Monday, October 31, 2005

Passing by Mrs Parks

Last night, on the way home from the DC United game - the most comprehensive beatdown I have the misfortune to recall witnessing - we passed Rosa Parks's funerary motorcade heading south. It was an impressive procession, with at least a dozen motorcycle cops, a dozen police cars, numerous SUVs, and three passenger buses accompanying the hearse.

The Economist had a nice obituary for Mrs Parks.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The joys of city life

In my opinion, one of the best things that can happen as you walk down the street is this: You see a person approaching, and you note the fur-trimmed hood they have pulled up over their head. Then, as you get a bit closer, you see, oh no, that's no hood, and that's no fur trim; that's their hair.

Question: The hair was magenta-pink. Should that have made it more or less likely to be hair versus fur trim?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

National Youth Workers Convention

I spent Saturday through Monday at the National Youth Workers Convention in Pittsburgh, a gathering of a few thousand, largely youth pastors, who work with adolescents through the church. There were large worship, music, and comedy sessions, as well as over a hundred exhibitors with resources and services to support youth ministry, but I was most moved by some of the smaller seminars I attended. I heard strong, thoughtful words on a range of topics, including youth culture, politics, and post-modern theology. (I mention seminars I attended on politics and post-modern theology because they were interesting and challenging, but also to preempt any accusations of being cool.)

Probably the most intriguing, though, was talk from Chap Clark, a pastor and professor who conducted an ethnographic study of teenagers, described in his book Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers, published in 2004. As an ethnographer, he studied adolescents not (primarily) with surveys and interviews, but by observation, spending a year substitute teaching in a southern California high school. (This wasn't deceptive; the kids knew he was also conducting research on their culture.) His study found that mid-adolescents (about 13-20 years old) truly do have a culture distinct from the adult culture, and that it is a culture that has largely grown out of a sense of abandonment from adults. Obviously he's not necessarily referring to cases of physical abondonment and material neglect, but to psychological abandonment. The recognition, in the last hundred years or so, of adolescence as a phase of life distinct from childhood and adulthood, has followed the centuries-long elevation of the importance of the individual. As a result, adolescence has become a time when teens, by necessity on their own, determine how they will fit into adult society. Their responses to this challenge - including forming "clusters" of 4-10 friends who become like family and the numerous, distict personalities they have in different arenas (school, sports, home, church, etc) - are different from adults' responses, and indeed, are different from the responses of teenagers just 20 years ago.

This is a brief and necessarily incomplete summary of Clark's presentation, never mind his book. But I wanted to mention it, as the conclusions are powerful. They suggest that the existing institutions of adolescence (school, sports, and yes, even youth group) are better structured to reinforce than to ameliorate the isolation. The results are relevant to any adult interacting with teens, parents most of all. But more importantly, Clark's findings have been presented to thousands of adolescents in the US (and even some abroad, now), and they overwhelmingly say that he is on the money. I hope to return to the topic once I've read the book (currently en route from Amazon).

Friday, October 14, 2005

No, really, that's it: pictures of dogs wearing bee costumes, with just a splash of light wit.

Props to the Washington Post Express for sharing this site. The Express - it's more than just snarky comments about celebrities.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Today's reason to stay out of politics:

What you write in birthday cards becomes part of the public record. (See The Australian's reporting on the Miers nomination.)

Schoutout to Schelling

I'm glad that Thomas Schelling co-won the Nobel Prize for Economics this year. I find his work thoroughly engaging (and I thought he had won previously, so future my future mis-statements are now corrected). If you are interested, I can send you a 1984 lecture he gave on personal preferences that change with time and strategies of self-control. It's ten pages of great reading for anyone who's ever studied the rational actors who make the world of classical microeconomics go 'round, but it's also completely accessible and thought-provoking without any formal background (or interest) in economics.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


You have undoubtedly been wondering, "What would happen if I put two hard-boiled eggs in a microwave for about a minute?" Wonder no more, dear reader, as The Elkridge Hollerer is reporting the news that you need to know. If the shells are intact when the eggs go in the microwave, they won't be for long, as the eggs in question will explode with spectacular completeness. Our investigation indicates that, afterwards, you'd be hard-pressed to find a piece of egg greater than a quarter-inch across.

I can't possibly communicate how funny this is. Kerry can attest to this - or at least to how amusing I find it - as it was my guffaws that woke her on Saturday morning following an uneggspected eggsplosion in the kitchen. When you try it for yourself, I suggest detonating your eggs under a Pyrex mixing bowl; that will greatly simplify clean-up, as you can just put the bowl and the rotating microwave platter in the sink/dishwasher, versus having to wipe down every square inch of the inside of your microwave. (If any readers have knowledge of Pyrex exploding in a microwave, please let us know ASAP, 'cause that doesn't sound like much fun.)

For the scientifically-minded among you, why, do you reckon, does the egg explode? That the shell should crack as the hot interior expands makes perfect sense. But I assure you, this is much more than a crack; this is a catastrophic containment failure followed by ovid disintegration. What's going on?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

"And during the few moments we have left...

... I want to talk right down to earth, in a language that everybody here can easily understand."

Maybe Columbia Association board member Philip Marcus, of Kings Contrivance, is a Malcolm X fan, or maybe he just likes Living Colour. But when the need for a new sewer line in Howard County was the topic of discussion, he took those words to heart. Said Mr Marcus, "Popping manhole covers are really fun when they're in the movies, but in real life, sewage comes out of it."

Who Without a Cause?

I saw Rebel Without a Cause for the first time last night and was left baffled. I found the title totally misleading. It ought to have been called The Only Sane Guy in Town; with the exception of policeman Ray, James Dean's character was by far the most balanced, well-adjusted person in the movie. Sure, he had his weak points, but he was 16 years old; I think he handled the nuts around him pretty well. The whole thing didn't make much sense to me, but maybe you just had to be there ("there" being 1955).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Editor's note: Anti-spam

Spam comments have been posted to the Hollerer with distressing frequency. No, not yours, William, but automatically generated comments offering money-making opportunities and displeasing clutter. I like comments only from you, dear reader, so I've turned on a verification feature for commenting. The comment dialogue will provide you with a code word you have to type in before your contribution is posted. I hope that this doesn't cause you any trouble.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Happy Feast of St Francis

Cuzzin Carrie shared this interesting summary of the life of Saint Francis:

Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) is the co-founder (with Clare of Assisi) of the Franciscan Order. He was born the son of a wealthy cloth merchant named Pietro di Bernardone, and he was very worldly in his early years.

When about twenty, Francis went out with the his youthful buddies to fight a neighboring group called the Perugians. The Assisians were defeated this particular time, and Francis, being among those taken captive, was held as a prisoner for over a year in Perugia. A low fever which he contracted there seems to have turned his thoughts to the things of God and the Sprit; we do know that he realized that the life he had been living was empty, and he wanted more.

After gaining his freedom and returning to Assisi, Francis still joined with his buddies in the noisy pursuits of his former friends, but his changed attitudes showed to his friends that his heart was no longer with them. Francis had began to yearn for the life of the spirit Who had possessed his heart. After a short period of uncertainty he began to seek in prayer and solitude the answer to his call; he had already given up his fancy clothes and wasteful lifestyle.

One day, in the church of San Damiano, he seemed to hear Christ saying to him, "Francis, repair my falling house." He took the words literally, and sold a bale of silk from his father's warehouse to pay for repairs to the church of San Damiano. His father was outraged, and there was a public confrontation at which his father disinherited and disowned him, and Francis in turn renounced his father's wealth--one account says that he not only handed his father his purse, but also took off his expensive clothes, laid them at his father's feet, and walked away naked! That took real commitment in those days when there were no "safety net" of public assistance. Francis told every one that he was "wedded to Lady Poverty", and renounced all material possessions, and devoted himself to serving the poor. Francis then wandered the hills behind Assisi, improvising hymns of praise as he went. "I am the herald of the great King", he declared in answer to some robbers, who promptly robbed him of all he had and threw him scornfully in a snow drift. Naked and half frozen, Francis crawled to a neighboring monastery and there worked for a time as the lowest of the kitchen servants.

In Francis' day the most dreaded of all diseases was leprosy. Lepers were kept at a distance and regarded with fear and disgust. Francis cared for them, fed them, bathed their sores, and kissed them.

Francis began to live as a hermit and soon attracted followers. He preached the necessity of a poor, simple life-style based on the ideals of the Gospels. He got his meals, not by asking for money so that he might live at the expense of others, but by scrounging crusts and discarded vegetables from trash-bins, and by working as a day laborer, insisting on being paid in bread, milk, eggs, or vegetables rather than in money. Pope Innocent III approved his way of life, gave him and his disciples permission to preach on moral topics, and had Francis ordained a deacon. The followers increased and were called Friars Minor by Francis, that is, the lesser brethren. They would have no money, and no property, individually or collectively. Their task was to preach, "using words if necessary," but declaring by word and action the love of God in Christ. Francis sort of liked drama (just look at his parting from his father, for example), and it was probably he who set up the first Christmas manger scene, to bring home the Good News of God made man for our salvation, home to men's hearts and imaginations as well as to their intellects.

With the collaboration of Saint Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), Francis founded (1212) a branch of his Order for women, called the Poor Clares. Clarehouse here in Tulsa is named for her. Later, Francis established (1221) another branch for lay men and women, called the Third Order. In 1219, during the Fifth Crusade, Francis made his famous but fruitless attempt to convert the sultan al-Kamil while the crusaders laid siege to Damietta in Egypt. Francis returned to Italy, but a permanent result of his mission was that the Franciscans were given custody of the Christian shrines then in Muslim hands.

After returning from the Crusades, Francis retired from the government of the order to a life of contemplation, during which he received the Stigmata (the imprint of the wounds of Christ in his own body) and composed his famous poem, the Canticle of Brother Sun. He died on October 3, 1226 and was canonized in 1228. Francis's feast day is October 4.

Well, maybe you should doubt William Li

William calls social conservatives unhappy with the nomination of Miers for the Supreme Court "so arrogant as to believe that they own the President" and says that the President can accuse them of being disloyal if they don't back Miers. Well, they may be arrogant, but they are reasonably ticked, and I don't think the President can accuse them of being disloyal. The social conservatives were important to the President's re-election, and they were not coy about it. They wanted their agenda (on abortion, homosexual rights, etc) advanced, and they saw a Supreme Court justice nominated by President Bush as a good (the best?) way to do it. The President has now made two politically expedient nominations. (This not to say that they are not qualified, or that you shouldn't like them, but they are expedient.) With Democrats falling over themselves to be vaguely non-commital yet supportive, Roberts and Miers hardly look like the stalwarts the social conservatives were hoping for. So they're feeling not like fair-weather friends, but like crunch-time allies, who the President turned to in the election, and now is not risking anything on their behalf. I don't think the "how can you leave me now?" line will carry much water.

The Brits love baseball!

The Guardian has a nice summary of the Major League baseball season and upcoming playoffs. It's kind of interesting to read an article written for people generally unfamiliar with the game, to see what gets explained, and what unusual wordings creep in.