Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things I never thought I'd do at work

Among my varied work tasks and responsibilities, I open the office's mail. Since I'm responsible for tracking donations and making deposits, this makes sense. Some days are more interesting in this regard than others.

Today was an interesting day, mail-wise. A Priority Mail envelope full of checks a state director sent to us for processing was, apparently, dropped into a puddle or something en route to our office. The envelope was very late in coming; when it arrived, it was completely sodden and in one of those clear "We're sorry we ruined your mail" baggies from the post office.

The checks inside the envelope were so wet and floppy that nothing could be done with them until they dried out. So, the edges of my desk became a check-drying rack.

I worked all afternoon, surrounded by money. Wet money.

Socialism: an equal opportunity employer

Socialism, according to Merriam-Webster:

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

I looked it up because with the heightened political rhetoric of late I was losing track of its actual definition, rather than the shortcut version being bandied about. I didn't remember it referring to tax policy or even social policy back from my college days when I studied government, but I wanted to know for sure.

Apparently I'm not the only one thinking about socialism these days, or trying to weigh various public statements and policies against the true definition of the sociopolitical term. Hendrik Hertzberg has a piece in the current New Yorker that makes clear "socialism," at least as the Republican ticket has been defining it, is a game both sides of the aisle can play:

... The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 per cent and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6 per cent. The latter is what it would be under Obama’s proposal, what it was under President Clinton, and, for that matter, what it will be after 2010 if President Bush’s tax cuts expire on schedule. Obama would use some of the added revenue to give a break to pretty much everybody who nets less than a quarter of a million dollars a year. The total tax burden on the private economy would be somewhat lighter than it is now—a bit of elementary Keynesianism that renders doubly untrue the Republican claim that Obama “will raise your taxes.”

On October 12th, in conversation with a voter forever to be known as Joe the Plumber, Obama gave one of his fullest summaries of his tax plan. After explaining how Joe could benefit from it, whether or not he achieves his dream of owning his own plumbing business, Obama added casually, “I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” McCain and Palin have been quoting this remark ever since, offering it as prima-facie evidence of Obama’s unsuitability for office. Of course, all taxes are redistributive, in that they redistribute private resources for public purposes. But the federal income tax is (downwardly) redistributive as a matter of principle: however slightly, it softens the inequalities that are inevitable in a market economy, and it reflects the belief that the wealthy have a proportionately greater stake in the material aspects of the social order and, therefore, should give that order proportionately more material support. McCain himself probably shares this belief, and there was a time when he was willing to say so. During the 2000 campaign, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” a young woman asked him why her father, a doctor, should be “penalized” by being “in a huge tax bracket.” McCain replied that “wealthy people can afford more” and that “the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t pay nearly as much as you think they do.” The exchange continued:

YOUNG WOMAN: Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism and stuff?. . .
MCCAIN: Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.

For her part, Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

OK, so this news story completely freaks me out

From the Associated Press:

Bees Kill 3 Dogs, Injure Woman in Florida

Sunday, October 26, 2008

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — A swarm of bees that terrorized a Florida neighborhood has killed three dogs and injured a 70-year-old woman.

Authorities in Palm Beach County say crews removed 50 pounds of honeycomb from the side of a Riviera Beach home after Friday's attack. The hive has been contained.

The bees swarmed Nancy Hill and her two dogs, killing the animals. The bees also attacked two other dogs in the neighborhood, killing one and sending the other to the hospital. Hill was treated at a hospital where the stingers were removed.

Lab tests would be needed to determine whether the bees were Africanized bees. Their stings are no more potent than an ordinary bee, but they are far more aggressive and attack in swarms. Experts believe they can be found throughout Florida.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Leaving the valley of the dolls

I'm going off the junk, y'all. This is Serious Business.

After just getting out of a migraine spiral that lasted the better part of a week, I woke up in the middle of the night last night with -- ta da! -- another migraine. After a couple of Vicodin, I woke up again two hours later, still in pain and completely frustrated by my inability to get my headaches under control. In the wee hours, I decided I needed to go back to the doctor, something I've been postponing because I don't want to go onto another medication and I don't want to get locked into another MRI machine and it just sort of seemed like all my options were generally pretty crummy.

