Saturday, June 28, 2008

Memories and the senses.

I recently came across a CD that I hadn't listened to in years. Once I tossed it into my car's CD player, I realized that it was filled with all kinds of songs that brought back memories of my first trip to Europe, way back in 1989. On that trip, I took along 1 cassette for my super-hip Walkman, and I practically wore out the tape by the end of the 2.5-week vacation.

But I also unknowingly engrained those songs with memories of Europe. As I listened to each track, my mind was filled with visual and emotional memories of a train between Brussels and Paris... a train station in Paris... walking around the streets of London... experience the Rhine River in Germany... all kinds of wonderful memories.

Last fall, I traveled to Greece with my mom and brother, and I intentionally listened to one album on my iPod repeatedly, in an attempt to re-create this experience.

It worked. Those songs now remind me of the great trip last year.

Our senses seem to be so closely linked to memory. When I smell cigarettes, I often think of smoke-filled sidewalks in Athens. Certain smells remind me of my childhood, including times with my grandparents or other family members. The feel of shag carpet reminds me of my paternal grandparents' floors. A humid evening will stir memories of Missouri or Alabama. Cool weather around Thanksgiving time reminds me of college trips during that holiday. The smells and sounds of Christmas evoke more memories than I can possibly record.

I wonder what senses in a year or five or ten will evoke memories of my life right now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Religious contradictions?

Came across an interesting article on about seemingly contradictory religious beliefs held by Americans:
    Americans remain heavily religious, but their views rarely conform to dogma, according to a massive new survey released this morning.

    Seventy percent of religious adherents in the United States believe multiple religions can lead a person to salvation, while 68 percent say there is more than one way to interpret the teachings of their religion.

    Those views are at the centerpiece of a survey of 36,000 people released today by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey - unprecedented in its combination of survey pool and breadth of questions - reveals that religious beliefs and practices in America defy doctrine.

    - 57 percent of evangelical Christians say that multiple religions can lead to salvation, though nary an evangelical theologian or minister would say that.

    - 58 percent of Catholics believe society should accept homosexuality, a view that is greatly at odds with U.S. Catholic bishops, including the Bay Area.

    - 12 percent of Eastern Orthodox Christians say they speak in tongues once a week, even though it is a Pentecostal practice that is not in Orthodox liturgy.

    - 21 percent of self-defined atheists believe in God.
What also caught my eye in the article was this statement that holds incredible implications for those of us who work closely with people discovering, experiencing, living out, and growing in their faith:
    But several scholars who read the study - or were involved in it - said the often counterintuitive results revealed another ongoing theme in American religion: Many believers may know little about the true practices of their own faith, much less others. So the fact that Americans largely see multiple religions leading to salvation may not reveal a trait of true understanding, but possibly naivete.

Cody's is closing for good.

Sad news from the Bay Area. Cody's Books is closing its doors and going out of business. I remember visiting the location on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley a few times when I lived there back in 1999-2000. More books than I could ever possibly consume in my lifetime. Loved the place!
    Cody's Books, the legendary Berkeley bookstore that catered to literati nationwide for more than half a century and was firebombed in the 1980s because of its support of the First Amendment, has closed its doors, the victim of lagging sales.

    The bookstore, which in recent years had closed its flagship store on Telegraph Avenue and its branches in San Francisco and on Berkeley's Fourth Street, finally settling in early April in one store on Shattuck Avenue, shuttered that store Friday.

    Calling it "a heartbreaking moment," Cody's owner, Hiroshi Kagawa of the Japanese firm IBC Publishing, said in a statement, "unfortunately, my current business is not strong enough or rich enough to support Cody's."

    "Cody's is my treasure and more than that, Cody's is a real friend of (the) Berkeley community and will be missed," Kagawa said.

    Pat Cody, one of the store's co-founders, said the closing "makes me very sad. We worked so hard and we put so much into it, and it meant a lot to the community. It's a big loss."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Today's funny photos.

Two shots from around town today...

Pic #1: The people at Fry's Electronics forgot how to spell the name of this MacBook...

Pic #2: The owner of this car likes the name "Jetta" so much, a second appearance of the name on the back of the car was apparently warranted...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More coverage on killing of a Turlock toddler.

Couple new stories online about the weekend murder of a 2-year-old just outside of Turlock, where I grew up and where my mom still lives:

Article from The Modesto Bee

Article from The San Francisco Chronicle

Monday, June 16, 2008

Political roundup

A few interesting stories I've come across this evening:

Obama the delegator picks when to take reins
International Herald Tribune

Fiorina woos Clinton supporters for McCain
Reuters, via MSNBC

State-run Chinese paper voices doubts about Obama
Reuters, via International Herald Tribune

Analysis: Age an issue in the 2008 campaign?

Gore endorses Obama and promises to help him
Associated Press, via SFGate

Tragic news from my old hometown.

