Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Conversation

It is All-Hallow's Eve and we find ourselves in Matt's studio/the TV room. Danica, only seconds ago, has previously been transcribing downstairs in the living room. She comes upstairs, just as dusk sets in, to have a very strange conversation with her husband...

Danica enters and sits unexpectingly in Matt's armchair.

Matt: (painting) You wanna watch The Office?

Danica: Not yet, I'm going to finish some work.

43 seconds pass.

Matt: (painting) Umm, so was that a yes? You want to watch The Office?

Danica: No... I said I need to finish some work.

Matt: Oh.

22 seconds pass.

Matt: (still painting) Well, what are you doing up here, then?

Danica: I came up here because it's getting dark out and we don't have any candy.

Matt: (painting) Oh.

1 second passes.

Matt: (turning) What did you just say?

Danica: I said I came up here because it's getting dark out and we don't have any candy.

Matt: You came up here because "it's dark and we don't have any candy"?

Matt is looking at Danica, half confused and also slightly amused at what he thinks is a euphamism.

Gingernsnaps: I'm going to make these.

But probably not tonight. Because we don't have any candy and no parent would let their kid eat gingersnap cookies from a stranger.

So I think we're just going to turn off the lights and hide upstairs or maybe go out to a movie or maybe have an adventure in the rain or maybe write my senior thesis.

Man, the alternatives are not looking swell.

Anyway, the recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking:


• 3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (105 grams) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) white granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (280 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar or coarse white or brown sugar (for covering the cookie balls before baking)

Tip: Lightly grease, or spray with Pam, your measuring cup before pouring in the molasses. This prevents the molasses from sticking to the cup.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes). Add the molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add to the butter mixture and mix until well combined. Cover and chill the batter for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place about 1 cup (200 grams) of white granulated sugar in a medium sized bowl. When the dough has chilled sufficiently, roll into 1 inch (2.54 cm) balls. Then roll the balls of dough into the sugar, coating them thoroughly. Place on the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart and, with the bottom of a glass, flatten the cookies slightly. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes or until the cookies feel dry and firm on top. (The longer the cookies bake, the more crisp they will be.) Cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I married a Trekki who used to find and spread good news to the world.

From Ready to stick a fork in Blu-Ray

Pretty crazy. First I read this at

"Look out HD VMD and CH-DVD -- an all new Blu-ray rival has just sashayed into town, and this one means business. By way of a random DreamStream press release, Royal Digital Media has introduced its bona fide Blu-ray rival... while casually forgetting to name it. These "high-definition discs" will be able to store up to 100GB and will boast military-grade encryption that an aimless hacker will surely destroy in a week or two. According to DreamStream's Chief Development Officer Ulf Diebel, RDM's format "will transform perceptions of high-definition," as it is able to "display the next generation of high-definition: 1920p." For whatever it's worth, this here tech is based around "inexpensive red laser technology," and RDM is hoping to "replace traditional DVD technologies with a comprehensive, next generation HD system." So, when can you buy into this sure-to-be-awesome format? Q1 2009, and for a price "equal" to that of traditional DVD players. Sold!"
I wonder if they're talking $40 DVD players?

Then I saw this over at zdnet saying that BR is in a death spiral!

It makes me wonder about the viability of optical discs as a future media. Technically I could stick a USB drive into my TV and watch a movie(I think, I haven't tried it but you know what I mean).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Twitter cloud

This is a visual representation of the most commonly used words that show up in my Twitter feed.

Wow. Hah! Sooo narcissistic. A bit pessimistic. And, perhaps, also contemplative and recently into hot chocolate. Hmm.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Big in Sweden

This is for Miss Wendolyn who said she wanted to see my famous movie.
(regarding a Twitter posting which read: I am SUCH a star: so far Chronicle Project has published a film on me, asked to post my autobiography and now requested a voice over. wow 9:20 AM Oct 21st)

A little preface - I work with a group called Chronicle Project, a group that develops new media and films to tell the stories of social justice groups. What rocks about my job is that we get to work with organizations that we really really love and connect with - going the "second mile" for these friends is very common!
In working in film, more or less, I often get to fill in front of the camera or behind the microphone for test runs of equipment or for filler...

This video was our test of the new Nikon D90 which is kind of like an SLR but can shoot high-res video! We tested it again an HVX digital camera.

Apparently we were one of the first to run this kind of test and so post it in the Vimeo community yielded far more attention than we were expecting. What was supposed to be an in-office test-run turned out to make Danica "big in Sweden".

D90 and HVX side-by-side test from Chronicle Project on Vimeo.

Haha, so 24 hours later find out this is not a common phrase. No no, I was just told at the office that I am literally big in Sweden because apparently this video is posted all over Sweden... Hah!

Friday, October 24, 2008

I was sitting in my living room, people watching at about 8:00 this morning. Matt was making breakfast and I was watching a man with a shopping cart go through his morning routine. It looked like it was a routine... maybe it was the first time he'd done it, but he was very deliberate about everything - first he finished his cigarette, and in between drags he would spit carefully in the street and not on the sidewalk. Then he took a swig of water and washed his hands. There was a certain meticulousness about it that struck me. He was careful to dispose of his garbage in an extra plastic bag in his cart. He took out a jar with some powder and added it to the remaining water in his jug and mixed it. He emptied the jar of its contents, double checked for any left overs and then frustratedly disposed of the jar in his garbage bag.

As he drank, I couldn't help but compare his method I was witnessing to the sounds of Matt's own breakfast methods in the kitchen. They both went through their morning routines.

Our breakfast smelled good and, as my exploration and study on hospitality has encouraged, I thought it would be awesome to invite him over for whatever Matt was making. I went to check with Matt about my idea and he agreed.

But on our way out the front door we saw an older woman with a cane scooting past him. For whatever reason he turned and shoved her in the back so hard she screamed and fell forward, disappearing behind a tree.

We were shocked. For a full second neither of us moved, not believing we had just witnessed. Matt said later he thought his eyes had played a trick on him because the woman had seemed to disappear. We realized in retrospect that had we not been standing there at that moment no one would have seen her from the street.

We dashed across the road, one eye on the quickly departing man, as we approached the woman who was nearly sobbing and struggling to get up. To put it candidly, it would have taken her a while without our help.

"God bless you, thank you" she said, "I just said 'excuse me' as I walked by because his cart was sprawled over the side walk. I don't know why he would have gotten mad. The irony is, I've worked for five years with the homeless; in aid and what not."

Matt walked her to work as it was only a block away and she refused a ride.

How odd, I had to think to myself, that after watching this man and deliberating, I came to rest at a decision to invite him in. A co-worker pointed out the obvious "what ifs" to me later ("what if you HAD invited him in"), but what I had to marvel at was the fact that we were at our front door at just the right time because of those very same intentions. One set of hospitable intentions yielded an entirely unexpected good. The "what ifs" I consider now are "what if I had decided against inviting him in?" and "what if Matt had said 'let's not' and we'd simply sat down right there?" There would have been no one to help that woman to her feet.

Because of this, perhaps idealistic, conclusion I've come to, I do no think I will hesitate again to invite someone in.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dare I say?

I'm not a very good sociologist, I decided.

Yesterday in class I had one of the most intimidating and downright scary experiences I've ever had in my life. I mean, I've said stupid things, but this class just sets you up to face stupidity in the the flesh... via your classmates.

To recap, our course is essentially on "Christian" hospitality and ethics - in accordance with the rubric outlining our senior thesis are questions that begin like this: who are you? where do you come from? where are you going? how does your privilege justify the lack of privilege others have? and so on and so forth. One of the best and toughest self examinations I have ever gone through.
The second part consists of questions about faith, politics, and economics: If those of us who are “advantaged beyond all decent proportions” and so have the power to change U.S. economic policies, do nothing, will we further disadvantage those without privilege? If those who are rich take on ownership of the lives of the poor, will this alleviate poverty? Is this an act of grace as well as an act of hospitality? How are grace and hospitality connected? Yea. A bit harder.
The third section is about "our stranger," the one we have a hard time embracing, the one we actually reject hospitality toward. I haven't even begun the first scribbled note on this section... I'm still wrestling with the first and second parts.

My frustration is currently wrapped up in the processing of my identity. It seems cliche to be asking the question of who am I? After all, I like to think I'm pretty introspective. But in the context of Standpoint theory, I'm not really sure what my stand-point is.
I took a course on the Asian-American Experience last semester. I vainly thought that it would be a simple course because I, by definition, am Asian-American. I even did the final paper on myself and my family. In truth, I learned a great amount about my own heritage; I also learned to pinpoint some inconsistencies in the identity I had constructed for myself. A part of me has always understood that I am "mostly" White. I was raised by a White father, I went to a predominantly White school, and I have certainly acted White (just about everything here applies to me.) The reality is, I am half Filipino and half White and, by default, I cannot belong to either. Sometimes I can pass for White because of, well, to be a little frank, the ignorance and lack of exposure most of the White community exhibits; but in the end, I am exotic, sometimes downright confusing, to that community.

In class, we talked about the American White community's responsibility for the oppression and abuse of the American Black community - even to this day, the numbers and news show Blacks suffering from social injustices based on race. Our professor was trying to facilitate a discussion revolving around what she felt was the necessary apology one community owed to the other.
I must admit, I had a very difficult time with this. An apology in its most sincere sense is very personal and requires repentance. It is a plea for forgiveness that is not expected. I couldn't understand how an entire community could ask for forgiveness - there would ppl who would not believe it necessary, many who simply would not wish to repent, and still others who genuinely had nothing to apologize for. Forgiveness seemed like such a complicated exchange that it could only be interpersonal.
I did a silly thing by citing an example from counseling. I told the class that in learning how to healthily deal with and overcome a bad relationship I had in high school I had to understand and practice forgiveness in a very deeply engaging way. I could not blame the trauma, as result of that relationship, completely on myself (after all, I was a victim) but I also could not blame everything that happened on my ex-boyfriend. This is not to say that I deserved or justified any abusive action he took, but it was important, in order to properly address and forgive myself for what I truly needed forgiveness from - not what I hadn't done. (Without going into details, this ex-boyfriend was coercive and abusive, but I was also curious and wanted desperately look like I was in a stable relationship) Anyway, I felt like I had somehow justified the responsibility girls' have in abusive relationship to get themselves out of it and suddenly my head was swimming with imaginary comments people would be making about how that kind of attitude perpetuates chauvinism and abuse and... well, my point was to illustrate the two-sided nature of most cases requiring forgiveness.
And dare I say that perhaps the Black community has some apologizing to do, too, so that reconciliation might happen. Undoubtedly there has been racism within the community, abuse, and apathy. I could only think of how I, Danica, had been apathetic, insensitive, ignorant, pressured, and racist in some of my actions and thoughts. At best, I could only imagine how such individual reponses, like mine, added up to a great racisism in the society. But how was I, Danica, supposed to apologize on behalf of the White community I came from to the Black community? Who would agree with me? The trouble is, my professor told me, that's not a very sociological position to hold. Sociology suggests that there is an evil in the system, and that the powers that be have the most ability to eradicate it. You have to understand if you are a member of those powers.

