Saturday, April 29, 2017


Sunday Reflection: The Snake

Yesterday, at his rally in Pennsylvania, President Trump recited a poem he identified as "The Snake." The version he used, below, is actually a song released by singer Al Wilson in 1968, which was written by Oscar Brown in 1963 and based on one of Aesop's fables, "The Farmer and the Viper." Trump has read it previously at rallies, and as on those occasions, he made clear last night that he was using it as a metaphor for immigration (I think the direct quote was "It's about the immigrants, folks").

On her way to work one morning
Down the path along side the lake
A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
"Poor thing," she cried, "I'll take you in and I'll take care of you"
"Take me in tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake

She wrapped him up all cozy in a comforter of silk
And laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk
She hurried home from work that night and soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she'd taken to had been revived
"Take me in, tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake

She clutched him to her bosom, "You're so beautiful," she cried
"But if I hadn't brought you in by now you might have died"
She stroked his pretty skin again and kissed and held him tight
Instead of saying thanks, the snake gave her a vicious bite
"Take me in, tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake
"I saved you," cried the woman
"And you've bitten me, but why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die"
"Oh shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin
"You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.

There are a few problems with this poem as a metaphor for "immigrants."

First, it assumes that people entering the US are like the snake-- intent on causing harm, because that is in their nature. That's true of only a small percentage of immigrants, I suspect.

Second, and more relevant to Christians, is that it reflects a view that allows no room for forgiveness, grace, and welcome. These are essential virtues. How many times did Jesus choose to be with and console the "snakes"-- the tax collectors, the hated Centurian, the Samaritans, the people caught in adultery (including the woman at the well)-- rather than the self-righteous? If nothing else, the Christian faith holds out the hope of change and redemption. A worldview that rejects those things and the hope that comes with it, in favor of safety and self-interest, should trouble those of us who follow Jesus.


Finally, we can shoot hibernating bears-- my boys will love that."

Not totally fair, of course, but you have to love the appearance by the Notorious RBG.

Friday, April 28, 2017


Haiku Friday: That which makes you happy

Yeah, I am going for a particularly broad topic this week: things that make us happy. 

Here, I will go first:

Perfect omelets
The scent of the familiar
Rain and a good book.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula and have some fun!

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Trump Tax Plan

So, here are the seven key components of the Trump tax plan, according to the New York Times:

1) Move from 7 tax brackets to just 3
2) Double the standard deduction
3) Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax
4) Lower the capital gains tax
5) Repeal the inheritance tax
6) Eliminate all tax deductions for individuals (except charitable contributions and mortgage interest)
7) Cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%

So, here are my concerns:

-- All of these act to lower the amount of money the government collects. So... does that mean we are just going to borrow money and raise the deficit?

-- Numbers 3, 4 and 5 will significantly increase income disparity.

-- Over the past decade, much has been made that corporations "are people, too" in terms of things like free speech rights to make political donations. So, why shouldn't they be taxed like people?  I realize that our corporate tax rate is high relative to some countries, but so is our spending on things that benefit other countries, like a military that spans the world to keep peace.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Recipe Time! One pot wondermeal!

It's been a while since we have had a recipe here at the Razor! This is a favorite of mine from about 1992, when I was living on top of a parking garage in Detroit with my brother.   Serves 1-6, depending.

Here is what you will need:

-- Two hot dogs
-- Milk
-- Butter
-- One large can of corn
-- Velveeta cheese (1 lb)
-- Several large organic capers
-- Two boxes of Macaroni & Cheese 
-- Salt and pepper

Bring 5 qts of water to boil in a large pot. 

Once at a roiling boil add salt and the pasta from the mac and cheese boxes. Stir.

Now add both hot dogs. boil for 10 minutes.

Pour everything into one of those things that you pour pasta into (you know, a strainer-type thingee). Pluck out the hot dogs, then pour the  pasta back into the pan.

Now add the butter (one stick) and 1/2 cup of milk and the cheese packets and some Velveeta (because they never give you enough cheese). Stir. At this point, put the capers away. You won't need them.

Cut up the hot dogs and add them back into the mix, and stir some more.

Heap some onto a plate. Open the can of corn and put some corn on the plate.

There you go! It's a healthy, happy, monchromatic dinner!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


In today's Star-Tribune....

... is my take on the Arkansas executions. You can read it here.

