"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

10.31.2007

spiritual insurrection

And a very happy Reformation Day to those who are celebrating that. Nail those theses away!

oh, wow

Just now on the NBC Nightly News: Andrea Mitchell was reporting on today's rebellion at the State Department. Apparently, up to 40 State Department employees will be sent to Iraq against their will. So Mitchell was just telling Brian Williams about this, except, in her introduction, she kept saying "Vietnam" instead of "Iraq." Ahem.

No video yet, of coure, but I'm sure it will pop up somewhere.

faith of a child

boo!


Someone in England reached Texas in Africa this morning by Googling "Paige Patterson fur closet." That's just about the scariest thing I can think of, so Happy Halloween, y'all!

10.30.2007

why i avoid east texas

Oh, my. Oh, my, my, my.

"[Royce City] Lt. Baker said. 'When you are carrying human body parts, it's good to have some documentation that they are legitimate.'"

rest in peace



Rest in peace, Robert Goulet.

you make my heart go ding-a-ling-a-ling

How excited am I that there's a video of my favorite so-bad-it's-awesome African pop song?

The answer is: super-excited. But not as excited as I am to learn that someone with a sense of humor made this:

the gift

"The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." - Frederick Buechner

i2a

Here's my post for this week on Inspired to Action, a great new site that offers daily suggestions for simple ways to serve those in need around the world.

10.29.2007

time to start watching D-3

It's not The Play, but wow:

life in your own hands

"the K53 [South Africa's driving test] effectively requires an applicant to imagine that he is driving a live claymore mine under assault by guerrillas in bumper cars." - as described in the New York Times.

I have driven in South Africa. It was one of the single most terrifying experiences of my life. (I include being detained by Congolese border guards and jumping out of an airplane as things that were not nearly so scary.)

This explains a lot.

underneath this Amarillo sky

Update from the BGCT: Joy Fenner wins the presidency by 60 votes. The article explains why this matters.

buckin' it to county fair

Well, as far as we can determine, no one seems to be live-blogging the BGCT yet. (For this, we are thankful.) We have Responsibilities Here and are therefore not in Amarillo. The only real news I see so far is that according to the Baptist Standard, the registered messenger count as of 11am topped 1,500. That's huge.

For those of you lucky enough not to be Texas Baptists, this year's BGCT meeting is the most interesting in years. Pastor and blogger David Lowrie is challenging the presidential candidate supported by Texas Baptists Committed, there is lingering criticism over the tenures of outgoing executive director Charles Wade and chief operating officer Ron Gunter (who recently resigned), and for reasons that are entirely unclear to me, Rick Warren is speaking. Oh, and they may end up deciding whether or not to officially support the New Baptist Covenant.

Aaron explains the controversies over these various issues here, and here's an endorsement from the other side of the presidency issue. First vice-presidency candidate Lee Saunders Deep in the Heart also presents his view of the issues in a well-reasoned fashion, with an important plea for Christian civility.

We here at Texas in Africa are not into making endorsements, although we think this is the most important BGCT meeting since era of the Baylor charter change. I would love to see Texas Baptists elect a woman as president, because it would send an important signal about what kind of Baptists we are. I also think it's important that the West Texans who so faithfully support missions and the work of the BGCT feel that they are fairly represented in the body. But all in all, it doesn't matter what I think, because when it comes down to it, as FBC Floydada (Texas in Africa's childhood church) pastor Anthony Sisemore told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, "The result will 'depend on who shows up.'"

One thing I expect will be abundantly clear on the convention floor is that the BGCT isn't getting any younger. As with most Baptist meetings which, by necessity, are held in the middle of the week, the bulk of attendees will be those without young families or jobs that require them to be at home on a Monday afternoon. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with such a state of affairs; no doubt those who attend the BGCT are much wiser and more experienced in these things than am I. They fought to keep this convention and its institutions out of the hands of the fundamentalists. For that, I am grateful.

But I wonder if the bulk of convention messengers realize how off-putting all this fighting is to Texas Baptists who are my age? Most of my peers don't have the same level of commitment to Baptist identity as did our parents and grandparents. I am commited to those ideals - the doctrines of soul competency and church freedom are vitally important to my theology - but the truth is that we are a post-denominational generation. And internal squabbling within our denomination is off-putting, especially when we think about what God calls us to do with respect to all the suffering of which we are acutely aware.

Quite frankly, I'm pretty tired of rehashing the Baptist wars, and so are most of my younger Baptist friends. We look around and see a world that is falling apart - children who are starving, an HIV/AIDS epidemic that is killing millions, wars that are festering - and, well, it can be difficult for us to care about who gets to be president of the BGCT. Why would I want to be part of a church that makes a bigger deal out of bureaucratic politics than out of serving the poor?

