31 March 2009

Healing,Justice, and Equality

Here's a little piece from Jesus Feast by Josh Graves.
The introduction along with the Table of Contents.

In the last fifty years, Christianity shifted to the far corners of the world: China, South America, and Africa. Scholars now note that there are more Anglicans in Africa, for instance, than in all of Great Britain. The largest Christian congregation in the U.K. is Kingsway International Church—started by two African leaders. My own religious tribe, Churches of Christ from the American Restoration Movement, has been slowly declining the last three decades in the United States. Besides two major segments of Protestant faith—Pentecostal and Independent/Community—most of Western Christianity is in the midst of a season of stagnation or severe decline.

As hard as it is to swallow, more chaos consumes the twenty-first century global landscape. The devastation of America’s “9-11,” the Indian Ocean Tsunami, tragic earthquakes in Pakistan and Kashmir, the horror of Hurricane Katrina, and the latest surge of wars in the Middle East should cause Christians to ask two important questions, “Is God present and working in the face of such pressing evil?” and, “How can Christianity be ‘good news’ for those who do not ‘believe?’” These two questions under-gird this entire work. I’m convicted that Christianity’s real genius and power rests in her ability to bring healing, justice, and equality to all people. The real test of Christian theology is the result it brings for those who do not (yet) subscribe to the Christian faith.

“In other words, our Christian affirmations about the uniqueness of Christ achieve their real impact when they are subjected to the test to establish their credentials and validity not only in terms of the religious and spiritual universe in which Christians habitually operate, but also and indeed especially, in terms of the religious and spiritual worlds which persons of other faiths inhabit," says Kwame Bediako.

Jesus Feast engages the discussion of what Christianity, as a spiritual movement and not an institutional religion, can sound and look like in a pluralistic society like the one emerging in these United States. Christians and spiritual seekers must continue to examine the food being consumed. I want to help you re-imagine Christianity as a way of life, not merely a set of beliefs. That’s why this book, in this order, is about: God, Mary, Jesus, discipleship, justice, forgiveness, true beauty, unexpected prophets, hospitality, water, food, money, and spiritual disciplines.

Foreword by Brian McLaren

Part One: Re-Imagining Jesus
Introduction: Spiritual Anorexia
Chapter One: God of Surprises
Chapter Two: Theotokos
Chapter Three: Wrestling with the Real Jesus
Chapter Four: The Greatest Risk
Chapter Five: Can I Get a Witness?
Chapter Six: No Future without Forgiveness
Chapter Seven: Suffering Made Beautiful

Part Two: Living Reminders
Chapter Eight: Professor Jack
Chapter Nine: A Place at the Table
Chapter Ten: Food and Water
Chapter Eleven: Keeping Up with the Jones’s
Chapter Twelve: An Invitation to Dance
Epilogue: Jesus Feast

30 March 2009

Affectionate, Brave, Good-Humoured: What More Could I Ask For?

"He was the perfect companion for an adventure, affectionate without exuberance, brave without being belligerent, intelligent and full of good-humoured tolerance for my eccentricities. If I slipped when climbing a dew-shiny bank, Roger appeared suddenly, gave a snort that sounded like suppressed laughter, a quick look over, a rapid lick of commiseration, shook himself, sneered and gave me his lopsided grin. If I found something that interested me - an ant's nest, a caterpillar on a leaf, a spider wrapping up a fly in swaddling clothes of silk - Roger sat down and waited until I had finished examining it. If he thought I was taking too long, he shifted nearer, gave it a gentle whiny yawn and then sighed deeply and started to wag his tail."

G. Durrell describing his faith dog, Roger, in My Family And Other Animals.

29 March 2009

Buns in Coconut Milk @Otara

Just one of the many reasons I enjoy visiting Otara on a Saturday morning is the opportunity to have coconut buns. I also find them at Pasifika, a once yearly festival here in Auckland, but seeing as how I was kayaking the weekend of Pasifika, I made the trip with friends to South Auckland Saturday morning. First stop, the table with styrofoam boxes holding the still warm coconut buns. We weren't too late were we? Stil have some for us? Yes! $5 a tray. "Could I have 5 forks, please?"

We took them outside where I could remove the clear wrap. Then I started dividing each bun so the coconut milk could get inside, coating each bite-sized piece. There were a few skeptical looks. I was secretly hoping they wouldn't like the buns so I could have more. Unfortunately they all liked them and the try of buns didn't last long. Six buns was just enough for the five of us. Here's the recipe. Either call me and we'll go to Otara some Saturday morning or make them yourself and see how it goes. Let me know.

Here's the recipe for Pani Popo: Samoan Coconut Buns

5 3/4 to 6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 package yeast
2 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon shortening, margarine, or butter
1 teaspoon salt

Mix 2 1/2 cups of flour and yeast. In a saucepan heat and stir milk;
sugar; shortening, margarine, or butter; and salt til warm and shortening almost melts. Add to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Using a spoon, stir in as much remaining flour as you can to make a moderately
stiff dough that is smooth and easy to pull - 6-8 minutes.
Put some Crisco shortening on your hands. This will add moisture to
your rolls and make it easier to handle. Shape in a ball and put in a
greased bowl. Turn it on both sides to grease the whole ball of
dough. Cover and let rise in the oven on the top rack and below it in
a pan put some hot water. (The steam from the hot water will help it
to rise) about 45 minutes. Punch dough down.

Roll 18 balls and cover for 10 minutes while you make the following
milk mixture.
Mix 2 cans of coconut milk with 1 cup of sugar. (Add more sugar if
you like it sweeter.) In 2 13x9x2 pans, pour in half of the milk
mixture in each pan, put in 9 bread rolls on top (or you can make the
rolls smaller to make more rolls). Bake at 375 degrees in the oven
for 20 minutes or until bread tests done. Karen Suaava McDonald

28 March 2009

Language Learning

" . . . I started to use them myself; then I took my newly acquired words and strung them into ungrammatical and stumbling sentences. Our neighbours were delighted, as though I had conferred some delicate compliment by trying to use their language. They would lean over the hedge, their faces screwed up with concentration, as I groped my way through a greeting or simple remark, and when I had successfully concluded they would beam at me, nodding and smiling, and clap their hands."
From G. Durrell's, My Family And Other Animals. p 38

Thomas & Elizabeth Brewster have long been proponents of language learning as a social link to the people of a new culture, "Language learning is communication."

The fact is that the learner posture might continue to be the most effective communication base not only for short-termers but also for those who invest their entire lives guests in another country. With a "learning is communication" perspective one can have the unique opportunity to learn important cultural knowledge in the context of community relationships - right where ministry opportunities are.

