Friday, February 29, 2008


I spent the other evening playing catch up--reading the minutes from our church's council meetings for the past three years. I don't know what possessed me. Well, I do, actually. While we were overseas, we had heard about some friction between the pastor and some of the lay leaders of the group. Now that I've volunteered to be on a committee at church, I wanted to see if the minutes would shed any light upon the supposed controversies. They didn't, of course. In polite American society we can't just come out and say that so and so is bugging the heck out of me. It's just not done. So I'll guess I'll just have to live without knowing the gossip.

The fact that I've agreed to serve on a committee is another act of weirdness on my part. The plan is to survey some members of the congregation, send the surveys up the ecclesiastical hierarchy and get a dandy report as to how we compare to the profile of a healthy congregation. The problem is, I think the whole idea is foolish. We've had a number of surveys in the past ten years or so--all of them trying to find our "vision", to seek a direction for the congregation. The problem is, our direction is right in front of us, but we don't want to see it. Ol' Dry Bones church is headed towards the proverbial grave. Our numbers are dwindling along with our finances and we really can't function like we did back in our glory days. If we were rational about it all, our vision would be to efficiently close down the congregation. Our mission would be to hook up our remaining members with new church homes, dispose of our corporate property and make sure the pastor gets a nice severance package. That's what we should be meeting about, some would say.

The problem is, our faith gets in the way. We follow a God who works miracles, a God who uses the weak and insignificant to humble the mighty. Heck, every Sunday we declare that we believe in the resurrection of the dead. So if it looks like the congregation is dying, do we start making funeral arrangements? Heck, no. Instead we'll start talking about getting new stoves for the kitchen or repainting the Sunday School rooms. I wonder what the good Lord will say, when we're at the Pearly Gates. Will He say to us stubborn church members, "Well done, my good and faithful servants?" Or will he sigh and shake His head and welcome us in His infinite mercy? Beats me. So I suppose that's why I have a meeting this Sunday....

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Monday, February 18, 2008


I took the long way home from work this afternoon. In honor of Presidents' Day, Noodles and the girls took the car and drove up to Mt. Rainier for some snowshoeing. This left me with the choice of either Metro transit or my own two feet to carry me home. Since it was a sunny day and I don't get enough exercise, I chose the latter. This is the first time I've walked home from work since 1991. Of course, back then it was a less than five minute walk. Today's commute took me about an hour.

There are many pleasant routes in this here city for walking. I don't know if the route from Georgetown to North Beacon Hill is one of them. I mean, it's not horrible. There are sidewalks all the way, which is a big plus. But the scenery is a bit lacking. The first leg of my journey mostly followed Fourth Avenue South. There are a few businesses along the way, but unlike the pedestrian friendly storefronts like you might find in Ballard, they're all pretty much non-descript. Then you get to climb an artificial hill as the road bridges over the train yards. Seeing the Sounder train pass beneath your feet is somewhat less satisfying than a scenic, rushing river. And looking down upon people lined up to buy gas at Costco, while definitely a Northwest scene, lacks a certain... majesty. On the positive side however, I was nigh alone on the sidewalk and, with all the traffic noise, I was able to start singing to myself without disturbing anyone. (Now if only I knew the words to more than two or three songs....)

At Spokane Street, I hung a right. Of the three choices I have to ascend Beacon Hill, Spokane Street was the most direct. Spokane Street has the distinction of being the least and most interesting part of the walk. On one hand, it was definitely not designed for pedestrians. The sidewalk lies in the shadow of the viaduct up until Airport Way, and before you geth there, you have to weave around the ramps to and from I-5. Then there's... the stairway. A flight of concrete steps that takes you up from the tideflats, along Columbian Way to, well, Spokane Street. It's a good, aerobic climb. (one that would have been daunting before I went through the Yunnan Diet and Fitness Program)

(I also had a bit of good fortune on that stretch. A number of weeks back I took a stroll down that particular hill and stairway. As I walked along Columbian Way, I noticed a discarded paper cup advertising a place that sold "Chicago Style Hot Dogs". As one who sorely misses that particular delicacy, I stopped and investigated the bit of litter. I took note of the url printed on the cup and determined to check it out to see if it was from a local establishment or if some traveller from Oregon had waited until reaching Seattle before tossing out their trash. Unfortunately, I misplaced my mental note of the restaurant's name and so was left in ignorance. Today, however, I was able to examine the same piece of trash and discover that it was from Woody's Hot Dogs--an upscale establishment apparently located at many Lowe's hardware stores in the Seattle area. (Just not the one in my neighborhood. Rats.))(Um, no, I, uh, didn't take the cup with me and put it in a proper container. Guess I should have done that, huh? Maybe next time I walk that way.)

Once I got to the upper Spokane Street, I was back in the 'hood. The journey was pretty routine as I traversed streets that were all too familiar. Boring, even. (Though I suppose it's better than a treadmill in a gym.) The only thing of note was when I passed a guy talking on his cell on 14th Avenue. He was speaking rather loudly, talking about filing some class action suit in Federal Court on behalf of himself and his friends. He looked nothing like a lawyer, so I suspect he was blowing smoke. However, he's probably more able to accomplish such a goal than I would ever be, so I really should behold judgment.

