Transfixus Sed Non Mortuus

Here I Stand, Pierced and Transfixed

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A Wee Frog

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Terry, one of my coworkers, peeked his head into the doorway to my office. Looking askance, he asked me if we have a “frog problem” here in Michigan. I glanced away from my computer screen and raised an eyebrow. I told him that we do have quite a few frogs in Michigan, but I wouldn’t consider it a “problem.” I then pressed a little further, asking why he wanted to know. Apparently, as he went into the men’s bathroom and sat down on the commode in one of the stalls, he realized that…he wasn’t alone. There was a large frog near the edge of the stall facing out into the bathroom!

I was very surprised, but I grabbed a couple of paper towels to hopefully help me catch the little guy. When I got there, he wasn’t moving much and he was covered in hair, black gunk, and things that I can only guess at. He was about four inches long, and his skin looked very dry (for a frog). I was actually worried that he might be dead. It turned out that he was breathing a little bit, but I definitely didn’t like the look of his skin, especially since it was covered in gunk.

It was not difficult catching him at all. I put the paper towel over him slowly, and he barely moved. I gently wrapped the paper towel around him, leaving a spot where he could see. Then, I took him outside.

We have a pond fairly near to the office, so I went there to release him into the wild. As I said before, he did not appear to be moving much and was quite dirty. I unwrapped him a few inches from the water and then gently lowered my hand (paper towel and all) until all but his head was submerged. I gently moved my hand back and forth to dislodge some of the hair and nasty dirt that covered him. The water was cold as well, so I took him out of the water for a little while and let him sit in the sun. Then, I lowered him in again, and this time he rearranged one of his front legs. That had been the most I had seen him move thus far. After a couple more dips in the water, most of the gunk was off of him and he seemed to be doing better. He started opening his eyes a little bit and blinking them. At that point, I put him gently into the shallows and removed my hand. There, I watched him for a while, and he slowly seemed to acclimate himself to the pond. He took a few feeble steps with his large back feet and then stayed perfectly still for a while. Then, he crawled a little bit further between some reeds.

Since, I was at work and on-the-clock, I reluctantly went back to work. I wanted to protect the little guy until I was assured that he’d be safe. I came back an hour or so later to check on him to make sure he was okay, and he was gone.

My only thought is that somehow, the poor guy got caught in the sewers and swam all the way up to our little commode. I’m glad no one was there when he jumped out because that would have scared the all the living light of day out of me, that’s for sure! I certainly hope he’s happy and free in the pond nearby.

November 12 is my birthday, and that means another year has come and gone. Looking back on this past year, I feel like I’ve grown a lot and I’ve learned quite a few things.  I’ve heard it said that you learn something new every day.  I hope that has been true for me.  As an exercise in that frame of mind, I once again put together the “Top 40” things I’ve learned this year.

This year I learned:

  • a lot about overcoming unexpected obstacles on the Ann Arbor to Chicago Bicycling Trip.
  • how it feels to be chased by zombies!
  • what it feels like when a tupperware full of soup opens in my book bag
  • what fun dancing through downtown Ann Arbor in a kilt is
  • that there are “three marvelous deeds: to forgive wrongs done, to amend everything possible, and to refrain from injustice. “
  • how good Work for Wings sounds at the Water Hill Music Fest!
  • that bike shoes and khakis don’t exactly work as an ensemble (when I forget a pair of dress shoes)
  • what African drumming at 5am sounds (and feels) like
  • that racing cyclocross is really hard, but really fun!
  • what my Top Five Strengths are and also how to develop them
  • that “Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.” ~Robert Fulghum
  • about I Draw Slow’s Goldmine
  • what an amazing and beautiful town Saugatuck is
  • that worrying is just a wanton waste of a wonderful imagination
  • what Jesse Manibusan sounds like live
  • a lot more about what I’m good for
  • how Goitse sounds live (and it is good!)
  • how to eat two twinkies during a 5k run
  • that “forgiveness begins where the hope for a better yesterday ends.”
  • that Baubau can be really annoying when she wants to be
  • that FEAR = Forgeting Everything’s All Right
  • that the heart knows its own bitterness, and in its joy no one else shares
  • how it feels to run up a mountain at The Dirty Dog Dash
  • that “life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” ~Antoine de Saint-ExuPery
  • how to find a new roommate and the perils involved with such an undertaking
  • about Korean culture at a Great Chuseok Party
  • how much fun indoor soccer is, especially when the team is made up of great friends
  • how to Let Sleeping Bears Lie
  • a few new things about planning and enjoying The Winter Sports Crawl
  • about Yak Traks
  • how to play racquetball and bowl left-handed (among many other things) due to my biking accident
  • that one should “hold on to what you believe in the light, when the darkness has robbed you of all your sight.” ~mumford and sons
  • how it feels to be at the first ever Big Chill at the Big House
  • that this life, Ca c’est bon
  • once more how cool it is to be a godfather to another nephew
  • what fun the RTH Christmas Spectacular was
  • that “though I think I am judging people, I am really just judging myself. I am either inferior or dominant, but never comfortable with who I am and where I am…”
  • how much fun a hotpot is
  • that “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” ~Anais Nin
  • what it’s like to ride the train at night

There’s this gentleman whose friend had a specially designed wheelchair made in the United States and shipped to Australia [edit: Actually the UK, see comment below for an awesome video as well] so that the gentleman could do some things with his children, like go down a wooded trail or travel to the beach.

And then…

Although initial checks with the DVLA and police suggested he would be able to use the machine legally, it has since emerged it is only permitted on private land.

More information here: http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2011/01/21/201711_fun-weird-news.html.

I think that is a terrible thing to do to a guy. I really hope the authorities and the gentleman can come to some understanding. I know in some small way what it is like to have friends and relatives who can’t do the things that “normal” people can do.

Well, today is my birthday. A lot of people say you learn something new every day. As I was contemplating that and the fact that I’m another year older, I decided that I should summarize my year with a “Top 40” list of things that I’ve learned throughout the past year. I might have had an inkling of some of the things on this list before November 12 of last year, but if something made the list, then its because I have gained a whole new respect and knowledge for it! Some are silly. Some are not so silly, but that, my friends, is just like my life.

I’ve learned (in no particular order):

  • that bikes are awesome, but dangerous.
  • that self-awareness is cheap.
  • how to better deal with birds’ droppings, and other unpleasantries in life.
  • how to fix a flat tire in five minutes (on a bike, not sure about a car :)).
  • what Arnold Schwarzenegger would sound like singing .
  • that I can have an annoying voice.
  • the difference between true humility and humiliation/debasement.
  • the joy of “racing the sun” from a bike.
  • what a Jucy Lucy is, and what it is like.
  • what it feels like to do a polar swim.
  • that I can give up a piece of me and gain a ton, if it’s the right thing to do.
  • what Tecumseh had to say about life.
  • a lot more about how much I love my family and friends.
  • the beauty and joy of “escaping to Belle Isle.”
  • that the search for happiness alone is a dead-end.
  • that it’s easy to make friends, but hard to keep them.
  • what to do when I’m lost in the forest.
  • what it’s like to hang out with the Wild Colonial Bhoys between their sets.
  • that no player learns as much from a game winning shot as from the shot that he messes up.
  • what it feels like to run on a track during a college football game.
  • that life is mist
  • that biking in a suit looks hilarious, and it’s a lot of fun!
  • how to use clip-in pedals on bicycles
  • that my little sister is a pretty good pillow fighter.
  • that “unkindness to anyone for any reason says more about us than it does about another.”
  • how to stop trying to control everything about my world.
  • what Glen Lake looks like in the light of early morning.
  • that it’s easy to stumble when the world’s on your shoulders.
  • how to find a wallet in the night.
  • how to make some sense of the world.
  • a lot more about heartache.
  • that beauty is free.
  • what the Thornapple River looks like.
  • why Andrew loves the Liffey.
  • that “a good run is better than a bad stand.”
  • the benefits of physical therapy.
  • how kind and hospitable the Waxies and Tosspints are.
  • the bitter-sweetness of the last meal before a restaurant closes for good.
  • that when on a bike, waving at cars can sometimes look like you’re doing ‘jazz hands.’
  • “in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.”

Nicholas Winton

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“Be prepared always to help people if there is an opportunity to do so.” ~Nicholas Winton

I had never heard of Nicholas Winton before, and if it wasn’t for his wife, I never would have. Yet, to me he is a great hero. He saw a need, helped some people, and lived his life outside the limelight.

That’s what I want. I want to help people, if I can, from a deep and true sense of altruism/faith. I now see that one of my problems is that I often get caught up in what other people think and what other people believe. These things should be taken into account, but not at the expense of my own values.

Each of us has so much potential to offer the world, and in my opinion, what we lack is eyes and motivation. My own problems blind me from the true pain of others when I could be offering hope. My own fearfulness nails me to the spot of not knowing whether I should reach out and help someone or continue on with whatever I am doing.

In my heart, I believe that I have an innate capacity to love that is not even being touched in my daily life. True, I may never have the opportunity that Mr. Winton had, but his words haunt me a little. “Be prepared,” he said. I need to be ready to help someone, regardless of whether it’s a small act or a giant one. I prepare myself through small acts of kindness and outward thinking. Then, maybe if a chance to do something like Nicholas’ chance comes along, I will have the capacity and willingness to do it.

Fly

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Did you did you hear the story of the farmer who goes in his backyard? He had a number of chickens, and there was a strange looking chicken. It did the things that other chickens did, pecking away, but no, it was a strange looking chicken. And then, along comes somebody who knows about these things, and says to the farmer, “No, no, no man, that’s no chicken. That’ s an eagle!” And the farmer says, “Baloney.”

And this smart man says “give it to me.” The farmer gives him this strange looking chicken, and he takes the strange looking chicken, and he goes up a mountain and waits for the sun to rise. And when the sun rises, he holds up the strange looking chicken, and he says, facing to the rising sun, “Fly, eagle! Fly!” And the strange-looking chicken stretches out its pinions, shakes itself, and takes off! And he soars and soars, and he flies way away into the distance!

God says to us, “Hey! You are no chicken. You are an eagle. Fly, eagle! Fly! And God wants us to stretch out our pinions, shake ourselves, and then take off and soar! And we soar, for we are made for goodness! We are made for laughter! We are made for joy! We are made for caring! We are made for transcendence! We are made for compassion and caring and goodness! Fly, Eagle! Fly!
~Desmond Tutu (12/2005)

What if the oil spill happened here in Michigan?

The current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is such a large disaster, and the fact that there still doesn’t seem to be an end in sight is a scary thing for me. The site linked above allows you to virtually move the spill wherever you want to. If it was on land, it would span the entire width of Michigan.

When I saw it on Lake Superior, I was really saddened. To think that all lake superior’s fisheries and ecosystems would be annihilated brings it a little closer to home for me, and makes me really sad for the people down south.

I do wonder how much more the Earth can take in terms of humans messing it up. In my heart, I know that the rock will probably survive, no matter what we do. In fact, even if the world went into a nuclear winter or something, some life would probably be able to survive somewhere. However, humanity and much of the rest of the world’s ecosystems would not. And for what? So that we could drive to our jobs, run machinery to make buildings, fly from one end of the world to other, or maybe to go into space. All these things are amazing inventions and were completely unknown a few centuries ago, but surely there’s some way to do it that isn’t at so very dear of a cost.

I also know that a portion of the blame is my own. I’ve unknowingly helped contribute to this disaster by my consumerism. How much crude oil have I used in my semi-short lifetime, between driving a car, buying plastic items, things in plastic packaging, etc? Probably more than I’d care to actually find out. We have separated and compartmentalized the refining/development of products to such a degree, I as a consumer don’t know and don’t care (in general) how it was produced. I just pay the greenbacks and say, “Thank you very much.” So, I don’t blame BP, the government, or any of those other non-humans. I blame the likes of you and I. But, the real question is: How do we change this?

I don’t know the answers, and I don’t know much. But I do know that I’m sad for the people who have to deal with the spill in their own backyards. And of course, in thinking of the people who are/will suffer because of these things, my mind immediately went to a song (as the ole mind is wont to do):

I was born under the star, never meant to journey far
From all the faces and the place that I called home;
And my father lived the same, and his father before him,
But now I see in my son’s eyes something has changed.

