Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Is it just me, or are there tons of Catholic blogs out there? Does anyone know why? I'd ask you to comment, but I haven't got that particular technology yet. You can e-mail me, though. It's a very strange thing... do Catholics have more time? I certainly enjoy many of the sites, especially Catholic Light and Holy Weblog. Me, I'm a fairly secular Papist. Probably comes from the anti-organized religion upbringing. That, and I live with (in a non-canonical but legal marriage, thank you) a lapsed Catholic. His idea of being a good Catholic seems to be based on the pre-Vatican II Church in which he was raised. Still, I try to do my part -- at least my students at the state schools come out of freshman history knowing that Catholics are Christians, that Jesus was raised a Jew, and that, for a very long time, to be a Christian west of the Adriatic pretty much meant being a Catholic (or a heretic). Not a bad thing in a state where a very large number of kids come straight to college as Running Start students, after being home-schooled for (usually) religious reasons. Needless to say, there aren't a lot of Catholics being home-schooled -- that's why there are parochial schools.. Plus, once one gets to high school age (in Seattle, at least), the schools with the best reputations for college prep are Holy Names Academy -- all girls, and Seattle Prep -- co-ed and Jesuit. So, in a weird twist of fate or individual rights politics, there are a lot of kids out there getting pretty Conservative Christian educations for the first 10 or so years, and then thrown into a diverse, multicultural world. Talk about culture shock!

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Back to Blogging.. Or, Blogging -- because I have way more to do than I can manage, so why not do more? But seriously, I've been catching up on my mail -- actually reading my listserve newsletters, etc. It was somewhat refreshing to find that it isn't just NPR that worries about the erosion of civil rights in our post 9/11 world. Mind you, I think Zacharias Moussaoui is pretty much guilty as hell -- partially because the papers say he says so -- but I think it's more important now than ever that th US uphold the constitution it claims to be defending. So maybe it's good that John Barnhill is worried about the Sixth Amendment. Frankly, I worry any time someone tells me criticizing the government is Unamerican. Me, I figure it's my job.

Aha -- just caught up with last week's news. There I was, thinking that the somewhat ridiculous Cynthia McKinney (just because I'm a left-wing type doesn't mean I've lost my mind -- she's a Politician, and appears to have crossed the fine line between being a representative and wanting to win at any cost) was the most important news in Georgia. Then I came across this little tidbit in the New York Times: apparently that forward-thinking County of Cobb (home of the Big Chicken, I believe) feels the need to point out that "Evolution is just a theory". This drives me crazy. How dare people think that they can limit what God can or cannot do, and how dare they expect that those limits are in one humanly fallible book? Of course, these are often the same people who call themselves Christians but focus on the Old Testament -- which confuses me, maybe because, if the Incarnation is crucial to being Christian, don't you want to pay more attention to what Jesus purportedly said? But I digress. Oh wait -- this whole thing is a digression, isn't it?br
But back to McKinney. I suppose she wanted the intelligence failures to have been deliberate cover-ups for a couple of reasons. First, she hates the current administration. Second, it means she can blame somebody -- any lots of people need to blame so that they can have...what's the word? Oh -- "Closure." Frankly, I think it's just because our intelligence agencies aren't. They are Balkanized and populated by a lot of not-necessarily well-educated military folks. Not that being in the military denotes lack of education, mind. But think of the people who formed the backbone of the intelligence community during the Second World War -- lots of academics who were helping to defend and support a cause. Nowadays, I get the feeling that academics aren't welcome because we've actually read the constitution and -- gasp -- ask questions. So, I suppose what I'm saying is that, where McKinney sees intent, I see a design flaw.

Hmmm. That wasn't the cheery blog I'd planned. Oh well -- maybe a break will perk things up.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Well, apparently this is a weekly blog -- or so it seems. Many important things have been happening, though.. One of my personal heroes, Tony Adams, has decided to retire. A loss for the Gunners, but a good plan for our favourite donkey. In perhaps more important news, I've been informed by yet another History department that there's a budget crunch on. Could this perhaps have something to do with Washington state's own permanently offensive Tim Eyman? In a way, I suspect. Eyman is one of those people who gets voters to believe he's helping them, while he's secretly helping them take one in the shorts. For those of you who don't live in Washington, you should know we don't pay income tax here. We just get nickeled and dimed to death with sales taxes, use taxes, etc. Eyman and his group (from which he embezzeled thousands of dollars) are interesting, because they claim to be 'for the little guys' and "a grass-roots movement." If you ask me, they're downright Un-American. You see, when I grew up, back when schools had funding, we learned about representative democracy. The theory was, you elected legislators who would represent the interests of your community. If your elected representative didn't represent you, you voted the bastard out! Eyman and co. believe that we should run everything via initiative. Basically, this means that people who don't have the time to really look into issues vote their wallets -- and then bitch about the reduced services they're getting from government. Eyman himself doesn't want the responsibility of being in office -- oh -- and his "grass-roots" group? They hire people to collect signatures. Not really very grass roots.
What does this have to do with history departments? Well, Washingtonians are an interesting group. They regularly vote to lower taxes and increase spending. The government will of course "reduce waste" and everything will come out even. The sad fact is that the Washington state community colleges charge (no joke!) about $700 PER QUARTER for in-state tuition. These are community colleges, folks, not universities. You remember, places where people can afford tuition? When budget crunches hit, they hit schools. That's how it is. This is at a time when enrollments are up and rising every year. Now you know why I'd rather just read the football news.

Monday, August 05, 2002

What I've been reading and doing this summer... A friend of mine sent me a great book, Debra Ginsberg's Waiting, which is a wonderful explanation of the restaurant server mentality. No one can understand why I have always enjoyed working in restaurants -- except other servers! What really astounds people is how many food servers have advanced degrees. Ginsberg explains it all, in a way that is heartbreakingly familiar.

For a novel, I've been reading one of the loveliest books ever -- Ursula Hegi's Stones From the River. There's nothing I can say except that the language is wonderful, the characters interesting, if not always appealing, and it's set in Germany from end of the First World War through the end of the Second. It's been especially nice, since I tend to be a lazy reader, and gravitate more towards Terry Pratchett, for which I make no apologies, and Elizabeth Peters, a truly guilty pleasure. Speaking of guilty pleasures, I managed to read two books this summer that dovetailed right into a computer game I bought -- more on Knights Templar, dead Merovingians, and bad conspiracy theory later.