About Me

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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My New Study

It took nearly all of my Spring Break and a good deal of this weekend, but I finally have been able to transform, along with a healthy assist from my wife, a "junk room" into a study. When Cat and I merged our households, most of the books I had in my apartment had to go into storage. Later, I moved them into one of the rooms in the house. So finally I was able to have the time to put up the shelves I needed to unpack the books and get the room cleared out.

It feels great to have my library once again!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mayflower Church Sermon 3-22-09 "Who Cares?"

Highlights from the March 22, 2009 service at Mayflower Congregational UCC Church. Rev. Robin Meyers, senior pastor.

Title of Sermon: Who Cares?

Scripture Lesson: I John 4: 7-8
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Highlights from the Sermon:
At one time, the Church classified sins according to the danger they presented to the human soul. The worst, termed "The Seven Deadly Sins," are usually listed as being pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. (These form the basis for most TV mini-series.)

However, the last on the list doesn't sound so deadly to us. We think of it in terms of being a Couch Potato, Dagwood on the sofa. That is until we realize that the Latin word used for this sin is acedia which literally means "without caring", utter apathy.

In order for us to function, we have to tune out some things in order to concentrate on those things to which we should give our attention. Psychologists call this "negative adaptation." The danger comes from when we tune out everything not immediately important to our desires.

The Seven Deadly Sins were so identified because they were thought to be the source of lesser,venial sins. However, Sloth is itself the source of other Deadly Sins. Greed, for example, gets its marching orders from Sloth since Solth causes us to concentrate on ourselves exclusively. This also engenders the sin of Pride come through tuning out the needs and worth of others.

Sloth also corrupts religious devotion. There are far too many people who have just enough relgion to make them feel guilty, but not enough to make them feel responsible for their guilt, responsible in the sense of being "able to respond" to the needs of others.

John's counsel that we "show we are Christians by our love" is a call for us to become the beloved community. We live in a world that is looking for something real. The church's responsiblity is to become such a community. This we show through our love in action.

Robin said that he thanked God most for having found such a community in Mayflower Chruch.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Highlights from Mayflower Service 3/15/09

Scripture Lesson John 2:13-22 (Jesus drives the moneychangers out of the Temple.)
Relevant passage:
"Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!" also "The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ 19Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body."


Thoughts from the message:
Bernie Madoff is an example of the fact that some peoples' names are suggestive of their character since he "made off" with around $65 Billion of his investors' money. One of them was Nobel Prize winner and death camp survivor Elie Wiesel who lost both his personal savings and all of the money from a foundation he headed. Wiesel said, "We thought he was God, we trusted everything in his hands."

Many people are responsible for the financial meltdown we find ourselves in. In a sense, we are all responsible for this because we have come to worship power, money, and fame above all else. Paul Tillich states, "Whatever is your Ultimate Concern becomes your God."

The church bears a special responsibility since to many churches preach as though Jesus is some kind of divine Bernie Madoff. Just worship and praise Jesus, we are told, and we will have material returns beyond measure.

We have forgotten the Jesus who condemned those in the Temple for making money off of God largely from poor people who had to pay money in order to have an acceptable animal for their sacrifice.

We in America, have felt that we somehow have some sort of special relationship to God which entitles us to take actions for which we condemn others. We invade countries on the pretext that they have weapons of mass destruction while ignoring that we have WMDs by the thousands. We condone Israel's killing of innocent civilians in the name of self defense while we condemn others who fight Israel's occupation of their homelands. We allow Israel to lie about have nuclear weapons while we threaten other countries nuclear programs.

We have forgotten Jesus' warning that one Temple does not have any more of a special relationshp to God as any other. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

The first hymn and last hymn of the service, which came from the UCC Lectionary for this Sunday, were particularly appropriate for this service.