And the smoke it has stopped rising from the chimney up the road,
And the light no longer shines over the door;
Last year I lent a hand to haul the boats onto the land,
They’ve been lying there for nineteen months or more,
And I wonder will they lie there evermore?

Wasn’t many years ago that the men ’round here would go
Out in their skiffs and haul their traps out on the bay;
And then shortly they’d return loaded down from stem to stern,
And weigh off the fish, and store their gear away.

Now the waters are as barren as the cliffs that guard the cove
And catch the north wind blowing off the shore;
And I wonder how an ocean turns as lifeless as a stone,
And I wonder can the sea revive once more?
And I wonder will they lie there evermore?

Well, I hear some people say we’d be better off to stay
Ashore and train for jobs outside the fishery;
Now wouldn’t I look like a fool to go traipsing off to school,
After forty years of living off the sea?

Now, my son, he’s barely twenty-one, and handy at the trawl,
For years he helped me fish the Labrador;
Now he’s moving to Ontario before the first snowfall,
“Dad, there’s nothing left for me ’round here no more.”
And I wonder will I see his children born?
And I wonder will they lie there evermore?

~John Phippard

http://www.comcast.net/video/topless-women-march-for-equality-in-maine/1482886502

A friend and I were discussing the video above. I found it very strange that they would march to bring “awareness” to women being topless, something that is already legal in that state. According to the news report, they wanted to remove the “double-standard” that still exists.

In my opinion, protesting is the absolute wrong way to do something like that. I don’t think protest marches should be made for every little perceived inequality that exists. To me, protesting to go topless is the same as protesting in front of a “No shoes, no shirt, no service” sign at a drugstore with your shoes off. It’s not illegal to walk around without shoes on, but some people are grossed out by it or think that it’s unsanitary.

It is a cultural thing. In some countries, it is perfectly normal for women to walk around shirtless. That brings me to the point that the protestors obviously missed. I don’t think it’s socially acceptable for a college student, man or woman, to go to class at a university with their shirt off. I don’t think it’s socially acceptable for a person to go into a corner store with their shirt off. There are places that ARE unacceptable for that sort of thing in this culture. That part is not a double-standard. For me personally, I think it’s as unacceptable for a man to be randomly walking around in public topless as it is for a woman. Is it really too much to ask that you put a shirt on when you’re not at the beach, working out, at home, or in a group setting where that is acceptable? I think not.

Regardless of what I personally believe as to whether that “double-standard” should exist, if a person truly and honestly believes that this should change, they should work from common ground, instead of alienating themselves through protests. I think that we should always be respectful to each other, and a protest march over such a small wrong seems silly and pointless to me.

In general, I think it is acceptable for a person to work to change a cultural norm, especially if they believe it strongly. But to hold it so close to your heart that you judge others who don’t agree, or try to push yourself to the point of rallies and protest marches seems foolish. All you’re doing is dividing and polarizing people. In fact, I’d bet that some people will choose the opposite tack as you have taken because of HOW you handled the situation. Instead of a protest march, I think you should be respectful to your community, and explain your position like an adult. To me, a lot of protest marches have become just juvenile tantrums. People that agree with you like what you are doing, and people that don’t aren’t swayed by your little display. I believe that even if you are right, that does not give you the right to be a jerk and in-your-face to every stranger who disagrees with you.

I know that many people have issues with the way things are being run right now. That’s the way it always has been, I think. But if we are to be actual agents of change, we need to build people up and bring them to our viewpoint. If that is not possible, perhaps we should rethink both our motives and our position. People don’t take a different side from us (and stay there) for absolutely no reason. They don’t get up in the morning and say, “Oh, I think I’ll disagree with michaeljohn32 today, and everything he says, just for the heck of it.” Actually listening and trying to understand another side’s viewpoint can help us avoid confirmation bias and polarization of our beliefs.

I have become a lot more cynical over the past months, but I still believe that if people honestly came to the table of debate with an open mind, instead of a competitive/win-at-all costs/self-righteous one, the world would be a better place. Even if one side came with the former attitude, I think it could change the entire dynamic of the discussion. Then, maybe, just maybe, some real progress and community building would occur.