Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wow. This is a great speech.

From here:

You can watch the speech there, and you should. And send it to friends.) If men of god spoke like this more often, I would have a better opinion of the whole thing.

REVEREND WRIGHT: Over the next few days, prominent scholars of the African-American religious tradition from several different disciplines -- theologians, church historians, ethicists, professors of the Hebrew bible, homiletics, hermeneutics, and historians of religions -- those scholars will join in with sociologists, political analysts, local church pastors, and denominational officials to examine the African-American religious experience and its historical, theological and political context.

The workshops, the panel discussions, and the symposium will go into much more intricate detail about this unknown phenomenon of the black church...


... than I have time to go into in the few moments that we have to share together. And I would invite you to spend the next two days getting to know just a little bit about a religious tradition that is as old as and, in some instances, older than this country.

And this is a country which houses this religious tradition that we all love and a country that some of us have served. It is a tradition that is, in some ways, like Ralph Ellison's the "Invisible Man."

It has been right here in our midst and on our shoulders since the 1600s, but it was, has been, and, in far too many instances, still is invisible to the dominant culture, in terms of its rich history, its incredible legacy, and its multiple meanings.

The black religious experience is a tradition that, at one point in American history, was actually called the "invisible institution," as it was forced underground by the Black Codes.

The Black Codes prohibited the gathering of more than two black people without a white person being present to monitor the conversation, the content, and the mood of any discourse between persons of African descent in this country.

Africans did not stop worshipping because of the Black Codes. Africans did not stop gathering for inspiration and information and for encouragement and for hope in the midst of discouraging and seemingly hopeless circumstances. They just gathered out of the eyesight and the earshot of those who defined them as less than human.

They became, in other words, invisible in and invisible to the eyes of the dominant culture. They gathered to worship in brush arbors, sometimes called hush arbors, where the slaveholders, slave patrols, and Uncle Toms couldn't hear nobody pray.

From the 1700s in North America, with the founding of the first legally recognized independent black congregations, through the end of the Civil War, and the passing of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America, the black religious experience was informed by, enriched by, expanded by, challenged by, shaped by, and influenced by the influx of Africans from the other two Americas and the Africans brought in to this country from the Caribbean, plus the Africans who were called "fresh blacks" by the slave-traders, those Africans who had not been through the seasoning process of the middle passage in the Caribbean colonies, those Africans on the sea coast islands off of Georgia and South Carolina, the Gullah -- we say in English "Gullah," those of us in the black community say "Geechee" -- those people brought into the black religious experience a flavor that other seasoned Africans could not bring.

It is those various streams of the black religious experience which will be addressed in summary form over the next two days, streams which require full courses at the university and graduate- school level, and cannot be fully addressed in a two-day symposium, and streams which tragically remain invisible in a dominant culture which knows nothing about those whom Langston Hughes calls "the darker brother and sister."

It is all of those streams that make up this multilayered and rich tapestry of the black religious experience. And I stand before you to open up this two-day symposium with the hope that this most recent attack on the black church is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright; it is an attack on the black church.


As the vice president told you, that applause comes from not the working press.


The most recent attack on the black church, it is our hope that this just might mean that the reality of the African-American church will no longer be invisible.

Maybe now, as an honest dialogue about race in this country begins, a dialogue called for by Senator Obama and a dialogue to begin in the United Church of Christ among 5,700 congregations in just a few weeks, maybe now, as that dialogue begins, the religious tradition that has kept hope alive for people struggling to survive in countless hopeless situation, maybe that religious tradition will be understood, celebrated, and even embraced by a nation that seems not to have noticed why 11 o'clock on Sunday morning has been called the most segregated hour in America.

We have known since 1787 that it is the most segregated hour. Maybe now we can begin to understand why it is the most segregated hour.

And maybe now we can begin to take steps to move the black religious tradition from the status of invisible to the status of invaluable, not just for some black people in this country, but for all the people in this country.

Maybe this dialogue on race, an honest dialogue that does not engage in denial or superficial platitudes, maybe this dialogue on race can move the people of faith in this country from various stages of alienation and marginalization to the exciting possibility of reconciliation.