We should note here that we are talking about language learning, not language study. Millions of people have studied a language without learning it, yet billions have learned languages without studying them. Certainly over half of the world's people are multilingual, and relatively few have learned their additional languages in school. These spontaneous learners demonstrate that normal language acquisition is a social activity, not an academic activity.
The very fact that you bother to learn someone's language communicates to them that they are valuable.

Do you have examples of language learning, or language mistakes,
that created bridges to relationship?

27 March 2009

A World WIthout Bees: Excerpt from the book

You may wonder why I bother with such topics as this or articles on recycling. It is imperative that we all pay better attention to the fact that this world is loaned to us for a season and we ought to steward it better than we have been. Consuming because we can is unethical, selfish and short sighted. I don't have biological children myself, but I'd still like to think that my actions were taken with future generations in mind.

Yes, if I could I'd get a bit of land, have sheep, goats, chickens and a huge garden. I'd plant fruit trees and collect solar power. It'd be a lot of work, harder than just walking down to the supermarket as I do now, but I think it'd be very satisfying. In the mean time, I'm going to pay attention to and do what I can to live in a way that considers those around me and those who come after me.

On BBC's Newsnight Stephen Smith investigated the mysterious disappearance of bees in the UK. It's a subject which is causing a great deal of concern - Here is an extract from the recently published A World Without Bees by Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum. Or go to their blog

Why a book about a world without bees?

For as far as the eye can see everything is pale pink. The valley that stretches across central California for the best part of 500 miles is blanketed with salmon-coloured orchards.

Welcome to almond country. The trees -- all 60-odd million of them -- are heavy with blossom. Other than a constant stream of cars and trucks along Route 5 and ubiquitous fast food joints hugging the highway, there is little else to see in this flat, monotonous landscape, other than row upon row upon row of the blossom-bearing trees.

When we told people we were coming here for research, the usual response was "Wow, that's going to be beautiful". They were right about the "wow" factor, almond-growing on this scale is mind-boggling. But where is the beauty in such a regimented landscape?

The trees are planted in symmetrical rows, at regular intervals, so many inches apart. Early-blooming and late-blooming varieties are laid out in separate blocks, in uniform, repetitive patterns. Coupled with improvements in irrigation, better pest and disease control, and the development of high-yield crops, this standardised, large-scale method of producing a single crop, known as monoculture, has become the hallmark of modern, efficient agriculture.

Adopted across the globe, it has led to substantial increases in the world's food supply. Yet few crops can match the inexorable rise of the Californian almond, which is now the United States' most valuable horticultural export. Last year, more than $1.9bn worth of Californian almonds were sent to the global marketplace, more than double the revenue from its Napa Valley wine exports. In fact, 80% of the world's almonds now come from the sunshine state.

This was not the case just 30 years ago when an acre of almond orchard produced around 500 pounds in weight of nuts. Today, average yields six times that -- 3,000 pounds of nuts per acre -- are not unusual. But it is not just better management or new varieties that explain these record-breaking harvests.

If you look closely at the blossom-laden branches you will see the reason for the explosion of fruit. And if you listen you will hear the unmistakable buzz that accompanies the diligent work involved. For each flower has on it a honeybee. She is drinking its sweet nectar. As she crawls around to find the perfect sucking position, her furry body is dusted with beads of pollen that are transferred from blossom to blossom as she flies from one to another, pollinating the plant in her search for more nectar. The plant's ovaries swell into fruit, which by late August are ripe, oval-shaped nuts.

The Apis mellifera, or western honeybee, as it's more commonly known, has been revered for thousands of years for its ability to make a deliciously sweet substance that has delighted the human palate since prehistoric times. The earliest record of humans' use of honey is a cave painting in Valencia, Spain, that depicts a man climbing a cliff to rob a swarm of wild bees. It is dated to 15,000 years ago, just after the ice age, and the love affair has continued ever since. The Greeks and Romans called honey the food of the gods, and Egyptian pharaohs had it buried in their funeral vaults. Cleopatra ensured its rejuvenating powers became legendary with her baths of asses' milk and honey, and its medicinal qualities, which were used to heal wounds before the event of modern medicine, are still prized today for soothing coughs.

But the honeybee has an even more important role -- as nature's master pollinator. All flowering plants need animals to pollinate them and the honeybee is perfectly engineered to perform the task, with a body designed to trap pollen and a methodical work ethic that leaves no petal unturned. Without the honeybee all the vitality and colour of the planet would be lost. A point that is well illustrated in Jerry Seinfeld's animated film, Bee Movie, in which Central Park is reduced to a grey, barren wilderness when the bees go on strike.

And it's not just pretty blossoms we need to thank honeybees for. Approximately one third of all the food we eat is pollinated by them.
Nuts, soybeans, onions, carrots, broccoli and sunflowers all require honeybee pollination, as do numerous fruits including apples, oranges, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, melons, avocados and peaches. Alfalfa, the clover-like plant widely grown as cattle feed is also dependent on the honeybee, as is cotton. In all, some 90 different crops worldwide are pollinated by honeybees. Globally, that makes honeybee pollination worth more than $60bn a year, of which some $15bn is in the US alone, according to a Cornell University study.

Pollination is big business and nowhere more so than across the 600,000 acres of Californian almond trees. Each February, they play host to around 1.2 million honeybee colonies. Each acre houses two hives, which is around 80,000 bees per acre, or more than 40 billion bees in total, making it the largest pollination in history.

We'd been told it was a truly amazing spectacle. But unlike the sight of tens of thousands of migratory birds flying south for the winter, the arrival of billions of honeybees to the warm climes of California's Central Valley is not a natural phenomenon. They are guided neither by the position of the sun, nor by the Earth's magnetic fields. Instead they are driven thousands of miles on the backs of huge trucks from the far corners of the United States, their hives stacked five-high.

Half of all the 2.5 million honeybee colonies in the US make this annual cross-country trek from as far afield as Massachusetts in the east and Florida in the south. They are now joined in the Central Valley orchards by honeybees flown in from Australia to boost the numbers taking part in this mammoth event.

And it doesn't end there. California is just the first port of call on most of these bees' five-month criss-cross tour of North America to more than 3.5 million acres of orchards and fields. After three weeks spent feeding on almond nectar, many will be back on the trucks heading south to the citrus plantations of Florida, then north for apples and cherries, and as far east as Maine for the blueberries.

This intensive, migratory beekeeping is a far cry from the hobby we pursue in our small back garden in south London. The only move for our bees was from the apiary where we collected them to the spot by the wall where their hive has sat for a couple of years. From this sheltered location, they happily forage from spring right through to the end of autumn for nectar and pollen among the parks, gardens, railway sidings and tree-lined roads that dot the Battersea landscape. In the process they make enough honey to keep us and them well fed throughout the year.

