Friday, December 7, 2012

I Want Out of Modern Marketing

Sears credit card accused me of being late on two months payment when I paid off the card. They got payment of the almost the whole balance a day after the due date. That left a small balance – and I thought I had a zero balance. They charged me late fees for both months. I protested. They fixed it and ended up giving me money back.

I tried to close the account, but it was such a hassle I just decided to let it go. But I haven’t shopped at either Sears or Kmart since, and I don’t intend to. It’s the only way I can protest what I see as unjust financial policies that only benefit the company, never the consumer.

Somehow, and I confess I don’t remember how, I ended up in a situation where I had to sign up for a trial copy of Cooks magazine in order to get something I wanted on the web. I was already subscribing to one of the publications, but thought, what the heck, a one copy trial, no big deal. Ever since then I’ve been getting demands for payment for a year’s subscription. Today I got the third notice. Probably going to turn me over to a collection agency next.

I’m tired of companies assuming that I’m a patsy. I’m tired of companies assuming that I will pay bills I haven’t made for products I don’t want. I’m tired of companies making it difficult for me to close accounts, drop out, drop them off my screens – both mental and computer.

I want out of modern marketing!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A questionable hermeneutic

There was a Senior chapel talk the Friday before Thanksgiving break.

It was a fine talk by a fine young woman with a sensitive conscience. She worried that she was not the kind of Christian she believed God and Jesus wanted her to be. She thought about how her life was shaped by faith and how faith guided her choices. I think that’s what she was saying. I was distracted by her hermeneutic – combined with what I had just heard in a debate over the ability of Christian theology to guide thinking about sustainability.

Her hermeneutic was a common one for students at our college. It begins with the assumption that every word in the bible, in its various translations (though more often than not in either the Authorized Version or one of its conservative iterations such as the NIV), is pure word of God, and every word of the bible is “scripture” and “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.”

In this hermeneutic the Christian scriptures are a rich mine filled with nuggets of wisdom that can and should be drawn up to solve problems, end debate and close minds. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me” is the simplistic version of an evangelical hermeneutic adopted by many of our students, and probably not a few of our faculty.

Given the zeitgeist of fundamental apocalypticism that is not uncommon in many Kansas, Texas, Nebraska churches, that quote mining hermeneutic is sometimes combined with a view of creation that sees creation as coming to a sudden and catastrophic end.

That point of view had been demonstrated in Argumentation class that same Friday. Debating the issue of the sufficiency of Christian faith for developing a sustainable view of human interaction with creation, the negative argued that God was going to do away with the earth sooner or later and therefore there was no need to develop a theological affirmation of sustainability. Even sadder: the Affirmative, having opportunity to refute, didn’t even confront the bad theology.

We offer no challenge to this impoverishing hermeneutic. We don’t challenge our students to see the Christian scripture in historical context, to see scripture through a historical critical hermeneutic, to view it through a Christo-centric hermeneutic, or any sophisticated hermeneutic.

Our contemporary Lutheran understanding of Scripture gets almost no hearing anywhere on the campus. I certainly wouldn’t advocate that we attempt to proselytize for a Lutheran understanding of the Christian scriptures. I would advocate that we need to present that resource to students more directly, more fully and unapologetically. FCA and other evangelical groups who use a quote mining hermeneutic operate without any alternative understanding of the scriptures of Christendom. One of the reasons that kids use the interpretive tools offer by evangelical churches is that they aren’t offered anything else, anything more critical and in some sense more aware of the intellectual difficulties of being religious in our post-modern world.

Our spiritual challenges are partly non-academic. Developing as a faithful and thoughtful advocate of any religious position, (or of agnosticism or even atheism) is in some sense a personal journey and not an academic one. But it is also an academic journey.

The tools that have been developed for the critical study of the Judeo-Christian scriptures are not new. These are ideas and concepts that have been developed since the 1850’s, and are well known in the seminaries, even the most conservative evangelical seminaries. They are disparaged there while they are encouraged in the seminaries of the Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican and ELCA Lutheran churches.

I first encountered these tools in New Testament studies as a sophomore at Augustana College. They were enlightening and empowering. They enabled me to take a clearer look at the Bible. They gave me a terrific boost in an attempt to understand the world science was describing – even the world literature was describing – and the ancient texts that I felt were normative for my life. I don’t think the tools of contemporary scholarship would do anything less for our students. Somehow we need to make those tools more available to the student body if we are going to do something more than just create a warm fuzzy sense of spiritual development. I like warm fuzzy spiritually fulfilling objectives, but I don’t think that warm fuzzies alone are worthy of us as an institution of higher education.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Scam That Almost Caught Me

I have almost been a victim of an incredibly expensive scam.

It began last week when I put the Fusion on Since that posting I’ve had three brokers call offering to sell the car for a fee – each of them guaranteeing success in the sale. After the second broker call I received an email that began the scam.

The first email, from a Kelvin Klaser or, asked, “Is the posting still valid.” He asked about condition, and gave several indications that he hadn’t actually looked at the ad. While this should have been an immediate red flag, I didn’t want to be rude and reply “Why don’t you look at the ad.” I did direct him to the video walk around. He noted that he was out of town and would complete the deal online. He also told me that he would have the car picked up and shipped overseas.

The next email he offered to purchase the Fusion at the asking price and to pay via Pay pal, to pay the fees for receiving a payment via Pay pal. Only he didn’t call it just that. He seemed to know how to use Pay pal that marked him as an advanced user. I took a day off from the deal and began to think about what I had to do to complete the sale. I had a list of what had to be done on Monday in order to complete the sale.

In other words I was sure that this was going to be a quick sale that would enable us to get rid of the Fusion and not lose money on the deal. On Monday I read an email saying that I should invoice him via Pay pal and he would get the payment to me. I created the invoices on Monday – Pay pal will not let you invoice for more than $10,000, so I had to create three invoices – two for the car and one for the cost of the receiving the cash.

Things were going fast, and I didn’t feel right about the whole deal. I had the good sense to post my ill feelings to facebook, and had the good friends who warned me about what was going on. Deb Levy came thru with a description of the exact scam that I was now involved in.

So I went to the bank and reported. I went to Pay pal and cancelled the invoices. Then I opened my email. I had four emails. Two from Kelvin and two purporting to be from Pay pal. According to the emails, Kelvin had deposited over $18,000 into my Pay pal account, but it was being held pending my sending $1500 via Western Union to his shipping agent in the UK.

I responded by telling Kelvin that the deal was off. If there was to be a deal it would have to be by cashier’s check and that I would not be sending any money anywhere.

I was able to do that with confidence because his scam had followed the list Deb showed me nearly verbatim.

Then I called Pay pal – something Marjie B. Anderson advised. They assured me that there was no money deposited and on hold for me. I reported Kelvin to Pay pal ( and to Google (all the email addresses were gmail addresses).

The key was “send me $1,500 and I’ll send you $18,000 and pick up your car.” Because I would not get burned that way (I’ve never been tempted to send money to a Nigerian princess/Suffering Pastor/Millionaire to be Oil Magnate). I also don’t have $1500 to send to anyone right at the moment. That’s why I’m trying to sell the Fusion! But I followed along to the crucial moment of the scam, even though my gut told me there was something wrong.


Part of the answer is because I’d never encountered this kind of scam before. I’ve been scammed face to face many times by people who got money out of my pocket and into theirs with all sorts of sob stories. This scam was different.

The steps in the scam are:

1. The scammer makes contact asking about the validity of the posting – no mention of the product. You will fill that blank in for the scammer.
2. The scammer cannot meet you face to face because he’s out of town.
3. The scammer promises to pick up the item through a third party.
4. The scammer needs to complete the transaction quickly. Pay pal seems to be a way to get things done quickly and gives the seller a sense that they will be safe.
5. The scammer promises to pay more than the asking price.
6. Finally – and this is where the scammer pulls the string – the money includes a payment to that third party who will pick up the item to be shipped overseas. You have to pay the shipper and then you can get your payment.

Now that I know the steps I’ll be a little better prepared for the next phishing email.

But I also got caught in this because I wanted the sale to be real. It was my desire that made me almost fall victim to the scam. The Buddha was right about desire.

Thanks Deb Levy and Marjie Benbow Anderson for excellent advice and to all the rest of my facebook friends for reassurance that my gut instinct was right.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What I Have Against Mormons

I am not going to vote for Mitt Romney, but I’m not going to vote for him because of his policies, not because of his religion. The U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits offering a religious test for office. In fact, prior to Kennedy Presidents were supposed to just be nominally religious. Reagan professed some sort of Christianity, but never doing the basic thing that Christians do – attend worship. Still, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care what sort of faith, if any the President has.

I am not anti-Mormon. On a personal level I’ve known a number of Mormons, and they’ve all been good people. Intellectually, the Smith narrative, while it has essential problems with credibility, is a compelling narrative. The image of the colony’s members, the bee hive, an image of a busy and constructive vision of the American work ethic.

What I have against Mormonism is not the theology. I don’t know Mormon theology, but what I have heard makes it seem to me to be a kind of American works righteousness theology. It seems like a Calvinism with costumes and Indians. It’s a bit odd, but so is the Lutheran doctrine of the real presence.

What I have against Mormonism is the implicit notion that no other religion is either right or adequate for an ordinary human’s needs. I think that the impulse comes from Joseph Smith’s anxieties in the burnt over district. As I recall from my American Church history courses, Smith looked at the competing revivalist impulses and felt that they couldn’t all be right, and he wanted to be right.

This conviction that their way of being faithful is The Right way to be faithful leads to sending largely untrained young men out for two year cycle tours in which they attempt to convert people regardless of their current spiritual connections or life vulnerabilities. This conviction that they are right and we are wrong leads Mormons to baptize the dead, so that they have a chance to decide to be Mormons in the next life.

My experience with Mormon proselytizing goes back many years. I was pastor of a small congregation outside Charleston, SC. One of the girlfriends of one of the teenagers came to our congregation and in the first year I was pastor, actually joined the congregation. She broke with the boyfriend, but remained active in the life of the church. She was bright, thoughtful, well read, wanting to discuss ideas, and strangely vulnerable. Her senior year in high school she came to me for counseling. She was, she said, pregnant and wanted an abortion. We talked about alternatives. She thought that her parents would respond punitively if she told them of her pregnancy or carried the baby to term. Would I drive her to Columbia for an abortion?

I agreed, and on a Saturday morning I drove her to Columbia, SC. I waited and took her home. She said very little on the way home. She said that she was convinced that this was the right thing, but I felt that there was still a need for support. But I was in my third year in the parish and I didn’t know how to support her, much less how to bring some sort of reconciliation between herself and her parents.

She disappeared from the congregation’s life for a while. When next I saw her she told me that she had decided to convert to Mormonism. She’d been visited by missionaries. They read the Book of Mormon with her. They asked her to pray over it; was it the true word of god, was it right? The prayer convinced her, she said, in a somewhat faltering voice that seemed to me to be filled with doubts, vulnerabilities, and regret. Yet she was convinced that she should be a Mormon, had told the missionaries that she would convert, was scheduled for baptism and planning to go to BYU in the fall.

While I said to her, “If you feel that’s best, then I’ll support you,” I was seething on the inside. I thought very quickly of my one ex-Mormon member. She was afraid that the missionaries might find her. What she thought they’d do, I have no idea, but she was genuinely fearful of the consequences of leaving the Mormon faith.

What this boils down to is that it seems to me that Mormonism lacks the epistemological modesty that is useful for civility in contemporary civilization. They’d like to be considered just another Christian denomination, but don’t actually consider the rest of us as equals. We are the gentiles to their true religion. I find that annoying.

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's No Sport

I’m a fan of MSNBC, mostly.

I don’t care for Chris Matthews. He seems to be happy only when he can point to Democrats not doing what he believes will be a winning strategy. I used to be a fan of Chuck Todd. The commercial the station is running right now has set me off Todd. “Politics is a sport,” he proclaims. It’s a sentiment that I think Matthews would echo.

But he recognizes, or whoever wrote the copy recognizes, that this is a bad metaphor. Therefore he immediately issues a disclaimer (a cognitive disclaimer) “but it’s a sport that could mean live or death . . . “ Something like that. In other words, it isn’t a sport at all, at least not sport as we allow sport in this country.

Politics is often treated as a sport by the chattering classes. They think it gives them a measure of objectivity – I’m not advocating for either side on this, but just reporting on who’s ahead. That is not objective reporting, neither is it fair and balanced. It’s easy reporting, leading to empty speculation about what campaign x or y must do to gain advantage.

Sometimes this is called the “horserace.” Reporting on the horserace is simply a matter of reading the polls and then watching for anything that might move the polling – such as a candidate who says “The private sector is fine . . .” Which, in the context of 27 months of continuous growth is a relatively accurate statement. Or wait for a candidate to say “I’m not worried about the poor, there’s a safety net . . .” Which, given the overall vision of the party isn’t a gaffe, but a vision of how we treat the poor. But those statements can move the needle on the polling meter, so there’s reason to play up the statements, out of context, as a way of gauging the horserace.

What this does is make for a cynical electorate (among those who are paying attention) or a disengaged electorate (those who’ve tried to pay attention, but don’t care for political box scores). What this does not do is give us the information (boring) that we need to make a basic decision.

Which economic plan will actually do what it claims to do?

Why should we, or should we not, extend some methods of becoming citizens to those who’ve come without documents?

Is there are way to increase revenue, or is the idea of taxing the most wealthy a fools dream, because the wealthy will just avoid paying the taxes?

And while we’re on it – what happened to Greece’s money, to Spain’s money, to Ireland’s money? These countries didn’t go bankrupt by paying benefits – otherwise they would have been bankrupt long ago. So what actually happened? Rachel Maddow had a story about this several months ago. Was she right that the same greedy bastards who crashed the U.S. economy also crashed Greece’s economy? Where did that money go? Who got rich while Greece got poor? Do we Americans have any culpability for this?

Those are the kinds of stories I want to hear about. They aren’t sport. They require a whole lot more legwork and reporting skills than covering the current political standoff as if it were a horserace or a baseball game or a boxing match.

Find a new metaphor, Chuck Todd! This one isn’t at all helpful.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Verisimilitude & TV Ads

Perhaps I’m watching too much TV, but I’m really annoyed by the lack of verisimilitude in current advertisements.

The worst, at the moment, is the Kayak ad featuring a husband who’s had his pupils dilated in order to see more and not miss anything as he shops for travel bargains. He also sees hair on his wife’s lip and crows’ feet round her eyes.

Ok, everybody knows that dilating your pupils does not give you greater visual acuity, right. It makes your vision worse, not better. It’s why you can’t drive home from the optometrist right after getting your pupils dilated.

So why do the advertisers do this? They want to be funny, but instead they’re just lame and unbelievable. I don’t get it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Corporate Internet

I’m watching CBS this morning, a discussion on Facebook going public.

