that nods and winks behind a slowly-dying fire.

Yet I doubt not thro’ the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widen’d with the process of the suns.
What is that to him that reaps not harvest of his youthful joys,
Tho’ the deep heart of existence beat for ever like a boy’s?

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast,
Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest.

Hark, my merry comrades call me, sounding on the bugle-horn,
They to whom my foolish passion were a target for their scorn:
Shall it not be scorn to me to harp on such a moulder’d string?
I am shamed thro’ all my nature to have loved so slight a thing.
Here at least, where nature sickens, nothing. Ah, for some retreat
Deep in yonder shining Orient, where my life began to beat;
Where in wild Mahratta-battle fell my father evil-starr’d;
I was left a trampled orphan, and a selfish uncle’s ward.

Or to burst all links of habit—there to wander far away,
On from island unto island at the gateways of the day.
Larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies,
Breadths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise.
Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range.
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
Thro’ the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day:
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.
Mother-Age (for mine I knew not) help me as when life begun:
Rift the hills, and roll the waters, flash the lightnings, weigh the Sun—
O, I see the crescent promise of my spirit hath not set.
Ancient founts of inspiration well thro’ all my fancy yet.

Howsoever these things be, a long farewell to Locksley Hall!
Now for me the woods may wither, now for me the roof-tree fall.
Comes a vapour from the margin, blackening over heath and holt,
Cramming all the blast before it, in its breast a thunderbolt.
Let it fall on Locksley Hall, with rain or hail, or fire or snow;
For the mighty wind arises, roaring seaward, and I go.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Vacation (?) Reading

I'm one of those people who's notorious for having at least three books going at once. Here's what I'm reading right now:

Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship by Jon Meacham
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Next Door Saviour by Max Lucado
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
An Ancient Strife by Michael Phillips
Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis

Moby Dick

Possibly the greatest opening in all of literature:

"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago- never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, sometime or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings toward the ocean with me."
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I love that passage, the part in bold being my favorite of Melville's poetic flourishes in it. It perfectly describes the way I feel sometimes. There are days when I feel that "damp, drizzly November in my soul" and I want nothing more than to get outside for a walk or something like that. I love the ocean, but for me spending a little time by a river or taking a walk in the cemetary near my house does just fine for "driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation." Walking in a cemetary is a little morbid, I admit, but it really is beautiful and peaceful in there. Good place to think and get things in perspective.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ukulele Gently Weeps

Jake Shimabukuro performs his version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps by George Harrison using a ukulele.

I'm just starting to learn the ukulele. This guy is a master. The video and the song are pretty much amazing.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

As the Time Draws Nigh

As the Time Draws Nigh by Walt Whitman

As the time draws nigh glooming a cloud,
A dread beyond of I know not what darkens me.

I shall go forth,
I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell
whither or how long,
Perhaps soon some day or night while I am singing
my voice will suddenly cease.

O books, O chants! must all this then amount but to this?
Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us?- and
yet it is enough, O soul;
O soul, we have positively appear'd- that is enough.


From the Old St. Paul's Church, Baltimore, Maryland:
Go placidly among the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with other persons, you may become vain and bitter, for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the council of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be careful.
Strive to be happy.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Some thoughts...

"If only I could find the words to say to let you know how much you've touched my life, because here's where you're finding me- in the exact same place as [last] New Year's Eve. And from the lack of my persistency, we're less than half as close as I want to be."
"You have come to meet me here."
"You were born that I might really live"
"And the first time that you opened your eyes, did you realize that you would be my Savior? And the first breath that left your lips, did you know that it would change this world forever?"

-Relient K, "I Celebrate the Day"

"He says, "I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah."" Psalm 81: 6-7