The first was "O God of Earth and Altar" by G.K> Chesterton
The first verse is:
O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride

The last hymn was "God of Grace and God of Glory" by Harry Emerson Fosdick written in 1930 for the opening of the Riverside Church in New York City. I thought this verse very appropriate to the service:
Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pres. Obama proposes Merit Pay for teachers

President Barack Obama speaks, accompanied by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, right, speaks during an unscheduled visit to a meeting of the Council of Chief State School officers, Tuesday, March 10, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
One way I can tell if an elected official is doing the job she or he is supposed to be doing is that I find myself agreeing with the lawmaker most of the time and disagreeing with the lawmaker part of the time.
Today, President Obama came out in favor merit pay for teachers, paying those teachers who can demonstrate they doing the best jobs, more money. He also said that he favors removing restrictions on charter schools.

I am trying to avoid a knee jerk reaction to this announcement. As they say, the devil is in the details. What I worry about with merit pay is that if the details are badly handled, we may see the best teachers abandoning the inner city schools because the low test scores that often accompany these schools are do to factors mostly out of the teachers' control.

Charter schools are even more problematic for me since in too many cases the teachers in these schools lack the protections of due process that public school teachers have gained, often through years of tough negotiations.

We shall see what the president is proposes and how he expects to fund it. Then we will debate its merits. My suspicions are somewhat allayed by the fact that I have confidence that Obama typically does the right thing in matters of social justice.

Early Spring on the Southern Plains

Blossoming Bradford Pear Trees
The very first harbinger of spring in Oklahoma comes when the Bradford Pear trees blossom. Right now they are in bloom all over OKC.

These trees in bloom bring to my mind one of my favorite poems about another species of flowering tree, the cherry tree.
Loveliest of Trees by A. E. Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Republican's Approval Rating Lower than Congress'

from The Daily Kos

Is Anyone Else Celebrating National Pun Day?

I've been doing National Pun Day for about 3 or 4 years now. Since I've been blogging about it, I have gotten several "hits" from those using the title "National Pun Day" as a search term.

I am curious, is anyone out there celebrating National Pun Day? I would like to see the date become something of a recognized occasion much as "Talk Like a Pirate Day" (September 19) became more or less nationally recognized.

So if you are doing something for NPD, let me know, or if you have ideas on how this celebration of word play could be celebrated, please write me. You can use the "Comments" section or send me an e-mail at greenlynn@hotmail.com.

Welcome to National Pun Day: 50 Swifties

Disarmingly Beautiful
Today is National Pun Day. One of my favorite types of puns are called "Tom Swifties." These are puns where the eponymous Tom makes a statement in a manner that is linked to the statement. In other words, the adverb used in the statement's speaker tags, the "Tom said" part, has a connection to what Tom said. For example: "Venus de Milo is a beautiful statue," Tom said disarmingly.Here are 49 other Tom Swifties:
"I've had my left and right ventricles removed," Tom said half-heartedly.
"I think my tires are bald," Tom said warily.
"I hate milking cows," Tom uttered.
"I put all my money into an IRA," Tom said interestedly.
"I don't think that leprechaun is telling the truth," Tom implied.
"I think that wasp is in pain," Tom bemoaned.
"I took out the trash," Tom said literally.
"This dinner is made from young calves," Tom revealed.
"I cut my dog's toenails too far," Tom said quickly.
"You're burning the candle at both ends," Tom said wickedly.
"I hope I can still play the guitar," Tom fretted.
"I feel like a big black bird," Tom crowed.
"My tongue feels numb," Tom said distastefully.
"I want to renew my membership," Tom rejoined.
"My grape juice has fermented," Tom whined.
"Don't try to pull the wool over my eyes," Tom said sheepishly.
"Stop your sniveling," Tom decried.
"Someone removed all the twos from this deck," Tom deduced.
"I just love power failures," Tom said delightfully.
"It's 3 a.m.," Tom said mournfully.
"Thanks for shredding the cheese," Tom said gratefully.
"I love Velveeta," Tom said craftily.
"It's two, two, two mints in one," Tom said certainly.
"Who was pope before John Paul I?" Tom asked piously.
"The river has gotten rough," Tom said rapidly.
"You can't go faster than the speed of sound," Tom said mockingly.
"I'm as busy as a bee," Tom droned.
"Those ants will never get in here," Tom said defiantly.
"Please put some folds in these trousers," Tom pleaded.
"Why do you want me to act like Gilda Radner's husband?" Tom asked bewilderingly.
"I have plenty of do's but no don'ts," Tom said dauntlessly.
"I have forgotten the german word for 'four'" Tom said fearlessly.
"Someone stole my wheels," Tom said tirelessly.
"Hallelujah," Tom said handily.
"I just won 1000 dollars," Tom said grandly.
"All that's left are the front and back," Tom said decidedly.
"Where can I find a copper figure of Lincoln?" Tom asked innocently.
"I only have 8 bits," Tom said bitingly.
"My sign is cancer, what's my horoscope?" Tom asked crabbily.
"What's in the middle of an egg?" Tom asked eccentrically.
"I'm covered in blood," Tom said readily.
"I've found the pens used to sign the civil war surrender," Tom said pensively.
"I think someone electrified the corridor," Tom said haltingly.
"There are tiny bugs in the dust," Tom said mightily.
"Hey, Vern! Knowhutimean?" Tom said earnestly.
"I unclogged the kitchen sink with a vacuum cleaner," Tom said succintly.
"My clothes are pressed," Tom said ironically.
"What's that reddish stuff on the cannon?" Tom asked rusticly.
"How come my clock only makes 'toc's?" Tom asked mystically.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