There is something magical about watching your bees return home after a hard day's foraging on a balmy summer evening. For many urban apiarists who work all day in an office, they are an antidote to the stresses of city life. Creating a rural idyll in a corner of a housing estate was our small way of trying to reconnect with nature. It fulfilled something we knew was missing from our lives, a feeling we couldn't quite put our finger on, but is now being termed "nature-deficit disorder".

We had also heard about the vital role honeybees play by pollinating food and flowers but that they were under threat because of the same combination of factors that afflicts much of our wildlife in Britain -- urban development, loss of biodiversity and destruction of their habitat. So giving bees a home in the city felt as if we were doing our bit for the environment.

There is nothing vaguely eco-friendly, however, about trucking millions of bees thousands of miles across the States. The contrast between our "back to nature" vision of keeping bees and the harsh reality of commercial beekeeping is unfathomable.

What is happening in California is nothing short of the industrialisation of pollination. And like any industry it is driven by profit. In a good year commercial apiarists can clear $100,000 and the farmers' income rises as yields increase.

Joe Traynor is a bee broker. For six weeks every year, his company Scientific Ag match-makes migratory apiarists with Californian almond farmers in need of bees. It is testimony to the scale of the almond industry that it has spawned a new career for Traynor and other former beekeepers.

But now it, and other crop pollination, is threaten by a mysterious illness that has led to the disappearance of millions of honeybees around the world and is fuelling fears of an environmental crisis bigger than climate change.

Albert Einstein is thought to have said: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

In truth, it is more likely to have been French beekeepers who put these words posthumously into Einstein's mouth a few years ago during a fierce battle to get a pesticide (more of which later) banned from their country.

Whoever said it, the apocalyptic sentiment chimes with the view that bees are the "canary in the coalmine", a barometer for the health of the planet, and that their predicament is a warning to us all.

In the past two years, around a third of all honeybees in the States have mysteriously vanished -- around 800,000 hives. Some commercial beekeepers have reported losses of up to 90% since the end of 2006. The disappearance, which has baffled researchers and academics, is not limited to the States. Large numbers of colonies have also been wiped out in parts of Canada, Europe, Asia and South America. In Croatia, it was reported that five million bees disappeared in less than 48 hours.

Bees have a sophisticated navigation system that uses the sun and landmarks as points of reference. It allows them to travel up to three miles from the hive in search of food without losing their way back home. They are able to direct other bees in their hive to the food source through a remarkable form of communication called the "waggle dance".

But in a hive suffering from this strange plague, the adult bees do not return home, leaving their queen, eggs and larvae to starve to death. Moreover, young nurse bees, whose job it is to stay in the hive and care for the new brood while the adults are out searching for food, desert their post and fly away. Such a dereliction of duty is unheard of unless the bee is diseased and leaves the hive to prevent it from infecting others.

When news of the vanishing bees, a phenomenon soon dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), started to filter through in newspaper reports at the beginning of 2007, some of the more fanciful theories for their disappearance ranged from cell phones messing up their navigation system to an elaborate al-Qaida plot to wreck US agriculture.

Although no one knew for sure what was causing the bees to perish, it spurred the launch of a global investigation. More credible suspects included exposure to genetically modified crops, pesticide poisoning, invasive parasites, malnutrition from pollinating vast tracts of crops with little nourishment, and the stress of being moved long distances.

Entomologists were convinced that the culprit was either a new virus, a virus that had mutated into a more virulent strain, or a virus that had combined forces with another pathogen, such as a fungus, to create an AIDS-like virus that destroyed the bees' immune system.

To date, a CCD working group in the States, made up of scientists from six universities and led by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), has focused its efforts on trying to identify a virus or fungus.

A team led by Pennsylvania State University, the Pennsylvania State Department of Agriculture and Columbia University made a breakthrough in September 2007 when they linked CCD with a virus that was identified in 96% of the hives affected by the disorder. But Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), which was first discovered in Israel in 2004, may prove to be a symptom rather than the cause. By recreating CCD in healthy hives, scientists hope to be able to determine what's triggering it.

With billions of dollars at stake, and the further expansion of the Californian almond crop in peril, the US government has approved increased funding totalling around $85m for bee research. But apiarists increasingly believe that the scientists, supported by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense, are backing the wrong horse.

Dave Hackenberg, the Pennsylvania beekeeper who first discovered CCD in his Florida hives in November 2006, puts pesticides in the dock. He argues that bees have had viruses for years but a new type of nicotine-based pesticide is breaking down their immune system and causing CCD.

Imidacloprid is his prime suspect. Not licensed in the US until 1994, it is now found almost everywhere from front lawns to apple orchards and sunflower fields. Bayer CropScience, the manufacturer, denies that its product is responsible for CCD and cites studies that support its conclusion. But other studies in France and Italy found that the chemical disorientates bees, impairs their memory and communication and causes nervous system disorders. The French government was so concerned that it backed protests by French beekeepers and partially banned imidaclopridin 1999, pending further studies. Brazil has also pulled it from its shelves.

Many experienced beekeepers support Hackenberg's thesis, but scientists remain unconvinced. If pesticides are the culprit, they ask, why have bees disappeared from areas where no pesticides are used?

Instead, they point the finger at beekeepers for overworking and under nourishing their bees. Hackenberg's 2,200 hives were logging 5,500 miles a year on the road before he lost two thirds of them to CCD. In his defence, he says it hasn't troubled the bees before in all the 30 years that he's been doing it.

Bees have been disappearing long before pesticides or the stresses of modern life were invented. The first recorded unexplained loss was in the United States in 1869, and thereafter large numbers mysteriously vanished in the US and Australia at intervals throughout the 19th century. Between 1905 and 1919, an epidemic wiped out 90% of the honeybee colonies on the Isle of Wight in the UK. Throughout the 20th century, large-scale losses were reported throughout the States, and in neighbouring Canada and Mexico. Then as now, the main suspects were colony mismanagement, deficiencies in bees' diet and chemicals in the environment, but the mystery was never solved.

Today's scientists are confident that, armed with many new tools of detection, such as a complete mapping of the honeybee genome and modern molecular techniques, they will be able to nail the culprit behind this latest outbreak. But more than a year after they began their investigations, they are still following leads and are unable to point to one single cause.

Meanwhile, US beekeepers are reporting a second year of CCD. Hackenberg, who restocked after losing two thirds of his bees in the winter of 2006/07, was dismayed to find that 80% of his colonies had vanished again when he opened his hives in Florida in November2007.

