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a valuable community service from Stand Firm

People who know me well know that I love to offer kudos when deserved, so hear me now:

KUDOS TO GREG GRIFFITH!

That's right: Greg Griffith of StandFirm has written an excellent primer for non-techheads on basic computer security -- namely, how NOT to inadvertently tip off people as to whose computers are behind which parts of your document, accidentally send out your top secret memo on plans for world domination or salvation, or lend access to any person happening by your room in the hotel. It's inspired by the recent Church Times exposé on how much of Nigerian archbishop Peter Akinola's recent "personal reflections" were composed on CANA bishop Martyn Minns' computer, on a draft letter left open on a public computer at Camp Allen by one of the self-appointed "Windsor Bishops" with some very specific directives for the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the theft of ACN bishop Bob Duncan's laptop, and ANYONE -- progressive, conservative, or anywhere in between -- who doesn't want to be embarrassed in a similar situation would do very well to read, mark, and inwardly digest Greg's very accessible post.

Seriously, don't miss it. And if you want to be REALLY safe, here's a radical suggestion from Jesus of Nazareth: don't say or do anything in secret that would bring you shame if revealed. I don't always live up to that standard, as y'all know, but when I have accidentally sent an email to a whole list that was meant for an individual, for example, I was much less stressed when I knew that my recent emails conformed to the "Golden Rule" and I'd consistently been both honest about and recently tactful in expressing my convictions. How many times a year I could say that about everything I'd written in a given month I'll leave between me and Jesus -- but a gal can try, and I'll tell you that it's awfully good for the blood pressure in more ways than one.

And Greg, if I can lodge a request: I think it would be a tremendous service to follow up on that with a primer on 'phishing' and other email/eBay/similar scams. I know far, far too many smart people who have been taken in and lost a bundle on those -- one of whom is a lovely and upright minister in another denomination who lost his home and had to declare bankruptcy as a result.

August 25, 2007 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

mixing it up

Those of y'all who know me well know that I love to cook, and also have a weakness for gadgets -- not just the newest or shiniest gadgets, but the gadgets of quality most useful for things that are hardest (at least for people like me) to do without them.

I have ONE chef's knife, but I think I treat it a bit like a Marine treats a rifle; it goes where I go, it cuts anything that needs cutting, and I care for it a bit more conscientiously than I do my skin. Masaharu Morimotu is my kind of guy when it comes to the honor and care due to the tools of culinary arts; the way I feel about the One Good Tool that I have in each cooking category in which I have one is probably about as close as I'll ever come to knowing what a samuri felt about his sword (y'all tell me if that's wildly inappropriate culturally; I'm grasping here).

And I have long coveted a really, really good standing mixer. One that will kneed 100% whole wheat bread dough as I did when I was a more hale and ambitious baker. One that (with the proper attachment) will grind the lamb I buy so cheaply at Costco if I want to experiment with burgers and meatloaves including such a meat (which I know a decent butcher would grind for me, but you might not know just how huge the difference in price is between lamb you buy at a good butcher's and lamb of equally good quality at Costco). One mixer to rule them all, one mixer to bind them ...

Well, maybe not quite that magical a mixer, but you get the idea.

Kitchenaid Costco today had a deal that looked pretty irresistible on a mixer that looked as though it might suit my purposes. It's a KitchenAid Pro series -- 475-watt motor -- just like the mixer I've been dreaming about for years (yeah, I dream about kitchen appliances -- what can I say?), though I'd thought that to get the motor I wanted (mmm ... 475 watts ...) I'd need a six-quart capacity. This one has a five-quart capacity -- still enough to make six loaves of bread in a batch, the box says (and the wattage supports).

And the mixer, which I'd walked by at Costco for a year, was $40 off -- down to $239.99. The six-quart, 475-watt mixer I'd been eyeing for the last several years at least is way more than twice that much.

Cooking mavens, tell me: Am I a mixing fool? Will the five-quart capacity that seems perfectly fine to me, given the power of the motor (without which true whole-wheat dough, as well as many pasta doughs are impossible), chafe within weeks? Are attachments harder to get than they seem for this odd creature, the 475-watt but five-quarter? 'Cause I think this mixer just might be The One.

August 22, 2007 in Cooking, Life and Whatnot | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

vacation thoughts

Today is the last day of a truly lovely vacation. I'm writing on the screened-in porch of our cabin overlooking a New Hampshire "great pond" (think small lake), listening to the wind whispering through the trees and reflecting on just how much good it's done my soul to spend a week getting lots of sun, fresh air, and time on the water, preparing and enjoying simple and delicious meals, watching clouds drift across the sky, and thinking.

I did some reading on development to reduce or eliminate extreme poverty. Since the U2charist has taken on such a remarkable life of its own around the world, I've felt the need to be better informed about issues related to extreme poverty. I have often preached and written about the spiritually dangerous position we place ourselves in when our response to poverty is to lob money at or in the direction of poor people such that we feel generous, but retain a death-grip on the power and privilege that keeps us in the position of deciding, in effect, through our charity who lives and who dies. I worry that sometimes when I'm talking with people planning U2charists, where the money should go and why seems like an afterthought. I think about how many times I've heard an American Christian say something along the lines of, "well, it really doesn't matter WHAT you do to help; what matters is that you try to do SOMETHING, and that your heart's in the right place." It matters a great deal, I dare say, to those who do live in extreme poverty whether what you do is effective and for whom, and I want my work to support organizations and approaches that make the most difference for those in greatest need. I think in the months to come I'll do some more blogging about what I've been reading and what thinking it's prompted, though I'm still deciding whether Grace Notes or the U2charist page would be a better venue for it.

But I haven't been spending all of my time or even most of it this week reading and thinking about development. This has been a real, honest-to-gosh VACATION, and the first one I can recall of this length in I don't know how long. I've used many vacation days over the years for speaking or conference engagements, and have sometimes been able to surround the work with a few days in a nice spot nearby to make a sort of working vacation. I've visited family or friends, usually for a long weekend and also often in conjunction with some kind of work. It's a different experience altogether to go somewhere beautiful and quiet -- no cell phone reception to speak of, no Internet access, and no intrusions of concerns from elsewhere. To post my lectionary blog, I drove around until I found an open wireless network -- and New Hampshire must be the top state in the Union for Internet security, as it seems just about everyone keeps their network locked down tight. I finally found a tiny public library -- the Frost Free Public Library, a name which must strike many as ironic in New Hampshire winters -- that was closed, but that kept its wireless up and open. But at the cabin, there's no 'Net at all, so not even Anglican politics could intrude. Lovely.

Tempest_170_pro_top

I'm finding that the Impact self-defense classes I've taken have inspired me to renegotiate my relationship with my body, which I'd been seriously neglecting for quite some time. For my honey's birthday, I arranged for us to take kayaking lessons, and we now have a "season pass" on kayak rentals that lets us try out all kinds of kayaks whenever we want for the rest of 2007. This week, I've been paddling a Wilderness Systems Tempest Pro 170, and I love it. It's a versatile kayak, suitable for ocean use, long enough to track decently, and maneuverable enough to still be fun in quieter water. It's longer and narrower than the kayak I used in our class, which makes it easier to tip and a little more difficult to get into and out of (especially for a gal with dislocating kneecaps), but it's also significantly more responsive, which is fun -- and very useful when the wind kicks up. It's got a composite hull that's lighter and seems to allow for more speed than plastic ones as well, and I've very much enjoyed paddling fast enough to get a nice breeze in my face and to work up a sweat. I'm almost tempted to say that this is the kayak for me, but I do plan to try others, and it's nice in the meantime to have a physical, outdoor activity that I actually love (other than surfing, a sport for which the Charles River and Boston Harbor are far from renowned). I think it'll be good for body and soul for the rest of the season to walk once or twice a week to the boathouse and paddle for a couple of hours.

Tempest_170_pro_side

August 17, 2007 in Life and Whatnot, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), U2charist, Where's Dylan? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

deeper IMPACT

I'm just a little bit sore and a little bit tired, but I feel GOOD.

I blogged in May about spending an intensive weekend learning self-defense, assertiveness, and a whole lot more with IMPACT, formerly known as "model mugging," where women, men, teens, and kids learn to use their voice and body to set boundaries and protect themselves. The training is astonishingly effective, and I definitely felt that I learned well what they taught in just a weekend. But it was such a powerful and empowering experience -- both in what it did for me and in getting to witness and encourage the healing and empowering work that others did in the course -- that I decided to take the class again, this time in a weekly course that met for five sessions.

Tonight was graduation from that course.

Every description I try to come up with for what it's like falls short of the reality. I work hard at preaching, at lectionary blogging, at ministry, and I have been privileged to witness some moments of transformation that just might have been as much of a blessing to me as they were to the people experiencing them firsthand. Still, I don't think I've ever seen such powerful and positive change so consistently in so many different ages and kinds of people over so short a time as I see in what IMPACT does. People who before felt paralyzed by fear and hurts stand tall, say clearly, calmly, and strongly what they need, and when it's necessary, respond to an assault from a MUCH larger and physically stronger attacker ("model mugger") in a way that would incapacitate him were it not for his protective gear. There are tears and shouts and hugs and not a little laughter, and there is amazing healing and growth.

It's a sad reality in lots of ways in our society and our world that the most help is available to those who have the most resources, and are therefore in some ways least in need. That's not at all how it is with IMPACT in Boston, though. IMPACT gives scholarships, including full scholarships, to people who want to take their courses in the community and are in financial need. They also go to shelters for the homeless and for those who have experienced domestic violence, where they teach not just self-defense and assertiveness, but life skills that will help people get jobs, find homes, and build a life that's safe and rewarding for themselves and their families. And IMPACT provides paid internships to people transitioning from those shelters that help them build their skills further and gain experience and references to get a better job, all while earning a wage that will help now.

IMPACT Boston is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. True to form, they're not celebrating it with a black-tie dinner-dance at a swanky hotel or on a harbor cruise. They're celebrating it at their decidedly modest offices -- a couple of alcoves, really, where the air conditioning mostly works off of a good-sized room where the mats get set out for classes. They're celebrating it with a day of one-hour classes -- reviews and advanced skills for graduates, and introductory classes for those who haven't yet experienced an IMPACT class for themselves. And they're celebrating by honoring people who have worked hard for years to empower women as IMPACT does -- not just those who have a lot of money to give and give it, but who pour out heart and soul and hours of time volunteering for classes, being the first ones to experience every new situation the class addresses and being there for those who need extra support or a quiet word to face a particularly strong fear or painful memory. This is a celebration in which the "red carpet" that covers the industrial linoleum will be gym mats on which we'll do what IMPACT does: learn some new skills and rediscover what we already know and can do to thwart violence and be safe and whole.

I've been making calls this week encouraging graduates to come to the 20th anniversary celebration on September 29th. It's a pleasure making calls asking for support when so many of those I talk with brighten up immediately when they hear I'm calling from IMPACT and pour out their stories -- how they took the class years ago and have walked taller ever since, how IMPACT helped them to connect with the strength they didn't know they had to get their life back after trauma, how a loved one who took the course has always been grateful for it. And this evening as I drove home from my IMPACT class' graduation, I thought to myself that I share my thoughts and my time and quite a lot about my life with y'all at SarahLaughed.net, and I would share this too.

So I'm doing something unusual for SarahLaughed. I've done it before when there were hurricanes, floods and tsunamis, and I thought I'd try it to respond to a different kind of tide: cycles of violence and poverty (these so often go together and fuel one another) that IMPACT addresses directly and powerfully. In celebration of their 20th anniversary, IMPACT Boston wants to raise $20,000 for community programs, scholarships, and new initiatives such as I've described (though not doing the power of their work justice; I'm still at a loss as to how to do that). They're inviting graduates to bring $200 or more when we come onto the mats on September 29th. I'm going to share that opportunity with you.

If you think what I do at SarahLaughed.net is empowering others, and if IMPACT sounds like something you'd like to support, I invite you to stop by this web page, donate as you feel moved -- $20, $200, or whatever you think best -- and if you'd like me to know that you did this in some way because of SarahLaughed.net, let IMPACT know by entering 'SarahLaughed.net' or my name in the box asking whom you're sponsoring. I count what you do for IMPACT as done for me and then some; SarahLaughed.net, after all, is where I use my voice to try to inspire others who want to engage God's mission of justice for those most vulnerable, and as much as I hope to grow continually more effective in that role, I think it's fair to say that IMPACT accomplishes more and more immediately in any given week than I do to empower people in a way that changes lives for the better.

If you want more information about IMPACT's 20th anniversary celebration, there's some here, on what may be the world's most basic web page (they spend their resources on programs, not web designers!), and you can find our a bit more about IMPACT in Boston here. And if you'd like to see some clips of what IMPACT self-defense looks like if a graduate is physically attacked (IMPACT strongly emphasizes that it's only appropriate to hit or kick when one is physically attacked, and that "a fight avoided is a fight won"), the IMPACT chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area made a remarkably effective commercial on a shoestring budget, which you can download in something approaching its full glory here if you have a broadband Internet connection, or here as a smaller file for slower connections.

And here endeth the IMPACT plug -- for now, at least. With what I've seen so far, I suspect that I'm going to be following their work, participating where I can, and becoming increasingly impressed with them in the process, so you just might hear more about it another day. Thanks for listening -- and thanks, as ever, for all of the ways you encourage me to use my voice.

August 8, 2007 in Life and Whatnot | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What Not To Say on the GOEs, Part I: Church History

An imaginary exploration of what the world's worst student might say in the General Ordination Exams ...

Describe the Elizabethan Settlement. How was it reached, and what was its importance for Anglicanism?

The Elizabethan Settlement resulted from a complicated and highly politicized series of negotiations; it sprang from a surprising turn of events; it inaugurated lasting consequences in the intricate web of relationships of its major actors; and in the process it played a profound role in shaping Anglicanism, and arguably the whole of the Church in the eyes of the West.

The Elizabethan Settlement occurred when both Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench were nominated for American Academy Awards in 1998 for their portrayals of Queen Elizabeth I. Blanchett in Elizabeth got to bed Joseph Fiennes, who was very much a hottie back then. However, it was Dame Judi Dench's portrayal of a truly virginal Virgin Queen in Shakespeare in Love, made in the same year, that won the Oscar, though in Shakespeare in Love the prize of a night with Joseph Fiennes went to Gwynneth Paltrow. The consequences of the Elizabethan Settlement were profound for all involved. Cate Blanchett’s career has arguably been mostly downhill from there, while Judi Dench not only nabbed the Oscar, but went on to snag even more enviable roles, such as that scheming lesbian hag in Notes on a Scandal in 2006. Cate Blanchett appeared in that film too, of course, but she pretty much got stuck making cow eyes and shocked expressions while Dench stole the film. Arguably, it was the Elizabethan Settlement that led to Dench's resurgence in the consciousness of the American filmgoing public, resulting in, among other things, her winning the role of “M” in the Bond films, which must have been incredibly lucrative, and yet required little more than perfunctory clock-punching from such an accomplished thespian.

The role of politics in the Elizabethan Settlement cannot be denied; Miramax Studios responded to previous Oscar snubs against non-American films and actors with a major publicity push in Variety and in direct-mail campaigns to Academy members urging them to vote for Dench despite her very limited screen time, and although Dench's long and distinguished career certainly deserves recognition, everybody said she pretty much got the Oscar out of sympathy. Frankly, I felt sympathy for her because, unlike the other actors involved in the Elizabethan Settlement, she got pretty much no action as well as very few lines. In this sense, perhaps it could be said that Dench's gains in the Elizabethan Settlement were a triumph for traditional sexual morality.

I would argue, however, that time has proven the real winner of the Elizabethan Settlement to be Gwynneth Paltrow — ironically, since she didn’t actually play Elizabeth. She not only won an Oscar for leading actress, but she also got to roll around with Joseph Fiennes at his peak. The Elizabethan Settlement gave her the respect of critics that has allowed her both to essentially phone in every performance since then and, more importantly, enough “it-factor” eventually to bag Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, who is every bit as talented as Bono — I don’t care what anyone else says about that — and has a far cuter butt and slimmer waistline. (Than Bono has, I mean. Bono’s charismatic, to be sure, but I don’t think either he or Chris Martin has anywhere near as shapely a posterior as Gynneth Paltrow. I have no idea how she manages maintaining that with kids and all — my butt went cottage-cheesy right after my eldest was born, and no amount of time on the elliptical trainer since has managed to get it back into shape. But I digress. Oh geez — I didn’t mean that last sentence to be a pun or anything.)

Why Gwynneth Paltrow went on after achieving such dizzying heights to give her kids weird-ass names like “Apple” is anyone’s guess. However, the most important consequences of the Elizabethan Settlement go beyond individual actors’ careers and their on- and off-screen romances to shape gender politics as well as the Reformation, and with it the character of Western Christianity itself. In the Elizabethan Settlement Joseph Fiennes — the real loser of the Settlement, if you ask me — wasn’t even NOMINATED for an Oscar. Furthermore, his best-known role since then was as Martin Luther in a fairly decent film that, lacking the major studio backing of both Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love, never really garnered much attention even though the studio tried marketing it to the fundie crowd. In my opinion, it’s an underrated film, but nevertheless the younger Fiennes essentially hasn’t been heard from since then. Some say that his receding hairline is largely responsible for his ebbing career, but the show biz success and (at least to a certain crowd) sex-symbol status of such follically challenged luminaries as Patrick Stewart and U2’s The Edge suggests another explanation, and in the perspective of many, it’s that the Elizabethan Settlement, and particularly the controversy over dench’s winning an Oscar, seized the public eye for the Elizabethan women in critical, popular, and even business terms such that none of the guys could get anything out of it even though it was really Fiennes’ rakish charm, in my opinion, that made so many women willing to pony up to see yet another movie suggesting that a woman can’t be successful in her career without acting like a man and/or wearing ridiculous amounts of makeup.

And thus, in a remarkable series of coincidences, the Elizabethan Settlement — particularly in light of its long-term repercussions for the actors involved — achieved what many thought was impossible. It made Anglicans, and by extension Anglicanism, seem very sexy indeed in the late 1990s and early years of the new millennium — sexier even than Joseph Fiennes’ dark, smoldering eyes and theological bad-boy demeanor could make Martin Luther. The effect of the Elizabethan Settlement on the career of Coldplay has yet to be seen, but if their performance at Live 8 — particularly in their triumphant rendition of “Bittersweet Symphony” — is any indication, it may be that in the long run, the Elizabethan Settlement will advance the cause of at least one man involved almost as much as of the women.

August 2, 2007 in Churchiness, Just for Fun | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack