Friday, June 30, 2006

Evacuation Update

Looks like things will ultimately be OK, at least with my parents' house .... things at the dam seem to have stabilized somewhat, though I think my sister got to host them for another night. All sorts of pictures and such are on the ever-cited Post. Just tonight I finally found this graphic, which shows the evacuation areas. It's probably best that I didn't see it before, because I was just assuming they were worried about water from Lake Needwood, which is a decent distance away. I totally never even considered "Oh, the water will flow into Rock Creek, and the overflowing creek will flood Mom & Dad."

For the record .... the house in which I grew up, in which my parents still live (as well as some of my stuff!) is that first little red squiggle (closest to the dam) that looks kinda like a telephone.

Yeah .... prolly good I didn't see that earlier .....

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Excuses Explanation & Entertainment

Sorry, guys ..... our system got zapped in a storm last week while I was on retreat, and so we couldn't get out of our internal webworld over the weekend (which meant that, along with the blogworld absence, I also couldn't get on for the last chunk of that online course that sounded like a great idea at the time). And, while we got back online Monday, I had multiple people to be Monday, and then yesterday I did a teacher inservice/field trip to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum --- yes, the one in DC, yes we flew, yes it was a one-day trip (though slightly extended b/c of airplane issues). And today I got to return to being twelve more people, as well as finding out that my parents got a knock on their door at 3:00 this morning telling them they had five minutes to leave (Montgomery Evacuees Unable to Return Home Yet; Md. Evacuees Unable to Return) .... and yes, while I have a bazillion different things to post about, I need to try to get caught up on cleaning out my e-mail inbox so that I can get converted over to our new system.

Can't say that I didn't warn ya about my insanely non-vacationy June (this is that quadruple-booked week I mentioned --- except I miscounted!)......

In the meantime ..... a few bits o' fun from that overflowing spammail box below the fold.

Newspapers attract specific readers
The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.
The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.
The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.
USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.
The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.
The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.
The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.
The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.
The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.
The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country...or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy provided, of course, that they are not
The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.
None of these are read by the damn fool who is running the country into the ground.

An old Italian man lived alone in the country. He wanted to dig his tomato garden, but it was very hard work as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament.
Dear Vincent,
I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me.
Love Dad

A few days later he received a letter from his son.
Dear Dad,
Not for nothing, but don't dig up that garden. That's where I buried the BODIES.
Love Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
Dear Dad,
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.
Love Vinnie

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Friday, June 16, 2006

The Absence Continues

Back from Junior High Camp ..... went very well but incredibly exhausting. Now going into retreat. Hopefully my return next Friday will be marked with a plethora of profundity to share with you all. In the meantime, though, please help with Youth Blog ideas --- thanks to Lorem for getting the ball rolling. Now, the rest of you.....?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cooking for the aforementioned junior high camp ..... hope weather holds (so far it looks good) ..... see y'all on Thursday afternoon ..... in the meantime, post lots of assistance!!!!!

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Beg and a Bribe

First, the bribe ..... courtesy of Julie D.

Well, for some reason (stupid Blogger!) the cute little stick figure picture won't load (Update ... got it!), but click "Watch this Movie" next to the little stick figure guy for a short film about life on a desk(top) (you might need to right-click & "play" once you're in the flash).
Animator versus Animation

And now the beg. I mentioned in a previous post about needing to do some youth web work. Below, in the "Continue Reading" section, is the e-mail that I sent various youth ministry folk requesting assistance. If anyone has some helpful contributions to offer (that would be ALL of you -- remember, I've got connections with the Dude of Bigness!), please read it and comment. I'm in major need of help. On this project, I mean. You meanies!!

My monastery has a Kid's Corner and an (alleged) Teen Page as part of the website. Both were in some respects the pet projects (ideas, anyway) of a vocation director who has since left the community. Kid's Corner has at least a little bit of content, but, if you clicked through, you'll see why I used the word "allegedly" in front of Teen Page.

My assignment?
To give us a REAL Teen Page. Our whole website is actually in the process of a major overhaul, and we're hoping to have it up for beta-testing mid-July and up & ready for a late-August launch date. The ideal would be to have a more-than-new-and-improved Teen Page to unveil at the same time. Kid's Corner could also use some help, but the real focus right now is the Teen Page.

The goal?
Some form of faith/spirituality/something for youth. We don't want it to be something just for prospective members, so we want it slightly broader than "just" a vocations thing for girls. (We have a SpiritQuest section on our site that we're also developing further as well, so there might be some piggie-backing with that.)

What are we thinking of?
We have no idea. Clean slate, wide open.
Theology more along the lines of BustedHalo and DisciplesNow than PhatMass .... you all know me at least somewhat, so you can figure that if I'm the one spearheading this project -- piety may not be its strong suit! :-)

Format possibilities?
Our latest talk has perhaps been kind of a blog-type format --- we like the "one person's view" approach that blogs provide, especially considering that it'll be one person providing it! I like DisciplesNow (especially considering fondness for all the cool Balmer folk who are involved), so I'm not really wanting to compete with them; plus, just the sheer volume of work that goes into DN would definitely NOT work as a sideline to teaching.

Possible content ideas?
Blog format makes it a bit more fuzzy than a straight-shot website, but here are some off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts:
  • Day in the Life of a Sister of Saint Benedict (obviously!)
  • Comments on world events, pulling in Catholic Social Teaching
  • Sharing positive news tidbits
  • Reflections on the scriptures
  • TV/movies/culture commentary
  • Bible snippets of "What would YOU do .... if you were there by the charcoal fire on Holy Thursday?"
  • Questions to ponder about life/world/whatever (sometimes fun, sometimes deep)
  • Seasonal stuff as it comes up (Lent, feasts, etc.)
Big question with blog-format?
Comments and questions. Part of the appeal with blogs is the interaction with and among the readers. How do we balance privacy of youth with allowing their contributions? One thought was to simply have moderated commenting, wherein the kids would know that anything identifiable (or inappropriate) would be edited out or deleted. But at the same time I'm one to trust kids that they live up to the respect they're given ..... they're used to making up fake names and there'd not be much context for other identifiables if they're responding to a post. The interaction is key, though .... allowing them the space to raise questions or throw their own thoughts on the topic out there.

What am I requesting?
Your thoughts on the overall. You all are the "experts" --- some are in youth ministry, some are teachers, some are kids themselves. What do you think of the idea? The format? Content possibilities? Any "mistakes" from which I could learn? Suggestions? Anything you can offer? Like I said, this is wide open (although it's gotten more concrete as I've typed this up!).

Other plea for help?
A name. Actually, right now, more of a domain-name. Changing the name will be just a bit of HTML, but we need to get the set up with the server and that'll have to be pretty well set. Ideally, the two would match, but the text with which they'd match is a toughie. We don't want it to sound too nunny & drive away the guys, we don't want to sound too churchy and drive away all the "cool kids" .... something with The Dome could be cool, but don't want to get too close to the nun-factor there. Word play is always good --- I like the BustedHalo concept. But there are NO thoughts yet on this one.

So that's where I'm at --- the Research & Development stage. Any wisdom you have to offer would be more than greatly appreciated. After all, why reinvent the wheel if you can swipe the blueprints from someone else! :-)

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Must. Get. Air. Pause. Something.

Well, back at the monastery for the summer since last Monday around noon. Had switchboard from 3:30-9:00.

Tuesday, I slept in until around 10, went to a friend's for a wonderful brunch, and got back around noon, just in time to meet up with a vocation visitor. Took her on an elaborate tour, hung out with her, went out for ice cream after dinner, and finally showed up back at my room probably around 10 pm.

Wednesday, I drove the 75 or so miles to Loovul, stopped by the house to pick up a few things I forgot. It monsooned just as I was getting ready to leave the house -- I had to practically swim through the driveway .... of course, with my camera gear, trash to put in the car next to the garage, library books to be returned, forgotten bags. Thus, thoroughly soaked, as was much of my stuff. Got to the library, still monsooning while I returned books. Went on to my appointment ..... beautiful weather by then. Stopped at the store on the way home to pick up a couple things --- couldn't decide if I should try to get home or wait: dusk sky to the left, night sky to the right, and a big ol' massive V-shaped cloud pointing in the direction I wanted to go. Got home, returned monastery library books .... back to my room maybe 10. Again.

Thursday, got up extra-early for music practice --- playing bass for morning prayer and Mass. Then had a last-minute switchboard assignment from 10-3:30. Doing homework for online class after switchboard (class seemed like a good idea at the time ... now the facilitator is emailing wanting to know if I'm still in the class) when I got paged -- the switchboard swap threw me off, and I forgot I was supposed to be at evening prayer music practice 10 minutes earlier. Ran up the hill, had a minor crisis in tuning (decided the practice bass didn't need tuning, then thought one string was off so I asked the guitarist to give me an E --- I was right, it was horrendously off, which we couldn't understand how it could get so bad in just a couple hours, so I fixed it. Just as we began the song I realized what the problem had been and then threw the guitarist off b/c I was laughing through the whole song --- the reason it was so horribly out-of-key was because it was supposed to be tuned to a G not an E. Oops!). Haircut after dinner, then google-searched out various youth ministry buddies from the past for a plea for brainstorming assistance for one of my major summer assignments, and then had to type up the whole thing so they'd know what I needed help with. Back to room: 10:30.

Friday .... had to iron grow-up clothes at last minute, and I don't iron well. Primary task for today was Sam's Club shopping for our Junior High camp next week. Realized during morning prayer that we have more people this year --- was the food/shopping list going to need adjusting? Leaving after morning prayer, go to the vocation director's pew to ask about that; she was actually coming to ask me about the van --- had we gotten the van that didn't have seats. She dodges out before Mass with me --- sure enough, the no-seat van is gone. My assigned van? Still has seats. Drive down to the garage, one of the maintainence guys pulls the seats out for us --- well, pulls three seats out, then does major battle with the fourth. He then notices the brake light is on, so we wait a bit longer for him to fix that. Go back up the hill, almost forget to get the four or five coolers I need to bring with me for all the frozen stuff, run through the serving room to grab a piece of coffee cake on my way to grab a Loovul map. No Loovul maps in our map bin, so I have to wait till the vocation director is back in her office to call her, ask her if she has a Loovul map, then run up to her office (on the other side of the monastery) to grab the map. Drive down to the other building, pick up my not-to-be-named-but-whose-name-begins-with-J-and-rhymes-with-Eena companion for the trip, and do the 75-mile drive to Loovul --- realizing mid-way that the van did have a CD player after all. Get to school, run in to grab some religion books for J's pre-first year teaching summer (at a different school), try to talk to the principal about her providing funding for a trip a couple of us teachers will be attending and she told me to stop in --- both on our way in and out she was already occupied. So I left her a note because there was a funeral of one of our nun-sister's biological sister that we figured it would be good for us to attend since we were already in Loovul (hence the grown-up clothes, the Mass-ditching, and the timing-crisis). Get to the funeral, have minor internal giggle issues at the cantor (doesn't help that I didn't have any connections with the deceased individual and therefore couldn't enter into the crying around me) .... internal giggle issues erupted into (minor, fortunately) external giggle issues when the cantor announced that "The Communion hymn is 'On a Hill Far Away'" -- and I leaned over to J and asked if we should go try & find it. Shopping at Sam's involved a list from a previous year's shopping with quantities and prices that didn't match what was available, so there was a major guessing game at every turn as to how much I was really supposed to get. Leaving out various high-running tensions from various elements of the drive and J's newly-discovered aversion to the big warehouse center .... apparently I almost got myself run over with a shopping cart loaded with frozen lasagnas, lots of lunchmeat, and several canisters of Kool-Aid. Tensions only escalated on the drive home and during the emptying of the van at camp; however, peace was eventually achieved (I think, anyway), though not without major dehydrated headaches on both parts. Evening prayer, dinner, get-together fun with the new kids, trying to chase down my sister so I can get my brother's credit card number to buy a plane ticket for vacation but I can't find my phone card and our long-distance line was busy; borrow phone card, make the call, return it .... then discover earlier flight with higher fare, so I need to go downstairs to re-borrow the card to re-call my sister .... then go back downstairs for a consult about will leaving the youth workshop I'm helping with a couple hours early for this other flight be OK .... buy the ticket .... and realize I've barely read any blogs this week.

And I'm on vacation?!?!?!?!?

That's not mentioning a tomorrow loaded with community meetings .... Sunday full (1-10 pm) of Youth Protection Training, Mass, etc, for this youth workshop .... Monday meeting first thing with formation director to discuss as-yet-still-incomplete self-evaluation (that was theoretically due a month ago!) before getting everything set up for Junior High camp .... which begins Tuesday and goes through Thursday and for which I'm cooking?!?!? 44 kids & 20 HS counselors & various nun-folks. Pack up and clean up Thursday afternoon so I can go into retreat on Friday (for which I still need to find a director) which will last a week that coincidentally enough is the same week that I have to go to Loovul both Wednesday AND Thursday and is also the last week of this 5-week online class that I'm three-soon-to-be-four weeks behind on. And then there's my quadruple-booked following week .....

Good thing I had the Tuesday morning that I did. We joked about how incredibly mellow I was (and how hyper!) --- having a year under my belt, none of the unknowns of last year (school, house, kids, non-Hill, etc.) ..... I haven't thought about any of that since then!