In essence, Facebook looks to make money by becoming like television. We’re going to be the sheep led to the shearing by Quiznos, Walmart, Ford, GM, and the like. You like, they get your data.

Of course there are lots of those annoying little ads in the right hand column.

Yep your internet experience will not be brought to you by America’s corporations. And will they now begin to dictate how the site looks and how we’re supposed to use it? Will they manipulate with half truths, untruths and just general bull. You bet. I’m afraid it is as inevitable as the arrival of advertising on radio.

When radio first appeared and radically changed the way Americans got news and entertainment, there was resistance to putting advertisement on radio. It would cheapen the experience, potential advertisers thought, and therefore cheapen their business. That deference didn’t last long.

I never expected the Internet to behave like early radio and find advertisers hesitant about putting their brand on my favorite web sites. But the discussion of how companies are using and are planning on using Facebook was pretty scary.

So here’s what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to click on any commercial enterprises. I won’t like Quiznos. I won’t like Walmart. I won’t like even Gibson guitars (which I do like).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bullying and Memory

When asked about his bullying of a closeted gay student, Mitt Romney “doesn’t remember” the incident, but he’s sure he never thought about the guy being a homosexual. When quizzed over his “divide and conquer” comments, Governor Walker doesn’t remember the details of the conversation, but is sure the context makes it innocent. Uh-huh. Sure. I’m a normal late middle aged adult and I do have parts of my life that I have totally forgotten. That’s why I have a wife with the memory of an elephant. But the stuff I’ve forgotten is stuff that made very small impact on my psyche. Meeting people once and once only. A side trip out of Salina to someplace. Don’t you remember that, she asks. And I don’t. But I do not forget, cannot forget those moments in my life that were truly regrettable. The time when I was in seventh grade when my racist upbringing led me to so fear the first black kid at Budlong that I pulled a knife on him to make him go away. I got a talking to. He got thrown out of school. Later, he confronted me on the street and I was fearful and wanting to run away. He was forgiving. I can’t forget those moments from my twelve year old life. When I was sixteen I behaved obnoxiously in the hallway at Lane Tech High School. I cussed at another student (it was supposed to be a joke). I was loud. I was caught by my homeroom teacher. Sent to the vice-principal’s office I sat that afternoon until after dismissal. Every hour Mr. Mazarakous called me into his office and quizzed me. Did I cuss? No sir, not me. Go back and sit outside. Day two. Did you curse? No sir, not me. Sit outside. Day three. Did you curse? Finally, with some tears in my heart I confessed. I had said “Fuck You” very loudly. I got five days detention after school, scraping old varnish off desktops and sanding off the scribbled in graffiti. Same high school. Jimmy was in swim class. It was an all boys high school and we swam in the nude. Jimmy was embarrassed by his nakedness. He was a little effeminate and all the boys teased him and called him queer. No we didn’t think of him as a homosexual. We didn’t think of him as gay. We thought of him as queer, faggot. He overcame the teasing, went on to become clergy and married. I met him many years later. I did not apologize for me behavior, but I certainly didn’t forget. You don’t forget. If Mitt Romney has really forgotten these incidents of bullying he may be suffering from some sort of dementia. He’s old enough that he might be. Otherwise, he’s lying. Or he was such a bully that his bullying was so common, so daily, that it wasn’t even worthy of remembering. I’m not willing to “give him the benefit of the doubt.” I don’t think that our memory of these sorts of incidents is as fleeting as Romney would have us believe. I agree that they didn’t think about it as homosexuality, but I’d bet a dollar to a donut that Romney and his cohort called the boy a queer, a faggot, a fairy. Just because it isn't pleasant doesn't mean you've forgotten. Just because you got caught telling the truth doesn't mean that you can spin and bully us all into believing you. This isn't the 1960's anymore.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Judging Clemens

Did Clemens lie about high and steroids? Did he lie about it? I certainly can’t tell from watching the video and listening to the reports on this morning’s CBS reports. I can tell that there is an assumption of guilt on the part of Charlie Rose and his guests. They have followed the story better than I have, so they might be right. What I don’t get is the apparent need on the part of news programs, despite having been caught in embarrassing judgments previously, the judgments continue. It’s casual editorializing, not like Fox where the editorial content is rarely based on fact. There are clear facts here, but long before a jury pronounces the news reporters and talking heads are already announcing why perpetrator is guilty. I think it is partly a result of the 24 hour news cycle. There’s always a push to pronounce judgment, and judgment is more interesting than dispassion. At the same time we’ve been lied to so often by government and business that we automatically assume we’re being lied to now. And we’ve come to distrust the courts. All of us saw the police just wailin’ away on Rodney King twenty years ago. None of the people were held accountable for that beat down. So why not just go ahead and make our own minds up about the s-o-by’s who have been offending us, breaking the law, whatever? Why not. Everybody else does, except the people we feel are supposed to do it. I don’t think that this is what journalists are actually thinking, but what they’re actually doing. The rest of us, we’re eager to join in the judgments.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On not having a Bible Crisis

I've never had a crisis of “biblical faith.” Let me put that in some context – but not all the context that this goes into. I've been reading a number of blog posts from ex-evangelicals. They describe how at some point in their lives, having been pushed into “it's all or nothing,” decided it was nothing. No god, no God, no divinities, merely earth, sky and mortals. No bible. Certainly no bible. I understand that mentality, sort of, because I was confronted by it many times while I served the church in South Carolina. I had one Navy wife very upset with me because I didn't espouse some sort of biblicism. I had a secretary in Georgetown, SC, who had once been an Episcopalian and when I knew her was a born again wave your hands in the air and speak in tongues and swallow the holy spirit feathers and all. She prayed for me, in my presence, that I might have my eyes opened to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth of the bible. I have never had a crisis in which I felt I had to renounce the bible, mostly, I think, because I never understood the bible as a book whose every word was “true.” It started when I was just a kid. I remember an incident during my teen years. One of the girls my sister's age turned down a request that she teach Sunday School because she couldn't teach all that mythology and those old stories that weren't true – I remember her lumping Noah in those old stories she couldn't teach children. I think I was thirteen, and I think I had a feeling that my sister's friend was wrong. I don't think that, even then, I had a sense that these were “infallible” words, magic words I had to somehow “obey.” I do think that even then I had a sense that they were the stories we told that gave us a sense of who we are and where we're going and what we're supposed to be about and that we won't be alone on the journey. I remember my first New Testament class, at dear old Augie. I was liberated by the study of the synoptic problem. I was fascinated by the study of textual variations and how we knew which was closer to the original text. I was deeply encouraged by the search for the historical Jesus and the unwillingness to accept the Jesus of mid-twentieth century piety as identical with Jesus the Jew in Palestine in the first century. The whole modernist controversy, beginning with the 1850's rethinking of the gospel texts, thru the theologies of the Niebuhrs, Tillich, Nygren, and the like did not undermine my faith but increased my wonder. Historical criticism, form criticism, source criticism, those techniques of scholarship didn't undermine my faith because my faith was not and is not based upon a biblicism that I don't believe, have never believed, can't find reason to believe now. I got to thinking about this tonight while sitting at the bells concert. What a great time I had there! But as I tried to keep my digestion under control, I let my mind wander. I thought about the atheist movement; and as I mentioned above, the movement of ex-evangelicals; I listened to Pia Jesu, the only Andrew Lloyd Weber piece I think will survive. I was deeply moved. I had been moved by Fred Beuchner's Lion Country, by his description of a glorious moment when Jesus, looking like John Barrymore, Jr. came striding in from hell. (We read that story as part of the Messiah Theatre festival.) I am deeply moved by the story of Noah as well. Particularly by the verse: “And God remembered Noah.” I mean, it's ridiculous. If you take the story literally Noah and his family are all the human beings that are left. How could god forget? I get the same feeling from the story of the two thieves hung with Jesus. One turns to Jesus and says “Remember me.” In all your poor oppressed lonely nakedness, remember me, Jesus. I find that moving, just as I find Pia Jesu moving. Just as I find Beuchner moving. To me, that's the point. Not laws and rules and magic words, but a sense that we're not walking thru this world alone; a sense we are surrounded by both a great cloud of witnesses and a power we cannot understand, but that understands us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Watching Roy on RFD

Last week we switched from cable to Direct TV. One of the glories of the shift is the addition of RFD television. I'm excited because I'm gonna get to see whole episodes of "I Love Toy Trains!" I've been a long time lover of toy trains. Maybe this show will inspire me to get my train out, clean it up and get it running. I doubt it, but maybe. The other big thing is Roy Rogers. The old television shows and the movies -- without singing. Roy Rogers and the Rough Riders. There's a lot to be admired about Rogers' vision of America. Hard work and living by the rules pays (mostly). If you have to violate a rule you have a good reason to do so. At the same time there is something shallow about the vision of America. The good are nothing but good, the evil nothing but evil. The problems were unidimensional. The bad guys want to steal the girl and the gold, but Roy stops them. It's an appealing America, but it isn't true. Sadly, it isn't true. But it is very appealing and close to the vision of America that much of American conservatism wishes we could return to.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ozzie G and Fidel C

Ozzie Guillen offered the opinion "I love Fidel Castro."

Later he clarified, "I'm 100% opposed to the way he's treated people, but I admire the way he's survived."

That was enough for the Batista supporters in Miami. They want Ozzie fired. Of course they have the right to express themselves by boycotting the Marlins. That's their right, just as it's Ozzie's right to say whatever he wants about Castro or any other world figure. But I think the Cubans in Miami are being petty.

Petty, petty, petty.

I also think that there is nothing we can do that will appease this rather small group of ex-Batista supporters. They were the ones (by and large) who had it good under Batista, who benefited from his corruption and draining the resources of the country. Like the 1%ers in New York, they saw themselves as the elite, the country's best, the rightful owners of the country.

When Fidel arrived and demonstrated that the very rich didn't own Havana, that the gangsters were going to go, these Cubans evacuated to Miami. They have governed US policy through failure after failure. Cuba represents a significant market for US farmers, but we can't sell goods there. Cuba represents a place with which we could have significant spiritual congress. We have Christian brothers and sisters there, but we can't commune with them. Cuba represents a culture that we could learn something from -- as well as teach something to. Nothing is allowed because of a small group of ex-pats who are waiting for the embargo to bring Castro down.

That policy has been in place for half a century and has utterly failed.

Yet, let Ozzie Guillen say anything that points to the failure of the Cuba policy and the Cubans in Miami hit the roof. They're petty and it's time to start ignoring them.

Mr. Robinson Goes Pro

Thomas Robinson, Kansas Junior forward, will skip his senior season to go pro. He’s in better shape than Anthony Davis who will go pro after one year. Speculation is that Davis would have gone pro after High School, except that the NBA introduced a rule that you had to have at least one year of college before going pro.

I’m not sure of the why of that rule. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett have both been very successful coming straight out of High School. They’ve both had fine careers, earned enough money to keep them living in high style from their retirement to their death. Of course that depends on how they’ve invested their high incomes thinking about the years of low incomes coming.

But will this “one and done” trend trickle down to our level?

There may be one NAIA player who has gotten a chance to make it in the pros. We occasionally get a baseball player scouted. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a football player from the NAIA to the NFL. We don’t even get the TV coverage of NCAA III. It’s just not likely.
I met a potential student we were trying to recruit for our basketball team. “What are you going to do after college?” I asked. “I’m going to play basketball in Europe.” He’s not alone in that certainty that somewhere, somehow there is a professional sports check in his future. I like the confidence, but I sure hope we can help this young man get a reality check.

Otherwise we’re just using these young men and women. The odds are so stacked against them that they’re astronomical. And if “one and done” becomes the trend we’ll have a generation of athletes who have no higher level thinking skills, the skills that will be absolutely necessary to future success. Yes, there will still be a need for those who are skilled with their hands – but the folks who’ll be running the society are those who can think from a concrete situation to the abstract decision. The future belongs to those who are able to critically evaluate claims and adjudicate among options. We need highly educated citizens.

That takes time, reading, thinking, debating and mentoring. One and done won’t get you where you need to be.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Thanks

Today we present a Reader's Theatre program of three hymns, two stories and two "poems."

This was originally supposed to be a presentation of three medieval mystery plays, out in the amphitheater. My illness and struggles with chemo made it impossible for me to direct such an ambitious program. We had to scale back.

Thanks to my colleagues, Dr. Linda Lewis and Professor Greg LeGault, there will be an excellent program today.

The students have worked hard, but I am overwhelmed by the support of these two colleagues. I am sure that if my third colleague were not of sabbatical she'd pitch in too. But I want to publicly praise the collegiality I've found at Bethany. This makes Bethany a great place to work.

Thank you, my colleagues, my friends.

A very human Jesus

I didn’t make it through the whole three hours of St. Matthew’s Passion. All kinds of reasons not related to the performance. Let’s say it was my leg and my gut and let it go at that.

I also hadn’t take my Zoloft equivalent for several days, so this post has to be made with an awareness of that. My emotions were very much available to me, is what I’m saying.
While I was only able to stay for the first part of the passion, I heard it in a way I had never heard it before.

I didn’t get how Bach felt whatever it was he felt. I think he deeply felt his guilt and shame before this dying hero. The passages from the women were extraordinary – both Mary and Mary Magdalene had a depth that I had not experienced before.
What I heard that I had never heard before was the story of a man who is betrayed by his friends, left helpless by his family, exposed to the power of the Roman Empire. First the first time, I think, I felt the depth of that betrayal and that exposure.

I have never had disciples, never had followers. But I’ve had an been friends. Some I’ve been close to and supported, and some I’ve failed at various times. But I’ve never been betrayed by my friends. Disappointed, I suppose, but never betrayed. Yet I can feel how vulnerable that leaves you. Alone. Solitary. Friends failing you left and right. My God, the darkness that descends as you face the universe alone. As Moltmann emphasizes in The Crucified God, even deserted by the one who sent you, by the Father who said he loves you unconditionally and has called you, once, My Son.

Letting go of the specific Christian claim of the resurrection, last night I felt anew a very human story, and it moved me deeply. I am sorry that I was not well enough to stay for my favorite chorus, the last chorus. Next year in Presser Hall!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

An Overworked Sniffer

I’ve always had a fairly acute sense of smell.

I can smell the milk two days before it goes sour. I can smell the garbage molding the day before anyone else. I end up with migraine headaches based on smell (and the whole world demands that they smell ‘good’ – so everything is perfumed).

I recall smells too – the smell of the hallway behind Centennial Hall at Augustana has remained the same smell since I first encountered it in 1966. The smell of Oscar and Ruth’s upstairs bathroom (smoke, an old bathtub filled with hot water, the hint of people). The smell of the basement at Budlong School – a never to be forgotten mix of aromas: hot chocolate on cold mornings for the school patrol; the scents from the home economics rooms; a smell of little kid sweat.

The toughest part of this round of chemo has been the persistence of smell.
As I said, there seems to be a requirement that the world be perfumed. Everything is scented: the soap in the hospital bathroom, the hand sanitizer, the nurses with their various perfumes, the doctors with theirs. One particularly pungent individual – for me anyways – is the guy from infusion therapy who comes to check my Hickman catheter. It’s a woody smell, one that most people might find pleasant, but one that immediately begins to awaken headaches for me.
The smell of the food: The hospital feeds forty on this floor alone, so the food wagon is constantly on the floor. It’s all overcooked and over salted (surprisingly), and there is always a pervasive food smell lingering on the floor. My digestion has been hideous this treatment, and the smell of the food has not aided the digestion. I don’t want to eat anything.

The smell of the room: Housekeeping comes in sort of daily. But my linens haven’t been changed since I’ve been in the hospital, not even rearranged. I have to ask for towels. In other words, the linens are all soaked with a me smell. Not a pleasant one. I want to get home, get all the clothes, particularly the robe, in the laundry. I wish we could hang them outside afterwards so that they could get that fresh dried in the sun smell, but that’s not likely, since I won’t get out of this place until 2 pm at the earliest.

The smell of the chemo-therapy: This time, more than any other time, I noticed the smell of the chemo-drugs. I suspect it’s “the red devil” that gives off this smell. “The red-devil” is what one of the nurses calls adriamycin, one of the two drugs in my cocktail. The problem with the smell is that it gets into everything: my excrement, my urine, the pores of my body. I smell like the drug. It is a strong smell and I think that everyone else smells me too. Maybe they don’t. But I do. It literally smells red. Not blood red, but red, a warm and unpleasant red. It is a smell that will haunt me to my dying day. I want to get rid of it, but I know I have to go through it for three more treatments.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Limbaugh Slander

The Limbaugh insults have been followed by advertisers leaving Limbaugh and pundits commenting on the slurs against Ms. Fluke.

While the slander has been the ostensible reason for advertisers dropping Limbaugh’s show, I’m bothered by the fact that the size of the lies has been ignored by punditry.
Yes, he called Fluke a slut and a prostitute and demanded that she make sex tapes and upload them to titillate the right wing taxpayers. That’s outrageous. But no less outrageous is the misrepresentation of Fluke’s testimony by Limbaugh, O’Really and the rest of the Right Wing Noise machine.

She did not go to the Democratic forum to demand that taxpayers pay for her contraception. She went to testify that her Roman Catholic law school refused to include birth control in her insurance program –the insurance program that covers Georgetown U students, faculty and staff. She testified not only that she could not get insurance coverage for her needed and desired medical treatment to prevent pregnancy, but that the medication was also denied to a fellow law school student who needed oral contraceptives to prevent ovarian cysts.

Graduate students, particularly in high profile professional schools, bear a heavy financial burden. They are expected to be in school full time, pay high tuition and have little way to earn any cash. Graduate students in other departments can earn small amounts by being Teaching and Graduate Assistants. Can law school students work for the law school? I don’t know. There are no undergraduates to instruct. But there may be other ways that Law Schools help their students make ends meet.

Still, the pay is low and barely making ends meet in Grad school has been a time honored tradition. In earlier generations those in professional schools made it by having a working spouse – but that was back in the era in which the majority of those in Med School, Law School and Seminary were male and married. Then the biggest worry for the family was an unplanned pregnancy that would force the “man of the house” to have to find part time work.

Today better than half of the seminarians in our ELCA are female. I’m guessing that the same is true for most of our mainstream Christian seminaries. According to a 2009 report at UC Davis, women outnumber men in Law School, Medical School and Veterinary Medicine. There are all kinds of implications for this, including delay in age of marriage, which is a general trend in Western society.

Thus is it not unreasonable to expect that your graduate school health insurance include contraceptives. Short on money, long on expenses, this is basic medical care. The decisions about our medical care should be made between us and our doctors, not between us, our doctors and legislators – or the leadership of a church to which we don’t belong.

As I understand it, that was Ms Fluke’s position. It seems rather reasonable to me. It has been misrepresentation by the right wing. That is at least as much of a problem as the easily decried ad-hominem. Yet none of the pundits have chosen to even mention that – except, of course, for Rachel Maddow. Her reporting on this story has been outstanding.

If you are Roman Catholic and wish to follow the traditional methods of birth control, by all means do it. But why should you be allowed to impose your moral tradition on those who make other moral judgments about their sexuality or their family planning? Why should you be allowed to deny needed insurance coverage for those who need this medication for reasons that surly don't offend your moral sensibilities?

Friday, March 2, 2012

No Free Lunch

AT&T announced the end to unlimited data plans. This should not be surprising. The phone companies are not satisfied with gigantic profits, they want Oil Company profits.

The problem is that AT&T motivates the purchase of a smart phone showing how you can do things like download whole movies, stream today's basketball game and upload videos to Facebook. Those are the activities that will bring send your data stream over the cliff of data limits. But if you can't afford to do those things, why would you want a Smart Phone anyway?

Get you hooked and then charge you more than you can afford.

The cable company sent me an offer. Bundle phone, internet and tv and we'll give you a month free. The problem, after my free month the bill runs $150 per month. And don't expect much for being a loyal customer. Last night I gave them a half hour of my time doing their survey and they gave me a $5 Amazon gift card. Ain't that grand.

The corporatization of America continues. We are all supposed to shut up and be loyal consumers and never question the way the corporations save us so much money that we're constantly broke.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A forgotten story from Second Kings

The first lesson this morning was the story of Naaman the Syrian leper. It’s an old favorite.

Naaman, a general in the Aramean army sends to the King of Israel for a miraculous healing. The king sees Naaman’s approach as a means of picking a fight. Elijah comes to the king and saves the day. It’s a great story focusing on the healing power of Israel’s God and the duty of obedience. That is as least part of the message.

When we read the lesson in church we generally stop with Naaman declaring the greatness of Israel’s God.

It’s a shame we don’t read further. There is another interesting story that follows on the heels of the Naaman story: the story of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha (2 Kings 5:20 – 27).

When Naaman is healed of his leprosy he attempts to pay off Elisha with part of his “ten talents of silver, six thousands shekels of gold and ten sets of garments.” Elisha refuses. Naaman then requests soil from Israel in order to have a proper sacrificial site in Aram.

But after Naaman leaves Elisha, Elisha’s servant Gehazi chases him down and convinces Naaman to give a proper tribute to Elisha: a talent of silver and two fancy suits. Then he lies to the prophet (never a wise thing to do). As a consequence of his greed, Gehazi is cursed with leprosy.

How have I missed this lovely little story all these years?

And what would the prosperity gospel, give to get, preachers say about this? If God wanted to bestow riches upon his faithful servants, wouldn’t Elisha be toward the front of the line? And why would Gehazi be cursed for his greed? The idea that God gives goodies to the children in response to their faithful sowing the seeds of faith seems to me to be belied by the story of Elisha and Gehazi. But I think the whole prosperity Gospel is nonsense anyway.

Thoughts on Iran

Just saw one of the many Israel may bomb Iran sequences on “Weekend with Alex Witt.”

What I’m not clear about in this is why Iran, if they had an atomic bomb, would have any credible threat to use it on Israel.

First, atomic bombs aren’t able to pick out individuals by religion and kill only Jews (or only Jews and the few Christians left in Israel). So if they were to bomb Israel they’d be killing lots of Palestinians and other Arabic, Muslim believers along with the Jews.
Second, the idea of “assured mutual destruction” that kept the Cold War from ever going hot would seem to apply to Iran. If it ever bombed Israel, both Israel and its allies would return the strike many fold, causing far more destruction and death in Iran than Iran could cause in Israel.

It does not seem to me that there is a realistic threat of Iran getting a nuclear weapon and being in a position to actually use it. No matter how wild the rhetoric, the reality is that nation states tend to act mostly in their own best interests. Perhaps toning down the rhetoric from the world outside Iran would be a good idea. Maybe if Iran didn’t feel that they were threatened on all sides (as Juan Cole pointed out) they might respond differently. If I were Iranian, I’d feel that my country was threatened by outside interests who had installed a repressive regime in the past and looked like it wanted to do so again.

This is too reminiscent of the warm up for the Iraq invasion. Bellicosity cost us a trillion dollars and left two weak regimes in power surrounded by civil war. Attacking Iran would just solidify the mullahs and fail to stop the enrichment of uranium. Maybe we should try serious diplomacy and stop rattling the sabres.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is This Me?

Every time I pass a mirror and look in it, this is what I see.

I shaved the beard last Saturday, and most of the hair on my head is gone. I still have all the other body hair, including most of my eyebrows. I think I've lost my eyelashes.

I look more like my father, even more like my late uncle Viktor. I never knew Viktor, but I've always felt there was a strong resemblance between him and my father - but Viktor had a narrower, less rounded face.

What I don't look like is me. I haven't been without a beard since 1993 -- when I played the role of Charlie Brown in our congregation's little theatre production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." I had hair on my head then, but no beard.

Now, no beard, no hair. It'll grow back, I'm told. But having been bald for so many years, loss of hair is the least of my worries.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Something I Don't Understand

The conservative right in this country gets to have its conscience stroked by objecting to abortion and demanding that none of its contributions to charity nor its tax money be used to fund abortions.

How come I don't get my morals paid attention to? I object to drones bombing innocent civilians. I don't want my tax money used for a "missile defense shield" that fails to work and seems to violate treaties. I object to my tax money being used to target scientists in Iran for assassination. This isn't a political position, this is a moral position.

Or as a bumper sticker bit of theology puts it, "When Jesus said 'love your neighbor' I'm pretty sure he meant don't kill them."

Monday, January 23, 2012

What I've Learned/Who am I?

In these past two weeks I’ve learned a great deal about the body’s relationship to the emotions. And to schedules.

First: emotions.

When I came home from the first round of chemo I was pretty beat. I’m being treated with two powerful anti-cancer drugs: ifosamide and adriamycin. Side effects for the ifosamide are the worst. They include destroying the bladder – so you’re given mesna to counteract that. There are also psycho effects. One is psychosis. I asked the doctor about that and he reassured me that I would have to be older and frailer. Good. He promised vivid dreams, and they came.
The night I came home I dreamt a dream of two worlds, one of which was a cartoon version of our world. From that cartoon version of our world I could reach the world behind by paddling a canoe shaped like a shoe. That’s about all I remember of the dream now. At least all that I can articulate that I recall.

The next day I went on an emotional jag. I missed Kris when she went to work and couldn’t wait for her to come home. The kitteh came and sat on me. I cried. I drove the car and thought of Jon and I cried. I put on the gloves my dad wore and thought of him and I cried. I regretted the difficulties I had caused my parents and the physical distance between myself and my children and I cried. Kris came home and I cried.

Of course, all this crying stopped up my sinuses, which gave me a headache I couldn’t control. But I also couldn’t control my emotions. After a few days the kindly Doctor prescribed some Zoloft for the depression and ativan to relax the anxiety and help me sleep. Both are working, though I’m going to stop using them today.

So the extreme of the emotions: that’s due to the chemicals. But the emotions are real. I really do think my kids are something special, and I really do miss them terribly. I really do love my wife as deeply as I have ever loved anything in my life. And I really do regret how difficult I was as a teenager and young adult. I do regret the last several years of my relationship to my mom – she gave up and turned to the wall and waited to die.

This does put me in mind of being drunk or high. I’ve dealt with many emotional drunks, some of whom loved Jesus very deeply and just wanted a little more money to be a little more drunk.
So, how do we relate our emotions to our self?

They seem to be composed of chemicals and situation. Mostly chemicals. And the chemicals seem to be in charge of the self.

The chemicals also seem to be in charge of the body’s physicality.

The poet Delmore Schwartz called this physicality a “heavy bear.” In his poem “the heavy bear who goes with me,” he names the body “a caricature, a swollen shadow,/A stupid clown of the spirit’s motive, . . .” A body undergoing chemo therapy becomes “a stupid clown . . .”

I can no longer predict where and how I’ll need a bathroom. That’s the biggest inconvenience and/or “swollen shadow” of my former life. But I also can’t predict how much I’ll be able to eat when I’m hungry. I can’t taste water and like it. I can’t tell when I’ll fall asleep and when I’ll stay awake – unless I add some chemical to make me sleepy. I’ve also become an insomniac. And then I’m ready to nap in the middle of the afternoon.

What this has all got me thinking about is the “real me.” Which is the real me? The chemically controlled heavy bear? (Schwartz wanted to separate himself from that heavy bear.) The emotion laden weeping husband? Or is there a me that perdures inside the heavy bear and/or weeping husband?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Around the World in 80 Days

Turner’s playing “Around the World in 80 Days.” The money Todd spent to produce this film was prodigious – and silly. It’s an incredibly bad film, even as a representation of the late Empire novels of Verne. Every movie stereotype is hauled off. The British male is punctual and reserved. The English educated rajani is actually a beautiful white girl (a very young Shirley MacLaine). The little Mexican saves the day, comically – but always costs the punctilious Brit time and effort.

It’s entirely too silly, even for 1956. But I remember fondly going to a second run movie theatre in the late 50’s it must have been, to see it on a wide screen. Ruth brought the popcorn and we were all happy. I think I thought it was a great movie then.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Waiting I'm Hating

I don't mean to be a hater, but I'm sitting in my room, my home away from home, waiting for the surgeon to come and install my triple threat three spout line. Then we can get to the business of getting the first dose of chemo.

While I'm waiting I'm letting my anxiety rise. You can see it in my bp. When I left the hospital last Saturday my blood pressure was around 140/90. High, but not so far off normal. This morning, when I checked in with Dr. Beck it was 146/94. About 15 minutes later, when I got to the room it was 151/106.

I'm waiting, making myself crazy, imagining all sorts of problems.

I'm going to get two cancer drugs. One gets induced slowly, over 72 hours. The other I get in a three hour induction four times in the four days I'm here.

I sure would like to get this started so I can quit being anxious. I didn't even know I was anxious, but I clearly am.

BTW, Salina Hospital is a lot more bureaucratic than Lindsborg. Boy did they get my medical history.

Well. I've got one book to read, my laptop. and a wireless connection. I've got espn and news channels. I should be fine. But I'm waiting and I'm hating waiting.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What is Long Term?

Felix Salmon of Reuters just talked about private equity. Apparently private equity counts five years as long term. Who knew.

The List

All Hail the power of the list.

In the beginning of the week was the list. And without the list was not anything done. But with the list were all things done that were done.

And lo the list was good!

Going to the hospital tomorrow with everything on my list crossed off.

No Pants

Just watched No Pants Subway Ride, 2012 edition.
First: it isn’t sexual. This video reminds us that most underwear is strictly utilitarian. I think it was Lawrence Fehrlingetti who told us “Even the pope wears underwear, I hope.”
Second: This is the 11th No Pants Subway ride. Some of the novelty and almost all of the shock value has worn away.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Where I've Worked

A few days ago I listed all the places I've lived. In my last post I claimed to have worked for a dozen employers. In this post I'm going to try to remember everyone who's employed me.

I started as an underaged janitor in my church. The Pastor paid me directly.
Then I went to work for Ambassador Paints, delivering paint driving a 1958 Ford Galaxie.
Then I worked for a Nazi upholsterer. Seriously. He had lots of Jewish customers, whom he hated. I heard him say, many times, "Sometimes I think Hitler was right." He's dead now.
Briefly I worked for a company that serviced coin operated machinery.
During my senior year in High School I worked for a television repair shop next door to Wrigley Field. We dumped busted televisions under the L tracks.

Off to college.
During the summers I worked for my cousin in Louis K. Walter Soil Testing services.
During the year I worked on campus as, student worker in the English Department; photographer for the yearbook; editor of the campus paper.

Off to Seminary.
I worked in an early version of a big box discount department store, in the sports department. We sold guns and ammo. I was a union member, but didn't like it because I didn't have a vote for shop steward (I was only part time). That was my first seminary year. No preaching yet.
During my second and fourth years I got a bunch of work supply preaching. I didn't hold down another job.
I was an Intern in Winston-Salem, NC, at Augsburg Lutheran Church.

After seminary I served the church --
Holy Cross, Charleston Heights, SC
Trinity, Georgetown, SC
Our Savior, Memphis, TN

Then I went to graduate school at Memphis State. The first year I worked in the office of Religious Affairs and Orientation. The second year I worked in the department of Communication, Theatre Arts and Dance as the lighting assistant for the dance program.

I also supplied all over the Memphis area, just trying to make ends meet.

Then to Minnesota to continue grad school. I worked for three years with the department, editing the alumni newsletter that no longer exists. Two summers I was "Captain" of the Minnesota Centennial Showboat. It also no longer exists. Getting a thematic element here? The boat burnt to the waterline just a few years after I served.

Again, I supplemented income by doing supply preaching. When I completed all the coursework and finished preliminary exams I went to work for one of the temporary agencies and spent happy weeks out in Plymouth, MN, working in the offices of a major corporation whose name I don't remember.

The fall of 1991 I went back to Chicago, moved in with my parents to try and help my Dad in the last year of his life. After he passed I went back to temp work, working for corporations like FMC and Contemporary Greetings. The last was ready to offer me permanent work. Maybe I should have taken it.

June of 1992 I wed my beloved Kristine and we moved to Chicago together. By the fall I was back working for the church, this time
Unity Lutheran, Magnolia and Balmoral. That was good for five years.

Then, after a sad and painful separation from the church (for which the Bishop maintained I had as much responsibility as the church council), I was unemployed/self-employed for six months. Christmas of 1997 I went to work for Wikstrom's Deli (formerly Schott's). By January I went to work for the Swedish American Museum Center. I also did adverts for a couple of real estate agents and a newsletter for one more.

Then it was two years at St. Olaf -- director of Forensics and assistant Professor of Communication. Then three years in Sterling, Kansas doing the same thing. finally 8 years here at Bethany College. No director of Forensics - thankfully.

This is where I'll stay until retirement.

I Like to Fire 'Em

Much is being made about Mitt Romney's "I like to fire 'em" line. Some commentators have noted just how lame handed that line is. Others have gone on to insist that we not twist Romney's words, that he was not speaking of personal joy in firing workers at one of the companies Bain was downsizing or closing.

I agree that we shouldn't twist Romney's words and that he was, indeed, speaking of getting rid of the insurance company that wasn't serving my needs. What that demonstrates is that Romney isn't very sophisticated about the connotations of his words, but he also has no clue about how ordinary Americans buy their health insurance.

In my fifty years of work I've been employed by maybe a dozen employers. But let me focus on just the employment by the church, the inter-regnum between church and college, and employment by a series of colleges.

When I was Pastor of LCA and ELCA churches my health insurance, and my family's coverage was provided by the church. The church was self-insuring through the Board of Pensions. From 1975 to 1997 I was covered by the board of pensions. The coverage got worse and the price went higher, but if I was going to participate in the pension plan I had to participate in the insurance plan. I was told, when I asked, that this was due to government regulation. Don't know how or why, but that's what I was told. I did not have a choice to "fire" my insurance company and "hire" another.

Between 1997 and 1999 I did freelance work, worked for a deli, and finally worked for the Swedish American Museum. I was offered Cobra for health coverage when I left the church, but I could not afford it. Kris' employer picked up her health insurance. But I was uninsured because I couldn't afford it.

When I went to work for St. Olaf I was offered health insurance as part of my pay package. I knew that I needed to take it, no matter how bad the insurance was, because it was better than what I could afford otherwise.

Since moving to Kansas I've been covered through the ACCK. The coverage has been, surprisingly good, particularly since I got sick and used up my coinsurance and deductible. Once a year I get to reup and pick up any other insurance products. I can opt out of the program if I opt into another program. I can't just hot have insurance coverage. And I can't drop out and change my company in the middle of the year.

I can't fire my insurance company now because I have a pre-existing condition, and until "Obamacare" is fully enacted, I can be turned down for coverage.

What does Mitt want? He wants me to be exposed to the vagaries of the marketplace where I can now be turned down for coverage (as my friend Mark already is, as my friend Deb struggles with). He somehow believes that insurance is chump change and I can easily take my insurance dollar down the block -- let's see, my employer pays 2/3 of the premium -- and how do I make that up?

The offensive thing about Romney's fire you insurance company line isn't that he used the word "fire." It's that he has no idea how people get their health insurance or how they pay for it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Migraines Medication and Emotion

Just back from two lost days. Thursday I spent with flu like symptoms and thrashing about and trying every chair, sofa, bed in the house.

The flu triggered a migraine, the first migraine I'd had in years. The last one was when we still lived in the Opat house in the far corner of town. That one was ended with a strong shot of some sedative. But I hadn't been doing the things that lead to dehydration. This time I was severely dehydrated as well as in intense pain.

We are so fortunate in our little town to have an excellent little hospital to care for exactly these kinds of problems. We went into emergency room on Thursday evening and Dr. Loder got me started with rehydration and pain relief. We finally got the pain under control on late Friday night.

By Saturday morning I was ready to go home. The thing about my migraines is that they are triggered by smells. Even when migraine free I have to avoid the laundry detergent aisles at Target and our local grocery store. So, by Saturday morning I was at the point of saying, “Everything in this hospital smells.” (I also got home and opened the fridge and smelt a dish going moldy that Kris hadn't noticed). Everyone who works in the hospital wants to smell nice, so they wear deodorant. Everyone has to keep themselves germ free, so they use, in every room, hand sanitizer. There's soap and laundry detergent smells. I couldn't escape from the smell. Every smell was a little spike in the pain that remained.

I got home. It's pretty well smell free – or the smells are so familiar that they don't bother. Kris had put together all the stuff I'd thrashed apart and told me I hadn't done as much damage as I thought I had. Bless her for that. It was so good to have the house looking so nice.

I ended up bawling. I cried about and lamented how old and sick and vulnerable I felt. I'm still liable to start crying over minor things. I'm hugging the stuffed Krismutt I threw to the floor in my thrashing.

That leaves me wondering about the relationship between chemicals and emotions. I know that there are studies showing that there are relationships, but I'm not enough of a scholar to know what they are. I suspect that the extreme nature of today's emotions has to do with the drugs I've been taking and the illnesses I'm going thru. I'm glad to feel the feelings I've got, but I need to remember that some of them are medicine driven.

And I need to allow the lost days to be lost. I'm not going to get back either of them. Hopefully the coming chemo won't cost me too many more lost days in the first six months of 2012.

Guess I'm well on the way to meeting my deductible for 2012. Wonder what these two days in our local shop is going to cost.

This journey is taking twists and turns I'd never expected. I guess that's what life gives you – rarely a direct route from start to finish.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Oh the Places I've Gone

Thomas Michael Corrigan and I are “old friends.” We were friends at Albert G. Lane Tech High School, both graduating in 1967. We then both went to Augustana College, Rock Island (the real Augustana), along with John Greenwood and his brothers Don and Ron. All Lane Tech Graduates in the era when it meant something to go to Lane Tech. (It meant you did swim class naked and cold. In the Lane Tech pool all men were created equal.)

After we all graduated from Augustana in 1971 we went our separate ways. Tom's asked that I tell a little of my story – since he doesn't know the curving and complicated path my life took after graduation. Here's just the geography from Rock Island to Lindsborg, Kansas.

From Rock Island to Springfield, Ohio. From Springfield back for a summer in Chicago and then to Columbia, South Carolina. Thence to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Then back to Columbia. From there it was Charleston Heights, South Carolina, followed by Georgetown, South Carolina. Then it was off to Whitehaven (originally a suburb of Memphis and just down the road from Graceland, Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, TN). Then into the city of Memphis. From Memphis to Minneapolis, first just off 42nd Street in South Minneapolis, and then around 21st, just north of Lake Street. From there it was a move to Chicago, with a new wife and no children (the children were in Aurora, IL). Two different locations in Chicago – Magnolia and Balmoral and 1200 block of Chase Street. Then to South Saint Paul. Next Northfield, MN. Then Sterling, Kansas. Finally, eight years ago I got smart. In the move to Lindsborg I rented a Post Office Box so that when I moved in town my relatives in Sweden wouldn't have to update their mailing lists ever again!

Next time I'll fill in a few of the details of what I did in all those places.

Treatment Ahead!

January 3 is a day I'll not soon forget. I met today with the oncologist and I am not happy with the outcome of that meeting.

Doctor Beck advised that we take as our plan A injections of ifosfamide & adriamycin; with additional injection of mesna to avoid hemorrhagic cystitis. If you google the two main drugs you see that they are pretty strong drugs with strong side effects. Because of the side effects and the need to feed the adriamycin and mesna in gradually, I'll be hospitalized for each of the treatments, from 3 to 5 days, 4 to 6 times in the coming year.

I'm not at all happy about the potential side effects nor about the severe disruption of the spring. I realize that dying is a worse disruption, and doing this treatment gives we an excellent chance of survival. But I had hoped that the treatment would be relatively non-disruptive. In fact, in my head I saw me teaching the spring term and directing the Messiah show with no disruption to the schedule at all.

This sucks.

I am going to get through this, I am going to kick cancer's butt, but I just have to tell you here and now, this sucks and I am not at all looking forward to the treatments and losing twenty days to the treatments. I am fearful of the likely side effects – one of the ifosfamide is nuttiness, fatigue, confusion and an inability to concentrate. Just what I need! The adriamycin does nasty things if it gets into a muscle. I'm promised a catheter so that we don't get the adriamycin in a muscle or cause heart problems.

Sucks, sucks, sucks.

Maybe worse than the surgery – although I have to tell you I was pretty scared of the surgery for some weeks. I was convinced that the left leg would be terribly deformed when the surgery was done. It isn't and I'm not. In fact recovery from the surgery is going great. I'm actually able to get around without a crutch or a cane and I'm taking pain meds every 8 to 12 hours rather than every 4 hours. My next step is to reduce the pain meds to either nsaids or tylenol. I hope I can get there by next week.

So, two steps forward three steps back. January 13 I'll check into Salina Regional for the first treatment. Then it's every 4 weeks if I tolerate the treatment reasonably well, from January to June.

Did I mention that I think this sucks.

The PET scan came back clear. The blood work is looking good – even the anemia is improving. But I have to do this. I increase my odds of beating cancer if I do. I know I have to do this. But it sucks.

Monday, January 2, 2012

When Does Education End?

There's a long running ad for Keller Graduate School of Management, a division of DeVry Institute, which is a division of I.T.T., or some similar diploma mill.

I like the fact that all the students shown in this ad are non-trads. I like the fact that it isn't easy, you can do this in your pajamas.

What I object to is that it portrays graduate education as something that, when you've completed it, you're done with the whole process of scholarship. One of the lines is “here's to the 'I'll sleep when it's done. . .'” The implication is that whatever it is you're learning, there is a terminal point, a time when you're “done.”

I finished my degree work in 90, the dissertation in 96 and I'm still not done. If I only get to sleep after it's done, I'm not going to get to sleep. Learning doesn't stop. I'm counting on that to keep me young after retirement.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wonder Why

I wonder about my motivation for many of the things I do - and I am interested in motives and motivations.

One of the big mysteries -- I really dislike the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys. I always have. I disliked the Broncos under Elway. I disliked the Cowboys when Staubach was the quarterback and I never like Landry.


Don't know. But I am glad to see the Giants emerging victorious on this last day of the regular season. But I'm rooting for the Packers to repeat so I don't want the Giants to be too good. Why the Packers? They're from our division and the Bears, while not sucking like the Vikings, didn't have the best season. Without Cutler they were pretty mediocre. The Vikings, on the other hand, just stunk. The Lions were the wild card and I could root for them to go all the way, though they don't have the talent. I am a fan of the black and blue division.

Maybe that's why I don't like the D's.

Aging and Believing

Being the ex-preacher it's difficult for me to go to worship, encounter a nice juicy Sunday morning text and not think about how I'd treat the text homeletically.

This morning we had the texts of Simeon and Anna and their encounter with baby Jesus in the temple. What a chance to talk to a group of aging baby boomers about what happens to faith as we age. I'll bet there's even some empirical data about the effects of age on belief structures, trust, and relationships. I certainly got to thinking about those things as I read through the texts for the morning.

Here are two elderly people who are not entirely conventional in their belief systems to begin with. One is waiting for the “consolation of Israel.” The other has been in the Temple praying and fasting and who knows what else since she was a young widow. Anna, it seems, may have been at the temple day and night for sixty, seventy years. These are not normally religious people who come for the holy days and the rest of the time slip in an occasional prayer or a thought about god and gods and eternal life and messiahs and what might be about to happen. These are seriously religious people – devout is the word Luke uses.

What happens to our faith as we age?

Over the years I've seen a variety of interactions between faith and aging, though I'd reduce them to two extremes (of course there's lots of middle ground too).

Hazel became adventurous as she aged – until she reached the point at which she'd lost most of her sight, all of her hearing and much of her sense of self. But up to then she was willing to trust that her life was in the hands of the divine. She came to accept the gay men around her, the church as a center for performing arts. She walked to church, no matter the weather, trusting that her way would be kept safe – or at least that the objective was worth the effort.

Ruth was the opposite. She'd lost a husband to a particularly nasty kind of cancer, and the cancer was probably a result of his work in NASA. The government denied that there was any possible connection between the radiation to which he'd been exposed and the cancer he developed. That double betrayal led Ruth, as she aged, to become more enamored of the pious platitudes. Anger will do that if you can't or won't face it.

The two extremes – new trust in new truthes and clinging to old pieties – both are possible reactions to the world as we age. We boomers (neither Hazel nor Ruth were baby boomers) have the possibility of getting this final action right and learning to trust that there is something yet to come, something yet to be revealed that may be the consolation of Israel – or the world – or we can begrudge the future for not being like the past.

Which, I wonder, will be do? Boomers are being blamed for much that's happened to the world. Could we maybe get this one right? I hope so.