I finally arrived home at 4:31 p.m. It was a great workout and only took about fifteen minutes longer than taking the bus would have. Of course, having a sunny day made all the difference in the world....

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


Um, in my last post, I spoke in error. Now if I were a major metropolitan newspaper, I'd run a correction on page two or three or so, tucked neatly in a corner. But I'm not a major metropolitan newspaper and I don't have a page two, so I will confess my error right up front in a new post, where all can see. (Besides, it'll give me another chance to blam about Classmates.com.)

Ahem, last night I stated that one has to be a "Gold" member of Classmates.com in order to send messages to other people on the site. As stated by Ruminator in a comment on the previous post, and as I belatedly discovered, this is not the case. Last night, after posting I got to thinking (I know, one should always do that before writing) that having to pay to both send and receive was a pretty lousy system, sure to alienate users. So I went back to the site and to my friend Giz's profile. Not only was I able to sign his guestbook, but I also was able to shoot him a brief message. Of course, that merely put the burden of paying for messaging rights back on him. For today I got a new e-mail from Classmates stating, "Oh No! Your Message Can't Be Read!". Horrors! The mail also advised me to "Switch to Gold membership so all your messages come through loud and clear." Hmmm. It appears that if I buy my way into the ranks of the privileged, I can be guaranteed of unhindered communications with all of my past schoolmates. Well, assuming they bother to write back, that is.

You know, I'm tempted just to send Giz another unreadable message. Then maybe he'd send another one back and I'd send another one and so on. And then I might start sending out messages to the other kids from my high school. And maybe they'll start sending back unreadable responses and it will all escalate into a cacophony of blocked messages. And maybe finally Mr. Classmates will get fed up and give us all complimentary Gold memberships, just so we'll stop filling their servers up with spam. That or they'll track down my favorite websites and buy onoxious banner ads for each of them. sigh. I used to like the internet.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

All that glitters 

Oh, what a dilemma before me! Do I stand by my principles and sacrifice civil politeness? Or do I cut a deal with the forces of greed and bloated web design and return the greetings of an old friend? 'Tis an agonizing choice. What I refer to, if you haven't guessed, is the nigh omnipresent Classmates.com--the website that offers to give you the latest scoop on your school day compatriots. You know, all the people with whom you've neglected to keep in touch over the years. I signed up for the service years ago. Well, sort of. I mean, I forked over my name and information for a chance to read up on all the kids from days past. There weren't many folks on the rolls back then, but I enjoyed the little peek I got and figured I had done my good deed on putting my name out there for those other alumni who were curious on how we all fared. I also turned the offer to "go gold" and pay for the privilege of getting all the contact info and starting a reunion and all that. Anyway, the years have passed and in moments of boredom I have surfed back to the site to look for new names and generally add bits and pieces to my profile. I think in one of those visits I must have turned on the e-mail notification, because in recent months (I haven't been keeping track how many), I've been getting e-mails that some people have been... signing my guestbook. (insert squeal of delight, if you're so inclined) I didn't even know I had a guestbook. Anyway, at one point I ventured over to the site to check it all out. It turns out that only the "gold" members can read their own guestbook. It turns out that you have to go gold to even see who has signed your guestbook. Now, if my curiosity had outweighed my common sense, I would have forked over the cash to see who those long, lost friends were. However, I have acquired a bit of wisdom, or maybe just cynicism, over the years and I fear that there's a good chance that at least some of signatories are marketing folks from Classmates.com, rather than some girl I once doted over who now wants to start a nostalgic romance. (I put that in there because my wife has started reading my blog and I want to give her a good chuckle when she gets this far.) As you might imagine, I've become quite unimpressed with the worthiness of the whole site. (Should I start a new paragraph here? Yes, I think one is quite overdue.)

So yesterday, I came face to face with the dilemma. The ante has been upped. I've got an actual message in my message box (again, I didn't know I even had a message box) from an old high school friend. Not just any friend, but the one and only Gizzard, who was the Groucho Marx of our class. Ah, 'twould be wonderful to reconnect with ol' Giz, to see if the angry young man has grown into a cranky old fart or at least a slick life insurance salesman. But alas, when I went to the venerable Classmates site, into my very own message box to see my very own message, I see that the message header has been footnoted. I quote: * Indicates this message has not been paid for. grumble. Now, I may be mistaken, but I think that Giz had to pay for the golden privilege of sending me that message. However, I can't read, much less respond to it unless I pay as well. So basically the faithful gold member is paying Classmates.com for the privilege of pressuring other people to give money to Classmates.com. It's not exactly a dumb idea, because I do feel a bit guilty about not connecting with Giz. (Not $15 worth of guilt, mind you.) On the other hand, I'm a bit tempted to just pull my name from the site entirely and go fuss about some other evil in the world. Nah, that won't do. Because sooner or later I'll be surfing the net in sheer boredom and I'll run across one of the ever present banner ads...

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