That is my hope, as I open up this two-day symposium. And I open it as a pastor and a professor who comes from a long tradition of what I call the prophetic theology of the black church.

Now, in the 1960s, the term "liberation theology" began to gain currency with the writings and the teachings of preachers, pastors, priests, and professors from Latin America. Their theology was done from the underside.

Their viewpoint was not from the top down or from a set of teachings which undergirded imperialism. Their viewpoints, rather, were from the bottom up, the thoughts and understandings of God, the faith, religion and the Bible from those whose lives were ground, under, mangled and destroyed by the ruling classes or the oppressors.

Liberation theology started in and started from a different place. It started from the vantage point of the oppressed.

In the late 1960s, when Dr. James Cone's powerful books burst onto the scene, the term "black liberation theology" began to be used. I do not in any way disagree with Dr. Cone, nor do I in any way diminish the inimitable and incomparable contributions that he has made and that he continues to make to the field of theology. Jim, incidentally, is a personal friend of mine.

I call our faith tradition, however, the prophetic tradition of the black church, because I take its origins back past Jim Cone, past the sermons and songs of Africans in bondage in the transatlantic slave trade. I take it back past the problem of Western ideology and notions of white supremacy.

I take and trace the theology of the black church back to the prophets in the Hebrew Bible and to its last prophet, in my tradition, the one we call Jesus of Nazareth.

The prophetic tradition of the black church has its roots in Isaiah, the 61st chapter, where God says the prophet is to preach the gospel to the poor and to set at liberty those who are held captive. Liberating the captives also liberates who are holding them captive.

It frees the captives and it frees the captors. It frees the oppressed and it frees the oppressors.

The prophetic theology of the black church, during the days of chattel slavery, was a theology of liberation. It was preached to set free those who were held in bondage spiritually, psychologically, and sometimes physically. And it was practiced to set the slaveholders free from the notion that they could define other human beings or confine a soul set free by the power of the gospel.

The prophetic theology of the black church during the days of segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and the separate-but-equal fantasy was a theology of liberation.

It was preached to set African-Americans free from the notion of second-class citizenship, which was the law of the land. And it was practiced to set free misguided and miseducated Americans from the notion that they were actually superior to other Americans based on the color of their skin. The prophetic theology of the black church in our day is preached to set African-Americans and all other Americans free from the misconceived notion that different means deficient.

Being different does not mean one is deficient. It simply means one is different, like snowflakes, like the diversity that God loves. Black music is different from European and European music. It is not deficient; it is just different.

Black worship is different from European and European-American worship. It is not deficient; it is just different.

Black preaching is different from European and European-American preaching. It is not deficient; it is just different. It is not bombastic; it is not controversial; it's different.


Those of you who can't see on C-SPAN, we had one or two working press clap along with the non-working press.


Black learning styles are different from European and European- American learning styles. They are not deficient; they are just different.

This principle of "different does not mean deficient" is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the black church. It is a theology of liberation.

The prophetic theology of the black church is not only a theology of liberation; it is also a theology of transformation, which is also rooted in Isaiah 61, the text from which Jesus preached in his inaugural message, as recorded by Luke.

When you read the entire passage from either Isaiah 61 or Luke 4 and do not try to understand the passage or the content of the passage in the context of a sound bite, what you see is God's desire for a radical change in a social order that has gone sour.

God's desire is for positive, meaningful and permanent change. God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to other people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized, and those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems which treat some in the society as being more equal than others in that same society.

God's desire is for positive change, transformation, real change, not cosmetic change, transformation, radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God's desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world.

This principle of transformation is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the black church. These two foci of liberation and transformation have been at the very core of the black religious experience from the days of David Walker, Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen, Jarena Lee, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, and Sojourner Truth, through the days of Adam Clayton Powell, Ida B. Wells, Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Barbara Jordan, Cornell West, and Fanny Lou Hamer.

