Sunday, September 30, 2007

Drowning in "sleep debt"

Well, this is a timely subject for me to be covering with my introductory psychology students.

Each of us has a specific daily sleep requirement. The average sleep requirement for college students is well over eight hours, and the majority of students would fall within the range of this value plus or minus one hour. If this amount is not obtained, a sleep debt is created. All lost sleep accumulates progressively as a larger and larger sleep indebtedness. Furthermore, your sleep debt does not go away or spontaneously decrease. The only way to reduce your individual sleep debt is by obtaining extra sleep over and above your daily requirement.


So, here I am, up to my eyeballs in sleep debt. How am I supposed to get out of debt? By sleeping, one would presume. Except that I get into this ironic-sounding but very real state of "overtired" and I can't. But now, at least I have something new to worry about during those sleepless hours.

Like, if I can't get sleep on my own, and I have to pay off this sleep debt, what options do I have? Go to the sleep bank to take out a loan? Maybe my credit isn't good, and I'd be forced to go to a sleep loan shark. What do they do if you can't pay on time. Instead of breaking your legs, maybe they burn your mattress...

Sleep researcher William Dement--who wrote the article I excerpted above--has said that a large sleep debt "makes you stupid". At very least, as evidenced above, it is making my jokes stupid.

Jokes aside, though, this has been on my mind a lot lately. I think we hear these things about how much sleep we need, and how unhealthy it is to rack up a huge sleep debt, many of us are inclined to nod seriously, but then file that away with all the other "shoulds" that most of us ignore. And I wonder if there's something in the Western, "rugged individualist" mindset that tells us we're supposed to be able to "conquer the natural world", even when it comes to our own biological needs. I can't say exactly where, but I picked up an idea like that somewhere along the line. The idea that I should be able to "overcome" tiredness by sheer force of will. Or the idea that, if my schedule is packed and I can't fit everything in, sleep is an area where I can cut some corners.

I'm coming to realize that I can't, and that I need to listen to what my body is telling me.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A dog party! A big dog party!

Just a little something fun that I thought I'd share...

It's not often that I find myself with the time, or the inclination to write about anything these days. I've got a busy work schedule--which is about to get busier for the next couple weeks. We've got an IEP to sort out, with a "resource" teacher who is in desperate need of education on Asperger's Syndrome. (Probably also in need of an attitude adjustment.) We've got a daughter who, on her twelfth birthday (earlier this month) announced that she was becoming a vegetarian, without having dropped any hints that she might be inclined to do such a thing. This is a girl who, when she first began combining words, memorably said "More beef!" So that has been yet another new complication in a life that is already plenty complicated, thank you very much! And politics? Pffft! Don't get me started...

So, where was I? Oh yeah...

The "Doggie Paddle" (a fundraiser for a local dog park) was actually supposed to take place two weeks ago, but was cancelled due to rain early in the afternoon. Once the rain had cleared, Daughter and I put Winnie in the car and headed up to the pool. When we arrived, there had only been a few cars there--belonging to other disappointed dog owners who were discovering that the event had been cancelled.

The next week, I was pleased to learn that the event had been rescheduled, and as we pulled up to the pool yesterday, we were met with a decidedly full parking lot. And a quick look inside the park revealed lots of dogs having a good time. I couldn't help thinking of the scene at the end of Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman (who Daughter in Ohio, as a toddler, called A. B. Beastman).

A dog party!
A big dog party!
Big dogs, little dogs,
red dogs, blue dogs,
yellow dogs, green dogs,
black dogs, and white dogs
are all at a dog party!
What a dog party!
Of course, the dogs at the pool were just the ordinary dog colors, and they weren't partying at the top of a tree, but it was definitely a dog party. And a good, wet, time was had by all.

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I didn't know ahead of time that people would be getting in the water with their dogs, or I would have had Daughter bring her swimsuit. So I just decided we wouldn't worry about her clothes getting wet. After all, this isn't something she gets to do very often.

Remember Dances With Wolves? When I saw this picture, it occurred to me that Daughter's name could be Swims With Rottweilers. ;)

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That's Winnie on the left. She wasn't into the whole water thing, but had a great time meeting new dogs. And in the last half hour of our three hours there, she did finally venture into the shallow water.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bishops in New Orleans

Found this message from my bishops in my inbox. It was a welcome change from the articles I've been reading about looming schism. -Renee

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For much of the House of Bishops, today was a break from the business of the House and an opportunity to engage in service.

