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Jim Huggins Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Jim Huggins" journal:

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November 15th, 2016
05:33 pm
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To my conservative friends regarding college students.
An unapologetic rant follows.   You have been warned.

The aftermath of the US presidential election continues.   Social media has basically become anti-social media, bringing out the worst aggressive behaviors I've seen in years.

I've tried to be good.   I've tried to listen more than speak.   When I've spoken, I've tried to speak on behalf of "the least of these" that we are called to serve (Matthew 25:40) ... on behalf of "those who mourn", who are blessed by God (Matthew 5:4) ... in general, speaking words of healing and life.   I've tried to stay out of it.

But I can't stand it anymore.

The latest trend I'm seeing on social media is unfiltered criticism by conservatives of college students, especially those college students who supported losing candidates in the last election.   They're "wimps" who should just "get over it".   They're "special snowflakes" for needing safe spaces and accommodations for stress.    They're "crybabies" who are only upset because they didn't get their way.

To all of you, I have one thing to say.

SHUT UP.   NOW.

This is my world you're talking about.

I have the great privilege of walking amongst college students every day.   These students are working incredibly hard to prepare for careers that don't exist yet, to create a future that none of us can envision.    And, occasionally, these students invite me into their hearts and lives to see more of the world that they are creating for the rest of us.   It is the one thing that keeps me going.

For most of these college students, this is the first presidential election in which they participated.   They had no idea what to expect (as if ANY of us expected the roller coaster of the last eighteen months), because they were too young to participate in any prior elections.

And you're criticizing them because they don't have the life experiences of old farts like me in order to handle the massive swing of emotions that happened this week?   You're criticizing idealistic nineteen-year-old students for not being embittered fifty-year-old cynics?   (Well, I guess I know how we get cynics now.)

Do you honestly think that calling students "crybabies", "wimps", and "special snowflakes" will change their thoughts and attitudes?   How is this helpful?   How does this engage with their concerns --- some of which are absolutely valid, by the way --- and move them towards healing?   Can you think of a single person who you've called a "crybaby" who suddenly realized the error of their ways?

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (--Ephesians 4:29)

No, we didn't have "safe spaces" a generation ago.   And you know what?   Life sucked a generation ago, too.   Except that we all hid our concerns from each other and pretended that everything was okay.   That repressed emotion took other ugly forms.   You might have come out of it just fine, but lots of other people didn't.   But you wouldn't know that, because they weren't allowed to tell you that they weren't okay.

A decade ago, I was a parent of two pre-school children.   It sucked.   Being a father was (and is) the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life.   I tried to reach out to people to ask for their help and support.   You know what I got instead?

"Suck it up, it'll only be worse when they're teenagers."

I needed a safe space where I could express the pain in my life and receive comfort and counsel.   But I was denied that space.

And so I shut down.    I shut people out of my life, portraying the perfect little image they demanded from me.   And I sat at home and wept because of it.

I would not have made it through that phase of my life except for four people: my parents, and two wise saints at my church.   They stood beside me and said: "Yes, this sucks.   You're not imagining it.   It's hard.   But you can get through this, and it will get better."   They'd been there; they'd lived through those days.  They took the time to accept me, to love me, to pray for me, and to put their love into action around me.   And that's how I got through the pre-school phase of life.

That, and lots of reruns of "Dora the Explorer".   But that's a story for another time.

I see these college students around me, trying to make sense of the world around them, fearful of the world we old farts have bequeathed to them, not certain how to transform it into the world they want it to be.   The last thing they need is a bunch of us ridiculing them.  If they are wrong, they will figure it out soon enough.    If they are right, the last thing they need is for us to stand in their way.

There is a poignant scene in a first-season episode of Babylon 5.   An ambassador from Centauri Prime is caught up in a marriage dispute; a young couple who wish to marry for love are being forced to return home to participate in arranged marriages to other people, and have appealed to him for help.   Everything he has been taught as a good Centauri tells him that his culture is right, and their young and foolish passions are wrong.   And then, in a conversation with his young aide, he stops and says "My shoes are too tight."   His aide becomes confused, and the ambassador says:

"Something my father said. He was... Old, very old at the time. I went into his room, and he was sitting, alone in the dark, crying. So I asked him what was wrong, and he said, "My shoes are too tight. But it doesn't matter, because I have forgotten how to dance." I never understood what that meant until now. My shoes are too tight, and I have forgotten how to dance."

I wonder how many of us old farts react to young people with hostility and contempt because our shoes are too tight, we have forgotten how to dance, and we are jealous of their well-fitting shoes and joyous dancing.

These young men and women are not "crybabies" or "wimps" or "special snowflakes".   They are men and women created in the image of God, endowed by God with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.    And in many cases, they are my friends.

They have much to learn.   But so do I.   And I am not so arrogant as to assume which one of us is the teacher and which is the student in this moment.

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." ---(James 1:19-20).

I choose to stand with them.  

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November 7th, 2016
11:58 am
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A lament for the 2016 election
[Warning: long discourse follows.]

Social media is a weird place for me.

I enjoy being out there and exchanging ideas with folks.   I got dragged into blogging and Facebook by my students --- or, more exactly, wanting to know what my students were saying about me behind my back.   (Thankfully, they say the same things behind my back that they say to my face.)   And I've found it an intelluctually enriching experience.   I'm thankful to them for putting me out here.   (Y'all know who you are.)

Part of what makes this so enriching for me is because I have connections in so many worlds.   Professional, recreational, spiritual, biological, historical ... my "friends' list on Facebook is vast and diverse.    Such connections have allowed me to learn far more about different things than I could've otherwise imagined.   I regularly read people with completely different opinions and life experiences than mine, and I'm better for it.

But I also know that I'm a semi-public figure.   Oh, don't get me wrong, I don't have any over-inflated sense of my own importance.   But I do hold leadership roles in many organizations.   And I realize that lots of people read what I have to say through the lens of those organizations.

This can be a good thing.   I've used the "bully pulpit" I've been given (and, yes, it's a really small one) to try and highlight ideas and causes and philosophies that deserve greater discussion.   My frequent readers know the causes that I tend to highlight, most often dealing with "education" or "logic" in a broader, extended sense.   Occasionally, folks will send me a note letting me know that I've caused them to stop and think for a few moments; there is no greater compliment for a teacher.

And then we come to the 2016 presidential election.

Having my feet in so many different worlds has made this election more painful than many.   I have seen, first hand, how badly divided our country is.   I see each community in which I stand talking about this election, praising their candidate and demonizing their opponents, as if everyone within the reach of their comments shares their zealotry, and ignoring any possible outside information that might imply their candidate is wrong.

And I see this in every community.  

Which makes it hard for me to be sitting in the middle.   Because I see both sides.   And any attempt to speak to one side about the other results in anger.

I've come to use my social media presence as a means to give voice to certain voiceless causes.   Partially, I do this because people are listening and, for some bizarre reason, think that my opinions have merit.   But partially, I do this because there are times when it is important to stand for the voiceless; merely the act of making the statement shows identification with those on the outside.

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me."   (---Matthew 25:40, loosely paraphrasing)

But I feel like I can't say anything about this election --- at least not on social media.   As other wags have noted, the chief effect of stating an opinion these days is not to convince anyone, but merely to piss off just about everyone else,

I've lost church friends over the last few years because of opinions I've voiced on Facebook --- real friends, not Facebook "friends".   I have few enough friends as it is; I don't want to lose any others.

I teach students every day.   I can't afford to present an image to them of someone who doesn't care about them.   And certain political and religious opinions, if voiced, would lead to exactly that incredibly inaccurate conclusion.

I can't afford to stand with the side I've chosen in this election, because, if the polls are to be believed, the only thing that will accomplish is to piss off at least half of my social media followers.   Worse, if I try to take a nuanced, moderate position, I'll piss off three-quarters of them.

I know this because I've tried.   Any small steps I've taken towards engaging in intellectual debate on the candidates in the 2016 election have been met with the same old tired responses.   The amount of grief I've encountered isn't worth the effort.

All because we can't find a way to disagree agreeably.  

In academia, we have a tradition: attack ideas, not people.   It leads to results that must look quite strange to outsiders.   I may present at a conference and have my ideas viciously torn apart by my colleagues, only to break bread with those same colleagues later that evening.   Because the greatest respect my colleagues can show for me is to point out the flaws in my ideas, so that I can make better ones.

(Okay, sometimes academics suck at that, too.   But we at least recognize the ideal, and strive toward it.)

So ... as much as I feel like I should make my political allegiances known in this election, I won't.   Tomorrow I will hide in my voting booth and color the bubbles of my selections in silence.   I will feel like a coward.   But there seems little else left.

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  (---2 Chronicles 7:14)

Current Location: Fenton, MI
Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
Current Music: Michael Card, "Heal Our Land"

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September 14th, 2016
10:36 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 14 September 2016
Hey, I'm trying to get one of these done on-time for once?   *headdesk*

The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side Of The Pond.

1. What's changed in your life, home, or community since your last birthday?

Well, reaching back a whole year (hint, hint ...)

We adopted a cat.   Our church youth group collapsed and then was miraculously reborn.   I'm almost done with training to become an AP Workshop Consultant.   I've made a lot of people angry at work.   I'm back as indefinite-interim music director at church.

That enough for now?  :)

2. September is Classical Music Month. Do you like/listen to classical music? If so what's a favorite piece and/or who is a favorite composer?

I used to love listening to classical music at home.   I took piano lessons throughout K-12, and my training was classical (Bach, Beethoven, etc.).   I don't listen nearly so much anymore ... mostly because it's a little too soothing when I'm trying to get stuff done.

Favorite pieces?   Ask me something simple, like which of my children I love more ... :)

3. Besides The Bible, what's a book that has positively changed your life, relationships, career, or perspective? How so?

The one that comes to mind within the last few years, which I think I've talked about in blogs before, is To Forgive Is Human.

I've had problems with bullies in my life (adult bullies, mind you) that I've not known how to forgive --- even if they've asked for forgiveness.   It's impossible to summarize the book in two or three sentences, but .... the book has given me a perspective on forgiveness as something active, not passive.   Forgiveness doesn't say that the offense doesn't matter, or that the offense didn't cause harm.   It does say that the forgiver views the relationship as having enough value to not let the offense sever the relationship.  It's something I'm still working through.

4. I read these ten hobbies will make you smarter...play a musical instrument, read voraciously, meditate regularly, work out your brain (puzzles, sudoku, board games, etc), exercise often, learn a new language, write your feelings down (blog, journal, just write), travel to new places, cook different kinds of meals, participate in sports actively
Are any on this list your current hobbies? Which hobby on the list would you be most inclined to try?

Current hobbies: play a music instrument (keyboard), reading (well, maybe), brainwork, writing feelings (blog/Facebook).

What I'd be most inclined to try: I really should exercise more.   I'm overweight.

5. What sports traditions does your family have?

Every year, for the Super Bowl, my dear wife makes sugar cookies in the shape of football helmets, and decorates them with the helmet designs of the two participating teams.   Then we invite people over to our house for a simple dinner and to watch the Super Bowl.   Alas, in the last few years, nobody's come to the party.   (Is it a party if you invite people and no-one comes?)

6. In a few words, weigh in on the current football/National Anthem brouhaha. Keep it family friendly please.

Several thoughts, mostly about the rhetoric.

A.   I feel like this is a manufactured controversy.    Nobody noticed that Kaepernick wasn't standing for the National Anthem for the first two games of the NFL pre-season.   It was only after someone asked about it in the third game that the whole thing blew up.

B.   If paying respect to the flag during the National Anthem is so important, why are people spending their time looking around at the players on the sideline?   If you're paying respect to the flag, shouldn't you be looking at the flag?

C.   I find it odd that people are complaining about the action as being "offensive".   Of course it's offensive: that's the point of a protest.   If a protest isn't offensive in some manner, no-one notices.

D.   Most importantly ... I hear lots of people complaining about the choice of actions, and I hear very few people talking about the complaints of those behind the protests.   Which, to a certain extent, proves the point of the protestors: American society tends to turn a blind eye to those concerns until they're forced to deal with them.

7. Where do you have loads of patience, and where do you most lack patience?

I feel like I have loads of patience in the classroom and with individual students; a student who is honestly trying to master the material will get a great deal of my attention.

Where do I lack patience?   Lately ... hypocrisy.   I'll leave it at that.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Tomorrow, I turn 30.

(If you count in hexidecimal.)

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September 1st, 2016
06:35 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 31 August-1 September 2016
Yeah, I fell off the wagon for a few weeks.   Let's try this again, shall we?

The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1.  Are there any men or women in blue on your family tree?

Nope.   I have ancestors who fought in the Civil War --- on both sides --- but that's about as close as our family has been to that form of public service.

2. Are you someone who suffers from the Sunday night blues? What helps you get over it?

Perhaps a little, but not much.

Part of it is that I married a woman who believes in a somewhat strict observance of Sabbath --- no vocational work on Sundays.  And I've taken up the practice.   Don't get me wrong --- we're not legalists about it.   But we rather unabashedly plan on spending Sunday doing things that we choose to do instead of things we're paid to do.   It does make the other six days go more smoothly.

3. I read the color blue is an appetite suppressant since there are very few naturally blue foods out there. How do you feel about blue cheese? Love it or blech? If you're a fan, what's something you like that's made with blue cheese?

Blue cheese is an abomination, right next to shaved coconut.   It's one of the very few foods for me that causes a gag reflex.

4. We can't head in to the Labor Day weekend without a related question, can we? Complete this thought: I work best when____________________.

... the work I'm doing is valuable --- not just to me, but to others.

5. 'Everything yields to diligence.' Antiphanes Your thoughts? (on this particular quote or on diligence in general)

Nope.  Some things (and some people) are immovable.

6. The National Park Service turned 100 years old on August 25th. Have you been to many of America's National Parks? If so share with us a favorite or two. Which National Park would you most like to visit before the next birthday rolls around?

I'm sure I've visited a few in the various vacations we've taken, but it's hard to make a list.   Yellowstone was probably the last one I visited, just a few years ago, so that's the one that is most prominent in my memory.   Absolutely stunning natural views.

7.  Bid farewell to August in seven words or less.

You load sixteen tons, and whaddya get?

(Okay, I cheated on the word count.   Deal with it.)

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

This week, I received two of the oddest complements, from two different people at work.   I won't repeat them --- partially because it would be self-serving, and partially because it would take too long to explain them.   But one thing they had in common: people recognizing the unpleasant work that I've taken on, and how well I seem to be doing it.   It was quite encouraging.   A lot of the time, I don't feel like anyone notices the value I contribute to the organization.   This week showed me that what I do is making a difference.

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July 14th, 2016
01:13 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 13-14 July 2016
Yeah, I'm late.   What else is new?  :)

The Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side Of The Pond.

1. Do you find yourself influencing your world, or is it more the other way around?

"More" is an interesting word, which makes it hard to answer the question.

Certainly, I'm influenced by the world; we all are.

But I'm also a teacher.  My job is, by definition, to influence young people.   So I'm sure I'm influencing the world.   I hope it's for the better.   (I'm pretty sure that it is for the better, but that's a judgment for others to make, not I.)

2. July 14th is National Tape Measure Day...the device was patented on this date in 1868. When did you last use a tape measure? Do you always know where to find one in your house? Tell us one way in which you feel blessed 'beyond measure'.

I honestly can't remember the last time I used a tape measure for any purpose, though I know I was trying to find one recently (in the toolbox in the hall closet, by the way) because someone else needed it for some project or other.

Blessed beyond measure?   (Warning: sentimental ramblings ahead.)

When it comes to romantic relationships, I see so much brokenness --- not just globally and nationally, but locally.   I see young people jumping from bed to bed, trying to find intimacy and settling for sensuality.   I see marriages casually thrown away (even after decades) because one party or the other gets bored.   I see business that have to set rules for how people relate to one another because of the ways people use power to get sex, or use sex to get power.   I see people "settling" for whatever comes along instead of holding on to their high standards.

And I see the woman I married 22 years ago ... and I am incredibly grateful.

Not in the superficial, cheesy sense of "gee, I'm grateful that she hasn't dumped me yet."

I am grateful that I have a life partner: a helpmate (Genesis 2) with whom I share hopes, dreams, ambitions, values, interests, beliefs, intentions, and ideas.   Oh, and with whom I also share a bank account, a mortgage, a Netflix password, and a bed.

While some of those 22 years together is a result of our mutual commitment to stay married "until death us do part", I also know that some of this is only possible because of God's gracious gift to us.   In a world of brokenness, we are knit together tightly.   And God gets the credit for making that possible.

The nicknames we use for our spouses vary from the ridiculous to the sublime.   One of the better ones I've heard is "my better half".   I've come to appreciate that phrase more and more over the years.   She makes me better than I am.

And, for that reason, I am blessed beyond measure.

3.The Plaza Hotel (Eloise), The Land of Oz (The Wizard of Oz), Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia), The Hundred Acre Wood (Winnie the Pooh), Wonderland (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), or Never Never Land (Peter Pan)...which storybook land (on this list!) would you most like to visit and why?

Perhaps the Hundred Acre Wood.   It's hard to pick ... frankly, I'm more of an indoors person than an outdoors one.   But A.A. Milne's stories are so delightful ... it would be lovely just to spend an afternoon looking for heffalumps, or finding a birthday gift for Eeyore, or just walking hand in hand with Piglet.

4. Where and when do you get your best ideas?

I don't have a good answer for this.   Good ideas come and go, depending on context.

5.  So what have you been watching on TV this summer? Anything good?

In terms of live TV?   We're big fans of BattleBots.   After that's over, we need to catch-up on Agents of SHIELD.

But over the last few weeks, now that the kids are out of school, we've been trying to get my daughter caught up on movies that she needs to see to be "culturally relevant".   Of course, "culturally relevant" mostly means "understanding the movies we keep quoting" or, at least this summer, "seeing enough prequels so we can take you to the movies with us".   The last week or so, it was watching selected movies from the Star Trek franchise in order to be ready for Star Trek Beyond when it releases.

6. 'Don't swim for an hour after you eat', 'Dog days of summer', 'Knee high by the Fourth of July'...choose a summer saying from the list or share one of your own, then tell us what image or memory comes to mind when you hear it spoken.

Of those ... I think it's "Dog Days of Summer".   I've never been one to enjoy hot temperatures, and those middle two weeks of August here in Michigan where it's consistently in the 90s every single day are just really looooooong to endure.

7. In a single sentence, sum up one life lesson you've learned.

You can accomplish a whole lot more than you think you can --- especially when you're tired.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

It's the first week of the semester, and I still feel out-of-sorts.   I don't feel in-phase yet with my students.   This, too, will pass; I'll get to know them, they'll get to know me, and we'll get there.   But it's not there just yet.

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July 6th, 2016
05:29 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 6 July 2016
It's baaaaaaaaaack .........

1. How did you welcome the month of July, and tell us one fun thing you did to celebrate the 4th. (or the weekend for any non-USA residents playing along today)

We welcomed the month of July by driving home from our annual vacation at Cedar Campus.   I've talked about Cedar many times before; this place is holy ground for us, and it's an important week for our family.

July 4th?  We had a fairly relaxed day ... slept wait, took in a movie (X-Men: Apocalypse), then tried a new Mediterranean restaurant for dinner.

2. Right now..what's your favorite red thing? white thing? blue thing?

Um.   Wow, this is hard.   I don't think of a lot of things in my environment as "favorite" things.

Red?   Oh ... look at this cherry cobbler sitting on the table here.   I love summer cooking with fresh fruit.  :)
White?   I can't think of a lot of things around me that are dominantly white in color.   Maybe the new set of socks I just bought, because the old ones all had holes?
Blue?   Here, it's the opposite problem, because lots of things in my world are blue.  Probably I'd have to pick a jacket that I received as a gift for attending a teaching retreat here at Kettering.   It fits well, and looks sharp.

3. Wave the white flag, raise a red flag, fly your freak flag...which 'flag' have you flown most recently? Explain.

Wave the white flag.   I'm having to learn how to give up the unrealistic expectations I set up for myself, and trying to say "no" to things.   Saying "no" to good things is hard, but I'm about to be over-extended for the next six months, and I've got to do a better job of being extremely selfish about my self-care.

4. According to Cond Nast Traveler these are the seven best places to visit in July-
a boat safari in Botswanna's Okavango Delta, Riviera Maya Mexico (it's whale shark season and apparently you can swim with them), Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, Pamploma Spain, St. Petersburg Russia, the Fuji Rock Festival at Mount Naeba Japan, the Salzburg Festival in Salzburg Austria
If time and money weren't factors would you want to see any/all of these? Which would you most like to see and why?

I haven't taken the time to really investigate most of these.   My uninformed glance through the list suggests the Salzburg Festival ... I've really enjoyed the little time I spent in Europe during my mad research days, and I think that might be delightful.

5. Grilled cheese, pimento cheese, or mac and cheese...your favorite from the cheesy treats listed?

I used to love pimento cheese spread when I was a kid ... haven't had it in ages.   Between the other two, I'd pick mac and cheese ... I've never been an amazing fan of grilled cheese, and people are doing all sorts of interesting things with mac and cheese these days.

6. What makes you sweat?

What doesn't?  :)

Seriously ... most outdoor exertion.   I'm overweight.

7. Your favorite movie with a 'patriotic' theme of some sort?

This is really hard for me, as the jingoism that often accompanies displays of patriotism bothers me.   Paradoxically, some of the older wartime movies have appeal --- at least the ones that have some sort of strategic elements in them.   The Longest Day and The Great Escape come to mind.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

So, I didn't do much hodgepodge blogging over my non-teaching term (April-June); I think the different rhythm of my days meant that I wasn't thinking about doing this.   And then I went to the AP Reading in June and had several people tell me how much they enjoyed my blog entries, especially the Hodgepodge.   It still surprises me that people like reading what I write.  :).   So, I'm going to try to get back into the habit of writing once again.   It's a good muscle for me to exercise now and then.

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April 27th, 2016
12:41 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 27 April 2016
So I missed a few weeks, and then the Hodgepodge took a week off.  Let's try to get back into this, shall we?

The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side Of The Pond.

1. This is the last Hodgepodge in April. Share something you learned this month.

On Spring Break with my family, we spent a couple of days in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.   I'd seen the movie, and knew the broad outlines of the Civil War, but it was fascinating to see the land itself and put all the pieces together in my head.

It was also interesting to accidentally end up eating lunch at a local pub which happened to be the headquarters of both the Union and Confederate cast members during the shooting of the movie.   Apparently, the Confederate cast was a rather rowdy bunch, enjoying themselves nightly the pub.   One night, the actor who played General Pickett jumped onto the bar and shouted "I've finally taken the high ground!".

2.  It's National Poetry Month, and we all know you can't escape an April Hodgepodge without a little poetry. Keeping the first line as is, change the rest of the wording in this familiar rhyme to make it your own - 'Hickory Dickory Dock...

Hickory, Dickory, Dock
There's no one on our block
Our house just sits
Alone, but its
A lovely example of nonconformism.

3. What were one or two rules in the home you grew up in? Growing up, did you feel your parents were strict? Looking back do you still see it that way?

About the only "rule" I really remember was "call when you get home".   My mother re-entered the workforce when we moved to a new home at the beginning of my junior high days; she wanted to know that we were home safely from school each day.   It wasn't a long call (because she had work to do, of course), but it helped her know all was well at home.

I didn't think my folks were particularly strict or lax, either then or now.

4. Tell us about a kitchen or cooking disaster or mishap you've experienced. Do you have many from which to choose?

The story I always tell ...

The time that I truly lived on my own was the summer after my junior year of college, when I got a summer job working for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota.   I'd never really "cooked" anything in my life; okay, I could open a box of frozen stuff and stick it in the oven or microwave, but that was it, really.   When I rented an efficiency apartment in Minnesota, my mother fully expected that I'd just eat out for every meal.  I said that I really shouldn't do that, and we assembled a small collection of kitchen items to allow me to move forward.   Mom even sent me a package with a frying pan and a "Cooking for One" cookbook.

So far, so good.

I look through the cookbook.   There's a recipe in there for fried rice.   Excellent; I love Chinese food, and the instructions appear pretty simple.   I go to the supermarket, buy all the ingredients, get home, open up the recipe.   First ingredient in the recipe: "two cups cooked rice".   I grab the box of rice and look at it: right there, on the label, it says "pre-cooked rice".   Great!   So I poor out two cups of the contents of the package directly into the frying pan and continue with the rest of the recipe.

The results were ... a little crunchy.

I had to do it a second time before I finally realized that "pre-cooked" meant something else, and that, yes, indeed, I needed to cook the rice before I could fry it.

5. Plant a kiss, plant doubt, plant a tree, plant yourself somewhere...which on the list have you most recently planted?

Probably a kiss.   I love my wife.

6. What's your most worn item of clothing this time of year? Are you tired of it?

Right now, I'm wearing a lightweight jacket that I received last month from Kettering's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning as a part of its inaugural Great Teachers Retreat.   It's very comfy.

7. I'm wrapping up the A-Z Blog Challenge this month and our Hodgepodge lands on letter W. What's one word beginning with W that describes you in some way? How about a word to describe your home, also beginning with W?

For me: the word is weary.



For my home ... it's probably "welcome".   As Robert Frost said: "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

8. Insert your own random thought here.

This non-teaching term is going ... oddly.   News from work is discouraging, and so I'm almost deliberately saying "screw it, I'm staying home and playing, because I'm going to stress out unbelievably in July".   Which is, on the one hand, something I probably should've started doing years ago.   But I hate that I'm doing it.

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March 31st, 2016
12:34 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 30-31 March 2016
The Wednesday(-ish) Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. What are two or three expectations you have of yourself?

Mostly, that I put forth my best effort, and that I speak the truth (tempered with love if needed, but still the truth).

2. In what way does your outdoor space need sprucing up this spring?

It's hard for me to say.   In our household, care of the outdoor space mostly falls to my dear wife.   But we've had a few things fall down on our property (one ancient picnic table, one tree) that probably need to be disassembled for safety reasons.

3. According to this site (Roadtrippers), six of North America's most wondrous waterfalls are-Webster's Falls in Ontario, Upper Whitewater Falls in North Carolina, Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon, Multnomah Falls in Oregon, The Lower Yellowstone Falls, and Niagara. Have you seen any on the list? Which one on the list would you most like to visit? Prettiest waterfall not on the list that you've seen in person?

The ones that I can remember seeing are Yellowstone and Niagara, both within the last few years.   As for visiting ... I wouldn't know how to pick one.  

4. Looking back, what's something you wish you'd done as a teenager?

I don't have many regrets.   But if I do have one, I think it would be learning how to cook.   My dear wife loves cooking, and so chooses to cook most of the family meals as an act of pleasure for her.    When I pitch in to help by preparing a meal or two, my skill set is limited; mostly, cooking pre-packaged foods.  I'm starting to branch out ever so slightly, thanks to the acquisition of a gas grill a few years ago, and realizing that grill cooking is pretty easy.   But I always feel like my meal preparations aren't really "cooking".

5. Ham...yes please or no thank you? If you said yes please which of the following do you like best-baked ham with all the trimmings, a ham and cheese sandwich, prosciutto with melon, a ham biscuit, a bowl of split pea and ham soup, or a slice of pizza topped with ham and pineapple?

Oh, yes, please.   It's a hard choice between "baked him with all the trimmings" (memories of family) and "ham and pineapple pizza".

6. Are you typical of your generation? How so?

Oh, heavens, no.  

I'm a practicing evangelical Christian who believes in a thoughtful approach to the Christian life.   I was blessed to live with parents who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.   My wife (whose parents also just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary) and I never slept together or lived together before our wedding night.   I don't drink beverage alcohol, mostly because I've never liked the taste of anything I've tried.   And I don't drink coffee.


7. April rolls in at the end of the week, and in keeping with that theme...'act the fool', 'nobody's fool', 'a fool's errand', 'could have fooled me'...which foolish idiom most recently applies to you? Explain.

I regularly "act the fool" ... but that's part of the job of being a university professor.   Entering the classroom is often like walking onto a stage as an actor; I play the part prepared for me, in order to engage the audience with the activity of the day.   For an introvert like me, that's often "acting the fool" in order to bring students along into the material.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I am entering the most dangerous part of the year for me: my non-teaching term.   Five months of "important" tasks to do in the next three months, and the most important of those tasks is probably resting and leaving that list of tasks undone.   Not being in the classroom is hard; while the flexibility in time schedules is wonderful, I also don't get the benefit of interacting with my students.

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March 26th, 2016
10:45 am
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 22-26 March 2016
The Wednesday(-ish) Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. Has spring sprung in your little corner of the world? Other than the calendar how would I know? What's your favorite thing about spring?

Spring is getting here.   In this corner of the world, spring arrives in fits and starts ... we'll have a few days of warm weather, and then the next week we'll have snow.   Mostly, I notice it's spring because of the retiurn of daylight over more hours of the day.

My favorite thing about spring?   Because of my weird academic schedule, it's the arrival of my non-teaching term.   Three months to do the five months of work I save up for then.  :(   Seriously, though, it's my chance to attempt to step back and relax a little and try to clear the deck of all those annoying little tasks that build up over time.

2. Besides the weather, what's put a spring in your step recently?

I just got back from a one-day retreat focused on teaching, sponsored by our on-campus teaching center.   It was nice to take some time --- even if briefly --- with like-minded people to think about good things.

And maybe --- just maybe --- I got an idea or two for a research project?   We'll have to see.

3. How does Easter impact you?

Someone once said that "in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is."

In theory, Easter has a huge impact on me.   I'm an evangelical Christian.   Without Easter, there is no Christianity; Easter is the fundamental event at the core of Christianity.   If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then all of us Christians are fools.

In practice ... the specific observance of the Easter holiday tends not to impact me much.   Part of that is living in a secular world (and, in particular, a University world) that pays no attention to Easter.   Today is Holy Saturday, and I'm typing this while proctoring my algorithms final exam.   I spent a good part of Good Friday working on administrative tasks and grading.   The world marches on to its own pace, and I follow along.

Also, Easter tends to fall at the time of the year when I'm just finishing up nine months straight of teaching (see above), and I'm tired and burned out.   It's hard for me to muster a lot of enthusiasm about anything just now.

Not treating Easter as special is not necessarily a bad thing.   There are sects within Christianity that do not celebrate specific holidays like Christmas and Easter, because every Sunday (indeed, every day) is supposed to be a celebration of those things.   I would hope that people would see Christ in the life that I live each day.   That's a matter for others to decide.

I'd like to think that Easter was a bigger deal for me.   But, in total honesty ... not so much.

4. I saw this somewhere on Facebook and thought it would make a fun Hodgepodge question. Which of the following would you find most disappointing...
a just stuffed taco shell breaking open and spilling out before you take the first bite? dropping a just-purchased Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts coffee? opening the peanut butter jar and finding it empty? upending onto the sidewalk a just-purchased ice cream cone? a burnt bagel popping up in your toaster when you're rushing breakfast? or cutting into an avocado and finding out it's rotten?

The ice cream cone.   Not sure why ... just seems like the greater tragedy.

5. What's something held together with tape at your house? Or a paper clip? Or a wing and a prayer?

The only thing that I can think of right now is the connection between the dryer exhaust and the outside vent.  Lots of duct tape.

6. Do you feel underappreciated? In what way?

I think this question is why I waited so long to finish this week's blog entry.

I feel appreciated by people in my life.   There are a small number of people who go out of their way to show me that I am important to them, and invest what few resources they have in showing me that.   You know who you are, and I thank you for that.

I feel unappreciated by organizations in my life.   There are many times that I feel like the work I do for those organizations is not valued by those in power and authority.   And while many individuals in those same organizations will reach out to me and show me they value me, their ability to express that is limited by their position in the organization.

And, yet, organizations are composed of people.

Of course, this question comes at a time when I am considering (see above) the sacrifice of Christ, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but voluntarily made himself nothing (Phillippians 2).   It makes it extremely hard to talk about being appreciated when I serve a God who was actively despised and rejected.

7. What's something you'd build if you knew how?

A house.   I'm a little bit jealous of the folks I know who aspire to buying a piece of property and building a house on it.   I'm never exactly sure how much of their own sweat equity goes into that process.   But it'd be nice to be in such a privileged position to be able to do something like that.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I want to give a shout-out to another frequent contributor to "From This Side of the Pond", Barbara.   I had the chance to see her this week ... unfortunately, the reason for seeing her was a funeral.  Barbara, my thoughts are with y'all.

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March 20th, 2016
11:05 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 16-20 March 2016
Yeah, I'm late.   I'm sure you're all surprised.  :)

The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. What do you think about luck?

I think he's a fine quarterback.   It's got to be hard to be the quarterback that follows Peyton Manning, and have to live with that unfair comparison.   Even amidst all of that, he's certainly one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

Oh, wait ... that's not what you meant?   :)

As a serious Christian, I don't like the connotations that surround the word "luck".   I believe that random chance will, randomly, result in occurrences that will seem favorable to an observer.   I believe that God sometimes chooses, of His own free will, to intervene in this world and create good things out of bad situations.   You might call those things "luck", I suppose.

But I object to any notion that people can, by their own actions, influence the laws of chance or the sovereignty of God in order to compel results in their favor.   It's unscientific, and it's idolatry.

2. Not counting your own backyard, what's a favorite green space in your town, city, or state?

As I've said any number of times ... my favorite space in Michigan is Cedar Campus in Cedarville, MI.   For decades, that place has been holy ground for me and my family.

3. How do you make your life more complex than it needs to be?

How don't I make things more complex?  :)

Mostly, it's because I feel guilty about the fact that, at this point in my life, I can't do everything that I want to do, or everything that's expected of me.   My life would be a lot simpler if I didn't inflict myself with guilt.

4. I read here the three places you should visit with friends. They are-New York City, Hawaii, and Amsterdam (rent a bike, walk along the canal, visit one of their world class museums). I felt the need to expound on that one. Moving on...Of the three places listed which would you most like to visit with friends? What's one place not on the list you think should be visited with friends?

With friends?   Probably Hawaii.  I'm discovering that as I get older, I'm less enamored with large busy cities.   I'm sure Hawaii is full of busy places, of course, because of its focus on tourism ... but I think I'd have a better chance of getting some time out in nature than with the other two.

What other place should be visited with friends?   Did I mention that Cedar Campus is holy ground?

5. What's the last live performance you saw? On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being best) how would you rate it?

Last month, I attended a performance at my daughter's high school of Much Ado About Nothing.   It was an interesting production.   The performance itself ... well, it was high school students, who are just learning their craft, and it's not fair to criticize high school students for not being Kenneth Branagh or Emma Thompson.   So I'll pass on the numerical rating.

The artistic direction, however, was fascinating, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the director chose a steampunk theme ... which at least made the sets and costumes much more interesting than usual.  I know it's fashionable to take Shakespeare and put it in usual settings ... and I approve of the fashion when it works well.  And, here, it did work nicely.

But the most fascinating thing about the production was the portrayal of Claudio (the lead male actor).

The actor was in a wheelchair.   That worked reasonably well with the steampunk themes, and the cast made the wheelchair fit into the plot quite well.  (For example, when Don Pedro impersonates Claudio at the masquerade ball, Don Pedro uses Claudio's wheelchair to keep the impersonation intact.)   The actor appeared occasionally with forearm crutches to allow for moments on stage without the chair.

And then, during the curtain call, when Claudio and Hero came to stage center for their applause, the actor wheeled up, stood up, took his bow, and then walked off stage, without any physical aid whatsoever.   The actor had no physical disability, but had portrayed the disability faithfully throughout the performance as a part of the character.

It was a fascinating directoral choice.   And .... it worked.

6. March 14th is National Potato Chip Day. Are you a fan? Your favorite flavor? Besides potato, what's your favorite chip type of snack?

Potato chips are okay.   They're not my favorite food, because ... well, I'm overweight, and I shouldn't like them.   I tend more towards tortilla chips with salsa.

My favorite flavor?   If I'm just looking for taste, it's Pringles Sour Cream and Onion.   But the time I tend to eat potato chips these days is when driving on long trips, in which case I go for salt and vinegar.   It's not that I like the taste; I don't.   But the salt and vinegar is so overpoweringly sour that it helps to keep me awake.

7.What rule is most important in your home?

I'm not sure it's a "rule", but ... if I had to put words to it, it's "respond when someone asks a question".   We've had ordinary situations get a little out of control when someone was thinking about a response to a question for so long that the questioner thought they were being ignored.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Last week, before the NCAA Basketball Tournament began, the radio stations around town were all a-buzz with news of Mateen Cleaves, local college basketball hero who had a modest NBA career, being charged with sexual assault.   The details are sketchy as of yet, but according to the prosecution, the facts are these:

Cleaves (who I believe is married) met the woman and her boyfriend at a charity event.  He offered to give her a ride home, and instead he took her to a motel, where the assault allegedly took place.   He's proclaimed his innocence, but has deferred giving any explanation until the trial (as is his right).

Obviously, like any case of acquaintance rape, this is going to get messy --- publicly messy --- before it's all over.   The mess has already begun, in fact; while the crime allegedly took place in Genesee County (where I live and work), the case is being prosecuted by the Wayne County prosecutor, because the Genessee County prosecutor has an unspecified conflict of interest (reportedly, a business relationship with a potential witness).

But that's not where my thought lies.

As I've been listening to folks talking about this on the radio (aside: it's sometimes really painful to hear sports commentators talking about sexual ethics and legal issues!), one thought came to mind.

I'm an old-fashioned, conservative, religious prude.   And it's at times like this that I'm so happy that I am exactly that.

I can't begin to fathom what it's like for people in today's society who practice a looser sexual ethic.   You meet someone at a party; how in the world do you decide that you're going to be sexually intimate with them in a few hours?   How do you know that you have affirmative consent for that sexual intimacy?   Are they sober enough to consent?   Are they consenting because of some external pressure rather than true consent?   Are they lying to you?   How would you know?

And next weekend, when you go to a different party, how in the world do you answer all of those questions again with a completely different person?

My life is much simpler.

There's exactly one person in the entire world with whom I'm allowed to be sexually intimate.   It took me two and a half years to get her to say "yes" (or, technically, "I do").   I spent those years learning about all the different ways she says "yes" and "no", so that I would clearly recognize them once we were married.   I have incredible incentive to make sure that I get the signals right, because I have to wake up next to her the next morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that --- and I will suffer the consequences in our relationship if I get it wrong.   I've learned that I can trust her, and she's learned that she can trust me.

And there's absolutely nobody else with whom I'm allowed to be sexually intimate.   Period.   I shouldn't come within half a mile of a motel room with a woman who isn't my wife, because absolutely nothing good can come from that.  

And I haven't even begun to talk about Christian theology.  Which I'll save for some other time, because that's not really the point of this "thought".

There are times being an old-fashioned, conservative, religious prude makes my life much, much easier.

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