Archive for May, 2003

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MLK, JFK and Dan

May 30, 2003

My kids are so wonderful. They’re beautiful, healthy, happy and smart as all getout. I got reminded of this fact at 7:45 a.m. this morning when Angela and I went up to the grade school to meet with Dan‘s teacher.

It’s not just that he’s been identified as “gifted and talented.” It’s that they identified him, not only for his intellect and his reading ability, but also for his leadership skills. Angela and I listened while his classroom teacher and the G&T specialist told us all about it. Apparently he’s a natural. Taking charge when necessary, building consensus among his peers, promoting fairness and kindness. He sets the tone for treating others in a positive manner and the other students take their cue from him. I told his teachers that I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s nice to have strong abilities, but it’s even nicer when they reflect so positively upon your character.

Anyway, they’ll have him doing a few different things than some of his classmates. Interestingly, they wanted him to have opportunities to explore accounts of the great leaders of the world. Exciting!

He’s a good boy and one day he’ll grow up to be a good man. I’m very proud of him. How lucky we are to have two such amazing young people in our lives.

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Sick but Powerbooked

May 29, 2003

I’m sick again. Got some kind of nasty throat thing the other day which is turning into a wicked cough thing now plus my ears are sealed shut and getting painful. I got me some antibiotics yesterday because I strongly suspect that my ears, nose and throat are one big seething mass of infection right about now. Especially that lovely spot behind your face where all three meet up. Ick.

I know that’s a bit graphic but I have a journalistic responsibility to my readers.

In any case, I know how to survive being sick, let’s be clear about that. But I really hate it. As I’ve said before I had hoped my newfound healthier lifestyle would mean less illness. So far I’d say I’ve had mixed results at best. And “mixed results at best” is a polite way of saying it hasn’t done a fucking thing for me. Not in the colds and flu department. But I guess that’s okay. Living a healthy lifestyle has other benefits.

One thing I wanted to feel good about, though, was showing up for work today. Alas, one of my observant officemates reminded me that my colleagues would not thank me if they should come down with this nastiness as a result of my half-assed stoicism. So instead of patting myself on the back I ended up feeling wretched. I mean even more wretched than this bug had me feeling already. Because she was totally right. I should have stayed home.

And I probably would have done just that, half-assed stoicism or not, except that this past weekend was Memorial day. Meaning I had Monday off. I further remind you that I also have Friday’s off till July. Put those two facts together and you realize that this week was a 3-day work week for me. Now I don’t know how it is for you, but the work ethic here in beautiful Wisconsin clearly states that if you only have a 3-day work week you had damned well better show up for them all. Or so that little voice in my head told me this morning as I woke up. So i went to work. And felt wretched. But I think I said that already.

On a more positive note, I have a bit of good news – I have been recently Powerbooked! That’s right, I finally recieved a much-needed upgrade to my work computer. Check me out on lunch break today. Can’t beat that.

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The New Gender Gap

May 22, 2003

Speaking of thought-provoking articles, I just read another dandy. Check this one out over at BusinessWeek. If you’ve ever been concerned about the pathologizing of normal male behavior, or been concerned that your sons might become a victim of feminist backlash, read it. Here’s a brief excerpt that caught my eye:

Some boy champions go so far as to contend that schools have become boy-bashing laboratories. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, says the [The American Association of University Women] report, coupled with zero-tolerance sexual harassment laws, have hijacked schools by overly feminizing classrooms and attempting to engineer androgyny. [more…]

Maybe I should put that book on my wish list. I’ve heard of it before and thought it sounded interesting. I’m personally quite sensitive to what I call “feminist backlash” and it really rankles me to be treated like a criminal for being male, as if it were an indispensable part of establishing equality. I hate to think of Dan being given short shrift in school because of this kind of thinking.

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Dawkins On 9-11

May 20, 2003

Wow. I just read this amazing article by Richard Dawkins. I think I read one of his books once…The Selfish Gene maybe. I liked it, as I recall. Anyway, in this article he’s going on about 9-11 and religion just like someone else you know and love. I’m having one of those “wow, someone else gets it!” moments. Here’s a few snippets:

…belief in an afterlife as the key weapon that made the New York atrocity possible. [read the whole thing]

To label people as death-deserving enemies because of disagreements about real world politics is bad enough. To do the same for disagreements about a delusional world inhabited by archangels, demons and imaginary friends is ludicrously tragic. [read the whole thing]

Is there no catastrophe terrible enough to shake the faith of people, on both sides, in God’s goodness and power? No glimmering realization that he might not be there at all: that we just might be on our own, needing to cope with the real world like grown-ups? [read the whole thing already!]

He even brings up Falwell and Robertson blaming the attack on the ACLU and abortionists just like I did. He gets the irony. I have a wonderful feeling of affirmation after reading his words.

Here’s another delightful twist: the article was written for the Freedom From Religion Foundation…based out of Madison, Wisconsin.