But, it's all good. Like the thought that ran through my head during midday prayer Monday shortly after I got home:
Lord, it is good to be here.

Everyone's so happy to have me home .... despite the craziness, I'm relatively non-stressed, and just happy for the sunshine!

But, if you notice my absence from your comment boxes, sitemeters, or even from my own site ..... at least now you know why!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Blogger Question

Hey folks .... I'm back at the monastery for the summer, and I'm not sure if it's something with our system here .... or are other people having impossible times with Blogger these days?

Snippets from the Post

There's violence in Iraq, corruption in the House and anxiety in the markets. Somebody needs to create a diversion.
"The gays are aggressive! Gays have called war! Gays are attacking traditional marriage!"
Bishop Harry Jackson was shouting these words outside the Capitol yesterday morning, at a rally for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
"Marriage is under attack!" cried out Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), also at the rally.
"We can have anarchy!" warned Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.).
No doubt Jackson, Allard and Harris are sincere in their views about marriage. But the urgency of their alarm is a bit suspect to anybody with an eye on the electoral calendar.
"This is in many ways the crucial question of our time," Heritage's Matthew Spalding submitted at a Press Club event.
Added Exodus International's Alan Chambers, who said he quit homosexuality 14 years ago: "Our children are being raped every day of school by what's being taught. Are you mad? I'm mad. I'm so mad. God have mercy."
Chambers is likely to be angrier still if he checks out the results of last month's Washington Post-ABC News poll. When voters were asked about the most important issue in November's election, they chose the economy, Iraq, immigration, gas prices, terrorism and health care. Same-sex marriage merited only an asterisk, meaning it rated below 0.5 percent of responses.
Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) brought a list to the floor Monday. "High gas prices, the war in Iraq, the national debt, health care, senior citizens, education, crime, trade policy, stem cell research: Each issue begging for the president's attention, each issue being ignored."
Likewise, Allard held a news conference Monday at which the speakers said they wanted to reduce the "epidemic level of fatherlessness in America."
"How would outlawing gay marriage encourage heterosexual fathers to stick around?" was the first question.
Allard skirted the question by saying that "laws send a message to our children."
The moderator, Matt Daniels of the Alliance for Marriage, tried to find a question on another subject. But when reporters continued to press Allard on the link between same-sex marriage and deadbeat dads, Daniels blurted out: "All right, you know what? We're going to call this press conference to a close."
For the record .... Gay Marriage Amendment Fails
And Dan Froomkin points out the absence of discussion on the Important Stuff
At least I'm not the only one who wants to see a shift in our priorities....

Monday, June 05, 2006

Further Aggravationedness

Pentagon to Omit Geneva Rule From Prisoner Policy

Gee, how quickly we forget about the U.S. Troops in Iraq to Get Ethics Training that was going to be required just three days ago!

Besides, I thought We Didn't Torture.

Well, I'm just glad that our worthy senators are gonna get this whole thing cleared up today. Oh wait, that's right .....

In case you forgot how I really feel about things ...

Tonight's NBC Nightly News ....
With his approval ratings low, steady bad news out of Iraq, problems with the immigration bill, and elections in November looming, the timing of the gay marriage debate is welcomed by the president and his party.
Senator Joe Biden's comments?
We don't have enough vaccines, we don't have enough police officers, and we're gonna debate the next three weeks, I'm told, gay marriage, a flag amendment, and God only knows what else?
Senator George Allen:
Insofar as that sacred institution of marriage -- it ought to be protected, and this constitutional amendment would actually do so.
I've posted plenty on this issue. What I simply want to say is supported by both the lead-in comment and Joe Biden's thoughts: Let's focus on what's really important.


It's a word, a semantic issue. A word, however, that involves over 1100 federal laws and policies that get conferred by marriage. But .... are we trying to turn the Constitution into a dictionary? Do we truly have nothing more active to do with our meager-debt-ridden resources?

How much time, money, and energy has gone into this issue? How does it compare with the time, money, and energy that has gone into, oh I don't know, child homelessness?

There is no one who was hurt by Kendra and Amy's ceremony last weekend (well, unless you count Trista and I, and all the rest of us not deemed worthy enough to warrant an invitation). Maybe people didn't like it, but no one was hurt. So our Senators are going to debate an issue about something that some people don't like, but doesn't actually hurt anyone. Meanwhile, other issues that are actually causing physical hurt, pain, and perhaps even death will get tabled for a later meeting.