These two foci of liberation and transformation have been at the very core of the United Church of Christ since its predecessor denomination, the Congregational Church of New England, came to the moral defense and paid for the legal defense of the Mende people aboard the slave ship Amistad, since the days when the United Church of Christ fought against slavery, played an active role in the underground railroad, and set up over 500 schools for the Africans who were freed from slavery in 1865.

And these two foci remain at the core of the teachings of the United Church of Christ, as it has fought against apartheid in South Africa and racism in the United States of America ever since the union which formed the United Church of Christ in 1957.

These two foci of liberation and transformation have also been at the very core and the congregation of Trinity United Church of Christ since it was founded in 1961. And these foci have been the bedrock of our preaching and practice for the past 36 years.

Our congregation, as you heard in the introduction, took a stand against apartheid when the government of our country was supporting the racist regime of the African government in South Africa.


Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua, while our government, through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries.

Our congregation sent 35 men and women through accredited seminaries to earn their master of divinity degrees, with an additional 40 currently being enrolled in seminary, while building two senior citizen housing complexes and running two child care programs for the poor, the unemployed, the low-income parents on the south side of Chicago for the past 30 years.

Our congregation feeds over 5,000 homeless and needy families every year, while our government cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting in an unjust war in Iraq.


Our congregation has sent dozens of boys and girls to fight in the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, and the present two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My goddaughter's unit just arrived in Iraq this week, while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service, while sending...

(APPLAUSE) ... while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls of every race to die over a lie.


Our congregation has had an HIV-AIDS ministry for over two decades. Our congregation has awarded over $1 million to graduating high school seniors going into college and an additional $500,000 to the United Negro College Fund, and the six HBCUs related to the United Church of Christ, while advocating for health care for the uninsured, workers' rights for those forbidden to form unions, and fighting the unjust sentencing system which has sent black men and women to prison for longer terms for possession of crack cocaine than white men and women have to serve for the possession of powder cocaine.

Our congregation has had a prison ministry for 30 years, a drug and alcohol recovery ministry for 20 years, a full service program for senior citizens, and 22 different ministries for the youth of our church, from pre-school through high school, all proceeding from the starting point of liberation and transformation, a prophetic theology which presumes God's desire for changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, changed lives, changed hearts in a changed world.

The prophetic theology of the black church is a theology of liberation; it is a theology of transformation; and it is ultimately a theology of reconciliation.

The Apostle Paul said, "Be ye reconciled one to another, even as God was in Christ reconciling the world to God's self."

God does not desire for us, as children of God, to be at war with each other, to see each other as superior or inferior, to hate each other, abuse each other, misuse each other, define each other, or put each other down.

God wants us reconciled, one to another. And that third principle in the prophetic theology of the black church is also and has always been at the heart of the black church experience in North America.

When Richard Allen and Absalom Jones were dragged out of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, during the same year, 1787, when the Constitution was framed in Philadelphia, for daring to kneel at the altar next to white worshippers, they founded the Free African Society and they welcomed white members into their congregation to show that reconciliation was the goal, not retaliation.

Absalom Jones became the rector of the St. Thomas Anglican Church in 1781, and St. Thomas welcomed white Anglicans in the spirit of reconciliation.

Richard Allen became the founding pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the motto of the AME Church has always been, "God our father, man our brother, and Christ our redeemer." The word "man" included men and women of all races back in 1787 and 1792, in the spirit of reconciliation.

The black church's role in the fight for equality and justice, from the 1700s up until 2008, has always had as its core the nonnegotiable doctrine of reconciliation, children of God repenting for past sins against each other.

Jim Wallis says America's sin of racism has never even been confessed, much less repented for. Repenting for past sins against each other and being reconciled to one other -- Jim Wallis is white, by the way...


... being reconciled to one another, because of the love of God, who made all of us in God's image.

Reconciliation, the years have taught me, is where the hardest work is found for those of us in the Christian faith, however, because it means some critical thinking and some re-examination of faulty assumptions when using the paradigm of Dr. William Augustus Jones.