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Blair Flair, The Matrix & Bark in the Park

May 18, 2003

Friday night I helped out at the Blair Flair (a kind of carnival-like fundraiser at Dan’s elementary school). I didn’t do anything in particular except for wear a Krispie Kreme hat, which, now that I think of it, realy is a lot to ask of a volunteer. A good time was had by all.

Immediately after that we all went to see The Matrix: Reloaded. I’m not going to give a detailed review here, but let me say this: I wanted to like this movie. Really. I got into line an hour early and wore a name tag which read “Hello, my name is NEO.” In spite of this, I thought the movie stunk. I mean, it’s kinda fun and all, and I suppose I’ll catch it again on DVD or something but I was dissapointed. On the other hand, plenty of other people seem to like it well enough so your mileage may vary.

On to Saturday! Dan and I got up early and walked to tae kwon do. It was a good class and I got a good workout. Nobody kicked me in the head and that’s always a bonus. Maybe it was my bullet-time Matrix moves that saved me. (Me whispering to my neighbor in the darkened theater: “I could do that. If I wanted to.”)

After that, Angela and I took Logan to the 20th Annual “Bark in the Park” walk for the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) of Waukesha County. Logan got treats, a neckerchief, a dip in the pond and a chance to say hello hundreds of his closest friends. We also got a nice walk thorugh the woods while we were there.

Thank you to the animal lovers who sponsored our participation. Angela and I were very proud to bring your contribution to HAWS, and they were very pleased to have it. Thank you very much!

A few pictures of this weekend’s events are on temporary display in the gallery so catch them while you can.

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First Friday Off

May 16, 2003

I took the day off today. Mostly. Yesterday at work turned into a hair-raising scramble to fix an unexpected outage. In the end, however, everything worked out really well so there was really no reason for me to not take today off as planned…except that I felt like going in just to make double-damned sure that everything really was going well. And, as it turns out, everything was. So after having gotten there at 8 AM I headed for home at 10.

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon doing a random mix of:

* Playing John Mayer songs on my long-neglected guitar.

* Watching Björk videos on her web site.

* Lounging on two folding camp chairs in the back yard, staring at the red glow of the sun through my closed eyelids while Logan napped on the patio beside me.

* Ate the last bit of a half-gallon of Edy’s fat-free frozen yogurt right out of the carton with a serving spoon. Vanilla.

* Listened to Frou Frou while reading nerd news.

* Fiddling with the pictures of last night’s lunar eclipse.

* Bought Björk: Greatest Hits off the iTunes Music Store. One click, a $9.99 charge, and a five minute download scored me the entire 15-song album. Can’t beat that.

The kids will be home shortly, I think. Rumor has it that Angela is going to pick up tickets for the 10:30 PM showing of The Matrix: Reloaded on her way home. And I believe I am helping out at some carnival-like thing at Daniel’s school this evening, too. In fact dinner will probably consist of hotdogs served by PTO members. Could be worse though I guess.

FYI: I have the next six Friday’s off 🙂

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Religion, 9-11 and Me

May 13, 2003

I’ve been on an “anti-religion tear,” or so I’ve told some of my close friends recently. And I really have. Both on and offline I have found myself becoming an unapolagetic advocate for secularism, mercilessly pointing out the inherent problems with religious belief. In some ways it’s an odd thing for me to be doing, having majored in religious studies for a time as an undergraduate partly because of my own deeply felt religious feelings. In other ways maybe it’s not so odd, considering my liberal politics, intellectual nature and my not-very-religious upbringing.

But why now? And why speak against religion so passionately? My wife supplied the answer this weekend when she said “that’s how 9-11 affected you.”

When she’s right, she’s right. The terrorist attack was a stunning reminder of the power of religion to cause people to abandon basic principles like tolerance, empathy, mercy and truth. Apparenlty, it’s very easy to divorce ones self from these things if one subscribes to a worldview which – as I recently wrote – has “been arrived at with the aid of an ancient and superstitious cosmology for which there is not the slightest shred of actual evidence.” My closed-mouthed acceptance of this phenomenon has worn thin since that day. And now within the last week or two I have written some scathing criticisms of religion:

I view this kind of thinking as a shared human weakness that we must all strive to overcome. We must always guard against “belief” or “faith” that is proof against all reason. It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies I can think of. [more…]

[religious fundamentalists]…act as though they had no other authority to answer to. Not the constitution, not humanitarian principles, not freedom, not fairness…nothing. [more…]

All those roads lead to the same place. A frightening world where the ultimate authority is unquestionable, and where laws and rules are dogmas which are unassailable by reason or compassion. [more…]

And I mean what I say. The only thing that gives me pause is the fact that so many wonderful people in my life are in fact at least nominally religious. I wish it to be known that although I might not think much of their chosen path, I think a great deal of the people themselves. In fact, religion has only one thing to recommend it in my book: the fact that I have personally known a great many believers who are also very excellent human beings. Even if I do disagree so very strongly. And I most certainly do.

Did 9-11 change you personally? Leave a comment, I’d love to read it.