A Craft Room by Any Other Name

I've finally moved forward with my idea of what to do with the guest room that adjoins our master bath - convert it to my studio!  After three years of trying to figure out how to re-purpose that room a welcome, a workable idea finally emerged from my stressed out brain.  How about a room for me, in which I can knit, draw and follow my muse?  Even better, a room where I can store things that foster more creativity in my life, and where I can just sit quietly with a cup of tea and think or daydream.

Over the weekend I continued clearing the room and also scrubbed and resealed the brick floor.  A couple of useful pieces of furniture have been moved in, and a general layout has come together.  Yay!  I'm trying to create this room using found objects & items from the house & barn, while avoiding a big outlay of cash.  So far, so good! 


To knit, perchance to purl

Recap to now (since my last post in June 2011): lost a roommate (yay!), gained a husband (yay!), got a bit older. Two months ago I decided to pick up knitting needles and finally learn to knit. My friend Randy, who is an accomplished knitter, had been posting pictures on FB of some of his work. I visited PA over New Year's and found my sister-in-law happily knitting away. What can I say? They inspired me to try my hand at it. 

I'm not a newcomer to 'fiber arts'. My Aunt Ginny taught me to crochet when I was seven, I believe to distract me from the death of my beloved Grandma Hilda, three days prior to Christmas. Also during childhood I was given a small metal loom on which I made potholders. My Aunt Doris taught me the basics of hand & machine sewing when I was around 11 or 12. In my late thirties I took classes in spinning yarns, learning to use both a drop spindle and a few different wheels. 

So, finding myself with knitting needles in hand, armed with knowledge from Youtube videos, I enrolled in a four week knitting class at a local yarn store (LYS, in knitter's parlance). I really enjoyed it! Sure, I was the only guy in a class composed of a teen girl, her mother, a young bride expecting her first baby, and three senior ladies. But I'm used to being an odd man out - you might say it's my niche. 

Currently I have three works in progress (WIP): a watchman's cap, a long scarf, and a baby blanket. Yes, a baby blanket, which I'm making for a friend who is due with her first child in about three weeks. Here's a pic of what it's supposed to look like when finished:  

I'm so enjoying how creative and relaxing knitting is, that I'm finally motivated to repurpose the room previously occupied by the roommate who shall remain nameless (a pox on 'im!) into something I've craved for years: my very own studio. I envision a room that lifts my heart & makes me smile every time I enter it. A convenient workspace and organizational masterpiece that will tempt me to create more and more. I'll let you know how it goes. 

For more on men who knit:
Bros and Rows: The Real History of Men Who Knit, and
Knit Like a Man


Liar, liar, pants on fire

Just yesterday I was involved in an online conversation about the differences between conservatives & liberals, and how those labels have changed over my lifetime. It's actually one of the things that continually puzzles me - how today's liberals are more like yesterday's conservatives yet are vilified so completely by today's conservatives. Weird.

Then I find that Mother Jones/AlterNet has an article along similar lines, though more focused on the acceptability of mendacity in today's political discourse. Check out this excerpt:
It takes two things to make a political lie work: a powerful person or institution willing to utter it, and another set of powerful institutions to amplify it. The former has always been with us: Kings, corporate executives, politicians, and ideologues from both sides of the aisle have been entirely willing to bend the truth when they felt it necessary or convenient. So why does it seem as if we're living in a time of overwhelmingly brazen deception? What's changed?

Today's marquee fibs almost always evolve the same way: A tree falls in the forest -- say, the claim that Saddam Hussein has "weapons of mass destruction," or that Barack Obama has an infernal scheme to parade our nation's senior citizens before death panels. But then a network of media enablers helps it to make a sound -- until enough people believe the untruth to make the lie an operative part of our political discourse.

For the past 15 years, I've spent much of my time deeply researching three historic periods -- the birth of the modern conservative movement around the Barry Goldwater campaign, the Nixon era, and the Reagan years -- that together have shaped the modern political lie. Here's how we got to where we are.

If you'd read how we got to this place, here's a link.


From The Independent:
The end of the world is nigh; 21 May, to be precise. That's the date when Harold Camping, a preacher from Oakland, California, is confidently predicting the Second Coming of the Lord. At about 6pm, he reckons 2 per cent of the world's population will be immediately "raptured" to Heaven; the rest of us will get sent straight to the Other Place.

If Mr Camping were speaking from any normal pulpit, it would be easy to dismiss him as just another religious eccentric wrongly calling the apocalypse. But thanks to this elderly man's ubiquity, on America's airwaves and billboards, his unlikely Doomsday message is almost impossible to ignore.

Every day Mr Camping, an 89-year-old former civil engineer, speaks to his followers via the Family Radio Network, a religious broadcasting organisation funded entirely by donations from listeners. Such is their generosity (assets total $120m) that his network now owns 66 stations in the US alone.

Ohhhhhh-kaaaaaayyyyyy. It occurs to me that the folks most likely to subscribe to Camping's prediction, or just to the idea of "The Rapture" in general, are probably the same folks who derisively scream "REVISIONST!" when someone mildly points out that the six Biblical passages used to condemn gays have other interpretations.


Presbyterian Church USA Votes for Justice & Equality

In a vote yesterday evening the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) took a decisive step toward adopting an amendment to its governing Book of Order, effectively dropping the church's ban on the ordination of non-celibate gay clergy. This makes it the fourth mainline Protestant Christian denomination in the US to do so, the others being The Episcopal Church (TEC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and The United Church of Christ (UCC).

From their official statement:
This year, the conversation has focused on Amendment 10-A that was passed by the 219th General Assembly (2010) and sent to presbyteries for approval. While we wait for official tallies, it appears that 87 presbyteries will approve 10-A during the week of May 9, which is the majority required for approval.

If this becomes official, the new language outlining the gifts and requirements for ordained service will say the following:

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

This decision begins with an unequivocal affirmation that ordained office will continue to be rooted in each deacon, elder, and minister’s “joyful submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”

This action also has important effects on our life together as a church, namely:

  • in keeping with our historic principles of church order, each session and presbytery will continue to determine the suitability of individuals seeking ordination within its bounds.
  • persons in a same-gender relationship may be considered for ordination and/or installation as deacons, elders, and ministers of the Word and Sacrament within the PC(USA); and
  • all other churchwide standards for ordination remain unchanged.
The entire statement is available online.

Reaction from More Light Presbyterians, a group within the church which has advocated for full inclusion of LGBT members in the life of the church and in ordination:
Dear friends,

Grace and peace. We give thanks to God that the 219th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment 10-A was ratified tonight as Twin Cities was the 87th presbytery to approve it by 205 to 56 with 3 abstentions.

Tonight Presbyterians join the United Church of Christ, the Episcopalian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as denominations who have eliminated official barriers to full membership, leadership and service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. This is indeed a historic moment in the life of the Presbyterian Church (USA), but also in the worldwide Christian communion.

More Light Presbyterians have been working for justice and equality since 1974 when the Rev. David Sindt became the first openly gay minister in our Church. "I am so grateful for the sacrificial effort of so many people over these years to bring this deeply Reformed correction to an error made by the Church. Both during these months as the presbyteries have voted and for the last 37 years, you have courageously and steadfastly given of yourselves in a host of ways to bring our Church to this moment. Every bit of your energy, intelligence, imagination and love was needed to come to this new day. I am grateful to God for the privilege of being part of this witnessing community," said the Rev. Janet Edwards, Co-Moderator.

"My heart is full as I think of all of those children of God who were hurt, who persevered, who left, who stayed and who worked so hard to make the Presbyterian Church (USA) truly reflect the wildly inclusive love of Jesus Christ—too many to name. Now, candidates for office within the PC(USA) will be evaluated based upon their love of Jesus Christ, the wholeness of their lives, their call to ministry and the gifts they bring," said Trice Gibbons, Co-Moderator.


Hat-haters Gonna Hate (a letter to HRH Princess Beatrice Elizabeth Mary of York)

Your Royal Highness -

In recent days i have been appalled by the license with which hatless haters are ridiculing the awesome chapeau you were proudly sporting for the marriage of HRH the Duke of Cambridge to his lovely bride.

It is my fond hope that you persist in joyfully sailing above the critics and that you continue to inspire & astound your admirers with your millinery magnificence.

i look forward to many years of viewing your terrific toppers.

Sincerely (and i MEAN sincerely),

An admiring American of British descent.

And an aside to the haters - in a world that is so often drab and lacking in harmless audacity, may you find yourselves at least a little more open to the surprising and imaginative. Especially when exhibited by someone who is subject to public criticism every time they show their face in public.

It's not like the Princess is wearing her jeans halfway off her royal fundament or something equally ridiculous.

And since i am a crass American - suck it, haters!!!


Ayn Rand Movie Fails in Free Market

i just love seeing a headline like that. Here's the link if you're interested.

After only reaching 14th in box office receipts for its first weekend, it dropped 47% in its second. That, despite showing in 166 more theaters nationwide. Production budget was $20 million, and so far it's grossed just slightly over $3 million.

Despite the poor showing, at least the figures aren't as ugly as Ayn Rand's mug.


Endangered Species: Republicans with Morals

From ThinkProgress:
On MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews today, former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY), co-chair of President Obama’s debt commission, railed against the social conservatives in the Republican party. He admonished male legislators for voting on abortion issues and “homophobes” like Rick Santorum who say “cruel, cruel things” about gays and lesbians:
SIMPSON: Who the hell is for abortion? I don’t know anybody running around with a sign that says, “Have an abortion! They’re wonderful!” They’re hideous, but they’re a deeply intimate and personal decision, and I don’t think men legislators should even vote on the issue.

Then you’ve got homosexuality, you’ve got Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We have homophobes on our party. That’s disgusting to me. We’re all human beings. We’re all God’s children. Now if they’re going to get off on that stuff—Santorum has said some cruel things—cruel, cruel things—about homosexuals. Ask him about it; see if he attributes the cruelness of his remarks years ago. Foul.

Now if that’s the kind of guys that are going to be on my ticket, you know, it makes you sort out hard what Reagan said, you know, “Stick with your folks.” But, I’m not sticking with people who are homophobic, anti-women, moral values—while you’re diddling your secretary while you’re giving a speech on moral values? Come on, get off of it.
Watch the video.


Have You No Decency Rep. King?

The political scapegoating theater of the hearings that Representative King (R-NY) is holding evokes both nausea & anger in my gut. It's hard for me to outline just how wrong i think his actions are. Why is easier, but more thoughtful writers than i are saying it better than i can.

Rev. Jim Wallis from Sojourners, on the theological mistakes of the hearing:
There is no doubt, terrorism is real. And there are small groups of terrorists who threaten countless innocents across the world. They are waging a battle on two fronts. The first is physical and the second is theological. Both have consequences.

Of course, Americans want to protect their families and nation from physical attack by terrorists. And since 9/11 we are likely safer than before but, at the same time, terrorist threats have grown. And most Americans agree on the necessity of good intelligence and policing to protect against further terrorism. But it is a serious mistake to only address the symptoms and results of terrorism, without addressing the causes.

One cause is that the terrorists are making gains in the theological battle. The terrorist’s ideology claims that every action they take is part of a global battle between Islam and the West. They want to convince the world that Islam is right and good, and that the West is wrong and Evil. And it helps the terrorists immeasurably when Americans say, in effect, that West is right and good, and that Islam is wrong and evil. Every time American voices say or imply that, it is counted by the terrorists as a victory. They love to point to those stories in the American media, and to use them to justify their cause, make themselves more righteous, and recruit more terrorists.

Exactly. Read the rest of his article here.

Mother Jones gives some background on Rep. King's Islamophobic hardon.
On Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, will hold hearings on what he calls the "radicalization" of members of the American Muslim community. King, who has previously called for the New York Times to be tried for treason and for WikiLeaks to be listed as a terrorist organization, has never shied away from confronting terrorist threats wherever he sees them—but this time he's struck a nerve. He's been denounced by the ACLU and Democratic rivals—who have compared him to Joseph McCarthy. His own party, meanwhile, has been conspicuously silent. So who's going to speak on Thursday? And what are they going to say? We've got you covered:

When: Thursday at 9:30 A.M. You can watch it live on C-Span, catch the webcast here, and follow my Twitter feed for live updates.

