Thursday, January 31, 2013


I'm at the end of my Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer class, and it has been quite interesting. I now have to write my final paper about something ethical, and I am not sure where to go with it. I am contemplating the ethics of caring/not caring, as in when and why we care about some issues and not others, or some things some of the time. Why do we carefully recycle at home and not worry about throwing something away when we're out? Why do we give things to Goodwill and yet worry about why people need Goodwill? How do we decide what is 'above pay grade' to worry about? What is a work ethic, and should it be related to job or pay? I know people that say they don't get paid enough to care. How much is enough? And why should that matter how much one cares? Is there no higher calling to care?

In other news, this Bonhoeffer class has reminded me of something I learned in my German class this summer and something I'm now concerned about. I think I'm more Prussian than I perhaps realized, and I can't decide if this is good or bad. Can one be genetically so in addition to socialized so? What is identity anyway? Ah well. I guess I'll just keep washing disposable plates and sitting in the same seat and otherwise ordering my life so it runs smoothly. Integrity, order, quality.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


She walked through the alley, carefully making her way through the snow. Snow was still falling lightly around her, and it was quiet except for the crunching under her feet. She still marveled at how bright and still the snow made everything; it was almost surreal. Snow decorated the trees and houses, and she passed two rabbits sitting quietly, hoping they weren't noticed. A few steps further and she saw rabbit tracks across the path.
She crossed a street where the snow had been packed and was beginning to be brown tinged. That always reminded her of the sugar and butter mix that was the first step to making chocolate chip cookies. Then back on the sidewalk, identified mostly by a few pairs of previous footsteps. This took her along the side of a hill. On one side were snow covered trees and a faintly lined pattern of light on the snow on the ground. On the other side she had a view of the city, multicolored lights twinkling through the snow.
She reveled in the beauty of the fresh scene before her, and then reveled in the fact that she reveled. There always seemed to be so little time for reveling these days, not to mention all the things she kept in the back of her mind to ponder or worry about.
But for the moment there was only the scene before her, the snow softly falling, the quiet that fallen snow holds that almost begs one to pause and absorb the calm. There was the brightness of the fresh white flakes, and she was beginning to understand why many found these things compelling. It was a bit like being in a story, for she had read of snow and winter, but the experiences were truly real, and she was living now what she had only read for so many years.
Then she encountered another person and the spell was broken. Despite its necessity, she still hated to see the smooth surface of the snow broken by footprints and shoveled walks. So she carried on, back to the tasks at hand.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

just me

So I'm kind of a bachelor. I had to move into an apartment on campus from my dorm room due to outside circumstances, and while I do like my apartment I was not really ever intending to move into one nor did I want to move a bunch of stuff up for one last school year (about 9 months). So I basically have a dorm's accommodations spread over a one bedroom apartment. I got a futon from someone who couldn't fit it into his new apartment, which means I don't have to always sit on the floor.
I do half the time anyway, though. Illogical though it might be, I use my desk as a table/collection of papers I don't feel like dealing with, put my computer on a chair, and sit on the floor to type. I also don't have a table, although I figure if I ever have guests and need one I can always get the one out of my car (still love that feature of my car).
The cleanliness of my apartment usually reflects my life, I think. Fairly clean and organized, but some scattered papers and disorganization around the edges. But of course there are the occasional times where it's a complete disaster.
One place where I'm regularly clean is the kitchen, because I have enough dishes for someone who lives in a dorm (with the exception of some pots and pans that I bought for the apartment). This means I don't have enough dishes to not do dishes every day or two. It's amazing how quickly one can go through 6 spoons.I have a few staples in the kitchen food wise, but it's really not very exciting to cook for one person, and I do still eat in the cafeteria fairly regularly. Milk, eggs, pancake mix, grits, pasta, bread (because some friends gave me a toaster oven!), rice, cereal. Those are my staples. Plus some fake meat product or other.
I have no TV, and because internet comes with the apartment through the school the guy at Xcel sounded very amazed that all I needed was the electric bill in my name, but no phone, internet, or TV. So I watch movies on my computer and get news from Google.
The best part is, I live by myself. So I can be as weird as I want, and no one cares. It's lovely. I'm not much for entertaining, though...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Inauguration Day thoughts

"Being able to see the overlap between our regular humanity and the ceremony and celebration of greatness, of great office, of great achievement, is always a moving thing. We're reminded of that in this city of monuments,  monuments to human achievement that are rendered of course superhuman in their scale. We’re reminded of this on days that are full of pageantry and ceremony and displays of national  power when, nevertheless, they turn out to be rendered in human scale, walking flesh and blood, when the President and First Lady get out of the car and walk the parade route themselves. We’re reminded of that overlap of human scale achievement and towering achievement on holidays like this, the federal holiday honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., today on that holiday swearing in the nation’s first African American president not for the first time but for the second time." ~Rachel Maddow

I watched this episode of Rachel Maddow (Monday's show, Inauguration Day) because a friend told me the part where Rachel tells about who made the dress and shoes for the First Lady was funny. And it's true, that part was somewhat entertaining. But the section with this quote in it was what struck me the most out of this show. I thought it was a well said summation of the excitement of Inauguration Day as well as the story of our life together as citizens and fellow humans. 
We all likely have had moments where we imagined being a star, being superhuman, being extra special. The glamour, excitement, and other attraction to being someone everyone knows probably appeals to us all at some time or another. 
At the same time, it is precisely the counter to that, a connection to the realness of our humanity, that attracts us to those in the spotlight. In a negative way we latch on to the stories of scandals and misappropriations because it shows us that even heroes have faults and the most respected people do stupid things. On the other hand, and in the case of the President and his family acting simply as humans and walking like we do even as they must walk in ways we don't, is something that reaches us, too, because it simultaneously tells us that all leaders are humans like us so we might have the chance to be leaders, too, and it tells us that this leader is not so different and maybe that we can allow him the chance to be human, as well, because no one is perfect.
It is moments like this that remind us that every great achievement, every great destruction, every grand effort that has come about in history has had human hands in it. We are more powerful and less powerful than we think, and moments like this help remind us of the delicacy of that balance. We have done some amazing things, and we have done some terrible things, we humans. We have great capacity for good and evil within our humanity. We must make choices every day that usually have greater reach than we will ever know. I want to hope that good will triumph and that the depth of the goodness of humanity is deeper than that of evil. But we all have to make choices that lead us beyond ourselves, so I hope we can reflect beyond ourselves and embrace the possibility of good greatness, though it is rarely an easy choice.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I went for a walk

I did, in fact, go for a walk today. Class got out a little early and according to one of my weather apps it was 42 degrees outside. After single digit and barely two digit temps, 42 merely feels cool and brisk. Plus the sun is shining, although there is a slight breeze.
So after being cooped up in class all week, a walk was practically begging to be had on such a (relatively) lovely day. So I walked. And saw. I've been busy enough lately that I haven't seen much, and there is a lot to see.
I saw where the snow is melted, and where it is still not melted. The sidewalk was clear in places, wet in places, icy in places, and snowy in places. This requires attention so one does not slip. Not only are the icy spots tricky, but also walking on snowy spots after wet spots, because the wet sort of freezes on your boots then. I saw layers of snow, dirty snow that had been plowed, and snow that was hardly touched. I put my boot prints on top of other shoe prints and animal prints and thought about where they had gone.
I saw trees that were extra knobbly, bare trees, trees tall and knarled and trees short and thin. I saw shade and shadow and sunlight. I saw a squirrel run across the street in front of me. I walked past houses with different landscaping and things in the yards. Places with lots of shade had more snow, and sunnier places and those under trees were bare.
I thought about nothing and I thought about everything. Watched the melting snow run in rivulets. Now I'm watching the sun set behind the minneapolis skyline. The moon is out, the wispy clouds are tinged with purple and gold. The trees are still, people are heading home, and another day winds down. What did you see today?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Crosswords are a world of their own. I have been doing crosswords with my grandmother for most of my life, and now I have a group of people here at school I do crosswords with. They say crosswords keep your brain young. They also get easier the more you do them, because clues repeat and they often ask similar things. Mondays are the easiest and they get harder through Sunday. There's a sense of accomplishment in finishing crosswords, and often we do four a day. Two in the Strib, one in USA Today, and the New York Times. By myself I can do the beginning of the week, but especially by the end of the week the group factor is very important (and we usually end up looking things up or making things up on the Friday crosswords anyway). We don't get weekend papers at school, so it's a M-F gig (which is good, because the weekends are worse than Friday). And the NYTimes puzzle is usually good for some strange puzzle or weird set of clues. Once it had a bunch of O's and it was a dozen eggs. And the NYTimes puzzle in the Strib is an old puzzle from the NYTimes, which I had wondered about and we finally figured out when we realized once that we had already done that puzzle at some point previously in the actual NYTimes.
Sorry I'm not more interesting today, I have class all day all week and am kind of tired, but theoretically I'll have something interesting to say about class here soon. It's been decent. If you have any suggestions for topics let me know.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

sports and habits

I keep seeing posts on Facebook about football teams and games, and now that I know people from so many parts of the country (and world) I think I have about half the NFL covered. The thing is, I don't care. I think sometimes I'm glad the only sport that truly gets me worked up and sucked in and passionate like all these people is still only a second thought for most of this country. Soccer is it for me, and we just don't do that much here. Granted my personal sports rabidity is also greatly influenced by access, and when it's not easily accessible I go to no great lengths. What I don't know can't make me crazy (something like that). So while I do admit that, since being at school here where I had access to cable (since I don't have a TV in my personal possessions) I watched virtually every single game of the men's World Cup in 2010 and women's World Cup in 2011, that was the first time I've done that for access reasons (believe it or not, soccer rarely comes on regular television). If I lived in virtually any other part of the world, however, it might be a different story, so if that happens I'll check back in and let you know if I've flipped like most people I know. But until then, I merely watch my newsfeed bemusedly while people rant, rail, taunt, moan, and otherwise publicly share their deep investment in a sport and significant capitalistic endeavor. (and sometimes I can even figure out who's playing who...)
Now, on the the second unrelated and yet also related topic of habits. I am reading one of the other books for my course next week, and this one is a million times more interesting than the last. It is about habits and how they unconsciously and consciously guide our lives for better and worse. It talks about habits as business strategy and how starting with seemingly insignificant habits can influence many other habits in our daily and work lives that can lead to significant improvement (it also reminds me somewhat of family systems theory and I wonder if any of these people ever read Freedman).
I know I operate under lots of habits, as do most people, and I realize sometimes that my frustration with people not thinking about what they're doing probably stems from their habits taking over (and sometimes my frustration with myself stems from my doing too much thinking rather than letting habits take over). But I had some more thought provoking thoughts recently (funny how getting older and life in general can continually present thought provoking thoughts) and so I will add habits to the collection and mull over them some more. Who knows, I may come up with something good out of this yet.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

train stations

One thing I like is trains. Perhaps partly because of the more controlled nature of them as opposed to cars or planes. The other thing I like is the opportunity they afford to people and scenery watch, because all you have to do is pay attention to which stop is yours. And train stations, at least in Europe, are quite interesting. (some in the US are, too, and I haven't seen as many so I can't make a broad generalization, but the ones in Germany, of which I can most speak to, are quite interesting)
I was in Berlin for a couple of months this summer, and it was the longest I've ever spent in a single European city (also the longest I've spent in most any major city in the world), so I got a chance to get pretty familiar with the U- and S-Bahn system. And every U- and S-Bahn station was different, which I loved. The one at the Zoo was painted with animals. One was fancy and marbled because it was remodeled with marble that came out of Hitler's palace when it was demolished. Some had quotes decoratively painted or tiled in them, some just had interesting paint or tile patterns, some had more complicated mosaics, some had more ornate arches and things, and some were still old and restored because they had been 'ghost stations' all throughout the division of Berlin (which meant they were shut off because they were in or under no man's land near the Wall, thus they sat vacant for some 30 odd years). Then there were the brand new ones that are the beginnings of a new line still under construction, and those had photos of various historical train stations.
There is a lot that can be said by and in a train station. And I like to think about all the generations of people that have come through them, all the trains that have come through them, and all the history and life stories they have been part of. The secrets they hold, and the secrets held by those traveling in them. Especially, to me, in a city so fraught with history as Berlin. To see the photos of the old stations, and to see photos in some of the 'ghost stations' from that time, to smell how they still have a slightly stale air, to wonder what they were like all empty and shut up and how many people snuck into them, makes me feel connected to all the people who saw them before me and who will see them after.
It is amazing how many different people one can see in a city so large, even when one's train riding routine is about the same. Always different people, and always so many languages. One can see the city at night, when the sun shines, when it rains, (and when it snows, although it did not snow during the summer). Life and activity and hopes and dreams and fears all around, carried around by the trains. I do love trains.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

More random thoughts

I had so much fun doing this yesterday I thought I'd write more today. I think the best option for blogging is to write about things that are important but at the same time have very little controversial significance. Or in other words, what amuses me. Then again, someone could probably disagree with most anything I would say.
I read a terrible book today. Well, I read most if it. I gave up by the end. It was kind of stupid and not engaging and otherwise disappointing and lame and I don't think very well written. And if it really addresses a significant issue like it thinks it does then I feel sad about the world. So I read some more from my other book and then decided I wanted to blog again. I really do like writing. And I'm tired and this is what my brain has energy for. so perhaps today is not the day to judge my writing skill (or the entertainment value).
I think I'm a little weird. Granted that seems to be one of the requirements for seminary entrance, but sometimes I like to think I'm normal so I feel better about odd things, and at the same time I think I must be odd because there's no way the world would be like this if everyone were odd like me. (I'd like to think it would be a lot nicer. But maybe it would just be a little bit arrogant)
Are you asleep yet? I'm getting close. Alas. I was hoping to say something a bit more coherent and intelligent, but I fear I did not achieve that tonight. Better luck next time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Wow it's been a while. Would I be more interesting if I were more interesting? What do people really blog about anyway? You would think I would write more, seeing as I like to write. But what do you want to read? Would you like to know that I've gone through two seasons of M*A*S*H in the last 4 days? That I really like M*A*S*H? That I keep wanting to write novels but can't ever decide what I want to write? That I've been thinking I need to write more again to keep up the practice? That I have too much to read and never enough time to read it? That I wish I could skip eating and sleeping if only I could read and write all the time, with maybe a little time for socialization? That I realized the other day that lately I say more by taking photos than I say with words?

I don't really understand the world anymore. Or I never did. All the social networking and blogging and gazillions of things on the internet, the added security where I never remember my usernames and passwords to my email and bank account anymore. The way the internet always knows what I've seen on it. How you can't take all your Christmas gifts home in your carry on luggage on the airplane anymore because you never know who wants to put explosives in their fruit preserves or snowglobe. Did you know they have double decker airplanes? I saw one at the airport the other day and was amazed. How does it fly? Wow. We have the most amazing technology these days for saving life and destroying it. Somehow they come one with the other. It's a lot of art, and a lot of science, and sometimes it just gets all mixed up and stains the carpet.

Well that was fun. I keep thinking I'll do this more often. Who wants to read? Who has time for that? I don't.