Saturday, April 30, 2005

Back to life...

Back to reality.

I'm looking forward to an interesting summer. I have been reading these old military science fiction books, the Sten series by Cole and Bunch. There are 8 and for some reason, I can never get enough of these stories. I don't want to learn from them, I'm not emotionally challenged by them. I've done the whole series at least five times.

The reason I bring this up is that after this Wednesday, I will have major free time to deal with. I've had a sixty hour schedule for about a year, working and completing requirements for grad school. Now I am entering a lull before the storm begins, before I take 15 hours of computer science every semester. What should I do with the next three months of reading time? I have Shakespeare to read through still (although I was surprised to find about a year ago that I had read ten or so of his plays already), but the only edition I have lacks any annotation whatsoever. I have been tempted to splurge on the Oxford Shakespeare, but I have to justify all these purchases.

I have Essentials of New Testament Greek on the shelf, but I am sort of languaged out after a year of Chinese. I can't believe I just studied a language for 8 months and only know 500 words, but Chinese is like that. Next to it is New Testament History, which I started once but bogged down in. I have had an infatuation with history lately, though, thinking that it is going to unlock the doorway to a career in the wonderful world of novel writing; a career, needless to say, which will make me rich and famous.

Dante, Stephen King (I still have a lot of his books left to read! an adult discovery for me), Shusaku Endo, Graham Greene, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, and Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and many more...

Back to unreality.

Monday, April 25, 2005

GRE Essay- Art and Desire

This is an essay I wrote in 45 minutes during my GRE practice exam. It's interesting enough that I thought I should post it, warts and all. It took me back to writing one-hour themes during high school, a skill which only now am I asked to hone again for one brief, shining test.


"The media (books, film, music, television, for example) tend to create rather than reflect the values of a society."

One of humanity's oldest professions is that of storyteller. We tell ourselves stories to make sense of the world around us, to identify with the common experiences of the members of our society, to entertain; this is a universal activity. Art tells a story. Sometimes it is a story that we do not want to hear.

This tug against the familiar status quo of our opinions and expectations is how art creates values. Art has the capacity to surprise, to shock, to challenge us. Great philosophy arouses deep thinking; great art arouses our deepest emotions.

The storyteller's archetype is the solitary writer, drinking a bottle of gin and working into the night on a stained, brilliant manuscript. But in fact, many other storytellers are constantly clamoring for our attention. These mythmakers create stories that tell us how much we need teeth whitening, or how important it is to be thin and beautiful, or how terrible it is to be old, or how cool it is to wear Air Jordans. These messages are shaped in simple and subtle ways; in the constant blaring of advertisements strung in between the television segments we are actually interested in, in the culture of the rich and famous splashed over newsstand magazines, in the perfume counters of department stores displaying models next to names of scents. These speak to our impulses rather than our deepest desires; our bellies, our sex drives, our lusts for money, fame, power, and popularity.

These storytellers speak to us, in short, as if they already know what we need, and are ready to give it to us immediately. It is almost impossible that a society's values should not change under such a constant barrage. This is art created in the absence of a quest to determine what is truly human. Some executive creates a surface need for a surface solution, then sells the product. They don't reflect culture, but we reflect them.

Much great art is devoted to tearing down this edifice; to taking us beyond the topical and irrelevant, beneath the surface. Naturally then, it takes the form of questioning the status quo that the powerful have created, whether it is Dickens responding to the excesses of the Industrial Revolution or Bob Dylan singing protest songs. These artists can create new values worth having, like the dignity of the worker, or the right to dissent. Often it is beyond the rest of us to find these values; we require some one of us with a curious kind of sight to lead us to them.

Not all art that reflects culture is bad; Dante's Comedy is a masterpiece that is grounded in a medieval Catholic tradition. It manages, though, to rise above a simple parrotting of that tradition, constantly questioning its own values and revisiting the issues of life, death, damnation, and salvation. Media that reflect the status quo, that repeat only our present stories about ourselves, do not have much to say to us about such weighty things. But media that can make us weep, or laugh, or shout, create values that are really worth having.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Long weekend

Well, it's back to smiles and giggles, gentle reader. Mostly I have been away for personal reasons, but some school business has been involved. I am almost to the end of another semester.