National Pun Day is Tomorrow!

Top Secret
Tomorrow is March 4th, which I have designated "National Pun Day."

The reason why I chose this day was that the date is itself a pun. In fact, it is the answer to a riddle I learned as a child: What is the date that soldiers hate the most? (Just say the date above out loud and you will get it.)

So tomorrow, we will play with homophones, word puzzles, visual puns, and other language games.

I have prizes for students who participate. I hope to increase their love of language.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I Was Liberal Before Liberal Was Cool!

from Talking Point Memos

Over the weekend, Mark Leibovich had an interesting an entertaining piece in the Times on how "socialism" has become the Republicans' new all-purpose smear word attacking Obama in particular and Democrats generally.

Now, you can have a whole conversation about whether ramping marginal tax rates back to where they were in the go-go 1990s really constitutes socialism. But a different point occurred to me when I read the piece. I think this is probably the best evidence there is that the 'liberal' label simply doesn't have the punch that it had going back a good thirty years in American politics.

If it did, they'd still be using it, since it at least has some relationship to reality. But it doesn't, so they're not.

--Josh Marshall

Sunday, March 01, 2009

10 things you should know about Obama's plan (but probably don't)

from MoveOn.Org
The plan:

1. Makes a $634 billion down payment on fixing health care that will go a long way toward paying for a more efficient, more affordable health care system that covers every single American.

2. Reduces taxes for 95% of working Americans. And if your family makes less than $250,000, your taxes won't go up one dime.

3. Invests more than $100 billion in clean energy technology, creating millions of green jobs that can never be outsourced.

4. Brings our troops home from Iraq on a firm timetable, finally bringing the war to a close—and freeing up almost ten billion dollars a month for domestic priorities.

5. Reverses growing income inequality. The plan lets the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire and focuses on strengthening the middle class.

6. Closes multi-billion-dollar tax loopholes for big oil companies.

7. Increases grants to help families pay for college—the largest increase ever.

8. Halves the deficit by 2013. President Obama inherited a legacy of huge deficits and an economy in shambles, but his plan brings the deficit under control as soon as the economy begins to recover.

9. Dramatically increases funding for the SEC and the CFTC—the agencies that police Wall Street.

10. Tells it straight. For years, budgets have used accounting tricks to hide the real costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts, and too many other programs. Obama's budget gets rid of the smokescreens and lays out what America's priorities are, what they cost, and how we're going to pay for them.