If bees continue disappearing at this rate, it is estimated that by 2035 there will no honeybees left in the US. In the UK, an 11% decline in honeybees is not officially attributed to CCD, but that hasn't stopped the farming minister, Lord Rooker, from warning that its 260,000 colonies could disappear from its shores in 10 years' time.

There is a province of China where life already exists without bees -- the uncontrolled use of pesticides in southern Sichuan is reported to have killed them off in the 1980s. As a result, the area's pear trees have to be pollinated by hand; a slow, labour-intensive process that comes nowhere near to matching the bees' productivity in pollinating three million flowers a day. If such a process was tried in the US, it would cost an estimated $90bn a year.

In addition to fewer, and more expensive, fruit and vegetables in the shops, no honeybees means no honey. Although migratory beekeepers have raised the alarm about bee disappearances, there are already reports of honey production being affected by large-scale bee loses in Argentina, one of the world's largest exporters of honey.

Thorough Vacuum

My friend Cheryl sent this to me.
Made me laugh.
What better gift can friends give each other than a good and random laugh?

Shoulders are good.
Listening ears.
Sympathetic hearts.
Words of wisdom or a good question that you help you arrive at wisdom.
These are all good.

So is a good laugh.

Read Cheryl's blog In The Life Of A Busy Woman

26 March 2009

Writing: Rhythm, Prayer, a Process

From Josh Graves Lessons Learned: Writing

I've learned a lot of lessons from writing Jesus Feast. Many of those lessons have been swirling in my head the past few weeks. Recently, a friend called to ask me about the writing process (lessons learned, mistakes, perspective, etc.). That helped me to think more concretely on why writing is such a vital part of a) how I've been gifted, and b) spiritual disciplines that move me.

1. When you write well you speak well (usually). I write out virtually every speaking event I do. Rarely do I take what I've written "with me" . . . however, writing allows me to use words with precision as well as notice sayings, phrases, words I revert back to in a pinch. Words are what allow us to construct reality. The words we choose are precious.

2. There's no such thing as the perfect piece. I've long ago given up the idea that a writer can attain perfection. For instance, I make spelling errors on this blog all the time. Some times I catch them, some times I don't. I care about spelling correctly (I'm too TYPE A not to care) but I don't overly dwell on this. The book is in the fifth draft. I still find mistakes in this draft. I still find a sentence that is awkward. I'm not trying to attain perfection. I do, however, want the pieces/chapters/segments to be good. I thing perfection is overrated. I think good is better than perfect.

3. Writing opens up doors you did not know existed. A Pandora's Box of sorts (though it's one of the most overused metaphors in the English language)--writing takes you to conversations, events, and experiences you have buried in the deep, deep places of the soul.

4. Writing allows you to develop your own voice. The single most important thing related to vocation (whether that's writing, speaking, playing the guitar, etc.) is to learn to trust the you that God has created you to be.

5. Writing gets you into a rhythm of not only seeing the world as it is . . . but being able to see (what I call an imagination soaked in the Jesus Story) the world as it can be.

6. Writing consistently makes you a better listener. I pay attention to the inflection and cadence of the waitress at IHOP. I notice the way the mechanic talks about the engine of my car. I become a witness to the way in which God has made us, as the Psalmist writes, "fearfully and wonderfully." Instead of engaging in a conversation in order that I might show someone how much I know, how funny I am . . . becoming a writer forces you to listen to the way others see the world. Writers tend to be introverted. We look inwards. Going deeper with one's writing means the invitation is given to get outside of myself, and to behold.

7. Writing is a form of prayer. Nothing more to say about that.

Old Newspapers

Newspaper is often used to wrap presents on the cheap, line bird cages and make nifty paper hats or drain toppers.

Wash your windows with your homemade or store bought window cleaner. Then if you see streaks polish the glass with a piece of crumpled newspaper to help remove the streaks

Newspaper can be used in your garden to discourage weed growth and helps keep moisture around plants. Shred it and spread it out. Then cover it with compost mixture. Avoid adding the glossy advertisement sections, as it can contain harmful chemicals not good for your garden.

What else can it be used for?

25 March 2009

Writing: What & in What?

Many people have said I should write a book. There was a time when I wanted to be a journalist, to write on the editorial/opinion page of a large daily newspaper. I also entertained the idea of sending my portfolio in to National Geographic Magazine. Maybe I could travel the world and photographic fascinating people and places!

I have since visited many book fairs. One such huge sale is held in a stadium here in Auckland and runs for over 24 hours straight! I love it. I can go at 3 in the morning and browse the rows of tables without tripping over the ankle biters born to avid readers & bargain hounds.

The thing that impresses me as a potential reader is that it's as if the world is laid out before me on tables. I can stroll from gardening to Kiwiana to biography to sci-fi, end up in the travel section and I can take it all home with me! The thing that impresses me as a would-be writer is that this is where so many books end up. You can buy individual books or pay by the box or plastic bag. Humph.

As for newspapers, even those with the most exemplary opinions eloquently expressed, they often end up lining the bottom of bird cages or used for puppy potty training. Aim higher!

And National Geographic Magazine, amazing as it is, copies are regularly sold by the box at auctions or for pennies at garage sales and in op shops, rarely with the maps still tucked safely inside.

So, here I am, still wondering if I'd even have anything to say, let alone if it would be worth publishing. And those who thought I should write a book, well they'd probably want me to give them a free copy.

24 March 2009


"No matter what I say,

what I believe,

and what I do,

I'm bankrupt without love."

-1 Corinthians 13:3 (MSG)

"Honey! We're in big trouble!"

When did you last swat at a honey bee thinking it might be after your root beer or Coke? Think again. Don't kill it! We rely on the little miracles.

Scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world’s harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Bee-keepers claim that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - had hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

From UK's The Independent:

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive’s inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

The alarm was first sounded in 2006, but has hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. John Chapple, one of London’s biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.

Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: “There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK.”

No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming and GM crops have been proposed, but all have drawbacks. The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world’s crops depend on pollination by bees.

But surely all bees do is make honey?

Far from it. They certainly do make honey, but more importantly, they are an essential agent of pollination for a vast range of plants, many of which are important human foodstuffs. Without the presence of bees, much of agriculture would be impossible, and this is a sobering thought right now, as feeding the world is suddenly becoming more difficult because of rising demand and the transfer of much crop production into biofuels, especially in the US.