A short time after the online version of the piece posted last night, I got a correction from Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Maurice Possley: The exoneration project he works on is now up over 2,000 identified wrongful convictions.

And, of course, the drama continued last night.

There are critical goals that criminal law has to serve. Sometimes those goals are, in fact, best served by long sentences. No goal, though- outside of the theoretical realm and political philosophy- is served through execution. And we should not kill people based on theory.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Where to go with your jeans

As CTL points out, a good pair of jeans can go anywhere:

Date night, barbecue,
Casual Friday, yard work.
Same pair of blue jeans.

Except, for Gavin's at least, inside the house:

Farm work, dirty jeans
Mom says "NO! Not in the house!"
"Change in the garage."

I'll vouch for Gavin's version, at least. I worked on farms (harvesting peas), and those jeans got pretty disgusting...

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Sunday Reflection: Believing in what we do not see

This is a familiar story:

 Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

When I first began to understand the Gospels (which was not the first time I read them, and is still not a
completed project), one of the parts that baffled me was John the Baptist getting people to commit to
someone who was not yet known-- Jesus.  How could anyone do that?

And yet we do. All the time. We commit to people we have never met (politicians, media figures,
religious leaders) that we really know almost nothing about, and to ideas we don't fully understand.
We just aren't very careful about these things. As an advocate, I know that we rarely argue someone into
believing something. Instead, they hear a story that rings true, or are inclined that way, or catch a tiny bit
of shimmering truth and fill in the rest through reason and heart. And that's how people came to Jesus, and
still do, through a story or inclination or something glimpsed. It helps, too, that we want to believe in
something big and moving and real, whether good or bad; we are constructed to desire that.

Sylvia Plath (pictured above), who was more smart than tragic, wrote this:

 I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


The guy who makes iPhones....

Somehow this was not as shocking as I expected it to be:

I often work 12-hour days now (albeit doing non-physical labor), and have had a variety of jobs where I worked at night (including 6 pm to 6 am shifts working on farms). Don't get me wrong-- my job is much better in terms of conditions and pay than working in a factory-- but I also realize that factory work is not easy and the hours can be long here in the US.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Haiku Friday: Best jeans

It's spring. Time to tend to the garden or go for a hike or do something else where you haul out your favorite pair of jeans. You know the ones-- they might have holes or worse, but they are just so darn comfy.

Let's haiku about that this week... or any other well-worn article of clothing you just can't give up. Here, I'll go first:

Both pockets gave out
And, yes, there's holes, several
But they stay with me!

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: Is Sean Spicer Effective?

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had kind of an endearing moment this week when Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots briefly interrupted his press conference. Unfortunately, things have been kind of up and down for Spicer.

Is he effective? Does it matter?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Baylor has a new President

After a lengthy search, yesterday Baylor announced its new President: Linda Livingstone, who started out working at Baylor as a business professor, then served as a Dean at Pepperdine and George Washington. From 2000-2002, she actually lived a few doors down from me in Waco, but we did not know each other well (they sold that house to Todd Lake and his family, who later sold it to Chip and Joanna Gaines). Here is the description from Baylor's press release:

Dr. Livingstone has led The George Washington University School of Business since 2014, overseeing approximately 3,500 students in undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. programs and more than 57,000 alumni worldwide....

Prior to her tenure at George Washington, Dr. Livingstone served 12 years at Pepperdine, similar to Baylor as a faith-based university, as dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management from 2002-2014. With a focus on excellence in teaching, scholarship and Christian values, she brought significant visibility and resources to the Graziadio School, including overseeing a $200 million expansion of its graduate campuses and the addition of an executive conference center. Under Dr. Livingstone’s leadership, the school also experienced significant progress in its full-time, executive and fully employed MBA programs, and in the area of entrepreneurship, as well as greater scholarship support for students.

 Dr. Livingstone returns to Baylor after time on the Waco campus from 1991-2002. From 1998-2002, she served as associate dean of graduate programs for the Hankamer School of Business in which she was responsible for all graduate degree business programs. Dr. Livingstone was an associate professor in the department of management from 1997-2002 and an assistant professor in the same department from 1991-1997. She also was a member of the Faculty Athletics Council during her tenure at Baylor.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017



Bob Darden sent me a link to this fascinating piece, which is sad and haunting and worthwhile (when so much that is sad or haunting is not worthwhile:

Monday, April 17, 2017



Yeah, that topic brought out some good haiku!