I don't want to imply that the issues the BGCT is debating in Amarillo this week are not important. They are, and it's good that attention is being paid. But my sincere hope is that whatever happens this weekend, it will allow Texas Baptists to get on with the mission of serving others and loving in Jesus' name.

(And hopefully my daddy will forgive me for linking to a Beth Pratt story.)

10.28.2007

"this is not gossip girl"

"[My So-Called Life] lasted 19 episodes, starting in summer 1994, on ABC, before its cancellation. Some people still haven't quite gotten over that."

And so what? It's about time. Looks like I will be spending the rest of this fall reliving being sixteen.

10.27.2007

austin celebrity news



We here at Texas in Africa are not in the habit of tracking the movements of celebrities...ever (except their poor fashion choices), but what happened at today's Texas-Nebraska game is too funny not to share.

So, a couple of times a year, we look up from our primo seats in the student section to see none other than actor/high priest of the naked bongo Matthew McConaughey in his box. Our seats are usually right below his box, and sometimes he brings Owen Wilson with him, so watching them is an amusing way to pass the time during the ridiculously long T.V. timeouts.

About halfway through the fourth quarter, as the Horns were surging, I looked up just in time to see something fall from their box. No one seemed to notice anything, so we went back to watching the game. But then it was quiet in our area and we can hear the woman in white (above) yelling to the people below, "But it's mine." And then McConaughey hollered, "There are naked pictures on there!" Such that the whole section could hear.

Lesson to be learned: if you're hanging out with a celebrity at a football game, don't set your camera on a ledge where it can fall. 'Cause you're never getting it back.

10.26.2007

the big time

Thanks so much to the Dallas Morning News Religion blog for linking to my piece on Ethics Daily and to this blog! I am a huge fan of the DMN's religion reporting, and it's an honor to make their site in some small way. Here's hoping that this will enable even more people to learn about the tragedies in the eastern Congo and practical, simple ways we can help.

If you'd like to learn more about my experiences in the eastern Congo, here are some posts from 2006, when I lived in the region, and here are some from this year's follow-up trip:

how to help

Thanks to Ethics Daily for running a column based on my "how to help with the rape crisis in the Congo" post from earlier this week!

I'll also have a post on the crisis running on Inspired to Action sometime soon. If you'd like to be more aware of practical, simple ways to help the world's poor, bookmark the site and check back often.

10.25.2007

stephen colbert: polisci hero

Add this to the list of things I never expected to do: teach about American elections with reference to Stephen Colbert's presidential race.

It just so happens that Colbert's decision to run (in South Carolina) nicely coincided with the point in the semester when we're covering what it takes to get elected. I do an "in the news" segment at the beginning of each class when they can ask questions about stories they've seen or heard, and, well, the kids are really into Colbert. I mean really into Stephen Colbert.

And as it turns out, he's a pretty good teaching tool. So far, we've touched on how candidates file for the primaries, how you get on the ballot through petition drives, how he can get away with running as both a Democrat and a Republican, what it means that South Carolina proportionally distributes its electoral votes, Colbert's problems with campaign finance laws (the Doritos sponsorship), how his campaign may split Ron Paul's supporters, how his use of his show to campaign may violate equal time laws, and how polls (like the one that tell us that Colbert is in double digits nationally) work to give fairly accurate predictions by only surveying a few thousand voters. And I'm also thinking of using this Facebook group (which will almost certainly reach 1,000,000 members before morning) as an example of an interest group.

Normally, most students could care less about primary filing, petition drives, porportional distribution of electoral votes, campaign finance, equal time, polling, and interest groups.

So thank-you, Stephen Colbert. You've given those of us in political science classrooms a way to engage our students in learning more about American democracy. God bless you, and God bless America.

feeling inspired?

If you haven't yet checked out Inspired to Action, now is a great time! Here's my first post to the site; check out the other great ideas for simple ways to help others as well.

10.24.2007

who's that?


Bonus points if you can figure out why we're completely freaked out about this poster that appeared in the hall by office #2 this week.

honest conversations not to have

Me (beginning class): How is everyone today?
Students (mumbling): Okay, fine, etc.
Awake student: How is your day?
Me: Oh, fine, but it has the potential to be bad.
Awake student: Why?
Me: I have a meeting this afternoon [with The Advisor] and then I'm showing a film about Congolese rape victims.
Students: Silence/wide-eyed looks of disbelief.

This is how it goes.

announcing...

Continuing with the theme from last night of finding specific ways to help those in need, I am very pleased to announce a new project that Kat is launching today. Inspired to Action is a website that will offer specific, quick ways that you can help someone in need. Each day, we'll post news stories, interviews, and suggestions for action having to do with poverty here in the United States and around the world.

I am part of the writing team for this project and am really excited to help people become more aware of needs in this world, and of simple ways to help. I hope you'll make Inspired to Action part of your daily routine. Check it out!

10.23.2007

what to do?


In the comments on my post on the reality of the situation in the Congo, Texas in Africa reader Judy asked a great question:

"Give us specifics. If you could see immediate action on my part, what would it be."

Judy is right. I've forgotten one of the most important aspects of writing about global poverty. You need to give people action to take.

So...here are some ways you can help the women and girls of the eastern Congo who are suffering at the hands of the world's worst epidemic of rape:
  1. Pray. Pray for the victims and pray for those who attack them. Pray for healing in their bodies, minds, and hearts. Pray that their families won't cast them out, and pray that they will find ways to support themselves and their children. Pray for peace in the region, and lasting solutions to longstanding conflicts over land and citizenship. Ask your church to pray for the people of the Congo.
  2. Learn. Learn about what's going on in the eastern Congo, and tell others. For a basic explanation of the conflict, try the BBC's D.R. Congo country profile. For more in-depth information, check out the Enough Project's eastern Congo resource page.
  3. Advocate. The Enough Project suggests that you write or call your Senator or Congressperson's office and ask him or her to "support the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) by providing more funding and technical assistance in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR) and press for high level diplomacy, in coordination with our allies, to resolve the crisis in eastern Congo." You can reach your Senators and member of Congress at 1-202-224-3121 from 9:00am–6:00pm EST, Monday through Friday.
  4. Donate money. Heal Africa Hospital in Goma and Panzi Hospital in Bukavu are dedicated to helping women and girls who have been raped and who need medical treatment as a result. Both are church-supported hospitals, and both help women in all aspects of their healing. It doesn't take much to help - at Heal Africa, $10 will buy shoes for five women who have been raped. $30 will buy food for victims of violence living at a safe house for a month. $300 will pay for one woman's fistula repair surgery. As little as $1 will help Global Strategies for HIV/AIDS Prevention provide a dose of nevirapine, a drug that can prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies at birth. It doesn't take much.
  5. Donate airline miles. Heal Africa would love to have unused frequent flier miles to transport personnel. More information is available here.
  6. Sponsor a child. My trusted friends C and E run a ministry which helps street children and orphans in Goma. $100 a year "connects your child with a loving, church-based child sponsorship program that not only provides an education but will allow the child to hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God." 100% of your donation goes directly to support the child - there is no administrative overhead. For more information on the program, click here, or send me an email.

But the most important thing, I think, and what I was trying to point to earlier, is this: be changed. Let the reality that innocent people suffer so deeply break your heart. Live with the tension that comes with realizing that our comfortable lifestyles come at a cost, and that the choices we make about what to do with our money, time, and energy have a very real impact on other people's lives. Don't be afraid to let this disturb you, and don't be afraid to do something.

Judy, thanks for your very important question.

reality

Saturday night I had dinner with The Philosopher, a friend from our Baylor days who happened to end up in the tri-state area at the same time as I was. He's back in New York now, working on a PhD and teaching and working and enjoying life in the big city. We hadn't seen each other in years, so we had a great time walking around the East Village, looking to see what we could find at The Strand (a bad place for two broke bibliophiles to even look at), enjoying the unbelievably good food at Bello's, a tiny Italian place on St. Mark's, and catching up on everything that's happened.

The last time The Philosopher and I were in New York together, it was about a month after 9/11. We met in midtown and went downtown because we had to, and stood in silence at the fence by St. Paul's. You couldn't visit "ground zero" at the time, and so I have never seen it. I don't want to. It seems obscene to make a tourist attraction about a place of so much horror, and I don't need to visit to remember. I still can't forget seeing face after face on the makeshift bulletin boards at Grand Central. Nor can I escape the dust that covered the financial district and stuck to our shoes and made me weep.


I haven't been back to the financial district since.


A lot has happened in the three or four years since we'd last met up, so we had lots to cover: relationships (including his short-lived one with, apparently, a former Miss Arkansas), our PhD programs, his move to Colorado, and my trips to the Congo. In the course of our wandering, I told him about some of the things I've seen there. "Oh, and the soldiers gang rape six-year-olds," I said as we stepped off a street corner in our attempt to find a restaurant.


The Philosopher stopped and stared at me. "That's not the kind of thing you just say," he admonished. "But it's reality," I replied.


Maybe I have become a bit desensitized to the reality of the rape crisis in the eastern Congo. It's become routine for me to read articles like this one, which notes that the number of rapes treated by MSF in North Kivu doubled in the first half of September. After awhile, you forget that everyone does not know these facts, and you spout them out as you would facts about the weather, or the cost of an 800 square-foot condo downtown, or the number of bees that have disappeared since last summer.


But there's another dimension to this issue of desensitization that goes to the heart of The Philosopher's objections to my matter-of-fact comment: this is reality.

I've been thinking a lot about comfort these last few years, about how we can live our good, moral lives without being exposed to the reality of suffering in this world. Certainly it's possible to grow up, go to college, start a job and a family, go to church every Sunday, spend weekends at the lake and vacations at the beach and never have to be aware of the unpleasant fact that a 10 Congolese soldiers raped a woman today. Or that the following is the reality of a woman named Maganza's life:

"One woman, Maganza, had gone five years without treatment before she showed up at the Heal Africa facility on Saturday. She had been raped by six rebels who left her for dead after forcing another woman to cut out her lifeless foetus."

But this is reality. I am not going to stop sharing these stories and facts about reality until this crisis is over. And I am not in the least bit convinced that God calls Christians to ignore reality, even as we are thankful for our blessings. It ought to make us uncomfortable. It ought to cause us pause in the middle of polite conversation, and not simply because we are annoyed that someone ruined an otherwise perfect evening. How we handle that, is, I think, what defines us.

10.22.2007

last three nights ago in live music: rodrigo y gabriela

If you're not familiar with the Mexico City-based guitar duo of Rodirigo y Gabriela, well, your life is missing something. R y G play classical, flamenco-style acoustic guitar...only not, because their style is heavily influenced by 80's thrash metal. It's impossible to explain, so you'll just have to trust me that it's incredible.

Because R y G cancelled their two Austin shows this year (at both SXSW and ACL), I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get to see them live. As luck would have it, my, ahem, "work" weekend in New York coincided with their Friday night show at the Roseland Ballroom, and Mr. and Mrs. AAA were planning to go along with some other Austin friends.

Roseland is a little too big and midtowney for my tastes, and the overly chatty New Yorkers definitely gave me an appreciation for Austin audiences, but nonetheless, the show was great. It's hard to tell which song is which since there's no singing, but they seem to have played just about everything on their self-titled 2006 disc, including an absolutely gorgeous cover of (what else?) "Stairway to Heaven" that must be heard to be fully appreciated. Their guitar work is beyond belief, certainly the best I've ever seen (and, not to brag, but that's saying something.). Luckily, projected video images of their fingerwork loomed large behind R y G so even those in the back could watch their playing. That two people, with two acoustic guitars, can make so much sound is just remarkable. Oh, and there was an audience singalong to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here."

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening out on the town, and I would definitely see Rodrigo y Gabriela again. Don't miss them if you get the chance.

banned for life!

What do the High School BFF and Kid Rock have in common?

Both are no longer welcome in certain branches of the Waffle House, that's what.

(Seriously. She's not allowed back at the Birmingham Waf. We tease her that her picture is on the wall by the cash register.)

hate facebook?

Try this. Ahem.

differential devotion

How to know when an engineer is in love with you.

not intended for homes with children

I am so using this during my civil liberties lecture:

excuse me, it's not possessive

Good manners for grammar Nazis.

10.21.2007

familiar roads

why, dnc, why?!?

It is simultaneously mind-boggling and totally unsurprising that the Democrats are probably going to nominate Hillary Clinton for the presidency. In an election that should be a perfect storm, when America just can't take any more of George W. Bush and appears to want something very different, I'm reminded that it's impossible to underestimate the ability of the Democratic National Committee to screw things up.

I've been arguing for years that Hillary Clinton is unelectable in middle America, as have most of my left-leaning friends who aren't from the east coast. New York and DC Democrats don't understand how much she is hated in the rest of the country. And by "hated," I mean hated, despised, mistrusted, etc., etc.

As this article points out, the standard argument against my view is that she did fine in upstate New York in her senatorial campaigns. And, as the article also goes on to discuss, some people think this isn't a good argument, because perhaps her support for a presidential run isn't as strong as it was for her senatorial campaign. Also, and more importantly in my opinion, upstate New York Republicans are not like Republicans elsewhere in the country!

This is so obvious! Many New York Republicans would be independents or Democrats if they lived anywhere else in this country. New York politics is a world unto itself.

What is glaringly obvious to those of us "out here in the middle," however, seems to be anathema to the Democratic party establishment. And it's too bad, because they're going to throw away their best chance at regaining power in an era of terrorism.

My students, who come mostly from conservative, Texas families, really don't like George W. Bush anymore. The shift I've seen in Texas classrooms in the last 6 years is remarkable. They are fascinated by Barack Obama, which I never would have predicted. And they grimace every time I mention the possibility of a Hillary Clinton administration.

As do I. I haven't really decided who I like for the presidency yet. At this point, I'm still watching the races as a political scientist (read: as a sport) and trying to get a feel for who would be the best candidate. I want to vote for someone who 1) is a grown-up and can listen to criticism (and, more importantly, will surround him or herself with people who will offer criticism), 2) will attempt to de-politicize so many institutions that the Bush administration has corrupted, and 3) can get past the politics of Vietnam and birth control. Hillary doesn't strike me as the one for that job.

10.20.2007

the only team I can still be proud of

Well, it only took three OT's for the Yale Bulldogs to take care of ... Penn. But the sons of Eli remain atop the Ivy League standings, and in a season like this, we'll take it.

10.18.2007

you say "criminal"

Millions of disgruntled Comcast subscribers say this woman is an American hero.

(Mom, you'll want to read this. Click here.)

weekend update

New York = So fun.

Committee Member #5 = the Best.

Having lunch with an old friend during which we realize that while we are in year #8 of our graduate educations, our master's degree colleagues are (in order): a college instructor doing a PhD in England, an outreach worker to women who are victims of sex trafficking, a Finnish army general, an Australian diplomat, a peacekeeping expert, a development officer in the Solomon Islands, and we're really not sure what = Awesome.

10.17.2007

firecracker waiting to blow

I am off to the City to confer with my Africanist colleagues - and to see friends from growing up, college, New Haven, and Austin! Blogging will continue depending on internet access and time. But, really, come on, there are better things to do in Manhattan!

"you're gonna be all right"

So this apparently didn't actually air on either of the first two days of Drew Carey's tenure as host of The Price is Right, but who cares, it's hilarious.

All I have to say is 1) it's a long day in line to be on TPIR. There are bathrooms, but there's a point at which you don't have access anymore, and 2) Where. Do. They. Find. These. People? Oh, right, in line. :)

Thanks to David for the tip.

Global Call to Action Against Poverty

The Reverend David Duncombe has been fasting for the last 40 days in support of the Jubilee Act, which would "cancel the debt of approximately 67 impoverished countries in the Global South."

I want you to read that first sentence again. Rev. Duncombe believes this issue is so important that he has been fasting for the last 40 days.

Most of us hear words like "economic conditionalities" and "responsible lending practices" and our eyes glaze over. We stop paying attention, because it's complicated, and it's far away, and it doesn't really affect our lives.

But national debt does affect those who live in desparately poor countries. Many - really, most -African countries are crippled by debt that could be used to fund important development programs. Even countries that are doing relatively well - those countries that have shed their dictators (who were generally the ones who accrued the debt to begin with) and begun to develop - are still stuck paying huge percentages of their annual GDP to paying off impossible debts.

Anytime you talk about debt forgiveness, you have to talk about responsibility and teaching lessons to countries about living up to their obligations.

But the issue with debt in African and other poor countries is this: is it really just, is it really right, for the poorest of the poor to be kept in a place where it's almost impossible for them to improve their lives? Imagine how you would feel if you worked and worked and worked and worked to provide a better life for your family, but could never get there.

That's how it is for the poor living in debt-ridden countries. It doesn't matter how hard they work. Things don't get better unless the debt goes away.
But when it does go away, things change. Fast. Here's what the ONE Campaign has to say about the effects of debt:

"Debt is the kind of crisis that can hold back an entire continent. Sub-Saharan Africa pays $13 billion in debt service to wealthy nations and financial institutions every year, almost enough to pay for life-saving drugs to reverse the AIDS crisis that claims 7,000 lives each day.

"And in 2000, when Tanzania's debt was cancelled, that government was able to eliminate school fees, sending 1.5 million children to school almost overnight."

What's the more just thing to do? I believe that cancelling debt is right, and fair, and the only way to help many African countries ever have a chance at improving their status.

Rev. Duncombe's fast ends today, October 17. As part of his fast, he's walked the halls of Congress to draw attention to the act and to lobby Representatives to support it.

Today is the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. Today the ONE Campaign is coordinating an effort to send 40,000 letters in support of the Jubilee Act to the U.S. House of Representatives today.

Today, I am sending a letter to my Representative asking him to support the Jubilee Act. And today, I am asking you to do the same. It only takes a minute, and 40,000 letters might, just might be enough to make a difference. Will you join in?

10.16.2007

music news

ITunes just dropped the price of unprotected songs to 99 cents. You should really upgrade to ITunes Plus now that the price is the same. Of course, you can get some of those songs cheaper on Amazon...

ummm.

This is only shocking to Baylor because it's Baylor. 'Cause Scruffy Murphy's is such a classy establishment anyway....

Uhhhhh...

Several of my students want to write their papers on cocaine.

I'm trying to figure out what this means.

this pretty much says it all

happy day

I just stepped outside and felt something I haven't felt since I was in central Africa.

It's cold outside.

Wow. It's about time. And just in time to tease us before what are supposed to be record-breaking highs on Thursday.

