Root Cause Analysis

Cube Guy: Is this a drill?
Manager Dude: Better not be. It’s cold and rainy. What would they be thinking?
Me: Yeah and it’s before 7:00. There’re not enough employees here to make this fire drill a worthwhile test.
Cube Guy2: Weren’t you guys here yesterday? Same thing happened right around the same time.
Me (to Manager Dude): Hey, we need a tiger team to do a root cause analysis and correct this problem.
Manager Dude: I’ll just call an electrician.
Me: Lessee… BOE on the cost. Evacuation time times the number of people…
Manager Dude: …and the time it takes for everyone to get back to real work again afterwards
Cube Guy: Considerable.
Cube Guy2: Yeah, and then the many recountings of the story for each employee who comes in afterwards.
Manager Dude: So what percent of that time will come out of people’s natural web-surfing and coffee chat time and not productive time?
Me: You’re kidding, right?
Manager Dude: Yeah. I already know that answer.
Cube Guy2: Finally. Here comes the safety rep.
Safety Guy: All clear! We can go in.
Cube Guy: So was it a false alarm? What’s up?
Me: Yeah, this happened yesterday too, what gives?
Safety Guy: Nobody knows yet. Could be nothing. But you can’t be too careful.
Manager Dude: Just for grins, could you let me know what the deal is when you find out more?
Safety Guy: I’ll know more this afternoon.
Cube Guy: Hey, I don’t know you. Are you new?
Safety Guy: My second day. Name’s Karl. Karl Munchhausen. Nice to meet you.
Me: (glancing at Manager Dude) Nice… to meet… you.

(this story is based on real events, more or less)

Perfect Understanding

In my lectio this morning I read “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” — Matthew 5:48

“Perfect,” in my modernist worldview, means “without flaws.” But it turns out (thanks to Fr. Ron Rohlheiser) the word “perfect” is a translation of the Hebrew word “tamam” which means mature, appropriate, compassionate. The parallel in Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount (6:36) has “merciful” — “Be merciful as your Father also is merciful.”

I prefer to read this with the Hebrew worldview because Jesus was a Hebrew (duh.) and when I read scripture with my modernist mindset I end up turning what I read into a merit badge to be earned with my ego instead of letting it humble me appropriately.

Whatever word you think of, the challenging words in that verse are “as your Father is.” In other words, God’s standards, not mine. Prodigious, effusive, unabashed mercy and compassion. To people who do not deserve it. God’s kind of mercy, not man’s.

This offends the merit-badge mentality of my modernist world view. I’ve worked in the vineyard for most of my adult life, why would lollygaggers who work just the last hour, in the cool of the late day, get paid as much as I did? If I am being honest with myself, I am often jealous because my Master is generous.

“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” No matter what worldview I wear, I require help to meet the standard. But the modernist worldview can be very misleading here. This is about relationship, not acheivement. Or maybe the two are inseparable.

I am finding that in my faith life, in prayer, heck, in life in general, I need to be aware of what worldview I am wearing. I was raised with a modernist worldview. In my twenties I discovered that there was something worthwhile beyond the strict modernist worldview. In my thirties, I emigrated to the more mystical Judeo-Christian worldview but maintain a dual citizenship. In fact, it’s not an either-or. The Judeo-Christian worldview is the grandfather of many of the great ideas that gave birth to the modernist age.

But it is a source of great folly for me to approach the teachings of Jesus Christ with a strict moderninst worldview. I can’t earn heaven like a merit badge, and I can’t be “perfect” without being merciful. Or without a lot of Help.

Ooh, Pretty Dots!

I’m a sucker for info-viz toys. Slate’s News Dots gives a graphical analysis of patterns in over 500 news stories per day over a three day running window. Makes me clap and giggle like a little geeky girl. And the dots are very pretty too…

Each common tag is a News Dot. Dots are connected if their tags appear in the same story. And the dots are sized according to the number of stories that reference them. You can click on each dot to get links to the stories that mention that dot’s tag.

Slate has always been one of my favorite online resources, mainly because they have been a leader over the years about aggregating content in reader-friendly ways. Though I do miss the Today’s Papers feature and The Slatest does not make an adequate replacement, they have a very cool new tool indeed.

Vitamin P

I’ve not read much poetry lately. Glad to have come across this beauty. Reminded me that a deficiency in Vitamin P causes dehydration of my soul.

Eating Poetry

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man,
I snarl at her and bark,
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

— Mark Strand

Groove Goodies

CeU (seh-yoh’) is a Brazilian artist who reminds me of Bebel Gilberto or a Latin answer to the UKs Morcheeba. Imagine chilled-out, acoustic, bossa-nova-infused grooves with sultry vocals. You can download a live KEXP studio podcast from the artist here. If you are a downtempo fan, this is a treat.

KEXP in Seattle is my favorite online radio station. I subscribe to its regular podcasts and get a regular pulse on some pretty good new music from a lot of different genres. They offer one free song download a day, which has introduced me to some pretty nice freebies, like today’s pop track from the Raveonettes.

I pray, I am, He is.

I’ve a habit of provacatively stating to my fellow churchy-ites that I don’t really care if God exists. What I mean by that is that I feel no need for proof of a God beyond my understanding and believe that the whole proof of God thing is kind of silly. I pray, I am, because He is. That’s enough for me.

So I read an excellent review of Karen Armstrong’s A Case For God. Warms the confirmation bias cockles of my heart.

“A god whose existence you can prove is a god to whom you cannot pray… Prayer — not proof — is where religion rises or falls.”

Far from making a case for God’s existence, the book points out that such efforts are misguided and a hindrance to faith. I totally agree. Making God’s existence a matter of science is putting Him under the authority of a (admittedly useful) human construct. Ultimately she makes a case for reviving the apophatic tradition of theology that the modern age has buried. Maybe this will help folks develop a more balanced idea of who God is. Meanwhile, I pray, I am, He is.

My Inner Nine-Year-Old

I am filing this under the category of “Really cool but irresponsible and possibly dangerous stuff I’d like to try” — How To Blow The Bottom Out Of A Bottle.

A number of years back I heard about this trick — flaming grapes in a microwave. I did a few of them by myself and my inner nine-year-old was totally delighted. So I went and showed Girlzilla who was about seven at the time. After the fourth or fifth time, my Dad radar went off. Not the kind of thing you want to be showing your kid, Mr. Loser Dad.

So I won’t show the kids, but the nine-year-old will save his next bottle of Shiner and give it a try out back. Alone.

The Poetic Life

“I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems. To desire to write poems that endure — we undertake such a goal certain of two things: that in all likelihood we will fail, and that if we succeed we will never know it.” — Donald Hall, Poet

This applies for more than just writing poems. I would apply this idea to any effort of mine to follow Christ and build the Kingdom of God.

Powdery Goodness

I made my first foray into molecular gastronomy this morning, thanks to the gastro-geek wonderland that is Nuts Online. I went looking for some Citric Acid power to use as a fruit preservative and a tartness agent for some of my smoothie creations and found a veritable powdery smorgasbord. I am already thinking up a recipe for my own custom Pixie Stix powder.

I ended up buying some Yumberry and Acai powder to amp up my breakfast smoothies. (Eat your five dollar per drink heart out, Jamba Juice.)

I also got some Soy Lecithin granules in hopes of being able to make a whole grain bread at home in my bread machine that is lighter and more palatable for the kids. I’d be making a batch right now if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t work at home anymore. (Man, employment is starting to cramp my style.)

But my favorite powdery toy is Xantham Gum. It stabilizes mixtures like sauces and salad dressings — and hopefully smoothies — so the ingredients don’t separate after standing. It exhibits pseudoplasticity in that shear forces such as shaking or stirring will release the bonds and reduce the viscosity of the mixture. So it’s stable on the shelf and pourable after shaking. Xantham Gum is probably the reason a bottle of somethign you buy says “Shake Well Before Serving.”

So I put some in my smoothie this morning. I need to adjust the amount. I put in one teaspoon and right now my smoothie resembles blueberry-walnut-yumberry-acai barbecue sauce. Live and learn.

Now I need to go find a spoon so I can drink my breakfast.