Most of the pollination for more than 90 commercial crops grown throughout the United States is provided by Apis mellifera, the honey bee, and the value from the pollination to agricultural output in the country is estimated at $14.6bn (£8bn) annually. In Britain alone, pollination by bees of a suite of just 10 crops, ranging from apples and pears to oilseed rape, was calculated to be worth £165m per annum in 2007.

Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared,

“Man would have only four years of life left”.

From The Discovery Channel:

Honeybees don't just make honey; they pollinate more than 90 of the tastiest flowering crops we have. Among them: apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash and cucumbers. And lots of the really sweet and tart stuff, too, including citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and other melons.

In fact, about one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Even cattle, which feed on alfalfa, depend on bees. So if the collapse worsens, we could end up being "stuck with grains and water," said Kevin Hackett, the national program leader for USDA's bee and pollination program.

"This is the biggest general threat to our food supply," Hackett said.

Pulitzer Prize-winning insect biologist E.O. Wilson of Harvard said the honeybee is nature's "workhorse — and we took it for granted."

"We've hung our own future on a thread," Wilson, author of the book "The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth," said.

From Discovery Channel

And from Australia . . .

Bees play a big role in the food supply chain. From www.sciencedaily.com

“In the big scheme of things, honey's a bit of a minor product, really,” NSW Department of Primary Industries apiarist Dr Doug Somerville said.

“Roughly one-third of the food we eat relates back to bee pollinated crops, so most of the benefits of honeybees actually come from pollinations.

“About 90 fruit and vegetable crops, including melons, pumpkins, and even cotton are more productive with their help.

“And almond crops rely entirely on honeybees for pollination and Australia’s young almond industry is booming right now in the tri-State region.”

Since varroa mite and other bee diseases hit America and wiped out huge numbers, US beekeepers have also relied on NSWgrown stock to help pollinate their almond trees.

In 2006, Australian beekeepers cashed in, shipping export package bees worth $3-4 million to America.

However, this is in contrast with the rest of the local industry, beset by poor yields and low prices, brought on by the drought.

“The bee industry had a reasonable summer honey crop, but domestic prospects for the next two years look very bleak,” Dr Somerville said.

“There will be very few eucalypt flowerings in the next 12 months, which will lead to a yield well below average in the Australian honey crop over the next 12 months to two years.”

All sections of the local industry accept that the arrival of destructor in Australia is a matter of when, not if, and its effects would be far more dramatic than a wide incursion of Apis cerana.

Bees drop like flies but mobile phone toll unlikely

Speculation but no defined cause surrounds a massive die-off of bee hives in the US.

Between 25 and 80 per cent of colonies in apiaries have just disappeared, says NSW DPI apiarist Dr Doug Somerville, describing a phenomenon that North American beekeepers have called Colony Collapse Disorder.

“This is causing major concern in the US almond industry, because well over one million bee hives are required to pollinate this crop every February,” Dr Somerville (pictured) said.

He told ABC-TV’s 7.30 Report the collapse has caused US beekeepers to escalate their prices for pollination fees for a range of crops, including almonds and blueberries.

“At this stage, the same collapses have not been reported by Australian beekeepers.”

Mobile phone waves are amongst factors reported as possible causes of collapse in the US but Dr Somerville is dubious this is the cause.

“You would probably expect a lot more colony deaths in urban areas than rural, and this has not been the case,” Dr Somerville said.

“Their problems are likely to be a combination of factors,” Dr Somerville said.

Pesticides residues in the environment from a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, used variously as seed treatments, on cut flowers, stone fruits, cotton aphids and locusts have not caused any problems in Australia but are now under the spotlight in the US, according to CSIRO entomologist Denis Anderson.

Varroa mites, poor nutrition and generally stressed bees compromising the immune system of the others in hives are also postulated as causes.

Dr Somerville says 30 per cent of beekeepers have exited the US and New Zealand industries since varroa mites arrived because they found managing the pest too hard.

Adapted from materials provided by New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.

23 March 2009

Integrity Challenge

I found a credit card in Hamilton this weekend. I picked it up, but didn't know where the nearest police station was, so pocketed it, thinking I'd call the issuing bank when I got home.

Well, the issuing bank has a few phone numbers on the back of the card, but they are all in Brasil! The website is in Portuguese. Hmmm. Now what?

I'd like to get word to Marina so she doesn't need to 1) keep looking for her card thinking it's in those other jeans and 2) make sure that no one can use it at her expense.

I'm not interested in paying for a long distance call to Brasil to do this. Maybe she's a student at Waikato University? I'll email the chaplain there!

This is one of the things that people don't think about when they go out geocaching. We often find more than hidden waterproof containers in flax bushes! Sometimes we find interesting gardens or walkways or waterfalls. Sometimes we stumble in to a super cafe or enjoy a sunset we might have otherwise missed. We meet people and have conversatiosn on the way.

In January we found a whole wallet and took it to the nearby police station. They recognised the man staright away. Maybe he's a notorious local or maybe he loses his wallet often.

When's the last time you tried to do the right thing and it got complicated?

Techonology Ignored

My grandfather lamented the move from motorisation to electronics in many of the appliances in his home and car. He knew how to take the refrigerator apart and clean the parts if necessary; finding the leak or break, and repairing it. He could fix the vacuum cleaner or the dryer. But when everything had electronic components that had to be tested and replaced if faulty, he had to call in a specialist. The engineer was frustrated. He bought a computer and learned how to use it in his retirement. I respected him for that, among so many other things. He didn't stay in the past, but he did notice the changes over a lifetime spanning amazing leaps in technology. Read on for another perspective.

From Kevin Kelly's New Rules for the New Economy, a book published 10 years ago, but if we'd applied then what we know now . . . well . . . .

As technology becomes ubiquitous it also becomes invisible. The more chips proliferate, the less we will notice them. The more networking succeeds, the less we'll be aware of it.

Move technology to invisibility.

In the early 1900s, at the heroic stage of the industrial economy, motors were changing the world. Big, heavy motors ran factories and trains and the gears of automation. If big motors changed work, they were sure to change the home, too. So the 1918 edition of the Sears, Roebuck catalog featured the Home Motor--a five-pound electrical beast that would "lighten the burden of the home." This single Home Motor would supply all the power needs of a modern family. Also for sale were plug-ins that attached to the central Home Motor: an egg beater device, a fan, a mixer, a grinder, a buffer. Any job that needed doing, the handy Home Motor could do. Marc Weiser, a scientist at Xerox, points out that the electric motor succeeded so well that it became invisible. Eighty years later nobody owns a Home Motor. We have instead dozens of micro-motors everywhere. They are so small, so embedded, and so common that we are unconscious of their presence. We would have a hard time just listing all the motors whirring in our homes today (fans, clocks, water pumps, video players, watches, etc.). We know the industrial revolution succeeded because we can no longer see its soldiers, the motors.