It's a word. It's just a word. The only people injured by this word and its definition are the people who are excluded by it. Whether Kendra and Amy can be considered "married" does not affect me or my life at all. In fact, it doesn't affect anyone else. They are the only two people affected by that ceremony. It's just the same as when Homer and Marge got married (provided we disregard the animation issue). No one else was involved or directly affected. After all, isn't a marriage between two people?

You can say that it's wrong, you can say that it's immoral, but you know what? I bet they'd be a couple either way. Calling them "wrong" won't change their feelings for one another, nor will it change their relationship. Passing a constitutional amendment defining marriage won't change their relationship either. It won't make them any less connected to one another. In fact, if anything, it says even more about their commitment --- that they're willing to bind their lives together without all the benefits of "marriage."

If there's a problem with same-gendered people committing their lives to one another, then marriage is not the issue. Who is in love with whom is the issue. Who's going out with whom is the issue. Whether you call it "marriage" or not, there will still be people with one kind of body parts hanging out with other people of the same body parts. Defining marriage will not change that.

If there's a problem with the "sacred institution of marriage", however, then defining the word won't be the solution either. As far as I know, no happily married couple has been split apart by the existance of anatomically similar couples. Oh, but we'll just leave all the pre-nups, online divorces, and celebrity quickies alone.

Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where the issues that are argued are in fact the issues that matter? Wouldn't it be nice to have people say their real reasons for wanting things the way they do? Wouldn't it be nice to have reasonable priorities that focus on alleviating harm first and foremost? Wouldn't it be nice if "playing nice" and "doing the right thing" outranked "what people will think" and "but I have an election to win"?

And while I'm at it ....
Susie Derkins wants a pony
Susie Derkins wants a pony (click for clearer image)
Originally uploaded by

Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's that time again!

Continuing my fine tradition of Shameless Plugs For Visiting My Monastery ....

For those who might be interested in a road-trip pit stop .... we're located halfway between Evansville & Louisville on I-64, right down the road from St. Meinrad Archabbey and off the same interstate exit as Holiday World. And, while you may not have heard of the family-owned Holiday World (I must admit, I made fun of the concept when I first arrived), they actually rank pretty high up there. They won the International Applause Award last year; two of their wooden coasters are listed among the top 10, and the new one this year has been hyped all over the place; they've got the tallest enclosed water slide and various other prize-winning things. Plus, they do free soft drinks and sunscreen; first to go mostly smoke-free except designated areas; repeatedly the cleanest and friendliest park .... it's just cool. But enough of all this roller-coaster hype -- I'm supposed to be hyping my place! However, if you want to visit my place and you happen to have an extra ticket to Holiday World .... I'd be more than happy to be of assistance!

For a more legible version .... click here.
Registration is due by June 15th, but let me know if you're interested (comment or e-mail) and I'll hook you up. It's always a good time ... a great time-away, a chance to explore Benedictine life with no strings attached for more than two days ..... and, what can I say? It's a beautiful place. Oh, and I'll be there too --- what more could you want?

We also have posted the latest edition of The Castle on the Hill, our vocation newsletter, which has a nice article on discernment, as well as articles and pictures of both first profession and entrance to novitiate. And, as an added bonus, the last couple pages have little one-liner scripture reflections for every day.

Really, while you're at it, check out our whole vocations page. It's got some really good stuff. Except ... pay no attention to the part labelled Teen Page. It is merely a figment of your imagination, a mere placeholder, as it were, for the wonderfully phenomenal things that will develop as soon as a certain blogger returns to the monastery for her summer service. (By the way, anyone have any ideas for a page on spirituality/faith for youth? No matter -- that'll be a shameless bleg for next week!)

Or, if you're not interested in the vocation side of things but just want to come check out a very cool monastery .... let me know & I can hook you up with that, too. Sure, we have official guided tours, but if you're with me, you might get a little more bonus material thrown in there, some extra-personalized attention.

And, for future reference .... dates for next year's visits are (drumroll, please):

Benedictine Life Weekends/Week:
October 13-15, 2006 ~ The Importance of Benedictine Life in Today's Society
January 5-7, 2007 ~ Lectio: Praying with Scripture
March 16-18, 2007 ~ Following the Way of Benedict
June 22-28, 2007 ~ One Community, Many Ministries

Advent/Lent Days of Reflection:
December 9, 2006 & February 24, 2007

Discover the Treasure of the Hill:
November 10-11, 2006 ~ high school juniors and seniors
April 20-21, 2007 ~ high school freshmen and sophomores

Camp Marian:
June 12-14, 2007 ~ junior high campers; high school counselors

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