Bishops and spouses traveled to locations throughout New Orleans and Mississippi to engage in mission work. Another group took a civil rights tour throughout the region and met with social justice advocates.

Bishop Ken and Mariann spent the morning at St. Paul's Home Coming Center preparing gift baskets to give to residents when they return to their homes. They also planted vegetables, butterfly bushes and flowers in a community garden. In the area near the garden, people had returned to a few of the homes. Others remained boarded up, still bearing the "bathtub rings" of water scum and debris across the windows and doors -- a reminder of the 6 feet of water that flooded the entire neighborhood and stood stagnant for six weeks. Organizers of the rebuilding project said that residents returned to plant gardens even before they started gutting their homes. For many, the signs of new life springing from devastation was a symbol of God's promise and the resurrection.

Bishop Ken and Mariann also joined hundreds in celebrating the opening of a new church, All Souls in the Lower Ninth Ward, an area hard hit by the flooding. The church is meeting in an abandoned Walgreens drugstore and held a neighborhood barbeque and party to celebrate.

Meanwhile Bishop Tom and a small group of other bishops worked throughout the day to craft a message from the House of Bishops. They are preparing a first draft to reflect the thinking of the House. They will then present this first draft on Monday morning, and it will become the springboard for discussion and serve as the foundation of the bishops' public response. The bishops expect to release this message on Tuesday.

On Sunday morning, Bishop Tom will be preaching at All Saints, River Ridge in New Orleans, where a former student, the Rev. Susan Davidson now serves. He also will join two other bishops in leading an adult forum about the House of Bishops meeting. Bishop Ken will be at Christ Church Cathedral, where Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is preaching (and where former Southern Ohio priest David DuPlantier is dean).

The House of Bishops will return to session on Monday morning. We will resume our posts on Monday evening. Despite reports of threatening weather and rain, the skies were bright and sunny in New Orleans today. Thanks be to God.


Bishops Thomas Breidenthal and Kenneth L. Price, Jr.
Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio

Monday, September 10, 2007

More on B.R.E.A.D., Payday Lending, and Ohio Representatives

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post about Doing Justice in Ohio. The following excerpt comes from my church's September newsletter:

At that Nehemiah Action Assembly, Senator Ray Miller pledged to introduce legislation in the state house to curb PayDay Lending. You may have seen recent articles in the Columbus Dispatch and elsewhere in which this issue and its abuses have been well documented. Though B.R.E.A.D. is mentioned, it is rarely given the credit for having moved this issue to the forefront.

Behind the scenes B.R.E.A.D. has been working with Senator Miller, a Democrat, and Representative Bill Batchelder, a Republican, to sponsor the same legislation in the House and in the Senate. This kind of strong bi-partisan cooperation will benecessary to pass a bill. At the August 24 meeting, B.R.E.A.D. was reminded that it will take phone calls, e-mails, and letter to state lawmakers to get this bill passed. PayDay Lenders have a well funded lobby and have doubled their spending in the legislature since 2006. Be prepared for some requests from your B.R.E.A.D. team to write, call, e-mail those who represent you in the statehouse!
About that bipartisan support--that is apparently the reason Ohio House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty has been hesitant to support the legislation. From the Other Paper article I linked yesterday...
Several state lawmakers of both parties have agreed to take on the cause. While others surely have their reservations, Beatty is one of the only legislators to openly criticize the effort, brushing off the proposed reforms as shortsighted and politically motivated.

Using her influence as the minority leader, Beatty has discouraged Democrats from working with Republican state Rep. Bill Batchelder of Medina, whom advocates have asked to sponsor the legislation in the House.

Known as an arch conservative, Batchelder has been against high-interest loan centers dating back to the 1990s, when he opposed legislation that led to the proliferation of payday lending shops. However, Beatty has repeatedly suggested Batchelder is using the issue to advance his aspirations to be speaker of the House next session.

“I will not support any legislative agenda that I feel is solely for someone’s political gain,” Beatty wrote in an op-ed column published last month in the Akron Beacon Journal.

That’s a problem because legislation will require bipartisan support, and Beatty is known for her ability to keep her caucus in line.

“It’s already damaged the prospects for getting the bill passed,” said Miller.