Applying to graduate school is a bit nerve-wracking; the worst for me, I think, is asking for recommendations. The best ones I can get are teachers I've only known for a few months. I don't know why, but I am still nervous about approaching people and asking them to do me favors. I connect this to do-it-myselfism, which reminds me of the exchange between Flanders and Rod: "Fl: Sin of pride, Roddy. Rod: Sorry. Fl: Sin of regret." And reminds me of Martin Luther: "Sin boldly..."

I had one nice thing happen to me here. I met a professor last week to consult about a final project (I am translating some Fortran 77 code into C++, to help oil surveyors simulate permeabilities). First, he asked if I was interested in doing Industrial Math with him; then he asked what my plans were. I told him I was going to grad school and he asked if I needed a recommendation. Coincidentally, I was planning to ask him about it the very day, so I had a form ready. That boosted my spirits a little.

I also have to take the GRE, soon, like next week. I am not too worried about this. I took a practice GRE; my math score was perfect and the verbal was high (but imperfect! this is what it sounds like when doves cry). Since I'm seeking a science degree, this is good enough.

We went to an end-of-year barbecue for our post-graduate Bible study (they have Bible studies for everyone now). Sarah and I hadn't attended for a long time. Our friends smoked pounds and pounds of salmon, and we played music together. I brought a foccaccia bread and my mandolin. I didn't mention having it before because I suck, certainly compared to guitar. (After a while they handed me the guitar and I led songs for a while, then slipped in a couple of Nickel Creek songs. Stacy told me to sing a Dan Lewis original, but I was too shy because there were new people I didn't know. That, and I had a total memory fault and couldn't remember any Dan Lewis originals except for the two I had already sung for Paul and Stacy (several months ago).

Paul's guitar had new strings, which made it sound much bigger and more harmonious than mine. I guess I have been playing my guitar enough that my strings need to be changed. Dirty strings start buzzing and damping. Playing a clean guitar is like tapping a copper vein; a dirty one, not so much.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


You can always tell the days you haven't been thinking enough. Today I had one of those days. I was short with my co-workers and unpleasant to be around. I have had to lock myself in my room to do a last assignment before finals next week. I am taking the GRE soon; I could use a good score. I need to work out my summer plans (any school? full time work?). I needed a guitar break and didn't quite get it. "Sweet, sweet sugar to me / please let me know when your kisses are free." This Watkins Family Hour show I am listening to is the closest I will have today.

I say I haven't been thinking enough because it was so hard to drag myself out of the sheer mundanity of today and post. Sure, I am in the middle of a little homework, but the real problem is that I haven't been mulling over things worthy of posting. And there I mean, things worth thinking; and I haven't been doing things worth doing. This whole day is gone.

So it rained today. It was pretty nice most of the day, but this afternoon came the pounding drops. I was out in them on my way home, after I found out some bad news about work I'd done for school. I barely noticed the drops and the road; I went through the motions of commuting behind the car in front of me, somewhat dangerously now that I think about it. But I was angry and frustrated, trapped inside four walls of emotions; after I got out of the car I still felt like I was traveling around in my own personal bubble.

I barely noticed the rain, nothing to wax poetic about. If there was a rainbow, I wouldn't have known. "What you gonna spend your free life on?"

Pretty maudlin, huh? Sorry. As a reward for reading this far, here is a random page from The Tick comic:

Oedipus: ... And that's how I got to where I am today.
Tick: (reading) It says here that ninjas can read people's minds! Gad! I never knew they could do so much! I thought they just hung around airports and got sucked up into jet engines.
Oedipus: (rummages through toy chest) Yeah well... now I have to get the thorn and bring it back to Shing... that is if he's still alive. It's in here somewhere...
Tick: Yeah, what about this thorn thing? Does it have any secret super powers?
Oedipus: Shing thinks so... Here it is! (holds up thorn) It's supposed to hold the souls of all true ninja. The very essence of their beings.
Tick: It looks like a giant piece of candy corn.
Oedipus: They're still out there. What are they waiting for?

Well, Shakespeare it ain't. But it has its own curative properties.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

2 = x

As I was getting ready for church this morning, I thought about how I, as a church-going Protestant with ecumenical leanings, think about homosexuals participating in church life. I said earlier that I am in favor of civic gay rights, the kinds of rights that we should be pouring out on people indiscriminately. But there is a question lurking beyond public rights, in the private realm of protected, discriminatory church beliefs and practices (and by protected, I am talking about the First Amendment).