A week later, though, I heard a sermon in church where the Pastor recounted an experience a fellow clergy member had while in Kenya. He was there to teach Kenyan pastors about administrating churchwa - he was White. Before he began, he felt compelled to apologize the Kenyan assembly before him for all the misdeeds of the White clergy that had come before him, for the abuse of the Gospel, its use to enslave the nation, for the blasphemy and racism. He did not know what kind of response to expect, but he knew that he had nothing to offer if he did not repent. A very old matriarch amongst some of the elders approached him at the pulpit and simply said, "In all my life I've never heard a White man apologize for anything. I know, for myself, that I forgive you. Now let's get on with what you are here for."
I questioned for days why God had been present in this response. This was all I knew, that the offering the White minister had for the Kenyan assembly could not have been given without his apology. I ask Matt why he would do that? It was clear that he had never participated in enslavement, probably not blasphemy. And I had to wonder... who was he to represent all White ministers? All White men?
Matt said many wise things, I'm sure, but none of which I would here, none of which reconciled my understanding of this man's obedience to a divine hospitality and the pragmatic (and, of course right!) interaction of forgiveness I had in my head. Finally Matt asked me, who is the Church? Us, I said, it is all of us who seek after Christ, and wish to be Christ in this world. And then he pointed out a particularly embarrassing moment when I had succumbed to peer pressure to behave very, unarguably, badly. Were you a member of the Church then? Did you represent Christ in those actions?
And something clicked. Suddenly the weight of my actions bore down in a way that I had never, ever, ever before felt. The pressure of the community was suddenly on my shoulders and I had to admit that those who knew me, knew I was a Christian; those who had seen me behave badly also knew I was a Christian. My actions contributed to the community image - an image the strove for something better and very different than my bad behavior.
The White clergyman's apology was made not so that what he had to offer could be given, but so that whatever he had to give could be received. The color of his skin, his gender, the authority he carried as clergy - his the stand point - allocated him to a group of people that reaped the benefits and also suffered the responsibility for this "bad behavior". His plea for forgiveness was not a relinquishing of his community identity, as my version of forgiveness would allow, it was an acknowledgment; he relinquished the power to oppress that his forefathers had exercised. And he received a forgiveness on behalf of a community that had, up until him, not yet asked for it.

Hot chocolate

"So I hear the microwave going after Matt & I are cuddling & I go into the kitchen & and he's making hot chocolate & I'm like, oh good! I'd love some hot chocolate & he says, oh, okay or maybe some tea? And I'm like, is that because there is no hot chocolate left? And he nods looking downward & I say, so you made the last hot chocolate for just yourself? And he nods sheepishly so I exclaim, YOU EVIL BASTARD! And he says, forgive me! I was operating on scarcity and not Christ's abundance! And then we accidentally found a hidden hot chocolate packet." =

"we cuddled&Igo 2 kitchen&hes makin hotchocolate&Isay 'oh Id love some'& hes 'ok or mybe tea?'&Im'thats cuz theres no hotchocolate left?'&he nods&I say 'u made jus1 hotchocolate jusfer u?'&he nods&I sayU EVIL BASTARD!&hes'I was operating on scarcitynot Christs abundance!&then we found a secret hot chocolate." =

"Id LUVsum-K mybe tea-cuzUmade last hotchoclat jus4u?-yes-EVIL BASTARD-sry! oprating on scarcity not GodsAbundance!but we find xtr hotchoclat"

Fish & Loaves

A letter from a brother abroad:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I want to write to each one of you personally and I hope I will get to do that over time but it's been two months since I've arrived in Thailand and so many months since I left the U.S.A – so I thought some news was due.
Well, above all I want to share about Burundi. It was AMAZING. I wish I had the time and space to tell you of each day's events but I will just share some highlights. I got to see my first large scale practical – physical miracle. There are some pictures on Facebook and our team is putting a film together too that we might be able to put on our Facebook accounts. For the time being it will be on under teamburundi. God provided for our safety even as we heard grenades in the distance. While we were there, the final peace treaty was signed and hostilities between the warring tribes of Btutsis and Bhutus were ceased. Please do pray for this poor and severely wounded country.
As I attempt to conclude on Burundi news for the time being, I want to tell you of the miracle I got to witness. We wanted to do a week-end of Bible club or VBS for the children of the neighbourhood, one of the poorest in this city of one of the poorest nations in the world. We wanted to serve them at least one or two hot meals but by the end of our month there, our budget was limited, we had ended up contributing more than expected on some items for the building and so we decided to do one day and a half and expected about 60-80 children. We made announcements and rounded up children on the first afternoon. We handed out coloured pencils and asked them to draw beautiful things for which they were grateful to God. We led them in songs and games and then invited them to come the next day. We counted about 85 children and expecting more the following day, we asked the cooks to make food for about 150 children of all ages. We thought that would be more than enough. There was going to be singing, a programme with sketches (skits) and a short message. We sat the children down, and started passing full plates around of rice, beans and a thin meat sauce. We could not really calculate portions and then we ran out of plates. We picked up empty ones and quickly rinsed them, filled them up again and gave them to the other children. In the end we started counting how many had been fed, when we got to THREE HUNDRED, we stopped counting. There was even enough rice and beans left for the 5 cooks to grab something to eat. We had NOT made extra. There was a large pot of rice, a large pot of beans and half a large pot of meat. I could wrap my arms around each pot and they were each about 18 inches deep. We FILLED each plate; the children were of all ages, shapes and sizes but ate everything that was on their plate. We were all so very moved and the Pastor said that God's miracle in such a small thing of providence was prophetic of things to come and confirmation that He had not forgotten about them. All were very encouraged. Thank you for praying for us and helping us go.
We are now starting to pray about next year. We are excited that many others want to join us and come to see, to learn and to help. We don't believe in short term but in long term eternal relationships as created between us and Christ and with His body all over the world. He has placed Burundi and this little church at the centre of our concerns. The apostle Paul had some churches that were his special concern and our team has this one in Burundi. We want to continue to invest of our time, efforts, money and all that is precious to us that God calls us to give up on, to give away, and to surrender for the good of His body and the extension of His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Will you join us again and tell others? Thank you."