“I think we’ve laid out a good strategy, we’re fortunate to have bipartisan leadership on this with Rep. Batchelder and myself,” he added. “At the present time, our biggest challenge is the opposition from Rep. Beatty and her work to encourage members of her caucus to be neutral or opposed.”
I have a hard time understanding how a powerful Democrat in the Ohio House would want to delay implementing measures to protect our most vulnerable citizens from predatory lending practices for basically political reasons. Still, she did say I will not support any legislative agenda that I feel is solely for someone’s political gain, and has said that she is willing to hear from her constituents on this matter. Maybe even polite letters from people who are not her constituents, but are able to clearly express why this is not solely for someone's political gain.

The bill (I've been searching for a bill number and an official link, and will update if/when I find that) only proposes the same safeguards against predatory lending that military personnel are now granted via the Nelson Talent Amendment.
The proposed bill would cap interest rates on short-term loans at 36 percent. Currently, the rate on these loans can reach nearly 400 percent when calculated over a year. The bill also would call for financial incentives and tax credits for traditional lenders to encourage them to offer short-term, low-interest loans.
So we're talking about reasonable limits on the interest rates that can be charged, not shutting these places down, as Rep. Beatty seems to suggest here:
House Democratic Leader Joyce Beatty, who represents some of the same citizens as Miller, said she has talked to people in line waiting to get payday loans.

"People said to me, ‘Rep. Beatty, these folks will at least cash my check.’ One lady told me she couldn’t get her check cashed in any bank in the city," Beatty said.

"I have not had anybody call me and say, ‘I go to a payday lending establishment, and I think you should close them down.’ "
That quote is from an article that was published on July 23. Hopefully by this point, people have clarified to Representative Beatty that no one associated with this proposed bill is suggesting that payday lending establishments should be shut down Still, since she is in a position to either help or hurt the passage of a bill that could offer even some minimal protection to Ohio's most vulnerable citizens, I think it couldn't hurt to politely help see to it that she does understand what this is really about.

Update: In addition to Rep. Beatty, B.R.E.A.D. also has meetings scheduled with the following representatives.

Rep. Jim McGregor, District 20

Rep. Larry Wolpert, District 23

Rep. Tracy Herad, District 26

If you live in one of their districts, please consider writing to encourage their support of this bill.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Doing justice in Ohio

I just found out about this at church. Tiny bit of background: the pastor of my church is currently one of the co-presidents of B.R.E.A.D. (which stands for Building Responsibility Equality and Dignity, and works with lawmakers to advance achievable goals in the area of social justice.) The goal B.R.E.A.D. is currently working towards is getting legislation passed to put some reasonable restraints on the payday lending industry. You can read here about the action meeting that took place in May.

Anyway, George announced that B.R.E.A.D. has a meeting scheduled with Representative Joyce Beatty this coming Wednesday. He noted that Rep. Beatty has opposed the legislation in the past, but has said that she is interested in hearing from her constituents. He directed our attention to an article that appears in the current edition of The Other Paper. In a nutshell, Rep. Beatty is the Ohio House Minority Leader, and is in a position, not only to oppose the bill herself, but to sway other Democrats to oppose the legislation or remain neutral. And her reasons for opposing the legislation appear to know, I'm not even going to try to come up with the right words to describe what I think of it. Please read the article and come to your own conclusions. I'll try to write more about this a little later.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Letter from Bishop Spong to the Archbishop of Canterbury

I just received this via e-mail from a retired priest from my church. --Renee

John Shelby Spong A Public Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams 5 September, 2007

Dear Rowan,

I am delighted that you have agreed to meet with the House of Bishops of the American Episcopal Church in September, even if you appear to be unwilling to come alone. It has seemed strange that you, who have had so much to say about the American Church, have not been willing to do so before now. Your office is still honored by Episcopalians in this country, so our bishops will welcome you warmly and politely. We have some amazingly competent men and women in that body, many of whom have not yet met you.