The thought that zinged me goes something like this, which I found in a mathematics quote database:

I was just going to say, when I was interrupted, that one of the many ways of classifying minds is under the heads of arithmetical and algebraical intellects. All economical and practical wisdom is an extension of the following arithmetical formula: 2 + 2 = 4. Every philosophical proposition has the more general character of the expression a + b = c. We are mere operatives, empirics, and egotists until we learn to think in letters instead of figures.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.

This one has something of the flavor of what I remembered, but not quite, so let me break it down again. (Side note: Random Math Quote Generator.)

The one I remember said that arithmetic insight is solving problems where you let x = 2, and mathematical insight is solving problems where you let 2 = x. This speaks piercingly about what mathematicians do.

Anyway, I was thinking about where gay people belong in church life (and throughout, I will be referring to something like mainline Protestantism), and I started off with x = 2. I was thinking about gay people as a class to themselves, things like "Well, I'm not entirely comfortable with them being married and taking up leadership positions." And then "But I should still welcome them with open arms, because Jesus loved them and died for them." The dissonance was pronounced until I went the other direction.

I just don't understand the special condemnation for homosexuality. This is, after all, the same Bible where Jesus teaches that telling someone to Eff Off is wading around in the lake of fire, and checking out girls is cheating on your wife. This Bible in other words, is not just about wedge issues and groups of sinners neatly taxonomized by the do-gooders. If you are a human, you are indicted by the impossibly high standards of this all-demanding God.

But if 2 = x, do you belong in church? If I mutter curses at Logan drivers (some of the worst anywhere) in the privacy of my car and the publicity of the presence of God, should I really be married to my wife? If my friend struggles with consumerism and greed, should he really be allowed to tell Bible stories to Sunday School kids? The sacraments that we deny to the homosexuals are the same we should deny to the heterosexuals.

However, I would rather belong to a church that gets beyond pluses and minuses, sin and forgiveness, sacrifice and justification. There are regions beyond love, beyond miracles, beyond the horizon of the world. They are offered freely by this Jesus, just not as freely by his children.

Let 2 = x. Then the rest logically, naturally follows.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Beetles, chickens, reptiles, and stringed instruments

Ho ho ho. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld have slime-mold beetles named after them.

British covert nuke was to use live chickens! (via Electrolite).

Okay, in other news, our house is clean. I contributed by organizing my desk and bookshelf, cleaning the kitchen, and scrubbing the tub.

Alexander took steps today with Sarah holding his hands. He sort of tiptoed across the carpet as she shifted his weight.

We had fun this morning when I played the guitar for him. Sarah asked me not to take it out on the deck.

Oh, yes. Gentle reader, I play the acoustic guitar, and have since fall 2000. Not that I'm getting that great, but I have made up a decent song or two and enjoy playing rhythms as fast as I can. I recently bought myself a glass slide to experiment with. I can't read music well, but I can pick out melodies.

I play once a month at church with my rockin buddies. I am the lead vocal and rhythm guitar. My runner friend Paul plays electric, his wife Stacy sings, Mark plays the bass, Tom is on drums, and Kirsten plays the piano. My wife used to sing before we had Alex. We are all trying to get her to come back. She just needs someone to watch our son at practice and during the service.

We're reading Lemony Snicket II, The Reptile Room. Man, these books are tense. Everything I would say is a spoiler, but for raw fear and unfortunate events, for kids, these are second to nothing I have ever read. A+.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

This is God

I was poking around Guess the Dictator or Sit-Com Character (via Geraldine). In this game, you answer a series of questions, then the computer guesses who you are, whether you be dictator or sit-com character. I was the fourth person to be Professor Frink, and added Dexter from Dexter's Lab and Arthur from The Tick to the database. These cartoons are not exactly sitcoms but neither is The Powerpuff Girls, which the computer nailed me on pretty fast.

The very funny thing is that the computer runs out of questions to ask after a while; it eliminates candidates down to one, then guesses that one. Somehow, I answered a series of questions for Dexter that led me to Eric Forman from That 70's Show. I had no idea they were so alike! It asked me for a question to differentiate them, i.e., to lead to Dexter and away from Eric Forman. So I submitted: "Do you have your own laboratory?"

Try it, it's fun. Reminds me a little of The Oracle of Bacon. Not the same at all, but if you enjoy either you'd probably enjoy the other. That, and they both seem kind of like massive graph traversals.

