Saturday, May 31, 2008

earthworms are easy

Earthworms provide a great many benefits to the gardener. The aerate the soil, fertilize it, help break down vegetable matter, and entertain the gardener's four-year-old indefinately. I planted some last few things in our vegetable garden this evening. I have been waiting for it to stop raining for more than a day so that I could do so. David helped. He really did. Unfortunately, there is a lot to gardening that is either uninteresting or that a four-year-old simply isn't ready for. Mostly, he just wants to wield the spade. So he crowds and hems and haws and nearly tramples everything. Then, just when I was about to send him out for cigarettes, I noted a worm. He latched on to it instantly, and played with it for a full thirty minutes until it was time to leave.

Helpful hint, though. Don't mention the word "poop" to a four-year-old. While explaining that we want to keep the worm in the dirt, I noted that a worm poops in the soil, which is good for the plants. So a great deal of that thirty minutes was narrating many imaginative details about the worms poop.

later earthworm friends.

Friday, May 30, 2008

where do babies come from?

me: Where do babies come from?
David: Collin
me: Babies come from Collin??
D: Yes
me: how does that work?
D: It's a really long story

Eight reasons you'll rejoice when we hit $8-a-gallon gasoline - MarketWatch

Amen amen amen (and I need to get a job close to home)

Eight reasons you'll rejoice when we hit $8-a-gallon gasoline - MarketWatch

Thursday, May 29, 2008

four-day weeks forever

rob3rto: j g, in da house
Jason G: ahoy, matee
rob3rto: ahoy
Jason G: One of the nice things about a three-day weekend is that it is followed by a four-day week.
rob3rto: aye, print that!
Jason G: well, I just did . . . sorta
rob3rto: that needs to be online in the brilliant quotes site.
Jason G: url of brilliant quote site?
Jason G: OK, well there is no "submit" button so how about I just post this on the blog?
rob3rto: good enough, it will last forever.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

KHI - KHI News Service - Feature Story Archive

KHI - KHI News Service - Feature Story Archive:
“Picture every town in Kansas having 25 local growers and that money circulating in the local economy. I would love it if we could repopulate the Kansas River valley with small farms, or even large farms, growing produce so everyone could eat local foods.”
Sign me up! Well, someday.

Peak-Season Map at

I intended to sign us up for the Rolling Prairie Farmer's Alliance but didn't get around to it. It would have provided us with fresh, seasonal produce into the fall. I've done it before and it produces interesting results. Unexpectedly, you have endive. What to do with endive? Makes you think on your feet. It is a backwards way of thinking about food for the modern Midwesterner. Normally, I think about what I want to eat, buy the ingredients, and make it. Spring mixed greens salad in the winter? Sure, why not? Having food presented to you and figuring out what to do with it is different--as in, 99.9% of all people who have ever lived are different from us.

Well, I didn't sign up for the local produce, but I vow to pay close attention to the Peak-Season Map at

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Skeptical Inquirer

The Skeptical Inquirer:
“If this religion boasted that it had a clear sight of God and plain and manifest evidence of his existence, it would be an effective objection to say that there is nothing to be seen in the world which proves him. . . . But . . . on the contrary it says that men are in darkness. . .”
"What reason do I have to subordinate the possibility of God’s existence to the powers of my senses?"
"Ask any sensible person if it is possible that God exists, does not present himself to us by way of material evidence, and yet seeks our acknowledgment on some other basis, one in which we are more deeply invested. Could there be a God who does not want to be known the way the facts of nature are known or sums are known? The rational person will say, 'Yes, it is possible.'"
"There are only two kinds of people one can call reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they know him and those who seek him with all their heart because they do not know him."
"His rational power of imagining has atrophied from selective use in the service of his pleasure."
These are excerpts from a great article. It is not clear writing but it is worth untangling.

