October 4th, 2012


the wonders of apartment-life

A few weeks back my roomie and I noticed that the wall in our shower wasn't doing so hot - for whatever reason a hole was developing and the grist in the wall's interior was falling out. It's an old apartment and a moist area - probably just needed repairs. I had forgotten about it until A. told me last night the repairmen would be coming by. They'd initially said they'd need us around for three consecutive days or a key left with the super, but I thought that was for scheduling or something.

I woke up after sleeping in to hear people working hard in our bathroom. A whole team of them from the sounds of it. And they're not done; the hall and bathroom is covered in a thin level of dust. At the moment the bathroom only has a functional toilet. You can see some low-quality pictures of our bathroom and piles of sinks and stuff throughout the apartment at the following links: (Apologies for the low quality; I didn't realize how bad the lighting was.


The amazing thing is I did not have to plan this. I did not have to shop for repairmen or pay for it myself. And while I'm fully aware that in worse buildings getting something fixed can be a real headache, this struck me as such a low-stress way of handling necessary repairs. Would that other parts of life could be organized this smoothly!

debate reactions

I finally watched the first presidential debate on YouTube. The various pundits and commentators are right - the president did seem unfocused, unenergetic, and basically no where near the top of his game, while Mr. Romney did own the stage tonight. But strangely, I feel more driven to rally behind the president. This debate made me more likely to vote for Romney than probably anything has since that executive order saying the government could execute citizens without trials.

A few general observations:

1. Mr. Romney lied. Or didn't tell the truth; I'm not privy to his mind, so I guess it's possible he actually believed what he said. ThinkProgress identified twenty-seven myths Mr. Romney said, and that word may be better; we're talking about things that have attained the aura of "truthiness" by virtue of being told time and again, so that they seem true. They're not, though. Even as I was watching it, I was struck by how many of Mr. Romney's claims had been debunked or shown to be at least "mostly false" by nonpartisan fact-checking groups.

2. Mr. Romney was rude. Inexcusably rude, IMO. He interrupted the president, and on a few points he ignored the questions asked or even refused to let Mr. Lehrer ask a question. Not that candidates always play by the rule, and it's not like Mr. Obama always answers the question. But he also came off as condescending to Obama. At one point he referred to his five "boys" and knowing what it's like when they just keep repeating untruths. Dog-whistle issues aside (and yeah, likening the first Afro-American president to your "boys" (as opposed to your sons) did bother me), you don't liken the president to a petulant child on national television. You simply don't do it.

3. Mr. Romney came off as wanting to liquidate America. This was hard to pinpoint, but I think it came down to the rhetoric of "choice" and an emphasis on tax breaks for various individuals. There was a sense that there's precious little we as Americans can do well as a group, oriented by our government and other institutions. All that's left is to give people a refund on their taxes and let them take care of themselves. Choice is good, but in this rhetoric I hear no protection for those who don't have the resources to follow through on their choices. It also does nothing to fight institutional problems like runaway healthcare inflation or tuition inflation, or the problem of too-powerful corporations who can crash the economy and restrict free speech. These require a combined, organized effort on behalf of the citizenry (and not just that much-mentioned middle class!). If not organized by the government then organized by something else.

All of which makes it sound like I'd be voting more against Romney than for Obama. I guess there's an element of that. But deep down, what the debate had me thinking was, while I don't agree with Mr. Obama on a lot, I disagree with Mr. Romney on much, much more. Even on Obama's worst day, and Romney's best. Will that be enough to get me to vote for him, come November? I'm not sure. But it did reorient things a bit for me.

I'm curious - what did other people think? Do you agree with my observations, or think I'm offbase somewhere?

"When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes." (Erasmus)

It's not often that I follow books coming out. I wait with baited breath for movies (Hobbit! Twilight! Catching Fire! *goes splodey*), and I'm always on the lookout for new music that's to my rather eclectic tastes. But books --fun books, popular press-- for whatever reason I don't read them as much as I used to. Chalk it up to reading so much for school, that by the end of the day all I want to do is stare at a screen.

All of which makes it odd that I'm so excited about two books, each coming out in the same month, each concerning religious topics and probably marketed to a fairly religious audience. They're also looking at some social inequalities (sexism for the first one, homophobia for the second) and how they play out in American evangelical Christianity.

One of those authors could use a bit of support just now. Rachel Held Evans, whose interview of a stay-at-home dad I recommended last night, tried to take all of the Bible's commandments for women (Old Testament and New) as literally as she could. Based on the sample bits I've read (I can't speak for the whole book yet), it seems to be more than straight memoir. It's more about her struggle on how to view herself as a woman, how her experiences changed how she understood "biblical womanhood." She's funny and humble and open-minded, and it makes for a good book, at least based on what I've seen. For the record, Rachel was an egalitarian going into this, and she's still one.

(Read about the project here, pre-order it at Amazon, and don't miss the reviews of it at NPR, Slate, and the Oprah blog.)

I don't want to get into a big debate over whether the Bible supports egalitarianism, or whether following the Bible literally is a good way to understand what it teaches, or any of that. I'm talking about Rachel's book because Vaginagate is rearing its ugly head again. Back when she was getting her book ready for publication, her publisher wanted her to take out the word "vagina." Christian bookstores are infamously persnickety, and there was a concern that if she included the word (which is appropriate in the context, btw) some Christian bookstores would refuse to carry it. Rachel was initially prepared to edit it out, but as she describes here eventually decided that was the wrong move:

In the wake of Lifeway’s highly-publicized ban of the movie “The Blind Side,” and after speaking with some industry insiders, I wrote a blog post in July about Lifeway’s influence on the Christian publishing industry, explaining how its standards not only affect the highly sanitized inventory we find on Christian bookstore shelves, but also which books are contracted by publishers, what content gets edited in the writing and editing process, and the degree of freedom authors feel they have to speak through their own platforms.

Whatever you think of Rachel's project or the Christian publishing industry, I hope we can all agree this is a trend worth fighting. And she's paying a price for it: the major Christian bookstore Lifeway isn't carrying the book. Other Christian bookstores are, and you can get it on Amazon + Barnes and Nobles, and certainly by request anywhere. Or you can take the rather hilarious approach suggested in the comments at Rachel's blog by several ex-Lifeway sales clerks: pre-order a few copies through Lifeway (they're doing special orders, not just stocking it normally), then only buy the one so they have to put the remainder on their shelves for other people to buy. They'll only charge you for the ones you actually buy.

Whether you buy it or not, and however you buy it, it might not be a bad idea to stop by her blog and show your support. Unlike most blogs and articles, I actually can recommend the comments at her site - I'd say they're the best part, but the main posts rock, too. And censorship always sucks, whatever its form. I'm sure she'd appreciate an encouraging note and/or a preorder, if you're so inclined.


The other book is Tim Kurek's The Cross and the Closet, which is available from the publisher, Amazon, B+N, and all the other usual places. It's coming out on I think the tenth. I've just finished the preprint Tim gave me and will be writing a review of it this weekend. Which will be positive, but I'll save the specifics for next week.

Which probably means I need two betas, or one person willing to do two projects. One to look over the review for grammar and writing style of the review, probably on Saturday or Sunday. (I'll need a quick turn-around there.) I also need someone besides Ann to look over a short Swordspoint ficlet. Let me know if you're game for either or both.