Like this from Gavin:

Day 5. Field training.
MRE has M&Ms
Score! It's a good day.

This one from Olivia is all the more interesting given that she is a food scientist:

Add chocolate to hops.
Sounds like a beer recipe;
Also makes bunnies.

My dad's rang true:

Deep in my pocket
some coins, lint, one M&M
my day ends OK.

TRW Joe had good advice:

One of twelve Zen rules:
"Do just one thing at a time."
Smell; taste; chocolate in the mouth.

The Medievalist's advice was less useful:

Eating chocolate,
Sinful road to perdition,
All over my face.

IPLawGuy knows my taste in movies:

Scott Evil is your guide
You are overthinking this,
Just eat the bunny!

And Sandra Heska King did that beautiful haiku thing-- told a tiny story:

He ate the pasta
In the garden of olives
then brought me a mint.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Sunday Reflection: On Easter

When we read about the end of Jesus’s life in the Gospels, Christians sometimes ignore what happened with the disciples. Maybe we look away because it is so dark: At the time Jesus needed them the most—when he was arrested, tried, and killed-- his disciples “deserted him and fled.” They were not there to console Jesus or intercede when he was tortured.  Peter alone was drawn to the trial, but as he waited nearby he famously denied knowing Jesus three times. 

 But, here is where the example of gentleness enters in. The Gospels contain two fascinating accounts of the resurrected Christ encountering those who abandoned him. If ever there was such a thing as righteous anger, we would expect it to be directed at those who left Jesus in his time in need. That’s not what happens, though. We get gentleness instead.

Mark and Luke tell the story of Jesus falling into conversation with two of his followers, without identifying himself. They are literally walking away from Jerusalem toward another town, Emmaus. When Jesus reveals himself, though, it is not in anger. He explains what happened in Jerusalem, and asks if they have anything to eat. They give him some fish, and he eats it. He walks with them some more, and blesses them.

 And what of his closest followers, the 12 apostles (down to 11 after the departure of Judas)? The end of the book of John finds seven of them at the Sea of Galilee, some 100 miles away from Jerusalem. Theirs was a significant abandonment and flight, a walk of several days. And yet Jesus finds them. Once he does, he does not upbraid or embarrass them. 

Rather, he finds them fishing in the big water. He calls to them, and they come to the shore. He has made them breakfast, a simple meal of bread and fish. They eat together, and talk. That’s all—just a small, gentle moment. 

Often, that is where the truth is found.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


What is the deal with Peeps?

Every year at this time, I see Peeps everywhere. I have some questions.

First of all, what are they supposed to be? Little chickens? And if so, how is that an Easter thing?

Second, what are you supposed to do with one? I once tried to eat a Peep, and it is clear that that's not their intended purpose. Do they form some kind of adhesive or something?

Finally, what is the nexus to Easter? There seems to be a lot I am missing...

Friday, April 14, 2017


Haiku Friday: Chocolate

A while ago I copied down this poem by Megan Willome, which I found at her always-worthwhile blog, Have Tea, Will Write.

It is kind of about chocolate, but not really. What stuck in my head was this line: "I like people who do not like me back..."

At first, I empathized with that view, thought "yeah, I am like that!" Then I recoiled, think "yikes, am I like that?" The revulsion was born of the sense that if you like people (or institutions) that do not like you back, you probably lack self-esteem.

But then another thought came. Isn't it really the case that it takes great belief in one's own value to like people who don't like you back-- isn't a sign that your own self-worth is not dependent on what others may think, and that you can even recognize the good in people unlike you?

So, anyways... let's haiku about chocolate this week. Or, if you would like, something else.  Here, I will go first:

Chocolate bunny
I nibble your ear and stop
It just feels... heartless.

At night, in the dark
I put you in the freezer
And there you still sit.

Now it is your turn! Use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun.

When I Say

I like peanut butter
You call me a chocolate-hater

And when I say I like chocolate
You say never trust anyone who despises peanut butter

Like the ad said, I like peanut butter in my chocolate
I like chocolate in my peanut butter

I like rain and sun, night and day, dogs and cats
(big ones, like lions), salty and sweet, coffee and tea,
wine and craft beer, beach and mountains, stars in the sky
and stripes on zebras

There are things I do not like, which fall under my unalienable right
to not pursue things that lead to unhappiness, like roadkill.

I like people who do not like me back, and if we meet again,
I’d like to share a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

one for You
one for Me

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: Trump's Upside-Down Day

So, pretty much for the past few years, President Trump has had the following takes on things:

China: Currency manipulators, bad!
NATO: Obsolete, bad!
Russia: Good guys, might be good.
Fed Chief Janet Yellen: Bad!

Yesterday, in one fell swoop, Trump reversed course to these positions:

China:  Not currency manipulators, good!
NATO: Not obsolete, good!
Russia: All-time low in relations
Fed Chief Janet Yellen: Good!

I realize I might be over-simplifying some here-- but not by much. Here is verbatim what he said about NATO: "“I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”

Some people think these changes reflect what is dangerous about Trump, but I'm not sure I have a problem with him changing his mind about some things. A lot of the positions he put forth on the campaign trail were unrealistic, dangerous, or both. Moving away from them is simply prudent.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


My favorite picture

I really do love this drawing by Yann Kebbi, which accompanied a New Yorker piece entitled "Cookie Monster on the Dole."

What's not to love? Cookie Monster is watching TV, his furry feet propped up, and there is Muppet Donald Trump on the screen in front of an American flag. A cloud of depression lurks over Cookie's head, and an old-style phone sits by his limp right arm. An empty beer can rolls on the floor.

It just... catches a mood, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


The Surprising Review

If there is one thing that captures public attention in the world of restaurant reviews, it is the unexpected review-- when a great restaurant is judged to be terrible, or when one we expect to be terrible is exalted.

Along those lines, people were shocked by Pete Well's positive review of Senor Frogs in Times Square for the New York Times. Marilyn Hagerty's legendary review of the Olive Garden in Grand Forks is equally compelling, in its own way.

Most recently in this genre (albeit on the flip side-- a horrifying review of a "good" restaurant) we have Jay Rayner's review of Paris legend Le Cinq.  Among other things, he says this:

There is only one thing worse than being served a terrible meal: being served a terrible meal by earnest waiters who have no idea just how awful the things they are doing to you are. And so, to the flagship Michelin three-star restaurant of the George V Hotel in Paris, or the scene of the crime as I now like to call it. In terms of value for money and expectation Le Cinq supplied by far the worst restaurant experience I have endured in my 18 years in this job. This, it must be said, is an achievement of sorts.

It wasn’t meant to be so. Irritated by reader complaints about the cost of eating out I decided to visit a classic Parisian gastro-palace, as a reality check. I imagined it less as review, and more as an observational piece, full of moments of joy and bliss, of the sort only stupid amounts of cash can buy. We’d all have a good laugh at rich people and then return to business as usual, a little wiser. I chose Le Cinq, restaurant of Christian Le Squer, named chef of the year by his peers in 2016. I assumed it would be whimsical, and perhaps outrageous. Never did I think the shamefully terrible cooking would slacken my jaw from the rest of my head....

... Other things are the stuff of therapy. The canapé we are instructed to eat first is a transparent ball on a spoon. It looks like a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant, and is a “spherification”, a gel globe using a technique perfected by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli about 20 years ago. This one pops in our mouth to release stale air with a tinge of ginger. My companion winces. “It’s like eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s,” she says.  

Really, please-- go read the whole thing.


Monday, April 10, 2017


The Haiku of baseball

One thing I love about baseball is that is so much of a place for us, rooted in memories. For me it is being in the backyard, my dad has the radio on, Ernie Harwell is describing Willie Horton fouling one off, and describing who caught it...

TRW Joe did a good job of that:

The mountains look down
Upon our loved baseball team.
O Rockies........this year?

And so did Christine:

Rays play under dome
I wear rose colored glasses
Things look much better.

Sunday, April 09, 2017


Sunday Reflection: Palm Sunday

Not all moments are equal.

That's something I say a lot, in a variety of contexts. I really do believe it, too-- that some moments are more significant than others, and we need to recognize them and embrace them when they come along. They are the times that are joyful and painful and most real-- the ones when we are most fully human, a creation of God.

We don't know much about the first 30 years of Jesus's life, but we know a lot about the last week. Like everything else in the Gospels, I think that has to mean something-- that the meaning of our lives is not evenly apportioned over the weeks and months and years, and we should not expect that.