Anyway, there was also this thing. It is a mail anonymizer. You type a message to send to a random person you will never see in line after you, and then receive a message from the random person in line before you. Probably old hat to you, but funny to me.

After I was done, I pressed the send button and got this:

My darling Jim,
I am writing you now rather than call you, just to reinforce my commitment to you. I wanted to put down in words what I always mean to say about how much love you bring into my life. And yet you already know how special I think you are. And how lucky I know I am!
When I think of you, my heart fills with joy and excitement…but also with peace and comfort. My heart is already complete, so my only concern is for yours. Have confidence in me, in us, and never doubt our love. You have my sworn assurance that your happiness and well-being is all I truly care about. How I've grown through you!
These are the feelings I have every day and never want to you to forget. I just wanted you to see these words and hold them in your hands. As for the next time we hold hands, please understand that I can never tell you often enough how much you mean to me, but I'm committed to trying. I promise to be more expressive of my love for you. I wish I could write you every day, since our love seems to grow more powerful all the time.
Please save my love letters to read whenever we can't be together, just as I recall your smile whenever I'm missing you.
Trust in me that I will always keep your heart safe.
With greatest love,

I don't think this is a real message by any means, but it kind of pretends to be. It reminds me of those "Message in a Bottle" kinds of gushy romance novels. Somehow this didn't set my heartstrings a-quivering. It is mildly interesting and voyeuristic, and its use of an electronic medium to send a message that should be delivered on perfumed stationery with little pink bunnies frolicking around the borders is a little on the absurd and inappropriate side, which is really what this thing is about anyway.

But "I wish I could write you every day"? Finish that sentence. "I wish I could write you every day, but unfortunately the terrorists do not provide me with the ink." "I wish I could write you every day, but I don't know enough synonyms for 'our love'." "I wish I could write you every day, but your name is just Jim."

I had felt obligated to the anonymous internet message genre to do a little better. You be the judge:
This is God. Why oh why don't more people listen to me? Is it my breath? My strange way of speaking? My inappropriate choice of forum? Anyways, I have a number of instructions that should be followed extremely carefully:


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Live music

I'm listening now to a Glen Phillips concert from about a year and a half ago. It's about an hour and forty minutes long. He was the frontman for Toad the Wet Sprocket, gone solo now. He gets a guy named Levi from a local band to do "Walk on the Ocean" with him, covers Gillian Welch, and sings a song that begins "I was the driver for the drive-by / of the neighbor's dog /" and ends with a bang. Pure gold.

And it is totally free. Somebody taped the show, and uploaded it to the Live Music Archive. And it is totally legal; permission granted and all.

You too can download one of 2775 Grateful Dead shows, or String Cheese Incident, or Yonder Mountain String Band, or many more. A lot have streaming audio, low to high quality mp3s; I think to be included in the archive, the show has to have a CD quality version, too.

The best is the Mutual Admiration Society, a collaboration between Glen Phillips and my favorite band, Nickel Creek. They toured last summer with John Paul Jones (the bassist and mandolinist from Led Zeppelin) and Pete Thomas (the drummer from Elvis Costello). There are no words to describe how cool this music is. Just download July 21st, 2004 at Largo (sans rock stars) and August 17, 2004 at Lime Kiln (two recordings: show, 2 hours; aftershow, 1 hour). Then buy all their albums and drive your wife crazy. Like me!

Thanks to some more downloading, I have seventeen hours of live music from these guys. I've been listening to it for the last three months. Maybe by the time the next album comes out in August I will be ready to move on. It has been three years since "This Side" (which won the Contemporary Folk Album Grammy). How did I survive?

Now back to your other music.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Weekend foods, places, and noises

So my wife and I were away this weekend. Hence no posting. Loyal reader, do not dismay! I will remain as faithful to you as if you actually existed.

It was a nice wedding. Two friends of ours (Sarah has known them much longer than I have) tied the knot in a strange little nook in Salt Lake City on Saturday. It is a gated park. A policeman stopped us and asked for our name on the list. That's the first time I've been on a list. I found out later that you can walk in freely, so it was just like a passenger ferry.

