Friday, September 23, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 52

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

If you partnered with this week's 7 Quick Takes for a game of Trivial Pursuit, your team would be the first to win the little brown wedge.


Shel Silverstein's family has published a book of his previously-unpublished poems. Here's the feature from NPR, which includes audio of some of the poems being read aloud. Fun.


Mondegreen alert!

Last night, I was driving home from class, and Aerosmith's Dream On came on the radio. It had been a while since I'd heard the song, so I cranked up the volume and started reflecting on how much more I can relate to the first verse than I could when the song came out. (I was in elementary school. What did I know about lines on my face?)

And then it got to the chorus, and I (uncharacteristically) stopped singing along... just in time to hear "Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away..."

Wait... what?

I always thought it was "Maybe tomorrow, the guitar will take you away..."

OK, it makes a lot more sense now.


Speaking of classic rock, here's some breaking news:

Posted on All Access Music Group's website yesterday:

Queen drummer Roger Taylor offered singers the chance to upload a video to QUEENEXTRAVAGANZA for "a chance to be a rock star" in celebration of the band's 40th anniversary, according to the website Hypervocal. 
Downhere vocalist Marc Martel took up the challenge. His video jumped from 127,000 views this morning (9/22) to over 277,000 this afternoon. Hypervocal is touting Martel as Freddie Mercury reincarnated: "It's safe to say that the contest is over."


Speaking of Freddie Mercury, did you happen to see the Google doodle tribute on his 65th birthday a few weeks ago? It was, like the man himself, pretty incredible.


Lately I'm spending a lot of time in the car. When I'm not listening to classic rock (and hearing lyrics as if for the first time), I'm working my way through Pimsleur language CDs. There's a lot of escuche y repita going on during that long, long drive to and from classes.

But evidently my mind isn't satisfied with the disconnected little snippets of conversación provided on the CDs, and I find myself making up stories about the relationships between the speakers to fill in the blanks. (The CDs are giving me some pretty great material to start with: "I don't like Carlos." "Why not?" "He has too much money.")

I'm thinking about occasionally watching a telenovela to build my comprehension. I wonder how it will compare to the drama, intrigue, and resentment on the CDs...


Did you know your Captcha keystrokes are helping to digitize books? (This video makes me happy on so many levels.)


One last thing: ArtPrize is back! And there's another mosaic by Tracy Van Duinen!

Metaphorest, by Tracy Van Duinen

Happy Friday, friends!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The outsider

As I've mentioned once or twice, or three or four times, I come from a mostly unchurched background.

It's been many years since I put my faith in Christ, but because I grew up outside the church, I still view things from the perspective of an outsider. Like a person who immigrates as an adult, even decades later I retain the original accent that marks me: "You're not from around here, are you?"


When I came to faith, I began attending a small, conservative church near my university's campus.

I want to highlight the word conservative in the sentence above.

I had spent my first 18 years in a very liberal home.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but when I came to Christian faith as a college sophomore, I was a sexually-active gay-affirming pro-choice feminist Democrat.

Every week, I went to church feeling like a party crasher. It was like going to a fancy dinner, with me stealing sidelong glances at the other diners to figure out which fork to use. I didn't know the rules.

And I didn't know much about the Bible, or about Christian teaching.

But I knew — I knew — God had drawn me to Him.


Over time, I learned a little about the Bible and about doctrine — some of it confusing. And by watching and listening, I picked up some of the unwritten rules. Some of those were confusing too.

I learned what it meant to be a Christian woman by watching women around me. They wore dresses and nylons to church, so I wore dresses and nylons to church. They were polite and genteel, so I tried to behave likewise. They didn't voice opinions or anger, and mostly stayed quiet in church settings, so I... well, I struggled with that one.

I took in these unwritten behavioral rules right along with the Bible lessons. Sometimes, it was easy to confuse the two, to feel like maybe I was going to hell for thinking it might be OK to wear jeans to church. (Oh, I kid. Mostly.)

Since then, I've watched many of the dominant thoughts change, and I've come to see some of the rules as traditions and preferences — there's nothing wrong with them, but preferences are not doctrine, and traditions are not scripture.

I've learned to look a little more closely, to question, to deconstruct... to distinguish faith from preference or politics or upbringing.

Maybe I find it easy to ask questions because I'm looking at things from the outside.

I understand how it can be threatening, though. When I question things people associate closely with their faith, it might seem like I'm questioning their faith itself. I get that — my decision to follow Christ came only after I questioned my own beliefs, traditions, relationships, and assumptions about the world, to the point of being willing to give them all up.

So I know firsthand how scary that is.

But maybe there are some things that need to be challenged, with a gracious tone, as one family member to another. We all have blind spots.


Here's what many of those challenges will probably center around:

As I've read and studied the Bible, I'm impressed with the message I keep seeing throughout its pages — God has a heart for the outcast. The poor. The immigrant. The prisoner. The prostitute. The mentally ill. The hurting, the bleeding, the lost. The single. The infertile. The griefstricken. The abused. The minority. The woman. The child. The eunuch.

The outsider.

And the more I trace this thread through scripture, the less sense it makes to me to distance myself from people who look different, speak different, vote different, love different, and believe different from the way I do.

They're outsiders too.

I get the feeling God wants me to welcome them. Not welcome them if they change their beliefs, sexual habits, or politics. Just welcome them, and let Him do the rest.


If at some point you visit this blog and you're tempted to write me off as an infidel because I express an opinion that differs from yours, keep in mind I'm not challenging your faith or your beliefs — though I may be asking you to examine the consistency of those beliefs and how they play out in the world.

And I welcome your challenge in return, but please remember we're family, in the best sense. Even though I am an outsider.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In the Image: Barbie, breasts, & butchery

This is the second of a series of posts on women, body image, and mental health.
You can read the first post here.


I would've loved to have had a daughter.

(In addition to, not instead of my son. I wouldn’t trade him for anything.)

But sometimes when friends tell me stories of shopping with their young daughters, trying to find clothes that are age-appropriate yet stylish, I’m kinda grateful I didn’t.

If I'd had a daughter, I think we might have butted heads on a few things related to wardrobe and image… beginning with my “no Barbies” rule.

(Yes, I had that rule. Way before I ever became a parent, I decided: no guns and no Barbies. Which is much easier when there's no Santa.)

Vintage Barbie: a whiter shade of fail
Years ago, I was shopping at Target, walking past the toy department — specifically, past that most pink of aisles — when I overheard an African American mom calmly explaining to her tiny daughter (who was three years old at the most) that they wouldn’t be purchasing the pale-skinned Barbies the little girl was requesting, “…because these don’t look like you.”

I wanted to stop and say, “Well, they don’t look like anyone, really… at least, not like anyone who hasn’t had some serious surgical alteration…”

Now, I respect and appreciate what that mother was telling her little girl by declining to buy her the pale, blonde dolls. She was saying that her daughter should have a doll that portrays a realistic image, that mirrors her own beauty, and that having a doll that does neither might set her up for self-image problems later, as she chases futilely after a standard of beauty she can never attain.



In Seeking Self-Esteem Through Surgery, the New York Times reports numbers published by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

The numbers are shocking.

Friday, September 16, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 51

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

This week, 7 Quick Takes is about education, with a little crazy thrown in. (Seems fitting, considering my week was filled with long drives to classes at a sprawling and baffling campus.) Enjoy the ride!


I sometimes get a little over-fascinated with my blog's statistics. (Really, Pam? I'd never have guessed!) Last weekend, I had a visitor from Cebu, in the Philippines. (And it's not the first time someone from there has visited this blog.)

I know nothing about Cebu, so I had to look it up. Beautiful place!

But all I could think of was this multimedia event:

My deepest apologies to the residents of Cebu for my ignorance, and to everyone else for putting that song in your head.

At least I didn't repeat the line where Larry confuses Philistines with Philippines...


From the Department of Good News/Bad News:

Alton Brown's Good Eats just reached the end of production (that's the bad news) and was featured on NPR (the good news).

Alton Brown. (photo: Gregory Smith, AP)

"I wrote down Julia Child, Monty Python, Mr. Wizard and thought if I could put those three things together, that would be fun."

And it was. The show made me laugh, made me learn, and made me a better cook — success on all three of Alton's goals.

I'll try to keep my mourning quiet. Maybe I'll try one of his wilder stunts, like turning a charcoal grill into a jet engine. Or maybe I'll start talking to a videocamera inside my oven.


Speaking of cooking and crazy... I've featured Jim's Pancakes on the blog (take #7 here, and here).

Great news! Jim Belosic, the mind behind the crazy pancake creations, has written a book:


A friend from seminary days (who's just returned to school for another graduate degree) recently posted this in his facebook status: "Pretty soon it'll look like an eye chart behind my name."

Yeah. I'm there. Right now I'm working on the degree that's the equivalent of the copyright line at the bottom of the chart.


Speaking of school...

We had Back to School night last night and I ended up leaving totally stressed out. Stressed out about third grade. And rumors that it will require making a model of the Solar System. I am from a generation that was led to believe that Pluto was a planet. In fact I’m still not sure that it’s not. Who decides what constitutes a planet and why do they get to just revoke that status all willy-nilly? Because they have “Doctor” in front of their name? I once watched a doctor dump an entire side salad from Olive Garden into his lasagna and eat it all mixed together in a large bowl. Doctors don’t know everything. - Melanie, aka Big Mama

It's so true. And it's nice to see people sticking up for Pluto's planetary status. I mean, I'm from the state where Pluto was discovered... and my alma mater is in the town where Pluto was discovered... I'm honor-bound to stick up for Pluto. (Lowell Observatory itself has been surprisingly quiet about Pluto's demotion.)

Even so, Melanie's interests in the issue may be mostly pragmatic: "And how am I supposed to help Caroline memorize the order of the planets if I don’t use “My Very Excellent Mother Just Ordered* Us Nine Pizzas”? It doesn’t make any sense if you leave off the pizzas."

* Yeah, "ordered" is actually supposed to be "served" — Melanie
corrected it the next day, in her inimitable style:
Y’all. I totally messed up on the “My Very Excellent Mother Served Us Nine Pizzas” thing yesterday because I wrote ORDERED instead of SERVED. Maybe some of you thought I did it on purpose to be funny.

I didn’t.

This doesn’t bode well for Caroline’s eventual assignment on the Solar System and also serves as a very good example of why I never need to homeschool. The world doesn’t need another child running around declaring, “THE EARTH IS TOTALLY FLAT, Y’ALL”.

So I found these on Lowell's website. Please note the children's solar system socks include Pluto.

If that's not convincing, I'm not sure what is.

Lowell Observatory souvenir socks. Click to enlarge and see Pluto at nearly full-size.


And finally, how about some moo-ving music to get your weekend started?

Happy Friday, friends! I'll be here studying if anyone needs me...


Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years later

"On September 10, 2001, many Americans had never pondered our nation's role in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. By the morning of September 12, few of us had not. And 10 years later, we recognize that it is better to embrace the challenges we face globally rather than retreat, build walls, and pretend that America can exist on its own."

— Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S.
Christianity Today, "How Evangelical Leaders Have Changed Since 9/11"


Saturday, September 03, 2011

In the image: sex, shopping, & other drugs

This is the first of a series of posts on women, body image, and mental health. You can read the second post here.


But all of these sexual images aren't intended to sell us on sex.
They're intended to sell us on shopping.
— Jean Kilbourne

A couple of years ago, the short film Dove: Evolution made the rounds on the internet. Have you seen it?

I showed this film to a group of women a few weeks ago as a discussion-starter. Now, the women in the group are working to recover from addictions, so part of what they're going through might be hard for some readers to relate to.

But these women are also dealing with some very common problems like depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem.

Like pick-up sticks, these issues are all connected — it's nearly impossible to move one without jostling others. And research shows women's substance abuse is often connected to one or more of these other issues that are so common among women in general.

Does it sound like I'm blaming advertising for addiction, eating disorders, depression, and other mental health problems? I'm not... well, not exactly.

Friday, September 02, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 50

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

This week, 7 Quick Takes is set on "extra-random." I'm working on a couple of posts that are kicking my tail, and...


What?! School starts next week??!!!

Melonhead. HT: Bryan Lopez


Yes, it's true. I had a little break from the books, during which I did a lot of reading. (In my world, that makes total sense.)

But now, break's over and it's back-to-school time. I'm not completely sure, but I think this year I'm in twenty-first grade...

"As I prepare to enter the twenty-first grade, I still have wildly idealized notions of what each coming school year will bring."
Back to School, by Grant Snider of Incidental Comics

---3--- I guess I probably should have used my break to work up a really great logo.

Instead, I hosted a wedding shower for my son and his fiancée. (Totally worth it.)

At one point, there were 20 people in my kitchen. I do not have a 20-person kitchen. Still, it somehow worked... we made paninis and everyone had a good time.

I made the decadent little morsels shown below, and my son's fiancée's mom* garnished each with a heart-shaped slice of strawberry. (Awwww...)

Truffle Brownie Cups. (photo: Culinary Collie Sue)

They disappeared fast. I should have made a double batch.

* If anyone knows of a better way to describe the relationship between two parents that bookend a marrying/married couple, please let me know. Maybe something in another language. English doesn't seem to have a word for it.


Sometimes, I wish I lived in Paris. (That wish is intensified when I watch movies like Julie & Julia.) But after reading about the Paris Post-It war, I really wish I lived there:

Hmmm... wonder what's happening on those monitors. (from

The only videogame I've ever been any good at. (from


In garden news, the eggplants are doing well this year... though they're not quite galloping in herds:

Eggplant Zebra. HT: Bryan Lopez


To honor Steve Jobs' recent retirement, we have this little film of Jobs introducing the Macintosh in 1984:


My friend Elizabeth recently wrote, "...the more you do that’s bloggable, the less time you have to blog."

She makes a good point. I'm not sure what that means for this blog, but if you check back here in a few days (or weeks) and find nothing but chirping crickets, it might be a sign I'm busy doing other stuff... like my homework.

Or it might mean I have nothing to write about. Though, by the looks of some of my posts, that hasn't stopped me yet.

Happy Friday, friends!