Dr. Jones, in his book, God in the ghetto, argues quite accurately that one's theology, how I see God, determines one's anthropology, how I see humans, and one's anthropology then determines one's sociology, how I order my society.

Now, the implications from the outside are obvious. If I see God as male, if I see God as white male, if I see God as superior, as God over us and not Immanuel, which means "God with us," if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens.

My theological lens shapes my anthropological lens. And as a result, white males are superior; all others are inferior.

And I order my society where I can worship God on Sunday morning wearing a black clergy robe and kill others on Sunday evening wearing a white Klan robe. I can have laws which favor whites over blacks in America or South Africa. I can construct a theology of apartheid in the Africana church (ph) and a theology of white supremacy in the North American or Germanic church.

The implications from the outset are obvious, but then the complicated work is left to be done, as you dig deeper into the constructs, which tradition, habit, and hermeneutics put on your plate.

To say "I am a Christian" is not enough. Why? Because the Christianity of the slaveholder is not the Christianity of the slave. The God to whom the slaveholders pray as they ride on the decks of the slave ship is not the God to whom the enslaved are praying as they ride beneath the decks on that slave ship.

How we are seeing God, our theology, is not the same. And what we both mean when we say "I am a Christian" is not the same thing. The prophetic theology of the black church has always seen and still sees all of God's children as sisters and brothers, equals who need reconciliation, who need to be reconciled as equals in order for us to walk together into the future which God has prepared for us.

Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks and Hispanics become Asian or that Asians become Europeans.

Reconciliation means we embrace our individual rich histories, all of them. We retain who we are as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us. They are just different from us.

We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred, or prejudice.

And we recognize for the first time in modern history in the West that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles, and different dance moves, that other is one of God's children just as we are, no better, no worse, prone to error and in need of forgiveness, just as we are.

Only then will liberation, transformation, and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals.

Thank you for having me in your midst this morning.

Go here for the questions:

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thanks Aunt Christina

This past weekend, aunt Christina (Autumn calls her aunt nina) spent the weekend at our house helping us peel wallpaper (never done that before), paint the little fellas room, and clean.

A good spring cleaning.

I'm thankful for her help. We could never have gotten what we got accomplished without her.

So thanks. We owe you more Cold Stone.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

A cool ad.

Directed by Guy Ritchie. Kinda neat that the dude suits up for the Gunners.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Watching planes

This morning, while Aunt Christina and Mom cleaned up the place (it looks awesome by the way), I took Autumn to the Airport to watch planes.

When we take a walk around the block, or anywhere, and she hears a plane in the sky, she stops and yells 'plane' and looks up. I figured, it would be a natural to head ot the B'lo airport and catch a few taking off.

This is us, all serious, getting ready to look at planes. We're right at the end of the runway, looking through a fence.

Here's a plane.

And while that might not seem close, keep in mind, Autumn saw it the whole way on the run way.

It was a fun day.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Autumn curling

This is a case where the picture says it all.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Missing Autumn

The last time I saw Autumn was Tuesday night. I left yesterday morning at the silly time of 5:30AM to go to Syracuse NY for work. It's 2.5 hour drive. Then, I drove back this morning and went to work. I went home for lunch, so I saw Rhona, who i also missed.

Anyway, I can't wait to see her.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Earth Day

Everyday should be earth day since it ain't going anywhere. In honor of it, don't use a single plastic bag. Good Luck.

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A weekend away

From Thursday night until Sunday afternoon, autumn hung out with the family in Brampton. She apparently even went to Aunt Tracey's work on Friday (I have no pictures to confirm though).

She did come to the curling club a couple of times to watch 'Daddy curling.' She loves to say Daddy curling, which is good, because i can't wait to take her. I do have some good shots of her holding a broom which i'll share.

One last thing: I drove Autumn to Brampton in one car, then went to get her in another one. The second car had no ID for her. When I got the border and realized I had no idea, I figured I would simply plead stupid and hope for the best. For a number of reasons, this seemed scary, namely would they let her in? Would they let me in?