Saturday, April 08, 2017


Fascinating names of early English Monarchs

In rank order of fascinating-ness:

1.  Aethelred the Unready (pictured above). 978-1016 (except parts of 1013-1014)
2.  Sven Forkbeard (1013-1014)
3. Empress Matilda (1141)
4. Cnut the Great (1016-1035)
5. Edmund Ironside (1016)

Friday, April 07, 2017


Haiku Friday: Baseball season begins!

It's baseball season! Opening day featured IPLawGuy's beloved Washington Nationals (pictured above) losing to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 11-3.  Have hope, though, IPLawGuy! In the first week, even Cubs fans have hope. Hmmm... maybe that doesn't work anymore.

Let's haiku about our favorite/least favorite teams this week! Here, I will go first:

So who loves the Twins?
The Spanish Medievalist...
Minnesota proud.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula and have some fun!

Thursday, April 06, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: Gender and Elections

If there is one thing we learned from the last election, it is this: A woman cannot count on the female vote to win a Presidential election unless she connects with a wide swath of female voters.

Hillary Clinton was very close to winning the presidency, but she failed to win the majority of white female voters. This, despite the fact that her opponent did nearly everything imaginable to drive away many women-- up to and including the promotion of sexual assault caught on tape (and yes, grabbing women by the genitals is sexual assault).

Women are not a homogeneous bloc of voters, I realize. And black women (like black men) overwhelmingly favored Clinton. Still, I haven't read much analysis-- or heard any substantive reflection by Clinton herself-- about how she lost the vote among white women. 

How did that happen? 

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


My Dream Car

Every once in a while, I imagine what my dream car would be. It changes over time, and it varies according to where I live (snow was not a factor in Texas after all). Right now, in the place I am, here are the attributes I would like in a car:

-- All wheel drive
-- Hybrid
-- Pretty good performance (i.e., 0-60 in less than 8 seconds)
-- A hatch or small SUV configuration
-- A half-decent interior, at least

No, that car does not currently exist... but what is close?

Tuesday, April 04, 2017


Graphene and our future

In the midst of our fascination with technology, sometimes we ignore how important materials science is-- that often what we make is dependent on what we make something out of.  

The fascinating material of the moment is Graphene, which was isolated by scientists in 2004. It is just one atom thick, yet remarkable strong. It allows for the manufacture of things that are light, strong, and rigid.  That is an unusual and useful combination of attributes.

It efficiently conducts both electricity and heat, and is almost transparent. Plus, it turns out that it may be able to act as a sieve which can convert seawater into potable water.

And this-- it is essentially a two-dimensional material, because it is so thin. That means that every atom is available for chemical reaction from two sides.  I'm pretty sure that will be useful for something!

Monday, April 03, 2017


Don't vote for Pedro?

I may not agree with his assessment, but I loved Campbell's haiku!:

Worst movie ever?
Napoleon Dynamite.
Don't vote for Pedro.

Sunday, April 02, 2017


Sunday Reflection: Forgiveness and Fear

In many churches today, one of the readings will be Psalm 130:

 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
  Lord, hear my voice;
        let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
       O Lord, who could stand?

 For there is forgiveness with you;
       therefore you shall be feared.

 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
       in his word is my hope.

 My soul waits for the Lord,
  more than watchmen for the morning,
       more than watchmen for the morning.

 O Israel, wait for the Lord, *
       for with the Lord there is mercy;

 With him there is plenteous redemption,
       and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

There is a lot going on there, but the couplet that really gets to me is this one:

 For there is forgiveness with you;
       therefore you shall be feared.

Here is the thing: If God is forgiving, why should we fear?

I've pondered this for years. After all, a justice is system inspires fear if it is unforgiving. How could this be different?

My best answer is that God's forgiveness doesn't replace judgment, it replaces punishment. We see Jesus doing this, after all: Over and over he finds people (like the woman in John 8) who are doing something wrong, and he acknowledges it but saves her from punishment. But not from consequences; after all, the judgment of God must be something we fear, even if God's forgiveness saves us from punishment. Many of us know what if feels like to disappoint a parent (I sure do), and this is just a compounding of that dark, difficult realization.

I know that almost universally people want harsh judgment from God or man for those who have hurt them or are different from them. We too often want to exact pain we can observe; it is a human, base reaction to being threatened. But that does not seem to be God's way, if we believe that God's way is what Jesus shows us. As with so many other things, this faith is hard because it directs us away from what we want.



Saturday, April 01, 2017


Good questions...

This week, some of the stuff I do was profiled by Jeremy Theoret, and I really like what he did. You can read it here.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?