Mark 6

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heart & Lungs

I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a more curious than obvious reason for the automated nature of our heart-beat and breath.

NPR woke me up about 6:30 a few days ago with a story on a university experiment that debunked traditional attitudes toward multitasking. It caught my attention right away because I have generally considered myself a decent multitask-er and have prided myself in the past on identifying those who are and those who aren't. (i.e. my artist-husband). But as I listened, I learned that human brain cannot actually multi-task. Rather, it very quickly jumps from one task to another - so quickly, in fact, that we do not notice. This causes us to divide our attention among the number of tasks we involve ourselves with.( 1 )
Tangent 1 | Tangent 2 |

Can you imagine what it would be like to need to consider the air that we take in while driving a car? What if we had to make sure our heart kept beating in rhythm while we carried on a conversation with our significant other?

I know that I cannot read through my inbox and have a conversation with my friend over the phone. I can pretend to "actively listen" by repeating main points my brain caught during the tug-of-war between email and cell - but in the end, I am desperately trying to force my friend and her conversation into the framework of my agenda. To "kill two birds with one stone" does not speak of an advantageous opportunity, but rather a lifestyle I am desperately trying to practice.
Sometimes it has nothing to do with busyness. When my husband is telling me about a new piece he is beginning while I am taking care of our finances, I sometimes feel entitled to lump him into the category of "Obligation I Must Fulfill" by effectively allocating my attention. In these cases, I treat my companionship as a scarce commodity that I distribute to pre-prioritized demands. I let a "competitive individualism" slip in, one that "tries to reconcile itself with a culture that speaks about togetherness, unity and community…” ( 4 ) My relationships become part of a to-do list, rather than the context by which I operate.
By the practice of this attitude, I might respond to a frantic friend's tears by deciding her needs are urgent and take precedence over my planned priorities. While this may seem like a compassionate response, it comes as a knee-jerk reaction that demands my "scarce" attention at the cost of the status my social charity. Elizabeth Newman writes, “In a market society, all human relations are reduced to contract, destroying the longer-term bonds needed to sustain human society.” ( 5 ) I still play by laws of supply and demand and, in truth, I superficially respond to fulfill a duty in my friendship.
But I wonder if, perhaps, I had truly and fully, without distraction, devoted myself to her in a few days sooner, if I would have been aware of her deteriorating state before her collapse.

“Living a life that places higher value on relationships and community than it does on commerce and productivity – this is counter to how much o us have been taught.”( 6 )

(I also heard somewhere that women do this far better than men because they have more connections in their brain. This is also why they are much more social.( 2 ))
Return to reading.

(holy cow, I just told Matt that according to this study (3), man and women are equally capable of multitasking but women make fewer mistakes than men. I said this is for many reason reasons and one being that woman have a higher blood flow to their brain; his response to this "I can't help if it I wield the wand of power.")
Return to reading.

1: How Multitasking Affects Human Learning (NPR)
2: Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget (Science Blogs)
3: Gender Differences in Multitasking (MWSU)
4: Nouwen, Henri J., and Gerard W. Hughes. Reaching Out : A Special Edition of the Spiritual Classic Including Beyond the Mirror. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.
5: Newman, Elizabeth. Untamed Hospitality : Welcoming God and Other Strangers. New York: Brazos P, 2007.
6: Pratt, Lonni Collins, and Daniel Homan. Radical Hospitality : Benedict's Way of Love. New York: Paraclete P, Incorporated, 2005.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Holy Ground

