Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mary Lou Stahl: in memoriam

Today I went to the funeral/memorial service for Mary Lou Stahl. I wrote an article about Carmine, her husband of 57 years, which appeared in the Feb 2007 Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine (Papa Stahl). He is a truly remarkable man. He was a Methodist minister for many years, and then when he retired he became a naturalist at Jesse Jones Nature Park in Humble, Texas. I had met him a few years back when he and I were volunteering on biological surveys with Legacy Land Trust (a nonprofit that sets up conservation easements on forest and other wild land around Houston). I just love Carmine. He is so sharp, and so interesting. He loves edible plants, like Matt does, and wrote Trees of Texas. Anyway, when I met with him to interview him for the TPW magazine piece, Mary Lou came with him as well as his daughter and her husband. The photo to the right I took that day at Jones Park. Mary Lou has suffered from Alzheimer's for the past few years, and she found great comfort in having Carmine always near. They were married for 57 years - that is truly amazing. I was blessed to listen to the stories people told today at her memorial. I really enjoy their family - they are down to earth, kind and wonderful people.

Mary Lou's son-in-law read Carmine's beautiful tribute during the service, and it brought tears to my eyes (and his!) He clearly loved her so very very much. We spoke by phone before he came down to Houston and it was clear he was heartbroken. I know with death even when we expect it, it's not something that we can ever prepare for. It reminds me of the opening of Water for Elephants when Jacob, who had been married for many years, describes his grief. (I wish I had the book here to quote from but I listened to it on CD). Anyway, I only met Mary Lou late in her life but from hearing everyone speak about her I sure wish I could have known her longer. I look forward to hanging out with her in heaven! Her son-in-law said there were two Mary Lous. The quiet, soft-spoken woman, and the one who stood up against injustice and was a force to be reckoned with. He told a story about how Prairie View College wouldn't allow black students to vote and so at a meeting with the college President, she would raise her hand and ask, "When are you going to let the black students vote?" and he avoided the question, so it became a refrain and she kept asking it. Then whenever anyone else raised their hand, they started to ask the same question. And everyone started asking it. "When are you going to let black students have a vote?" Soon after that, the college started letting black students vote.

The female pastor at Hosanna Lutheran, where the Stahls attended for many years and where the funeral service was held, spoke of Mary Lou and mentioned that they both were Democrats and made the joke that it was rare in her field :) (ie in Christianity). I got a laugh out of that one! Mary Lou was part Choctaw and part Cherokee. She authored the book, The Ones That Got Away: a Choctaw Trail of Tears, a family history of the Mississippi Choctaw who chose to leave the tribe to avoid confinement in reservations. I read the book when I was writing the article for TPW magazine and really enjoyed it, and her spirit and humor.

There were many more stories told there, and it was a loving tribute to a remarkable woman, mom, author, wife, friend to many. I put up a reprint of a self-published book that Carmine wrote called Papa Stahl's Wild Stuff Cookbook on the Spring Creek Greenway website, which I designed. It has a photo of the two of them and is a neat little site.

Even when life is long, life is short. Gives lots of hugs, and tell everyone you love them! :)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

food, oh the joys

I've been a little cranky the past couple days. I am sure it's just PMS, but you know sometimes I just zap off emails pretty quickly and don't take the time to couch my words with gentleness. It's not that what I'm saying is not what I feel, or what I think is wise or right (as my opinion) but I know I could sometimes do better by being a little gentler in my wording. Sometimes I just don't feel like it. I'm not talking about my last blog about the slippery snakes of the intelligent design movement - that can stand. I mean emails to friends. I just get impatient sometimes. Sometimes it's just that I am in a hurry, or using my Blackberry which is kind of a pain in the butt to type on. But sometimes I just am like, whatever, this is what I think dangit! I never mean to hurt anyone's feelings. But I should also remember that we are all fragile flames, as Jewel says, and a little sensitivity is always a good thing.

So I've been cooking a good deal lately and all I have to say is it takes a lot of darn time to cook. And clean. And to warm things back up and put it back away in all the little Tupperware containers. And you think you're going to save money by planning all these meals and cooking from scratch but darnit if you don't end up paying out the wazoo for all the special ingredients you need, and even when you swear you're going to modify recipes and only use what you have on hand you STILL end up going to the grocery store every single bloody day. And I mean literally every single day for 2 weeks in a row! I'm either out of milk. Or fruit. Or soy milk. Or coffee. Or today it was wheat germ! Yes wheat germ, which I needed for a recipe to make homemade granola bars for the kids lunches. Well they didn't have wheat germ in bulk and the hell if I was going to spend $4 for a jar of wheat germ so I substituted wheat bran in the bulk section. Cost - $0.17. Not bad. But I think I've spent that extra $3 in gas money for all the grocery trips. Or $30! Oh and the point I was going to make is that it probably costs a lot less to just buy the darn $2.50 box of freaking granola bars by the time you add in the cost of all the ingredients and the time it takes me to cook and clean up! But the granola bars are pretty darn good at least.

Oh and then another problem with cooking is that the kids don't like most of these new recipes, though I think they're all divine. Or if one kid does, the other doesn't. So I end up with a refrigerator full of stuff that only I will eat! In my fridge right now, I've got a huge crock pot of tortilla soup, a cabbage-Granny Smith apple salad, and ginger soup, some black beans I made from scratch, and an eggplant-white bean-tomato salad with parsley pesto. Plus tonight I made Thai food. A quick recipe of rice noodles with peanut sauce with broccoli, snow peas and chicken. (yes I know I'm being a "bad vegetarian" - but the kids insist on meat, and I just cook it when they're here for the most part though I'm being about a 10% carnivore). Savie liked it, but Sam thought it was dee-skus-ting. So I made him noodles with just butter and parmesan cheese and he ate that but I said look you have to eat at least one piece of chicken. And you woulda thought I was subjecting the boy to some ritualized torture. The look on his face, and the way he chewed it, and how long it took him... I'm like just put the dang thing in your mouth and chew it and be done with it!!

Oh well, what can you do.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

lies and deception

Although I wrote in my previous post: "The whole problem with intelligent design as 'science' is that the concept has a predefined result - that the origins of the natural world must literally match the Genesis Creation account," the slippery snakes of the ID movement do not tell you their intention outright. The original (young earth) creationists did/do not hide this intention, but ID creationists do. Instead, ID proponents say they are looking for "signs of a designer" which may be an alien culture, a purple playdough man, or God (OK I added the purple playdough man idea myself). Why don't we add the Flying Spaghetti Monster to the list, too?

So my point is that they've deviously veiled their intent by claiming they are looking for signs of intelligence using probability theory and signs of "irreducible complexity" which fools their followers but not most scientists. And fortunately, not Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case who ruled ID is religious-based "creationism in disguise" and not science. Hence, teaching it in schools AS SCIENCE violates the constitutional separation of church and state. Make no bones about it, the proponents of ID want to break down that wall between church and state. The Kitzmiller vs. Dover court case was a resounding victory for science, but ID proponents certainly won't stop there.

As a Christian myself, I always wonder why the IDers don't think for a moment that maybe God *isn't* on their side when he keeps giving victory after victory to the supposedly "other side"? Although God's ways are mysterious and no one can claim to fully know God's ways, God is certainly on the side of Truth (and I do believe that there is Truth), especially since in the Bible the devil is described as the "father of lies."

The extent of ID proponents' lying, hypocrisy, and deception is truly frightening. Of course, isn't it always the case that those who are most guilty of propaganda and lying will cast this stone out to the other side. Have you ever had a cheating spouse or significant other accuse you of cheating? Or lying? It's a very common psychological tool used by the lying, deceiving person or group to sidetrack attention away from themselves. ID and other creationists frequently accuse evolution advocates of propaganda. Of course discerning the truth is not all that difficult, but it requires critical thinking, deeper research and understanding the issues, motives, and truths to all these situations. Unfortunately, most people do not have time for that, so they just tend to accept whatever the group/crowd thinks that they most closely align themselves with. To our country's peril! And to that individual's detriment as well.

I plan to start working on a course, seminar and workshop series that will help people decipher the real story from propaganda, and to discern lies versus truth. Are you being duped? Find out how to find out for yourself! Details coming soon.

I'd support having the "controversy" taught in schools, BUT it should be done in a social studies, religion, or cultural studies course and absolutely NOT in a science classroom!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Expelled: The Intelligent Design movie

Cross-posted from my Fish Wars Blog and also at The Daily Kos.

The whole problem with intelligent design is that its proponents like to say it is science, and that the status quo of scientists are not allowing this new concept to be introduced into science classrooms, from some sort of discrimination or something. It's a reasonable enough sounding argument, and the premise of the new documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." And the makers of this film want people to see this movie so badly that they're offering to pay schools and churches $5 per student to see it. I first read about this on The Daily Irrelevant and The Bad Idea Blog.

What intelligent design proponents - in the movie and elsewhere - don't tell you is that science and scientists do not have PR campaigns. They don't have to pay money to people to accept scientific theories and facts. They quietly go about their work in the halls of academia, in the laboratory, using computer models, in the field doing experiments, publishing results in scientific peer-reviewed journals. This is how science works. Scientific ideas don't need a PR campaign, films, and money to promote themselves. They MAY use these techniques as teaching tools, but that is generally after a scientific concept is well established.

Intelligent design is not well-established, and despite what the film may tell people, it's not being expelled. It doesn't have enough data or studies behind it to be put into textbooks. In fact, it's not even science. Somehow we as a society seem to have forgotten what science even is. This shall not do! Science revolutionized the way people thought, paving the way for the amazing scientific and technological advances since then - germ theory, vaccines, antibiotics, traveling to the moon. The key here is that science requires scientists to throw out ideas that don't have supporting data. Every scientific hypothesis is always open to falsification - being shown to be false.

The whole problem with intelligent design as "science" is that the concept has a predefined result - that the origins of the natural world must literally match the Genesis Creation account. Science does not work if you have a pre-set conclusion! No, for a process or idea to be science, those testing the premise have to be able to throw out the hypothesis if the data doesn't fit. Intelligent design is not willing to do that. Because that would mean they are saying, nope, we're wrong. God didn't create the world. At least that is what they fear it means.

People that promote intelligent design KNOW that there is a God who created the universe. And I, myself a Christian, believe that they're right. But that doesn't make intelligent design right. Because ID does not even provide a proper mechanism, or method, through which the universe came into existence other than "God did it," (technically, their terminology is that the world has "irreducible complexity" that could not possibly have been created by anything other than an intelligent designer).

However, evolution by means of natural selection has amazing explanatory power in terms of how the world could have gone from single-celled organisms to complex beings, even human beings. There's no scientific controversy over evolution. There is ONLY a social, religious and cultural controversy.

Another problem with intelligent design proponents is this - very few people who follow it have ever taken a college Biology class in which they learned about evolution and its evidence. Instead they learn about evolution from those attacking it, in the churches and by the "professional creationists" who make money by selling books and making movies to promote their views. And now if you will excuse me, I need to go worship my Noodly master. Ramen!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

reading 8 books at a time?

My Facebook profile says I'm reading 8 books, which is true. Sort of. I have my NIV Study Bible there, which I read regularly. I got Beth Moore's devotional Jesus: 90 Days with the One & Only for Christmas and I'm reading/doing that for the next 90 days. Then I have The Snow Leopard, which I started reading in Nepal because it's set there. It's a great book but a bit dense and I got a bit bored toward the end. I've got about 1/8 left and every night if I try to read it, I fall asleep after about a page. At least I don't have insomnia any more! ;) I started listening to Water for Elephants on audio-book (I listen when I go running) but I got it from the library and someone else had requested it, so I had to return the darn thing. So I'm about 2 discs in and have requested it again.

While waiting to get that back again, I started listening to The Highest Tide which is a nature writing type book based in the Pacific NW. My cousin got it for me for Christmas, and I'm really enjoying it. I'm also reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens to Sam at night. It's a pretty long and dense book, but although I adore and love my kids' school, I felt like my kids need to get a bit more of the classics. I admit I didn't read any Dickens (that I remember) in school, but I am actually enjoying it. I took them to see an Oliver Twist play a couple years ago and they really liked that. I'm reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron along with several girlfriends. We're doing a chapter per 2 weeks so that will take a little while. And I just picked up Ghandi's Autobiography: My Experiments With Truth. So there.

