The Deduction for State and Local Taxes

I didn’t see this thought there, but I’ve always felt that state and local governments are better suited to address the needs of people (the needs of 25,000 are better managed than 25,000,000, and those better managed than 250,000,000). So by creating larger state and local systems, we become more effective in identifying and serving, and leave the federal government to work towards the national interest.

I know it’s not the most “liberal” perspective, but it’s just common sense.
via Facebook http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/13/the-deduction-for-state-and-local-taxes/?smid=fb-share

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and we’re waiting, we’re waiting for your call

I’ve struggled over the last few days as I’ve continued to read more about the surveillance that the NSA has done on Americans, and the incredible amount of metadata that our government has at its fingertips to use when a situation presents itself.

I find that I am of two minds when it comes to this issue.  To some degree, I recognize that I am a part of a digital era, wherein it has become much easier for people to show off every bit of their lives on a screen for anyone to consume.  I’ve had a blog since 2001, and have written about all sorts of things.  I even wrote about this exact issue awhile back.  I personally felt that at some point, this “digital self” cultural shift is a tidal wave, and the best I can do is try to surf on it without getting buried.  So when employers inevitably see my Facebook wall or Twitter feed, they’ll see them relatively unfiltered, and I try to use them (and this blog) with the audience of “the whole world” in mind.  Many people who actively use modern technology work against this openness and try to exclude people, but I believe at the end of the day they’re going to lose.  For every new protection, there will be a dozen new ways to overcome it.  We value that at times, and we revile it still at other times.  So if I am going to use these technologies, why not be willing to be open?  After all, it is possible to not use it in spite of every prepubescent adolescent’s screaming protestation – my wife has not had a Facebook account for nearly year, and I can report no ill effects.

But, this has all been my choice.  I chose to have Facebook, chose to use it in the way I do, and choose to continue as I want.  If I want to delete it, it’s my choice.  And that’s where the NSA revelations have been particularly disconcerting.  Irrespective of privacy policies, which have become unintelligible shields to allow companies to do what they wish, I’m not convinced I was given an option to not have my information aggregated somewhere or not.  Again, I always have the option to refuse a service, but if what these organizations are doing really protect the public interest (or, in the case of some of the private organizations, their shareholders who are also users), does the opaque nature of our contract really help anyone?

I tried to distill this down to something a little less vague, and why I’m convinced that this is our generation’s Watergate moment, and why no one is going to do anything about it.

As a homeowner, it turns out I really care about keeping my home safe and secure.  I spend hundreds of dollars a month on monitoring equipment to make sure no one breaks in.  I don’t spend as much as I could, but I make sure to maintain a modest security system, make sure that my locks work, and keep my garage door closed – some people will want more, some will want less.  When something’s wrong, the police will come and help me, and I like that.  I trust CPD, I trust the level of safety I have.

Now, let’s say tomorrow while I’m home I get a knock at the door and a government representative comes to my door and says “hey, we’d like to make you more safe, so we’re going to sit on your porch every day and watch who comes in and out of the house, and when we think there may be something going on, we’re going to walk in unannounced and walk around.  You don’t really have a choice when we come in, it’s just when we think so”.

I’m gonna say no.

But what if the representative then says “Oh?  Well, sorry to hear that.  Especially considering there’s a strong chance that someone at any given time is going to break in here and kill all of you and burn your house down.  In fact, we believe that it could happen at any moment.  You’re not really ever safe.  So, really, your options are to put yourself in constant risk of having you and your wife killed, or have us stationed here.  You know that were weren’t there for those folks down the street and everything that they had was obliterated.  And I mean bad.  Don’t forget that.  Here’s some pictures and video about it so you remember, and make sure to turn on the TV so that you hear about it some more.  It happened again to people six hours away, too – in Detroit.  It could happen here.  And it’s been happening for the last 10 years – you’ve grown up it.  What do you think now?”

Now I’m thinking I might be a bad husband if I don’t do something.  My wife dying because of my inattention to our security is unfathomable and unforgivable.  And Detroit!  That’s right down the way!  It’s a Midwest city!  People right down the street, too!  And let’s not forget the permanency of death, so maybe yeah, I’ll take the representative up on his or her offer, after all.

But then again.

On a long enough time frame, the chances of a violent crime will increase simply because of my exposure to the outside world.  And I don’t live in a violent neighborhood, nor do I live in a violent city, really – there were right around 5,400 violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault) in a city of 770,122 for the last reporting period that ODPS has (2010).  That’s about 6 violent crimes for every 1,000 people.  The way that my rep makes it sound, it’s like it’s happening everywhere all the time and is coming to me next.  The pictures and commentary of the devastation is terrible, so it burns in my head the consequences.

That fear isn’t necessarily rational, but when I consider that I haven’t known anything else for the last few years, I may just consent because I don’t know the alternative.

That’s my fear today with PRISM and all of the NSA work.  The consequence of another 9/11 is heavy enough of people’s minds that we’re willing to sacrifice our freedoms to avoid it, even though the realities of terrorist attacks on our soil are limited.  Scenes from the WTC and Boston continue to grip us so that reality is inconsequential.  So sure, I’m mad that my Verizon info and my emails are stored somewhere, but hey, it may mean that a terrorist won’t bomb San Francisco (do any of you feel as offended reading that as I did writing it?).

One final thing – David Brooks wrote an editorial yesterday in which he criticizes Edward Snowden for leaking this information, in essence arguing that Snowden violated the basic moral contract with the American public.  This quote is helpful:

For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things.

This would be acceptable is Snowden, 29, would have had a reference for “basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures”.  As someone in the same generation as Snowden, I can say unequivocally that has not been the case.  Our government has given very little in demonstrating that trust to its people, especially since 9/11, when many of us shaped as solidified our own worldviews.  To assume that this is not a failing of cultural transference from one generation to the next is to miss much of the problem.  My generation has watched my parent’s generation and its representatives make a mockery of the basic tenants of civility, justice, and respect out of selfishness and greed.  At best, we choose to right wrongs within the system, and at worst we just try to upend it.  That’s all Snowden did.  And Mr. Brooks is just simply continuing his generation’s modus operandi of blame without self-reflection.

boston, babies, brokenness

For those of you that have known me for any extended period of time, know that I for as long as I can remember, my primary occupational desires were to be a husband and a father.  This isn’t to say I haven’t had multiple other aspirations, but rather that through all of it, I felt those aspirations should give way to a family.  When Lindsey and I met and married, we both shared that interest.

In August, we found out that were pregnant!  And it was by choice!  I ran such a range of emotions – excitement, fear, expectation, hope, and most of all love.  I was going to be a dad!

We had decided to be very open from the beginning of our pregnancy to be able to have a community around us no matter what.  We used our wedding list as a guide – if you were someone that was at our wedding or we really wanted to be there but couldn’t get you there, you were likely close enough to tell about the little blueberry swimming around.  We told our church, too, knowing that they often provide us our support – they are a major part of our community here in Columbus.

A few weeks went by, and it was time for the first ultrasound – a chance to see my child for the first time.  I was giddy, and I don’t use that word often because no one should call themselves giddy unless they really are – it’s embarrassing.

We sat in the examination room and waited for the tech to come in and start.  For those of you have never seen these early ultrasound exams… let me tell you that they look amongst some of the most awkward experiences ever.  Anyway, we waited as the tech moved her wand, and before long we found our baby.  We waited for movement and heartbeat.
They never came.

Apparently, the baby was two weeks too small.  The doctor suggested that maybe we miscounted our cycle and that we come back later and try again.  When we did, it was the same result.  No movement, no heartbeat.  Our first child, who by then had recognizable limb and organ development, had died.

As I’ve reflected on that time in our life together, the part that is most difficult is the fleeting time we got to share with whoever that child was.  The extent to which I interacted with my first baby was on a screen in a sterile doctor’s office 25 minutes away from my house and three hours away from the rest of my family.  I don’t know anything more about that child, and when I look to this week, which would have been the week of delivery, it’s what haunts me the most.  Many of my contemporaries are having children, and while I celebrate their joy, I can’t help but think about my first baby.  I don’t know how that child would smile, or how it would play.  I don’t know anything except what it looked like on an ultrasound.

This is certainly a rough week.  With the events of yesterday and my heart already heavy, I feel like I cannot connect my words to my heart.  As I was reading many responses on varying social media outlets, I felt that I wasn’t the only one.  Some folks exhorted us to not rush to judgement, others tried to provide moments of levity, and finally others just avoided the topic altogether, no doubt in a conscious effort to demonstrate social media is not the appropriate space for commentary.

I tried to find something to summarize my thoughts, and I found a poem by ee cummings.  I posted it yesterday on Facebook, and want to share again:

in spite of everything
which breathes and moves,since Doom
(with white longest hands
neatening each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds

-before leaving my room
i turn,and(stooping
through the morning)kiss
this pillow,dear
where our heads lived and were.

As I get older, and as I try to understand why this world continues to spin itself away from justice, I feel like it’s not right for me to tell anyone that they shouldn’t be pissed and want to punish someone – it’s a reasonable reaction, and reasonable people will realize soon that it’s not the right approach.  I’m also not going to try to make light of the situation – so many friends wanted Lindsey to move on after our miscarriage.  It happens all the time, they’d say.  That is cold comfort when it’s your child.  So no, you have a right to be as upset as you want, and mourn how you want.

I can’t ignore it either.  So instead, I just love my wife more.

I tell you that I love you, too, and that yep, this world is shitty, and it’s not fair, and why would someone do this I know I know I know, but you are loved.

The gospel is love in its full and mysterious weight, and it doesn’t require explanation or reconciliation.  It’s sometimes simply remembering to kiss the pillow I slept on with my wife, and carry on determined to love more, even when I deliver it with complete and total imperfection.

make lent easy in five simple steps

“Pomegranate looks like any island of upscale consumerism, but deep down it is based on a countercultural understanding of how life should work.”

Maybe I’m just an old man, but I find myself disagreeing here for the same reason I get tired of the: OMG LENT IS SO HARD THANK GOD I HAVE (fill in the blank) TO MAKE IT SO EASY. Pomegranate in Brooks’ article is responding to our consumer-driven needs; adherence to rules is secondary.

Our need to be medicated by convenience is embarrassing at times. When did things like Orthodoxy and Lent become about the minimum amount of effort? I’m not saying we should flagellate ourselves in the name of piety, but I’m not really impressed that you’re making it through your Friday fast because you found some kick-ass recipe for barbeque sauce that now doesn’t make the “I’m showing how Godly I am by swallowing down vegan food I wouldn’t do normally” fast feel so difficult.

At that point it’s just the law, and it’s not the Spirit. Pretty sure Jesus wasn’t a fan of that.

And lest any of you get prickly because you’re guilty of it – I can stand right in that line, too.

Link to NYT Article

full circle

Before coming to Columbus, I spent three years as a full time Campus Minister.  I loved that time in my life.  I felt that many of the gifts and talents that I thought I had were finally unleashed.  I walked through people’s lives every day, and created space for some of the best people I’ve ever made figure themselves out and how God fit into that space.  I never saw it as a forceful endeavor.  Just people with a common focus and goal.  I often told that to my mentored students – I wasn’t there to tell them what to do, but instead to walk a little ahead with a lantern to help them see the path in front of them.

Fast forward to now.  Recently (and at the early behest of my wife), I’ve reconsidered a call to go back to full time ministry and go to seminary.  This, obviously, would represent a major lifestyle change and mean moving away from a home, neighborhood, church, and city that I’ve fallen deeply in love with to start a whole new step in my life.

It’s also doing something that I’ve been determined to run from most of my life.  For many reasons I decided that my focus should be on something other than full time ministry, and as of today I’ve worked in public service for nearly five years now in some capacity, starting in Dublin as a Planning Assistant in 2008.  It’s been good work, and has reinforced in me a desire to serve people in some capacity.  But there’s always been a part of me throughout that time saying “well, maybe I was created for something different”.  So to that end, I’ve decided to start discerning a move to seminary over the next year.  I thought this may be a good space to ask the questions that I want to discuss and receive some feedback.  Maybe someone will say something – maybe not.  Whatever.

I realize this is kind of rambling, but it’s been awhile since I wrote a meaningful post on this blog.  I figure it’ll take some time to get back into the saddle.

can liberal christianity be saved?

If you haven’t read this article yet and you’re at all interested in Christianity in culture, please read this great editorial by Ross Douthat. 

I fear that many liberal Christians have tucked tail at worst, and at best (and what I think it most correct) in the last generation miscommunicated the ultimate point of why they are bent on Social Justice – that this is God’s world, and that he desires shalom.  Yet we’ve been caught in political causes du jour without an ultimate point.  And as a result, I think it causes significant atrophy.

Why do we care about gay marriage?  Why do we care about environmentalism?  Why do we care about feeding the poor?  If we can’t answer those questions both personally and corporately, we have bought into a shallow and stagnant theology that will not satisfy our world nor us.  We’ve ultimately become a world of zombie Christians where we don’t think but just do.  That lack of intellectual insight (half because all of the sudden religion is “deeply-personal-and-emotional-and-I-don’t-need-to-read-just-feel-when-really-I-don’t-get-this-stuff-and-I’d-rather-be-lazy-than-understand” and half because there are very few modern Christian leaders who challenge people to the contrary) is what will make us irrelevant.

Frankly, I think Christians are just the canary in the coal mine, and that society at large doesn’t think anymore.  But it’s far easier to point out a group you don’t affiliate with than to point the finger square at your own folks.

Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved? – NYTimes.com.

The Opportunity Gap – Brooks

This is one of the biggest issues I see our society facing today – the growing disparity between rich and poor – and yet I hear very little being talked about it on the federal political stage.  In fact, I think I’ve heard more from our own GOP governor on the topic than either Mitt Romney or President Obama.

With the ever-increasing cost of higher education, which, if a poor child was able to attend (and, based on Brooks’ editorial,  increasingly unlikely) could give him or her a leg-up, is becoming evermore impossible to pay for it.

We are commodifying our children’s future for wealth today.  In the end, that will be the loose thread that will tear the fabric of our society apart.  There are many, many children who aren’t even poor but working class that are starting to lose opportunity.  I see it even families back home, and here in Columbus.  There must be something done.  And if the higher education industry (which I shutter at when I write it, the simple fact that education has become industry) won’t do it, we need some sort of regulation to do so.

How sad.  We cannot even love our children and work to develop a prosperous nation in the future without the government saying so.  It’s a damning indictment of our society.

The Opportunity Gap – NYTimes.com.

The ‘Busy’ Trap

This blog entry reminds me of a post I had a couple years ago – that we become so “busy” that we avoid knowing ourselves.  This happens all the time in the name of an enlightened human experience, but I think we ultimately do ourselves a disservice.

The ‘Busy’ Trap – NYTimes.com.

ps – if you’re too lazy to find the article from before, here you are: https://bestthingisay.wordpress.com/2007/07/17/philosophy-of-busyness/

in praise of the in shape church

I recently started going to a doctor in Grandview who is focused on the whole person, and creating wellness, too.  Called a patient-center medical home, not only do I know I’ll be taken care of when I’m sick, but when I’m feeling fine, too.  Recently, I was told by my new doctor that I have an issue with my cholesterol.  Not that I have too much of it, really, but more that I have small, dense cholesterol that’s worse for my heart.  No big surprise, the ways I was told to manage it best were diet and exercise, so that I’m a little smaller and in better shape than I am now.

This little tidbit got me thinking about churches.  I’ve always had some kind of beef with megachurches (and I suppose I’m saying that as a caveat as well as historical revelation), be it because they didn’t really play music that people could sing too, that they were too glossy of a production and not more reflective of humanity, or if it were just that they were just too big for their own good.  Now I think I’ve my finger on it – I think big churches have gotten too fat.

If I had a dollar for every increased benefit one receives if they are in shape and in a reasonable weight range, I could have someone run off my extra pounds for me.  Cardiovascular health, better sleep patterns, increased memory: the list goes on and on and on.  We value “in-shapeness” in our body because it enhances every other part of our life.  It makes our machines run with greater efficiency.

Paul notes that we are a body of believers put together to serve a common purpose, and while the context of this passage is more related to the connectedness that all people have irrespective of their background, the analogy serves a good purpose.  If we become a body with separate roles, it makes sense that at some point, a church can only have so many ears, feet, eyes, and hands.  This is what happens in megachurches.  If I want to sing in front of the church some Sunday, a bunch of social roadblocks limit me because hey, we already have all of our worship singers, but thanks anyway!  These groups subsequently become more cliquish until before you know it, no one else comprises that body part.  Instead, that person becomes a blithe marginal churchgoer, reducing his relationship with God to a couple truisms and sing (as my grandfather coined them) two or three “7-11” songs: seven words repeated eleven times.  To me, that person becomes the fatty cells of the church: they serve a vital function, sure, but most of the time, it is too much and it is injurious.  What is a shame is that if that person had decided to find a church that was more agile and light, he could have been the voice he knew he could be.

My church, for instance, only has a couple hundred in attendance, but we all know each other, and we have many places for churchgoers to fill roles.  If you want to sing, go ahead!  we have a traditional choir and a worship team as well.  Do you want to be on a committee that helps with environmental issues?  Do you want to play on a kickball team?  Do you want to read Scripture to the church?  Work with kids?  We have all of those, and we haven’t created cliques that limit others from doing those things.  I’d like to think Boulevard is in shape.  And that’s not to say we don’t have a little fat (everyone needs a little fat), but I believe those folks choose to be the fat, and aren’t relegated there because someone else had managed to be the eyes and ears first.

Size doesn’t always have to do with shape, though.  New Salem Baptist where I attended had many more regular attendees than Boulevard has, but there were many places to connect to.  Ultimately, however, I felt that it wasn’t right for me, and went back to Boulevard to serve.  I want to serve in a small, lean, in shape church.  I’ll serve in a welterweight versus a heavyweight, but I know they both can go many rounds and are going to continue to work out.

The megachurches, however, seem to be like high school linebackers at 40, dreaming about the days when they could lift cars and knock the competition to the ground.  They became lazy and unfocused, and before you knew it, the former linebacker was his bygone shape encased by decades of sloth and fat.   He tries to find ways to be relevant and cool, but he can’t escape what he’s become.  Only the hard work of training will get him back.

It all depends on whether he realizes he needs to or not.

Is Facebook making us lonely? No, the Atlantic cover story is wrong. – Slate Magazine

Is Facebook making us lonely? No, the Atlantic cover story is wrong. – Slate Magazine

This is the counter argument to the Atlantic article about Facebook increasing loneliness.  Personally, as a former campus minister and decade-long collegiate, I tend to agree with the former argument, but may augment it a little – it’s not just Facebook, but technology that has caused us to become more lonely. From the push of post World War II suburban design on to today, we’re creating culture that allows (and encourages) isolation.

Is Facebook making us lonely? No, the Atlantic cover story is wrong. – Slate Magazine.

grandma frosty, and life within death

Image

Me, Lindsey, Grandma Frosty and Grandpa Jack

Lindsey’s grandma Faustena passed away last Saturday, and we subsequently had the funeral on Tuesday.  It’s been a whirlwind last week, especially when you consider we’re in the throes of buying a house and trying to pack up our apartment.  Turns out these things do not go to any particular plan, and so we’ve put together things as best we could.  If you all could have been an intimate part of my last year, you’d see that these kind of things are just part of Lindsey’s and my life – everything happens all at once, and it’s always big, heavy stuff.  Frosty was in the hospital at Ohio State right when we began dating, and we moved our wedding up in large part because we wanted to be sure her grandparents could attend.  In fact, had we waited, we would have been two weeks too late.  That would have been devastating.

Death is something I’ve always had a hard time with.  Its permanence; its finality; and perhaps most difficult for me, its inertia.  I could be working on something today, and suddenly die.  My work and efforts to this point will suddenly cease, and I won’t necessarily be able to come back after a brief vacation to come back and start again – no “surprise!  Back to business!”  I struggle with the thought that every last thing I’ve done could potentially be affixed with ellipses, never to be brought to final declaration.  It hastens my steps at times, even before I’ve clicked over to begin my fourth decade on the planet.

However, Jesus died, was buried, and three days later returned to fulfill Scripture.  In Frosty’s funeral mass, we were reminded of this, and many shared in the Eucharistic celebration of a Jesus that could conquer death.  The priest reminded us that Frosty’s cancer was her crucifixion, and that by sharing in death, she will celebrate the resurrection with Christ at her side.  While that thought simply rocks the logical and scientific parts of me into disbelief, I know that these things are true.  The completeness of my worldview helps me believe that there is a reunion, however it happens.  The ellipses of this life merely move to a new paragraph of eternal life.

Henri Nouwen, in his book Life of The Beloved, mentions in one of his final chapters (“Given”) that while we give in life, we also give in death.  Our legacy, our life, and what we’ve done have lasting impact on those we knew.  Our penultimate gift is ourselves in death.  As I write now, I think about what impact Grandma Frosty had on her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all of the spouses that entered into the family.  I am the newest one of those spouses, and her heart and humor had an impact on me.  How much more when months instead span years and decades for all the other members of her family?

So death’s inertia is not inertia at all, but rather resting on the accomplishments of a life lived as best as possible.  Whenever I pass, I will put the final touches on my work here, and join a multitude cheering on the rest behind me to grow, learn, and leave behind something better.  That’s something to fear and anticipate with excitement, but not hasten more than necessary.  There’s so much to do here.

When Lindsey and I visited in the afternoon on Saturday, just a few hours before she passed, her sentences were broken and not easy to understand.  One thing that came through clearly, however, was her asking Linds “Are you going to be okay?”.  Linds said yes, I’ll be okay, will you?  Grandma Frosty replied “oh, yes, I’ll be fine.”  That interaction shook me.  Am I the type of person who even now asks folks “are you going to be okay?”

God, please help me be that man.

garbage and whimper (sopa and pipa)

In case you’ve tried in the last few hours to check something out on Wikipedia, you’ll note that there’s a big, blacked out screen taking you to information regarding SOPA and PIPA.  In case you’ve not heard much about it, here’s a good article from Al-Jazeera in regards to the ban.

There are plenty of folks that are way wiser than me who are making thoughtful arguments about why SOPA and PIPA are bad, and I tend to agree.  If one is spending so much time being worried about whether something on their site is pirated, it will allocate precious energy away from creativity and innovation.  I’d rather not have Wikipedia wasting time on that – we see Jimmy Wales’ face more often than we’d like to now, imagine if he had to hire a bunch more staff just to check links?

I’m a person who came into his internet maturity just as Napster was in its heyday.  As such, my definitions of moral piracy are probably further down the continuum than a lot of folks, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see a value in correcting a distribution system that also stifles creativity – at least the way it’s done now.  Open sourcing, pay-what-you-want music distribution, and fee-based services like Netflix and Spotify have taken steps to move with culture and the shift in technology.  It is, in fact, possible to curtail piracy, but I think we need to recognize that it is as much a part of our lives as dubbing cassettes was 20 years ago.

As it’s been with the Occupy movement and other groans of “the-world-is-not-how-it-should-be” right now, I think that the business leaders who are trying to make decisions in the interest of their shareholders need to see what kind of economic value judgements have changed in the last generation.  If someone doesn’t want to wait the 56 days required for a new DVD, it’s easier to download it from elsewhere.  It’s too easy now.  The alternative for Warner Bros and other is either to bend to the will of the consumer, or lose money.  I believe that as time goes along, this will become a greater reality.

In the end, I think about my grandfather with his laptop at home.  I’ve taught him at least a half a dozen times to check his email, to learn how to type a letter, and to conduct simple web searches.  I would not expect him to provide thoughtful guidance on technological policy in the US.  And yet, we have individuals who are not too far off my grandfather’s age and their bedfellows determining how the internet should be policed.  It doesn’t make sense.  We do need a change, it’s true; we need the experts in the field to provide us with a thoughtful alternative.

SOPA and PIPA are garbage and whimper in Sweedish, respectively.

jesus at 29

I wonder what it was like for Jesus at 29.

Right on the verge of starting a brief but history-bending career as the rabbi of all rabbis, did he question what he was going to do?  Did he keep telling himself that eventually he was going to go down and visit cousin John and get baptized?

Did he second guess getting in the carpentry trades?  His dad’s business paid the bills, sure, but was it fulfilling?  Was it something to wake him up before the sunrise with excitement, or just a job?

Were mom and dad worried that he wasn’t going to settle down, take a wife, and continue the proud lineage of the greatest kings if Israel?  They remembered the visions, but they were so young back then.  Lots of travel back then, it could have been exhaustion or bad food.

He’s got to feel like he’s been made for something more than what he’s doing now.  He heard the stories.  He knows it’s only a matter of time; just keep studying and learning, eventually it’ll happen.  It’ll all make sense.

And when it does, the world will respond in kind with exponential parts adoration and hatred.  Reviled by his peers, but celebrated by raca – the worthless.

But for now, he’s one year removed.  A few hundred sleeps more from awakening the Kingdom.

what’s happened since march…

…has been a lot.  I mean, that’s even an understatement.  I think that had you told me where my life would be in just six months, I wouldn’t have believed you, but here we are.  I will run this down for you, and then discuss what I’d like to do in the future with this blog, and just in general.

This is a description of my life after March 8, 2011:

  • I graduated with my MPA on March 20.  I really wanted to see what it was like to graduate in St. John’s, and so I went.  The worst part of graduate graduation in the Winter is you have to wait for every undergrad to get their diploma.  It took an hour.  Just sitting there.  I remember the chair being uncomfortable and shaking E. Gordon Gee’s hand.  I don’t remember what the woman said for the commencement speech (and she warned us that’d happen, anyway).  It ended a period of higher education that spanned from August 2001… almost exactly a decade.
  • I started my new job on April 11.  I help to create affordable housing policy for a program that helps move people out of nursing homes into community when they want to leave.  It means I need to have working knowledge of the affordable housing industry as well as Medicaid.  I love my job.  I enjoy the people I work with.  It pays well, and I have good benefits.  I’m even more excited about the idea that this job will position me well for the next one, whatever that’s going to be.  Jesus was right when he said the poor will always be among us.  I love working in a job that helps them on the macro level.  It’s what I wanted to do.
  • My brother was wed to his fiancee on April 16.  My first time as best man, it was a wonderful (and rather emotional) day for me.  I watched my little brother get married and start a whole new life.  Our family expanded +1.  We’re a small family, too, so that +1 is significant… like an increase of 20%.
  • I met Lindsey McIntosh in person on April 25.  We’d been chatting online a week before then.  We went for tea and a walk that day.  By the time I walked to her home and gave her a kiss goodnight, we had 3 more dates planned.  It was that good.
  • I found out my brother and his wife were pregnant with their first child on May 30.  I was of course very excited for them, but their combined age is almost 10 years younger than my parents, and they’re not that old.  But, it turns out that’s why you have families.  Our family expanded +1.
  • I asked Lindsey to marry me on August 30.  She said yes.  My most immediate family expanded +1, which marks a 100% increase.  Our other families are now going to be expanding +1.

And so here I am.  I have three new family members, a new job, and am planning for a wedding, and for a new life.  Many of you who have known me for a while know that my heart has always been into having a family over just about anything else.  It’s not to say that I tried to force it, but I was happy when this life finally came.  It’s been years and years in the making, and here I am.

So I hope to actually write again.  To use this as a source of reflection, of thoughts about the world, and more importantly of recording my life.  As always, you all can view as much as you want of it.

rethinking internet identity

So I’ve given some time to thinking about the issues of internet identity.  In a world where we all seem to use the internet and the world inside our computers than outside it, I felt like as I approach the time where I’ll be interviewing and looking for full employment, making sure my internet presence is what I want it to be is essential.

And of course we should all be concerned about this: this article in 2007 demonstrates that people are looking at Facebook, MySpace, and now Twitter and other social media sites just to see who we are… and keep in mind that’s three years ago.  I wonder how much that’s changed now.

Newsweek this week published an article pertaining to the closing of the gap between the internet world and the real world based on Mark Zuckerberg’s push open the internet as broadly as possible, believing (and I paraphrase here) that the shadow of our digital and flesh selves should be as small as possible.  He says it should encourage people to see that everyone does foolish things, and will liberalize society a little.  I’m not sure I agree with that, but I do believe in being open, if only for the sake of consistency.

I’ve been a proponent of this since I started working with college students at Gannon and would see how pictures of parties wherein students who were underage would show how much they drank to the Facebook world, and then would make sure that their parents didn’t see the pictures by either not being friends with them, or just selectively hiding photos.  Beside the fact that a future employer will potentially see the photo, what’s the point in doing something if you can’t let everyone know?  Moreover, if you can’t let your parents see something, why put it on Facebook or MySpace in the first place?  In other words, you may as well be consistent, because in the end that inconsistency will catch up with you.  At the best, you get a stern lecture from your parents.  At the worst, you won’t get your dream job because you made some serious missteps.

So I’ve tried to be proactive in my Internet identity.  If you go to my main website you’ll see all of my web presence – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, et cetera.  All there for my employer, my friends, my next date, and my parents to see.  It’s on my business card.  You can even get to this blog from there.  And sure, you’ll see a picture of me drinking a beer or two at a Clippers game, but as far as I’m concerned I’d rather live in such a way that if my potential employer saw me anywhere, he or she would feel comfortable hiring me.  Never mind the Christological implications of being the same person wherever you are.

I’d encourage all of you who are in similar boats as I am to take a serious look at your web presence and determine if it’s a reflection of the person you want to be.  You never know who’s going to see it.

my new girlfriend, ohio

I’ve got a new girl.  Her name’s Ohio.

We’ve been friends since I was born.  We lived next to each other – not quite neighbors, but close enough.  We went to the same school together; when I played trumpet, she played the drums in band.

She’s a badass like that.

I liked her parents.  A lot.  Northwest Territory never had slaves.  That’s not something most parents can claim in the US.

In college we lost touch.  I hung with her neighbor, Pennsylvania, who’s hot.  She’s got two beautiful… cities… that I loved to stare at: Pittsburgh, and Erie.  It’s been a torrid affair with PA.  We dated for seven years.  She promised me if I came back after I left she’d pay me, get me a home, and raise my children.

She was going to be my sugar momma.

Then I came back to see Ohio.  Ohio’s always had the girl-next-door look – not hot, but certainly a girl you drank in when you saw her and felt no obligation to spit everything back out.  She’s a bit more ragged than since I last saw her, however.  The last few years haven’t been good for my girl – not able to afford to good food, her hair’s falling out, she’s lost a lot a lot of weight (and she hasn’t been anything but skinny since the 70s).

But, like any man falling hopelessly in love with a woman, I don’t see what she is as much as I see her best self.  I see her strong.  I see her resplendent.  I see her hopeful, and I see her aging ever more gracefully.  She’s not the woman who girded a nation with steel anymore, but she’s still skilled in ways I don’t think she even knows.  She gets used a lot by young folks, and then when they’ve used her up, they move on to sexier states with their siren songs, promising money and fun beyond what my girl can offer.

So one rainy night as we were snuggling in bed, I told her I loved her.  I tired to scoop the air to bring the words back into my mouth, but it was too late.  She said she always knew, and just hoped eventually I’d realize it.  She said she loved me, too.  She said she doesn’t have as much as some of the other women, but she’s home, and she’ll be damned if you don’t dance with the one you came with.

For a brief moment, I saw the fire of her past.  Bright and hot – the type of flame that melts iron.

And so I stay.

some stuff and things.

I like when spring comes.  Especially here in Columbus.  There’s a resonating sigh from the entire city that’s just happy it didn’t collide with anything too bad because of all the ice in the winter.

There’s these trees that are planted everywhere in CMH, and they have these gorgeous little flowers that as the wind blows they begin to fall off, and what you see is a final illusory snowfall.  If anything, it’s just a reminder that the seasons are transitory, and once you get done with one, well, another’s right in front of you.

Speaking of, I’m in a bald season.  Shaved my head twice, and for the first time I remember, I’ve been told I was “hot”.  Facetious or not, when you’ve grown accustomed to “cute” and “handsome” (the unfortunate bounds of the 5-7, “better-looking-than-not”s of the male world), you take hot however you can get it.  This is why my head got shaved more than once.  You can see it on Facebook.

Melissa said that when she looked at the picture, that I had sad eyes.  She’s always been incredibly perceptive about those things, and when I looked at the picture, I see the same thing she does.

Friends
(Check)
Money
(Check)
A well slept opposite sex
Guitar
(Check)
Microphone
(Check)
Messages waiting on me when
I come home
(john m)

I’m not sure what it is.  Maybe it’s nothing.  But, as often has happened in my life, I’m just waiting to turn a corner.

2010 reflection i

2010 has started.

In case you didn’t know that.

I’ve found that I’m approaching this year a little differently than I think I’ve approached any others.  Maybe it’s being older, maybe it’s looking at life from the perspective of events, and less by dates.  Or maybe it’s just simply that the events of 2009 were in no way what I expected.  To be honest, I’m glad it’s gone.  For a recap:

  • January-March: Pretty standard insofar as life goes
  • March: Melissa and I have a break.  Also known as the slow-leak breakup.
  • April: Melissa moves to Columbus.  That brought me so much hope and joy for the future.
  • June: Melissa and I break it off.  My decision, and built around a lot of stress, and hurt.  It may have been the right thing, but certainly in the wrong way.  Later that month, she leaves Columbus.  I feel the weight of that each time I think of it.  Takeaway: if you have any hint of something significantly wrong in a relationship, don’t encourage a move one way or another.  I think this was akin to trying to save a relationship by extending yourself physically… it just hides deeper things.
  • July: I break my ankle, subsequently ending my summer.
  • October: Fender Bender
  • November 29: Speeding Ticket and Fender Bender II.  I now have 6 points on my driving record.
  • December: A bill that I didn’t know about went into collections without any warning and dropped my credit score 50 points.  I’m still waiting for Mount Carmel to rectify the situation.

I’m not writing this for your pity, but rather I’m writing this as a reminder to myself that no one said life would always be easy or fun, and sometimes you have a crap year.  I’m still blessed beyond what I deserve – I have family, friends, work, and grace.  I’m not saying God and I were always best friends in 2009, but I always knew if I called He’d be on the other line.

So 2010 comes around.  And so far I feel peace.  Part of the problem of having so much happening over and over was that there wasn’t a chance for me to reconcile myself to the events in my life.  A chance to pray.  A chance to not think.  A chance to disappear.  I took Christmas to do that.

And then I remembered so many good things.  Visiting Minneapolis.  Visiting Boston.  Taking an impromptu trip to Manhattan to just grab dinner.  Skiing on ground more than on skis.  Asking 10-year-olds what they want in their neighborhood to which they replied “not a f—ing German Village”.  New Salem Baptist Church.  The OHFA conference.  Starting Public Policy courses.

Here I am.

I am alive.

I am loved.

I am running 3 miles in 30 minutes, and know I can do better.

I am looking forward to holding hands and kissing in ways that cause silly grins and stumbled words.

End of January.  I’m applying to the PhD program in Public Policy.  I’m laughing with new friends about new things.  I wake up with the belief that today is worth the best effort I can muster, and then trusting the Holy Spirit will get me out of bed and bring me to the places where I need to be.

Everyone needs a 2009.  2009 makes 2010 worth something.

jack’s manifesto, or adam’s first short story pt i

Note: This is a work-in-progress.  All comments are solicited and appreciated.  I’ll have 8 other vignettes before the story is through.

MANIFESTO, n, \ˌma-nə-ˈfes-(ˌ)tō\: a written statement declaring
publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer

Jack stood atop the roof of his apartment building an looked straight down from the edge.  When you pay only $375 (gas, electric included!) for a one bedroom, you find that people fix just enough that you have a good chance of not killing yourself.  This, apparently, did not include closing the roof access.

Jack was about eighty-percent sure he was going to kill himself that night.  He did not like the thought of suicide, because it always insinuated that the cause of death was self-inflicted.  In Jack’s case, it was everyone else.  Just simple cause and effect.  The remaining twenty-percent, he figured, was his desire to prove everyone wrong.

“Prove Everyone Wrong” was printed in a stout font at the bottom of a piece of paper folded into nine symmetrical rectangles, worn by multiple openings and closings.  This was Jack’s Manifesto.  He took the folded paper and held it like a gun.  This was his weapon of choice.  Nine phrases, locked in the chamber.  Each one was guaranteed to pierce the skin the second he fired.  He only needed to pull the trigger.

Jack slowly began to reopen the paper and let the bullets fly.

1. FIND SOMEONE TO LOVE

“If there’s one thing I’ve always spotted in a man, it’s bull.” Veronica often began her alcohol-induced tirades this way. Her friends, while often supportive, listened just enough to make the expected nods of affirmation.

“Yeah, all of ‘em. You remember that one boy I had a year ago? What the hell was his name? Oh yeah… Ty’ree. Ty’ree – who did he think he was, all with that splittin’ his name in half like it was some contraction or somethin’. Stupid, stupid, stupid… all men… stupid, stupid, stupid…”

Nod, and a lazy stir of their drinks.

“I could tell he was full of bull, too, ol’ Ty’ree. Talks to me like he knows me. Sends me a text message at work, tells me he’s gonna take care of me and love me and three weeks later he’s asking me for cash like I owe it to him because he cooked me dinner once…”

Nod again. At this point one could listen to Veronica every third phrase and still ascertain what she was saying:

“Lair… Ty’ree… money… money… not-on-my-couch-you-don’t… your mama don’t like me?… waste of time, that’s what he was… I’d had better…”

Twenty minutes pass by and a brand new song blasts through the club, the bass easily shaking the rest of the audience away from the table and Veronica on the dance floor.  Jack doesn’t dance.  Jack’s a dance virgin.  He just hadn’t found the right song he wanted to give my pride and self-esteem away to. These are precious things not given away lightly.

Veronica, however, continued to whore his listening skills.  He’d give in and listen, but only for ascetic reasons.  Everywhere he looked, he saw pairs.  Speakers were always in pairs: left-right, left-right, front-back, top-bottom.  Dancers were in conglomerations of pairs, lovers were in pairs.  And here he was, Veronica’s pairing.  And while she continued to accost his airspace, Jack saw no alternatives, and instead joined in the fray.

“Well, Veronica, Ty’ree just wasn’t your pairing,” he said, but had forgotten the pair idea was just something in his head, and not common knowledge.

“What the hell are you talking about?  Have you been listening to me?  I don’t even know what you’re saying.  Pairing?”

Jack tried to explain, but to no avail. In the end, sometimes it’s better to be the puzzle piece that doesn’t really fit than be the piece that doesn’t connect anywhere at all.

After throwing his arms and legs around, and finding ways to touch as much of his body to Veronica’s while avoiding an erection (thinking about his mother’s general disapproval of his choices tended to work most effectively), Jack asked Veronica to come home with him for the night.  The sex they engaged in that night reminded him of the way he scanned his groceries at the self-checkout line, or received money from the ATM.  As morning broke, he watched her, and decided she was a girl who must love pancakes.  He set about making the best damn pancakes this woman had ever tasted.

Jack brought the three blueberry pancakes adorned with Vermont “the-real-kind-that-you-pay-$30-for-a-tiny-bottle” maple syrup with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice back to an empty bedroom.

Jack was a breakfast sandwich guy, anyway.

2. FIND A JOB YOU CARE ABOUT

boston dreaming

Going to Boston right before the school year started was about the best thing I could do for myself beginning year two of my academic career at Ohio State, trying to figure out why planning and policy matter to God, and hell, anyone else for that matter.

It’s interesting how if you listen for it enough, you being to see how God answers questions for you – some that you didn’t even know you we asking until the lines of logic run themselves in a way that God reminds you He’s sovereign, and well, you’re not.

Two in particular things I’ve reflected on the last couple weeks that got some more clarity through the wonderful conversations of Chris, Hans, Rachel, Taroon, Jake, and all the other random people here I had the pleasure of meeting, spending time with, and asking them if they could have sex with any Hollywood actor or actress who it would be (Mr. Depp is in the lead).

One was a feeling that I was warring with for awhile was a feeling that, for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to be friends with everyone.  In fact, I was beginning to feel I didn’t want to be friends with most people.  It’s not that they’re bad people, or that I’m all of the sudden super anti-social.  No, it’s just that I’ve found that I don’t have time in my life anymore for people that aren’t interesting in some way.

I know that as soon as I write it that sounds elitist.  Ironically, I don’t mean it to, because by interesting, I don’t mean they have to be what one would expect interesting to be, because to tell you the truth I think I’d grow bored of the kid who lived in Africa hunting on daddy’s money and is at Cambridge studying Philosophy because “I wanted to find something that really spoke to me”.

…okay, so maybe that might be interesting.  And maybe I’m defining it improperly, but my buddy Chris and I really talked about this at length with each other, and it happened to find its way into other conversations.  Other friends of mine agreed – they just didn’t hang out with people they didn’t find interesting.

As I’ve thought about it since then, I think I’ve realized what it is.  It’s not I don’t want to deal with uninteresting people.  The uninteresting part is just  a byproduct of something else.  Instead, I don’t really want to spend time with inauthentic people. 

I’m tired of spending time with people that haven’t spent any time figuring out themselves and being that person.  This is why I don’t feel like hob-nobing with the top 1% would solve my dilemma.  People who are authentic, I think, are people who have seen all their good, all their bad, and take it.  It’s not that authentic people are perfect, they’re just aware of their imperfection, and are probably enough at ease with it that it doesn’t get to them too much.

I know one of the counterarguments to what I’m saying is often “well, you just have to get more comfortable with them”.  I call crap on that.  While every sane person will withhold certain things for more intimate locales and bedfellows, they won’t leave conversation to simple self-absorbed small talk.  With so many great, deep topics to concern yourself with, why not?  At the very minimum, shouldn’t someone be able to say what they what they’re about?  Can you, for instance, tell me what you do for a living?  Can you tell me what you think about what I do (for goodness sakes, I work with cities, we live in them… not that hard), and add an anecdote to it from your own experience?  Do you like… stuff?   Can you quote that Simpsons episode – any episode?

The reason why I think it’s being inauthentic as well, is that I think it’s reversible in both directions.  People can become more authentic, people can become less.  You can hear it in their conversations.  In the way they lead their lives. 

Not for just themselves.

The biggest hallmark of authenticity in my mind is a life lived for something outside yourself.  Think about the people you respect.  Why?  What did they do?  Now think about a bunch of people you don’t care about all that much.  What do they do?

You see?

I give slack to some people within my generation, because we still are trying to figure things out.  One should never expect an 18 year old to be authentic – most of them don’t even know much outside themselves and their world.  But after college, I don’t know if you have much excuse.  By then you choose to live for yourself or something else.  And even in the midst of the most altruistic things lie people who are in it for #1.

We’re even encouraged by Jesus (the most interesting man ever to live… I mean, polish of a couple Guiness with a dude who’s all man and all God and you tell me how that’s not interesting) that if we want a life worth living, we need to surrender the one we’ve got.  The thing is that I don’t think that’s just a Jesus thing.  There are plenty of non-Christians that I think are authentic.  They found something more important than themselves to live for.  They listen to things more important than them, they seek out things more interesting than themselves.

God help me to everyday be authentic.  To be more interesting in You and the world and less in myself.

God help me to be interesting.

thebestthingisayaboutsomething, i

carter_hipsterSo how’s this for a new idea: repackage Head, Heart, Hands and put it on the blog once a week.  I miss being able to do HHH because it gave me an opportunity to look at the world around me and attempt on the good and bad about it, and try to provide alternatives.  So, here I sit at the Grandview Ave Caribou Coffee with my little Netbook.

Recently on Facebook, I had posted an article from Ad Busters magazine about Hipsters, and their place in culture by Andrew Haddow.  In particular, one part struck me:

We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.

As an optimist, as a Christian who is aligned with a redemptive worldview and celebrates Christ’s work in this world, and as someone who tries to give people the benefit of the doubt, I still can’t help but agree with the sentiment. 

I’ve said before that I’ve secretly wanted to be hipster.  I own an American Apparel jacket and some t-shirts (I like fair labor), the last 12-pack I bought was PBR (cheap + not completely swill = bought), and I have an appreciation for indie music, because while sometimes it simply sucks, I’m glad there are still enough people who are willing to attempt creativity without completely giving in corporately. 

However, the malady of the Hipster (counter?)culture is that I think it lacks a (the) capability/desire/recognition to answer the “why” question of their life any deeper that what’s immediately in front of the screen or phone or glossy ad in front of them.

Haddow speaks to this a little more earlier in the article:

Hipsterdom is the first "counterculture" to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.

I would go so far as to say this is not limited to Hipsters, but just about every classification of people that an agency is capable of producing an ad for.  And my generation specifically (Millennials or whatever crap you want to call us) continues to allow itself to be vulnerable to this.  This is easily found when you ask someone in their mid born between 1978-1985 why are there doing anything.  Ask the guy next to you why he rides the bus.  Ask the kid why he goes to the parties.  Ask the senior getting her engineering degree why she’s doing that.  I get shrugged shoulders more often than not, and certainly more often than I wished.

I’m sure this is not a problem endemic to just my peoples, but I am sure it is exacerbated amongst them.  And it concerns me as we are in the very early stages of asserting ourselves in someway as leaders in this society that the balance of us are going to become completely irrelevant because we’re chasing the scene.

The best immunization against irrelevancy, I believe, is a deeper sense of purpose – knowing the “why”.  Living in a larger why helps in maintaining integrity, and I think staves of deeper insecurities.  People obviously feel this is important, or none of us would have ever heard of Rick Warren.  In this leading edge group of peers I have, however, I fear our purpose is encapsulated in consumerism, which is personified at its worst in the Hipster subculture.

In other words, I’m pretty sure Mark Zuckerberg now owns the majority of my peer’s souls, who in turns sells it to whomever dictates cool.  Hipsters at the very least recognize the irony in others (while perhaps not in themselves).

I don’t think most of the rest of us ever will.

kinda like the old american standard days…

When I used to work at American Standard, I would leave the blog website up all day and would come to it whenever I couldn’t deal with my work for awhile.  I’d type progressive through an idea and by the end of the day would have a nice entry for public consumption.  It kept my mind sharp amid the deluge of statistics, and I found I actually did both jobs better.  This has been proven now on shop floors, and I’m sure will apply to rendering site plans.

I’ve been motivated to write again, mostly because I sat down and read through my blog again and thought “hey, this isn’t all that bad!”  Furthermore, I like the ability to go back through my life since 2001 and know what I was thinking at the time.  And to tell you the truth, I miss things like “head, heart, and hands” which gave me a chance to talk about very simple things that meant something to me in my heart.

So I don’t think I’ll be a every day blogger.  I doubt I’ll ever make money off the deal, but at least I’ll write more.

Be looking.  I have a lot on my plate to get out.