10.15.2007

couldn't've said it better

"Every single reasonable person in the country knows the BCS is the single worst creation there is in sports." - John Feinstein

good land this is ridiculous

So Paris Hilton is gearing up for Rwanda and here's what she has to say:

"I'm scared, yeah. I've heard it's really dangerous," she says. "I've never been on a trip like this before."

Now, normally I wouldn't even bother, but on this one I have to point out that there's not a thing to be afraid of in Rwanda, so regardless of whatever the latest celebrity to traipse through there tells you, it isn't really dangerous. It isn't even a little dangerous. There hasn't been fighting in over ten years, there's tons of Western money flooding in to equip the schools and hospitals you'll see, and people are too scared of the government to break laws. Miss Hilton will mostly likely sleep in a comfy, five-star hotel in Kigali every night (unless she goes see the gorillas and stay here), probably in the same suite where Laura Bush and Bill Clinton stayed (at different times!). There's a mall downtown, and a western-style coffee shop, and a bookstore, and swimming pools, and French bakeries, and salons that do mani-pedis. Roads are well-paved and there are actual traffic cops who enforce the speed limit. There's free Wi-Fi at the Kigali airport, for goodness' sakes! Once and for all: Rwanda = perfectly safe.

God help them.

You might be Southern Baptist if...

..."you clapped in church and felt guilty about it all week." And more.

hipsters and politics

This is hi-larious.

food for thought

A study published in British medical journal The Lancet this week says that women are just as likely to have abortions performed in countries where it is illegal as they are in countries where abortion is legal.

congo watch

Things aren't going so well in North Kivu.

Nkunda refused to disarm by today's government-set deadline. In addition to the huge FARDC troop presence (and Kabila and all the top brass's decision to go to Goma), Ugandan forces are amassing on the border. No word on what the Rwandans are up to, but they're most certainly prepared. Some of Nkunda's men are deserting/"rejoining the brassage". The humanitarian situation is, by all accounts, appalling.

10.14.2007

poor professor deutsch

Well, here's a reason I'm glad not to live in Birmingham:


Wx830tm
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Morning people drive me nuts.

well.

Well, the first round of BCS rankings is out. Texas is #22. And despite PhSquared's insistence that the USF Bulls are "for real," I still don't buy it (any argument that hinges on West Virginia's powerhouse status is automatically suspect around here). What I don't get is how teams like USC and OU can lose to unranked, vastly inferior teams and still remain so highly ranked. And by "highly ranked," I mean, "higher than us."

Also, I am very amused that there's a show about Americans in South Africa on the C.W.

haha!

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Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

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geaux wildcats!

This is the best football season ever.*

*As long as OU doesn't get a chance to embarass themselves on the national stage yet again.

10.13.2007

sacredness of song x disconnect

A handy-dandy way to tell whether your favorite band has sold out (hint: calculate the Moby Quotient).

10.12.2007

had worse?

joy in ames?

What's worse than the Statesman's football coverage?

The Statesman's football reporters pretending to have a funeral for Texas football.

Good land. Don't they have editors?

super, super serial

Maybe we should add "when will Al Gore run for president" again to the pool. 'Cause, you know, once you get a Nobel Peace Prize, there's no question as to whether you're super-awesome.

10.11.2007

without comment

Via Aaron, via Kevin, via a magazine.

"a good, honorable, decent person"

I don't know if you saw the surreal Lynne Cheney interview on Jon Stewart last night. It was some kind of bizarre. And also very awkward:



(Part 2 only)

so...

Let's start a pool. Who's going to get fired first, Lloyd Carr or Dennis Franchione? Leave your guesses (with dates and times) in the comment box and we'll see who wins.

Hey, if they can handicap the Nobel Peace Prize, why not? :)

again for good measure

Thanks to Ethics Daily for picking up my post from Tuesday on the contrast between churches that use Halo to attract teenage boys and what churches in the eastern Congo do to support women and girls who are victims of violent crime at the hands of the young men in militias and armies there.

10.10.2007

what to think


This is the sort of public awareness campaign you have to do when rape becomes normal.

These billboards are all over Goma now. These and another one that features men going after a school girl. Painted on the compound walls, everywhere in the city, where it's hard to miss the message.

It's very disconcerting.

My copy of Lumo arrived in the mail this week. I'm not sure what I'll do with it. It's not the sort of movie you invite friends over to watch on a Friday night. But it seemed important to have a copy around.

One of Lumo's friends, a woman whose name I think is Angela, is on the front cover of the DVD case.

I know her. She used to ask me for money almost every day. I used to wonder what she did to get money when I didn't give her any.

Given the dramatic increase in violence in North Kivu these last few weeks, there's no question that hundreds, maybe thousands more women and girls are being attacked by the various armed forces operating near their homes.

It's just hard to know what to think.

things on my to-do list

As of 4:33pm:
  • rec letter for B (check)
  • article for A (check)
  • grade exams (check)
  • record exam grades (check)
  • edit paper for D (check)
  • pics to H (check)
  • email NY friends (check)
  • get classes covered (check)
  • youth Sunday school lesson
  • fingerprinting
  • article for B
  • pics to Bukavu
  • conference paper
  • class stuff to D and C
  • textbook order
  • email L
  • register for orientation classes

No wonder this day feels so simultaneously productive and unproductive.

10.09.2007

violent young men

I saw the Halo youth ministry story that everyone's commenting on when I picked up a copy of the New York Times at the airport on Sunday. For those of you who are lucky enough not to have read the story, it seems that staging nights of playing Halo 3 (a rather violent video game) is the hip new thing for youth ministers to do to lure in young boys who never go outside. They set up competition nights on various televisions at the church, then have some kind of lesson that tries to relate Jesus' message to the act of killing pixellated versions of living things. It is, the youth ministers say, the only way to get some kids in the door.

Quite frankly, I don't really care. I've never "gotten" video games, and I don't intend to expend any effort in doing so now. I don't attend the sort of church that would consider making video games a serious part of youth ministry, probably because we consider discipleship, community, and contemplation more important than a body count.

What got to me about this story, though, was the fact that it was on the same front page as was the story that caused me to pick up the New York Times in the first place. There, above the fold, was a picture from Panzi Hospital, and a story that started with Dr. Mukwege, the gynaecologist who performs fistula repair surgeries for hundreds and thousands of women and girls who have been raped by armed forces (usually by young men) in the Congo. It's a hospital I've visited, a doctor I've interviewed, women whose broken faces and broken bodies I've seen.

The article doesn't mention it, but Panzi is a hospital that's supported by churches. Dr. Mukwege is a pastor's son.

Looking at those two articles, juxtaposed on the same front page of the Sunday Times, I couldn't help but wonder what those Congolese Christians who do all they can to serve the victims of violent crimes would think if they knew that American churches are using a violent video game to lure young men into their sanctuaries.

What a wide gulf separates us from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

I am having a hard time believing I will never watch SWEEEEEDDD! catch a pass again. Here's to some great memories:



funny things my students said

The latest installment of wit and wisdom from the children who weren't left behind:
  • "The Constituion is based on the beliefs that humans are self-evident."
  • "In order to make sure that our government was as least corrupt as possible..."

congo watch

I'm seeing unconfirmed reports that there are Angolan troops supporting government forces in North Kivu. OCHA fears the number of people displaced this year is close to half a million. The situation in the IDP camps outside Goma is horrific. And for the first time in years, I'm seeing analyses that discuss the possibilty of a return to full-scale civil war.

This is bad.

lbj buys pants

For the politically amused among us, here's the funniest recording of a president ever from the archives at the LBJ Library. I can't believe I've never shared it before. (Listen, don't read.)

congo watch: a tells it like it is

"'In some areas in North Kivu, in some parts of Rutshuru we have 19-per-cent global malnutrition,' Shneerson said. 'That's huge.'

"Gun shots can be heard outside of Goma, and observers on the ground fear a return to fighting in the coming days, citing rising levels of military activity, despite a UN-brokered ceasefire that has failed to fully curb the clashes.

"Outside of Goma, Nkunda's forces and the Congolese Army are said to be stockpiling weapons and girding their positions."


It's bad in North Kivu. As expected, Nkunda called off the ceasefire yesterday and there are reports of fighting around Rutshuru.

10.08.2007

maybe I should just go home

Inbox, today:
  • OFFICIAL: Police Investigating Campus Death
  • "The Austin Police Department said the woman had been listed as a missing person, and is not currently affiliated with the university. Authorities are trying to determine whether it was a natural, accidental or suspicious death."
  • OFFICIAL: Authorities determine campus death has not put community in danger
  • "At about 12:30 p.m. The University of Texas at Austin Police Department(UTPD) received a report of a non-specific bomb threat in the UniversityTeaching Center."

The UTC would be across the street from my office.

"music" monday

Last night I saw an ad for this awesomely bad cd on t.v. My confusion (Bryan White still has a music career?) was quickly replaced by shocked awe at The Oak Ridge Boys singing "Come Now is the Time to Worship. That was only eclipsed by the version of "Awesome God" by Charlie Daniels.

The fact that this was airing during "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team" (don't judge: it's the most hilarious reality show ever - those Dallas women remind me of why I'm grateful to live in Austin) made it all that much funnier.

10.06.2007

it's 10am on saturday...

...and OU SUCKS!

10.03.2007

outta here!

As of 7:35am, I am on vacation for the weekend! Where am I headed, other than to a friend's wedding? See if you can guess, based on some of the things to which I'm looking forward:

Dino
Open City
Velvet Lounge
Ten Penh
15 Ria
The Foundry
Teaism
KramerBooks
Stetson
and lots and lots of old friends!

it's wednesday afternoon and ou still sucks

This morning I gave a midterm, and about 2/3 of the way through, my football player turned his in. "You going to Dallas?" I asked. He's a freshman and doesn't always get to travel. "To play!" he smiled, the excitement visible in his eyes.

Yes, football fans, it's the Red River Shootout week, the week for which Austin and most of that state on the other side of the river live. The State Fair, fried goodness, grandmas using inappropriate language, the Most Important Game of the Year - it's all there.

Normally we get to sit on the 50-yard line thanks to our Dear Aunt Becki, but we here at Texas in Africa have alternate plans this weekend as one of our Dear Friends decided it's socially acceptable to get married on a Saturday in the fall. That minor detail won't stop us from sneaking out of the reception to find the game being shown somewhere, anywhere. (Also, PhSquared has promised to text us updates every 5 minutes. We will be doing the same for him during the Nebraska game, during which he's the best man.)

While we sincerely hope that the incredible spurious correlation associated with our attendance at the game (when we're there, we win; when we're not, we don't) won't matter, our hopes for the game are still not high. Greg and Mack won't give up on Colt until well into the third quarter, and OU, despite last week's setback, is the better team this year. That said, it's Dallas, and anything can happen.

In other news, this year's batch of fried State Fair foods is as disgusting as ever. The winner of this year's contest is Fried Cookie Dough, but we're more intrigued by the Peach Cobbler on a Stick. Reading about the Fried Chili Frito Burrito (think deep-fried Frito pie) made our stomach turn a little. If we were going, we'd stick our once-a-year corn dog, world's best Fletcher's brand, and maybe share the fried cobbler with seven friends.

The State Fair is also bringing back the tramway this year (you know, the tramway that killed a guy and left someone else paralyzed in 1979). This one's new, but, come on. Stick to the ferris wheel (and go before you try the deep fried Frito thing).

Oh, just writing this is making us sad to not be there, but at least we won't have to endure abuse at the hands of all the OU fans in Dear Aunt Becki's section. Y'all have fun out there.

call your congressman

President Bush just handed several Republican-leaning districts over to the D's next year. It's pretty hard to convince the voters that denying health coverage to 4 million American children of the working poor is a good thing. Especially when that coverage would have been funded by an increased cigarette tax.

ha!

I (heart) federalism.

10.02.2007

funny things my students said

Student, upon learning that he needs at least 5 legitimate news sources for his research paper: "Can we count Jon Stewart?"

10.01.2007

it's monday night...

And Austin is nothing if not classy-with-an-a during Red River Shootout week.

Look, Buffy, blogs for people like us

Topics:

I would start a blog on the misuse of "its" and "it's," but that would drive me insane more quickly than the slow, steady stream of undergraduate writing that makes me want to crawl into a hole in the ground.

Also, I need some of these.

uno mas

This is pretty funny:

blackbirds and the sun of october


It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In a rainy autumn
And walked abroad in shower of all my days
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
Summery
On the hill's shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sunlight
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and the sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singing birds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart's truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year's turning.

-Dylan Thomas, "Poem in October"

(Photo: Somewhere in Vermont, October 2000)

goma update

If you watched the Lumo documentary on PBS's POV series a couple of weeks ago, you saw Mama Muliri. Mama Muliri is one of the head counselors at Heal Africa who help to identify women who have been raped and bring them to Goma for treatment. Once the women are in Goma, the counselors oversee their psychosocial recovery.

Mama Muliri was shot and robbed (apparently by soldiers from the national army) on Saturday night on her way home from a prayer meeting. The shot was through the arm, and it did not hit the bone, but of course she is in pain and will need to have the bullet removed after she can get an X-ray.

Here is the prayer request from Heal Africa about Mama Muliri (Heal My People is the name of the project that assists rape victims and other victims of violence):

"We ask your prayer for her as she waits for treatment Monday, for the surgeon, for complete healing. This is the first such occurrence in the 4 years that she’s traveled so much for Heal My People. And it happened close to home. Please pray for peace in the hearts of all the teams, many of whom have been targeted in the past. This type of event brings it all back."

Please take time to say a prayer for Mama Muliri and all those with whom she works to bring healing in the lives of these women and girls.

down at the local mall

I heard this on the radio the other day. Given that the government has stepped up the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border (even in very rural areas) and just released plans for the 16' wall, it seems like a good time to share it:


In other news, now is probably a great time to invest in companies that make 17-foot ladders.