This park was a little valley carved into the side of the east hills of Salt Lake, just a few blocks, in fact, from the LDS Church Office Building (read: World Mormon Headquarters). It had a shrine with Greek columns called Meditation Chapel, a small river with a few bridges and green swards, red brick; in short, it called to mind a peaceful, holy golf course. Our friends were married in a room with an arched ceiling, adjoining a banqueting area with a low sloped roof broken by skylights. That's where they stuck the hors d'oeuvres later.

It was still light when we left, around 8:00, and headed to the Crystal Inn, son asleep in his chair in the back seat. Despite my abiding love of stuffed mushrooms, pesto tortellini salad, and meatballs, neither Sarah nor I had eaten much while juggling Alex and seeing friends. Thus, our version of the wedding dinner was purchased at the McDonald's next to the hotel.

The next day was Sarah's birthday. Until I am rich and famous, we won't have enough money to pamper her in style. Instead, I gave her a nice pillow she had been mentioning, and the sweet words that belong behind closed doors. For Alex's health, we are non-alcoholic at this time, but that night we had toasts to the next year of life with sparkling peach cider.

Sarah's father, who has money to spare, took us out for a fine birthday lunch at an Italian restaurant, then took Sarah on a shopping spree while his fiancee, Sarah's brother and I followed around the mall. Sarah found summer sandals and Clinique. Alex received a crab with a smiley face whose feet squeak, whose antennae are most suitable for teething, and whose torso emits a whirring noise when he is spun on some axis that we were unable to determine in our study.

Near the end of our trip, Sarah had not yet found her footwear and returned to Meier and Frank with her father, leaving the rest of us in the Ladies' Footwear section of Nordstrom. After several peaceful minutes gnawing on fingers, Alex started to scream. He has a wild, uncontrollable scream, which indicates that he will be a soloist. I left the store to sing to him, to calm him down away from the women in 3-inch heels and trendy, exotic clothing.

It turned out that the open area bordered by Nordstrom, the exits, and the hall was an echo chamber, and Alex's screams started coming in stereo. I went out of the square on the information booth side, and started singing him "House Carpenter" very softly. This song is about a woman who leaves her house carpenter husband and her darling little babe for her rich sailor demon lover, curses her lover out of remorse for her lost family, and sinks to her doom on the open waves. You can see what kind of child we are trying to raise.

Friday, April 08, 2005

What I do

Today, as I have for the past two weeks, I've been setting Richard Feynman's Lectures on Physics into type. I think it is ok that I say this, not like a big secret or anything. Hopefully I won't be visited later by the Science Police and forced to explain why the sky is blue, as penance for my loose lips.

In this job, as in few others in my memory, we are being asked to faithfully duplicate the setting of this manuscript, even to the point of leaving in obvious typos like "be be" for "to be", matching original line breaks, no matter what text we have had to insert or delete. These things haven't been touched for thirty years, just reprinted over and over again. The hearsay story I have is that some friends of Feynman posthumously found his personal edits to these MSS, and decided to fold them back in to the old type.

The consequence is that if a 1 is edited to a 5, we have to set the entire page over from scratch. You'd think a little white-out would be in order.

Another consequence is that we have had to go to the wayback machine for many of our settings. We don't know the names of those thirty-year-old fonts, so we have to match them as well as we can with what fonts we have. It doesn't always work.

Finally, there are always 3 people working on the entire book all at once, so any changes we introduce to the symbols have to be taken up in work that may have already been finished, and the initial setting for the math was done by a subcontractor in India.

All that said, I am enjoying it. Feynman rules, and I learn interesting things about physics from time to time (like "God is weakly left-handed").

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Probably a way

Should I keep a goal, once a day, must post? I am inclined to as an exercise for the writer.

I feel much more comfortable as a Christian and a liberal than a Christian and a conservative. I've tried both and I am much closer to liberal. I consider abortion and gay rights to be the kinds of compromises you have to make in a democratic society; better than the alternatives.

When I was a conservative I voted for GW over Gore with pro-life as a tiebreaker. I've felt pretty dumb about it since. In 2004 I made the most hopeless, pointless vote of them all: John Kerry in Utah. He got something like 25% here. But I do feel a bit saner, a bit more hopeful anyway.

I'm not cut out to be a conservative. For one thing, I'm not rich and famous yet. For another, even if I were, I would feel verrry conflicted about keeping all my money for myself and propping up the people who want to. The way I see it, we have a pro-conservative government and society; money talks to power and power talks to money, so the rich always have an unfair advantage keeping power and money compared to the poor.