Computer technology is undergoing the same disappearance. If the information revolution succeeds, the standalone desktop computer will eventually vanish. Its chips, its lines of connection, even its visual interfaces will submerge into our environment until we are no longer conscious of their presence (except when they fail). As the network age matures, we'll know that chips and glass fibers have succeeded only when we forget them. Since the measure of a technology's success is how invisible it becomes, the best long-term strategy is to develop products and services that can be ignored.

22 March 2009

A Long Journey

That trip through South Africa was enlightening for me. I didn't mean that as a pun when I wrote it, but turns out it is one. I traveled with the bare minimums.

Defining bare minimums will be different for each person. It was the first time I traveled with a laptop computer so as to keep in touch via e-mail. Other than that bunch of cords and hardware, I kept my accumulation of books, clothes, toiletries & toy to a minimum. I needed to be able to pull it all in a small case behind me or carry it in a backpack. Other than when I was using the rental car, I boarded buses and trains, walked from border post to border post across the Limpopo River and wandered in search of food. The foraging for food usually involved corner stores or bakeries and sometimes a KFC.

Between projects and friendly accommodations, I stayed in hostels or guesthouses and used public transport. There were many times when I only spoke to people or had any human touch when exchanging money for goods. There were often shy smiles or polite words exchanged. I was in limbo, a marginal existence with no daily connections with family or friends or associates. It was both freeing and frightening.

I journaled and read. I thought and walked and prayed and explored who I was in the absence of others who might want to try to tell me. I was becoming me in ways I had not before. There I was at 34, discovering, peeling back layers and having to be comfortable in my own company.

I wasn't always comfortable. Sometimes I thought, "This is how people become homeless!" They become disconnected from their networks and just wander. I wondered, "Should I disappear, how long would it be until someone noticed?"

South Africa was not a peaceful place and violence on trains in that area was especially common. Fire bombs would often be thrown in to fast moving carriages where the wind rushing through open windows would whip the flames into unsurvivable infernos.

At one point I was helping with projects at a remote school in Transkei, the area beyond the Kei River, and I fit in quite well. I could have stayed and was tempted. But I realised that God was not yet done with His project, me. When the time was right, the project finished and the truck was making it's next trip to town, I was on it.

Enroute we came across an accident where a young boy had died. There was a bit of chaos around the crash site and then this one small body alone, flung into a field. I walked over and squatted beside him. I prayed, not necessarily for him, but just in communion with God. I thought of the boy's life; too short, much potential probably unrealised, many dreams unfulfilled. I thought too of the suffering he would avoid, of the heartache he'd not feel, of the disappointments he'd not face.

It was an odd, and an enlightening moment for me. God was there with me in that midst of it. Near the southeast coast of Africa, on a dripping wet day in the middle of nowhere according to most people, a boy had died and the world was irrevocably changed.

When we continued our journey, reached a dusty road and then the small town, I again set off alone, but in companionship with God in a way that was different from when I had arrived. Another layer was peeled off.

I am not now nor do I think I ever will be invincible, fearless or immune to suffering in this world. I do think that season in South Africa was formative for me, a furnace of sorts where I was refined, polished or softened up a bit. Choose your own metaphor. Though it was a difficult season, it did not toughen me up so much as it gave me a sensitivity to the big picture of God at work beyond my comfort zones.

It made me appreciate relationships and networks, but not to cling to them out of fear. It made me see clearly how fragile a life can be, not only a life that has ended but lives that continue but in isolation. Of what value is the person who seems to offer nothing productive to society? Of what value is the life that fits none of the normal molds? Are only those with fixed abodes and regular income normal? Is normal necessarily good?

When that journey ended, I carried both more and less with me. Fewer possessions. More insight. Less of preconceptions and comfortable molds. More of God and acceptance of deviation from the norm.

I wonder how such a journey would be similar or different at my age now? What would I learn? What would I be reminded of or see anew? Maybe I'll need to plan a journey; Europe this time? More expensive, but there are huge portions of it I've not experienced.

21 March 2009

A Long Walk: Too Long

While I was applying for a long term visa to work and live in Zimbabwe, I had to leave the country. Thinking the time frame might be short, I just went out to South Africa to wait. I volunteered my services to colleagues in various places there and had the benefit of short stints in different places among different people. For a while, it was a nice interlude, a lingering loitering kind of existence. My supporters sprang for a rental car during part of the time as I was covering great distances between service opportunities.

During one memorable journey, I listened to a quite relevant book on cassette tape.

Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom began as scraps of paper, buried under the floor of his prison cell. He was incarcerated in South Africa for more than a quarter of a century, part of that time in the prison of Robben Island, about which he writes:

"Its isolation made it not simply another prison, but a world of its own, far removed from the one we had come from. The high spirits with which we had left Pretoria had been snuffed out by its stern atmosphere; we were face to face with the realization that our life would be unredeemably grim. In Pretoria, we felt connected to our supporters and our families; on the island, we felt cut off, and indeed we were. We had the consolation of being with each other, but that was the only consolation."

Mandela reflects:

It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else's freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.

When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.

And while things in South Africa are not Utopian, some of her present challenges come from the very country I was seeking permission to enter, Zimbabwe, as people seek to escape oppression from her first and overstaying black leader.

If only the lessons learned were transferable, from country to country and person to person.

20 March 2009

Meaningful Introductions

Seth Godin writes:
When I was a kid, I loved the Legion of Super Heroes and the Justice League of America. These were comics for slumming comic book writers, fun and sort of stupid stories where a whole bunch of superheroes would get together, hang out in the clubhouse and then work together to destroy some sort of monster that any individual superhero could never have bested.

Anyway, near the beginning of most of these comics was a scene where a stranger would meet the team. Inevitably, the heroes would introduce themselves. Of course, Batman or Superman wouldn't need an introduction, but the lesser (lower rent) heroes had to speak up and describe their super power.

"I'm the Wasp. I have the ability to shrink to a height of several centimeters, fly by means of insectoid wings and fire energy blasts."

Some fancy marketers might call this a positioning statement or a unique selling proposition. Of course, it's not that. It's just her super power.

When you meet someone, you need to have a super power. If you don't, you're just another handshake. Don't say, "Hi, I'm Don, I'm from Cleveland." Instead, try, "Hi, I'm Don, I tell stories that spread." It's not about touting yourself or coming on too strong. It's about making the introduction meaningful. If I don't know your superpower, then I don't know how you can help me (or I can help you).