There's been a bit of covering in the last couple days about the brutal beating of a toddler in Turlock on Saturday night. I grew up in Turlock and worked there (twice) after college. Here's coverage from two media outlets:

The Modesto Bee article

The San Francisco Chronicle article

As of 5:45PM Monday, the Turlock Journal had nothing on its website about the incident. This isn't a surprise, because the Journal is a joke. It has been for many years. I'll admit it was a joke when I worked there, but it got worse when the paper was sold and went to twice-a-week publishing, instead of six days a week.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Schwarzeneggers debate Obama, McCain?

Great article on IHT about Arnold and Maria and the debate over which presidential candidate to support this year. Good read.
    Of all the supporters behind the two presumptive nominees for president this year, none are quite as intriguing as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger - a Republican who has thrown his support behind John McCain - and his wife, Maria Shriver - a Democrat who is a vocal backer of Barack Obama.

    The lawn of their home has dueling campaign signs. The breakfast table has become a casual debating society. Shriver is even threatening to bring a life-size cutout of her preferred candidate into the house, something the governor has seen her do in other elections. "When one of the candidates screws up," Schwarzenegger said of the cutouts, "the kids carry them outside."

    The four Schwarzenegger children - who range in age from 10 to 18 - have already taken sides, though only one of them, Katherine, is old enough to vote. She, too, favors Obama.

What will Bush's legacy be?

The time is quickly winding down on the Bush Presidency, and the International Herald Tribune had an interesting article today looking at the legacy question, especially from a European perspective:
    The finale of George W. Bush's presidency has never seemed more imminent as it has during his tour of European capitals, a farewell visit in which reminiscence, valediction and even eulogies trailed him.

    At the Vatican on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI gave the president a tour of the gardens where he prays each evening - the first time a pontiff has done so - and then offered a gift of four volumes about St. Peter's Basilica with an allusion to a life after office.

    "Perhaps you'll have some time to read it," Benedict told him. ...

    Legacy is a word over which Bush's aides profess not to dwell, and the president himself seems averse to reflection. "The president does not have second thoughts," his press secretary, Dana Perino, once said.

    But his legacy hangs over his eight-day visit to Europe nonetheless - in interviews he has given to foreign journalists, in his friendships with European leaders, in his appearance Thursday night with Berlusconi when he had to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court's rebuke on the Guantánamo Bay prison, which remains an unredeemable blemish for many in Europe and beyond.

Tim Russert died.

Being a former journalist, I pay attention when a former newsperson dies. Was sad to see the news just a few minutes ago about Tim Russert dying:
    Tim Russert, who became one of America's leading political journalists as the host of NBC's "Meet the Press," died Friday, according to the network. He was 58.

    The network said Russert suffered a heart attack while at work and could not be revived. He had just returned from a family vacation in Italy to celebrate the graduation of his son, Luke, from Boston College.

    Russert joined the network in 1984 and quickly established himself as the face of the network's political coverage.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Joys and pains of writing.

I'm the first to admit that I'm a word geek. Yes, I'm a geek in other ways (and for a few months of my life I was a Greek, but that's a different story), but my greatest geekiness is found in the area of words.

If you regularly visit this blog, you know I've written very little over the last couple of months. The silence fascinates me more than it fascinates you, because I enjoy writing, I love words, and I'm always full of thoughts and opinions.

Last week in Oregon I did more journaling and writing, which seems to have unleashed a desire to write again. I regularly use twitter (see the top right corner of my blog for recent updates), which I find to be an awesome form of micro-blogging.

Anyway, I guess this is my declaration of intent: I intend to write here more frequently, and to reactivate other areas of writing in my life.

Cindy McCain vs Michelle Obama.

Great analysis piece on CNN about differences between Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, and whether the potential First Ladies affect their husbands' candidacies:
    They're not elected. They're not paid. There's no precise job description.

    But whether it's an elegantly dressed Jacqueline Kennedy giving Americans a tour of the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt speaking on civil rights or Hillary Clinton saying "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies," first ladies are praised, criticized, adored and scorned -- but never ignored.

    The two women poised for the job, 54-year-old Cindy McCain, wife of Republican Sen. John McCain, and 44-year-old Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, come from strikingly different backgrounds.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama courts evangelicals.

Interesting article today on about Democrats, including Sen. Obama, targeting evangelical voters for the fall:
    Polls have showed evangelicals, following national trends, are disaffected with Republican leadership and increasingly up for grabs.

    The organizer of the "Matthew 25" effort, Mara Vanderslice, led the religious outreach for the Democratic presidential ticket in 2004, and -- perhaps more troubling to the GOP -- has done similar, and successful, work for winning Democrats in reliably red states and battlegrounds, such as Govs. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Ted Strickland of Ohio and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

    This new energy has not been matched among conservatives. Same-sex marriage has galvanized some issues-motivated activists, but the Republican standard-bearer has yet to galvanize longtime evangelical foot soldiers this campaign season.

    Since former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee ended his presidential run, many organizers and former Huckabee backers such as Farris have taken to the sidelines -- and said they have no plans to re-enter the electoral fray before Election Day.

    And as new reports surface of McCain's difficulties with evangelical leaders, Obama's campaign revealed an ambitious effort to appeal to young evangelicals and Catholics set to be unveiled this month.