An excerpt from Reaching Out, by Henry Nouwen

… I vividly remember the day on which a man who had been a student in one of my courses came back to the school and entered my room with the disarming remark: “I have no problems this time, no questions to ask you. I do not need counsel or advice, but I simply want to celebrate some time with you.” We sa on the ground facing each other and talked a little about what life had been for us in the last year, about work, our common friends, and about the restlessness of heart. Then slowly as the minutes passed by we became silent. Not an embarrassing silence but a silence small that could being us closer together than the many small and big events of the last year. We would hear a few cars pass and the noise of someone who was emptying a trash can somewhere. But that did no hurt. The silence which grew between us was warm, gentle and vibrant. Once in a whole we looked at each other with the beginning of a smile pushing away the last remnants of fear and suspicion. It seemed that while the silence grew deeper around us we because more and more aware of a presence embracing both of is. Then he said, “It is good to be here” and I said, “Yes, it is good to be here together again,” and after that we were silent again for a long period. And as a deep peace filled the empty space between us he said hesitantly, “When I look at you it is as if I am in the presence of Christ.” I did not feel startled, surprised or in need of protesting, but I could only say, “It is the Christ in you, who recognizes the Christ in me.” “Yes,” he said, “He indeed is in our midst,” and then he spoke the words which entered my soul as the most healing words I had heard in many years, “From now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us will be holy ground.” And when he left I knew that he had revealed to me what community really means.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dad's Morality Tale

Story Time
This was a story my dad told my sister and I when we were pretty young. I didn't get it until high school.

Once upon a time there was a man named Benny.
Benny lived high up in the mountains with a lot of other boys and men just liked him. They were lumberjacks and provided all the wood from the forest to the surrounding villages below. It was hard, long work and required them to have their own small town isolated in the woods. Because it was mostly men who lived in the town in the mountains (and you would recognize a woman in this particular town), they all had beards that they paraded around with pride (yes, the few women did, too). There were men with exceptionally long beards, exceptionally thick beards, exceptionally red beards and exceptionally curly beards. Benny did not have a beard. He had always considered himself a late bloomer; but around his thirtieth birthday he began to think something was wrong... The men loved Benny, but they made terrible fun of his perfectly smooth skin and bare cheeks. Benny was very very distraught.
One day, when he was inspecting trees to be harvested, he came across a very large one with hole. Inside the hole, something was shimmering. He reached in a pulled out a dirty hunk of metal. Unsure of what it was, he spit on the metal and wiped it clean with his shirt. He suddenly realized that what he had in his hand was a magic lamp! And he had just rubbed it.
Out popped genie before Benny! It didn't laugh or giggle or try to play a trick on him as he had expected after seeing Aladdin. And it wasn't blue. It simply starred Benny hard in the face and asked candidly, "What do you want?"
"You mean, like, what do I wish for?" The genie rolled his eyes, "Yes. What do you
wish for and also what do you want? I was enjoying my solitude."
"Do I get three wishes?" Benny asked excitedly.
"Oh, but at least one?"
"If you must make a wish, yes."
Benny thought only for a moment about what he would wish for. His mind had already been made up, but he needed a moment to get over the disappointment the Disney movie expectations had instilled in him. "I wish I had the biggest, best, longest, red-est, curliest beard in this town!"
"Okay," said the genie, "but there are conditions. First, you must never, ever shave it off! If you do, the powers of the universe will wreak havoc on you and you will end up dead! In an
urn!" Benny was a little frightened. He didn't want to embarrass himself by asking what an "urn" was, but he knew what "dead" was and that was sufficient warning for him. "Okay, I can do that. What's the other condition?" Benny asked, afraid of it's possible equal violence and absurdity. "Nothing," said the genie, "it's too much work to come up with something else now. Just don't shave." And with that, he disappeared. Benny decided to put the lamp back and look somewhere else for timber trees.
On his way back to the town, he noticed a tingling feeling in his face. And before he stepped his first steps inside the town borders, from his face was what some men spend their life-time trying to groom and cultivate - it was the biggest, best, longest, red-est, curliest beard the world had ever seen. Benny triumphantly marched through the down and straight to the mess hall to display his prowess. To everyone who asked, "How did you do it, Benny?" he answered in song, "when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true..." not realizing he his subtly was misplaced by his mixing up of two completely different Disney movies.
As time went on, the town's tourism industry blossomed. What was once an isolated mountain town gained roads and day-tripped. Where once there was a mess hall, a pub now stood, where once only bearded men could be seen, delicate figures of the obviously opposite sex could be made out.
One day, Benny was gracing the new pub with his handsome beard when he laid eyes on the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She wore glasses, because she was also the smartest woman he had ever seen. He introduced himself to her casually and she gave her name, "Violet." With his heart in his throat he asked her how long she would be staying in the mountain town. She answered uncomfortably, "Indefinitely. My friends and family have all moved here because of your great beard. The town not only requires lumberjacks, but also hotels, dentists, and an IRS man. I am here because my father is going to be warden of the first minimum security prison for tax evaders."
"Wow" Benny managed. He was both realizing that she was out of his league and that he didn't know what "taxes" were. "Do you want to go out sometime?"
Over the next few weeks Benny and Violet grew very fond of each other. Benny found Violet to be smart and independent, and Violet found Benny's hardened lumberjack body to be quite agreeable. Eventually, and rather quickly, they fell madly in love and decided to get married. It was Violet who proposed this idea by first letting her eyelids flutter romantically shut and leaning toward Benny's bushy face for a kiss. As Benny tried to similarly return the gesture, the bristles of his magnificent beard brushed the soft skin of Violet's perfect face. She shrieked and jumped back, opening her eyes and, thus, effectively ruining the moment.
"What's wrong?" Benny asked, "I don't know... let's try again." The same sad thing - Benny's facial hair was unexpectedly repulsive to Violet. "I suppose it looks much better than I imagined it would feel..." Violet tried to reason. "Can we still get married?" Ask Benny. "I don't know," said Violet, "I would really like to kiss you when we're married and..." she trailed off in thought, "why don't you shave it off?"
"I can't do that," replied Benny sadly. Without another word, Violet stormed off believing that Benny and his famous beard had chosen to nobly save the town by unselfishly maintaining it's primary attraction
instead of compromising his responsibility in order that they might kiss/be married.
Benny was very heartbroken by Violet's reaction. She wouldn't see him in the days coming and Benny knew what he had to do. He knew that if he ever wanted to be with Violet, he would have to part with his beard.
He made a sad announcement at the pub one evening, and everyone silently watched him make the trek from the pub to the barber shop. When Benny arrived, he found a nervous and conflicted barber sharpening his unused tools (the Barber had not had a customer in this particular town since moving in. The revenue that would come from having the hair off the famous Beard of Benny was an overwhelming prospect that outweighed his moral convictions, yet still tormented him). Benny sat down in the chair and the barber said, "Just a trim?" and Benny answered, "Nope, clean-shave please. The closest shave you've ever given."
The barber whetted his tools and looked out the window, a great crowd had gathered to see the horrific event and the barber was beginning to feel his guilt consume him.
He examined Benny's down-trodden face many times over before raising his blade to make the first scrape. As his blade fell the first few hairs from Benny's face there was monstrous crack of lightning and thunder outside the window and darkness fell over the mountain town! When enough light had gathered to resume the shave, everyone was shocked to see that Benny was no longer in the chair! In his place was a decorated, copper urn with a picture of a great bearded man and the following inscription:

"A Benny shaved, is a Benny Urned."

Nope, really. That's The End.

Ways I've saved money

It's not that the economy has created hard-time for Matt and I - we're just young and married and ambition and sometimes the wife in this particular marriage as an issues with that last one and opportunism. Thus, let's be frank, we are really doing that thing that our parents said theydid when they were are age. I remember it vaguely... something about "pinching pennies" or "scrimping and saving" or some other stupid alliteration that had to do with money. In any event, our grocery bill has been effectively reduced to $200 a month.
Which still puts us $66.14 over budget.
(Is this too much information? I hear in my soc classes that the middle and upper class don't talk about money publicly, it's uncomfortable)
So I've begun to exercise my power of creativity by being thrifty! And also Matt has taken to grocery shopping because, well, let's face it, accessible food PLUS opportunism does not yield savings.
The first thing I did was freak out about my bills. I wouldn't recommend this, but after Matt told me to stop freaking out, I was able to evaluate them clearly with an unfortunate sense of urgency.

Because we had moved, I made sure that I called every institution to whom we would be paying any amount of money and took advantage of EVERY rebate and discount I could. We ended up getting $100 back from AT&T and waving a few start-up fees. Phew.

Then I looked at our gas and electricity usage and wrote down five ways we could use them less - in the end it's only going to save us about $10 on our next bill, but hey! We're fighting... for... frugality. (Dang, that was hard. And lame)

Actually, before that, we found the places where white people don't shop en masse (i.e. Gelson's, Trader Joes, Vons). I mean this with all sincerity and no intention to offend - but the truth is, most of the checkers at King's Ranch speak primarily Spanish and most of the shoppers are Hispanic with a close second majority of African-Americans. The last two times I paid attention in the grocery there was one other person of Asian decent than me and Matt was the only white guy. And we saved about $40 on our regular grocery bill and got some goood roast for a third of what we'd have paid at Albertson's. Not to mention it's local produce! I'ma add an "Environment" tag to this post.

We also cut out one of our cell phones. Since Matt is at home most of the time, he is accessible via home phone. But the reality is, we just have to plan and coordinate a little better. Instead of us thinking either of us as "accessible" we communicate more effectively our plans at the beginning of the day. And then we stick to them.

Finally (because I realize this post is probably a little boring), I called Pasadena Refuse this morning and downsized our trashcan. Not only does this save us about $15 on our trash bill, but it's also a better use of space in our tiny backyard. A tiny garbage can!

The benefits that come with saving money can be summed up in several other ways. 1) I didn't get had by inflated prices... I called and got rebates and asked for discounts that were fair from the places I was paying bills. I mean, after all, my patronage is important and I worked up the guts to play that card. 2) In both the cases with our utilities and trash, I actually took the time to think about what we are consuming and recognize excess! What a novel idea!3) We picked a local shopping center instead of a chain- the produce doesn't "look" as good, but it tastes the same, sometimes better, and we save a ton by shopping within our means and not necessarily our comfort zone. Hell, this is California, all our produce looks good compared to the East Coast. 4) Cell phones are overrated. We just don't need to change our minds that much. Again, we have to stop and think our day or errands through for a few minutes, before we rush out the door. 5) As far as changing the size of our trash bin - the benefits are obvious on so many levels! We save money, we maintain a smaller amount of waste, we save space - we're reducing our bill and our carbon footprint! Yay!

So that's that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

Hey friends! Today is October 15th, Blog Action Day!
The topic this year is poverty. If you haven't posted already, I really encourage ya'll to take the time to facilitate a discussion or process the implications of certain actions or attitudes or even politics or faiths as they address poverty.
Register your blog for the day at:
(My previous post shows a video on the ambitions for the day)

If you're looking for a topic, please feel free to address the one I've chosen for the day - it's close to my heart as I have written grants for Eden Reforestation Projects and now am involved in the production of their videos explaining deforestation. Take a look!