Of course the rich will level the playing field, of course they detest government regulation, of course they want flat taxes, of course they want an "ownership society". All owners are equal, but some are more equal than others. They have all the access; they have all the personal security; they have all their needs met and then some.

I don't believe in total communism, not in a compromise society. I just think there has to be some sane balance, not this cutting taxes on the rich and cutting funding for Headstart, Medicare, Social Security, and No Child Left Behind all at the same time.

I don't think every Christian is bound to be a liberal. I do think Christ hated cheating, though:

"You cannot serve both God and Money." The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight."

There is probably a way to play fair, to not love money, to support the powerless against the powerful, to care more about your integrity than your publicity. There is probably even a way to do it and be a Republican in America today.

Lately I have been contemplating the reverses of blessings in the Bible. It's a sort of Newton's Third Law of Spiritual Forces: for every blessing, there is an equal and opposite curse. The same thing works with commandments too. Sometimes it is difficult to come up with an appropriate opposite: "Do [the opposite of covet] your neighbor's wife." But it has been interesting. So here is a pair to chew on:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."
"Cursed are you who are rich..."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Wife and baby boy

Sarah, age 23

Alexander Matthew, age 6 months

Me, age 24


I like most of these pictures because I am in very few, and face it, I'm fat. Too fat to be believed, if you knew me when I was relatively healthy. The last time I was healthy was summer 2000 and that sucks. My face is smushed out along with the rest of me.

But here we are. Sarah, love of my life, does most of the pictures. She stays at home with Alexander while I go to work and school. I am studying to enter the graduate program in Computer Science at the university here.

He is very cute! And he looks like Dad.

Googling for old friends

The other day, a friend I've known for 15 or 16 years, Joe Pham, called me out of the blue for the first time in ages. We had a great time talking. He was at my wedding reception two years ago, but I hadn't heard from him since. I don't know how he got my number.

He got me thinking of high school friends and where they are. I read Pattern Recognition a few years ago, and I was surprised by the concept of Googling for people. I thought, "People actually do that?" It is not as easy as it sounds, but I got hooked, watching the footprints of people in our digital world. I tried it on myself again yesterday and the many other Daniel Lewis-es drown me out. I have no PageRank; I am not yet rich and famous.

But there are some old friends of mine who have reasonably unique names, such as Geraldine DeRuiter, Jesson Mata, and Laura Osterman. Jesson, I think, does not have a web page.

Now that I've found them, now what? I don't know; I guess I should email them and tell them I'm alive, oh, and I'm married and I have a son, how was your last 4-7 years? Somehow these conversations always sound funnier in your head than they do when they're actually in progress. I told Joe on the phone that I have a six-month old, and he was truly shocked. But that was nothing. I told him I became an A student! Truth is stranger than fiction.

I always wrote people letters I never sent them. It was my way of avoiding the fact that the deep relationships they were having with other people, I was not participating in. So instead, in secret, I took it to the next level. My pent-up feelings would stampede out eventually, though, and trample my illusions. If I ever made a mess of things with you, gentle reader, because of something like this, please forgive me. I was much happier in college when I learned to shut up. Then I could concentrate on the true love of my life: video games.

But that's all changed again too. Life has surprised me repeatedly, in ways that do not whisper on the internet.

Que sera sera

This is take two. The last blog, untouched for several months, is in internet purgatory. I suppose it could be found, not that anyone will care until I am rich and famous.

A guy suggested that I start writing one after reading a few comments I made on Slacktivist (a Christian, liberal blog I enjoy). I dreamed about being thought-provoking, incisive, and witty for a few days, then started it up, and didn't tell anyone. In addition to having no readers, of course, I had no fun. It turned into mini-essays and didn't last long.

This time, I think I'll tone down the mission statement a little. Instead of "second coming of Saint Augustine" or "become rich and famous through blog", how about a few post-its?

There is a book, Letters and Papers from Prison, which collects what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote just before he was executed by the Nazis for trying to assassinate Hitler. In it, this:

But, frankly speaking, to long for the transcendent when you are in your wife's arms is, to put it mildly, a lack of taste, and it is certainly not what God expects of us. We ought to find God and love him in the blessings he sends us. If he pleases to grant us some overwhelming earthly bliss, we ought not to try and be more religious than God himself.
Amen. So let this blog now be dedicated to the end of bad taste, and playing God. I'll just be Dan for a while.