Saturday, October 25, 2008

Madeleine Albright

Originally uploaded by careerguy

Friday, October 24, 2008

Madeleine Albright comes to town

You missed it. Tonight I went to the VFW hall a few blocks from my house to see former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She came to town to stump for Obama. I just started reading one of her books, “The Mighty and the Almighty” about the role of religion in international relations. Anyway…S

he was amazing—very smart, great sense of humor, down to earth, very sensible, approaching everything with unassailable logic. She made a brief presentation about six major issues that she sees as critical for the future:

- dealing with Al Qaeda

- nuclear proliferation

-restoring the good name of democracy (supporting not imposing democracy on others)

- negative aspects of globalization—i.e. gap between the rich and poor

- energy-environment, global financial mess

- two wars : Afghanistan Iraq and unintended consequences like the rise of Iran. She sees it as being worse than Vietnam especially because of the pressure of refugees on surrounding countries.

At times it was like listening to a college lecture, but what a professor!

She remarked that the next president will need to work with China, Russia, India. Latin America, Africa—everyone. In describing Obama, she feels he makes good judgments, thinks through problems. Will be a ‘confident’ president, rather than a ‘certain’ president. A ‘certain’ president doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Obama asked questions, getting different viewpoints. Will be able to prioritize issues.

In answer to questions from the audience, she was confident that we will be out of Iraq in sixteen months. She characterized Vladimir Putin as very smart, but mean. President Karzai of Pakistan is a very nice guy, but he’s more the mayor of Kabul than president of the whole of Afghanistan.

Gosh, I think it would be great to have her as Obama’s Secretary of State. ATt 71, I wonder if she's interested in the job.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Not unexpected, but still unwelcome news

Just before Mass ended tonight, the priest asked everyone to sit down and he went back to the ambo. We knew this could not be good news. He read a letter written by St. Ignatius of Antioch who was telling his followers not to interfere with his impending death sentence.

We were all a little confused, but then he explained that our pastor, who had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year ago, had just informed his family that he would not seek further treatment, but would eventually go into hospice care.

The priest who told us this has been the administrator of the parish for the past year, doing a lot of the pastor's work. He had been our pastor's professor in the seminary, and he got kind of choked up delivering this news.

We knew the pastor was getting worse. At 6’4” he had always had a little paunch—he was a big guy, but now he was down to 125 pounds and just looked so gaunt. He hadn’t been able to eat very well all year and probably lost about a hundred pounds. In the past few months, try as he might, he could not work. He was very tired all the time. The last time I saw him, he was coming from the church, crossing the parking lot to the rectory. I knew he wasn’t feeling well and I certainly didn’t plan to engage him in a long conversation, but in reply to my inquiry into his health, he simply said, “I’m tired—I’m going to take a nap” and he kept on walking without breaking stride.

There we all were in church, just kind of stunned. I could hear people sniffling, and saw women leaving with reddened eyes, clumps of people standing with tears on their cheeks. The pastor will be staying with his parents for the time being, but will move to a hospice if necessary in the coming weeks. So he’s that much closer to heaven.

So why are we crying? I have a relative who had a “Coming Home” party for our grandmother when she died, complete with a cake that she made for her children. I can’t quite do that. I was inconsolable when my mom died ten years ago, and if anyone was bound for glory, she was.

Maybe I’m not walking by faith but by sight—stumbling over obstacles that block my way to seeing God’s promise clearly. Wonder if I’ll ever get over that?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This was Max’s weekend at our house. On Friday night Kathy cooked him a hamburger—I guess he’s forgone the vegetarianism he maintained early in life. I enticed him into a game of War and we didn’t have a war until we were almost through the pack. I won that one and Shane came in to tell him it was time for bed. Shane granted him five more minutes to play and Max put down his cards and said, “I’m going to play something else for five minutes!” Evidently he wanted to maximize the value of those five minutes and playing cards with the old man was not gonna get it. The allure of video games can be too much at times. He was playing one called Up Your Arsenal—fortunately he’s too young to get the joke.

On Saturday, I did hit on something he liked. I had a pair of walkie talkies that I was holding until he was old enough to be able to use them. I brought them out, showed him how to use them and then we played walkie talkie hide and seek. He ran off and I “hid” on the front steps. I had him going up and down the stairs inside the house until he finally found me outside. We played a couple of rounds and had a great time laughing at each other.

On Sunday we drove out to the country and took Max and Shane to the farm where we have been taking Max since he was two years old. This year he was looking forward to seeing the pumpkin cannon and the hay bale maze. When he was younger, he couldn’t see over the bales so it made for a more interesting experience. Now he can easily find his way through. This year he was eager to try to corn maze, as well. Years ago he was immediately frightened by the high corn stalk walls and turned right around and crashed through them to get out. This time he navigated the field very easily. The hay ride was another attraction and we enjoyed a nice comfy ride around the field. We bought some pumpkins and gourds and squash for our holiday decorations and had fun walking around on a beautiful sunny day.

The farmer uses an air compressor to power his pumpkin cannon and it used to be mounted on an old vintage fire engine—quite a sight. This year the fire engine was gone. I asked him about it and he said he turned it into scrap! At first I thought he was kidding, but he went on to say that it was loaded with 900 pounds of brass, and even the motor was valuable. He wound up with about $7,000, having paid his neighbor $500 for it years ago. Still, I was sorry to see it go, since it was probably worth something in terms of history, but maybe not seven thousand dollars worth. Besides, with fuel costs tripling in this past year, I suppose he made an economic decision not colored by sentiment.

From the Wild Animal Department: the other day Kathy saw a mouse skitter into the heat vent in the kitchen and she screamed like a cartoon character. I was immediately dispatched to the hardware store to buy traps. I set one by the suspect vent another by the refrigerator. Kathy suggested I put one in the hole that the goofy electrician punched in the basement ceiling a couple years ago. The hole leads right to an open space under the family room. Sure enough, the remains of Stuart Little were found in that trap the next day. Cute little fellow—nice ears, tailored jacket. His hat was lost in the melee, though.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Vineyard Wedding

On Saturday afternoon Kathy and I drove out into the country to a vineyard where our friends’ daughter was being married. It was the strangest wedding we’d ever witnessed. To begin with, the bride and her father appeared walking over the hill between the lines of trellises down to a sort of arch way of woven branches (I tried not to think ‘Blair Witch Project’, I really did).

The minister was a woman who made various signs with her hands—almost a sign of the cross but not quite, along with pronouncements about the sanctity of marriage (this is called foreshadowing—see my conversation with her below). She did say one thing that stuck with me: something about how over the years the annoying things about your partner become “endearing”.

There were several readings: one from the Tao and a couple I couldn’t quite catch. The bride’s father, a staunch Catholic guy, recited a sonnet from memory. All the readings blathered on about love and stuff like that, which was fine. Periodically a woman dressed all in black with a 1930’s hat perched on her head stood up to sing various selections. One was in French, another was in Italian and the third again I couldn’t quite catch. Mind you, we had no scorecards to tell us who was on first. There was no best man, but rather a woman who happened to be a lesbian served as “best person”.

The bride and groom said some things to each other that no one could hear, they exchanged rings, looked expectantly at the minister, unsure as to whether they were done or not, and kissed exuberantly at the end. It was a brilliant sunny day in the fifties, and there was a tent sent up with rows of tables and chairs inside, a DJ, and about a hundred people milling around after the ceremony. There was no formal cutting of the cake because the “cake” consisted of tiers of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. If you wanted a piece of the wedding cake, you simply grabbed a donut. Appetizers and wine flowed freely and after about three hours we were ready to leave. The sun was sliding behind the trees, the temperature was dipping with it, and we didn’t want to be driving around the countryside in the dark. Our hosts said, “Wait—the food is coming out!” It took three hours to get to the food? We made our excuses and slipped away.

It was something of an artsy fartsy crowd, since both bride and groom are creative types. He seems to be vaguely employed, with dreams of doing something with wind turbines in California. The poor guy had injured his foot and wore dress shoes for the ceremony but switched to one of those big Velcro shoes later. He had to trudge through the vineyard with a cane on that bad hoof. Kathy had a chance to catch up with the mother of the bride, and I walked around and met some interesting people.

One of the bride’s brothers had a girlfriend who had gone to the same college as I had, so we talked about that for a while. She told me she is now a “life coach”. I thought to myself: you’re 28. What do you know about life? Come back in thirty years and we’ll talk. They live in California, though, so that makes all the difference. Another couple consisted of a cabinetmaker and an artist of some sort. I also talked to the minister and her husband (second marriage for them both). She wanted to talk about the gender of God. I edged away toward the hors d'oeuvres.