Turns out, things were okay. He gave me a stern lecture and then let me in. I think it helped that Autumn woke up right then and looked cute.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

The 3 trillion spending spree

I gave up trying to spend all 3 trillion. It's a lot. Try if you'd like. I would be, as you can see, the proud owner of the Sabres though. Then I would cure AIDS.

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Timeless interview

This is a great interview with a publication and the late Frank Sinatra.


All right, let's start with the most basic question there is: Are you a religious man? Do you believe in God?

Frank Sinatra:
Well, that'll do for openers. I think I can sum up my religious feelings in a couple of paragraphs. First: I believe in you and me. I'm like Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in that I have a respect for life -- in any form. I believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or that there is real evidence for. If these things are what you mean by God, then I believe in God. But I don't believe in a personal God to whom I look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice. I'm not unmindful of man's seeming need for faith; I'm for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel's. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in the middle. The witch doctor tries to convince us that we have to ask God for help, to spell out to him what we need, even to bribe him with prayer or cash on the line. Well, I believe that God knows what each of us wants and needs. It's not necessary for us to make it to church on Sunday to reach Him. You can find Him anyplace. And if that sounds heretical, my source is pretty good: Matthew, Five to Seven, The Sermon on the Mount.

You haven't found any answers for yourself in organized religion?

There are things about organized religion which I resent. Christ is revered as the Prince of Peace, but more blood has been shed in His name than any other figure in history. You show me one step forward in the name of religion and I'll show you a hundred retrogressions. Remember, they were men of God who destroyed the educational treasures at Alexandria, who perpetrated the Inquisition in Spain, who burned the witches at Salem. Over 25,000 organized religions flourish on this planet, but the followers of each think all the others are miserably misguided and probably evil as well. In India they worship white cows, monkeys and a dip in the Ganges. The Moslems accept slavery and prepare for Allah, who promises wine and revirginated women. And witch doctors aren't just in Africa. If you look in the L.A. papers of a Sunday morning, you'll see the local variety advertising their wares like suits with two pairs of pants.

Q: Hasn't religious faith just as often served as a civilizing influence?
Remember that leering, cursing lynch mob in Little Rock reviling a meek, innocent little 12-year-old Negro girl as she tried to enroll in public school? Weren't they -- or most of them -- devout churchgoers? I detest the two-faced who pretend liberality but are practiced bigots in their own mean little spheres. I didn't tell my daughter whom to marry, but I'd have broken her back if she had had big eyes for a bigot. As I see it, man is a product of his conditioning, and the social forces which mold his morality and conduct -- including racial prejudice -- are influenced more by material things like food and economic necessities than by the fear and awe and bigotry generated by the high priests of commercialized superstition. Now don't get me wrong. I'm for decency -- period. I'm for anything and everything that bodes love and consideration for my fellow man. But when lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday -- cash me out.

But aren't such spiritual hypocrites in a minority? Aren't most Americans fairly consistent in their conduct within the precepts of religious doctrine?

I've got no quarrel with men of decency at any level. But I can't believe that decency stems only from religion. And I can't help wondering how many public figures make avowals of religious faith to maintain an aura of respectability. Our civilization, such as it is, was shaped by religion, and the men who aspire to public office anyplace in the free world must make obeisance to God or risk immediate opprobrium. Our press accurately reflects the religious nature of our society, but you'll notice that it also carries the articles and advertisements of astrology and hokey Elmer Gantry revivalists. We in America pride ourselves on freedom of the press, but every day I see, and so do you, this kind of dishonesty and distortion not only in this area but in reporting -- about guys like me, for instance, which is of minor importance except to me; but also in reporting world news. How can a free people make decisions without facts? If the press reports world news as they report about me, we're in trouble.

This was from an interview in 1963 in Playboy magazine, back when people really did read it for the articles.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Autumn made muffins

Autumn made muffins.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bills to play Miami at home in Toronto

Bills Schedule is out. The Bills will play Miami in a home game at Rogers Center in Toronto. That sigh you hear across Western New York is a sigh that the this is step one to the Bills leaving the friendly confines of way, way south of Buffalo, NY, to the friendly confines of the mega city, and my former home, Toronto.

They'll never go there. Ever. A team might go there, but it won't be one from the league. Here's why: TV.

When I lived in Canada, I had an American Express Card. I had good credit on it (and i got Air Miles, I miss Air Miles). When I moved here, the banks, including Amex wouldn't lend me a dime. The only credit card I could get was the kind where you give them $300 and they give you a credit card with a $300 limit. It's a build credit card card.

I tell you all this because of this: if Amex buys an ad on TV, they aren't interested in the number of Canadians whop see the ad. in fact, they could care less. Thus, if the team left Buffalo, all of Western New York would stop watching, and they would be replaced by all of Toronto. And while the all of Toronto is a bigger number, it's actually a net loss of numbers for Amex (and every other brand that advertises).

Meaning, they would ask the networks for a discount. And the networks would ask the NFL for a discount. And who does that help?

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Now that I'm a citizen, this is good news

A reporter on the campaign trail asked John McCain about torturing terrorism detainees. here's his response:
"I’ve made it very clear, I’ve made it very clear in my statements and in my support of the Detainee Treatment Act, the Geneva Conventions, etc., that there may be some additional techniques to be used, but none of those would violate the Geneva Conventions, the Detainee Treatment Act…And we cannot ever, in my view, torture any American, that includes waterboarding."
My first thought, good thing I got my US citizenship. Because doesn't he seem to be saying that everyone else is fair game to be tortured?

Or did he simply misspeak.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Some images

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Our brown-eyed girl

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Friday, April 11, 2008

George Clooney reveals love of curling - The Daily Record

MOVIE superstar George Clooney has revealed he's a huge fan of curling.The actor has told how he got hooked on the brush and ice sport while filming The Perfect Storm in Canada.Coverage was never off the box when Clooney was in the country in 2000.And he soon became fascinated with the players' efforts to sweep granite stones on to the ice target.He said: "It was on every channel and I was like, 'What the hell? My God, have something more on'.
George Clooney reveals love of curling - The Daily Record

Sometimes I wonder if this kind of thing is good or bad from the game. I think it's good. Clooney was, after all, in Return of Killer Tomatoes, one of my favorite movies.
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making a call expecting a miss

sometimes in curling it's easy to think that the other team will miss. If someone plays 80%, which is good, that's 1 miss every 5 shots. Still, expecting a miss is fine for wednesday night Brodie (or other league play), but not so good when you're at the worlds. Take the first end of China/USA. China has last rock. This is the situation that USA faces on Skips first.

China might be sitting two, which is sort of scary. But the way this end went, this is actually a good situation for US. They could just freeze to the back one, and really choke off the scoring area. Instead, they call a peel weight over the top double.

Here's my real problem with the call. The perfect double leaves China with a come around to the top four. They would play the inturn, and that would open up jams on the back red.

I understand the temptation to play a hit, but this is such a hard shot. A better shot, in my opinion, is pushing the back yellow an inch, and sitting shot and third. China would be left wondering what to play to get two.

These little moments in games are the ones that add up to free points. Give them away, and it takes 90% to win games.

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Autumn called

The ladies just called. Actually it was almost all Autumn. She called to tell me that she went poopy on the potty. Clearly, we're in full-on celebration mode when she goes. She also flushed.

When she flushes, she says "bye-bye poopy" and waves.

autumn and Rhona 2

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

We said smile

Our daughter is a ham. We said smile, this is what we got.

We said smile

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A letter from Chuck

I write to senators and congressmen a lot. Only two have written back. I once wrote to Senator Inhofe telling him to start taking global warming seriously. His response was to say that since China didn't, then why should we.

A sitting US Senator essentially used the grade school kid excuse of "he did it too" in his response to me. Well, at least he responded. But since Senator Inhofe is from Oklahoma, and I'm now a voting citizen of the State of New York, it matters more to me that Senator Schumer has responded to an e-mail I sent him about FISA.

I basically asked Chuck to not allow retroactive immunity to telecoms. His response:
Dear Mr. Hames:

Thank you for contacting me to express your views regarding the Senate bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). I share your concerns about expanding wiretapping authority without providing adequate safeguards as well as granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies.

With the rise of mobile phones and other technological changes, there is widespread agreement within the intelligence community that FISA needs to be updated. I believe that we must give the intelligence community the tools necessary to protect our country. However, I also believe that the rules for intelligence collection must be clear and fair, and that we need independent oversight to ensure that these rules are not abused. This is why I voted in favor of several amendments that would have improved the FISA Amendments Act by clarifying surveillance rules, adding better safeguards, and requiring more independent oversight. Unfortunately, these amendments failed.

I also think that it would be unwise to grant blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies facing lawsuits based on their alleged assistance with government surveillance. I have reviewed classified information pertinent to the government’s warrantless wiretapping program, and have consistently opposed retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry. I voted against granting immunity both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. I believe that it should be up to the courts, not Congress, to decide whether any telecommunications company that assisted the government was acting legally. The existing lawsuits raise serious constitutional questions, and our federal courts are traditionally the final arbiters of such questions. If Congress steps in to grant immunity now, the country may never know whether President Bush overstepped his authority. If the courts are allowed to exercise their judgment, we will be better prepared to resolve similar controversies in the future.

I could not in good conscience support the final Senate version of the FISA Amendments Act. It would grant blanket retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies and give the government new surveillance authorities without adequate safeguards. Nevertheless, the bill passed the Senate and is currently in conference to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions. It is my hope that Congress and the President will soon agree on a responsible compromise measure that provides new tools for our intelligence community along with robust privacy protections and independent court oversight.

Thank you for contacting me about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can ever be of assistance to you on this, or any other matter.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
I added the bolded link that points out that FISA has been updated 50 times since it was enacted, so I'm not sure what he means about updating FISA.

But more to the point, this is where it's come to. From his letter: "I believe that it should be up to the courts, not Congress, to decide whether any telecommunications company that assisted the government was acting legally."

The three equal branches of government isn't something we should believe in, is it?

Congress makes laws, the President signs them in, and the judiciary adjudicates them. Congress can change laws, but it should not step in and retroactively change them before they come in front of the courts.

And that's really what retroactive immunity means. It means that before the courts rule on whether telecoms broke the law, congress would change it. That would negate the role of the third co-equal branch of government. I'm glad that Senator Schumer believes this is the right course, but that it's come to this is a testament of the times we live in.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I'll never win the Lottery

Just testing my ability to be so wrong, so soon. I said the whole Asian wing of curling wouldn't win in Men's curling. Yesterday.


China Shocks Canadian Men in World Curling Championship.

In other news, I think the Iraq war will go on forever, John McCain will win the White House and the Republicans will win back their majority.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Asian teams at the worlds

This is going to sound sexist and a bit revisionist, but I did start this after the Women's worlds and kept forgetting to finish it.

At this year's women's world championships, China won silver and Japan won bronze. It's been hailed as a triumph of the asian pros. Meaning, the women from China and Japan don't have day jobs. They just curl (sort of like us back in juniors).

The thinking here is this: if you can simply curl all the time, you'll get good. it's the Rockstar curling theory. Take players, have them throw rocks 8 hours a day, and they can win.

In women's. The women's game of curling is different. I'm not sure why, but I am sure it's different. First of all, Men can throw it a lot harder. The guy currently representing Canada throws it harder, with more accuracy, than any player on the planet. Period. I would wager that the next 1000 people who throw it hard, and accurate, are men.

That makes it different. But there's another element that makes it different, because throwing it hard doesn't mean wins (see Howard, Glenn).

I dare say it's something in the noggin, but I've sat with really accomplished women's curlers who've talked in a smart way about the game. Women just think a bit different.

It's not a bad thing. I'm sorta glad Autumn will think a bit different than I do.

I've said all this for this reason: Asian teams will no medal at the men's world championship for a while. They might get so technically good that they can make a lot of shots, but in the men's game, that's only part of the battle. The other part is calling the right one. There's a bigger cost in Men's curling to the wrong shot being called than there is in women's curling.

I'm not sure why, but there is.

I think the Bear will get his world's, but you have to think there's a bit of pressure on him.

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Something special or something normal

I asked this question on Twitter. I find myself using it more and more. But here's the thing: Autumn went poopy on the potty again last night. it's becoming more and more a normal thing. We treat it like it's amazing. But I wonder:

Should we treat a poopy as ordinary or extraordinary?

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Monday, April 07, 2008

There are 13 stripes on a US flag

I choked. Flat out, chokage.

Now, before i go on, I should tell you that after waiting for almost 2 hours, I finally got called in for my interview. Autumn and mommy were with me.

So he calls me into the same room that Rhona and i went in after we got married. That's the interview that they confirm I didn't marry her for a green card. They want pictures of the wedding, of the honeymoon, of our lives together.

This time, he jumped right into my application. I had to read a sentence, and then right one that he dictated. Then he began asking me all sorts of questions like: ever been arrested, ever lied to the Government, ever been part of a terrorist group, etc, when all of a sudden, he starts the TEST.

Rhona gave me the test about 2 months ago. There are 100 questions that they pull 10 from. To pass, one needs 6 correct. When doing that test, I got 96 of 100 right.

"How many stripes on the flag?"

I choked. I knew it was 13. But for some reason, the only number that popped inot my head was 50.

"50", I said, off to a bad start.

Thinking about it now, I wonder if the next questions are dependent on whether you get it right or wrong becuse the next question was "How many states in the union".

The next one was who is the governor of New York State? I didn't know the dudes name, but they accepted the other guy. The one who just got caught with his pants down.

Anyway, like I said, I got 9 our of 10 and my citizenship. The swearing in ceremony is May 15th at 8:00AM.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008


No idea what this is. But weird. Even weirder, the HamesWeb mini-putt game.

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Autumn loves Ketchup. The thing is though, it breaks one of the rules that I think are really important, it has High Fructose Corn Syrup. (HFCS)

There really isn't a worse sweetener you can put in your body, but it's in everything. I just finished reading a book called In Defense of Food. In in Mr Pollan talks about the average amount of calories an American gets from corn. it's something like 10%. A day.

And it's not like we're having corn on the cob two times a day. It's the HFCS in everything we eat.

So a few months ago, we were in Brampton giving Autumn Ketchup. I looked on the ingredients and noticed that HFCS isn't in Canadian Ketchup. Weird. Anyway, Rhona found some Ketchup here in the US that doesn't have HFCS, so we're all set.

But I think Americans are beginning to notice that the food we eat is a little weirder. Check out this clip from a recent Raptors game:

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Two kids

In sports-speak, we're changing our defense from a prevent zone defense to a straight man-on-man defense.

Right now, if Autumn is in the room with both of us, one of us can be on her, while the other one can play back up defense. It's somewhat necessary. Turn around for 10 seconds, and she's dancing on a chair, or a table, or the dining room table.

Or she's nine-tenths up the stairs ready to jump on the spare bed ("Autumn's bed", she calls it).

And when "The Captain" comes? (that's our working nickname until we settle on his name).


See, I remember those days. Of no sleep. Crazy poops. This what we're in for while we sit and watch her.

Back to the sports. We're going to be man-on-man. And in some instances, when either mommy or daddy are out, we'll be one person on two.

Now, admittedly, when they are new, the littles need food, sleep, and a clean diaper. They aren't mobile, and outside of the fact that they need food and a clean diaper every three hours (or so), they aren't that much trouble.

We have the swing. We'll be using it again. Hopefully, without spit up.

Point is: we're ready. We're scared, excited, nervous, elated, worried, thrilled, and most definitely done. This is it. Two.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What happens now

If you occasionally read this blog, thanks. Plus, I need your help. Clearly, I wasn't thinking when I created this blog. What I wasn't thinking is that my little squiggly dudes would penetrate another egg.

But one did. And that means if I update little dudes progress here, it'll be weird for him. It's a hand-me-down blog.

So I need ideas. Got any?

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