There is clearly an estrangement between that body and you in your role as the Archbishop of Canterbury. I want to share with you my understanding of the sources of that estrangement. First, I believe that most of our senior bishops, including me, were elated, at your appointment by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Most Americans are not aware that yours is an appointed, not an elected position. Those of us who knew you were keenly aware of your intellectual gifts, your openness on all of the great social debates of our generation and indeed of your personal warmth. We also believed that the Lambeth Conference of 1998, presided over by your predecessor, George Carey, had been a disaster that would haunt the Communion for at least a quarter of a century. An assembly of bishops hissing at and treating fellow bishops with whom they disagreed quite rudely, was anything but an example of Christian community. The unwillingness of that hostile majority to listen to the voices of invited gay Christians, their use of the Bible in debate as a weapon to justify prejudice, the almost totalitarian attempt made to manage the press and to prevent access to the wider audience and the dishonest denial of the obvious and blatant homophobia among the bishops made that Lambeth Conference the most disillusioning ecclesiastical gathering I have ever attended. The Church desperately needed new leadership and so many of us greeted your appointment with hope. Your detractors in the evangelical camp both in England and in the third world actively lobbied against your appointment. The hopes of those of us who welcomed your appointment were, however, short lived because in one decision after another you seemed incapable of functioning as the leader the Church wanted and needed.

It began at the moment of your appointment when you wrote a public letter to the other primates assuring them that you would not continue in your enlightened and open engagement with the moral issue of defining and welcoming those Christians who are gay and lesbian. We all knew where you stood. Your ministry had not been secret. We knew you had been one of the voices that sought to temper the homophobia of your predecessor's rhetoric! We knew of your personal friendship with gay clergy and that you had even knowingly ordained a gay man to the priesthood. You, however, seemed to leap immediately to the conclusion that unity was more important than truth. Perhaps you did not realize that your appointment as the archbishop was because you had different values from those of your predecessor and that your values were exactly what the Church wanted and needed in its new archbishop.

In that letter, in a way that was to me a breathtaking display of ineptitude and moral weakness, you effectively abdicated your leadership role. The message you communicated was that in the service of unity you would surrender to whoever had the loudest public voice. A leader gets only one chance to make a good first impression and you totally failed that chance. Unity is surely a virtue, but it must be weighed against truth, the Church's primary virtue.

Next came the bizarre episode of the appointment of the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey John, a known gay priest, to be the area bishop for Reading in the Diocese of Oxford. He was proposed by the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries. The nomination was approved by all of the necessary authorities, including you, the Prime Minister and the Queen. The fundamentalists and the evangelicals were predictably severe and anything but charitable or Christian. They and their allies in the press assassinated Jeffrey John's character and made his life miserable. Once again you collapsed in the face of this pressure and, in a four-hour conversation, you forced your friend and mine, Jeffery John, who is not only a brilliant New Testament scholar, but also one who gave you his word that he was living a celibate life, to resign his appointment to that Episcopal off ice. The message went out for all to hear that if people are angry enough, the Archbishop will always back down. Your leadership, as well as our trust in your integrity, all but disappeared.

Shortly thereafter, you concurred in a "guilt" appointment by naming Jeffrey Dean of St. Alban's Cathedral. It is a strange church and a strange hierarchy that proclaims that a gay man cannot be a bishop but can be a dean. Your credibility suffered once again.

When Gene Robinson in the United States was elected the Bishop of New Hampshire and, more particularly, when his election was confirmed by a concurrent majority of the bishops, priests and lay deputies at the General Convention (read General Synod), you appeared to panic. You called an urgent meeting of the primates of the entire Anglican Communion and allowed them to express enormous hostility. No one seemed to challenge either their use of scripture, which revealed an amazing ignorance of the last 250 years of biblical scholarship, or their understanding of homosexuality. By acting as if homosexuality is a choice made by evil people they violated everything that medical science has discovered about sexual orientation in the last century. Just as the Church was historically wrong in its treatment of women, so now as a result of your leadership, we are espousing a position about homosexuality that is dated, uninformed, inhumane and frankly embarrassing. No learned person stands there today.

Then you appointed the group, under Robin Eames' chairmanship, that produced the Windsor Report. That report confirmed every mistake you had already made. It asked the American Church to apologize to other parts of the Anglican Communion for its "insensitivity." Can one apologize for trying to end prejudice and oppression? If the issue were slavery, would you ask for an apology to the slave holders? That report got the response it deserved. Our leaders were indeed sorry that others felt hurt, but they were not prepared to apologize for taking a giant step in removing one more killing prejudice from both the Church and the world. Those angry elements of the church were not satisfied by the Windsor report, inept as it was. They never will be until they have bent you and this communion into a pre-modern, hate filled, Bible quoting group of people incapable of embracing the world in which we live.