What's the back story? When King announced the hearings last December, he explained that law enforcement officials "are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders." King concedes that only a small fraction of American Muslims have ties to terrorism, but argues that those extremists have outsized influence, citing one figure that 80-percent of mosques in the United States are under the control of jihadists (that figure has been debunked). King believes "political correctness" is interfering with national security; as he explains it, the hearings are analogous to investigations into the Italian-American mafia.
...critics of the hearings dispute King's central premise—that American Muslims are complicit in the radicalization of a tiny minority. A February study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, for instance, reported that Muslim-American terrorist attacks had dropped significantly in the last year, and that 40-percent of all terrorism arrests came after a tip from the Muslim-American community.
So not only will his hearings likely bolster the recruitment efforts of actual terrorists, but his central premise is total crap.

Rep. King said after starting his hearings that, "To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee-- to protect America from a terrorist attack."

Among the many things that Rep. King has wrong is this - it's not political correctness that opposes his McCarthyist effort - it's plain old correctness, a/k/a common sense that stands in opposition to his stance. As history will most likely recount.

For shame, Rep. King. And shame on any elected official or regular American citizen who supports this latest Republican-manufactured xenophobia.


Locution from Borg

From Sojourners website:
An excerpt from Becky Garrison's account of her recent interview with Marcus Borg

What do you say to those who claim the United States is a “Christian” nation?

The negative side of the ambiguity of faith is that religions have often endorsed extraordinary cruelty and violence. For example, when cultural conventions said slavery was OK, Christians accepted slavery. You can make your own list — segregation, wars, heterosexism, patriarchy, vast differences between rich and poor, and so forth. On the positive side, Christianity and other religions have also been protests against the way things are and [have affirmed] another possibility. The United States is statistically the most Christian country in the world in terms of [the] percentage of the population who will identify as Christian and in absolute numbers. Yet, the church is the only large institution in the United States where hate speech is still OK. This hate speech is directed mostly against LGBT people, but also against other religions, especially Islam. Can you imagine any corporation allowing its leaders to make statements about gay and lesbian people that are routinely said within the church?

How then does one live as a Christian in an increasingly global world?

One of my definitions of what it means to be Christian is, “a Christian is someone who lives their life with God within the framework of the Christian tradition.” A Jew is one who does so within the Jewish tradition. And you can start to fill in the blanks for the other enduring faith traditions. And by enduring, I mean those religions that have stood the test of time. For me, it’s not about one of the enduring religions of the world, namely our own, being the best one. Rather, to say that a Christian [is someone] who lives out their life within the framework of the Christian tradition is about difference and identity, not about superiority. I really like the analogy of religions, in an important respect, being like languages. To be Christian, means [to speak] Christian, to be Jewish means [to speak] Jewish, and so forth. Obviously, I’m not talking about speaking the ancient languages of the tradition but knowing and understanding the stories and vocabulary of your tradition. So being a Christian in a pluralized society, means to live deeply within the Christian tradition while being able to recognize the riches and saints of other traditions.


The Christian Liturgical Year Begins

Time flies by, i step away from the grindstone and look up, and it's Advent again! The season of waiting, of expectation, of listening for God's call into new life yet again.

Here's a short list of online Advent resources:


Joseph M. Smith, Aug. 1, 1928 - Sept. 28, 2010

My father passed away peacefully today, surrounded by family. Rest in peace & rise in glory, Dad.
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A Primer of Pittburghese

Every locale has its colloquialisms, odd turns of phrase, accents and dialects. Where i grew up, about a 45 minute drive from Pittsburgh (Pixburgh), is no exception. Here are some of the ones i still recall:

Yinz, used for plural of "you". I always have assumed it's a version of "you-uns".

Using an "S" in place of the word "East". For example, Pittsburghers (Burghers) will refer to the area named "East Liberty" as "S'liberty." (If Anton's Deli is still in S'liberty, be sure to get a fish sandwich, some mac'n'cheese, and greens. Mmmmm, mmm!)