"Reforestation 101:
The Destructive Nature of Deforestation and What Can be Done

By watching and sharing this video you can help spread the word about what we mean by such simple statements as "Healing Lands and Lives" and "Plant trees. Save lives."

This 4 minute video will be well worth your time to watch and learn about the basic reasons behind the causes of erosion, desertification, and mudslides. The good news is, working together we can plant trees and forest again.

Everything Lives Where Trees Live

Plant Trees – Save Lives!

Embed the code below and start your own discussion on deforestation, desertification, and the hope that lies in reforestation and projects like ERP!
Just copy and paste. =)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reflecting on Nouwen

These are notes from my paper on hospitality. I'm not exactly "unpacking" this quote, but the whole topic got me thinking...

“Lonliness is one of the most universal sources of suffering today.”

(Nouwen, Reaching Out)
We recently took a walk around downtown Pasadena and went into the famous Cliff’s Bookstore. Cliff is usually at the counter talking conspiracy with someone and that particular night, about halfway through our visit, he was joined by a man who parked his shopping cart outside. I’m not sure if they were friends or even acquaintances, but talk of politics and government corruption provided common conversational ground. They talked about taxes and parties and eventually soup cans – the man who had come in was carrying bags and bags of soup cans. The next day, Matt told me the man in the bookstore had been hanging around a gas station he’d stopped at a week earlier. He’d approached Matt and begun a conversation on baseball, a topic my husband knew nothing about. The man told Matt that he looked like a famous player and pressed his memory, hoping that they could relate on at least that much. But Matt still did know and they parted ways.
In both our encounters we found sufficient reason to assume the man was homeless. After all, he fit the profile: middle aged, rugged in appearance, black and traveling on foot. It is an unfair assumption, we admit, but gap between the affluent and impoverished in Pasadena is large enough to make the middle-of-the-road folk a rarity. (Ironically we fall into this category). Matt mentioned being nervous when the man had approached him and then embarrassed when he realized all he wanted was a conversation.
This prompted me to give the following remark to Matt:

“I don’t think that the homeless I’ve encountered often begin a conversation so that they might ask for money. It happens, sure, but ultimately it’s not very economic… I’ll bet that when someone does that, first begins a conversation and finally asks for money, that they are actually trying to fill two needs: first the satisfaction of human company, and then the need or want for money for whatever purposes. It’s not a wonder that the issues are addressed in that order – first, we tend to our loneliness.”

It's amazing what an intercessory to community outreach money can become. It's the basis of all our transactions and it, increasingly more, is the limiting, outlining catalyst to so many superficial relationships.

A girl said something that really hit me hard in class. The professor was asking us to consider who our "stranger" is. What she meant was who do we show hostility towards? who do we show the opposite of hospitality to?She said something more or less like, "To be honest... I am considering those who are homeless. I want to say that I don't actually have any 'hostility' toward them... I don't hate them... but the fact is, when I see someone sitting on the street with a cup or even just nothing, I find myself calculating a path around them. It's funny, because I know very well that, as a Christian, I probably ought to be looking for a path toward; in my love as a Christian and for God I ought to be looking for ways to I can provide, way I can meet their obvious needs."

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's important!

Now, I'm not really one to let "the man" tell me what's important... in fact, ask me, and we can have a lengthy theological discussion as to exactly how far I'm willing to take my psuedo-rebellion against "the man" in the context of my Christian faith.
(go on ask me! It'll be fun!)
But in this case (and without making an exception to my rule, mind you) I must admit that I love many things about my city. Furthermore, I love what this particular campaign by the city.

Pasadena has essentially sent all it's residents a coupon for $75 in "energy-saving light bulbs" in hopes that each residence will replace 10 of their old light bulbs with the new ones they are getting for free! How exciting! They started the program by sending all residence samples of the bulbs (two each), also for free!

Pasadena claims that if ever residence participates, as a city we will reduce our carbon emissions by 10,000 tons! Wow!

Now, I'm a little wary of taking "the man" for "his" rather duplicitous word... but I can verify that I will in fact be saving on light bulbs for the next few years as these babies last about 10 times longer!

Better still! They are no available for the holiday season!!

But don't forget boys and girls, these light bulbs may contain "electronic or hazardous waste because they contain a trace amount of mercury" so never (as bold-ed on the website) EVER (extra emphasis by me) throw them in the recycle bin or trash can. You could get sick or die and the city would be liable! (Seriously... be safe) Instead drop them off at a CFL waste disposal center.


Let's be honest, though. The most exciting thing about this for the new Real-World (i.e. not in (really) college, pay for toilet paper, swear at bills) Danica is the excitement of getting a package in the mail!!!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

An different environmentalist


(1) We believe in emphasizing limited government, free markets, and individual liberties.

(2) We believe “smart growth” is damaging the economy and the environment.

(3) We believe there is not compelling evidence that human CO2 emissions are causing potentially catastrophic climate change.

(4) We believe there is abundant land, and “urban service boundaries” are meant to inflate the price of homes to increase property tax revenues to the public sector.

(5) We believe California’s “Global Warming Act” is a tactic to reduce public entity budget deficits through fees and hidden taxes (such as CO2 emission auctions).

(6) We believe budget deficits can be eliminated by placing ALL retired workers in America on social security and medicare, including retired public employees - and NOT through global warming taxes & fees.

(7) We believe nuclear power is safe, and Yucca Mountain is a safe repository for nuclear waste.

(8) We believe the “alarm industry” is far better funded, by 100 to 1 or more, than the “denial industry.”

(9) We believe cars, busses and roads are a far, far more efficient solution to mass transit challenges than light rail.

(10) We believe CO2 is the LEAST of our air pollution concerns, and we should focus on reducing genuine air pollution.

(11) We believe if there are regional climate impacts caused by man, they are more the result of deforestation, aquifer depletion, and desertification - than atmospheric concentrations of CO2.

(12) We believe that many green entrepreneurs and green politicians have been corrupted by the fascistic urgency of the global warming message, and are unscrupulously exploiting it.

(13) We believe centralized mandated solutions to alleged global warming will inhibit innovation and undermine our ability to achieve energy independence and genuine pollution reductions.

(14) We believe the excessive focus on CO2 is slowing the trajectory of solutions to genuine environmental challenges, if not reversing them.

(15) We believe we may modify these principles at any time, based on factual evidence.


Tom Nelson's Blog

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job."

Har har har har. Oh Douglas Adams.

Here is an adjusted Wikipedia quote on Zaphod Beeblebrox:

"[Insert candidate's name here] is hedonistic and irresponsible, self-centered almost to the point of solipsism, and often extremely insensitive to the feelings of those around him/her... s/he is nevertheless quite intelligent, though s/he sometimes prefers not to make this obvious, and can be briefly shamed into better behaviour."

Friday, October 3, 2008


"...I don’t find it surprising when the issue of homelessness gets momentary attention in the media and then fades in the public mind. While the big players in the economy get sustained attention, the vulnerable folks, often children, aren’t given quite the same care" says Howard Linsoff via a publication by West Raven.

There is a history to homelessness. I think Mr.Linsoff explains some of the more policy-based reasons for it that are worth considering. Take a look.

(I'll be adding more links and what not to this blog over the course of the day.)

Seven-hundred billion dollars

It's really not that big a difference from 700 million dollars (I mean, we're only talking one letter), right?

But am I understanding this correctly? Matt and I were talking about the natural swing of an economy to it's antithesis - the whole pendulum thing - and two weeks ago he was saying that a socialist economy naturally moves toward a capitalist one and vice versa. And then the banks started shutting down and being bought up, etc.

So when I first heard about the bill, I thought, 'Well, there you have it. Socialism.' But then I realized that this is totally cheating! It's not enacting a new kind of economy or even practicing the system we have in place - it's applying the principals of socialism to our problem of debt. We're only socializing the debt. Am I right? Or am I missing something?

That's kind of crappy. At least I think so. And, in my naivety and inexperience, I'm thinking this is probably a bad idea. I don't really know what are good questions to be asking (but I wonder what renters, newly graduated college students, and the late baby-boomers trying to make it to retirement are thinking of this...); but philosophically I think there will be a price to pay for compromising the integrity of our current system. I'm not sure pretending that there is grace for the abuse that brought about this crises will yield any truly positive results.

"May you live to see interesting times" - ancient Chinese prover/curse

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Watching this election, I find myself leaning toward whichever candidate fits the presidential profile Douglas Adam laid out."

Because if I really think about - Obama fits the debonair, perhaps even shady (i.e. Chicacgo) kind of president that ended up in jail and increased his popularity with pseudo-promises of ideals that often wins elections for presidents of the Galaxy in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; and McCain is undoubtedly the trigger-happy, showmen (i.e. Palin) who would use a gimmick to boost his odds and then a steal something with guns on it directly after being elected.

Heh, I know I know. I'm waaaaaaaaay off base, right?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Gym

Sooooo... the lesson borne out of moving this past month... well... wait, lessons... were 1) Have less stuff. Just... you (I) mean really? Do I really need all that? Probably not. 2) Keep your (my) opportunism in check! Because it's just plain stupid to try and buy all your furniture at the same time as first and last month's rent AND a deposit AND utilities AND their frackin' deposits.

Which is why I need to stop justifying my desire to get a gym membership. I mean, it breaks down pretty easily: Can you afford it? No. Okay, case closed. (This is why I married the particular Matt that I did... he asks these questions and comes to these conclusions) But I keep thinking, well when CAN we afford it? Cuz technically if I give up food for the next month we could probably cover it. No, I really do have a realistic dilemma- that is when we have sufficient funds to start health care... what will that mean? And how important does working out rank on the scale of priorities? I figure, if I'm in shape, I won't get sick and if I don't get sick we won't need to see the doctor as much and that saves... But then again, instead of paying for a gym membership we could just get health care and then get sick and see the doctor and not pay for it anyway. Or... I could just go for a run instead of the gym and pay for health care. OR!!! My husband could be come a personal trainer at the gym and get a FREE membership and a family discount! AND we could pay for health care! There, that wasn't such a waste of space. I feel better.

But as for "interesting observation" I went back and forth between disgust and misty eyes with all the posters plastered around... In the women's locker room there was one that said "Karen got back down o her weight in high school!" but right outside was one that said "Joan use exercise to recover from brain surgery" and "Frank can tie his shoes again!" I was so torn between whether I wanted to work out to look better or avoid dying. Apparently both are sufficient marketing ploys. Damn the man! I'm doing to make my next four meals completely of lard and egg yolks. That will show them I don't care. Oh wait... isn't that Atkins?
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