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Monthly Archives: September 2006

Life in a broken world is exciting on one hand but frightening on the other hand.  Often ‘life interruptions’ or an illness of a leader or the vicissitudes (difficulties) of life, catapults another person to center stage.   This tells me loud and clear that we may think we are in control but we are not.  It is assuring to know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is in control.  (‘Vicissitudes’ is a cumbersome word and not used often but I like the way it sounds).

superdome.jpg

I heard on KMOX (1120 AM) this morning that repairs for the New Orleans Superdome cost 185 million dollars.  A lady was quoted in saying, “this is good because it gives us something else to think about.” Now, I am a big sports fan.  I marvel at the athleticism of football players like Michael Vick and Reggie Bush.  But I couldn’t but think about the priorities of the city.  It seems to me that that money should have been used to repair shelters (or homes).  According to an article by Social and Economic Justice (see website address below), here’s a look at the current state of New Orleans (a year later):

  • Nearly a third of the trash has yet to be picked up.

  • 60% of homes still lack electricity.

  • 17% of the buses are operational.

  • Half of the physicians have left, and there is a shortage of 1,000 nurses.

  • Six of the nine hospitals remain closed.

  • 66% of public schools have reopened.

  • A 40% hike in rental rates, disproportionately affecting black and low-income families.

  • A 300% increase in the suicide rate.  

Maybe I am missing something but aren’t these real needs more important than sports?

[see thinkprogress.org/2006/08/28/katrina-facts-anniversary]

  • Interactions with siblings can be very painful. 
  • Three kids of murdered Tunstall female found dead in East St. Louis; kids were stuffed in a washer and dryer.  Our world is messed up!
  • It’s often difficult not to compare yourself to others who do ‘things’ well (these ‘things’ include teaching, writing, speaking, etc.).
  • It’s outrageous that professional athletes get paid so much more than elementary, middle or high school teachers.  And teachers potentially have so much influence on kids.

diving-bell-and-butterfly.jpgIs the ‘title’ a riddle?  Read this book, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by Jean-Dominique Bauby to discover if the title is a riddle or not.   The book is fascinating!

My late step-father (Robert E. Frazier), a late neighbor (Mr. Sasser), and my grandfather (Henry Bobo) have provided good role models on being a father.  Besides these ‘living books’, two written books that have provided guidance for me as a father (the toughest job a male could have in my humble opinion) are Bill Cosby’s Fatherhoodand recently, Tim Russert’s Wisdom of Our Fathers.   Both books carry instant credibility with me as both men are fathers (rather, public fathers).   Both books are filled with great wisdom.  They will make you cry, laugh out loud, and reflect deeply.

keypad.jpgI am sure you recognize the device to your left; it’s known as a numeric keypad. You typically see them adjacent to cash registers. This cool miniature device allows you to pay for groceries, etc. by entering a pin number; a private number tied directly to your checking or savings account at your local bank or credit union or whatever institution serves as the respository for your money. By entering the ‘secret’ combination of numbers, money for the transaction is taken directly and instantly from your account. I think this is called a ‘point of sale’ transaction. This is a convenient little device as you don’t have to carry cash or write a personal check.

While I laud these conveniences, my brain or rather my memory/recall capability is being taxed with so many numbers or passwords to remember in our technopoly world (Neil Postman writes a great book entitled, “Technopoly”). Currently, I have:

  1. a pin number for my bank accounts;
  2. a pin number for my voice mail at work;
  3. a pin number for our home phone voice mail;
  4. a password for my e-bay account;
  5. a pin number for my UMSL student account;
  6. a password for my home e-mail account;
  7. a pin number for my work e-mail account;
  8. a pin number for Amazon account;
  9. a password for my Borders Bookstore account;
  10. a password/pin number to access Ballwin Athletic Association (needed to register for son for baseball season);
  11. a password for a staff/faculty portal at work; and finally
  12. a pin number to gain access to the Rockwood School District’s ‘Infinite Campus’ (a website for my wife and I to check on our kids’ grades).

That’s twelve instances; and those are the ones I remember as I am sure I have forgotten some or many more. Some would say – stop complaining and use the same pin number or password over and over again. But what about the real threat of idenity theft or computer hackers? Isn’t this a no-no according to IT gods? Bottomline: technology use has advantages and disadvantages. But I thought technology was billed to make our lives easier?

Today, I met some old friends for lunch at the India Palace (near the intersection of Lindbergh and I-70). I used to work with these guys at McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing). During lunch, two of the friends said to me that they expected me to ‘look like a minister.’ I know, this warrants an explanation. In the black community, many African American preachers wear what I would call a ‘uniform’ – typically, a suit and tie; maybe a nice formal hat too (see old pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King to get an idea of the hats worn). These friends expected to see me in a uniform with a ‘pot’ belly to match. I am glad to say that I did not meet their expectations. I am glad to be an atypical minister (maybe this is a compliment). While some may think this is a ‘black thing’, think again. I take my clothes to a cleaners called “Happy Cleaners.” The owner is an Asian American (a really nice guy). He often tells me, “You don’t dress like a minister.” Frequently, when I go to his business to pick up clothes, I am dressed in jeans or shorts and a baseball cap. I don’t like being constrained to a ‘box.’ It’s ok to be atypical!

grandpa-bert-with-briana-and-rita.jpgIf I had a choice to be around younger people or older people – I would take older people. Most older persons are not pretentious; they are funny (and willing to laugh at themselves); politely bold (keep reading); don’t readily judge or criticize; and are so encouraging. I have not met a ‘cranky old man’ yet. This reminds me of my grandparents – Willa Mae and Henry. Henry (83 years old) calls Willa Mae (81 years old), “baby”. Willa Mae, a former high kicking majorette in high school, is suffering from dementia. They have been married for over 60 years. I am the first grandson and they often remind me of my stubbornness as a young boy. My grandfather, a former brick mason and former stand out high school athlete (he could have went to the NFL), is hilarious. He makes his own shoes; not just any shoes. (The photo in this post shows my wife & daughter with my great grandfather – Bert Brown and Aunt Glen. Brown born in the late 1800s was known to pull his own teeth; yes, that’s right he pulled his own teeth. And he was known to ride his bike in his early 90s to the river to fish.)

I am also reminded of my experience at the late Dr. Dennis Spellman’s memorial service at Lindenwood University on Friday, September 8. Unknowingly I sat by three older ladies at the service. One had difficulty lifting her leg over the bleacher so I helped her. Another lady asked me boldly but politely if I had a cell phone? I said yes and she handed me a laminated card with a phone number to call which I was glad to do. And finally at the conclusion of the service, another older lady who used a walking cane said to me, “You had to sit by the old ladies.” She thought maybe I felt this a curse but I responded, “I was glad to.” Older people are such a rich repository of history and culture. I would be wise to listen and learn from them.

My son and I were watching Teen Nick program, Unfabulous, on June 5 and I noticed an actor with curly hair wearing this T-Shirt (pictured). cloning-t-shirt.jpgWhether you think cloning is cool or not depends in large measure on your worldview or rather your view of human life.

Cloning also called somatic cell nuclear transfer (or SCNT) removes the nucleus of an unfertilized egg and replaces it with body matter of the person who wishes to be cloned. [somatic comes from a Greek word, soma,  meaning ‘body’]. Think of taking a yoke from an egg and replacing it with human hair, skin, etc. [Human hair, skin, etc. are called somatic cells. This is the same process cloners of Dolly the sheep used.] Once the somatic cell transfer has occurred, the modified egg behaves as a fertilized egg because it has all 46 chromosomes (every cell of a child, adult, etc. has 46 chromosomes). At this junction we have a clonal zygote. To get a cloned baby, we implant this cloned zygote into a woman’s uterus and hope it develops.

Here I say cloning is not cool because any time we tamper with God’s process for procreation, things can go amiss. Take a look at the movie Gattaca for example; there is a pianist who plays a very complicated musical number – only he can because he has 6 fingers! Even Dolly the Sheep was not an exact replica of her mom (the source of the body cells). And Dolly died earier than expected of abnormalities. This whole human cloning proposition reminds me of Frankenstein – remember these episodes? Cloning will take us places I don’t think we want to go. We are not prepared for the ‘unintended consequences.’ Consider the ‘unintended consequences’ of in vitro fertilization (or IVF): 400, 000 frozen embryos (little persons) in storage in the United States.

lukelounging.jpgNow this is the life! My family and I vacationed in Mexico this summer (Playa del Carmen to be exact). Away from the hustle and bustle of life. Mexico has such a rich history (Mayan Indians, Spanish Inquisition, language, etc.). Salsa dancing is the rave. Men and women are so affectionate. (There is an obvious gulf between the haves and have nots too.) We stayed at a resort; a resort that had wonderful shows, delicious food, and excellent service – lovely! It is delightful to be in an area “where no one knows your name.”