Next came threats issued by the primates of the excommunication of the American Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion, as if they actually had that power. Ultimatums and deadlines for us to conform to their homophobia were treated by you as if that were appropriate behavior. When the American Church elected Katharine Jefferts-Schori to be its Presiding Bishop and thus the Primate of our Province, your response to that major achievement was pathetic. You did not rejoice that equality had finally been achieved in our struggle against sexism; your concern was about how much more difficult her election would make the life of the Anglican Communion. Once again, institutional peace was made primary to the rising consciousness that challenges what the Church has done to women for so long. When Katharine took her place among the other primates, she underwent with dignity, the refusal of some of those bishops to receive communion with her. Is that the mentality required to build unity?

Later you issued a statement saying that if homosexuals want to be received in the life of the Church, they will have to change their behavior. I found that statement incredible. If you mean they have to change from being homosexual then you are obviously not informed about homosexuality. It is not a choice or a sin, anymore than being left handed, or male or female, or black or even transgender is a choice or a sin. All of us simply awaken to these aspects of our identity. That truth is so elementary and so well documented that only prejudiced eyes can fail to recognize it. No one in intellectual circles today still gives that point of view credibility.

Next you declined to invite Gene Robinson to the Lambeth Conference of 2008. All of the closeted homosexual bishops are invited, the honest one is not invited. I can name the gay bishops who have, during my active career. served in both the Episcopal Church and in the Church of England? I bet you can too. Are you suggesting that dishonesty is a virtue?

You continue to act as if quoting the Bible to undergird a dying prejudice is a legitimate tactic. It is in fact the last resort that religious people always use to validate "tradition" over change. The Bible was quoted to support the Divine Right of Kings in 1215, to oppose Galileo in the 17th century, to oppose Darwin in the 19th century, to support slavery and apartheid in the 19th and 20th centuries, to keep women from being educated, voting and being ordained in the 20th and 21st century. Today it is quoted to continue the oppression and rejection of homosexual people. The Bible has lost each of those battles. It will lose the present battle and you, my friend, will end up on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of morality and the wrong side of truth. It is a genuine tragedy that you, the most intellect! ually-g ifted Ar chbishop of Canterbury in almost a century, have become so miserable a failure in so short a period of time.

You were appointed to lead, Rowan, not to capitulate to the hysterical anger of those who are locked in the past. For the sake of God and this Church, the time has come for you to do so. I hope you still have that capability.

John Shelby Spong, 8th Bishop of Newark, Retired

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Those wascawwy wabbits!

A book called The Glory Field was part of Son in Ohio's summer reading. He's had a hard time getting through the book for a number of reasons--not the least of which being that he objects to the whole idea of summer homework in the first place. Anyway, at some point, Son asked me if I would read some of it aloud to him, and I agreed. It turned out to be a decent way of helping keep him engaged in the story.

Ultimately, I finished the whole book myself while he was at school--he hasn't finished it himself yet, but is in the home stretch. The book follows five generations of one African-American family from Africa to a South Carolina plantation through the Civil War, the end of segregation and beyond, to a moving finale, when a young drug-addicted cousin is brought home to the glory field for a day of reunion and renewal.

Most recently, I was helping him get through the 1964 section, which deals with the end of segregation. One of the White characters misquotes Martin Luther King as saying that he wants to see "little White girls and little Black boys playing together." It is, of course, telling, that he would remember the quote that way, because, apparently that is the most threatening form of "race mixing" to many people.

And, reading this section, I was reminded that some people were so bent out of shape at the very idea of race mixing that they could project a diabolical pro-miscegenation agenda onto a pair of rabbits in a children's book. From a Time Magazine article printed in 1959...

It seems incredible that any sober adult could scent in this fuzzy cottontale for children the overtones of Karl Marx or even of Martin Luther King. But last week in Florida, Columnist Henry Balch thundered in the Orlando Sentinel (circ. 100,000): "As soon as you pick up the book, you realize these rabbits are integrated. One of the techniques of brainwashing is conditioning minds to accept what the brainwashers want accepted." In Alabama, State Senator E. O. Eddins agreed: "This book should be taken off the shelves and burned."
Wow. And people think Bugs Bunny is "wascawwy". He's got nothing on these two!