The "ow" sound is also replaced with an "ah" sound. So instead of saying "town" it sounds like "tahn". So, downtown would be dahntahn...

"Jaggin'" is used for "joking" or "irritating". Example, Stop jaggin' me! or Stop jaggin' around!

Also the word "Jag" can be used to replace "Jack" or "Jerk". Such as... You're a jag off! or He's a jag ass!

Burghers have never met an infinitive that they couldn't drop. "My car needs to be washed" is usually "My car needs washed."

"Anat" is used to replace the words "and that".

The "r" sound is added in words where there is no "r". Example... I need to "warsh" clothes today. We should "warsh" our cars today. The White House is in "Warsh"ington D.C.

"Da" is almost always used to replace "the".

"Did" and "you" are combined when speaking into "didya" or the plural form "didyinz". "Didyinz" go dahntahn?"

"J'eet yet?" means "Did you eat yet?"

Rubber bands are called "gumbands".

When my mother wanted me to clean my room, she'd tell me to "Redd up" my room.

Kennywood Park is the largest amusement park in Western Pennsylvania. However, the phrase "Kennywood's open!" means that your zipper is down.

Bologna is called "Jumbo".

Underwear is called "Gutchies". (i still call underwear gutchies, LOL)

A creek is called a "crick".

Spaghetti is called "Sketti".

Older folks might call a brown paper bag a "poke".


Stroke Awareness

Stroke is far more common than most people realize, and it's important to be able to recognize the signs - the faster help is administered, the more of the victim's brain is saved. When someone exhibits signs of stroke, call 911 and make a note of the time that you noticed the symptoms starting. Every minute counts, both for how much damage is prevented and for determining what immediate treatment options are best.



Last Monday afternoon my partner Wes suffered an ischemic stroke midway up the Middle Cerebral Artery in the right hemisphere of his brain.

Turbulence is life force. It is opportunity. Let's love turbulence and use it for change.

Okay Lord, i'm trying here....

Right-Hemisphere Stroke

The right hemisphere of the brain controls the movement of the left side of the body. It also controls analytical and perceptual tasks, such as judging distance, size, speed, or position and seeing how parts are connected to wholes.

A stroke in the right hemisphere often causes paralysis in the left side of the body. This is known as left hemiplegia. Survivors of right-hemisphere strokes may also have problems with their spatial and perceptual abilities. This may cause them to misjudge distances (leading to a fall) or be unable to guide their hands to pick up an object, button a shirt or tie their shoes. They may even be unable to tell right-side up from upside-down when trying to read.

Along with their impaired ability to judge spatial relationships, survivors of right-hemisphere strokes often have judgment difficulties that show up in their behavioral styles. These patients often develop an impulsive style unaware of their impairments and certain of their ability to perform the same tasks as before the stroke. This behavioral style can be extremely dangerous. It may lead the left hemiplegic stroke survivor to try to walk without aid. Or it may lead the survivor with spatial and perceptual impairments to try to drive a car.

Survivors of right-hemisphere strokes may also experience left-sided neglect. Stemming from visual field impairments, left-sided neglect causes the survivor of a right-hemisphere stroke to "forget" or "ignore" objects or people on their left side.

Finally, some survivors of right-hemisphere strokes will experience problems with short-term memory. Although they may be able to recount a visit to the seashore that took place 30 years ago, they may be unable to remember what they ate for breakfast that morning.

Senility is Contagious

You know, i'm never far away from being half mad, but there are moments when i think Wes' mom's dementia is going to drive me all the way. i think i'll get a t-shirt that reads:
  1. Your purse is in your bedroom.
  2. Yes, that's your bedroom.
  3. You live here with Wes, Brian and me.
  4. Wes is in the hospital.
  5. You've lived here for the past year.
...five minutes later...
  1. Your purse is in your bedroom.
  2. Yes, that's your bedroom.
  3. You live here with Wes, Brian and me.
  4. Wes is in the hospital.
  5. You've lived here for the past year.
Lather, rinse repeat.
Ad nauseam.

Racism is Ugly


For no particular reason

a picture of Enrique: