Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quick Pics From the Trip

We haven't had a lot of wireless opportunities, but here are some picture before we start to head home tomorrow.

Sandy Neck  Beach, MA

Rhode Island parks don't have free showers or correct punctuation.

In Rhode Island, the rain got inside the tent.

Waterfire in Providence, RI. Wooden fires are started on platforms up and down the river.

Monday, June 28, 2010

These are everywhere up here!

New Port Bridge

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Camping Pics from CT

New Haven, CT

New Haven, CT

We visited New Haven on our second day in Connecticut to see Yale University and the Mother Theresa exhibit at the Knights of Columbus Museum. I expected a small college town with some nice architecture.  With so many tall buildings, it didn’t feel small.  New England towns seems to like density even with countryside around them.

Yale was Yale; I’m not sure how else to describe it.  I will brag that the Yale Chapel was more like a medium sized church instead of the impressive Duke Cathedral style.

The art museum had a lot of strange art, which shows my lack of appreciation for Ivy League quality. I’ve included a few samples below.

What is this?

The caption explains what it is made of, but not why it was made, not what it means.

Vaseline, really? Frozen Vaseline? An A for creativity.

Next is the guy loitering on the floor.

I didn’t understand why he was there until I looked closer.  Amber actually went and told a guard that there was a guy on the floor, and she explained that he wasn’t real.  An A for creepiness.

The Knights of Columbus Museum was a little more uplifting.  It followed the life of Mother Theresa from Albania to India.  It spent some time on her feelings of disassociation from God even while doing His work. She didn’t share these publicly.  She did come to some peace with what she called “the darkness.” A few quotes from her writings:

Today--my God--what tortures of loneliness.--I wonder how long will my heart suffer like this... The parish priest...came to bless the house.  Tears rolled and rolled. Everyone sees my weakness.

There is such a terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started the “work”.
He does not want me --he is not there ....the torture and pain I can't explain.

There is so much contradiction in my soul.  ...and yet not wanted by God-repulsed--empty--no faith--no love--no zeal.
I did not know that love could make one suffer so much. That was suffering of loss, this is of longing, of pain human but caused by the divine.

How terribly empty my soul is - but I am not afraid.  ... How my soul longs for God.

With joy I accept all to the end of life, and I will smile at Your Hidden Face - always.

For the first time in 11 years - I have come to love the darkness.

The greatest poverty is being unloved, unwanted, and uncared for.

(what she called poverty of the heart)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

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Hartford, CT

We are far enough East that it gets dark before 9 and morning light is
around 4:30. You definitely don't need a flash light by 5:30.
Fortunately, it heats up more slowly here, so it's not 90 degrees 5
hours after the sun is up like in Durham. Sleeping in a tent makes it
hard to ignore the rising sun. If you ignore the rising heat and the
sun, around 8 am the kids come out, making motorcycle noises on their
bicycles, which are ubiquitous. I like the sound of kids having fun,
so it is a nice alarm clock.

We drove in toward Hartford, first seeing the Magellan castle, one of
the homes of a popular play actors when theatre was king. He built
his own mini 3 mile railroad. Yet I have air conditioning, and most
of the castle does not. It was nice, but the highlights of the day
were great seafood at the USS Chowder House IV and the Trash Museum.
Durham is only a couple of hours away from the coast, so we have fresh
seafood, but here it tastes like they caught it just after you ordered
it. I'm especially a fan of

The trash museum has a standard museum and gift shop, but it is also
an active recycling center. You can watch as trucks come in and out,
creating and consuming mini-mountains of trash. It's like construction
and trash, two of little boys' passions, at the same time. It has had
a fun walk-in 3D collage of trash and scavenger hunt, including things
like records, 8 tracks,toys, and other actual trash.

When we got back to the campground, I spent some time on the beach.
We watched the sunset and then the moon shining off the water again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunset on ct beach

Traveling to Connecticut

The drive up wen much better than expected. I ran all the numbers and
talked with people and decided on I-81 to I-84, which avoids I-95
almost entirely and eliminates and the drive through DC, Baltimore,
Philadelphia, and New York City. On the way back, we will use 95 and
go through all of these. Having grown up in DC, a disaster causing a 5
hour interstate closure always looms large on the horizon. There was
in fact such a problem on I-270 in Maryland when we left Wednesday
morning. One crash can cause miles of 5 MPH driving.

As part of that number crunching to plan the trip, I ended up with a
lot of data. If you punch in the address directly, the GPS and Google
Maps will take you straight up 95. So I had to enter multiple segments
into the GPS to try different routes. Google Maps makes it easier to
try different routes, but you can't import the routes into my GPS and
the time estimates are different. Anyway, all those numbers gave me a
12+ hour estimate from my parents in Manassas, Va to Hammonasset State
Park in Madison, Ct. Somewhere I double counted, and the drive was
only 10 hours with stops and a few slow downs. We arrived at about 5
PM. The temperature was already cooling down, which is completely
different from Durham, where it's still 80+ degrees after dark.

You are a genius Lara! You found a beach with comfortable camping.
The campground is very large. There are some trees, but you don't
have the private alcove afforded in NC mountain camping., so we are
much closer to our neighbors. Sound wasn't a issue at night. Unlike
Lake Powhatan last week, we didn't hear anyone at 11 PM discussing the
merits of urinating in the shower: "Dude it's got a drain." and "Dude
I'm going to use that later" then "just rinse it off."

Instead I saw a beautiful full moon glistening off the water. I also
found the ice cream vending machine in case we get hungry at night.
I'm more practical than romantic.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Road trip to New England

We now switch gears back to our vacation trip with our friend Amber to Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.  Our trip route is at http://j.mp/netrip2010, at least 1550 miles.

I appreciate people's efforts to lower oil consumption, but Summer's not the time. (It's not just America - you'll see legions of cars lined up along the beaches in Europe, too).  But at least we will be HOV with 3 people.  Along the way, we'll briefly visit family near DC and Philadelphia. We'll be taking the trip over ten days, driving through the mountains on the way up and urban I-95 (uggh) on the way back.  To keep it affordable we'll be camping which allows us to keep both lodging and food costs down. We hope it won't be hot nor wet. Our bodies are tuned to North Carolina weather, so almost anything will seem cooler.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

We should then remain silent

What can we say when things don't make sense?  Especially after an end to a tragic life?  Below there is a valuable passage from a new book that addresses this subject.

Some Background:
Dr. Hauerwas, a Duke professor of Theology, has written a memoir that includes theology, his career, and his family.   It's much more readable than a standard theology text, but it still delves into theological issues.  Some of the most heartbreaking but valuable lessons come from his relationship with Anne, his first wife and the mother of his son.  She had a very serious case of bipolar disorder. Her family put up with the abusive behavior that the disease provoked, but eventually she initiated a divorce and moved away.

There is no chapter in the book titled "Anne."  The story is somewhat abruptly interwoven into other stories, I suppose the way traumas tend to exist around the rest our lives.  Even while waiting on the results of a loved one's surgery, you still have to return to mundane life as you wrestle with the hospital vending machine to outwit it so it will  take your dollar bill for dinner.

From Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir By Stanley Hauerwas, see Page 207 for the full original text.


Anne has been dead for almost ten years.  Like her mother, she died in her late fifties of congestive heart failure.  She had been living in a controlled living arrangement that allowed her some independence....After she had died some days passed before her body was discovered.
The way she died served only to make me acutely aware of how lonely her life had been.  That her loneliness was self-imposed does not make it any less sad.  What possibly can be said about life so lived?

I am a Christian theologian.  People assume I am supposed to be able to answer that question.  I have no idea how to answer that question.   If anything what I have learned over the years as a Christian theologian is that none of us should try to answer such questions.  Our humanity demands that we ask them, but if we are wise we should then remain silent.... When Christianity is assumed to be an "answer" that makes the world intelligible, it reflects an accommodated church committed to assuring Christians that the way things are is the way things have to be.
Faith is but a name for learning how to go on without knowing the answers.  That is to put the matter too simply, but at least such a claim might suggest why find that being a Christian makes life so damned interesting.

One area where I would differ from the text is the idea that Anne's loneliness was self-imposed.  Chronic disease is really its own agent, here bringing on consequences for which the self would never wish.

The ability to come clean and confess that we don't know what going on, probably a lot of the time, is difficult in a society of rapid knowledge accumulation.  But coming up with a contrived answer can be more hurtful than admitting ignorance.

Many Christians reject the "health and wealth" gospel - do the right things and God will bless us materially (think of the promises of "Prayer of Jabez").  But a lot of us were trained in a "know and go in peace" gospel, where God gives us answers, peace of mind, and a clear path when we do the right things.  We hope for such a blessing, but we shouldn't expect it.  Followers as noble as Mother Theresa very often felt the absence of God more intensely than the peace of God even as they passionately served to bring peace and good news to the world (that Mother Theresa's situation was only revealed in writings released against her wishes after her death may point to embarrassment  in not meeting our expectations of peace and guidance from God).  Removing that expectation allows us to long for meaning and peace of mind while freeing us to love even if we don't experience those good blessings.

Think of U2's "40" singing "I will sing a new song" with the repeated "How long to sing to this [not so new or desirable] song?" which was heavily inspired from  Psalm 40, triumphantly proclaiming,
I waited patiently for the LORD; 
he turned to me and heard my cry.

yet still ending with a plea,

Yet I am poor and needy ,
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer; 
O my God, do not delay.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pictures for a good week

Here's some happy thoughts for the week and a lesson in international politics and entertainment. Even irritated people can look amusing.  It's not all schadenfreude - just seeing people who are carefully presented to us actually experiencing normal emotions outside of the carefully polished presentations. Speaking of German, here the ultimate SAT word: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz
(das, 63 letters), meaning "beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law" from german.about.com.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, looking unhappy about Europe's financial woes.  Given German facial expressions she make actually look happy.
President Obama unhappy about oil, I think.  Or maybe unhappy about our reaction to it.  A similar version is here.

And to make this blog entry even more unimportant: Here Bella seems ready to throw up, perhaps over being in love with a vampire.  Edward looks good though, downright tanned given his normal pale demeanor.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The game, the rain, and the mustard

It was Memorial Day weekend.  The Cable Company sent us a coupon to actually save us money on a Durham Bulls game instead of raising our rates: $5 for a reserved seat and a free hot dog. And the weather wasn't going to be too hot.  70% chance of rain, but that still leaves a possibility of good weather right?  As the week went on, the probability of rain for Friday dropped from 70 to 60 to 51%.  Make a straight line graph, the probability of rain on Friday the 28th would be to about 0% on June 3 or so.  It's all about the future, so let's follow that graph and buy some tickets.

I dropped Lara off at the box office and looked for parking.  My family history genetically predispositions me toward coupons (ticket to the game), free food (free hot dog), and free parking (bypassing next door garages).  So several blocks later, where Jackie Robinson drive turns a corner, there is a big lot across from the tall NC Mutual Life building.  People pass the lot because of a sign - No ballpark parking.  But slow down long enough for people to honk at you (transplanted Yankees not locals, I hope) and you see the smaller sign - Except after 6 PM. Brilliant.

Ten minutes of walking later and I was back with Lara.  We met Amber and her family and found our seats, by the third base side, with a clear view of the "Hit Bull Win Steak, Hit Grass Win Salad" sign (picture).

As usual the Bulls did well, and it was a close game.  Amber's family ate before the game, so Lara and I got two free hot dogs each.  We probably spent almost a full inning in line for a hot dog that was eaten before we made it back to our seats, but free tastes good.  But a fully loaded dog is dangerous, and my shorts paid the price: a mustard stain.  I started treating it with water immediately, but I despaired that I had just ruined another piece of comfortable clothing.

So we've gotten several paragraphs in and there hasn't been much about the game here.  I'm sad to say I'm slowly drifting into the group of people for whom the game is just a background for social interaction.  It shouldn't be an either/or.  We should be fully invested in each other and the game at the same time.  It's supposed to be a little brick ballpark utopia revitalizing downtown through people and sports and commerce and food all wrapped together.  If it's only about the people, couldn't we just sit around in that free parking lot space I found and talk? (still bragging about the space).  But we enjoyed each other anyway.

Around the ninth inning, it was clear the Bulls had a very good chance of winning, and that the probability of rain was also very high. Thunder poked at the edge of the city.  The temperature dropped.  Wind blew about.  So normally the faint of heart would leave.  But Friday night is fireworks night.  We even have umbrellas.

The drops come so slowly and so far spaced apart that I turned my head up to the sky and just watched them come down around me, rarely hitting me.  This I can handle.  We'll move to the shelter that's over the sections behind home plate after the game and see the fireworks nice and dry.  The pace of the rain gradually picked up.  The Bulls staff immediately rolled out the field covering after the game ended.  Yet, they still towed a little trailer out onto the field.  This trailer completely automates the fireworks process.  The ballpark lights went dark, and we knew the fireworks were on.  Cheers erupted as the show went on.  Then squeals erupted as the gradually increasing rain became driving sheets of rain..  We were five rows within the shelter, and we still had to get out our umbrellas to avoid getting drenched.  The little fireworks robot worked its heart out, so the cheers and squeals continued.

The fireworks over, we huddled underneath the stadium waiting for the rain to end.  The driving rain now became persistent driving rain.  After several minutes, I decided to bring the car back.  This is where the paid garage across the street looked attractive.  The me of that moment of 9:30 PM wanted to have a conversation with me at 6:30.  The parking was free, it must be good.  Yet, it's far enough way that I could get lost.  I can get lost in your own subdivision, when it's sunny. Too late.  I still had the umbrella, but it ended up functioning more like a visor.  Even after travelling through a sheltered block of the American Tobacco Campus shopping district, I still had blocks more to go.  Summer rain isn't bitter cold, so it was no disaster, but it was like one of those water ride signs, "You will get wet!"

I did get a little lost driving back to the park on the dark rainy streets. I panicked momentarily when I called Lara to come to the car and she didn't answer.  Was I going to have to re-park the car and go back in and find her?  And would I then have to again consider paying for parking?  But she came out shortly.  I have apparently trained her in the arts of cheapness so thoroughly that she did not want to lower her prepaid cell phone balance by answering the call.

End result: the deli mustard, the type of thing that I could not get out with stain remover and a long rinse plus an extended cycle, was completely out of my shorts by the time I got home.  Now that they are naturally, organically, fair trade, locally sourced washed, I will sell the shorts at the farmer's market.
For a more satisfying ending, stop here.

To be honest, the next morning, when I went to wash the shorts, I saw that some of the stain still remained.  My hope had clouded my vision.  But I still maintain that there was some improvement.