I was sitting next to a guy at a conference a few years ago. When people went around and said who they were and what they did, he said, "I'm Stephen, I'm a judge." He gets points for humility, and not pointing out that he was a Supreme Court Justice was certainly his privilege... sort of like Superman not having to tout his x-ray vision.

The rest of us, though, do everyone a service when we let others know what we do and how it might help.

19 March 2009

Kayaking Caching Trip on Puhoi River

Jo, Rachael, Jill, Jane, Sonia, Rebecca & Ashleigh. Shirlz was taking the photos!

Don't know if you are interested in photos of my kayaking trip on the Puhoi River last Saturday. Many thanks to those who made it fun and those who made it possible. Transporting kayaks, having the right safety gear and enough snacks are all vital to a good journey!

We went on that day because the tides were right for an easier trip up with the tide and back with the receding tide again. The group was quite large with ages spread from 70's to teens, but we also spread out along the river so we weren't a paddling mob. The trip is about 10 kms/6 miles one way which should take about 2 hours. These particular photos show very little paddling but we got there somehow.

These photo also were taken BEFORE the rain fell, so the smiles are more genuine than later in the journey. Everyone kept great attitudes and it turned from a lovely river cruise to an adventure.

Part of the reason we were going was a chance to be First -To- Find a geocache that is only accessible from the river. Unfortunately, I turned the GPS on a bit late to get it on the way up. Then, the tide was too low to access it on the way out. Phooey! Disappointment is not the word for it!

As we neared the geozone on our return, I took off across the mud flats to get to the cache site and sank up to my knees less than 100 meters from the cache. The team came to the rescue, forming a line to support each other and pulling me out with kayak paddles. Good to have good friends with me at such a time. I never let go of the GPS though, holding it above the water rushing around me and above the mud trying to suck me in! Ha! Sorry we have no photos of that or of me caked in mud!

While I love going for a walk by myself, this was just one time when I realised how dangerous that can be. As I stepped in to the soft spot and started sinking, I tried to push myself up with the other leg. Having torn a muscle attachment in that thigh the week before, it was of little use to me. I was able to keep my balance and stay upright for a while, but then sat in the mud and shallow water as my leg went in deeper. Eventually I was able to pull myself back up to standing and then friends arrived with paddles and brute strength. Angling to get in front of me without sinking themselves, they did great until I popped out. Then I think there were some giggles as I was two-tone; mud from waist down with deeper hues below the knees. Glad I had on old shoes and $35 wool socks! While my rain coat is great for hiking, it was never meant to be a submersible!

Things went from tricky to troublesome as we started paddling back. Some made it afloat, but some bottomed out and had to walk, pulling our kayaks behind us. An ignominious end to the adventure. The end was accompanied by much laughter and little dignity, but we made it, cacheless but with memories of a shared journey.

16 March 2009

Happy Birthday, Pop!

Many important things happened in 1940, not the least of which was the birth of my father.

Leaders in the early 40's:

The 1940s was a period between the radical 1930s and the conservative 1950s, which also leads the period to be divided in two halves:

The first half of the decade was dominated by World War II, the widest and most destructive armed conflict in human history. So consequential was this event and its brutal aftermath that it laid the foundation for other major world events and trends for decades to follow. This war was also the first modern civilian war.

The second half of the 1940s marked the beginning of the Cold War, the race between the US and the Soviet Union to invent better technology.

Other random events of March 1940:
Happy Birthday, Pop.

Check out the Almanac for 1940 here. It shows US population, average income, etc. Fascinating to think of the dollar amounts verses the dollar values.

Unreasonable Progress

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”

– George Bernard Shaw.

Taking Care of Busyness

There was a time when I carried technology in my bag. Really. I had my camera, my iPod, a Palm PDA, a phone, a torch/flashlight . . . etc . . . . No wonder I have a knot in my shoulder muscles on the opposite side from where I carry that bag!

So I got clever and was trying to figure out how to eliminate items. Well, not wanting to splash out for an iPhone when I have perfectly good individual items, I thought I could at least use my phone to double as a PDA. It has an alarm clock and a calendar that can be set up to beep 15-30 minutes before my next appointment. It has Reminder, Memo & Note features. Not bad for a little flip phone!

So, for nearly a year, I've been running my life out of that little device. Or has that little device been running me? A better question; why was I running? Do you ever read of Jesus running?

While my little system was compact it lacked a feature that my grandmother's generation had the advantage of. When you write on a big wall calendar you can see what else is there already. You can see preceding and following days. You can see if you already have more than enough on a specific day or that maybe you've not had a day at home in a while.

A huge wall calendar and a pencil is a great system for taking care of busyness! You don't have to carry cords around or recharge it. It's not going to run out of juice or get dropped.

You see, my phone's little screen didn't allow me to see the big picture. It minimised things in such a way that I just kept adding things in. Some days were like a marathon or a steeplechase, events I'm not at all prepared for, let alone trying to maintain that pace several days per week.

The work I do is people intensive and I'm an introvert. Yes, I know that will surprise readers who actually know me, but I get my energy from being alone. Then, once energised, I'm thrilled to be with people and usually in the middle of whatever's going on. What's happened though is that, because I was not managing my time well, I was getting depleted. Trying to respond to too many needs means that I run out of the energy needed to respond!

So, two simple and low tech solutions presented themselves: get control of my schedule and choose to say No! It's not that I want to say No to people, it's that I need to for my own well being and so as to give people my best when I am with them.

That's a hard call sometimes. It's in conversations, through unrushed stories of where a person is, that relationships grow and trust develops. It's over calm cups of tea that people feel safe to discuss their burdens or struggles. That is what I do. You can call it coaching, discipling, accompanying, mentoring.

In doing that I have often longed for better discernment, for wisdom, for intuition, so as to hear well and understand. That longing seems to have been primarily other focused. I also need to apply those to my own schedule and life.

If it's just a matter of more rest or more time, I could cut out lots of fun stuff or casual time with friends. That will not replenish my inner reserves. I crave laughter and the company of friends, especially some of those who are far away.

Much of this disclosure about my full schedule is not news. It's been a topic of conversation among friends and family on my whirlwind trips to the US. There's never been a question as to whether I try to earn my salary. I want to be known as someone who works hard and does her best. As in any life, circumstnces and situations often require much of us. Life is just like that but, as a doctor told me a few years ago, I'm not a spring chicken anymore. How dare he? He was suggesting that just because I was not married and have no children, I didn't need to maintain such a full schedule just because I could.

Anyway, this will not be the most eloquent post on this blog. It's more a public discussion of a topic very much in my sights so as to not allow myself to ignore the changes I need to make.

