Tuesday, January 29, 2008

AmadoFest 2008

We took cupcakes in to Amado's daycare yesterday so all the kids could celebrate his birthday. Chocolate. As you can see.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday Amado!

Click to make big... He's more amazing every day!

Pre-Birthday Haircut

Yesterday we took Amado to get his haircut for his 2nd birthday, which is today. We went to a cool kid's place called MelonHead's. And although I can't say Amado had a great time (above, he's just getting his bearings back after a titanic struggle against scissors and comb), it was pretty fun for us. The jury is still out on the actual haircut though. The teachers at daycare all said he looks like such the little man now. But we're not ready for him to be the little man yet. He's still such our little boy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Great Awakening

I don't know if it's my cold medicine or what, but I'm up late in my hotel in Winnipeg and I happened to catch my old boss and friend Jim Wallis on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Glad to see him on the show. Progressive Christian voices like Jim's really do need to get out there more. I look forward to seeing his new book, The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America.

It's Not Just Brutally Cold

I bet you're thinking that all Canadians talk about in the winter is the extreme cold. But it really is remarkable. I'm in Winnipeg where it's about -30C without the wind chill. I heard somebody on the plane call this "crunchy breath" weather, and I knew exactly what they were talking about. But it isn't simply brutally cold. A Sikh taxi driver today explained to me that there are some of the subtle distinctions in cold weather:

1) Yes, it's -30C today in Winnipeg, but it's a "warm cold," my taxi driver told me. Compared to Toronto where it's -10C, but with lots of humidity, Winnipeg is very dry so the cold here is warmer than the cold in Toronto, he said. [Ed. note - After walking a couple of blocks this afternoon, I'm going to have to disagree. It's MUCH colder in Winnipeg than Toronto.]

2) Winnipeg has gotten a couple "big dumps" of snow this winter. But they've been dumps of "warm snow," from the south. The taxi driver said that when the city gets the warm snow dumps from the south his tulips will bloom in mid-March. When the snow dumps come from the north--"cold dumps"--his tulips don't bloom until the end of May.

3) It's -30C now and that's unseasonable, but later this week it's going back up to -12C and that will be "really comfortable," according to my taxi driver. "Just wait," he said. "You'll see."

Monday, January 21, 2008

100-Car Pile Up

Wendy's parents narrowly missed becoming the 101st car in this mess on Highway 400 in Ontario. Thankfully they missed it--though they had to spent almost seven hours stranded on the highway in -20C temps. Lessons learned: 1) Don't drive fast in whiteout conditions. You would be surprised how many people ignore this rule. 2) Remember to pee before you leave the house.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

While You Were Sleeping

1. Amado. Lovely kid, but he's making it almost impossible to do any blogging these days. He has a fascination with the computer--climbing, clawing, his way to the keyboard whenever he sees it on. And if it's not on, he will turn it on. Even his cyber-addicted daddy can't compete with him! (Though I have kept up on my del.icio.us posts, if you're interested.) Ok, just a few highlights today...

2. I love to watch NFL football played in the snow. Snow brings an aspect of inpredicticality (is this even a word?) to a game that has become a little too smooth around the edges. "The weather forecast for Green Bay on Sunday: a high of 11F degrees. For Foxborough: a high of 16F. In other words, baby, it's gonna be cold outside for this weekend's conference championship games. To get you prepared, here are 10 hot ... er, whatever ... topics about frozen football from ESPN."

3. Grief is Good. I just discovered this fascinating and very tragic blog which invites readers to post a message to a deceased loved one. "Dealing with death is an isolating process, and reading other people's diverse messages may help ease feelings of loneliness. Both writing and reading messages can be a starting point to the return of some kind of normality in life."

4. OK, back to sports. Don't you just love a boxer who can write? Wayne McCullough, a boxer with a killer chin who has never been knocked down, writes that taking it on the chin is as much mental as it is physical. "When you get hit with a hard shot -- that makes you consider going down -- you definitely feel a buzz going all the way down your body to your toes. I've felt it and seen the black flashing lights that come along with that feeling. You grit your teeth when you're hit full force. It's almost as though your brain is offering you a deal -- a 50-50 chance, per se -- go down or stay up. I have always chosen to stay up. I believe that not going down has a lot to do with your mental state of mind. Your head and body are telling you one thing, but your heart and determination to go on are telling you another."