It seems my writer's block has cleared a little bit. I finished a draft of my Nepal article which I went to Nepal for (it's taken me this long to take a look at all the stuff again and get the motivation to write it). But it came out pretty quickly, and I like it. I have several articles to finish this weekend, so it's like a writing marathon! It's going to freeze tonight... brrr.... wish it would snow HERE instead of just the "southeast"!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

some silly pics

Daline and I got a little silly when she was visiting! We decided we'd have a fashion show, so to speak, and (attempted to) pose like models in the magazines on my coffee table. Well in a sort of mockery sort of way. ;) Savannah took the photos. Well she did after I got mad at the little turkey for just taking photos of our feet instead! (on purpose).
This one just cracks me up because it looks a little, well, funny!
Treehuggers We Are!

My daughter got braces today. Ah, I do not miss those days... I had the works - braces, headgear, and all that dorky stuff. Fortunately they don't much use headgear anymore. Poor girl, her mouth is now sore... she went to bed early. It usually only hurts the first couple days, and tehn when they tighten them again every 6 weeks.

I haven't posted much because I haven't had much to say. It's funny, because sometimes I just have so much to say I have to write and get it out. But lately it's a dry well. This is in my actual journal as well. And when I'm writing articles. I'm not feeling all that inspired and I have to figure out how to fill the well back up again. I'm just not quite sure.

Oh! I do have some good news. Today, I sent off my book contract to my agent for Losing My Religion, my memoir/book about making peace between evolution and Christianity. Yea! It got accepted before the holidays but it took this long to get the darn contract! The publishing world goes on holiday over the holidays... so now I will begin working on it in the next year. I'm excited, and a bit nervous. It's a big task. I'll need to get inspired! Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I am losing my mind!!!

Well never mind that my blog has been invaded my my darling daughter (see post below). I am somehow unable to form the proper words for things! This has been an ongoing phenomenon for about the past 5 years (or maybe 13 since my daughter was born! But honestly it certainly has gotten worse, really worse!) I keep telling my kids to put the laundry in the dishwasher or take the dishes out of the dryer, or, just now, I said "Savie, will you go transfer the water" - what the heck?! I meant to transfer the laundry to the dryer. (So she laughed and went and took a cup and started taking cupfulls of water from the bathroom sink and depositing them all over the house!) Savie reminded me that I often tell them to put things in the fridge that don't go in the fridge, like toys and such. One time I said "Sam you need to dump your milk in the fridge right now, or put it away in the sink." And just a few minutes ago when I was playing Foosball with Sam (which I totally stink at) upon getting a goal, I started dancing around and singing, "I'm so happy for my pants!" to the tune of Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy...for my ....whatever" but we busted out laughing and it's now our new theme song. I'm so happy for my pants! So happy!

Anyway I'm suffering from serious writer's block since I got back from Nepal. It's just fine when I'm blogging but when it comes to writing an article on deadline, I'm just stuck. It is awful. I'm trying really hard but just keep wanting to do nothing. I'm lethargic. I'm apathetic! I want to do something different... I think that writing has become a chore because I'm doing it for a living and all the associated stresses of a "job" - I need to make it a joy again.

Krazy Katz

You know, I have no idea what Krazy Katz are. I know what a crazy cat is, but not a Krazy Kat. By the way, this isn't Wendee. This is her daughter. I think her blog should be more pink and frilly. Like the thongs (a.k.a. butt floss) she wears. And the underwear she has on her head right now. My mom is a crazy, tree-smooching, environmental lunatic! She can eat A WHOLE carton of ice cream in one afternoon. And she always eats my ice cream, not hers. Ybay ethay ayway, Iay ovelay enguinpays! Enguinpays! Enguinpays! Enguinpays! Enguinpays means penguins for those crazy people who don't know pig latin. Okay, I'm done.

Ciao, Savie H: )

P.S. Please post LOTS of comments ; )