What ideas do you have for managing YOUR life and not allowing others to manage it for you? Those of you who are married or with children often do not have veto power over your schedule. How do you manage? How do you refill your tanks?

I'd be thrilled to have comments, suggestions and links that have been useful to you. I've gotta run now. Car's going in for a service this AM and I have appointments with a young lady who wants to be a missionary in Thailand and another student who is homesick and then there's . . . .

13 March 2009

Plan for Fun! Initiative

This is where I plan to spend my Saturday, weather
Friends, paddling, birds over head and flowers along the banks . . . . except where the cows and sheep have taken over. What are you doing this weekend? Might want to think ahead and plan something fun with people you enjoy.

12 March 2009


reciprocity |ˌresəˈpräsətē|
the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, esp. privileges granted by one country or organization to another.
ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from French réciprocité, from réciproque, from Latin reciprocus ‘moving backward and forward’ (see reciprocate ).

propensity |prəˈpensətē|
noun ( pl. -ties)
an inclination or natural tendency to behave in a particular way : a propensity for violence | [with infinitive ] their innate propensity to attack one another.
ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from archaic propense (from Latin propensus ‘inclined,’ past participle of propendere, from pro- ‘forward, down’ + pendere ‘hang’ ) + -ity .

exacerbate |igˈzasərˌbāt|
verb [ trans. ]
make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse : the forest fire was exacerbated by the lack of rain.
exacerbation |igˌzasərˈbā sh ən| noun
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin exacerbat- ‘made harsh,’ from the verb exacerbare, from ex- (expressing inducement of a state) + acerbus ‘harsh, bitter.’ The noun exacerbation ( late Middle English ) originally meant [provocation to anger.]
USAGE On the difference between exacerbate and exasperate, see usage at exasperate .

exacerbate - verb
each party blames the other for exacerbating the problem aggravate, worsen, inflame, compound; intensify, increase, heighten, magnify, add to, amplify, augment; informal add fuel to the fire/flames.

What are some of your favourite words and do you know their origin?

11 March 2009

10 March 2009

Wheelchair Dancer: Friends & Intensity

A friend sent me this link. I thought the idea of intensity was interesting, as well as the use of the internet as a leveller for connections between people, whatever separated them.

People with extreme challenges often are better able to look through the superficial fluff of life and get to the point. There's often not enough time or enough energy to fluff around with unimportant stuff. I've seen that come out in people with addictions and those who are trying to recover from them, in people with major medical challenges and in people who have dealt with crisis and been drastically changed by it. A bit more intensity would probably be good for most of us, though some people would find it difficult to cope with us.


Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: forceful, severe; passionate
Synonyms: acute, agonizing, all-consuming, ardent, biting, bitter, burning, close, concentrated, consuming, cutting, deep, diligent, eager, earnest, energetic, exaggerated, exceptional, excessive, exquisite, extraordinary, extreme, fanatical, fervent, fervid, fierce, forcible, full, great, hard, harsh, heightened, impassioned, intensified, intensive, keen, marked, piercing, powerful, profound, protracted, pungent, sharp, shrill, stinging, strained, strong, supreme, undue, vehement, violent, vivid, zealous
Notes: emotions are intense while sustained application or attention is intensive; intense arises from within and intensive comes from outside (it is imposed or assumed)
Antonyms: calm, dull, low-key, mild, moderate

A subtitle for this post might be How I have disabled friends.

I have a somewhat distributed life. And that means I don't see my friends all that often. Even if you discount the New York -San Francisco part of my life, I have friends in different countries, and all over the US. I even have friends who live close (say an hour or two away) to my hub cities whom I don't see all that often because travel is a hassle in itself.

I work hard to maintain my friendships long distance, and I like to think that I do so fairly well. That I am able to do so is usually a function of the fact that my friends and I have spent concentrated periods of formative time with each other. We went to university and/or grad school; we were roomates, worked the same kinds of jobs, etc. Now, we only see each other once a year or so, but we phone in, we send email, we talk ... For some people, this doesn't work -- I miss a crucial life event or we are not able to connect as often as necessary. Sometimes, it doesn't work because I, we, people change -- the foundation of our friendship becomes less relevant to one of us. I, for example, don't keep up as much with the world of my first job; my friend who works there still has had two children. We've found it very hard to keep some sense of connection going, and our friendship sadly is fading.

My disabled friends are also spread all over the country, yet they are different from my other friends. Many of you are people I have not spent any significant time with; some of you I have not met in person at all. And yet. I count you as my friends. I would love to have coffee with you, see a movie, drink a glass ... I probably won't get to do that, sadly. But our friendship I find vital in my life.

I am proposing a kind of crip friendship. I keep seeing stuff about how the internet is a great leveler, how it enables people to connect, etc. I am seeing this in a practical way. You, my crip friends, I barely know in your/our "real" lives. That doesn't diminish your importance to me: ours is a friendship of ideas, narrated experience, and spirit. No. Spirit. Ideas. Narrated Experience. SPINE. Ours are friendships of the spine.

Wow. Goose pimples. That just came to me.

Think, for a second, about the spine. It hosts the site of many of our vulnerabilities -- the spinal cord. And yet, as language would have it, it is the location of our courage. We have backbone; we show our spine. We are spiny, thorny, prickly, and, well, brave. The bony prominences of the vertebrae, its twists, its irregularities, its contractions, and flexibility and frozen flexions bear witness to the twists and curves of our relationships.

I may not ever see you in your world, but I am there in spirit; I will listen to your narrated experience and share my own. We can and will, I hope, engage in the deepest friendships of ideas. We will surge, float, and thunder through our ideas. And when we hang up the phone, disconnect the webcam, we will retreat back into our own lives, deeply and forever changed. The bone of the spine -- its ideas, its spirit, the narrating of its experience -- gives shape to the tissue and network of our lives. It supports us as we muscle through and literally gives us the nerve to do so.

If I seem intense, it is because I see our "spines" as being interwoven; we can't go to the coffeeshop or take a walk to build intimacy. Will you brace yourselves for the intimacy that comes with intensity? Can we build that brace so that it offers support in a moving way -- not in the correcting, reforming way of medical devices but in the way that allows our friendship to lift us both up to do something extraordinary.

If I shoot ideas at you rat-a-tat-tat, will you soak them up in spirit and engage with narration and experience? Because I do think it is important for us to connect with each other, to lightly peel back our skins and stare deeply at the bone. To fold the muscle back over those scores and seal the skin with new, soft tissue. I want to hold your hand, as we both look down through the scars to the nerves that make you move. I want you to restrain my muscle as we peer and probe, softly at first, down to the white grey bone of my spine.

Join the conversation @Wheelchair Dancer