Of the two kinds of people that one can call reasonable, I would (humbly or not) put myself in the second category--seeking, but not knowing. It may seem strange to those who would know me to be (humbly or not) a devout believer. Fact is, I have searched my mind and my heart for that organ which "feels" belief like my fingers feel the keyboard or even like my mind feels a memory. It isn't there. And no one I know with a firm belief in a God they "know" can describe that sensation to me either. No one can point to the organ I need to tickle in order to stimulate belief. I even tried for a time to simply be an unbeliever but it didn't work. My body doesn't cooperate. My mind may thrash and doubt, but my body dresses me and takes me to church where my lips kiss, my hand genuflects, my waist and neck bend my forehead to the floor, and my mouth confesses. So I stopped struggling against this other part of me that believes. I threw my lot in with the believing side against the side that does not believe. Bishop BASIL tells me that the fight will get easier with time. Father Joseph tells me that I'll simply get used to the struggle.

Articles like this one help me. They are no foundation--the only foundation is prayer--but well-put-together intellectual arguments deal a heavy blow to the strongest doubter inside of me--my intellect (humble or not). Actually, it is not even my own intellect, when I think about it. It is someone else's intellect--some imaginary person who is smarter than I am and who is demanding and smart defense of faith from me. Once, in the line for recess in the third grade, someone asserted that I am not smart. I insisted that I am and he quizzed me "what is 9 x9?" I couldn't pull up the answer on the spot and he took that as demonstrable proof of my stupidity. I have been doing imaginary battles with some form of that kid my whole life (even though I have not adequately memorized my multiplication tables). It is the problem with priding yourself on your intellect--constant fear that perhaps you aren't so smart after all. A fear fueled by the fact that, in the real world, your IQ and a $0.81 won't even get you a cup of coffee. So, these articles at least give me this: I'm not smart enough to articulate an intellectual foundation for belief, but someone else is and you'll just have to read that until I get smarter.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

newish addition

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Jaime didn't want a cat, but I was embarrassed to be the only blogger online without a pet to blog about.

Her name is Dusty. She came to us via a friend in need and has fit nicely into our household. She is affectionate without getting under foot (once fed). She is not shy. She does not object to getting chased and picked up by the four-year-old. She often comes when called. She snuggles. She is some sort of Maine Coon mix with a tail like a big ol' dusting wand (hence the name). She is less than a year old, so we are hoping she'll grow a bit more.

Also, Jaime took some shots of the boys. Go and see.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008


After getting several requests from people I would otherwise expect to be above this sort of thing, I have created a Facebook profile. I highly recommend it. Setting up your own profile combines the white-knuckle thrill of creating an Ebay account with over-the-top excitement of filling out an online resume for employment with Kinkos. I would imagine it is a lot like creating a WoW character and then never actually getting to play WoW.

Then, THEN, after you have told the world all about yourself, you regularly update a little box telling the world what you are doing RIGHT NOW. It is like being spied on. Or wishing you were spied on. Like "well, I'm against the government tapping my phones without a warrent, but if they are doing that, it must mean they think I am dangerous, which ROCKS."

Finally, you engage in a perpetual game of "Red Rover" with the whole Intarblag.

Really the whole thing seems a little childi----wait---I'm up to 25 friends now! Go join! Then poke me! Hurry!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

guest post: loony economies

Dad sent me a couple of emails recommending online reading. Both relate to economic fantasies:

Things you can buy from ACME to vanquish you foe (episode after episode)


Life in an equally implausible economic system

enjoy, loony fans

Monday, May 12, 2008

society rules

We have had to explain some really basic stuff to David this weekend: Don't knock on people's doors at 7:30 in the morning. Don't go outside without pants on (admittedly not a universal rule in our neighborhood). Don't go in other people's houses when they are not home. His innocent ignorance of these common concepts is both charming and disturbing.

He is entering a whole new world of socialization and freedom. He has finally hit it off with Cody, the four-year-old whose family moved in next door last year. Cody comes over and hangs out in our basement, David goes over to Cody's, and they generally want to spend every spare moment together--which is actually not a lot of time since they are four and by no means masters of their own schedules. David has also become good friends with another neighbor, Christopher, who is not quite three, but whose language and social skills finally allow for socializing. Christopher also has Transformers and the biggest Lightening McQueen in the neighborhood, which makes up for any linguistic or social shortcomings.

So now he has good friends near by and he was the freedom to play with them as much as possible. Be we all know that freedom isn't free. Well we know that. David is learning. And the lessons, they are hard.

The lessons began around 7:30 Saturday morning. In bed, half asleep, I was vaguely aware of David being up and around but didn't think much of it. He often gets up and fixes himself breakfast before we get up. Was that the front door? Nah, couldn't be. A bit later David pads into our room in his t-shirt and pull-up. He asks if one of us would go knock on Cody's door because he tried and no one answered. Though freaking-out inwardly, his mother and I try to remain calm as we explain that he cannot leave the house with neither permission nor pants.

The day then becomes a series of lessons and restrictions. The privilege of playing in a friend's house is revoked because he pitched a fit when it was time to come home. The privilege of being able to go to the park revoked because he went to the "creek" behind the park against explicit orders. The privilege to play outside altogether revoked because he then went in another friend's house without permission (which he would not have gotten). He spent the last hour before dinner sitting on the couch looking at books (more or less). For awhile I thought I would have to lock him in a box to keep him from going where he shouldn't go.

This culminated on Sunday with actual breaking-and-entering and burglary. I needed to put Simon down for a nap, leaving David alone in the front yard after reviewing the rules. I fell asleep myself, woke up an hour later, and went out to search for David. He came walking down the sidewalk I and I verified that he was staying outside. He said he had just gone in Christopher's for a minute to get some toys. Fine, just as long as he is playing outside. Then he asked if I wanted to play with him at Christopher's. I said no thank you, that he should play with Christopher himself.

Then he explained that Christopher was not home. Some confused Q&A followed and I gathered that, since no one was home at Christopher's, he simply opened the front door, gathered whatever toys he wanted to play with, and brought them outside. During our conversation, he mentioned that Cody also was not home. I noted that someone must be home because Cody's front door was standing open. Perhaps they were upstairs and didn't hear David knock. I explained that he can't get people's toys out of there house when they aren't home. Then, he and I kicked his new soccer ball around for awhile. Eventually, Cody's family's van drove into the parking lot and the entire family emerged. As Cody's father approached the front door, he was obviously perplexed that it was open. More Q&A with David from which I gather that HE opened it searching for Cody. More gentle explaining.

If no one was home at both Cody's and Christopher's home, how is they were both unlocked so David could get in? Well the doors around here are heavy and tight, so it takes extra care to make sure they are closed all the way and latched. It is possible that the front door of both homes was not latched, allowing a persistent four-year-old to push it open. He is used to struggling with our door (from both sides, apparently).

I am confident that David will learn all the new rules and responsibilities that come along with his new social abilities. I just hope he does acquire a rap sheet in the process.

Later, pants fans.

A scandle hits Kansas

If you are interested in writing and religion, than you can't do much better than to keep up with Today they posted a story about my home state.

Readers can submit news articles about religion that they would like analyzed on the site. The reader who submitted this story and who poses the "great question" at the top of the forth paragraph is none other than Yours Truly. I think Mollie did a pretty good job answering a question that I did a lousy job asking.

My question stemmed from my squeamishness with the issue of communion and excommunication being discussed by the press. While I reject the idea of religious faith being purely private, receipt of the Sacraments is a nuanced issue that depends on one's position on the Ladder of Divine Assent, one's relationship with the priest, understanding of morality vs. public service and on and on. Should one's spiritual correction be a publicly-discussed matter? Can a reporter do justice to the mix if personal, private, moral, and theological issues that go into the agonizing decision to refuse the sacraments to someone? Mollie says yes in this case and gives a good explanation from a Roman Catholic point-of-view. I wonder if the Orthodox POV would be the same and will try to find out.

blogging vs. actually working

A very good article from the New Atlantis: Shop Class as Soulcraft
The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on.
via, of course, CrunchyCon

I think to myself a lot lately that I would gladly give up what I am doing and become an entry-level trade worker--carpenter, framer, electrician, brick layer, whatever--if I could afford it, which I cannot. I have too much debt for an entry-level job and am a bit too old to get started in manual labor. I am, however, dreaming up the plans to arrange my post-debt life in a way that allows for manual-labor hobbies to play large--carpentry and gardening (farming, even). When I am dead, I want my sons to remember me as someone whom they saw working.

(My wife will probably point out that house cleaning is noble labor and work that would fit itself well into my current lifestyle.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

shutter bug, larval stage

We've allowed David to shoot some of his own pictures with the digital camera lately. I have created a new set of photos he has shot that I'll add to as we go along.


Our mustached mini Bresson, his camera strap like scarf of creativity shielding him from the bitter cold wind of mundanity.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

one word: "poisons"

CrunchyCon summarizes

this article about

this research (among other things)

I could on and on.

I pass this along because there is a general push right now to raise awareness and I want you to be aware.

I also have two comments about this--almost. Firstly, I have been complaining about the omnipresence of plastic for years. I'm glad y'all decided to catch up. Secondly, we Americans are known for all of our great new science about the potential end of the world. I think that the Orthodox Christian world view offers a unique position from which to approach these concerns, but I am not yet sure what that is. How is that for a non-comment? I put it here as a way of thinking out loud, getting my juices flowing for a potential future post.

stay tuned, poisoned fans

Monday, May 05, 2008


Sonoma Country Day School:
Praise to the rituals that celebrate change,
old robes worn for new beginnings,
solemn protocol where the mutable soul,
surrounded by ancient experience, grows
young in the imagination's white dress.

Because it is not the rituals we honor
but our trust in what they signify, these rites
that honor us as witnesses — whether to watch
lovers swear loyalty in a careless world
or a newborn washed with water and oil.
via Crunch Con

Sunday, May 04, 2008

a perfect start to summer

What a blissful evening. Not one I would have expected. After a Saturday of lousy weather and fighting with my eldest, and a Sunday afternoon of discussing finances with my fellow parishioners, I would not have expected perfect evening of family gardening delight.

I went to the local garden store on Saturday to get plants. It was not successful. Winter is not going down without a fight around here and it was cold and windy Saturday morning. David and Simon were both ready for lunch and a rest and when I asked an employee for assistance with getting a garden started, I got the same deer-in-the-headlights look that you get from employees at car rental offices when you ask to rent a car: "Do we do that?"

I tried to convey to her in words and tone of voice as well as by the look on my face that I was a Project. A newbie for her to take under her wing, guide, and nurture. But it was not happening. On a better day, I would have closed my eyes and grabbed plants at random, but not on that day. I needed to spend some time around the plants with a guide and without my kids. And my mom is still on the mend.

This evening, quite unexpectedly, it happened. Dad was in town for the celebration of his father's 80th birthday (more on that later). Afterwards, Skylar took the boys and dad and I headed off to the nursery Dillons for plants. He knows all this great stuff about gardening that he apparently learned from his grandpa. So, there we were, dad and I kickin' around in the the plant tent in the Dillons parking lot. Not exactly picturesque, but I'll take what I can get.

Then we headed over to Skylar's for a wiener roast and diggin'. A real garden party. Mom and Alex came and dad, Brooke, Skylar, Isabel, David, Simon, and I all got dirty. It was great fun and I learned tons. I am confident that we are going to have a lovely garden with boatloads of tomatoes. I'll email you some.

Look! Pictures!


Later, tomato fans.

Friday, May 02, 2008

me grow real good someday

Humans have been tilling the ground and tending to plants for at least 10,000 years. 99% of all people who have ever lived have grown some, if not most, of their own food. But here I stand, in front of a plot of freshly-tilled earth, with a fresh green seedling in my hand (well, on the counter), and have no clue what to do next. Shouldn't I have some sort of genetic memory here? I have never been interested in gardening but I have always assumed that I would develop the interest some day. I assumed something would prompt me to make it a priority. That something is Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food, an Eaters Manifesto. It provided me the kick-in-the-pants to learn to plant plants. Coinsidentally, Skylar and Brooke have wanted to do some digging in the dirt, so we are going at it. I borrowed a friend's tiller and turned up about 180 square feet of yard. We hope to get some plants in soon, just as soon as I learn how to do that. Additionally, I am going to work on developing a shade garden in back of our place.

The first plan was to grow vegetables up at grandpa's farm. While Skylar's place is much more convenient, there is one aspect I regret--no boy's on a farm. When mom and I first went to the farm to plot a plot, David and Simon roamed around the property--even venturing into the unmowed field out in front. Kids need space and they were in their element. I had developed romantic notions of going up the farm regularly to tend to the garden while the boys galavanted through the fields, gathering ticks. Maybe next year.

Mom is recovering from surgery, so Skylar is watching the boys in the afternoon. This has given Simon the oportunity to finally learn Skylar's name, which he recited for half the ride home the other night:


and repeat 100 times.

Finally, he got bored with that and started with his alleluias. Apparently his Spiritual Father has given him a rule to recite 1,000 alleluia's a day.

later farm fans.

Nun offers mercy, but robber gets jail --

One hand on my mouse, the other holds a kleenex.
She reached out to hand him the card. She then extended her arm again. And although the sheriff's deputies assigned to the county's courtrooms usually prevent anyone other than defense attorneys from touching a defendant, no one interfered as the snowy-haired nun in the navy suit and white blouse shook the hand of the tattooed man in a dirty white T-shirt who had robbed her three years earlier.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Comment on Krista Tippett

A comment I wrote yesterday to Krista Tippett, host of Speaking of Faith.
I first discovered your program when I found your episode "Restoring the Senses, Life Gardening, and Orthodox Easter." I was impressed, and being a father of two, decided to listen to your episode on the Spirituality of Parenting.

I am disappointed. I think that you omitted one of the primary spiritual issues that the vast majority of faithful believers actually have.

Rabbi Sasso offers many good insights. Her understanding of both the need to maintain an open stance with your children's spirituality and her suggestion that we teach our children out of the spiritual tradition in which we were raised, are balanced on the surface. But there is an undertone that seems to lean towards the idea that "spirituality" is exclusively personal, is pretty distant from religion, that all paths are equal, and we should allow our children to find their own way. This view is explicit in the recorded questions from parents that were interspersed through the program. Most, if not all of the questions or comments were "I have found a path for me, how do I make sure my children find their own path for themselves."

I don't think this resonates with the vast majority of religious adherents worldwide. Most faithful believers think that their spiritual and religious tradition is a rich and glorious gift they can give to their children. They also believe that there are spiritual dangers and they have to teach their children about them just as we have to teach them about other dangers. It deeply hurts my son's feelings when I insist he not step of the curb into the street and I try to be loving about the discipline, but I know there is a danger and wrong paths. But I also want to teach him to see danger for himself, understand risk, and govern himself. Likewise, there are spiritual directions that my Faith tradition assures me can lead down dangerous paths.

I think a more common question that most faithful have is "I want my children to see the beauty of our Faith that I see and I want them to maintain our faith and make it their own personally. I know that forcing it down their throat is not the correct way, but I also don't want to give them the impression that their spiritual path is an exclusively personal choice and that all choices are equal. How to maintain that balance?"

I have seen families negotiate this question well, who produced children who love God and have maintained the Faith they were raised with and I have seen families that botch this terribly and whose deeply resentful children bolt as soon as possible. This is most religious parent's single biggest fear.

I think that you failed to really discuss that.

I wouldn't bother to say anything if I didn't feel like both you and Rabbi Sasso are capable of intelligently addressing this question. I respect the quality of your work and the content of this program so far as it went, but this seems like a big hole in the discussion.

Thank you for listening.