5. Speaking of fisticuffs, my Mom may be retired, but she's not taking it on the chin from anybody. This week she was seen in the streets of Santa Cruz doing battle with the trash collectors.

6. "Crisis? Maybe He’s a Narcissistic Jerk" from The New York Times. "With the possible exception of 'the dog ate my homework,' there is no handier excuse for human misbehavior than the midlife crisis.

7. Rev. Shawn made me aware for the first time that Martin Luther King's famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" was written in response to King's fellow clergy who opposed his work. After working for church organizations for going on 20 years, I'm not surprised.

8. Stray Questions for [writer] Buzz Bissinger: Q. How much time - if any - do you spend on the Web? Is it a distraction or a blessing? A. "I spend a great deal of time on the Web, about two hours a day. It obviously is an amazing tool for research. But let’s just cut to the chase, I spend as much time messing around on the Web to avoid the very acts of working and writing. Compulsive e-mail checks. Web sites in foreign languages. My productivity has suffered. I think that is true of every writer with a computer."

9. Jordon Cooper, one of my favourite Canadian bloggers, is doing an comprehensive review of Warren Kinsella's new book, The War Room. If you love politics, are involved in a campaign, or running an organization and want to make it more effective, you will find this really interesting.

10. I writing another article that's overdue for Sojourners. My editor is one patient Ohio lady. :-)

11. Another inspirational sports story here: Last week in the divisional playoff game with Seattle, Green Bay running back Ryan Grant lost two fumbles in the opening minutes, leading to touchdowns for the Seahawks. After these ignoble moments, Grant spent the rest of the day making it up to his team, running for 201 yards and three touchdowns. I love heart like this!

12. Amado is the cutest, smartest baby anywhere!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Flash Crowd on the Subway

I borrowed the following entry from the WonderCafe blog of David Giuliano, who is the leader of The United Church of Canada (which is where I work). David is undergoing treatment for cancer. (Picture from The Toronto Star.)

On the subway last night, there were lots of empty seats and I took one. I was making my way down town for another MRI. Most of the east-bound riders were young folks heading out for the evening. Memories of the days when I too might have been reveling on a Saturday night left me nostalgic.

With each stop more riders crowded into the car. A wave of young folks boarded at the Dundas West stop. Then they took their pants off. First, it was just one young woman standing near me. Without the slightest interruption in the conversation with her friends, she kicked off her boots, stepped out of her pants and rolled them into a ball to stuff in her backpack.

Now she wore boots, a t-shirt and jacket and “panties”. Proximity is relative. She hadn’t moved but without pants felt suddenly closer to where I was sitting. A middle-eastern man seated next to me stared forward and gazing medatatively into middle space when I left the train. I directed my discomfort to looking “out” the window which, on a subway is more than a bit ridiculous.

Reflected in the glass, I could see that other passengers were shedding their pants. My initial awkwardness and embarrassment turned to curiosity. Twenty or thirty young people had removed their pants. They continued to nonchalantly chat. One young guy in boxers, leather jacket, boots, and cowboy, hat read philosophy. A couple wore matching suits and ties, black leather shoes and socks. They had folded their pants neatly into brief cases. I’m not making this up.

Two big 20-something guys with a case of beer boarded the train. Their heads spun on their necks in disbelief. “What’s this about?” whispered one to his friend. They covered their eyes and giggled like boys. Like me, they had obviously not been notified that it was international don’t wear your pants day! Then, one shrugged and said, “What the hell” and dropped his drawers. His friend set the case of beer on a seat next to me and did the same.

With each stop the number of pant-less patrons multiplied. Some of the bare-legged left the train and others got on. There were a few people sans-pants among the crowds on the platform. It wasn’t lewd in the least. Mostly, it struck me as wonderfully funny. Even the most seasoned urbanites found it difficult to pretend that beyond their IPod-armor they were outnumbered by people without pants. What added to the hilarity was that everyone – the slackless and the simply slack-jawed – did their best to pretend nothing unusual was happening.

Later, I found http://blogto.com/events/2319 where the “First No Pants Subway Ride" invited participants to meet at Dundas West. Other than not wearing pants the only rules were “keep a straight face” and “no cameras”. The “point” – if one is necessary or possible – it seems was just enjoying the absurdity of crowds of people riding the subway in their underpants. By the time I had to switch trains at St. George’s Station about half the people on the car were bare-legged. One more stop and I may have succumbed to the restrained, festive energy and joined the performance art.

Instead, I climbed the steps at the Queens Park Subway stop again, and sat in the waiting area at Toronto General Hospital. I chatted with few other patients. We watched the American Primaries on CNN. I took my cloths off and put on a hospital gown. My head was clamped into place and I was rolled into a tunnel of magnets to test the efficacy of surgery and radiation treatments. All the while I was smiling about this lovely, ridiculous, playful, wonderful world in which we live.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Brown Sisters 1975-1999

Photographer Nicolas Nixon's "25 Years of the Brown Sisters" series captures so much of the melancholy beauty of the human experience of aging. Since I was a child I have stood before the mirror and struggled to imagine myself 10, 20, 30 years older. Now that I'm well along that road, I can see that my imagination wasn't especially accurate. No mirror is sharp enough to predict the life ahead of a person and tell them how it will be reflected back through the look in their eyes. That can only be determined by the decisions we make each day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


In January 1981, these albums carried my heart through a very difficult transition from the desert to Santa Cruz. Tonight I realized that I am still clinging to them as if they were my best friends I had lost.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Thanks to Grams. Coop and Bean for the cool bilingual maracas! Amado loves to use them to get the whole house dancing. Much love to you today!

Friday, January 04, 2008


Here's a nice P*Land Skate picture I recently uncovered. That's me catching some nice air out of Skater Crater's main bowl back in 1979. Skater Crater was a decent skatepark in San Bernardino, California that we P*Landers shredded regularly.

I don't remember who took this photo, but it might have been Sharon Nemer, since it was developed in our high school darkroom and Sharon and I did a lot of stuff there if I remember correctly.

The Audacity of Hope

Hmm, maybe now would be a good time to start reading The Audacity of Hope...

Obama beat supposed front-runner Clinton (soundly) and Edwards because he inspired new people to get involved in the Iowa primary. This can only be good for democracy.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I caught a bit of CNN's coverage of the U.S. presidential candidates on New Year's Day while in the laundry room...what CNN was calling "raw and unedited" coverage. It was actually pretty interesting.

The only Republican candidate I caught was Romney: Stiff. Arrogant. Unattractive.

From the Democratic side, I caught Ron Paul (what?), Obama, Hillary, and John Edwards.

Obama has a very inspirational tone and demeanor, but somehow, I've not yet been moved by him.

Hillary: Stiff, tired, and too predictable.

Who I was surprised by was John Edwards. The segment of his stump speech I caught was 100% firebrand revolutionary. Edwards was telling Iowans that he's not going to wait to for insurance companies and lawyers to negotiate away their power over health care--if he's elected, he's going to just go in and take their power away. This is America! he said.

Wow! Is he really saying that he was going to nationalize health care by force? I think I may be for that. Nationalized health care is working pretty well up here in Canada after all.

(So what if Hillary tried the same thing 15 years ago? And didn't Edwards make his fortune arguing class action health care cases? So what! This is America!)

My prediction (which is probably just as bad as my ability to forcast NFL winners) is that Edwards will make a stronger than anticipated showing in Iowa tomorrow. Iowans may surprise us once again!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day Around Our House

Isn't New Year's Day about being low key and staying close to home? It helps when you have a snowstorm. And everyone has a cold. Check out some more photos from our low key day. (Above, Amado striding out during our short walk in the snow.)

Good Morning Toronto IXX

Happy 2008!

Happy New Year!

Here's Amado at his new little table, enjoying a little nogurt. Lots of new things going on for him these days.

Yesterday Amado and I went over and spent a couple of hours at the new daycare just to get used to before he starts there tomorrow. The new place is quite different from Kids + Co. -- more homestyle and less institutional for sure.

The folks at Novus also have no hesitation to go outside. Even though there was fresh snow and it was about -3C / 28F, it was great to see all these Canadian 2-5 year olds get on their snowpants, boots, and jackets after storytime and head out for an hour of playing in the snow. This isn't something we did growing up in California, that's for sure.

Amado would have had more fun if he hadn't insisted on not wearing mittens. But he will learn.