Well, irony of ironies, I'm not going to be going on another medication, at least not right now. The doctor isn't quite sure what's going on. But after he learned how much analgesic medication I take on a daily basis (which when I told him, he said, "Impressive"), he threw me a complete curve ball -- he wondered if my cycling pain is actually being fed by all the medication, if in fact I was having cluster/rebound headaches.

The amount of medication, over the counter and otherwise, that I take for my headaches is the stuff of legend. Well, legend in my own little world, anyway. My entry-level dose of ibuprofen is 800 milligrams, or four pills, whenever I have pain. Which is every day. I have a prescription for another drug, Midrin, that is acetominophen-based and that I either take with the ibuprofen or alone, depending on my pain level. Then there's Vicodin, Maxalt, Zomig... the list goes on and on. I carry a container in my purse with me every where filled with various capsules and pills. It's like a security blanket.

But however reassuring carrying those medications with me everywhere might be, they just aren't working any more. Between that and the fact that cluster/rebound headaches can be triggered by the overuse of analgesics, it's time to try something else.

The (new) doctor suggested I go off everything except one, targeted intervention drug, Relpax, which I haven't tried before (which also means we don't even know if it will work). When he suggested it, I laughed -- I actually thought he was kidding.

He wasn't.

I tried to understand: "You can't mean all drugs -- do you know what you're suggesting? What about Vicodin? I mean, really? All?"

Really. All.

So, armed with a newly-filled prescription for Relpax and a fair amount of ambivalence (and still battling that migraine from the middle of the night), I will face the next three weeks essentially drug free, for the first time in I don't even know how long.

This is going to be a whole new world.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Discovered tonight on my front porch

Someone, no idea who, left me a wee pumpkin. A very cute one!

Just sitting on my porch, minding its own business.

New camera

In honor of my Thanksgiving trip to NYC to see Eric and Shu. A Nikon Coolpix 610. Ten megapixels (my Kodak point and shoot had three...) and all sorts of bells and whistles that I am still trying to figure out.

First victim? Daisy, of course.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It was a weird day

This is how Boo spent the morning before I left for work. Staring at me. It was a little unsettling.

Then I "drove" to work. And by "drove" I mean "lifted my foot from the brake pedal as my sole form of acceleration." It took an hour and 15 minutes to go less than 15 miles. On freeways.

Then later at work, the letter "M" on the office door went missing. Suddenly, we all worked for Capitol Inistries. Eventually the M was reattached by the same custodian who saved me from the giant bug.

And then as I was opening the day's mail, I found this in an envelope. A donor included it in with her monthly contribution. It's hard to tell, but it's a page out of a magazine that has been cut into a snowflake.

It was good to come home finally.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

So much for the 'we can barely stand each other' routine

Caught out of the corner of my eye during tonight's finishing up of Ocean's 13.

Friday, October 17, 2008


So I got a flu shot yesterday and since last night have had a 103-plus-degree fever. Hurray! Ibuprofen had no effect. I feel less strange (and less feverish) now than I did earlier today; hence, a post!

New haircut
Here it is from last night just after I got home from the salon and as I was starting to shiver inexplicably.

Excuse the blurred-out face. It's (and I'm) especially badly photographed on the CrackBerryCam. I like it, though. It's short!

The Pee Bandit
So last week I got a call at work. It was from the maintenance manager of the apartment building where I park my car during the workday (I have a CADA-rented space). He had gotten my number from CADA and had some questions about what "activities" I might have witnessed in the garage.

At first I thought he was implying that I had done something wrong, like clipped a car pulling in or out of the narrow little lot or somehow otherwise done something to another car. But finally he came out with it -- apparently, a guy who parks immediately across from me in the garage has been suspected of some seriously weird behavior; namely, the maintenance guy thinks he's been putting urine (yes, you read that right) in the building's air ducts and throughout the garage itself.

Had I smelled anything suspicious, he asked, or seen the guy lurking around? Um, no, I hadn't. This disappointed him. He then went on to tell me The Pee Bandit's age, marital status and other sundry details (which made me wonder how much he knows about me...). The building is weighing the installation of security cameras over the whole thing, and apparently the guy also owns a lot of guns but, he said, the Sacramento Police can't do anything about the gun/pee banditry situation until someone gets hurt.

If there are further developments involving pee in my garage, you'll read them here first.

I've begun the Left Behind series. It's .... intense. For those of you who haven't heard of this, it's a series of books that begins with the Rapture, when Christians suddenly, bodily leave the earth to be with Christ in heaven. Different eschatologies interpret the Bible differently in terms of the end times and what may happen, but the Left Behind series' fictional portrayal of one set of scenarios is compelling.

I don't recommend reading these books and watching Tivoed My Own Worst Enemy episodes immediately before bed. The subsequent dreams are strange and troubling.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My new ESV is here! My new ESV is here!

Taking a quick break from work to post pictures of my brand new ESV study Bible, delivered minutes ago here at the office by UPS.

I've really missed having a workaday ESV since my other one went missing after a flight home from Burbank. But this one is beautiful and worth the wait!

Here's an example of some of the artwork throughout the Bible, this from Nehemiah:

And this illustration of Herod's temple complex comes from Luke:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Song of the day

I played this like three times today on my Shuffle walking in to the office from my car. If it sounds familiar, you've probably heard it on commercials for the Coen Brothers' movie "Burn After Reading."

Anyway, I love this song -- "Grounds for Divorce" by Elbow.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Texas beats (the formerly top-ranked) Oklahoma

Like there was any question.

I'm in training all day today and unable to watch the game first hand (though Lynne and I snuck out to the hotel lobby for a bit to watch some of it). Greg and I generally watch the game together, but his sweet daughter Lindsay served as liaison, texting me updates from the game as well as her dad's commentary. I was left to follow along via More or less surreptitiously.

The aforementioned Curtis Solomon took this picture as the Longhorns took a solid lead.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Classic CM

Tomorrow is Lynnie's birthday. Ralph is in town for training today, so we celebrated a bit early with cake with him and the guys (props to David for going to fetch it).

We all love Lynne; Sean loves his camera. And of course nothing ever really happens until it's captured in a photograph (and then posted online).

It's come to this.

I'm on Facebook. I blame Curtis Solomon.

If you know my last name and care to, go find me over there.

I know my page is dorky but I'm still figuring it out, so help/constructive criticism in that regard would be appreciated.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Exhibit A

Remember when I said that after I became a Christian, I was concerned that meant I'd have to listen to Christian music?

This is just the kind of thing I was talking about. Via Sean:

Busy busy busy

Work is so busy!

Monday we had a board meeting here in Sacramento (first time in the ministry's history), and the board members' wives came to town with them, and the thing took allllllll day. And Ralph and Danielle stayed in Sacramento, so they were in the office all day yesterday, which is great but creates its own sort of interesting synergistic chaos. Today we have Bible study, and tomorrow the incoming state directors arrive for training. Which will last through the weekend. Somewhere in there, filling in the cracks, we're all trying to get through our normal job tasks and return calls and respond to email.

Whew. Little time for writing. The trainees leave Sunday and I'm really looking forward to doing laundry. And wearing sweats.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Song of yesterday

I listened to this driving in to work and then driving home, and it was stuck in my head all day long in between.

It's The Killers' All the Things that I Have Done.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Another face of the national financial crisis: states' liquidity at risk

It's revealed in today's Los Angeles Times that Gov. Schwarzenegger has sent a letter to the federal government warning that California may need access to as much as $7 billion in emergency aid in the wake of the current credit crisis.

Our state, like others, relies on short-term bond funds to back fill its coffers while waiting for anticipated tax revenues. Businesses do the same thing with lines of credit. In his letter to Treasury Secretary Paulson, Schwarzenegger fretted about what a tightening credit market would mean to California, as well as other states:
Plans by several state and local governments to borrow in recent days have been upended by the credit freeze. New Mexico was forced to put off a $500-million bond sale, Massachusetts had to pull the plug halfway into a $400-million offering, and Maine is considering canceling road projects that were to be funded with bonds.

California finance experts say they know of no time in recent history when the state has sought an emergency loan of this magnitude from the federal government. The only other such rescue was in 1975, they said, when the federal government lent New York City money to avoid bankruptcy.

"Absent a clear resolution to this financial crisis," Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter Thursday evening e-mailed to Paulson, "California and other states may be unable to obtain the necessary level of financing to maintain government operations and may be forced to turn to the federal treasury for short-term financing."


It's customary for California to borrow billions of dollars at the start of the fiscal year to fill its coffers until the usual flood of sales tax receipts comes in after Christmas and income tax receipts arrive in the spring.

"California is so large that our short cash-flow needs exceed the entire budget of some states," Schwarzenegger wrote.
We need the funds by October 28. We'll see what happens.

In which I discuss my love of china

Given that I am a single woman who lives alone and only on occasionally sets a table for more than herself, I have a lot of china. Definitely more than I need and probably more than any sane person should need.

Exhibit A:

And this is only the fancy and/or super old stuff.

At last count I had three eight-piece place settings' worth of fine china and two of every day dishes. Not including all the glassware.

It started simply enough. My mother inherited my grandmother's china upon her death. It then fell to me.

Oddly enough, Grandmother's Havilland bone china is a kind of metaphorical match to my grandmother herself: distinctly formal, from another era (it was ordered directly from England during her betrothal in the 1920s and came over on a steamer), incredibly delicate and requiring special care. I love it, especially the pretty flower sprays, but it terrifies me. I am convinced I am going to break it every time I open the china cabinet -- which, too, is similar to the effect my grandmother had on me.

Then, there's my mother's china:

Given her many marriages and divorces, that she did something so traditional and hopeful as register for formal china I find really interesting. Also, she was always a bit of a wild thing, so her choice of pattern -- plain ivory porcelain with a platinum band -- strikes me as terribly restrained. It's like it was what she thought a married person should have, and way outside her usual tastes, so maybe even at that point in her marriage to my father she was trying to play a role. But it is beautiful and sets a lovely, simple table. I'm not nearly as scared of it as I am of my grandmother's stuff.

For my own formal china, I've gone a fairly nontraditional route (shock) and collected a table's worth of chintz china.

Chintz is distinguished by a wallpaper-like pattern that covers the pieces. It's fairly old (my pieces date from 1920 to about 1960), but I think fresh and oddly modern. I love that none of my collection matches and that when it's all put out, the table is just a whirl of color and floral pattern. Here's a pretty tea cup:

And this is probably my favorite pattern of the dozens out there. I loved it so much I bought a tea pot in it -- and I don't drink tea!

All three of these are far too delicate for the rough and tumble of everyday use, though. After her death, I inherited my mom's everyday stoneware, Franciscan Rose. I tend to use this when I have company over for an evening:

Look at the cute salt shaker that matches the pattern:

The stuff I use for myself for every day is called Jadite. Produced from the mid-'30s to about 1970, it's made of a heavy glass tinted the color of jade. It was often given away by grocery stores and with various products.

The kind I collect is called restaurant ware (it was widely used in restaurants and diners due to its durability), but there are many types. I love the simple lines of the restaurant ware design help its glossy, lovely color really stands out. I held one of the chili bowls up to the light so you can see jadite's beautiful translucency.

It's even dishwasher safe, which is rare in a collectible, making it something I can enjoy every day. And, as an aside, here's a comparison of dinner plate sizes. Look how much smaller dinner plates used to be (as compared to the Franciscan Rose, which was purchased in the last decade or so):

A portion of the obesity epidemic becoming clear?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm a little afraid of this

Found at Safeway in the florist section:

I'm not sure exactly what it is -- it's like a trampy little pumpkin. With a Marilyn Monroe birthmark and collagen-plumped lips. Perhaps the pink boa thingy is like its costume, so it's dressed for Halloween? Or maybe that's its little hat?

I'm so confused.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Missing the point

I've been reading the print and TV media coverage of "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" with great interest.

Dozens of pastors around the country preached politics and religion this weekend; the Associated Press via The Chicago Tribune described the coordinated events as follows:

The plan was orchestrated by the Alliance Defense Fund, a group of conservative legal advocates who want to challenge an IRS ban on electioneering in church.

Under the IRS code, churches can distribute voter guides, run voter-registration drives, hold forums on public policy and invite politicians to speak at their congregations.

But they can't endorse a candidate, and their political activity can't be biased for or against a candidate, directly or indirectly. Churches that defy the restriction risk losing their tax-exempt status.

The rule, enacted in 1954, amounts to an unfair restriction on free speech, the Phoenix-based Alliance Defense Fund charges. The group hoped "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" would provoke an IRS investigation so it can sue to overturn the federal rules.

"Pastors have a right to speak about biblical truths from the pulpit without any fear of punishment," said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the alliance. "They shouldn't be intimidated into giving up those constitutional rights."
While mainstream media have focused on these churches potentially losing their tax-exempt status, to me, that's not the real story at all. It's that these pastors have traded their clear biblical call to preach the Word for an entanglement with Caesar.

There are few points as clear in Scripture as its call for believers to pray for their elected leaders and to submit to them. Capitol Ministries, where I'm proud to work, exists in part to preach this message:

  • It is God, not man, Who removes and establishes political leaders (Daniel 2:21).

  • God is in control of all circumstances, not just politics, and we are to be "anxious for nothing," instead praying to Him with our requests (Philippians 4:6).

  • We as Christians are called to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

  • We as Christians are also to be submissive to the worldly institutions the Lord has installed, particularly governmental ones (1 Peter 2:13-16, Titus 3:1-2).

  • We are to avoid "foolish controversies" (Titus 3:9).
  • "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." (1 Peter 2:17).
There are also clear instructions for pastors:
  • They are to teach sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).

  • Their teaching is to have "integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us" (Titus 2:7-8).

  • They are to equip their flocks for the work of ministry and to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-14).

  • They are to be an example to their flocks in "speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:11) and "devote [themselves] to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13).

  • They are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness; fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which they were called; and keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach (1 Timothy 6:11-14).

  • They are also, as "soldiers" for Christ, to avoid entanglement in "civilian pursuits," keeping an eye on the greater prize (2 Timothy 2:3-4.
These are but a few examples. Given the clear Scriptural directives I've cited (and dozens more I didn't), leading a flock seems like a very big job to me, one that can and should take all of a preacher's time and focus to accomplish. The Apostle Paul lived during a period of profound governmental corruption and cruelty -- and yet, instead of preaching activism and political overthrow, he consistently wrote of our duty to dedicate ourselves to prayer and to turn from the things the world finds important. His silence on politics, coupled with exhortations to pray for our leaders, speaks volumes.

While these pastors may feel that under the U.S. Constitution they have the right to speak out on political matters despite IRS regulations to the contrary, as citizens of God's kingdom they are to live by His rules, not the world's, just as all Christians are. Further, no one is really telling them that they can’t preach politics if they feel compelled to do so – their churches would just forfeit their tax-exempt status. This is not persecution; the same IRS standard applies to any nonprofit choosing to advocate politically, not just churches.

The Great Commission instructs Christians to "[g]o therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Shouldn't these pastors see politicians as their mission field and be concerned about reaching them with the gospel? How does their political activism jibe with the eternal perspective and specific call placed on their lives and ministries by Scripture?

I'm talking as much to myself as anyone else here, but taking up petty political concerns at the expense of evangelism is at best a waste of time and, at worst, an idol we put in place of the God's sovereignty and lordship in our lives.

* This is posted on the Capitol Ministries' blog as well, there with a preface from ministry President and Founder Ralph Drollinger.